Saturday, April 27, 2013

Our Responsibility to Children

I think a lot about children, my own, my children at school, the children I teach at church. I am surrounded by them! The hardest thing about working at a school and establishing a bond with these little ones is to me knowing that some of them live very sad lives, and deal with some very heavy things for such small people. Sometimes the only happy times they have are when they are at school. I get very emotionally invested.  My natural inclination is to step in and help. That is not always possible, and the best that I can do is be kind to them when I have them.

So there have been nights that I have cried over these children. And it leaves me to wonder, as a society where are we headed? The other day my husband and I took our two younger children to lunch. We came in and sat down in a booth, were served our chips and salsa and drinks, and were contentedly waiting for our meal. Another group of adults came in, and out of all of the tables available to them in the restaurant they chose the one right next to ours. As their conversation progressed, a woman was growing somewhat heated in her recounting of her struggles at work and began to use some rather harsh language.

At this point I was looking at my husband and he was looking at me with surprised expressions. You know, raised eyebrows and mouths shaped in like Os. I can’t say that I have never cursed. As a matter of fact, when one is really upset or angry cursing seems very therapeutic and the natural thing to do. However, I am able to control my mouth when around young children. So I can understand why she may have been dropping a few explicatives here and there. At this point I grew somewhat uncomfortable wondering if I should say something or just try and ignore it. But being the loud mouth that I am I turned to her and as politely as I could, explained to her that my children were with me and I asked her if she would watch her language. I said thank you and then tried to go back to eating.
The woman was good enough to do as I asked. I will say that she and the party at her table looked at me as if I were from outer space, but she complied. I had a similar situation arise when I took my oldest to the park for a run. As we rounded the corner on the trail and were running past the parking area, a group of men who had come to play basket ball were blaring some music that was full of base and bad lyrics. Is it just me or does one really need to use the F-bomb several times consecutively in order to communicate one is displeased?

I felt apprehensive in approaching them, but no one else seemed willing. Again, I tried to be polite, but I pointed out that they were at a park full of children. I asked them if they would turn down the music, that the language was not appropriate for little one’s ears. They seemed very surprised and even laughed at me, but they turned down the music.
Which leads me to this question: Have we as a society, gotten to a place where we no longer care for the sanctity of childhood? What are we saying and doing in front of them that should be reserved for a time when they are not around? Are we taking away their innocence by behaving in such thoughtless ways? I think as adults and as a society, we owe them the gift of common decency. They deserve to have uncluttered, carefree lives. They should have the chance to be childish and naïve and lighthearted. They should be able to feel loved and secure. We have that responsibility.

A woman, even if she does not have children of her own, has the gift of motherhood, a responsibility to nurture and protect those around her. I will do that for your children when you are not there, and I hope that you will do the same for mine. Just asking you to think about it.     

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Inside Out Cupcakes

It seems that I am always looking for ways to cut corners or save time. One of the things I have learned is to use the freezer! So when preparing meals, or trying to do deserts, etc. for school lunches I employ my good friend the freezer quite often. I freeze homemade roll dough (kinda like Rhodes), sugar cookies and inside out cupcakes for lunches, waffles for breakfast, meatballs when I make a large batch of them, and anything else I can think of that may save me time. I love that they are homemade, without all of the preservatives you get form the store bought stuff, yet just as quick and convenient.
For my inside out cupcakes, I discovered that when you pack an iced cupcake, the icing gets everywhere. By the time you pull it out to eat it, most of the icing ends up staying in the baggy and you have a messy cupcake with very little icing with which to eat. That is when I came up with the idea to pipe the icing into the cupcake. Just like a hostess cupcake, but no icing on top so that it doesn’t get everywhere.

I make a whole batch of cupcakes, pipe the icing into the middle, and then put them in individual baggies and freeze them. When my children are packing their lunches in the mornings, they grab a cupcake, stick it in their lunch bags, and by the time lunch comes around the cupcakes have thawed.
Just one more way that I have found to make my life a little easier.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

League of Utah Writer's Workshop

Just returned from a writer’s workshop that was sponsored by the League of Utah Writers. It was very enjoyable to hang with my ladies from my readers group, but it was also very informative and got the fire started again. I think that my biggest problem is feeling like a phony when it comes to my writing. I always think that I am not a writer I am just a wanna be. It made me feel so much better when Paul Genesse admitted to feeling the same way. I got a chance to speak to him and not only was he really cool, but a normal joe, just like me.

So here are a few of the things that really struck me. John Simmons spoke first. He said that when writing the story needs to start from a memorable place and move to an even more memorable place. Your writing needs to matter to you or it won’t matter. He also talked about balancing writing with the rest of your busy life and making it a priority.

Paul Genesse was the next speaker. My friend Kathy raved about his Iron Dragon Series. He had a great sense of humor and I enjoyed his presentation very much. He believes that characterization is the most important part of writing. If you don’t like the character you won’t like the story.  He also said that discipline and determination are imperative to writing goals. He suggested making time to write by cutting out things that are not important. For instance the internet and television can be pared down so that you can use that time to be productive.
I enjoyed his ideas on characterization very much. He recommended using situations in which characters must react to something or make a decision to show who they are and what they are about, instead of adding pages and pages of back story. He said to stay away from “info dumping”.

They also had Daniel Coleman speak. He talked about taking old ideas and making them new. His latest novels are based upon characters in Alice in Wonderland. He has just gotten published through TM Publishing with his Hatter and Jabberwocky books. Made me wonder, do I have an old story that I love enough to make new with a fresh idea or new spin?

So, while I do not write in the same genre as the gentlemen, I feel that I learned a great deal and I felt the creative juices flowing. I think I will go work on my newest project now!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Busy Streets and Strangers with Candy

I am so grateful for all of the people in my life that care so much about me and my family. We recently had a very funny mix up that showed me just how much my friends and co-workers have my back. I work at Lincoln Elementary as a school librarian. The people I work with are the best! I see them, day in and day out, working tirelessly with children who rarely acknowledge or thank them for the services they provide, because they are children and don’t understand just how much goes in to taking care of them.

At any rate, a friend called me at work and told me that she saw my son L walking down the street alone. His junior high school is only several blocks from where I work off of the main street that is very busy as far as traffic goes. So in a panic I took off in my van to try and catch him. I didn’t see him. I thought perhaps I should verify that he was missing, so I tried to call his school. His teacher did not answer the phone. This gave me more cause for panic. Was she not answering the phone because she was out looking for him?

It wouldn’t have been the first time that L has wondered away from school. When he attended a certain school for autistic children in North Salt Lake several years ago he left. We had the police out looking for him, and I distinctly remember the sick feeling that churned in the pit of my stomach as I drove down to aid in the search. Luckily we found him about a mile and a half from the school in the Maverick bathroom.
At any rate, I drove all the way over to the school to check and make sure that he was indeed missing. I walked into the lunch room and there he was looking very surprised to see me. Feeling ever so relieved, I drove back to work. Now here is where the story gets good. My co-workers were concerned after the way I had left in such a rush. They discovered that L may be out on the loose, drifting down a busy street and they were concerned too.

Suddenly they spot him across the street from the school. Armed with nothing more than a hand held stop sign, they sprint through the parking lot, hold the sign aloft as they dash across four lanes of traffic to the sidewalk on the other side. All the while they were yelling L’s name. But he did not seem to be responding. That is not uncommon for L who sometimes is in his own little world. But they did not give up. They continued to chase him, shouting out that they had candy and he could have some if he would only come with them.
Just as they reached him, he turned and was startled that two grown women were following him. That is when they discovered that it was not L after, just a kid who had a similar body build and hair color. Luckily he had his ear buds in and did not hear them enticing him with candy.

I was very grateful to everyone who was involved, because I knew that they cared and that they were willing to help me if need be. Yes, someone will always have an eye out for L to make sure he is safe. I just worry about the other kid. Where was someone when he was being chased down the road? Who called his mother when he was nearly lured away with promises of sweets? Haha! Just the mental picture of it makes me laugh all over again.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fresh Living

Had a great time on Fresh Living today. Although my hair was in my face the entire segment, I don’t think I did too badly??? I was lucky enough to have a friend do my makeup for me. Thank you Elvia Butz! She has done professional makeup for some time now, including her stint in California when she worked on the CNN set.
I have to say that it was really all a blur. I had a three minute segment about autism, and there was so much that I had to say. For those of you who know me, I can talk endlessly. For those of you who don’t know me  – I can talk endlessly! So three minutes went by in the blink of an eye.  I am hoping that I got some good information out there to parents that have just discovered their child has autism.
Casey Scott was really cool, even taking time after the segment to chat with little old me. Overall, it was a good experience. I would love to know what you think. If you liked it, leave comments on the Fresh Living website!

Monday, April 15, 2013

What to Wear?

Perfect oxford shirt

So I am trying to decide what to wear for my television spot. I did a search on the computer and discovered that you should absolutely, under no circumstances, wear black, white, or red. These colors will wash you out, absorb light, etc. Well, there goes everything that I have in my closet! It said that the best colors to wear are blues, greens, and purples. I don’t think I own anything purple. And I have lots of blues and greens but nothing that I would wear on television.
Finally in desperation I began to look on the web for something that would be simple but make a statement. I believe I have found it. I purchased a shirt from the GAP website.  They were having a 25% off sale so I did not have to pay full price. Score!!! I love finding deals and I love getting things on sale. Nothing better than finding something majorly discounted on the sale rack. I think this shirt is a very versatile piece that I will be able to use again and again. Hopefully this will work for my spot on Fresh Living. What do you think?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Rite of Passage

I took my little girl to the mall today, to get her ears pierced. She turned eight on Thursday and we told her that that was the magic age in which she would be old enough to decide for herself if she wanted to get her ears pierced or not. At this point in the story, I will tell you that it is a long standing tradition for the girls in my family. When they turn eight they get earrings. My oldest daughter got her ears pierced when she was eight. I got my ears pierced when I was eight. As the woman in Icing said, it is like a rite of passage.
Today I took my youngest, my daughter to receive her rite of passage. We went to the mall just as it was opening. We passed storefronts as metal gates were being pulled up in preparation for conducting business. Straight to Icing jewelry store we went, where we began to fill out the paper work in order to get the “procedure” done. Another sweet little girl had gotten there just before us and was getting her ears pierced too.

At that point the smart thing to do would have been to leave the store, go look around and come back. But I figured it would be over quickly and we could have our turn. Unfortunately, we stayed. The other little girl cried and screamed and said it hurt so bad! As they finished, my daughter looked up at me with trouble eyes and said, “I am so scared.” I assured her that it would be over quickly and reminded her that it was her choice.

Now the other little girl was done, crying and saying that it hurt as her mother tried to console her. My daughter sat in the chair, wringing her hands in nervous anticipation. She told me then that she was not sure she wanted to do it. I again told her it was up to her, though secretly hoping that she would decide to go ahead and do it. Finally, she told me that she no longer wanted to get her ears done. We walked back out into the mall without the earrings.
I looked down and saw that she was crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said, “I can’t believe I didn’t get my ears pierced.” We sat on a bench and she curled herself up on my lap and I held her like I did when she was a baby. On the way out we got some caramel popcorn because she thought it would make her feel better. I realized then that some rites of passage really aren’t worth the trouble. So my baby is still my baby with unmarked earlobes.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Aunt Momay's Chicken Pot Pie

Aunt Rosemary is often lovingly referred to as Aunt Momay in our family because when my sister Jessica was just a child she could not pronounce her name. Anyhow, Aunt Rosemary is not only a witty and humorous person that is endlessly entertaining, but she is also known far and wide for her culinary skills. Don’t know if it is in the genes or what, because my grandmother was such an awesome cook and so is Aunt Rosemary. She worked in the restaurant industry for many years and has picked up a good recipe or two in her day. One of my all- time favorites is her chicken pot pie. It is very simple, but tastes great and I always get compliments when I make it for others. My neighbor who is from the Philippines barters fresh egg rolls in exchange for a chicken pot pie every now and again.

Aunt Rosemary’s recipe calls for canned Veg All, which I only use in a real pinch, because I prefer fresh or frozen veggies over the canned stuff. I have omitted her hard boiled eggs and I use onion powder instead of onions. Also, I have used her simple crust recipe as a cobbler topping as well because it is that versatile. I love the crust so much that I make one and a half batches for the top so that it is nice and thick. So the following is her recipe with my revisions. Hope it becomes one of your favorites just as it has become one of mine.

Aunt Momay’s Chicken Pot Pie
 2 ½ lbs cooked, cubed chicken
1 medium onion or 1 Tbsp onion powder
2 cans Veg-all, drained or preferred frozen vegetables (I use boiled, cubed potatoes, sliced carrots, and frozen peas but you can use whatever you prefer.)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery
2 cups chicken broth
1 ½ cup self-rising flour
1 ½ cup milk
1 ½ cup butter, melted
Mix cooked vegetables with soups and onion powder and place in 9x13 baking dish. Mix topping  so that it resembles a batter and drizzle over the top. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 1 hour.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness month. For those of you who do not know, I am a mother of a child with autism. What a tremendous learning opportunity it has been for me. I cannot say that I have always had this mind set. When L was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, I thought that my world had ended. But as it often the case, the world does not end and life continues on.

Now that I have adjusted to the idea, and attempted to educate myself on it as best I could, the task of raising a son with a disability is not as daunting as it once was. The morning period is over and I have moved on to acceptance and adjustment. Now I can find joy in the many miracles I have seen taking place in L’s life. I can appreciate the progress he has made, no matter how slow and tedious it has been. I can thank God that today was better than yesterday and yesterday was better than the day before.

Sounds corny maybe, but I think of the movie What About Bob? Not only because it is so dang funny, but there is some comfort in the phrase “baby steps”. When you have taken so many baby steps, you begin to see how far a baby step can take you. I would never have asked for a child with a disability, but there are moments when I see the province in it. I see how strong it has made me, and how much I have learned. So while there have been many moments of discouragement and sadness, I believe it has helped me be a better person.

L brings my family so much joy. And we are able to laugh with him and enjoy his quirks and oddities with a sense of humor. We see how others are drawn to him and the positive effects he has had on their lives as well. We glory in his triumphs and do the best we can with his setbacks. And surely this is what life is about. Doesn’t matter how slow the progress is, just that there is progress. This is a good thing for all of us to remember, not only those who may have mental or physical limitations but for all of us who are human.

Next week, Wednesday the 17th, I will be appearing on the program Fresh Living on KUTV to discuss my experiences with my son's autism. I hope you will join me! It will air on television at 1:00 PM in the afternoon.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Good Ground

My latest novel Good Ground will be released July 30, 2013!!

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach Artichoke Dip is so yummy! I love to try different versions at restaurants. Really this is not something that I would ever get tired of. It is always a real crowd pleaser and so good you won’t be able to stop eating it! I serve it for dinner sometimes with French bread and salad. But it is also good served with crackers and pita chips. If I am asked to bring an appetizer for a party or social event, I often throw this together and serve it piping hot.

From my kitchen to yours!

Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 brick cream cheese
1/3 cup equal parts sour cream, mayo, and Parmesan cheese (fresh is best)

6 oz spinach, thawed

1 can artichokes

4 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ tsp salt

Couple dashes red pepper flakes

Combine ingredients with mixer. Place in greased dish (nothing larger than 8X8) and sprinkle with additional cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes until just browned on top.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Secret Keeper Book Review

Just recently finished Kate Morton’s new novel The Secret Keeper.  I have to say I really enjoyed it.  First of all, it is my favorite genre – historical fiction. Second of all, it kept me guessing to the very end. I can generally guess a book’s ending long before the last few pages. While I did guess at some of the mystery, I was completely blown away by the surprise ending.
Kate definitely has a way of making a story real to the reader. While at times I was eager for her to get on with the story so that I could find out what happens, I also really appreciated the details she integrated into her tale. The characters are very real, and very believable, to the point that you have deep emotional reactions to them. Her style makes me slightly envious. I felt this twinge of begrudging respect for her first book The Forgotten Garden, as well, and have subsequently purchased all of her novels that she has published since.
The Secret Keeper is one of my favorites of her books. I thought it was a great read, as did my book club. All the girls agreed that it was worth the effort. Enthusiastically give it two thumbs up! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Frozen Waffles, My Own Homemade Eggos



I once had the unrealistic expectation of being a younger, edgier Martha Stewart. I would live in a world where I surrounded myself with handcrafted items and made from scratch dinners. However, reality set in after children were born and I took on a full time job nearly five years ago. I had to make a decision: my sanity, or compromise on things that aren't so important.
I think this is a somewhat disillusioning reality we face as women who want to be the best we can be at whatever we put our hands to. Because although we are big believers in the old adage 'You can have your cake and eat it too', deep down we know that it simply isn't true. Life is a balancing act. Some days you have more to give than others. I have had to give up a lot of things that would otherwise have put me in the nut house.

I will say, though, that my role as a mother to me is the most important. I, therefore, have found inventive methods to try and make sure they eat healthy, home cooked meals, and feel some measure of security and connection to me. Growing up I had a mother who made sure we had a good breakfast before sending us off into the world. And my grandmother had a breakfast spread like no one else. So I too, have tried to come up with ways to make sure they eat well on the fly. Because if your mornings are as crazy as mine you don't have time to make a huge homemade breakfast.

Something that I have learned is that the freezer is one of my best allies. I have a baking day, as needed, on which I recruit my girls to help me make dough for rolls, which I freeze in individual portions as well as making a slew of waffles for the freezer too. They are my own homemade Eggos. In the mornings my kids can take out however many they want to eat, pop them in the toaster, and voila homemade waffles on the go. Not only good with syrup but PB&J, yogurt and fruit, and of course Nuetella.

This recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, but I have tripled it for your convenience, which is what I do when I am making enough to last a week or two. Make sure you mix it in a large bowl! In my waffle maker, which does four square shaped waffles per cycle, it makes roughly a little over three dozen. I wait for them to cool, seal them in a gallon size baggie, which will hold a dozen, and throw them in the freezer for future use.


5 1/4 cups flour
3 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
6 egg yolks
5 1/4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups oil
6 egg whites

In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients and form a well in the center. In another bowl beat egg yolks slightly then stir in milk and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir until moistened. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter, leaving a few fluffs of egg white at the top. Do not over mix.
Place batter in waffle maker and cook until golden brown.

(Make sure not to overcook as you will be recooking them in the toaster when you reheat them.)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Picnic Tub

Picnic season will be in full swing soon, that wonderful time of peanut butter sandwiches and juice boxes served upon outdoor tables blemished with bird poop. In the past I used a traditional picnic basket. After all it is a custom established by Adam and Eve when they decided to pack a lunch and eat beneath the tree in the garden. I being one that thoroughly endorses tradition, enthusiastically jumped on the band wagon.

However, I noted some flaws in using a basket. For one, there was a very limited amount of food that could be packed. And I with my brood of four, plus my husband and I, felt very limited in what I could house in the small space. I mean you wouldn't want to be forced to leave behind the cookies for lack of room. The cookies are the best part of a meal!

The other problem I had was that packing the basket full made it heavy and the handles began to break. It was not sturdy enough, in my estimation. Once the handles broke off, it was difficult to carry and didn't look so good anymore.

Several years ago, I purchased a galvanized tub at Tai Pan Trading for BBQs and entertaining guests for about $10. I filled it with ice to keep sodas in glass bottles cold while we ate. In between using it, I stored it downstairs on a high shelf. Until the day that I discovered an alternate use for it. I took it down for a picnic, lined it with a vintage tablecloth and loaded it with goodies for a lunch at the park.

More than sturdy, my tub held plenty and held up under the weight of it too. My tablecloth was not only attractive and festive but it covered the dirty table, leaving me free of worries when it came to the kids putting food down without something beneath it, as well as acting as a blanket when we didn't have a table and sat upon the ground. I look for vintage tablecloths on Etsy and Ebay, where I can find clothes that may have small stains for tears for a very reasonable price. Since I am using them outside around dirt or sand and with food, I don't stress over keeping them in perfect condition. Yes! No tears over spills. So on a chilly and overcast day, my children and I packed a lunch, with plenty of room for the homemade sugar cookies, and headed out to enjoy Spring. I really love my picnic tub.