Sunday, July 31, 2011

God Cares about Trains, Too

Months ago, I waited for the perfect occasion to reward my picky eater with a prize--a prize so powerful, I knew it would motivate his taste buds.

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"Who's that puffing down the track? It's Thomas! Hellooo, Thomas!"

Thomas the Train.
The Number One Engine.
The Answer to all Eating Woes--or so I thought.

I found Thomas for $8 dollars at a children's consignment store. Originally, I had hoped to use it as his reward for potty training--I like to call it toilet learning, but whatev. This child is not even close to reaching that milestone yet, so when he started whimpering over his uneaten dinner, I took Thomas out of hiding and placed it in front of him on a train track.

"THOMASSS!" he pointed his finger at it and shrieked with complete, utter joy.  "Done! Done! DONE!!!" he shouted, as he usually does when he's finished eating. His eyes were on the prize.

"Eat your dinner, and then you can play with Thomas." I chug-a-chugged Thomas on a joy ride along the train tracks, pretending not to hear the crying frenzy that followed. It's as if I were dangling a succulent piece of beef jerky above a hungry dog in a muzzle; I continued to play as my son's eyes were riveted on that coveted blue engine. "Eat your dinner," I reminded him. Such torture. Am I evil?

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An incredible thing happened: it worked. I couldn't have been more proud of myself. Since then, I haven't been so lucky. He is still picky and I am still fed up with meal time.

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So, last week one night, Boy was getting our son ready for bed--this is their father/son ritual if he's home in time. By the way, I've been having quite the difficult time coming up with a name for this kid, so let's call him Huck for the sake of the blog.* Calling him 'Ohio' or 'Little Boy' or 'Mi Hijo' didn't seem to fit well--if you have any better ideas...

As the two of them were picking up and putting away the trains and train tracks, they noticed that Thomas was missing. After 10 minutes of putting everything away, no Thomas was found. After putting on dinosaur jammies, no Thomas. After brushing teeth, still, no Thomas. Huck wasn't torn up about it, so they knelt down for bedtime prayer.

As Boy was saying a prayer, a little two-year-old voice interrupted him by whispering, "Find Thomas?"

A child's prayer must be answered, so if he asks to find Thomas, then Thomas must be found! Sing-a-long with me now...

"Where, oh where is Thomas? Where has Thomas gone? He must be playing hide-and-seek or something's really wrong. Sir Topham Hatt has spoken: Thomas must be found! So everyone is searching every inch of Sodor ground."

I never thought this toy train would prompt such powerful feelings from our little boy, but it has, and it does. Thomas was found only moments later and Huck was finally off to bed. In this instance, a prayer to God was answered by a father whose heart was softened by the innocent pleas of his little son. I feel like submitting this to the advertising agency who makes those Visa Mastercard commercials.

  • Thomas the Train: $8 dollars.
  • Missing train: 20 minutes, give or take. 
  • Out of the mouths of babes: Priceless.

*Huckleberry Finn--my inspiration--is too much of a mouthful, don't you think?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gotta Roll With the Punches

Today's vocabulary lesson...

zugzwang \TSOOK-tsvahng\ noun: 
A situation in which a player is limited to moves that have a damaging effect.

Used in a sentence: 
No matter where she is crawling (the mere fact that she just exists), the baby is perpetually in prime zugzwang while in the presence of her toddler brother.

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In her brother's defense, he was trying real hard to share his train tracks. He pushed those suckers a little too energetically into her face. Now's the time to toughen up more, Indy girl.

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Summer Is

...a slice of morning's white light cutting through my window blinds.
...humidity's soft mist slowly ascending to the sky.
...chilled homemade lemonade tart on my tongue.
...deep red raspberries awaiting for further eating.


...a fragrant marriage of fresh dill and olive oil sizzling over yellow summer squash.
...small toes and fingers examining its first sand. exchange of whimsical giggles between two little humans of mine.


...verdant forest canopies impervious of the sun's fire.
...thick heat wrapping around my sticky skin with its muggy blanket.
...a nakie little boy dozing off for an afternoon's nap in his mom and dad's bed.

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...a cacophony of frogs and crickets heard on the banks of the nearby Connecticut.

This is my summer--my first New England summer. Not to be forgotten.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

VT Places: Tower Trail on Gile Mountain

As I previously mentioned, we spent the morning of July 4th on a hike. What I didn't mention was where the hike took us.


This 0.68 mile switchback trail in Norwich, VT, takes you to a 413 feet tall fire tower, now abandoned, that was used to survey forest fires. At the top, the panoramic view is incredible--it will be a prime spot to view October's fall colors (oh yes, I will return). You can see much of the Connecticut River Valley with Mount Ascutney (S) and Killington's ski trails (SW), the Green Mountains of Vermont (W) and the White Mountains of New Hampshire (N). [sourcesource, and source].

I love that this hike is short and family friendly--family friendly only if you're brave. Just look at the size of that tower.


I'm so proud of my sweaty, mop-haired two-year-old. (His mom doesn't have the guts to cut his hair.) He hiked the whole way up: the trail and the tower. Poor kid kept asking, "Up, up, up! Pick up? Me! Up!" on the hike down. He was all tuckered out once we returned to our car--what a clever outdoor activity to wipe out toddler energy, huh?

I'm thinking of making this hike a new Fourth of July tradition. Care to join us?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Heat Wave

There's a so-called heat wave up here in the Northeast. Temperatures are up in the (gasp!) 90s. If I listen hard, I can hear all my homies in Arizona--in their 100+ degree temps--laughing at my 5-day forecast.

  • Thursday: 94 with T-storms
  • Friday: 96 
  • Saturday: 93
  • Sunday: drops to 79 
  • Monday: 77 and rain showers

While the Midwest is no doubt cranking up even more heat and humidity, I have no reason to throw a hissy fit. Okay, so maybe a little? We have no A/C over here. Not many houses out here do because summers are supposed to be mild. Still, I know what summer in the Midwest feels like. It's agony. Living through seven of them (the summer of '03 was the mother of them all) was enough for me.

Even if I position myself directly in front of our electric fan, I still find no relief. My best discovery to beat the heat? Magnum.

Not him, silly. This Magnum.

Have you discovered Magnum ice cream bars yet? Check these babies out. Each box comes with three, and you'll want to eat them all. Double chocolate is my fave.

What's the next best thing? Each time I go to buy them, my grocery store provides me with a coupon for a dollar off. Hooray!

And the next best thing after that? No calories! By the time you finish licking the last taste of chocolate, you will have sweated those calories off.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Write it on your heart 
that every day is the best day of the year.

He is rich who owns the day, 
and no one owns the day who allows it to be invaded 
with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it. 
You have done what you could.

Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt, crept in. 
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; 
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit 
to be cumbered with your old nonsense. 

This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, 
to waste a moment on the 

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It (Cleaning) Never Ends

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Somebody thought that breakfast was over and walked into the other room to check her e-mail (while a happy little boy watched an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine).

Somebody else decided he was still hungry and climbed up the bar stool to help himself to another bowl of Cheerios.

So, why bother cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast? It's never effective.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Raspberry Obsession

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Raspberries, raspberries...yum, yum, yummy. 
One for the bucket and five for my tummy.

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As a child, I loved summer raspberry picking in my grandparents' backyard. I would eat half of the bucket and my Granny would exclaim, "you need to leave some for us to make jam!" If I could live off raspberries for the rest of my life, I'd be happy as a lark.

Between my two kids, one reminded me of myself as he inhaled as many as he could smack his lips on. And even though I tried, the other didn't appreciate the raspberries one bit. She spat them on her collar in defiance. Whose child is this? Not mine.

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I love having a variety of "pick your own" farms in my neck of the woods. Especially raspberries. We came home with almost two pounds, and it's not enough.

We're coming back for more, Poverty Lane Orchards.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Going out of my mind...

"...these days. Like I'm walkin' round in a haze. I can't think straight. I can't concentrate. And I need to shave."

For the most part, we are settled into our home, but I can't say things around here are completely unpacked. I'm infamous for hovering over a pile of boxes while staring at them for a good three minutes or longer. My brain and I have arguments over which box to start with, which room of the house I should drag it to, if I dare lift it (if it requires awkward lifting), and if I should set it aside and deal with it later. It's pathetic and I hate its anti-productivity.

Speaking about the need to shave: After an unspecified amount of days of being lazy, I finally shaved my legs. Now, there's productivity for you. Before you murmur, "Ewwww, gross" at me, at least I still have the dignity to shower every day--I'm not that disgusting.

"[He goes to work] and I look tired. The boss man said, 'Son you gonna get fired.' This ain't your style, and behind my coffee cup, I just smile."

Although it is a juggling act with two little ones needing constant attention and supervision during the day, I manage to accomplish some things that I set out to do for the day. Some days I don't. Some days I do. Isn't that the norm for everyone, anyway? Creating a haven in my home is certainly one of those things I try to keep on a daily basis. The tricky part is keeping it tidy and clean if you get my drift.

A few new favorite spots of our home...

I bought these glass figurine Amish children in Goshen, Indiana--Amish country. I want my baby girl to remember her home state when she plays with them one day.
I played around with the idea of soda bottles to display in the 1/4 bathroom on the main floor. I think I will add a few more unique ones over the years. What do you think...too trendy? Leave the soda in or out? (As for the one in the middle, the stuff is staying in there; it's a collector's item from Boy. He bought that Coke bottle at the NBA All-Star's game in SLC, Utah. That was 1993. Bottom's up.)
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I have a story for you about these stairs. Another day.
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A view of a neighbor's home in the backyard. Our landlords planted the beautiful flowers--and already--they've been scorched by the hotter-than-normal summer sun that New England is getting this year.
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I love books. Is it noticeable? I love that I can put the Not for Tourists Guide to New York City right next to books of scripture and such.  Notice that I purchased this little black "bible" in 2006 when I planned to move out there. Then, bam! Boy and I started dating and was married in 2007. So long, New York. I still plan to keep it handy for a our NYC getaway that he has promised for me since then.

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Oh, Target. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. One downer to browsing blogs on the Internet is finding out that everyone including their dog has THIS PILLOW. The bedroom is a work in progress and it's a darn good thing everything is black and white. I love having flexibility. 
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Compared to the cabinets I've had during my college days, post-college days, and during my marriage, these ones are glorious. This kitchen makes me feel all grown up now. A breakfast island, wood floors, hanging lights, a big window over my kitchen sink. Glorious! I know how lucky I am as a renter. Really, I do. And I couldn't ask for better landlords either. They have been so very helpful to my family in countless ways.
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We finally buckled down to buy our first-ever high chair. How on earth did we ever survive without our own? It is a Stokke. I love the style, the longevity of use it has, and the color. What I don't love is the price. It better be worth it.
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Post-nap hair. Post-nap unfinished lunch. Post-nap dimpled boy.Yum to it all. 

That is the unofficial tour of our cozy Upper Valley home. I'm still unpacking, neatly organizing, and redoing rooms. Please come visit us or else all my work shall be in vain.

"What a beautiful mess, what a beautiful mess I'm in...there's nothing else I'd rather do." (italicized quotations written by Shane Minor and Sonny LeMaire.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Love the Duchess of Cambridge Even More

Thank you, Kate. Thank you for the help you've already given me when I will teach my daughter that dressing modestly is still fashionable. You've shown the world that it can be done.

You're a real princess, and I'm sure she's bound to want to dress like one. So, thank you.                                                                                                                                                                                                       


Saturday, July 9, 2011

I Might as Well Buy Myself a Cow

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Years ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was attending BYU--Hawaii, one of the few schools that my church owns and operates. The campus sits by the north shoreline on the island of Oahu, and if you can imagine, is in the middle of a tropical paradise. I can't really say that for sure because I've never been there, nor anywhere in Hawaii. The best I can do right now to experience Hawaii is to eat a pineapple from my local grocery and watch reruns of Hawaii Five-Oh. I would include those savory chocolate and caramel-covered macadamia nut clusters too, but the nearest Costco that sells those yummies is a 90-minute drive.

The majority of the conversation's details has long been forgotten, but I remember discovering how expensive rent and groceries were (specifically, the insane $5 price for a gallon of milk), so I asked her, "Why don't you live somewhere else to go to school?"

"Because it's so beautiful, " she said. "I love the ocean, the beach, the surfing, the sunshine. I love it over there."


Earlier this week, I had a little slice of deja vu delivered to my front door. As I was careening through the local roads, I felt a little New England pride. "Wow," I thought. "I can't believe I live here." I felt like skipping down the lofty mountain meadows like Melissa Gilbert did in Little House on the Prairie.

I was out to buy some milk. The Co-op was just right there, so I went right in. What the heck is a co-op? I'm a born and bred city girl, so I had the Internet to teach me:

  • "A cooperative business is one that is owned by those who use its services. The Co-op embodies the idea that by working together and pooling our resources we can provide ourselves and our community with goods and services we desire."
  • "Each member household buys ten $5 shares of Co-op stock. This one-time $50 investment entitles you to full membership in the Co-op....At year’s end, if a patronage refund is offered, your refund will be calculated from the total in this account."
Though the Co-op is a great idea, we are still trying to decide on which places to put our money. Grabbing milk on the go shouldn't be a big deal, right? I grabbed a pound of ground beef to make hamburgers for an easy dinner, so yeah, milk and meat. That's it.

I was warned that things were a little expensive around these parts, but my little virgin eyes and ears were plunged into a rude awakening. Ground hamburger meat was almost $4 a pound. I'm not talking about the lean fat was the full fatty kind. And the milk? I had to settle for a half gallon. That's a half gallon, people. That would last in my household two days at most. (The only people I can think of that buy half gallons are college students and senior citizens.) The milk comes in these adorable glass jugs that make you feel all organic and farm-like. It's a nice fuzzy feeling until you realize how much you're charged for it.

Total cost of 2 items: 1 pound hamburger & 1 half gallon skim milk = $7.25. I get to take back my empty glass milk jug back to the store and get a dollar back. Whoop-de-doo-dah-day.

The cashier reminded me that the milk comes from a local farm 20 minutes away. "Thanks for supporting our local farms," he said. He was sweet, and he meant every word of it; I, on the other hand wished I felt better about my agricultural support. Before I force a non-dairy or vegan diet upon my family, I'm scrambling to find a decent price on milk. Milk about anywhere here might as well be liquid gold and I'm in urgent need to find help--fast. The most logical action that I can see is to find myself a dairy cow. Our house is surrounded by all the grass she'll need to eat, so lucky for us, our lawnmower shall go back to where it came from: Craigslist.

This is the price you pay for living in a beautiful part of the country. For every glass of milk, I'll think of the thick forests on mountain grandeur, the postcard-worthy storybook villages, the famous technicolor autumn leaves, the not-too-hot summers, and the white-steepled 18th century churches rising out of the trees. But until I can find myself a cow, I'll have to persuade my two-year-old to chew calcium tablets and to eat more kale.

Open wide!

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fourth of July Weekend in Hanover

Hanover, New Hampshire. Chartered on July 4, 1761.
We just celebrated its 250th birthday on Monday...I'm still trying to comprehend that things out here are really old.

Hanover is home to Dartmouth College. We spent a lazy Saturday on the Green--a giant lawn that is the heart of the town and college. I felt nostalgic of my own college days as we were surrounded by a few students studying textbooks and class notes on the Green. Some were even scoring dates: a certain young college girl clear across the other side was sunbathing in her bikini. I don't think she did a lot of studying, nor did some of her oglers. I, for one, definitely did not try that at BYU.

Some of the better views of the Green.



On Independence Day, we celebrated with a morning hike in a luscious green forest, the Hanover parade, and breakfast at Lou's (more on that later). I was happy that Boy had the day off and we could spend the holiday together like a normal family. The next holiday, I won't be as lucky. I'll take what I can get.

Friday, July 1, 2011

New Beginning

New  state.
New  zip code.
New  neighborhood.
New  three-bedroom home.
New  American culture to mesh ourselves with.
New  goal of saving some quality kid-free time for myself.
New  blog for capturing the memories I make with my family.
New  beginnings beg for explanations, so this is an attempt of my definition.

Surviving another move? Affirmative. While driving 950 miles is no biggie, adding two kids and a yellow Penske that travels 45 mph, made getting to our new destination interminable. Those things I won't miss: diesel fuel prices for a thirsty moving truck, greasy fast food at rest stops, and cheap motel rooms along the way. As much as I pride myself in adapting well to change, I appreciate stability even more--and it feels so good to plant my feet into new ground.

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My heart dropped a little as we crossed the Indiana border and passed through my beloved Ohio; these two places have made my life sublime in their own way. I have left so many good people behind. I really hate goodbyes. In fact, I avoid it and live my days in denial. If you hate crying, like me, this is a great coping mechanism to prevent the weepy flood gates. Home is now the Upper Connecticut River Valley (or the Upper Valley as the locals call it). It's a region within both New Hampshire and Vermont with rich American beauty and history. So far, we're impressed by the down-to-earth friendliness of our new neighbors and friends.

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We will live, work, play, go to church, shop, eat, grow, ski, hike, explore, and make new memories in the two of these New England states. I like to think of it as a dual state citizenship. Not really, but kind of. I have triple state citizenship if you count Quebec, but silly me--that's Canada. With the Canadian border not quite two hours away, you might as well call it local. (I'm prepared for a sister-in-law of mine to harpoon me with that statement. So be it.) It's only the beginning, but I have already fallen in love with the Northeast. But many good things come to an end. Three or four years from now when we will be taking a new job, we may be wishing to live these years again.

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