Tuesday, January 31, 2012

sledding hills are over-rated

So, in addition to a ring and a kitchen, Heather received a snow saucer for Christmas.

And then, we endured three weeks of unseasonably warm winter weather.  Not a snowflake in sight!

So, when we awoke one Saturday morning to find that there was snow all over the ground, I determined that this would be the day that we would go sledding.

--After we picked up our vegetables (from Bountiful Baskets).
--After we put away all those vegetables and put together a quick meal plan for the next two weeks.
--After we straightened up the house.

We determined that we would go up Logan Canyon for our sledding extravaganza.

Then, I got a little less energetic, and determined that we would go to First Dam (a Logan City park at the mouth of the canyon with several hills) for our sledding activity.

Then, I got even less energetic, and I determined that our backyard common area had plenty of snow, was accessible without a car ride, and had hills that might be steep enough for our Heather.

As it turned out, I was partially right.  There was plenty of snow, it was accessible without a car ride, and as long as I gave Heather a push that had enough "umph" behind it that I ended up planting myself in the snow front-first (which I did on purpose numerous times), Heather was able to sled to her hearts delight.



In all humililty (or let's be honest, in no humility whatsoever), I've gotta say, I'm a pretty good mom.

(Well, as long as you don't count that bit about settling for the back yard in the first place, that is.)


Friday, January 27, 2012

Random Photo Friday--devotion and drawings

This is how Eric and Heather pass the time during the vast majority of Sacrament Meeting these days:

Dog by Eric, spiky punk dog hair by Heather.  

To be honest, I love it.  I get uninterrupted listening time and I get to watch fascinating creations in progress, while Heather is quietly and happily entertained.  I think Eric enjoys it as well.  Win-win-win!

Last week Eric drew an adorable giraffe, complete with spots and those little horn thingies they have on their head.  Unfortunately, before the meeting ended a bunch of invisible "bad guys" came out and Heather was forced to hide both the giraffe and a pig behind a wall of brown crayon scribbles.  It was hard to me to see that happen, but when it comes to bad guys, we all know that no sacrifice is too great.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Being a Mom is the Bomb

(I never used that phrase when it was popular, so I'm using it now?  What's that all about?)

These are a few of my favorite things . . .

Saying "Punch it Chewy!" to Heather as we're making a quick right or left turn onto a busy street.  (gotta love that automatic transmission!)


Wrapping Heather up in a big fluffy towel after bathtime, holding her on my lap, and rubbing her all over to help her warm up.


Dancing.  Dancing as we clean the house, dancing to get wiggles out in the evening, dancing (chair dancing) in restaurants and dancing (in deserted aisles) in grocery stores.  I used to dream about dancing with my kids long long long before I had any hope of kids.  The reality is everything that I imagined and more.


Putting my cold hands on Heather's neck or tummy after I've been out in the cold and saying, Niceandwaaaarm! as she squirms and resists me.  Nothing like a good old-fashioned teasing now than then, huh?


Playing you-sing-one-word-I'll-sing-the-next games with Heather as we're running errands in the car.  Our current personal favorite is "Christmas Bells".


Cuddling on Heather's bed at the end of the day, singing the requisite two songs, followed by the nightly negotiation for "just one more, mom, please?"


The way Heather will come up to me sometimes and say, "You're such a good mom to me."
Does it get any better?


 I think not.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Christmas Report--the Southern Utah Aftermath

As you may have noticed, every year either for Christmas or between Christmas and New Years, we travel to Cedar City.  Here are some of my favorites from this year's adventure.

Favorite Event #1--The sleepover of the year:   My mom (crazy lady and stellar grandmother that she is) agreed to host a sleepover for pretty much all the grandkids.  My dad (stellar man that he is) endured it all without complaint (as far as I know).  The girls slept downstairs (and are pictured here) and the boys slept upstairs.  Unsurprisingly, all the kids had a hard time settling down for the night.  So, to help with that, Uncle Robert sat with the girls and told them a story about an elf community, where each of the elves was uncannily similar to one of the girls.  Meanwhile, Aunt ShaLiece (Uncle Robert's wife) was upstairs with the boys, telling them a story about a bunch of Smurfs, where each of the Smurfs was uncannily similar to one of the boys.  What are the chances?
Now THAT is what I call a Princess Pack!

The best part of a slumber party is a morning television pajama party the next day. 

Favorite Thing #2-The knives:  My mom & dad gave us all two Cutco knives each for Christmas (as well as some cold hard cash).  I have been coveting my mom's Cutco knives for about fifteen years now.  So, having my own little collection is a pretty big deal.

This isn't necessarily a favorite thing as much as it is a paparazzi moment.  On the right is my brother Mark, the man whose phone alarm goes off every night every five minutes between midnight and twelve-thirty, driving his wife crazy.  You would think he would just reset the alarm and save his marriage, but here's the thing:  He doesn't know how.   And yet, there he is, a man with a self-proclaimed technology disability, using his own Ipad to access files on a network miles away.

But wait!  Who is that on the left of Master Mark?  The girl exhibiting the Corry/Willis tongue, (proving that it is a nurture trait, rather than a genetic nature trait).  Could it possibly be?  Why yes, it's the quilting blogger sensation, Melissa Corry of happyquiltingmelissa.blogspot.com!  Well folks, this is quite an honor for us all to see Melissa there.  Word on the street is that she rarely comes out of her sewing room for anyone but her kids these days, and yet there she is.  What a rare treat.  I just might be able to sell this picture for big bucks.

(Lest you think this is just me, doing a little in-blog advertising at your expense, the fact is, Melissa went from zero to over 1,700 followers on her blog in a matter of 18 months.  She gets around 40,000 hits a month, and has quilt pinners madly pinning her pictures and links all over pinterest.com.  Sometimes I like to tease her about being such big stuff.  Like now, for example.)

Speaking of Master Mark, Favorite Thing #3:  The first night that we got there, once the kids were in bed (being lulled to sleep by stories of elves and smurfs), we grown-ups sat around the living room for several hours for the traditional laughing and chatting fest.  Mark kept trying to tangle the yarn I was using, taking it to a new level of stealth by initiating a complete floor contact army crawl from the room behind me.  You definitely had to be there, but I laughed until my sides ached.

Kami loves to have her picture taken.

Heather, generally not so much.  Kami is a obviously a good influence.

Favorite Thing #5-The skit:  My sister dropped off her children for a few days while she and Ryan moved their possessions to their new home in Arizona.  Once I realized that Marian (leader of all things theatrical) would be around, I specifically requested a cousin-produced skit.  That might have been a mistake.  Having all the cousins together, while lots of fun, meant that there were far more opinions and feelings to meld in the production than has ever been the case before, and it resulted in a four-hour planning session that netted two different skit ideas, several hurt feelings, and no final decision.  Eventually, the kids were given a deadline (one family had to go visit the in-laws), and within 15 minutes decisions were made, and a skit was performed that had us all in stitches.  Isn't it nice to have a happy ending?

Kami is astonished at Doug's video recording of the infamous skit.  

Favorite Thing #6--Eric:  I always love watching the nieces and nephews interact with Eric.  You know he's a great husband and father, but honestly, he's a pretty awesome uncle as well.  It's probably not the case, but I like to think that his "coolness" gives me a little "aunt capital" as well.

Love this shot.  What is better than ice cream and drooling over Uncle Eric's computer creations?  Nothing I tell you!  Nothing!

Favorite Thing #7-Success!   I defied Mark and his yarn-tangling attempts and finished this beauty.
(Okay, so that wasn't exactly a favorite thing.  It's more an excuse to put this picture up.  I'm obviously quite pleased with how it turned out.)


Favorite Thing #8--Kami:  As the fourth of five children, and being recently unseated by baby Josie, Kami is always on the lookout for grown-up interaction and attention.  At nearly three years old, she's also in prime Charlotte-friendly age.  It's a perfect combination.  Add all that to the fact that Kami was born within hours of my own birthday, and perhaps you can see why this girl holds a special place in my heart.

Mac & Cheese:  It's a documented fact that this is the preferred lunch of fairies throughout the land.

Princesses too. 

Favorite Thing #9--Shopping with ShaLiece.  We ditched the kids and braved Wal-Mart on the 27th, looking for good Christmas deals.  (and we found some too--extra large totes for $4!  Can you say yarn storage??)  For the life of us, we couldn't find my car in the parking lot when we were done.  What a sight we were, pushing these extra full carts from one side of the lot to the other, giggling at the insanity of it all.  Have you ever noticed how many white Camry/Sonata/Accord shaped cars there are these days?  It took awhile.  We swore we'd never tell anyone, but obviously I can't be trusted with that good of a story.

Favorite Thing #10-The chaos.  As you know, life with all of us in the same house gets loud.  And crazy.  And overstimulating.  And so, so, fun.  Between games and activities, and eating and jokes, and chats, and storytelling, and just all the living that goes on, it absolutely combines to be a highlight of life.


Lucky, that's us.  



Monday, January 23, 2012

Christmas Report--the Day

I didn't take very many photos on Christmas Day, because I was too busy enjoying the novelty of having a kid in my own home, a kid who wasn't a niece or nephew, and a kid who really "got" Christmas for the first time ever.  Oh my goodness, why didn't anyone tell me that would be so much fun?

(Okay--lots of people told me it would be so much fun.  They were right.  One hundred percent right.)

If you look on Heather's indext finger, you can see "the ring that will live in infamy."




After we opened presents (I got a jar of raspberry vinegar from Santa --a definite indulgence at $8 for a small bottle, and a beautiful necklace from Eric, among other gifts) and played a bit,

. . . it was time to gussy up and get to church.

Church was lovely.  As you will remember, Heather spent the hour telling anyone who would listen about the ring that Santa Claus brought her.

After church, Eric took a (well deserved) nap, and Heather and I watched the Winnie the Pooh movie that Santa had brought.  Afterwards, we went out to Grandma and Grandpas for Christmas Dinner and some additional present opening.  I took no pictures whatsoever.  As usual (and as expected), it was a glorious time.

As night approached, we hopped in the car and went back home.  We wanted to catch up on our sleep, because the next day we were heading to Cedar City for even more present opening, and even more cousin time.  Does it get any better?

Tune in later to find out!!!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Christmas Report--The Eve

As you know, we spent the morning of Christmas Eve playing (freezing) in the canyon.  After a lunch of Mexican food, Aunt Donna and Uncle Steve came over for some pre-Christmas clothes opening.  They also left two other gifts, with instructions that they should be opened after Santa came.

Then, after a quick nap and some time to change and gussy up a little bit, it was time to meet the rest of the Cantwell family for our Christmas Eve Extravaganza!

We had a delicious dinner, some great conversation, and lots and lots of playing by Heather (next to mom and grandma, and maybe grandpa and dad, cousins are Heather's absolute favorite thing in life).  Then it was time to gather for the traditional nativity scene enactment.  With two infants, we had actresses who could have been ideal for the Baby Jesus role, but all things considered, their mothers were understandably concerned about leaving their precious babes in the hands of children who might have been more concerned with whether or not their bathrobe-esque clothing was on tight enough than whether or not said baby would be hitting the floor at any point in the production.  (Can you say run-on sentence?)  So, we used a baby doll instead.

Before Grandpa started reading the scriptural narration, I took the opportunity to get some individual portraits of all our participants.

Shepherd Nate
Cecily as the Coy Cow
Sheep Heather
Exuberant Angelic Eli
There were other participants as well (Joseph and Mary, for example), but they aren't pictured here, due to some possible privacy concerns.

After the scene, costumes were put away for another year, and we spent some time singing and listening to Christmas Carols together.  Some of our nephews are becoming quite accomplished pianists, and we were treated to renditions of "Frosty the Snowman" and "Oh Holy Night" which were particularly impressive.

And then, it was time to head home, where we put Heather to bed, and where Eric eventually ended up staying up until 2:00 a.m., putting together the kitchen for Santa Claus.

But you already know all about that story . . . 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Robot Hero Guardian Archive: File # 112011

So, over Thanksgiving (yes, I'm a little behind on videos), our Robot Hero Guardians did some major work together on their attack and defense plans.  I was able to get this particular plan archived.

You should know that Spencer was rather hesitant to let me film this plan.  However, Eric assured him that he often has me take videos of his robot intelligence and records, so he can keep them in his files.  Once Spencer learned that, he was much more amenable to the idea of sharing it with me.

You should also all know that this video is encrypted in such a way that if you are not 100% human, you will not be able to view it, and will only see blank lines and hear a shrieking fingernails-on-chalkboard-sound that will blow out your eardrums immediately.

So, if you are an enemy robot or dragon, you do not want to click on the "play" button.  

You got me?


Humans, please enjoy.



Sunday, January 15, 2012


I've been wanting to write this post since just before Christmas.  As often happens, life got in the way.  The thoughts and feelings haven't gone away though, and I'm glad to have the time to write it out now.

Every Christmas for nearly thirty years now, there comes a time, generally when I am listening to Christmas music on the radio, or sometimes on Christmas Day itself, when something happens that reminds me of my friend Brigitte.

I expect that will be the case even more now.

Brigitte and I became friends in elementary school.  We were in the same 4-H group, we shared classes together, we camped together, we shared crushes and secrets and sillinesses, sleepovers, and all the other things that young girls share.  And then, around the time that school started for our eighth grade year, Brigitte told us all that her mother was getting married, and they would all be moving to El Paso, Texas.

They moved on Christmas Day.

I remember going over to her house for one last visit on the day that she left.  We mainly hung out in Brigitte's living room with two of her step-brothers-to-be, chatting about this and that.  We were listening to the radio and complaining about the fact that there wasn't anything on any station that wasn't Christmas related.  We wanted to listen to our favorite pop tunes, a little Debbie Gibson or Cyndi Lauper perhaps, but instead it was all White Christmas and Feliz Navidad.  SO Lame.

Is it funny that this is the only real memory I have of that visit?  I'm sure we talked and laughed about other things.  I'm sure we exchanged addresses, and I'm sure we hugged each other when it was time to go.  I don't think I cried then, but I remember lying in bed that night, thinking about how far it was to El Paso, and crying & crying.

I wouldn't see Brigitte again until I was 40 years old.  We wrote back and forth regularly for years and years though.  Again (still) we shared all the details of our crushes, some secrets, some of our deeply held thoughts and feelings.  Our life paths ended up being fairly different.  She went to UTEP, I went to SUU.  She got in involved in theatre, I got involved in SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise).  She married a great guy and had three great boys, I went on a great mission and got a graduate degree (that put me on the path to my own great life).  Eventually our letters got more and more sporadic until they stopped completely.  

Thankfully, due to the (sometimes mixed) blessing of Facebook,  we reconnected again.  By then, Brigitte's  eldest son was one of the stars of his high school marching band, and I was a mother to a brand fresh baby girl.  Once again we kept track of each other, this time through status updates and photos, as well as quick notes here and there.  Some time ago, I read with concern that she had contracted Bells Palsy.  Then, quite a bit later, she shared the unhappy news that the Bells Palsy had been a misdiagnosis, that her symptoms had been caused by a malignant tumor on her saliva gland.  So hard.

Brigitte determined to go through her surgery and treatment at the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake City, where she would have the support of family (her mother having moved back to Utah in the intervening years), and access to cutting edge medical care.   That afforded me the opportunity to visit her without the difficulty of air travel and lodging issues, and I took advantage.  We set up the date, determining to meet at the Huntsman on a "chemo morning", giving us the ability to visit for several hours while Brigitte sat hooked up to IVs delivering the cancer-fighting medicine.

As I contemplated the visit, I was a little bit apprehensive.  It had been well over twenty years since I had seen Brigitte, and our lives had taken very different turns.  She had endured major surgery on her throat, making her voice raspy and sometimes difficult to understand.  I worried that we wouldn't find anything to talk about, that we wouldn't be able to understand each other, that it would be an awkward situation for me, or (more importantly) a painful one for her.  I did take some comfort when a mutual friend from the old days determined to join us, but then I worried that it would be the two of us talking, while Brigitte sat there mutely, a third wheel or something.

As usual, my fears turned out to be completely unfounded.  
(When will I ever learn?)

I arrived in the infusion center (a few minutes ahead of our friend, whose name is Becky), where Brigitte was waiting for me.  I recognized Miguel (her husband) from the pictures that we had exchanged over the years, and Brigitte introduced us.  I was immediately impressed with how solicitous he was of Brigitte, as well as the love and respect that they obviously shared.  Brigitte and I chatted easily and comfortably, catching one another up on the events in our extended family, reliving some old times and good memories, and sharing a few thoughts.  Soon Becky joined us, with additional memories that had slipped our minds, and another perspective that made the whole situation that much more enjoyable.

I remember at one point, realizing that the tables had turned, knowing that although I had gone to the hospital in hopes of raising Brigitte's spirits and giving her courage for her fight, the reality was that the more time we spent together, the more I felt myself being buoyed up by Brigitte's honest caring and love, as well as her good heart.  It surprised me, made me feel a little bit guilty, and a whole lot more grateful.

All too soon, the multi-hour treatment had ended and it was time for Brigitte and Miguel to meet with one of her oncologists.  I left the hospital feeling mostly calm and at peace, but at the same time wondering what twists and turns Brigitte was in for health-wise, and how everything would shake out.

There isn't an easy way to say this.  A few months later, I received word that things weren't shaking out well, and a few weeks after that, on December 21, Brigitte passed away.

As I've watched Brigitte's facebook wall fill up with comments and condolences by people I never have and probably never will meet, it's been sobering and difficult, but at the same time encouraging to realize that all these people knew the same Brigitte that I knew, even all these years later.  Her generosity, love, kindness, sincerity, and compassion are a common thread that continues to run through all the contributions, and encourages me to strive for the same.

I think back on a letter exchange that Brigitte and I had, back when we were in high school.  At the time Brigitte was not attending LDS church services in El Paso, and I had (hopefully tactfully) asked her why she had made that decision.  When she wrote back, she said that when she had attended her LDS ward, she had felt very keenly that the others her age didn't really want her there or like her.  So, eventually she determined to go where she would find more acceptance.

To be clear:  In telling this story, it is not my intention to point fingers or pass judgement on anyone involved.  I wasn't there, so I have no business saying anything about that part of it.

The story is on my mind now because I find it incredibly heartening to know that a girl who had the experience that Brigitte described, grew up to be the woman that Brigitte was.  From all that I can gather, as well as from my own personal experience, Brigitte is a woman who will be remembered for the unconditional love and kindness that she shared wherever she went and with whomever she met.

If there's a better legacy to leave, I don't know what it is.


Although I do have some (very blurry and old) pictures of Brigitte in my scrapbooks, I lifted the two posted here from her facebook page.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

little culinary gifts

I've got two posts in the works, one with pics of Christmas Eve and Christmas, and one that is requiring me to think and be a little more aware of how it might be read, (primarily because I'm hoping/planning to send it to the spouse and mother of a good friend of mine, both of whom--to my knowledge--aren't regular readers here).

So, in the meantime, I'm referring you to this post on making salad in a jar, and this post about making almond butter.

I tried both last Saturday with magificent results on both fronts.

How often does THAT happen?

I ate one of these every day for the last four days.  Mmmm-mmmm!

quirky 1-12
This little jar of deliciousness has made everything from sandwiches to naan to bananas taste new and exciting.  

See y'all soon.


Monday, January 09, 2012

decibel danger

So, when I write about our trips down to Cedar City, where we generally spend several days over the holidays in fabulous compound living with my siblings and their (multiple) children, do you ever wonder what a typical slice of that sounds like, looks like, feels like?

Well wonder no more!

Did you notice that Eric was the only adult down there who was not either narrating the event or part of the (one-woman) film crew?  Yeah--glutton, that guy.

Can you tell that I adore my family?  Man, do I ever.


Friday, January 06, 2012

Random Photo Friday--Bedtime Reading

Current Bedtime Reading Selections in the Cantwell Home:  


Reader's Digest
The Book of Mormon (occasionally I check in with the other two books in the volume as well)
Sarah's Quilt (Sequel to These Is My Words)
Thin For Life:  10 Keys to Success from People Who Have Lost Weight and Kept it Off

Eric's: Photobucket

A Short History of Modern Philosophy
Unnatural Selections (a Far Side Collection)
The Book of Mormon
An Intelligent Person's Guide to Philosophy
Thunderbolts' Caged Angels (a graphic novel, otherwise known as a bound collection of comic books in a single series)
Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

I don't really know what more I can say about this.  I think it's interesting that Eric has both the lightest reading and the heaviest reading in his stack.  (Unless you consider Reader's Digest lighter than comics and cartoons, that is.)  I also think it's interesting (but reassuring as well) that we have one book in common, and it is the Book of Mormon.  

Other than that, I just think it's kind of fun.  Maybe I'll do this again in 6 months or so.  We'll see.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

chestnut, walnut, or ebony?

To get the full effect of these, it will be helpful to know that when I was a little girl, I thought my mom had black hair.  As it turned out, (and as I learned when I saw her standing next to my Aunt Rebecca, who had/has much darker hair) my mom had really dark brown hair, until a few years ago (maybe more than a few), when it got to be salt and peppery.  

something along these lines maybe (my mom is the "mom", in case you can't tell). (oh-and don't judge our outfits or our hair styles--it was the 1970s)

Yesterday, as Heather and I were taking Eden home (after their first friend sleep-over ever!), we started playing "I spy", to make the ride go faster.  We took turns spying trees and cars and signs and car seats and coats, and various other items.

Then, this little exchange happened:

Eden:  I spy something dark brown
Me:  My hair?
Eden (incredulously, as if I'd just said something very ridiculous):  No!  Not that dark of brown!

(It was my purse that she'd spied.)

Immediately after Eden's turn, it is my turn to choose something to spy.  

Me:  I spy something black.
Heather (quickly and excitedly):  Your hair?!?

(It was Eden's overnight bag that I'd spied.)

* * *

Too bad I don't have a little sister with really really dark brown/black hair that I can stand next to.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Baby, it's (freaking!) cold outside.

Since we weren't going to be sledding up at the Corry Cabin this year (seeing as how we were having a Cache Valley Christmas, and the Corry Cabin is on Cedar Mountain), Eric and I determined that we needed to have our own Christmas Eve Day tradition. So, we went up the canyon for a little adventuring. It was chilly (I had forgotten that you don't necessarily get out of the shadows in Logan Canyon until you make it nearly all the way to Bear Lake), and Eric and I were freezing pretty much the whole time. But Heather had a grand time, and we had a grand time watching her have a grand time. So, it was all just grand.

Want proof?

Cheese, glorious (frozen) cheese!


Army crawl.  Heather's idea.





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