Thursday, January 31, 2008

Daddy Doughnut Day

Since Father's Day is in the summer (when the kids aren't in school), DD's kindergarten class honors dads on the last day of January at a celebration known as Daddy Doughnut Day. Of course, the kids are just as excited for the doughnuts as they are to show off their dads. (Notice that DD's cheeks are stuffed so full of dougnuts that she looks a bit like a chipmunk.)

Each child has the opportunity to stand in front of the class and tell everyone just what is so great about their dads. What was DD's great revelation about her daddy?.............

.........."Daddy loves me!" (can't you just tell how proud she is of Mr. Wonderful?)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Midweek gratitudes

This sweet guy begs on a corner near my parent's mission home. Mom says that he seems well cared for (he is always clean and dressed) but they never see the caregivers.

I can't help but wonder. DD has received all sorts of SLP, PT, OT, cardiology checkups twice a year, yearly tests for leukemia and celiac disease, texture sensitivity therapy. She has been poke and prodded so much that she bares her own arm for needles or points to her heart to show the doctor where the stethoscope should go. My daughter has received every help possibly available for her needs in America. She has access to a pharmacy for heart and thyroid meds.

I have been involved with support groups, have a huge library ranging from diagnoses to dietary needs to how to teach reading and math. I have access to the Internet for the latest studies about Down syndrome. If I need to vent, I have a support system of moms of kids with Down syndrome who know exactly how I feel.

What does this young man have? Most families are too poor for hospital care and meds. There are no therapies available. I doubt he has gone to school.

But it does look like he has lots of love. Someone does care for him. He must be healthy to have survived this long.

Ever since my parents arrived in the DRCongo, I thank God every single day that I was born in America. That we have what we consider standard (education, available health care, a beautiful home, money for our needs enough that I can stay home with the kids). Now I have someone new to add to my prayers.

And I do not even know his name.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why I Believe In My Daughter
Go to this link and watch this:
Special Thanks to Tammy and Parker for telling me about this.
Stand A Little Taller
“Stand a little taller and work a little harder and value a little greater the marvelous blessing which you have as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That membership will bring with it a strong and moving testimony of the divinity of the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“You and I are sons and daughters of God, with something of divinity within us. Let us stand tall, my brothers and sisters. Let us live the gospel. Let us be busy in the Church. Let us learn of its doctrine. Let us feed upon its teachings. Let us grow in faith and faithfulness before the world” (President Gordon B. Hinkley, meeting, Cairns, Australia, 26 Jan. 2000).

Last night for Family Night we talked about President Hinkley and the legacy he left to us: more temples, more churches, service to our neighbors, the role of the family, that we live in an incredible time and to find the joy even though the world would have us think otherwise. It was a good discussion and one that lasted much longer than our usual 10 minute lessons. The boys were asking questions and making comments. DD participated in the first few minutes and then peacefully drew on her Disney Princess etch-a-sketch. We read Mosiah chapter 2 where King Benjamin gave his last address to his people.

After prayer, DS#2 still had questions that bounced around from recognizing the promptings of the Holy Ghost to science and God. As I sat and listened to my very math-and-science minded DH teach our son, I was filled with gratitude for a good husband who is a good father. For over an hour they discussed these topics as well as priesthood power. DS#2 will receive the Aaronic priesthood when he turns 12 in December. He is so excited for that day. The questions DS had revolved around his responsibilities and how it fit into the Melchizedek priesthood he will received when he is 19 before he goes on a mission. Last night, the spirit was strong in our house. It is a feeling I want in our house 24/7.

Many times DS talked about subjects he heard discussed when DH came home from the Priesthood session of General Conference. He often started his questions with "When President Hinkley taught this..." I realized how much this great man had influenced our family with his life. I'm sure he never expected nor wanted to be in that position, but he lived his life that was an example to other. I am so grateful for that life well lived.

One of President Hinkley's favorite themes was "Stand A Little Taller". He was constantly encouraging us to stand taller, try harder, aim for greater, rise higher, be kinder, be better. I've decided that that will be my personal theme this year.

Please check out this tribute to him:

Monday, January 28, 2008

President Gordon B. Hinkley

"I hope that all of you will remember that on this Sabbath day you heard me bear my witness that this is God's holy work. The vision given the Prophet Joseph in the grove of Palmyra was not an imaginary thing. It was real. It occurred in the broad light of day. Both the Father and the Son spoke to the boy. He saw Them standing in the air above him. He heard Their voices. He gave heed to Their instruction.

"It was the resurrected Lord who was introduced by His Father, the great God of the universe. For the first time in recorded history, both the Father and the Son appeared together to part the curtains and open this, the last and final dispensation, the dispensation of the fullness of times.

"The Book of Mormon is all that it purports to be—a work recorded by prophets who lived anciently and whose words have come forth "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations" (Book of Mormon title page).

"The priesthood has been restored under the hands of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John. All the keys and authority pertaining to eternal life are exercised in this Church.

"Joseph Smith was and is a prophet, the great Prophet of this dispensation. This Church, which carries the name of the Redeemer, is true.

"I leave you my testimony, my witness, and my love for each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

President Gordon B. HinckleyApril 1, 2006, Sunday morning session of the 176th Annual World General Conference

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Gratitudes

First of all, I have to express gratitude for Skype which allows me to see my parents and talk to them on the Internet at a fraction of the price it would be to make a phone call to Africa. My parents are healthy and happy. This week they used the Heath bar chips I sent them to make ice cream with the ice cream maker my sis sent them. They are entertaining government bigwigs they meet on their service projects, and making great head way in upcoming projects. They constantly remind their kids to be grateful for the things we take for granted in America (education, houses with running water, food, medical help, NURSES!! (in the hospitals there, patients are required to bring their own bedding and food and their relatives have to take care of them), and so many other things. It has been such a blessing to their children that they are so willing to serve the people of the DRC.

I'm grateful for the medicines we have available. The cold virus is starting to invade our home, starting with DD. I love that we have pharmaceuticals available and that we can afford them.

Grades just came out this week. Although DS#3 is still struggling, his teacher has noticed vast improvement in his willingness to try, in his behavior in the classroom, and in his caring for his classmates. DS 3# also scored 7/10 on his last spelling test - a HUGE improvement over previous tests. We have discovered that having him finger spell (ASL) his spelling words as he practices them helps tremendously.
I'm grateful for my new hobby. I needed something to keep my hands busy at night (and keep me away from my nightly ice cream habit). I haven't crocheted since I was 15 (and I was very bad at it). But I bought yarn in a variegated denim blue, chocolate brown, and khaki, and I made an afghan. I'm rather proud of it. I have already started another in yellow, red and a variegated blue/green/purple/red/yellow. My new hobby is addicting. I love how soft the yarn feels and that I am creating something that my family will use. My new hobby has the nasty habit of invading the family room but the family doesn't seem to mind. I'll take pics when my next project is done and show them off.
I am grateful that everyone is home, everyone is healthy, everyone is safe.
Last night, DH and I went out. We tried a new (for us ) sushi bar and I think we've finally found a place to replace Tepanyaki, our favorite sushi hangout in Utah. It was so wonderful to get out and talk. We talked about the house not selling yet, getting our food storage and 72 hour kits reorganized, possibly taking a vacay someplace warm, a little bit about each of the kids (things they did this past week that made us proud or just made us laugh). DH talked about work. I talked about my work at home. He talked about his scouts and I talked about my choir. Nothing amazing or scintillating. It was just nice to be together. Gotta be grateful for that.
While I am thinking about it, I am truly grateful for a relationship with a man I love that is deep like a river. Thanks to my Grandmother M. for explaining that to me 17 years ago. You were so right. But then, you always are.
I am grateful for my testimony of Jesus Christ. I am so far from perfect, if it weren't for Him I would never make it back to Heavenly Father. It has taken me decades to understand how Christ still loves me even though I mess up on a daily basis. But I am trying and I am getting better (slowly, oh so slowly).

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Preview 14 Days of Valentines
Day # 4: Four Beautiful Children (and One Cute Wife)
(and one Cute Dog)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Big Girls Don't Cry

Today I stopped by the elementary school, a little to early before it was time to pick up DD. I wanted to talk to the resource teacher about DD's I.E.P. When I walked into the resource room, I saw DD's aide. Without DD. It turns out that there was a bit of a shakeup, and DD's aide (in order to make up for one less person on the staff) was assigned to another child. DD was given a new aide.

The news of this should not have set me off like it did. But the tears came. I have been concerned with DS#3's challenges in the classroom. I have a mtg next week with all of the therapists and specialist to discuss what to do about him. I thought that DD was in great hands. Actually, that is the wrong thing to say. DD is in great hands; her new aide is the resource teacher, someone I consider a dear friend. But the thought of of having DD's routine disrupted (remember how she doesn't handle change very well?) kind of put me over the edge for a minute. There I was in the resource room, tears in my eyes, the school counselor telling me that the change would be okay.

I felt so stupid.

My favorite scripture is Ether 12:27 which says:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them
their weakness I give unto men weakness that they may be humble;
and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me;
for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I
make weak things become strong unto them.

My crying has always seemed a weakness to me and I hope and pray that someday I will get over it. As a teen, I never cried at movies. I couldn't make tears when my characters required it in drama class. I was never weepy until college when I developed mono, Epstein Barr virus, and depression (the depression was directly related and lasted six months). While I am no longer depressed (what a blessing that is!) I still get teary often and sometimes at the most inopportune times.

This week I had tears when I saw my Grandma. (It was so good to see her! I hope she didn't notice my red eyes). I cry when I share my testimony. I cry when I talk about DD's birth and the spiritual experiences that happened that first week. I cry each and every time I watch Extreme Home Makeover (maybe that shouldn't count since I think every one cries while watching that). I cry when I watch a great musical live (the music of Les Miserable completely overwhelms me. Also Ragtime, Wicked, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat - Donny Osmond soundtrack, .....). Listening to or singing "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" gets me every time. That's really rough when I am in front of the congregation directing a hymn and the entire ward sees the tears. Of course that has been know to start the waterworks in others who also feel the Spirit....)

I truly hope that one of these days that weakness is turned into a strength. I pray about it daily (and usually start crying while doing so).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Yesterday we trouped off to what I told the kids was a Super Top Secret Photo Shoot for the 4th day of Valentines. The kids, all dressed in black shirts, were on their best behavior. No one had chocolate smeared across their face. Every one's hair was combed. Even our sweet dog looked presentable.

Our photographer introduced me to a new way of taking pictures. She snapped portraits of each child (and the dog and me) separately on a black background. Then she will photo shop them into one portrait. Everyone will be smiling. Everyone will be looking in the same direction.

Awesome. I do not think we have ever had a portrait where everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing.

I am so looking forward to getting the disc of pictures so I can get things printed at Costco. I've already reserved the photographer for a family pic this fall. I'll post her website next week as soon as she gets it up.

In the meantime, check out my brother's family's blog. Click on One Lone Tree on the links list on the right.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sunday Gratitudes
Okay, so its really Monday. I spent the weekend in Utah, staying at my twin sis' - aka BFF - house, meeting with family, and letting the kids play with cousins. I thought a bit about what to blog about for my Sunday gratitudes. I couldn't narrow ideas down to just one, at least not until today....
Our drive home was harrowing, with a snowy day making things hard for the first half of the drive. Once we hit that halfway mark the skies cleared as well as the roads. We drove two vehicles: DH drove his truck with the younger kids watching movies in the back seat and tools brought from our Utah house in the back. I drove with DS#1 and our sweet dog in my minivan with the luggage.
While the last of the flakes drifted lazily down, we were slowed down for yet another construction stretch. While barley moving, DH lowered the rear window of his truck (he has a sweet truck) and DD popped her head out. She held up her hand with her middle and ring fingers folded down, and her thumb, pointer, and pinkie extended - the ASL sign for I Love You. Then she very carefully twirled her pointer finger while holding the sign. Our sweet sis-in-love (who served an ASL mission on Temple Square in SLC) taught us that this means I Love You Forever.
I realized that this would be one of those moments that I will hold forever in my heart. Through the rest of eternity, it will be a memory I will pull up again and again in my own scrapbook of my life. I started thinking about other memories I have so far in my mental scrapbook:
  • DS#1, around 6 months old, standing in his crib. His white hair sticking straight up with static and illuminated from the sun outside the window behind him. He was smiling as he had woken up and was calling "Mamamamama", waiting for me to come get him for breakfast. His smile was pure love and all for me.
  • DS#2, singing "Long Tall Texan" with his grandpa. He wanted to sing for the school talent show. He dressed up in full cowboy gear and sang his heart out. He won first prize for the second grade. I could not have been more proud. It was scary for him to sing in front of the whole school, but he did it.
  • DS#3, went missing for over two hours when he was 3. I was in panic mode. The entire neighborhood was out looking for him, the local elementary school was in lockdown. The police called and said that he was found and gave an address. I couldn't drive (I was hysterical) so a complete stranger drove me to the house. There he was on the porch eating a Popsicle. He had gone looking for someone to play with when the Primary President of that ward - the only person who would know every single child in that neighborhood - looked out of her window, saw my son, knew that he was not from her neighborhood and must be lost. I got out of the car and hugged him tight and bawled. That night, DS#3 came into my room. It was past his bedtime and I thought he was asleep. He climbed up onto my bed and put his arms around me. He looked up at me with big tears in his eyes and said "Mom, I'm sorry I broke your heart". (He remembers that day clearly and even now still talks about the day he broke my heart.) We cuddled on my bed while I sang him songs until he fell asleep.
  • DH, driving to Jackson Hole for our honeymoon. It was a gorgeous day, we were holding hands and just enjoying being together. We didn't talk very much. After all the stress and planning up to our wedding day, it was so wonderful just to BE married to Mr. Wonderful. BTW, he still hold my hand whenever we're driving. Every time.
There are so many more memories like that. I am so grateful for all of them. When my life gets tough, I like to pull them out. I tell DH that when we're in heaven, I will find a way to print it all our for him to see.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Real Me Time
Yesterday, DD was invited to her first play date (DD has never been invited to play dates or birthday parties outside of our family and Ds community before). A girl from Primary invited her over for lunch and fun. Her mom invited me over for lunch and adult conversation. A big draw for us both, so off we went with salad in hand.
Lunch was yummy (French Onion Salisbury Steaks, and she promised to email the recipe to me). I found out that my play date was a photographer so I made an appt to get the kids pics done for Day #4 on the 14 Days of Valentines. DD had great fun playing with all of the girl toys. Her play date had a full play kitchen with stocked pantry , tea set and table. DD was in heaven talking about what she was cooking as well as trying to get a few babies down for naps so she could "make Fam'ly Nite Treat".
My play date also told me about her book club and invited me to join. They were discussing Stephanie Meyer's Twilight that night. I had read the book and really looked forward to getting involved with a book club again.
That night DH came home from Las Vegas to see me getting dressed up including jewelry, lip gloss, and shoes (*gasp*, I know!!!!)..........and not staying home with him. I felt bad, but he knew how much I missed my old book club and sent me on my merry way. After getting lost and driving around a neighborhood with by far too many street names ending in Creek, I found the house and a great group of women. We had fun discussing the book (no one really enjoyed it, it was deemed too fluffy) and then went on to the books which had been previously been chosen for the year. I have already read a few but I'm looking forward to the whole list. Next month's book will be Three Cups Of Tea by David Relin.
We've lived here for seven months and last night was the first time I felt like I was taking planned time out for myself. It was wonderful. I was able to get to know someone outside of the few minutes we talk to each other at church. I met more people. I feel like, for the first time, I am really on my way to making this neighborhood and this town into my neighborhood and my town. DH has his work and the kids have their friends and their activities which eases them more quickly into this community. As a SAHM, it takes me longer. Too long. But I am slowly getting there.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My twin sis (aka BFF and all around darling) has started her own blog. Check it out:

We do not look alike or act alike but someday I hope to be as good as she is.....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

14 Days Of Valentines revised menu...

I planned and posted the menus and forgot to reserve the right to change my mind. I've been craving food from my favorite restaurant, Market Street Broiler (alas, I do not live in Utah anymore). So I have found similar recipes from my fave place. You can find more on . I will cut the recipes down to serve two. I still plan on serving the orzo and Vegetables ala Greque as well as the Rosemary and Olive Oil bread from Costco.


Hot Artichoke-Crab Dip
(Serves 8 as an appetizer)

1 pint mayonnaise
1 cup fresh Dungeness crab or snow crab (canned is acceptable, but fresh is best)
1 cup artichoke hearts (if using canned, purchase hearts packed in water, not oil)
½ cup bread crumbs
½ cup + 2 tablespoons fresh Parmesan, shredded(grated commercial Parmesan is also acceptable)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

Combine all ingredients, except for the tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, in an ovenproof
baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove, sprinkle with remaining
Parmesan cheese, and return to oven until top is browned.
Serve piping hot with your favorite chip or bread.

Spicy Shrimp and Scallop Skewers

Ingredients per skewer:
6 each raw 16-20 shrimp, peeled & deveined
6 each 20-30 count raw scallops
12 pieces Prosciutto ham, thin sliced to 2 inches by 3 inches
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chilis, crushed
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon green onions, thin sliced
1 lemon
1/2 gallon water
1 teaspoon salt

Method for Shrimp and Scallops:
Remove zest from lemon and set aside. Cut lemon in half. In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, add water and lemon halves. Add shrimp and scallops and cook for two to three minutes.
Toss in an ice bath to cool.

When cooled, wrap each piece of shrimp and scallops with a piece of the ham and secure
with toothpicks. Bake or barbecue until hot, approximately one to two minutes.

Method for Sauce:
In a small sauce pan, boil the balsamic vinegar until reduced by one half. Add lemon zest and
chilis and drizzle over skewers. Top with green onions and serve.


Creme Brulee
serves 4

2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
5 egg yolks
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons white or brown sugar
Berries or fruit of choice
Powdered sugar

Cook the cream with the vanilla bean in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat until the cream begins to boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg yolks with two tablespoons of white sugar until firm. Pour the
egg mixture into the hot cream and return to the heat. Continue cooking, while stirring
continuously with a spatula, until the mixture almost boils again. Remove saucepan from the
heat, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream-egg mixture, and then discard
the pod.

Pour the Crème Brulee into serving dishes and refrigerate for 3-4 hours prior to serving.
(Crème Brulee can be stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.)
At serving time, spread white sugar evenly on top of each Crème Brulee and then caramelize
the sugar with a blow torch. Or, substitute brown sugar for the white sugar and then place
on the top rack under the broiler, watching closely until the brown sugar melts and caramelizes. Remove immediately.

After caramelizing, top with berries or fruit of your choice, along with a dusting of powdered sugar, and then serve.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The 14 Days Of Valentines Menu

The menu has been put together! To be served picnic-style in front of our fireplace:

1st Course: Brie baked with layers of pesto and served with crackers. Recipe credited to Darling Jane, one of my fabulous online Cookies.

2nd Course: skewers of Sea Scallops and prawns over orzo with basil, tomato and Romano alongside Vegetables ala Greque. Rosemary Olive Oil bread from Costco. Recipe for skewers and orzo can be found on Food Network-Rachael Ray. Vegetable recipe is from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites.

3rd Course: Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee and Chocolate Dipped Strawberries. Creme Brulee recipe can be found of Food Network -Ming Tsai. Strawberries will depend on availability and quality.

Movie - I have no idea yet. I need to peruse a few places and websites.

I love cooking this meal for Mr. Wonderful every year. Past menus included:

Greek - Mezadakia - I got this idea from a local SLC restaurant. Sauteed bite-sized chicken breast, cubes of feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, pepperocini peppers kalamata olives served on a platter and drizzled with Greek salad dressing (dressing recipe form Joy Of Cooking). I added heated purchased dolmanthes and made pita bread. This is a very hands on meal. You are supposed to wrap meat and veg in the pita. No utensils. Feed each other. Dessert was baklava.

Italian - Garlic-Lovers Shrimp over pasta (recipe from Cooking Light. You can find it on Served alongside steamed asparagus and with a good quality crusty bread to soak up the sauce. Appetizer was crab stuffed portabello mushroom (one is enough to share). Dessert was a purchased from our fave Italian place.

Japanese - first course was homemade tempura and California rolls. Main course was Miso-Glazed Salmon (also from Cooking Light, see recipe website above), served with sticky rice and stir-fried veggies. Dessert was purchased.

Other easy ideas - the Chicken Aglio e Olio I posted last year is easy and tastes wonderful. Toss a salad, make orzo or polenta, and grab a great dessert from Costco or your favorite restaurant (get it earlier in the day, you don't want to be anywhere near a restaurant that night). Put together a cheese fondue for dinner and a chocolate fondue for dessert.

Get busy. Keep it simple. The most important thing is that your man feels loved. He is not going to rate your efforts on a scale, he will just be grateful that you care so much for him.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday Gratitudes

A year ago I had the opportunity to spend two hours with 12 professionals at the University of Utah. They were there to watch DD and ask questions of me. They were the top professors and professionals in their field: special education, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, other therapies I can't think of off the top of my head. The two hours were taped for future graduate classes as well as streamlined to 4 different graduate classes in Utah, Idaho, North Dakota, and Nevada. The purpose of the project was to show graduate students how to come up with solutions to problems that families of special needs children face.

We walked into the room and as the panel introduced themselves to me, DD made the rounds and hugged everyone. She then sat on the floor with some of the therapist who brought toys and started to play. DD loved being the center of so many people.

We talked about safety issues (DD's wandering and not understanding stranger danger). The subject of her brothers came up (who recently had made known to other family members that they thought I loved DD best. This stemmed from all the time I spent not only in therapy, but in advocacy work for the Utah Down Syndrome Foundation. My answer to my boys was to immediately quit UDSF. My boys were more important and needed me more.) DD demonstrated all the ASL she knew (all taught to her by me, my boys, and Signing Time videos) which surprised all the therapists as she knew 200+ signs. They tested her ability to use scissors (couldn't) and her ability to write (she barely mastered circles). They looked at past IQ tests (while I told them my opinion of IQ a nice way). We talked about behavior issues and potty training.

The whole purpose of this exercise was to put a human face on the people these professionals (and those they taught) work with on a daily basis. They were to come up with solutions to problems. When asked my greatest fear, I told them honestly it was two: 1. that DD would never understand the parameters of safety and stranger danger and 2. that DD would learn to communicate effectively, whatever that communication may be.

Their great answer to me?

Lighten up.

That was it. 12 great professionals pulled apart and analyzed my family's life and came to the conclusion that what was needed was a huge pat on the back. They told me I was a great mom and I was doing a great job and I needed to enjoy my family and not worry so much about what I was doing right or wrong or, worse yet, what I was not doing that I should.

Future generations of special education professionals will have to endure a film of me crying. It was such an empowering moment to have them tell me and moms of special needs kids everywhere that we are doing good. They understood the stress I felt about making sure that DD had every opportunity she needed to grow and develop the best she could, while at the same time trying to make sure I was the mom my boys needed and that they were not neglected in all of the energy I had to focus on DD.

The professor in charge pulled me aside after and told me that they had never had a session like this where they focused on the parameters of how special needs affected the family. They give the support we need, help us set goals to achieve, and test our children for improvement, but this was the first time that they recognized that we also need congratulations for a job well done.

One professional said it best: "I'm not worried about whether your daughter is labeled as Mild, Moderate, or Severe. The most important question to ask is whether or not your daughter is happy. We can all see that she is happy and healthy and she has a good family structure."

There were emails sent to me after that had suggestions to the problems we listed at the beginning. I was grateful to get that information. But I will forever be grateful for the message of "Well Done". I think all parents of all kids of every ability need to hear that praise.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My parents posted a new blog about their mission. Click on Barlows In The DR Congo under the Kindred Spirits link list ro the right.

I am immensely proud of my Mom and Dad!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Fourteen Days Of Valentines

Okay, the days are planned out. Feel free to copy mine or make up your own:

Feb 1 - You Have My One Heart - heart shaped chocolates (Dove) in cute red/pink/white takeout box. Heart decoration over his mirror. Box and decoration for $1 each at Target.

Feb 2- For just the Two of Us - invitation in calligraphy on nice card stock to my homemade valentine dinner. Include menu and two candles, and bottle of sparkly.

Feb 3 - The Three necessities for our next date night - 2 movie tix and a box of Red Vines.

Feb 4 - Four Beautiful Children (and one cute wife)- head shots of the kids and me taped to the inside of his windshield. I might even write with lipstick on his windshield

Feb 5 - Five (x2) fingers - massage lotion from Bath & Bodyworks

Feb 6 - Six candy bars in a candy gram - things like Big Hunk, Twix, Sugar Daddy etc. No, I am NOT telling you what I am writing!

Feb 7 - Seven freshly made orange or cinnamon rolls. Hide the rest for later.

Feb 8 - I'll love you for Eternity (Eight on its side). This will be a home made Valentine card.

Feb 9 - Nine Items for Breakfast in Bed - 3 egg omelet with spinach, mushrooms and feta (that makes 6), sourdough toast (7), orange juice (8), broiled fresh pineapple (9)

Feb 10 - 10 - Ten Things I Love About You written on beautiful card stock and propped on his pillow to find when he gets home

Feb 11 - Eleven Reasons we are grateful for our dad and husband Family Home Evening. The kids will be involved with this one. I'll let them run with their imaginations and each come up with something. We will also be reading scriptures about the importance of fathers as well as “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. You can read that here:

Feb 12 - Twelve Hugs and Twelve Kisses. Hershey's Hugs and Kisses (12 each!) in another cute little takeout container. DH shares all chocolates with the kids. As long as it isn't dark chocolate, I have no problem abstaining.

Feb 13 - Thirteen Ways To Say I Love You on Post-It Notes. Start researching languages now. Make sure you write down what language it is. If your DH speaks a foreign language, be sure to include that one in the thirteen languages. Be silly and go for pig latin. Be creative with drawings of ASL signs. Write it Korean/Chinese/Japanese if you know the calligraphy.

Feb 14 - A letter expressing how much I love him and a note to remind him to meet me for dinner at a certain time.

Other Ideas from last year: hide red note card around the room with your fave romantic movie quotes, sonnets, Shakespeare, poetry, and sayings for him to find. Click on my 14 days of Valentines label to see past blogs for more ideas.

There you go. Get started! Next week I will post menu ideas, including what I am thinking about to serve this year.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What To Do On A Snowy Afternoon?



Monday, January 07, 2008

The 14 Days of Valentines


It's that time of year again. Start planning now for the 14 Days of Valentines!

When DH and I were engaged, I made up the 14 Days of Valentines as a cute way to show him how much I loved him. I didn't have a lot of money but I did have creativity so I came up with cheap fun ideas that corresponded with the day. I don't remember everything I did except that Day #13 was "13 Ways To Say I Love You". I put up I Love You in thirteen different languages around his room.

Fast forward to five years later. I was cleaning out drawers in our bedroom and came upon something interesting: every thing I had made him for those 14 days were saved in that drawer. I was thrilled that it meant so much to him and aghast that I had not done it since. After that time, it has become a yearly thing for me. He has no idea what I'm planning.

I do have a few tricks to make this easier every year:

  • Day #3 is always 2 movie tickets and a box of Red Vines which is our favorite movie treat. Day #3 also happens to be DS#1's bday so I keep DH's Valentines gift low-key. He knows it is for a date that weekend.
  • Day #4 is a picture of our 4 Beautiful Children for his office. Last year I went a less traditional route than a formal portrait. I took a headshot of each of the kids (and one of me) and blew them up to 8x10 size. I then taped them onto his vanity mirror and wrote in red lipstick "4 beautiful children and 1 cute wife". When he woke up that morning and saw it he laughed out loud. Every time he saw it that day he laughed out loud. He left it up for weeks.
  • Day #5 used to be 5 Kinds of Fudge. When we lived in Utah, a fab fudge shop (Sweet Aftons at Gardner Village) offered a deal of buying 4 kinds of 1/4 lb. fudge and getting a 5th 1/4 lb free. My kids loved this day because DH always shared the fudge. Not sure what I am doing this year.
  • Day #10 is always 10 Things I Love About You. I try to be creative about it every year but it is never a problem coming up with 10 things.
  • Day #13 is still 13 Ways To Say I Love You. I have done this is Swahili, Navajo, French, Korean, and even Vulcan and Klingon. (yes, I am a closet Trekkie. I do not dress the part but I never miss a movie.) I write these on red and pink Post-It Notes and plaster the inside windshield of his truck.
  • Day #14 is always a gourmet Valentine's Dinner cooked by me (I REFUSE to go somewhere out as all V-Day menus are overpriced and usually a let-down). The kids either go to bed early or go somewhere else in the house to watch a movie. I present DH with a nicely printed menu and two candles. Every year the menu is different, but the most important part is to make food that you can feed each other. If you don't cook, go pick up fun things at Costco and just have a menu of appetizers, desserts and something sparkly (I really like the Peach-Grape sparkling juice Costco carries.) I also rent or buy a romantic movie to watch together. (I'll post my 2008 menu in the next few weeks as well as what I have served in the past.)

Now you have the idea. Get read, get set, GO! Spoil your man. Smother him in sweet love! Send him a pizza with the pepperonis arranged in the shape of a heart. Iron a couple of his shirts (I recommend this for Day #2 as I hate ironing and two shirts is more than enough). Do not tell him what you are doing. When he asks, just smile and change the subject.

I've been asked what DH thinks about all this. He loves it. He is so appreciative of everything. He deserves every single bit of effort.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sunday Gratitudes

greg olsen - heavenly hands

The first Sunday of the year is hectic in church. That is when all the kids move up a class and have new teachers. Some kids are excited for the change. For others it is a traumatic experience.

For DD it was traumatic.

There was a special breakfast yesterday where the kids showed up in their jammies and met their new teachers. DD's new teachers had not been called yet, so she had no one to meet. She loved the games and the breakfast and talked about the party for the rest of the day.

This morning we walked into Primary chaos, which is normal during this time as parents are trying to help their kids find their teachers or their classrooms. DD saw her teachers from last year, sitting in the spot they sat in all last year. Being a creature of habit, DD wanted to be there. I guided her over to where her new class would sit. The tears started to fall. She wasn't the loudest crier in the room, but her words and facial expressions broke my heart.

"Not here, Mom, there! I sit there!"

She started to sob with big tears and buried her face in the crook of my neck. I stayed with her the whole two hours. DD needs to be prepared about major transitions months in advance. With no teacher called, that wasn't possible. We had to make the best out of a difficult situation.

The Primary Chorister taught the kids ASL for DD's favorite Primary Song "I Am A Child Of God". This immediately caught DD's attention. She loved learning the signs and even recognized about half of them thanks to Rachel and her Signing Time show.

Bishop came in with two life-like black birds on a yard stick to tell the story about John the Baptist living in the wilderness and how the birds brought food. DD didn't pay attention much to the story but she did love the visual and held still for it all.

The substitute did a great job with the lesson. DD whispered her answers to questions (what she does whenever she feels shy), but finally felt secure enough to talk out loud. We colored paper CTR shields to make necklaces which she was eager to show her big brothers when we got home.

My gratitudes this week are all for Primary teachers and leaders. I was in Primary for 13 years straight, starting as soon as I left YW. I had every calling: teacher, pianist, chorister, Presidency. I know all the hard work that goes into planning every Sunday to make sure all the kids (in our ward there are over 150 kids ages 3-11) have a positive experience. They think about these children, pray about these children, and use so much of their time preparing for these children.

God bless all Primary teachers and leaders. They are angels among us.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


This morning we volunteered to help clean our church. It is a family affair so all four kids came along. We got the list from the custodial closet and were assigned to wash windows and vacuum.

DD came with me and washed the lower half of the windows while I cleaned everywhere she couldn't reach. DD also picked up toys she found in various rooms and (with my supervision to be sure she wasn't sidetracked by the toys) returned them to the nursery. My sons went off in different directions heading to the group of classrooms they were assigned to get those windows done. DH started vacuuming the halls and classrooms.

Not once did I hear a moan, groan, or "Do we have to?" whine.

Now why can I not have that same reaction at home when I ask them to vacuum, sweep, dust, or even just keep their rooms clean (DH being the exception as he does not whine, moan, groan, or complain and cheerfully does any task I request. He is, after all, Mr. Wonderful and his mom trained him right.) Is it because it is a different location? Because it is our church building? Because we talked last night about how it is the House of God and we need the blessing we receive from giving service?

We came home and I handed out the assignments for our own house today. DS#1 only had to be reminded once again because he wants to go to the movies and knows he needs to get things done in order to be allowed to go. DS#2 has been reminded to quit watching TV and get the vacuuming done 12 times now and I have officially lost patience (Patience being my #1 New Years Resolution. Guess I have to start over again.) I need a new plan of action here. DS#3 needs to finish his room. He gets so close and then he gets distracted. He doesn't want to clean his room, but he does want to mop the floor. I told him he could mop the floor as a reward after he gets his room done (does this kind of psychology really work? He is trying to get his room done as we speak and is enthusiastic for his reward. Hmmmm.)

The only exception is DD who enthusiastically put away her dolls and picked up garbage. She is now requesting lunch. I know for a fact that she loves to unload the dishwasher, sort socks, and help fold towels. My big question is: When does housework stop being fun? How can I change it back? I love the end result of housework i.e. a completely clean house (which in this house will never happen until the kids are grown and gone. This is where I really wish I could emulate my DSIL -Heartstrings on my links page - because her house is always spotless. She claims not to be particularly talented but she is extremely organized, goal oriented, and incredibly good at decorating. Those count as amazing talents in my book. My twin sis and I are in perpetual awe of her.)

Oh, well. Tomorrow is Sunday. I will go to church and enjoy God's clean house.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints has recently release a 10 minute video originally filmed to educate news media during the 2002 Olympics about myths of our church. The first part of the video interviews people and asks what they know about the Mormons. The answers are hilarious! After that Steve Young and Sharlene Wells Hawkes talk about myths and what we really believe. Check it out if you are curious:

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


My family is not a big NYE party family. I make a yummy dinner (this year it was Seafood Lasagna and green salad) and appetizers (stuffed mushrooms, brie and crackers and smoked trout with cream cheese) and treats (marshmallow crispy treats made with Cheerios) for later in the evening. But, other than that, we don't do much.

I expected for DS#1 to have plans but even he stayed home.

DS#3, however, had different ideas about how NYE should be celebrated thanks to his school teacher and television. DS#3 thought we should have dancing and noisemakers and hats. I didn't find this out until 7:00 p.m. on NYE so the noisemakers were out as well as the hats. I turned on Dick Clark's Rockin' New Years Eve just in time for a performer that DS#3 and DD both recognized: Miley Cyrus aka ........

"HANNAH MONTANA BANANA!" (DD ran all over screaming this, she was so excited. I don't know why she added banana to the title. I think she likes the rhyming words.) DS#3 ran into the kitchen where I was just putting the mushrooms into the oven and begged me to dance with him. I wiped my hands and followed him out to the family room where the TV volume had been turned up. I started to dance with my hands in the air. (I did NOT look dorky, I am actually a pretty good dancer. At least I was when I was cool way back 20 years ago. Quit laughing!)

"No, Mom, like this!" DS#3 grabbed my hands and showed me he wanted to dance.....well, I am not quite sure what dance he was trying to do. So I taught him how to swing dance. Or, at least I tried to.

"No, honey, lets do this slower. Step. Step with your right foot to the front. Step left back. Swing your right behind you like this. No, behind, like..... okay lets dance your way." DS held my hands and led me in a gallop/polka/occasional karate kicks across the room. I was a little winded after the song was done, but Miley started up again which meant we started up again. Around and around and around. I was more than winded after 20 minutes of that.

Who needs a personal trainer? Dance with your 7 yr old. That'll do the trick.

After a valiant effort of staying up, eating copious amounts of marshmallow crispy treats, playing Monopoly with his brothers, and more dancing, DS#3 fell asleep promptly at 10:00. DH carried him to bed. DS didn't even lift his head, he was out like a light.

This morning DS#3 woke up sooooo disappointed that he missed the countdown. I made a fabulous Marmalade Oven French Toast for breakfast. While DS and DD ate breakfast (DS#1 and #2 were still sleeping), DS#3 asked why I wouldn't wake him up and will they do it again tonight so he can try to stay up for it? DD agreed, she wanted another party. Maybe I should take advantage of NYE hats and noisemakers being on clearance tomorrow and throw an impromptu gala bash just for them?

Here is the fabulous breakfast we had today:

Marmalade French Toast Casserole

Grapefruit or mixed fruit marmalade will work just as well as the orange marmalade called for in the recipe. Serve the casserole with honey or pancake syrup warmed with orange rind and a splash of orange juice (add one teaspoon rind and two tablespoons juice per 1/2 cup syrup). This easy casserole can be assembled in less than 15 minutes and stored in the refrigerator overnight.

3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 (16-ounce) sourdough French bread loaf, cut into 24 (1/2-inch) slices
Cooking spray
1 (12-ounce) jar orange marmalade
2 3/4 cups 1% low-fat milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 large eggs
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

Spread softened butter on one side of each bread slice. Arrange 12 bread slices, buttered side down, slightly overlapping in a single layer in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spread marmalade evenly over bread; top with remaining 12 bread slices, buttered side up.

Combine milk and next 4 ingredients (through eggs), stirring with a whisk. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Sprinkle casserole with walnuts. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until golden. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 piece)CALORIES 293 (28% from fat); FAT 9g (sat 3.2g,mono 2.2g,poly 2.3g); PROTEIN 9.1g; CHOLESTEROL 116mg; CALCIUM 132mg; SODIUM 315mg; FIBER 1.6g; IRON 2.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 46.4g Cooking Light, NOVEMBER 2006