Monday, February 28, 2011

Kids Say

 "Take a picture of me and my toast." "Why?"  "Because toast and jam is the best breakfast you can have."
 Want to sleep in, not in this house.  Captain E has been known to flog parents who wouldn't get out of bed on a weekend morning.  E wakes up early on Saturday, when you only have the weekend to play the Wii you have to make it count.  Today E said, "Mom I bet my uncles and aunts don't get anything done.  They have a TV in every room and they havea  Wii.  Their mom needs to turn their TV off.  We get a lot more done because we only have one TV in our house."  Well then, it is nice to know that even though he complains about the media rules, something is sinking in ;) 
Gigi loves things that fold out.  She's been carrying a fold out map of Ann Arbor for a few days.  "Mom," she says, "Look at these pictures of my grandkids."  "G, you don't have any grandkids."  "Well I will someday, and here are their pictures." 
Can you see the eye makeup?  I only wear makeup on Sunday.  Not because I have anything against makeup, I'm just to lazy to actually make the effort.  Gigi and Peach love my makeup routine.  I mentioned this to my mother in law and she sent Gigi makeup for her birthday.  Every Sunday after they get dressed, and their hair done, Gigi pulls out the makeup and does blush, eyeshadow, and lip gloss.  Then she starts in on Peach.  Both of them take it so seriously.  You can just catch of glimpse of Peach's eyeshadow in this picture.  She says to me, "So pretty, so pretty."  I love hearing her little baby voice.  Last night we made cookies for family home evening.  I opened the stove to pull them out and they had merged into one huge cookie.  "Oh my," I yelled out.  Peach came running in and said, "What happen moma, what happen."

Best Mom Shoes

 With three kids, the day of sexy high heels are long behind me.  Five years in primary was the death blow.  Standing in front, doing sharing time, running from class to class, rocking babies in the back of the primary room, there were days when my feet hurt so bad at the end of church that I found myself limping to the parking lot.  Then there was the Sunday I broke my foot.  I was walking with Captain E in front of me in a pair of four inch Steve Maddens and next thing I knew I was coming down on the side of my foot.  Eight weeks later I was still lugging around in a huge black boot.  Flats became a necessity, even after my foot healed.  For the most part I don't mind but on occasion I really miss the extra lift of a pair of high heels.  Thank goodness for the wedge.  These two are my favorite pairs.

I found this brown pair at Target, clearenced out for $4.  I'm always short on brown shoes so I figured even if I hated them it would be worth it.  I don't!  I love them!!!!  For cheap shoes they are super comfy.  I've worn them to Church, while teaching, around town with a pair of jeans, so far they haven't let me down.  My only complaint...I wish I had bought two pairs!

The second pair are Indigos, part of the Clarks brand.  I love the peekaboo look.  The soles are super comfy.  The wedge gives a great look without sacrificing comfort.  I got these for the cheap online.  I love how the Internet gives you access to sales all over the country.  No doubt about it, the wedge is a mom's best friend!


I never really understood the story of Goldilocks and the three bears.  Bears going for a walk while they have porridge on the table, or bears eating porridge, or even just the fact that they have a table.  And then what is the deal with Goldilocks?  Who is this child who comes into random strangers (dangerous stranger's)homes, eats their food, breaks their furniture, and then decides has the audacity to take a nap?  Frankly I would feel better if the story ended", and Goldilocks was eaten by the three bears."  But I'm going off on a tangent here, ridiculousness aside who doesn't covet the hairstyle.  I tried curling G-bears hair with a curling iron once.  It lasted about two seconds.  Those fine straight locks were resistant to change.  I decided I'd have her sleep in curlers one night.  Last week while I was at Target I decided to buy some, "$9 for something that has a very good chance of not even being left in," I muttered in the aisle, "no thanks".  Unfortunately the curl idea would not leave.  It permeated my every thought and then Saturday after I bathed the children a picture from my youth entered my mind.  I could see me and a childhood friend Christine, sitting infront of a girl's camp bunk, rag curlers in our hair (I've searched everywhere in my house but have not been able to find this fact I seem to be missing all my pictures between 5th grade and college.  I'm thinking they are in a box in my mother in laws basement along with the first valentine's day card I ever got, my first dozen roses, and 52 letters from a long ago missionary).  Luckily my memory is always with me :).  It took me exactly a minute to cut a 12 by 12 inch piece of scrap flannel into twelve strips.  I divided her damp hair, rolled it up on the strips and tied it off.  She loved it.  The next day, Goldilocks.  It was a little out of control in the morning but by evening had simmered down into beautiful lose curls, and today was a great full wave.  So cute, so fun, so easy.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a few more curl haired girls at church next week.  Sorry no tutorial, but there are a million on YouTube if you are interested :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Don't you hate...

when the urge to play Lego's hits at an inopportune time. 


Which could just have easily been titled..."WHY IT TAKES CAPTAIN E SO LONG TO GET DRESSED IN THE MORNING!"


As match day is approaching (3 more weeks people) more and more people have been quizzing me on our choices, our chances, our hopes for where we will end up.  We have been exceptionally lucky in the fact that we loved many programs, 13 of which we loved enough to rank.  That is a little overwhelming for people so they often ask about our top five.  I'll mention (usually trying to avoid any particular order) Texas, Ohio, Utah, Michigan, and Indiana.  All of these places we have heavily invested in finding affordable housing, good school districts, and pricing out moving cost.  I mentioned to someone recently that while looking at Houston Texas I was overwhelmed with how affordable it it.  This house is a perfect example

6 Bedrooms, 4 Bath, 3596 square feet, built in 2004.  Asking 230,000.  (Just so you know we are looking for something far more modest.)  I teasingly said, "I don't know why more Mormons aren't moving to Texas."  And then the person I was talking to said, "Well the problem with Texas is you'd have to be so close to Mexico."  Cue awkward moment.  People you have a right to whatever opinion you want, but if you're talking to someone who looks like me, you might want to filter. :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dear Middle East, How will you treat my daughters?

Did you hear about Lara Logan, the reporter working on a 60 minutes story on Egypt's joyous celebration at their new found freedom? It was outrageous and truly horrifying, but an experience that many foreign woman in the Middle East worry about.  My friend Bridget, currently living in the UAE, but who has lived and travelled all over the Middle East sums up the concerns on her blog here, the reality of living in the Middle East as American woman.   As the days have passed, the story stays in the back of mind, a dark spot that taints what was otherwise a truly remarkable piece of history.  It has added a nagging doubt, questions as to how I want to proceed with my life.  Until we finish residency, Dr. J and I have a guaranteed four more years in this country but after that, the world is open.  We have both always wanted to do something more with our lives, travel, have adventure, do something to improve the quality of life of others outside this country.  It is the reason I joined Amnesty International in college, the reason I minored in anthropology, the reason I wanted to do the Peace Core, the reason Dr J studied the Middle East, decided to go to medical school, is working on a dissertation on how to make International Aid more effective, the reason that all the residency programs we applied to had strong international aid programs that he can participate in while in residency.  Whether it be for only a few months out of the year, for a couple of years, or for the rest of our lives we have always intended to take our family out of this country.  When we think of this time, this goal we've been working toward for so long, it usually brings excitement.  And when I watch stories like this I think, "please let's take our son where no girls will be sexting him.    A place where our children won't be thrown into the sex culture in junior high, a time when let's face it, few people are ready to deal."  But then this voice in the back of my head shots out, "Dear Middle East, How Will You Treat My Children?"

The thing you have to understand about the Middle East is that little American kids stick out.  They are darlings, surrounded by groups of people, photographed via cell phone, given candy, sweets, ice cream, and small gifts by strangers.  The attention can at times be overwhelming, stifling, and downright frightening.  Kids are unable to play uninhibited at the playground because of people wanting to look at their hair, pick them up, take their pictures.  Moms get upset by people trying to walk off with their children or with adults giving gifts without asking.  In some ways it is like being a little celebrity.  When Captain E was two we experienced it on our visits to Jordan and Egypt.  His blue eyes and curly gold locks were an instant magnet.  That in and of itself is not a "true" danger as they reach into the teen years.  While I'm sure that the blue eyes my husband blessed our two oldest with could potentially increase their popularity in class, I think that strict social pressures to not date, to avoid sex until marriage, to not marry outside of ones religion will probably keep my sons much appreciated "American good looks" from turning him too much into a ladies man. 

My question is more for my daughters, specifically my blond haired, blue eyed daughter.  Middle East, will you see her as my sweet, darling girl?  Will you understand that I am teaching her to keep herself pure and clean, that I am asking her to save herself for marriage, to give herself completely only to one man who has lived a life making him worthy of her?  Will you know that I am teaching her that her body is a temple?  That I am asking her to marry in the Temple?  Will you see that I hope for her an eternal marriage, one based on complete love and fidelity?  That I am teaching her to be the type of woman you are teaching your girls to be.  Will you be able to look past your own stereotypes of what an American woman is and see that I'm raising mine to be chaste and virtuous just like your own?  Will you protect her?  Will you treat her as the treasure that she is to me?   Will you keep her safe?  Or will all the unwanted and unwarranted attention of childhood turn into unwanted and unwarranted attention in young womanhood?  Will she be safe to walk to school, to have her hair uncovered?  Or will she be targeted by unscrupulous men, both young and old who will see her as "easy" because she is American?  Will the unwanted sexual attention poured out on my friends, now be poured out on my daughter?  Lara Logan, while an extreme case, was a very visual example of the sexual harassment and abuse suffered by woman in the Middle East.  There are many arguments as to why this is the case and many hypothesises on how this can change.  I hope that as the region changes, as more freedom is realized, prosperity gained, diversity is accepted, and violence is ended that it is a problem that will dissipate.  For now though let's take hope in the 20 or so soldiers and the group of woman that pushed their way into the crowd to save Lara Logan.  They are the heros of the this horrible event and they give me hope for a brighter future, one that is safer for all woman in the region, including my someday teenage daughter. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Best of Clean Eating - Slow Cooker Carrot Cake

The Best of Clean Eating: Over 200 Mouthwatering Recipes to Keep You Lean and Healthy

 A couple of weeks ago I found this book at Sam's club.  I'm loving it.  For the most part I've cut most of the sugar out of my life but occasionally I want a sweet treat that has a little more nutritional value.  I've been doing a lot of green smoothie girls stuff but I needed some variety.  Two Sunday's ago when Peach was too sick to go to church I made this little dish.  It wasn't like the carrot cake I get at the hospital...I have a secret love affair with the hospital carrot cake, push a baby out, order carrot cake twenty minutes later.  Have my appendix out, order carrot cake for breakfast, so it isn't that good but for something pretty darn health it tasted pretty darn good.  Dr. J didn't like the frosting, he thought it should be sweeter.  Go figure.  Here is the recipe exact...

olive oil cooking spray
1 1/4 cups all purpose spelt flour
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup unsweetened sultana raisins (golden raisins)
1 large egg white
1 tsp flaxseed, ground, mixed with 2 tsp water
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup buttermilk or low-fat plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 oz carrot, peeled and finely shredded (about 1/2 cup packed)

cheese honey drizzle ingredients
1/4 cup cream cheese
1 Tbsp raw organic honey
1 lemon, finely zested and juiced, divided (Dr. J thinks this is to much lemon and not enough honey :)

Cut parchment to fit bottom and sides of stoneware insert.  (worked perfect with my 3 quart slow cooker...might not be enough for a big slow cooker).  Spray inserts or dish with cooking spray and line with prepared parchment. 

Place flour, coconut, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk lightly to combine.  Stir in raisins.

In a separate large bowl, combine egg white and flax-water mixture and whisk until bubbles form.  Add honey, applesauce, buttermilk, oil and vanilla and whisk until well blended.  Stir in dry ingredients, until just mixed.  Fold in carrot and pour mixture into prepared stoneware dish.  Cover entire top of slow cooker with three layers of paper towel and secure with lid.  This will catch the extra condensation in the slow cooker and prevent the cake from getting too moist.  Bake for two hours on low or until a knife inserted in centre of cake comes out dry.  Remove stoneware dish and place on cooling rack until cool.

Slice cake into ten equal portions, about three ounces each and serve warm or at room temperature with one tablespoon Cream Cheese Honey Drizzle.

Cream Cheese Honey Drizzle
In a small bowl, heat cream cheese on high in microwave until slightly warm, about 10 to 15 seconds.  Remove from microwave and use a rubber spatula to stir honey into cream cheese until smooth.  Add pinch lemon zest and two teaspoons lemon juice and continue to stir.  Slowly add two tablespoons water, a bit at a time, until mixture is consistency of thick cream. 

Calories for 3 oz cake and 1 tbsp drizzle is 190.

Winter Hunker

 With daytime temps in the 50's it is hard to remember that just two weeks ago we were in negative numbers buried under a foot of snow.  Here is how we spent our hunker.  Dr. J clearing our normal parking spot.  Wow these spots became so coveted.  The snow storm was this really weird mix of small ice balls and flakes.  It was exceptionally difficult to shovel.  I mean just ridiculous, the worst, the hardest, the slickest, the heaviest stuff I've seen.  Dr. J was gone the first day that it fell.  The night he got back from Cincinnati we spent an hour trying to get a spot shoveled out for him.  Luckily a guy with a snow plow on his truck came and helped us get some headway.  We were able to clear out two spots that got well used in the week it took for more to be cleared.  The the morning after the worst of the storm I couldn't get the car out.  Jason had to take the kids to school and I spent another hour digging my van out.  Slowly through the day I cleared more of the space out.  Four other people on the row that have regular parking spaces did the same.  What followed was an interesting study in game theory.  The rest of the people on the row never bothered to clear their spot out any more than just to allow them to drive out.  So the six or so spots beside us ended up being a disaster in icy snow.  One day one of the neighbors decided to park in our sport.  When I first came home I was livid!  I'd by then spent probably six total hours shoveling snow, including an extra spot that people could use.  Luckily that spot was currently open.  Still though I was so frustrated.  My hands were still aching at that point from all the shoveling and I couldn't help but notice this particular neighbor hadn't done anything to improve their own spot.  I came in and wrote an abrupt note, which I put on their car.  Then I started to feel bad.  So I rewrote the note.  This time it was:

Please feel free to borrow my shovel at #    .  I spent a lot of time clearing out this spot and I'd really like to park here again.  Thanks! 

The next day their car was gone but they had only moved it two spaces over into another neighbor's sport.  Those neighbors put a note on the car.  The next day they finally moved it and another car parked in the neighbor's spot.  This time our neighbors took more drastic measures.  After the note went ignored the husband went out and shoveled snow back under the car.  Bet you didn't know parking spots could cause so much issue.  I have to say though, I can understand why the six spots on the side didn't shovel.  Seven different cars trade through those spots.  If they cleared a spot there is a good chance they wouldn't get it next time round.  Meanwhile the four spots in the middle of the row are always parked in by the exact same four people.  So of course they would feel ownership of the spots, definitely increasing the chance they'd want to take care of them.  In the end Dr. J and I cleared another spot on the side of us. That fixed the problem until the parking lot was cleared:)
Peach had the flu.  This is a child who never has been sick a day in her life.  Then she got the flu from Captain E.  Good times had by all.  She was puffy, hot, and miserable.  The only positive, the fever put her back in the realm of the napping children.  Thank goodness for small favors :)

 Even sick she was still happy to play dress up.  She can get in this getup all by herself.  Of course she learned from the best :)

 G bear had a good time learning to cook.
 Peach having a good time with her green smoothie.
 My vegetarian at work.  My meatatarian with his green free plate.
 Peach enjoying the comforts of the kitchen.  Need some quite time...climb in the cabinet.
Need a nap, find a rug blanket.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

V-DAY My Way

 V-DAY IS A HUGE DEAL AT MY HOUSE!  It isn't because we are romantic, and let's be honest what is romantic about canned holidays?  The truth is romance makes me a little ill.  What I lack in romance though, I more than make for in tradition.  I LOVE FAMILY TRADITIONS!  Valentine's Day happens to be one of my favorites.  Long ago Dr. J and I decided that going out on Valentine's Day was not worth it.  The crowds are overwhelming and the food always disappoints.  Instead we make a fancy dinner for the kids and we overload them with Valentine's and love from their parents.  It makes Valentine's Day fun for the kids and planning the fun makes me and Dr. J happy

Here is my pinked out Peach waiting for dinner as well as our dinner.  My kids all love salmon so our menu was:
-Salmon broiled with a splash of soy sauce
-Tomato slices with mozzarella and basil
-french bread
-wild rice with mushrooms
-molten lava heart cakes with ice cream and strawberries

I gifted my love a box of chocolates with a short poem.  He gifted me a lovely little plant with a reference to Napoleon Dynamite.  We gifted the children boxes of chocolates, activity books, and silly string.  Valentine's Day was a blast!!!!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ruby Bridges

U.S. marshals escort 6-year-old Ruby Bridges from William Frantz Public School in New Orleans 50 years ago. The first-grader, the only black child at the school, was there because of court-ordered integration.

It's Black History Month and as I was walking down the hall of my son's school today I could help but think about Ruby Bridges.  In 1960 this sweet six year old girl was the first African American child to attend a Southern all-white elementary school.  The NAACP has asked parents to volunteer their children up.  They knew it was going to be a challenge.  While the government had desegregated schools, many people were still against it.  Ruby Bridges' parents decided to take a chance and enrolled her in William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.  Ruby says that as she drove up to the school she thought it was Mardi Gras because there was a large crowd outside shooting and throwing things.  When her parents took her into the school, the white parents outside marched in and pulled their children out.  The teachers refused to teach her.  For one year she sat in a class being taught all by herself.  She faced a crowd of people each day, yelling, protesting, throwing things, a woman who threatened to poison her every day as she walked to school, another who used a black baby doll in a coffin to scary Ruby.  Her father lost his job.  Her grandparents who were sharecroppers were thrown off the land.  

Ruby persevered.  She would pray each day as she walked to school to drowned out the screams of the protesters.  Neighbors found her father a new job, watched her home to make sure it wasn't vandalized, offered support on her walks to school.  Ruby Bridges grew up, she worked as a travel agent for years until she took on the full time job of stay at home mom to care for her four sons.  She now chairs the Ruby Bridges Foundation, a group formed to promote "the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of differences.

I was looking at the sweet faces of the first graders today, thinking of that little child, the sweet innocence of a six years old, the fragileness of childhood.  As I helped my sweet son with geometry today I got a little teary thinking about this Ruby, the sacrifices she made, the innocence lost.  How could people be so hateful?  Was their way of incorrect way of life so important to them that they felt no guilt about torturing a child?  Those deeds were so ugly and evil, it is hard to imagine that they ended up unscathed.  I'm glad that Ruby made it.  That she was able to continue on and have a good life.  That she teaches peace and tolerance, rather then kicking back at the ugliness of her childhood.  I recently saw this article making the rounds on facebook.  It reiterates what I've been hearing and reading in all the education magazines and programs Dr. J and I find ourselves gravitating to, when it comes to equality, education is the next forefront.  We recently saw a round table discussion where a man said, "People thinking of the civil rights movement as a moment stuck in time, the 50's and 60's but I'm telling you that is not true, and right now education is where it is at."  I find this woman's plight so moving.  Her entire life is being destroyed because she wanted to a better education for her children.  The irony of course being that I bet you thought a public education was free in this country?  There is one point where the report says, "Is this woman going to far to get a good education for her children?" and I want to scream out, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!"  This mother is worried about education, safety, and ultimately her children's future.  What parent isn't willing to push just a little harder when it comes to that.  We have our own little example of that in our family.  Dr. J interviewed at many wonderful hospitals.  Initially he chose a California program that he loved.  It was a lot closer to home, the program and training were both excellent and well regarded throughout the field, the weather was fantastic, and the city was a beautiful dream.  The only problem, the housing in the area was expensive.  Lucky for us we thought, the house market downfall has thrown housing prices into our price range, and so we started to search for schools that we could send our kids to.  Nothing, nada, a big fat zero.  These schools had some of the worst test scores in the state, a state that happens to have some of the worst test scores in the country.  We finally found some areas that had ok (not great) schools, only to realize the houses there were in the million dollar range, far outside our budget.  And so we started looking elsewhere.  It was hard to turn away from that dream, to say goodbye to perfect beaches, vacation weather, dream training, but in the end the kids matter more.  And so we will be doing another four years of either freezing cold winters, or horrible summers, or maybe both, but when it comes to the kids, well it is the kids.  All good parents want the right to send their kids to safe good schools that will prepare them for a better life.  Education in this country is a big deal.  We need to do more.  We need to expect more.  We need to find a way to give our children the best education possible and then help those children whose parents can't.  The well being of our country depends on this.  I wish I had the answers.  I don't.  I do know though we need to do better.  We need to take off from where Ruby Bridges took us.  Those first kids made a the first step, for that I thank them!!!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The World is Always Changing

The World is always changing.  Countries I memorized in school no longer exist.  Rivalries I learned while watching the Olympics have long since been put away.  New countries have entered the arena as Super Powers.  This week we had a major change.  Within months two well entrenched leaders of North African countries have been forced to step down, brought down by the power of the people, the power of the press, and the mobilizing power of social networking sites.  It is a truly amazing thing to be seen, an amazing time to live.  I have no idea how the Egypt situation will resolve itself.  Personally things like military councils make me a little nervous.  I think these could be difficult times in Egypt.  I've been listening to reports from Tunisia and it seems like once the euphoria of victory is gone the path to a full out developed country with well feed, happy, employed people can be a daunting task for any new fledgling government to tackle, but I have high hopes for Egypt!  May they stay a jewel in the Arab world, God willing. 


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