Thursday, January 28, 2010

A big deal

February is going to be a big month for me. Yesterday night I purchased some expert advice on three-day potty training, today we purchased these,

and as soon as Bob's schedule aligns with ours enough to keep the kids on the main floor all day (less carpet-- definitely the potty training ideal), I'm literally tossing his diapers out the back door (that's where we toss most of our trash. It looks pretty fantastic out there) and doing what it takes to make Erik "number one," "number two," day time, and night time potty trained in three days! And after I survive those three days, I will be able to declare it was all worth it. Since I haven't had to start scraping poo out of undies by hand, though, don't ask me if it's worth it yet.

According to my pediatrician's (and lots of reputable people's) guidelines, Erik is nowhere near ready to attempt this milestone. However, I've done a fair bit of research, and concluded that he is fully capable, physiologically, and that he just might get a very needed emotional and self-esteem boost from the process. I'm fairly confident these "3-day" techniques will work.

After that significant accomplishment, we'll move to getting Charlie to sleep through the night. I know he'll continue screaming throughout the day, but a silent night. Oh, a silent night! The neighbors will despise us, our ears will ring, and glass just might shatter while we're "training" him to sleep alone (unless you've heard it, you would not believe the piercing pitch of this kid's screams. Dogs and mermaids have nothing on Charlie.). I hope it'll be worth it.

And then I hope hope hope life will be manageable enough to improvise a Joy School type preschool group for Ellie and her friends. She is already ecstatic about the prospect, and Erik would greatly benefit from having a few hours a week in which he's not outshone and overshadowed by his louder, more articulate and more confident sister.

So, that's the plan. Wish me luck. Pray for me. Volunteer to babysit any of my kids for me. Bring me hot dinners, make a monetary donation, whatever you feel you can manage. =) Then hopefully the Tiff that emerges triumphant from these stressful endeavors will be physically and emotionally able to pay the good deeds forward.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


I claim that this blog is my journal, but of course it is not. The only events that get blog time are photographically-captured events. In a real journal, I'd be writing about the humdrum thoughts and experiences that comprise my life and very rarely merit the use of a camera. For instance...

-At Costco on Saturday, we experienced a Vitamix demo. I say experienced and not just witnessed, because we were fully part of the magic, via free samples. I've always loved a good smoothie, but I could never justify dreaming of owning a high-end blender until the demo lady handed Erik a cup of spinach juice and he DRANK THE WHOLE THING AND ASKED FOR MORE. (There was some fruit in there, too, but the drink was dark green and Erik averts his taste buds even from green candy, just in case.) So, now I'm desperately attempting to devise a financial scheme that will secure me one of those miracle machines as soon as possible.

Seriously, folks, I've done some research and determined that only a Vitamix (a Blend tec would do, as well) will revolutionize the state of our family's health forever. No more peeling, slicing, chopping, shredding. Blend, only blend, and dinner is ready before anyone knows to be hungry for it! Healthy, Jamba-quality smoothies for breakfast every day. Carrot juice with lunch and spinach juice for dinner. The only thing stopping me from waltzing right back into Costco to claim my new culinary life right now is that they cost about $374 more than Kyle is willing to spend. Yes, on sale this blending bad boy rings up at $394. So, if anyone is willing to make a donation to this worthy cause, or if you spot one on sale for at least 90% off, let me be the first to know.

-Speaking of good nutrition, I just love the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook/Bible Kjerst gave me for Christmas. I feel like Julie with Mastering the Art of French Cooking-- I am not only using all the recipes, but I am inhaling the extra tid bits of food knowledge. For instance, did you know tofu is made of edamame, the green bean-looking power veggie? And why do recipes always tell you to rinse canned beans? To lower the sodium content, of course! Also, diagrams of animal meat cuts and how to cook them, how to select every type of fresh produce, etc. I know some people already know all this and others don't care, but these are the questions I always wondered and was too lazy to google to find out! Now they are all contained in one lovely, checkered book of yum.

-Speaking of eating well, Ellie is an amazing child eater. Not child-eater. She eats whatever I put in her dinner bowl, licks it clean, and often asks for seconds, and I very rarely prepare child-friendly dinners (eg mac and cheese, pizza, chicken nuggets). When recently questioned as to her favorite food, she seriously declared it to be broccoli. Later she recanted and offered the more credible fave of cheese pizza, but still. The only thing at all that I can think of that she won't devour is food that is fairly spicy, but even that she's improving upon. How did I get so fortunate to have an easy-to-please-y little goat at my kitchen table? Aside from the occasional whining, interrupting, tattling, lying, and hitting, she is the perfect child.

-How's my diet going, you ask? I quit. I knew I didn't have it in me. However, I am still making minor efforts to cut back on night feedings (I mean mine, not Charlie's, although cutting back on his would be even better) and dessert binging. I also buy fat free sour cream now. Kyle could be happier about that. And to reward myself for my supreme achievements in dietary self control, I will be throwing myself a Cookie Monster-themed birthday party (emphasis on the Cookie) in August. It will look even better than this one.

-Tomorrow, if I can get my paws on some wire cutters, I am going to make this Valentine's day wreath. No, I'm not doing an excellent job of avoiding craft blogs as part of my New Year resolution. I haven't actually made anything yet, though. My cricut remains sealed tightly in its box until I have the self control to employ it in moderation.

-Kyle is such a sweetie pie. He and the kids woke me up Saturday morning with breakfast in bed. And not the kind of breakfast-in-bed most wives could expect. Nope, no cold cereal involved. He whipped up delicious, perfectly seasoned scrambled eggs with sundried tomatoes and cheese, cinnamon sugar toast, turkey bacon, banana slices, and cranberry juice. (And the previous Saturday he did the same thing with a delicious avocado omelet.) Just because. And in return, I bought him his very own slice of pepperoni pizza at Costco.

-A friend treated me to the opera this week. We saw Carmen, which is a top-notch opera, with beloved music and all, but is it wrong that I was relieved to see the protagonist stabbed to death in the last scene? Is that commentary on my emotional state, or is it okay that her embodiment of every evil female trait disgusted me?

-When will Charlie ever sleep through the night? Or sleep through one rem cycle of the night? His bewildering refusal of solid foods-- will it last long? What am I doing wrong? I can no longer remember how I felt before I was a zombie mom (aka before Charlie was born), but I'm pretty sure I was nicer, peppier, and happier. I miss that me. I see no light at the end of the tunnel with these sleeping struggles.

-What is the purpose of life? No, just kidding, I don't think about that one. I already know. Good thing, too. A day at a time, my life may not seem like much, but I find great peace and fulfillment in knowing that I'm doing, more or less, what I came here to do.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Homemade Christmas gifts

watch bracelets for Marilyn-- the bracelet can be switched out so this could turn into one versatile, expensive accessory

bff tag blankys (minky on the outside, noisy plastic bag on the inside) for future bffs Char and Alex (his newest cousin)

yep, it works

letters for Alex's nursery

politically-charged hot pads for Ma

grandkid display for Fa's office

frame for Joe

Savers on steroids sale

Q: What do you get when you cross ME and Old Navy's end-of-season mega clearance sale?

A: You get this

for less than $60

and you get all three of these

for less than $70

And that averages $2.33 an item, people (after a 10% off coupon just lying around at the register). Granted, there are a few t-shirts and small items in there, but there are also pants and sweaters! Kyle scored nice sweaters for $3 and $4! Can I tell you, I haven't had a thrill like this since last month on Splash Mountain. And before that, for a long time. Also, Old Navy is brilliant to put kids' movies on in the store. Otherwise, Kyle and the kids (but especially Kyle) would not have lasted the two hours it took me to collect my winnings through five clearance sections and then reduce the pile by about 50% (for Kyle's sake).

So, I pretty much cleared out most of Old Navy's inventory during my spree, but there might be a thing or two left for you if you head out early tomorrow morning. I believe the sale is nation-wide. (And if I can fanangle it (why isn't that coming up as a real word? Isn't fanangle a word? Bob? Kristin? Other Boggle gurus?) without a certain someone finding out, I might be back tomorrow. Woo-hahahaha! The ruthless bargain queen strikes again!)

P.S. I realize it can be argued that being out $120 to clothe a family that was not previously naked may not sound like a bargain. For the record, I only do this once or twice a year, at the end of the seasons, and almost all of the kids' clothes were purchased for the next size up, and unless this diet works, I needed some better-fitting attire, and also, I know it's still superfluous. But I used my birthday and Christmas money from Kyle's parents to fund it. That was so Kyle would still want to be my friend. Okay, done trying to justify myself.

P.P.S. snowman doughnuts

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Deck the Walls with mismatched kid socks

Remember that old Tiff of yester-year who was so frazzledly busy whipping up handmade Christmas gifts and decorations that she almost missed the whole Utah Christmas season? Thankfully, that Tiff did take the time to visit the Festival of Trees with Kyle, sans kids even. LOVED it and only wish we'd had a few more hours there to enjoy all the creativity and festivity oozing out of these branches.

These next two scored style points.

(much prettier in person)

This might have been my favorite-- can you imagine what a blast I would have had putting together this display!

This is the tree I lusted after most. Before I quit crafting, that is. (And actually I have my very OWN cricut now, thanks Santa Ma & Fa!)

I swear all of these trees looked a bajillion times cooler in person.

The camera was running on a drop of battery juice so I didn't snap half as many as I'd like to have, but we did fortunately manage to capture Kyle's fave, The Labyrinth themed.

Back at the homestead, November 30th sneaked up on me and we had only a morning to whip up an advent calendar. The kids brainstormed and I went wild with felt and scissors. And 24-ish days later the tree looked like this.

We put each mini felt ornament in one of the stockings hung on this line. Talk about inexpensive Christmas decor-- between the four of us (Kyle is sadly lacking in the festive sock department) we had more than enough Christmas colored socks to make a month.

Well, once I threw in blue as an alternate Christmas color we had plenty.

Meet Fievel. I woke up one morning to this enormous weed in my living room. I knew it was Mish's doing--she's always been a softie for lost/abandoned baby animals and desert plants. Mish's friend thought she wouldn't find anything useful to do with it, and that's exactly why we proved him wrong! A hammer and two nails, string, a bottle of hairspray (for the shedding), some mad skills, and BAM! Fievel-ocity.

This was our attempt at a Christmas-y feast for the olfactory senses. Only since they're just applesauce and cinnamon, they probably didn't need to be baked. That would explain why they turned out a tad distorted and brittle. I will make a better garland next year, now that I inherited my mom's Christmas cookie cutter repertoire. (I am actually amazed with all the enthused stamping and squashing of four kids, that all four letters of "Noel" survived.)

Again, good intentions. In my mind, this was a Christmas craft the kids could participate in and enjoy. Only I wouldn't recommend letting your kids use a hot glue gun, so it was just a me craft. And I had already gone back to the store once for more spice drops and that third trip never materialized. There was also the prototype of a red and green m&m tree. Next year I want to make some stuffed gingerbread dolls that have a bite taken out of them (saw that super idea somewhere in the blogosphere). Maybe a whole Christmas candy village, with gingerbread houses and candy cane lamp posts and glittery frosting snowfalls. Whoa now! Let's not get carried away, Tiff. Crafting hiatus, remember? Don't get emotionally ambitious just yet.

Oh yeah, on the right there are winter scenes the kids made with stale spice drops left over from our 4th of July crafts. Erik's is a mushroom garden and Ellie's is a Christmas tree and African American Santa.

Even with the lens zoomed in, this still looks kinda pathetically small for a Christmas tree. Six feet sounded like it would have a commanding presence, but we had to put it on top of our end table to make it taller than Kyle. All my Christmas ornaments and decorations live it up in my parents' garage, so Dollar Tree helped me furnish the branches. Nothing impressive, but it was pre-lit magic to our little family every December evening.

This was a little something that was supposed to go out to everyone Mish and I know and half-know, but time was short and ice cube trays scarce. Hot chocolate on a stick, people! How simply brilliant is that!? (Wasn't my idea, of course, although I did improve upon it by rolling them in marshmallows and crushed candy canes.) Other than having the slightest taste of wood stick, stirred in hot milk it was pure winter delight!

The other goody gifts we endeavored this season were sundae kit baskets. That's Grandpa Larsen's homemade fudge sauce, chopped peanuts, ice cream scoop, and a baby food jar of maraschino cherries, and some were fortunate enough to be wrapped in cellophane before the blasted three rolls ran out (That stuff always runs out prematurely. I never learn.)

Sad story about these baskets, though. First, it was late on the eve of our departure to Sacramento (road trip, by the way). Second, we burned the vat of fudge sauce. Third, I ladled it into the jars anyway (We were fresh out of chocolate chips so deemed it salvageable). Fourth, we spent way too long, suffering under a hot glue shortage, covering the lids with fabric and ribbon so you couldn't tell they originally contained salsa, pickles, pesto, etc. Fifth, after we had assembled them all, I opened up a jar and the fudge sauce smelled like pickles. Sixth, they all stank. (Only the caramel sauce jar and grape jelly jar survived.) Seventh, we laughed, cried, and went to bed. The next morning before delivery, Mish supplemented the baskets with Nutella. Eighth, I was too sad to throw the stinky jars away until after we came home from CA. In the end, even I could not concoct a reasonable use for burned salsa-flavored fudge sauce.

These stockings took most of the season to make. So long that I didn't even bother clipping the threads before I took these photos. We better use them for-freakin'-ever.

I fell in love with moda's Figgy Pudding fabric print line months ago and had pre-cut five inch squares slumbering in my fabric closet for a long while before I figured out that stockings are not made of five-inch squares. No one has ever made a stocking out of five-inch fabric squares (believe me, I did my research), and I wasn't about to be the first. So, I improvised.

I gleaned inspiration for the appliques from a post on u-create and made up the patterns as I went.

The embroidery is pretty amateur and wonky, but hey! So am I.

Okay, now that I'm done whining about making these stockings, I can confess that I'm actually satisfied with how they turned out.

Any future additions to the family better be okay with a store-bought stocking, though!

And then there was Christmas in Sacramento. Soooooo much fun. A spontaneous visit to Disneyland didn't hurt. Pics and lengthy captions coming up next.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

With resolve this time

I fear I've been much less than successful with New Year resolutions for a while now. This is probably due to how well I embrace my own mantra, "MORE is more!" When will I ever learn to simplify? Well, this year is not likely the year, but I am at least cutting myself a bit of slack by only committing to three resolutions this year. That is down at least a dozen from my usual list.

My personal goal is to make it to the temple once a month.
My home/family goal is to do a chore a day (beyond dishes, laundry and tidying) and then forgive myself for the sorry hygienic state my house is in anyway.
My beyond-family goal is to send at least a card (in a timely manner!) for birthdays to all 32 members of our immediate families, at least. Hope nobody's had a birthday so far because I haven't gathered dates yet...

I also have a goal to survive this year without pulling all of my hair out and going certifiably insane. Or maybe just to survive this year. Don't mean to be pessimistic, so I'll go ahead and blame it on sleep deprivation.

I was sorting through boxes of old journal entries and school papers while at my parents' for Christmas, and I had a sad realization that I used to be both a much better writer and a much more spiritually-minded person (before I had kids). At least those documents would suggest so. I hope it's not true. I wouldn't be surprised if it is, though. Guess there are a couple more resolutions to make there.

In my sorting, I discovered the envelope of letters I'd been writing since high school to my future spouse (I stopped writing them when we got engaged). That was actually a lot of fun to review, although ridiculously mushy. It was surprising to recall how I used to perceive love and marriage. Some things I had spot on, young as I was, like criteria in choosing a spouse. I did a good job there. Other things were just laughable. For instance, in several different letters I fretted over my insecurities about being a sufficient wife and mother because "I don't know how to sew, decorate, cook, make cute crafts," (throw extravagant birthday parties,) etc.

Yeah, I really didn't. But guess what? It didn't take me long to learn, and now I suppose I know how to do a few of those things a bit TOO well. Or at least that they've taken up a bit TOO much of my time. Oh yeah, so another resolution for this year is to stop crafting. Pretty much altogether. No, I guess just to take a hiatus until Charlie sleeps more than two hours at a time during the night. Or someone has a birthday. Whichever comes first.

So, I also wrote that I felt insecure about being marry-able because "I can't get up in the morning, I resist housework like it's the bubonic plague, and I put little effort into my physical appearance." Now that I have the cooking and crafting aspects of homemaking down, it's tough stuff left to tackle.

Mornings might always be the bane of my existence, but I must conquer the urge to relinquish my parental responsibilities to PBS until midday.

I must stop begrudging the reality that the housework constantly piling up around me is mine to do.

I must do something about this postpartum physique that I sometimes still refuse to accept is my own. I've been putting it off, hoping it would take care of itself in due time, but after several comments from Mom about my "round tummy," Ellie flat out questioning Kyle today "Why does Mommy look so fat?," and Bob this evening sincerely asking me if I was pregnant because "you have a bulge there," this issue can no longer be ignored. I see myself in the mirror, but only briefly, because after I look away, I can convince myself that I look much better than my reflection suggests, and it's easy to stay distracted enough to not worry about my appearance.

I consider myself pretty fortunate that this is the first time of my life I've really needed to diet (and exercise, but that's not gonna happen. Well, only if it ends up being easier and more effective than cutting calories). Metabolism has always, more or less, been on my side. At the same time, genetics has not, in that my mother's family is replete with "apples." That's great when you're pregnant anyway, but when you're six months postpartum and still look ready to deliver any day now, apples are just about my least favorite fruit around.

So, I guess you could say regaining a non-pregnant figure is a resolution of mine. Not that I was terribly committed to it until the comments I got tonight. (We did have cream cheese-filled chicken enchiladas topped with cheddar cheese and heavy whipping cream for dinner last night, after all. Yes, my loyalty has always been to my taste buds. To butter, cream, and sugar, I would like to thank you for all you've done for me, but now you have done enough. I hope splenda and skim milk will be adequate substitutes, yet I know they will not.)

I guess I ended up making more than three resolutions. Oh well. I'll do better next year. =)

And in completely unrelated news, I bring you a few (less than) recent photos.

Free admission day at the zoo--

Quilts I made as in-kind payment for a sewing machine, thanks to Emily's generous mom.

Suhey and I at the 12:09 showing of New Moon, opening day/night. I had just finished the second book (for the first time) and was quite swept up in the movement prior to the film's release. No, I am not ashamed. We had a blast oooing and ahhing with the infatuated audience. I felt young again. Wait, I am still young. I felt childless again. Despite the one sleeping in my arms.

We've found sharp or otherwise dangerous objects to be the best lures for aspiring crawlers. Charlie can now get up on "all fours" and rock back and forth, but shrieking angrily all the way, so who knows when he (or I) will have the patience to see the milestone through.

Aunt Mish moved back to Provo, but she doesn't have much food there, so we've managed to lure her back a few times already. So glad she's here.

Good thing someone's getting use out of the crib, because Charlie definitely doesn't spend time there.

Coming soon-- picture overload in the form of Christmas and Disneyland.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Children for Sale

Three children, all fairly new (one nearly brand new!) and in reasonably good condition, up on the market today for your bidding.

Tantrums, hitting, and screaming all included and in excellent working order.

Will trade all three for a piece of sanity and one night of good sleep.

This will be a bargain, I think, as the owner is rather desperate.

Please make an offer and pick them up as soon as humanly possible.

(And good luck getting them to act as sweet as they look in these pictures!)