Thursday, July 29, 2010

Long Overdue, but Never too Late

I just checked the last name off my list. It wasn't a long list, but it was an important one, a haunting one.

The List of People to Apologize to for Being a Horrid Person.

There were two people on that list (many will probably dispute that number, and maybe I should have other lists like "People to Apologize to for Being Mean" or "People to Apologize to for Being Critical" and so forth, but this Horrid category has really pressed upon me.) Both of them were boys I knew in high school.

The first one's name was Paul. He was a sturdy Italian guy with long, thick, black curls all over his head. People called him the Italian Stallion, and we crossed paths during our years at Pennsauken High, but in our senior year, he sat behind me in American Government class. He was totally in love with me. Smitten. And I was a complete witch to him.

"I'm going to marry you, Jenna Van Sciver," he would coo over my shoulder. "I will love you forever and you will bear my children."

And I would snap my head around and in my snottiest voice I would say, "If you were the last person on earth I wouldn't marry you, Paul. Never in a million years."

It went on like that all year. I even got meaner. But he never budged. In fact, he almost seemed to like toying with me, egging me on, getting any kind of reaction from me. He tried to date me, tried to ask me to dances, tried to get to know me, and all I did was shoot him down, thinking he was so beneath me.

He found me on Facebook earlier in the year. He told me in a message that he was happy to see my face and that I was still beautiful and he loved seeing pictures of my family. He was genuinely nice to me--even though I didn't deserve it. I wrote him back a long, long overdue apology. He said he didn't even remember all of that, but was thankful anyway, and felt bad that I'd carried that around for so long. Still, so kind. I owed him that apology. And I felt supremely grateful that the internet made it possible.

But there was another guy on that list. Phil. Phil was in my Stake, but attended a different high school. I saw him at Stake dances and watched him work the room with innocent kindness and a love of life. I felt more sorry for him. In my mind, he wasn't one of the cool kids. He made up for it with enthusiasm, but everyone knew he was different. He was short. He wore Coke-bottle glasses that magnified his eyes beyond proportion, and he was covered in acne. His father did work with my father, and I kind of got cornered into accepting the invitation to go with Phil to his Senior Prom. As a favor. But I didn't feel favored and in fact, I was grumpy and spoiled about the whole thing. I had a tall and handsome boyfriend in my school, and the truth was that I felt like I was too good to be seen with someone like Phil. I hate to admit that about myself, but it's true. Phil was a much better person inside than I will ever be, but at seventeen years old, I only cared about image.

We went to his prom. I was a wretch the entire night. He tried and tried to cheer me up, but to no avail. I picked at my food, I felt sick to my stomach, and I remember him saying to me that he'd never seen anyone have such a hard time smiling before. I acted like a spoiled brat and I just wanted to go home. He'd taken a complete slug to prom, and I ruined it for him.

I have never shaken my remorse and regret over that. For many, many years I've tried to find Phil on the internet. My life experience had only deepened my sorrow. Here I'd partnered with men who were in appearance what a good man should be, but who found it difficult to treat me with any kind of tenderness or kindness or loyalty. I had placed way, way too much importance on unimportant things. I wanted to tell Phil. But I couldn't find him.

Until now. I was visiting an old friend's Facebook page from my old stake growing up, and I saw that Phil had made a comment. I was elated! I clicked on over to his page and browsed through his pictures. He is married now, has a daughter. He looks happy. I sent him a friend request, and held my breath. I shouldn't have. He accepted almost immediately.

Today, I wrote him that long overdue letter. I apologized for my horrid, wretched behavior at his prom, for ruining that special night for him, and for judging him unfairly. I told him that I would understand if his heart was completely hardened toward me, but that I sincerely wanted him to know how sorry I've been all these years, and I begged his forgiveness.

I don't deserve it, but I have no doubt that he'll freely give it. In humble, genuine Phil style.

Ever teaching me by example.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dinnertime: Penne with Sausage and Peas

So I was sitting in the waiting room while Conor was in his speech therapy session and I picked up the latest copy of Family Circle magazine. I saw this recipe and had no paper to copy it onto, so I deftly ripped it from its binding and stuffed it in my purse, feeling so criminal-like. Usually, I get annoyed with people who rip pages from magazines, but a few times I've succumbed myself, I admit. I made this for dinner tonight, and YUM. To make up for all the waiting-room readers I've denied, I shall now post the recipe here, and share with others.

Penne with Sausage and Peas
makes 6 servings
prep time 10 minutes
cook time 12 minutes

4 cups whole-wheat penne pasta, uncooked (12 oz. package)
2 TBS olive oil
1 package fully cooked chicken sausage, sliced on the diagonal
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 TBS freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling. Add pasta and cook according to package directions, 12 minutes. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 TBS. of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook 3 minutes,turning a few times, until browned. Scoop at sausage with a slotted spoon onto a plate.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 1 TBS. oil and the garlic. Cook 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and salt and cook 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, peas, and browned sausage. Heat through.

4. Place cooked pasta in a large bowl. Add sausage mixture and 1 TBS. of Parmesan. Toss to combine. Top with remaining TBS. Parmesan and serve warm.

Per serving: 350 calories; 10 g. fat; 20 g. protein; 50 g. carb; 7 g. fiber; 561 mg sodium; 62 mg cholesterol

Sister Wives

I'm having polygamist dreams. Wait, that sounded weird. Especially with that picture of my sister-wife, I mean, best friend, at the heading of this post. (Just a little joke we have.)

Actually, I'm having polygamist dreams because I'm fascinated by them. These once-Mormon, fundamentalist Mormons, living what they believe to be the higher law, the true law. Amber lives near the largest concentration of polygamists anywhere, I believe, near Colorado City and Hildale. And Salt Lake isn't far away. But Colorado City earned fame a few years back when the "prophet" Warren Jeffs was on the lamb and finally caught, driving a van full of wigs and cell phones. If you ever visit St. George, you get an eye-full of polygamists. They all have the same hair style, the famous loose french braid with a wave in the front, hairsprayed to death. Not even their hair dare steps out of line for fear of eternal damnation. They have the long dresses, with high collars and long sleeves, and lest their ankles should show with a breeze, no worries--they have jeans or leggings on underneath the dresses. How they stand the sweltering temperatures is as much a mystery to me as is how they stand living in a house with seven other wives and sixty other children.

Mormons, to be clear, or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not practice polygamy. Fundamentalist Mormons are a completely different religion, and not to be confused with the LDS church. It's probably the biggest misconception out there. For a brief time, some--not all--members of the LDS church were asked to practice polygamy, just as some--not all--ancient people in the Bible were asked to. My own pioneer ancestry contains polygamy. And it's not something I'm ashamed of. I think sometimes when we think of polygamy we think of the extremes of abusive and lustful men. I don't think in principle it has to be that way, and I'm sure it isn't always that way. I think the more dangerous thing would be men who mistreat and abuse their wives, especially in the name of God or power. I don't think that horror is reserved for polygamists. There are certainly plenty of men with one wife who are horrid and abusive.

But back to why I'm dreaming . . .

The polygamist run-ins in St. George are other-worldly to me. I want to watch them. I want to stare, though I know they hate that. And besides, it's rude. But still. I know that in every religion and every culture there are the horror stories, the extremists, but then there is also the goodness. The intentions.

Amber told me a story of how one day when she was shopping in Walmart, she found a wallet left behind in the shoe department. Upon opening it, she could clearly discern that it belonged to a polygamist woman. Her last name gave that away, as did the driver's license photo with that front wave. In her wallet, she had a photo of her prophet, Warren Jeffs, (which, just to make a point, I don't think any Mormons carry a picture of the prophet in their wallets, do they?) a reminder card about a doctor's appointment, and about $500 in cash. Amber knew that was no small sum to a woman with many children who definitely answered to her husband on all matters. She took the wallet up to Customer Service, but stopped short before reaching the counter, behind which stood a teen boy that didn't, upon first glance, look like he would care all that much about helping out a polygamist woman. Maybe that was a judgment call, but her instincts told her not to turn over the wallet to him. So she took it home.

Her only hope was the doctor's office card inside the wallet, so she called the number and left a message with the information that she had found this woman's wallet and wanted it to be returned to her. She left her own name and telephone number. Weeks went by with no call.

Finally, one day the phone rang, and on the other end of the line was this polygamist woman. She expressed over and over again her gratitude and how upset she'd been about losing that amount of money. Amber gave her directions to her house and the woman came to pick up her wallet. But not alone, of course. Polygamist women are generally not permitted to travel outside of their city alone, and certainly travel to an outsider's home is not customary. She arrived in a Surburban filled with people, but she came alone to the door. Amber received her graciously and returned her wallet to her, and the woman again thanked her profusely. She left, and that was that.

But Amber was surprised a few days later when there was a knock on her door, and again there stood this woman--alone this time--with a basket of homemade jams and breads. She wanted to give a token of her appreciation, and she had apparently taken some risk to do so. Amber invited her in, but that is strictly forbidden, so they had a short conversation at the door, and the woman left. Drove back to her city, her life, her reality, having had contact with the outside world that surely didn't jive with the things she'd been indoctrinated with.

While at Amber's house, I found a stack of books on the shelf, all memoirs of polygamist wives who had escaped, or left for various reasons. I picked one up and began to read, completely enthralled. I had seen this woman on an Oprah show interview years ago. I was fascinated to read about this world she had been born into, even compare it to mine. It's interesting to me to learn about the dividing lines between the LDS and the FLDS, and see how at one time we followed the same prophet, believed in the same scripture, hoped for the same eternal reward. How grateful I am that my life is not ruled by fear! How grateful I am for knowledge of a God who wants His children to be happy in this life, not just the next. And that His plan for His daughters is just as brilliant and glorious as that for His sons. How grateful I am to know that as His daughter, I am not secondary. In fact, I am His crowning creation, and He wants me to be loved and cherished by a husband who is working toward the same goal that I am, rather than climbing all over my self-worth to gain his.

I brought home the books that I didn't have time to read while I was at Amber's house. I've been immersed in this polygamist world, first spending the week there among them, and now reading the tales of what life is like behind those walls. Last night, before going to bed, I was reading Irene Spencer's memoir, Shattered Dreams. She recounted the story of having to move to a colony in Mexico with her new husband and his first wife, so that they could escape the governmental raids that were happening in the States, and so they could live The Principle openly. Her heart longed for the love of her husband, but though he was kind to her, what she got instead of passion and intimacy, was duty. Her heart was lonely. She finally ended up pregnant, but within minutes of the baby girl's birth, the baby died. I dreamed last night of that awful scene. Hearing a baby's cry, and then silence. Alone in a four-walled, unplastered adobe hut with no electricity, no indoor plumbing. Just dirt and dust and heat. And dire poverty.

I am moved by the hearts of women. Though we each choose our path, we are also each connected by hearts that only women understand. The desires to please our husbands, to be nurturing-- to children, animals, plants, the elderly, the infirm-- to be instruments of change in the world, to find favor with God, however we see Him. We have strong hearts, sacrificing hearts, willing hearts, deep hearts. Often, hearts filled with sorrow, longing, loneliness, betrayal, and pain. I have great respect for women who dedicate their lives to living what they believe. In that, we are not so different. In that, our hearts want the same thing. Indeed, the heart of a woman is a different kind of heart.

And I am proud to have one.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer Fun: Ocean in a Bottle

Admittedly, these are not the best pictures, but this is cool and easy to do. Mesmerizing to watch too. Here's what you need:

A clear bottle. I used a smooth one.
Some sand from the beach. (You should rinse it first. I made the mistake of not rinsing it.)
Some tiny shells and rocks.
Baby oil
glue gun

First, rinse your sand and put it in the bottle. Add your shells or rocks. In a bowl, dye about 3 cups of water a light bluish green with food coloring. Pour this into the bottle, filling halfway full. Add your glitter. I only had embossing glitter, so mine looks extra fantastical. Fill the rest of the bottle with the baby oil, leaving as little air in the bottle as possible. Now put some hot glue on the inside of the bottle cap and screw on tightly. Done! Now tip it back and forth and watch your own ocean swirl around and settle. Pretty cool!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hey Soul Sister

I did it. Last Sunday, I got in my unairconditioned van and drove from Los Angeles to St. George, Utah, with Conor in the back seat complaining almost the entire way about how his bum was bleeding. "The blood is coming out, Mom! I'm serious!" It was hard to convince him that it was only sweat, pouring off of both of us as we drove through 119 degrees for hours. I prayed that we would not die of heat stroke, and that the tires on my van would not blow until I could make this trip, and the trip home, oh--and the trip to and from Arizona to pick my kids back up. Another infernal drive. (If only sweating in and of itself indicated weight loss, right?)

Anyway, I did it. And now, tomorrow, I have to go home. I so don't want to go home. I mean, I miss my husband and I miss my garden. But the time I get to spend with Amber is so precious to me and so deeply gratifying, that I just hate for it to end. She is safety and love and acceptance to me. She is my best cheerleader. She loves every ounce of me, quirks, nerdiness, Molly-ness, sarcasm, vulgarity, spirit, and heart. She laughs at my jokes and I laugh at hers. (She's very, very funny in just the right ways.) She's insanely beautiful inside and out, and she is an inspiration to me. Her husband, Kevin, is just as wonderful. He's been an ardent friend and caretaker, completely supportive of my friendship with Amber. He is so generous to me, even taking responsibility for Conor so that Amber and I can spend time together and I can have a break. Their marriage is a joy to behold, a model for anyone. In fact, I think it is marvelous that my three best friends have the most incredible and inspiring marriages. They show me what is possible.

So while I was here, a week flew by. Mostly, it was chill. I don't need entertainment, really, just to be in her presence. Just to be around her and crack some dirty jokes, make fun of people we used to know, laugh at the old times. We threw a slumber party for her youngest daughter. We did some shopping. We swam in her pool and laid in the sun. We went to her sister-in-law's baby shower. I cooked a couple of dinners for her family. We saw a movie, we ate lunch out with Kevin, and we went to the gym late at night. (Like, it's 11:19pm and we just got back from the gym.)

But see, this is another thing about Amber. She just lost over 100 pounds. She was always incredibly beautiful and sexy, but now? Try and take her anywhere! So, to lose that weight, she exercises. A lot. Even in hell--I mean, St. George. She made me go walking with her in the heat. No seriously. Heat. For miles. After fifteen minutes my water was like bath water. My face stayed red for hours.

But the conversation was great. It always is. We could talk forever and never be done. I love the way her mind works, and I value her experience and wisdom as a wife and as a mother. But we can also be next to each other in complete silence, and that is perfectly comfortable too. I just like to be near her. Even walking in the heat.

Conor had an amazing time. You know, Conor thinks the entire world was created for his enjoyment and all people are there to serve him. But not in a bad way, if that makes any sense. He had great fun going to McDonald's with Kevin and the girls. He went babysitting with their oldest daughter and played for hours with his "new friends". He played in the pool with all the kids at the slumber party, and he almost drowned, but he's recovered nicely. He went out with all the kids to see Despicable Me. In fact, it's now 11:32pm and he just got home with tales of popcorn and candy. The hours are a little later here than back at home, and he's had a ball.

So, though I could stay here forever, never tiring of Amber and Kevin and their family, real life must resume. Tomorrow morning I have to head back home. But guess what? I'll be driving home on brand new tires with the air conditioning blasting ice cold. That Kevin. Always looking out for me. Let me tell you how I cried over that miracle and blessing. I had no idea what was coming when he asked if he could just borrow my keys. These are good friends, the best kind.

And I so needed this.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


My big kids are in Arizona for a few weeks with their dad. I should be doing a lot of things, but instead I sit here in sweats, a t-shirt, and no bra--no makeup either, only thinking of those things.

What is it with me and should? Like a dutiful girl, that word haunts my mind more than I realize, and usually when I buck against it, it's only to my own neglect.

For instance:

I should study my scriptures, but I don't feel like it.

I should be preparing my lesson for YW tomorrow, but I'll do it later.

I should be exercising, but I don't want to sweat.

I should clean my house, but it's boring and I don't want to.

See what I mean? I'd probably be a much happier person if I was reading my scriptures, preparing my lesson, exercising, or feeling comfortable in a sparkling house, and yet? I kick should in the teeth instead and wallow.

Take food. This last week I read Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I watched on Netflix No Impact Man and Botany of Desire. I know what to eat. I know what to do. I even have this luscious garden out back yielding her bounty. And yet, do you know what I had for breakfast? Triple Chunk Chocolate brownies. From a (very non-local) box (which I recycled at least). That had more than 5 ingredients, none of them healthy, and more than one of them unpronounceable.

Why? Why? Tell me! No, on second thought, don't. Because I know why, and the truth is too painful to bear right now.

Should, should, should! I'll do it all for my children, for just about anyone else. But me! I have no vision of me! I'm a fraud, a hoax, an illusion of a life!

Or, maybe I'm just tired and worn out.


Okay, here's something I should do:

I should cancel all my piano lessons for one week. Take a break.


Now, with that week, I should pack up my stuff, and my Conor, and drive to St. George and get my fix of Amber, World's Greatest Best Friend Ever.

Yeah, that's just what I should do.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Birthday Backstory

It's 7:04am and I'm sitting on the couch uploading photos for this post. Lyndsay just came downstairs dressed for a run. She heads out the door. And then I realize: I forgot to wish her a happy birthday. Darn it. But then again, we've been celebrating her birthday for days.

Last year, if you remember, we did the whole Spa Party thing. When it was over, we immediately started thinking about what we should do for the big 16 party, and after attending a friend's, she knew. Universal City Walk. (A plus, that it's easier for mom.)

On Saturday, Lyndsay invited her three besties to celebrate with her. She asked them to wear dresses. We picked them up and headed for City Walk, which is right next to Universal Studios. We ate dinner at Hard Rock Cafe.

I loved sitting at the table with the four of them, listening to their stories and their fits of laughter at inside jokes. There was a bus boy walking back and forth that immediately caught Lyndsay's attention. He was cute. Super cute. I saw on his name badge that his name was Alexey. "He must be Russian," I said. And Lyndsay said, "Oh, imagine if he has this amazing accent!"

Which is how it all began.

"Would you like me to call him over here to wish you a happy birthday?" I offered. The whole table eagerly nodded heads.

"Yes!" Lyndsay said. "Yes! Yes!"

So, I called him over, and I told him it was her birthday, and as he wished her sincerest birthday wishes, their fondest wish did come true. He indeed had a Russian accent. Lyndsay was in heaven. And slightly blushing.

She was all a flutter when he walked away. So I pushed my luck. "Do you want me to ask him to take a picture with you?" I offered. And actually, to my surprise, she nodded frantically, without saying a word. She was without words. So, I called him back, told him he was so cute, and asked if he would please take a picture with Lyndsay. He seemed confused, in a humble sort of way, but obliged. And that made Lyndsay's night.

After that event, the waitress called Lyndsay up in front of the entire packed house and yelled out to all the hard rockers that it was her birthday. "Let's all wish Lyndsay a happy birthday!" she yelled. The entire restaurant obliged. It was perfectly embarrassing. Then, she was given an ice cream sundae, which we all shared.

After the Hard Rock, after Lyndsay tore her gaze away from Alexey, we walked around City Walk, stopping in various shops. Here are the girls in It's Sugar!, in front of a giant Marilyn Monroe made completely of jelly beans.

I had Lyndsay stand in front of the candy and said, "Let's take a picture! Your sweet 16, get it?" In that moment, I had the idea for her birthday cake. And I bought the lollipops and candy here that I would later use. Inspiration!

We went to Fossil, one of our favorite too-expensive stores, and tried on sunglasses.

And then we hit the Walk again.

For their party gift, I told each girl she could choose a bracelet at one of the stands. I took a seat and waited, because you know what's worse than one girl trying to make a decision? Four girls trying to make a decision.

Lyndsay and her best friend chose the matching bracelets, and Kristen (in the middle) chose this leather one. Emily chose a peace sign necklace.

After all the walking around, Lyndsay wanted to go to Yogurtland for dessert. This is the best place ever invented. You get a cup, fill it with any (or all!) of about 20 flavors of yogurt, add any (or all!) of about a million toppings, and then you pay $0.39 an ounce for your masterpiece. After the frozen yogurt, we watched the live concert outside, a girl band called BG5. Walked around a little more, and then called it a night.

Lyndsay was so happy, so grateful, so content. And so in love with Alexey.

Because her birthday falls on a Tuesday and we have YW on Tuesday night, we decided to have her family party on Monday. I worked all day in between piano lessons on her cake, the Sweet 16 theme. Lyndsay helped me by making and coloring the fondant for me since I'm having pain in my fingers and wrists lately. We had all the kids for dinner, and I made Lyndsay's favorite: Barbecued Chicken. And mashed potatoes, zucchini, and steamed carrots.

Here's the finished cake! It was much cuter in real-life. The fondant candies were brushed with sparkle dust, as was the cherry on top of the cupcake. So cute!

The lollipops were so heavy, so I took them out until it was time to blow out the candles.

That's a lot of fire! Hurry! The entire cake is melting!

My Sweet Lyns. Sixteen years old today! (And so ready to date!) Happy Birthday, love! I meant it when I told you that you are the best daughter heaven ever made! I love you!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Oh, How the Years Go By

Tomorrow, my first child turns 16 years old. I can't even really believe it, as I'm sure every mother can understand. I mean, I still can feel her inside my womb, sticking her little heels into my right ribs. And yet, as I write, she's walking gracefully around the house, her hair still wet from the shower, confident and perfectly at ease with herself. I look at her and my eyes mist up. She is the epitome of beauty to me, and not just because she's my daughter. There's really something about her. Always has been. This glow. This inner power. I said it for the first time when she was three, and I still believe it all these years and people later: She is my favorite person on this planet. How I got to carry her, and birth her, and mother her, and watch her grow through childhood is such a privilege to me that I can scarcely talk about her without tears. She's that amazing. You should meet her, really.

And now, she's sixteen. Sweet as can be. The clock ticks louder and louder of the limited time I have left with her in my daily presence, in my home, where I can look at her, watch her, admire her. Learn from her. How I love my sweet Lyns. What a blessing she has been to me these 16 often difficult years. How she deserved so much more, and yet look at what she's made with what she got!

Here's my sweet girl through the years.

Days before she was born.

Newborn Lyns

age 1

age 2

age 3

age 4

age 5

age 6

age 7

age 8

age 9

age 10

age 11

age 12

age 13

age 14

age 15

age 16

And now, to make her a proper cake!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer Fun: Kids in the Kitchen Edition

Because I'm out of school for the summer, I have some uninterrupted time to play Mommy again, full-time. What a privilege! During spring, I made all sorts of plans in anticipation. One thing I did was make a calendar for each of the summer months so I could make the best use of our time. First, I plugged in all the Scout Camps, Girls Camp, Youth Conference, Boy Scout hikes, and the summer visit with Dad. Then I could see just what I had left, and with that, I made some Plans.

We're on a very tight budget around here, but there is still much fun to be had. Beach days, library days, some science projects, and local field trips. But I'm a homeschooling mom at heart, having had one or all of my kids home for eleven years, so some learning adventures always seem to creep in. One big goal I have as a mother is to make sure that each of my children is competent in the kitchen. Easier said than done, to be sure. But this year, I decided to do something my own mother used to do: assign each child a night of the week to make dinner. They also get another night of the week to make a treat. (Because, please, what good is dinner without dessert?) On their assigned nights, they get to look through the cookbooks and cooking blogs and pick out something to make, and then I will get them whatever they need for the job. So far, it's been a smashing success, and so much fun.

Of course I want my kids to be able to cook--not just from a mix or a box--but I have another agenda too. Self-esteem comes from learning new things. We feel good about who we are when we tackle something new or difficult or uncomfortable and find out that we can do more than we thought we could! Teenagers are in dire need of this kind of esteem-building. Too often they are trapped in the faulty world of their worth coming from what they wear or who will text/chat with/make out with them. Creating a nourishing meal for others in the kitchen is a great boredom buster and self-esteem booster. I promise.

Aiden chose to make tacos on his dinner night. Just look at how thrilled he is!

Dylan got his feet wet with Rice Krispie treats for our Family Home Evening treat.

You can see how ridiculously happy he is!

Lyndsay is a pro in the kitchen. She's been by my side for so many years, and now she is super-capable. Her husband will be a lucky man. In so many ways. But she chose to try a new recipe, Pesto Pasta Salad with Peas and Parmesan (and Pine nuts--that's a lot of Ps!) and marinated, grilled zucchini. Here she is making her pesto.

Peas frozen from our garden!

I don't have the best camera for photographing food, but this was a seriously tasty dish. The recipe is here. I'm tucking this one in the files for an excellent vegetarian dish for when my dad visits.

Tonight was Dylan's dinner night. He looked through Pioneer Woman's cookbook and chose Chicken Fried Steak and Mashed Potatoes. He would. I was worried the task would be too daunting for him, but look how he handles the mixer with confident ease.

He fries up those steaks like nobody's business. (Although the hot oil was a little scary to him.)

He added some steamed carrots from the garden, and voila! It looks like a real dinner!

Look how proud he is! See what I mean?

Seriously, this is so great! Of course, now Dylan's talking about how he won Iron Chef, Season 4, so you can see how his self-esteem has really taken flight.

And I gotta say, my favorite things to eat are: THINGS OTHER PEOPLE COOK.

We all win.