Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Long Overdue... Bragging...?

One of my classes this semester focuses on the works of Lev (Leo) Tolstoy. This meant churning through both War & Peace and Anna Karenina in the first 8 weeks of the semester, a combined 3,000 + pages. I have learned that one of Tolstoy's favorite tendencies to ridicule is the desire to plan. Now planning in and of itself isn't a bad thing - everyone knows that. Even Tolstoy really lays into characters in his books who wander through life like chickens with their heads cut off. What Tolstoy is trying to criticize are the type of people who make concrete plans for every moment of every day.

This leaves me in a bit of a dilemma. I have a very full schedule right now, choc-a-bloc full of things that all seem to be fairly important. Have to work if we're going to pay the bills and eat. Have to go to school if we're going to ever be in a situation other than this one. Have to do homework and study if I want my schooling to be of any serious value. Oh yeah, then there are two lovely, growing kids and a wonderful wife to spend time with. Oh, and sleep.

And so, of necessity, my days are filled to the brim. Both with things to do, and with blessings. Blessings like a car breaking, and a kitchen floor that needs to be replaced, in the week prior to the two honking-est midterms of the semester, which is followed by the week wherein I have two large research papers due. I think Tolstoy and Heavenly Father must get along great. I can picture them both chilling out with some pryaniki and a hot drink watching and saying... "Nicely done, Evan, you managed to shoehorn everything in that needed to get done. Here's two more things that need to get finished off, and one of them is going to handicap the speed with which you can get all the rest of the stuff done. Betcha didn't see that one coming!"

I will be the first to admit that I have a motherlode-sized vein of obsessive compulsive tendency in me that manifests itself in my desires to plan. And plan everything into it's perfect little time slot, and know that everything will be finished within the 15-30 minutes I have allotted it. (Because everything that takes longer than that can be broken into perfectly manageable 15-20 minute sized pieces, obviously...) And know that nothing else will possibly come up that could take precedence or affect my perfectly thought out little plan. Because I have thought of all possible contingencies. That being said, the biggest things that I didn't see coming aren't even a broken car or a leaky floor that needed to be fixed.

Our kids are growing up faster than I can process it. Granted, my life is pretty busy right now so one of the last things on my mind when I'm playing with them is a comparison of how much further they've progressed. I guess that comes with a busy schedule - it has a way of causing... even forcing... you to live in the present. But I would like to post my rebuttal to things that I can imagine Tolstoy would have to say about my currently crazy state of existence with the following videos.

Exhibit A: Lena's Birthday Party. I personally find the first attempt at blowing out the 2 candles adorable, due in large part to the fact that it was punctuated by a characteristic "Oh no!" when it proved unsuccessful.
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Exhibit B: Pop rocks. We recently picked up a couple of packets of pop rocks. Lena thought they were great. She found it hilarious to leave her mouth hanging open and listen to them popping. "Look, Daddy, [gaping mouth], so funny!" Naturally, we fed them to Oliver too.
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Exhibit C: Playing pirates and sword fighting. Because a toothbrush and one of Mummy's wooden spoons are perfect for it.
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Exhibit D: Lena tearing around the house at her birthday party and nearly running over two little kids, the couch, and a few grown-ups.
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Exhibit E: Oliver's new trick. He has moved from crawling on to greater heights, and now spends most of his time policing our ottoman in the middle of our living room to ensure that anything on it is removed to the floor.
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He could pull himself up on anything else in the house just as easily, but we think he likes the ottoman best because it is the place that we are in the habit of keeping things that we don't want him to get into.

I must admit that all of these were "something"s I definitely failed to plan for. And it's a good thing that they, like the floor and the car, still found their way into my life.

For Those of You Not on Facebook...

Here is a link to an album with family photos from the last few months.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Updates

Fifty stripes for me for being lax at my blogging.

Things that have happened this month:

- Submitted my application (and a sizable chunk of our savings) to USCIS to remove the conditions on my permanent residency. 50 pages worth of documents to prove my marriage to Evan is valid raning from birth certificates to Christmas cards. Ah, bureaucracy.
-Kitchen sprung a leak... ripped up the whole floor and base cabinets, fixed leak, tiled the floor, and showered with our dishes for three weeks.
- Claire came to visit. Well, more came to visit Danny-boy, but it was really nice to see her, even if she did have to crash on our couch whilst our house was a disaster zone (see above). Claire: you have to come and stay with us again so we can redeem ourselves.
- Our car died. One year almost exactly after it blew a head gasket and we had to replace the entire engine. It was out of commission for the whole week that Claire stayed with us. It is now fixed-ish, and we are currently trying to figure out a permanent replacement.
- Received a one year extension on my green card, and we are now waiting for my biometrics appointment on Wednesday, and ultimately for USCIS to get around to approving my case... I have little hope of it taking less than 6 months.
- Oliver and I visited Sarah in Austin for 5 days. We jammed every day full of museums, exhibitions, and restaurants. I miss Sarah.
- Spring finally came, bringing with it blossoms, and colds and flu. It was pretty heinous for all of us, but poor little Oliver got hit the worst. We are on the mend, though.
- Watched conference. Elder Holland always gives the best talks.
- Both kids continued to grow faster than we cared to admit. Lena is jabbering away with rapidly increasing intelligibility. Oliver is crawling, standing (both aided and unaided), climbing, and stretching. Oh, and getting heavier.
- Lena got potty trained! Wohoo!
- We finished our taxes. We are still trying to get over our return amount. Hurray for EITC, and kids!
- Evan finished all of his midterms, and is now working on the last of his papers. Tomorrow is the last day of classes, and not a moment too soon. Then finals, and then more school. Yay!

Pictures soon!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cupcakes

I must not have been thinking straight the day I decided that cupcakes would be a great idea for Lena's birthday party. Usually I hate baking. On a normal day I even hate baking from a box. So, when I decided that not only would I bake cupcakes, but I would bake cupcakes from scratch, I really must have been lapsing in my sanity.

In the week of Lena's birthday I made over 100 cupcakes (and ate at least a third of them, all by myself... I don't even want to know how much butter that was). After a lot of research I decided to go with a recipe from Magnolia Bakery in NYC for their vanilla cupcakes. I had a few trial runs, figuring out along the way that my oven doesn't heat to the temperature that it says it does, and that I need to read recipes properly (one teaspoon of vanilla extract is NOT one tablespoon of vanilla extract). Finally (on the day of Lena's party) I ended up with 50 pretty, domed cupcakes, that, whilst I am sure didn't do the Magnolia Bakery cupcakes justice, were fabulously delicious.

I also made a discovery: I enjoy icing cupcakes. I just used a knife because I couldn't be bothered/was too impatient to pipe. I actually found it oddly theraputic and fulfilling, kind of the same feeling I get whenever I am creating art. It was different, but not necessarily in a bad way. I thought they turned out kind of cute. I forgot to take pictures of them before the party, but did manage to round up a few of them the next day for you all to see... I apologize in advance because the prettier ones got eaten at the party.


Oh yeah... the recipe, so you can all make them for yourselves: Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla Cupcakes
and it includes the buttercream frosting recipe too.