Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bluberry Muffins

Today we were home from church {Reed is a little congested with a sore throat; seems like tons of people in our ward are sick and I didn't want to take any chances since that stuff spreads like wildfire in a family, and very soon everyone is out of commission}, and also, to my dismay, out of milk. {Yesterday I prepared many needful things, but somehow the buying of milk fell off the map}

Not only are we out of milk, we are out of bread. {Another staple of ours} On Friday I made four loaves of whole wheat bread, gave one to my Sarah, and then with the kids made quick work of the other three loaves, finishing off the last few pieces this morning. {That's the problem with homemade's so good, it's usually gone fast!}

Aaaand because we are at the end of our menu and budget, I have had to be a little creative with meals today. Anyway, I was Old Mother Hubbard, looking in my cupboards, and found a blueberry muffin mix. {Betty Crocker, if you must know} I looked at the back and was disappointed when I read that it called for 3/4 C of milk. I puzzled for a bit about possible substitutions, and then remembered I had sour cream. Surely that could work, right? I substituted the 3/4 C of milk for 3/4 C of sour cream, and added a couple of tablespoons of water. The consistency of the batter was thicker than usual, but it made it SO easy to spoon the portions into the muffin tin, so I didn't mind. I baked them for 16 minutes (425 degrees).

And guess what?

They were delicious. I liked them better than the milk version. They were more dense and had better flavor {richer, slightly tangy, which set off the blueberry flavor beautifully}.

Maybe this is something everyone else already knew and I somehow missed the boat, but I thought I'd share, just in case!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Love you back

All you dear ones,
that's you, you who read this blog,
thank you.

Every time I post something which has received my utmost effort in writing,
something I am happy about and poured my creative heart into,
and you say how much you loved it
or that you love my writing
or that it brought you comfort or laughter or anything else good

my heart swells and my soul sings

you feed my creative spirit
you dear ones, you who read this blog,
you are the soft landing place for my creative endeavors and the things I need to share

thank you
thank you

thank you

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Burning the Beans

When Reed was born, my mom came to stay for a few days, offering comfort, advice, and an extra pair of willing arms. In my very-emotional postpartum state (my Unexplainable Crying would hit at about 4:00 every afternoon...), she joined forces with Phill to help me navigate that rocky terrain. It is one of those times when you just need your mother. I hung on her every word; I looked to her with each new unknown.

During her visit, I mentioned that I didn't know how to make chili, and wanted her to help me make some. She was more than willing to help. The day she was to leave, we decided it would be helpful to make the chili to have ahead of time for dinner that night. She got the beans simmering and showed me how to make everything just so; I'm afraid I was too much in turmoil to listen. She was leaving, and it was now solely up to me and Phill to figure out how to be parents (armed with the answers to desperate prayers, of course). She told me, "Just remove them from the heat after I leave."

When Phill left to take her to the airport, I sat down in the cushy armchair in our basement, staring at brand-new Reed as he slept nearby in his pack-n-play. I began to feel a disturbing sense that my anchor had been dislodged, a feeling of Oh No What If He Does Something I Don't Know How To Fix, and began to cry helplessly, as helplessly as my newborn did when awake and hungry. I let every feeling wash over me; my fears, my anxieties, my aching wish that my mother could still be next to me. Then I calmed down, wiped my tears, and resolved to be hopeful.

And then I remembered the beans.

The beans! The beans I was supposed to remove from the heat right after she left! The beans....oh, beans.

I went upstairs and dissolved into a(nother) crying mess when I saw the blackened mess that had adhered to the bottom of the pot. I sobbed over the pot, staring into the smelly mixture and saying, "Stupid beans...stupid, stupid, stupid beans! Who wants chili anyway?!" and then, defeated and purely sad, "Oh, Mom....I burnt the beans." And at my lowest: "How will I take care of a baby if I can't take care of beans?"

Eventually Phill came home and helped me piece myself back together. Eventually my hormones stopped their drowning tides. Eventually I learned to take care of my baby, and beans, too. But at times when I would think of my mom, wondering if I was doing this right, or thinking it might be easier to have her living closer by, I thought of the beans again. How much I missed her. How I forgot about time because the aching was too much.

Today I had parent-teacher conference. I tend to brace myself for this sort of thing, since I often drive home making a mental list of all my inadequacies, and feeling in general unworthy to be a mom. This time wasn't too bad--the areas of concern were my own, and I felt (for once) that his teacher and I are on the same track. We discussed his wandering focus, and how it affects his performance. I quietly pondered ways to help him learn to concentrate, and came up empty-handed....what am I supposed to say? "Reed, let's talk about concentrating." No-go. He is seven.

On the drive home, with that un-anchored feeling settling into my chest, I prayed for some sort of inspiration. And I thought to call my mom.

Far away in Boston in that school of brains, she is learning about learning. She is honing her gift for understanding how a person's brain works and tailoring her teaching to fit that need.

I started the white bean turkey chili that Phill loves, and while I cooked, I pressed a few buttons on my phone and felt immense relief at hearing her voice.

"We had parent-teacher conferences today--"
"Oh, sometimes you just have to throw that out the window..."
"Right. I'm okay; I had my shields up."

I minced the garlic and onions while delivering the minutes of my meeting, then asked,

"Mom, how do I help Reed focus?"

"Well, you can ask him some questions that help you figure out where his attention tends to wander."

I added the turkey.

"What questions?"

I added a little bit of broth.

"You could say, 'Reed, when is it fun for you to pay attention? When is it hard to pay attention? What do you like to pay attention to? What helps you pay attention?"

There it was. As always, her approach was so simple, so laid-back, and so direct. The same message I always got from her: You have all the tools to be the kind of mother your children need. You can do this.

We said our goodbyes, I put the lid on the pot, set the timer, and went to sit down and let my thoughts simmer with the chili. I thought about how intelligent she is, and how determined she is to become informed about those things that are foreign to her. I thought about our few homeschooling years together, remembering how arduously she tried to help me focus....and how I didn't really learn to focus until years of her efforts and my own. How I still struggle to narrow my focus, now and then, and how she manages still to bring my eyes back to where they need to be.

And I ached. I wished fiercely and silently that she lived next door, so that I could bring her french fries (she loves them) and talk to her about learning and mothering and maybe laugh until we cry. I even pondered how I could maybe bring her chili sometimes, as a little joke.

The chili.

The timer went off and I hurried to the pot, lifting the lid to enjoy the beautiful dinner I had prepared....and smelled smoke. Before me was a perfect-looking chili, but devoid of liquid, and when I scooped some of it aside, black charred beans--the product of not near-enough broth--greeted me.

I broke out the cereal and milk, and sat at the table with a lump growing in my throat until Reed said, "It's okay, Mom. You're still a great cook."

Some days I burn the beans.
And then some days my mom doesn't seem too far away.

It will all be alright. I can do this. I have all the tools.

Who wants chili anyway?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Again, words that are not my own

I've been reading this book called If You Want to Write (because as you may know, I really, really love to write, and one day would love it if some of my words were made into a book and then published...). The whole thing is quotable, but I had to share one part in particular because it made me so happy (and I like to make you guys happy.)

"Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself. But it must be from his true self and not from the self he thinks he should individual is exactly like any other two identical persons have ever existed. Consequently, if you speak or write from yourself you cannot help being original. So remember these two things: you are talented and you are original. Be sure of that."

Something weird this way came....

(Possibly the worst post title ever?)
Something really weird happened this morning.

I woke up at 7:41, 19 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, and I didn't feel like I was going to die! (When usually I hit the snooze until it is 8:32.)

Not only did I feel actually refreshed and well-rested (what on EARTH?), I actually thought that I could manage to fit in a little bit of exercise before feeding the kids and getting Reed to school....

and even MORE weird? I did. I DID exercise. In the morning. Before everything else needed to happen.

It was nothing short of miraculous, and quite honestly, I can only see this as 1% the result of my recently increased efforts (trying to be better about keeping the house clean, organizing, going to bed at a normal hour, etc.) and 99% heaven smiling down on me.

It had to have been divine intervention, because this doesn't often happen to me.

But it was awesome, really awesome, and it made my day.

(For something that's ALSO awesome and might just make YOUR day, go see what The DI Denizen did with her kitchen!)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Doctrine & Covenants 128:22

Can you tell what the subject was of my study this morning? :)

"...shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage...and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing."

2 Timothy 1:7

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

self-pity update

Yes, I am doing loads better this morning. A couple of things are helping me:

I am using FlyLady. I'm not rigidly following it, but I'm using helpful tips and soon I will be on "her" schedule. This morning I took care of some things I had been procrastinating, and that eased my overwhelmed feeling quite a lot.

I talked to Phill last night, barely keeping it together, and he encouraged me to start exercising again.

Wouldn't you know, I just haven't exercised regularly since October 3rd. And I have the padding to show for it! Not to mention the feeling of incapability that follows me everywhere when my body is not healthy. I once had a midwife tell me that minor chemical imbalances (the kind that cause mild depression and mood swings and such) can sometimes be corrected by regular exercise. I do believe I fall into that category. I am a different person when I am exercising!

Another thing, also the most important thing, I have been neglecting is my spiritual health. Isn't it amazing (annoying) how everything else falls to pieces when this one area isn't in line?

So this morning, I am starting with those two things--exercise and scripture study--in the hopes that if I do those two things, everything else will fall into place! It's amazing what some husband-pep-talk and a night's rest can do. Today I'm making efforts and I am hopeful that I'll see the dividends!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Amazingly, this self-piteous post does not coincide with any hormonal fluctuations. Imagine THAT!

Dear Friends.

I'm afraid lately I'm a lot of take and quite a bit less give.

The truth is....I am overwhelmed. Very. A long list of things to be tended to, on top of the everyday tending, which is sliding because I just can't. do. it. all.

Well, I can. I just have to muster up enough energy and cheerfulness. And that, sweet readers, is in short supply.

I am sapped because Phill will likely be deployed in a few months and moving forward and progressing means moving closer to that day. I'm sapped because there are so many areas of my life that need improvement--all important areas, so that it's hard to know exactly where to put my attention first!

{Here all the "I" in this post? Right, that's where I am at the moment. A little side of sad to go with my big plate of self-pity, thank you so much.}

Usually I strive to make this blog a happy, uplifting place. But it's also an honest place, and, I am finding, often a {self} comforting place.

So--that is my gripe today, my sad little story. I am going to go to bed and wake up with the determination to do everything that I don't want to--that is, everything that needs to be done {hello dishes, good day laundry, on my way phone calls and papers and photos} so that at last, I will feel some peace and some satisfaction in a job well done, my fear of moving forward momentarily at bay.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A well-timed quote

Because who doesn't love a well-timed quote?

These words, from my brother-in-law Michael, composer, echo exactly how I want my photography (and really all my other creative endeavors) to grow.

"...I hope to be found writing songs that could be found on the radio, concertos that receive standing ovations in the concert halls, reverent works that invite the Holy Spirit to a religious service, or even rousing works that glorify the freedoms and principles on which America is founded. I want to make music for the people, music that is meant to be listened to by people who need music for specific and important functions in their lives. In each 'facet' of my work I want to apply the same artistic integrity, dedication to quality and wellspring of inspiration. "

Have I mentioned that he is brilliant?

Just Because

Inspired by my friend (we talked on the phone about it this morning), my random list of loves, which is so long that I don't really think anyone will get through it without wilting:

olives of every kind--black, green, purple

the smell of burning leaves in fall

that perfect curve on a baby's body in between the neck and shoulder--you know, the spot that just shouts, "Gobble me up!"

books by Sandra Dallas

books by Barbara Kingsolver

books in general

photos at the photo booth in the mall

the smell of books' pages (the good ones, not the musty gross ones)

when my kids jump out and startle me and it works (hardly ever does, with those eyes I have in the back of my head)

[the experience of, enjoyment of, and creation of] laughter

a good healthy cry

how Phill likes to smack my butt almost every time he walks by me

how Phill falls asleep for at least a few minutes every time he sits on the couch for longer than 30 seconds, and usually with one of our babies in his arms

Monsters, Inc. (Kitty!)

how Savvy silently shadows me throughout the day, taking notes, quietly helping, or begging for cuddles with her big brown eyes

how Jaxon thrives on making us all laugh

how Reed is so fiercely dedicated to fighting "bad guys" in all their forms

chocolate [why have I just now remembered this?]

ordering seafood at restaurants (because I just never make it quite the same at home)

Going out to eat with Phill

a well-timed quote or scripture

cows {I just do, okay?}

fields (of anything--wheat, grass, whatever)

red paint

picking scabs {I know, I know, I know....I'm cringing, too....}

photography books

sitting in Barnes & Noble looking through photography books I don't intend on buying

finding something so good at D.I. that I almost yelp out loud, then clutching it to my chest with crazy eyes so no one will DARE steal it from me....


pens (Pilot, Uni-ball)

cello music


origami cranes, especially when someone else makes them for me

a good lazy day

a good productive day

Saturdays full of cleaning, organizing, playing outside,
smelling like outside, and then going on a date with Phill
(those are really the only kinds of Saturdays I prefer)

the days when it's not quite summer yet, but starting to get that hint of warmth in the air (hope)

cloudy summer days

summer nights

Fourth of July celebrations in Junction, Utah

family reunions


wooden fences

rusting cars

exploring new places (mainly outside--nature)

barely-blue walls with white trim

people who like to fix broken things just for the sake of making it right again

Scotch tape

picking and eating cherries

vegetable gardens


biting my nails when they're really thick, white, gorgeous and SHOULDN'T BE BITTEN

picture frames


high-class camping (you know, log cabin in the woods, mountain air and hiking)

The Beatles


some Simon and Garfunkel

cookies from the neighbors

Christmas caroling

rolling down hills