Friday, January 24, 2014

before and after

I forgot to get a good 'before' picture of this room.  Here's the best I could find:

And the nasty sister of the vertical blinds you see on the left (above) is still in the kitchen (below), so you can use your imagination to recreate the ugliness we used to live with in the family room.  They're even uglier in real life.

But now look:
Grrr.  My camera is making the before look better than it was and is not doing justice to the after.  Plus look at that chair--in real life it matches the sofa.  What's going on here?  I'll have to take another picture during the day.  Because the problem is the camera's flash and the fact that it's night, not my photography skills.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Deodorant Experiments

Attempt #1. Coconut Oil, baking soda, corn starch
Pros: easy to make
Cons: has to be kept in the fridge, B.O. by dinner time, greasy stains on clothes

Attempt #2. Coconut Oil, baking soda, bentonite clay, beeswax, 1 drop of peppermint oil (only essential oil I had on hand)
Pros: Less B.O., but still not as good as Secret. Doesn't have to be kept in the fridge.
Cons: beeswax + peppermint oil = weird smell; bentonite clay turned green and has permanently stained some of my clothes.

3. Coconut oil, Shea butter, beeswax, baking soda, vanilla extract
Pros: not green, works better than #1, but not as well as #2.  Essential oil must be important.
Cons: stains my clothes yellow, smelled like sugar cookie dough for a few days (bad because I'm trying not to eat cookies and this makes me want to eat cookies), now is smelling more and more like Shea butter (blech)--the vanilla extract must be wearing off.

4. Haven't tried this yet--I'm waiting for my lavender oil to arrive.  Maybe it will help me smell good and develop a buxom bust, like it did for those boys in Colorado: coconut oil, beeswax, baking soda, lavender oil.  If that doesn't work, I quit.  I'm going back to the real deal.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

a white gal's perspective

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
         ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future.
        ~Jeffry R. Holland
A few weeks ago, while Claire was at her Simply the Best program (where she works on gross motor skills like throwing, riding a bike, etc.), I drove with Anne and Julia over to the mall to pick up some curtain rods I'd ordered. 
To get to the pick-up area I had to drive through a group of 5-7 teenage boys who looked like they were up to no good.  I made a point to make eye contact and smile at the ones who had to step out of the way so I could drive past.  (I have this theory that if you smile and make eye contact with people, they'll be less likely to rob you or beat you up--you know, assert your humanity and remind them of theirs.  If this is a bad theory, please let me know before I get myself killed.)
I parked the car and was about to get the girls out, when two of those boys, now about 20 yards away, started punching each other.  One kid threw the other down on the snow-packed parking lot and was kicking him in the stomach.  Naturally, there's only one thing a mother can do in a situation like this.  Start yelling.
They stopped, but then the one who had been winning the fight started calling the other one the n-word.  This startled me because the good fighter looked like he was part black, and the not-so-good-fighter was definitely white.  I live in a bubble and my experience with the n-word is limited to
*novels like Huckleberry Finn and Roots
*the overpass in my hometown where the high school's two white supremacists spray-painted it in an attempt to intimidate the town's one black man, who never seemed to get intimidated 
*the movie Rush Hour.

According to Ocean's Eleven, the good fighter should have been calling the other kid 'cracker,' rather than the n-word.  Obviously he was very angry.  My guess is he was throwing out the ugliest word he could think of.  But I don't know.  Unlike Paula Dean, I grew up in the 80s and 90s where that word was not used by decent, educated people.
Startled or not, more yelling was required.  "KNOCK IT OFF!  THAT'S ENOUGH!  KNOCK IT OFF!"  And the boys went inside, where they could call each other (and me, probably) ugly names in peace.
My question isn't 'What is the correct way to use the n-word?'  We all know is should be left in the ash heap of history.  Nor am I asking 'Why do boys so often resort to violence while their friends stand by and watch?'  Rather, I want know 1. Why did none of those kids have coats on?  It was 20 degrees outside and  2.  Why, at 5:15 on a school night were those boys not at home doing homework, or at their after-school job, or participating in some positive extra-curricular activity?  I have to think that MLK Jr. assumed that in the future, children, regardless of color, would be developing worthwhile characters.  I'm not sure those boys are, and I blame their parents.  I'd like to take them by the shoulders, shake them, and yell (because I'm good at that), "You are raising human beings!  It's important!  Give them something better to do than beat each other up on a school night in freezing weather!" 
I'll have to add those boys to my nightly prayers.  Maybe you should, too.  I'm sure their Heavenly Parents will help them if their earthly parents won't.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

natural shmatural

I dedicate this post to Patti, my BYU Stats professor.  Most useful class I ever took.

The more I read about all natural deodorant and lotion, the more I become disenchanted.  Take the aluminum thing in deod.  First of all, the study that suggested a link between aluminum and Alzheimer's showed a 1% correlation.  Not exactly staggering or convincing.  Secondly, a lot of all-natural peeps use bentonite or kaolin clay to make their deod.  Guess what one of the main components of those clays is?  Aluminum.  Wellness Mama calls commercial deodorant and lotion "cancer in a tube," but she drinks bentonite clay mixed with water, uses a bentonite face mask twice a week (I really like the mask thing, BTW--makes my skin feel great), and uses the clay as a medicine on scrapes.  Aluminum from a lab is dangerous, but aluminum from a volcano is healthful?  Come on.  My guess: neither one is going to kill you, or rob you of your mental capacity.

On to parabens in lotion.  Parabens are preservatives.  They've been used for 70 years.  One poorly done study found paraben in 18 out of 20 breast cancer tumors.  Either the doctor had no studies done on healthy people, or she left those findings out of her report because they didn't support her assertion that parabens might be causing breast cancer.  Numerous studies have been done since, none showing that parabens cause cancer.  News flash: doctors really do want to find causes of and cures for cancer.  When they find one, I can guarantee that lotion manufacturers aren't going to use the carcinogen in their product anymore (if it was ever there to begin with).

Just because it grows on God's green earth doesn't mean it's good for you.  Take hemlock and tobacco for example.  All-natural doesn't mean free from side effects, either.  Lavender oil and tea tree oil can cause adolescent boys to develop breasts.  Tea tree oil is toxic to children and animals.  One boy drank some by mistake and it put him in a coma.

I refuse to panic anymore, folks.

I hate unsubstantiated rumors.  I hate that I get drawn in by them.  It's annoying and expensive at best, dangerous at worst.  Take Andrew Wakefield and his assertion that MMR vaccines cause autism.  His unethical (taking blood samples from kids at his son's birthday party!) and fraudulent (some of the autistic children in his study exhibited autistic traits before they were given the vaccine--he failed to mention that) study caused me to be afraid of vaccines for a while after Claire was diagnosed with Asperger's.  When you're scared and desperate, you grasp at straws and you tend to believe anything.  And I was so busy setting up a therapy program, I had no time to research what was true and what was false, and for some reason, fiction is everywhere and truth is often buried beneath the rubbish.  Luckily, Julia wasn't born then.  If she had been, I might not have had her immunized.  And then she might have gotten measles or died from whooping cough or meningitis. 

Fact: vaccines prevent disease and save lives.  Fact: as of right now, no one knows what causes autism.  The one thing they've been able to rule out is the MMR vaccine.

I am descending from my soap box now.

Anyway, I'm still using my all-natural homemade stuff for now.  It's fun to make, and I spent a pretty penny on the supplies, so you better believe I'm going to use it up.  Still haven't found a deodorant that works as well as the commercial stuff, but I haven't given up hope yet.  If you decide to go that route, I suggest you do it for the fun of it, not because it's going to make you live longer.  Or smell better.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


We've just had 4 days of no church, no school, and no YW/Scouts/Activity Days thanks to the weather!  It's been nice.  For most of us, anyway.  Last night when I told the kids there would be school in the morning Anne said, "Good.  I'm sick of this."

Our schedule will continue to be lighter moving forward because Damon is taking a break from Tae Kwon Do until school is out.  It makes me and Jake sad, but Damon says he's too stressed out with homework, piano, and Scouts.

In other news, I feel like I've given the impression that we're a bunch of potty mouths in this house.  That's not the case.  After Anne put together her four-letter-word shown in the previous post, she sounded it out and said, "What does that mean?"  Then Claire came in, sounded it out, and asked the same question.

At a party recently, Anne and a friend were playing a game where you read hypothetical questions off of cards.  The friend read to Anne,  "Would you rather have 4 nostrils or 2 b***cracks?"  Claire overheard and asked, "What's a b***crack?"  We don't use the b-word in our house--we say 'bum' or 'bottom.'  (BTW, who came up with such a vulgar game?  Did these people not have mothers?)

So, realizing that it might be a good idea to make my girls less innocent before they went back to school and embarrassed themselves by asking questions that would seem odd to most kids, I decided to teach them a few things, such as the meaning of certain words that we don't use in our house.  We also discussed reproduction a little bit, and how that's not an appropriate topic for school.

"Oh, you mean S-E-X that some kids at school were talking about one day?" asked Claire.

Yes, Claire.  Clearly your mother was in idiot to wait until you were in 2nd grade to have this discussion.  Sometimes I hate public school and the parents who send their kids there.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Christmas Gifts from the Grandparents (PG rated post)

The kids spent their Christmas money from Grandma and Grandpa H. on Fannie May chocolates.

Grandma and Grandpa F. gave them a game with lettered dice you roll and see how many words you can make. (I'm pretty sure they played this game in Jane Austen's Emma, FYI.  Frank Churchill spelled "blunder".)  Here's Anne's first effort:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

So this is Christmas (Eve)

I made a critical error this year.  Seized by a sudden need for extreme frugality, I decided to make the gingerbread dough for the kids' gingerbread houses out of expired flour and shortening from our food storage.  Why not put it to use rather than throwing it all away?  The kids like building gingerbread houses, but I've never really seen them eat the houses.  This was going to be great!  And so frugal!  And stinky.  Rancid flour and shortening smell bad, folks.  I had to use extra allspice to cover the stench.  But it baked up beautifully.  Reminds me of that episode of Downton Abbey where the Machiavellian footman spends all his savings on phony black market goods.  Anyway, as I was rolling out walls and rooftops Anne tried to sneak some dough.  We generally eat raw cookie dough in this house.  If we die prematurely, the cause will be salmonella poisoning.

"Sorry kids, you can't eat this.  I made it from spoiled flour and shortening."  Damon and Anne were disappointed.  Claire was devastated.

Over the course of the day, she sobbed things like, "I'm going to eat mine anyway.  I don't care if it tastes bad!  Why did you make gingerbread we can't eat!  The gingerbread houses are ruined!  I don't even want to make gingerbread houses now! I'm never going to make gingerbread houses again! I'm going to make mine hideous on purpose.  Why did you make it bad!  Now it's ruined!"  It went on and on, interspersed with tears of rage.

This was bad timing.  We had a party to go to that night at Bliss and Showered Gingham's (names have been changed to protect privacy).  I needed to make an ├ęclair cake and chicken noodle soup, make sure everyone had their white elephant gift wrapped and ready, make royal icing, and oversee the gingerbread house construction.  To top it all off, I had my own (hormone-induced) rage to contend with.

Stress makes me cranky.  But hormones being out of whack + stress makes me a teetotal witch.  I start caring what people think of me, and I'm convinced they're not thinking good things.  I started thinking, "My mom would have had everything done last night, and her house would be clean.  We would all be having a wonderful time if I could be as disciplined and talented as my mother, but I'm not!  I'm a failure!  I'll never be as great as my mom!  It's going to be the worst Christmas ever! AAAAAAAGH!" (Normal Me also knows I'll never be as great as my mom but is not bothered by it.  Mom is fantastic, but she and Dad raised me to believe I'm flippin' awesome, so it must be true, even if Mom can do more in a day than I can do in a week.) 

So, on top of Claire's crying, we had my not-so-nice comments to deal with. "WHO GOT FROSTING ON THE FLOOR?  ANNE!!  YOU ARE 6 YEARS OLD!  WHY ARE YOU GETTING FROSTING EVERYWHERE?!"  That sounds ridiculous now, but at the time, it seemed like an incomprehensible outrage that a 6-yr-old would get icing all over while building a gingerbread house.  Then (when the kids were out of earshot) Jake asked what he could do to help.  "I don't know!  I just want to scream the F-word over and over again."  He suggested that I go somewhere and do that, but I didn't.  I knew from past experience it wouldn't help.

While I nursed Julia I tried to reason with myself.  "You have four healthy, beautiful children who are all alive and with you.  You have a good husband whom you love.  No one is going to care if your chicken noodle soup is disgusting because there will be plenty of other good food there, including your ├ęclair cake. Why can't you just be happy?"  Then some wise counsel about forgetting myself and serving others came to mind, which put me in an even worse mood, because I'd done nothing but serve others all day long.  GRRRRRR.

Whew, this is a long blog.  To wrap things up: we made it to the party, Claire and I both cheered up, we came home, and had a Merry Christmas the next day.

Conclusions: 1. Only make edible gingerbread houses.
2. Good food and pleasant company can do wonders for your mood.
3. Give good white elephant gifts more often (unless all guests are like Claire: she thought the roll of toilet paper she got was great).  The live goldfish given by one family made them extremely popular.  The Lady Godiva Chocolates box filled with carrot and celery sticks made us very unpopular.  Compounded with the unforgotten M&M bag filled with pinto beans that Jake gave last year, we may never be invited the Gingham's party again.

Quote of the Day

Claire: When I grow up, I have to have kids.

Me: I hope you do, Claire.  But not everyone gets to, so...

Claire: I have to!  The lifecycle has to go on!