Monday, September 28, 2009

The Secret Life of Girls

What do little girls think about in the private recesses of their minds? What do their little bodies do? What is their natural state of behavior?

Researchers Briz and Midodi, caretakers of three little girls, have logged in many hours observing, feeding, stimulating and caring for this confusing species.
To discover the secret lives of girls, they took their subjects to a natural habitat to observe them in their natural state with fewer man made distractions. The team picked a double hike that included Twin Lakes and Solitude Lake as the destinations.

The researchers knew just how to set up an effective blind. Upon reaching Twin Lakes, they stretched out on large granite boulders like two over sized lizards soaking in the sunshine.

  1. Little girls have vivid imaginations and can make fun without a single toy.

Twin Lakes became an exotic paradise for two of the munchkins...One little girl washed up from the sea, and lay with sea weed in her hair for the villagers to find her. Pirates attacked, messages were sent in bottles, and treasures (army badges) from long lost loves were found along the shore. The sun tanned the natives till their skin became dark (the better to hide from the pirates).

Another little girl's secret life manifested itself differently. Sequestered on a rock outcropping, she arranged wood in the shallows to trap the small fish that basked in the sunshine. Patiently, patiently, then SCOOP! That small fish was going to feed the villagers! It flopped and squirmed, then fell on the sharp rocks and bled a bit. "I looked down at my CTR ring and knew I had to let it go." Dinner disappeared. Next she found a rusty tin can and used it to capture scuds found hiding under rocks or logs(fresh water shrimp that live in only the cleanest mountain water).

2. After an hour or so uninterrupted in their element, little girls become chatty.

"You know, I'm not that popular at the camp. I'd really like to be a little popular. Not really popular like the prince in Ella Enchanted. All the girls ran at him and that would scare me. I just want to be a little popular. I've thought about how I'd like to do it. A cougar or a bear would charge at you, or someone and I would have my pocket knife. I'd stab him just like this.

It would scratch him, then I'd stab him again. We'd take it home and eat it. You can eat bear you know. Everyone would come up to me and say, you did that? I'd say yah. They'd offer my brownies or a puppy. I'd say, "just the brownies . . . no puppies." You don't want any more pets huh mom. But if they insisted I take the puppy or they'd get mad, I'd take it."

3. Little girls have really sharp eyes for discovery. Little girls are curious and brave.

They discovered tons of moose tracks along the Twin Lakes.

At Lake Solitude, Little Mother found a mine shaft.

We crept on our bellies till the shaft opened up to six feet tall and followed its chiseled walls till we reached the end of the shaft and found water dripping out of the limestone.

4. Little girls are easily influenced for good and to do more than they thought they could do.

our year old sunshine took this very strenuous steep hike, cheered on by the story of the 3 Little Pigs. We told her she was made of bricks, not straw or sticks that blew over at the smallest wind. We explained that it is hard to make a house out of bricks, but it lasts longer.

At each mention of "the brick" as she called herself, she gained new energy and cruised past the forerunner of the hike.

Conclusion: Little girls need parents to take a full day out from their busy schedules to watch them and listen to them, and discover with them. They open like little flowers with time dedicated to them.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Crazy for Aprons!


No, I don't have a thing for old 50's shows, I just love having a cute uniform. When I put on my apron, it tells my mind "It's time to work!" It makes me take my homemaking duties more seriously. Plus, I get to dress nice underneath. I prefer the aprons with a nice bib on the top, because my shirt always gets dirty what with cooking, cleaning and all.

With a flip, I can take off my cute apron and leave the house not looking frumpy and kid stained. I also take it off for my reading breaks or other me things at home.

I'm not calling for a return to the "old days", just some of the "old ways."

I'm longing for a new apron, so I can have a change of uniform. But I'm pleased as punch about this one. Don't you just love it?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Gift of Music

"Every year something from the Primary program makes me cry. This year it was your family." Mrs. Wilson said through teary eyes. This sentiment was echoed by each person I passed on Sunday. They couldn't possibly realize that I was far more touched by this family singing together than they ever could be.

When I was young, my sisters and I sang together. My mom dressed us in matching dresses and we sang. We sang in the car, on the mountain, around the camp fire, at family events, at church events, at talent shows . . . you name it. I loved to listen to the way our voices blended in that unique way only genetics produces.

I fell in love with Briz when I first heard him sing. His date begged and begged him to sing. He gruffly agreed but stated, "This is not a song for you. It is only for my future wife." He played his guitar and sang Want you to Know by Chicago. I knew who he was right then. I saw his soul. I knew I'd give anything to have someone sing a song like that for me someday. His date was sure a lucky girl. My date, however, was in the other room watching a violent movie that I had escaped from. Bummer.

So, it is natural that when we married, I expected to produce our own brand of Osmonds or Jackson 5.

When forced to consider adoption, I learned many things about myself. One was that I was a snob. A child with Briz and my genes would be cuter, smarter, and more talented than one with another's genes. I found that we tend to value our own gifts more than we value gifts given to others. Yes, I could get a son who was a great ballerina, but that wasn't near as cool as Briz's football prowess.

Before I would let myself adopt, I submitted to a rigorous and painful reshaping from my loving Father in Heaven. I had to learn that EVERY child of God has equal value and equally beautiful gifts before I could welcome one of his sweet children into our home.

When Ladybug arrived, one of the things I noticed as she aged, was that she had NO attraction to music. Two, three, then four passed, yet not one song crossed her lips. At the time, we were not aware of her Aspergers and learning disabilities. Two other sweeties joined our family with no noticeable musical gifts. I rejoiced in their own special talents; nature, child care, artistry, physical prowess, or animal catching, but some tiny piece of me mourned that I could not share my soul deep love of music with my buddies.

Then... this year. The stake asked us to provide the musical number for Little Mother's Baptism.

The girls did beautifully. This time, it was all of us. Each little one took a part, then Briz and I joined in soft accompaniment at the end.

I couldn't care less about microphone positioning, volume, tune or anything else. My heart was in the joy of singing with my family. I forgot to look at the congregation, I had eyes only for my babies and sweetie as we sang together.

Unexpectedly, comes a God breeze . . . long after I'd given up hope of this experience, it comes . . . and the joy after the wait gives the experience (my personal gift from my Father) even more beauty.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Elderberry Season

The neighbor called. The one who just Bic shaved his head to raise money for a co-worker with cancer. His elderberry bush was loaded this year. Would we be interested in relieving it?

Of course we would.

Briz climbed the ladder with the "cougar knife" he carries everywhere, and I stood at the base with a box. As the branches fell, I raced around and held my box at just the right spot.

Truth of the matter is that our storage room is full of Elderberry Jelly. But old habits die hard and the elderberry/chokecherry ritual is a part of our marriage, an annual ritual of our coupleness that makes us well. . . US.

Early on, when we were both in school, and both working to put a roof over our heads, I cut corners every place I could. I knocked on the door of an unknown elderly woman and asked to pick her unused crab apples for jelly. While camping, I found elderberries then chokecherries. So each weekend, our hikes had an added purpose, to find and harvest wild berries.

My grandma taught me how to make syrup and jelly. She never used juicers or food processors, so she shared the old fashioned method of boiling the berries, stems and all, then straining them through cheesecloth.

I suppose I could afford a juicer now. But, it would take away from the secret satisfaction I feel recreating a pioneer art.

I decide on syrup this year instead of jelly. For kicks, I google elderberry syrup. Shockingly, hundreds of health sites popped up touting elderberries as the "medicine cabinet for the poor." Supposedly it is one of the best natural cures for the flu, common cold, sore throat, asthma, and sinusitis. It also, they say, makes a great dye. Well, I could have told you that. My dishcloths and clothing will testify of a lovely purple color that DOES NOT FADE!

Well. Now my satisfaction is complete. I can tell myself besides stocking a fourth shelf with jelly/syrup, I am providing for my families medical needs. No. Don't tell me that it takes a strong concentrate for medicinal purposes. I also don't want to hear that the down sides of sugar counteract the elderberries purported benefits.

I briefly fantasize a terrible flu epidemic where all medications have vanished off the shelves. I wander through the neighborhood with my basket of elderberry syrup and jelly, a modern Florence Nightingale, saving lives where ever I go.

I am going to feel clever each time we eat this.

The house is filled with the heated bittersweet smell of cooked elderberries. It is such a comforting scent. It speaks to me of couple teamwork, of ancestors, service to my family. AND, it tastes FABULOUS!!!!

Silver Lake

Things I want to remember about Silver Lake:

The scenery.

The silence.

Our own pears that tasted like "heaven".

Our own conservation-liter patrol.



Saturday, September 19, 2009

Perfect Moments

Five nights of little sleep have left my mind blurry and my face gray and heavy. After a day of soccer, team pictures, weeding, mowing, "encouraging" girls to do their chores, and weekly shopping, We walked to our gym for a little swim.

The outdoor pool opened unexpectedly just for us (it seemed) and I plopped onto a chair under an umbrella with my legs propped on another for comfort. After awhile I noticed that my three dare devils had relocated. They were waggling their toes in their Daddy's lap lane, cheering him on, touching him as he turned, and yelling encouragement.

Eventually, he submitted to his adoring fans. He leaped into the child allowed area of the pool and was swarmed. He held one little leach in each arm while another clutched his back. The sun hit them from the behind, illuminating them with gold and lighting their laughter. He tossed, gave rides on his back under the water, twirled and taught them. They couldn't stay away.

I saw my husband with their eyes and 20 years fell away. He was confident, strong, fun, charismatic, safe, and completely trustworthy. Through my girls, I fell in love, all over again. Just like them, how could I resist him?

I gathered up the towels, goggles, shoes, bags . . . and followed my four out the gates. Music beat, and my gold outlined wild ones bopped. No ladylike graceful exits here. They cranked their hips, writhed and wiggled in completely un-hip yet unique movements that exuded their love of the music to the world of sedate sunbathers.

My body and mind no longer felt the exhaustion of the week. "A truly golden afternoon" I thought.

There are not always fireworks. They come, go, and come again. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, a perfect family or a perfect life, just perfect moments.

I add this moment to my bouquet
. Placed together, each perfect moment makes the fragrant and heart warming bouquet of my life. God gives each of us a limited number of days. . . . .of moments. I don't want miss a single one, take one for granted, because MY! there is such beauty, and it all goes by so fast.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sun Dried Tomatos

The weather is cool, just enough that lying in the grass is a luxury. The skies are a deep blue, as if to make up for the foliage that is browning. These signs hint of season change, and remind me to run, roll and play and save a bit of sunshine in the soul for winter.

Centuries before canning was invented, Italians laid their tomatoes to dry in the sun, caramelizing their sweetness for use in sauces, pesto, and meat during the cool season.

Chef Tess
showed me how easy it is to make sun dried tomatoes... and I am so excited to try something new!

Tomato slices sat in the dehydrator for about 1 day, then turned for an even tan, and gently pressed with a spatula. 8 pints of fresh tomatoes fit into 1 pint jar! Covered with extra virgin olive oil and sharing space with a sprig of rosemary, they will sit in my fridge for months, or my freezer for a year. The oil will taste great on pasta, or pesto!

"Sun . . .abundance . . . laughter . . . bare feet." The jar whispers to me. I take a bite. It explodes with sunshine!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Confidence from a Pie

Self esteem has little to do with constant messages of "You're great! You're smart! You're beautiful!" Messages from the outside often hit our outsides, then bounce off. If someone isn't there to stroke our egos, even for a moment, we fall prey to inner feelings of unworthiness.

So how do I help my sweeties feel good about themselves? Self sufficiency and service are two things that help their happiness grow from the inside. When I forget, I try to do things for them or fix their problems with things or people. This only sends the message that they are incapable and need me to exist.

Tonight, I am tired. I've started a new workout program at 5:45 a.m. and its a killer. My body feels shredded and I had playgroup at my house today. . . and my brain's probably fried.

Ladybug wandered the grounds with Taylor, her new duck, and found peaches dropping from the tree.

With proprietary pride in her discovery, she announced that she was going to make a pie. So, after cooking two dinners, I sat down to teach . . . not touch.

She learned to peel, slice, measure, roll, use a pastry cutter, pinch a pie crust, turn on a gas unit etc. etc. etc.

Partially through, she looked for an adult to finish her project. But Briz is a wonderful parent and refused. 2 1/2 hours later, three pies slip into the fridge and the last vestiges of creation are washed and wiped. "Whew!" she breathes. "That is a lot of work! Now I know why pies are so expensive. They take a long time!"

"You'll get faster each time you do it." I assure her.

The pies are not quite works of art, but they are just about perfect to taste.

Full of the confidence that comes from an inner knowledge that she is capable and clever, she is able to reach out. "Even though this pie is mine, I am going to share with my sisters." Then she offered each a bowl of glaze to lick.

Tomorrow, two pies will be offered to two special teachers. I hope they will see past the minor crinkles and see a monumental project that started in Ladybug's brain and ended with her own hands.

My body aches and my brain longs for escape in The Shape of Mercy (the fabulous book I am currently reading). Yet I gained from our lengthy learning process as well. I did not accomplish a pie, but a building block in my babies feelings about herself. That built confidence and happiness inside of me too.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Green Glitter Ball

"The thing" at elementary school right now is a glitter ball. "I'm the only one who doesn't have one." Little Mother complained over and over. "I can fix that." I replied. "Here are several jobs that need to be done and what I will pay for them."

Obsessed with her ticket to sparkly coolness, Little Mother worked with an admirable fervor for most of the day. Evening brought a trip to the store and many bounces to pick the perfect glitter ball that bounced just right.

The next day we traveled to Logan to visit cousins. "I HAVE to show them my glitter ball!" "Well, it's your choice, but I think you could lose it or leave it here. I'd leave it in the car."

On our way back home, the tears began. The precious glitter ball was left in the yard. We listened to over an hour of
sadness and heart break.

Over a month later, at a family baptism, Little Mother was reunited with her glitter ball. She ran in the house, all smiles, to show me her treasure. So happy for her, I took a picture of their reunion.

Two minutes later, a sobbing girl ran into my arms. "I took out the garbage and held the glitter ball really tight. I tripped and my glitter ball rolled into the drain."

My heart broke as I held my
devastated daughter. With ever fiber of my being I longed to run buy her a new glitter ball, one that was even better. The only thing I wanted more than to soothe her heart was to help her grow and learn from life's painful lessons. If I take away her consequence, her next experience will be much more painful.

"What are you going to do?" I asked, trying to give her back her power. "There is a number on the drain. Will you call them and see if they can open the drain?" She asked.

"I will help you figure out what to say when you call." I responded kindly.

She called. It was the weekend. Little Mother dropped all sorts of junk down the drain to hold the glitter ball in the corner so it would not get carried away by the water.

Monday . . . She called again. Of course, they refused. They must not understand the value of glitter balls. Hard rains came. Glitter ball floated down the holes and off to an unknown adventure. Popularity based on the glitter ball floated away with it.

Hard experience for the mom who would foolishly protect her daughter from life's lessons.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Peaches and Football

Tired homemaker refuses to bottle peaches this year claiming they are unhealthy, expensive, sticky and make her arms itch.

7:04 p.m...

Football and peach fan turns on the game, adjusts the table for a better view and begins to peel. "How many cups of water to how much sugar?" he asks. "Light syrup." I reply. "6 cups water to 2 cups sugar."

9:11 p.m.

7 jars of golden globes slip into their hot water bath.

Tennesee 10 - Pitsburg 7

Gotta love that guy.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


We walked the gardens for inspiration. Check out the use of parsley and cilantro for greenery in the midst of the flowers. It is a perfect mix of form and function.

Artists dot the landscape, capturing with paint and brush what we captured in cameras and our imaginations.

Their vision . . .

Our vision . . .

Enamored with both art and the artists, my little women stood, watched, and admired. "I'm a great artist." Little Mother confided. "We love art too." Brina and Becca added."

A white haired grandma counseled, "My friends ask how I do all these things. I tell them the difference between us is that I just do it and they think they can't." She took our address while blowing her nose (allergy to oil paints) and invited us to an art showing. She especially wanted to invite my confident and flattering artistic sweeties.

We returned home, inspired by the beauty of the gardens, and warmed by the encouragement of the artisans. What to do next? Paint of course!!

The afternoon was spent creating masterpieces and discussing our future travels. Becca and Little mother plan on traveling to England and France to see gardens , and Maine to get lobster and crab, and Missouri . . . Brina just wants to sit in Missouri and be a hillbilly.

The Secret's in the Crust


When I was little I read a book about a really precocious little girl somewhat like myself. She wanted to win a cooking competition with a lemon cream pie. While helping at a church function, she overheard the women complementing Mrs. _____ on her exquisite crust. "The secret is a pinch of baking powder." Mrs. ________ whispered. The little girl decided that if a pinch was good, more would be better so she added quite a bit. The crust was so light and fluffy, while baking with the filling inside, the crust rose to the top of the dessert. She was crushed about her ruined pie.

Though I can't remember the book, I was so impressed by this story and so like this little girl, that I started adding just a pinch of baking powder to my very basic crusts. Anyway, it's foolproof... and the lady was right, it makes an awfully flaky pie crust. So here is the version I created as a child and still use. I hope you have as much luck with it as I have.

Pie Crust (for a double 9" crust)
2 cups flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 pinch baking powder
3/4 cup shortening
5 tablespoons ice cold water (may need a bit more)

Preheat oven to 425. Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in shorting with pastry blender till consistency of small peas. Sprinkle water 1 T at a time. Toss with a fork till you form a ball. Press between your hands to form 2 5-6 inch pancakes. If time permits, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. If not . . . proceed. I LOVE plastic wrap and use it instead of a floured cloth. I put one sheet on the bottom and one on the top and roll out my dough. I peel one sheet off and pick up the other and position it perfectly over the pan and peel off! Viola! Prick bottom and sides if not baking filling inside to prevent shrinking. Cook till light brown (about 10-15 minutes). If filled, bake 30 minutes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Taste of the Ozarks

We had so much fun with cousins we decided to bring Ozark flavored cousins home with us.

Once everyone learned the songs from Hairspray, we rocked, clapped, and grooved our way in the car. 525,600 minutes was a groovin' movin' favorite. Becca rocked out like Stevie Wonder, closed eyes and all. When we started to smell each other and giggle too hard in the car, we stopped to swim.

Briz is the perfect swimming companion. He teases, teaches, and plays with the girls.

Somewhere along the line I've obtained the important job of sitting under the umberella, taking photographs, escorting buddies to the bathroom, and warming with towels. Very rarely I go on strike. Today was one of those days where the fun looked better than my poolside job. "Oh my gosh!!!!! Guys Look! My Mom's comming in!" they squealed as if they'd spotted their favorite High School Musical star. I made my pool debut with a splash!

Brina says I made a bigger cannonball splash than Briz. So there!!!