Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Kitchen House: Another Recommended Read



I stayed up way too late reading last night--and also the night before--to find out what would happen at the end of The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom.

I found this novel on goodreads.com when I was looking for something to read, then requested it from the library several months ago. When it came in on Thursday, I knew I'd only have it for two weeks, but I ended up reading it in 6 days . . . mostly because I got to a point where I just could not put it down.

I was drawn into the story and impressed by the author's writing style. The novel is set on a tobacco plantation in the United States during the late 1700s/early 1800s. The main characters are black and white servants, slaves, and owners, and the story deals with their interrelationships.

I was amazed at how realistic the story could be without any graphic description (which usually exists in novels like this one) of the horrific events that occur.

And while the novel does contain a lot of sadness, brutality, irony, and injustice, it also has many moments that bring hope.

On the cover of the book is a quote from Alice Walker, who says that The Kitchen House, "like The Help, does important work."

I appreciated the points of view both of these novels describe. And in both cases, I think the characters and their stories will stay with me for a long time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Two Broken Cameras, Two Lessons Learned

I don't think any of those who went will forget our trip to the Othello Tunnels this past August.

 


Today I am remembering it not because of our entourage of eleven children (although that always makes an event very memorable!),

 


or because--for the first time ever--I successfully led the way to a destination my sisters had never visited before.

 


I am remembering the day mostly because right after the kids climbed up onto this ledge,

 


and Holly and Janae were trying to climb this rock,

 


the picture-taking aspect of the adventure was cut short for me as I dropped my camera and damaged the lens beyond repair.

After an afternoon of melancholy despair, I realized that when my parents had bought my camera, they had also purchased an extended warranty.

I was able to take my camera back to Staples and have the camera replaced--free of charge.

Of course the cashier offered me an extended warranty to cover the new camera . . . and I did not hesitate to spend the $50. I knew how valuable such a warranty could be.

Well, today I went to take a picture of Alaina lounging on her tipped over toy shopping cart, reading a book and wearing a funny outfit she had put together to look like a mermaid.

This is a picture you will never see, because I found that somehow my camera had been broken.

Once again, some lens damage was keeping the camera from opening and closing properly, and it was impossible to take a picture.

Remembering my earlier experience, and the warranty I had bought, I went to my cupboard and got out the box where I'd put the receipt.

Except that it wasn't there.

I remembered I'd had two boxes, one from the old camera and one from the new. And as I searched my closet, several boxes, my file folder, and my pile of receipts that need to be filed, I came to the grim realization that I had kept the wrong camera box and lost/got rid of the one that held the warranty (it seems that when we moved I lost pretty much everything I don't use every day).

To make the situation more intense, I started wondering about how I was going to live without a camera, especially considering our upcoming trip to see my sister and her family in California (including a much-anticipated visit to Disneyland) next month.

So . . . after this frantic search, a few tears, and a lot of angry words directed at myself, I thought I'd try calling Staples to ask if there was any chance that my warranty was on file at the store.

The person I spoke to said that if I had registered the warranty online I would probably be okay. I had not. Then he said if I had paid with a credit card he might be able to help me.

I rarely use my credit card, but I thought I'd try giving him the number and letting him check if there was a record of a purchase of a warranty in what I thought was July 2011.

After a moment on hold, I received the good news . . . there was! The Staples employee gave me a few numbers I would need, and told me I was all set to get a replacement camera at the store!!!!!!

Have I mentioned that Staples is my new favorite store?

Or that I find it very hard to live without a camera?

We wouldn't want to miss any more mermaid pictures, or moments like this

 


or this,

 


or this,

 


not to mention our upcoming trip, with experiences like this,

 


and this,

 


and even this (Ben now claims that he danced with the Princesses at Ariel's Grotto only because he didn't like the food--but we have photo evidence suggesting the contrary . . . and documenting the crush on Snow White that he had at the time!).

 


Yes, we will definitely be making good use of our new camera.

And yes, we will be buying the extended warranty, registering it online, and keeping it in a very safe and very easy to remember place :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Unlucky 7

When I went away to college I heard rumor of a "freshman 15"--15 pounds of weight that first-year students inevitably gained during their first experience away from home.

Then when I was pregnant for the first time, I resigned myself to never being the same again. I got ready to gain at least 50 pounds and gave away all my smallest-sized pants.

Somehow, though, I managed to escape the full impact of both of these experiences.

During my freshman year of college I did gain almost 10 pounds from eating junk food from school vending machines and ordering pizza late at night with my roommates, but--note--not the full 15.

And after I had Ben, I lost all of the weight I had gained PLUS a few more pounds (although I discovered that my shape would never be the same again!).

 


The same thing happened even faster after having Janae, and--eventually--after having Alaina, too.

 


But now that I am about to turn @0, it seems that my luck has run out. While I’m sure I should have been waiting for this to happen (what, with all the Krispie Kremes and my love of baking), I can’t help but be a little surprised.

 


I’ve never claimed to have a great figure, or to not have to worry about my weight--like most women, I’ve always wished to be a little thinner and to have a better shape, and I’ve gone through times when I’ve dieted or exercised obsessively. But I have always thought of myself as being at least kind of thin.

Things have changed, however.

For example, when I buy clothes, I have always fit into a size small. It was such a safe bet that a "small" would fit that I would often buy a shirt without even trying it on.

Now, though, this will only lead to a trip back to the store and several minutes in the customer service line as I sheepishly return the too-small item.

The other day I was looking for a jacket--I tried a small, and I couldn’t get it around me to zip up!

You might be thinking that this could easily be explained . . . maybe the clothing industry has been making clothes smaller and smaller, so that what is now called a "medium"--or even a "large"--is what used to be a small.

True . . . but unfortunately it is not just the clothes.

The scale also seems to be conspiring against me.

Just before we moved, our scale’s battery ran out, and I didn’t replace it for a couple of months.

When I finally got a new battery, and stepped on the scale expecting to see an extra pound or two, I saw that I had gained SEVEN pounds.

Normally when I want to lose weight a few days without sweets will do the trick.

But that was my younger self. Now, I can go without sweets for a couple of weeks and still see no change.

In fact, if I happen to eat a few kernels of popcorn in the evening, I will have gained another pound by morning. Without fail.

You might be thinking that the new battery in the scale is defective, or that our new floor is uneven and causes the scale not to work properly.

True . . . but doesn’t that just sound like we’re making excuses?

And back in December an interesting incident occurred. Just before Jason and I celebrated our ninth anniversary, I had a terrible stomach flu that kept me sick for four or five days.

By the end of the week, I was back to what I will call my "pre-middle-aged weight" . . . and just in time to fit into my wedding dress (sometimes I participate in that sick tradition of trying it on on my anniversary to see if it still fits).

 


But little by little over the next week I got back up to my "usual weight plus seven"--which now seems to be my fixed point.

How unlucky can a seven get?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Not A Big Fan of Valentine's Day

While I am not a big fan of Valentine's Day, there are some things about the holiday that have grown on me.

I have to admit that I like making heart-shaped pizzas

 


(it's become our tradition!),

 


letting my little girls wear heart-covered stretchy pants,

 


and watching my boy look through his Valentine cards after school.

 


(It's also nice to send him to school in something red, rather than the navy and white uniform that is otherwise required!)

This year I also liked what my husband came up with when I told him he was not allowed to spend any money on a gift for me :)

 


It almost makes me wonder what I had against Valentine's Day in the first place!

Almost.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Parenting Experiment

 


A few days ago I was reading the most recent edition of my BYU Alumni magazine and came across an article about a blog called Design Mom. I (of course!) immediately looked this blog up (designmom.com) and quickly became entranced by it.

One of the posts I read linked up to an article about French parenting styles (the woman who writes Design Mom is currently living in France), and it really got me thinking.

The article talked about a visit to a French daycare, where two-year-old children were pealing their own bananas and eating them with knives and forks. It went on to discuss many more examples that showed how French children are typically raised.

While the examples were mainly negative, showing how harsh, strict, detached, and cold French mothers can be, the article also talked about some positive results of this parenting style--the one that caught my eye being respectful, well-behaved children.

This article opened my eyes to the fact that there are many different ideals when it comes to parenting. Not everyone thinks, for example, that a positive parent-child relationship is more important than having children who are independent and well-behaved.

The woman (Pamela Druckerman) who wrote the article (titled "Why French Parents Are Superior"; it appeared in the Wall Street Journal--I have yet to learn how to link anything up to my blog) talked about spoiled American children who see themselves as the center of the universe, and it got me thinking a little about my kids.

 


As a parent, I find that I constantly have to decide how I will respond to my children's many needs and challenges. After making some of these decisions, I've wondered if I could have helped my children more if I'd done things differently.

When I think of the parent I want to be, I think about positive experiences I've had with my own mom and dad (and grandparents, too), as well as principles I've learned in books like Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice and Hold Onto Your Kids.

 


However, these ideals are focused on raising children who feel secure, and that doesn't always mean children who are well-behaved, at least in the short-term.

Anyway, the entire issue has led me to the conclusion that in many ways parenting is a kind of experiment. We try our best to sort out what matters most and to help our children be successful in these areas, but different parents--as well as parents in different places--would do it all in different ways.

So . . . on that note, here are a few of our most recent parenting experiments:

1. Alaina: Co-Sleeping Gone Wrong

Alaina has been sleeping in bed with me and Jason for quite some time. I used to start her off in her own bed but for the past couple of months I have just put her down in our bed and let her stay all night. Unfortunately, though, she has taken to sleeping ON MY HEAD . . . and I am not getting any sleep at all. So, we are going to try this.

 



2. Janae: A Preschool Alternative

As Jason and I evaluated Janae's preschool situation, we were concerned that our little four-year-old was lacking the challenge and stimulation that she needed to learn and grow. Add to this the separation anxiety she had every time I dropped her off and the extra driving I was doing back and forth between Ben's schools, and we decided it would be better for Janae to learn at home for the rest of the school year. So, we are learning letters, baking and crafting--as well as going to her usual dance class, story time, and--in a couple of weeks--Kindermusik. I think she will still be ready for kindergarten in the fall . . . let's hope so!

 


3. Ben: Catching Up on Academic Skills

I've written before about my concerns for Ben when it comes to academics. This is one of those areas where I wonder if I should have done things differently, since when Ben was young--and he had no interest in the alphabet or numbers, despite my enthusiasm--I didn't push him to learn in this way (we opted for lots of outdoor exploration and imaginative play, as well as lots of listening to stories).

 


Now, Ben is a sensitive, gentle, kind, and imaginative boy . . . who struggles with reading and writing. But--his teachers rave about his artistic ability, and now his creative writing, too. So . . . we are hoping all our current efforts to strengthen his academic skills are coming at the right time.

 


As for the results of these and other parenting experiments? All I can say is . . . stay tuned! :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Two Voices . . .

 


Janae and Alaina have always spent a lot of time together, but now that Janae is doing "preschool" at home they are together almost constantly.

Sometimes this means we have lots of snatching, hitting, pinching, yelling, and screaming.

Other times, though, my two little girls get along so well that one seems like a mini version of the other. And now that Alaina is getting a little older, they have enough similar interests that they can usually find something to play.

The other day they both came out dressed as Cinderella;

 


other times they have both been little tap dancers,

 


fairies,

 


or Hawaiian girls (all on their own!).

 


Sometimes they are just princesses,

 


or babies.

 


Neither of them has any qualms about taking Ben to school wearing a nightie and pink leggings under a coat . . . as long as they're doing it together.

 


There is nothing better than when the two of them get laughing together (except for when their brother is home and joins in, too!).

 


It's just like Barbie says in one of their favorite movies, "Two voices, one song" :) Or--to include a more literary reference--like Christina Rossetti says in one of my favorite poems: "There is no friend like a sister."

Either way, I'm glad my two little girls have each other.

 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cranberry Juice . . . Who Would Have Thought?

 


I know nobody wants to hear any more about my attempts to wean the now almost two-and-a-half-year-old Alaina, but our recent development is too astounding not to share.

First of all, just to reiterate, I never set out to have a nursing toddler. I am not a member of any breastfeeding organizations, and if someone had told me that one day I’d be trying to wean a two year old, I would have been horrified. But--as all of us know--things don’t always turn out as planned.

For several months now, Alaina has been down to two servings of "baby milk" a day--usually she is fine with this, and if, during the day, she asks to nurse, she quickly corrects herself and adds, "at bedtime." If Alaina wakes up during the night, she always asks, "Is it morning?" and I tell her the milk is still sleeping.

 


Feeling that this had been going on long enough, though, I decided it was time to cut out the morning nurse . . . but how? It seemed Alaina’s entire day and night revolved around these two feedings.

Ever since Alaina was just over ONE year old, I’d been trying to substitute everything from a bottle or soother to a stuffie or a cuddle in the rocking chair to wean her. She had never taken to anything.



But considering that Alaina is now TWO, I realized there might be many other options we hadn’t yet considered.

One morning we tried Multigrain Cheerios in bed (without milk, or course!), and that worked well the first time. The next thing I tried was cranberry juice (Janae’s favorite kind of juice) . . . and the results were amazing.

Now, even during the day when Alaina needs comfort, she asks, "Can I have some cranberry juice in the rocking chair?"

I put some juice in a cup, and she sits with me and drinks it.

 


I know medical and dental health professionals always say that kids don’t need juice--and that plain water is best--but since Alaina has really "latched onto" this new idea . . . and we are always really good about brushing her teeth, I can’t see any harm in keeping the juice flowing (rest assured we are only using 100 percent pure juice blends with no sugar added).

 


Best of all, we are now just one last step away from burning the nursing bras! :)