Sunday, December 22, 2013

The all-natural dilemma

Do you ever become paranoid by rumors that certain things are causing cancer/Alzheimer's/fill-in-the-blank-with-something-horrible?  Aluminum in antiperspirant might be linked to dementia, for example.

I guess I'm one of those suckers frightened by unsubstantiated theories, because a few months ago I decided to make home-made deodorant out of coconut oil, baking soda, and cornstarch.  The recipe I found said to only use one layer, because the coconut oil will stain your clothes.  Unfortunately, I'm one of those folks who needs more than a single layer of deod.  I sweat, people.  So I've got some stained shirts now.  (But if I remember to use the stain stick before throwing the shirt in the wash, the oil does come out.)  Unfortunately, having oily stains on my shirt half defeats the purpose.  Fortunately, it's winter time so I've always got a hoodie on and no one can see my greasy pit stains.  Unfortunately, this home made deod doesn't quite serve the other half of its purpose.  If I've had any stress during the day (which makes me sweat, see) by evening I stink.  Not bad (I hope!), but not good, either.  The only reason I persist (about two-thirds of the time) is that it seems like my face is a little clearer since starting to use it.  Could chemicals in store-bought antiperspirant be making me break out?  I don't know.  It might be giving me Alzheimer's, too.  So if any of you granola types have an all-natural deodorant that actually works for 14 hours, please let me know.  Until then, I'll be stinking.  Just kidding, Mom!  If I know it's going to be a stressful day, I put on the stuff that works.  Usually.

Friday, November 22, 2013

using his head

I think Jake would like to take Tae Kwon Do lessons with Damon.  Or maybe he thinks he doesn't need them.  I don't know.  I'm not a mind reader, and Jake doesn't verbalize his hopes and dreams much.  I just make guesses based on what I see.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

laundry (mis)adventures

For book club last month we read Almost Amish.  Well, some people read it.  I read 40 pages or so until I decided life was too short to waste it on something so boring.  Someone else read a romance by mistake also called Almost Amish.  Anyway, boring or not, it had some good ideas, like drying your clothes on a clothesline in the basement during the winter to conserve energy.  Dryers use more energy than any other household appliance except for the refrigerator.  So I decided to try it.  Drying clothes in the basement I mean, not using more energy than a refrigerator.  Newsflash: dryers were invented for a reason.  Drying clothes on a line in your basement is a lot of work.  After a week of that, I was through.  Sorry, Mother Earth.

But the kids thought it was wonderful, and Claire insisted that we also start washing our clothes the old fashioned way.  I told her no.  We don't have a washboard, and it's hard on your clothes, not to mention your back and your sanity.  But she insisted that we must be good stewards of the earth, so I told her about something I saw on Law & Order once: a family washing their clothes in the bathtub with their feet.  She decided that would suffice.

They were having a little too much fun with the stomping part, so I made sure they helped with the wringing out part.  Even sore arms and fingers from squeezing out water didn't do the trick, so I finally told Claire that without using the washing machine, we wouldn't have time to do things like family history work, which is at least as important as being good stewards of the earth.  She seems okay with that.  Which is good.  I hope to never repeat washing clothes in the bathtub EVER again.  Only one load and I felt like my whole Saturday was down the drain.

Bottom line: don't read non-fiction.  Or if you do, don't tell your kids about what you're reading.  They're too easily radicalized.

Oscar Wilde Lives Again and The Wizard of Oz

Anne gave Jake a makeover last Saturday.  I think the photo speaks for itself.

Then she and I went to Portage Northern High School's production of The Wizard of Oz.  Damon and Claire decided not to go because the play went from 8-11 p.m.  They didn't want to stay up past their bedtime.  I'm  not kidding.  Claire routinely stays up until 11:00 and I pointed this out to her.  Still didn't think it was a good idea.  (She was awake when Anne and I got home, BTW.)

The show put me in culture shock.  I co-starred in my high school musical, and Portage Northern's production made my high school's production (not the Wizard of Oz.  I think it was an Indiana Jones spoof) look like a group of 5-yr-old's putting on a play in a garage.

Wait for i-i-i-i-i-i-t..............I don't think we're in Malad anymore, Toto.

If the costumes, set, and pyrotechnics cost less than $10,000 I'll eat Anne's ruby slippers (which of course she wore to the play).  And then the acting, the singing, the dancing, the live orchestra!!!!!  It might have rivaled Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera--it's hard to say, because I saw that a long time ago and I was so far from the stage I couldn't actually see it except for a few seconds when someone loaned me their binoculars.  At PNHS Anne and I were so close to Oz the Great and Powerful the blasts of fire almost singed our eyebrows.  Not really, but it was hot.  Thank you, Portage Northern, for a great time. 

Spy Games and Karma

Note: this blog entry is posted against my will

So, a week or two ago I tried introducing some stimulating conversation over dinner.

"I think we should go off the grid one of these days.  I called [friend in Logan, UT] a few days ago, and now I'm getting Logan ads on my e-mail.  Ad companies are spying on us," I said.

Damon said, "I thought only the government spied on us."

I said, "I guess everyone does."

Claire, strong advocate of precision in speech, asked, "Everyone?"

"Yes, everyone," I replied, suddenly remembering something I'd found in the basement that morning.  "Even my own kids.  I found a notebook today about you kids spying on me and Dad!" Unfortunately, I'd been running late for my institute class and hadn't read past the title ('Spying on Mom and Dad,' or something like that).  If I had, I never would have brought it up, and this whole disaster could have been avoided.

"Really?" asked Jake. "What's in the notebook?"

"Mom picking her nose!" announced Anne.

"WHAT?!" I said, as everyone practically rolled on the floor laughing.

"Yeah," said Damon.  "It says 'Mom feeding the baby, reading a book, and picking her nose.'" Doing all three at the same time suggests an impressive degree of dexterity, don't you think?  No?  You're just disgusted?  I don't blame you.

"Why were you spying on us?" Jake asked.

"So we could figure out the passcode to the ipad."

Jake was having the time of his life.  "You should put this on your blog."

"No," I said.  "The purpose of my blog is not to humiliate me."

"Why not?" said Damon.  "You embarrass us all the time on it."

Which lead to a long No I Don't/Yes You Do argument that only ended when I agreed to blog about me getting caught picking my nose.  There.  Are you happy, kids?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Is this normal?

 I've never seen a tongue like this.

On a baby, anyway.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Here's a video of Damon breaking at his Tae Kwon Do tournament last month:

He was disappointed in his forms and sparring performance, and doesn't want those videos posted.  He wouldn't even accept his forms medal because he felt he didn't earn it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mother of the Year

Oh, boy.  I just read one of the many newsletters the school sends home.  Today was picture day.  If only I'd read that newsletter before the kids went to school.  I would have had Claire turn her shirt around; it was on backwards.  And I would have had Damon comb his hair with something besides the pillow.  And maybe I would have had Anne wear something other than a "Peace" shirt. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Trek West: Part 2

I'm counting on my pioneer ancestors to have good senses of humor--I'd hate for them to read my last post and despise me for describing a cross-country trip in an air-conditioned minivan as something difficult.  Of course, they probably have better things to do than follow my blog, so I won't worry about it anymore.

Here's my grandma with Julia.  (These pics are all in Malad, ID.)

We got Claire baptized!  We've been worried about this day for about a year.  Claire's not into submersion.  But, my mom did her hair all cute, and then with the dress on (same one I wore when I was 8!) Claire was entranced.  Seriously.  She couldn't stop talking about how gorgeous she was and how excited she was for all the people at her baptism to see her looking like a beautiful princess.  Gulp.  I purposely invited almost no one because I didn't want her to feel too humiliated if she wasn't able to go through with it in the end.  But she did it!  Hyperventilated all the way into the font, but she did it!
 Sibs and cousins.

 All the Firth grandkids at the time, except Eli who had just barely been born in Pullman, WA.

The kids riding Yogi.

 My mom and Julia.
Random snippets:

The day after her baptism, Claire saw a necklace my mom was wearing and said.  "Uh-oh, I'm not perfect anymore.  I just coveted."  Anne liked the necklace, too, but they both coveted it less when they found out it wasn't a locket.  It just looked like one.  (Note to self: lockets would make good stocking stuffers this year.)

Anne, regarding the Cache Valley Mall play area:  "This place in permanent to my heart.  When can we move back to Logan?"  (If you're familiar with this particular play area, you might be surprised it could have such a hold on anyone.  I certainly was.)

Damon with BB gun in hand:  "Is it cruel to shoot grasshoppers while they're mating?"
Jake, in an aside to my dad: "Well, I know I wouldn't like it."
My dad: "All's fair in love and war."

At Family Home Evening Claire gave us lecture on healthy foods.  Special thanks to Justin, Lex, and Grandpa for the perpetual questions that stretched this lesson to a record 30 minutes.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Trek West: Prologue

You might be wondering how one survives two days (as in 12-14 hours each day) of driving with 4 children, one of whom is a newborn baby.

1.  The newborn is the easiest.  The car seat puts her to sleep.
2.  Make sure the older kids are addicted to computer screens (movies, games, etc.)
3.  In the months leading up to the trip, limit screen time to 2 hours per day, which they have to earn by doing housework.  Expect lots of whining and crying, but keep in mind the torture is worth it: once the trip begins, the addicts think they've died and gone to heaven with unlimited access to the laptop/iPad.  Just make sure there are enough screens to go around.
4.  You need to love something that you hardly ever get to do, but can be done while in the car in-between tossing snacks and DVDs to children (in my case, reading). 
5.  CRUCIAL: You need to hit a huge pothole during your turn driving so your spouse would prefer to do all the driving himself rather than let you take the wheel again.

If you are unable to meet those 5 requirements, do not attempt the journey.  Skype or bite the bullet and buy airplane tickets.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Trek West, Part One

 Grandma and Grandpa H's house, where we blessed Julia.

 Anne dictated who and what was in the above photo: she had to hold Julia in front of the cabinet that held treasures (she made Grandma H get them out for her more than once), and her cousin Ayda had the privilege of standing next to her.  Anne and Ayda really hit it off, though they had a hard time remembering each other's names.  Whenever Ayda lost track of Anne she'd wander around saying, "Where is my friend?"  When Anne lost Ayda she'd ask, "Do you know"

 Grandma H and Julia.

Anne with Mic (who left for the MTC in Mexico City two days after this picture) and Maycee.  Anne has a thing for older boys.  As in she falls in love with every cute one she meets, even her own cousin.  This worries me. 

Wish I had more pics of our time in southern Utah--we had a really great time.

Gotta get dinner on the table and head to the YW activity so I'll chat at ya later. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What the...

Why are random phrases in my posts suddenly underlined in red and linked to ads?  Is this a bizarre cyberattack on my blog?  Or is this just a manifestation of my computer ineptitude?  Does anyone else see this?  Has it happened to you?  How do I get rid of it?!

Monday, September 16, 2013

time travel

The kids went back to school the day after Labor Day.
Is Anne taller than Claire?  Probably, but I'm avoiding having that officially confirmed just yet.  I slip in comments once in a while about my Aunt Annette being younger than and taller than Grandma Becca, my brother Justin being taller than and younger than Lex, and Lynsey being just as tall as me but 4 years younger--trying to brace Claire for the inevitable, while not making a big deal out of her doctor appointments to have her growth (or lack thereof) checked.

A few days prior we were winding up our road trip out West.  On our way home we stopped in Nauvoo, Illinois.

The temple was rebuilt to be as close to the original in size and location as possible.  I can't get over how the early Saints built the original in only a few years, continuing to work on it even as they prepared to leave.
 Here's a replica of a ferry the Saints would have taken to cross the Mississippi River during the exodus.  Poor Julia looks like she is dying of heat exhaustion.  It was crazy hot and humid while we were there.
 Kids in front of Joseph and Hyrum statues in front of the temple.

 Random family at the Mississippi River where the Saints began their exodus, starting February of 1846.
 Here's Carthage Jail, where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed.

I'm so glad Jake wanted to see Nauvoo.  I didn't think we'd be able to handle it (looooong road trip+new baby=frazzled exhausted parents who need to go home), but now I'm so glad we went. Those early Saints were extraordinary, and the senior missionary couples who run the site are wonderful.  I left feeling spiritually uplifted, which is peculiar if you think about it--it would be natural to feel bitter and angry about how the Saints were forced to leave in the middle of winter.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars.  Be sure to go if you ever get the chance. Oh, and did I mention everything (and there's a lot) run by the LDS Church is free?  The Community of Christ Church also gives tours, and I think they only charge a few dollars, but we were pressed for time and are all about free, so we didn't do that.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow (or the next day) as we continue our journey backwards through time and show pictures of our stay in Utah and Idaho!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary

One of my friends taught me the "Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary?" test at a YW's presidency meeting a while ago when we were trying to get the YW to say nicer things to each other.  For months I've been trying with little (maybe no) success to get my kids to apply the test to the things they say.  Take this morning for example.

"Mom," says Anne at the breakfast table, "I don't like the way you look."

This came as a surprise.  I had some make-up on and was wearing church clothes that, according to the magic mirror on my bathroom wall, made me look 10 lbs lighter.  Ah, I remembered, my hair.

"Well, I haven't done my hair yet.  I'll look better when my hair's done."

"No," said Anne.  "I don't like your shirt."

Hmmm.  OK.  Well, I'm nursing and not quite back to my pre-pregnancy size, so my options are limited.  But I'd brought up my hair.  Big mistake.  My hair is Claire's pet peeve and she jumped right in.

"You need to grow your hair so it's long and curly instead of short and ugly."

Sheesh.  It's a good thing I was born with an extraordinary amount of self-esteem.  But maybe not everyone Claire comes into contact with was, so I started the lecture I've repeated at least 20 times in the past year:  "Just because you think" (heavy emphasis on 'you think') "something is true, you shouldn't say it if it isn't kind or necessary." 

Some day the lesson will sink in, right?  Otherwise, Heaven help the people my girls tell the truth to.

Friday, September 13, 2013

What Love Is

"Good night, Claire.  I love you."

"Good night, Mom.  I do love you, too, but here's what I think about love and the members of my family.  I don't feel my love for them, but I do like to have them around and I want them to live as long as I do.  I don't want any of them to die while they're kids or anything."

Good enough.  We'll take it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

good baby

Guess who slept through the night last night!  9:45 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., and she would have slept longer except my shirt was soaked and I needed to relieve some pressure.  Hurray for Julia!  Please don't make this a one-time thing, sweetheart. 

 Julia at 6 a.m. this morning.  My photography skills are sick.  (I gather from my hip nephew Mic and from Sunday's Doonesbury comic [I don't like Doonesbury.  Why is it in the funnies and not the opinion page?  And why can I not stop myself from reading it?  But last Sunday it was actually funny without being totally left-wing.  No offense if you're a left-winger.  You probably didn't like Mike Royko when he was alive, but I don't hold it against you.  Anyhow, moving on...] that 'sick' means awesome.  The traditional definition might apply better here, but I wanted to display my knowledge of cool person slang.)

Monday, July 29, 2013

piano recital

I have the hardest time uploading/downloading/whatevering videos to my blog.  Click here to see Damon performing at the piano recital, and to see Anne sticking her face in front of the camera.  Click here to see Claire.  I missed her millisecond bow at the end.  You'll have to take my word for it that it was cute.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

baby pictures

Note: you should probably get everyone pedicures before having a foot picture taken.  But I really wanted one.  It's too bad the only one with presentable feet (Claire) has her feet buried by everyone else's.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Julia Charlotte

She finally came last week, 34 hours before my mom and sister had to go back to Idaho.

I went into labor at 5 p.m., and she was born at 11:33 p.m.  I decided not to get an epidural, so it was painful.  But, I had a really great nurse who got me heat packs and an exercise ball shaped like a peanut.  Those were helpful.

When things got really bad, she suggested a hot bath--that was fantastic (not epidural fantastic, of course.  Don't let your imagination go wild thinking hot baths are a natural cure to women's suffering.). Sorry, no picture.  I know you all must be dying to see a naked pregnant lady in a tub.  My friends in MA who do water-birthing are on to something.  The pain relief was incredible.  I should have ignored the nurse when she said I needed to get out when I started feeling pressure.  Things would have been more pleasant if Julia had been born in the bathtub.  The doctor would have gotten wet, but maybe he wouldn't have had to endure my sobbing and telling him to "just give me an episiotomy and take her out!"  But, we all survived, so it doesn't matter now.  Holding her has made me forget the misery all ready.  There's a scripture about that, but I'm too tired to look it up now.  Here she is: 7 lbs, 7.8 ounces, 19.88 inches long.

Damon, Claire, and Anne love her and love holding her.  They can't bear to hear her cry, so she may never learn to go to sleep on her own or how to sleep through the night.

Damon was very disappointed by her name.  He wanted her to be Nicki, and even though Jake and I told him repeatedly during the past month that would not be her name, he was not prepared for the final blow.  I was surprised and relieved Claire accepted her name so graciously--she wanted a name that started with B, like Barbara or Bobbie, and Claire doesn't usually let go of her ideas.  She's been content to give her an additional middle name: Julia Isabella Charlotte.  Just having a baby sister must have fulfilled all her expectations.  Lynsey says that before she and my mom brought the kids to the hospital, Claire dug a baby doll out of the toy box saying, "I must practice holding a baby."  And that's what she did. 

I've managed to mortify Damon and Anne by nursing Julia in public.  Claire has a Bug Science class in downtown Kalamazoo this week.  It's a 20 minute drive, and by the time we get there, it's always time to feed Julia.  I told Damon he was nursed on the Eiffel Tower in front of 100 people [I didn't count, but it was really crowded up there], and he and Anne needed to get over it, which they have.  Mostly.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Viewer Discretion Is Advised

No, I'm not posting graphic photos from the delivery room.  1. I still haven't had a baby.  2. I don't believe in pictures during delivery.

However, below are some some photos that might disturb you if you are the type who has been pregnant, looked rather large at the time, and has a habit of making unfair comparisons.

But, if you have never been pregnant...

Or if you have been but you were so cool and/or appreciative of the privilege of carrying a child that you didn't care about how big you got and how big other ladies didn't get...

Or if you are one of those few people, like my sister pictured below, who might be 7 1/2 pregnant but looks more like she ate too much for breakfast...

Then go ahead and look.  But I warned you.  (I'd warn you about the unphotogenic-ness you're about to experience, but you're probably used to it by now if you're a regular.)

Here's the amazing thing: my baby is measuring 3 weeks small.  Her baby is measure a week big!!  That doesn't make sense to me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Still no baby.  She's due the 15th, but the other kids were 5-7 days early, so she feels late.

New topic.  Claire has a hard time going to sleep at night, which is common for kids with Asperger's.  If I don't give her melatonin, she almost never falls asleep before 11 PM, even if she was up by 7:15 AM, had plenty of exercise during the day, and has been in her bed with the lights off since 8:30 or 9.  Her pediatrician says melatonin is safe, but have any studies been done on children to prove it is? says not.  But what's worse?  Not getting enough sleep, or taking less than half a mg of melatonin 5-7 days a week?  I wish someone would find out and tell me.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Little Lottie in utero

Sadly, her name will not be Lottie.  Lottie is my first choice, but Jake says we can't because of some Austin Powers character.  (Note: if Jake has a weakness, it's James Bond and Austin Powers.)

Wow, cameras hate me.  I wish I were less lazy.  I'd figure out a way to crop out my head.  I have magic mirrors in my house that make me think I'm a hot babe until I see a picture of myself.  Which is why I almost never look at or post pictures of myself.  But, inquiring minds (the 5 people who follow my blog) want to see how I look, so I must oblige.

Here's a picture Jake took for his own amusement.  I'll post it for yours, too.  Now I know why people stare and make comments about how soon the baby will be here whenever I'm sitting down.
Gah!  That hair!!  Cutting it myself+Michigan humidity=not working out.  But my old stylist's replacement is not any better than I am.  Help!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

the arts and freedom of thought

I went with Anne on the kindergarten field trip yesterday to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.  The kids had to sit around this masterpiece

Peter Voulkos, Yellow Stone Saga
for 10 minutes (it seemed like an hour) while a KIA lady pumped them for their thoughts and feelings regarding it.

"I think it's stupid," said one little boy. 

Wow, did the KIA lady shut him down fast.  "No, the artist worked on this for a really long time," [THREE YEARS! I'm pretty sure most people could have thrown that thing together in three days or less.] "and we need to" blah blah blah.  Something about admiring and respecting his work. 

I feel bad that I didn't pull that little boy aside and tell him I think it's stupid, too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Yellow Submarine

If you want to live a life of leis(ure) like I do, check this out:  Meet Mister Money Mustache. 
[Jake thinks I already lead a life of leisure, but it would be more leisurely if he were retired and helping with cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc.]

Are you converted?  I think I am.  I'm cancelling my next hair appointment right now (she never does that great a job anyway, but I will miss her scalp and shoulder massages).  However, if you know us, you know what cheapskates we are...the only other fat we have to cut are Netflix, piano lessons and other kid stuff.  I don't want to axe those.  And don't suggest I start couponing.  I refuse to do that.  Just the thought of it makes me want to die of tedium.  Is Mister Money Mustache's lifestyle only possible if you have one kid with no extracurricular activities except making his own toys, I wonder?  Hmmm. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Chicago: the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and Art Institute

A word to the wise: get your Shedd Aquarium tickets in advance online, and don't go on a weekend during spring break.  That place was a madhouse, and the hour-long wait in line to buy tickets wasn't fun.

Beluga whale
Jelly fish.  The sawfish and puff fish were our favorites, but they wouldn't pose for a picture.
photo op before walking to the Field Museum
At the Field Museum with Sue, the world's most complete T-Rex skeleton.
This was our happiest time in the Field Museum.  I'd gotten the kids all excited to see the mummies after Sue, only to discover that the faux-tomb atmosphere terrified Claire and the exposed parts of some of the mummies (toes, foreheads) disgusted Anne.  Claire made a recovery in the stuffed animal ("taxidermy" stuffed, not "toy" stuffed) exhibit, but Anne never stopped begging to go to the hotel until we got to the hotel.

The next day started off so well with an unexpected free breakfast at the hotel, and a walk through Millennium Park (see previous post.) 

The kids at the giant silver bean that is supposed to be a cloud.

 Then things went downhill a little at the art institute.  Have you ever seen a Jackson Pollock painting?  Have you ever touched one?  We hadn't been there five minutes when, to the horror of Jake, myself, and the two security guards, Anne PUT HER HAND on this one:

Greyed Rainbow

I wouldn't pay $10 for it, but I guess it's kind of priceless.  Luckily no harm was done, and we went on our way.

The kids' favorite part of the Art Institute (where Damon stopped complaining about how bored he was for five minutes) was the Thorne Miniature room, where they had 68 dollhouse-size recreations of European and American living spaces:

It might have been my favorite part, too.

Jake and I took turns going through the special Picasso exhibit, since the kids had had enough by this point.  (Warning: if you haven't figured it out all ready, you're about to discover how unsophisticated I am.)

Can someone tell me why, if you were capable of doing this:

you would start doing things like this:

and people would think you were greater than ever?  That monstrosity is supposed to be a woman from the shoulders up.  It looks like the work of a demented child.  I know--I'm so banal and such a boor.  The Jackson Pollocks and Pablo Picassos of the world and how much people love them will always mystify me. 

Then we took a subway to the top of the Magnificent Mile

The Water Tower, practically the only building to survive the Great Fire of 1871.

and walked back to the parking garage where our van was, and we headed back home.  Overall, Jake and I loved Chicago and would love to go back.

 The kids want to stay in a hotel again.  And feed pigeons.