Monday, September 29, 2014

Roasted Garlic-Parmesan Cauliflower

This is more a baking method than it is a recipe--we do this with lots of veggies. But we especially love cauliflower prepared this way, which came as a bit of a surprise to me. Normally my boys won't touch plain veggies, but they gobble up piles of this stuff! They think it's hilarious to pretend the chopped florets are "white trees," and much giggling is involved when this is part of the dinner menu.

Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites

1 head cauliflower
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt and pepper
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

Chop cauliflower florets into slices about 1/4" thick. Mix olive oil and garlic and heat in the microwave for about 20 seconds to more evenly distribute the garlic flavor. Toss cauliflower with olive oil/garlic, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Toss with a spatula and bake for another 10 minutes. Top with parmesan cheese and bake just until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Monday Smiles

It's Monday,
which means a few extra smiles are in order.

Actually, as much as Monday is sometimes a rude reminder of reality,
there is something fulfilling about the new to-do list (however daunting it may appear),
the promise of a new week to accomplish good things,
and the refreshment I feel from the Sabbath.

Today we're meeting policemen at Smith's (slightly different circumstances from this encounter with a policeman) and enjoying free "beverages" as part of their "Coffee with a Cop" program. Because evidently "Beverages with a Cop" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
The boys will be thrilled to talk to the policemen,
and we'll all enjoy our free "beverages," sans caffeine.
Maybe we'll see the same one that was riding his bike past us a couple of weeks ago and stopped to give the boys police badges and color changing pencils.
Our city policemen are so friendly!

I'm also loving this today:
"Treasure [God's commandments] in your hearts and live the Gospel (joyfully). I promise that as you do so you will discover your best self--your real self."
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf

More here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dandelions and Diamonds

A couple of days ago, Talmage came running up to me excitedly
and presented me with a dandelion he had tied into a ring.
"I made a ring for you, Mommy!!"
he told me with great enthusiasm.
His glowing smile was evidence that he had no idea he was giving me a wilting weed;
he genuinely thought there was exquisite beauty in that ring he had worked to fashion.

As I thanked him profusely and slipped it onto my finger,
I delighted in his sincerity and enthusiasm about his simple offering.

I thought about how often we give "dandelion rings" to God--
we put forth our best effort and make sacrifices, sometimes considering their worth to be that of diamonds.
And then the Lord looks at our simple offering and appreciates and loves us
because of the efforts we made,
regardless of how insignificant they may be in the presence of His omnipotence.
He rejoices in the fact that we are trying,
that we are learning and growing.

And in the end, whether the results have been dandelions or diamonds,
God will reward us because of our efforts and intents
and sanctify us and make us more than we could ever be alone.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Picture Perfect

A few days ago I thought I'd snap a photo of all three boys.
Anyone who has tried taking pictures of three active little boys
(including a one-year-old who does not hold still)
knows it can be a challenge.
So I was pretty happy with this result:
Talmage was concentrating hard on restraining Lincoln, but 2/3 smiles is not bad!

And then I had to laugh, because the picture I took 5 seconds later is actually reality:
Lincoln crying/running away,
Wesley upset,
and Talmage picking his nose.

It's always good to remember that virtual lives are not reality!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mountains of Peace

I took the kids to a park in the foothills today,
and we were delighted to discover a small trail through a wooded area.
That brief jaunt reminded me
that mountains breathe life into my soul.

There is a feeling I get in the mountains that is unlike any other...
combining the rugged beauty of the mountains with peace, spirituality, and holiness.

Sam used to work with a man who had traveled all over the world--
to nearly 50 countries.
And when I asked what his favorite place to visit was,
he said it was the Rocky Mountains.

It's good to be home.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dirt or Oreos?

Dirt and Oreos are strikingly similar...
which is better, Lincoln?

Monday, September 22, 2014

She Could Have Said "No"

I think I had a pretty ideal childhood.
Oh, sure, things weren't always perfect--
money was often tight,
my dad worked long hours,
my siblings and I bickered endlessly,
and we had more chores than ANYONE else I knew,
but I reflect on those defining years with feelings of great fondness.

And as I've had children of my own, I've come to learn that much of the reason those years were so great is because my mom chose to say "yes."

Like, for example, the time our garden/orchard backyard became a huge mass of mud following a heavy rainstorm. My sister and I excitedly made plans to have a mud fight and ran to ask permission. We could hardly believe our good fortune when my mom agreed. We quickly changed into old clothes, slid into our tattered tennis shoes, and ran out the door to fling mud all over one another, even smearing it into our hair. I still remember this as one of the best moments of my childhood.

As an organized mother of seven children,
there were many times she could easily have said "no."
Whatever brilliant scheme we had devised generally involved a big mess in the middle of the house,
a lot of work and patience on her part,
and plenty of wasted materials.

But she, in her wisdom, knew that it was worth the mess, the inconvenience, the exhaustion, the supplies,
to give us the opportunity to explore the world around us,
to exercise our creativity,
and to feel some sense of freedom in our childhood sphere.

She knew that motherhood wasn't meant to be perfectly tidy,
that the messes and inconveniences were productive,
and that her efforts were producing fruit, however slow-ripening it may have been
(see endless bickering mentioned above).

How thankful I am to my mother
for braving long, grumpy car rides, armed with plenty of licorice and a good attitude
to take us on adventures when we whined and complained the whole way.

I'm grateful for the times she sang when she really felt like crying.

I'm grateful she experienced many years of my awkward hairstyles because I wanted to be independent, even though she had been a professional hair stylist.

I'm thankful she endured the countless science fair projects, sporting events, music lessons, and assemblies that come with raising seven children, and made us feel like she was privileged to be there, instead of burdened.

I'm grateful she let us "help" from day one, when we were really causing more problems.

I'm thankful for the listening, responsive ear she gave (and still gives) even though we kept that ear busy all day long. Sometimes she really probably wanted to be left alone.

I'm thankful for the sticky fingers, the muddy footprints, the little bits of paper, the inedible kitchen concoctions, the stained clothing, and the broken household items she allowed in the name of giving us wings to fly.

In short, I'm thankful my mother said "yes."

And now, when my four-year-old wants so badly to use a whole roll of tape making paper crowns and toy swords, or my two-year-old wants to dig holes halfway to China, or all three of my little boys are "helping" me unpack boxes and I am tempted to call it quits and just say "no," I think of my mother.

And then, I think again.

Thanks, Mom.

Friday, September 19, 2014

My Baby is ONE!

This kid turned ONE on the 5th of this month (birthday pictures to follow).
What an eventful year it has been!
I'm so grateful we had Lincoln along for the ride.

-He has been walking for a couple of months now and is into everything.

-His personality is happy, but also fairly demanding. He usually has a period every day (when I'm trying to make dinner, of course) when he screams if put down, but if I'm holding him he's happy as can be.

-He loves tagging along with his big brothers and, unfortunately, destroying their creations.

-He loves food and has a huge appetite. I think he eats more than everyone except Sam! Yogurt is his favorite and he gets so excited he starts giggling when I pull out a cup of yogurt.

-He has six teeth--four on bottom and two on top.

-He can say, "Dada," "Mama," "tickle," "dance," "hot," "Bobo" (his nickname), "thank you," and today he learned "throw" and "catch!" He doesn't like to show off his tricks though, and usually just laughs when I ask him to do something.

-He loves to eat dirt and chew on rocks.

-He is always trying to put things in our mouths, especially his food and his pacifier. It's time to get rid of the binky...I waited longer with him than the others because I wanted him to have it while we transitioned from Texas and especially during our 3-day car ride! But he's really attached to having it while he goes to sleep, so I'm pretty nervous about pulling the plug.

-He is my thirstiest baby yet, I think, and quickly chugs down sippy cups of milk or water.

-He is super ticklish and generally likes to be tickled, especially under his chin. He cracks up when I'm doing up his buttons because he thinks I'm tickling him.

-He is a tease. He loves to come up to us and grab our faces or cover us up and play peek-a-boo. He especially loves grabbing his brothers' faces while they lay on the floor, which makes them laugh. He loves it when his brothers cover themselves up with blankets and then poke their faces out, and they all erupt into uproarious laughter when this game is played.

-His favorite things are swinging, eating, exploring in the backyard, going for walks in the stroller or wagon, drinking, reading books, and playing with long, narrow objects like sticks.

-He dislikes getting dressed, being thrown into the air, being told "no," getting his nose wiped, and getting his hands and face washed.

-He has soft, chubby cheeks, light brown hair (that is ready for a haircut!) with curls on the longer pieces, steel-gray eyes that sometimes look blue, and skin that tans beautifully, leaving him with a great farmer's tan.

Oh, how we love our inquisitive little Bobo-Linc!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

He's a Doctor!

Sam's thesis defense was in mid-August, just a week before we moved.
What an exciting and nerve-racking day it was!
I intended to get a new dress for the occasion but when that plan failed, I settled on some brown high heels. Very high heels. After the babysitter arrived, I drove to the medical center to meet Sam, and as we walked through the building to his defense I got slower and slower. Those shoes would not stay on my feet to save me! Sam joked, "Don't worry...if your high heels make us late to my defense, at least it will make a good story, right?" I finally took them off in desperation and quickly changed my hobble to a speed-walk.
Sam cracked joke after joke as we walked through the halls (it was kind of a long walk). Eventually I told him that I liked it when he was nervous because he became hilarious!

After his hour-long presentation, all but his committee were excused.
I appreciated it when, about 5 minutes into his questioning period, a professor came out to do something and told me, "He's doing just fine!"
I sat in the hall in anticipation for 45 minutes or so while he was grilled, and then he came out to join me while a decision was made.
After a few minutes, he was called back in, and then at last his professor opened the door and welcomed me into the room to be met with a series of, "Congratulations!!!"
We were so happy!
He passed with no revisions requested--what an accomplishment!

After we received the news, we went up to his lab where cake and punch were waiting for a reception for him.

And what fun all the farewell dinners and parties were!
It's been quite a ride, and I am so proud of my brilliant scientist for sticking with it.

By the way, when I informed the boys that Sam was now a doctor,
Wesley argued repeatedly with me,
"Noooooo! He's not a doctor!"
Sam said he was grateful Wesley wasn't on his committee.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ten Things I Love About Utah

There's a lot to love about the Beehive State,
but for this post I'll focus on things I have particularly loved since moving back.

10-Basements and Food Storage
This is kind of silly, but basement storage makes life so much easier.
And on a related note, food-storage is easy to come by here since grocery stores cater to the interests of the general population and offer great case-lot sales.
My mom and I just canned about 120 quarts of peaches,
using the most beautiful, huge peaches I've ever seen, purchased from a local orchard.
Opportunities to collect and store food storage are great here!
(The pineapple shown in the picture was probably a little easier to come by in Texas, though...)

9-Public Transportation
I guess this is more of something Sam loves,
but he can get to work at the University of Utah and BYU easily on public transportation.
Salt Lake City has even recently gained national recognition for its public transportation system.
Sam doesn't mind having a commute when he can sit and work without having to fight traffic.
It's odd that in a city the size of Houston, public transportation options left much to be desired and were virtually non-existent in the city we lived in, which bordered Houston directly.
Sam loves this change!

8-Lack of Scary Bugs
With the exception of some poisonous spiders and the occasional wasps' nest,
Utah's bugs are pretty kid-friendly. (And mom-friendly, too.)
My kids have always loved the fact that they can play in the dirt without the fear of being attacked by fire ants when we're in Utah.
And with nary a tree roach to be found,
I can even walk across the house in the dark without stepping gingerly!

7-Access to Church History sites
How nice is it that in less than 20 minutes we can be in downtown Salt Lake City,
walking around temple square, visiting the Church History museum, attending concerts, and more?
It's great to be surrounded by such a strong connection to our heritage.
And being just a short jaunt away from the temple is incredibly convenient as well.
My kids love spotting temples as we drive around!

Oh, how we've missed our beloved mountains!
Mountain hikes were meaningful in Sam's and my relationship,
and they've served as a place of peace and solitude for me throughout my life.
We are so excited to go camping in the mountains together as a family.
And family hikes...well, I have a feeling they'll become a weekly occurrence before too long!
I'm grateful for the beautiful view of the mountains we have from our backyard.

I might be eating my words come winter and I have to bundle up little boys countless times per day, but we love having 4 seasons!
It's a thrill to feel the chill starting to come into the air, to walk outside into cool evenings, to look up on the mountains and see the bright colors of autumn making their way down.
I love that we can go on walks in the middle of the day without battling ridiculous levels of humidity.
And my boys loved playing in the snow when we visited last Christmas,
so even though it may cause some inconveniences,
we happily await winter as well.

4-Outdoor Recreation
Yes, many of these things I love about Utah have to do with the great outdoors,
but that's because Utah is such a great place to enjoy them!
There are so many opportunities for outdoor recreation here.
Bike paths are just down the street from our house that stretch for miles and miles,
national parks are everywhere,
beautiful hikes and waterfalls are a dime a dozen,
and there are plenty of places to rock-climb, river-raft, and tour caves.
I feel like outdoor recreation is one of the best ways to build a family, so I'm glad to have such easy access to it all!

As much as I loved our little home in Texas,
there were no sidewalks in front of it, and no shoulder on the busy road we lived on.
So we have been so, so happy to have a sidewalk in front of our house
and to live in a fairly quiet residential area where the boys can ride their new trikes
(thanks, Corban and Laura!) with ease
and where we can go for walks without driving somewhere first.
Both boys will be getting bikes in the near-future, because they actually have a place to learn to ride them now!

2-A Fenced Backyard
I know sidewalks and fenced backyards aren't specific to Utah,
but since I'm writing about things that pertain to my current experiences here,
these are close to the top of the list,
simply because they keep my boys so happy!
Our backyard in Texas was virtually a huge, open, bug-infested field.
Our backyard here is small, covered in soft grass, shaded by a large, beautiful tree, and fenced!
It's so great to be able to keep an eye on all three boys out the kitchen window as they happily play and I prepare dinner.
Their clothes may not be very clean anymore,
and I've just realized that Lincoln's persistent diaper rash may be due to the fact that he eats so much dirt, but the boys are seldom happier than when they are playing outside.
I think we may all go through withdrawal when it's too cold for them to go outside at will throughout the day!

1-Time Spent with Family
With all the wonderful things Utah has to offer,
still it remains that the best part about Utah is the many family members we have here.
We feel spoiled to the point of guilt because of all of the support we've received since moving here.
We love family get-togethers, the boys love playing with their cousins,
and we feel so blessed that we are less than an hour away from the majority of our family members.

So, whether our time in Utah only lasts the 3ish years Sam's postdoctoral fellowship will last
or we end up living here more long-term,
we'll enjoy it while we can and rejoice in the opportunity to re-live so many wonderful memories.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ten Things I Miss About Texas

When we said our good-byes to my family as we began our move to Texas,
I turned into a sobbing, sniffling, blubbering, 7-months pregnant mess.
I almost never cry, and somehow between the hormones and the emotions of it all,
I was quite a sight to behold in front of a lot of extended family members.
I still haven't gotten over the embarrassment of it,
but I did learn to love Texas, and now that we're back in our home state,
I'm realizing some things I really miss about it.

10-The Reptiles
It may sound strange, but it was pretty fun to catch lizards in the house
and hear the frogs croaking at night.
One day we opened the front door and there was a turtle sitting right there!
The Houston reptiles definitely have their appeal for little boys!

9-No State Taxes
It was so nice each year to go through my TurboTax process and, as I wrapped up federal taxes,
click on state taxes and receive the congratulatory message that since Texas didn't have state taxes,
I was done!
Did I mention Texas has no tax on food, either?
Some complain about the property taxes, but...since we didn't own a house...we just got the good end of the deal.

photo from TripAdvisor
8-Gringo's Mexican Kitchen
One of Sam's sisters sent us a gift card to this local restaurant for Christmas the first year we were there, and we quickly realized why it is a community favorite!
Not only is the Tex-Mex food amazing (just thinking about the pulled pork enchiladas makes my mouth water),
but the whole community seems to come together around Gringo's.
It is the home to baby showers, birthdays, girls' nights, and countless other occasions.
We were so fortunate to receive periodic gift cards to this awesome place so we could enjoy it,
even on a grad-school budget. :)

7-Splash Pads
Yes, I know Utah has splash pads, but Texas...they know how to do splash pads.
We especially miss having one a block away!
(Pretty sure the splash pads kept me sane during the terrible summers.)

6-Cultural Opportunities in Houston
We lived just a 15-20 minute drive from many wonderful places in downtown Houston.
We loved visiting the many museums (Texas has a thing for museums),
Miller Outdoor Theater was amazing,
and Discovery Green always had exciting things happening.
To name a few.
I'm so glad we had so many visits from family members
that gave us increased motivation to see the sights Houston has to offer.

5-Blue Bell Ice Cream
It just wouldn't be Texas without Blue Bell.
And the factory tour was well worth the couple of hours it took to get there!
Ah, good ol' Blue Bell...
Natural Vanilla Bean, please.

4-Cheap Food
Admittedly, the grocery store where I did most of my shopping was a bit...questionable.
But goodness!
Food prices there were so low!
After a couple of years I overcame the discomfort I felt,
and we have so many great stories of funny things people said to me as I did my shopping there.
(My three boys and I kind of stuck out, especially when we were buying copious amounts of produce to can.)
Like when the man surveyed my cart with 150 pears in it and drawled,
"Whoa! Dats a lotta apples!"
Every time I go grocery shopping I miss all that cheap produce.

3-Our House
It was cozy, but those tight quarters were packed with amenities that I miss.
Granite countertops, slate bathrooms, travertine tile floors, a beautiful balcony, and perhaps most of all the granite sink!
The miracles that led us to that little townhouse were amazing in and of themselves,
and each time I looked around I felt so spoiled.
That house is filled with memories of some of the formative years of our marriage and our lives, and I will always be grateful we had that peaceful little haven to experience them in.

photo from Pearland Reporter News
2-The Community
I am fully convinced that our city was the absolute best place we could have chosen to live in the Houston area. At least on our end of town, people gladly declared their belief in God
and their moral values.
The Pledge of Allegiance was still said in schools,
there were no qualms about wishing one another a "Merry Christmas" at the grocery store,
and religious bumper stickers and churches were everywhere to be found.
The mayor attended every Eagle Court of Honor he could,
and was so beloved by the citizens that he had been the mayor for many, many years
and once again won the election at 90+ years just before we moved.

1-The People
Without a doubt, the best part of living in Texas was the wonderful people we associated with on a regular basis.
Our ward (church congregation) became like our family, I loved my piano students,
Sam worked with great people,
and even while running errands I was amazed at the kindness people showed to me.
Yes, Texans are sometimes outspoken and blunt.
But it is that very quality that makes one feel connected, because people aren't afraid to start a conversation.
And we did start a lot of conversations, whether because people were commenting on three little boys 4 and under or because my boys were making awkward comments to strangers.
Everywhere we went, people stopped me and visited with me,
told me stories about their families,
commented on my own family,
and typically left me with a wonderful, southern, "God Bless You!"
I love Texans!!!

So, yes.
It took a few years, but Texas really did become home,
and I guess I even developed a bit of that ever-popular "Texas Pride."
And while we're thrilled to be here in Utah,
I think there will always be a part of my heart in Texas.

Join me tomorrow to learn about ten things I love about Utah!
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