Monday, March 31, 2008

How can someone be so messed up and not know?

I just got off the phone with a woman from church. This woman has been complaining and causing trouble for at least two months now. She criticizes everything and just about everyone and it is getting out of hand. The branch president has had to speak to her a couple of times, but it doesn't look like that is working. Unfortunately, she is targeting a Primary teacher, which means I have to hear about it and try to help fix things.

Anyway, I cannot possibly even begin to explain the whole sticky mess as it involves many people and a whole lot of half-truths. The point of this post, though, is that I am amazed that there are people out there like this woman who are so extremely messed up, but have no clue. They think it is everyone else's problem. For example, this woman said to me that she feels like her son's teacher is on a power trip and is into control (which couldn't be further from the truth). Then she said, "I am so not like that at all, which is why I guess it bothers me." (Unfortunately, this could also not be any further from the truth.)

Over the years, I have occasionally met people like this who are very unaware of themselves and how their actions affect others. People who have perceptions of themselves that are just plain wrong. You know the type: a woman who thinks she is the best friend around, but who never listens or validates....Or a man who thinks he is extremely selfless, but who really is very, very selfish, but doesn't see it.

What worries me is what if I am like them, but just don't know it? I mean, that's the whole point, right? The people don't realize how controlling, manipulative, self-centered or just plain annoying they really are. How do we really know if we are facing our flaws as they truly are?

I suppose there are clues. As in the case of this woman, she might be alerted to the problem if she realized that she is the only one who is complaining about everything. Everyone else is getting along well and helping each other out. As Dr. Phil put it so eloquently once, you are the common denominator in all your relationships. If you continue to have relationship problems, it is probably your fault in some way.

It isn't hard to be blind to one's faults; I do this all the time. Like last night, when Bil took me to task for being so crabby and mean to him. At first, I just wanted to lash out at him and find fault with him and justify myself. But, when I really stopped and heard him, I had to admit he was right. I have been so irritable to him this week and if I were him, I would not be speaking to myself right now.

I guess I just hope close friends and family will continue to give me reality checks, and I hope I will continue to listen. I am lucky that I have friends who will tell me when I am overreacting. And of course, my mom and sister are very honest with me, sometimes brutally so! I just don't want to become so blind that I think everyone else has a problem but me.

I wish I could help this woman see how she is damaging everyone she comes into contact with. But for right now, I am going to avoid her, because if there is one flaw I KNOW I have, it is a fuse that is short when I have been pushed too much. Someday, I could truly see myself completely exploding at her......

Friday, March 28, 2008

in case anyone was wondering....

I made that strata last night and it was divine!!!! Bil even had seconds and the portions are rather generous. This is a new favorite recipe. What a treat to find a ham recipe that is different from the regular mac and cheese types that I mostly find.

Also, FYI, you can make it ahead of time (even the night before) and it still turns out delish...

Happy cooking!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

what do you do with all that leftover ham?

Did any of you have a ham for Easter? We did. I couldn't resist. I absolutely love ham, but rarely buy it because of how high in sodium and nitrates it is, not to mention fat. The other problem is all I can ever find is hams that are 10 pounds or more, and with a small family, we are eating leftovers FORever. This time, however, I happened to find some great recipes in which to use leftover ham. Here is one that I cannot wait to make:

Goat Cheese, Artichoke, and Smoked Ham Strata
To make ahead, assemble the strata, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Let stand at room temperature while the oven preheats. Bake, uncovered, as directed. Although sourdough has a nice subtle tanginess, French bread works, too.

3 1/4 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
1 (8-ounce) carton egg substitute
1 (4-ounce) package goat cheese
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 (1 1/2-ounce) slices sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Cooking spray
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
8 ounces 33%-less-sodium smoked ham, coarsely chopped
2 (14-ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded fontina cheese
Preparation: Preheat oven to 350°.
Place 1 cup milk, egg substitute, and goat cheese in a blender; process until smooth. Combine goat cheese mixture, remaining 2 1/4 cups milk, black pepper, thyme, nutmeg, and garlic in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add bread cubes; stir gently to combine. Let stand 10 minutes.
Place half of the bread mixture in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange Parmesan cheese, ham, and artichoke hearts evenly over the bread mixture. Top with remaining bread mixture, and sprinkle evenly with fontina cheese.
Bake strata at 350° for 40 minutes or until edges are bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes.
8 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 379(29% from fat); FAT 12.4g (sat 6.9g,mono 3.8g,poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 25.2g; CHOLESTEROL 43mg; CALCIUM 331mg; SODIUM 1107mg; FIBER 2.7g; IRON 3.8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 40.2g
Elizabeth Taliaferro ,
Cooking Light, JUNE 2004

Monday, March 24, 2008

Things I am Having Fun With Lately (and slightly addicted to)!

Before I start, I need to tell you that as I type this, Danny is singing along with Karen Carpenter to "I Can't Smile Without You" at the top of his lungs (slightly off-key). He loves this mix tape that Bil made for me and sings along with songs like "We Got the Beat" by the Bangles, "I'll Melt With You" and songs by ELO. He has pretty good taste in music. He is supposed to be napping, but I am really entertained by his singing.

Anyway, here are a few things that are getting me through this long, dreary winter:

"The Office"
Rebecca, you have completely gotten me hooked on this show and I thank you! I love "The Office" and cannot seem to get enough of it. We borrowed seasons 1 and 2 from the library and would stay up late every night watching episode after episode, laughing hysterically. Then, while I was waiting for the season 3 discs to come in, I looked for whatever episodes and clips I could find on youtube. We just finally got the first disc of season 3 and watched it in one sitting. Now I am wating for the other discs to come from Blockbuster. I feel like I am in withdrawls....I have been on NBC's website numerous times to get a fix. I cannot remember the last time I was so drawn to a TV series, especially a sitcom. Those writers are genuises!!! BTW, Dwight is my favorite, with Angela a close second.

Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig
This is my book club's recent pick and it is the hilariously funny memoirs of a teenager with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I know that sounds strange, but it really is funny and wacky. I highly recommend the book.

The New York Times crossword puzzle
Bil gets a new crossword puzzle every week on his home page from Google and we are becoming really addicted to it. We have to work together to get the puzzle done. Bil typically knows most of the clues about computers, engineering, math, science and modern music. I can usually get the literature questions, along with plays on words, etc. Anyway, nerdy? Yes, but talk to us when we are in our 90s and not suffering from dementia!

Bil has got me hooked on listening to NPR in the car. It wasn't hard to get into seeing as how we have very few stations in town to listen to that don't play country. And those stations, though they claim to play new music, end up pretty much playing the same handful of songs over and over. And they aren't typically all that recent. I mean, c'mon, WHAM hasn't been together in decades. Anyway, I am loving NPR and all that I have learned. It has been enlightening to hear about Obama and Clinton from fresh angles, and I love the music and book reviews.

Cooking Light magazine and website
Again, I have Rebecca to thank for this minor addiction. I just got my newest issue and paged through it while drooling on the pages. This magazine has such great recipes, including a decadent mint brownie recipe I made for Easter and amazingly tasty potstickers I made about a month ago. The only problem is that these recipes are so yummy it is really hard not to go overboard and eat until my jeans split..... But at least they are low-fat, though you'd never be able to tell by tasting!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

some great progress with Danny

I hope I don't bore anyone, but that is the beauty of blogs: you don't have to read them if you don't feel like it! I just had such a great day with the kids, especially Danny, which led me to think about all the breakthroughs we have had recently.

First off, I know this will sound strange to anyone not familiar with Danny's supreme dietary pickiness, but bear with me. In the past 2 weeks Danny has tried a couple of bites of a hamburger on his own and he ate an entire piece of meatloaf with no arguments. I don't think ground meat has passed his lips in at least 2 years. In fact, the only meat he has consumed in that time has been highly processed: chicken nuggets, hot dogs and pepperoni. Danny's therapist has explained that most of his problem has to do with his being very sensitive to textures, especially when there is more than one texture present. She has also explained that with therapy, he will probably eventually make progress in this area. So, the fact that he is trying new things has been so huge for us. He also has added grilled cheese to his repertoire of accepted foods. We couldn't be happier.

He has also been a veritable angel at church the last month. Church was the one place where we were really still struggling with his behavior. Partly, I think it has to do with the fact that he has little opportunity to move around in the three hours we are there. Also, there is a lot of sensory overload: tons of singing, lots of other kids having difficulty concentrating, etc. It had gotten so bad that I would come home from church crying out of frustration. I even considered quitting church. Instead, I prayed about it and begged for help. All of a sudden, I had all these ideas of how to help Danny. And they worked! I truly feel like it was a miracle. We do a bunch of exercising with Danny before church, and then after Sacrament meeting and again after his Sunday school class, we take him in an office and do some spinning on an office chair. I also collected a variety of exercise bands and he uses them to work out some of his energy. He carries around a heavy backpack in between classes. It's funny, because now Danny knows that I will come get him from his class early so that he can do his exercises. It is amazing how much more attentive and less frazzled he is now. He no longer breaks down crying during the last hour of church.

And Danny gave his first talk in Primary yesterday and it went so well. I helped him practice his talk on Saturday, but he actually helped me write it. I told him he was supposed to talk about Jesus and he said his favorite story was when "Jesus told the storm to BE QUIET!!!" He practiced his short talk at least 6 times and seemed to enjoy it. When it came time for him to speak, he came up to the podium and I showed him the pictures we used to practice. Immediately, with no prompting from me, he said, "I'm going to talk about Jesus, everybody!" I got a bit choked up when I helped him with the rest of the talk.

He has come so far and has had to work much harder than most kids his age. Everyday he is saying and doing things that amaze us. I think too we are so much more grateful for the small things than we would have been had he not struggled. For example, this winter when he finally learned how to pedal a Hot Wheels, we were ecstatic.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stuff about me you probably don't want to know

OK, Rebecca tagged me, so I am using this as yet another excuse to procrastinate working out. So, here is a bit of trivia about moi.

10 years ago.....
I was single, living in Chicago, was in grad school and teaching ESL for a community college there.

5 things on my to-do list today
* work out
* load of laundry
* go to parent-teacher conference
* babysit friend's son (who is blessedly napping right now along with Charlotte!)
* clean my sty of a bedroom

Snacks I enjoy...
* anything chocolate
* Fiber One bars (makes me feel healthy and saintly)
* chocolate peanut butter on whole wheat waffle
* bananas
* oranges

Things I would do if I were suddenly a billionaire...
* Pay off husband's student loan and mortgage
* buy a house with more storage space and better landscaping (or better yet, hire a landscaper)
* Donate money to orphanges in Russia where my niece and nephew came from
* Donate money to church's Perpetual Education Fund
* Pay off my mom's house and generally help other famly members
* Put money in kids' college/mission funds
* Put some money into retirement
* Travel!
* Go back to school

3 Bad Habits...
* can be very impatient, especially with husband (mostly take out stress on him)
* say negative things about myself
* eat for emotional reasons

Jobs I've had... (in no particular order)
* worked in a college library
* McDonald's cashier and food maker
* grocery store cashier
* worked on assembly line in a can factory during college summer
* editor in legal publishing company and at BYU Independent Study
* cafeteria worker (twice)
* Teacher (high school, college, and ESL)
* receptionist
* legal and depositions clerk in law firm
* personal assistant of two kids (I recently read about celebrity personal assistants and found that it is very similar to taking care of kids--both celebrities and kids tend to behave inappropriately and immaturely...)

5 Things people don't know about me...
* I have entertained the idea of writing professionally (maybe for magazines)
* I hate haunted houses at Halloween--no matter how cheesy, they totally scare me!
* I play the flute, but have always wished I played the saxophone
* I sometimes sing really loudly and passionately (and horribly) and dance around the room when no one is around. Or sometimes I do it with my kids, but they always say, "No singing, mommy!" Apparently, I already embarrass them.
* I think I have a broken tail bone that has never healed properly from a rollerblading accident back when I was single.

OK, well, that was fun. I think I'll go and exercise finally. Amy, it's your turn.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Homeschooling in California

I have been really interested in the latest news from California. A ruling in a case dealing with alleged child abuse by parents who homeschool might make it mandatory that any parent who homeschools have a teaching certificate. While I think it is extreme, it does appeal to me on some levels.

First, let me say that I have very ambivalent feelings about homeschooling. I admit there are parents out there who do a great job, but I also believe the number of parents capable of excelling at homeschooling their kids is quite low. I know all about the advantages: more one-on-one attention, curriculum can be tailored to the student, less time wasted on waiting for slower kids to catch up, control over what is being taught. That last one, though, really scares me. Is it really a good idea for kids to only learn what their parents want them to? Is it really advantageous to shelter a kid in such a way? Not only does it keep kids from learning diversity, but it can also mean perpetuating false information.

In the documentary "Jesus Camp" a scene shows a mother teaching her child that global warming does not exist, but is a lie of certain politicians. Now, I know for a fact that certified teachers can perpetuate misinformation (believe me, I have some stories to tell about this!) but in normal cases, a teacher is not the only source of information in a kid's life. If a child is homeschooled by mom, that is not the case. All of a sudden, mom becomes the expert on all things and the purveyor of all knowledge. There is no system of checks and balances. Mom does not have a principal who sits in on her class and gives her a review. She has no one making sure she meets the state's standards. And the kid has no one to complain to if the teacher is doing a bad job. At least with requiring parents to obtain certification, there would be some standardization of the teachers and their knowledge. Of course, it still would not guarantee they would be decent teachers.

I happen to have a friend here who was actually homeschooled by her mother in California. In my opinion, her education was severely lacking and this has hampered my friend's success in college, not to mention her social success, to some extent (but the social aspect of homeschooling is a whole different issue...). This is a woman in her late 20's who had never heard of Toni Morrison, and until recently, had never written a paper! I don't think she has read any of the classics at all. She practically had an anxiety attack on her first day at the local community college, because she was not used to classrooms. This is also a woman who routinely drops classes because she doesn't like the teacher's style. She has a difficult time pacing herself and working on her own and is easily frustrated because the teacher does not hold the students' hands. I have seen her struggle many times, all because she had never learned certain skills in high school.

I have seen in Chicago, too, some cases of bad homeschooling. Cases where the kid really was not being taught what she should have been. My friend here claims that anyone can homeschool and she is contemptuous of the idea that a parent who homeschools needs a college education. This of course rankles me. I am not unbiased, as I have taught teenagers and adults in various settings for more than 6 years. I have seen the results of bad teaching, and it is not pretty. But it is one thing to get a bad Chemistry teacher one year in high school; at least the damage is restricted to just one year and one subject. Not so, with homeschooling. You don't get a fresh start each year with new teachers, who have new teaching methods. You also never learn how to deal with different personalities and teaching techniques. After all, part of education is learning how to learn in less than ideal situations.

I am not saying I would never, ever consider homeschooling. I doubt I would, but you never know. What I do know, though, is that anyone who wants to teach kids should have a very firm grasp of the knowledge he/she is trying to impart, which in my opinion, means the parent or teacher should have a degree higher than a high school diploma. Teaching is a very serious responsibility and should not be taken lightly, whether you are teaching one child or a whole classroom.

Anyway, I doubt California will uphold the judge's ruling. There are way too many angry parents and even Governor Schwarzenegger is against it. Too bad, because I think they may be onto something......

Friday, March 7, 2008


You probably all know this already, but I love Jane Austen. Her books are among my favorites and are also some of the only books I have read multiple times. I have seen most of the film adaptations of her books, even the quirky, sometimes misguided films that are set in modern times. I took a senior seminar on her works in college and have read biographies of her. If it is about Jane Austen, chances are, I will read or watch it with relish.

Which is why I was so surprised when I picked up my dog-eared copy of Pride and Prejudice the other day. I had decided to reread it; for some reason I was in an Austen mood. What surprised me was how genuinely entertained I was. I thought I would just read a few chapters and then move on to something less familiar, something more suspenseful, if just by virtue of the fact that I hadn't read it numerous times. But no, the book sucked me in as if I were reading it for the first time. I can't seem to put the thing down. I already know exactly what is going to happen next, yet, I can't wait to read all about it. I forgot how succinct and elegant Austen's prose is and how funny and acerbic her obervations. And of course, there are her characters: flawed, but irresistible, entertaining and realistic.

I think with all the movies and books based on Austen's novels, I forgot how inimitable her style is. I think I may reread all her books. At the very least, I will probably turn to Emma and Persuasion in the next few months. I want to reread and rediscover them, too.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Down with the Virus! (and Pulaski Day)

This virus is not only long-lasting, but really sneaky and mean-spirited! I was sick all last week with a terribly painful sore throat, but I started to feel better at the weekend. By Sunday, I had almost all my energy back and my throat barely hurt at all. I was ecstatic: health was on its way back!

Which is why yesterday, when I woke up, I was so surprised. Despite almost 11 hours of sleep, I was exhausted and weak feeling. I had no appetite (which in itself is an alarming symptom for me!) and then became so cold nothing would warm me up. At one point, I had on thick socks, really warm slippers (they normally make my feet sweat), sweats, a t-shirt, sweatshirt and a thick robe, which I then covered up with a down comforter. I was still cold. And so tired.

Of course, yesterday just happened to be Pulaski Day, so Danny had no school. So not only is this virus mean and insidious, but it is also calculating, waiting to strike when I can least afford to be bed-ridden.

I made it to the kids' nap time, barely. I think I actually let them eat several granola bars each for lunch. It is all a bit fuzzy; I may be suppressing the memories out of guilt or maybe it is fever-induced amnesia. Anyway, I laid down to nap with the kids and pretty much never did get back off the couch until Bil got home. I must have gotten up once to get Charlotte out of bed, but I don't remember it.

I just lay groaning on the couch and praying. Praying that the kids would not have an accident or get into anything that stains carpets. At one point, I remember Danny bringing me the applesauce and I told him to go get two bowls out and make a bowl for Charlotte. I heard him in the kitchen rummaging around and then saying to Charlotte, "Here, Charlotte, this is for you." Thank goodness nobody called DCFS. I swear I would have been reported. It made me think of those newspaper articles about kids who were left alone for days at a time and survived by eating ketchup and mustard. My poor kids.

Bil FINALLY came home bearing a pizza and, bless his soul, he took control of the situation with no complaint whatsoever. He did say, "Wow, I had no idea you guys could make such a mess," but it was more in a tone of wonderment than condemnation. He fed, cleaned and changed the kids, cleaned the whole kitchen, whose floor was covered with train tracks, craft supplies, and a generous helping of Cheerios...all floating in an inch of water. He even called a friend from church to come and help him give me a blessing. My hero!

Anyway, my fever finally broke and we went to bed early. I feel so much better today, especially after the long-overdue shower this morning. Still, I am nervous. Is the virus trying to lull me into a false sense of health, only to strike when I least expect it? Why is this virus doing this to me? I told Bil we should name the virus. It has stayed with our family so long, I feel that we should all be on a first-name basis. Any name suggestions? Bubonic seems too long and is already taken.