Catching up on pictures

First, I don’t think I’ll be blogging on Saturday. Second, I am just so happy here, things are going great. Third, no coop pics, because it was too cold to go outside on Saturday so we bagged yardwork. Stay tuned for those. Here are some pics I’d like to share with you.

Sophie, getting a prize for being helpful and friendly at her school, kindly lined up by her otherwise grumpy teacher right before we moved:

Sisters in the tub!

Our last family night in Pasadena we shared with friends…here are the Hansens–miss you!!

Sophie and Addy–so cute!

The fabulous Halls

The wonderful Higginbothams

The much-missed Chamberlains

A serene Laura and her fevered daughter.
The sweetest pic of Sis. Wright ever, with cute Addy.
My sweet Doris!

Sophie and Autumn

Then we moved away. If you were at the FHE and you didn’t see a picture of yourself, it is because I am a poor photographer and got you with your mouth full and didn’t want you mad (Lyons, DuToits, Hunters, many others), or I was in the picture and it was just too bad to be allowed.

So, when we came here, we had an owl who lived in a small pine tree in our driveway. I named him Mr. Peepers. He was annoyed that people had moved in after having the place to himself for almost 2 years, so he’s gone now. But first he left some serious owl art on David’s car.

The weekend after we moved in was Easter, and we had a hunt. Here is Sophie and our friend Brodie Mitchell frolicking about in the mini-orchard. Our house is through the trees on the right.

Here is Grandma helping Lucy find some eggs.

Here’s the best picture I could get of Ben, right after he got the last clue and found his basket. Believe me, he was happier than he looks, but he won’t pose for pictures without serious threats, which I didn’t feel I should do while we celebrated the Easter Egg thing. He could pass for 16 with that face, not eight. Will he be “over” the teenage attitude by the time we get to the teenage years, or will it be just magnified exponentially?

Noah, happy and glutting himself on candy.

Sophie, Morgan and Addy, feeding our neighbors. Morgan especially loved the horses.

So, I’m all caught up on pics. I’ll try to upload them weekly now. Life is good!!

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Grocery shopping in Utah

That’s all I did. All day. Costco, Whole Foods then did the leftovers at Smiths. I spent enough to cover three weeks of food, so it had better last three weeks. I miss Trader Joe, but I’m determined to get over it. I was in a bad habit of going there several times a week. This once-a-month major shopping, with a few quick visits for milk and eggs, will be a nice change.

Sorry my blog is boring. Trying to keep a journal and whatnot, but not a lot of excitement yet. Tomorrow, you’ll have pictures of our before and after chicken coop demolition, though!


Three Dirty Little Secrets

For today’s That’s Not Food, I share with you three things, some or all of which you may know, but forgive me, as my informal poll shows they are not common knowledge.

1. The food ingredient called “cellulose” is generally another word for sawdust. Often found in pre-grated cheeses (especially the parmesan), and sometimes listed as an “anti-caking agent” it helps keep your powdery foods fluffy and not chunky. Incidentally, it is also an easy way to put less cheese, and more wood, in your little green can, which means more $$$ for them.

Usually, freshly-grated deli cheeses, like those at Trader Joes, don’t try to get away with this. And of course, you can always grate it yourself, it’s yummier and takes 15 seconds or something if you can spare it. (I, for one, cannot.)

Cellulose is the fiber that makes up the cell walls of most plants, it is indigestible to humans but is good for the digestive tract. However, the plants generally used for commercial cellulose are not food plants, but plain old wood. Sorry, not food.

2. The new hot trend in cutting corners in the commercial food industry is inefficiency. I’m talking now of brown sugar. If you buy a bag of C&H brown sugar, the ingredients are listed: “Brown sugar.” If you buy a bag of store-brand brown sugar, say, at Target, the ingredients listed will be: “Sugar, molasses.” “Who cares?” You say. You should.

You may know that white sugar is simply brown sugar with the molasses removed. Molasses being all the vitamins, minerals (especially iron) and distinctive flavor found in natural cane juice. The process of making white sugar white requires a great deal of refinement involving several (not food) chemicals.

The twisted chain of agribusiness has now made it cheaper to add molasses back into white sugar rather than just leave the brown sugar alone. The texture and even taste is slightly different and inferior to the real stuff–go Pepsi Challenge it yourself. But the tasteless part is the fact that most of the benefits of brown sugar–a less refined, un-chemically processed food, are now moot. It’s brown sugar made white and then made brown again.

White sugar deserves it’s own post, new articles are saying that if it was proposed as a new food now, it wouldn’t pass the FDA (and that’s a low standard) because of it’s direct contribution to diabetes. That is completely speculative and I don’t believe it, but that doesn’t keep me from perpetuating the information.

Natural substances mega-refined by unnatural chemicals to be made to look like natural substances: not food.

3. On the same topic as sugar, let’s all be aware that the term “honey” in commercially-produced food generally means high-fructose corn syrup. This is becase honey is expensive, and high-fructose corn syrup flows in vast rivers in the midwest. Raw honey can help allergies, is a powerful anti-microbial, acts as a preservative and antiseptic on wounds, and acts as a fabulous cough syrup, among other things. High-fructose corn syrup is a super-mega refined derivative of corn that nature never intended humans to guzzle down by the barrel and brings us snowballing diabetes, obesity and organ damage. Just start checking your “Honey Whole Wheat Bread” is all I’m saying. Read enough labels, it’s enough to get you to start grinding and baking. (And, as a sidenote, wheat starts losing it’s nutritional value within days of being ground–how long has that bread been on the shelf?)

And don’t get me started on the “honey sauce” packets the restaurant industry is trying to pass off these days. You can guess the main ingredient, and it’s not honey.

Forgive my weekly angry rants–I love food, but am falling out of love with the commercial food industry. Darnit! Sawdust, processing chemicals, and mega-refined mutations of nature–NOT FOOD!

Only a virus

My and Lucy’s cultures showed negative today–yay! It’s handy to have someone able to test what’s going on so easily. I’m beating the virus with tons of garlic, Vit C, and water.

I felt better enough today to go to the Discovery Center children’s museum with Michele–it is by far the best children’s museum I’ve been to, and I’ve been to many!

I need to print a formal retraction to appease my pa-in-law: Utah is not lame. Utah germs are lame, and the lame things about Utah are lame. I love everything about Utah that is not a germ and is not lame.


How does one title each day of one’s life? It’s oppressive!

Feeling a bit better, but kind of not. Mom worked in microbiology today (she works in the lab at the hospital) and cultured herself, says we may have streptococcus pneumococcal (not strep throat, pneumonia). She came by tonight to culture me and will tell me tomorrow. I feel less coughing, but very tired, and like someone is standing on my chest. Lame germy Utah!

Michele came to visit this morning, which was nice. Friends like her who know just about how “well” I take care of my daily life look around this place and all the outside work to be done with a kind of “Good luck with that” look. All I can say is I will have help–this is becoming the extended family farm, it seems.

The kids just played all day, half in the neighbor’s yard on their tramp and swingset, half in our yard. They all fell asleep hard. I think Ben is already losing weight. Hope I’ll follow suit.

Utah is Germy!

I ALWAYS get sick when I come to Utah! I was here one day when I started with a sore throat. Granted, I’d gotten no sleep on the first days due to the drive and the move, but I started pounding back garlic pills and vitamin C like crazy, since I’m not like normal people and can’t take echinacea ’cause it gives me heart attacks and stuff.

So, I was in bed all day. Acknowledgements go to Kim for taking my kids this morning, TV for taking my kids in the early afternoon, and Elaine for taking my kids all the way through dinner, and to my husband for taking care of everything else. No thanks to the lame Utah germs that made me cough up my lungs (and sometimes my lunch) until DH went and got the raw honey (yep, works same as cough syrup, less yucky, druggy and red).

On my list of things to do today was unpacking toys and books and reading about how to prune my fruit trees. Since I could do the latter while lying horizontally, I was able to check that one off. There’s my five-minute journal entry. In four minutes.

The Tuck In Panacea

There is very little within the spectrum of average parenting that can’t be made up for with a high-quality tuck in.

The tuck in was an essential nightly ritual in my upbringing which, like my own children, I prolonged with a variety of elaborate efforts: the additional story, the drink, the extra hug and kiss, the need for more blankets, and of course, an onslaught of elaborate and irrelevant questions–all critical tools in the arsenal of extending that sweet moment of one-on-one parental attention.

Perhaps you will think it indicative of arrested development that this ritual continued as long as I lived in the house. But really it was just that I was an only child to a single parent–we both needed the nightly hugs. Still, I hope to use it to prolong the child-parent bedtime connection as long as my kids will allow it.

Now, at the end of an exhausting day where my parenting has been marginal to poor, it is tempting to forgo this procedure with a swift, “Everyone in BED!” and a token, speedy hug and “G’nite, love you.” However, I am starting to see the wonderful redemption opportunity I am giving up when I do this. A few, focused moments at the bedside can leave me, and hopefully my child, ending the day feeling that some good-quality parenting is going on, and love is in the air to fuel sweet kid dreams. This is an illusion I am more than happy to weave.

In my house, perhaps one night in a week, the high-quality tuck in will require an apology for bad behavior on my part. I do try to apologize at the time when I make mistakes with my kids, but there really isn’t an ending moment to my grumpy-mom performance that would make an apology anything but a ridiculous comma in the middle of it. Enter the tuck in, where we calm down with routines and prayer and inside jokes and rituals, and then, as I kneel quietly at the bedside, I can sincerely feel (and not just say) that I’m sorry, and they are in a much better position to forgive.

The tuck in has evolved differently with each of my four kids. With my oldest, I’ve found the
bunk bed is not helpful to this routine. We end up on my bed after I’ve said goodnight to all the others, chatting while my other little guy falls asleep on the lower bunk. He’ll still let me sing to him and pet his hair.

I sincerely feel this daily touchstone of chatting can be the key to holding onto him through both tweendom and teendom. In fact, my Aunt Dede (three daughters) and Uncle John (three boys, three girls), each attested to the fact that this one thing was why they ended up with kids they stayed close to, and who all ended up on the right track in life.

My oldest daughter, now six, will let me fawn on her and dote and croon and sing all night if I wanted to. There must be butterfly kisses, eskimo kisses, endless kisses and cuddles. She was born with an insatiable craving for this kind of encompassing affection, and I’m sad to say she gets just about none of it most days outside of the tuck in. Without this nightly routine, one of her deepest, most urgent emotional needs would be left unmet.

My three-year old goes through the nightly routine of resisting the tuck in at first, because that means bed, “No! NO song! No mommy sing. Go away.” But then he succumbs with all sorts of cuddly goodness. Of course there is the water getting and the request for a second dinner to be served in bed, which is rarely indulged, unless I served something truly gross for dinner which warranted his rejection. Then, he refuses a song as often as he begs for one. His favorite song for the past six months is “Pumpkin in the Straw” (sung to “Turkey in the Straw”) which I made up last Halloween because he requested a pumpkin song. I didn’t know I’d be singing it until he went to college.

Our routine often ends with a kiss, hug, and squeeze, in that order. Tonight I hugged him and, mildly distracted, went to leave. It was the highlight of my day to hear him say, “Mommy! A Fweeze! I need a fweeze!” No matter how many times I’ve been roped into coming back after trying to leave, who could deny that?

I’m just starting a routine with my little 21 month old, who has been babied far to long and put down asleep. Although it’s just a song and kiss, she knows it means I love her and she’s going to bed, like it or not. It’s simple, but it’s a basic foundation for all those late night chats I look forward to when she comes home from a date in 15 years.

I then can emerge from the kids’ room like I would a confessional, feeling free of guilt and ready to try harder. Stephen Covey would say I’ve brought my children’s emotional bank accounts current, especially on those days I’ve become severly overdrawn. And for the good days, I’ve got a little padding, in case grumpy mommy escapes again.

The simple bedtime tuck in–it covers a multitude of parental sins.

Monday Monday

I finished the whole upstairs unpacking today–it looks great! Nevermind the downstairs, that’s for the next four days. It feels so nice up there–so peaceful. We had our FHE on “peace” tonight, inspired by a quote from our Sacrament meeting speaker yesterday, “Peace cannot be imposed, but is a direct result of righteousness.” Dang, we were trying hard to impose peace by martial law.

And, best of all, thanks to our nightly baby torture routine for two nights, night three (last night) was the FIRST night EVER that Lucy slept through the night. Yes, she is 21 months old. We’re trying one more night to be sure, then she moves in with her sister. My sanity will be saved after all. She slept until 10:30 (granted, we didn’t put her down until 10, since we’re all off due to daylight savings and moving a time zone in just a few weeks). She was SO happy today–more upbeat than I’ve ever seen her! I think getting a full night of uninterupted sleep, even though it was against her will initially, will be helpful to her.

I didn’t even go outside today, just trying to get the house in order. But I did inventory my seeds and learned that I have a TON of what I need (thanks to Ted Gooding, always giving out free seeds). I have lots of cool-crop seeds ready to go in as soon as I get the ground tilled, which hopefully will be next week.

My friend Elaine is doing chickens with us. She has ordered the chicks and will get them to 4 weeks before moving them to our pasture–around May 15th. The workload will really be gearing up about then.

He is risen!

Happy Easter! (And happy birthday to my pa-in-law!)

Christ is indeed risen, and everything is possible because of it. With Him there is hope, peace and joy, both in this life and hereafter, which would never be possible without Him.

We had a nice Easter brunch with my mom (trying to make most of darned 1pm church).

Church was fine. I liked seeing my cousin Kim and sitting by her, she is my sister-cousin, as we both have no sisters and no other girl cousins on this side of the family, and have a very sisterly relationship–she is six years my senior. People in the ward say I look like a dark-haired Kim. I’m looking forward to having her close.

Based on three hours with this ward, I can tell you very little. Although, many things are obvious regardless. We moved from an urban area to a semi-rural area, we moved from a diverse area to a very homogenous area, we moved from an area rife with complexity and often intensity to one that is pretty straightforward and–let’s just say it–a little sleepy. And we moved from a ward that is chock full of friends and loved ones to one where we know 7 people, to whom we are related and five of those are minors.

So you can pretty much guess how there’s some adjustments to be made here. But we ask not what our ward can do for us, but what we can do for our ward. Church is not entertainment, or even a social club, but a place to learn to serve and see each other as brothers and sisters, to make life easier for others. A person can do that anywhere.

I knew (or maybe planned) that this would be the day I would come a little closer to shedding the denial of leaving my CA friends behind. This was the first day I allowed myself a 15-second hidden sob, but had to recover quickly to go to a fun family party that eased the sad out a bit.

And that’s my five minutes for the day. And, since my Utah friends and family probably don’t feel the need to read this anymore and I’m probably left in private with my CA friends–hey, I love you all–really, really.


When we go rafting every two years, some or all of us eventually fall out and go under in a big rapid, and, for the rest of us in the boat, the seconds before we see that head pop up always feel like minutes.

So, to my loved ones wondering if I’ve gone under for good, here is my head popping up–pop!

Although the last few hours of packing on Tuesday PM bled into Wednesday AM, the Lord sent Angels (Shauna, Doris, Megan, and Jen, not to mention my angel mother) to help wrap things up so we could get out by 1 p.m. The drive was long but didn’t feel so bad, I had the two little ones in the van, mom had the older ones and the DVD player in David’s car. David and the moving van stopped in Las Vegas to stay with his brother (since the truck is so slow) and my mom and I went on to David’s parents in Bountiful, arriving at 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

I was pretty fuzzy Thursday, felt mildly confused and disoriented (“What state am I in? Why?”) and not a little bit cranky. My prayer that morning went like this: “Lord, this is a big move, it is overwhelming, stressful, and a huge change, my kids are out of sorts for the same reason, and I’ve had 4 hours sleep and feel crazy, wondering if this was a good idea in the first place. So, I’m making this day your problem, please take care of it. Thanks in advance, Valerie.”

And He did. I checked in with the owner of the house we are renting, and we went around the property and talked about things. I asked if it was ok if I fenced off the old garden for chickens, since we are plowing the pasture for our new garden. She had no problem with that, but then decided to give us (free) some more land they own behind our lot that is actually designed for that purpose (although we need to demolish the old hen house), plus two other animal pens (future use TBD)–that gives us a full acre! She also gave us the use of a landlocked apple tree (also their property, in the center of the block). Every new thing I noticed about our place made it just more amazing and more of a miracle. For instance, how did I not notice the oversized tub? (Didn’t look behind the door, silly.)

We were told the moving truck would get 3-6 miles to the gallon (that’s 700 miles with diesel at $4.50/gal in CA), and we were jumping for joy when we learned he was getting 10 MPG. David arrived at 5 p.m., exactly on schedule. Aunts and uncles, a great aunt and uncle, grandmas and a grandpa, and cousins, and cousins once-removed, unknown but friendly new ward members, all emerged to get the truck unloaded in under an hour, sorting each box into its proper room. I then walked away and slept peacefully at David’s parents.

I came back on Friday to start unpacking and just walked around, almost numb with joy. Space, grass, normalcy. Spring, in its true, everything-dead-comes-alive form, I haven’t experienced in over a decade. Crocuses and violets were pushing through in the front “yard.” I say “yard” because this house hasn’t been lived in for almost two years, and ivy and unraked leaves have taken over. There are random shoots and sticks everywhere, but we can’t start cleaning up or pulling anything out because they are just as likely to be flowers as anything else. So, we’re just watching and waiting to see what comes up.

My kids are in heaven. On Friday, Ben said, “Mom, if you say today is a ‘home day’ again, I’ll know that you really mean it’s a ‘park day’ because we have a park in our back yard.” Ben kept asking me to come help him swing high on the board-on-a-rope tree swing, and I told him to find a ladder and work it out, I had work to do. He managed to find a 20′ ladder (!), set it up, and starting swinging from 10′ up. He’s pretty much been doing that the past three days, along with “fixing up” the play house. He’s outside most of the time, Sophie a lot, although not quite a much, and when she’s out, she’s over petting the neighbor’s foals.

Today we had an Easter Egg hunt, thrown together at the last minute. We ended up with both grandparents, two aunts, a niece and our friends the Mitchells enjoying the festivities. I feel like I’m in a dreamworld, like I’m playing house.

I’ll be honest, when it comes to our temporal arrangements, it has been an awful three years, and very little good happened to us (temporally, mind you) during that time. Now I get something that I’ve always wanted and prayed for, but written off as impossible, and I am not sure how to take it graciously. I just keep saying “Really!?” and “Are you kidding me!?” and then repenting, “I mean– thank you!” But at the same time I see, that if He had said yes to any of the temporal improvements I had asked for in the past several years, this would never have happened.

It feels great to be close to family and get to know them better than the previous 1-2x a year made possible. They have been so there for us, and so excited about our being here, it has really taken me off guard.

I’m setting a goal to do 5 minutes a day here in the family blog, and I’m taking MamaMelodrama down to two articles a week (for quality purposes). That way my far-away friends can be with me through all the slapstick city-folk-turned-bumpkin antics that will surely ensue.

Goodbye, urbanity!