Sunday, March 30, 2008

Some things I can't live without

Not in any particular order...

1. Books
2. E-mail
3. Caller ID
4. Target
5. Lip gloss
6. My favorite pair of jeans
7. Cereal and orange juice
8. TV
9. Hand lotion
10. My camera
11. My Franklin Planner
12. Online shopping
13. Summertime
14. Stud earrings

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hmmm about Hillary

Since I'm a political news junkie, I've still been following the presidential race even though my man Mitt is out of it. It's not nearly as exciting anymore for me, but it's still important. I continue to not really like any of the top three candidates, so I'm leaning toward writing Mitt's name in when I vote as a symbolic gesture. Surprisingly, I've softened the slightest bit toward McCain, but I still don't like him much at all. So we'll see what happens. There are months left until it all really gets underway.

I've thought all along that Hillary would win the Democratic nomination. Even though it looked for awhile like Obama would get it, and it still kind of does look that way, I'm going to stand by my original prediction that she'll pull it out in the end, and that she'll choose Obama as her running mate.

I recently was sent this link to a very interesting investigative piece about the Clintons. I recommend watching it when you have about 15 minutes of free time. The interesting thing about it is that it's a big-time Democratic Hollywood guy who in the past was friends with the Clintons and raised a lot of money for them, but is now taking them to court. If the case that is made in this video really is true and their character really is that malignant, then having Hillary as Prez and Bill Clinton as de facto Vice Prez would truly be a nightmare.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Kitchen Makeover

We got our kitchen remodeled from January to March of this year, and now it's pretty much all done. We're very happy with it! It was about 37 years old, in its original condition from the time the house was built. It was a real vintage 70's jewel, let me tell you. Now that it's been brought into the new century, it's a joy to be in the kitchen, where we spend so much of our time when we're home. Here are pictures of the wonderful transformation!

Here's the old fridge in an indescribable color: a beigish-yellowish ugly shade of something. And it looks so cluttered with all of the magnets and artwork! That of course was my fault. I think I wanted to try to hide or detract from the awful color. The nice new clean white fridge. We could have gone with trendy stainless steel, but I actually prefer the brightness of white and how it really perks a kitchen up.
The two old light fixtures. The one hanging down over the table was a real beauty. And we just loved bumping our heads on it all of the time.
I LOVE RECESSED LIGHTING! It lights the room up in such a beautiful, warm way. It's really amazing the difference lighting makes. This is the "before" picture of the kitchen with its original dark-wood cabinets and lovely yellow laminate countertop.
Here's a close-up of the counter, complete with burnt-in hole over on the left from a hot pot of spaghetti that Peter set down there last year.
Old set-up with the stove. We got this new stove last May when the old one died while Peter was making my Mother's Day dinner. It was in a shade that matched the old fridge. Needless to say, I was really happy when it stopped working (even though the timing was inconvenient) because it meant that we could get a new one!
Bye-bye, old cabinets and counters!
These are the new cabinets. They really lighten the kitchen up and make it seem bigger. The change was instantaneous and amazing. The countertop and sink were installed the next day.
We got a new microwave and had it installed over the stove so that there's more counter space.
The shiny new countertop.
New cabinets, counter, and sink...together at last!
The granite color is "pine green." Green is my favorite color, and I think this is a beautiful contrast with the lighter cabinets. Originally I wasn't sold on granite and wanted to go with a Corian countertop, but Peter wanted granite, and I'm glad now that we got it. I love the new oversized sink and faucet. They're from Italy.
For a couple of days all of our dishes, pots, pans, etc. sat in the dining room while the kitchen was getting done. John had fun making music in the classic pots-and-pans-as-drums kind of way.
Here's the "After" picture of our newly remodeled kitchen. It's so much better than what it was! I like being in there now; it actually feels peaceful and looks so much nicer and brighter. The next and final big remodeling project in our house will be the bathrooms, which we plan on getting done next year. In the meantime, we're loving the kitchen!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Good Article or Two

Here's the link to an informative article I recently received in an e-mail newsletter. It has to do with what I last wrote about, morality in the media and in our culture.

And this is a Conference talk from 2003 that really resonated with me back then and provides guidelines that are quite possibly even more important to follow today. The 7-point list at the end has good ideas for improving the quality of the media in our homes and lessening the negative impact it could have.,5232,23-1-401-5,00.html

I love having this blog; it's a great place to keep things like this so that I can refer easily to them whenever I want. Otherwise they tend to get lost or forgotten in my e-mail, even when I try to keep it organized with folders. Hooray for blogs!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Societal Decay

(Beware readers: get ready for a rant!)
I've been pretty disillusioned and disheartened by the Eliot Spitzer scandal this week. Not only because this man who had a huge amount of responsibility to the public has been breaking the law, being a total hypocrite since he spent his career going after all sorts of "law breakers" from Wall Street to...prostitution rings, but also because of how he's been breaking the law for what looks like years. Prostitution is one of the most morally reprehensible acts imaginable, and prostitutes themselves are a scourge to society. The pathetic women who do this ruin not only their own lives but also the lives of countless others, all for money. Why can't they use their brains and not their bodies like most other people do to make a living? Because they're dumb? Poor? Abused? On drugs? I don't care for their reasons; it's inexcusable. I also get peeved when they're called "call girls," trying to make it sound more classy and polite, when they are just prostitutes and hookers, engaging in the act of prostitution, which is paying for sex with a stranger, plain and simple. It's disgusting but not surprising that Spitzer's hooker is getting so much publicity now and will be able to make some serious money from her few minutes of fame. The public rewards despicable behavior with a level of attention that is evidence of how twisted the interests of people have become. And because I can't leave the paying customers out of this rant, I can't stand the heartless jerks who use prostitutes and keep them in business. Spitzer is forever disgraced, at least in the public eye, and has set such a bad example for Americans.

Another thing along these lines that has been bugging me is the hugely offensive Fox show "Moment of Truth." I've never watched it and I certainly never will, but I unfortunately see the ads for this show when I watch "American Idol," and I'm shocked that Fox shamelessly puts a terrible show like this out. So entertainment in America now involves watching silly selfish people answering way-too personal and totally inappropriate questions on national TV and ruining their relationships with their families as a result. What clearer proof is there than this that Satan is truly launching a massive assault on the institution of the family? Our society and the diet it feeds itself on seem to decay more and more with each passing day, and that's very bad news for America.

One last thing...have you heard about the new study that finds that a lot of teen girls have STDs? 1 in 4 girls, in fact. How sad is that? This is troublesome for a variety of reasons. For me to even say that teenagers shouldn't be sexually active in the first place, not until they get married, sounds so old-fashioned to most people now, but it's true, no matter what their religion or lack thereof, they shouldn't be doing it. Our morals have fallen so low in this country that it's now a pretty much accepted and expected thing for teenagers to be having sex. And look what it's leading to...STDs, which can lead to infertility and cancer, among other things...which can lead to the loss of very important opportunities (like having children), and even death. Families may never be created as a result and lives may be cut short. Both spiritual and physical death can and will and do result from this careless moral behavior.

If ever I wanted proof to back up the claims of the scriptures and doctrines that I am fortunate enough to have knowledge of, this is it. Wickedness never was happiness, and it never will be, and the proof of this is all around us, as the above three examples show. It is a worrisome thing to watch our culture spiral downward; it does not indicate good things about where we as a people are headed, and the effects of this cultural and societal decay on countless people is going to be devastating. It makes me angry that it's going to be even harder for me as a parent to teach my son about how to live a good life and make the right choices when the bad decisions of others are collectively going to make what I need to teach him seem less credible and more difficult to understand. Usually I'm more optimistic than I am here, but this morality stuff is an issue that is such a significant problem that it's hard to feel anything but pessimistic anger over it sometimes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

John's Party Pictures

John's 3rd birthday party was on Saturday afternoon at our house. It was for our family members on both sides of the family, who traveled in the pouring rain for 3-4 hours round-trip. In exchange we fed them pizza, chicken, garlic bread with mozzarella cheese, salad, fruit, and of course, birthday cake and ice cream. We had fun and John liked having everyone together in one place. We're looking forward to doing it again next year!

This cake was awesome, not only in appearance but also in taste. The planet cakes were delicious and everything on the board was edible, including the asteroid belt. John wanted to play with it when he saw it. For those of you reading this who are local, if you ever need a cake, I highly recommend Kate Roy; her cakes are beautiful, creative, and delicious, and her prices are good. Her website is:

My sister Jennifer enjoying some lunch.

Here's Johnny with his birthday buddy, my sister Elizabeth, who turned 24 on March 5th. We had a cake for her too, since the family was all together in one place, except for my brother Ben, who couldn't make it. My brother Nathan came all the way down from two states over in the midst of the busy-ness of his senior year at the University of New Hampshire. Thanks Nate, you're awesome!

John's favorite present was his new drum set from Grandma Hogan and the Stewarts. He wasn't interested in opening more presents after he opened that one! I put Peter on present-unwrapping duty with John so that I could sit down and take pictures and relax for a little while.

Singing to the birthday boy.

Cutting the cake. (What is this, a wedding?)

Little drummer boy.
This is a very nice drum set. My brother-in-law, Adam, got it at his music store. We've decided to put it in the playroom instead of John's room, since waking up every day at 6 a.m. to the sound of John pounding on his drums wouldn't be very good.
Playing with his new Lucky Ducks game. (This was the next day.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Our Boy John

I don't write exclusively about John very often on my blog, so I'm going to make up for that now with this post. Tomorrow, March 8th, John will turn 3 years old. It's fun and exciting to watch him grow up. What a fascinating thing it is to have a baby grow in you, be born, and become a unique, distinct, actual little person, developing more and more as time goes by. I'm sure that my fascination will only increase as John continues to grow up.

We are really blessed with our little boy, and we think John is a remarkable little kid. Since the time he was born he's had a happy, easygoing spirit about him. His personality is really fun: he's friendly, outgoing, social, and affectionate with just about everyone he meets, young and old. I'm still amazed at how he adjusted to preschool when he started two weeks ago--he had no problem with this pretty major change in his life, and he still doesn't. It's as if he's always gone there and it's the most natural thing in the world for him. This adaptability and openness to others is particularly amazing to me because I was a very shy little kid, so I've always admired the outgoing ones, and to have a child who is like that, who comes from me, is really cool.

Here are some things that have really been impressing us about John recently. He's always liked books and reading, from the time he was an infant. Now at almost three he's in the beginning stages of actually reading where he's picking out letters from words and recognizing what letter a word starts with and the sound it makes. I'll be surprised if he doesn't start reading this year. He can also recite the alphabet forward and backward. I think my jaw literally dropped when out of the blue one day last month he said the alphabet backward perfectly and quickly. We never even thought to teach him that, he did it on his own! It's hard to say the alphabet backward! I can't do it unless I really think about it and try a few times. (Yeah, it's humbling that my 2-year-old can do it much better than I can.)

That and other things lead us to believe that perhaps he has something of a photographic memory. He memorizes whole books and recites them over and over again when he's lying in bed at night and can't get to sleep. He's really taken to numbers (he is Peter's son, after all!). He can count to 100, and he can count to 1000 by 100's. He can also count by 10's, 5's, and 2's to 100, and he can count them all backward except for by 2's. He likes looking at number charts; they seem to fascinate him. In fact, at bedtime tonight, we did just that because he wanted to go over the numbers to 100 again. He really seems to like patterns and the way things are ordered. He had the planets memorized in order before he turned 2, and now a year later, he knows them backward and also knows about things like the asteroid belt, comets, satellites, that we live in the Milky Way galaxy, that the planets have different moons, etc. He even recognizes Galileo's picture (Galileo discovered Saturn's rings, just in case you were wondering. John would want me to tell you that.)

Another thing is that he memorizes animals, instruments, and other named things really well too. For example, he has a bird calendar and will find all of the birds for you, such as the "Red-Breasted Grosbeak," the "Snow Bunting," and the "Carolina Wren." He really likes doing this and wasn't satisfied until he had them all memorized. So we've been pretty amazed at how well his mind works, and it's one of the reasons why we decided to put him into a preschool program where they will teach him at his individual level as he indicates he's ready for it (that's what Montessori schools do). On Monday he has his 3-year check-up and I'm going to ask his pediatrician what she thinks of these skills of his. Maybe it's not that big of a deal, maybe it is, and I'd like to get her opinion on it.

Having said all of that, John is a fun, normal kid and he likes doing a lot of normal kid things too, like playing outside, going to the playground, playing with his friends, jumping on his trampoline, playing with his toys and puzzles, watching his favorite videos and TV programs (in moderation, of course!), going swimming, playing his instruments, playing games like Hide and Go Seek, and, of course, getting into mischief. His favorite person in the world is Daddy, which is appropriate since the two of them are alike in so many ways.

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens during age 3 for John. I've heard that age 3 can be much more difficult than age 2, and I have a feeling that may be the case for us. Although John is good and just fine most of the time, he definitely has a dark side that has been rearing its ugly head more frequently. In short, sometimes John drives me nuts. He seems to reserve his worst, most stubborn behavior mostly for me, and when he does, it takes all of my patience and wherewithal to deal with it as best I can. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail and have a bad mommy day. (As an aside, I truly believe that those we love the most also have the power to drive us the most crazy!) In any case, it should be an interesting year.

We really love our boy John, and we cherish him more than anything, especially since he is still our one and only child. He's one of the greatest gifts God could ever have given us. That's another thing, John knows that he is a child of God. He really likes the Primary song "I Am a Child of God" and Peter or I will sing it to him at bedtime every night. What sweeter message can a child go to sleep with each night than the one in the first verse of that song? Those are the things that really matter. Happy Birthday John! (See, I knew you could read!)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Month in Review: February

February went by fast! It was a pretty busy month for us. It started out sadly with a couple of tragic events: President Hinckley's funeral, and soon after that, Rob Price, a friend of ours from our college days in Philadelphia, passed away. Also, Mitt Romney dropped out of the presidential race, which was depressing.

On the upside, we got together socially with friends a lot more often (I'm making progress with that resolution!), and it was really fun to do that. Another resolution I've been working on is cooking better meals. I'm getting into the habit of planning out the week's meals every Sunday, and as a result I've been eating more nutritiously and John is eating a better variety of foods too. And I got a number of to-do list things taken care of and a few projects done this month (Resolution 5...if I can achieve it this year, then I'll be able to "Live the life you've imagined"--Henry David Thoreau). Valentine's Day was good with its truffles and roses and romance. Also, we got recessed lighting installed in our kitchen, making a significant, very nice difference over the old-fashioned light fixtures that were in there before.

The biggest thing that happened in February was that on the 20th, John started preschool. I'm happy to report that it is going very, very well. We decided to start him in a program now rather than in the fall as previously planned because he's really ready for more than what I can give him at home and in our other activities. The kid seems to be pretty darn smart with some amazing skills, but I'll write more about that soon. He loves the preschool. He's going to Miss Lisa's Montessori School in Simsbury, and he really likes Miss Lisa (or "Miss Weesa" as he calls her in his little-kid accent). He hasn't had any separation anxiety at all, no tears, nothing. Even Miss Lisa is surprised by how quickly and effortlessly he's adjusted. He's such an easygoing, affectionate, friendly child with people. He goes three mornings a week, and we're all really happy with how well it's going. Our little boy is growing up so fast!

These are the best new discoveries I made in February:
1. Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches. Delicious and healthier than the normal kind!
2. Multigrain Tostitos. Ditto the above.
3. GoodReads, a fun social networking site for friends who like to read.
4. Dearfoams house slippers. I really like wearing these around the house. I got the blue ones.
5. Dr. Frank's Joint Pain Relief Spray for Dogs & Cats. My beloved Christy will be 13 in May and since she's got a lot of German Shepherd in her and because she's kind of old, she's been having some arthritic joint pain. I saw this advertised on TV a lot and finally figured it was worth a try. It's a homeopathic remedy that you just spray in the dog's water bowl once a day. It really seems to be helping her; she's much more like her usual self again!
6. Eliza Magazine, for women who like to dress well in fashionable, cute, modest clothes.
7. I finally figured out how to use the DVR. Yeah! It's so convenient!

Here's what I'm looking forward to in March:
1. John's 3rd birthday on the 8th and the family party we're having that day for him at our house.
2. Finishing getting the kitchen remodeled.
3. Daylight Savings Time beginning (on the 9th) and the first day of Spring (on the 20th).
4. Easter.
5. The Family History Conference in Franklin, Mass., which I'm hoping I'll be able to attend since I really want to get into family history work this year.
6. Warmer temperatures and nature coming back to life (hopefully!).

Last but not least, here are my favorite photos that I took in February that haven't been posted on the blog yet (so this excludes all of my awesome flower pics).

Why do I get the feeling that I'll be seeing a lot more of this kind of expression directed my way in the years to come?
I think he looks so handsome in his tie and blazer.
John loves to get his back massaged by Peter. If Peter stops, John says "More please."
John and Hayley (his cousin and my neice) at my grandma's house in Massachusetts. John is serenading her with "The Twelve Days of Christmas." He was stuck behind the couch and trying to climb back up. It was funny to watch!
John was obsessed with the book "A Fish Out of Water" for most of the month. That's what he's reading here.
Here's John at breakfast on the morning of his first day of preschool. Looking out at the snow.
On Feb. 29th I babysat for my friend Alyson's two youngest kids for a few hours while she and her husband went to New York City to go to a taping of Conan O'Brien. John and Adam are only a month apart in age, so they're buds.
Blindsided by a hug!
Group hug! I just love Caroline. She's in my Primary class. I was holding her and rocking her back and forth and she said, "Sister Carlson, I don't want you to go home. You're the bestest babysitter in the world." Aawww!