Saturday, December 25, 2010

Left Behind

...on the hearth this morning:

Dear Oliver and Brahm,

Thank you for your letter and snacks. Sorry if we left a mess. My reindeer get thirsty flying around so fast. Usually they eat the snow on the rooftops to cool off but there wasn't any snow here! I didn't give you everything on your list. I only give really bad kids everything they want so that their greed prevents them from understanding the real meaning of Christmas.

Brahm, you were honest in your letter. That's a very noble quality. You can tell who is truly brave by how often he tells the truth. Always be brave, Brahm.

Oliver, I've noticed you've been working harder to be good. You have a mischievous side to you, like myself. It is a wonderful quality. Learn to bless people, like I have, and you will always be loved and respected.

Your dad left me a note that you boys have been fighting and asked me to to withhold a few presents. I understand why, but unlike him, I see what you do every day. I know that both of you are FAR more nice than naughty.

Oliver, you asked if I'm real. Well, my boy, I can tell you I'm as real as any dream you've ever had, or any hope you've ever held in your heart! I'm as real as a whisper and the warmth of love.

Merry Christmas to both of you!

St. Nicholas

P.S. Sorry my pen is so bad - and for the sloppiness. Prancer keeps bumping my hand!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

And From Oliver

And if you struggle with seven-year-old penmanship, here's a translation:

"Dear Santa Claus,
I hope you give me good presents. I want to know if you are real. I never knew that you were real. Would you please send me note on Christmas? I'd love to make some cookies for you and milk. What kind of cookies and milk do you like? I hope I've been good. Here's my list of things I want:

• battle droid bobble head
• Legos Star Wars and Atlantis
• Detective Set
• Spy Gear Set
• iPad
• iPod
• remote control ATAT
• Legos  submarine set
• Nintgendo DS
• 25 bucks
• any kids robots
• any cool bobble heads that I like
• any rare Pokemon or Pokemon pack
• silly bandz
• lots of Nutcrackers
• Club Penguin membership for a year
• lots of marbles
• Mighty Mugs
• a new bike
• a big Nerf Gun
• to see you
• candy (lots)
• Poptropica Membership
• paintball gun
• Beyblade"

Monday, December 13, 2010


via Brahm's stocking:

Thursday, December 9, 2010


...on door of emergency food pantry in my neighborhood.

Found on Door to Basement

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gift of the Magi

I bought some new essential oils today and brought Oliver into the kitchen to test 'em out. Ever since he was a toddler, he's had an extraordinary sense of smell and learned early on how to experience the world through his nose. I was excited about two of the bottles, frankincense and myrrh, and wanted him to guess what they were before smelling them.

"They were two of the three gifts the Three Kings brought to Jesus," I hinted.

"Frankincense!" he guessed right away.

"Yep! What else?" I coaxed.


"Yes, that's one of the gifts but it's not one of my oils, " I answered.

He sat for a moment with a perplexed look on his face. More time passed but still he could not guess the third one. Finally he looked up at me and took a stab in the dark.


Monday, November 15, 2010


Oliver (in all sincerity): Dad, can I pretend like I'm a hawk every morning and come in and land on you to wake you up?

Brooks (in all sincerity): Oliver, can I pretend like I'm a boulder every morning and come in and drop on you to wake you up?

Oliver: Yes.

Brooks: And crush you?

Oliver: Yes.

New Music for Sunday

And for the rest of the week, for that matter. But first, the non-related visual interest:

This was taken with my phone the day we went up to the reservoir right after school. Oliver said to me, "Mom, my favorite thing is to see the reflection of the trees in the water." I loved how he observed this because, in fact, it was beautiful. You can see a little bit of it in the water behind us with some of the snow-dusted mountain caps as well. Another thing I like about this photo is 1) that Oliver let me take it and 2) how I can see a hint of what he's going to look like as a teenager. He's growing up.

So about the music. I was just thinking this morning how I've wanted to recommend some new music for a while now. Both albums are of traditional Christian and spiritual hymns but in a different or updated style that appeals to me. I have a lot of spiritual music in my collection on terms of classical choral pieces but I haven't come across any 18th and 19th century standard hymn collections I like. Until now, that is. Mindy turned me on to both of them this last year.

The first album is called "Nearer: A New Collection of Favorite Hymns" performed by various artists. It's not your mother's LP, that's for sure. Long overdue. "Be Still, My Soul" and "It Is Well With My Soul" are two of my favorites.

The other is "The Lower Lights - A Hymn Revival" also performed by various artists in a folk and bluegrass style. I promise you've never heard "If You Could Hie to Kolob" like the rendition here. Some of my faves: "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" and "There Is A Green Hill Far Away".

Both are available on iTunes. Check 'em out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall Back

Last week I went running up along Wasatch Boulevard, at least that was my plan. I stumbled on the mouth a a trail and thought, "What the heck?" and took off. I was abundantly rewarded at the top of the first stretch by a gorgeous view of a small reservoir. The glassy water was surrounded by the last of the colored mountain leaves. Further on up I came onto the stream that empties into the lake. It was so beautiful and peaceful that I knew I was coming back soon and bringing the boys with me. A few days later was an early release from school so we headed straight for the hills after I picked them up.

They loved it.

Sunday morning we invited Brooks to go back up with us. It was the last nice day of the fall and I wanted to soak in every minute of it before the weather turned for good. Much of the fiery color that was there only days before had already dropped or turned dull but it was still gorgeous. The boys and I collected a handful of our favorite leaves to do leaf rubbings later that day. Brooks pointed out signs of wildlife, Oliver fell in the stream as he tried crossing back over, Brahm raced me on the way down (and won). When the calendar offers an extra hour, I gratefully accept.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Secret Message

"INFORMATION: Mom is troubled by something. Probably secret spy gear annoying her."

Note to children: Yes, Mom is troubled by something, namely two little boys who stick their ears (a.k.a. "secret spy gear") to the bedroom door when Mom is trying to have private conversation with Dad.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I got shivers a few weeks ago. The boys and I (minus Brooks) went down to Provo for the release concert of my sister's latest album "Anchor" held at the Covey Performing Arts Center on Center St. The lights went down and the curtain came up to a backdrop of red umbrellas and twinkle lights hung from the ceiling amidst foamy gauze. Then Mindy started to sing and that's when I got the shivers.

The thing about Mindy is that she is everything I'm not. Looking at her is like seeing into a younger, backward mirror: she's soft, born with a gift for expression, lovely beyond words, full of grace and natural style, deliberate, yet very down-to-earth and non-assuming. I love all these things about her and wonder what life is like looking through her lens?

Mindy is seated on my mom's lap, I'm standing second from the left.

Mindy is the eighth of nine children, six or seven years younger than me. Our parents were big on music lessons for all their daughters. We grew up with voice and instrument lessons - mostly piano - and used to sing a lot together, especially at church and family functions. But as the rest of us got older, other interests diverted our attention. Mindy and my youngest sister, Lindsey, were the only ones who took music past childhood and into college. I love that Mindy, though she didn't make it through try-outs for choral groups in high school and college, persisted in singing for the sheer love of it. I love that she believes in herself and in the power of music so much that "Anchor" is her third album release, meeting with as much acclaim and success (if not, more) as the first two.

Recently she was contacted by Michelle Phan who is a popular make-up artist on YouTube. Michelle wanted to use some of Mindy's songs in her videos so Mindy produced a video ( at the last minute for one of them, "Hourglass", as a link. Incidentally, she wrote the songs for her two boys, similar in age to Brahm and Oliver. My personal favorite is the title song from her new album. I love both the song and the video

It's the combination of lyrics like this and her melodic, dreamy voice that give me the goosebumps. I'm not the only one, either. An hour ago as I was watching the "Hourglass" video Oliver came in and sat on my lap to watch it with me.

"Mom, I like Mindy's voice," he says out of the blue.

"Me, too, little man. Me, too."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Here is the link to the eBay listing of the tie-dye tees:

I took Brahm to an activity a couple weeks ago and while I was waiting for him, Oliver and I took a trip to the vending machines. I dug around in my purse for what seemed like forever but could not find any cash. "Well, Oliver," I said, finally giving up, "looks like we're out of luck." No sooner had the words come out of my mouth than a man walked up, handed me a dollar bill, smiled, and left through an adjacent door.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sneak Peek

Making these one-of-a-kind tie-dye spooky tees has now become a yearly tradition. It started a few years ago when my friend Emily and I were brainstorming what we could donate to the craft sale at community garden's annual pumpkin festival. We came up with with a few standard tie-dye tees in the beginning and since then it has morphed into this.

The tees below are what came back this year after the festival ended. I'm posting them on my blog as a sneak peek before I put them up for sale on eBay this week (I will also post the eBay links). 100% of the proceeds go to the Wasatch Community Garden's Historic Sandy garden. Click here for more info on the garden and to see a fabu pic of the pumpkin patch in Spring 2009: Each tee is one-of-a-kind and made from sturdy 100% cotton (not the flimsy Hanes under-shirt kind). They also come with washing and garment care instructions, of course.

Size: 2-4

Size 2-4

Size 2-4

Size 6-8

Size 4/5

Size 2T

Size 2-4

Size 2-4

Size 24M

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Salsa Verde

My friend Shauna introduced me to this recipe a couple of years ago. I'm posting it because this growing year has produced a lot of green tomatoes for me and this recipe can use them as a substitute for the tomatillos. I love the way her end product tasted largely because of the way she and her husband grilled the peppers. She cut them all up with the charred skin and all. Be sure to use bottled lemon juice and not fresh - this is important. You won't be sorry. Also, you can use a steam canner to process the jars using the same amount of time as is recommended here for the immersion method. Be sure to adjust time for your altitude. Happy Harvest!

Tomatillo Green Salsa

5 c. chopped Tomatillos (or green tomatoes)
1 1/2 c. seeded chopped long green chiles  (we used anaheim chiles,  and Luke roasted them on the grill along with the jalapenos)
1/2 c. seeded finely chopped jalapenos
4 c. chopped onions
1 c. bottled lemon juice
6 cloves of garlic,  finely chopped
1 TBSP ground cumin
1 TBSP salt
1 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in large sauce pan and stir frequently over high heat until mixture begins to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes,  stirring occasionally.  Ladle into hot pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner 20 minutes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

So It Is

While unwinding for bed tonight, I go into my office to water the schefflera tree. Looking up, I notice a Lego fortress custom-built around its trunk.  I also notice dead leaves on the floor and as I extricate the creation from its place, a few more fall from the branches to join the others. Concerned, I take it up with Brahm, who is finishing dinner in the next room.

"Hey, dude, I don't mean to rain on your parade but I'm wondering if you can find a new home for your Lego fortress. I think it might be a strain on the tree."

"No problem, Mom," is his reply. "This parade has brought along umbrellas."

"Hey," I chime. "I like that." I pause to reflect on the different meanings of his insight, impressed with the wisdom my nine-year-old has just imparted.

"What do you like about it?" he wants to know.

"Well," I begin, grabbing a chair to join him, "I like how, for me, it means that even in a bad circumstance, I can change my attitude. I can be flexible and not let it get me down. It's like I have a back-up plan or something."

"Yeah," he agrees, seeing my point. "Well, my back-up plan has taken the shape of a Lego hideout in the fern in the mudroom."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Best of Las Vegas

Our Lego Explorers in The City That Never Sleeps:

 The Strip with Eiffel Tower in background

View from Hotel Aria

On coffee break outside the conference room

 Bellagio Fountain

 Workin' long hours

Droppin' nickels at the slots

On set

"Yeah, we've earned it!"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Found on Church Pew

Which pretty much indicates that it was a Sunday School assignment (notice how brief and to the point it is). And nevermind that Brahm is his only brother. I think I'll post it anyway.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Takes One to Know One

The universe is continually confirming to me that what bothers me in other people is usually a reflection of something amiss in myself (see "Who Am I?" for more on this topic).

Take a morning commute from last week, for example. It seems that every year, no matter which route we choose, UDOT manages to plan some kind of major construction on the roads which take us to and from school. Add to that the innumerable amount of inconsiderate drivers in our path (Utah is infamous for this) and I guess it all became too much for me on this particular morning.

"Guys, " I say, directing my comments to the creatures in the back seat, "I'm really glad you're watching all of this because I want you to start learning now how not to drive." Even from the drivers seat I can still see their little eyeballs rolling to the back of their heads. This is not the first time they've had the "Look-at-All-of-the-Incompetent-Drivers-Out-There" lecture. Still, I persist. "I want you to learn how to actually use your turn signal when you drive. And when you're going to make a right turn at a stop, you must come to a complete stop first and then look to the left to see if anyone's coming before you proceed." No response. "And furthermore," I add, feeling encouraged, "when there's construction going on like this you must slow down and drive carefully. You never know when a worker is going to pop out from behind their truck and surprise you. Basically, do exactly the opposite of what you see all these idiot drivers doing."

There's a long moment of silence in the back seat which means, of course, that my wisdom must be penetrating their young minds. I allow it to sink in. But before I can let myself feel too satisfied, Oliver's next comment becomes a different kind of lesson all of its own.

"But Mom," he observes matter-of-factly, "sometimes you're an idiot driver, too."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Where In the World?

Last week Brooks left for a business trip to San Francisco. Knowing he would be gone all week, Brahm sent him with one of his Lego Storm Troopers just in case Brooks felt lonely and missed him. Being sensitive to others is not unlike Brahm. Two of his gifts are a strong sense of compassion and empathy for others. Brooks understands this. In fact, he knows just how much he and his son are alike in this way. So it shouldn't have surprised me (though it did) when this series of photos showed up a few days later for Brahm.

Bay Bridge Tunnel
Bay Bridge
Union Square
The Embarcadero
Taxi Drive
Down Town

Brooks is in Las Vegas this week. He didn't leave empty handed, either. Oliver sent him with a Lego Snow Trooper and Brahm, a sheriff (with handcuffs - a non-negotiable travel accessory, I'm told). We can't wait to see where they'll turn up this time...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hodge Podge

One of the best things I ever did in my garden was plant the strawberry patch. I expected small, pithy berries but instead have been completely surprised by the large, juicy ones we have picked all summer long. Bless Brooks for letting me tear out a strip of the front lawn where the berries now grow. It's the only piece of land we own that gets a full twelve hours of sun at the peak of summer. That's probably why they have done so well - that and all the TLC the boys and I have put into it. They have rewarded us with more fruit than we can handle - enough for pie, freezer jam, cereal toppers, salads, ice cream and fresh eating.

One thing I notice about myself is that I'm a very tactile person and enjoy a creative process that starts from scratch. This means that nothing makes me geek-out more than picking the strawberries right off the plant, washing and hulling them right into a pie shell that started out as a bowl of flour and butter. This recipe here calls for a cream cheese filling (a block of cream cheese, 1/4 cup of sugar and a couple tablespoons of sour cream or plain yogurt), a layer of sliced kiwi and a crown of berries covered in a corn starch-based glaze. No one here turned down a slice.

A month ago or so the boys and I were home camping out in the living room. This appeases my conscience some since I hate actual camping and they love it. We built a sheet tent, stuck marshmallows on sticks and "roasted" them over a fire we conjured from construction paper. All of the sudden we hear a storm pick up outside and were astonished moments later to see hail the size of gumballs coming down all over the neighborhood. Of course the boys run out and gather as many as they could while I'm giving Brooks a play-by-play over the phone (I love how he humors me by listening when I call him at work with stuff like this). Weeks later and I think there are still a few rolling around the bottom of the freezer.

And finally, Brooks gets his 9th consecutive "Dad of the Year" award by building these wooden artillery units with the boys. I came home from work one Saturday afternoon to find them all busy with a jigsaw and a sander only to proudly emerge a couple of hours later with what you see featured below. What's not featured is what Brooks later built - a wooden pistol with which to arm himself. Smart dad.

Memo to Children

The garlic press is not for Play-doh.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Conditioned Response

Everyone is born with a gift. At least that's what I was telling Oliver the other day. He was fascinated by this concept and wanted to know what his gift is.

"You have the gift of resilience," I tell him. I observe that he is able to let a lot of things roll off his back and when they don't, it's not very long before he's back to himself again. I notice other gifts in him that we didn't talk about that day: he has a hearty spiritual constitution, laughs easily, has a very curious and keen mind and is able to persist long after others have given up.

Fast forward about a week. Grandma Briggs had loaned us her Outback while our car was in the shop and we were on our way home that night after returning it to her. Even though our car is running, it certainly has seen better days. I really enjoyed driving the Outback for the week and wondered how I could possibly put lipstick on the pig that is our own vehicle. Wanting an upgrade but not wanting to invest, I ask Brooks, "Do you think we can go to a junk yard and find some leather seats for our car like the ones your mom has?"

He laughs and says, "Yeah, if you want them to be all cracked and nasty."

"But your mom's car is the same year as ours and her seats are perfect."

"That's because my dad has religiously applied leather conditioner to them over the years to keep them in good shape."

"So how about you start putting fabric conditioner on our seats to keep them in perfect condition for me?"

This is funny to us primarily because I'm the reason the car interior, including the seats, is so pathetic. It's just me and the boys who use it 90% of the time so I take no pains to keep it presentable since the mess only bothers me once things start to smell. It's also funny because Brooks is nothing like his father when it comes to being fastidious about maintenance - not cars, not lawns, not anything - so the good-humored ribbing doesn't escape his notice.

"OK, I'll put some on right now," he jabs back and lifts his cheek to make a huge farting sound.

This really gets me laughing but not as much as what happens next. Oliver (who apparently has been listening the whole time) is duly impressed because behind me I hear him comment to himself, "Now that's a special gift!"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Found clipped to the pencil holder by the computer:
"I surrender! Stop the smug madness."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Who Am I?

Yesterday I'm looking down in the pan of tempeh and spinach I'm sauteeing for lunch and have a disturbing moment of self-awareness.

"Hey, Brooks!" I shout to the next room. "Can you come here for a second?"

A moment later he's standing next to me at the stove. I turn off the burner and face him.

"Look at me," I say. "I drive an aged Subaru station wagon, I have dreadlocks, I am at present eating a soy product in a recipe I got from Whole Foods (a destination arrived at in said Subaru wagon), I wore Chaco's to my massage therapy job today (a destination arrived at via combination of bicycle and public transportation). I employ the use of reusable shopping bags and bottle food grown organically in community gardens."

He stares at me waiting for me to come to the point.

"Bro-oks!" I demand, clearly distressed. "What has become of me?"

"You're hard-core, Jenny." I understand from the way he says this that this is common knowledge. Common to everyone but me, that is.

I have to sit down. After a moment I counter, "Then why don't I identify with those kind of people? In fact, why do they bug me just looking at them?"

He jumps at this. "I don't know, Jenny. What's the universe trying to tell you?"

Great. He's doing to me what I often do to him when he's having a strong reaction to a person or event. It's my belief that these kinds of triggers mark some unresolved issue that, if carefully and honestly considered, will usually reveal exactly what it is followed by an opportunity for resolution. I want to be irritated with him at first but then the curiosity over the underlying issue distracts me.

"Hmm," I answer, more to myself than to him. "What could it be?"

The answer to this particular question isn't long in coming. I have deeply held, albeit outdated belief, that the work of determining my path in life is best left to someone or something else that knows what's best for me but that that person or thing is almost never me. I have evolved over the last few years to the point where I can actually trust my judgment and inspiration to guide me. I am also learning that it's not necessarily a question of which path is best or right (a belief that often paralyzed my decision-making process) but rather which path resonates with my authentic self and respects the rights of other people at the same time. To make my own decisions without deferring entirely to outside sources has been a challenging journey full of insecurity, false-starts and poor choices. I have felt resentment that the ability to act for myself has not come easily. When considering my reaction to people for whom it seems it does, I realize I feel jealous. I envy their ability to charter their own course in life, even when it may challenge tradition or societal norms. This surprises me because when I ask myself whether or not I am free to do the same, the answer is yes. Even though I am currently living more or less in harmony with this idea, I guess I haven't quite married the old and new way of being; all external signs point to yes while internally I may still be struggling with no.

Hmmm. As my friend Bekki says, this is good information.

It's now Sunday morning as I write. It would be pretentious to say I have this figured out or that I even know exactly why I'm writing about it. Brooks comes into the living room where I am and pauses in the doorway. I look up at him and say as much. With his signature reassurance he says, "Just let it be what it is. Just let it be."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Found on the Kitchen Table

"Dear Brahm - I have decided to be a mad scientist so I can get some money. From: O  P.S. I'm going to sell my inventions."

(On the other side)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

These images reflect Brahm and Oliver's relationship fairly well. They are very close and like to be silly.

I also paid them to pose for this.

We were in the backyard yesterday picking raspberries when I went to get my camera. Their summer haircuts and sun-kissed skin are too much to resist. As soon as they see me they start acting goofy on purpose to wreck the shots. This is pretty much par for the course as is what I do next: offer a financial incentive. Since we've done this a time or two I know to lowball them at first because Oliver will instantly demand twice the initial offer. Since I know he's going to do this, I'm ready to refuse. I really want the shots but he wants the money more. So when I say, "OK, forget it." and start to walk away, he grabs Brahm and jumps in front of the camera with all manner of brotherly love.

I'm no dummy - I shoot like crazy because who knows how long it will last? They'll have a visual reminder in fifty years of a time in their lives when things were simple and unfettered. They will be inclined to remember when they got along and forget the times they didn't. Brooks and I will be gone long before their brotherhood ends and a photo will outlast us all.

Fifty cents never went so far.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Reasons I Love Summer

And not necessarily in this order...

10. Sleeping in, late breakfast, wearing pajamas until 10:00
9. Hanging laundry on the clothesline, the smell of my favorite fabric softener
8. Watching lightning storms from the porch swing while holding Brooks' hand
7. Mowing the lawn, the smell of fresh cutting, tossing them to the chickens
6. The anticipation of tomatoes from the vine, the stain of green leaves under my fingernails
5. Homemade ice cream!

4. Standing in front of the swamp cooler, its whirring sound
3. Talking to Randy and Colleen over the fence: "Well, hello, Miss Jenny!"
2. Long days at the pool, sunscreen, beach towels, the smell of chlorine
1. More hours of sun during the day, crickets singing outside the window at night

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Should I Be Disturbed?

My responsible self says "yes" but then the rest of me is laughing my arse off! When Brahm bought this set of fireworks the other day I overheard him and Oliver refer to them as "Barbie Launchers".


"Let's not really kill her, though, Oliver. Let's just see how high she can go."

"No, Brahm. We need to punish her."

OK - yes, I should be disturbed. And I am. It's just that this whole scenario is so bizarre to me since I have never detected any sadistic tendencies in either of them. Until now, that is.

Well, now that I think about it, I did discover this photo taken on the point-and-shoot a couple months ago...