Monday, December 8, 2008

Let It Snow

Yesterday morning we woke up to an inch or two or snow. Most transformations in nature are gradual--the slow greening in spring giving way to the flowers and fecundity of summer. The leaves tinging orange and red until all the woods are ablaze in the color of fall, only to drop off slowly until you realize the trees are bare and bleak, bearing down for winter.

But snow is different. It is an instant transformation. A new coat of paint for the world. And when you see it for the first time, that first glance out of the frosty window revealing the soft deep blue sky, with everything below covered in a clean, white blanket, that is magical.

I take it in quietly, and slip back into bed.

Claire, on the other hand, was dancing and yelling and falling over herself trying to find the snow pants and boots. The kids all had fun out there, even Isaac in the snow for the first time.

It was a perfect snow. The streets and walks melted fast, no ice. Today yesterday's snow is patchy on the lawn and crunches with ice where it melted and refroze. It will gradually melt and sublimate away. And I'll wait for the next morning that we wake up to a world made perfect for the moment by snow.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

For your consideration...

A few weeks ago we went to a quinciera for a friend in our congregation. Jacob and Claire loved the dancing. Unfortunately, Clint was out of town, and I was only able to snatch a few moments of video while chasing Isaac around. The quality is pretty low, so you can't see the dead serious expressions on their faces, but I'm sure you can imagine :)

Happy Thanksgiving

It's Clint's favorite holiday come again! We spend the day in the kitchen, working together, and then we eat. And then we eat leftovers. And leftovers the next day too! And maybe even the day after that.

Clint cooks the turkey, dressing and gravy. I take care of the side dishes, rolls and pies. It makes for a nice division of labor.

As much as it's nice to share a meal with friends or extended family, we like our own cooking and our own company. Next year we can be more sociable in our thanks.

Isaac, by the way, loved his first real turkey encounter. Bread soaking in drippings, gravy, shredded breast meat, and as you can see, tasty wing tips. It was great.

Monday, November 24, 2008


So Claire and I went to see Twilight at the Saturday morning discount matinee. Claire, not quite 7, is about six years shy of target audience. She has not read the books. But she's seen me reading them, and we've talked about them.

Claire came so because it was a girl's day out. Other than High School Musical, which I'm not spending any money on, I can't think of many high school movies I'd let her to see. (Back to the Future or The Goonies would work, but they're pretty tame by current standards.) She hid under my coat for the scary parts (the worst were some of the previews), but overall seemed to enjoy the movie. Mostly she enjoyed getting to go to the movies with me--this is only the 3rd movie she's gone to since we moved to NY.

I enjoyed it mostly for the same reason. We met a friend from church, ran into a couple of more once we got there. It was fun to go out for this shared experience based on a book we had all read. And I didn't have the baby attached to me! Huzzah! (It would not have been fun to see it with Clint. I would have been judging the movie through his eyes the whole time and cringing--like watching Harold and Maude with your grandmother. He probably will watch it when it comes out on video--it's filmed in St. Helens and Astoria, Oregon, close to where he grew up.)

As for the movie itself, it was better that I was expecting it to be. Not as good as the first Lord of the Rings, but better than the Harry Potters (which never felt like complete works that can stand on their own independent of the books. Even the best of those, the 3rd, was confusing for my husband who hadn't, and likely won't ever, read the book.) The story was nicely tightened for the screen adaptation. My personal favorite scene from the book was absent (blood typing), but the film flowed smoothly without it.

I actually liked the movie better than I liked the book on the first reading. (Note-I've only read it twice, but it was better with the perspective gained from reading the entire series. That and I could skip through the repetitive self-deprecation and kissing and marble skin and velvet voices.) The movie eliminated the the whiny, self-conscious teen second-guessing that made Bella such an annoying (if realistic) character, making her much more decisive. The film didn't give compelling reasons for her to fall for Edward--she just announced that she was in one of the voice-overs. But then again, I didn't think Edward was all that attractive--maybe if I had, that would have been enough. The best realized characters were the dad and Alice.

All in all, not a bad addition to the chick flick category. It should fit neatly between Stardust and While You Were Sleeping.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Formula Rant

I recently got a flyer from the formula company Similac in the mail. It was informing me that most toddler food –cow’s milk, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, applesauce—is deficient in essential vitamins and nutrients. Because these little finicky eaters growing so rapidly, it is imperative that they ingest adequate nutrition. Their solution? A new powered formula you can buy for toddlers!

Every parent who feeds their infant formula bemoans the exorbitant cost. But they pay it, sometimes double, for brand name formulas, because they have been scared into thinking they must. Each new “health claim” serves to further reinforce the companies’ case to the parents that this product is crucial to their child’s health and future.

And then is there is another kind of scare. The widespread contamination of China’s milk supply revealed the vulnerability of a nation dependent on unscrupulous companies for it’s children sustenance. Company officials were deliberately adding melamine to watered-down milk so it would appear to have acceptable levels of protein. The fact that it causes kidney failure and death didn’t bother those who added to milk for children and infant formula any more than it did those who used it to bump up testable protein levels in pet food. I hope there is a special circle of hell for those who put their personal profits ahead of the lives of all the innocent children of their nation.

This second scare reinforces the sense that consumer parents have that in order to assure their babies have the best, safest food, they must buy the most expensive, name brands. Who knows where those half-price generic formulas are made?

All of this plays into the relief parents feel when their child reaches the magical age of one, when pediatricians tell us we can safely feed them cow’s milk. Household budgets take a breather.

Until now.

Because formula companies naturally want to make more money. The only way to do that thus far has been to introduce formula into markets where breastfeeding had been the societal norm. Never mind that many of these places are in underdeveloped nations without adequate supply of fresh, uncontaminated water, so that even if the formula is heavily subsidized or donated, it may still pose a risk to the infants who consume it.

The brilliance of the formula for toddlers is that it expands the already existent formula-sipping base by extending the length of time that the product must be consumed to the exclusion of other similar products.

I think about my own kids and the choices we’ve made with them. I chose the breastfeed exclusively. No formula. Because we had already made the decision to accept the financial sacrifices our culture demands of a single income family, breastfeeding was convenient and appropriate for our budget. And I felt good about it—according to everything I read, human milk is the best food for human infants.

My first I weaned at fourteen months because I didn’t want to be pregnant and nursing at the same time. He was in no way ready. He ended up drinking tons of milk and was very reluctant to eat solid food. I constantly worried about the potential negative health effects of this predominantly liquid diet. (Evidently I’m not alone, and the formula companies know it.)

The second I nursed until twenty-two months. I was far less stressed about her diet because she was still getting the breast milk, in addition to her solids, some cows milk, and dilute juice. The World Health Organization actually recommends breastfeeding until the age of two.

Now we’re on Number Three. He is fourteen months old, and absolutely refuses to drink cows milk. And since Similac has informed me of how deficient that is for him, I feel even better about continuing to nurse him until he approaches his second birthday. Bet they didn’t see that one coming.

Friday, November 7, 2008

We survived Halloween

Halloween is over. Jacob was a forest magician. He designed his costume himself. Claire, once a forest fairy princess, decided she was a forest magician girl. With wings. She might like watching the Dark Crystal now. Isaac, as all his siblings before him, was Bugs Bunny. Like all his siblings before him, he freaked out whenever we put the hood up. We got that costume when Jacob was a baby, before I started sewing in earnest.

Last night I had the kids go through the massive bowl of candy they collected last week. Out of the six pounds left, they were told they can keep one. We learned that dum dums weigh less than almost everything else. They even rejected most of the chocolate because it was so heavy. (Of course, most of the chocolate had already been eaten :)

With the candy gone, costumes washed and put back in dress up boxes, the holiday is officially over.

Time to start working on Christmas gifts.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Book of Mormon Censorship

We finally finished reading the Book of Mormon together as a family. We started when President Hinkley gave the challenge, what? two years ago now? We've enjoyed reading together for the most part, in the morning, before school, during breakfast.

But this week, as we finished Moroni, I did something I've never done before: I deliberately censored the Book of Mormon. Specifically, Moroni 9:8-10. Prisoner of war atrocities and forced cannibalism.

Now, I'm perfectly okay reading Beowulf, with all it's gruesome bloodiness to my kids (they enjoyed it). We read the Odyssey, with cyclops crunching down on the ship's crew like tastly little morsel of popcorn chicken. So why didn't I want to read that passage in the Moroni to my kids that morning?

Saturday, October 25, 2008


It's autumn. What could be better?

School Picture Day

Instead of supporting our PTA and buying the exorbitantly priced Lifetouch school pictures (which inevitably have the strangest facial expressions my children have ever conjured, along with strange hair comb-over adjustments made by well meaning teachers) I took my own pictures of the children before they left for school on picture day. Of course, that just means they have more opportunities to make bizarre faces...

Friday, October 17, 2008


Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

Convenience is not a Virtue

Whenever we settle for the convenient choice, we pay a higher price for less value.

Two examples:

Fast food.
  • Costs more per serving than an actual, from scratch home cooked meal.
  • Far less nutritional value, much higher load of empty calories, fat, and sodium.
  • Social value of eating a meal together is diminished.
  • Lose opportunity to work together to prepare, partake and clean up.

Disposable diapers.
  • Far more expensive, even when costs of water, detergent, and wear on washing machine are taken into consideration. (Even when we had to use a laundrymat, it was less to pay to wash diapers than it would have been to buy disposables.)
  • Ever smell the inside of a diaper genie? With cloth, waste is flushed away pretty quickly. (Even poop in disposable diapers is supposed to be flushed--read the package if you don't believe me. But who does that? It wouldn't be convenient.)
  • Once you have a supply of cloth diapers, you don't have to buy anymore. No more monthly trips to a big box store for something that you intend to throw away. Independence.
  • Generally earlier potty training. I'm certainly more motivated--after all, it's inconvenient to scrub those diapers.
Obviously, there are far more examples (and arguments in the ones that I did list). The main point is that whatever we do, we should do well. We should take pride in our work. If we settle for something out of convenience, we're cheating. And on some level, we will feel some level of uneasy dissatisfaction, even if we can't quite pinpoint the cause.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Food Values

We're big fans of Michael Pollan here. Each time I read one of his books, or others in the food politics genre (Fast Food Nation, Supersize Me, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) I am motivated again to revise our family diet. Over the years, we've quit eating at fast food chains and switched to more local, seasonal produce. So it wasn't that big of a change when we took up the challenge of In Defense of Food, an Eater's Manifesto, Pollan's latest book. "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

This book came out as we were revising our food budget, cutting it almost by half, and as food prices have increased dramatically. Now we're eating better, more healthy food than ever before. We have less trash, because we are buying no prepared/packaged food products. We have more compost, too.

The price is time. It now takes me 1-2 hours every day to make dinner, plus extra time to bake bread, make granola and granola bars and other snacks. But, interestingly, I don't resent the time spent in the kitchen or feel unduly put upon. On the contrary, I feel better about the work I do at home. Because I put more time and effort into our food, I take more pride in it.

In the Sunday magazine for the New York Times, Pollan wrote an excellent letter to the next president.

I like his ideas, the vision he has for new local agriculture economies in our country. But the biggest problem I see with his proposal becoming reality is labor. Just as feeding our family now takes more time, thought and work, the small, sustainable farms he envisions will take more time, thought and much, much more work. And just as I receive no monetary payment for the astonishingly valuable work I do in our home, no small farmer is going to make money that reflects the true value of her work. She and her family may well live on the tight edge of an unforgiving budget for their entire lives. A few people have signed up for that life, but I can't see enough doing it to transform our agriculture system as Pollan wishes.

It comes down to the basic values of our society. Society determines our individual worth by how much money we are paid for whatever job we happen to have. Mothers, childcare providers, teachers, and small farmers, who do unquantifiable work hardly make enough to live on, if they make anything at all. And so, the work that is most crucial to our society is least valued.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fabric Swatches

I recently salvaged several books of fabric swatches from the trash outside of a local interior design shop. So far I've made several bags, book covers, stuffed animals, and a baby quilt top.

Probably the two coolest things so far are Claire's fairy princess Halloween costume and my little old rocking chair that I was able to reupholster for Isaac.

Why so prolific, you might ask. Well, I had to prove to Clint that I wasn't just introducing pointless clutter into the house with these dozens of books of fabric. And to be honest, these fabric samples are a lot of fun. Each set is like a game. I pull a book apart and start shuffling around the pieces until it becomes apparent what needs to be made. And then it's a little puzzle, sewing it together.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Clint is 33!

Happy Birthday Clint!
This Columbus Day brought us our first pumpkin cake. Everyone except Clint thought it was pretty much the same as carrot cake, but as Clint hates carrot cake and liked this, they are obviously different :)
Jacob wants it to be known that he didn't think it was like carrot cake either.
We didn't have 33 candles, so Claire cut up soda straws and artistically arranged them on the cake.