Tuesday, December 30, 2008

sample video

Here is my very first video with the new Flip camera. Alex picked the color, and she really, really wants to play with it. You can tell she is working on her charm.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

active bottoms

If you are in need of a more active bottom, there are several styles available at TJ Maxx.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

a very Maulden Christmas, Plan B

Well, after packing up the car and getting on the road to Reno last night, we had an unexpected surprise. We had wondered if the weather would be a problem, but it was fine. Instead, Alex started crying and complaining of a tummy ache about one hour into our 8-hour drive. We stopped and tried a potty break, but to no avail. Just past Wendover, she threw up in the car - those of you other parents who have ever cleaned puke out of all the crevices in a car seat know how special that is. :-)

We drove for a while before finding a turnaround point (there are no exits west of Wendover for a LONG time), and went back to Wendover where we spent the next hour and a half in the Wendover Peppermill, breathing cigarette smoke, chasing Sam, and watching Alex throw up again. Despite her unhappy tummy, she was impressed at the "pretty lights" in the casino. At that point we decided we were through, and headed back home to Salt Lake. Happily, the kids slept and Bryan and I enjoyed a nice 2 hours of uninterrupted talk time - a rarity! We had both just had our coffee in preparation for driving half the night, so we were wide awake. We arrived home at 2 a.m. and collapsed into bed.

So, we are spending Christmas at home after all. We had no food in the house because we had planned to be gone, so we got Chinese take-out for Christmas Eve and spent the day unpacking, washing clothes, cleaning up, and catching up on sleep. Now it is Christmas day and we're all feeling well. A big storm is moving in and we're just going to stay home and watch movies and watch the snow fall. Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 19, 2008

famous last words

Alex was coming out of her room at 9:30 pm complaining, "I'm not tired!"
"Well, you can stay in your room and be quiet, or sit in the time out chair for a while. Which will it be?" I said. She chose the chair.

A few minutes later, while transferring wet laundry from the washer to the dryer, I heard a soft snore. Guess she got some time out!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

parking vandals striking again

Well, it's that time of year again. People (VA hospital staff) are illegally parking in spots designated for our office at work, causing us to have to park farther and farther away and walk through the snow. Last year I sicced (sp?) the VA police on them and was rewarded by seeing the parking patrol giving tickets. See the link below.


We'll see how long it takes for the offenders to get their tickets this time. Hopefully not months like last year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sam's crunchy and sparkly snack

Believe it or not, Sam ate part of a broken Christmas ornament today. I was cooking dinner and saw him walk by crunching something in his mouth. It occurred to me to wonder what he was crunching and when I looked, he had all these sparkly shards in there. Unbelievable. I was glad he hadn't cut himself. I tried getting him to spit it out but it was all stuck inside his mouth, so I swept it out with my fingers the best I could and I think he must have swallowed the rest.

Crazy kid! Has anyone ever eaten anything weirder?!?

where dreams end up

I was putting Alex into bed the other night and she said, "Oh, this is the place where my dreams come out."

How sweet, I thought. "Your dreams come out while you're sleeping?"

"Yeah. They come out my bottom!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

we fish you a merry christmas

Alex was trying to sing, "We wish you a merry Christmas" today in the car, but wasn't quite able to remember it all. She told me they had taught it in preschool. So I sang it for her and she said, "It's not 'we wish you', it's 'we FISH you a merry Christmas, mom." I tried to tell her no, it really is "wish," but she would not hear of it. She insisted it was "we FISH you" and after a couple more tries, I could see this would not be an argument I could win today. So, we are "fishing" you a merry Christmas. A few minutes later she told me, "Mom, if you are bad, then there will be no Christmas this year." I said, "What makes you say that?" and she said, "I told Ava that if you are bad, Santa brings you coal. But Ava told me that if you are bad, then there will be no Christmas this year." I think I know what Ava's been hearing from someone...

Her Cubbies class tonight was pretty entertaining, too. The teacher was quizzing the class about several Bible stories and asked "How did Jesus come to Earth?" The answer
- "In an airplane!" I wouldn't have been surprised if Alex had said that, but it was another kid. Another question was "What is a miracle?" One girl said it was like a maze, and another said it was something you want. It really must be confusing to figure out Christmas when you're hearing it all for the first time.

Alex wants us to make a birthday cake for Jesus this year. But I think she has ulterior motives. She said, "If Jesus couldn't blow out his candles, because he's just a baby, then someone could help him. [pause] Like me."

She watched Rudolph the other night, and has been prancing around pretending to be a reindeer. Christmas really is fun with a four-year-old.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

We had a very nice Thanksgiving. The day was actually very relaxing, and I reflected throughout the day on my good fortune to live in this time and place, and especially for the people God has given me to love. Thank you, God. :-)

We cooked the turkey in the crock pot this year, at the suggestion of my friend Tammy, and it turned out delicious! Moist and tender. I had made the sweet potatoes (yams with apples and cranberries) the night before, and everything else was pretty easy - green beans, glazed carrots, and berry cobbler. Buzzmeo brought the stuffing, mashed potatoes, and delicious Pumpkin Gooey Cake that is better than pumpkin pie. We also enjoyed having two Korean university students, Hyejin and Mira, who are here for the year studying elementary education. Their favorite menu item seemed to be the stuffing. :-) I told them, "Sorry, no kimchee today" and they laughed. They also introduced us to a new Korean snack, sweet potato chips with a glazed coating - kind of plain, but good (and Sam ate handfuls.) We enticed them into playing a game of Settlers after dinner, and they were quick learners and seemed to enjoy it. The kids are really changing and growing, as evidenced by the fact that we could get through a whole game without having to referee much, although I'm sure the videos helped, and the playroom seemed to have endured a small tornado. Still, it was a LOT better than years past. Alex and Ava play together SO well now.

Sam continues to give us scary moments and reasons to be thankful he's still alive. Last night he heard John go out to start the car, and ran out the front door after him yelling "Mommy!" (I guess he thought it was me). John did not notice and was backing out the driveway in the dark with Sam outside, but luckily he had the sense to stay out of the way. I heard him yell and ran for the door, reaching him in time to grab him. Then today he saw me squirting OxiClean on Alex's coat and grabbed the bottle and squirted some in his mouth - ack! This is the second "Poison Control" moment we've had in 2 weeks, the first one being his sampling of one of my thyroid pills. Good grief - I try to be careful but it seems I am often 2 steps behind him. Give him one chance at a dangerous situation, he'll grab it. I'm glad for the grace we get as parents - and hope it continues - even as I try to keep ahead of him instead of behind him.

Monday, November 24, 2008

the silliest thing

Alex: Mom, do you know what the silliest thing is?
Me: No, what's the silliest thing?
Alex: Getting up in the morning when it's still dark outside!

Yup - pretty silly, all right. Too bad the world still expects us to go to work even if it's dark. I love the 4-year-old insights we're getting these days.

The other day she told me she wants her eyebrows painted like rainbows. Where do they come up with this stuff?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

pre-Thanksgiving stuff

Alex and her preschool class presented us with a cute Thanksgiving program yesterday. Here she is in her "Indian" outfit (OK, Native American) which she decorated herself. Alex loves to sing at home, but apparently does not think much of singing in groups. Mostly she just stood there and watched while the other kids sang. This surprises me because she tends to be outgoing, and she sings the songs for me in the car, but I wonder how much of it is just stubbornness/nonconformist leanings...anyway, it was a cute program and I was impressed with how much the teachers got 24 3- and 4-year-olds to do!

Last night I shopped for Thanksgiving dinner at WalMart, with no kids. I'm finding ways to avoid taking them with me to the store anymore - Sam climbs out of the cart and both kids are getting bolder about fighting in public and/or grabbing stuff off shelves. What a pain! Now I know how my mom felt when she took us to the store. :-) Anyway, I was pleased with all the bargains I found. Wally World will match prices of any local store's ads, so I got lots of stuff "on sale" at one place. I felt like such a savvy shopper and even remembered to bring my own bags. :-) I love my heavy-duty, insulated canvas bags but half the time I still forget to take them in. I do better without 2 little monkeys.

I'm going to try new recipes for crock pot turkey breast and stuffing from Tammy. Her recipes have never failed me yet, so I'm looking forward to these. Except for the green olives - those will just have to be omitted from any stuffing of mine.

And now - if I can get rid of this horrible, awful virus that is attacking my entire respiratory tract lining, I'll be ready for cooking, feasting, and hopefully good times with friends and family next week.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

yummy way to eat yams

I tried a new recipe this weekend - it was yummy!


Yams, apples, and cranberries are a good combination.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

end of an era

November 8, 2008 - today we said goodbye to our crib. Wah!

For the past three years, five months and fifteen days it has been in use every single day and night. When I think about it, it's been such a haven of security and rest for both Alex and Sam. The past few months, however, it has become just another jungle gym for Sam, something to climb up and jump off of. So, away it went today to the recycled-kids'-stuff store - I hope it finds a good home.

I'll miss it. I can't believe my babies aren't babies anymore!

On a different topic: we made two yummy things this weekend. One was a fruit cobbler (thanks to Shari Kawashima) - just dump frozen berries, a box of yellow cake mix, and a can of diet Sprite into a pan and voila! I will use this one again!

The other was more laborious to make, but yummy and nutritious AND both kids ate it up and asked for more. And it's all made of vegetables! See
for this recipe for stuffed spaghetti squash. I did not steam it, since I don't have a steamer large enough, but baking it worked just as well. Again, time-consuming enough that I won't make it often, but it was very good.

Friday, October 31, 2008

a happy halloween

This was a low-key, very nice Halloween. We did not carve any pumpkins or put out any decorations, except a cute ghost with a spiral tail that Alex made at school.

We went trick-or-treating with some friends There was a light drizzle so we came home a little earlier than we otherwise would, but that was just fine with our 2- and 4-year-olds.

The evening was passed very pleasantly with Pumpkin Jack's ale, chocolate, several rounds of Scattergories and 3 mainly happy kids playing in the background.

Just a good night. Friends, family, a little candy thrown in.

Monday, October 27, 2008

going veg?

I can't believe it myself, but the more I learn about food production and the agriculture industry, the more inclined I am to eat less meat and more plants. Even more shocking is the sudden consideration of substituting soy and/or rice milk for cow's milk. What is this world coming to? I, who grew up loving all things dairy, no longer an enthusiastic supporter of the industry that brings me yogurt, ice cream, and cheese? No wayyyyy!

People are soooooo opinionated about food. Browsing vegan websites and books is interesting. I never knew eating dairy and eggs could be so evil. But there it is - animal cruelty, chickens with their beaks cut off, laying hens with their skins rubbed raw from pressing against the cages, cows juiced up on hormones and connected to milking machines for so many hours they develop open sores on their udders (that then drain pus into the milk, but that's OK because it's pasteurized!). Is all this for real or is it just the animal rights nuts' blowing things out of proportion?

Well, I'm not jumping off the deep end just yet. I reserve my right to eat animal flesh in healthy, sparing amounts when I feel like it. But I'm interested in trying some of the alternatives. Hey, I already know I like veggie burgers as much as hamburgers and they're a lot healthier. I've found a website (NutritionMD.org) that has recipes and nutritional information and I've been eating mainly "vegetarian" for the past week (except for the 2 slices of ham that I needed to "use up" because I had already bought it). So far I like eating all these fruits, veggies, grains and legumes, and I even like soy milk although it takes a little getting used to. The vanilla flavor is a hit with the kids. Bryan is willing to give it a try too, because Buzz told him his acne went away when he went off dairy. Hmmm. Anyway, the trick is to not replace the meat with a boatload of cheese and eggs. So far we're doing well but it's only been a couple weeks.

Anyone who has cool yummy vegetarian recipes, feel free to send them to me!

I'll post my favorites when I find them.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

my dream commute

I just want to record for posterity that it IS possible. Today I had a near-perfect commute. After one stop (first light on Wasatch) I got every single light green from my house to work, even the left turn from Foothill onto Sunnyside. The entire drive took 18 minutes.

There was hardly any traffic on the road today. I'm guessing that means that UEA weekend (Utah Education Association, I think) must apply to the University too.

Not only did I have a perfect commute, I had my choice of parking spaces. The east half of the parking circle in front of Bldg 4 was EMPTY when I arrived at 8:18. I don't think this has ever happened on a non-holiday. I didn't realize how many people would be taking time off for this school break.

It sure would be nice if my commute were like this every day!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

just stuff

Here's what's been going on...

Sam likes to sleep on the floor of his room, against the door. With his blanket around his head like a turban. He has decided his favorite binky is the one that says "Mute Button."

Alex ran too close to her trundle bed and bumped her shin on the iron frame - painful! I was telling her it's hard to see that frame because of the mattress and if we're not careful, we could stub our toes. She said, "Yeah, and if you were crawling you would stub your face!" :-)

We enjoyed a nice visit from my mom last week. She and I played one game of Scrabble and it was a close race. I was losing most of the time but I totally lucked out at the end with a 47-point word and won by 3 points. I should credit my mom for letting me use the dictionary, which isn't allowed in real Scrabble. Anyway, it was fun.

We had our first snow of the year on October 12. Today it was back in the 60's and beautiful.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

ha ha ha, I got her!

Last night I finally figured out how to get Alex back for her naughty screaming fits in the car. For about the last year she has discovered that she can get away with a lot of bad attitude and very disrespectful behavior while safely strapped in her car seat with me in the front. I've been frustrated because threatening her with a time out just doesn't seem to cut it - she will go on with her screaming, tantrums, whining, demands, and general obnoxiousness no matter how much time out she endures on arriving home.

Last night in the midst of her tirade she even yelled, "You're going to DIE." What the...? I ignored that but it was a scary thing to hear from your four-year-old. Maybe she's been watching too many Disney movies - ever notice there is never an intact "nuclear family" in a Disney movie? The main character is usually deprived of at least one parent at some point. Anyway...

I read a strategy in a parenting book once that suggested dropping your kids off a mile before home and making them walk the rest of the way. That will be beautiful once they are older, but as much as I would like some peace and quiet in the car, I just can't do it at this point. I am saving it though...

So last night, while enduring another ridiculous four-year-old rant, I rolled down the windows and that made her mad. She doesn't like the wind. She screamed and complained of being cold (it was probably 70 degrees out). I told her when she could talk to me nicely I would roll the windows up. She kept demanding (very imperially) for me to close the windows, alternating with more screaming and crying. This sounds really BAD, but up front I was smiling at FINALLY getting some payback for all the tantrums I've endured in the car! We were home before she changed her tune (and even that was only after a double time out in the car seat in the dark garage).

Speaking of time out, I've had to get creative with that too. She will spit on the floor or kick the doors or walls when she's in time out - not something I feel I should tolerate. When she does this I put her outside on the front porch - she's strapped into the high chair (good thing she's still small). Usually this calms her right down. It will be interesting to see what happens in the winter.

I feel really mean sometimes. It seems like she really needs to push to the point where she breaks down, and then she takes a long time to recover her equilibrium. Last night, for example, she went from full defiance mode in the car (first four minutes) to hysterical panic after another four minutes. (Being alone in the dark garage probably was scary.) I'm open to suggestions.

But for now, I am happy to found a trick to get to her in the car. I think it will help, especially as the weather gets cooler!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

wasting elevens

We were sitting around the table eating lunch. Alex was counting (for some reason) and every time she said a number, Sam said the number too. Alex said, "I don't want Sam to count." I asked why. "Because then he would be wasting elevens!"

Elevens. A terrible thing to waste. :-)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

first day of school

We signed Alex up for a preschool program at the Catholic church near us. Yesterday was her first day. She's been talking about preschool for months, telling us all that she plans to learn (especially learning to whistle). As we were getting ready to go she told Bryan, "I'm so excited to go to preschool!" The first day is made much less intimidating by having the parents stay the whole time. She knew I would be with her and we didn't have Sam to divert my attention away from her. Still, when the moment came and we were getting out of the car, she became pretty apprehensive. "My stomach hurts," she said. "I think I want to go home."

Flashback to last year, when she developed a stomachache in the car on the way to her first day of preschool (at a different location). I was suspicious that the stomachache was due to nerves, but decided to stay and see how she did. Good thing, because although she ran in and seemed to be having fun immediately, even flirting with a nice boy, she suddenly stopped and complained that her stomach hurt again. It seemed real enough and although I was disappointed to have her first day end that way, I took her out. I had planned to have lunch with a friend so she came along, but we no sooner sat down than she vomited right at the table. :-( Afterwards she seemed fine. I guess I'll never know whether that was nerves or a virus. She definitely complains of stomachaches when things are stressful, so I think she is just susceptible to stress and that is how it affects her. Poor thing.

So yesterday, when she developed the instant stomachache at the sight of the preschool building, I wasn't sure what to think. Do I give off any "vibes" that make her more nervous? I didn't think I did, but I'm sure both of us have our subconscious anxiety about the start of a new school year. She wanted me to carry her rather than walk by herself, something that is becoming rarer now, but I obliged. We checked out the bathrooms and then joined the class, where she clung to me for a couple minutes until she saw the play-dough. There was no more mention of tummy-aches the rest of the morning, and though she didn't interact much with the other kids, at least she seemed happily absorbed. I noticed she is becoming conscious that there is a "right" way to color (inside the lines) - a notion that had not seemed to cross her mind last year. She watched the other kids and started to color in a small, tentative way, then stopped and asked me, "Am I doing it right?" Part of my heart breaks for her, seeing this awareness creeping in - the awareness of social environments, expectations, and fear of public humiliation or judgment based on performance. I fear the premature squelching of my free-spirited child. But there is a positive side to it too: without this awareness of others and one's social interactions, how could anyone do well in school, or develop compassion, or succeed in sports or academics or life?

All in all, the hour passed quickly. It ended with story time, some kids sitting on the rug in a circle, some (Alex included) on their mom's or dad's laps. She seemed not to be paying particular attention to the story, and I thought it was a bit slow-paced, but later she was able to tell me what it was about with reasonable detail. In retrospect, I would say the first day was a success. Especially compared to last year - no vomiting - yay! :-) It is quite something to think of the years and years of school ahead of her. Today was one small step forward into what will become a significant part of her life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

end of august update

The last half of August brings happy celebrations for us. Alex turned 4 on the 19th and Sam's arrival day is the 24th. Alex chose a cake with rubber-bug finger puppets on it, and got some cool presents related to her latest interest in bugs - a ladybug game, a plastic "Venus fly trap" that catches bugs into a clear cylinder for viewing, a "bug loupe" to magnify them, and 5 live caterpillars that will soon be turning into butterflies. To balance things out, she also got some new princess attire and a fairy princess doll with black hair and a matching dress. I guess she can be the queen of bugs.

We had her party at Wheeler Farm, and it turned out great. Bryan's remote-control airplane was a big hit, despite a brief stay on the pavilion's roof. (We got it down just fine.) The kids enjoyed making fruit loop necklaces (easy party activity - just bring floss and fruit loops!) and we attempted some games, but with 1-4 year olds the games were pretty chaotic. We played Follow the Leader, Hot Potato, and chased balloons which were blown around by the wind. We lit the candles, sang happy birthday, and Alex was all ready to blow out the candles when she got some "help" from her friends - at which point she cried - ironic because SHE was the one who blew out Ava's candles at Ava's party. Poetic justice was served, but she didn't appreciate it. She cried all the way through the second candle-lighting-and-singing, but recovered in time to blow out her own candles and was soon engrossed in cake and presents. Once again I felt so thankful and lucky to have Alex, and said a special prayer (in my heart) for her birth mother. I wonder what she thinks about on this day.

Alex's party day was also Sam's arrival day. How he has grown. He decided to mark his accomplishment by finally climbing out of his crib. He climbed out twice the other day, though I didn't see him do it. He appeared this morning in the kitchen before 7 a.m., sleepy and clinging to his blanket. Ah, the glory days of confining him safely to his bed are over...and at only 2 years and 4 months. Alex was well over 3 before she ever thought of climbing out. We are debating between keeping him in his crib a while longer, versus just putting a mattress on the floor. Either way, we have a Sam on the loose so we will have to be on our guard. :-)

And that's the update. One of the pictures may need explanation. It shows Alex being an owl, showing how she can turn her head around backwards. :-)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

feeling lazy

It's summer and I'm feeling lazy. So lazy I haven't even blogged for the past few weeks. I've also been choosing sleep over workouts - frustrating, as I love the way I feel when I get my workouts in, and I know I should be getting up early to take advantage of these beautiful early summer mornings - but some part of me must be unconsciously yearning for those carefree summer days of childhood...no school, no obligations, nothing I HAD to do. Not to mention the Olympics are sucking up a lot of my time. Those opening ceremonies were sure impressive, weren't they? I watched the synchronized diving last night - I don't remember ever seeing that before, but it was sure beautiful. We're having fun rooting for Korea and the US.

But just because I'm feeling lazy doesn't mean I'm actually sitting around doing nothing. Ah, that would be nice, but my life doesn't really enable that anymore. This weekend I've enjoyed some quality time with Ava and Lena while Cameo worked, which is fun and busy. Alex and Ava are playing SO well these days - it is so GREAT after the past couple years of 2- and 3-year old competition and fighting! Lena is getting more capable of holding her own against Sam, though he is still the primary aggressor, but it is hard to stay mad at him because he's so darn cheerful even when he's misbehaving and getting time out. He actually kisses me when I put him in the time out chair and loves to buckle himself in. Very talented at using his charm. His latest trick is opening the refrigerator and helping himself to whatever he wants. He can't reach much above the veggie drawer, but he enjoys his stolen mouthfuls of lettuce and green onions. When he sees me coming he runs away chewing joyously. I wouldn't mind it so much if he didn't leave the refrigerator door open...or pieces of chewed greenery lying about...

In closing, I have to give an honorable mention to my latest audiobook, which I'm only about 1/3 of the way through: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. A good summer read, well told, lots of adventure mixed with food for thought about God/religion and interesting facts about various animals. Definitely unique!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

cookbook battle

How funny - right after I posted that debate I was having about which cookbook was better - here is a New York Times article reporting that the author of one of the books is suing the other for copyright infringement!

I don't know enough about the case to comment on whether it's legitimate - but unless the content is expressly the same, I wouldn't think the lawsuit will be successful. Could the writer of one vegetarian cookbook sue another writer of a vegetarian cookbook, just for stealing the idea?

Anyway, I'm thinking I probably won't buy either book at the moment - at this point, my kids seem to be doing fine eating their fruits and veggies, especially with a little butter or sugar on them. :-)

Monday, June 30, 2008

deceptively delicious vs. sneaky chef

Recently two cookbooks have been brought to my attention - "Deceptively Delicious" and "The Sneaky Chef."

Both books purport to help you "hide" veggies and healthy stuff in your kids' food so they will get better nutrition. I am intrigued by the idea, as my kids are getting pickier, though they still eat pretty well. (I'm a little worried about Sam, who yells "Fries!" every time we pass a McDonald's.) It is getting easier now that they have more teeth and can actually eat salad if it's chopped up. Still, I'm always open to new ideas that can help us get our 3-5 servings a day of fruits and veggies.

The ratings are a little higher for the Sneaky Chef on Amazon. Has anyone used either of these books or made any of the recipes? I'm wondering if they are very time-consuming, and also if they are really "healthy" or if it's just hype.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ah, summer

We enjoyed a beautiful summer evening last night with Mom, Dad, Buzz, Cameo, Bean, Ava, Lena, Alex, Sam, and Tres. The kids played for a long time with the rocket-sprinkler and ended up wet and naked and very happy. We decided the girls should at least put their panties back on when the neighborhood boys started hanging around the fence watching the fun. Sam experienced his first pee into the grass, at least I think it was his first, and his expression was priceless as he watched this process sans diapers...and maybe next summer he will be out of diapers altogether - a nice thought!

The adults enjoyed chicken carbonara, green beans, Waldorf salad made with yogurt, and 2 kinds of pie...mmmmm...it was perfect weather to sit outside. This summer is much easier than last in terms of the kids, with Sam being able to play more independently, and Alex and Ava playing TOGETHER and not fighting. :-) Alex did accidentally sock Ava below her left cheekbone (while they were both spinning in circles with their arms outstretched under the sprinkler), but they managed to remain friends. During dinner someone (Lena?) started crying and Alex said, "It's too loud. And if it's too loud, I won't eat!" She DID eat but it's true, she is sensitive to noise. Last time we were at Buzz's house, Ava got hit by a ball and cried, which caused Alex to say, "It's too loud," and then Alex cried and screamed (much louder and longer than Ava). Do they make earplugs for 3-year-olds?

Last night Sam pretended he was a dog, crawling on hands and feet and "arf-arf-arf"-ing all over the deck. It's the first I've seen him really get into "pretend" play for that long, and it was cute. He also has learned to ask "Why?" whenever we ask him to do or not do something...kind of funny coming from a kid who can barely put two words together let alone understand the reasoning of "why" we're telling him things...between him and Alex asking "Why?" every 5 seconds, though, I'm tempted to resort to that famous "Because I said so" even though I swore I would never do that.

The pictures are of the kids on the train - we rode it to the Gateway a couple days ago. I NEVER thought Sam would fall asleep on the train, but I guess he was just too tired.

Monday, June 23, 2008

fun times

We're having fun this week with family in town. My sisters Mary and Robin, my parents, and Bryan's mom are all here AND I'm working the hospital every day, so it's feeling fun and slightly out of control. :-) Between us we have kids ages 5 months, 1,2,3, and 4 so there's plenty of action. Last night we drove up Big Cottonwood canyon to the nature trail around Silver Lake. As we entered the canyon Alex said, "Wow, this world is so pretty, I need to take some pictures," and she proceeded to snap several "photos" with her play cell phone. :-) She is wearing dresses more as the summer heats up, but they are a bit awkward with the 5-point booster seatbelt, and when I put her in the car yesterday I guess her panties were pulling the wrong way and she said, "Stop it! You're pulling my bottom off!" and she was not pleased at all the giggles from me and Nana.

Just as we tried to enter the parking lot at Silver Lake, a car in the lot erupted in flames and we watched an exciting firefighting show as they squirted foam on it and hacked open the hood with a crowbar. Strangely enough, Bryan and I had witnessed another car fire in this same parking lot about a year ago. We didn't learn what caused it but no one was injured.

It was quite cool at the lake (upper 50's, compared to 90's in Salt Lake) but pleasant. We didn't see any moose as we have in the past, but did see fish, birds, beaver, and - the kids' favorite - a pair of mallard ducks that were nibbling at this really mucky, slimy stuff at the edge of some standing water...Sam said "yuck" and "duck" a lot. Sam pushed Alex in the stroller for a good 100 yards and even managed to stay on the trail.

Unrelated: We tried a couple new recipes from the Thai cookbook this week: Thai peanut patties with ground turkey, which fell apart on the grill but tasted good, and a Thai peanut salad with cold noodles, cilantro, peanut butter, honey, salsa, and ham. Sounds weird but it turned out pretty good.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

silly kids

I'm just recording these here because I want to remember the silly things our kids say - these made us laugh.

We were at the park with Ava and saw a goose with one of those lumps on the top of its beak. Ava laughed and said, "That duck has a crazy nose on top of its head!" :-)

Alex was in the dressing room with Nana (B's mom) at the swimming pool and said to her while she was getting dressed, "You have big muscles!" :0)

Bryan and Nana were swimming with Alex. Alex did something brave and Bryan said, "That's my girl!" Nana said, "That's MY girl!" and Alex said, "No, I'm HIS."


cooking good food

I've enjoyed cooking some new dinners from my new "Thai cooking and more" cookbook (a Borders $4 special). So far, I've made Pad Thai, Buddha's delight, and baked fish with Thai pesto. They were all good but I think the Thai pesto has been the best so far. It has lemon juice and grated/zested lemon peel, fresh basil, cilantro, and mint leaves, garlic, green onions, jalapeno, and peanut oil. (Maybe something else but that's all I can remember.) I may try cutting the peanut oil in half and substitute broth or something less fattening next time. You chop it all up in a food processor and spread it on salmon fillets (or fish of your choice) and bake. Mmmmm. It was really good!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

women's weekend getaway, books

This weekend was fabulous. The women's group at our church took a little time out for pampering at a Park City condo. Nothing was scheduled. We just hung out together and relaxed. Luxurious for moms of small kids, which we all were. I think the idea of time away is most appealing when you are used to working hard at home. I did not miss cooking or cleaning up after every meal. Thanks to the good husbands for taking care of things so we could feel human again. :-)

Books I'm reading these days (I like to read several at once) -

The New Testament and the People of God - NT Wright - a scholar's history of the first century environment, Jewish and other, surrounding Jesus and the early Christian movement.

If Jesus Were Mayor by Bob Moffitt - about the role of the local church in the community. We may tackle this one next in women's group. I like his emphasis on living your faith through action.

Bagels, Dim Sum, and Grits - about living as a multicultural family. This was part of my inspiration to buy the Thai cookbook. My first attempt at Pad Thai was delicious, even though I used too many noodles. :-)

Dave Ramsey's money management audiobook - I've only listened to the first 2 chapter or so, and so far haven't learned anything new, but he's entertaining (though occasionally annoying) to listen to.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Phoenix trip

Haven't posted in a while. We've been busy! Here are pics from our trip to Phoenix. (I got to go present a paper for a conference, and we decided the whole family should come.)

Phoenix was GREAT. The hotel we stayed in was quite the resort - complete with water park, palm trees and fountains. It was perfect weather to enjoy the swimming pools, the wave pool and the "lazy river" (. Alex surprised me with her boldness in the wave pool. She has learned that with a life vest and her little toucan inner tube, she is invincible in the water. Even after one wave smacked her in the face, she still wanted to go back for more. In the evenings they showed a kid movie over the pool. This will be perfect in a few years; as it was, I couldn't really watch the movie because I was trying to focus on keeping the kids from drowning unnoticed. They sure had fun - they thought it was pretty cool to be in the pool at sunset. The kids slept well in the hotel except for one day when Sam learned he could climb out of the pack and play (see picture). We moved it away from the bed and that seemed to foil him again. Whew.

I had a nice mix of attending conference meetings, shopping the outlet mall, and playing in the water with the kids. I haven't traveled much for work in the past couple of years, trying to stay closer to home and the kids, but it was nice to get out of my usual work environment and meet people who are tackling the same problems from different angles. I felt happy with my presentation, and it generated so much discussion among the audience that the moderator had to cut it off so the next person could speak. At least they didn't fall asleep, as the department chair did while I defended my master's thesis. Anyway - I'm happy that part is over and look forward to presenting the same material to another audience in July.

We visited a train park too - this was really up Sam's alley. He looks so serious in the pictures but he really did have a good time. Really!

Alex insisted I include this picture of her showing off her bandaids. She skinned her knees at the train park. She stood up for an entire bath trying to keep the bandaids from coming off. :-)

Even though we returned to a cool and wet Salt Lake City, it felt like we got a good start on summer vacation. Hooray for summer!

Monday, May 19, 2008

funny kids' sayings

These days I'm often so busy I don't appreciate all the silly moments with the kids. Here are some I got a laugh out of lately:

Alex: It's a good thing Sam's in time out. Now I don't have to hit him.

Alex(eating dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets): "Mmmm...tastes like chicken!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!"

Sam: "Bock bock bock bock bock bock!"

This one is from C, a friend's little boy...friend, you know who you are!)

I noticed C was holding himself and dancing a little. I asked him, "C, do you need to go potty?"
C: "No."
Me: "What are you doing?"
C: "I'm just holding my penis so I won't get my pants wet."

We did visit the potty. Success! It just cracks me up sometimes how transparent 3-year-olds can be. I'll miss this stage when they learn to be more inhibited...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

cool Mother's Day getaway

We went to a hotel for a night for Mother's Day. A friend of mine was planning to go with her family and we thought it sounded like a good idea, so we tagged along. We ended up being assigned to the room right next door to our friends, which was fun.

There was a nice heated pool and we had it all to ourselves most of the time. It was warm enough that we all stayed in the water for as long as we wanted, and the kids had a blast. Alex was jazzed about the fact that the lifejacket would keep her from sinking. We bought the kids $2 inflatable rings they could hang on to and Alex quickly learned to pilot her ship around the pool all by herself. It was a big milestone for her, and I think she will enjoy swimming pools on a whole new level this summer. She even asked Papa to dunk her all the way under and she closed her eyes, held her breath and did it! Sam wasn't so fond of the lifejacket idea at first, but eventually he got used to it and even floated on his back on his own for a few seconds at a time. He's funny - whenever the back of his head is in the water he closes his eyes. Mostly he liked being zoomed around the pool by papa.

We also bought a new toy, a set of 4 fishing nets and 32 colorful plastic fish, turtles, and seahorses. Most of them floated but a handful were sinkers, so the kids paddled around scooping up the floaters with their nets and the adults swam down to retrieve the ones on the bottom (I picked them up with my toes). I was a little nonplussed with the price tag when I bought it ($20) but it was worth it.

We were outside our room in the hallway waiting for our friends when an older lady walked by. Alex stood right in front of her and asked, "Are you my Nana?" She said, "Well, I have grandchildren, but I'm not YOUR Nana." Alex looked at her for a moment and asked, "Whose Nana are you?" She then named all her children and grandchildren for us. She didn't really look like either Bryan's mom or my mom, but I guess Alex thought maybe since we were in a hotel we might run into them!

I was looking forward to a nice relaxing Mother's Day breakfast (provided by the hotel), but it wasn't exactly what I had pictured. Alex and Papa were in the room so I had Sam by myself, and he was the proverbial bull in the china shop. He threw a plastic spoon, dumped food on the ground, smeared syrup on the table, and managed to turn his chair over twice on the tile floor. Finally he was so naughty I took him back to the room for time out in his crib, went back down and finished my (now cold) Belgian waffle by myself. Next time I will be more strategic and insist that we all eat together. Let papa handle the bull in the china shop on Mother's Day!

Anyway - it was such a good time I hope to do it again every year. :-)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

book review: The Lucky Gourd Shop

This book, a novel by Joanna Catherine Scott, tells the story of "what really happened" to the parents of 3 Korean siblings who were adopted to the U.S. when the oldest was 6 or 7. I liked it a lot. I thought the author did a great job of making you feel like you were in Korea. A couple things stuck out to me as odd or not very realistic, but otherwise it was an enjoyable, if heartbreaking at times, read. It's one I won't soon forget. And yes, it did make me cry. :-)

I also started reading one called Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman. I saw that Helen Hunt is making a movie out of it and it was adoption-related so I thought I might like it. It's about a woman who is "found" (almost more like "stalked") by her biological mom 30+ years after she placed her for adoption. So far, I'm only 3 or 4 chapters in, but it's only so-so. The characters are pretty one-dimensional so far, and not particularly likable, at least not yet. There are a lot of references to the bio. mom as the "real" mom, which bugs me just a wee bit, as you might guess it would. :-) Not that she isn't "real," but you know what I mean. I wonder if the author has any personal connection to adoption or just thinks it's an interesting topic and makes a good story.

Monday, April 28, 2008

book review: The Gods Grew Tired of Us, Movie: the Kite Runner

I picked this book randomly off a shelf in Barnes and Noble and started reading. Couldn't put it down! It's the memoir of a Sudanese man who was one of the "Lost Boys" - war refugees from southern Sudan. His village was attacked in 1987 (when he was 13) and he fled with other refugees, got separated from his family and spent the next several years fleeing, starving, and surviving in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. He eventually makes it to the US in 2001, courtesy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the US government, just before the number of immigrants was sharply decreased after 9/11.

Despite the grim subject matter, the story is really well told. For me, it made the whole desperate situation in Sudan and Darfur more personal, and gave me new insight into the lives of the Sudanese families we have encountered here in Utah. For a few years we were peripherally involved in helping recent immigrants from Sudan as they settled here in Salt Lake. The book filled me in on more of their cultural customs and what it must have been like to go from that society to this one. There are some quite funny stories actually, so don't make the mistake of thinking the book is all one long horror story. The author's attitude and spirit shine through.

I highly recommend this one if you get a chance to read it. The author is John Bul Dau.

This weekend we also saw The Kite Runner. I had read the book a couple of years ago. The movie was extremely well done, and as faithful to the book as any movie I've seen. I heard that the kid who played Hassan had to go into hiding with his parents as they feared Islamic (fundamentalist) backlash - I'm not sure if it was the subject matter, or the negative portrayal of Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan, or what. Oh well. Kudos to this movie - some sad/serious subject matter but the element of redemption in it came through.

Other random news: today is mom's birthday. Happy birthday MOM! I think she is in Italy on vacation. Hope she is having the time of her life.

Last weekend I took Alex to a birthday party where they had a magician who performed for the kids, mostly 3-5 years old. It was a riot. The magician was silly and knew just how to appeal to that age group's sense of humor. He had them rolling on the ground. At one point he had a little house with a Cookie Monster that moved around in it, then disappeared, only to re-appear later peeking out from his belt in back. Alex keeps talking about the man who had "Cookie Monster in his pants" and while I know what she is referring to, I'm sure it sounds very odd out of context!


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Malaria Awareness Day

Tomorrow is Malaria Awareness Day. Frankly, I have to admit that most of time I don't think about malaria at all. In my small corner of the world, it's not much of an issue. But worldwide, it's a big big deal. I copied this info from Malaria No More, which collects donations toward bed nets and otherwise promotes cost-effective ways to limit malaria. I think it's pretty cool that $10 can save a life.

"... Last year, for the first time, the United States officially commemorated Malaria Awareness Day, celebrating progress and highlighting opportunities in the fight against malaria. To underscore the U.S. commitment to ending malaria related deaths, President Bush embraced the urgency of the cause by designating April 25th, 2007 as Malaria Awareness Day.

... Here are five things you can do to stop malaria in its tracks:

Donate bed nets for families in Africa: Each long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net protects a child from malaria. When a child dies every thirty seconds from malaria, a moment of your time can save a life.

Plan your own malaria event: a great way to celebrate World Malaria Day is to celebrate with friends and family. We have everything you need to make your event a success.

Dance the night away: By joining our youth outreach program, Stayin' Alive, your school can take an active part in the fight against malaria.

Learn more about the disease: Take five minutes on World Malaria Day to learn about this disease.

Tell your friends and family to take a stand against malaria today: send an e-card and donate a bed net in honor of a friend or loved one.

Join us in the fight to end malaria deaths. World Malaria Day is your chance to make a difference on a global scale. So choose today to save a life and change the world—and remember that, together, we can make Malaria No More.

In the daily grind, sometimes we forget to see the bigger picture. Stuff like this helps put things in perspective for me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sleep chronicles

Alex is a good sleeper - off and on. At 3, to our chagrin, she still has some intermittent nighttime sleep issues, which translates to interrupted sleep for us (usually me, as Bryan sleeps through noise better than I do). I've been up briefly with her 3 of the last 4 nights. Last night she woke me up twice, at 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. She will occasionally cry and then stop on her own, but more often now she will cry until someone comes to her. I have tried letting her cry for up to 15 minutes, but that means I lie awake the entire time and Sam wakes up too, so lately I've just been giving in.

Sometimes she loses her da-dosh (special washcloth she sleeps and cuddles with), and can't seem to even attempt to look for it on her own. Last night (the 5 a.m. awakening) she fell out of bed. She is fully capable of getting back in, but she cried until I came and put her back in. Other times she has some somatic complaint: her tummy hurts, or she says, "I can't breathe." Gotta love that one - I've never seen a hint of asthma or breathing difficulties, and she says this frequently, not just if she has congestion or a cold. Very often she can't describe any reason for her crying, but just says "Hold me." After a minute or so of holding and rocking, she's happy enough to be put back in her bed and goes back to sleep without protest.

She's also quite resistant to settling down to go to sleep in the evenings, especially if she's had a good afternoon nap. If we stay up talking in the kitchen or our bedroom after putting her to bed, she will get out of bed to come and tell us we're being "too loud." Or she will say she heard "a noise." The other day we asked if it could be her heater vent and she went back into her room, stuck her finger into the vent and said, "It was my heater! No wonder I couldn't sleep!" (The low-level blowing noise has never been noticed/commented on by her before.) :-) We've found her awake at midnight in the recent past, and it's not uncommon for her to play in her room until 10:30 at night. Bryan says this (difficulty getting to sleep/staying asleep) predicts anxiety in later life, and I wonder what we're in for. I don't see her sleep issues as being severe, at this point, but I do worry a little.

So...how can we as parents best respond to these sleep issues? Ignore her at night? Refuse to let her nap (and deal with the crankiness around 5 pm)? Reward her the next morning if she stays quiet all night? My instinct is to check initially when she cries, make sure there is truly nothing wrong, and then get out quickly to minimize the "reward" of having mom's company. I debate whether to hold her when she asks, especially when she seems to have no apparent reason for getting me out of bed. If these behaviors continue, I may tell her that holding and rocking can happen any time of day and always at bedtime, but nighttime is for sleeping. Wish me luck.

Monday, April 21, 2008

book review: Saving Fish from Drowning

I have greatly enjoyed several books by Amy Tan, but this one really didn't do much for me.
I listened to it on audio, and it was read by the author, and she is a very good reader as well as writer. But...I'm not sure why...I just didn't get into this one.

It was told from the viewpoint of a dead person whose "ghost" (I guess) accompanies the tour group she had planned to lead through China and Burma before her untimely demise. The group goes missing and the reader gets to see what actually happens during their disappearance into the jungles of Burma. I had a hard time caring about any of the characters and there seemed to be a lot of gratuitous sexual stuff that IMHO didn't add any value to the story. The bigger issue was that in the end, it didn't seem there was any real movement or change or transformation that came out of the whole experience for any of the characters. Actually, the ending was kind of depressing, not in a "tragic" way that makes you think, but more in a mundane way that probably mimics the way life really is. I can get that from reading the newspaper. I want more profound take-aways from fiction. Maybe that is too much to ask, but I've gotten it from Amy Tan in the past.

I LOVED A Hundred Secret Senses and the Bone-Setter's Daughter, and the Joy Luck Club was pretty good, but this one was a disappointment.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Somewhere...out there...

Today Sam turns TWO!

His babyhood is disappearing even faster than Alex's. It's been harder to focus in on all his endearing little traits, to keep track of all his milestones, and just to be completely present in the moment with him every day as I felt I was with Alex when she was my only one. I suppose it's a natural thing that happens when you go from having one child to two, and it's not as if I can't pay enough attention to each of them (most of the time). It just takes more conscious effort.

Sam's Korean mom is really in my thoughts today. I admit that most of the time, what with the constant demands of working and keeping up with the kids, I don't think so much about the fact that somewhere in Korea are a man and a woman who have a direct biological connection to Sam. But today I will let my thoughts go there...what are they doing today? What does his mother remember about this day? Did she hold him when he was born? Did she cry when she had to put him in the care of another, or was she more numb, or perhaps feeling a mixture of relief and regret? What does she think about on this day? I wish I knew whether she has ever showed up at the agency to see his pictures or read our letters. I wish I could see her face, and the face of his Korean father. I wish I could take a peek at his dad's hands and feet and see if that's where Sam gets them! I wish I could know a lot more about them. Maybe someday.

Happy birthday, my precious little Samwise. We love you immensely. And we wish the best for your Korean mom and dad, whoever and wherever they are.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

angst over school choices

Man - who knew I would feel so conflicted over where to send our kids to school?

And - who knew I would be agonizing about it 2 years ahead of the actual start of school? Not me!

The catalyst for all this was that my friend and my brother both have daughters who will be 4 in the fall. They both applied to put their daughters in private preschools in the area and were both told the classes were already full (!) and put on a waiting list.

Actually, I wasn't even really considering private school for our kids, but it got me thinking and I decided to check out the schools, public and private, in our area. I got a dose of reality when I saw the statistics for our local public school: 95% white, 2% black, 2% hispanic, and 1% Asian. Hmmmm. Of course, the private schools are also 95% white, so if we have any more hope of greater diversity, we will either have to move or hope to get in to a school closer to the city. There is a school with nearly 20% Asian kids (the highest it gets in Utah) on my way to work, but rumor has it there are 500 applicants for about 6 spots at that school every year. (It's public, so preference goes to kids living in that district.)

The other schools with any kind of diversity are mostly filled with Latino students, which is fine, but how much does that really help you if you are Korean? Also, the test scores at these schools are considerably lower than those near us - not the biggest factor, but it seems I have the choice of either good academics (and generally better environments, more extracurricular activities, more parent involvement, higher parent ratings) - or more diversity. It may be impossible to get both.

The other big factor - and the one that pushes me closest to considering a private school - is that many public schools are dominated by one religious majority (LDS). Our kids are already minorities, and they will feel this more and more as they grow up in white-dominant Utah. If they are also in the religious minority - will they feel like TOTAL outsiders?

Ugh. Part of me wishes the world really was "color-blind" - and I think race issues really aren't very big in Utah - but how would I know? I'm in the racial majority and always have been. I do know that if I were the only one of my race in my elementary school class, I would feel it. I don't want to put my kids in that situation.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

We had a really nice Easter. Alex was very happy to see a chocolate bunny in her Easter basket, and Sam got mad about something and threw his Easter basket on the floor, but he recovered quickly. We had Buzzmeovana over for lunch - we tried a new recipe for lamb shish kebabs and it came out good! All in all - a good day and it finally feels like SPRING!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"I promise"

Last night Alex was snuggling on the couch with me and asked if I would sleep in her bed with her. I said I would snuggle for a few minutes, but I can't sleep in her bed all night. She said, "When I was a baby, you slept with me." I've told her about how, when she first arrived home with us, I slept in her room with her because she missed her foster mom. She has been bringing up Korea and her foster mom recently, on her own initiative. I'm amazed at how much she remembers of what we've told her, but I'm not sure how much she really understands.

So, while still snuggling on my lap and right after talking about her foster mom, she looks into my eyes and says something like, "Promise you will never go away, mom. You have to PROMISE." (I don't remember the exact wording and her grammar is a little off...and I don't remember her ever using the word "promise." Wow.) I said, "I promise I will never leave you." And she said, "No, promise you will never go away ALEX." Did she mean "give away Alex"? Was she worried that she will be "given away" again? I told her I will always be her mommy and she will be my girl forever. That seemed to satisfy her.

I've been thinking about this a lot last night and today. It was a poignant moment, a glimmer of her first conscious processing of what had to happen for her to be adopted. :-( I'm sad to think she might be worried that her status as our daughter could ever be in jeopardy. :-( In combination with the comments she made last week, telling us out of the blue that she was "junk" - and now apparently wondering if she could be "thrown away" or "given away" ? I wonder if the adoption explanations we've tried to give have been misinterpreted? I remember reading a study that showed that 3-5 year old Korean children, adopted as infants, were worried that they might be taken away again. These concerns were generally not shared with their parents and in all respects they were well-adjusted, happy kids.

We've always been matter-of-fact about her adoption and have tried to make sure she understands where she began her life and how she came to be our daughter. But - no matter how delicately you couch it - when you tell a child that her first mother could not be a mother to her, and so she was taken to a new family - does she automatically, if unconsciously, conclude that she is somehow not valuable? That it was her fault? I suppose this would be a rational conclusion, and I've seen it expressed by adoptees before. I naively hoped my kids would somehow escape it. I also didn't expect to see these questions or fears quite this early.

I've briefly questioned the wisdom of our telling Alex her adoption story at this tender age. But only briefly. I still believe in my heart that honesty is the best policy, that by telling her the facts (at age appropriate levels) we are enabling her to understand and integrate her past with her present, are allowing her to question us with the expectation of receiving truthful answers, and are creating an environment in which dialogue can occur without an overtone of secrecy or shamefulness. As sad as I am to think she might be fearful or feel not valued, I would be even more sad if she did not feel she could express these things to us.

And so I plan to get my ducks in a row and talk to her again, sometime in the near future, about her adoption story. Her 3rd arrival day anniversary is coming up in May, so we'll probably have another discussion around that time and look at her lifebook pictures. This time, I may be more careful to emphasize that her first mother (and father) could not take care of ANY baby - and that being adopted means she belongs with us forever. I have to anticipate the "Why" questions this time, too - so I pray I can answer in a way that affirms her. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Alex update

We are having our ups and downs with Alex. I am wondering if the terrible threes will ever end. She can be so charming, cute, and fun one minute, and then the next she turns into a little raging, tantruming tiger cub.

A recent quote I liked: "Mommy, even when you are bad, I still love you." When she gets frustrated with me or Sam she counts (just like we do with her) "That's one," "That's two," etc. Except she can't put us in time out when we get to three. :-) Poor Alex. When she doesn't like something I'm doing I hear a lot of "Mom, you're being BAD. You're NAUGHTY." I have tried to emphasize the fact that SHE is not bad, but sometimes her BEHAVIOR is bad, but in her mind, they are all the same, I'm afraid. I hope she doesn't internalize the notion that she is "BAD" too much, especially since she spends a fair amount of time in the time out chair. I try to counter it with positive cuddle time, rocking chair time, telling her often how great she is, and catching her being good. It is hard to know what is sinking in. Twice in the past week she has talked about being "junk" and getting thrown in the trash. What is this about?! Bryan and I have not the foggiest notion. We don't want to read too much into it, but it seems a pretty strange thing for a 3-year-old to say. We have never even joked about such a concept with her - so where does she get it? Hmmm.

The bedtime and potty battles continue. She really has a hard time accepting the rules and constantly tries to manipulate them. I don't get it - she knows we will make her go to bed every night and we follow a very predictable routine - yet when it's that final moment when we say good night and leave the room, many nights it's another squall with yelling and tears. She will not initiate going to the potty herself, and if we don't provide the motivation she will go only once or maybe twice the whole day. We're trying for 3 times a day - but lucky to make it two. We try to give her many other ways to have control, like allowing her to wear her pajamas everywhere, but it's an uphill battle.

I've heard this gets better when they turn four. On the bright side, she is really learning to play beautifully with Ava and other kids her age.

Friday, March 14, 2008

book of the month - The Raft

I've been listening to an audiobook called "The Raft" by Bill Trumbull, randomly selected from our local library shelves in an opportune moment when I was there to browse without the kids.

It is a true story of 3 Navy men who got lost on a routine mission (scouting for submarines) early in 1942 - just 2 months after Pearl Harbor - and couldn't make it back to their aircraft carrier in the Pacific. They landed the plane in the water and managed to get the life raft out before the plane sank, but all the survival gear went down in the plane. The US fleet was stretched too thin in the Pacific for much of a search and rescue effort - so after a search plane passed over them the first day, they were on their own. For the next 34 days they floated at the mercy of the elements and had to survive on what they could catch - fish, birds, a couple of floating coconuts. It sounds like it might be boring but actually is a pretty engrossing story - well told and full of good details - I don't know how they remembered the details so well afterward but I guess maybe you would if you were in that situation. I don't know why I like these kind of near-death adventure stories so much, but I do. Some of my favorites are Alive and Into Thin Air. I listened to one called The Hatchet earlier this year, about a boy stranded alone in the Canadian woods with nothing but a hatchet, and I liked that too, but I think it was fiction.

Anyway - if you have a car trip coming up or just need a good true adventure story, I recommend The Raft. You'll be glad to be warm, safe, and dry.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Paper accepted!

Today I found out that a paper I submitted with a group from my work has been accepted for presentation at a national conference in Phoenix this summer. Woo-hoo!

I haven't done very much academic work for the past 2 years. It's a nice feeling of accomplishment to be first author on a paper, especially since it was written in a marathon session just before the deadline. I had thought they only wanted the abstract until just about a day before the due date, and then discovered they wanted the entire paper. I buckled down and pushed through a 12-hour work day to get it done. There were several serendipitous occurrences that day that enabled me to finish it, including key people being willing to help me work on it after hours. I really do have fantastic co-workers. And as a side benefit, I now have the capacity to convert any document to PDF format. Whee.

If anyone's interested, the paper is about how we used a controlled reference terminology (SNOMED CT) to exchange computable data on patient allergies between the VA and the Dept of Defense. If you have insomnia, reading the entire paper could probably cure it, unless you happen to be one of the .001% of the population that really grooves on this sort of stuff.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Gold medal, and I love my DVR

Well, it took me about a year and 3 weeks - but my goal was to do it before my 39th birthday on March 8 and I made it! Woo-hoo!

For those of you who don't know, I've been working toward a Presidential fitness award. You log your workout points online and they accumulate toward a bronze (20,000 points), silver (40,000) or gold medal (80,000). I liked having the extra motivation to work out. Now that I'm done, though, I might need something else to motivate me to stick with it, especially through the rest of the winter.

Anyway - yahoo!

Unrelated subject: I really LOVE having a DVR. Buzz says it revolutionizes your TV watching and he is right. I am having fun watching shows I have heard about but never seen, like What Not to Wear. I recognize myself way too much in that one. A friend told me a couple years ago she wanted to nominate me for it, but I doubt I would ever do it. The whole new wardrobe would be nice though.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

awkward moment

So I'm standing at the voter sign-in table this morning at 7:15 a.m. when an acquaintance of mine comes in right behind me. He went to my alma mater, Wheaton College, and we've known him and his family on friendly terms for years here in Salt Lake. We used to go to the same church. He is a conservative Republican, politically active, and though we have rarely if ever discussed politics I think he's pretty darn committed to Republican ideals.

So in our state, if you're unaffiliated (as I am) the voter-sign-in dude has to ask you which ticket you want to vote on. So I answered "Democrat" right in front of my die-hard Republican acquaintance. It's not exactly an invasion of privacy, but it did make me uncomfortable. I am pretty moderate actually and have voted about equally Republican and Democrat in the past, but in the past few elections I've been swinging more to the Democratic side. These days, the war and the environment are on my mind as I approach the candidates. Every election year is different.

Oh well - in the grand scheme of things, I am extremely grateful that elections here are so calm and well-tempered, especially in light of what's happening in Kenya and what happens in a lot of the world around election time. I don't think our friendship with this guy and his family will change much because he knows I voted on the Democratic ticket - but all the same, I think the party affiliation rules in this state are kind of silly and annoying. Why can't we just cast a vote for whichever candidate we prefer, regardless of party?

Monday, February 4, 2008

voting, and why are the flags at half mast?

Tomorrow is our primary and I still don't know who I'm voting for.

This is a cry for help. I'm informationally-challenged when it comes to finding out the real scoop about the candidates. So for all you politically-savvy people out there, how do you get good information? I have tried random internet searching but it seems I just get a lot of opinionated propaganda and not much substance. I'd like to be an informed voter, but I'm pressed for time so I need an efficient good source of (hopefully relatively unbiased) information.

For this primary it may be too late, but I have confidence that the people of Utah will vote overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney so my vote will not count for much here. But I would still like to become better informed.

BTW, I will not be voting for Mitt. :-)

Second issue for the day: Why were all the American flags flying at half mast this weekend? Was there some national tragedy I was unaware of? They were already half mast before the super bowl, so it couldn't have been out of pity for the Pats. :-) I have a suspicion, and this is only a theory, that it is because Gordon B. Hinckley, the LDS president, died and his funeral was Saturday. Now, I have nothing against appropriate ceremonies to mourn for Mr. Hinckley, but it makes me wonder what are the criteria for deciding to lower all the American flags? I remember they were lowered at Ronald Reagan's death, and September 11. But am I being silly to think it is a little out of place to lower the flags for the death of a religious figure? I don't know why - something about the connection between the LDS church and the American flag just bothers me. Something about separation of church and state. Or, is this not the reason at all for the half mast flags?

Anyone? Anyone?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

electronics deaths, new shoes and my new inner domestic goddess

Electronics deaths - slowly the entropy is taking over the electronics equipment in our home. We have been watching the old computer monitor slowly fizzle away, the printer/fax/scanner is crotchety, and our video camera (2 years old) has been getting more and more obstreperous until finally last night it refused to finalize the disk or do anything at all - resulting in the loss of our precious Christmas 2007 videos, with the kids discovering the train table and everything. Sigh. Sam broke our CD player a couple months ago, too. Suddenly I'm looking at the cost of replacing all this stuff - and hoping we can find some good deals.

On the bright side, it looks like we are going to get Dish network, a DVR and a new HDTV. I'm looking forward to watching only the programs I want, when I want, with no commercials. Oh yeah - probably will want an HD-DVD player along with the list above. Ouch! If anyone sees any good deals on electronics stuff - let me know, we seem to need one of everything. Maybe we will get a tax refund and I will go crazy at Circuit City. That's as good a plan as any.

New shoes - I got new walking shoes this weekend and I think they are cool. I'll post a picture. Sometimes retail therapy really does work. :-)

My new inner domestic goddess is coming out. I never knew she was there. It must be all this cold weather with nothing to do outside. I have made my bed every day for over a week now. That's more than I've made it in my entire life, I think. I've also planned menus and cooked real food for the past month - another thing I have never, ever done. I've also done a fair amount of decluttering, and dusted for the first time in about a year (I'm not kidding) and the place is looking decent. I even bought a feather duster on a long pole, which inspired Bryan to go around de-cobwebbing all over the house. Cool!!! The kids have also enjoyed "dusting" the baseboards and each other with it. Anyway, I'm enjoying the inner goddess and hope she will stay for a while.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Justice is served in the VA parking lot

Have I really not blogged since Dec 17? Wow.

Well, it's been going on for several months and I'm sick of it. Unauthorized people (mostly VA employees, from the looks of their parking permits) have been parking illegally in the designated spaces for myself and my Building 4 compatriots. There are signs clearly stating "OIFO parking ONLY". But even if we arrive before 8 am, often all our spots are taken and we are forced to drive around in circles, park across the street or in the "back 40", and then walk through the snow and ice.

So today, I parked within inches of a large snowbank because it was the only spot I could find. I walked into my office with one wet and cold leg and, disgusted, called the VA Police and complained. Previous complaints were made to a different office and were never acted on.

So today - After months of futile protests to the deaf bureaucracy - I look outside and YES! There are tickets on the windshields of the 5 cars next to mine. Victory dance!

It's funny how much this has made my day. I have never been one to gloat excessively over others' misfortune - but seeing the parking vandals get ticketed gave me a whole new taste of Schadenfreude.