Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Child porn

I hope I don't get any gross visitors from that title, but it seemed appropriate.

So, I had my ultrasound today...

He's all nice and healthy and squirmy, and weighs over half a pound. I've been patting my belly every once in a while and saying, "So, you're a boy, huh?" We're not really used to those kind of people around here, but his profile looks pretty cute to me.

The last 2 months of my life

Steven already posted about this (and it's worth checking out his account of it, with more close-ups), but there's a reason I haven't blogged for a while. During the past couple of months, my life has been consumed with creating what may be the most important sewing project I'll ever make: a special memory quilt for my mother-in-law to commemorate the anniversary of my father-in-law's death.

When we were there last year for the funeral, I secretly (with the help of Steven's sister) went through Bob's closet and picked out several of his old dress shirts.

My original intention was to use the shirts alone to make up a quilt for Linda. My thinking was that if she couldn't snuggle with him any more, she could at least snuggle up with his shirts. But as I was planning the quilt, I realized that perhaps I could bring Bob even closer to her, through images that represented aspects of the 50 years they spent together.

Here it is.

The images represent reading together, their house in VA, dancing, traveling the world, their family, their daily walks, Linda's church callings, the Washington, DC LDS temple, Bob's church callings, music and piano, motorcycle rides, and electronics/HAM radio (one of Bob's passions).

The appliqued squares are made of fabric scraps from my, my sister-in-law Hyde's, and my grandma Anne's collections. (Grandma Anne also got to be friends with Bob and Linda during our wedding.) The piece work and pockets are from Bob's shirts. I asked my mom at one point if she thought Linda would recognize the fabric. She said, "Well, she ironed it for 50 years!" Good point.

I was pretty proud of this motorcycle. Not bad for a girl, huh? But can I tell you how hard it is to find grey cotton prints?!?

Some detail work on the radio. Yes, the quilt took hours. And hours. And hours. But as cheesy as it may sound, it was not tedious when I thought of my love for my in-laws and the joy it would bring to Linda.

The family may be my favorite block. Fabric selections were based on their family portraits - it seems like at least one of the boys was always wearing funky striped pants, and nothing matched. Ah, the 70s and 80s.

One of the pockets, from a work shirt. I left the pockets open and functional; thought it would be fun to put things in them. (My mom would surely keep Kleenexes in there.)

I'm happy to say that my mother-in-law was able to open it on Dec. 5, the anniversary of Bob's death. Gracious person that she is, she loves it, and it makes me feel good that I was able to do something to make her feel happy and loved. I feel like I put everything I had into this quilt - all my artistic abilities, all my creativity, all the skills I learned from my mother, all my capacity for love and service. It felt good to try to be the kind of person who would do that, and helped me to become that person.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Canned heat

This song makes me miss those college roommate dance parties in the kitchen. I heard it in Kohl's this morning and it's been stuck in my head ever since.

(I still have dance parties with my roommates, but they are now much cuter and funnier, there are more tutus involved, and some roommates are far more enthusiastic than others.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Just so you know. Olivia's due date was 5/9; she's excited about a possible 4th birthday present (we like to double up on birthdays around here).

The rest of us are pretty excited too. And once again, a puke-free first trimester! (Thanks again for those genes, Mom.)

Tell it like it is

Over our Sunday dinner of beef stew, Olivia observed, "The chicken is the same as the wrapping paper on the potato."

Meaning, of course, that the pieces of beef were the same color as the potato skins.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another T-shirt Transformation

Last year I got the girls some cute Halloween tights on clearance, only to realize this year that they have nothing to wear with them.

So, the other day at CVS I bought one XL t-shirt for $2.

When I was done with it, it looked like this:

And now my girls look like this:

Squee! (Can I say how much I love having two little girls, one long skinny and one short roly-poly? They are so cute together I can hardly stand it.)

Unfortunately, I was too excited putting them together to make a photo tutorial, but I'll tell you how to turn a big t-shirt into one (or two) little dresses:

You need:
1 big t-shirt (long enough for the dress, plus a little more)
1 button
loose-fitting child shirt and knee-length child dress to use as a patterns

1. Cut one 2-inch-high strip off the bottom of the shirt, going all around
2. Cut one 1-inch-high strip off the bottom of the shirt
3. Lay the pattern shirt on top of the t-shirt, towards the top, and fold the sleeves in. Lay the pattern dress on top to make sure there's enough room to make it long enough (once you put the ruffle on, it will add a couple of inches)
4. Take the dress off (you've already measured the length) and cut 1/2 inch around your pattern, extending the length to the dress's length. DO NOT CUT SEAM ALLOWANCE AROUND NECKLINE. You now have a front and back to the dress.
5. Fold one sleeve of your fabric-shirt in half. Lay pattern sleeve on top of it and carefully cut out around, including seam allowance (this should make 2 already-hemmed sleeves, since the fabric is doubled)
6. From remaining fabric, cut strip 1" x 7.5" ("finishing strip")

Sewing (1/4 inch seams - you made your allowance bigger on purpose):
1. Facing right sides, sew shoulder seams. Leave sides open.
2. Facing right sides, pin open sleeves to arm holes, and sew (this will be pretty easy since the sides are open)
3. Facing right sides, pin dress sides and sleeves together and sew all the way up the dress. Your basic dress shape is done!
4. Gather or ruffle both 2-inch and 1-inch strip 1/4 from raw edge
5. Pin 2-inch ruffle to front of the bottom of the dress, sew (it's already hemmed, yippee!)
6. Cut 2-inch slit down from the neck in the back of the dress. Pin 1-inch ruffle around the neckline (going down a little lower in the front), sew. Trim seam as needed

Button hole: Pin finishing strip to back of slit, and sew 1/4 inch in all the way down both sides (it should stick up 1 1/2 inches on one side). Flip strip around and fold in, stitch all the way down, including on sticking up part. Flip extra around to form loop, and then stitch. Add button on the other side. Finished product should look like this:

To make 2 dresses, I just cut more strips off the bottom of the shirt initially, and positioned the patterns so I could cut 2 dress bodies. I also ended up cutting all the sleeves from 1 sleeve of fabric (I wasn't sure yet if I'd need the other for something else). It means I had to hem the sleeves and ruffle on Carmen's dress, but not a big deal.

Knit's very forgiving, so go ahead and try it! You know you want to...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Next to Godliness

Last week was a stressful one for me. It wasn’t any particular event, but I just felt out of control. My house and laundry were getting away from me, meal planning wasn’t happening, and I just felt like it was impossible to catch up.

And THEN, I purged.

My fridge.

Oh, I can’t tell you how gratifying that was. There were leftovers that were perfectly good, but they were not palatable at the time to anyone living here and we couldn’t force ourselves to gag them down, and every time I opened the fridge to look for food I felt guilty because I didn’t want to eat any of the existing offerings. They were also taking up so much room that I felt guilty making anything new, things we might have wanted to eat.

Now it’s all nice and clean, plenty of space, and my whole week has been better. And in that spirit, I now offer you my tried-and-true cleaning advice.

If you aren’t using it and don’t want it, if you look at it and get a sinking, guilty feeling, GET RID OF IT.

Clothes you don’t and won’t wear, gifts you weren’t excited about and never used, food you won’t eat, gadgets that don’t work – just get rid of them.

If they’re usable, give them to charity and take a tax deduction. If they’re not, throw them away and take a deep breath. You’re free – you don’t have to worry about them any more.

Some people might worry that throwing out usable items and food would be wasteful. Well, right now you’re being wasteful: you’re wasting space and time and happiness worrying about mere THINGS that you don’t want and won’t use. In getting rid of material impediments, you can be charitable and cleaner and calmer. And you’ll have learned some things: don’t make so much meatloaf next time. Don’t buy orange even if it’s on sale. Pay the extra dollar for socks that will last more than two wearings. Aunt Bessie will never see the inside of your closet, so she’ll never know if you kept her sweater.

I am a great proponent of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” But if you don’t and won’t use it, wear it, or do it, “it” is an unnecessary burden. Get rid of it, and be happy.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

For Dads...and Moms

Steven showed me this blog, and it has a great post on it.

Let's all commit to be better moms and dads.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oh, Isaiah

Sometimes I feel like I can't handle all this calling evil good and good evil.

I understand that differences in faith give people different values. I adhere absolutely to one religion, and I understand that if someone else adheres absolutely to a different one then we will disagree absolutely on some points. But I have to believe that pure honesty and earnest intent, if exercised by both parties, would keep us to a large degree on the same ground.

For my part, while I take no credit for any active virtue, I will humbly credit myself with motives that are entirely honest and pure. Even when I'm feeling rude or stinky, I inwardly recognize this - I know at those times that I am not being good, and my soul aches to repent. I recognize the honest intent for good in myself, and I feel I can sense it in other people. I think most people can. It's painfully easy to spot pride. It's painfully easy to sense confusion, unhappiness, indirectness, or underhandedness. But I think it's also beautifully easy and soothing to sense directness, altruism, and honesty. People like that, I can see eye to eye with. And between us, I feel that we will never disagree on inherent good and evil.

Some things are inherently good. Like integrity. Kindness. Compassion. Giving. Even being morally untrained, they give us a happy feeling. We feel their goodness.

Some things are inherently evil. Like dishonesty. Meanness. Cruelty. Selfishness. Even being morally untrained, they give us a yucky, uncomfortable feeling. We feel their evil.

So when I hear people calling derivatives or associates of the above-mentioned values conversely good or evil - when parties press and argue these points - I have to believe they are not being fully honest. Because I sense it, and it gives me a yucky feeling.

I just have a hard time dealing with dishonestly. And yucky feelings.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Still feels easy

Thanks, Steven, for my happiness. This was indeed a good idea.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Poor sickies

Consolation for getting up at 5:00 am to comfort and clean up two sad, pukey, poopy little girls
Sleeping in until 9:30 with one on my chest and the other snuggled up next to me.

There might theoretically be something sweeter and snugglier than sleeping with a baby on your chest. But I'm not sure what it is.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Although it might at first seem like a good idea to slam one's fingers very hard in a door, it probably isn't.

Hours later, it still hurts a lot.

(At least I got the recycling out for pickup just in time.)

Friday, July 16, 2010


How horrible of a parent would I be if I were to use permanent marker to draw a line down Olivia's scalp in order to make straight pigtails?

Yeah...that's what I thought. Oh, well.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm with Michelle

I just wanted to applaud our First Lady for picking a wonderful platform in attacking childhood obesity. It is a real problem, and I'm glad she's using her unique situation to encourage health.

As I write this, though, it occurred to me that Michelle Obama is also considered a fashion icon - so I would love it if her next agenda was to combat vanity sizing. Please?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grab bag

Olivia just said, "Mommy, you are so nice." It made me feel great.

I ordered a new car seat for Carmen on Amazon at 2:00 pm on Friday, and it arrived at around 9:00 on Saturday. Now THAT's service! (And this was with the free shipping option!) The car seat is purple. We have 2 girls, and I'm through with buying unisex stuff for them (at least for now).

My poor little Carmen is having a rough time with her last few molars. She didn't sleep much last night and, after exhausting other appropriate means of inflicting unconsciousness, I finally had to let her cry herself to sleep this afternoon. She was just so tired and so uncomfortable with her runny nose. I'm glad she's finally getting some rest.

We just read "The Communist Manifesto" for book group, and I loved reading it. No one should ever attempt to discuss government, especially communism, without having read it (this means you, former Amber).

Tropical Storm season is fun for me.

Last week, in honor of Independence Day, I decided to start learning the official Armed Forces songs. They're fun. My favorite line comes from "Anchors Aweigh":

and sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!

Crazy Navy.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Dear World,

"Amber" is not the same name as "Amanda." They are not even related; they merely coincidentally have the same first 2 letters. Just like Steven/Stanley, Daniel/David, Jason/Jared/James, etc. - also all different names, also not interchangeable.

I do not mind being called any name if you are confused. But once you have learned that my name is Amber, please do not call me Amanda.



(I'm sure all Amandas out there would agree.)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Help! I'm trapped by the internet!

This evening I spent way too much time doing nothing online, so I finally decided I need something to show for it (a blog post).

Today I gave a children's Sunday School lesson about the Holy Ghost, and as an example used one of my grandfather's experiences during WWII. As I was trying to recall it (as my dad had told it to me 20 years ago), I realized that I was shady on details: how old was he when he was drafted? How long was he in the war? What did he actually do? Fortunately, the internet is a marvel, and I was able to find his obituary online, and made some cross references to find out more, but I wish I had a first-hand account.

Obviously, it's too late for that now. And the thing is, I did make it a point to talk to my grandpa about his life during the few months I lived with them after college. I'm very grateful for that. I guess I'm kicking myself for not having been more curious, not pressing more for details about everything, because now the chance is gone. For everything.

I always think no one could be interested in my personal musings and details of my day-to-day that I consider obvious or mundane. Today, I realized that my grandfather's obvious and mundane would be a treasure for me to have. I know some because I knew him, and he wrote down a lot. But not everything.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Good parenting

This morning I reached a point where I just couldn't take my kids' incessant fussing any more. But, instead of exploding or even yelling, I managed to hold it together until lunch, then calmly and lovingly force them to take naps (Olivia was surprisingly, and most gratefully, receptive). Then I took a nice, childless shower.

I feel good, my kids are happy (and asleep), and I'm proud of myself. Gold star! (JM, that's for you.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Half right

The other day Olivia asked, "Is Carmen sweetly scented?"

Heh. I should say not.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Part of our morning ritual is spraying and combing out Olivia's bedhead. Lately Carmen, a typical little sister, has wanted me to do the same thing with her tangle-less baby hair. This morning I had squirted and combed and was giving Carmen drinks of water out of the squirt bottle (another favorite) when Olivia observed (or advised?), "You don't comb Carmen's mouth too."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nerds in training

Good job, girls. You're still too physically attractive and we'll need to work on the social awkwardness, but that will come, I'm sure.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Watching the kid

Remember my couple crush?

Well, they've since become a venn diagram, and today they posted this:

Is it any wonder I love these people?

(And yes, I am aware that he looks kind of like Steven. They even went to the same high school, where they oddly did not know each other. I guess that's why we're friends.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hungry Caterpillar Tutorial

Probably my biggest recent project was Olivia's 3rd birthday party! The theme was The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, and I got massively geeked out about it. I made cute invitations, my SIL made an AMAZING birthday cake, and we ate all the foods the caterpillar ate through (although, plums not being in season, the kids got prunes. It was not the most popular item on the table).

Anyway, Steven is a much better blogger than I am, and you can read and see more about the party here. (You're even welcome to comment - I promise that Steven is much nicer than me). However, one thing you WON'T get on his blog is a tutorial on how to make the central point of the party: my Very Hungry Caterpillar party favors!

These were totally my favorite part of the party - I dreamed them up one night and was just giddy about giving them out.


Sewing machine and thread (I used green)
Paper to make patterns
Glue gun
3 colors of knit (old t-shirts work great!) - 6" x 9" each. (I tried it first with cotton. Knit is MUCH better.)
cotton fabric for butterfly wings - about 6" x 9"
2 pieces grosgrain ribbon, each about 3" and beveled at the ends
4 eyes (I used google eyes, you can use buttons or even draw them on)

Step 1: Wings

Fold your paper in half to cut out a pair of butterfly wings that are about 6" wide and 4" tall - you can see how mine look. (I was going to upload it for you to print, but figured if you can't make your own paper butterfly wings, sewing them is totally out.)

Then fold your cotton in half with right sides facing, and trace your pattern onto one wrong side.

Sew right on the line all around the wings.

Make sure that you have a big enough corner, so when you trim the seam and turn it out the fabric won't unravel.

Trim about a 1/8" seam all around, making sure to clip all the way in to the corners (as shown).

Then, pulling the fabric away from each other on the inside, make a vertical cut in one side of the wings, big enough so you can turn them outside out.

Then turn it right side out.

Now set the wings aside for the moment.

Step 2: The body

Layer your knits like so:
Caterpillar fabric: right side up
Butterfly fabric: WRONG side up
Cocoon fabric: right side up

Line them up, then sew them all together across one long end.

(Note - when I made a bunch of caterpillars, I just sewed long 6" high strips of these, then cut them into 9" lengths afterward.)

Next, separate the butterfly layer from the rest, and use your marker to put a line 1/4 of the way in (in the middle of what will be one side of the body).

Now pin your wings there with the cut side down...

And sew them on, then trim your strings.

Now take the ribbon and pin it on in an X right above the center of your wings. Fold them up and pin them shut as well (so they won't accidentally get sewn into the body). Then bring up the green layer again so it's behind the butterfly body layer.

Fold all layers in half (your wings are inside). Pay no attention to the gnarled looking toes. (I've heard it's a Danish thing.)

Now, on the folded side, start at the base of the green (where your long seam is) and sew a 1/4" seam all the way up the side...

Curving around the top, stitching over the antennae...(Note: if you're not confident with your curving skills, make a rounded body pattern out of paper and trace it onto the knit, then sew over it, just like with the wings.)

And then all the way down the side, so it looks like this.

Trim your seam to about 1/8", being careful not to cut the antennae.

Now, starting from the open end of the cocoon, turn the whole thing butterfly side out, being careful not to stab yourself on the pins. Then take them out of the antennae...

And the wings...

And unfold the wings!

Use the glue gun to put eyes on the front of the caterpillar and the butterfly, and you're done! (I didn't put on a mouth because the kids can kind of make one with their fingers and the caterpillar eats things.)

So, here's the caterpillar (with the cocoon tucked inside)...

You take out the cocoon and wrap it around the body...

Then turn it inside out, and it's a butterfly!

Hooray! Let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Today during lunch

Olivia: There's little things in my bread!
Me: Those are seeds. They're yummy! They're what little birds eat.
O: Can I have a coat?
M: What? A coat? (I wasn't sure I heard her right - it's Spring in Houston, and she has imperfect Rs)
O (starts crying): Over there in the closet!
M: Oh, Olivia, why do you need a coat? It's warm in here!
O: I need a coat so the birds won't eat me! (tugs at her short sleeves)
M: It's okay. There aren't any birds in here.
O: RIGHT THERE! (points out the window, where there are birds flying around in the backyard)
M: But look, they're outside, and you're inside. And birds don't eat people. They just eat seeds and worms. If I went outside with my short sleeves, the birds would see my arms and say, "What nice arms. But I don't eat people." And then they would look for some seeds. They don't eat arms.
O: But they would try...

(She finally calmed down. But she wouldn't eat the seedy bread.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Drink up

We just finished breakfast, and I asked Carmen, "Would you like some milk?"

Then Olivia asked her sweetly, "Would you like some beer?"

I have NO idea where that came from!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This just in:

Steven's a little late getting home today, so I just said out loud, "Where is our Daddy?"

From upstairs, a little voice answered me back, "Youw daddy's at wowk, Sweetheawt."


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shameless Plug

My sister The Looney Writer has been writing a book as a serial on her blog. She'd love to have some more people read it and provide feedback. So, I'll refer you to her place and invite you to take a peek. There are 12 chapters now (don't let "chapter" scare you - they're all pretty short. I'm a lazy reader, and even I have time for this.) Let her know what you think!

Friday, March 19, 2010


Potty training makes me want to pout. That's all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spare the meat

Many of you know that in recent years, our family has made it a priority to eat meat sparingly. To us, this has meant that we have meat meals less often, and when we do, we use less meat in them. While we make no claims of being any variety of vegetarian or models of healthy living, we have really enjoyed the less-weighed-down feeling of eating less meat. (I like killing fewer animals, too.)

When I discuss this with friends, many of them ask how we have balanced, filling family meals that do not include meat. Again, I make no claims of being a health expert or dietitian, but our family has been satisfied with our diet, so I thought I'd share this week's dinner menu as an example:

Potato and chickpea curry with naan
Butternut squash soup, rolls, salad and asparagus
Eggplant parmigiana with garlic bread
Clam chowder
Baked tilapia, artichokes, garlic bread, and patatas bravas

1 features meat (paella)
1 has cheese (eggplant parmigiana)
2 have seafood (clam chowder and tilapia)
2 have meat flavoring (squash soup: chicken bouillon; clam chowder: bacon grease in which to saute onions)

For me, the secret to meatless meal planning has been to emphasize what you CAN eat, rather than what you can't. We don't substitute tofu or soy or anything like that. We figure out what non-meat foods we like - vegetables, grains, legumes - and build meals that revolve around those things. One reason meat is so popular is because it has strong, delicious flavor. There are other foods that also have strong, delicious flavors, so when we make those the focal part of the meal, we honestly don't feel like we're missing anything (because we aren't).

Friday, February 26, 2010

Terrible twos

I'm very glad I had Carmen when I did. Even though Olivia is generally a very good kid, 2 is taking its toll, and it's nice to have a sweet little Carmen to comfort me when Olivia's being a pill.

Friday, February 19, 2010

It's all in the family

On Saturday I split my lip.

On Sunday Carmen got a black eye.

On Wednesday Olivia got a split lip and a bruised cheek.

This morning Carmen split her lip.

Steven is not beating us, and we have not taken up boxing.

(Just for the record, I split my lip on a bolt of fabric, Carmen fell on a door hinge, Olivia bumped heads with a friend, and Carmen slipped and bit her lip.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Another surgery

One dark night a few weeks ago, tragedy struck our family.

Due to the gross neglect of one male member of our family who shall remain nameless, our darling Marianne was involved in a terrible car accident that left her eyeless.

Fortunately, a recognized specialist in kitty eye transplants is doing residency here. But before the surgery could take place, we needed an eye to transplant.

A city-wide search (of thrift stores) was conducted to try to find a suitable donor, one who had 9mm blue round acrylics. (This yielded only a green-eyed frog that Olivia took a shine to.) We finally turned to the black market (craft stores) and found grotesque packages of body parts…but alas, the only blue eyes were 12mm, too large for Marianne’s dainty features.

Finally, in an act of supreme charity, Marianne’s larger (and less beloved) sister White Tiger offered to sacrifice her own blue eyes in exchange for a surgical enhancement of larger blue eyes. With some misgivings, the eye surgeon agreed to proceed.

WARNING: the following graphic photographs of the actual surgery may be disturbing to some sensitivities. Viewer discretion is advised.

Dressed out for surgery

The kitties with their IVs

Performing the delicate procedure

Resting up in post op after a successful surgery

We are happy to report that the transplants were successful (as gauged by Olivia's not rejecting them). While Olivia still doesn't care as much about White Tiger, I must say that because of her unselfishness, she now holds a much dearer place in my heart. And of course, we're all glad to have Marianne back to normal.