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Ode to John: Happy November! It's time to be thankful, since showing thanks is so taboo the rest of the year. I will start by saying that I slept in this morning.

And yesterday.

And the day before. And pretty much every day since school started. I have only taken Maggie to school once, and even then John stayed home on a phone call while Dalton slept.

He is getting really good at fixing Maggie's hair.

He came home after drop off with breakfast in bed for me a couple days ago.

Add his sense of style, his long walks with the baby, his humor and opinions, and the bonuses at work... my, What A Catch.

Where Much is Given: This morning, John woke me up bright and early so I could fulfill our chapel cleaning assignment. This is our third cleaning assignment since we moved to this building last October. So we've spent about 4 hours, between us, cleaning the church in the last year. Some people don't even attend four hours of church in a year.

I had a lot of time to think while I was vacuuming. I started to think about why I was vacuuming. Lay clergy is just who we are, but it's only been 15 years or so since members have been asked to assist in chapel cleaning. The Church has plenty of money to pay people to clean the buildings, and in a lot of places, this would provide much needed employment for individuals. So, surely, there is a reason we are asked to do this. I thought of a talk by Elder Uchtdorf in General Conference a few weeks ago. He told this story:

Once there was a man who dreamed that he was in a great hall where all the religions of the world were gathered. He realized that each religion had much that seemed desirable and worthy.

He met a nice couple who represented The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked, “What do you require of your members?”

“We do not require anything,” they replied. “But the Lord asks that we consecrate all.”

The couple went on to explain about Church callings, home and visiting teaching, full-time missions, weekly family home evenings, temple work, welfare and humanitarian service, and assignments to teach.

“Do you pay your people for all the work they do?” the man asked.

“Oh, no,” the couple explained. “They offer their time freely.”

“Also,” the couple continued, “every six months our Church members spend a weekend attending or watching 10 hours of general conference.” “Ten hours of people giving talks?” the man wondered.

“What about your weekly church services? How long are they?”

“Three hours, every Sunday!”

“Oh, my,” the man said. “Do members of your church actually do what you have said?”

“That and more. We haven’t even mentioned family history, youth camps, devotionals, scripture study, leadership training, youth activities, early-morning seminary, maintaining Church buildings, and of course there is the Lord’s law of health, the monthly fast to help the poor, and tithing.”

The man said, “Now I’m confused. Why would anyone want to join such a church?”

The couple smiled and said, “We thought you would never ask.”

Indeed. Well, I don't have any profound answers. Maybe tithing money is better spent elsewhere. Maybe where much is given, much is required. Maybe it's easier to part with our tithing money than give our time in such mundane service. I'm going to go with that. Perhaps we need to be sacrificing more.

Margaret Philanthropist: The other day, while shopping at Walmart, Maggie busted out this gem:

I know what a grocery store is for. It's to buy things and the money goes to people that don't have money.

I knelt down in Walmart and gave her a big hug. The world would be a different place with more Maggies in it.

This morning I told her it was Fast Sunday and that we were just going to bring snacks to church and no treats. She asked what I was fasting for, and I explained that it was a regular fast day, but also told her the purpose of my fast. Then she said, "I'm going to fast because Grandpa is in the hospital that he'll be ok. And my fast is no snacks at church."

Good girl.

Dalton on Death: Dalton is starting to freak me out with all his talk of the world ending.

When is the last day?
What happens when there's no more tomorrows?
How much are we going to be dead?

Do you think he knows something we don't?

What Happened When My Son Wore a Pink Sparkly Crown to Walmart: A month or so ago I posted a picture of Dalton at Walmart. In the picture he is wearing a pink sparkly crown (and the baby's teething necklace).

Dalton sleeps in and he frequently will come downstairs fully-dressed while Sienna and I are having breakfast. On this day he came down wearing his "running pants", a long-sleeved Incredibles shirt (last year's Halloween costume) and the pink sparkly crown his sister had brought home from school the day before. One of his better outfits, honestly. I was just gathering my coupons for a trip to Walmart so we finished breakfast, and left.

On the way to the store I remembered reading a story by a mommy blogger about a boy wearing a pink headband to Walmart and getting yelled at by a stranger. When I got home from Walmart, I thought I would go comment on the blog post. As I searched the internet for it, I discovered that the whole thing was allegedly made-up. Huh.

Anyway, I let him wear it. And you know what? No one noticed. I don't think he got any more (or fewer) smiles than he usually does. No one stared. No one commented. He kept the crown on all day until the very moment M walked out of her classroom and asked for it back. He may have had an innocuous remark from a friend at school, but seriously - no one cared. We live in a very conservative area and no one cared.

However, this experience, coupled with the recent discovery that "pink and blue" were basically arbitrarily assigned as gender markers (so arbitrarily that pink was originally assigned to boys), has given me increasing interest in the culture of "gender". I am currently reading Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys From Girls in America.

It's Autumntime: I love Fall. Even here in Southern California where the temperature swings aren't too extreme, it's a nice change in weather, atmosphere and even pace. Fall brings Halloween (yay!), warm food, time with family, new things learned at school, nice weather for being outside, long sleeves, the smell of the heater turning on (occasionally), and a deeper comfort in snuggling in my bed.

Grocery Budget: My financial goal this month is to track my grocery spending. I gave up on the budget about a year ago. I was always under budget, and there was plenty of money to spend on food, so I stopped bothering. I'm afraid it might have gotten a little bit out of control, so it's time to reign it back in. In addition to not keeping track, our grocery spending has expanded to include another one in diapers, baby food, organic produce, organic milk, nitrate free ham and hot dogs and who knows what else.

It's the 7th and I've been shopping four times. Argh! The total is under $150 for the week, though, so that's not too bad. Also, I got 6 tubes of Crest toothpaste at Ralph's for under $.50 each. Finally a good toothpaste deal! I've had to *gasp* pay full price a couple times, because toothpaste is one thing we are picky about. Now we're set for a while.

Proverbs 31: I've seen a lot of "Proverbs 31 mommy blogs" around and I think I knew what the proverb was, but it wasn't until I saw verse 27 quoted recently that I looked it up and felt touched by it.

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
I need to pick two jobs - one that makes ME feel like I can relax with my house clean, and one that makes JOHN feel like that. I already know what mine is, and I'm dreading it: cleaning the kitchen floor. If the kitchen floor is clean, life is good. But I hate doing it. John's is probably clear flat surfaces. We'll see if I can work on keeping both of those things done, without everything else completely going to pot.

I also liked the last verse on eating of her own fruit.

Date Night: John and I made it to the temple today. I don't know why it is so difficult to find a babysitter - not to mention expensive. So, some friends of ours watched the kids (including grumpy Sienna who took no nap at all today). The bonus to kid swapping is that the kids love it. Maggie is already asking when we will hang out with them "after school" again, since we swap for school volunteering as well. The money saved is a big plus, too.

I was thinking about John and I and feeling a renewed commitment to our marriage, watching the video. It sure is nice to get out on a date once in a while.

After we picked the kids up, we got some Greek food from Garbanzo and took it home for dinner. Sienna was pretty excited to see her bed.

Kid Update: It's weird to think that Dalton is the same age Maggie was when we lived in India. Sienna is crawling around like Dalton was when we lived with John's parents. [Side note: I don't know how he survived living there with those steep stairs and no baby gate!]

They grow so fast and time passes so quickly. Dalton is really loving preschool. He feels so important going to "preschool" at a friend's house every week, and Maggie helps it along by being genuinely interested in what he did while she was at school. This week is my turn and we're going to do G is for Glow! I have some blacklight and glow-in-the-dark activities planned.

It's amazing to watch Maggie learn how to read. And play the piano. And play soccer. And do gymnastics. She is expanding her capabilities in every direction and it's astounding.

Sienna is a crazy face who won't nap half the time. But she is soooo cute and snuggly, I just love her so much. She just got her 5th and 6th teeth - 6 more teeth than either of the other kids had at her age! She puts everything in her mouth, loves exploring and is a quick crawler. She is starting to cruise and consider standing, but won't be walking anytime soon. I have enough trouble keeping up with her as it is, so that's fine by me!

[Comments] (1) Maggie's wishes.: Maggie has already picked out names for her future children. Luke and Sophia. Dalton, upon hearing this, announced that when he has a baby in his tummy, if it's a boy he will name it Luke Skywalker.

Maggie made a Christmas list while on a walk with John on Sunday. "Dalton wants the same thing," she said confidently. The Hot Wheels race track they picked out at Target. Light sabers. Angry Birds stuffed animals (any Angry Bird or Pig, she doesn't care). And a book about Eagles or Owls. In response to that, John and I made them get rid of some of their toys. I threw away a big pile of junky stuff, and the kids picked out some of the My Little Ponies, and a couple other things. When Christmas gets closer, we will get rid of some bigger toys as well.

NaNoBlogMo Month: I jus turned the computer off before writing my blog post so tappity tap, here I go. And I decided not to correct my tapos (or auto-correct-os). Maybe tomorrow. Maybe I'll leave them. It's symbolic.

In case you haven't noticed, my goal for the month of. Nov ER is to do a blog post every day. Unfortunately, most of them are written at 9:30 at night and are not as eloquent and thought out as thy could be. Oh well.

I feel like I should write more. I have mundane hints to say that aren't exciting or interesting, but I do enjoy looking back and reading the evey day things in my life. I also really enjoy those types of entries in my mom's journals so all the more reason to write them for my own kids. I also have more interesting hints to say, though I am not very good at saying them and I don't attempt to do so very often.

Today started off great. Sienna slept until 7 which I wish she always did. Any earlier and I go back to bed. It's nice to be up and soon stuff in he morning. But not so nice to make it worth getting up ok purpose. We watched some friends, then went shopping. I am prepping for preschool letter G tomorrow. My plans keep failing. So we went shopping and Si Emma ended up with a 20 minute nap before we picked up Maggie. When we got home, she signed nurse, and when I nursed her, sleep, but she just cried in her crib. I have altered and not as fun stuff ready for preschool and I did some cleaning (see previous blog entry on how I need a cleaning schedule). Yay me.

The low end note of the day is hat. John ended up with terrible vertigo and nausea. He hasn't been well at all in per a year, but this terrible trouble hasn't been bothering him lately at least. I got him in bed. He alreay has a chiro appt in the morning. I hope it's just a spell and not a sign of these problems returning.

*National November Blog More Month

Positive: Things I did well today:

Picking Maggie up from school on time
Not yelling at the kids
reading scriptures
reading with the kids
dressing cute (I got a new red plaid flannel shirt from Target on clearance that I am in love with)
Staying out of the stores
being happy

I wasn't so good at a few other things, but we won't go there.

And, because I know you've been wondering, my toenail came off today. That is, I tripped over Dalton in the dark while putting Sienna in bed, and it was ripped off the rest of the way.

Pink is for Boys: I read Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys From the Girls in America for the same reason the author wrote it. She was doing some research on baby clothing and discovered that in 1918, the generally accepted rule was "pink is for the boy." Yes.

"Most of the confusion [in the early 20th century, on which color was feminine and which was masculine or whether they denoted gender at all] can be attributed to the arbitrary nature of the assigned symbolism, no matter how natural it might seem to modern consumers." Arbitrary. ARBITRARY! And it's become practically gospel in our culture today.

Also, the baby dress: "It's not unusual to hear modern people describe Victorian babies as being dressed like girls; this is an error. To its own parents and grandparents, a child wearing the traditional white dress looked like 'a baby.'" This is because a baby's sexual innocence was considered one of its greatest charms. Babies once wore dresses until age 3 or so, and even in the 1940s young babies of both sexes wore white dresses. Now, I even hear comments about boys wearing Christening gowns, the last remaining boy dress.

"One of the criticisms of second-wave feminism is that it framed equality more in terms of girls "being like a boy" than boys being more effeminate." True! "Equality" means women having what men have. When really, what women have is way better. I love being a SAHM!

The story of Baby X was very interesting. I pondered it over a day after reading it and I did figure out the baby's sex! I didn't see that coming.

These days, pink worn by men is usually seen as ironic or humorous. But colorful fashions for men are slowly emerging. The toddler age, after newborn clothes, is sadly lacking in neutral options. It's all PINK or BOY and it drives me crazy. Dalton asked me why he doesn't have any pretty clothes. Because he doesn't like any of the stuff that screams GIRL. Toddlers are a consumer now, and as they are learning to identify with their gender and learn it's permanence, they tend to go to the extreme, hence the girly-girls who wear nothing but pink tutus for months on end. "The more gender binary the children's clothing market becomes, the more it fits the worldview of the three- to five-year-old consumers looking for ways to express an unambigious gender identity." Parents worrying about gender and sexuality issues also often seek out once gender neutral items - a onesie, overalls - now embellished with gender-specific themes.

In addition to the clothing, I am really annoyed at people reinforcing what they believe to be natural attributes of boys and girls. Boys naturally like to wrestle and play with guns. Really? MY boy doesn't. Girls like dolls and dress-up. Really? MY girl doesn't. Now, I do believe that gender characteristics are innate and unique. "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." Most women are more naturally nurturing. Men are generally stronger. I also think that we are limiting each other by the gender mold that has been created in our world today. Especially when we limit children in what they can play with, what they can wear, who they can emulate, and with whom they can play (kids must have learned "Boys Only" from somewhere). Like a baby in a dress in the early part of the 20th century just looks like "a baby", let our children just act like "a child."

With the advent of mid-pregnancy ultrasounds revealing sex, people began labeling their baby with a gender even before birth. Is it a he or a she? It's a baby. Does it MATTER?

Christmas Sewing: I got started on Christmas sewing today. I made new stockings for Maggie (Christmas owls) and Dalton (Star Wars) so Sienna can use one of their old ones. I also made something for Rachel. It's amazing how fast things can get done when the baby thinks the sewing machine is funny, and everything is working properly.

Homemade Halloween costumes was as much crafting as I thought I would get done this year, so with my expectations exceeded I have high hopes for Christmas now!

This is such a Mom type journal entry.

Lego Visit: We had a great day at Legoland today. It was beautiful fall weather. We took turns waiting in lines and went on a lot of rides because it wasn't very crowded. Of course, we realized at the end of the day that Sienna hadn't been on a single ride. We also saw a few LEGO characters, and the Star Wars X-Wing model, which is apparently the world's largest LEGO model.

We went in search of an ornament for this year's Christmas tree (though we bought one in Yosemite). For $7.99 you can get a 2x4 Lego brick key chain engraved, so we did that.

They are decorating for Christmas, including some sort of fake snow activity/area in the works. It's no Disney, but it's fun!

Sienna took no nap until we got to the car. Dalton also fell asleep in the car and took a 4 1/4 hour nap. And now, at 10:45 pm, he is wide awake in my bed waiting for me to come snuggle. Yes, please!

Small and Simple Things: Today was one of those Sundays where I paused before entering the church and wondered why I was bothering. Sienna is grumpy during that time. The other kids are distracting. I miss classes trying to get S to take a nap. But I went in and gave it a try.

Sometimes I say that to myself and come home from church wondering the same thing. Today was not one of those days. Every few moments there seemed to be a reminder of why I should be there. Sienna and the kids were actually well-behaved. I got to take the Sacrament, something I missed last week with Sienna. The talks were good. I sang the hymns. I did spend Sunday School in the mother's room/hallway. But then I went to Relief Society and enjoyed a great lesson on service.

In the meantime, I went into the bathroom to change Sienna's diaper. A sister came in and said, "you're such a good mom. I could hear her laughing while you changed her." I said, "she wasn't laughing, she was crying!" Then she expressed sympathy and a kind word to me about being a mom of young children. That small moment buoyed me up and kept going. S was just an angel during RS (other than when I got up to play the piano). I really enjoyed the lesson. I've been feeling lately that all our experiences bring us opportunities to serve others going through those trials later (like the older mom had just done for me). I shared that message tonight when I went visiting teaching to a soon-to-be first time mom.

All these little things made me feel like Heavenly Father really knew my needs and was watching out for me today.

Sick: Among the many things I wanted to do yesterday that did not get done was my daily blog. Boo! It was an unexpectedly busy day and now I have a terrible sore throat, so I iust wanted to go to bed. So, I'll add this for the 18th: I'm thankful for good health.

First Birthday Girl: Happy birthday to my Nenna Girl! One year old. Already her laugh is turning into a little girl laugh and less of a baby laugh. At ONE, Sienna:

Pulls herself up, cruises a little and ponders standing on her own. She is a FAST crawler, and people comment on it.
Has straggly long hair on the top that I'm still trying to comb over to the side. She gets a little pigtail on occasion.
Refuses to nap regularly and will cry 45 minutes before sleeping for 20. She is also done napping anywhere but her crib.
Chews on everything. Toys go in her mouth. Anything the kids leave out. Toilet paper is put up on the counter. I find myself asking her several times a day , "what are you eating?" And fishing something out of her mouth.
Loves baths, but only if Dalton is in there with her. Otherwise she will try to climb out.
Does not like to be left with other people, even people she is familiar with, even with her siblings with her. She also cries in Relief Society every week when I play the opening song.
Bounces to music whenever she hears it. Even if she is half asleep and nursing she will start bouncing.
Loves her crocheted blankies. We keep them in her crib and if she ever sees them out , she will speed-crawl over, bury her face in the blankie and start chewing.
Her other favorite toys include anything with hair she can rip off (Eeyore, Pegasus, horse), toilet paper rolls, handy Manny toolbox, books, her ride-on car and the kitchen and fake food.
Likes playing in the freezer, fridge, pantry, recycling, pot cupboard and shoe basket.
Stiffens up in her car seat if we run too many errands in one day. She doesn't mind the car usually but she doesn't like getting in and out (me neither).
LOVES walks with her Daddy.
Loves dogs, animals and birds.
Signs milk, sleep, all done, more, daddy and is learning dog and bird and signs for Margaret and Dalton.

Sienna's First Birthday: Sienna's first birthday fell on a Tuesday, which is our business day of the week, particular on weeks I am volunteering at the school. She refused naps all day, but she didn't shed a single tear when she spent 2 hours at a friend's house while I was at the school.

We played crazy games in the car during soccer because it was cold outside, then she fell asleep on the drive home. But when she woke up, we had cake! We lit a candle for her and sang to her, and then she got cake, messy face, and a bath.

Her present arrived a day late, but Maggie picked out That's Not My Snowman. We got Dalton That's Not My Train for his first birthday, and she is already enjoying the ride-on car Maggie got for her first birthday.

Maggie: Where are Sienna's presents?
John: I got her a present. I gave her $100.
Maggie: $100! But she doesn't even know what cents are!

1 and 4 Years Old: Dalton and Sienna had well visits at the doctor today. They had six shots and a nose squirt between them! Yikes! Not too many tears though. Dalton was promised three stickers and three suckers from the nurse, and he definitely made good on that.

Dalton had his eyesight and hearing tested (he can see that thing better than I can with my glasses on). He is 33 1/2 pounds (28%) and 40 3/4" tall (56%). He just needs one more shot before Kinder. Ack! (Even though he has another year before Kinder, he has to has them to register for TK.)

Sienna is tall and skinny (gasp) at 17 lb 10 oz (17%) and 29 3/4" (71%).

Maggie will also be going in for a flu mist after school. Hopefully she takes it better than last year when she cried so hard they had to give her a shot instead. EDIT: Maggie handled her nose squirt very well. She weighs 41 lbs.

It's a Great Day, Thanksgiving Day: Margaret had a Thanksgiving play this morning. She even had a big line: "I think I'm beginning to see what Thanksgiving is all about. It's about giving thanks for things that money can't buy, like family and friends, or good health."

She also brought home a cute paper turkey for a centerpiece and some more awesome journals. I love her journals. They really show her personality.

After the play we got an oil change and went to Walmart, Target and Jo-Ann. Sienna was so good during all those errands. She dug an apple out of my purse and ate on it most off the day and that kept her occupied. I think I have everything I need for Thanksgiving except for the turkey, and I have a good start on homemade Christmas gifts, pretty much all for Rachel.

Family Pictures: Today was the long-awaited taking of family pictures. We wanted to do something "California" themed. Apparently it's beaucoup bucks to take pictures at the mission, so we did the beach instead - Laguna Beach (at Heisler Park) for a typical Orange County shoreline. I think they are going to turn out great!

We were worried about rain, but the weather was perfect. The light was amazing. The kids were bribed with ice cream so they would smile nicely and look at the camera with their eyeballs. Sienna didn't cry (even when plopped on damp, pokey rocks). Sand was enjoyed by all.

In the meantime, we decorated for Christmas. John put up lights all along the bushes on the outside of the house. It looks very festive. Yes, we are those people who *gasp* decorated before Thanksgiving. Whatevers.

Here Come the Holidays!: Tomorrow is the first official day of Thanksgiving break. Our house is decorated for Christmas. The heater is on. We have plans. Yay!

Sienna is thrilled with the small Christmas tree we set up. Of course, that one has all the glass ornaments on it, and a tree skirt she wants to pull right off the table. She is happy to just look - for the most part.

Tomorrow we are going to the San Diego Zoo. We also have a Legoland trip planned this week, and lots of cooking. We've bought lots of Christmas gifts, and made some, too. Everything is geared up and I'm ready. Sometimes you just "need a little Christmas" to add a spark.

Koalafornia: Today we made the trek down to the San Diego Zoo again. We each picked one things we wanted to see and planned our visit around that. Dalton loved the flamingos, Maggie the birds, of course. I picked the elephants since we didn't go to that section last time, and also the restaurant over there sounded the best. John enjoyed the koalas and the meerkats. We also saw the polar exhibit, rode the Skyfari each way and saw lots of other things along the way. Sienna loved the whole thing, the flamingos in particular. She gets excited when she sees animals, but a lot of them are hard to see.

The drive is a little too long, especially since we are used to exiting for Legoland half an hour earlier. But at least we didn't hit any traffic today.

November Sun: Maggie had soccer class today. By the time it was over, three other kids had showed up, but she was the only one for quite a while and got some one-on-two time with the coaches. The sun was out and it was a lovely November day to spend an hour lying in the grass and chasing my baby. Well, it was a lovely 45 minutes anyway. The sun went behind a bank of clouds before setting and the last 15 minutes were quite cold. Sienna loves to escape and run all over the grassy field. And eat eucalyptus leaves.

I got started on Thanksgiving cooking today. This better be a fun relaxing holiday, other than the cooking. I'm kind of tired of that mom thing where "vacation" is more work than the rest of the time.

Thanksgiving Prep: I waited in line for half an hour today to buy a turkey breast. Still faster than cooking one, and much, much better.

Sweet Potato Casserole: check
Pumpkin Roll: check
Cheeseball: check
30-Day Shred so I can eat whatever I want: check

We went for a family hike in Quail Hill today. We also started a new tradition of roasting marshmallows for Thanksgiving. John made fancy marshmallows covered in crushed peppermint, oreos, graham crackers and chocolate shavings. We roasted them on skewer sticks over charcoal in the little grate at the park with some friends who happened to be there.

Happy Thanksgiving!: Today was a fabulous Thanksgiving Day filled with lots of food. We also went for a scooter/walk after eating.

But best of all - we got a tree! This is John's first real tree. The house smells sooooo good. It's the perfect shape and he picked out a Fraser fir, which has sturdy needles that don't seem as likely to drop every where. Sienna is very intrigued.

After dinner, an elf stopped by our house and left a note for the kids and a gift he had brought from Uncle Leonard (to be opened on the 1st). The kids spent 15 minutes or so looking around the house for the elf. Dalton said, "I know elves are real." and Maggie was like "duh." No question at all. I love it.

Black Friday: This morning we got up, got ready and packed to go to Legoland. We brought rain coats and umbrellas and no stroller. We got as far as the freeway and changed our mind. Legoland is almost entirely outdoors, including all but one ride. And it's an hour drive in the rain. So we turned around.

Instead, we went to Toys R Us. On Black Friday. It was 9:30 by the time we got there. It was busy, but not insane. We bought a race track for the kids (full-price) and got a $1 pack of play-doh.

Then we went to Old Navy, while we were out. We got shirts for each of the kids, and a scarf for John, and waited in line for 45 minutes to check out.

Then we went to Target, while we were out. Sienna fell asleep in the car, and we left her in her carseat, chewing on a noisy Rudolph toy while we shopped. We scored some great DVD deals. I spotted the last Monsters University near the check out on our way in. John grabbed it and we checked and found that it was indeed the $10 sale one, and indeed the last one on the shelves. We got a few other DVDs for $4-6 and an outfit for Sienna with the cutest sweater leggings.

Still raining, we headed home, quite satisfied.

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