Sunday, December 4, 2011

Up For Air

K. tells me that our blog is dying and that she is the only thing keeping it alive. I've looked at her data and I can't deny it, but I think K. would also agree when I say that I haven't been wasting my time. Once in college my professor interrupted class to lament, "I know you all think you're busy now, but later you will look back on this time and marvel at how much free time you actually had." That prophecy has finally, regrettably come true. For the past few months every day has seemed a non-stop sprint from 5:30am to 10pm, trying to meet the immediate demands of an increased workload and increased church responsibilities without robbing too much time from long-term investments like family, exercise, personal study and marital sanity. We have never been busier, I have never been busier, and for the life of me I can't figure out how to simplify things except to let certain pastimes fall to the wayside. Goodbye, evening movies. Miss you, recreational reading. Sayonara, blog.

Part of my problem is that writing is one of the few areas of my life where latent perfectionist tendencies tend to assert themselves. Good writing is good thinking, and that takes time that I very rarely have right now. However, for the sake of keeping in touch I am willing to try for what we writing tutors used to call a quick and dirty draft, so you have my apologies in advance for the lack of substance in future posts.  Frequency, Quality, Sanity: You may pick any two.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dear Blog, I Miss You

I've done all the posting since last May, despite my clear intentions -not- to make this a Mommy blog.  I know S. is busy, but I'm sad and miss his inimitable style.  He could use the creative outlet, and you could all use a decent post.  He spends hours and hours crafting and perfecting when he writes, which is both why his contributions are so wonderful and so rare lately.

So, sorry, all you get is this picture.

Happy Halloween to you all!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Last Adventures

The summer is officially over -- we've broken out some long sleeves and jackets, the school schedule has got us firmly in its grip, and we're watching the first leaves turn.  But we did manage to squeeze out a few more fun days in the last month, including a Labor Day spent at the beach and a trip for me to my brother's wedding.

The beach trip was last-minute, but very rewarding.  We had planned to just go to the pool on Labor Day since it was the last day it was open, but the forecast called for some scattered thunder which means we would have been sitting by the pool waiting for the lifeguards to call it clear or not.  So, we braved the masses on Labor Day.  Luckily, we have a great trump card for beating beach traffic, which is that we are early risers even on a holiday.  We usually hit the road around 7 am and have the place all to ourselves when we get there.

We hadn't really been to the beach all summer, and definitely not since our kids became proficient swimmers during their swim team experience, so we were looking forward to the hours of fun and relaxation.  We didn't even get burned...

 As for my trip -- my brother decided to get married in San Diego, and since S. and I have some wonderful friends posted with the State Department in Tijuana, I got to cross the border and stay with them for a day or two before the wedding itself.  They treated me like royalty, and I got to try out my Spantuguese, which was a blast all round.  I also got to eat as much delicious Mexican food as I could stand.  In one particular case, possibly a little more emphasis on the "as much as I could stand", since I wasn't quite sure what I thought of nopale, but it was still fun to try and eat as much as possible.

I don't actually have any personal pictures of the wedding since I literally crossed the border and went straight to the temple, leaving my camera in a quick heap in my sister's motel room, but here's a shot of my good-lookin' family in Balboa Park afterwards.

It was a fairly low-key wedding and none of us had spouses or children along (except for one little one), but though I missed my significant others, it was a new and unusual experience to just be "us" again.  My brother, sister, and I traveled together in his rental car, and were laughing and telling stories the whole time.  I think that may be the most wonderfully enduring memory of that wedding trip for me, laughing so hard with my grown-up siblings.  Love 'em.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Just Before

So, we are now playing the waiting game.  Other than filling the bathtubs later, and putting some toppings on the pizza crusts I made for dinner, we're just trying to watch movies and enjoy electricity as long as we can.  We're not sure what the best and worst case scenarios are here, there's rather a wide range, but since I'm detail-obsessed and you won't hear much from me for a while, here are some of the things we've done to prepare for Irene:

We've got water, not quite as much as would be ideal, but enough.  I don't know exactly, but I'd say about 14 gallons of drinking water, plus a 50- or 60-gallon rainbarrel outside if we got really desperate.  We've also got a few gallons besides of milk, juices, etc.  I'm not really sure what would happen to a water supply that you wouldn't be able to use it, I'm guessing contamination, in which case we could still flush toilets, but that rain barrel's there for flushing if it gets that dire.

Plenty of food, and IF our underground propane tank is fine (?why wouldn't it be?) we could cook on our gas stove (with matches).  But if not, we have a grill and a camping stove we could take outside.  Also beef jerky, dried and canned fruit, and a big batch of rice pudding I just made, along with all sorts of bread, rolls, and zucchini bread.  If we're careful about opening fridges and freezers, there are hot dogs, some yogurt we could use with oats to make our signature muesli, milk for cereal, as well as lots of fresh fruit and cheese.  I've also got some corn tortillas and salsa which wouldn't be too bad at room temp, as well as some special candy, cookies, chips, etc. to make things more pleasant.

Boredom and fear may be our biggest problems.  I already had the kids brainstorm what they would like to do besides read, and they've thought of their favorite games (especially chess and Apples to Apples), Mad Libs, drawing, playing with stuffed animals or playdough.  I also have a big library book called Fussbusters at Home which is marvelous for ideas, we have a puzzle or two, and I can play the piano or flute easily enough without power.  We stocked up at the library on Friday, so I think we can do this...

Of course, we've put away or tied down anything that might blow around dangerously, and moved everything non-waterproof at least a foot off our basement floor.  We have no battery back-up for our sump pump or any generator, so things could get icky down there.  Most of our friends and neighbors aren't worried about most of the effects of the storm, except for their basements.  We echo that.  Though, to confess, we're also worried about the very very large, mature trees across the street coming down on our roof.  Don't tell the kids, but their room is in potentially real danger.  We'll be having them sleep in with us during the night the storm is going by, both to comfort them and to keep them out of harm's way just in case.

Flashlights and extra batteries, check.  Candles, check.  Cell phones charged and gas tanks full, check.  Extra cash.  Safe Box for ID and documents.  Good neighbors nearby.  Can we be any more ready?  I don't think so.  Here we go!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Simply Summer

All right, so I lied a little.  S. ended up posting on Facebook instead of on the blog, so you'll have to go there to find out more about Arizona.  Let me just say, though, the other most memorable part of the AZ trip, besides the Jeeping, was all the crawdads we caught and ate at the instigation of my Filipino brother-in-law.  Awesome.

So, here are some photos of our general summer.  The main thing we've done differently this summer is to join the swim team, which was a pretty significant plunge for us (ha ha).  Most of our peers have been doing it for years and have pressured us to join, and I have to admit that it was a pretty good experience. It certainly was a time sink, but the progress the kids made in their swimming abilities was really awesome.  (It made me get all teary when Lucy first managed to swim an entire length of the pool, never having had ANY lessons previously.)  And participation in the few meets we elected to attend was also good and character-building, all that.  They were nervous, but all 3 of the older kids managed to compete in a few races and I'm very VERY proud of them.  I think Sage will not be interested in doing it again, but I plan on putting Ian and Lucy back in again next summer.

Other than that, we have a garden as usual, a tiny frog, a birthday girl in July, many wild berries, and some new glasses for Sage.  Take a peek!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Coming Soon

I think we can promise an Arizona Adventure post in the near future, but for now here's a little taste...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mad Lib

Another Mad Lib, as long as we're on a run of posting.  This one was penned on the way home from a temple trip with all the kids, we thought it had some particularly fine turns of phrase:



Fitzmonster Theaters offers a slimy program of foreign signs never before seen in American rips. The first film to be shown will be Henry and the Oatmeal. This is the wiry love story of a man and his whoopee cushion. It will be shown mostly until the end of the paper.


Appearing in our clueless theater for the next three pants is Dad, that very stingy star of stage, screen, and spark. He will be appearing with our muffled repertory company in nightly performances of William Shakespeare's forceful comedy, A Midsummer Night's Toot. Tickets can be purchased now at the ozone office by telephone, fax, or prickly card.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Unprofitable Servants

I think of myself as an entropy* fighter.  If I had to put an occupation down on paper, that's how it would read: K., Head Entropy Fighter, The Double Stitch.  The nature of my job is that you never really quite get ahead, you just manage to not fall too far behind, and that's if you're exceptionally diligent and lucky.

So when I read the phrase "unprofitable servant" in the scriptures, I just sigh.  (Luke 17 can be particularly disheartening, I read it recently in my personal study.)  I can fight entropy in so many ways -- picking up dirty socks, praying, bearing miraculous babies who weren't part of this world until now, weeding a garden, writing poetry -- whatever it is, my attempts to reintroduce order work only temporarily, or partially, and entropy wins in the end.

So, I've been thinking a lot about this lately.  I've been biting off a few too many things this year and so have also had the ideals of sustainability and simplicity making slow circles in my conscious thoughts.  Those ideas overlap with the unprofitability issues in hard ways.  What can I cut out of my life to simplify it, to make it possible to be more sustainable and productive in the important things?  I've been stressed to the point of tears more often than usual in 2011, not from any specific crises but simply because I can't find any more ways or places to stretch my time.  And yet at the same time, my desires for knowledge, skills and experiences grow beyond all reasonable resources to pursue them.

How can I seek after simplicity and a sustainable lifestyle, all the while being aware of the vast forces of entropy pushing on me?  (OK, I  admit that mostly the forces I deal with on a daily basis are medium-sized ones named Ian, Sage, Lucy, and Nora.  But in total they can feel rather vast.)  How can I reconcile the scriptural descriptions of my unprofitability from the Lord's perspective with the feeling that I'm working at my max?  

Ideas, anyone?  I'm sure that one direction I need to go in this is lowering my standards, allowing myself to let go, make mistakes, all that.  I probably need to be more humble, and I definitely need to ask for help much more often.  But I don't know how to actually put those concepts into action.  

Luckily for me, I have an amazing husband who encourages me (in vain, of course) to spoil myself and who is a wonderful, loving partner through all my grand ups and downs.  And above all, more than luckily but blessedly, I have the greatest counter-entropy weapon of them all: Christ the Savior.  As much as I've mourned over the years the way time and the world will erase all traces of my faithful efforts, I know that somehow, unimaginably and miraculously, the mission of the Redeemer was to reverse all that decay and loss.  In him, all my best days are restored, and all my unprofitability is forgiven and overcome.  When he said that he had overcome the world, who knew that in a way that included all the ice cream melting in the trunk, all the beads and legos getting unsorted, all the stars using up their fuel and dying away?  Most of all, it means he takes my small offering and makes it glorious.  Dirty dishes and all.

*If any of you are in doubt as to what physical principle I'm referring to, just think of entropy as the inability to put the toothpaste back in the tube after you've squeezed too much out.  Who hasn't spent a few precious moments trying that one?  The scientific principle seems to be usually discussed in context of thermodynamics, but basically as I understand it any ordered state in the whole universe tends towards a disordered one unless you act on it with some other energy, of which some is necessarily wasted and inefficient and so really the total disorder is still slightly greater than the order that was created.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Where We Came From

(That's my mother, first girl on the left, shortly before the family moved from Taiwan to Brazil)

Pictures are invaluable, probably because our own brains don't make them. Storage takes space, even in human memory, and so our efficient brains save only fragments. Thus, every time we "remember" something, we are really piecing together the fragments into a completely new picture, each time filling in the blanks with whatever information and inferences seem most likely at that moment. So it is that, the older I get, the more unreliable my memories of my childhood.

I was raised by young parents. Logically, I know this. In my earliest memories, they must have been younger than I am now, but my mind tends to misremember them as older, filling in the early gaps of memory with more contemporary data. How wonderful, then, that someone had the foresight to take some pictures, so that I might have my memory refuted by reliable evidence that they were once young, their lives still ahead of them, the seeds of their greatness still growing within them.

(My mother and her father)

My sister Michelle recently found a trove of family pictures, each one a new discovery: Here is Dad, a tow-headed little boy in a hand-sewn Halloween costume. Here is Mom, a bright young woman full of Brazilian joie de vivre. Here they are together, newly married, each a complement to the other:

In this life our parents are ever ahead of us, never to be caught, and so we are denied the opportunity to fully know them as peers and contemporaries, courageously walking the labyrinth as we do. Mortality, lived in a single direction, obscures our true selves like a fog, making more poignant those hopeful words of Paul:

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13: 12)

In these old pictures, I see my parents and know them better than I did before. And look at her, my young mother! Isn't she beautiful?
(Me, Mom and my big brother Bob)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Marco Polo

For the better part of a year K. and I toyed with the idea of getting chickens. We live in a semi-rural neighborhood, and it would teach the kids responsibility, and the more K. read about food production, the more it sounded nice to get eggs from chickens that weren't living in misery. We went down to the state fairgrounds to look at actual chickens and attend seminars on breeds, coops and feed, and were starting to warm to the idea when we learned that we would need a full acre just to keep three. So much for that. So the next weekend we got a cat.

The morning before General Conference we took the kids to the pet store to look at strays, and the choice came down to a black, white-booted scamp called Battlestar Galacticat, and a gray and black tabby called Roadster. The aptly named Battlestar was adorably combative but, knowing how rough our kids can be, we finally settled on Roadster for evidencing a more mellow, patient disposition. So far, he has been quietly playful yet devoid of most of the normal cat neuroses, so any lingering doubts about our choice have been dispelled. After some brainstorming, we decided "Marco!" "Polo!" would be funny way to call out to a cat, so Marco Polo he shall be.

It's been two years since we buried Curio under our maple tree, and I like having an animal in the house again. Cats are only nominally domesticated, and their primal immediacy is a welcome counterpoint to the affairs of men. Aslan, we are reminded, is not a tame lion, and that is seen as one of his virtues.

Still, sharing our home with a feral cat will take some getting used to. Like the other night, Marco was darting down the basement stairs, then tearing back up, then dashing down again. Then he would do weird things like jump into the bathtub and pace around. At bedtime I caught him pawing the bottom of the downstairs bathtub, the same way a cat will scratch around in the litter box and, sure enough, he had peed in the tub. It's hard to get mad at a kitten, but later we went down to the basement and saw that the door leading to his litter box had been closed. He had tried and tried to use the litter box, and finally relieved himself in the tidiest way he could think of. Good kitty, good kitty.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Age Twelve

I wrote this when I was 12 years old, freshly after reading the "7 Habits" for the first time, which my dad had enthusiastically recommended to me.  It's poignant and amazing to read again now, when I'm nearly three times that age, and recognize the eternal self that I was and still am.  This statement touches on deep hopes and desires that I still have, to know and be known.  

I'm a little hesitant to share this on the blog because it feels so personal, but it's been pressing steadily on me to post it ever since I ran across it in the attic a few months ago.  So, here it sees the light of day again after two more decades of an incredible life that I've been privileged to love, learn and overcome in.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Kids' Devices

...As in, leaving them to their own...

They got out the paints, one of those free local papers, and the camera, and documented their own creativity.
In case you can't quite read it (we couldn't), the one poster's subtitle says "because he's awe-some".  
And fitness center lady also has really beautiful, delicately painted nails done by Sage, but I guess they didn't make it into the photo.  
They really were the crowning touch though, so try to imagine a glistening row of little red paint dots on the newspaper image of a hand.

S. and I have tried pretty conscientiously to give our kids practice in entertaining themselves -- by taking them on 11-hour car trips (without DVDs or iPods, folks) and not having any TV channels or video game systems, among other things.  They don't get outside in the yard as much as S. would like considering that's he strapped down by the mortgage for that yard, but overall they're finding good old-fashioned ways to thrive.  

Including, apparently, decking out Elvis impersonators to look like romantic French heroes.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Nora went to a superhero-themed birthday party on Saturday, and has been sporting her personalized cape and mask ever since. This clip was an attempt to recapture a particularly fanciful kazaam she placed on her big sister this morning before church, but apparently the magic was resistant to video. Still, we loved the understated result.

*ps, why can't I upload my own photos or vidoes to the blog? there's some horrible new format that is NOT working for me, frustration. sorry for glitches*

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hard Slog

Yesterday K. and I finished our fifth week of P90X. If you have no idea what that means: (a) consider yourself lucky, and (b) you're not going to understand much of this post, so here's a link. Having learned to anticipate my now annual winter doldrums, I was looking for something to keep me active after the marathon, at least until it was warm enough to start running again. Since P90X is a thirteen week commitment--a complete season of cross-training--it seemed like just the ticket to get me through the hard winter.

Here's what our mornings will look like this week:

Mon. -- 57 minutes of core strength
Tues. -- 43 minutes of cardio
Wed. -- 55 minutes of nonstop pushups and free weights, then 16 minutes of gutbusters
Thur. -- 92 minutes of ashtanga yoga torture
Fri. -- 58 minutes of pullups, squats and leg raises, then 16 minutes of gutbusters
Sat. -- 58 minutes of punches, kicks and blocks

Here are some observations so far:

1. I told a coworker that K. and I were thinking about doing P90X after the marathon. He raised his eyebrows and said: "It's intense." Then he chuckled.

2. Handing me the box of DVDs and equipment, our friend said: "Now, just to warn you, it's intense." Then she raised her eyebrows.

3. After the first day, I was sore all through my torso.

4. After the second day, I was sore in completely different places.

5. And so on.

6. I won't tell you where I'm sore today.

7. I have gained at least six pounds since we started. I don't know how much of it is muscle, but I feel pretty solid.

8. Especially around the shoulders.

9. Dreya Weber is way too serious, but I like her Groucho Marx.

10. This week during kenpo my heart rate got up to 179, which got me a wag from K.'s finger. Apparently you're not supposed to do that.

11. This is the first time K. and I have kept to the same regimen. I doubt this would have worked any other way.

12. Tony Horton earns every penny they're paying him.

13. Also, I can't believe he's in his 50s.

14. More than any other exercise, it's yoga that leaves me feeling good and alive for the rest of the day.

15. I dread the first 45 minutes of yoga more than anything else.

16. We took "before" pictures. You're not going to see them.

17. Same for the "after" pictures.

18. By the third week, you really start to notice the results. Totally worth it.