Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oh, Christmas tree...

Last year's pre-Christmas post celebrated my catastrophe of a kitchen. This year it's our poor Christmas tree. I'm sensing a theme with my holiday posts--"our tinsel bloodied, but unbowed." (As I looked up "Invictus" to make sure I had my mangled reference correct, I'm reminded what a great poem it is. And I'm definitely seeing a holiday subtext in there...

Back to the tree. It started out so well, standing straight, full of bushy green needles just waiting for ornaments and lights.

And waiting.

And waiting.

Waiting because somehow only three boxes of lights surfaced in all of the Christmas storage bins--enough to do the top half in colored lights and a thin smattering of white lights from the top to about three feet above the floor. Carden and Seth wanted both colored and white lights on the tree, and I kept thinking I'd make it to the store to buy more. Finally after three days of their relentless pleading I thought, "the heck with this. It's good enough." I tugged the strands around to make it appear more even (albeit even more sparse now) and announced the tree ready for decorating. Three eager helpers descended upon me, snatching all the unbreakable ornaments they could find (most featuring popsicle sticks and a lot of glitter) and crammed them onto one side of the tree.

Now we are one week away from this poor tree's day of glory and this is what I've got.

A crumpled tree skirt from when I accidentally sucked it into the vacuum cleaner.

A big blob of star garland. This is from when Carden accidentally sucked it into the vacuum cleaner, slurping it off the tree at a frightening speed. Once he pulled it out, I think he just threw it at the tree, hoping it'd stick.

A tree with some major bare spots on the top and sides. Two boxes of pretty but breakable ornaments sitting on the couch. Maybe we can get together?

But you know, I was reminiscing about the Christmas trees of my childhood with my brother, and we only really remembered the tree that fell over the day after we'd decorated it, or the tree Dad picked out by himself (the ugliest, scrawniest, lumpiest one on the lot), or the live tree that died once we planted it in the yard. So on that note, I think I'll remember my "Invictus Tree" for a long time to come.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Worth a thousand words

Not much to say, just some cute pictures of the kids. Not the cute picture I wanted (all of us together), but some fun individual shots showing their personalities.

Charlotte: loud

We were driving and Claire started fussing. Charlotte patted Claire's carseat and said, "It's ok, baby. Don't cry, baby." over and over. When this got no response she shouted at her, "Be quiet, baby!"

Carden: without pretense

We're at a restaurant and Tyler orders a burrito without cheese. The server accidentally puts cheese on the order. Tyler repeats the "no cheese" part and the guy quickly fixes it. No problem; we move on. Carden goes back in line and tells him earnestly, "I know how it feels to make a mistake." A few days earlier we're in the parking lot at Target and he sees someone walking on crutches about 25 feet away. He shouts out, "Hey, you need some help?"

Seth: trying really hard to be happy

"Mom, I know what the three wise men brought. Frankincense, gold, and murder."

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm just here for the food

We've had lots of great Thanksgivings over the years, but this was the first one that was just about the food. Joel and Mandi were in town and we had a great Thanksgiving with them. Joel is a fabulous, creative cook, and we had a great time cooking together. We didn't worry about centerpieces, the antique gold china stayed in its box, the mismatched serving bowls worked just fine; it was all about having some fun in the kitchen. Here's what we came up with:

Brined turkey with roast vegetable gravy

Mixed sweet potatoes and yams, cooked in orange juice and cream

Some of the best rolls I have ever eaten (and I ate about 10, just to be sure)

Butternut squash panade

Mashed potatoes

Autumn salad

Carrot and cumin tart

Corn on the cob (Seth's one request)

Green beans with tomato-mushroom topping

Apple tart tatin

Homemade pecan pie

Pumpkin pie

Peach-ginger fizzy punch

All for four adults and four kids. I think I used up every piece of tupperware I owned! Well worth it, though.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Of spooks and substitutes

Having a baby two weeks before Halloween tends to put a crimp in family activities--or at least require a bit of modification. I worried that the kids would be disappointed that some of our usual festivities (pumpkin patch, elaborate carvings, lots of community activities) were going to be severely curtailed this year. But I hadn't counted on a dedicated dad and the influx of helpful relatives who stepped in to fill my place and take my kids all over town.

Grandma braved the crowds to attend the school parade and took Carden and Seth to a performance of "Stellaluna" done by professional puppeteers. Uncle David and Aunt Julia lent artistic skills to help carve the jack o'lanterns. Aunt Marianne treated the boys to see "Where the Wild Things Are." Grandma took all three kids to join their cousins at the trick-or-treating event at This is the Place Pioneer Park. Tyler toted our giant pumpkin, a potluck dessert, a bowl full of candy, and three costumed children to the church trunk-or-treat evening. Great-granny Wilcox took everyone to dinner before Carden's Halloween piano recital.

The only downside to all this frivolity was the lack of photos. It was a bit more than I could ask to say, "Here's the jackets, snacks, diaper bag, costume accessories, and directions to where you're going. Oh, and take lots of pictures too!" But having so many people to share the fun with was well worth the small trade-off.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A new addition

She's finally here! Eleven days ago, to be precise, but the announcement was, as usual, held up by our inability to name the poor child. But with 90 minutes to spare before the state deadline, we settled on Claire Ellen Crockett. Claire because we all liked it (especially Charlotte, who accepted it as second choice once we said we weren't choosing "Billy"), Ellen because it's the middle name of one of my grandmothers, and Crockett because, at this point, it's expected.

She's a different look from any of our other kids, dark hair and a different face than we expected. She sleeps almost around the clock, except for that precious hour of awake time--at 3:00am. But we're working on that. The kids all love her in short spurts. Charlotte loves to hold her, but after about 30 seconds she starts shouting "Take it! Take it!" The hardest part was trying to protect her from the coughing and sneezing since she was born during the week that all of us had nasty colds.

For those interested in stats:

7 pounds, 9 ounces

20 inches long

2.5 hours of labor (60 minutes of which the epidural didn't work)

Born October 12, 2009

1:51 pm

Friday, October 9, 2009


We have made a lot of jam this year. Of all the harvest activities, I enjoy jam-making most. The kids love it, it tastes better than store-bought, and it can be done in 30-45 minutes with minimal cleanup. This year we made about 50 jars, which should carry us through the year: four boxes of apricot, raspberry, blackberry, mixed berry, plum, and plum berry now stacked in the basement.

I was making a batch last week while my nephew Isaiah was visiting. He and Seth brought in a bowl of blackberries they had picked and announced they wanted to make jam. I told them I was out of jars, so we wouldn't be able to do it. They went back outside and returned a few minutes later, not dissuaded.

"We're going to make jam by ourselves. Where's the smasher? (a small wooden tool for smashing the berries)"

I got distracted and didn't supply the requested smasher. They go back outside.

"Where's the sugar, Mom? We need sugar now."

"I thought you needed the smasher."

"No, we just used a rock." They proudly show me a bowl of smashed berries, plus a few extra bits of leaf, grass, twigs, etc.

"Oh. OK, here's the sugar." I dump a big scoop into their pot. They go back outside.

"We need some bread. Our jam is done."

Tastier than mud pies, I guess. Anyone else for jam?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Extreme nesting

The kids watched "Lady and the Tramp" last week and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" this week. In both films the scenes with the expectant mother depict her sitting placidly in a rocking chair knitting baby booties, blankets, or sweaters. She hums.

This makes me wonder where I went wrong. I am in the process of:

Freezing pesto. Seth is a champion basil picker.

Refinishing the kitchen table. The varnish had completely worn off, so every spill soaked into the wood, requiring a good scraping after every meal.

Dehydrating pears. Supposedly easier than canning. Definitely tastier.

Making jam. Apricot, raspberry, blackberry, mixed berry... And the plums are ripe this week.

Canning tomatoes and applesauce. Now I know the real reason we didn't send Seth to kindergarten--he's too helpful to lose.

Planting trees. The 50% off sale was too good to pass up. We added a linden, honey locust, tulip tree, and ash. A friend said perplexedly, "But I thought you already had trees in your yard. Any more and the Forest Service will be annexing your property."

Helping with the enrichment activity, PTA carnival fundraiser, and soaking all Charlotte's old baby clothes in vats of Oxi-Clean. I swear that stuff was clean when I put it away two years ago.

I am not humming.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

School days again

Carden has been in class for almost three weeks now, but Seth began today. Both are excited for new teachers, new classrooms, and new adventures.

It does look like we've shipped Carden off to the gulag; the school is under construction this year to add 12 new classrooms, so hopefully next year they won't need these portable rooms in the back parking lot.

Here's his new backpack, loaded down with all the essential school supplies of a 2009 student: tissues, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and hand wipes. Oh yes, and a small pencil box. Looks like we're more concerned about the germs he'll bring home than the grades.

Seth is getting one more year at home/preschool, and he's excited about being the "old man" in the classroom. I think he'll do great with a bit more time under his belt. Now, if we could just get a few more pounds under his belt, we'd really be doing well!

And Charlotte, Angus, and I will continue to hold down the fort. I have high hopes for our free time, but I won't say what, for fear someone will actually hold me to all my lofty goals.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

11 hours and counting

Until that bell rings and Carden returns to school. Pity preschool doesn't begin for another three weeks. Yep, Seth, despite his fifth birthday, will stay at home and preschool for another year. The school cutoff is five weeks after his birthday, and we felt like he could really use another year before being thrown to the kindergarten wolves.

We squeezed out our last few days of summer vacation, although the weather feels like mid-September already. We really only got six weeks of summer weatherwise, so part of me feels like we never got warmed up (literally). But in the last 72 hours we hit the park, the snow-cone shack, the pool, the children's museum, and the Belgian waffle stand. We also spent four days cleaning and sorting the playroom, a Herculean task measured in the number of trash-can loads dumped.

With only seven weeks to this pregnancy left, I am torn between great memories of all the fun we did have, and regret for all the things we didn't do because I just didn't have the stamina for it. Lucky the kids are young enough that we can massage their memories to focus on the good times. So farewell summer, we hardly knew ya. But it was great while it lasted.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Seth survives to five

There have been many times, I hate to admit, during the last five years, when I would have happily flagged down a passing gypsy caravan and asked them to haul this child off. That Old Testament story of Joseph of Egypt? Well, maybe his brothers had just heard "the whiny voice" one too many times. Digging a pit and packing him off to the pyramids doesn't seem too extreme a reaction, really. Tyler says he's too much like me, which is why I have a lower tolerance for his moping. (And the first person who agrees that I whine or mope gets clobbered.)

To be fair, Seth has a lot of really great traits. He is a stellar worker. He loves to help, and will often go above and beyond his chore list. He is athletic and coordinated. He loves attention, especially linked to a camera, and his blue eyes and white-blond hair pop him out of any crowd. He plays with Charlotte and is always willing to do any little favor I ask (lately this means running up and down the stairs a lot to get/put away some item).

His birthday in July was a big day. We went through our usual birthday traditions: presents laid out at the breakfast table, his choice of meals, the outing he planned, and cake and ice cream. Bless this child who wanted an off-the-shelf cake from Costco. The best $15 I spent and 15 hours I saved all month.

Seth chose Liberty Land, a small local amusement park, for his outing. We played miniature golf, laser tag, rode the roller coaster, rides, bumper boats, over and over.

Showing off his Pokemon shirt, Spiderman sunglasses, and flip-flops. I hate flip-flops--and all sandals between my toes--so I've never bought them for the kids. So these had the aura of "forbidden fruit" since he's the only one in the family who has flip-flops.

Monday, July 27, 2009

You wanted a post? Here it is...

Several people have informed me that their status as devoted followers of our little corner of the blogging world gives them the right to hound me for the lack of posts in the past four weeks. To them, I offer the following riveting account of how we are spending our summer vacation.

We get up late.

We clean the playroom/boys' room/family room/hallway.

We eat an Otter Pop to celebrate that one-half/one-fourth/one tiny corner of chosen room is now clean.

We change the sheets on the guest room bed. By a rough estimate, we have had house guests for 30 nights so far in 2009.

I praise the heavens for the invention of air conditioning. This is the first summer of my entire life where I have had it. I run it around the clock. I stand directly over/under the vents. Tyler can sell an internal organ to pay the bill if necessary.

We play outside.

We eat something not really resembling a balanced meal.

We play outside again. At 9:30 the sun sets and we herd kids inside. We do not generally bathe them.

We remind them (weakly) that bedtime was at 9:00 and why are they all still up?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The diva is 2

Heaven help us all.

Charlotte's second birthday arrived in all its frilly pink splendor. She woke up to her big present, a doll house, spread over the kitchen table and a set of princess dolls. She spent most of the morning moving the furniture and occupants around, so engrossed she was quiet all morning.

After pizza for dinner we brought out the rest of her presents and her pink cake and pink ice cream. We were thrilled Marianne and Granny Wilcox could come celebrate with us. I was surprised how Charlotte seemed to know exactly what was going on. She sang loudly with us as we warbled "Happy Birthday to You" and then instantly started blowing at the candles, without any coaching. Thanks to Carden and Seth who actually put them out.

The hits of the night were her dress from Marianne and her gifts from Carden and Seth: purple beads and bracelets, high heels and sunglasses--the basics, as any girl knows.
Seth helped me make the cake, and Carden helped put the sprinkles on the cupcakes. I was happily surprised that it looked pretty cute! Thankfully Charlotte is easily impressed.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Why I am a good mother; Reason #218

We come out of swim lessons to see that the city has set up a "get to know your city departments" fair. After free hot dogs and lemonade, the boys want to ride in the power company's cherry picker.
"Fine," I say. I will stand here in line so you can ride the cherry picker. When we get to the front of the line they want me to go with them.
"Oh no," I say. "That's the last thing I'm going to do."
"Oh but you have to" says the power company guy. He's smirking, so I'm not sure if he's joking or not.

"You're kidding." I tell him. "They can go with you. I give permission."
"But look," he tells me. "They want you to go."
So against my better judgment--against any judgment at all--I climb in, and let me tell you, there is no graceful way to climb into a cherry picker. And up we go. Way up. The next time I see my house from that vantage point I better be floating on a cloud plucking a harp. I decide that this is not the time to discuss the recent rise in electrical rates with the guy operating the controls.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How to get that summer tan

"Why fork over your hard-earned cash for those expensive bottles of tanning cream? Why hassle with reapplying every few days? Do what Miss Charlotte does: use deck stain! It's long-lasting, comes in convenient gallon size, and is so much fun with a paintbrush! Miss Charlotte recommends Formula 1904: Heart Redwood to give her that desirable sun-kissed look."

You turn your back for a second...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Save the cheese!

This week we've been dog-sitting Higgins, a bulldog belonging to Tyler's brother Joel. Despite Higgins and Angus coming from the same breeder, they are completely different physically. Angus looks like a fat slug, and Higgins is a trim machine, although they have the same penchant for snoring in the shade. We've also discovered that both dogs love cheese. And poor Charlotte, at only 33 inches high, is their prime target for hostile takeovers. Charlotte also loves cheese, and spent most of yesterday afternoon running from the dogs, waving her cheddar over her head and screeching "Not yet!" She never latched onto the toddler's favorite word "no," prefering the more polite version "not yet," although the meaning is the same--"no way."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Notes from the field: boys and girls are different

Last week we had an extended family picnic at the botanic gardens. Three families, three assorted fast food offerings (no one felt like cooking), and some picnic tables by a fast-moving creek made for a great evening. We spread out our paper bags while the kids wandered around, until Carden shooed them back to their own table: "Your food is over there. This is our feast." Who knew he'd be so possessive over chicken sandwiches and french fries.

The gardens were lovely, full of spring flowers and blooming trees. It seems to be a popular spot with wedding photographers and we saw many couples doing photo shoots. To appreciate this, you have to understand that Charlotte, not yet 2, is in a full-blown princess phase. Her limited vocabulary has a large chunk devoted to words like "princess," "pretty princess," "dress," "pretty dress," "shoes," "pretty shoes," etc. You get the idea. So we're wandering through the gardens, and around the bend we come across one of the brides. Charlotte stops dead in her tracks, mouth open, staring at this girl in clouds of white tulle. She doesn't move for a full minute, and even once I call her name, she takes a half-hearted step toward me, not taking her eyes off the bride until they've left. Princesses in real life! Who knew?

A few minutes later we come around another bend and spot another bride. I can hear my 5-year-old niece excitedly telling her mother, "That one had a tiara! The other one only had lace on her hair. I want a tiara."

A few minutes later we spot yet another bride. The 5-year-old girl says in a dreamy voice, "Look Mom, a bride!" To which Carden responds, "Sheesh, not another one!"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

So what do you do...

What do you do when you go in to check on the kids at night and discover that Charlotte is sleeping peacefully...soaked in vomit?

Tiptoe back out and pretend you didn't notice?

Or wake her up, clean her up, change all the bedding, and listen to her scream during the whole process?


You do what I did--call for Dad!!

And to his everlasting credit, he did it all. Even after he'd been doing it for the two days that I was gone all day at Women's Conference at BYU and he was taking care of the kids solo. Even after the first episode was Charlotte throwing up while they were at the pool watching the boys' swimming lesson.

Hurray for dads.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Palm branches and empty tombs

We celebrated the religious side of Easter a bit differently this year--we actually celebrated it. The week before I was grumbling about how our Easter Sunday services would be pretty dull compared to the high churches with their cathedrals of stained glass, booming organ oratorios, flowers, and candles. Compared to Christmas, a holiday marked with eight large boxes of decorations and at least 24 days of special activities, foods, and music, Easter seemed a poor country cousin, at least in our house. Somehow the idea evolved that I could make this year different and the Crocketts would commemorate the last week of Christ's life with a bit more pomp and ceremony.

We began on Palm Sunday, and using a large pad of easel paper, every day we drew pictures to illustrate what happened on that day of Holy Week. Carden and Seth really got into this, embellishing and adding to my pathetic stick figures with their own drawings, coloring, labels "Pilate = bad guy," and discussions between themselves "Seth, don't draw a smile! Jesus was SAD that day!" "Carden, that's Judas, he's not supposed to be happy." "He's not. See, I drew mean eyebrows." More amazing was how interested I got into researching what happened so that I could be prepared for the next day's drawing. Tyler teased me that I walked around the house reading Jesus the Christ like it was Harry Potter.
By Wednesday I'd found a Mormon Tabernacle CD full of Easter music: the cathedral-and-stained-glass-type I'd been craving. Pieces from the Beethoven oratorio, Dvorak, Gounod, John Rutter--all wonderful stuff made for a great iPod Easter playlist. Nowhere near my 32 hours of Christmas music, but a good start, and it filled the house with the feeling of Easter.

Thursday I thought about serving a Passover dinner, but figured the kids were not quite old enough to make it worth the work. But we did serve bread and grape juice and talked about the change from the Passover to the Sacrament, before diving into our decidedly nontraditional plates of spaghetti.
For Good Friday I made Hot Cross Buns, which didn't turn out quite so pretty as I'd hoped, but tasted good and will hopefully work better next year. Because the Gospel writers offer enough detail of what happened when during that Friday, I spent the day much more aware of the time and what was happening so many years ago in Jerusalem (7am: probably dragged between Pilate and Herod; 8am: the scourging?; 10am: the cross; sunset: hastily placing the body in the tomb).

Saturday was gloomy weather, appropriate for the day I spent thinking of the Disciples marking the Jewish Sabbath, ruminating on the previous day's event. As part of a church lesson on Easter that I had to teach, I put together a DVD slideshow of works of art depicting scenes from the last week of Christ's life. I really had a great time combing the Internet for material. And our computer even cooperated (mostly) and Tyler burned the disc without incident! True miracle.

Easter Sunday was a beautiful spring day, wonderfully perfect after the gloom inside my soul the preceeding two days. We ran out of time on Sunday, but later that week we made Resurrection Rolls (slightly goofy concept but a big hit with the kids).

By the time I packed up the box of Easter decorations, I felt like we had really celebrated Easter for what it is--a hard week of watching someone prepare for his death, paying closer attention to his last words and teachings, and appreciating the glory of Resurrection morning because we'd seen the price it took to get there. Next year I think we'll add some more activities I found online and continue to make Easter a wonderful--and major--holiday for our family.

Jelly beans and chocolate bunnies

We stretched out our Easter festivities this year, starting with a cousin egg hunt in the backyard the weekend before when my parents were in town. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperative at all, and we squeezed in the egg finding between snow flurries. Nothing like trying to pick up slippery plastic eggs while wearing gloves.

The Easter bunny brought his usual baskets full of treats, which were eaten before/instead of breakfast. We tried unsuccessfully to pry the chocolate bunny out of Charlotte's hands and replace it with a piece of toast, but she wasn't going for that. Charlotte is not much for jelly beans, but she can smell chocolate at 50 paces.

Our indoor jelly bean hunt was another favorite activity. All the ones I hid above kid-eye-level are still there, providing me, at least, with an additional stash of jelly beans now that the kids have gobbled all the rest.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Grandparents day at school

Carden lucked out that for the weekend of the school Grandparents Day, both sets of his California grandparents were in town. Grandma and Grandpa Halverson won (or lost?) the prize of actually going to school and fighting the crowds for two hours.

They played bingo, checkers, and math games, globbed their hands with paint for handprints, frosted cookies, interviewed each other, and toured the school. Carden said it was "the best day of my life!" Afterwards they snuck him off-campus for lunch at his favorite restaurant, Applebees, to feast on corndogs, fries, and miniature Oreo sundaes.

Since both sides of our family come with large numbers of aunts, uncles, and cousins, we're used to sharing grandparents among all the families. And within the family, we're used to sharing grandparents with siblings and parents. That probably contributed to Carden's enthusiasm to have some of his favorite people all to himself. It reminded me of the few times that I got to be alone with my grandparents and how special that was. I'm sure the opportunities were infrequent, again because of the numbers they had to divide themselves among, and yet they are vivid memoriesto me. Thanks to our great grandparents (and Great-Grandparents even!) for making Carden's day such a fun one.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

And Charlotte?

Charlotte is doing many things, at the ripe old age of 21 months. Unfortunately, the one thing her parents want her to do, namely talk, she is not doing. I suppose she is making s-l-o-w progress, but aack! it is more slow than progress.
Of course, Carden spent a year of intensive therapy learning to talk, among other behaviors, so to all you good California taxpayers of 2004-2005, you have gotten 3 for 1 out of your investment, since all the tricks that we learned from his speech team were put to use on Seth when he was slow to speak, and are now being dusted off for Charlotte's benefit. Once again we sing "Icky Sticky Bubble Gum" to learn body parts, parcel out snacks one at a time ("oh, you want another cracker?"), practice flashcards, and watch hours of Baby Bumblebee speech videos.

For all our pains we get a lot of "my dat" (everything in sight is "my that") and "no dat." Sigh. Or we'll prompt her, "you want up? Say up." To which she looks at us like the lights finally went on in our heads and emphatically say "yeah." The only bright spot is "lish" (delicious), which applies to almost everything I cook for dinner. Sadly, Carden and Seth are twice as loud with "this is the worst dinner ever." This is why people have girls, right?

Charlotte has also jumped into princess life with both feet. Here she is on the trampoline with her fairy princess skirt, which looks equally at home with pajamas and raincoats. "Doll" is another of her highly prized words, and I am chagrined to confess how her face lights up when we ask if she wants to watch Cinderella or Snow White. Sorry, Baby Bumblebee. Maybe it's time to come up with a Princess Speech video.