Road trip

Baths happened this morning, although that feels like a million years ago. We are in L.A. now with Auntie Geri, and this morning feels far, far away.

IMG_0047Then we took our road trip!

IMG_0054 IMG_0050

The girls were exceptionally loving at dinner in Chipotle. They even held an impromptu dance party with Abe in the middle of the restaurant. I'm still not sure if onlookers were amused or annoyed.

The girls were exceptionally loving at dinner in Chipotle. They even held an impromptu dance party with Abe in the middle of the restaurant. IMG_0053 

waste of time

It’s midnight, we’re leaving for L.A. tomorrow morning, and Abe and I haven’t packed. Oops.

So this will be short. I came home after shopping for all of our funeral attire and discovered the three of them on the couch watching Angelina Ballerina.

IMG_0044That was about today’s speed. Mary took a six hour nap, and both Lydia and I were asleep for half of that time. For the other half, Lydia and watched a ton of trailers on Amazon Prime before deciding to just watch Ella Enchanted because it was free. That was, quite possibly, the dumbest movie I have ever seen. On that note, perhaps I should get some sleep and make better choices with my time tomorrow.

census bright spots

Tonight went better in class. I mean, how could things get much worse than the past two days? However, I did find out that I am front of the house for the next three weeks, and that’s depressing. My final will therefore depend on how well I waitress…and I’ve never done that before. Yikes.

A happy story though! My MSU adviser from almost a decade ago contacted me this week because she remembered I’d offered to help her with her family history. It has been pretty easy to help her because so much of her family’s documents are uploaded onto Family Search. Thank goodness for the indexing projects. I have located several generation of census records and some death certificates for her. Our next project is finding a marriage certificate. But anyway, it has been a really happy, uplifting, and fun experience. I found some more records today, so that was a bright spot.

While I was at class, Abe was home crafting with the girls. I’m really glad he did that, because I’ve been really letting it go on the mothering/homemaking front lately.

IMG_1109Here are the pictures of tonight’s food:

My cucumber bowls. This one was wilted because it was for pictures, and by the time I took a picture, a loooong time had passed.

My cucumber bowls. This one was wilted because it was for pictures, and by the time I took a picture, a loooong time had passed.

Moroccan carrot soup with lentils, gelled yogurt, and some sort of green vinaigrette. (Soups are always poured table side, but the bowls go out garnished.)

Moroccan carrot soup with lentils, gelled yogurt, and some sort of green vinaigrette. (Soups are always poured table side, but the bowls go out garnished.)

Beef chuck that was sous vide until utterly transformed.

Beef chuck that was sous vide until utterly transformed.

The best dessert ever! Deconstructed German chocolate cake with a dehydrated chocolate mousse.

The best dessert ever! Deconstructed German chocolate cake with a dehydrated chocolate mousse.

Bon bons.

Bon bons.

Pizzeria 712 saves my day

I didn’t blog last night because I was too tired and discouraged. After being bawled out continually for two straight days for being slow, behind and unmotivated, I finished my dish (the customer favorite again) half an hour early yesterday. The chef made no comments on either score, but he did bawl me out at the end of the night for not taking apart the meat slicer and cleaning it properly. (I didn’t know how, and the chefs aren’t the most approachable people when it comes to asking questions like that.)

tabbouleh in cucumber bowl with arugula salad and meyer lemon vinaigrette.

tabbouleh in cucumber bowl with arugula salad and meyer lemon vinaigrette.

I was so upset. Abe gave me the best pep talk and a massage, after which I fell asleep right away and dreamed I was in a literal boot camp.

I did talk to the head of the culinary program, and because Pizzeria 712 (owned by the guy who owns Communal) is going to let me stage (cooking lingo for internship), she is going to let me challenge my next class. That means after this semester I am done. I am so happy. I don’t think I can take the toxicity of this school much longer.

Cucumbers were not my friends tonight.

Have you ever tried and tried and tried and tried to be good at something, and no matter what you do, you just aren’t that great at it? That’s how I feel about cooking–at cooking school, especially. Tonight was the pits. Chef Tom wanted me to cut down 8 cucumbers to the size of couscous, and when my pieces were larger and more uneven, he yelled at me, told me to try harder, and then took off points. He has never done that to anyone before. It was humiliating.

To make matters worse, with all of my absences (Cancun, one night of babysitting woes, and upcoming funeral in LA), I am barely scraping by with a D. I have no idea how I am going to pass this class if I get additional points taken off because I can’t cut down stupid, slippery cucumbers to the size of perfectly even couscous pieces.

As if that weren’t enough, my partner cut off part of his finger. I felt so bad for him, especially when I discovered his fingertip lying on his cutting board after he left the room. But the chef bawled me out for being slow and behind when my partner was basically out of commission for half of the class, and I had to mince SIX BUNCHES of parsley by myself–not even counting everything else I had to do to get our dish done. To properly mince parsley, you wash and dry each bunch, and then you pull off each individual leaf from each individual stem. I’m sorry, but it took me over an hour to do that to six bunches of parsley alone. It was a minor miracle our dish even got completed.

By the time I finished my dish, I had blisters on my hand from cutting. Not to mention I was nauseous the whole time because I am pregnant, and nausea is my pregnancy status-quo.

Done complaining yet? Actually, I would love to vent about arcane pedagogical methods that are accepted without challenge in my culinary program and arbitrary instructions that are impossible to follow , but I figure those can wait for another day. I think I might make an appointment with the head of the culinary program and voice some of these concerns there, but in the meantime, I have to figure out how to pass this class. If I don’t, I am toast. There’s no way I’m going to graduate from culinary school if I don’t. Prayers please!

When I came home and asked Abe if he had ever been in this type of situation, he sympathetically reminded me that he felt this way his entire college career, and that it was so terrible he ended up on medication. If I weren’t pregnant, I might be tempted to pop some Prozac before each upcoming class just as an anticipatory antidote to the misery/humiliation that’s sure to follow.

On that depressing note, I have some pictures Abe took of the girls. He spent the evening cleaning our storage room because one of our water jugs leaked and molded the baseboards. Afterward, he made up for neglecting the girls by having a dance party with them. Mary literally skipped across the room repeating, “This is fun! This is fun!” and when it was over, both girls cried.

IMG_1104 IMG_1107

reverence, irony included

We bathed our odorous little ones this morning.

Unfortunately, we procrastinated this process until the last minute, and six hours later I realized with horror that we were supposed to be early to church today. (We were ten minutes late.) Lydia was scheduled to be the reverent child in Sacrament meeting. That means we were supposed to get to church ten minutes early so she could stand by the pulpit, fold her arms and set a good example for the incoming congregation.

When Lydia heard me exclaiming this evening to Abe that we completely forgot about her reverent child role, she threw the biggest tantrum. In a moment of high irony, she screamed for thirty minutes straight that she wanted to go back to church right then and be the reverent child. Abe and I threw each other helpless glances until suddenly Abe realized there was a stake fireside with Jon Bytheway in half an hour. He immediately packed Lydia in the car and drove to church. She immediately calmed down.

When they got to church, Abe talked to whoever was in charge of the meeting, and they let Lydia stand by the pulpit for twenty-five minutes and be the reverent child. In stark contrast to her home behavior, she was perfectly still and reverent the entire time. We were really proud of her.

Demonstrating at home how she had been reverent at church. She is holding a string cheese from an admirer.

Demonstrating at home how she had been reverent at church. She is holding a string cheese from an admirer.

In the meantime, Mary and I were at home snuggling, playing games and reading the whole time. It felt precious.


Abe once again headed us up for FHE. Thank goodness. If it were up to me, I am not sure we would ever remember to have it! We filled out Lydia’s Primary spotlight form and made one up for Mary too. Abe taught a great lesson on reverence (timely) and quoted Psalm 89:7 to the girls. We talked about what it meant to fear God.


Then we played a game of Hiss! and, our family favorite, “Reverent-Crazy.” In that game, I call out either “reverent” or “crazy” and Abe and the girls act accordingly. I love it because I get to sit on the couch, and the girls and Abe love it because they think it’s really fun.

Abe also took a picture of the shirts he and the girls picked out yesterday. Mom, he wanted you to see them and know he’s grateful for your birthday gift!


An Eventful Day

This is Abe blogging.  Lily just got home from helping her culinary school cater a donor event for the Salt Lake Arts festival.  Here are some pictures of what they served.  Apparently the gumbo was really really good and people kept coming back for it:

IMG_0028 IMG_0027 IMG_0026 IMG_0024 IMG_0023 IMG_0022 IMG_0014 I had a lot of fun with the girls today.  I’m still sick, but my 2 hour nap really gave me the energy I needed to have some fun with them today.  The fun actually started before my nap when Mary was totally melting down for no clear reason.  At the same time, Lydia really wanted to craft.  So while Lily pacified Mary, I went downstairs with Lydia to our crafting room.  Lydia and I decided to make a book that would help Mary feel better.  When we were finished, we showed it to her and she loved it!  She asked us to read it over and over.  It made both me and Lydia super happy that we could cheer up Mary with something we made.  Here is the book below:

A happy happy book for Mary

A happy happy book for Mary


Hi Mary, this is Daddy and Lydia.  We noticed you have been feeling sad.

Hi Mary, this is Daddy and Lydia. We noticed you have been feeling sad.

We want to help you feel happy.  So this book has happy things to help cheer you up.

We want to help you feel happy. So we have happy things in this book to help cheer you up. Here is a toy! It’s a cat piano. Cute nose!

Here is sunshine.  Lydia made the sun rays! Here is a rainbow. So many colors!


Here is a cat. You love cats! Here is a duck. She’s swimming!

We hope these pictures helped you feel happy! We love you! From Daddy and Lydia.



After reading the book to Mary, we all took naps, even Lydia! Then Lily left for her internship and I stayed home with the girls.  We went to the park because it was 60 degrees and sunny, but by the time I got us all out the door and drove to the park, it was freezing and snowing.  We changed plans and went to Qualtrics for some treats.


After that we went to Macy’s and I bought some shirts with the birthday gift card that Georgia gave me.  I managed to actually find some that I like while simultaneously keeping an eye on the girls.  This was partly possible because they were being very cute and entertaining themselves much of the time. See pics below:20150221_183655 20150221_183323

a small epiphany

I reread yesterday’s blog post and had an epiphany: I have confused house cleaning with parenting. Doing the dishes is not critical to keeping my children alive! However, stuff like that is critical to my sanity, and my sanity is a valuable asset in child rearing. So, in a roundabout way, dishes help.

I did take some pictures today.

We started out the morning with baths. Those always give Mary's hair a fighting chance for the day.

We started out the morning with baths. Those always give Mary’s hair a fighting chance for the day.

...But no matter what we do, after her nap, her hair always ends up like this. Mary smiles and says, "My hair is cwazy!"

…But no matter what we do, after her nap, her hair always ends up like this. Mary smiles and says, “My hair is cwazy!”

Dance party.

Dance party.


Lydia was showing us how she can dance "en pointe."

Lydia was showing us how she can dance “en pointe.”

I have one more picture.


Summer took Lydia to her school today for “take a preschooler to school day,” and I have a cute shot of them outside her school. I was proud of Lydia for walking all the way back home with Summer afterward. She had to trek up a pretty big hill and walk quite a ways, and by the time she came home, she was pretty pooped.

to-do’s and have-done’s.

Today I felt like a lazy lump all day. For the majority of the day, I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything beyond the very basics of keeping children alive. To me that means: chauffeuring, grocery shopping, meal prep, wiping bottoms, wiping noses, washing faces, and lots and lots of dishes. (With the new open floor plan, I could be on my death bed and still feel the need to stay on top of those. If the sink piles up, I can see it from almost anywhere in the house and feel like I’ve officially arrived at Failure status.) In between all that, I lay on the couch and gave into exhaustion.

Nevertheless, at 8 pm I got my very first wind of the day, and between then and now I have cleaned the house, folded multiple loads of laundry, practiced for a church musical number I have to do in a couple weeks, vacuumed, mopped the floors, and tidied all of the messes that annoy me in the house. I have to record such “have done” lists here because even though Abe can come home and notice it looks nice, he generally has no idea of the specifics that got us from point A to point B. I look forward to his thank-you call after he reads this tomorrow.

I did take a video of the girls at the dinner table today. Lydia was pretending to be a teacher and Mary was dutifully calling her “teacher.” I thought it was funny, but I’ll have to upload the video some other day because it might take a minute for me to figure out how to cut it down to just the good parts.

I did take one picture this morning, though! Lydia woke up in a very chipper mood.


Auntie Vee

Halfway through the day my mom called me to tell me my Auntie Vee passed away suddenly in a car accident today. The rest of the day felt somber in tone, and thoughts turned repeatedly to my Auntie Vee and my Auntie Geri. My Auntie Geri’s life has been devoted to caring for Auntie Vee, and I can not imagine her sense of loss right now. However, she is comforted knowing that fifteen minutes before the accident, Auntie Vee took communion and had ashes spread on her forehead for Ash Wednesday. Spiritually, Auntie Vee was ready.

My Auntie Vee was a beautiful person. She was a nun, and the few letters I have read of hers reflect her strong spirituality, her capacity for introspection, her keen intelligence and her insight. Even though my Auntie Geri always feared that my Auntie Vee and my dad would end up killing each other if they spent too much time together in person (both had fiery personalities–to put it mildly), when my Auntie Vee wrote letters to my dad, she expressed only grace. I am grateful for that, for through those letters I glimpsed the beauty of her soul.

Auntie Vee lived through the horrors of WWII in the Philippines, and she escaped the Japanese by traveling through the jungle with her order. I remember her telling us that the danger was so great that if an older nun could not continue, the order would leave her with a bowl of rice and a blessing before hastening on. I have always admired her for surviving such horrors.

After WWII, her order sent her to the University of Michigan to obtain degrees in music and then to France to study Gregorian chant with the leading authorities on the subject. When she returned to the Philippines, she built up the music program at St. Paul University to such an extent that, according to my Auntie Geri, she became something of a celebrity there. My Auntie Vee found that status bothersome and interruptive of what she actually wanted to pursue: The life of a contemplative. After some decades, she made the courageous decision to come to the U.S. to join a new order and finally devote herself to spiritual contemplation. When the new order failed shortly thereafter, she found herself adrift and–scarily–illegal in California.

With my Auntie Geri’s help, my Auntie Vee was able to achieve asylum as a political opponent to President Marcos. Eventually, she was granted full citizenship. She tried to join other religious orders to become a contemplative, but she was already approaching her senior years and no orders would take her at that age. Auntie Vee eventually resigned herself to becoming a lay nun and supported herself by teaching piano and conducting choirs. At that late stage in life, my aunt built a successful new life for herself from scratch. Her abilities and talents became so quickly apparent to her local community that she always had more students and musical opportunities than she had time for. She even managed to make yearly trips around the globe –always with spiritual destinations in mind. No matter where she went, she would always make sure that every trip included a special pilgrimage to Rome.

My most recent memories of Auntie Vee are of how she loved my children. She struggled with dementia in her later years, but whenever she saw my children, she would light up and interact in a playful, sweet way that touched my heart. I also have other memories of Auntie Vee before the dementia: Coaching me at the piano, welcoming me into her California house that smelled of citrus and fresh breeze, sending me rosaries every year in the hopes that I would become Catholic, sending me videos about Catholic miracles and saints–again in the hopes that I would become Catholic, urging me in person to reconsider my religious views, and one particular letter she sent me on my mission that I will never forget. In the letter she quoted John Henry Newman and his hymn, “Lead Kindly Light.” Minutes after reading her letter, my missionary group sang that very hymn (without any prompting from me) in class. From then on, “Lead Kindly Light” has been my favorite hymn. Far from being offensive, her attempts to persuade me to her spiritual truth were reflections of her deep commitment to God that I appreciated. I share that commitment, and I recognize the source of her evangelical instinct. The source was always love.

I will never forget how my Auntie Vee played Chopin nocturnes on my piano in our Salt Lake house. With the mountains as her backdrop, Auntie Vee played the dear music with skill and tenderness. She was in her nineties by then, and her fingers were afflicted with arthritis. And yet she played beauty upon beauty, for by then, that was the most prominent characteristic of her soul.

My aunt was also strong, and even though she was almost always quiet in social situations, her personality could never be mistaken as diminutive. When faced with a student who didn’t seem to understand her direction or a choir that had the same issues, her temper would flare. In those situations, she could make the walls shake. I will never forget the crooked frown she wore when lecturing about some musical passage, nor how she would shake her finger accusingly at the offending party (or parties). Even in her later years, she never lost the ability to make the person on the other end of her shaking finger feel at least somewhat frightened.

Her forceful will and deep convictions fortified her through so many storms of life: Losing a mother at a young age, dealing with a difficult family situation ever after, becoming a concert pianist, joining a religious order, surviving the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, reinventing a new life in the U.S., and finally, in her later years, undergoing countless surgeries and health problems. In her nineties, she even survived the amputation of her leg. Without that fiery determination and force of will, she would have given up long ago.

God took her just as she would have wanted to go: right after she received the Eucharist and attended Ash Wednesday mass. With her heart turned to God, she was ready when He took her. He took her quickly, and, as far as we know, without pain. She is now enjoying the company of her dear mother, her beloved sister, Lydia, and my father.

Her life was one we will not forget.