Monday, February 25, 2013

Putting Her Best Foot Forward

Last weekend Grandpa Charles and Grandma Susie came down from Logan to meet little Annika Mae.

We had all sorts of fun, including hiking the Hidden Pinyon trail in Snow Canyon and up Observation Point in Zion National Park. For the most part we were too busy making sure no one slipped off a cliff to take photos--especially important with all the lingering icy patches in Zion. Still, we managed to snag a few pictures before Charles and Susie left.

Aww, why so grumpy?

Annabelle in a tiny sweater that my Mom crocheted decades ago for her own baby.

I swoon when babies smile in their sleep. Don't you wish they could tell us what they dream of?

A photo of the whole lot.

Charles and Susie with their grandkids.

These next photos may all seem the same, but check out Talia's face. What a munchkin!

Admiring version 4.0.

Yup, the latest model's a keeper.

Now with Mom and Dad.

Mother-daughter bonding.


And some adorable tootsies.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Run Swim Bike Cook Week 3: Sage

If the days before Annika's arrival induced nesting, the final days before Jason's departure are the antidote. Instead of feeling a desire to get life organized (as wise as that would be), I simply want to freeze time and cherish every moment as a family. Everything else can wait.

As such, not a lot has happened in the Ironman department. I did squeeze in a couple of runs: Monday morning's trail run was fantastic, Thursday's encounter with the treadmill was tolerable. No swimming. If the weather cooperates, we might head up to Zion National Park for a bike ride tomorrow.

As for the Ironchef, we embraced it: cooking and eating make for great family time. This week's challenge was to use fresh sage in two ways. Instead of purchasing sage at the store, we drove to nearby Snow Canyon State Park and picked some wild sage--it grows so abundantly that I didn't think anyone would mind.

After walking about eight feet from the car, we came across some sagebrush that would do nicely.

Looks just about the same at home after being picked.

And here's the same sage after being tossed with pumpkin gnocchi...

...and roasted with broccoli and leeks.

The pumpkin gnocchi was tasty, although you could cut down significantly on the butter. The broccoli was okay, but would have been much better with less salt. The sage gave everything a nice flavor, although I'd be very curious to know how our version compares with "supermarket" sage. I definitely noticed a more bitter aftertaste with our sagebrush--not surprising considering its wild origin.

If case you are interested, here are the recipes:

Pumpkin Gnocchi in Sage Butter

(Adapted from Taste of Home)

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin (We used a combination of pumpkin and leftover winter squash)
6 quarts water
1/2 cup butter, cubed
4 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced

In a small bowl combine the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in pumpkin until blended. On a lightly floured surface, knead 10-12 times, forming a soft dough. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Divide dough into four portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 1/2-in.-thick rope; cut into 3/4-in. pieces. Press and roll each piece with a lightly floured fork.
In a Dutch oven, bring water to a boil. Cook gnocchi in batches for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until they float. Remove with a slotted spoon; keep warm.
In a large heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the sage, garlic and gnocchi; stir to coat. Yield: 4 servings.
Roasted Sage Broccoli
(Adapted from

1 (12 ounce) bag broccoli florets (We used fresh broccoli)
1/2 red onion, sliced (We used leeks)
8 fresh sage leaves, torn
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (I'd recommend omitting completely)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Spread broccoli in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle onion and sage leaves over broccoli; drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle salt, garlic salt, and black pepper over broccoli mixture; toss to coat.
3. Roast in the preheated oven until broccoli is browned and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes.

And just for kicks, here are a few more pictures of weekend fun.

Talia's been decorating her Super Hero brother...

Brooklyn and Talia participated in the Girl Scout Powder Puff Derby...

And everyone gave Annika lots of love.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend too!

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Frankly, I'm disappointed.

I rather expected the news that Jason will be spending the next six months in New York to provoke more of a reaction. The announcement of a new baby is big, but hey, we've all known it's coming for quite some time. A six-month separation from my hubby, however, is not just unexpected--it's colossal! (Calamitous and catastrophic also come to mind.) Condolences from the President himself wouldn't seem too out of order.

(By the way, I hope everyone catches the tongue in my cheek. If this post provokes a slew of pitiful comments, I'll feel really embarrassed...)

Seriously though, by this time next week Jason will be starting a new job on the eleventh floor of a New York City high rise and the kids and I will be on our own. In truth, I'm terrified. I haven't put all four kids to bed even once, let alone for months on end. Every meal, every spill, every diaper, every midnight waking--all my responsibility. No one to shuttle Brooklyn to piano, pick up eggs on the way home, or swaddle the fussy baby. No one to watch the fort while I shower, send me for a run I get cranky, or hold me when I cry. (Gosh, I better stop or the tears will start too soon.)

I keep reminding myself that it could be much worse. I have so much respect for the military wives who send their husbands overseas. Some say New York is dangerous (when compared to St. George), but I'm glad it's not Afghanistan. Think about all of the courageous pioneer women who scraped a living out of the earth while their husbands were away. And then there is the reality I never want to think about--those who have lost their husbands for this lifetime.

As much as I admire the valor and resourcefulness of these women, I never wanted to be them. It's no secret that I rely on my husband completely. In matters small and large we work as a team, all the way from scrubbing dishes to birthing babies. Ironic, I know, since I used to be dauntlessly independent before marriage. Never afraid to do things alone, I seized every opportunity, whether traveling overseas or simply going to the theater. While not opposed to the idea of marriage, I never doted on it like some girls. To the contrary, I worried that it might impede my freedom.

The past decade with Jason has transformed me. Our partnership has become so engrained into my sense of identity that I often speak in terms of "we," even when Jason is not around. Hardly a decision is made without my considering his wishes. Yet instead of feeling restrictive, this connection is liberating: no matter what happens, I know he is likewise thinking of me. As a team, it feels like we can do anything. Rob me of my better half, and I feel broken.

With Jason leaving, I find myself feeling timid and vulnerable. Raising four small children on my own--this is the trial I never wanted. The challenge feels too great--physically, spiritually, and above all, emotionally. Leave that for the strong women--I was happy being weak, even needy. After all, who wouldn't want to need a guy as great as mine? In the past, I've whined and moped when Jason left town for a few days. Suddenly life flips upside down and a weekend together becomes a cherished treat.

Last night I had a terrible time focusing at a planning meeting for Primary (children's Sunday school). An activity in April? Doesn't the world come grinding to a halt on Thursday? No, the Lord is teaching me that whether my husband is here or in New York, life goes on.

I can be strong. I'll have to be--for myself, for the kids, for Jason. These next six months will most certainly be a tutorial in regaining independence. The kids will be surprised to discover that Dad isn't the only one who can change a light bulb or mow the lawn. Perhaps I will surprise myself with strength born not out of desire, but out of necessity. And when Jason and I are reunited again, I pray our marriage will be stronger than ever for having the courage to persevere while apart.

At least that's what I hope...frankly.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Run Swim Bike Cook, Week 2--Vegetarian Meatloaf

A quick update on Run Swim Bike Cook, Week 2. The culinary challenge? Lentils for dinner. Hearing the word "lentil," I immediately thought of Chou's delicious ham and lentil soup--a family favorite. However, one of my favorite parts of RSBC is the opportunity to branch out and try something different. The result?

Lentil Loaf. It sounds pretty odd, but trust me, this vegetarian meatloaf was really delicious. The whole family loved it, and I loved the experience of meatloaf minus the price of ground beef and excess animal fat. Besides, who wouldn't prefer mashing lentils with a hand blender over mushing up raw meat and eggs with their bare hands...

So without further ado...

Vegetarian Meatloaf
(Adapted from

2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup lentils
1 small onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 cup quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup grated cheese
2 eggs, beaten
4 1/2 ounces spaghetti sauce or 4 1/2 ounces tomato sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Barbecue sauce, or ketchup mixed with a touch of brown sugar for topping


1. Add salt to water and boil in a saucepan.
2. Add lentils and simmer covered for 20-30 minutes, until lentils are soft and most of water is evaporated. Remove from heat.
3. Drain and partially mash lentils. (We used a hand blender.)
4. Scrape into mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly. Stir in onion, celery, oats and cheese.
5. Add eggs, tomato sauce, garlic, basil, parsley, seasoning salt and pepper and mix well.
6. Spoon into loaf pan that has been generously greased and smooth with the back of spoon.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30- 45 minutes until top of loaf is dry, firm and golden brown.
8. Spread top of loaf with barbecue sauce or ketchup mixture about fifteen minutes before cooking is done.
9. Cool in pan on rack for about 10 minutes before serving.

This time around, we baked our lentil loaves in muffin tins. The individual portions are easy to serve and fun. In the past, we've even piped mashed potatoes dyed with beet juice onto the top to look like cupcakes--a definite kid-pleaser.

As for the rest of RBSC, I ran 8 miles, hiked 2, and did a strength-training class at the gym. If all goes continues to go well, I might even be daring enough to try swimming or biking next week. I wonder if our Burley bike trailer can fit an infant car seat... We'll be sure to let you know.

Tender Mercies for Tender Trials


Is it Valentine's?

Or Single's Awareness Day....

Happy [belated] chocolate and roses day.

It's occurred to me that a recent glimpse at the Wheeler blog paints an incredibly rosy picture, almost ad nauseum. The perfect home delivery of a beautiful pink baby, a miraculously quick recovery for Mom, home improvement projects brought to completion--why do some people get all the breaks? It's true. Our life is beautiful. On this day of love, I feel incredibly grateful for my caring family. They make life so rich.

It's also occurred to me that you can never really judge another person's life by the picture they paint online (or anywhere else, for that matter.) Yes, the Lord has been incredibly merciful in pouring out blessings upon our family recently. However, he has also been quite generous in doling out the trials. Such as, come March 1st, my sweet husband will start work in New York City, and I will essentially be a single mother for the next six months. (Oh yeah, that little hiccup. More details coming...)

So yes, the timing of Annika's birth was a blessing. Ask any woman who is 38 1/2 weeks pregnant, and she will certainly inform you that she's ready to be done with the whole thing, assuming that the baby is healthy and ready to be born, of course. Since Eli was a week late and the girls were a full forty weeks, I never expected an early delivery. However, it'd be dishonest to pretend that I haven't loved bypassing those final, cramped weeks. Far more than a matter of personal comfort alone, Annie Mae's early debut means more time to bond as an entire family. When Jason takes off for the East coast, at least he will be bidding farewell to a five week-old instead of a two week-old.

Even lovelier is the fact she didn't come a few days earlier still. After an overly ambitious day of nesting on the Friday before her birth, I noticed some significant contractions. Standing up, it seriously felt like the baby might just fall out. (Too bad it's not that easy...) The problem? Jason was in New York checking out the job situation. I texted him about my predicament and asked him to contact the airline, but the earliest flight wouldn't get him back to St. George until the next afternoon. Mercifully, the contractions eased up before then.

It wasn't until my doctor's appointment on Monday morning that we learned exactly how close I was to delivering our baby without my husband. (4+ centimeters and 90% effaced in case you really wanted to know, way too much information if you didn't...) It's hard to imagine laboring without Jason--I would have felt so empty without him. Can an epidural dull the ache of one's heart? I'm glad I didn't have to find out.

So the next time you or I feel a twinge of envy because of a neighbor's good fortune, remember that we all have challenges, both seen and unseen, to match the blessings. And when our own trials threaten to overwhelm, remember these small and tender mercies--evidence that the Lord continues to care. And if perchance you're lucky enough to have a special valentine, hold him or her extra close, because you never know when you might have to part for a while.


On a lighter note, the girls spent two days preparing and planning the ultimate Valentine's Day celebration. In retrospect, I'm glad that I let them take the reigns instead of imposing my own plans. After all, given the choice between labeling felt hearts and dumping laundry baskets full of balloons off the top bunk on your grandparents, which party would you choose?

Oh, how I love these munchkins!

Monday, February 11, 2013

What Nesting Looks Like...

A post about "nesting" seems strangely out of place now that our baby girl is earthside. At this point, preparation is rather irrelevant because ready or not, she already came.

Fortunately, the nesting bug hit early and strong. More than with any other pregnancy, I found myself filled with a sudden desire to pull my act together and get organized. With Brooklyn and Talia, I was still a student so nesting looked pretty much like the conclusion of any other semester--a mad flurry of paper writing, group projects, and other major assignments. With Eli, by the time he showed up a week after his due date, any nesting energy had long since petered out, replaced instead by an unwilling tutorial in patience.

So even though Annika arrived eleven days early, I managed to pull together a few projects before she came. This one's my favorite:
Yes, indeed. Organized, magnetized spices! The first time I heard about these, I was filled with spice envy. You see, not only am I short on cupboard space, but I have a terrible time reaching what I need. It just so happens that our cabinets are all six inches taller than average--a definite problem when you are six inches shorter than average. There's nothing more humbling than having to leap up on the counter just to get a pinch of oregano...

Gathering all the materials was more complex (and pricey) than I anticipated. I found the super-strong magnets on e-bay, ordered the tins online twice because the first set was completely the wrong size, and took two trips to Staples to get something that would work for the labels. Despite the hassle, I'm really pleased with the result. Far less cupboard-leaping around here. :)
This next project was as simple and inexpensive as the spices were complex. I found an old cork bulletin board for two dollars at D.I. and picked up a dollar's worth of pushpins at Walmart. The kids helped me paint the trim white with acrylic paint we had hanging around. I then ironed a fabric scrap to the board using leftover Wonder-Under, pushing the edge of the fabric under the edge of the frame with a table knife to give the project a finished look. Twenty minutes total and voila, the girls had their very own place to keep their jewelry organized.
Continuing on--photo albums. My sister gave me a fantastic label maker for Christmas which I finally put to good use. Now that our family photo albums are dated, I no longer have to guess which album features such-and-such. Not only that, but I finally printed more pictures since our most recent album dates back to 2010... I had dreams of getting the new albums labeled before our baby girl arrived. Dream on, Kara, dream on.
The ultimate nesting project, however, belongs to Daddy Jason. This good man completely redid the closet in our master bedroom, bumping the wall out a foot and opening up the space over the downstairs stairwell to give us more storage.
I wish I had some pictures of the "before" to give an idea of how much the space changed. Here's Jason smiling because the project is nearing completion. It was a huge amount of work, involving wiring, framing, sheet rocking, caulking, puttying, casing, trimming, painting, sanding...everything but plumbing.
Concentrating hard. Jason's craftsmanship is impeccable.
None of the space where Jason is standing existed before. Just imagine how much junk, um, I mean treasure, we can fit in there!
Looking back the other direction. We switched the orientation of the clothing bars to make it a small walk-in closet.
All tuckered out, Jason naps peacefully with Annika.
Sleep well, mi querido. After so much hard work, you certainly deserve the rest.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Random Sights

Nothing like some random photos to fill in the details about every-day life.

Eli and Jason have become partners in crime with their LEGO escapades. Normally Jason's pretty good about getting out the door to work, but when Eli begs him to play LEGOS first, forty-five minutes fly by in a jiffy.
Here are the girls in the gorgeous dresses that Aunt Christy picked up for them in Mexico. They're beautiful--thank you!
An adorable plant that a neighbor brought to celebrate Annika's birth. We have been SO spoiled with meals, flowers, playdates, blankets, and more. As a fourth child, Annika may not have had a formal baby shower before her arrival, but she's certainly been showered with attention since.
Annika's very favorite place to sleep is propped up in the corner of the couch. Of course, occasionally she topples. (Just for the record, her least favorite place to sleep is in her cradle. And her least favorite time to sleep is at night...)
Oh, look who found her fingers!

With that much hair, shampooing's a must...even if it doesn't make me popular.

Ahh, that's better.
I'm certain there must be a logical explanation as to why we came upstairs and discovered this...
But I'm not sure what it would be. And I certainly can't explain this.
So what random sights have been discovered in your house lately?