Merry Christmas!

The last month has been a happy blur of Christmas stuff. I tried something I’d never done before and made pajama bottoms for my boys because they found flannel with a Tardis pattern on it at JoAnn’s a few months back and fell in love with it.

Thanks to my SIL, who helped me cut out the fabric and learn how to use a pattern (and because she’s very talented, made a pattern for Robo’s pajamas).


Robo was still sleeping when I took this picture.


I could not for the life of me find a black long-sleeved t-shirt in Robo’s size, but his baby blue looks cute, I think.


Last night before going to bed

Merry Christmas to loved ones near and far.

The enemy’s gate is dinner.

Warning: Mild Ender’s Game spoilers ahead.

When I was in my early teens, I really liked reading girl books, like horse books, Nancy Drew novels, the Little House on the Prairie series, and some fantasy. So when my dad told me I absolutely had to read Ender’s Game, I resisted. For years. His summary was something like this:

There’s this alien race that almost wiped out humanity, so humanity needs to raise a military genius so that if and when they ever come back, we won’t be wiped out. To raise such a military genius, the military trains promising kids in space in a battle school. The book is about one such kid, and he plays battle games, but he’s so good at it that they keep making the game harder and harder for him, stacking the odds against him. It’s like if the game was chess, they would take away his queen at the beginning of the game. Then, when he still wins, they give the opponent two queens and him none. And so on.

This summary still sounded totally not like my thing, so I didn’t read it until I basically had to for a class in high school. And of course I loved it and fell in love with science fiction as a whole and read everything by Orson Scott Card and met my husband through his web site, so yeah. My dad was right.

The reason I’m posting about Ender’s Game today, though, has to do with the dinner game. I mean, even the moms (and dads) who love to cook struggle to come up with something yummy, nutritious, and fast enough to put on the table every single night. It’s not an easy part of being an adult.

But I feel lately like I’m Ender and the odds are increasingly stacked against me. I am pretty good about planning and shopping for meals well ahead of time, and I usually have cooked real meals every night. I can say that there has only been one occasion when we had cereal or sandwiches for dinner. Yeah, we do hot dogs or frozen pizza or fast food on a fairly regular basis, but on the whole, I was pretty decent at the whole dinner thing.

When Jonathon and I got married, I worried about what we would eat. I am very picky about dairy. Basically, anything cultured is a no for me (with the exception of mozzarella on pizza). I don’t eat cheese, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, even butter (unless it’s in things and not very noticeable). Meanwhile, Jonathon doesn’t eat potatoes or some other vegetables. He doesn’t care for soy sauce. What this meant was that we had to try a lot of new recipes when we were first married. We fell in love with Thai and Indian food together, and we ate a fair amount of Mexican food (I would just leave off the dairy). I joked that we’d be in big trouble if our kids didn’t like spicy food or meat.

Well. Let me tell you.

Lego and Duplo refused to eat anything even slightly spicy for years. They are only recently coming around to Mexican food (and the past few months are actually eating Indian and Thai food without too much complaint, even though they don’t prefer it). But El Guapo is almost completely a vegetarian. He used to eat hot dogs, but now he doesn’t. At least soft, easy to chew chicken is now on his okay-to-eat list, where it wasn’t for a long time. Ground beef is a definite no, as is pepperoni, sausage, pork, roast beef, steak, and any chicken that is too dry or tough for him. Duplo didn’t like rice for a long time, but he’s finally eating it as long as it isn’t plain. Lego doesn’t like tomatoes but will tolerate them in some sauces (not spaghetti sauce, alas).

And that was before Robo joined our family.

Plus, I teach piano until 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, until 6 p.m. on Friday, until 4 p.m. on Wednesday (but I hold cub scout den meetings in my home at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays), and until 4 p.m. on Mondays (but we have Family Home Evening at 7 p.m. on Mondays). Dinner is ALWAYS rushed and almost always late (6:30 to 7:00 p.m.).

Now, here are my restrictions on dinner:

  1. Must not contain potatoes
  2. Must not contain wheat
  3. Must not contain dairy
  4. Must not contain eggs
  5. Must not contain nuts of any kind (except coconut)
  6. Must not be too spicy
  7. Must contain enough calories if El Guapo chooses not to eat the meat portion
  8. Must be able to be prepared in one hour, start to finish (almost every day)
  9. Must not be too expensive (Robo’s allergies require us to buy expensive foods for breakfast and lunch, so I try not to go overboard at dinner)

Some people recommend using my crock pot, and I like the idea of that, but so many crock pot recipes are soups or meat-with-vegetables concoctions that are no-goes for my family. Or they contain dairy. Or wheat.

I remember when I found out what Robo’s allergies were, and I sat down with my list of dinner ideas to see what was still on the list. Black beans and rice: check! Mexican food with corn tortillas or shells: check! Thai and Indian food: check!

There was one category that was almost completely eradicated, and that was the “easy meals” category. No more chicken nuggets (wheat, eggs, dairy). No more frozen pizza. No more hamburgers or hot dogs (buns), macaroni and cheese, omelettes, breakfast for dinner, quick quesadillas, bread-based meals, etc. And almost all fast food or pizza restaurants have nothing to offer that Robo isn’t allergic to. So giving up and ordering in is usually not an option anymore. Even gluten-free pizza crust contains eggs.

Lately, I have been making two meals, one easy one like macaroni and cheese for Jonathon and the older boys and one Robo-friendly one for me and Robo (gluten-free spaghetti, tacos, and stir fry are some favorites). But making two meals, even two easy meals, is a LOT of work, and, worse, it makes a LOT of dishes.

I’m still doing it. My family eats dinner every night. But I have come to hate dinner, to feel like the whole things is rigged, and to put off starting it in the evening, which makes the whole thing later and worse. Ugh. Ender got to confront Graff about the whole thing. Who do I call to complain?

Our Home

It has been almost five months since I posted last. What a whirlwind these last months have been! I almost haven’t had time to think, let alone write about everything. House hunting, keeping a house spotless (mostly) for showings, packing up to move, vacation in Washington, DC, and surrounding areas (fantastic!), closing on our house, moving, unpacking, two family reunions, and five birthday celebrations, all before mid-July.

I have been so happy with our new home and excited to share pictures, especially with those of you who live far away, but there has always been a reason why I wasn’t ready to post them. There were boxes everywhere at first, and when we unpacked, we still hadn’t hung art or painted. Then, we finally did paint, but there was a lot of clutter remaining from the painting process until we were all the way finished. Last weekend, Jonathon finished painting the living room and painted all of the office (go Jonathon!), and I have spent the week getting everything clean and pretty. I finally whipped out my handy dandy phone and took some pictures today.

I still am not ready to post pictures of bedrooms, but I am really excited about the potential in our master bedroom. I can’t wait to furnish, decorate, and paint in there! At least we bought curtains. 🙂

So, without further ado, here’s the house! First up, the front room, which I am using as my piano studio.


I will hang some art above the piano, but otherwise, it’s pretty much done. I love having all my piano music and teaching supplies close at hand and a room that is separate from our living space so I don’t have to banish my kids from their usual play places when I teach.


I’m pretty pleased with the $80 green couch I found on KSL and the throw pillows I got for $20 that almost perfectly match it but also make it look more updated.

Next up, the kitchen!


First up, the amazing island with TWELVE drawers. Can you imagine what you would do with twelve drawers in your kitchen? And yes, there’s something in each one. 😀


Another view of the kitchen. Are you a fan of the diagonal handles? Opinions seem pretty split among people who have seen them in person, so far. I like them, personally, but I don’t care that much. The backsplash is a small glass tile.

Now the living room, which is right next to the kitchen, with the dining area just behind the red couch. I didn’t take pictures of the dining area because it’s not really done yet, but use your imagination. 🙂


Okay, there’s a lot that is new here. The living room is actually a super long room with the blue curtain window at the back of the house and the love seat on the right of this picture dividing the room. Behind the love seat is the play room. Before moving in, I had been worried about how to divide the room to use it for two purposes (living room and toy room). I had considered some sort of an IKEA shelving unit, but it probably would have taken two of them to do what was needed, and I wasn’t totally sold on the idea.

The night before we moved, a tan microfiber love seat was left on someone’s front lawn just half a block away from our new house, and it had a “free” sign. We ran over with the van and brought it straight into our new house, and while it is a bit dirty (I’ve cleaned it, so it’s much better than it was then), it’s in good condition, and it works perfectly to divide the room.

I bought a set of five matching bookshelves on KSL for $105 (they were $125, but I guess the sellers felt bad because we couldn’t fit all five of them in our van at once and had to make two trips, so they gave Jonathon $20 back). They are not SUPER high quality, but they are the more expensive kind you can get at Target, which is good enough for us right now, and they look good with our other dark wood furniture.

I found the curtains for $20 on KSL (regular $70 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond). I love the branch pattern at the bottom.

But changing the curtains to blue meant the sage green and gold and brown and orange in our throw pillows didn’t work anymore, so I reupholstered them, found another couple of pillows at two different yard sales, and brought a few blue and red accessories in.

At that point, the room looked so good that the old entertainment center was sticking out like a sore thumb, so I used all the earnings from our yard sale in August to buy a new one—again, on KSL. Sensing a pattern? I don’t feel like the room is completely done, but I am very happy with how it looks.




No, I don’t actually keep the flowers and stick thingy on the end table all the time. Ten seconds after I took the picture, Robo carried both off and left them on the floor. Back up on the bookshelf they go!

Here is the play room. You can see the back of the love seat on the left and the front room on the right.


It’s usually a total mess, but I do have to say that we’re doing better keeping toys put away now that they’re right in the center of our living area. We have a wood stove in the corner that we don’t really want and don’t know what to do with. I guess we’ll just leave it for now, and if the world ends, we can use it for cooking and heat, right?


These are the other three of the five bookshelves I bought together. They are against the staircase and kind of in the play room, off to the right of the previous picture. The stairs actually stare you in the face when you come in the front door, which isn’t my favorite, but seems like a silly thing to worry about in a house I love.

Go up the stairs and you see our office. We also keep the Lego table up here in the hopes that we can keep Robo out of it because he thinks Legos and crayons are the two tastiest objects in the house. I am really looking forward to him not putting things in his mouth anymore. As I said before, Jonathon painted the office on Saturday in a burst of crazy ambition, when he finished painting the living room earlier than he had expected. It looks much better now than the rather bright green it was before. We had wanted to paint the office blue, but we had 1.5 cans of paint left of the tan and no use for them, so we just went ahead and used that. The Sherwin Williams guy thought we’d need three cans just to do the kitchen and living room, but he assumed we’d need multiple coats, and we didn’t.



So that’s the main living areas of the house. One of my favorite things about this house is the yard. It’s not huge (0.18 acres), but it is packed with goodies, like this grapevine, which produces delicious seedless grapes in abundance:




And scads of raspberry plants. That small black fence you see in the background of this picture?



It’s about 3 feet tall. So that gives you an idea of how many raspberries we’re getting every day. It’s a little overwhelming.


We have tons of raspberry plants cropping up in the garden area, which right now is growing nothing but those, weeds, volunteer tomato plants I’m trying to take care of, and asparagus plants that I will hopefully not kill by lack of know-how. Next year I will plant a real garden, but we moved too late for that this year, and the summer was too busy anyway.

Behind the grape vine, not pictured, is a covered patio where we put a picnic table and a sand box (Robo’s birthday present). Someday we’ll get a real, grown-up grill.

The front yard has an apple tree with yummy apples we’re already enjoying, even though they’re not fully ripe yet (we just eat the ones that fall and cut off any not-ideal parts).

There’s a three-car garage with ample storage and a flower bed that I planted a bunch of perennials in which are doing varying degrees of okay. Anyone know why daisies might get really bushy and healthy but not bloom?

Anyway, it’s a really, really good house for us, and it is only now, three months later, starting to feel like maybe it’s real and not a dream.


I’m having a hard time managing life and all it throws at me right now. There are five big things going on that are all big enough all by themselves, some good, some bad.

1. Robo’s allergies. He is confirmed to be allergic to wheat, dairy, peanuts, eggs, almonds, and some other tree nuts. Because I am breastfeeding him, that means I don’t eat these things either. And that means my diet is very, very restricted, and meal planning is a nightmare. You know all those easy foods you reach for when you want breakfast, or a snack, or a quick dinner? Yeah, I can’t have any of those anymore. And dessert? It’s a pleasant memory.

2. My health issues. I haven’t talked about this much with anyone, but I have been having pretty serious digestive issues every few days since January. They go away while I am taking antibiotics, but they return soon after finishing the prescription. I still don’t know what is causing it, but it makes at least one day a week a complete waste, where I can’t really do anything but sit on the couch. I am losing weight at kind of a scary pace, and when people tell me I look great I wince inside. My goal weight post-pregnancy was 10 pounds over where I am now. I am finally starting to get taken seriously by doctors lately, though, and some more testing is being done. I had a priesthood blessing last night, so I really hope we get this figured out and kicked to the curb ASAP.

3. We are buying a house, which means we need to look at listings often because things are moving FAST, and our dream house could sell in a day or two if we don’t notice it and go see it quickly enough. We have seen 7 homes so far in the last two weeks, and we’re going to see two more tonight. And not one of them made me feel anything better than “meh.”

4. We are showing the house we are living in because our landlords are selling it. This means we need to keep it in 30-minutes-from-clean-enough-to-show condition at all times. I told the selling agent that I teach piano, so we absolutely cannot show the house during lessons. I told him when those were. But yesterday two of my students weren’t able to come, so we rescheduled for today, since I don’t usually teach on Tuesdays. Well, I got the call at 3:15 today that someone wanted to see the house between 4:30 and 5:30. Usually that would have been plenty of time to do the dishes, make the beds, tidy up a bit, sweep the floor, etc., but I was teaching from 3:30 to 4:30. And I had a van full of groceries I had to put away, which took 15 minutes. Luckily, the potential buyers showed up at 4:45, so I did have 15 minutes to do minimal tidying, and I paid Lego $3 to load the dishwasher all by himself. But I didn’t even go upstairs before they came, and the pots weren’t washed, and the beds weren’t made, and there were toys out. And I had to just drive away and let them walk through my lived-in house and hope they didn’t think less of me for it.

5. El Guapo is potty training and having a little bit of a rough time of it. He does pretty well with pee, but pretty terrible with poop. We actually just put him back in pull-ups after getting fed up with it. I worry, though, that this will just set him back even more if he thinks he can just go in the pull-up with no consequences.

6. We just found out that Lego needs to do about half the requirements for get his Wolf badge in cub scouts. I should have been keeping better track of things, I guess, but I didn’t know anything about cub scouting, and I didn’t. So he’s trying to do a few requirements each night before the next pack meeting, after which it will be too late.

7. Because of Robo’s allergies, I am supposed to put his ointments and lotions on twice a day, bathe him at least once a day, sometimes with bleach, and keep all potential allergens away from him. The last one is the hardest because he has three big brothers who eat cookies and leave crumbs on the kitchen floor, where he finds them, or leave their Easter baskets where he can find them and eat their Butterfingers. The rest is just time consuming, and time seems to be the one thing I never have anywhere near enough of. Despite my best efforts, he’s got bad eczema 98% of the time, which causes him to be irritable and to sleep poorly.

So. Life is crazy, hard, exciting, frustrating, confusing, and exhausting lately. What else is new?

Why Three-Day Potty Training Is a Lie

It sounds nice: going from diapers to underwear, clean and dry, in less than a week. Nobody likes to clean up after accidents, and weeks or even months on end of it sounds like torture. While real potty training needn’t involve tons of accidents, there are going to be some from time to time, and for a lot longer than you think.

The thing is, potty training takes place in stages. There are several different skills that your child will develop along the way, and there is no possible way to develop all of the skills at the same time. Some are dependent on mastering others, for instance. Some are developed before your child can truly be called potty trained.

Skill 1: Desire

Okay, so desire may not be a skill exactly, but it certainly is a prerequisite for potty training. I can tell you in no uncertain terms that your child will not master potty training until they want to. So if your two-year-old still doesn’t like wearing underwear, or if your three-year-old is scared to sit on the big potty, don’t fight it. For the two-year-old, the time will come when they want to grow up and be like bigger people. When that happens, you’ll find that things go MUCH more smoothly. It might only be a month down the road, or it might be a year. Don’t panic yet.

For the three-year-old, don’t make them use a big potty. Make the process as safe and comfortable as possible, and your child may warm to it.

And for some kids, like one of mine, bribes might just be what you need to get the desire going.

Skill 2: Release

This skill involves letting go and allowing the urine or stool to exit the body. For some kids, this is almost effortless. They don’t like going in their diaper, or they notice no big difference between going in the diaper or on the potty. Some kids develop this skill as early as 12 months. I have heard some new parents get excited because their one-year-old peed or pooped on the potty, thinking they were going to get lucky and leave diapers behind forever much earlier than expected. But this is only a step on the way. Now, for some kids, release is a very hard skill to get down, and by the time they figure it out, they may have also developed the next skill as well and may actually be ready after all.

Skill 3: Recognition

Sometime along the way, your child must learn what it feels like to need to go pee or poop. This is a different knowledge than identifying when they are going. It’s a really good sign when your child says, “I’m peeing!” while wearing their diaper, but it isn’t the same. You need to teach this one, usually. Explain the place where the bladder feels full, and explain that it feels heavy or full, like it’s wanting to push the pee out. Explain that needing to go poop feels like gas is about to come out, except it’s a little easier to hold it. It may feel awkward having these conversations with your child, but if you don’t, they may take much longer to figure these things out themselves.

Skill 4: Control

Your child needs to learn not only to go on the potty, but to only go on the potty. That means holding it until they sit down. Failure to master this skill will mean lots and lots of accidents for you, the parent, to clean up. Some potty training methods have the parent schedule times (every half hour or so) to tell the child to use the potty. This is great in that the child probably won’t have as many accidents, but the child also will never learn how to control the urge to go.

Many parents try potty training with their children, failing after a few days, and then one day, it just takes off. The element that finally snapped into place was the development of control. Once these four skills are mastered, many parents will say their child is fully potty trained, and maybe they’re right. But there are a few more skills to develop, and accidents may still occur until this happens.

Skill 5: Delay

When you’re in a situation where using the restroom is inappropriate or impossible, you hold it. Your newly potty-trained child will eventually learn that they can hold it too, long enough to get to the store restroom or to drive home. And then they will want to test the limits of this ability. Sometimes they’ll be playing and try to hold it just because playing is more fun than using the bathroom. But they don’t know yet how long it’s possible to hold it, so they’ll do it just a little too long. Oops, an accident! You, the parent, may be surprised or angry. Your child has been dry for weeks. Why an accident now?

Realize that this is an important stage. By having that accident, your child learned where the too-long point is and will probably avoid it in the future. It may take a few more accidents to get the skill mastered, but it’s not usually too many.

If you find that a child who has been potty trained for a while is still having accidents from time to time (more than a few), you may want to look into whether they are constipated. Yes, even wetting pants can be a sign of chronic constipation, which can make it difficult to feel the urge to go.

Skill 6: Endurance

This isn’t really a skill either, but if your child doesn’t have the desire to go the distance, you may find that your child reverts back to having accidents every time over and over and over. You’ll potty train, then a few weeks later have them back in diapers, then potty train again, then back in diapers. This can be SO frustrating for parents who think the hard work is done, only to go back to square one!

What’s happening is that your child is realizing that using the toilet is a lot more work than diapers. Meanwhile, your praise and bribery is probably waning a little, as it should. It’s not like most kindergartners get stickers for using the bathroom! Maybe your child decides it’s not worth it to keep going, or maybe misses their diapers.

How do you encourage endurance? For my kids, it’s a matter of having a good conversation with them. Ask them what they like about using the bathroom, and share what you like about it. Ask them what they like about diapers, and really listen. Maybe their answer will tell you that they’re not really as ready as you think they are. Maybe you’ll learn what you need to do to get them to commit to underwear for good.

And if you do? You’re done!


So while teaching release may happen in a day, and teaching control might happen in three, learning delay and endurance takes much, much longer. Don’t lose hope if you have some setbacks after your three-day potty-training boot camp! It’s all part of the process, and it’s perfectly normal.

Also? If your child is a special snowflake who doesn’t develop these skills in order, or who waits a really long time on one and then rushes through the rest in a day? Yep, that happens too. It can be normal to potty train for urine but not stool, or vice versa. Kids are all different, but you and your child will find a way to potty train.

Just probably not in three days.