Tidbits From the Tundra (Not Really the Actual Tundra, Just the Snowy Parts of the U.S., but What Sort of Title Is That??)

Dear Millie,

Happy New Year!  I hope your travels have been marvelous and that you have plenty of stories to share!  I’ve missed you!

I don’t have a real theme for this letter, just some short fun things.  You know, like children.  In this case, they’re my children.

Aspirations: We were talking about goals, and I mentioned to Kyle that one of his new friends used to swim competitively and that maybe they could do that together.  Kyle responded that he doesn’t want to because he doesn’t want to shave his pits.  He wants to grow out his armpit hair and braid it.

If Kyle has braidable armpit hair at age 10, I don’t think I’ll stand in his way.

Fat pants: I took the kids to run some errands after sledding New Years Eve and one of those was to pick up a movie at the movie store (is ours the only one left in the country?).  I’d called ahead to make sure they had Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events now that we’ve finished the third book.  Since they were holding it for me, I asked if one of the boys would run in and get pick it up.  Kyle said he didn’t want to go in because he was wearing his snow pants.  I noted that lots of people around town were wearing snow pants.  Certainly not a big deal.  He responded, “But they make my legs look fat!”

Holidays: Vanessa was talking about “a holiday you celebrate and you get candles and you light them aaaaand you get to make your own presents.  And play games.  That’s all about Halmonica.”

Later, she told me, “That’s what Halmonica is about: presents, food, and chopsticks.”

During a festive dinner, Vanessa pulled out another slice of turkey, held it up and said, “THIS is my destiny!”

Of course I had a few grandma moments as well.  I was driving a couple of the kids’ friends home and they were in the very back seat since the middle row is full of carseats.  Two of us were having a great chat (although we had to holler back and forth, given the distance between us), and the other boy, attempting to join in, yelled, “Hey Mom!  Uhhh, I mean, Grandma!  I mean, not my grandma, but anyway…”.

The Y has hired someone to oversee events for the aging population–I had seen it in the newspaper and later that week, I got my very own personal invitation to join the senior group!  They’ve got SilverSneakers, day trips, socials, and workshops covering topics like technology and aging well!  I wonder if they provide daycare?

What’s new in your neck of the woods?  By the way, I told the kids we have to clean out the extra bedroom (it’s become the room we stash everything in a hurry!) (Having that particular room as a stash room is a terrible idea.  It’s door opens wide to the front door’s view, and Lucy and Vanessa are always venturing in there to see what treasures they can find.  If I don’t remember to lock it, they always run in there to find something to present to our visitors!).  They asked why, and I said that I’d like to have it ready for company.  They excitedly asked who was coming, and I said, “I don’t know, maybe Jake and Cara, your grandparents, or hey, maybe Aunt Millie and Uncle Abe!”  They vetoed your coming, I’m afraid.  It’s too snowy to jump on the trampoline with Uncle Abe, and a visit without that is simply unacceptable.  Here’s to spring!

Love,

Grace

 

 

Yahoo!

Dear Millie,
Happy Friday!  This is it for you, right?  Well, not it, like your life is OVER, but you know, the last day before your break?
I was just going through some old videos and got to watch you and your dance team win state!  That was fun.  Also a long time ago.  Do you still dance like that?
Did I tell you about how they did the limbo at our ward Christmas party and I was standing there on the sideline seriously considering showing everyone up because you KNOW I can still limbo like I did in high school/college/pre-children.  Wouldn’t that surprise everyone!  The woman who has a hard time sausaging herself into her two remaining pairs of non-yoga pants anymore and may not be able to button her coat (but MAYBE she just isn’t cold enough?  You never know!)…yeah.  THAT woman would show everyone!
Kind of like how I dreamed of showing up for cheer tryouts in college and surprising everyone that I could do handsprings and such and then telling them that never mind, I’d rather play drums in the stands.  I actually would rather play drums in the stands, but I still thought it’d be funny if I made the squad.  I know, I know, HILARIOUS!  I have a special sense of humor.
In the end, I think it’s a good thing no one spiked the punch at the church party, and therefore saved me (and everyone else from fremdschämen).  Doesn’t fremdschämen make you think of ‘friend shaming’?  It does for me.  Huh!.
Not saying anything in particular here, I just saw this and thought you’d enjoy some Fantasia:
My favorite biddy was telling me last night about a problem she had with her bank getting her mixed up with someone else with the same name.  In the end, she told them, “I don’t want any more crap from yous!”
‘Yous’!  I love it.  I feel kind of bad that I laugh when she’s being serious, but she has some of the best expressions.  She adds “yet” to the end of sentences and I’ve started noticing other locals do, too.  Kinda fun, yet!  (I probably misused that.  I don’t know what the rule is on it.  Yet.  Har!)
It’s not so cold today.  Snowing (we’re expecting a foot between today and tomorrow), but above zero.  The wind chill had put it at -4 when I realized Gordon had forgotten the plate of fudge I’d prepared for one of the secretaries separately from the peanut butter fudge (don’t you think peanut allergies are tragic?  I do.).  I ran out to catch him in my yoga peddle pushers, flip flops, and pushed-up-sleeves hoodie.  I thought I’d freeze to death and would surely regret not jumping into some boots, but it wasn’t cold at all and I stood out in the snow in my flip flops talking with him before sauntering back into the house.  It was a bit weird!

Lucy recently started running with her fists clenched and her arms bent and shoulders raised, and it reminds me of this:

Well, except it’s cute and not creepy (why are they running with their arms like that?  And why are their arms so short?).  Maybe I’ll just have to get video of Lucy doing it.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to hearing from you!  Happy Friday!
Love,
Grace

Baby Hungry

Dear Grace,

I am jealous that Mumsie and Pops got to see the boys’ piano recital; I never get tired of “Myrtle the Turtle”!

Abe’s knee is still taking its sweet time to mend, but his doctor thinks the end of the tunnel will be in January so at least there is a tentative end in sight. In the meantime, Abe is single-handedly making sure our monthly Netflix bill isn’t paid in vain. Everyone else though assumes we should be putting all Abe’s downtime to good use and hop on the baby-making bandwagon. Within the past week alone, I have had at least a dozen conversations where someone either implied or told me directly I should move it along and have a baby as soon as possible.

At School:

  • I am fairly certain the teachers at my school are beginning to take bets as to who the next pregnant teacher will be, and I am sure I am the main contender.
  • I am asked by my students at least weekly if Abe and I want to have children and when we will make that happen.
  • A solid 10 minutes of my dance team practice this past Thursday was dedicated to my team wanting to discuss what they have imagined for how I would announce to them my pregnancy (whenever that may be). They have decided upon an interpretive dance as the proper choice.

At Church:

  • As Abe and I are the nursery leaders, we often get parents winking at us asking when we plan to get started on our little brood. As if watching their snot-nosed darlings for an hour each Sunday makes us want to get started right away.
  • At Cub Scouts last Tuesday, I unwittingly got caught up in a conversation with a fellow leader who is only a month or two away from having a baby and a couple other ladies in the ward who had babies this year. They all got started into the woes and joys of labor and delivery. As if on cue, they all turned to me urging me to get started as soon as I could. They even threatened to call Abe and tell him to pull out the candles and rose petals. When I told Abe about this comment, he exclaimed, “Why in the world would I do that?! Don’t they know how much roses cost?!” Ever the romantic, my Abe.

Family & Complete Strangers:

This weekend, a cousin of Abe’s got married so we received plenty of comments from well-meaning family members and people we barely know.

  • Abe’s grandmother is now awaiting the arrival of her 39th great-grandchild, and she let Abe and I know in no uncertain terms that Abe and I are responsible for the 40th. I suggested that the newly married couple could just as easily give her a 40th great-grandchild, but Grannie was not satisfied at all with that reply.
  • Abe and I left the wedding reception a little earlier than most of the family due to Abe’s knee, and although our reason for leaving was quite obvious, we still got enough winks and catcalls to make one believe we were the bride and groom themselves sneaking off to the honeymoon suite. One cousin even patted his heavily pregnant wife’s stomach while their three other children scampered about their feet and yelled after Abe, “Go and make yourself useful!”
  • While still at the wedding, one lady I have briefly spoken with once sidled up to me excitedly and asked speaking directly to my stomach, “I just have to ask, are you pregnant, dear?” When I told her I was not, she replied, “Oh, I hope you’re not embarrassed!” Thanks for that.

Honestly. It seems there are more people anxious for the Adams Baby than the two who actually have a say in the matter. And now I feel as if I need to make it my mission to appear as non-pregnant as possible.

Love always,

Millie4ea8e3e30c4796b6a0deb32ad22a29ed

Muffins. And Recitals. In the Opposite Order.

Dear Millie,

Both those recipes are fantastic!  The roasted cauliflower is one of my favorite recipes ever in the history of the world (and you know how much food means to me)!  The Man Salad.  I am not big on salad to begin with, so the fact that I even HAD the recipe to begin with says something!  It’s called Man Salad because men actually like it.  Abe proves it yet again!  I got the recipe from our sister-in-law.  She’s the sister who CAN!

Kyle, Paul, and Truman had their first piano recital this weekend.  As I was waiting for it to start, I realized that I could FaceTime Mumsie and Pops and they could watch it with us!  I quickly called and they were available, so being the doting grandparents they are, they sat through lots of beginning piano songs (including “Myrtle the Turtle” and “The Funny Bunny”)…you know, since they didn’t get enough of that with all of us kids.  I was very proud of how well the boys (and grandparents) did.  Because I was using my phone to FaceTime and Gordon was wrangling Lucy and Vanessa, a friend of mine offered to take video with Gordon’s phone.  I only just now watched the clips and realized why Mumsie and Pops may have been so entertained.  The video of Paul also includes a view of a kid on the front row who was digging in his nose the ENTIRE time!  HA!

Speaking of Paul, I have a recipe that he particularly loved.  The rest of us did, too!  You know those giant chocolate muffins from Costco a certain sister of ours used to bring to family reunions?  Sure, everyone liked the banana nut or blueberry ones too, but those…YES.  This recipe is a lot like those!  Possibly better?  You’ll have to try them yourself!  I’d definitely recommend chocolate chunks.  They’re SO good!  I think I got 18 out of the recipe?  I filled them up pretty full, too.  Vanessa helped make them and we had them ready when the boy got home from school.  They had their chores done in no time at all!  Awesome.  Paul describing the Double Chocolate Chunk Muffins said, “It’s like a celebration in a wrapper!”  Moments later, a chunk fell out of the muffin and he exclaimed, “My muffin just pooped!”

You could use the muffins to bribe your Cub Scouts.  And if they don’t behave, you can eat theirs.  In front of them.  With a big glass of milk.  But not a glass of milk from my house, because when I have the kids help with dishes, my glasses of milk look like this:

If you come visit, I will wash all of the dishes, I promise!

Love,

Grace

Hate Crimes

Dear Millie,

Of course you bought the best candy!  Will no one else think of the children?

Your mailbox stalker is most perplexing.  Have you even met your mailman?  How would he know of your love for Billy Bard?  Are you certain it wasn’t Abe?  That’d be a sweet thing for him to do.  But if it’s not him, I’m not sure if I’d be delighted, befuddled, amused, or genuinely freaked out.  At any rate, perhaps you can save the book for your children who (dare I even suggest) may be born without the ability to read?  Never mind, never mind, I take it back!  Of course YOUR children will be born reading (and quoting!) Shakespeare.  Maybe donate the book to a poor soul whose child isn’t born sonneting?

My fantastically mulleted Lucy reminds me of Boo on Monsters, Inc.  She can talk a bit and she gallops and hops and jumps around laughing and giggling, and her bobbing, curled mullet just delights to no end.  Recently, she was in the kitchen playing.  I’m not sure why we needed to keep it quiet, but she was being a crouched little ball while holding a finger to her smiling lips and whispering, “Shhhhh, shhhhh,” (her little “shhh” sounds more like a little happy hiss).  Then she’d explode into an open-armed X-shape while yelling, “YAY!!!”  She’d quickly crouch back down and do it over and over and I couldn’t even ask her to stop.

Lucy loves to race.  She ropes her siblings and Gordon (and random visitors) into racing with her all the time.  They start at a door or a wall and run across the room or around the staircase and back to the starting point or whatever she chooses.  “Way, seh, doh!”  The best part is that winning doesn’t matter.  All the participants getting to the goal or performing their part is what matters.

Election Night, we had patriotic waffles.  Let’s pretend they looked like these:

Ours were rectangular though.  And cut up for the kids.  Okay fine, they looked more, ahhh, mutilated with vague referential Americana coloring.  We felt very patriotic at any rate, especially Paul who ate all his waffles plain.

One recent afternoon, the boys were talking about how peaceful our country is and how we don’t have to worry about crime or war here in the US.  I hated to burst their bubble, but I told them that just because we don’t see it, the problems are still there…even in our wonderful community.  At some point, I said something about ‘gangs with violence’ and 1st-grader Truman was completely baffled.  I tried to explain in other terms and he started asking weird questions about double basses and violas.  It turned out he thought I’d said, “Gangs with violins.”  HA!  Imagine people showing up and angrily playing Mahler at you!  Incessant playing of Pachelbel’s Canon in D would be considered a hate crime!

This is completely off topic (I hear you saying, “What was the topic?”), but thank you so much for categorizing our letters!  I couldn’t come up with tags to begin with.

Me trying to tag things: “Uhhhh…’blog’.  ‘Blog…POST?'”

By the way, I was tickled to see that people had found our letters and was surprised when someone commented (though I guess not really, because we did leave this open to the public and also left the comments open).  Then I saw that most of our views were from Russia, and the comments were spam.  We’ve gotten some in French, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, and English.  We’ve attracted spam bots worldwide!  Nonetheless, somebotty (*chortle*) has certainly found our letters to be helpful: “This piece was a lifejacket that saved me from drowning.”

I don’t think I’ve ever shared one of our favorite dinner recipes with you.  So, SO easy and it’s scrumptious!  It’s Slow Cooker Chicken and Gravy at The Magical Slow Cooker.  I first saw it at Real Mom Kitchen, who had adjusted the amount of water and has pepper to taste instead of measured out.  Either way, you need this on your menu this very week!  Perfect for Sundays and/or busy nights.  We had it for dinner last night and after I went out to do a visit, I came back home and had seconds (and you know I’m not fond of leftovers!).  We usually have it over mashed potatoes the first night and if there are leftovers (not very often), we have it over rice with cheese and pineapple and/or whatever else we have lying around (green onions, olives, etc.).  I’ve also added a can of green chiles to the leftovers and we had that over rice with cheese.  And possibly sour cream.  I think that’d work for burritos–the chile in the leftovers, I mean–if you use the lesser water amount and do 2lbs. of chicken instead of 1lb.  Or just have it over mashed potatoes again because we’ve also done that and loved it a second night in a row.  Anyway!  There’s your lifejacket for the day.  🙂

Lots o’ love,

Grace

The Magic Goes On…

Dear Millie,

You’re not going to believe this, but I have an update from the photo studio.

After I hung up my favorite portrait from our disastrous photo session, I decided that I wanted it larger.  They only print up to 8×10.  It’s been awhile since our last experience, but I thought I’d take a chance and call to see if they happened to still have the photos from our session.  They did!  They only guarantee they’ll have them for 2 weeks, so I felt pretty fortunate they still had them nearly two months later.  $40 and I could buy the cd along with rights to reproduce the images as I pleased.  I’d passed on it before because I’m cheap!  I think this’ll be worth it though.  I told the lady she’d be seeing me soon, and off we went to pick up the cd.

When we got to Walmart, I zipped right around the corner to the studio and there was a group of four or five kids, two moms, and a baby.  It looked like they’d just finished up their session.  The original photographer from my session was there.  When she spotted me, she said, “Oh hey!  What’s your last name?”  I told her, and she said that yeah, she thought Lucy looked familiar.  Huh!

She met me at the register computer while another assistant helped the other group pick out their favorite photos to print.  I stood there and waited, and waited, and waited some more while she clicked all over her screen.  Finally, she said, “I can’t get the pictures to pull up here.  I don’t know what’s going on.”  I laughed and said that I’m just really unlucky.  She picked up the phone and called someone.  After a few more minutes of waiting, I said that if the other group was finished and just printing photos, I could wander around a bit and come back later if it would be easier to do what we needed on that computer.  She said that’d be great, so the girls and I headed over to try to find some pants.

Oh, pants.  Walmart pants.  Pants from Walmart.  Never a good idea, those Walmart pants!  After our phone conversation last night, I think we need to swap unfortunate pants stories!  I ended up buying a couple of things after we’d wandered around and tried things on for a half hour or so.  The first group was still there and there was another mom with a baby sleeping in her arms.  In the time we were shopping, she’d had her baby photographed and was just waiting to to pick out her portraits.  By now, the photographer was helping the group.  I stood back and waited.  Lucy was being a 2yo and I tried various things to entertain her.  After 10 minutes or so, the first group left, the other mom went to have her pictures printed, and I walked up to the register.  The photographer turned around and said to the assistant, “Oh, she just wants a cd from a previous session.”  She turned to me and said, “I finally got the pictures to pull up!”  As I responded with, “That’s great,” she interjected with, “But now our credit card reader isn’t working, so we can only take cash.  Can you go use an ATM or something?”

I went to the money center, but there was a long line.  I decided to make a quick purchase of something (anything, really!) and get cash back.  I stuffed my purchase in my bag and had my cold, hard cash ready.  When I got back to the studio register, the assistant wasn’t sure how to ring it up, so we had to wait for the photographer to finish printing the photos for the mom with the sleeping baby.  My girls were bored, and having to stay in the cart wasn’t sitting well with either of them, especially Lucy.  I held her, I put her next to Vanessa in the back of the cart, I dug in the diaper bag for old, hard fruit snacks.

Our turn!  The photographer was ringing up our purchase and I joked that I should get a discount or something.  She didn’t seem very amused and said that she couldn’t do that just because she’d like to.  I selected the three pictures I wanted since I might as well get what I can for what I was paying, I paid the money, and then she sent me to the other computer with the assistant while she talked to a friend who’d come up behind me.

The assistant couldn’t find the order.  When she did, all the pictures from our session were in there, not just the three I had selected.  I picked them out again, and she couldn’t figure out how to drag them onto the cd to be burned. She kept highlighting all of the photos, then trying to unselect the ones I hadn’t picked, but ended up somehow duplicating them and now there were multiple copies of the ones that I’d wanted.  This went on while the photographer was telling her friend how swamped they’ve been–she spends part of her week training another manager at a studio an hour or so away on top of running this studio. And her regional manager has been busy opening new studios all over the Midwest and New England.  It sounds like you’ll also be getting a studio near you!  YAY!!!

The photographer came over and helped her select, drag, and drop the correct photos onto the cd, and I asked about her assistant who’d had pink, purple, blue, and blonde hair (and the Disaster tattoo).  She’s been busy training people too.  “No one’s quit on me yet!” the photographer said.  Lucy was starting to cry at this point and the photographer said to her, “What’s wrong?  Do you want to take some pictures?”  I wasn’t sure what she’d meant and asked quizzically, “Really?”  She responded, “Oh, well, she’s fussing about having to sit in the cart.  That isn’t the worst thing.  Taking pictures would be worse!”  ??

I’d texted Gordon at 12:02pm that I was going to go pick up the cd.  When I turned on the van to head home, it was 1:47.  My track record is not the best!  At least I now have a king size Payday candy bar and a bit o’ change in my diaper bag for the next time.  The photographer said they’re going to start doing canvas wraps and larger prints there in the studio, so maybe I’ll hold off ordering one from somewhere else.  I’m a glutton for punishment!

Love,

Grace

Date with Disaster

Dear Millie,

Date with disaster!  Ah ha haaaa!  Oh, you kill me!  I’m stealing that.

And hey!  Your blankets don’t look too shabby.  At least the fabric is cute?  And the pom poms?  I think your colors are better than the tutorial, if that makes anything better.

Picture day!  It was definitely memorable.  Since it happened to be my wee one’s birthday, we opened gifts to start the day.  She tossed the dress I’d picked out for her and kept rummaging disappointedly through the gift bag.  Win!  ??  I convinced/bribed the children to get dressed in the outfits we’d picked for the occasion and we headed out.  I wore flip flops because 1. I’m so fashionable, and 2. the blisters!  At least I was able to walk again, albeit not comfortably nor gracefully.

The van ride over was filled with every sort of lame joke, bathroom-related sound effect, and excited talking to be sure the children were all in happy moods.  We arrived on time for our appointment (even a couple of minutes early, if you can believe that!).  I’d grabbed a cart in the parking lot so I could better corral my children (okay fine, and so that I could use it as an inconspicuous walker).  Another set of (CUTE!) kids and their mom were already there taking pictures.  One of those cute kids was a newborn and he was not cooperating, so they were trying all kinds of tricks.

We were there waiting a good long while and everyone was behaving spectacularly.  Except then we were still waiting and my feet were starting to have issues.  The 2yo was reaching the end of her patience quota, the 4yo was telling me loudly that it was OUR turn and WHY was it taking so long??, the 6yo was running circles around the cart, the 8yo was doing some kind of kangaroo/T-rex hopping/screeching thing, and the 10yo was trying to pretend we were all just doing what we should.  The mom mouthed, “Sorry!” to me and the photographer and assistant/receptionist (the one with the “Disaster” tattoo) said they’d be with us in just a few minutes.  I felt bad glancing at my watch, but it had been nearly 20 minutes and we were running out of time.  Not that I had anywhere to be, but there’s a window where things come together and then it just…doesn’t.  You miss that window, and it’s over, my friend!  I’d had the kids perfectly coiffed and pumped up for our appointed time and things were caving.

The mom felt terrible that we’d had to wait so long and I assured her that it was just fine.  I don’t think she’d gotten what she wanted, because they hung around while we tried to set up.  They set the background up and positioned the older kids and by then, the 2yo had had it.  She was wailing.  I set her in the group and stepped away and she’d come running after me.  I tried sitting just off to the side with my arm stretched out holding her hand (or maaaybe forcing her to stay there).  No good.  The photographer was not very helpful (why wasn’t she trying any tricks with my cute kids as she had with her previous customer?) and she asked what I could do to get the 2yo to stay put and smile.  I assumed that was her job?  My mistake!

The other children were trying their best to be patient and it just went on and on with the photographer sighing loudly and tapping her foot while I repeatedly placed the 2yo in the frame.  I told the photographer I’d just like the picture and I didn’t mind if my daughter was crying.  There!  She’s there!  Everyone is looking and it’s actually kind of funny!  Please just take the picture!  The assistant/receptionist came over and tried to give my poor girl a stuffed bear.  She calmed down and the photographer said, “Oh!  I think she must just be freaked out by me!  Here, see if you can get a good picture.”  She handed the camera to the stunned Disaster girl (we’ll call her D) and walked off.  And then she left to get a soda.

D wasn’t sure how to hold the camera.  She knelt down and tried to get the children to all look at her.  She took several pictures and I could see on the monitor that none of them were centered, and that her finger had blocked the lens on a few of them.  I know they do editing afterward, so I was trying to not be worried, but three of the images did not include heads on my older children and another couple didn’t include at least one of my children at all.  Technology is amazing, but I was a little nervous about how they’d manage to pull an image together.

The photographer had returned by this point and seemed exasperated that we were still there.  Another group had arrived and the mom with the newborn was there and instead of taking over the camera, the photographer set her soda down and went to the register.  There were people gathered at the front who needed to be attended to, after all!

My 2yo by this time was screaming.  She could not be consoled.  I tried holding her and talking softly in her ear for a minute, but she was having none of it.  She wanted off the set.  I calmly told the camera-holding girl that I would very much like a photograph to be taken of my children as soon as I set my little girl down and got out of the frame and that I didn’t care what it looked like.  She looked at me wide-eyed and nodded and I looked at my children.  My oldest was doing his best to keep a smile on but it was coming off like a creeper.  The 8 and 6yo boys were wiggling around and were clearly done.  The 4yo was sitting on the bench with her arms folded and she was scowling.  I smiled and told them that this was it!  We really just needed one picture.  Everybody smile!

I set the 2yo down and she lost it.  I was backing up to quickly get out of the frame and knew that there was a board under the backdrop that I’d need to step over.  I felt the back of it with my flip flop and lifted my water balloon foot, but the flip flop caught and I slammed down on the blisters so I wouldn’t trip, but then I did anyway, so I reached my left hand out to grab onto the counter but I missed and grabbed onto something metal and I was falling and the metal thing I’d grabbed was part of the printer and it broke off and I came crashing down in flailing slow motion and naturally the metal tray didn’t land flat, it landed facing up so it sliced the webbing between my thumb and index finger and (sorry for the graphic) scrunched the skin accordion-style as it did its damage.

“Whoa,”  the photographer said.  “Oops?” was all I could say, and I set the metal tray on the counter.  I grabbed some tissues and jammed it in my hand so the kids wouldn’t know what had happened.  I’d apparently startled the girl holding the camera when I fell, so the photograph she’d taken had the girls’ heads from about the bottom lip up, the boys above them, and then a lot of empty space above them.  Awesome.

I asked if we could maybe come back later as the other mom had.  The photographer turned with an exasperated look and said, “30 minutes.  These guys have been waiting,” and she gestured to the group who had been witness to one of my life’s crowning moments.

I thanked her, gathered my children into and next to the cart, and we left.  I was trying not to limp and the 2yo was just at her wits end.  We walked away and I picked her up and let her snuffle into my shoulder, leaving a wet blob on my shirt.  I had bled through the tissues I had.  Luckily, a girl from church was walking toward us.  I asked if she could stay with the kids for a minute while I used the restroom.  I hobbled to the restroom with the 2yo and did my best to wash up my hand while holding her.  I glanced in the mirror and was sorry I had.  I looked like I’d come through a terrible ordeal.  Well!  Not as bad as a pregnant grandma, eh?  I squeezed some paper towels in my hand to help with the bleeding and returned to the cart.

I couldn’t walk very well anyway and my feet were giving in.  I tried making small talk with the girl and ended up agreeing to anything and everything she said because I couldn’t think straight enough to do otherwise.  That conversation is how I ended up driving her to and fro and hearing about her potato picking adventures.  I know you can’t wait to hear about that!

I’d done my shopping the weekend before and the only thing I could think of that we needed were mousetraps.  We walked clear across the store to the place where they carry them, and there was an empty space where they used to be.  The time was nearly up, so we made our way back to the portrait studio.  My feet were killing me and my hand was throbbing.  I smiled at the mom with the newborn who was with D having her pictures printed off.  The other group finished up and it was our turn.  The photographer took over the printer and waved for D to finish up with us.  I told the kids we could be done really quickly if everyone cooperated.  The younger boys were completely wound up and were hopping around.  My 4yo rolled her eyes.  As soon as we stepped onto the set, the 2yo started screaming again.  Big, heavy sobs.

I assured D that I just wanted a nice-colored, centered picture, not necessarily with smiling children in it.  She just shook her head and when I saw the kids, I pointed and said, “Now!”  The bulbs flashed and I knew we had a masterpiece.

The photographer was now filling up helium balloons in the front to put around the entrance and my 4yo wanted one.  The photographer scowled at her, because these were for advertising, not for clients!  D quietly filled a few and handed them to the kids and tried to get pictures with them holding them, but the girls’ blocked the boys and no one could focus on the camera when there were bobbing balloons.  The 8yo was yawning in one of the pictures.  I announced we were done and I would like to just print some pictures.  The children immediately brightened and started playing.  The 2yo had calmed down but was so exhausted from all her crying that she just laid right down on the bench with the stuffed bear.

The photographer had left again.  D pushed her glasses up on her nose and squinted at the screen.  “I’m not sure we have ones we can work with.  Do you want to try again?” she asked.  NO.  She wanted to try some enhancements and maybe softer sides.  I was trying not to be rude, but her color enhancements were terrible.  I did my best to kindly point out exactly what we wanted, over and over, with no special enhancements or color treatments, please.  When she finally narrowed it down to her recommendations and the one I insisted on, she asked for my final selection.  I picked one of hers to humor her, and then I got what I wanted.  She hit print.  Nothing happened.  She jiggled some wires behind the printer and turned a circle and leaned around the corner to see if the photographer was anywhere nearby.  Nope.  She tried a few other things and the photographer finally returned.  “This will take awhile.  Why don’t you go shop or something?”

I’d already wandered around for half an hour with the children before and as much as I wanted to see if they had restocked the mousetraps, no thank you.  It was nearly nap time by this point, and by jingo I wanted the pictures and I wanted out of there!  I felt a little misled by the company name.

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In all fairness, they hadn’t said how many minutes.  I wasn’t trying to be rude or disruptive to other customers in Wally World, but it’d been 2 1/2 hours.  We had all reached our limit.  We waited for the prints as nicely as we could and then tore out of there.

The portrait?  Brilliant.  The boys were standing in the back.  Starting from the left, 6yo Truman is punching himself in the side of his face, 10yo Kyle is gripping his brothers trying to keep them in place with a hurry-and-take-the-dang-picture smile, and 8yo Paul is in the middle of making farting sounds.  The girls are sitting on a bench and 2yo Lucy is crying and reaching out for me with a tear running down her cheek and a wet stream under her nose.  4yo Vanessa?  She’s covering her ears with both hands and glaring at Disaster.  It is awesome.  I have it hanging next to the front door.

It has been a few weeks since our “date with Disaster.”  One of the girls I visit teach had heard about having had our pictures done and when I went to visit her last month, she had new family photos on her wall and individual shots of each of their three boys.  “Oh yeah, it was great!  The boys were already dressed nicely one day, so we decided to stop in and get pictures.  In and out–Portraits in Minutes!”  Indeed.  Disaster and the photographer are no longer there.  I don’t know what happened.

Love,

Grace

P.S.  I told you my favorite biddy hooked me up with butternut squash, right?  I had seen online that I could cook it up in my Instant Pot pressure cooker (if you have one and you definitely should, place it on the steamer rack/basket thing, add 1 cup of water, hit Manual, set the time to 10-13 minutes depending on how big your squash is, let it cook and natural release for 10 minutes, manually release any leftover pressure, remove the basket and squash and let cool a bit, slice it in half and remove the seeds and goopy stuff, peel off the skin using a paring knife where needed, and then mash the squash until smooth–if you have an awesome blender, throw it in there–and then use it however you’d like!  I froze most of mine to use later).  I wondered if I could get away with making pumpkin pancakes subbing in squash and it worked great!  The kids had no idea and it was really good.  I made it just like the recipe said except I used squash.  Try it!  Pumpkin Cheesecake Pancakes.  You’re welcome.

Stars for Everyone (but Mostly for Me)

Dearest Sister Millie,

I love broccoli!  I love cheese!  And I love broccoli cheese soup!  I’m not sure I’ve ever had Mumsie’s (where was I??  Sometimes I wonder if we had different childhoods.  And parents.), but I remember when she first started making that broccoli cheese concoction for smothering baked potatoes.  Mmmmm.  Maybe it’s one and the same?  At any rate, I’m going to have to make it!

Guess what I did today?  I polished acorns!  A friend of mine invited me out to her adorable farmhouse for lunch.  Last time she had us over (I had Vanessa and Lucy with me), she made us pierogi.  They were filled with mashed potatoes!  I’d never even heard of them.  Anyway, after lunch today, the girls all played while we chatted at the table and cleaned acorns.  We’ll be painting them at a Relief Society activity next Tuesday.  Isn’t that fun?  If I didn’t already have commitments, I’d be going to hunt mushrooms with her tomorrow.  Hunt for mushrooms!  I love this place.  When I left, she handed me a jar of pure maple syrup tapped from the family’s trees (pure maple syrup is amazing!).  She also gave me a carton of fresh eggs from her chickens.  I love her!

She texted me later that she had found a huge bag of mushrooms today.  Of course it reminded me of something I’d eaten and so I sent her a recipe I love–portobello mushroom lasagna.  It is so, so good!  I can’t say my whole family was crazy about it because they aren’t all crazy about mushrooms.  But I am, and in case you are (except I’m thinking you’re not?), here’s a link to the recipe!  Ina Garten.  You’re welcome.  Although I do have to say that I used maybe 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg instead of a full teaspoon.  And I added more cheese–maybe 1/2 cup?  And I can’t promise they were portobello mushrooms either.  They were whatever I couldn’t pass up buying at the store (I am ashamed to admit that I don’t know what kind the ones are that come in the packages that go on super sale and I go mushroom crazy for a bit!  Do you know?).  Anyway, if you like mushrooms, you’ll like this!  If not, sorry.  I’ll send you a recipe for something you like.  Maybe Abe would like mushrooms since they aren’t green?  Or if you add enough cheese?

Welcome to the wonderful world of Neato!  It’s the best pet I’ve ever had.  I did like our Roomba, but it has given up the ghost and joined the choir invisible.

I can’t believe Abe has three months to go!  At LEAST?!  That’s nuts.  You might need to take on a second job to support his online shopping.  Ha ha!  One sure cure for cabin fever is to leave the cabin and come and see meeeeeee!  I will start stocking up on apple juice.

I happened to be in Walmart a few weeks ago with my nearly-four-year-old daughter, Vanessa. I can’t even recall why I didn’t have the other four children with me, but anyway, there we were. She was sitting in the cart and we walked in and noticed that what used to be a mini arcade had been turned into a portrait studio. Now, you may recall that my last experience with a portrait studio happened on my second son Paul’s birthday. I had taken to having my children’s pictures taken on the occasion of their respective birthdays. I had made an appointment in advance and the day before his birthday, I received a phone call confirming the appointment. The day of, the birthday boy was dressed and ready to go out. I quickly checked my email and a confirmation message had arrived early that morning. We headed out the door and when we arrived, the lights in the studio were off and there was a sign:

 

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NOT COOL.

 

You can imagine my delight when I realized I could restart my birthday tradition and have my nearly-four-year-old’s picture taken on her birthday the next week! I rushed over to make an appointment. The multi-color(ed?)-hair(ed?) girl at the register was friendly enough and as we talked, I decided that no, the school would be taking pictures soon and I would prefer to have all the portraits on my piano match. But! I COULD have the children take a picture together! The five little darlings! My heart was a-flutter as I pictured a massive portrait of my sweet earth angels hanging above the mantle where all could see. The girl at the register needed all their names and respective birthdays. As she typed, I noticed a beautifully scripted tattoo on her arm. It should’ve raised a red flag when I realized what it said: Disaster.

I chirped each of the children’s names and birthdates. At the bottom of the digital form she was filling out, there was one last question. “Your relationship to these kids…grandmother, I’m guessing?”

 

 

I laughed. It might have been a little more like a “Ha!” blast than a laugh. The girl gasped, her eyebrows shot up and eyes widened. Vanessa crinkled her nose and shook her head (and probably also rolled her eyes—she’s famous for that). The girl started gesturing heavily while she stuttered out an apology. All was made well again and I wondered whether I should detour my planned shopping route and swing on by the night cream aisle. She told me she’d get an appointment card and quickly scribbled out the date and time on a post-it note. She handed the very formal appointment card to me, and we were on our merry way.

I’m going to have to pause this story because it’s late. But not before I share one more thing from that evening.

Not twenty minutes after I had been asked if I was my children’s grandma, I ran into a dear friend. It is Walmart, after all! We chatted and her son swung around from behind her and said, “Hi!” I greeted him and he put his hand right on my belly and asked, “When are you ever going to have this baby?” His mom turned red and shushed him as I laughed and said that I wasn’t expecting a baby any time soon, but that I should probably cut back on the baked goods!

Pregnant grandma. It was a gold star day!

Love,

Grace