Halloween party and a witch hunt

Because there are innumerable loads of laundry waiting to be folded, a messy house to be picked up, and two novels waiting to be read, shall we?

The day in pictures:

We had a Halloween party at preschool today. Here's a cute shot of a friendly green dragon cuddling up to Snow White.
We had a Halloween party at preschool today. Here’s a cute shot of a friendly green dragon cuddling up to Snow White.
And the rest of the kids. This is a rare moment when Lydia was not picking her nose. I am starting to think it's a nervous habit because she seemed literally incapable of extracting her finger from her nostril, no matter how many times I reminded, begged, and pleaded with her.
And the rest of the kids. This is a rare moment when Lydia was not picking her nose. I am starting to think it’s a nervous habit because she seemed literally incapable of extracting her finger from her nostril, no matter how many times I reminded, begged, and pleaded with her.

After preschool, Mary napped while Lydia and I ate lunch and snuggled on the couch to watch Winnie the Pooh together. After that, I tried to nap while Lydia played beside me until Mary woke up. We then all ate again, and I loaded the girls into the car to go to Gardner Village. This is our third Halloween in Salt Lake, and every Halloween, I always hear people rave about the witches at Gardner Village. Also, I’d promised Lydia we’d go witch hunting, and so, even though what I really wanted to do was fold laundry, play piano, and read to the girls, I packed them in the car instead to go down and see what everyone is talking about.

I took pictures of some of our favorite witches.IMG_4778 IMG_4775 IMG_4777 IMG_4772  IMG_4779 IMG_4783 IMG_4780 IMG_4788IMG_4767

Then Lydia wanted to push her own stroller for a bit. My little grown-up girl!
Then Lydia wanted to push her own stroller for a bit. My little grown-up girl!
We ended by eating cookies in a bakery. I promise, after Halloween is done, I am going to make a VAT of broccoli soup and we will detox on that for a week.
We ended by eating cookies in a bakery. I promise, after Halloween is done, I am going to make a VAT of broccoli soup and we will detox on that for a week.

I then took the girls to Trader Joe’s. Mary, who had been wailing because she hates her car seat, perked right up at the store and giggled and danced in the cart to the peppy music. Lydia promised repeatedly to behave perfectly if I let her push the kiddie cart, and guess what? She did! Of course, she threw a huge tantrum at home, but that’s not nearly so big a deal, right? And her tantrum was kicked off by the tantrum I threw when I saw her stand on her chair and full-on embrace the (cold) stove burners. This after I warned her not to do that ever again just this morning. I have since removed the chair she used to stand on, and I hope that solves the problem.

Tomorrow my only goals are to carve pumpkins with Lydia and fold the laundry (because, um, at this hour, I would much rather shower, crawl in bed, and read my books.)

pretty autumn pictures and a surprise piano concerto

I can barely think because for the last forty five minutes I’ve been watching this video repeatedly (obsessively?). Even as I type, it’s playing the background. If you didn’t click on the link, it’s a video of Maria Pires, who showed up to a concert expecting to play a different concerto from the one the orchestra starts to play. The agony in her whole being is apparent as she registers the situation, but she goes bravely ahead to play a tear-jerkingly amazing performance. The video only shows the first couple measures, but wow.

I can NOT imagine that kind of panic and agony, but I do recall in high school, when I showed up to the dress rehearsal to play the Rachmaninoff second piano concerto with the high school orchestra, they started playing the Rachmaninoff third concerto. The conductor thought I’d written down the wrong piece after the audition months prior, and I thought he was going to call the whole performance off until he finally checked the paper and realized he’d just made a mistake. Thankfully, the orchestra did a great job getting the second concerto together in not much time, and all went swimmingly from there.

But that is the closest (and obviously, not even that close) I’ve come to Maria Pires’ experience. I’m still trembling from watching the video so much, so I guess I’ll pause it so I can recount the day’s events quickly–and then get back to re-watching my new favorite video clip.

Remember that beautiful yellow tree outside the girls' window? All the leaves fell off in one night, and the ground outside was completely covered in these delicate, bright yellow leaves. Lydia wanted to shovel them, and I wanted yellow pictures, so it was a win-win situation.
Remember that beautiful yellow tree outside the girls’ window? All the leaves fell off in one night, and the ground outside was completely covered in these delicate, bright yellow leaves. Lydia wanted to shovel them, and I wanted yellow pictures, so it was a win-win situation.
I took a lot of pretty shots of the yellow, but I exercised self-control and only included these two here.
I took a lot of pretty shots of the yellow…
The yellow ground. I couldn't get over it.
The yellow ground. I couldn’t get over it.

 

Bereft of its leaves, this tree remains a thing of perfect beauty. This will be my third winter admiring its loveliness.
Bereft of its leaves, this tree remains a thing of perfect beauty. This will be my third winter admiring its loveliness.
I tried the flower icon on my camera to take this shot. I really need to read the manual to find out how my camera works, but in the meantime, just look at this gorgeous rose. It's October. And there is a line of blooming rose bushes on my lawn. And they have flowers like this.
I tried the flower icon on my camera to take this shot. I really need to read the manual to find out how my camera works, but in the meantime, just look at this gorgeous rose. It’s October. And there is a line of blooming rose bushes on my lawn. And they have flowers like this.
After naps, we went to Wheeler Farm with Swathi's cousin, Balu. We went on a wagon ride, walked around, fed the ducks, did a maze and picked pumpkins. Here are the girls watching the ducks while Balu feeds them.
After naps, we went to Wheeler Farm with Swathi’s cousin, Balu. We went on a wagon ride, walked around, fed the ducks, did a maze and picked pumpkins. Here are the girls watching the ducks while Balu feeds them.
Of course, both girls wanted to get out and help. I spent a lot of time holding Mary's hand (against her will) so she wouldn't take a tumble into duck poop. That's why my pictures here are only of Lydia.
Of course, both girls wanted to get out and help. I spent a lot of time holding Mary’s hand (against her will) so she wouldn’t take a tumble into duck poop. That’s why my pictures here are only of Lydia.
I heart Utah.
I heart Utah.
Selecting pumpkins.
Selecting pumpkins.
She picked one! (Actually, three. But this is one of the three.)
She picked one! (Actually, three. But this is one of the three.)

After Wheeler Farm, we went to Barnes and Noble because–dum-da-da-dum–Lydia told me she needed to go potty, and she was NOT in pull-ups. I haven’t put her in pull-ups for the past two days, and she hasn’t had a single accident. Woo-hoo! Also, it was a great excuse to go to a bookstore.

After Barnes and Noble, we hightailed it to the library for some kid books and to get the books I restrained myself from purchasing at the bookstore. The library had multiple copies of all the books I wanted to buy (The Paris Wife and Death Comes to Pemberly). I love the library.

Then it was home, where I dunked the girls in the quickest baths of their little lives; it was past bedtime, but they were filthy from duck chasing and cookie eating, so I went on ahead and still bathed them. Then it was scriptures, prayer, bed, clean, laundry, and get-hooked-by-the-surprise-concerto-video time. Speaking of which, I’ll get back to watching that now.

Goodbye, sunshine.

Abe informed me that today was supposed to be the last nice day of the season. What motivating news! After breakfast, I packed the girls into the jogger, loaded them down with snacks, water, and blankets, and proceeded to spend the next three hours bidding adieu to the sun.

We walked up and jogged down City Creek Canyon, which was a wonderfully meditative experience since Mary was asleep and Lydia would only occasionally pipe up to ask pressing questions. (Lately, she’s been very interested in learning what animals and people are “scary” and which ones aren’t. These are harder questions to answer than you would think, especially since I consider practically everything to be–at least potentially– dangerous.)

I then walked down to the grocery store, which was a rare jaunt for me considering it’s six straight blocks downhill, and then the same back up. When you are pushing a double jogger loaded with kids, blankets, snacks, groceries, and books (we stopped at the library on the way back), those last few blocks can feel pretty severe. But I felt inspired by one of the ladies I visit teach, who can be seen running regularly with her baby around downtown Salt Lake. She told me that she runs up the twelve blocks from downtown to her house. After she said that, I told myself that surely, surely I can do a better job of walking to the grocery store and to the library–a mere three blocks away.

No sooner than we arrived back home than the clouds started to gather and the weather took a turn away from its morning glory. We spent the rest of the day inside while it got progressively colder and grayer out. Hello, Winter! I welcomed it by curling up in my bed while the girls napped (actually, Lydia opted for “quiet time” instead of nap time today, so the whole time I could hear her “reading” her books and playing vigorous games of pretend). As I lay there, I envisioned all the things that I would do if I were an upright object in motion, as opposed to a horizontal lump, so to speak. The only thing that got me moving was Lydia tapping urgently on the door telling me that she peed in her potty.

After I fed the girls dinner and bathed them both, I managed to accomplish the ONE cleaning goal I had today: vacuum the upstairs. Woo-hoo! The carpet actually feels different pre- and post-vacuum, and I am now going to end this blog and go upstairs to tread the soft carpet and enjoy the fruit of my one solitary labor of the day.

post breakfast balloon play. It felt like so much had happened by the time the girls were finally loaded into the stroller that I wished our neighbor a "good afternoon" at 9am. Oops!
post breakfast balloon play. It felt like so much had happened by the time the girls were finally loaded into the stroller that I wished our neighbor a “good afternoon” at 9am. Oops!
My worst nightmare, come to life. Mary walked to Lydia's leftover food and began eating while I wasn't looking. I can only imagine how sticky my walls will be if this habit continues. Also, today was the first day she did more walking than crawling!!!
My worst nightmare, come to life. Mary walked to Lydia’s leftover food and began eating while I wasn’t looking. I can only imagine how sticky my walls will be if this habit continues. Also, today was the first day she did more walking than crawling!!!

Ode to my SS community and a concert

Can I just spend a [long] minute and gush on here about my Sunday school class? Not actually today’s lesson (which was incredibly inspiring, and I will probably gush about that in paragraph #2), but the community itself. I love that every week, the same small group of people gather together to think, feel and share ideas with each other. My particular class is filled with compassionate thinkers, many of whom have lived in the neighborhood for decades and have long histories here. The wealth of local knowledge in that room never ceases to boggle me.

Not to mention, every week the invigorating discussions generated in this lively little community push me to explore topics with a broadened, more intent mindset. What a luxury, and I look forward to this part of my Sunday every week. Today’s topic was family history, and we talked about the whys of it. We do family history for many reasons, but the ones that resonate with me primarily are

1) To turn our hearts to our parents and ancestors, without whom we would not exist.

2) To fulfill God’s plan of happiness for us, which plan means we, as the family of the earth, have hearts knit together in unity and love. (I.e., to create ZION.)

It was just the catalyst I needed to finally, after these past couple months, get back on Family Tree. I did some research today (won’t bore you with details), but I did conclude that after I graduate from Culinary School and enter the Van Cliburn competition, my next project will be to learn Spanish. Those Filipino records–man, oh man. Reading ornate 1892 cursive in a language I barely understand made me almost order a Rosetta Stone kit on the spot.

So, ahem, back to what happened today. After our unreasonably long (but oh, so welcome) naps after church, Abe took care of the girls so I could practice for an hour before Suzanne’s parents came over. Suzanne’s dad asked me over a year ago if I could learn Chopin’s military polonaise, and because of a long series of unfortunate events, I could not play it for him before today. Here’s the “concert” line-up:

Polonaise Militaire, Op. 40, no 1, Chopin

Nocturne, Op. 9, no 1, Chopin (the one I listened to while birthing both girls, but I associate it more closely with Lydia since Mary came so fast.)

Un Sospiro, Liszt (My dad’s old favorite)

La Campanella, Liszt (I dare you to watch this clip of Lang Lang playing this at the 2011 Proms without grinning)

Sonata, Movement 1, K. 331, Mozart (the one I learned while pregnant with Lydia to audition for the Suzuki Association.)

…And the opening to the Rachmaninoff concerto no. 2, the out-of-practice version, Rachmaninoff.

I am kind of sort of serious about entering the Van Cliburn, so this was a fun way to kick off my resolution to perform more regularly. Suzanne’s parents are the sweetest people, and they were so kind to sit through it all.

After the performance, we had FHE since Abe will not be home again until Thursday. I taught a waaaay simplified version of today’s Sunday school lesson, and then we played parachute. That, Abe said, represented how we keep memories of our ancestors alive (because, you know, keeping the ball in the air is kind of like keeping their memories alive).

Here’s a shocker. I only took two pictures today. I had maxed out the 5,000 limit on my memory card, so Abe backed it up this afternoon, and my camera was out of commission.

These lucky leaves constitute the only visual evidence I have that today existed–and was pretty, to boot.

When we arrived home from church, there were a mere couple leaves on the front steps. After our naps, we opened the door and realized that ALL of the leaves on our chimney vine had blown clean off. Must have been a strong gust of wind!
When we arrived home from church, there were a mere couple leaves on the front steps. After our naps, we opened the door and realized that ALL of the leaves on our chimney vine had blown clean off. Must have been a strong gust of wind!

Mary’s very hungry caterpillar party.

After a morning cooking and cleaning, at 1pm we were finally ready for Mary’s Very Hungry Caterpillar party.

…Here’s one of my secrets, though. I, um, actually find most parties and large gatherings to be mildy to moderately uncomfortable. Most of the time, in groups of five or more you will notice me over there in the corner blushing, perspiring, and struggling to work up the courage to do simple things (like talk).

But I love to throw parties. Mainly, I love menu planning and cooking for big crowds, but if I let myself get really carried away, I could have a lot of fun in the decoration department, too. Today’s decorations didn’t blow anybody away; I just ordered some Eric Carle cardboard  cut-outs, and I taped them to the wall. In lighting where the tape showed, it looked like my house was covered in band-aids.

But I digress. Abe tells me today’s party was a success, even if I couldn’t tell because I was so busy trying to stop sweating and blushing for no reason at all.

I did, however, register that Mary had a great time, which was the hoped-for point of everything. She was so excited, in fact, that when we piled in the car after the party to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey, she didn’t even fall asleep for the first thirty minutes. (Lydia was asleep as soon as we turned the keys in the car.) She just sat in her car seat, smiling, giggling, and emitting general sounds of contentment.

After the turkey pick-up–and drop-off to Abe’s mom’s office freezer–, we hightailed it to our ward Trunk or Treat. A trunk or treat is when everyone sits at their car trunks in the church parking lot and hands out candy to the kids who “trunk or treat” from car to car. It’s actually lots of fun, and a crazy idea in terms of sugar intake for children, especially if the children (like mine) also have another Halloween party AND Halloween itself all in the same week. Yikes!

I cooked too much for the birthday party, so we gave away a lot of food afterwards to some friends and family members who are currently indisposed. You would think that would be the end of the leftovers, but guess what? After that, I still had an ENTIRE apple slab pie (feeds 18) and almost an entire batch of candy cookies left.

Thankfully, my ward did a service activity to the Road Home a while back and so I knew the perfect solution. As Abe, the kids and I drove there to give away our pie and cookies, Abe and I talked about what it must be like to have to recover from a drug addiction, as the women who live at the Road Home must. Abe pointed out that it must be like trying to deny your strongest food craving multiplied a hundred times. When I thought about it like that, I was in total shock that anyone could ever recover ever. What heroines those women are.

On our drive home, Lydia was really sweet to Mary and called her a “sweet widdle baby,” asking her politely to not cry please because we would be home soon.

Then we had a post candy-coma dinner (of sorts), bath time, bedtime, piano time, blog time and oops-I-forgot-to-shower-this-morning-so-guess-I’ll-do-that-now time for me.

I saved the photo dump for the very end, since there are a bajillion trillion, and probably nobody but geriatric future me wants to look at all of those.

The making of a slab pie--my first!
The making of a slab pie–my first!
decorations
decorations
almost all ready for the party to begin.
almost all ready for the party to begin.
a giant, 15 quart vat of butternut squash soup. I HATE working with butternut squash (not quite as much as I hate working with eggplant, but it's up there). I had to peel, HACK, cube, and dump four big squashes into this thing. I thought my hands would never recover.
a giant, 15 quart vat of butternut squash soup. I HATE working with butternut squash (not quite as much as I hate working with eggplant, but it’s up there). I had to peel, HACK, cube, and dump four big squashes into this thing. I thought my hands would never recover.
Tom and Suzanne arrived first.
Tom and Suzanne arrived first.
Misty, Max and Sophia came second!
Misty, Max and Sophia came second!
...And we stopped the head shots of every guest after that. More came.
…And we stopped the head shots of every guest after that.
One moment where I forgot to be nervous--Mary walked to me!!
One moment where I forgot to be nervous–Mary walked to me!!
RIGHT to me!!!
RIGHT to me!!!
She deserved a cake.
She deserved a cake.
and balloons and presents.
and balloons and presents.
and jammies.
and jammies.
Abe entertaining the crowd while I hide somewhere in the kitchen.
Abe unwrapping Mary’s final present as she chases down the cool new cell phone Sophia gave her earlier.
Mary would not wear her bunny ears, so Abe wore them for her.
Mary would not wear her bunny ears, so Abe wore them for her.
Together, they made one whole bunny!
Together, they made one whole bunny!
Lydia was a shy owl.
Lydia was a shy owl.
She actually ate this right BEFORE the trunk-or-treat. Lots of sugar today.
She actually ate this right BEFORE the trunk-or-treat. Lots of sugar today.
Finally, I was talking to one of my ward friends in the parking lot when we noticed her granddaughter, dressed as Anne Shirley, scramble up a tree. Her grandmother tells me she does that all the time and had nothing to do with her costume, but still, I could NOT resist. Look, everyone! It's Anne Shirley climbing a tree!!
Finally, I was talking to one of my ward friends in the parking lot when we noticed her granddaughter, dressed as Anne Shirley, scramble up a tree. Her grandmother tells me she does that all the time and had nothing to do with her costume, but still, I could NOT resist. Look, everyone! It’s Anne Shirley climbing a tree!!

2 fork 2 am

It’s past 2am, so:

Today we had a great play date with Misty, Sophia and Max.

IMG_4572 IMG_4582 IMG_4586 IMG_4593 IMG_4602IMG_4604Then I menu planned and cleaned while the girls napped.

Then I shopped for food and party stuff.

Then I came home and cooked and cleaned until now. I don’t have a pastry blender and would have killed for one about twenty minutes ago, when I was frantically two-forking the butter into the flour for the slab pie. Turns out slab pies have more crust, so the darn recipe wouldn’t fit inside my food processor like a good normal pie crust. Hence the two forks and my current incoherent state.

But I am excited for Mary’s birthday party, and I am also excited that from here on out our non-family birthday parties will be MUCH smaller. Marilyn taught me this before Lydia’s 2nd birthday (she had 7 kids): Kids get as many guests as their age. So Lydia got 2 for her 2nd birthday and so on. The only exception for us is birthday number one, which seems to be trending in as a larger affair. Full report tomorrow–which, coincidentally, is also our ward’s trunk-or-treat (and the day I pick up our turkey from a local turkey source). What a big day!!!!! I better get a full five hours sleep so I can wake up and do all the stuff I didn’t do tonight!

Culinary school and a little visit

I signed up for culinary school this morning. I am so excited! I have dreamed about this for years, and I can’t believe it’s actually happening.

At first I was worried about childcare, but then we realized that if I took two night classes a week, I wouldn’t have to worry about that at all. I can just drop the girls off at Abe’s office at 5:30pm, and his office just happens to be exactly on the way to school. So, um, no drawbacks. I am going!!!!!!

My new school!
My new school!

Classes start November 7, and orientation is November 6.

As I was leaving, I sneaked a shot of the entrance. I was just so excited.
As I was leaving, I sneaked a shot of the entrance. I was just so excited.

Abe is out of town tonight, so he took the morning to accompany me to the office to sign up for classes. I am allergic to numbers and anything related to finance, so his presence was greatly appreciated. Sorry, we fall into traditional gender stereotypes in that area (as in so many others), but I fervently hope my girls will overlook my bad example and take after their grandmas, among whom are notable math whizzes. For–one shining–example, Abe’s mom owns a tax practice and is amazing with numbers.

After our long morning, we came home and had a typical afternoon filled with meals, snacks, naps, reading, and playing pretend. Well, it was mostly Lydia running around playing pretend, but I did finally join her for a little bit before informing the girls they had to get ready to go visiting teaching with me. I then loaded them in the jogger and walked to my favorite (I can say that, right?! None of my teachees reads my blog!!) visiting teachee.

Marilyn lives about two blocks away, so it was a short walk there. But I was struck by the beauty of the evening, nonetheless. Also, I was slightly appalled/judgmental when two sweet faced women ran by me exchanging exasperated tales of some sort or another. I wanted to shake them and say, "Do you see where you are?!?! Look over at those flowers and then tell me how bad your life is!!" ...And then I realize that's how God must feel about me, all the time.
Marilyn lives about two blocks away, so it was a short walk there. But I was struck by the beauty of the evening, nonetheless. Also, I was slightly appalled/judgmental when two sweet-faced women ran by me exchanging exasperated tales of some sort or another. I wanted to shake them and say, “Do you see where you are?!?! Look over at that expanse of grass and that flower bed over there and then tell each other how bad your lives are!!” …And then I realized: That’s how God must feel about me, all the time.
Marilyn's parents built her house, back in the 40's, and I think it is one of the cutest houses in the neighborhood. Also, I love her winding walkway.
Marilyn’s parents built her house back in the 40’s and I think it is one of the cutest houses in the neighborhood. Also, I love her winding walkway.

Marilyn gave the girls Halloween bags of goldfish for the walk home, and they finished their snacks in the dark before I finally cajoled Lydia into coming inside.

Lydia was enjoying eating her goldfish, which she spread carefully out on our very dusty table.
Lydia was enjoying eating her goldfish, which she spread carefully out on our very dusty table.
In the meantime, Mary busied herself trying to climb in and out of the stroller.
In the meantime, Mary busied herself trying to climb in and out of the stroller.
She succeeded multiple times and appeared endlessly amused by it all. Abe made me PROMISE to include in this post the following: Mary is going through a stage where she giggles at...everything. Her giggle is so cute--kind of a low trill that ends in a half-gasp because she's run out of air. When she's crawling or attempting to toddle around, she constantly smiles and makes this sweet little sound.
She succeeded multiple times and appeared endlessly amused by it all. Abe made me PROMISE to include in this post the following: Mary is going through a stage where she giggles at…everything. Her giggle is so cute–kind of a low trill that ends in a half-gasp because she’s run out of air. When she’s crawling or attempting to toddle around, she constantly smiles and makes this sweet little sound.

After that it was baths, reading, and bedtime. Then I came downstairs and ate too much (as usual), scrubbed down the kitchen, took out the trash, picked up some, and now am blogging. Right now there’s a pile of clean laundry as tall as I am next to the bed waiting to be folded…on the other hand, there is, right next to that, a book by my favorite essayist, Adam Gopnik, also waiting to be read. I wonder which one will win out?

Did you even see how dusty that table was?? Probably the book.