Sunday, February 28, 2010

This girl

On the way home from church today:
"Mommy, sometimes people die, and Jesus says, 'No! Stop doing that right now!' And I like butterflies. And Jesus likes chicken and rice. And Jesus doesn't want us to run in the road, but there's no cars. But sometimes there's cars. And Jesus doesn't want us to fight."

Sounds like she's learning something in nursery. But who taught her that Jesus likes chicken and rice? From the mouth of babes, I guess.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dear baby

{This is me the day before giving birth to Eva. You may not recognize me with my nose the size of a Twinkie, but it is in fact me. Me, over 200 pounds. I'm sorry, did you think I was kidding when I said I was swollen? And look at the size of that BELLY!}

Dear baby,
Here you are at 12 and a half weeks gestation. I know you are so small and your brain probably can't process much. But I have a very important request. I'm asking this early on, before it's too late.

You see, I am the type of mama who gets fat when I'm pregnant. My belly isn't cute, at all. It's massive and stretches across my whole body - even my back. So what I'm asking is if you could somehow curl up in such a way that I look like one of those cute girls carrying around a basketball under their shirt. Don't spread your baby-ness to other parts of my body. Take all those calories you are making me crave and use them for energy to make me into a cute pregnant woman.

I just worked so hard to shrink down and now, just shy of the second trimester, my jeans are already getting tight. Too soon, baby, too soon. There is plenty of time to grow later. Please keep me un-pregnant-looking as long as possible. And if you must start poking out, please try to look cute and round.

Thank you.

Your partner in growing,


Friday, February 26, 2010

Thoughts on my traveling man

There are times when I think, "Yeah. That's why I married Andrew. He gets me."

Like in January, when he was coming home from a trip a few days before my birthday. He made a stop in Tennesee and found Bluebell ice cream at a little store. Knowing how much I adore Bluebell ice cream, he bought a little cooler and filled it up with a bunch of little containers of different flavors. He flew it home himself (self-imported Bluebell!) and gave it to me as a surprise (early) birthday present. Unfortunately, much of it had melted and refrozen and had lost the creamy texture that defines Bluebell. But it was still delicious because of the way it had gotten into my hands.

Or like yesterday. I was at my wit's end with housework and the children and didn't know what to do. Andrew and I were chatting on Skype (since his internet connection is so bad we can't have a vocal conversation, we have to chat like 15-year-olds) (lol brb). Sensing my frustration (after I typed "I hate Skype"), he says, "Take the kids somewhere. Go to the gym." I was again filled with frustration. The gym and I have a negative relationship going on right now. I don't WANT to work out, but I know I SHOULD, and it's a big, complicated, mental problem I have. So him telling me to go was enough to push me into tears.
I almost typed "I don't want to go" but instead sat there crying to the screen. He continued, "Go to the gym at least for the babysitting. You need some time for you. Take some earphones and just watch TV while riding the bike. Or go swimming. Or just buy a smoothie and just sit there and drink it while the kids are away from you in daycare." As I read his words, I started crying even harder, but not out of frustration anymore.
That is exactly what I needed him to say. Go to the gym for me. Not because I'm getting fat already or because we are wasting money on a membership by not using it. But to get a break from the kids and nothing else. I agreed to go and, still crying the whole time (pregnant much?), got ready to go to the gym.
I ended up swimming - 30 minutes of a workout and 30 minutes of play time. You know, like 7 year olds do. Floating around, diving down to play tea party, blowing was very therapeutic. As I showered and got ready to get the kids back, I said a (tearful, of course) prayer of gratitude for Andrew and the way he knew just what to say to me. It's not always that way, of course. Sometimes he says the way wrong thing. But sometimes, when it matters most, he is exactly right.

I love you, honey.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Best Spinach-Artichoke Dip EVER

I love food. I love to make and eat food - new recipes every week. One of my very favorite foods - top 5 at least - is Spinach Artichoke dip. The first time I tasted this was in college, and my roommate Kristi's parents took all of us out to eat at TGI Fridays. I fell in love. While Andrew and I were engaged, I always bought and heated up the frozen Friday's dip. Totally unhealthy, but so delicious that I could easily eat the whole pan by myself.

Our first year of marriage, we hosted a Christmas party with all our neighbors, and I went all out on planning the food. I found a recipe in a Kraft magazine for Spinach Artichoke dip, and I knew my time had come to make my own dip. I made it, and even after quadrupling the amount of cheese it called for, it still wasn't the best ever.

When we moved here to Washington, I started having playgroups with Melanie and Marelize. At one such gathering, Melanie made THE spinach-artichoke dip. The one that changed my life and the way I felt about dips in general. It was the BEST I have ever tasted. I forced her to make it for me several times, and at last, like a bird learning to fly, I made it on my own. For last year's Christmas party.
And then again last week as a thank-you to Neal Minetto for babysitting my kids. But really, I shouldn't have given it away. This dip is sacred. It is incredibly cheesy, salty, garlicky, and delicious. Perfection, really. You MUST make this dip. Serve it with tortilla chips or bread, or, heck. Just eat it straight out of the pan. I know you'll want to.

The Best Spinach Artichoke Dip EVER

1 8-oz. package cream cheese (at room temp)

1/4 c. light sour cream

2-3 wedges of Laughing Cow cheese

1/2 c. grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1/4 c. grated mozzarella cheese

1/4 c. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp., heaping, of minced garlic

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. garlic salt

1/2 tsp. lemon juice

1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

1/2 c. chopped spinach (if you use the frozen kind, make sure to squeeze out all the excess water)

sea salt and pepper to taste

Cream together cheeses, mayo, garlic, basil, garlic salt, and lemon juice. (I just mash and stir with a big spoon until it's farily smooth.) Add chopped artichoke hearts and spinach. Mix well until blended. This can be stored in the fridge until ready to use - great to make ahead. Spray 8 x 8 pan with non-stick spray, pour in dip and smooth. Top with extra mozzarella cheese until the top is satisfyingly cheesy. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Let cool enough that you don't scald your tongue, and then dive right in.
p.s. I know that picture is absolutely horrible. It makes the dip look revolting. But it was the best I could do at the time. And I know I'm one of those people who is bad at posting pics, so I trying to improve on that, at least. I promise it's way better than that dark picture makes it look.
p.p.s. Thank you Melanie, for giving me the recipe and improving the quality of life of any and all who may taste this dip.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some days...

Some days, the sun never makes an appearance, and normally that doens't bother me. But sometimes it does.

Some days, I start the day out with a list of things to do and a certain amount of energy. But by the time afternoon rolls around, I glare at my list with hatred and anger and don't feel like doing anything.

Some days, I can't think of anything for the kids to do. My mind is exhausted, so I flop on the couch in a reclined position and let them slide down my legs like I'm a human playground. For 30 minutes.

Some days, I have good leftovers in the fridge for dinner, but I'm too lazy to warm them up (and don't want to create more dishes to wash). So we have cold cereal for dinner.

Some days, no matter how many times I pick up the toys, I still go to bed with the house looking like a tornado hit.

Some days, the piles of clean laundry threaten to overtake the house. So I shut the laundry room door and try to pretend clothing doesn't exist.

Some days I sit and read to the kids forever, and although I know it's a good thing to do, I feel like I should be doing something more productive.

Some days, being a mom is really stinking hard.

Some days are like yesterday.
But today is a new day. I WILL mop the kitchen floor, if it's the last thing I do. I will get the clean laundry folded AND put away. I may not do everything right, and I might lost my patience a couple times, and there might still be legos strewn across the floor by 8pm. But I'm just going to keep trying.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I've lost control of my appetite, and it has nothing to do with pregnancy.

I was at the park with the kids on a beautiful, warm, sunny day. I was chatting with Marelize and enjoying not being in the house when I saw a car pull up at a house across from the park, and a mother and daughter got out. The daughter was wearing a green vest. Marelize said, "Oh, they must be delivering Girl Scout cookies!" My heart pounded. Delivering them? When had they taken orders? Marelize said a month ago.

No. No. It couldn't be. Had I missed my chance to enjoy the most delicious annual treat? I sprinted across the road and breathlessly asked the mother if I could still order some. My soul filled with joy as she said yes. With shaking hands, I wrote down what I wanted on her very-full order form. 1 box of Tagalongs, 1 box of Samoans, and 3 boxes of Thin Mints. (Thin Mints are one of life's greatest pleasures, you know.)

My 5 boxes were delivered a few hours later, and I handed over the $20 check without batting an eye. (It's a good thing Andrew isn't home.) We first dug into the Tagalongs for a late-afternoon snack. Oh, they were incredible.

That night after the kids were in bed, I was watching the Olympics and talking to Andrew on the phone. I brought a package of Thin Mints on the couch with me while I watched and talked. Before I knew it, over half the package was gone. Boy, are those things easy to pound. And heavenly.

Yesterday...we finished off the Tagalongs. (Really, there aren't that many in the box. Not enough.) Okay, I finished off the Tagalongs. And the package of Thin Mints. Come on, there were only like 6 left. Last night during my Olympic session I brought to the couch the box of Samoans. They are so sweet and rich that I could only eat 2. I counted that as a blessing, seeing as I had already eaten about 3,000 calories of cookies that day.

But I can't help myself. It's a once-a-year splurge, and I haven't bought any since we've been married. I figure once they are gone, they are gone.

Except I know the Girl Scouts will be sitting outside Walmart next week, tempting me once again. And I can't promise I won't stop and buy a case of Thin Mints. I hear they freeze well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

An angry rant on the topic of the BYUs

{This is Laura}
I have a few words to say concerning BYU vs. BYU-Idaho.

My sister Laura, after months of planning on getting into BYU and having her living arrangements worked out, ended up not getting in. As her backup and "only other option," she settled for going to BYU-Idaho. My parents were disappointed in her, I'm sure, as my Dad is BYU's most ardent fan.

This attitude makes my blood boil. The attitude that BYU-I is a lesser school and second best and a fall-back for anyone who doesn't get into the Lord's true university. I know I shouldn't feel these emotions, and they usually remain dormant. But when I get the feeling from people that my school - the place I love probably most in the world - is not good enough, I want to wring their necks.

I admit that BYU probably has higher academic standards. It probably is harder to get in there. It's a much bigger school, and they have many top-ranking programs. But I would be hard-pressed to say that anyone who goes to BYU is smarter or more intelligent or studied harder than I did simply because of the school they attended. Just because someone goes to BYU doesn't mean they are more "chosen" than a BYU-I student. I know nobody would ever say that out loud or even concsiously think it, but I guarantee you it's in people's psyches. The feeling of superiority in some BYU students - even long after they have left it - is very insulting.

And just for the record, I DID get into BYU. I think there is a mistaken assumption in my family that I didn't. I got in, twice - once when I first applied, and once again when I was thinking about transferring, which I thankfully never did or it would have taken me another year to finish school. I (gasp!) CHOSE BYU-Idaho over BYU. I didn't WANT to live in Provo. I am so grateful I went to Idaho, for so many reasons. I may not have gone to the world's best business school or whatever blah blah blah, but I went where I was meant to go.

So please, PLEASE (my Andersen family members), please do not think Laura simply isn't good enough for Provo. There is a mission for her to fulfill in Idaho, just as there was for me. There are wonderful things for her to learn that she might not ever learn at BYU. The Spirit is so strong on that campus, and she will have some amazing experiences.

Let's all get rid of this sickening attitude that those who go to BYU-I just aren't as good as the BYUers. For real.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My beanbag adventure, and a little aside about my girls' camp trauma

The other day as I was researching things I wanted/needed to get for Eva's preschool program (more about that later), I saw some beanbags. I thought, "I could make some beanbags."

I googled online for a beanbag tutorial and found this adorable one from Lil' Blue Boo. Um, hello? Those are the cutest beanbags I've ever seen in my life. So the next morning (Thursday) I got brave and took both kids the the craft store to get some fabric and everything else I needed. I got fabric. But after Leighton was leaning way out of the cart and throwing every bottle of puff paint he could reach on the floor, I decided to forego painting the letters on the front for now. A plain beanbag is good enough, right?

Friday afternoon, I laid out the fabric on my coffee table. I was a little nervous, as this was to be the first sewing project I had ever carried out completely on my own. Kind of a big deal. I ironed the fabric (aren't you proud, Mom?) and then got to cutting. I loosely followed the tutorial, although I just found a mark that looked right to me on my ruler without knowing the exact size. But they were all the same size, so it was a victory indeed. I matched up all the fabrics and found that I had 24 beanbags. Whoa. Way more than I intended - apparently I got a little cutting-happy. Oh well.

I sat down at my machine and got to work. It took a little practice to get everything just right. My machine tried to battle with me, but I pulled out the instruction manual and put that little Singer right in its place. After sewing a few squares, the hum of the machine became relaxing. It was like an out-of-body experience and I had suddenly become my mother. The hum of that machine is the background noise of my late childhood, in a way.

As I sewed, I started thinking about how I would blog about this project. About how I would post pictures of the finished product and feel so proud of my accomplishment. I tried to think of a good opening line for my post, one that would convey the idea that I got this crazy idea and totally carried it out. Like "The other day I got a wild hair and..." There was a certain phrase I was trying to think of...something about a bee. I ran through the options in my mind. A bee in my hat? No. A bee in my underwear? No. A bee in my pants? In my brain?

But the underwear one brought back a memory of that one time at girls camp (about age 15) when I was in the bathroom stall changing out of my swim suit. I put my underwear on and felt a little lump right at the crease of my thigh, you know the spot? I reached in and pulled out a full-on BEE. FROM MY UNDERWEAR. Funny memory, but not the right phrase. The words eluded me, and I pondered as I sewed. I got all 24 squares done, turned them right-side out, and ironed them again. (Mom, for real, are you proud of me?) (I NEVER iron.)

Saturday night I had Monique over for scrapbook night, but instead of scrapbooking, I worked on my beanbags. It was slow going. I don't own a funnel, so I was pretty much filling up the dang things bean by bean. I top-stitched around them all to make them look pretty. After a couple hours, I had completed 6 beanbags. Here they are, for your viewing pleasure.
Oh, and I remembered the phrase. So here's my opening line, as a closing line instead:

The other day, I got a bee in my bonnet. I made some beanbags.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Speaking of cheese, still

Tonight for dinner I made one of my favorite meals. It takes about 5 minutes to make, and it is almost an exact duplicate of my favorite dish at the Spaghetti Factory. There are 3 ingredients: spaghetti, butter, and Myzithra cheese.

Myzithra is a Greek cheese made from sheep's milk. It is dry and salty and DELICIOUS. I have only ever found it at Safeway in the specialty cheese section. It's slightly expensive, but totally worth every penny. It's perfect for a quick dinner - just cook up however much spaghetti your family will eat, melt a pat of butter on top and toss to coat, then grate enough cheese for about 1/4 c. per person. (If you are like me - I want every noodle strand coated with Myzithra goodness.)

I had another post planned for today,'s Saturday. I'll be back tomorrow. With a post NOT about cheese.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My stinky fridge, and a weird dream

My fridge has had a weird smell for a while. Every time Andrew and I thought we had found the source of the smell and disposed of it, the next day led to more confusion as the smell remained. Yesterday morning I opened the fridge and was again grossed out and puzzled. Then my eye caught something at the very back of the middle shelf. I moved everything out of the way (that wasn't the first time, by the way) and found...

my big Costco container of feta cheese WITH THE LID OFF.

Bingo. And disgusting-o.

It had fallen behind the shelf - probably got knocked back when someone pushed the soy milk in a little too vigorously - and was practically invisible to the casual observer. I threw it away, and within a few hours my fridge smelled normal again. Mystery solved, happy ending.

But then last night I had a dream. In my dream, I was with my friend Monique (that's mostly who it was, although in my dreams a person is never just one person), and she was telling someone how I don't like cheese. She said, "Stephanie mostly just likes cheddar, but even that she picks off her food and gives it to us." I tried to interrupt her lies. "No! I love cheese! I love feta, and gorgonzola, and blue cheese..." but nobody was listening. This unknown audience was totally falling for half-Monique's dream lies about my not liking cheese.

So in case you were there in my dream and you believed her, let me say that I LOVE cheese. Despite the unfortunate feta incident, which makes my pregnant stomach churn just thinking about it, I am still a big cheese fan. That's all.
P.S. My current favorite cheese, the kind that I ate almost the whole block in one day, is Boursin Garlic & Herbs. It's expensive, but it is oh-so-worth-it. I think I'll go finish it off for breakfast.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Life by Winter Olympics

The other night, Andrew and I sat watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics together. Olympics are a big deal to us. As we sat watching, I realized that if I measured my life in winter Olympics, it looked pretty good.

Salt Lake City, 2002 - I was a senior in high school. In Orem, UT. I never even stepped foot at the Olympic Park. Although it was less than an hour's drive from my home, I never took the chance to go. (Big regret.) I did win tickets (from some contest at school) to go see a luge competition, but I didn't go. Because it was on Sunday, and because I had no idea what the luge was. Andrew went with his brother Perry to something, but we didn't know each other at the time. If only my high school self had known my future husband was standing mere minutes from me, I would have sacrificed life and limb to get to Salt Lake and see him. Little did I know. :)

Nagano, 2006 - Andrew and I were engaged. We sat in my nasty apartment in Colorado Springs, on a nasty little couch, watching all the Olympics we could and kissing during all the commercial breaks, I'm sure. We were crazy in love and less than 4 months from getting married.

Vancouver, 2010 - Once again, we are not too far from the location of the Olympics. Vancouver is just a few hours from us. But after looking at ticket prices for the events I would want to attend, I decided ice skating was NOT something I would sacrifice life and limb, or $200, to see. So there we were on the couch together again, with two kids sleeping upstairs and one happily gestating. Not kissing at every commercial break, but contentedly being together for one of the last nights before Andrew's trip.

I can't even imagine what the summary will be 4 years from now. But I can't wait to see.
P.S. We are DVRing the entire Olympics. And I have to admit that I always fast forward through biathlons of any kind, any event that doesn't have an American or someone with a touching story, and lame commercials. I like the Visa ones, and the P&G one makes me cry every time. You know, this one. Admit it, you teared up a bit.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One month

Today is exactly one month since the last time I blogged. Not much has changed since then. My hair is a little longer, and I got a pretty necklace from my father-in-law for Valentine's Day (both pictured above). I still have really fat cheeks (also pictured above. Thanks, Dad, for that genetic gift.) I didn't mean to go this long without talking to you, but now that it's an anniversary of sorts...I'm back. Andrew left yesterday, for the first time in a while. He's going to be gone a long time. So I made a goal to blog every day while he's gone.

For my first post of many consecituve posts, here is a bit of news:

We are moving to Las Vegas! There is a "For Rent" sign up in our front yard, and we have put an offer on a beautiful house (with a gigantic kitchen) in Las Vegas. We won't be moving until June, so we still (thankfully) have a little while here. Andrew is making a permanent change of careers and switching to one that won't require him to watch his children grow up on Skype. We put a lot of prayer into this decision and feel very good about it for our family. (We made the decision around the first of January.) Obviously I have mixed emotions, as I LOVE it here. We have some amazing friends waiting for us in Vegas, and I can't wait to live near them again. I'm just trying not to think about the moment when I actually physically drive away from Washington and my beautiful house with the green kitchen, never to see it again. It makes me sad, even with all the wonderful things we have to look forward to. In the desert. Where is never rains and I will probably sweat every single day. Eww. But my husband will live with me almost every day of the year, and I will sacrifice any amount of sweat for that.

Next bit of news: Andrew and I recently went on a cruise with my skinny sister Lindsay and her husband Kenny. (I feel like I should add in an adjective for Kenny after saying Lindsay is skinny. Buff Kenny. Funny Kenny. Fair?) We left from Galveston on the first of February, leaving all 4 grandchildren with my mom.

We had a fabulous time. 2 chilly and windy and non-tropical days at sea where I wished I had brought more than one sweatshirt, one stop in Progreso where we visited the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, one stop in Cozumel where we lounged on the beach with chips and guacamole and virgin strawberry daquiris, one night of me throwing up, one unfortunate accident where aerodynamic Andrew went down a water slide and put his toes through the grate at the bottom and lost most of the skin off his feet, many hours of playing Nertz and Hand & Foot, lots of yummy food (and I mean LOTS), and lots of laughing.

I was smart this morning and blogged before the kids woke up. It seems that may be the only way to make this daily-blogging goal possible. So expect to see more morning posts from me for the next month. I'm off to do more laundry and avoid the guilt from my NEVER working out anymore. Those fat cheeks aren't going anywhere any time soon.