As you may or may not know I play the harp. Back when I was but a child, I saw somebody playing a harp and I just fell in love. Unfortunately for me my mother had musical fantasies of her own and I got to live those out instead. It didn’t matter that I had less than zero desire to be the church organist, that’s what my mother always wanted to be so my siblings and I were chained to piano lessons starting when we were small. I was never any good–truly–and I hated it with a white-hot burning passion. “Oh, one day you’ll thank me for forcing you to play!” my mother assured me as I sat and cried yet again before another piano lesson.

When I got old enough I started taking organ lessons. Excuse me, organ lesson. Did you know that you play the organ with not just your hands, but also your feet? There is a whole other keyboard in front of the bench on the floor!  I took one lesson and I was like, no way is that ever happening in a million years. I can’t even play a hymn with my hands let alone my feet.

Let’s fast forward to the conclusion of my piano career: I was lucky enough to get in a car crash and break my arm really badly when I was sixteen. No more lessons! I didn’t touch a piano for years after that and still avoid them at all costs. I hated, hated, hated playing and have thankfully forgotten how to do it so I will never have to play again. So, yeah, thanks Mom! I told you when I was ten that I would never play the piano when I grew up but, nooo, you just didn’t believe me.  Moral of the story: Music education is very important. But if your kid wants to play a different instrument, let her! Second moral of the story: Don’t get in a battle of wills with me. You’ll lose.

When I was thirty or so I decided that my time had come. I have always been a collector of hobbies and harp-playing seemed perfect to add to my repertoire of semi-pointless but enjoyable skills. At that time I lived in Utah where there are about a jillion harpists. (I don’t know what it is about Mormons and harps but there is a total love connection.) I found a super awesome teacher and adored it from day one. The best thing about playing the harp is that it sounds really wonderful even when you aren’t very good. It’s quite a bit more complicated than it looks, though. It has a lot more in common with playing the piano than, say, a stringed instrument like a guitar.

Even though I love playing the harp, I just don’t have a musical self. Music does not come naturally to me. I like visual stuff way more. I should be way better at playing the harp than I am, although I totally quit after I had Jasper; harp lessons seemed like a laughable folly when I had six children under age ten and could barely even handle simple tasks like brushing my hair. I can also be a bit of a perfectionist. So playing and making mistake after mistake kind of stresses me out.

Which I am now realizing since I agreed to play the harp at church on the Sunday before Christmas. I haven’t learned a new piece in about a decade. I just keep playing all the ones I’m already good at. That seems incredibly lame now that I write it out. What’s the matter with me? I guess I like coasting along.

I found a piece that is not too challenging (“In the Bleak Midwinter” because I just dig those oddball carols) but–oh my goodness gracious–is it killing me!!! I have been practicing all week and I still haven’t gotten past the second line. I can’t even play the first two lines without making a dozen mistakes! This does not bode well. And because I suck and because I agreed to play in front of the entire universe I have a permanent stress-knot in between my shoulder blades (also my eyelid twitches but that’s not such a big deal). Apparently I won’t be able to relax until after December 21st or unless a true Christmas miracle occurs allowing me to learn the music better.

Bleak midwinter, indeed.


PC240599Whew! What a Christmas! It’s taken me a whole week just to recover from our vacation. We went to The Motherland (Utah), where several relatives on both sides met us. We spent the entire time going from family to family with tiny interludes of seeing old friends. Relaxing, it was not. Not even close. But it was still a good vacation because we got to spend so much time with the people we love the most. I always have this crazy notion that vacations are meant for relaxation and if that doesn’t happen then I feel gypped and angry. And of course when I feel angry I like to take it out on Mister and vice versa, so there were a lot of fun moments where we sent daggers from our eyes to each other.

I may or may not have also taken my lack of sleep and stress about the holidays out on my mother-in-law.  We had a little “incident” over a lemon pie (formerly Lemon Truffle Pie but hereafter known as The Pie That Ruined Christmas) that ended with me being unpleasant and my mother-in-law sobbing at the kitchen table. If you want to know how to make my husband madder than he’s ever been, try being mean to his mom. On second thought, don’t.

But, like I said, it was a good trip because we got to spend time with our relatives; all of whom we adore. These are all the cousins who were in Utah from Mister’s side. A whole bunch are missing but hopefully we’ll see them soon.


The kids also got to go skiing. It was the first time Ada and Jasper had seen snow since they were babies. Nothing beats that Utah snow. I, of course, did not go skiing because I don’t go outside when it’s that cold unless the house is on fire. There’s not enough hot chocolate in the world to make outdoor sports worth it.

On the second day of skiing Arabella and India ended up stranded at the top of a “terrifying ski run” (from the way they made it sound it was a black diamond, but turned out to only be a green. But they’re newbies, OK?). The Ski Patrol tried to lead them down but they preferred to sit at the top of the mountain and cry for over an hour. Finally one of their grown-up cousins tracked them down and coaxed them down the hill, reassuring them the entire time that they weren’t about to die.

Skiing at Park City

We flew to/from Utah on Southwest Airlines. This was necessary because of the two free bags that are allowed for each person. When Christmas presents and winter clothes are involved, you need all the baggage you can get. The trip north was fine (only nine suitcases!) but the trip home was a little iffier. We ended up with two additional suitcases and a box of beautiful wreaths that I bought the day after Christmas (yay for sales! And yay for Tai Pan Trading!).*

We required our own shuttle out to the airport parking lot when we got back to Austin, we had so much stuff and people. Mister had actually come to Utah on a later flight than the rest of us so he brought the near-empty minivan to the airport when he left. He had the brilliant idea to throw the rooftop luggage rack in the car at the last minute since he knew we’d be short on space.

Only it turns out the luggage rack doesn’t fit our car. It was for our old minivan. He swore up and down that we’ve used it on Betsy, my current minivan. But evidence proved otherwise and there we were with not only a million bags but a giant roof rack that didn’t come close to fitting on the top of my car. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and with the help of a luggage strap and some yarn from a knitting project, we strapped that roof rack on the top of my car. It jiggled and rocked precariously the whole way home and I expected it to go flying off onto the car behind us at any moment. But we drove 45 mph on the freeway the whole way home. It took us an extra 15 minutes but nobody behind us was decapitated. Success!

We did manage to get all the bags in the car but everyone had to sit Indian style so we could put bags under the kids’ feet. And then we all had to pile suitcases in our laps.  You should probably know that by this point I was screaming, “shut up!” anytime someone tried to speak. Never has anyone been so glad to pull into their driveway. I made a quick dinner, took a sleeping pill and was in bed with earplugs by 8:30. And I slept until 8:00 the next morning.  The perfect way to end any vacation.

I’m quite sure we won’t be taking our show on the road for Christmas again. Although it was lovely to spend the holidays with our relatives, the stress and trouble are simply too much. Unless our relatives want to spend Christmas in Hawaii. I’m pretty sure we could make that work.

*I’m going to overdo it on decorating next year. I have to make up for this year; Although I decorated my house, I didn’t put up the Christmas tree. We wouldn’t be home for Christmas! Can you blame me?  The sad thing is that I bought a new star and a new tree skirt and didn’t even try them out. I’m so lame sometimes that I shock myself.

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I may or may not have announced on Facebook a couple of weeks ago: “If you post pictures of your Elf on the Shelf I will unfriend you for the month of December.” Partly to be funny, but partly out of spite I felt I needed to issue my warning. Some people like this “tradition” (Nobody was doing it five years ago so it’s not really that much of a tradition), but some people really despise it (me!). There are so many reasons I hate it: using weird bribery to get kids to behave, furthering the “I Believe” cult of people bearing their testimonies of Santa, and it does have such a creepy little face. Mostly, though, I hate this Elf on the Shelf thing because it symbolizes all the crazy stuff we do to ourselves during the holiday season. Somehow Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day have come together to create a completely bizarre tradition: an Elf that gets into crazy mischief every single night. As if buying presents, giving neighbor gifts, attending concerts and/or parties, making travel arrangements, decorating our houses, doing one or more advent calendars, and baking at least a few more times than we usually do isn’t enough. Now we have this Elf to worry about to.

I know that most of the people who do it say it’s a fun and harmless tradition. But it seems to be a bit overboard. It seems to be just one more thing to increase the chance of being in a bad mood come December 25th. I would just ask all the big proponents of the Elf movement how many times they’ve posted pictures of their Elf hijinx on Facebook, blogs or Instagram. Because it seems that the people who are most into the Elf are the ones who are most active in social media. Are they really doing it for their kids or are they doing it to impress everyone else?

Is the Elf on the Shelf really to blame? Or is it just a symptom of our runaway culture? Is everything about Christmas getting out of hand? I have to admit that a few years ago when I had had enough of “all this materialism” and decided to make every single Christmas present by hand for all our relatives that I became a stressed out basket case. That Christmas was sheer misery. I thought that by making everything I would somehow get in touch with the spirit of Christmas, only to find myself knitting and making soap at 3 am on several occasions.

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I hope you are all having a wonderful Thanksgiving. Every year of my adult life I’ve been up in the wee hours making Thanksgiving dinner. Some years it’s been at Mister’s parent’s house and there have been lots of people helping out. Some years it’s been me doing the whole thing. This year we decided to do a Pie Party and make all our pies the day before Thanksgiving and invite people over for that (And have pizza too, which also counts as pie sort of). I spent a day and a half making several pies. It was really nice to get it done early. And since dessert is way more important than the rest of Thanksgiving dinner it was nice to be able to eat it while we all still had room in our stomachs.  It was lovely to have people over that we actually are friends with instead of relatives who fall all over the likeability spectrum. Although most of our friends are at the beach because the kids get out of school for a whole week. Why would you visit family someplace cold when the beach is just a few hours away? But we–losers apparently–remain home. But we certainly are making the best of it.

But back to Thanksgiving dinner. We are buying it this year. From Cracker Barrell. It was Mister’s idea. I have eaten at Cracker Barrell exactly once in my entire life but Mister takes the kids to breakfast there all the time. He claims it’s good. After a jillion hours in the kitchen already, I’m more than thrilled to not be cooking right now. Especially since it’s just the same group of people I cook dinner for every single day of my life.  Mister wrapped a little turkey with bacon and threw it on the smoker this morning so we’d have some extra meat (turkey is my favorite!). But otherwise I am leaving it to somebody else to feed me. And that is what I am thankful for today.

Have a super Thanksgiving!

P.S. I like to call the above picture, “Sure you can wear my bonnet, Tom! I’ll just get it back tomorrow when we cut your head off.”

This Halloween, more than all the others, has really driven home the fact that my kids are growing up. On one hand it’s really nice because teenagers are much more fun to talk to than babies. They also clean up the house (theoretically) and do chores.  But most of the time it’s just kind of sad.  We did our usual dinner at Chipotle ($3 per person if you’re in a costume!). We hardly ever eat out as a family because it’s just too expensive so this is a nice treat for us. Plus Chipotle is a nice healthy start to the sugar-fest.

After we were done eating the older four kids scattered to the wind to hang out with friends. I didn’t even make it home with all the kids before they started taking off. Which means that I didn’t get any pictures of the whole family together. Naturally the older kids went trick or treating because FREE CANDY! But they weren’t interested in going with their super lame mom. Even Arabella went with a friend for the first time. She said they just “didn’t click tonight” so it ended up being a little awkward.

Which left me with just the babies. So easy. No need to holler ahead the whole time and tell the older kids to slow down. Once you have six kids, just hanging with two is very odd, though. It seems super lonely and quiet. So we all went over to my friend Anna’s house and sorted our candy with her kids. It was much noisier and I felt a lot more at ease.

The older kids finally showed up around 10. They don’t bother sorting or trading anymore and the whole thing is just sad, sad, sad.

Here are the photos I did get. Arabella wore the same costume as last year because it was really difficult to make and expensive so she’d better get some use out of it. The only difference is that this year Martha Washington/Marie Antoinette has braces. Totally authentic.

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Jasper and Ada were cowboys. Ada has been telling me for months that she wanted to be a cowgirl with red boots. So I had plenty of time to prepare. Jasper was unsure what he wanted to be up until the last minute, when he saw Ada’s costume and decided to get in on the wild west fun. Fortunately I had extra fabric left over and it took literally twenty minutes to make another vest. And Target had cowboy boots on sale so we were all set.

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It was a quiet Halloween and we were a little cold since it was only 70°. That’s practically arctic by Texas standards. But it was much less hectic than usual so I have to give it a thumbs up.

I worked until my second child was a few months old but I made sure that I only worked hours that Mister was home so we didn’t need to put the kids in daycare. One day when India was a baby I forgot to restock the formula before I went to work but I figured it wasn’t a big deal; Mister was perfectly capable of going to the store. Capable, yes; did he want to? That was another story. I got home from work that night to find baby India drinking a bottle of chocolate Slim-Fast. Pretty much the same thing as formula, right? But it could have been worse. Happy Mother’s Day!





It’s currently 9 am and I have been up for four hours already. Instead of finishing India’s pioneer skirt way ahead of time like a good girl, I was up hemming it at 5:00 this morning. But I made good time and got the apron done too. I even had time to add pockets. Everything was finished on time and we made it out of the house at the appointed time at 6:45. I really would have liked to sleep in today. I have ward council at 7:30 am tomorrow so no sleeping in for another week. Blech. It’s my own fault, I guess.

Honestly I don’t know why I didn’t make the skirt months ago. Or even a week ago. Why do I always wait until the last second? The same thing happened on Valentine’s Day. I planned the kids valentines and ordered the supplies a whole month in advance. But I waited to make them until the night before. And of course I was so tired that I figured I’d finish them the next morning–forgetting that the kids hand out Valentine’s first thing.

Sometimes doing things early does backfire. I finished a few Valentines and Ada put them in a box on the table (each one had a homemade chocolate chip cookie. Texas is totally cool with homemade food being brought to school. I really like the idea of the kids getting at least one treat that isn’t chock full o’ chemicals.)  Of course Margaret, my dog frenemy, pushed a chair out so she could climb up and ate several cookies.  So sometimes doing things early is not so great. But I should know better than to keep edible things where the dog can reach them.

Here I am 41 years old and I swear I’m still as bad a procrastinator as I was when I was 21. When will I learn? Are you a procrastinator? Were you ever? I seriously need to learn how to motivate myself not to put things off. I’m driving myself batty!

Here are the valentines. They turned out really cute even though I waited til the last minute to put them together. I am, as ever, a Valentine’s Day overachiever.

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Remember how last week I was saying that Valentine’s Day is stupid unless it involves giving me a present? And that my husband is super fantastic? Guess what he gave me for Valentine’s Day? The most romantic and beloved of gifts: a new laptop.

You probable don’t remember how my Macbook Air died a slow, tubercular death last May. Well, I do. Every single day I do. Every single time I have to use the kids’ stupid computer in the playroom, I do. Or when Mister let me use his old laptop that was the computer equivalent of an old man with renal failure and Alzheimers. It didn’t even have a battery that worked. Which is part of the reason why my blogging has suffered rather a lot since then.

But now I have a shiny new MacBook Pro that will soon be covered with decals and a cushy cover because I am a smidge hard on laptops.

I was very surprised and touched that Mister would have bought me a new computer, especially since his favorite thing to lecture me about is how poorly I treat electronics (I do not deny it). He also told me that I could get a new computer if I sold all his old crap in the garage on Craigs List/ebay. Whatever! I want to get a new computer not earn one! Jeez!  But then the truth came out: my new laptop is actually Mister’s old laptop. It is, in seller’s parlance, gently used.


So Mister got himself a new laptop for Valentine’s Day.

Okay, then.

I could choose to be slightly miffed or I can just rejoice that I am back to the land of the living with a laptop that has Photoshop on it. And lots of fancy fonts.

I choose rejoicing.

But don’t get your hopes too up, I’ve still got that whole Relief Society President thing going on.

Well, looky here, it’s  Valentine’s Day. When I was younger Valentine’s Day was so incredibly important. Only a naïve young thing would really base the feelings of the person she likes and/or loves on how he behaves on a certain day. But then, that’s who Valentine’s Day is really for–people who are unsure of their partners. Either that or for men who are so lackadaisical about being thoughtful that they must have one day each calendar year to make up for it.

This day has become so contrived and ridiculous. Everyone is encouraged to buy red roses (yawn!) or worse–balloons (how are balloons romantic? Maybe in the same way that Chuck E. Cheese is?) You must go out to eat at some place “romantic”, knowing that the staff are panting to get you out of there so they can seat yet another couple. And that’s if you found someplace that takes reservations. Heaven help you if you show up at the Olive Garden tonight.

Not to brag or anything but I pretty much won the lottery when it comes to thoughtful men. I get flowers ever few weeks, a date every Friday night and a husband who always does the kindest things for holidays. Even when we’ve been broke he comes up with fantastic, sweet ideas. And he is a great present-picker-outer as well. So I don’t really feel the need for Valentine’s Day. I know my man loves me because of the things he does the other 364 days of the year.

No, I will probably not get flowers today. I am thoroughly ok with that. Don’t get me wrong, though; I love, love, love presents and if I happen to get one today I’ll be thrilled (Mister, if you’re reading this there’s a serger I’ve had my eye on.….).

If you’re freaking out that you husband or boyfriend didn’t  spend $80 on a dozen roses, ask yourself why it’s so important that he gives those to you. Maybe you need to relax on the holiday stuff and demand that he pamper you all the rest of the year. (And yes, sometimes you do have to demand it until he gets with the program. Much the way you demand your kids to put away their shoes or do their homework; not to be bratty but to get them to form a habit. See also: how to get your husband to bring you breakfast in bed on the weekends.)

Mister will be firing up the grill tonight (it’s 70°. Lovely.) and making us some superb ribeyes (on my tombstone it will say, “Can’t go wrong with a ribeye”. By far my favorite cut of steak.) and we will have a romantic candlight dinner with all the kiddos. Seriously. They get so jazzed to eat by candlelight. By then the crowds will have thinned out and we’ll go have dessert at my favorite dessert spot in Austin, Chez Zee. Their butterscotch pudding is my favorite dessert on the entire planet. (Don’t think jell-o butterscotch pudding; imagine the most heavenly dish of smooth, creamy, caramelly goodness sprinkled with sea salt. Oh my goodness, I can hardly wait. After that, well, we’ll play it by ear.

Whatever your partner situation, I hope Valentine’s Day makes you happy this year. But remember, it’s not the thing to gauge your entire relationship on.

I posted this over at Segullah today, but thought it was pertinent to everyone. At least everyone who is celebrating a New Year. If you celebrate Chinese New Year instead then maybe you shoud skip this (and ni hou to you, by the way).

As a person who constantly fails at New Year’s Resolutions, I rarely make them anymore. Last year something clicked and not only did I make a couple of resolutions, but I actually kept them. One was to go all year without drinking Mt. Dew. This is a really big deal because I’m pretty much an addict. I can turn down other pop but not The Dew. So I drank an entire 2 liter bottle last New Years Eve and did not have another drop for 365 days.

The other goal I kept was to hang my clothes up every night. I always stay up too late (the house is so beautifully quiet!) and end up stumbling to bed ready to pass out. I drop my clothes on the floor and slide into bed. You would think that the 90 seconds it takes to hang up my clothes wouldn’t be such a big deal. But it has been. It wasn’t until I finally could say, “it’s not like I’m going to want to hang these up tomorrow either. I should just do it now,” that the light bulb turned on. And we all know how piles of clothes beget piles of clothes. Better to nip it in the bud.

This New Year’s Eve found me dreamily imagining the great things I would accomplish this year: meaningful scripture study? Never going to bed with a messy kitchen? Restricting the time I spend online? Not eating sugar all year? It wasn’t until yesterday that I thought of something I’d really like to accomplish: I want to be more creative.

I constantly see cute projects everywhere and think, “I’ll bet I could do that!” But I rarely do. I almost never try. Doing creative projects—whether artsy, craftsy or even writing—makes me feel selfish and indulgent. Creative acts make me feel vital and alive and really work out the stress in my life. However, that naggy, rotten voice in my head pipes up and tells me what a waste of time it all is. I should be sorting laundry and throwing out rotten leftovers. I haven’t earned the right to do something fun—which is how creativity feels to me.

But I’m telling that voice to shut up. I’m making Craft Hour from 9:30-10:30 every morning. There will not be appointments scheduled or sinks scrubbed. This is the time when I can let loose the creativity I keep shut away. For once I’m actually thrilled about a resolution. I already have today’s project laid out on my entry hall floor (new living room curtains!).

Are you telling that negative voice in your head to just shut up this year? Are you setting goals? Do you find the whole thing ridiculous? Is failure your middle name?