Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Sickness

We've had a sick little Cyrus around here this week.  He's been running a high fever, coughing and just generally feeling miserable.  We've been really lucky with out kids - they rarely get sick, and when they do, it is not a very big deal.  Cyrus has had high fevers before, but they usually have no affect on him.  This time, though, he has been wiped out.  In fact, this happened, twice:

Cy fell asleep on the couch the past two days while watching a movie.  I realize this is common place for many kids, but Cy has only fallen asleep somewhere other than his bed or the car maybe twice in his life.  He fell asleep during Hook (remember that movie?) during the big fight scene - not exactly a quiet, soothing lullaby.

Pita (that's the name we settled on for our dog, by the way) has wanted nothing more than to be with Cyrus. He, of course, has wanted nothing to do with her.  This time, she managed to sneak up on the couch after he fell asleep.

We've taking bets on who will contract this miserable illness next.  Because of the high fever and some weird breathing issues, Cy has been sleeping with us the past few nights, which means I have been breathing in his sick germs all night.  However, Hattie is showing some sick signs, so maybe she is next.

In other news, I have discovered the fail-safe cure for kid illness - making a doctor's appointment.  Since Saturday afternoon, Cyrus has barely moved off of the couch, and has only spoken when totally necessary.  He's cracked a handful of weak smiles.  This afternoon I called to see I should bring him in, and because of the weird breathing stuff, they said yes.  That was at 2 pm   I took his temperature and with a reading of 105.1, I gave him some Tylenol   By the time we reached the doctor's office at 4:30, he barely looked sick!  he smiled, laughed, chatted up the doctor, bounced around the doctor's office - seriously?  I mean, I was happy to see him feeling better, but maybe he could have done that before I made the appointment!  This seriously happens to me every time one of my kid's gets sick  Of course, tonight his fever is back up and looks all sickly again, poor little guy.

Having a sick kid around the house has been extra tricky with a needy puppy and an even needier 14 month old.  Pita is used to spending lots of time outside, and Hattie is used to all kinds of adventures.  Instead, we've been hanging out on the couch.  In the process of trying to keep everyone happy, the house got a little out of control today:

Here's hoping that we, or at least I, miraculously avoid the nastiness!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I love Thanksgiving!  As I mentioned in a previous post, it is my most favorite holiday.  What is better than food and family?  This Thanksgiving was up there as one of my favorites.  The food was tasty, the company was great, and the atmosphere was low-key.

We originally invited my Dad, step-mom and three siblings to come to our house for Thanksgiving, but in the end only my Dad and step-mom came. While I was bummed to not have the rest of the family there, it was kind of nice to have a small group.  Jason and I did all the cooking, while my parents played with the kids all day.  I think it was the best case scenario for all involved!

This is the first year since our Bronx days that we hosted a Thanksgiving, and I realized on Wednesday that perhaps I should think about things like tablecloths and centerpieces.  These things are not exactly my forte, but I manged to figure out a simple centerpiece, buy my first tablecloth and cloth napkins (!), and then I let my husband set the table.  I think it turned out quite nicely.

Since we hosted, we got to be in charge of the menu.  It was pretty much my perfect Thanksgiving dinner.  I wish I had pictures of all of the food, but here is a sampling of the spread:

In case you are curious, this was our menu:

Almond-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates with Gorgonzola sauce
Cheese plate

Sausage, Apple and Walnut Stuffing
Crash Hot Sweet Potatoes (thank you Pinterest)
Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
Ginger-Orange Cranberry Sauce
Artisan Bread  (Pinterest again!  I made an extra loaf of this ahead of time to use in the stuffing - so good!)
Pearl Onions in Cream Sauce
Field greens with Pears, Gorgonzola, and Candied Pecans

Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie

Did I mention there were only 4 adults and 2 very small children?  Yeah, lets just say that we have a fair amount of leftovers, which is exactly how I like it!  We've been enjoying Thanksgiving all day today, too!

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Laundry Miracle

Hattie is currently into everything.  Each cabinet, drawer, basket, door, etc, holds a new world of wonder for her to explore.  On the plus side, she is now better at entertaining herself while I get through such complex tasks as showering or cleaning the kitchen. On the negative side, things like this happen:

That is a picture of two containers of play-dough in my completed wash load.  

 As I moved the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer, I unearthed a total of four containers of play-dough.

I did eventually find the thing I dreaded: a lid with no container, followed by an open container of green play-dough   Miraculously, that green play-dough adversely affected a mere two items of relatively inconsequential laundry: a Hattie sock, and a pair of Cy's underwear.

The events leading up to this strange laundry occurrence transpired while I was getting ready for my run this morning.  Hattie occupied herself by removing play-dough containers from the craft closet, and, evidently, throwing them into my basket of waiting laundry.  I guess I will be checking my laundry baskets before dumping them in the washing machine from now on.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Forgotten Holiday

Remember when stores waited until the day after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas?  Our children won't remember that - heck, I barely remember it.  Then it started the week before Thanksgiving.  Then two weeks before.  Now it seems like it starts the day after Halloween  unless of course we're talking about Costco, in which case, it starts the first of October!  
Costco Christmas display (

But its not just the stores.  People seem to have pushed up their Christmas schedules too.  Instead of Thanksgiving marking the beginning of the Holiday Shopping season, it seems to be marking the end.  Yesterday, we took a little trip to Target in the afternoon to get some household supplies, and we nearly turned around and went home when we saw the parking lot.  It felt the weekend before Christmas, not the weekend before Thanksgiving.  But then I realized that the weekend before Thanksgiving kind of is the weekend before Christmas.  People in my neighborhood put up their Christmas lights a week after Halloween.  

Now look, I love Christmas!  I love the lights, and the decorations, and the baking, and the Christmas music (thank goodness most radio stations are still waiting to start that tradition), and the Christmas goodness.  But just like any good thing, too much of it and it becomes, well, less good.  I don't want to be sick of Christmas before December even starts!  I want to relish in every little bit of Christmas, and maybe even feel a little sad when it is over, instead of practically throwing the tree out once presents are unwrapped.  

The other problem with all this early decorating is that we end up overshadowing what is already a severely underrated holiday - Thanksgiving.  I love this holiday!  I love it at least as much as Christmas.  But the problem with Thanksgiving is that it can't really be Hallmarked up.  Besides the food, and maybe some table scapes and cornucopias, there just isn't much room for bleeding people dry with Thanksgiving.  I think that's why it is getting such a shaft from retailers.  But this is what I love about the holiday!  Its celebration at it's purest.  Food, family, and giving thanks!  It's the opposite of a commercial holiday.  We're not clamoring to receive presents from Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny, and we're not out begging strangers for candy.  We're just enjoying our families and feeling thankful for what we have.  

And yet, despite my love for this holiday, even I find myself thinking of it as a stepping stone to Christmas.  Just this evening, Jason and I sat down to plan out our December, and then realized that Thanksgiving is 4 days away and we haven't really planned for that yet!  What am I thinking?  To be fair, Thanksgiving did catch me off guard with it's freakish earliness this year, but I'm still kind of embarrassed that it almost became an afterthought!  

So I'm boycotting all this Christmas.  I refuse to purchase anything Christmas related until after Thanksgiving, and, because of it's earliness, I probably won't even do much until December 1st, a week later.  So there!

What about you?  Do you welcome all this early Christmas with open arms, or are you holding out and relishing sweet little underrated Thanksgiving?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Breakfast in Fresno

One of my challenges with Fresno is a lack of quality independent restaurants.  Having lived in Portland and New York City, we got pretty spoiled with an abundance of great, interesting places to eat.  In fact, I'm almost embarrassed to say this, but there was a point in New York when we actually craved a chain restaurant!  Phoenix had significantly fewer interesting, independent restaurants from which to choose, but we still found some great places that weren't national chains.

Here, however, we've struggled.  This is the land of the chain restaurant.  Adding to the feeling that the restaurants lack character is the fact that 90% of the restaurants are located in strip malls.  You just don't feel like you're in some chef's dream restaurant when you're eating next to a dry cleaners and grocery store.

To be fair, since having kids, eating out isn't exactly a regular occurrence in our family.  Taking a 1 year old and a 3 year old out to dinner can be something akin to torture for pretty much everyone involved, and our kids are pretty well behaved. However, we do enjoy going out to breakfast on occasion.  So we've been on the hunt for a good breakfast place.  So far we have been to three.

The first place is a pancake place located about half a mile from our house.  It is cleverly named Batter Up. The restaurant process is a little strange - you are taken to your table, but then you order and pay at a counter, pick up your own silverware and beverages, and then wait for your food to come.  The prices are little high, especially considering how much of the work you do yourself, but the pancakes are fantastic.  They hang off the place, and they have some fantastic flavor combinations.  I haven't tried the ones that have bacon and eggs cooked into the batter yet (!) but the macadamia nut, coconut, banana pancake is amazing!  Their other breakfast fare is also delicious.

Last weekend, we decided to branch out and see if we could find someplace a little cheaper.  We tried a place called Huckleberry, a southern themed eatery serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The menu seemed promising, and the prices were better, but the food was only so-so.  Their homemade huckleberry muffin tasted like boxed cake mix with too much sugar.

This morning, we knew we weren't going back to Huckleberry, so we headed for Batter Up. But the wait looked long, and we didn't feel like waiting.  So we pulled out the old google machine and found another breakfast place across town - the Fresno Breakfast House.  It was also kind of southern themed, but with more of a New Orleans twist.  It was kind of cute, except for the room we ate in.  It was like jungle theme gone wrong!  There were fake plants and stuffed animals everywhere!  The kids loved it, but I was kind of creeped out.  That would have been forgivable  except that the food was both expensive and decidedly  not delicious.  Everyone was overly salty, but not very flavorful.

We realized that if we had just waited at Batter Up, we would have eaten at about the same time.  So, lesson learned. Sometimes, it's worth the wait.

I don't know if we'll be willing to try any more breakfast places for a while, seeing as how our last two attempts were sad little failures.   So for now, at least we have Batter Up.  Maybe next we can find a cute little lunch place.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mom Brain

This NaBloPoMo business is a little harder than I thought it would be.  I've already missed one day (what, you didn't notice) and I've struggled on more than one day to produce a coherent post.  The annoying part is that I actually have several ideas for posts swimming around in my head each day.  But my children seem to have drained my ability to write clearly and concisely   Even now, it took me a full minute to think of the word concisely!

It doesn't help that I don't usually sit down to write my post until 10 or 11 at night, when my already compromised brain is mush.  Tonight I hung out with some friends, sans kids and husband, which was much needed, but now I am too tired to think straight.  So this post is purely for the purposes of NaBloPoMo.  I promise to come back tomorrow with actual content!  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our Vet's Office

I got home from running errands today and let the puppy out of her crate to go outside.  She seemed really squinty and I was chuckling to myself that she was trying to adjust to the sunlight when I realized that, actually, she wasn't squinting, here eyes were just very swollen.  Awesome.  So I loaded the dog and the kids back in the car (including poor Harriette who thought she was about to take a much needed nap) and drove to the vet's office to get the dog some benedryl and steroids.

It's a little hard to tell, but her left eye is very swollen.  This was about a half hour after the shots, and the swelling had already started to go down. 

Aside from being mildly annoying and inconvenient (not to mention a little damaging to the old pocket book), it was actually a fairly pleasant experience.  I love our vet's office!  We found the vet when we had to have Jager put down, and they were so incredibly thorough and sweet.  They did a full exam of Jager and then x-rayed her shoulder to make sure there was nothing we could do for her. When we made the decision to put her down, they didn't make us feel guilty, and in fact, were extremely supportive and kind. After we put her down, they made a little clay mold of her paw-print for us.

When we took our new puppy the first time, we brought the whole family, mainly because Cyrus was having some anxiety about the vet.  Everyone was extremely kind and welcoming.  They even gave Cyrus a ride on the exam table.  The exam itself was very thorough.  In addition to the vet, there were two techs helping to exam the puppy, and an additional tech taking notes on a computer.

The puppy had to have some tests done, and instead of having a tech or secretary call, the vet herself called with results. And, as he sometimes does, Cyrus answered the phone, thinking it was his dad.  When I apologized for my three-year old answering the phone, she said "oh yes, I thought that was Cyrus on the phone."  She remembered his name!  This was baffling to me - I've had doctors I've seen several times who don't remember my name, let alone my kid's name!

We also got a letter in the mail a few days later, handwritten by the vet, congratulating us on our puppy and giving words of encouragement.

We saw a different vet today, but she was equally kind and engaging with my kids, and didn't even seem to mind that Hattie was screaming her tired little face off through most of the visit.  When it was time to check out, someone came to me in the exam room so that I didn't have to juggle my wallet and the kids and the dog up at the counter.

It feels good to be completely satisfied with a place I have to go on a regular basis.  I feel like I've had to lower my customer service standards to where I am happy if I just get so-so service.  I like knowing that my dog is in good hands, and that, not only will I be treated with respect and kindness, but that people will go out of the their way to make my experience as positive and easy as possible.  This is the way it should always be!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Look who decided to start walking...

This girl is all or nothing.  She doesn't do gradual.  Two months ago she started taking three steps at a time, but until two days ago, that was the extent of it.  All of a sudden, she decided walking was the thing to do, and now it is her preferred method of movement!  Check her out!

Monday, November 12, 2012

100% Whole Wheat, Dairy Free, Homemade Bread

Due to an onslaught of requests (and by onslaught, I mean three), I am posting my bread recipe.  I love this recipe because it requires no proofing of the yeast, and only one rise, which happens directly in the bread pans.  My husband pointed out that it is not exactly "my" recipe, and that's true.  A friend of mine in Arizona gave me this recipe, and I honestly can't remember where she said it was from.  It should also be said that this is by no means an exact science.  You will need to experiment a bit to figure out what works best in your climate and with your equipment.  If I was one of those fancy food bloggers I would have step by step pictures with explanations.  But of course, I am not, so hopefully my explanations will be enough without the photographic evidence   OK, here we go:

This recipe makes two 2 lb loaves.  I adapted it from a recipe for three 1.5 lb loaves.  I'll include those measurements in parentheses in case that is your preference.

Prep time: 20 minutes. Total time: about 2 hours

2 2/3 cups warm water, I think about 140 degrees (3 cups)
just over 1/3 cup honey (1/2 cup)
2/3 cup oil (3/4 cup) I use virgin coconut oil, but you can use any oil you like
8 cups flour, divided (9 cups)
1 TBS plus 1 tsp yeast (1 1/2 TBS)
1 heaping TBS vital wheat gluten (1 1/2 TBS)
3/4 TBS salt (1 TBS)

Put water in the bowl of a stand mixer and add oil and honey, followed by half of the flour (4 cups).  Then add the yeast, vital wheat gluten and salt. Make sure the yeast doesn't go into the water, and make sure it doesn't touch the salt.

Using a dough hook, mix on medium speed until blended, and then gradually add more flour until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and just barely sticks to your fingers.  You don't want to have to scrape it off, but your hands should come away clean after touching it.  You should need some oil on your hands to handle it. Continue mixing on medium to medium high speed for about 8 minutes or until dough stretches a bit without tearing and holds its shape.

Pour the dough out onto a well oiled surface or a silicone baking mat (that's what I use).  With a little oil on your hands, form the dough into two loaf shapes (or three, depending on how many you are doing), pounding on the counter a few times in the process to remove air bubbles.

Oil your bread pans (I use coconut oil for this, but you could probably use Pam or something similar) and place the loaves in the pans.  They will rise exactly as they are formed, so keep that in mind. Let them rise for about an hour, or until they have doubled in size.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until the bread makes a kind of hollow sound when you thump it with your fingers.

A few notes:
I've never used any other kind of whole wheat flour besides the white whole wheat but I've been told that it makes a softer, lighter bread than other kinds.  A lot of people use King Arthur brand, which is good, but if you have access to a Trader Joe's (sorry Bridget) I highly recommend their flour.  Also, it only costs $2.99 per 5 lb bag, which is by far the cheapest I have found.

I have found that I only use about 6 cups of flour in total.  Because of that, I also use a little less yeast, probably about 1 TBS plus 1/2 tsp.  I had to reduce my yeast because my bread kept collapsing as I put it in the oven.  If you live in a more humid climate, you might need more flour. I use slightly  more flour here then I did in Arizona, which could also be due to the much lower elevation.

Vital wheat gluten doesn't last very long, and you don't use very much per batch, so I recommend keeping it in the freezer.  I use the Bob's Red Mill, and I get it from Whole Foods.

If you choose to replace some of the whole wheat four with all-purpose flour, you will probably need a little more of it, depending on the ratio. You may need to adjust your yeast in that case, and you will want to reduce, or even eliminate the vital wheat gluten. (I will say that, although I prefer the health benefits of the 100% whole wheat bread, I ran out of whole wheat flour one day and used 1/2 white flour and the bread was so amazingly fluffy and soft and delicious, it almost made me never want to go back!)

I have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, and it only barely tolerates this amount of dough.  I cannot actually do the three 1.5 pound loaves in that mixer without it overheating, so keep that in mind.  I have heard that you do some white flour, the mixer can handle it a little better.

Let me know if you have any questions, and if anyone tries this, please tell me about it!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Nose Bite, a Clean House, and Stubborn Dog

Three things from today:

1.  When I picked Cy up from nursery today, his teacher told me that he was bonking another kid on the head, and then that kid retaliated by biting Cy on the nose.  She didn't need me to do anything, she just wanted me to be aware of the situation.

Can I tell you how hard it was to discuss this incident with Cyrus without cracking up?  I mean, come on!  He got bit on the nose!  The NOSE!  How is that the best spot to place your attack?  It turns out that Cy was hitting the other kid in the head with his own head (I have no idea why, by the way), so I guess Cy's nose was kind of close to the kid's mouth, but still.  I told Cy that he shouldn't have bonked the kid on the head, and that he probably deserved to be bitten on the nose. Does that make me a bad parent?

2.  Today,  my husband cleaned our entire downstairs while I was church.  I have been putting off cleaning our floors for about two weeks, and they were just gross.  It was such a pleasant surprise to come home to a clean house and to just be able to relax.

3.  I was giving the kids a bath tonight and the puppy was lying by my feet.  Then she got up and started sniffing around, and I knew she had to go potty.  We have only had three accidents with this dog since we got her two weeks ago, because I am highly diligent about making sure she gets outside.  Also, she often just goes and sits by the backdoor or whines to get my attention to go out.  In this instance, however, she must have decided it was too cold outside, because once I saw her sniffing around I tried to get her to go outside and she ignore me, kept sniffing and then SQUATTED RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME AND PEED!!!  I shouted no and put her outside where she promptly finished her business.  But seriously dog? I know it's cold, believe me, I'm freezing in this bitter 50 degrees, but that is no excuse to pee in my house!

The End

Saturday, November 10, 2012

One More Step on My Path to Becoming a Domestic Goddess

I did this today:

That's four loaves of bread, my friends, made from scratch, by me.  It will last my family about 10 days (we like bread around here).  It is 100% whole wheat and dairy free.  It is apparently so delicious that if I let him, my husband will consume 1/2 a loaf in the first hour it is out of the oven.  I'm rather proud of it.

So how did I, the woman who shirked all things domestic, become a baker of homemade bread?  Shortly after Hattie was born, it became apparent that she was extremely sensitive to dairy and soy.  And I'm talking so sensitive that if I ate bread that contained whey or soybean oil, even if it was the 20th ingredient, she threw up. A lot.  She gained weight really slowly and I did a mountain of laundry and generally felt really guilty until I figured out how to eliminate those two things from my diet.  Let's just say that I had to completely rethink how I ate food.  It forced our family to cut out a lot of the processed crap we were consuming, and forced me to start making more things from scratch.

Have you ever tried to buy bread that doesn't contain any dairy?  It is very, very hard!  I eventually found some that I could purchase for around $5 a loaf, but it went bad quickly, and I sometimes ended up throwing half of it away.  After about six months of this, I decided to get over my fears and learn how to bake bread. A friend came over one morning and showed me how to make delicious, 100% whole wheat bread with just a handful of ingredients, and I realized how amazingly simple it is.  It takes me only about 40 minutes of hands on time to make four loaves of bread,

Hattie's sensitivity is much less severe now, and I could get away with buying regular bread if I wanted to.  But the thing is, my bread is made with whole ingredients, nothing highly processed, and it is far cheaper than a loaf of similar quality from the grocery store. Plus, as mentioned above, it is pretty delicious.  (It is worth mentioning that my bread is probably not cheaper than buying a loaf of standard grocery store bread - I use moderately expensive ingredients, like whole wheat flour, honey, and coconut oil.  But since my goal is to feed our family less processed bread, making it is cheaper.)

Along with bread, I also make our waffles, pancakes and brownies from scratch.  For some of you, this is probably no big deal, but for me, it seemed like a really fancy, hard thing to do.  It isn't, and now I can't imagine buying mixes for any of those things.  It's just too easy and delicious to do it myself!  Next on my path to domestication: sewing!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Whirlwind Move to Fresno

Fair warning, this post is kind of long, and picture-less.  It turns out I was so busy packing and freaking out during our moving process that I failed to photo-document anything.

Sometime around the second week in August, Jason got a call from someone higher up in his company asking how we felt about relocation.  He asked Jason to talk it over with me and get back to him.  Jason did some figuring based on the positions he knew to be available, and figured out pretty quickly that the San Joaquin Valley of California (Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto) was up for grabs.  The new position meant not only a relocation, but also a significant change in salary and responsibility and really, was the whole reason that Jason joined this company in the first place.  We spent the next week speculating, fretting, but really not doing anything because nothing had happened yet.

A week later, on August 17 (a Friday), he was officially offered the job.  When was he to start? Tuesday, August 21!  We had just four days before he left to try and get as much packed as possible, and come up with a plan for getting the rest of our family out to Fresno as soon as possible.  With the help of a friend who watched Cyrus most of the day Saturday, and the nap gods, who allowed Hattie to sleep for over three hours, we managed to get about 50% of our house packed up that weekend.

By some miracle, my step-dad had already planned to come out to Phoenix for a visit that Monday.  He helped me get more things packed, and then heroically watched Cyrus for four days while Hattie and I flew to Fresno the following weekend to find a house.

Let me speak for a moment on trying to find a house in Fresno from out of town.  It was FAR more difficult than I thought it would be.  I spent hours on craigslist that week looking for homes.  Having never been to Fresno, and not knowing much about the area, I tried to figure out the best areas in which to live.  Those two things, in and of themselves, were a lot of work.  However, I ran into several obstacles along the way.  The majority of the rental market in Fresno is managed by property management companies.  Apparently, these companies have found that they do not need to show houses after 4pm or on weekends.  On several occasions, I wanted to say "Hey! I have money!  Right now! In my pocket!  I need to find a home!  Don't you want my money???"  Of course, I didn't know about the showing schedule before I booked my Friday evening through Monday evening trip!  I ended up having to squeeze several appointments into Monday before my flight left that night.

Another problem was that houses were being snapped up like crazy.  I found several homes that seemed "perfect" for us, homes that had just been posted, only to call the next day and have them already under contract.

Finally, I had some real trouble finding homes that allowed dogs.  Several properties allowed small dogs (which Jager most definitely was not), and several others allowed dogs outside only.  Really?  This baffled me.  The summer temperatures in Fresno, while not as hot as Phoenix, can hit 110.  That is not exactly the safest climate for a dog to be outside in all day.   Especially a senior dog like ours.

Despite all these challenges, I ended up with about 5 homes lined up for us to see while I was in Fresno.  My goal was to be able to move on or near Labor Day.  That was just one week after my trip to Fresno.

After spending several hours driving around Fresno and getting a feel for the area, and touring the houses I had lined up, it finally came down to two homes, a mile apart from each other, and on the same street!  One was right in our budget, but didn't quite meet all of our needs.  The other was a little over budget but had everything I wanted in our home.

Ultimately, I decided that if Jason was going to be working more hours, and I was going to be at home most of the time with kids, I wanted to be really happy in my home.  I decided extra space was more important than extra money.

I flew back to Phoenix and spent the next four days trying to get the rest of the house packed.  Before my step-dad left on Tuesday, he called in reinforcements, and my mom flew out on Thursday.  She happens to be the queen of all things organization and packing, and that woman had me whipped into shape in no time!

The rental house we chose did not come with a fridge, washer or dryer, so Jason spent the next few evenings after work appliance shopping.

Jason flew in that Friday night, and he and my mom and I finished packing on Saturday.  We took her to airport on Sunday morning, and picked up Jason's mom, who flew in to drive with me to Fresno and help us get unpacked.

I have to mention at this point that without the help of several friends and family members, this move would not have happened.  Several friends watched Cyrus and Hattie for hours at a time, my cousin kept him for a day and night, my visiting teacher helped me pack my kitchen, and of course, my parents and Jason's mom flew in to save the day!  I counted no fewer than 10 people who helped us in some way or another.

Jason was given a substantial amount of money for the relocation, and while we considered hiring a moving company to move us, our frugal side took over and we chose to rent a Uhaul and do it ourselves.  We did hire a company to load the truck, though, because it was going to be a little tight!  (Several people in my ward seemed a little irritated that we didn't just have the men of the priesthood help us out, which I totally get.  However, even the movers said it was kind of close, and I'm pretty sure that without professionals, our stuff would not have all fit on that truck!)

So, on Monday morning, we picked up the Uhaul, met the movers at the house, and loaded everything into the truck.  At 2:00pm, Jason drove off in the Uhaul, and I drove off in the van, accompanied by my mother-in-law, both kids and the dog.

We got into Bakersfield at 2:00am, and got up bright and early Tuesday morning to drive 2 more hours to Fresno.  We picked up our keys, met some more movers at the house and unloaded the truck.

In case you lost track, we were unpacking in our new home in fewer than three weeks from when Jason was officially offered his new position, and in fewer than four weeks from when we even knew moving was a possibility.  That, my friends, is how we do it in the Wells family - we don't mess around!  I will post pictures of the new abode shortly.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hattie's Adventures as of late

 It would seem that Hattie has a stubborn streak.  Everything is on her terms, and very little can be done to persuade her in a different direction.  When she does not get her way, she either whaps me about the face or performs what has become known as the exorcist: she arches her back, throws her head back, screams at the top of her lungs and thrashes about.  It is awesome.  I usually just put her gently on the ground and wait for her to work it out.

Her need to do things on her terms also means that she isn't really walking yet.  I realize that 13 months isn't particularly late to have crawling as the primary  mode of transportation; however, she started taking independent steps 2 months ago!  She could walk forever if I hold just one of her hands.  If any adult tries to stand her up and send her walking to another adult, she promptly drops to a crawl position, all the while sporting a coy little smile.  I'm ready for her to be walking already, but I guess she'll just do it when she wants to.

Despite not walking yet, she actually seems more coordinated than Cy was at this age.  She climbs into everything:

 For the record, I neither put her in there nor shut the door - that was all her.  And, as soon as I took the picture, I got her right out!

She had discovered our cozy coup, and while she can't make it go forward yet, she is great at getting stuck!


There's a happy face...

...oops, not anymore!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fresno: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

So, our little family lives in Fresno, CA now.  Yes, that's right, Fresno.  Though not as undesirable as Bakersfield, it is not exactly a part of California where people are clamoring to live. We have been here just over two months, and here are my impressions so far:

The Good:

  • We live in a neighborhood with all the basic conveniences very, well, conveniently located: Target, Costco, several grocery stores, Trader Joe's (one of only two in the whole area!), all within about 10 minutes.
  • There are tons of great parks, several within walking distance.  We spend several days a week at the park.
  • The weather!  Similar to Phoenix, the winters are moderate, with highs in the 50's and 60's.  This allows us to get outside nearly every day all year long.  And while the summer highs can reach well into the 100's, they almost never have temps over 110, and even then, the evening lows drop down into the 70s.  This is a huge improvement over 90 degree lows in Phoenix!
  • Because Fresno is a less desireable part of California, the cost of living is considerably lower than the rest of the state.  We were able to afford way more house here than we would have anywhere else in the state, including a backyard (which, thanks to the nice weather we can enjoy all year long), and a garage.
  • My dad and step-mom live three hours away.
  • There is a Winco here.  (yes, this is exciting for me).
  • Fresno has a really nice little zoo that is far cheaper than anywhere else I have lived.  
  • There is a state university here, Fresno State, so we have sports teams to root for.  

The Bad

  • As far as I can tell, there are very few affordable options for kids in this city.  The city of Fresno offers no community centers with kids classes, no indoor park options, etc.  There is no YMCA or similar option, and there is no Children's Museum.
  • We have no family directly in Fresno.  In fact, we didn't know a single person when we moved here.  
  • There is no Sprouts/Sunflower.  Produce prices are really high, and the produce quality just isn't that great at the regular grocery stores.  
  • Despite the fact that so many things are relatively close to us, everything seems to take far longer to get to than it should.  It might be the fact that there are major intersections every .5 mile instead of every mile.  It just slows things down.

The Ugly

  • There is not a lot of character in Fresno.  The restaurants are almost all chains. There is a downtown, but it is the saddest excuse for a downtown I have ever seen.  There are no restaurants, no cute shops, no independent retailers, just plain no character.  There is a giant convention center, but no hotels anywhere nearby.  It is, quite honestly, confounding.  
So far, Fresno is not a bad place to live.  Hopefully it will only get better with time. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Voting Experiences

I have now voted in four different Presidential Elections.  I take my responsibility to vote very seriously, and I am also highly aware of the freedom I have to vote how I choose, with minimal risk of being intimated or having my physical well-being threatened.

Oddly enough, my voting history is equally split between California and New York.  During the 2000 election, I was a college student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA.  I voted at a building on campus, and, while it was cool to vote, it didn't have much of an impact on me.  I felt pretty disconnected from the whole political process, and simply filling out some bubbles on a piece of paper, most of which were for people i didn't know, or ballot measures I didn't understand, just didn't mean much to me.

In 2004 and 2008 I lived in New York, in the Bronx, specifically, and I had to walk to a local elementary school to cast my vote.  I waited in line, walked into a booth, and stood in front a massive voting machine.

The Lever Voting Machine used in New York elections.  Apparently, it is no longer being used in parts of New York.  Kind of a shame, if you ask me. 

To operate these machines, you push a little lever next to each of your choices.  When you have cast all of your votes, you move a giant lever (that would the red diagonal bar in the picture) from one side to the other to register your particular votes.

There is something incredibly empowering about this particular method of voting.  Maybe it is because I am a tactile person, but I connected more with what I was doing by voting with this machine. I can actually remember getting choked up in 2004 after voting.

It is worth noting that standing in line at our polling place in 2008, in the Bronx, was electric.  There was this energy, this excitement, about the possibility of electing not only the first African American president, but also a candidate who promised so much hope and change.  It helped, of course, that I was voting with the majority, so I could participate in the excitement.

In this election, back in California, Jason and I only just registered to vote a few weeks ago, and we opted for the mail-in ballot option.  As exciting as it was to stand in line with a bunch of other people fulfilling their civic duty, I was not as excited to stand in line with my kids this go around.  So instead of the dramatic act of standing in front of that giant machine, pushing my levers, and pulling the giant lever to cast my votes, I voted at my kitchen counter at about 11:30 last night, and Jason dropped our ballots off this morning.  Slightly anti-climactic.

Despite the rather mundane manner in which I voted this year, I still have to say that when Jason called to tell me that I had just voted, my heart skipped a beat and I felt a sense of satisfaction that I had, once again, fulfilled my responsibility and taken advantage of my privilege of voting for the future of our country.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Smart Business Move or Just Mean?

I saw this a few weeks ago:

Yes, that is a Weight Watchers located right next door to a Lane Bryant.

I have to wonder which store came first, and what the board meeting looked like when the second company announced it's location.  I imagine the Weight Watchers crew laughing cruelly as they rub their hands together, thinking of all the business they'll gain.

Do you think one of them is loosing business to the other?  I have to imagine it mostly goes in favor of Weight Watchers.  But maybe not.  Maybe some woman is walking out of a Weight Watchers meeting thinking how very hard it is to loose weight, and then sees cute, fashionable clothes in the windows of Lane Bryant and says, "Screw it, I can dress cutely without losing weight!"

(Yes, NaBloPoMo is kicking my butt and it is only day 5.  I don't want to talk about it.)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Seriously, why is this so hard?

We have had our new puppy for about a week, and she still has no name.  We have gone through about half a dozen names, but none feel right.  Don't ask me why this is such a big deal, but it is.  Part of the problem is that Jason and I have a hard time agreeing on names for anything - naming our children was an epic, 4 month battle.  Harriette wasn't named until two hours after she was born!

The other problem is that we (and I mostly mean me) are perfectionists.  We (I) have all this criteria that the name should meet:

1.  It shouldn't be masculine, but also shouldn't be fluffy and cute.  Our last dog, Jager, was a girl dog, but with a very masculine name, and it was therefore always assumed that she was a boy dog.  I'm trying to avoid that this go around, but so many names we like are pretty masculine. 
2.  I'm not a huge fan of human names for dogs, with a few exceptions.
3.  The name should have some kind of significance - this could be related to the dog (breed, country of origin, color, personality) or to us (places, times, events).  
4.  For training purposes, it should be 1 or 2 syllables.  This is one that derailed our most recent attempt at naming. 
5.  It should just "feel right".  This is, of course, the hardest to qualify and to achieve, apparently. 

Here are the names we have tried on for size:

1. Durbin (as in the city in South Africa).  This is significant because 1) I did my study abroad program there while in college, and 2) the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed originates in Southern Africa.
2.  Indigo - Indie for short.  This name has no significance, we just thought it sounded cool
3.  Unami.  This was the name of a camp group at Trail Blazers, where I worked for several years, Jason worked for a few years, and where we got engaged.
4. Vesper.  Specifically, we got engaged in a part of camp called Vesper Glen.
5. Ditto.  Ok, this one is kind of dorky.  This dog reminds us so very much of Jager, it is as if she is a repeat, but not exactly the same, as Jager. 

Unami stuck the longest, but it is three syllables, and can't really be shortened in a way that makes sense.  Some of the others are leaning toward masculine.  

For the record, Cyrus would really like for us to name the dog King Benjamin.  That's probably not going to happen.

So.  Anyone have any thoughts?  Suggestions? Opinions?  We have started obedience training, so I really need to get this name thing solidified.  A few notes about the dog:

Rhodesian Ridgebacks originated in Southern Africa.  
They were bred to hunt lions. (I'm not kidding).
She has a lovely ridge down her back.
She will be about 80 lbs when full grown.
She will be an extremely powerful, fast animal (remember, she has to be able to stand up to lions).


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Halloween 2012

Halloween has never been my favorite holiday.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Halloween, but I am not one of those people who chooses my costume months in advance, keeps it a secret, and spends hour toiling over it, waiting for the moment of big reveal.  I don't think I've dressed up for Halloween since Junior High School.  However, Halloween with kids is a whole different ball game, so to speak. And I think it's becoming one of my favorites.  We took Cyrus trick-or-treating last year, at just over 2 years old, and while he had a good time, he only made it about 10 house before pooping out, and I don't think he fully grasped what was happening.  This year, on the other hand, the kid had a blast!

Full disclosure  I am not a homemade Halloween costume kind of girl.  I kind of wish I was, because I love the idea of it, I just know that I have too many other things on my plate to make room for that.  Cyrus initially wanted to be a pirate for Halloween, but after a trip to the Fresno Bulldogs team store where he spotted a full kids football uniform, he quickly switched costume allegiance.  As a side note, the kid wore his football costume every day for a week straight!

Jason wanted to dress Harriette up as Cy's football, but the poor girl already gets mistaken for a boy at every turn, so I thought maybe something a little more girly was in store (not that she knows the difference, but still).  We had a few hand-me-down costumes to choose from, and finally settled on this cute little pink butterfly costume.  Actually, Cyrus chose it for her.  He has had a strange affinity for it every since we got it, and has tried to squeeze into several times.  Fortunately, he didn't feel too possessive over it, and instead wanted to see his little sister wear it.

We set off for trick-or-treating at around 6pm, just as it was starting to get dark.  We were the first trick-or-treaters at several homes before the crowds increased.  Before the first house, we thought Cy should have a little re-fresher on the process.  The conversation went like this:

Jason: Ok Cy, when you know on the door, and the person answers, what do you say?
Cyrus: How do you do?
Jason: Uh, yes, that would be nice, but this is Halloween so you say "Trick or Treat".  Here, let's practice.  Knock on this garbage can.
(Cyrus knocks on the garbage can, and Jason pretends to open a door, at which point Cy turns away from Jason and looks around obliviously)
Jason: Ok Cy, I'm opening the door, what do you say?
Cyrus: What door?  There's no door here dad!

So, apparently we need to work on the pretend play a bit...

Fortunately, once he got started he had no problem saying "Trick-or-Treat", "Happy Halloween" and of course "Thank you".

Since Hattie isn't walking yet, she was just along for the ride and didn't have her own bucket.  However, about half of the houses we went to insisted on giving Cyrus a second handful of candy for his sister.  He owes her big time!

We were actually out for over an hour, and check out the haul this kid made!

 My favorite part of the evening was when Cy got a dum dum at the one of the houses and his face lit up like Christmas morning.  As we left the house, he grabbed the sucker, turned to me, and said "Look mom, this is the thing that I love the most!"  People could save a lot of money on Cyrus as a trick-or-treater!

And, since I never got around to posting pictures from last year, here is a cute one of Cookie Monster with his chocolate chip cookie.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Our Newest Addition

When we had to have our dog Jager put to sleep a month ago, Jason and I initially agreed that while we would probably get another dog, it would probably not be for quite a while.  We also agreed that a smaller dog (Jager was around 80 pounds) would be more practical - not a little yipper, mind you, but a good solid, medium sized dog.  

Within a week, we were talking about what an amazing dog Jager was, and how good Rhodesian Ridgebacks are with kids, and how everything we loved about her personality was characteristic of the Ridgeback, and, well, maybe an 80 pound dog wouldn't be so bad.  But we were still waiting until after Christmas.

A week after that, Jason started saying that he really wanted another dog.  He really missed Jager, and maybe we should just see what was out there.  

So I caved, and we started looking for a dog.  

Once we realized that we wanted a Rhodesian Ridgeback, we figured we had two options: a Ridgeback rescue, or a breeder.  Almost all of the dogs at the rescues either had severe medical issues, or were well on their way to the end of their lives, neither of which was really what we wanted at this point in our lives.  We also decided that with two small children, our best bet was to get a young puppy and raise her with our kids so that she would have no issues being around small children.  Jager was a rescue dog, but we got pretty lucky with her, and with kids, I just wasn't willing to gamble.

That left breeders.  I always vowed I would never get a dog from a breeder, because for one, I am cheap! Spending that kind of money on anything, let alone a dog, was beyond my understanding.  However, I realized that what I was paying for in getting a dog from a reputable breeder was the closest thing to a guarantee as is possible with a living creature that we would get the kind of dog we wanted.  After several hours on the internet I had found a handful of breeders in the state of California, though none closer than a three hour drive. I emailed a few of them about their upcoming litters and inquired about price and process.  One of the breeders wrote back that she had a friend with puppies ready to go home right then who lived in my area.  

Two days later we were making the very reasonable 30 minute drive to check out the puppies, and two weeks after that ("which was just this past Sunday) we made the drive again to bring home our newest family member.

She is 12 weeks old and already weighs 26 pounds!  In case you are wondering, that is more than Harriette and only slightly less than Cyrus.   She is still in the sleeping several hours a day phase, which is good, because when she isn't sleeping she is a bundle of boundless energy!  Her favorite activities are chasing Cyrus around the couch, biting anything she can get her teeth on (including my pants leg, the kid's toys, wooden stools, etc), and chasing Cyrus on his bike outside.  (The energy of a three year old does wonders for wearing out a new puppy!)

What she doesn't have, though, is an official name.  We've been tossing several around for the past five days, and one has been used consistently for the last two days, but not all family members are in full agreement.  So for now, she is simply our new puppy, and we love her!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

I'm going to NaBloPoMo in an attempt to revive this sad excuse for a blog

It has been almost one year exactly since my last post.  At that posting rate, why even bother having a blog? I'll confess, I have thought about trashing it several times, but I'm super low tech, and I use my blog to click to my friend's blogs.  I haven't figure out that new-fangled google reader thing yet.

I was considering starting a new blog so that I could emotionally move on without having to see my bleak  meager archives, but then I realized that my nine faithful followers may not be able to find me, and wouldn't that be sad. (That is of course provided that you haven't given up on me all together). 

When I saw on Bridget's blog (which you should totally read, by the way, because it an amazing example of what a blog should be) that NaBloPoMo was upon us (that is, National Blog Posting Month, wherein you post each day for the month of November) I thought maybe I should take the opportunity to get back in the swing of blogging. 

So here we are.  In the year since I last posted, we have had several significant changes in our family.  In fact, if I wanted to cheat, I could probably fill the whole month with posts about those events.  While a few of them definitely deserve their own posts, and will probably get them, I figured I would start the month out with a brief synopsis to get everyone up to speed.  Otherwise, my posts from here on out won't make a lot of sense.  So here we go:

I last posted on November 6th, 2011, a month after Hattie was born.  In December, Jason and I went on a once in a lifetime (though I hope that isn't literal) trip to the Bahamas, courtesy of his company.  We left the kids, yes both of them, in the capable hands of my mother-in-law for 5 glorious days of sunshine, luxury, water parks, dolphins, and general relaxation.  It was incredible!

Jason and I with a dolphin in the Bahamas

In February, Jason got a new position within his company that suddenly required him to travel 2-4 weeks out of every month.  It was a little rough there for a while, especially since he traveled every week in the month of March.  

A lot of his travel required him to drive long distances, and our 2002 Saturn just wasn't up to the job, so we "traded it in" for a brand new, 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid.  It is awesome!

I was called as the Girl's Camp Director for my ward, so in July I left the kids yet again with my mother-in-law (she's basically my hero) and got to relive camp for a few days.  

In August, Jason was offered yet another new position that required us to move to Fresno, California.  It was  a whirlwind move, with less than three weeks from the time he was offered the position to the time we were in our new home in Fresno.  It has been a bit of an adjustment for the whole family, but the move allowed us to rent a home with plenty of space for our family, including a garage and a backyard.

The view of our living room from the top of the stairs.

Two weeks after we moved, we had to put our beloved Jager down.  Our sweet dog of almost 9 years got cancer in her shoulder and the pain became so severe that, on her last day, she just lay and whimpered. It was heartbreaking, and her death left a hole in our family. 


OK, that about does it!  We are now brought current enough that I can write things without having to give a complete back story!  Wish me luck on my endeavor!
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