Blast from the past

Abe left for D.C. today, and having him gone brought back all the memories I have from his last job. I had completely forgotten what it was like staring down an evening alone in the house with the kids, but to my delight, what happened tonight is nothing like the monotony I recall from being alone during Abe’s Guardsmark trips.

The girls and I cuddled up on the couch and binge watched The Living Scriptures videos, I fed them dinner at 3:30 pm  (much more in sync with their actual hunger cycle, but normally I have to time their meals so we can have a family dinner with Abe), played with them, read to them, showered, got everyone ready for bed, read scriptures with them, prayed–and voila! 8 pm bedtime happened for the first time in six months. Daylight savings helped, but still. It felt great to be back on track.

Then I updated my family tree with some information I got from the Philippine Jesuits and watched this video about a million times. I discovered it a couple days ago and can’t stop watching it. My heart feels so full and achy each time I watch. I guess Chicago will always feel like my authentic home, even though I am genuinely happy to have adopted Utah for the–indefinite–future.

Here are the pictures from today.

playing with/in the suitcases you gave them, Grandma. On a recent play date one of Mary's friends played with this suitcase and Mary freaked out and started crying, pointing to the suitcase and saying, "Gamma Cuwen! Gamma Cuwen!" (Translation: "Grandma Cullen gave ME that!")

playing with/in the suitcases you gave them, Grandma. On a recent play date one of Mary’s friends played with this suitcase and Mary freaked out and started crying, pointed to the suitcase and shouted, “Gamma Cuwen! Gamma Cuwen!” (Translation: “Grandma Cullen gave ME that!”)

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performing the trick she was trying to show you on the phone, Mom.

performing the trick she was trying to show you on the phone, Mom.

Rat sighting.

As we were pulling in from church (and my calling was great today! I feel bad for making such a stink about it for so long.), I saw a GIANT RAT run into the rock wall by the driveway. It took my breath away. I screamed, and then Abe started asking me if I was sure it was a rat and if I was sure of its size. After I emphatically declared I was absolutely sure, he got really quiet and then said he had a confession to make.

Turns out he found a dead rat that was the size of a cat in our driveway THREE MONTHS AGO and never told me. He thought I’d go off the deep end. Good thing he didn’t! We wouldn’t have ventured into our yard once this summer, and we certainly wouldn’t have ever eaten outside had I any inkling we were but yards away from a rat nest. Anyway, I researched it online, and apparently it’s only a matter of time before they make it into your house. When I read that statement by the Utah Department of Public Health, I nearly had a panic attack.

If Abe saw one three months ago + it’s only a matter of time until they come in the house + I keep my window with a broken screen open all the time + most common point of entry is roofline–where my window is = THERE MUST BE A RAT IN MY HOUSE.

I would honest to goodness trade that for the apocolypse, zombie or otherwise.

I went straight to bed and shook under the covers until Abe gave me a blessing, and then I was able to sort of kind of function again. Did I mention I have a phobia of rats? Recurring nighmares of rats? Once again, Lily is Facing Some of Her Greatest Fears, and all I can say is, there couldn’t have been better timing for our move.

Off of the rats. So after I got it together, we had the Andersons over for dinner. I forgot to blog yesterday, but we have been on a dinner-with-friends marathon. Yesterday Rich and Misty had us over for dinner in a pumpkin (practically my favorite meal ever), today we hung out with our pals, the Andersons, and tomorrow we get to go to dinner at the Sonntags’ house. We sure will miss our friends here, although the Andersons go down to Orem all the time, so we entertain high hopes that we will at least still get to see them regularly.

Here are the day’s pictures.

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obstacle course

First of all, popovers. I would be exaggerating greatly to say I’m obsessed, but I do think about them every morning, and then, most of the time, I make them. This morning I made a couple accidental adjustments to the recipe, and they rose more than two inches higher than they ever have for me before! I was so excited!

They're popping out of the pans!

They’re popping out of the pans!

IMG_9683Anyway, I was half an hour late for church. Not the popover’s fault (they’re super quick), but Abe has morning meetings and I just had trouble organizing myself. Okay, okay…I spent too much time looking up witches costumes online after my scripture study, and by the time I was done, we were running irreversibly late.

Anyway, after church Abe had three more hours of meetings, but the girls were great and napped/rested while I took a nap. After Abe came home, he set up an obstacle course for the girls while I made dinner:

IMG_9687 IMG_9701 IMG_9705After dinner, Abe and his dad fixed our furnace, which started acting up before dinner. Then I read a bunch of books to the girls, and now they’re in bed “reading” to themselves. Mary is going through this phase where she will stay up literally hours after we put her to bed, but she’ll just lie in bed flipping through her books. We’ll peek in at 11pm and find her doing this, and in the morning, same deal. It’s very heartwarming.

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At any rate, the end of the weekend is sad. But the good news is, this week looks like it can’t be anything but better than the last two, so yay!

Post birthday Sunday

Today after church and meetings, we headed over to Red Butte Gardens for an afternoon stroll (and to eat leftover birthday cake).

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All together!

All together!

Feeding the fishies.

Feeding the fishies.

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In the three bears' home.

In the three bears’ home.

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eating cake

eating cake

sep28pic20 sep28pic18 sep28pic19Then we came home and just chatted for a couple hours.

At one point, Abe came down to the kitchen after playing with the girls. He looked like this:

Abe is such a great dad. Tonight the girls made him the fairy in charge of bringing the treats in their tent. He complied.

Tonight the girls made him the fairy in charge of bringing the treats in their tent. He complied.

And now Clark and Swathi are about to catch their late night flight back to New York. I am blogging before I take them. I hope they end up here because it will be hard to see them go. It has been such a wonderful treat to be all together! Thanksgiving, when we’ll all be together again, can’t come soon enough!

Quota celebration…and Clark and Swathi are having a boy!!

First of all, the exciting new of the day: CLARK AND SWATHI ARE HAVING A BOY!!! We are so, so excited for them! I can’t wait to meet my very first nephew!!!! The rest of the day pales in comparison to their news.

Nevertheless…

This morning I took the girls to the library and then to the church nursery while I attended institute. Last week we kicked off institute with Tad Callister, the general Sunday School president of the church, giving a talk on the atonement. That was a tough act to follow, but today I really enjoyed the descendents of J. Reuben Clark (a member of the first presidency through three different prophets) talk about what he was like as a grandfather.

Our ward is kind of unique in that a whole lot of apostles and prophets have lived within the boundaries, and J. Reuben Clark was one of those. His children all lived in homes on the same block, so they had many memories of their grandfather. For example, President Clark’s first granddaughter couldn’t say, “Grandpa,” so she called him “Bum-Bum,” and the name stuck! That anecdote reminded me of Lydia. She couldn’t say “Grandpa” or “Grams” at first, so she just called Tom and Suzanne “Bapa” and “Baps.” That’s what the girls still call them today. I guess these nicknames stick.

Grandma, didn’t you get your nickname, “Tiss” because you couldn’t pronounce “Clarissa” when you were little? It also made me think of you!

Anyway, before we went on our outings, I took a picture of Mary climbing into her pack ‘n play. Since she can only have her binky in there, she often announces she’s tired and wants her nap, binkies, “amiwals”, and pack ‘n play. Then she climbs in, thus:

IMG_9432 IMG_9433She is getting a toddler bed Saturday.

Our babysitter forgot to come today, so I skipped class. It worked out fine because Abe and I decided to take the girls out for ice cream instead of eating dinner. His boss was so kind and personally bought him a gift card to Baskin Robbins to celebrate that Abe has already blown through his quota before the quarter even ended. Abe has worked so hard, and Lucas was so, so nice in demanding that he celebrate.

sep17…And then the ice cream made me think that I was hungry for dinner, so we went and got dinner afterward. Tonight was a little backwards.

Anyway, congratulations, Abe!

Chatty Sunday

I had to do sharing time for the first time today. Last night I had so many qualms about that and other aspects of my calling that I almost decided to ask to be released, but then I decided to stick with it and endure. Sharing time wasn’t a complete disaster, and the time went by faster than expected.

After church, I got to see Maria again! It was so rejuvenating to visit with her again. I should have taken a picture.

After dropping her off at the airport, I came home and made dinner before Fallon, Audrey, Vera and Eli came over. We only got three pictures today.

A Bon Appetit recipe for tuna melts, tomato salad, and Izze.

A Bon Appetit recipe for tuna melts, tomato salad, and Izze.

I made chocolate chip cookies, and Mary liked hers.

I made chocolate chip cookies, and Mary liked hers.

Eli liked his, too.

Eli liked his, too.

I basically talked to Fallon for hours. She was so fun. I got a lot of friend chatting in today, and it was really, really nice. That kind of keeps me going these days, it seems.

Now I am really excited to get to bed at a reasonable time and start off the week well-rested. Tomorrow my floors need SERIOUS attention, not to mention the mountains of laundry, sheets and other cleaning.

Stake conference, apple picking, and the Sonntags

This morning we had stake conference…in the Conference Center! I love living in Salt Lake. To be honest, though, we were busy trying to keep the kids quiet and chasing them around, so we missed most of conference. They looked cute, though!

IMG_9382 IMG_9389 IMG_9390 IMG_9391Then we came home and picked some apples for an apple crumble (so long, diet!)

IMG_9393 IMG_9394 IMG_9398 IMG_9399Then I spent the next five hours cooking. I used an osso bucco recipe/preparation on some lamb shanks I picked up on sale yesterday, made a corn souffle, a tomato salad, and an apple crumble. I tried to make an apple galette, but I messed up the galette dough and had no time to fix it; dessert quickly became a crumble.

While I was cooking, Lydia spent hours playing Imagination by herself. At one point, she played with the 24 ears of corn she and Abe shucked. She pretended they were characters from Frozen, and then she pretended that a lot of the corn were people who got killed. I was, once again, struck with guilt by how often I mention death in front of her.

While I was cooking, Lydia spent hours playing Imagination by herself. At one point, she played with the 24 ears of corn she and Abe shucked. She pretended they were characters from Frozen, and then she pretended that a lot of the corn were people who got killed. I was, once again, struck with guilt by how often I mention death in front of her.

When Candace and I visited Martha Stewart, she served us lamb shanks. I daydream about them, and I tried to recreate them here, but I didn't capture the flavor she served us. The texture, though, I am happy to report, was the same! (Thank-you, pressure cooker!)

When Candace and I visited Martha Stewart, she served us lamb shanks. I daydream about them, and I tried to recreate them here, but I didn’t capture the flavor she served us. The texture, though, I am happy to report, was the same! (Thank-you, pressure cooker!)

We had Bob and Katheryn Sonntag over for dinner. Abe knows Bob from elementary school, and they just moved into our ward recently. We had fun connecting with them.

Then Paige and Michael called us and invited us to the park with them. We headed over, and Tom and Suzanne joined us. It was a gorgeous night with a beautiful, bright full moon. I kept thinking we were standing under a street light because the moon was so bright. The kids played until it was dark, and then we all headed home. I think this week might be a little less crazy than last week, but I am kind of sad the weekend went by so quickly. Here’s to a slower week!

Saturday: done.

This morning was Lydia’s first day of dance at her new studio. We dropped her off and headed straight to Toys ‘R Us to pick up a birthday present for Espen. While we were there, Mary took a ride on the Tigger boat.

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Mary wanted to buy: wrapping paper and an Elmo book.

Mary wanted to buy: wrapping paper and an Elmo book.

Then we picked up Lydia, raced to the farmer’s market, bought produce, and headed to Espen’s party at the Kangaroo Zoo. The girls had a blast bouncing on everything. Honestly, I get anxiety in places and parties like that, but that notwithstanding, we had a great all around time.

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Then we came home for some naps and quiet time. After that, we headed over to Fleur’s house. Anique is a flight attendant and away this weekend, and her dad is watching Fleur. She called and asked if we could go play with Fleur a little bit since she was having a hard day. I don’t think our presence helped Fleur much, but the girls sure had fun!

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Fleur and her grandpa, Tom. He was such a nice man. I can see where Anique gets it from!

Fleur and her grandpa, Tom. He was such a nice man. I can see where Anique gets it from!

Then we raced to the library to pick out some books and raced to church for stake conference. After church, we hurried to pick up Lalitha and Eden to take them grocery shopping…and then Abe, the girls and I came home and all collapsed. I am ready to be done with this day.

church, grapes, visits, ice cream social, and tomatoes.

Lydia has been crawling into bed with us in the middle of the night. Growing up, both Abe and I spent many nights cuddled up with our moms, and we love that Lydia can have that experience. I woke up and snapped this photo early in the morning:

You would think, from the massive amount of space on the other side of Abe, that I slept next to him. Wrong! I spent most of the night almost falling off the bed next to Lydia.
You would think, from the massive amount of space on the other side of Abe, that I slept next to him. Wrong! I spent most of the night almost falling off the bed next to Lydia.

Then Abe got up and went to his early morning meetings while I got the girls ready for church.

Yesterday we bought them new toothbrushes and toothpaste to help motivate them to brush on their own. It worked! The power of Disney princesses asserts itself again...
Yesterday we bought them new toothbrushes and toothpaste to help motivate them to brush on their own. It worked! The power of Disney princesses asserts itself again…

At church, Lydia and I left again during sacrament and ate grapes in the church gardens.

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Sev joined us for a little bit.

Sev joined us for a little bit.

I so enjoyed this color combination. It made me feel so lighthearted and happy.

I so enjoyed this color combination. It made me feel so lighthearted and happy.

Inside, Abe kept Mary in the pews by letting her wear his glasses.

Inside, Abe kept Mary in the pews by letting her wear his glasses.

 

After church, Mary played with Ina's new puppy.

After church, Mary played with Ina’s new puppy.

Lydia's scared of dogs, so Ina carried her while Lydia watched the puppy from a safer distance.

Lydia’s scared of dogs, so Ina carried her while Lydia watched the puppy from a safer distance.

After church, we changed them into matching sweaters. They love matching, which makes my heart sooooo happy.

After church, we changed them into matching sweaters. They love matching, which makes my heart sooooo happy.

IMG_9236Then we stopped taking pictures. But the day continued. We had a neighbor, Alan Jorgenson, stop by for a visit. Right after he stopped by, our home teachers visited us. After they left, we took a quick nap (emphasis on quick). Then it was time for a quick (emphasis again on quick) dinner, and we walked a couple blocks to a ward ice cream social. It was a gorgeous night, and we spent a couple hours enjoying treats and friends while the kids played with their friends on the neighbors’ play set.

Afterward, we came home and ate tomatoes from our garden in the twilight. It was a full, fun Sunday. Here’s to another crazy week coming up! Wish us luck!

church marathon (wherein Lily drops out of the race)

Today Abe spent over seven hours at church. His new calling means his Sunday afternoon naps are a thing of the past. I feel so sorry for him, especially since he barely sleeps in the week, thanks to his four hours of commuting every day. But he doesn’t complain and serves very cheerfully. I have a lot to learn from him.

Speaking of how Abe and I differ, we have different opinions on how to handle sacrament meeting with the kids. Abe likes to persevere and uses every resource on hand to keep the kids on the pew and in the meeting. My strategy is really simple: leave. Get the bajeebers outta there.

I usually stay in the pew until we take the sacrament, and then the minute my kids start acting up (which is usually immediately), I take them out. Today we compromised. Abe kept Lydia in, and I took Mary out to the gardens in the back of the church. Rose joined me and we had our own “sacrament meeting” in the sunshine by the grape vines. The kids were in heaven.

Picking grapes.

Picking grapes.

Then we came home for a little bit before Abe returned to church for another two and a half hour meeting. I stayed home and napped, after which Lydia and I crafted until Abe came home. Then Abe and the girls gave me a massage, and then Abe and I gave them massages. Mary especially enjoyed hers and squeaked out “thak-oo! (thank-you!) as soon as we started putting lotion on her back.

We scrounged around and ate leftovers for dinner, and then Clark and Swathi called! They are the best listeners. I dumped all of my angst about my calling onto that conversation, and they were so supportive and sweet. While I was talking with them, Abe took the girls on one of his home teaching rounds and visited the Copingas.

aug17 aug17pic1After he came home, Anique called and invited me on a walk around the block. With so many friends and family members listening to me today, I came home with a much lighter, happy heart. I actually felt pretty depressed about my calling after the first two meetings of church, but now I feel a little better.