October 2007

Well, we moved into our beautiful tiny house. OK, it’s really not that tiny at 1300 square feet, not including the 800 square foot basement, but the kitchen really is freakishly tiny, and there is almost no cupboard or shelf space. Ah, well. I guess that’s the price I pay for rushing into buying a house. That, and the nightmare of a shower.

Anyway, here’s how it went down. Two weeks ago today, I went to volleyball practice and came home to find Derek cradling his arm. He said he had planned on cleaning up the living room and doing the dishes while I was gone, but upon his exit to take out the trash, he misjudged the outside steps to the parking lot and came crashing down on his left elbow. The next morning, it was swollen, so he decided to go to the nearest urgent care. Sure enough, he had a spiral fracture of his radius. Yes, my strapping husband broke his elbow taking out the trash. My brother said it was the sissiest bone-break he’d ever heard of, and someone from church suggested we come up with a more manly story. In any case, his little accident exempted him from packing or moving.

So I got some people from church to come over to load the truck, and some different people from church to unload it at the house. And I was left with millions of boxes of stuff thrown in at random to sort through and find a place for. That was Saturday, and now it’s Wednesday. I still have many, many boxes to put away, and I finally found the spoons. There are already many hand prints on the glass of the front door and on the stainless steel fridge that I didn’t want, but my realtor insisted on. Because, of course, what idiot would want a white fridge? One with three excessively greasy little kids, I say! I’m still mad at him for that.

So far I’ve hit my head on the chandelier about 5 times, and Derek has once. I’ve slipped on the carpeted stairs, but I didn’t break any elbows. Our next door neighbor mowed our lawn when she found out we had no lawn mower and Derek had his little ailment. She also trimmed the ivy from our porch. (We have a porch! We have ivy!) Two other neighbors helped me move in the dining table I bought. You all would be jealous of my great table. It’s a solid wood expandable table with turned legs that have acorns half way down. The matching chairs have the acorns too. The lady who sold me the table (for practically nothing) also sold me a cute cabinet with carved panels and a glass door. I might have to post pictures, because this stuff is too great. That will be after I get the real computer hooked up, after we figure out how to ground the circuits in the outlet so we can put in a 3-prong outlet.

Calvin is successfully transferred to his new school, which turns out to be not the one 3 blocks away, but a separate Kindergarten building more than a mile away. I was so worried about getting him there every day, since we still only have one car, and I really can’t drop Derek off every day to keep the car. Then I found out the there is a school bus (which is called a shuttle here, because of the local aversion to school buses) that picks up at the elementary school to take the kindergarteners to their building. So I will only ever have to walk my kids to the 3 blocks away school. I almost cried from relief when I found that out. It would have been fine if I only had one kid, but I think making Zeeb walk the mile and back twice a day would have been too much. Plus, at the pace my kids keep, it would have taken an hour each way. As it is, it took us 13 minutes to get three blocks today. And we didn’t even stop for Zeeb to puke on the sidewalk, like he did yesterday.

Hey, I’m not that bad of a parent. He puked because he was coughing, which was a natural result of his crying hysterically, which really came because I wouldn’t hold his hand while we walked, which was because I had to carry my 20 pound Kiki, which I can’t do for 3 blocks with only one arm. Which is Derek’s fault. He was clearing off the porch the night before, and he decided the stroller should go in the car, so we would have it in case we needed it somewhere. Anywhere except at home, of course. So anyway, Zeeb has a pretty sensitive gag reflex, and if he ever gets crying, he coughs until he pukes. Tons of fun. Mostly this only happens when he’s at home, safely ensconced in his own bed, in the middle of the night. Calvin has developed this amazing talent of leaping out of his own bed and running into our room, wailing, “Zeeb’s gonna puke!” And we can pretty much catch it in time. By that, I mean that we can catch it before it gets on anything other than Zeeb, his jammies, his pillow, his buggy, his pippo, and his bed. We haven’t had to clean it off the floor in quite a while, knock on wood. The other night, when he woke up coughing, I grabbed a bowl from downstairs and made it in time to save everything but the pillow and the jammies. But then I had to take him to the emergency room, because he couldn’t breathe. Turns out he has croup. They gave him some steroids and a chest X-ray, and he’s a lot better now. It’s been a long time since I stayed up that late.

This has gotten way too long. I’m tired. I have boxes to unpack. I’m sort of lonely, so if you are ever in Ohio, come visit me.


And if that’s not enough, how about this?

This boy just lies down when he’s tired and falls asleep. On the couch, on the floor, my bed, behind the couch, in the hall, anywhere.


Tonight, while the boys were away for Pizza Rocket Day (I think I’ll save the explanation on that for another day), Kiki and I had a little dance-fest. Because who doesn’t love to dance with their favorite baby girl in the whole world? My only problem is that I’m so musically retarded that I have to scrounge from the depths of my adolescent years to come up with anything remotely danceable. I’m utterly ignorant of any and all new and currently popular music, so I’m sorry if these offend the senses, or take you back to 4th grade or anything. There is exactly one person who will be with me on these. You know who you are. And happy birthday last week, I’m so lame. I was gonna call you and I didn’t.

Who doesn’t love some good Chicago? I found a live recording of this song and was shocked at how bad it sucked. Don’t go searching for it, because your ears will bleed. Maybe this next one will be a little better? Wasn’t there a story about how Extreme got made fun of or accused of not being musicians and someone dared them to write a real song, and this was the result?

This next one is from 3rd grade P.E. class. I swear, they put us all in the gym, and this lady in a leotard and leg-warmers came in and made us do aerobics to this song. The visuals are not the traditional, but honestly, who sits around and makes random music videos with Spike in them? I gotta give them some credit for, I dunno, being some kind of weird that I just don’t understand.

And here’s some Jesus rock that maybe you haven’t become familiar with.

My very favorite album to dance to with my kids is The Sharpening Stone, by Kirkmount, a trio of brothers from Utah, but I don’t own it and it seems to be out of print or something, so if you have it, burn it for me. They played at my brother NungNung’s wedding, because everyone in my family has some sort of visceral reaction to their music. Also, the first time Derek ever told me he loved me was just after a Kirkmount concert we went to.

But back to the made-for-TV stuff I loved when I was 12, do you remember this? Do you remember how awesome it was in, what, 1987?

And who wasn’t in love with the Goblin King himself? Come on, you know you were. I even named my goldfish after him.

Turn back, Sarah! Turn back before it’s too late!

You know when you haven’t been to the market for a while, and you’re running low on vegetables? And low on everything else that could possibly be construed as edible? That happens about once a week here. Earlier this week, I perused the contents of the fridge with an empty head. I couldn’t come up with anything to make for dinner, and I had almost nothing that could be combined with anything else to make a passably edible meal.

Until I noticed the leftover macaroni from the night before. That had been a desperate attempt at getting the boys to eat something without complaining or making any retching noises. I had made plain mezzi rigatoni with butter, salt and pepper, and for the vegetable, cucumbers in vinegar. They ate, they forbore to complain. They even fought over the cucmbers. The next day, the leftover noodles became White Macaroni and Cheese, which was really sort of noodles alfredo, but a little different. I didn’t have any cream, but I did find a can of evaporated milk in the pantry. I melted the butter, tossed in some flour and made a roux, poured in some evap milk and regular milk, some salt, some grated parmesan cheese, and the noodles, and stirred it all until it was hot. The boys totally loved it, especially when I started calling it “White Macaroni and Cheese.” I would have liked it better with some steamed broccoli, green beans, or zucchini, but the boys would make noises. And sometimes I’d rather stab myself in the eyes with toothpicks than listen to the whining.

Fridge Fry #1: White Macaroni and Cheese

1 T butter
1 T flour
1/2-1 cup evaporated milk
1/4-1/2 cup milk
1/4-1/2 cup grated parmesan, pecorino, swiss, or any cheese or combination of cheeses
salt and pepper
4-6 cups leftover pre-cooked noodles
some sort of vegetables, steamed or sauteed

Later that night, I still had the same problem with the no vegetables. I scrounged around some more, and found the remnants of the frozen Costco spanakopita that Derek and I love, but the boys won’t eat. I decided on a Greek theme, but I somehow couldn’t find any chickpeas. I did have some kidney beans, so I pulled out the remnants of the quinoa that the boys also mysteriously didn’t like last week. A solitary onion, a waning carrot, some leftover tomato paste, and a can of chicken broth? We have the makings of a South American soup. But how to turn it Greek?

I know this is totally lame, since I’m in no way Greek or South American, and hence no expert, but I got out my favorite recipe for stuffed zucchini and made the sauce for that. It has only cinnamon and oregano for seasonings, and I love it so much, so that’s what I put in the soup. It was no standout in the parade of jumbled concoctions my family has been subjected to in the last 7 years, but it wasn’t yucky, and the childrens ate. Zeeb even decided he liked the spanakopita and ate three. I felt cheated.

Fridge Fry #2: Greek-Peruvian Bean and Quinoa soup

1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, very small dice
1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t oregano
2-3 T tomato paste
1 can chicken broth
1 can kidney beans (or kiddy beans, in my house)
1 cup leftover pre-cooked quinoa (round rice)
salt and pepper
maybe some steamed zucchini, if you have it, or some diced and sauteed eggplant

On my mission in the Philippines, I cooked lunch for the people that lived in our house. One of my mission companions would give my dishes names that caused me to giggle. Vegetable Rumble with Tokwa was one. It’s pronounced “Betch-ta-boll Rrrrrahm-boll weeth Toe-kwah. Tokwa is Tofu. Another dish was Eggplant Macaroni with Color. I think the “color” was zucchini and tomatoes.

Your results:
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Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
Wash (Ship Pilot)
Derrial Book (Shepherd)
River (Stowaway)
Inara Serra (Companion)
A Reaver (Cannibal)
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
Dependable and trustworthy. You love your significant other and you are a tough cookie when in a conflict.

Click here to take the Serenity Firefly Personality Test

Curiously, I’m apparently 20% cannibal.

First of all, just so you all know, I’m over it. I don’t even care anymore, although I was exceedingly amused by some of the comments that happened on my little blog over the weekend. And by amused, I mean that I actually giggle thinking about how hard it must be to be in the head of someone who is so sure they are going to heaven and I’m not.

Which brings me to the reason I’m so at peace, and not snarling with impotent rage. I spent the weekend with Sheila, Liz, my aunt Barbara, her best friend Judy, and about 50 other incredible women I didn’t know before, in Kirtland, Ohio. This is going to take some explaining, so be patient. It might take a dozen posts to work through how fabulous this retreat was.

I’ll start with the location. Kirtland, Ohio is a tiny little town east of Cleveland that is really only a speck on the map for most people, but for Mormons, it is a place full of history that inspires great emotion. It is a popular destination for family vacations and tours, along with places like Palmyra, New York, Nauvoo, Illinois, and several others. Kirtland is where the Mormons built their first temple, and it is still standing there. Across the street and down the hill is a store owned by an early Mormon family, and several other buildings that date back to the time before the Mormons were driven out of Ohio and into Missouri. The area and the buildings are important to Mormon history because if the events that happened there. Joseph Smith lived in the home of Newell K. Whitney, who owned the store where, upstairs, Smith conducted the “School of the Prophets,” a sort of training class for future leaders.

Liz, Sheila, and I went on the tour, and I must say the the buildings are beautiful. Like a moron, I didn’t even take a camera, so I have no photos to share, but these buildings have been restored artfully, with period furnishings and fixtures, and even a few pieces of furniture that were original to the houses. The store was stocked with real-live mid-1800s general store inventory. We also toured the sawmill and the place where they make potash. I can’t think what it’s called, but it was cool.

We had an evening service in the Kirtland Temple, which is important to Mormons as not only the first temple of many, but also the place where Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery saw a vision of Jesus Christ, Moses, Elias and Elijah.

Although the location of the retreat was beautiful and historically and architecturally interesting, the important part about being there was meeting and associating with some fantastic women who were intellectually intimidating, with their PhDs, published books and articles, time spent in the Peace Corps, etc., but kind, personable, welcoming, charming, accepting, non-judging, free-thinking… I could go on. The women were all at various stages of faith: believing Mormons, doubting Mormons who love the church, women who love the doctrine but dislike the culture, women in the process of leaving the church, and even women who had been excommunicated from the church, or had previously left and recently returned to activity. In other words, this was not a typical Relief Society event organized by a local entity, it was just a gathering of women with the purpose of sharing a weekend of spiritual and intellectual enrichment. Writing about it brings back the peace, fulfillment and acceptance I felt while I was there.

Here is a brief synopsis of the presentations I attended, which not all that was offered. I have mostly left out the names of the presenters.

1. A presentation by a woman who is a member of the Community of Christ, formerly know as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Barbara talked about her upbringing and her Priesthood ordination. She brought with her two friends who also answered questions.

2. A workshop on poverty and abundance, by two women, one of whom was a professor of psychology, the other of whom had spent 3 years in Kenya, serving in the Peace Corps.

3. A presentation by a woman who grew up Muslim and Iraqi in America, and a reading of selections from her memoir.

4. A talk on the need us to establish our own credos, and the need for us to find our own faith heroes, especially within an idiomatic belief-system such as Mormonism.

5. A presentation on the beauty and faith that can be gained by praying the Psalms as written, straight out of the Old Testament. This talk was given by Jana Riess, who has a master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD in American Religious History from Columbia, and is also the author of “What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide.” I know you are jealous, and to make it even better, she had copies in her trunk, and I got myself a signed one.

6. A talk about loving our neighbors, and getting past only loving the people we have something in common with.

7. Another talk on love and justice, and the need especially for redemptive love, which does not discount justice, but rather includes mercy.

I didn’t take notes on any of the presentations, to my eternal shame. Although I did request copies of their texts or notes, as did everyone else who attended. I’m hoping to get permission to share more of their thoughts and words, because it was just too awesome. These women were so intelligent, thoughtful, and sensitive.


Or how about a chandelier?


Or is a different sort of light fixture more to your liking?


A door knob? Or two?


Or maybe you just like a good view?





After having read Sister Julie B. Beck’s talk given at the L.D.S. Church’s General Conference on Sunday (which you can listen to here, and in a few days you can read on the Church’s official website), I would like to share my feelings on my reconciliation to her words. Much of this post comes from an email conversation I had the other day with Azúcar, in which she helped me sort out the words and calm myself down.

Here is a brief quote from the talk (which I found not on the Church’s website, but on Feminist Mormon Housewives, a group blog dedicated to helping people in the church come to terms with their faith and become better Christians through examination and discussion):

“Mothers who know are nurturers. This is their special assignment and role in the plan of happiness. To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow. Therefore, mothers who know create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes. Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes, and dishes and keeping an orderly home. Home is where women have the most power and influence. Therefore, Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world.

Working beside children in homemaking tasks creates opportunities to teach and model qualities children should emulate. Nurturing mothers are knowlegeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make up homes that create a climate for spiritual growth.

Growth happens best in a house of order, and women should pattern their homes after the Lord’s house. Nurturing requires organization, patience, love, and work. Helping growth occur through nurturing is truly a powerful and influential role bestowed on women.”

At first, I felt like the talk was so directed at mothers being better maids. The specific things she brought up later, kids in pressed clothes, missionary haircuts, house as clean as the temple, seemed so far from any doctrine that could help me be a better person. And saying that mothers who “know” do all those things seemed like such a slap in the face. Especially since it’s so cultural, and really unnecessary to salvation. (The “mothers who know” references a story well-known to Mormons, in which there are 2,000 young men who fight in a war and are not seriously injured, but have great faith that God will help them. When asked how they gained such faith, they respond that their mothers knew it.)

I don’t take exception to advice to be a better mother, but I do take exception to the notion that if my house isn’t clean, I am failing and/or unfaithful. I don’t believe it is only the mother who should be cleaning, but rather, it should be a full-family endeavor. Husbands have just as much responsibility in keeping their surroundings clean. I will say that it is definitely the parents’ responsibility to teach the children how to clean, and to involve them in the process whenever they can, but that burden should not be laid squarely on the mother’s shoulders. I’m not sure Sister Beck intended her words to be taken that way, but it seems to be how they came out.

After having such a negative reaction to this talk, and reading many other people’s reactions, I decided to try to find something that really could help me be a better mother and person. I’m already trying to live in a clean house, though it almost never happens. I don’t think missionary haircuts or white shirts mean anything. I try to be a leader, but I don’t think of myself as the primary example of leadership, because my kids have a father too. I know Sister Beck meant well, which is why I wanted to know how other people perceived her words. I wanted to have an alternate explanation that isn’t my own “she’s just reaffirming old gender stereotypes and throwing us back into ‘The Art of Homemaking’ so people think Mormons are happy because they look like June Cleaver.” I felt like I might have over-reacted.

Carina helped me think about it in terms of why, rather that how the message was given. It really is the why that is important. I’d gotten way too offended at the how. I still think the manner was offensive, but I’ve cooled down.

I did go back and read it again, and tried to add in some things that would help me with the semantics. So where she says “homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes, and dishes and keeping an orderly home,” the word “includes” is key. It also includes reading, playing, painting, laughing, etc, but those are things we already know. We have done as Daring Young Mom said, we’ve made the housekeeping part of the equation a joke. “It’s sort of en vogue to be a slacker mom, to joke about how big your pile of laundry is, how long it’s been since you did dishes, how you’ve given up trying to feed your kids enough veggies or that you’re always late for everything.” So when Sister Beck says we should be the best homemakers, she’s not saying we should be the best housekeepers. We can be the best at creating a loving and spiritual environment that is hopefully as clean as we can get it. Likewise, if we know a lot about mitosis and meiosis, it won’t help our children if we don’t have the skills to teach it to them. I have to believe that she’s not just talking about housework.

We, as mothers and part of a parental team, can create a powerful world for our children, one in which they are free to learn what they want, and they also see the value in learning what we want to teach them, or what society requires them to know, that is, how to be clean, responsible, respectful of others, kind, doing good to all man, virtuous, lovely…

(That last gratuitous reference is from the 13th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s like a part of the Credo for the Mormons. “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say we follow the admonition of Paul- We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.)


Originally uploaded by bivAb

Here’s a photo of my family that I don’t even remember. I’ve never seen it before today, and I don’t know where it was taken. Although I’ll go out on a limb and guess it was at church. But even that doesn’t sound right, because two of my brothers had stopped going by then, but we’re all dressed up. A wedding maybe? I would guess I was 15 in this photo, because I hadn’t chopped my hair off yet. That would make Dave 16, Alex 14, and Isaac 10.

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