Thursday, December 23, 2010

Snowboarding

Jake's company sponsors an annual night skiing event up the canyon. This is the second year he and Damon have gone, which means Damon has gone snowboarding twice in his young life. Really wish I would have thought to send the camera with Jake. Anyhow, Damon had a good time. Jake was having a good time until he tried to regain his former glory by doing some jumps. "How high did I go off that one, Damon? Twenty feet?" "Maybe four," Damon answered.

Jake says he'll snowboard by himself from now on.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thanksgiving


We spent Thanksgiving with Aunt Annette, Uncle Conan, and family. It was fabulous. The food was great, the company was even better, and Claire did reasonably well. Annette was so considerate and even set aside yams, potatoes, and corn for Claire that were GFCFSF.
Here's how Claire did: the closer we got to Annette and Eric's house, the more anxious she became, saying things like, "I will just stay in the car." "I don't go into new houses." "Why didn't we just stay at Grandma and Grandpa's?" Nothing I said made her feel better, so when we got there, I just carried her into the house. She didn't want to be put down, and only said 'hi' to people when I prompted her to, which is actually an improvement: she used to just cry in those situations. But I was hoping she would say hello spontaneously. Sigh. During dinner, she did lots better. Meals are structured, she knows what to do, and she did very well. She even had a good time. She sat across from Lex, and he made her laugh for 10 or 15 minutes playing with the turkey table decorations Kiersten had made.
After a few hours her behavior started to deteriorate, and I would make people repeat things they said to her so I could prompt her to respond appropriately. For example: Lex said, "Claire, can I hold you?" And Claire screamed "No" at him and started to cry. I picked her up, put her back in front of Lex, and had Lex repeat, "Claire, can I hold you?" Then I prompted Claire to say, "No, thanks," and praised her. I should have repeated that process until she said "No, thanks" unprompted, but I would like Annette and Eric to invite us over again, so I'll save fun things like that for our house or my parent's house.

Amarillo by morning


or night. They left SLC airport in the morning, I think.
In October my parents took Damon with them to Amarillo to visit my sister and her family. Damon had the time of his life. Nothing like a trip with people who aren't Jake and I to see how sweet life can be. For the record, Damon DID NOT drink MD. That picture was staged by cousin Wes. He thought it would be funny to give me a heart attack.
Uncle Marcus taught Damon to play Monopoly, Lynsey bought him his own board, and now he plays constantly--if Jake and I won't play, he plays with Anne and Claire kind of. He rolls the dice for them, moves their pieces, and then hollers, "Claire! Do you want to buy Mediterranean?" Claire, playing with Anne in the next room, says, "No." Then, "Anne! Do you want to buy Oriental Avenue?" Anne calls back, "Yes!" and so on.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Halloween tweaked for Claire

This was what Claire "bought" with her Halloween candy. After she handed over the candy, she cried for about a half-hour, sobbing "I don't like candy!" Eventually she convinced herself and was happy with the farm animals. (FYI: Claire isn't supposed to have high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors. She shouldn't be having any refined sugars, but I've decided that's impossible.)

I am really anxious to re-introduce gluten and other no-nos into Claire's diet next month. If she has a bad reaction, I think I might go insane. I AM SICK OF THIS GFCFSF MISERY. "Oh," you say, "but she's the only one who has to eat that $#!%. You can eat whatever you want." Yeah, well, I'm the one who has to find the food, make it, enforce the diet, and plan for events that want ruin it. It's a pain and I hate it.

See this nastiness? Nope, it's not Dijon mustard. It's my attempt to make frosting orange with turmeric and paprika instead of food coloring so Claire could decorate her sugar cookie (which I of course had to make myself--try finding a store-bought cookie that's GFCFSF) like a pumpkin if she wanted to during her kindergarten Halloween party.



I also had to make chocolate frosting in case she wanted to make a spider cookie instead, which of course she did, because who wants a yellow pumpkin cookie that smells like a deviled egg? All her classmates were going to have the spider vs. pumpkin option, so I had to try to give Claire the option too, okay? On the plus side, the sugar cookies were very good--they didn't taste GFCFSF at all. Maybe I'll publish a GFCFSF cookbook someday. Just kidding. I'd rather die.


Halloween


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

wow, what a harvest


It started snowing today, so I decided it was time to give up on the diminutive yellow bell pepper and the blueberry-sized tomatoes ripening. If it weren't for the basil (not pictured because we ate it all in pasta sauce and pesto), I'd throw in the towel on gardening in pots. (In case you care to know: the house we rent is on a small lot that is 100% landscaped with no room for gardening in the ground.) BUT, I did start these plants from seed indoors, which suggests I have the potential to be a great gardener some day, right? RIGHT???

Damon

Here's Damon with his flag football team, and below that, a botched video of Damon's first piano recital. I missed the very beginning when he introduced himself and told the audience what he would be performing, and I missed the beginning of his piece (A Spooky Halloween by Elizabeth Greenleaf). He started in August, and we're just so proud of him.


video

Friday, October 8, 2010

Steps Forward

1. Claire doesn't cry anymore when people say 'hi' and I tell her to say 'hi' back--she actually says 'hi'! Not much eye-contact yet, and she only attaches the person's name to the hi if the person is an immediate family member or a tutor, and we're still waiting for spontaneous greetings, but we're making progress. (Kinda funny: one morning Jake said, "Good morning, Claire." Claire said, "Good morning, Jake." One of Claire's programs during her sessions is Informational Questions. One of those questions is, "What is your dad's name?" We're so glad she's generalizing that information to her greetings ;-)

2. Claire's tutor Joseph goes to school with her on MWF, and on those days, Claire plays on the playground equipment rather than pacing around it, thanks to his prompts. One day she was holding hands with Emma* and Cecily during recess and went down the slide with them! And she engaged in a conversation about Halloween with fellow classmates!

*Note: Emma was Claire's special friend that week. It really galled me when Claire's teacher told me she was going to assign a girl to be Claire's friend every week. But, Claire doesn't mind, and it seems to be helping. Plus, it is the sweetest thing ever to see little kids put their arms around Claire's shoulders and include her. I love kindergartners. They are God's angels on earth.

Nice

Anne loves to help me make things in the kitchen. (Another thing that should have been a warning flag regarding Claire: she wasn't interested in imitating what I was doing.) And for a three-year-old, she does a good job pouring in ingredients and stirring. Before you go thinking what a good mom I am, let me come clean by confessing I try to cook as often as I can when she's otherwise occupied: her help doubles the job time.

One day when we were making something I told her, "Anne, you're going to be a great chef when you grow up." She replied, "I don't want to be a chef when I grow up. I just want to be a mom." Aw. I felt so good.

Then on Wednesday Claire's tutor Jessie was here. During one of Claire's breaks, (FYI: every 50 minutes Claire gets a 10 minute break outside the session room. Just thought you might want to know.) Anne went into the session room.

"Hi, Jessie!"
"Hi, Anne!"
Anne turned to me and said, "Mom, Jessie is way much nicer than you."

Now, Jessie is a way much nice gal. There's no denying that. But I thought I had been very nice that day myself. Jessie says two words to her and she earns way-much-nicer status? Come on.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

hindsight

Hard to believe I could have possibly left anything out of the last gargantuan blog, but I did. I forgot to list the warning signs we didn't recognize.

1. She turned her head away/cried/screamed/yelled "Go away"/put her hand up (stop-in-the-name-of-love kind of motion)/all of the above when someone unfamiliar or unexpected addressed her or walked in the room.

2. She liked to play by herself for more than twenty minutes at a time and would tell people to go away if they tried to join her.

3. She never played with blocks, legos, or puzzles. The animal toys she did play with were played with for time periods too long to be appropriate.

4. She paced, flapped her arms, and engaged in other self-stimulatory behavior ("stimming").

If we'd known then what we know now, we could have gotten Claire help when she was three.

You're probably wondering how we managed to let things go for two years. We ask ourselves that every day. Here are the answers:

1. We thought she was just shy and that everyone should respect her personal space. She never avoided making eye contact with me, and we never had any reason to doubt she loved us.

2. Damon and Anne were so demanding, Claire was like a dream come true to be able to play by herself. And she often played very well with Damon and Anne, so it's not like she never played with anyone else.

3. She was unique. So what if she didn't like the same toys other kids liked.

4. She'd been flapping her arms since before she could walk, and I thought it was a darling expression of excitement; her pacing seemed harmless.

About the time Claire was three, I read A Child's Journey out of Autism by Leann Whiffen (a fellow Maladite). Leann's son was so much more severe than Claire that I never identified him with her. I never associated Claire's shyness with "avoiding eye contact." It never occured to me her cute arm motions could be classified as "arm flapping."

If you're still shaking your head at our stupidity, give yourself a pat on the back for being smarter than we were, and keep your mouth shut: I can't stand a know-it-all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The blood-letting begins

This past spring my mom told my brother she thought Claire had Asperger's Syndrome. (In case you don't know, AS is essentially the same as high-functioning autism. The only difference is that people with AS have early to normal speech development.) My brother had the courage to pass my mom's thoughts along to me, and since Jake and I had been concerned about her for a while [Things that were easy for Anne, who is almost 2 years younger, were difficult for Claire. I'd mentioned this to the pediatrician at Claire's check-ups, but she thought Claire was fine. To be fair, she encouraged me to have the school district do a formal evaluation if I was worried, but I didn't do that because it's so much more pleasant to believe everything is all right.], we had her evaluated by a pediatric neuropsychologist in June.


Turns out my mom was right. I was devastated. It seems like I cried for most of the summer. How could Asperger's describe my sweet, beautiful, unique child? [Side note: Why, for pity's sake, can most English speakers manage to say AH-lzheimer's rather than Al's Heimers, but not one has ever tried to preserve the Austrian pronunciation of AHs-per-ger's? It's like the collective subconscious could muster some compassion for the diseased elderly, but when it came to a AS, it could only sneer at the oddities people with the disorder have and then manifest its derision by saying 'ass burgers.' Well, collective subconscious, I don't care. You can't make me ashamed of my daughter's Asperger's. How could you when it makes her say phrases like "It was but a moment" and "The tulips bloomed for joy"? I spit upon you, collective subconscious. Na!]


Then I stopped being devastated and became angry. Why did this happen to my darling child? I breast-fed for 13 months! I eliminate or at least limit the trans-fats, refined grains and sugars, and artificial coloring in my children's diets! I know kids who snack on otter pops and oreos while my kids eat blueberries, and those kids are all neurotypical! I came up with some theories to explain this:

1. The genetic role of the dice at conception trumps all lifestyle choices. (Lying Ultra-Prevention. I must despise you now.)

2. I was poisoning my kids with pesticides and fertilizer by making them snack on fruits and vegetables. I should have been buying 100% organic or gone with oreos. (I don't feel too bad about this one. Have you seen the organic section at the supermarket? Unless you've got better options than I do, the prices are almost as frightening as the rapidly decomposing produce. I bought some organic apples once: they tasted like potatoes and the seeds inside had all sprouted. Yuck.)

3. Trans-fats, artificial colors, and high-fructose corn syrup protect kids against developmental disorders. We should all stuff our kids full of them.


Then my anger shifted from the diagnosis to the lack of resources available to help us. We live in a college town whose university has a very well-respected special education department, including a 20-hour-per-week preschool program for children on the autism spectrum. Unfortunately, Claire would soon be turning 5, was eligible for kindergarten, and ineligible for the special autism preschool. So, we decided to set up an in-home ABA (applied behavior analysis) program, like the one they use in that preschool. (ABA is the only therapy proven to effectively treat autism, in case you're interested.) All we needed was an ABA consultant to help us set the program up. We called the university, asking for recommendations. "Oh, we don't do that. We don't know of anyone around here who does that. While you're looking for someone, just make sure they're BCBA certified." We went to the BCBA web-site. Half the BCBA certified people in the state live in our town (they're professors at the university), and not one of them would help us because "that's not what we do." I was livid. Temple Grandin thinks in picture; I was thinking in expletives. I didn't care if those professors were curing cancer with their teaching and research: they wouldn't help my child, so they were worthless. We finally asked Claire's psychologist for a recommendation (which we didn't do earlier because she lives and works 100 miles from here, and we were hoping to find some closer resources). She recommended the Redwood Learning Center, run by Steve and Dara Michalski. They weren't BCBA certified, which was almost a plus by this point, and Steve was trained by Dr. Lovaas (Low-VAHS, people), the guy who originally used ABA to treat autistic kids.

Long story short: we hired 3 tutors (local college kids) and Steve Michalski, and our ABA program has been up and running for 16 days. Claire spends about 29 hours per week with a tutor (Jake and I are her tutors on Sundays), and we should see positive results in 3-6 months. If we don't, then it will be time to bag the program. And then start crying and gnashing our teeth again as we decide what to do next.

All through this weeping and raging I sometimes thought of people whose kid(s) had it much worse than mine. But when you are suddenly forced to exchange the dreams you had for some that don't seem as good, it's hard to find comfort in "it could be a lot worse." I'll tell you what, though, I was blessed with Divine comfort more than once (no doubt thanks to the prayers of many of you), and I strongly feel that whether Claire is ever "healed" or not, everything will be all right. I am very blessed to be the mother of all three of my children. Each one is a joy. It's a great privilege. I could go on, but I'm getting weepy.

So, here are the biomedical things we're trying in Claire's treatment:

1. The GFCFSF diet recommended by Dr. Jacquelyn McCandless in her book Children with Starving Brains. Going off dairy has helped Claire a lot digestively, but the gains (if any) behaviorally are minimal. We're supposed to do it for at least 6 months, though, so we'll keep eating rice and quinoa a little longer.

2. Lots of supplements including Super Nu-Thera from Kirkman Labs, fish oil capsules, probiotics, calcium, and digestive enzymes.

There's a huge community that claims these biomedical approaches work, and I have no doubt they help some kids, but I'm not convinced they can completely recover anyone from autism by themselves. If you read the books by Dr. McCandless and Dr. Kenneth Bock, it sounds like they can, but I have my doubts. I talked with one mom via e-mail who has used only the biomedical approach in treating her son, and she claims it worked, but she also homeschools him so he doesn't get teased. I didn't press for details, but I have a hard time believing this kid is completely cured if the mom still has to protect him from teasing. Anyhow, if we had unlimited resources, I'd try every treatment available--I'm especially interested in chelation and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. If ABA doesn't work, we'll certainly pursue those options. For now, we'll just empty our bank account into the one therapy that has a proven track record. (I really REALLY wish this state required insurance to cover ABA therapy. That would be so great. Hurray for places like Ohio and Colorado!)

Whew. It took me a good week to write this essay. I hope it didn't take you that long to read it. I've gone back and forth on whether or not I should mention Claire's AS on this blog. Finally I decided to go ahead and blab because:

1. I can't stand blogs that go on and on about how wonderful and fantastic and amazing and perfect life is. It's annoying and only half-true.

2. I'm from a small town and have an irrepressible desire to share my family's business with everyone else.

3. I've told Claire about her Asperger's.

4. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

5. Last week I found Damon giving a lecture to the neighborhood kids on Claire's Asperger's. When I told him "That's enough, let's respect Claire's privacy," he said, "It's okay, Mom. They all promised to still be her friend." Then the kids all nodded their heads very solemnly. It was darling. So, if they know, you might as well, too.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ode to Wheat

Wheat the wonderful, wheat the divine,
Wheat upon whom the happy multitudes dine.
Wheat, I left my praise for you unsaid
until I tasted gluten-free bread.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Spring and Summer Pics

Jake all muddy after mountain biking. My neighbor goes mountain biking with her husband all the time. I wish I had it in me to do that, but it's more than my legs can handle going uphill, and too scary going down.













Anne likes to dress herself for church. Sometimes that means we have to negotiate: she takes off the sparkly Tinker Bell shirt, and I put mascara and lipstick on her. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure mascara and lipstick on a 3-year-old is less gaudy than a Tinker Bell shirt in the chapel. Anyhow, sometimes it means we let her go to church in black shoes, brown tights, and her dress on backwards.




Five ponytails are better than one.



Damon the Architect




Arches National Park.



Jake, your hat brim isn't wide enough. The sun is touching your face--run for cover! That arch should do.




Claire's birthday party and the gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free, taste-free cake. Just kidding. The frosting was good.


Damon and Anne with Claire's pinata.






Claire avoiding the pinata she specifically asked for. She refused to to take a single swing. Maybe the violence got to her.

No picture of Damon on his first day of second grade!!! Sign me up for worst mother of the year.




Damon holding his newest cousin, Baby Max. Can you believe that hair? Some babies (not mine) have all the luck.


Claire after the first day of kindergarten, 8-24-10, with a face to make any mother seriously consider homeschooling.

Anne looking chic in Knifty Knitters, 8-30-10.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

recent quotes

Damon:

"What if there was a hotel floating through outer space?"

"What if the wind blew so hard it carried people away?"

"What if we jumped off the roof and started to fly around?"

"What if [fill in the blank]?" x1000

"What if I ask so many 'what if' questions my mom goes insane and has to be institutionalized?" is the only 'what if' he hasn't asked.

Claire:

"If we're not having meat for dinner, I'm running away from home!"

When Anne wouldn't give her a toy she wanted: "Anne, you look like a toilet!" I was going to wash her mouth out with soap for that one, but I had food poisoning (never drink almond milk that's been on the counter in a hot house all day) and only had the strength to give her a time-out.

Anne has had plenty to say, too, but "Can I got to Bekah's house?" is the only phrase that comes to mind, because I hear it almost as much as "Can I go to Grandma's house?"

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Life on the Fringe + Recipes

I'm a pendulum swinging from one extreme to another.

It looks like Claire has some food sensitivities, so we're putting her on a GF/CF/SF diet. (That's gluten-free, casein[dairy]-free, soy-free, for those of you who aren't weird diet savvy.) It's rough. For breakfast and lunch, the rest of us eat the way we usually eat, and for dinner we're GF/CF/SF. I've had to add eggs and more meat to our lives so Claire and the rest of us don't starve. We haven't had a gluten-free day yet, because Claire is a scavenger and cleans up after Damon and Anne if I don't do it fast enough, but she's been dairy-free for about a month, and we've seen some definite improvements in her health.

We're also supposed to limit her refined sugars, so here are some dessert recipes that aren't exactly healthy for you, but healthier than real deal.

Strawberry Ice Cream

2 cans coconut milk (full fat: I like Thai Kitchen brand)
2 1/2 C frozen strawberries
1/2 C agave nectar or honey
1 T vanilla (most vanilla extracts have gluten in the alcohol, so be careful with this one)
1 tsp lemon juice

Blend all ingredients in a blender, and pour into you ice cream maker (check what your capacity is-mine can only hold half of this recipe). In 20 minutes or less, you'll have a pretty darn good treat. I'm something of an ice cream connoisseur, so you can trust me on this one.

Black Bean Brownies

Now this recipe is for kids/people with undiscerning taste buds. My kids devoured it, but the fact of the matter is it tastes like black beans. That's not a flavor I like in my brownies.

Pre-heat oven to 350.

1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 eggs
3 T oil
1/4+1 T cocoa
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C agave nectar or 3/4 C sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda

Blend everything until smooth in a blender and pour into a lightly greased smaller-type pan--maybe 8x11 or 8x8? I used a 2 1/2 qt souffle dish. Bake for 30 minutes or so. There should be cracks on top and a tooth pick should come out clean.

skip this one--you'll be bored, guaranteed

This is Damon's last week of school. He's excited. I was his soccer team's assistant coach in April and May, and I'm ashamed that I don't have a single picture to post. We do have video footage, but I haven't had any luck uploading videos. He had a good time, but he's more into socializing with his teammates than actually trying to win games, so watching was frustrating at first, until I learned to calm down and control myself. During his first game I was swearing under my breath, which is ridiculous! It was a first grader's soccer game, for crying out loud! What's wrong with me? One major thing that's wrong with me is that I don't know the rules of the game. So, when the kids weren't chasing the ball, I told the 15-year-old referee I needed a time-out, and she gave me one. I explained to the boys that they were supposed to try to score goals, and they couldn't do that if they were all stopping at the center-field line. They did better after that, but I found out later that there are no time-outs in soccer. I say that's dumb, and that you can do whatever the ref let's you get away with, like calling time-outs when there are no time-outs allowed. Overall, the kids were lucky they had me. The head coach was a good guy, and he actually knew how to play the game, but he wasn't any good at yelling at kids. I am. And I let those kids know where they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to be doing. I was hoarse after every game.

Claire took creative momement dance classes from January to April, and once again, I only have video footage. In April the entire dance ensemble performed in the opera house. It was great. I wish I could figure out how to upload video so you can see it. The best part wasn't captured with the video camera, so I'll tell you about it so I don't forget: there was one number that all the dancers performed in (ages 3-30 something). A girl was asleep dreaming, and the rest of the dancers were part of her dreams. The little kids were dressed up like monsters. It was darling. Near the end, the older dancers were lined up facing the audience and they were lifting the little kids up and putting them down one by one, passing them down the line. You should have heard Claire's delighted laugh as she was lifted up and down and passed from person to person--it was the best thing ever. She has a great laugh.

Claire and Anne are taking a little dance class together this summer--they've only had one class so far, and if it's any indicator of the future, Anne will be the class miscreant. She's really great at not following directions and being a pill.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

blah, blah, blah plus successes and failures

My dad says the word "vegan" gives him a stomach ache, so I'm not going to use it anymore. Instead, I'll say "eating healthier." Really, I'll never be v****, because I don't think it's necessary to completely eliminate animal protien from your diet. For one thing, plants don't have vitamin B12, which is essential. That's why we'll always eat beef--good source of B12 and good things like iron, and I have a really good, inexpensive source of it ;-)

Furthermore, in the China Study, they refer to this rat experiment where half the rats were fed a diet that was 20% animal protien, half were fed 5% animal protien, and they were all injected with a toxin that induces cancer. All of the rats on the 20% diet got cancer, none of the 5% rats got it. So, the 5 percenters didn't have to be v**** to be healthy, just 'eat but very little meat,' like Eliza R. Snow said.

So, here's how eating went down last week with the help of my new cookbook, V****omicon:

Damon stopped crying because we don't have any real milk, but he's still not happy about it, and doesn't eat cereal anymore because soy/almond milk taste funny.

Claire finally tried almond milk and likes it! I was afraid she'd never eat cereal again. (I love cereal--my mom was a saint for making us a hot breakfast every morning, but I can't handle that much cooking. Getting one meal on the table a day that's not peanut butter sandwiches makes me a hero in my own mind.)

Anne is an eating angel. She tries almost everything I make (even the eggplant dip!) and often likes it (even the eggplant dip!). Bless her little heart.

Here are some of the recipes we tried and how we liked them:

Broccoli-Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs, page 138--yuck. No one liked it, even though I tried to salvage it by adding cheese. It calls for mint, which is just a weird herb for potato soup in our opinion. Plus, we're used to potato broccoli soups with butter/milk/cream/all three, so it's hard for a v**** soup to compare.

Mexian Millet, page 118--My brother Lex even thought this one was all right, and had two helpings.

Nachos with refried beans, guacamole, and cheese (will we ever be able to live without cheese?)--the only 100% successful meal of the week. Don't need a cookbook for that one.

Pumpkin baked pasta with carmelized onion--I thought it was delicious, Jake thought it was weird, the kids wouldn't touch it. First thing I've ever made with tofu that tasted good. But no one else liked it, so I'll probably never make it again.

Potato and Mushroom Blintzes--not bad, but WAY too labor intensive. If I'm going to spend that much time making something, it better be fantastic. It wasn't. And soymilk gives a strange flavor to crepes, in case you care to know. And I ruined the mushroom gravy that was supposed to go on top. Apparently apple cider vinegar is a poor substitute for white wine. Be quiet. Don't look at me that way. I'm sure you do stupid things, too, sometimes. Claire ate the crepe part, Damon hated the crepe part and wouldn't try the filling, Anne (whom I thought was my best eater) wouldn't try it at all.

So, there you have it. It's been a rough week due to some other things going on in our lives, and I'm wiped out. If things don't improve dramatically next week, I might consider bagging this new diet, or at least get milk for Damon.

If you've stuck with me this far, you must have too much time on your hands.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cute Kids and Adventures in Flexitarianism

Here's Damon ready for Crazy Hair Day at school. Anne put on my glasses and said she's ready to go to the beach. Hear that, Aunt Wendi? Don't forget to plan our day at Bear Lake, just as soon as the temp gets out of the 50s.

It was a beautiful day today (too cold, though) and Claire said, "The flowers opened and the tulips bloomed for joy!" Random, but cute.


This atrocity is roasted eggplant. Who knew something so beautiful and purple outside could be so repulsive inside? I blended it (after the picture) with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and cumin for pita dip for dinner tonight. I'm guessing I'll be the only one who eats it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Anne's Birthday

"Anne, what do you want for your birthday?" I asked last month.
"Pwesents," she said.
"What kind of presents?"
"Ones with wed wapping papow."
I love it when kids are so easy to please.


Damon and Anne painting her pinata:



Some of the guests at Anne's party, held at Grandma and Grandpa F's house:
















Thoughts on Food

I read too much and that's a fact. Recently I read The China Study by some guy who's probably never heard of the Word of Wisdom, yet wrote a whole book with scientific studies supporting it. So now I'm making some radical changes to the way I feed my family: we're slowly eliminating animal based foods and processed foods from our diet (except beef--what do you think I am, a heretic?).

About a week ago we had our last gallon of milk. Last night we ate our last egg in what might be our last batch of chocolate chip cookies. (I don't really mean last--we'll still eat stuff like that for birthdays and when we're guests at other people's houses.)

I think our cheese will hold out for a few more weeks, but we're down to our last few sticks of butter. I'm pretty sad about that. Hot, homemade bread will have no meaning for me anymore. Unless I find out how to make those fancy Italian breads you get at Macaroni Grill and dip in olive oil. Then we might be saved. If something as good as that bread can be made without butter.

Thanks to my mom we've been trying some new vegetables: tomatillos=good, Swiss chard=blech. I took a bite of raw Swiss chard. It tasted the way cow manure smells. It was better cooked with apple juice, garlic, and onion, but it still had a hint of dirt flavoring. No doubt it's very good for you--anything that colorful and that disgusting must be, right?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

random quotes

Damon, sounding a little too expectant: Mom, if you and Dad die before we grow up, how big of a fortune will we get?

Claire on Jake's birthday: Dad gets the first [actually "feast"--insert 'ee' for 'ur' and 'oy' for 'ore' sounds] piece of birthday ["beefday"] cake, because he's older than all of us.

Anne while pointing to my nose: You have a big nose, and Dad has a big nose, and we have little noses.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Uhhh...

We had the missionaries over for dinner on Monday. Things went pretty well. Damon and Anne behaved (once I finally got them in the house anyway). Claire cried intermittently and insisted on sitting on the floor instead of at the table, which is actually a big improvement over the last time she ate with the missionaries. We were at my parents' house that time and she cried and screamed the entire time, including when one of the elders gave a brief message about how we should all be like little children--humble, meek, patient, full of love...

Anyway, during dinner on Monday I was distracted helping one of the kids and heard one of the elders say, "Do you guys have some black power?"

I wanted to be helpful and said, "We have a black man in our ward. He's a good guy and just lives down the street."

Awkward silence.

"What are you talking about?" Jake asked.

"I thought they needed some black power."

"He said 'black powder'."

Jake and the elders laughed hysterically for like five minutes.

When the laughing stopped I asked, "So what do you need black powder for?"

"We're going to blow up the [insert name of our city] dam and say a prayer. Then we'll get in the record books for most baptisms."

Oh. Personally, I think they'd be better off with black power.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter


Sorry about the dark grainy picture, folks. My camera batteries were dead, so I took a photo with the video camera, which obviously doesn't take good pictures.

This morning (Monday, the day after) Damon woke up crying because Easter is always terrible, bad things only happen to him, etc. We hoped he would be over the the disasters of yesterday, when the Easter bunny didn't bring any chocolate bunnies, Anne kicked his basket and broke his hard-boiled eggs, and then Jake made his hard-boiled eggs into egg sandwiches--no such luck. I tried to be sympathetic for a while, but finally told him that if he was going to focus on things like this, instead of the Resurrection, then we wouldn't do fun things like Easter egg hunts anymore. He cried for a few more minutes sans the whining, and he hasn't mentioned his ruined Easter since.

Tangential subject: how much do you/would you encourage belief in things like the Easter Bunny? When Damon asked me if there was really a Santa, I made sure he really wanted to know and then told him Dad and I were Santa but he shouldn't tell other kids, because it's not nice to ruin their fun. And with Easter, I didn't make it much of a secret that I was the one who had hidden the eggs. Jake is horrified at how I've ruined the fun of the holidays, but I just don't feel comfortable selling fabrications to my kids. I'll have to ask my friend Cindy W. about this sometime--I know she'll back me up, and her kids seem happy enough even though she's told them the truth since they were little. Do you think I'm a monster?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Birthday

Damon opening presents before school.

Damon at Jake's birthday dinner.


Claire, Anne, and Jake eating his cake.

Jake's birthday was nice--very low key. But Damon's wore me out. He wanted another Star Wars themed party (same as last year), and I let him invite six friends. It would have been all right, but I did some dumb things the week before (like started voluteering at Damon's school and deciding to save a few dollars by making his pinata instead of buying one) that led to me turning to cookies and chocolate (I'm supposed to be sugar free, remember) and swearing in back rooms (I swore off swearing, too) to cope with the stress. Whew, glad that's over. But the party was a success, and I'll avoid stretching myself too thin in the future.

Where the Wild Things Are

Sam's Club last Friday. That's where the wild things were. Claire and Anne wanted to wear their animal costumes all day. I didn't want to feel left out while we were in public, so I did my hair like Wolverine. Just kidding. I was having a really bad hair day, and I didn't have time to wet it down and start over because I'd been reading my novel all morning.









Thursday, February 25, 2010

A long night

Claire threw up four times last night. That was fun. But she got it all in the bathroom--hurray, Claire! And just before round three, while she was crying because she didn't feel good, she said, "I love you, Mommy." Melted my heart.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Damon Update

Damon has been taking gymnastics two nights a week at USU. He really enjoys it, but I am so glad March will be his last month (because soccer starts in April and I can't handle more than one activity per child at a time): it's tough finding coins for metered parking (and you can only park for 30 minutes, even though the class lasts an hour), buckling girls in their car seats then getting everyone out so we can run him across the busy street into class every Tuesday and Thurday right in the middle of dinner time. How did my mom survive having 5 kids who were involved in every extra-curricular activity possible? It gives me a headache just to think about it.


We are fortunate to live in a great neighborhood with several kids Damon's age right next door and across the street. He plays with them almost every day after school, snow or shine. Sundays are long because we don't let him play with his friends, except one Sunday when we woke up to 8 inches of snow. After church Damon and his buddy Andrew shovelled our entire driveway. After that, I could hardly say tell Andrew to go home because it's okay to shovel our snow on Sunday, but not to play with our son. It was probably Damon's favorite Sunday ever.

He's a very good boy. He makes his bed almost every day, is kind to his sisters, and is a peacemaker among his friends.


Damon's getting to be a pretty good chess player, or else I'm just really bad. He beats me more often than not. He also enjoys Trouble because he usually wins at that, too. But I'm proud to say that I always win at Pictureka--thank you Cat and Grant for a boardgame that makes me feel good about myself!

He loves having Roald Dahl books read to him. He also enjoys Prince Valient (you know, from the Sunday comics). A Harry Potter movie was on TV the other night and we made the mistake of letting Damon watch some of it. After that he peppered me with questions on Harry Potter and somehow he got fixated on Voldemort splitting his soul into seven pieces. He hasn't stopped talking about it for 3 days. I can't wait until he's a good enough reader to read the books himself. I'm having a hard time remembering all the answers to his questions, like "How could Harry be in the spirit world if he was still alive? Will the spell Harry's mom put on him as a baby last his whole life? Does someone have to kill you for a spell like that to work on your baby, or can you just die of old age? How do the dementors make you crazy?" I don't know, but I think I know how a 6 year old boy can.

Claire Update

Claire started taking a creative dance class in January. If I could figure out how to download videos to the computer, you could see how cute she is in her class. It was hard to get her to go at first--she doesn't really like to leave the house. But then I bought her some dance clothes, and now it's never a struggle, unless she's watching The Lion King and it's not over yet. Which reminds me: on the day I put The Lion King on only an hour before dance class (a dumb thing to do), I locked myself out of the house. It was probably 25 degrees outside and I didn't even have a coat on. I banged on the window and yelled, "Claire, open the door for me!" Simba was in the middle of a stampede, and Claire couldn't be bothered. "Sorry, Mom, I'm busy." "Please, Claire, I'm freezing to death. I'll give you some chocolate chips or a cinnamon roll." She ignored me. Luckily, Anne was more open to the bribe and let me in, bless her little sweet tooth. I hoped Claire would come crying for some chocolate chips so I could punish her for not letting me in by not allowing her to have any, but she only cared about her movie, and didn't say a word.

Claire's a little moodier than her siblings, but she's my easiest child because she can play by herself. Sure, I have to practically stand over her with a whip to get her to dress herself, but she can play with her dinosaurs and look at books without holding my hand. And, when she talks to me, it's only for a few minutes. Then she goes her merry way, or we have a little tea party, and she's done with me. I have to remember to offer to play with her, otherwise she gets ignored because the other two will demand my attention while she often doesn't.

She didn't want to go to pre-school, so I didn't make her even though she's supposed to start kindergarten next fall. That might have been a mistake. She's doing all right learning letters and their sounds at home, but she has no interest in learning to write her name. She also doesn't care to learn to recognize numbers greater than 7, although she can count to 20. But, I've stopped worrying about her. She's a unique little soul, and I think she'll be all right as long as we don't let her siblings hog all the attention.

Here are a few Claire quotes:

Mom, go away, you're bothering me. (After Damon, who would be my Siamese twin if he could, those words are music to my ears.)

Mom, even when I grow up, you'll still be my mom, and I'll still be your daughter.

Mom, I want to stay with you forever.

Mom, I don't like you! You ruin everything! I want to live outside!

Anne Update

Since my last Anne blog, she has improved by leaps and bounds. She tries really hard not to get into trouble, and I can't remember the last time she hit, bit, or pushed anyone. Well, she did pinch Damon tonight, but he was being a pest and she's sick, so we'll let it slide.

She is also a prolific artist: she paints about four abstract pictures a day. Below are two samples of her work. The one on the left is called "Ducks and Frogs Running Away from Me." The one on the right is untitled.



I love her independence. She dresses herself without any encouragement. (A word to the wise: if you see a little kid with his/her shirt on backwards or shoes on the wrong feet or mismatched, keep your smart comments to yourself. Kids should be praised, not criticized for doing things for themselves. The other day some guy, a father of young children I might add, said to Anne, "Hey, your shoes don't match." I ignored him, but I wanted to tell him to shut his fat mouth. Let me tell you something: if two shoes are black, they match to a little girl. A mom really appreciates a child dressing herself, and you can bet the mom has encouraged the child to try putting on shoes that match, but independent children like to do things their own way. So, if you don't want me to despise you, put a sock in it.)

Here are some darling Anne quotes:

I'm a great artist.

What da heck?

Mom, can you talk to me?

Mom, I slept all night and I didn't woke you up!

I'm a great cleaner.

wannabes

Whew, this has been a busy, traveling month. It started with my first girls' trip since getting married--thank you, Lynsey, for journaling for me.

Then we went down south to visit Jake's family over Presidents' Day weekend. The company was as fabulous as the weather (sunny and 65! It was like Heaven). I hate bragathon blogs, but I have to say I have really great in-laws: kind, fun, and everything good.

Kohl's was having a great sale while we were there, so I bought some Chucks. While I was trying them on, I asked Jake if he wanted a pair. "No," he said with disdain. "Why not?" I asked. "Because I'm not trying to look like a teenager," he replied. That very day, with the help of our musically talented teenage nephews, he bought an electric guitar, maybe because trying to be a teenager is better than trying to look like one--I don't know.
And finally, Jake is going to England for a week for work! Neither of us have ever been there (if it were summer, I would have insisted on going with him), and I forgot to send the camera, which should surprise no one. I forgot the camera on our Presidents' Day trip, too, which is why the only pics on this blog are of shoes and a guitar, taken at home after the fact.












Monday, February 1, 2010

New Dos, or You Get What You Pay For

Scissors be praised, I'm back to short. Imagine spending 5 minutes on your hair and having it look better than when you spent 30 minutes on it when it was long. It's fabulous. I wish I could show you how I look in the mirror. I look so much better in the mirror than in photographs. Incidentally, I never cared about how unphotogenic I was until I watched Clueless and found out from Cher that mirrors are not as accurate as cameras. No wonder I hardly ever got asked out on dates: I wasn't as hot as I thought I was. Fortunately I realized my weakness and bought a hand-held mirror. That's how I won over Jake. I carried a mirror around with me and told him to talk to the mirror. Eleven months later, we were married.


Back to the main point, I went to a licensed stylist who knew what she was doing. Being an evil, cheap mother, I took the girls to get their hair cut at the local beauty college. Ironically, the child that couldn't hold her head still to save her life got the better haircut,


while the one that had the student of the month and never moved a muscle ended up looking like a male native from The Mission. That's what you can expect from a $4 haircut. But on the bright side, it's even and will look cute in two months.