Monday, January 31, 2011

Purging and Running and Purging

Does the title of this post make me sound bulimic? Well, I'm obviously not (although if you've seen me pound cookies as I did last week, you might wonder). But that's what I was up to in January.

We lost a good week of the month to the flu, with all 5 of us having it at one time. It was horrific. Really. The sickest I can remember being since I had the chicken pox. I will spare you the details. So, that was the first round of purging.

I also spent the month trying to train for the London's Run Half-Marathon. I've wanted to run it for a while, but 3 years ago, I threw my back out, then I was pregnant, then I was sleep-deprived and nursing a 6-month-old. This year I was a little late in the game when it came to training. Due to our Christmas travels and bad weather in both places, I didn't run for almost 3 weeks and my usual running distance was 4-5 miles. But I decided to give it a shot. Then I got the stomach flu and laryngitis, but I managed to do 3 long runs and to kick up my speed on my 6 miles. I didn't have a running partner, which made the running really, really hard for me because, let's face it, running is really not that fun. And running 7-8 miles on the treadmill almost made me slit my wrists from boredom. The good thing about the boredom of it is that I wanted to finish faster, so I finally kicked my 10-min mile pace up to a 8-9 min-mile pace, especially on the shorter runs.

The race was last Saturday, and it was really fun! I was just planning on taking it easy since I hadn't trained well, and I really enjoyed the run. It was all dirt roads, which was nice, and I didn't push myself, so I didn't end feeling sick, like I have before. I ended feeling like I could actually run farther, which probably means that I should have pushed myself more. But it was a really good, empowering feeling to end feeling strong. And I made it under 2 hours--just barely! It was also so fun to have J and the kids waiting at the finish line. I have no pic other than the one Sports Shots took here. Not so flattering, eh?

And, to the last "purging" from the title. I have been determined to purge my home of all of the excess we've accumulated in the 6 years we've lived here. So, I've slowly been cleaning out the kitchen cupboards (sometimes it takes me a couple days to clean just 1 out seeing as how H takes it upon himself to "clean out" at least 4-5 while I am cleaning one), closets, files, and soon, the toys. I have to admit that I'm not so good at purging. I'm a sentimental, loyal person, which is all good when it comes to friendship but not so great when it comes to organization. But here's the lone visual I've taken so far in the purging process. I went through all of my files related to my dissertation, determined to get all of that paper under control. I ended up organizing all of the articles and my notes, but tossing this stack--all of the drafts of my dissertation chapters. It represents so much hard work that it's hard to just throw it in the recycling bin. But the process did remind me that I need to get to work on publishing some of this hard work. You know, assuming I can get through the purging and organize my life and my home again.

January poem of the month

This month's poem is "For the Sleepwalkers," by Edward Hirsch. I love this poem. I memorized it in college because I love the imagery--the feeling that the words and images together invoke (to know it is morning by feeling the shadows, for example). and I love the message (or the message I took from it anyway). To me, Hirsch is saying that we have to have more faith in life--more faith in God, more faith to follow that invisible arrow leading us to choices that we feel in our hearts are right, more faith in ourselves, in our legs, to take that next step, to make that change, to do what we think we might not be able to do. I love the idea that our hearts, were they independent of our bodies, would soak up everything good that they could and would close around those things tightly and bring them back to our bodies to experience. I like the description of faith as "desperate," because sometimes it really is. And I like Hirsch's ending thought--that taking a risk, that holding onto that faith so desperately and acting on it, has nourishing and surprising rewards, one of which is that we "wake up" to who we really are, we wake up to ourselves.

For the Sleepwalkers

Tonight I want to say something wonderful
for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
in their legs, so much faith in the invisible

arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path
that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.

I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing
to step out of their bodies into the night,
to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,

palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
Always they return home safely, like blind men
who know it is morning by feeling shadows.

And always they wake up as themselves again.
That's why I want to say something astonishing
like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.

Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs
flying through the trees at night, soaking up
the darkest beams of moonlight, the music

of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.
And now our hearts are thick black fists
flying back to the glove of our chests.

We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
walkers who rise out of their calm beds

and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.

Edward Hirsch

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cooking for myself

Catering to one's own desires when deciding what to cook the family for dinner is not for the timid of heart.

Case in point: Tonight, or today, rather, because it is an all-day affair, I cooked my Grandpa's Chili with cornbread for dinner. I love this chili. It's not a spicy chili--it's more savory. And it stirs up all kinds of memories for me--memories of pulling into my grandma and grandpa's snowy Idaho driveway in the dark and walking into the warm kitchen, with warm arms to greet me and warm chili to fill my stomach. But none of the other 4 people who live in this house with me have these memories and none of them seem to like this chili. But I had a ham bone and I wanted to make this chili. So, I labored over my chili, called the troops to dinner, and I tried to focus on the smell and the taste of it and ignore these comments/actions:

Mister: "Oh no! Chili! With tomatoes! Mom, will you pick out all of my tomatoes?"
Me: "Nope. You can do it yourself. There's not that many."
Mister wails with despair.

Sweetie and Mister: start fighting over which piece of cornbread they get--both want the middle piece. In the meantime, J takes the middle piece, so they start fighting over who gets the piece on the blue plate instead of the green plate. With all of the fighting, H realizes that he does not actually have cornbread and he starts to shriek.

Me: "H, you can't have the cornbread. It's got eggs in it and you're allergic. Sorry, buddy." More crying until I leave my own quickly cooling cornbread and chili to make H a toasted English muffin with butter and jelly.
J: "Cornbread? This is corn cake, that's what. It doesn't even look like bread." And he leaves most of the desired-middle-piece sitting on his plate to throw away.
Sweetie: "I want an English muffin!!!"
J: "I need to add more chili powder to this."

On the 3rd spoonful of chili that I try to maneuver into H's mouth, he decides he will join the ranks of the chili-despisers. He throws his milk, his spoon, and tries to throw his chili, but every once and a while, I'm actually quick enough to stave off that particular disaster. Thank heavens. H begins shaking his head "no" so fast and furious that I am afraid he will give himself whiplash or shaken-1-year-old syndrome, so I give up the chili-feeding efforts and replace them with yogurt and pears. In the meantime, J leaves me to issue threats about what will happen should the little people not each their chili while he goes to make some calls for church.

Mister: "Can I be done?"
Me, looking at his untouched chili: "Nope. Eat your dinner."
Loud sighs.
Sweetie: "I want an English muffin!!!"
Me: "No. I made you chili and cornbread. I'm not making you anything else."

And so on. And so forth. So, I don't know if the whole cooking-for-myself thing is actually worth it. Especially because I ended up eating 2 full bowls and 2 pieces of cornbread and now I feel completely stuffed. But in case you want to give the cooking-for-yourself thing a try, here's my Grandpa's Chili. Don't believe the 4 other people I live with. It truly is amazing chili. Try it and find out (or just come by--I have a whole stockpot waiting!)

Grandpa's Chili
1 qt red beans. Put in stock pot, bring to a boil, take off the heat, sit overnight, drain and refill in the morning. Put on to simmer with:
2 Tbsp giner
2 (14 oz each) cans chili con carne
smoked pork shank--wash and drop in whole (I use the leftover ham bone or sometimes a package of bacon)
1 large onion, chopped
2 heaping spoonfuls of spiced, minced garlic
4 lbs hamburger, browned (I don't use quite this much)

Take the pork shank out after 3 hours. You can cut up the meat and put it back in if you want.
After 4 hours, sprinkle a lot of chili power (to taste), and add:
2 c ketchup
1 pt tomatoes or tomato soup
2/3 c brown sugar (to taste)
cube of butter (I don't add this one--Grandpa, what were you thinking?!)
After you add the ketchup/tomatoes, watch it because it will burn easily.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who's that new little boy tearing through my house?

Why, it's H! All sheared and shorn. We cut his hair off a couple of weeks ago after getting back from Utah. And suddenly he's a boy and not a baby anymore. And now that his hair is gone, you can see all of his bumps from falling after his climbs. And you can better see the little mischievous flash in his eyes.

He was sporting some pretty odd do's in the process of the cut.
At first he thought this hair cut thing was great. Then he got a little tired of the restrictions.
Moving from babyhood to boyhood is a little sobering, isn't it, H?

Christmas card 2010

I totally copied this idea from my friend Courtney. Here's this year's Christmas card/letter for those of you who didn't get it in the mail (some got returned, some I forgot the postage--go figure).

Front of the postcard:
Back of the postcard:
The Naughty List

J: Spends too much time away from home.

Me: Spends too much time on the computer.

Mister (7): Eats so many sweets that he’s had multiple root canals, cavities, and a pulled tooth this year. Throws his football in the house too much.

Sweetie (5): Bosses her older brother and smothers her younger brother.

H (17 months): Has an affinity for climbing and for waking up before 6am. Tackles, pokes, pushes, and hits other kids.

The Nice List

J: When he’s away, he’s working hard (still for Bank of America), serving as a member of the bishopric in our church, and squeezing in some time for sports, mainly playing golf and watching BYU football/basketball.

Me: Spends that computer time writing/editing for, responding to student emails and creating lesson plans for the persuasive writing class I started teaching at ASU, and trying to update my blog (

Mister: Sweets for the sweet, since Mister is a kind and obedient boy. His football-throwing habits can be attributed to his love of sports and to his first year playing flag football.

Sweetie: Took her in-charge approach to life to the soccer field to become a star player for the Pink Scorpions. Thriving in kindergarten. Memorized everyone’s phone numbers in her class so we can call them at will.

H: Is an avid teeth brusher, due to the extra time he spends sitting in the sink after scaling the toilets/cabinets to get there. Has perfected his “shhh” to use when everyone else is sleeping. Gives SO many loves and kisses, and finds the world around him amazing: “WHOA!!” is his favorite word.

Christmas traveling, phase 3

The day after Christmas, we made the l.o.n.g. trek to Utah. I am still trying to forget that drive. The morning we were supposed to come home, J woke up with an inner ear virus that made it impossible for him to get out of bed--extreme nausea. So we waited until 1:30, doped him up with lots of drugs, and took off to see how far we would make it. We ended up just going and going until, at 1am, we pulled into our driveway and our cold, cold home (it had been highs in the 40s while we were gone and lows in the 20s, and because that is unheard of in the desert, we turned our heat off while we were gone.)

But I digress. Let's focus on all of the fun times we had while in Utah. We played in the snow (and apparently, from this first photo, Mister ate a bit of it). We played first, at Grandma's house, then went sledding (at 17 degrees). Even H went down the hill. Grandpa was our faithful ride up the big hill. And, no jumps, like last time.

We exchanged gifts. The boys all got nerf bow and arrows from Grandma and Grandpa and the girls all got Cabbage Patch Kids. The kids also made a few mean forts in the basement while the adults exchanged gifts.
And, we went bowling (while H went on some nice horse-back rides around the bowling alley) and to the Hansen Planetarium (no pics on the last one--I had a crazed 1-year-old to chase).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Christmas traveling, phase 2

Phase 2 of the Christmas break was my favorite: HOME! We traveled back home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (and to unpack, do the laundry, and pack it back up again).

Our traditional Christmas Eve candlelight dinner.

Acting out the Nativity


Then we went for a nice bike ride, with H testing out my new bike carrier:

Christmas Traveling, part 1

36 hours in the car over the space of 15 days. That was Christmas for us this year. And it will never happen again. It was miserable. (The traveling part, anyway, the visiting part was fun!)

So, phase 1 of Christmas traveling: California. The weekend before Christmas, we headed to sunny California. Wait. Sunny California was not so sunny. It never stopped raining. This was a problem given busy boy H who desperately needed a place to run and play. Thankfully, he did not unwrap all of Grandma's wrapped presents (like he did at our house). Nor did he take too many ornaments off the trees. And we managed to pass 5 days without anything major breaking. Phew! He did, however, find the stash of permanent markers:

In order to escape the rain, we visited the Discovery Science Center, where the kids tried out the wind tunnel, the rock wall, and the bed of nails and where H almost wore out the slide.
Opening presents at Grandma and Grandpa's: