Saturday, September 27, 2008

To Remind Myself

"Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity." ~Margaret Nadauld

Look how it all points to faith. I didn't even do that on purpose.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Little Bits of Happiness

1. I got a haircut. (finally!) Thanks, Adam! Funny how when you feel better about YOU it changes the way you do everything.

2. Adam and I went to the Los Angeles temple and had a wonderful experience. Contrary to my initial fears, it might have been even better because of the fact that it was a Spanish session.

3. I tried a new recipe. Creamed ham with cheddar biscuits. Sounds a bit gross, but it was actually good. And I had all the ingredients, which is a huge plus.

4. I read from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy to Aiden. Holy cow did children work hard in those days! And yet reading of their tireless work only gave me more energy to do my own.

5. I sat on the porch with Conor and watched the tree guys trim back an old tree next door for about an hour. When boys are born, they already love chainsaws.
6. I baked the most delicious carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

7. Dylan and I worked on his Goals Poster together. That kid's got a good head on his shoulders. I needn't worry.

8. I got to attend the funeral of a family friend who died unexpectedly and far too young. It reminded me (once again) to not take one single day for granted.

9. On the way home from the dermatologist, Lyndsay and I stopped at McDonald's and shared some french fries and talked.

10. When Conor got the lipstick almost in the right place, I didn't even get mad, despite the fact that it was my favorite shade, and that I still haven't found where the actual tube is.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On Top of His Game

There are a handful of authors whose books I will eagerly anticipate and then buy without question on the first day of release. Nicholas Sparks tops that list for me. I've been a fan since the beginning, when I read The Notebook, long before it was a hit movie, which I also adore. I like a good story. I appreciate complex human characters, a new twist on drama, and I even love to cry. Nicholas Sparks never disappoints.

Nights in Rodanthe is the story of Adrienne, a woman whose marriage has crumbled and who, in an attempt to find solace and perspective in her life, agrees to tend an inn for her friend in the coastal town of Rodanthe. Paul Flanner is the only guest that weekend and he has come, facing a crisis of conscience of his own. An unexpected storm hits the town, and Adrienne and Paul turn to each other for comfort, and set in motion a series of changes that affect their lives long after their weekend together in Rodanthe. Nights in Rodanthe has been adapted for the screen (as every Nicholas Sparks book should be) and opens this weekend, September 26th, starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. I must go. Because, like I said, I love a good story, and Nicholas Sparks never disappoints. Which is why, when offered the chance to interview him through Blogher, I didn't just jump at the chance, I jumped up and down at the chance. And I'm still jumping.

Because I'm a writer, or at least a wanna-be writer, I especially love to learn from other writers. Writing is a give-it-your-guts craft. It's vulnerable and exposing, and competitive, and daunting. Nicholas Sparks wasn't always a writer. After graduating from college he had several jobs, and I wanted to have a portrait painted of what his life was like during that time that he decided to just "go for it", to give writing a try. Here's what he told me:

"I had a midlife crisis essentially. I was 28 years old. I had two children, a wife, a mortgage and I knew by that time I did not want to sell pharmaceuticals my entire life. I didn’t just want to be a sales rep my whole life.

And yet I also knew that I did not want to move up the corporate ladder, so to speak, which entails essentially a lot of moving over the years. You become a district manager, a regional manager, hospital rep, a hospital manager, you do marketing.

So to move up the corporate ladder you move every couple of years, two to three years for, you know, 15 or 20 years. I knew I didn’t want to do that. And at the same time I also knew that I still had to pay the mortgage.

I still had two kids. You know, you have a wife, you have to put food on the table, pay the electric bill, all the basics of life, right? So I said, what can I do in my spare time and chase my dream, you know, and try to make it? What can I conceivably do?

And writing seemed like the perfect outlet. I had already written two novels, one at 19 and one at 22. So when I sat down at 28 I said, okay, I’m going to give myself three chances to write a novel. I’ll write three novels, and if I don’t succeed at all then I’ll know I’m not cut out to be a writer.

The first novel that I did, I sat down and wrote it over a six month period, that novel ended up being The Notebook. So it turned out okay. So that was where I was coming from.

Now my wife, as far as the effect on the family, it was relatively minimal. My second son had been born in September and very colicky. My wife was exhausted. He never slept at night. She was tired all the time.

This was in about May of ’94 so he was about eight months old, (Ryan). She would go to bed about 9:00; 9:00 pm she was done. So I would turn on the computer at 9:00 once she went to bed. I’d write until 11:30 or 12:00 and I’d turn off the computer.

And then I’d usually work half a day on one of the weekend days, all centered around the family. You know, if we were doing something on Saturday I’d write Sunday afternoon after church or vice versa. If we were doing something Sunday I’d write Saturday afternoon, during the football games or whatever.

So I would do that. And at that pace I was able to complete the novel [The Notebook] in about six months. I never missed a day of work. I didn’t really miss much sleep to be quite frank and I didn’t really miss spending time with the family because they were generally in bed most of the time I worked.

So it wasn’t as hard, it was more about just the consistency of putting yourself in the chair and doing it."

What every writer says! Just write! It's the consistency that matters. It's the words put down on paper that end up to be a book. His chance paid off big time. With a serendipitous partnership with a young, brand new agent, who had never sold a book before, he was offered a million dollars for The Notebook. Pretty astounding. A pretty clear sign that he'd found his path. And yet, Nicholas Sparks continues to be a very down-to-earth, personable, and friendly family guy. He loves his wife, he loves his five children, he seems to be content in the life that he has created. He still goes to church with his family and he still does all the 'regular dad' type of stuff. And he works at home, in an office right across from the chaos of the family room. Good thing he doesn't require quiet to work!

He answered our questions with such honesty and warmth, like we were old friends, sharing details of his editing process and of his ability to write such real female characters ("I had a wonderful mother. I married very well. All of the most important people in my life at the present time and throughout my publishing career have been women. I have daughters. And yet none of those fully answers the question. I suppose I just have an ability to create a character’s voice that sounds genuine and real. And I know that’s the question you asked. I don’t know. That’s part of the magical writing process. It is what differentiates writers, the talent level of writers. It’s, and it’s akin to asking where do you get the ideas. I don’t know. I just do. How do I create women? I don’t know. I just do.")

Whatever he does, he does it well, and story after story delights us and tugs at our hearts. You know he's got to be one heck of a romantic husband to create such incredible male characters as Noah Calhoun and Landon Carter. Paul Flanner is no exception and will not disappoint in Nights in Rodanthe. I'm anxious to see another of his books portrayed on the big screen this weekend.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


The first thought I have every morning upon waking is not, "Oh, this is going to be a great day!" It isn't even, "Man, I have so much to do today." The first thought I have is, "When can I take a nap?" It's not looking good. So far it's looking like I can sleep past 6am on October 11th. And that is depressing.

Sleep has always been a precious commodity in my life. There was never any sleeping in allowed in my family growing up. The noise of ten other people in a three story house with no carpeting made that pretty much impossible anyway, but Dad's rousing us with his early Saturday morning cleaning command of "Grab it! Bag it! Don't be a fagot!" (which wasn't a homosexual slur, I'm sure, it just rhymed, and Dad had to rhyme.) made sleeping past 7am very unlikely. And it still makes me twitch just a little when I hear a garbage bag been shaken open. But anyway.

My four years of high school were accompanied by near perfect attendance at early morning Seminary, a scripture study class for teens that is held from 6am-6:45am each weekday morning before school. My dad was my teacher for much of that time, and we lived a good distance from the church building, which meant the car rolled out of the driveway at 5:30am. And it was the 80's in Jersey, which meant some considerable time was involved in getting one's hair big enough and makeup dark enough, so my alarm went off every ding dong day at 4am. Forget twitching. I almost have seizures, still to this day, if I hear that hideous "BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!" of an alarm clock. The memory of being jolted from coma-like sleep after only having gone to bed 4 or 5 hours earlier, my feet touching the ice-cold hard floor, and springing across the room to shut it off are forever imprinted in my psyche. I beg my children to please wake to music for my sake.

High school is an exhausting time anyway. Starting at 4am, Seminary, straight to school. I can remember the sleepiness overtaking me right about 2nd period History and fighting my conquering eyelids, desperate to close. Just for a second. Just for a brief second. Please. After school came sports, clubs, and play practice. Getting home in the evening, and then of course homework. Lots of it. Sometimes I was working a job in the evenings too. Sometimes I had to walk to that job, several miles away at the mall, selling Chick-fil-A to strangers, and hooking up my family for one incredibly tasty dinner. Falling into bed at night and counting the days till Saturday when at least I didn't have to start 'grabbing it and bagging it' till 7 or so. I vividly remember coming home from Church on Sunday and taking a nap. Not just any nap, but a three or four hour nap, that left me feeling drugged and lethargic when I woke, but I knew I still needed it.

And then of course, you become an adult and besides college exhaustion, there is employment fatigue, and the zombie-like state of early motherhood. It never ends. And here I am marvelling at how just when I get my youngest weaned and sleeping well through the night, the oldest few go and become teenagers with that same insane schedule I thought I had left in some dark corner of my past. It never occurred to me how utterly wiped out my parents must have been keeping up with the busyness of their children's lives. Now I'm getting up to get a daughter to and from Seminary when it's still dark outside. Now I can't seem to even go upstairs before 10pm as my older kids are slaving over literature assignments and history projects. Now it's a Saturday morning and Dylan had to be at his scout leader's house at the (as my sister, Abby likes to say) 'butt crack' of dawn for a bike ride down the L.A. River towards his bicyclist merit badge. I was grocery shopping before 7am, and Lyndsay had a babysitting job immediately upon my pulling into the driveway. Tomorrow is early church, with Dylan having to be at a race before 6am, and then it's Monday and it starts all over again.

I actually was sitting in my bed last night ready to just be done for the day at 9:24 and I was so excited about that. I didn't have to pack school lunches or anything. Lyndsay came in and plopped down on my bed to chat. I tried to be enthusiastic, but then I just had to give her the boot. "Okay, love you, get out," I said with a smile. She laughed. "No, seriously? I really need to just be done for today. I love you." She totally understood.

"I know," she said. "I think I fall asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow. I have never been so tired in all my life." Hugs. Kisses. Own bedrooms.

A few days ago, a jet-setting, Hollywood scene friend of mine called me up and told me she had gotten VIP tickets to a concert at a club in L.A. and she wanted me to come with her. It was on Thursday night, and the plan was to go to dinner first. I immediately thought of sleep. "Well," I said, "it sounds like so much fun, but I have to teach piano lessons till 7. What time is the concert?"



"I know, it's a late show. But we would get dinner first. We'd probably be home by 2."

"Yeah, I'll be dead by 2. As fun as it sounds, it would take me weeks to recover from that."

She understood. She has no children, and her husband is on tour with another performer's show. As cool as I'm sure the night would have been, sleep was so much more appealing to me.

I am an advocate of early bedtimes for children and naps for one and all. I can usually close my eyes for 20 minutes or so around 1pm, which is a lifesaver, and I do what I can to plan ahead and manage my time well. But motherhood is simply a tiring job, especially motherhood of many. The sleep deprivation just goes with the territory, even with daytime hours maximized. Of course it's worth it. When I stay up 10 minutes later to write little notes for my kids' lunches each day, or when I'm slogging behind the stroller walking Aiden to school in the morning, or when I think that I might even want to have just one more baby, I remind myself that someday there will be no lunches to pack or little ones to walk to school. No one will even have Seminary in the morning or a Geometry test to study for at night. Someday all the Eagle Scouts will have been earned, and no one will need a ride or a bedtime story. Someday I'll need less sleep and get more of it. Someday the house will be quiet. And empty.

Until then, I'll stick with tired.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Round #3, a Race, and a Breakfast

Back-to-School Night #3 last night, this time for Dylan's Middle School. Round 2 was the night before at Sean's school, but only Adam went to that. I went by myself, and Adam took all the kids to the Church for Aiden's pack meeting. It was the Raingutter Regatta. More on that in a minute.

I had to park about 1/4 mile away from the school because of all the cars spilling out of the parking lot and lining both sides of every street. My first appointment was in room 31, Dylan's first period class. It was cool the way the school set it up. Parents were to follow a mini-schedule of their child's school day, with 10 minutes in each class, and bells signaling the change to the next. Eight classes. Long night. But I was relieved and even impressed with what I saw and heard. Even though the school as a whole leaves much to be desired, the Honors Track that Dylan is in was very reassuring to me. Fairly well isolated from the rest of the school, and run by competent and experienced teachers. Even the classrooms impressed me. What a relief! And I can see that Dylan is going to be kept very busy by the course load he has. A good thing.

Aiden, meanwhile, entered his little boat, which he built with Adam, in the Raingutter Regatta. This is literally a raingutter race. The boys make little sailboats and then have to blow on the sails to push them down the raingutter river. I guess Adam gave a bit of last-minute help to two other boys that were there, and those boys ended up coming in 2nd and 3rd, which put a kink in Aiden's chance for success, but he took it in stride and had a great time.

Though he didn't win, he was given a ribbon. Every boy was given a ribbon. You know how I hate this (though it was a very good friend of mine who gave out the awards, and I fault her none). I think making everyone a "winner" is the stupidest thing ever. If everyone wins, then nobody does. Let the kids lose for heaven's sake. I've talked about this before, I know. It even annoys my kids. Dylan was really bugged for his brother. I guess they see my point that it's all just so condescending! And then in order to award each boy, the awards become so silly. Here's Aiden's ribbon for "Best Placement of Dots". That's right. Yay, Aiden.

Also, here's another easy breakfast for those busy school day mornings. I give you (unoriginal, I know, but I never claim to have original ideas). . . The Smoothie.
What I put in:
flaxseed (dump it in first or it won't get ground up by the blender well) I use a generous TBS.

vanilla (or plain) yogurt

any kind of fruit you have around. (This is especially a good way to use up fruit that's too ripe to eat, but not quite rotten, if you know what I mean. Today that involved strawberries and bananas.)

Add some ice and some milk, and if you like, a tablespoon of sugar.

I wish I took better food pictures. But see how dark it is? That's why I'm so tired! Anyway, they are yummy, filling, nutrient-packed, and easy. Sometimes the kids will have banana bread with it, or a piece of whole wheat toast. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Conor Goes to the Dentist

I stayed up late last night rereading some of my favorite Nicholas Sparks books. Today I had the opportunity to interview him on a conference call through Blogher, and I wanted to have my questions in order. I reread Nights in Rodanthe, because the film based on his book is due out next week. I must see it. Especially with Richard Gere and Diane Lane paired again. And I reread Three Weeks with My Brother, because I just really like it. I spent much of the morning doing research in preparation. I didn't want to ask anything that I could find the answer to myself. My reading and research only made me more fond of him as a man and as a writer. Having the opportunity to talk to him this afternoon was a humongous thrill for me, as I've been a fan for many years, so stay tuned, and I'll post all about that very soon.

But besides being immersed in Nicholas Sparks today, Conor had his first trip to the dentist! I have never taken a 2 year old to the dentist before, but I'm aware that the ADA recommends that babies even younger go for check-ups, and since we have great dental insurance, we made an appointment. I talked with Conor about it for the week leading up to today, how he would go to the nice dentist and the dentist would look at his cute teeth and make them shiny and take all the germ bugs off. He seemed excited. Of course, he doesn't talk, but a mother knows.

What a blessing it is to have a pediatric dentist! There are so many toys and books and movies playing and fun things to do and look at, that even when it was over Conor didn't want to leave. He sat in the dental chair for a bit, but in the end the dentist decided it would be easier for him to hold still if he sat facing me on my lap and then reclined back into his on a pillow. He was right. Conor went into a trance as he lay there, but he sure was good and cooperative. He got all his teeth polished and cleaned. And we got the early diagnosis of "this kid's gonna need braces". He is a serious thumb-sucker (the dentist encouraged me to have him kick that habit as soon as possible. Yeah right. Let me get right on that.) and his teeth are big. Overcrowding already. Runs in my family and Adam's. Oh well. No cavities though, thankfully.

Conor posed for some pictures with his dentist and then promptly ran back to the play room. He wasn't happy to leave. But he was excited to show Daddy his sparkly teeth, so that was a good enough diversion to make a break for it and head back home.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Completing Kind of Boy

Last night was the first of five Back-to-School nights, this one for Aiden's school. I am thoroughly impressed with his magnet school program and his teachers, and they had glowing things to say about him. But I went there with one silly little question that I just had to have answered.

You see, since the first day of school Aiden and I have been at odds, even in a downright battle of wills over the information he was telling me regarding his homework. Each day, besides his other worksheets and assignments, he would bring home his math textbook and a paper that already had many math problems done on it, and I would say something like, "Oh, is that your math homework?" and he would say, "No, it's not homework. I just offered to do it."

"What? Nobody offers to do more math problems. What do you mean?"

And he would explain that the teacher tells them to work on a certain page and then you don't have to finish it but he always offers to bring it home to finish it. And it's not being graded and it isn't homework.

"That makes no sense to me, Aiden. Either the teacher wants you to do it, or she doesn't. I've gone to school for many years and teachers don't just say 'just do as many math problems as you feel like, but you don't have to finish'."

And he would say, "Well, that's what she said, Mom."

And I would get mad. Mad! (stupid, I know) But it didn't make sense to me. So, I would go on (and this was an ongoing conversation over days), as if it was some police interrogation and I was trying to break the suspect and catch him in some new information that slipped out.) I would ask what the incentive was to do any work at all if everyone knows you don't have to finish, for heaven's sake. Why not just do one problem very slowly and be done with it?

He would even get out his book in the mornings before school and work on more math problems, and I would say, "Aiden, you are supposed to get your homework done before bed, not in the morning." To which he would frustratingly reply, "It isn't homework, Mom. I just offered to do it."

"Why?! I don't understand!"

And his answer? "Because I'm a completing kind of boy."

A 'completing kind of boy?' What does that mean? I threatened to talk to his teacher, and I almost did a few days ago when I walked him to school, but then a school aide approached me and told me that parents were banned from the play yard before school. (What? Don't mess with me, lady.)

So, I waited last night for the crowds to disperse and then I approached Aiden's teacher. I explained the situation and how I didn't understand what was going on and whether or not it really was homework, and how Aiden just says he's a 'completing kind of boy', and she laughed and said. . ."yep, that's the truth."

Stunned. What? But I've been so hard on him! Accusatory even.

She said she only requires up to a certain number to be done, a number that can be easily finished by all of the kids during class time, but that it just really bugs Aiden to leave all those other problems unfinished on the page, so he asks if he can take it home and just complete them all. She said, "So, what am I supposed to do? Tell him 'no'?" Another laugh. "He just really likes math!"

"And you really don't even grade him on those extra problems?"


"So, he really is just a 'completing kind of boy'?"

"He really is."

Oh, crap.

Thank goodness one of my strengths in motherhood is apologizing to my children. As soon as Aiden got home from Cub Scouts, that's exactly what I did. "Aiden," I said, "I owe you the biggest apology." And I explained the whole thing and he said, "That's okay, Mom. I could tell you were really frustrated that you didn't understand. I just didn't know how to make you understand."

Well, duh. I should have just listened to him! I know him well. And he is a completing kind of boy.

Or, the unfinished problems on his math page trigger the OCD that he inherited from me. Oops.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Little of This, a Little of That

I feel extremely restricted in blogging right now. I hate feeling restricted with what I want to write about, but you fellow bloggers understand the dilemma I'm facing, I'm sure. I've been thinking, there's got to be something I can put out there for the masses who love Cranberry Corner, and come here with such dedication. :)

But at this moment there isn't much. Lots going on. Not much I can share on my blog.


When in doubt, give some random updates!

Piano business is down a bit right now. I had a few students who stopped lessons for the summer who haven't started back yet, and then I had to let three others go who didn't want to play by the rules. That's okay. I feel so much better when I stand up for myself and don't allow others to create my life for me. New students will come. And in the meantime, I've needed the slower pace.

Lyndsay is learning the lessons of life. She is doing well with her busy schedule that starts before dawn to get ready for Seminary, and then her full school load and then straight to work with the little triplets. Her bank account is growing, as is her self-confidence that she can do hard things. But it isn't easy. How she loves her weekends! She is becoming a master at time management!

Dylan joined the Students Run L.A. club (SRLA) This is a running club that meets after school twice a week and on Saturday mornings and the ultimate goal is to run the L.A. marathon. Dylan loves to run, and his dad loves to run, so this is something they can share, even across the miles. I am extremely proud of his desire to commit to something so difficult and strenuous. I know he will experience tremendous growth not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well, as he sets goals and has to push forward when everything in him wants to STOP and REST. Our only dilemma has been that some of the races (these are state and national races that the students get free entrance into for being in SRLA) are on Sunday's, and the kids have never participated in Sunday recreation. We talked about it and Dylan talked with his coach (who is also a member of the Church), and decided that Dylan will not participate in the small races on Sunday's, but he will participate as much as possible, and next year when our Church schedule changes he can run and then come to his meetings. It's difficult because this is something he really wants to do, and dedication is very important. I believe it will be very good for him to work towards something as challenging as a marathon. I believe there are a great deal of spiritual lessons that he can learn in this experience, as well as the fact that I know he will stand out on his team. SRLA is predominantly a club set up to give inner-city kids a safe and demanding activity that helps keep them busy and teaches them to set goals and work towards hard things, building their confidence. Many of the youth that participate in schools around Los Angeles become the first members of their entire families to graduate from high school and go on to college. What an accomplishment! The SRLA club at Dylan's school is the largest running club of any Middle School in the entire nation. Last year over 140 kids from his school ran and finished the L.A. marathon! That is astounding!

I'm feeling behind and overwhelmed at home. I feel like I just can't get on top of everything that needs to be done, and I don't even know where to start. I am so exhausted, so drained, so sleepy, that I just don't have the energy to begin. I am doing the important things. Of that I am aware. We have scripture study every morning when Lyndsay gets back from Seminary. I cook breakfast every day. I pack healthy school lunches, and make reasonable dinners. I have my own personal scripture study and I write in my journal. We have Family Home Evening, and I know what's going on in all of the kids' classes at school. But my house needs help. It's not that tidy and it's not that clean. I'm sick of white walls that are dirty and can't be washed without taking the paint off too. The whole house should be painted inside--that would really lift my spirits!--and the carpets need to be shampooed again. I would really love to have sod put down in the backyard so Conor can actually go outside to play, and maybe a little raised bed garden for a thing of beauty, and a diversion from all that brings me down in life. At the first sign of financial stability, I'm hiring a housekeeper, let it be known! I just need some help and I like a clean house. I'm talking deep-down clean.

Anyway, I shall not complain too loudly. I have many more causes to rejoice. And now I will be on the lookout for many more causes to blog because I've missed it!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Different View

Yesterday was a hard day. Too many things went wrong. And you know how when that happens, it's so easy to slip into a 'why me?' pattern and feel that you've already had your fair share of suffering? Well, that was me. It was easy to complain. It took pages, rather than paragraphs, to vent my frustrations in my journal.

I pray for peace. I pray for clarity of mind. I pray for perspective.

Today was a hard day too. I still have all the same problems, maybe a few more. (When it rains, it pours, doesn't it?) But today my focus has been on something strangely different.


Today two families came to my attention. One of whom I know, the other I just read of today. Both of them are in Phoenix hospitals praying for miracles. The first family's 20 month old daughter was run over by a car in their driveway. The car was driven by a family friend, and it seems they are as concerned about him and his well-being as they are their daughter, who suffered multiple head fractures and a blood clot and who has an unknown prognosis.

The second family lives in Mesa, but the husband and wife were flying with a flight instructor to northern AZ when the plane crashed and the instructor was killed, and though the couple survived, they are in dangerously critical condition. He has burns over 30% of his body, and she is burned over 80% of hers. They are parents to four children under the age of ten, with a one year old. She has kept a widely popular blog celebrating the beauty and joy of motherhood. Now she is clinging to life. My heart aches! I went to her blog, having never heard of her before (and we don't have TV anymore, so I didn't catch the story that has aired on The Today Show and other programs), and it was so haunting to see her radiant face in her entries just days before her life would hang in the balance. Three days before she was on a date with her husband at a Diamondback's game, just glowing. It so moved me. You just never know in life, do you. I forgot all about my troubles, serious as they are in their own right.

You know that saying that if all the trials were laid out in a big pile before us, we would still choose our own? I believe that's true. But thank goodness for prayer.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Let's Eat!

Well, lots of friendly harassment about our First Day of School breakfast. That's okay. But try it! I know it's hard to get up early in the morning and add one more thing to an already hectic schedule. Believe me, I do. But a good breakfast is worth it!

Last week I took a whole group of teenage girls on a tour of a residential eating disorder clinic here in L.A. We were very privileged to be able to meet with Dr. Patricia Pitts, who is a nationally recognized expert in the field of eating disorders. She gave us quite a bit of her time, and her concern. It was really enlightening to learn more about these conditions that affect so many, many girls (and a rising number of boys). It was also alarming to hear the list of 'red flag' warnings for disordered eating, tendencies toward unhealthy attitudes about eating and food. I think the girls learned a lot. When it was Q&A time, one of our teens even got teary and asked for advice about how to help a friend on her soccer team that she and others have been very worried about. It was depressing to learn that kids think it is 'uncool' to eat lunch at school. Not to eat the school's lunch, but to eat lunch. I am disturbed by this in particular, and was shocked when Lyndsay brought this information to my attention. "Well," I said, "I guess you'll be uncool right from the get-go then. You're eating."

Dr. Pitts agreed. This is tragic! And here are more things that alarm me: Classes are 90 minutes long, but there is only one break for eating and that is 30 minutes long. By the time you get to the cafeteria, and if you have to buy school lunch, the lines are so long that kids at the end don't get their food, and many more simply just don't want to bother, so they go without. I'm sure many of these kids skipped breakfast too. On top of that, many teachers arrange for lunch meetings or lunch detention, or lunch-time club meetings. . .none of which actually involve lunch. Just the 30 minutes allotted for the eating of it.

Now, if you understand anything about metabolism and how the body works, this sets up our youth for disaster! And then we strum our fingers together about the childhood obesity epidemic. The body needs regular, high-quality fuel. Especially to think and learn! (And to participate in P.E. which is a whole other soapbox I have. . .we cut the arts, but we keep P.E.? And this is really helping our health as a nation? Really?) I digress. Eating regularly keeps the metabolism in operating condition. It burns away, humming happily. As soon as food doesn't show up, it almost immediately slows down. That means you're not burning calories the way you should. So, when you eat again, not only are your blood sugars so low and your brain starving for nutrients, your body thinks it's in starvation mode, so it begins to store what you eat (which in that crisis mode was most likely a quick, not-so-healthy-pick-me-up) as fat. Just in case. You can eat (and teens should eat between 2000-3000 calories a day, depending on if you're a girl or boy and your physical makeup), say 2500 calories, spread throughout the day and even lose weight because your metabolism is working optimally. But if you eat those same 2500 calories in a lump sum binge at the end of the day in the form of McDonald's and junk food and snacks because you're so hungry, you will gain weight.

So, I have a huge problem with lunch being 'uncool' at school, in this nation of illiterate and overweight children that we live in. Can't we educate and change the stigma? Well, Dr. Pitts encouraged the girls to do just that, and she promised to back us and to do whatever we needed her or her clinics to do to help raise awareness. That is cool. I guess I start with making sure that my children leave this house with a healthy breakfast that will jump-start their metabolisms so that they can be thinking and learning optimally. And I start with making sure that they have high-quality lunches, lots of water, and nutritious snacks. Nutrition for building healthy little bodies has always been a topic of interest to me, so from time to time, I thought I'd share some of my favorite breakfasts for the kids before they leave for school. I always want to make sure they have high fiber and protein. And it has to be fairly easy and quick. Cause I'm busy.

This is Fruit and Yogurt Waffles. Just like it sounds. Very rarely do I have time on a school morning to make homemade waffles, as I prefer, but I buy whole grain frozen waffles, toast two up, spread with vanilla (or strawberry, or whatever kind) yogurt, and top with mandarin oranges (or peaches, or berries, or whatever). Super easy. Super good.

And then, here's our snack mix. Because I teach piano lessons after school, it's hard to make sure the kids have a healthy snack to tide them over to dinner. So I got this great idea (that I'm sure is not original) to make a huge trail mix and then I add 2/3 cup of it in a Zip-loc to their lunches to eat on the way home, or once they get home. They have enough other food in their lunches that they don't need it at school (though they're welcome to eat it if they want), and it's the perfect munchy for homework time. And it's already done when their lunches are packed, so it saves me time.

Here's what we put in ours:
whole grain goldfish
dried cranberries
dried blueberries
raw almonds
Reeses pieces
(and usually choc. covered raisins, but not this time)

You can tailor it to suit your tastes, but the main thing is to get nuts and fruit into it, with only a touch of something candy-ish. The kids love it.
Tell me some of your family's favorites too! I'm really good at collecting other people's great ideas!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First Day Breakfast

Lyndsay, 9th grade

Dylan, 7th grade

Aiden, 3rd grade

The first day is behind us! Nobody died and even Lyndsay came home smiling. This is a good beginning. I am so thrilled for them and the opportunites that await them. Even though we do not live in a great school district, I have a confirmed assurance that these particular schools are exactly where the kids should be. They will learn many things, gain strength in experience and testimony, and be lights in their schools. I feel certain of that.
But, of course, there was a pang of sadness as I sent them off.

As promised, here is the recipe for our traditional Back-to-School breakfast of Stuffed French Toast. It's very yummy, I assure you. Provided, of course, that you're not so nervous about starting high school that you can eat without throwing up.

Stuffed French Toast

1 8oz. package of cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
(Blend all of that together with a mixer. Then, stir in...)
1 cup berries

(I cut up fresh strawberries, but you could use blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or even frozen fruit, thawed. Heck, I'm sure peaches would be good too. Go wild.)

whip together in a pie plate or shallow dish:
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Then, you need 1 loaf of fresh french bread, unsliced. Slice the bread in thick (2 inch) slices on the diagonal. Then, use a sharp knife to make a slit and then a pocket in each slice of bread. Spoon 2-3 TBS of the fruit and cheese mixture inside the pocket. Dip both sides of the bread in the egg mixture and then cook on a buttered griddle. Serve with warm syrup or powdered sugar.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gearing Up!

First, a bit of whining from our sponsor. Me.

It's HOT! And today has been a whirlwind. I haven't slept well in several days, so I started off sleepy, but oh so excited that the boys were coming home from their dad's. Their plane got in at 10:05, but before that happened, I had a piano lesson and Lyndsay had an orthodontist appointment (her teeth look so good!) Then I took Conor and Lyns over to the airport, where, after parking, we arrived at the gate just as the boys were walking out. Yay! We had a milli-second for me to run into the produce store on the way home to buy dried fruits and nuts for my Back-to-School Trail Mix, along with the strawberries for my traditional Back-to-School breakfast of Stuffed French Toast (more on that in an upcoming post), and then race home so that Adam could take the car to his doctor's appointment and work appointment.

That left us with a bunch of other things to do and no car, so walking it was! The three kids are all going to schools that are within walking distance, but they are all in opposite directions of each other. Lyndsay's school is a mile west of us, Dylan's is just under a mile north and west of us, and Aiden's is a half mile east. But Lyndsay also started a job tending newborn preemie triplets for a family in our ward for a very good pay that will build her college fund. That job is about 2 miles away, and straight up hill. I'm not kidding. But it's a mile past her school, so when it was time for her to go to work, I told her I'd walk the first mile with her, and then send her on up the mountain. It's a safe place, in a gated community. And I'm too much of a wimp to hike it knowing how much walking still lay ahead of me. She and I set off at 11:30 in the blazing sun, hiking uphill. I walked her a few blocks past the school, we stopped in some shade and drank up, and then she went on ahead and I turned around and came home. Only to pick up Aiden and then walk him to his school orientation. But first, a new shirt, because the first one was soaked. Gross.

Aiden is one excited boy. He was accepted into the magnet school for Gifted and High-Ability kids. There are only 14-15 kids in each class, and each child gets his/her own laptop for school use. We got to meet his teacher, Mrs. Barneck, and tour the school. Aiden wants to join the Chess Club. And then we walked home together, all full of enthusiasm for the coming year.

Some more piano lessons in the afternoon, and then I took Dylan with me and we walked to his school, again uphill on the way there in the hot sun, and showed him points of interest on his new junior high campus. He knows where to go for his first period class, and where the cafeteria, gym, and offices are. He'll learn the rest quickly. Then he and I walked home. Downhill. Yay! It's only 4:30 and I'm already at 16,000 steps.

When Dylan and I got home, we came around to the sliding glass door in the back to find it locked. Aiden was crashed out on the couch, not ten feet from the door, Conor was in his high chair laughing at us and there was banana bread crumbled all over the floor around him. Dylan and I banged on the door, both of us, screaming Aiden's name for literally 8 minutes and couldn't get him to stir. It was so hot outside! We just wanted in and yet we couldn't stop laughing at teh absurdity of our situation and how deeply that boy was sleeping! Finally, Dylan had the idea to bang on the window on the other side of the couch at the same time that I banged on the door. Maybe banging in stereo would work? Well, it did. Aiden flew off the couch and came and stood, deliriously in front of the glass door, staring at me. "OPEN THE DOOR!" I was saying through my laughter. He just stood there, obviously not yet in this world. "OPEN THE DOOR, AIDEN!" He tried to slide it open, but it was clearly locked. He kept doing it and I'm now yelling, "UNLOCK THE DOOR!" To which he just stares at me. And then he comes to his senses enough and lets us in.

Ahhhhhhhh! Air conditioning!

So now I have a few minutes before I have to go pick up Lyndsay from her job, drop her off at the YW swim party, go get Aiden and drive him to Cub Scouts, take Dylan to Boy Scouts, and then head back to the YW swim party before I gather everyone and come home. To do baths/showers, pack lunches, read bedtime stories, and fall into bed for the big day tomorrow!

I love a new school year! I'm trying to see all the positive things happening in the kids' lives with their new schools and all of the opportunities they will have. This is the first year in many that we have not been gearing up for a new homeschool year. But this is the right thing to do. It's the right thing for the kids, and it's the right thing for me. The kids are all pep-talked out and looking forward to clean slates and shiny fresh goals. So, here we go!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Still Hurts

Sometimes one just doesn't see how deep wounds go. Who would have thought that even at age 35, a married woman with four children of my own, I could spend half the night crying about the divorce of my parents? A divorce that happened more than ten years ago, and long after I was out of the house. A divorce that then, and now, continues to break my heart. I guess that there's still a little girl somewhere inside of me, and that little girl still just wants her mom and her dad to love each other. A little girl that wants both parts of herself to fit together, to welcome each other, to belong. A little girl that still mourns the childhood she knew, the people she knew in that childhood. For some part of her past to be recognizable.

I feel like a stranger in a strange land.

And I am reminded of how deeply my own children must ache from time to time, how their little lives were shattered, and the floodgates of tears start all over again. I never want my little ones to feel what I am feeling. And yet they probably do. I will more fervently resolve to never deny them both halves of who they are. I will never deny that each of them was born of tremendous love and desire, with carefully designed dreams for the future. We had such good intentions. And they deserved so much more.

I did too. I do take solace in the knowledge that I am known and loved above. It does bring me great peace that my pain is His pain too, and that my achings turn and till the soil of my heart for more deeply rooted compassion and understanding. I know that I have learned things that only the fire of loss could teach me. I did learn the lesson of the wildfire bringing new, stronger, greener growth.

And I see it. It's there and it's vibrant. But sometimes I just still miss the lushness of the old forest floor and the shade of tall pines.