Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New traditions

For the past few years our New Year's Eve tradition has been easy—we just show up at the Stringham's for fondue and fun. This year I'm in Young Women's and we had a pizza and root beer party with the YM at church, while Rob went to the Utah v. Gonzaga basketball game, so we missed the party (not that we've ever stayed 'til midnight—we're lame that way). The kids all got to come to the ward with me, and they were in seventh heaven. Afterward we came home and watched an iMovie of about 780 photos plus short video clips from 2008. I will never scrapbook again! (It's been so long I may have forgotten how anyway...) It was really fun to review our year—even Photo Scrooge made it through without too many complaints. I'm hoping this is the start of a new tradition on New Year's Eve. The kids want to make root beer floats part of the tradition. Which will make it easy for me to get a jump-start on my perpetual resolution to lose weight in January, since root beer floats don't tempt me in the least. 

Happy New Year!

Michael David Riley

Welcome to the family. Sushi? Give it to Mikey...he'll eat anything.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas evening

What could possibly be better than being princess-cheerleaders?!!! Great-grandma Clayton knows how to make these girls happy!

Christmas afternoon

Traditions at the Backman family christmas party include cooked-to-death beef, Ginny's rainbow jello, enacting the nativity, receiving books as gifts and Grandpa sharing his testimony. This year Mary and Joseph both had red hair, and a couple of the angels were cheering for the U.

Christmas morning

We had a great christmas morning. I mostly shot video, so I don't have many photos, but we had my mom & dad and grandma over to watch the kids open presents, and Rob's parents and Jake joined us for Rob's famous ebleskiver breakfast. There were only minor injuries playing the new air hockey table. Good times.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Riley party

I am old

You know you're old when a sleepover doesn't sound like fun. Yet, except for the lack of sleep, the YW christmas party was fun. We had to cancel our trip downtown to see the lights because of the massive snowstorm, but we had a yummy dinner, exchanged white elephant gifts, played "The Sassy Experience" and watched an awesome slideshow/movie summarizing the year. I got to go home and sleep in my own bed for a few hours before heading back for a waffle breakfast. We don't have many young women, but they are stellar. And I feel so lucky to work with some of my favorite people in the ward.

Friday, December 19, 2008

School program

Photo (and holiday) Scrooge thinks this school time should be spent learning math and science, but the kids love it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Better late than never

We usually celebrate Riley family birthdays on the second Sunday of each month, but we've skipped a couple of months, so Ainsley is finally getting her party. She didn't seem to mind extending the fun into December.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Book Nerds

Robbie was thrilled last week when he was chosen to be the student who introduced author Brandon Mull at today's assembly. Robbie devoured the Fablehaven series and The Candy Shop War and told me I'd love it too—he was right. I read the Fablehaven books this past week, expecting a mediocre Harry Potter knockoff, but after the first book I was hooked. The plot kept me turning pages, the dialogue kept me smiling and the characters came to life. And I loved the discussion questions at the end—there are some good issues to get kids (and adults) thinking and talking. Yep, Robbie takes after me...he's a book nerd. Now our only dilemna is who gets to read book four first!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Super-power Brownies

I've posted this recipe already, but since I've decided to change my format to 6x6" (so I can either make cards or put recipes in a smaller binder), I'm posting it again. 

I made these last night for Family Home Evening, and they served as inspiration for Robbie's homework assignment to write a short story. Check it out, it's awesome:

What if my mom’s brownies gave you powers? 
By Robbie Marsh 

“Brownies!” Joey shouted.
“Yippie!” I exclaimed. They were fresh out of the oven. I immediately asked for one. Joey wanted a brownie too. They had a mouth-watering smell, and they tasted scrumptious. All I could do was think of the taste. Just looking at these brownies makes you feel like you’re starving. I closed my eyes, thinking of the brownies. Why, they were so good, they could make you fly or…
The moment I thought of ‘fly’ I hit my head on something. I opened my eyes wondering were I was. I looked down. There, was the kitchen, all of it. Maybe I was imagining things, but it was a birds-eye view. I could see the oven, sink, stove, pantry, dishwasher, and best of all, the brownie platter. I could see Joey’s fingers sparkle a flash. I instantly knew it was lightning. I thought a moment, and my eyes grew wide. I had been thinking about what Joey just did. I wondered if I could fly at…BONK! I felt it immediately. The wall. Sizzle. It rushed past me. Another miss.
“Stop it Joey!” I called to him.
“No! I’m a super-villain now, and you can’t stop me from taking over the world!” he shouted back. He didn’t know yet. I had the element of surprise on my side. Sure, he can throw lightning. I just have to fly at the speed of light to save Mom and get back here. As soon as you can blink I’d accomplished this and had a plan.
“Why don’t you eat another brownie to become stronger Joey?” I asked
“Good point” he said. So he ate another brownie, and evilly laughed. He tried to hit me with lightning but he couldn’t. I took the last brownie so he wouldn’t get his power again. I lost mine. So if you ever ask for a brownie, make sure my Mom didn’t bake it.

Joey was initially quite upset at being cast as the super-villian, but since then he has embraced this role, and he really does want to rule the world. ;)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Let the parties begin

Rob had class, so it was just me and the kids at the ward christmas breakfast. They had a great family bluegrass band for the entertainment, but Santa was the highlight for the kids. This may be the last year that Robbie will fit on his lap (or want to sit on it).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Beware of the doghouse

Photo Scrooge apparantly has a great christmas present for me, even though the new kitchen was supposed to be it for the next five years. He knows I'm not into jewelry, so maybe it's something "truly nice, like a gym membership."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Spinach Parmesan Soup

Last night I took this soup to Enrichment, and had several requests for the recipe, so I'm ending my long break from recipe posts (and from cooking, for that matter). I love this soup. It is delicious, and sophisticated enough to serve company, but so easy I'll even make it for lunch on a cold day. Don't cheat and try to fix it with dried onions or garlic or "fake" Parmesan cheese. I recommend the fresh shredded Parmigiano Reggiano from Costco. Mmmm!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for: family

We managed a decent family photo last year on Thanksgiving:

And one the year before, also on Thanksgiving:

We completely dropped the ball this year, but had a great day anyway. I'm so thankful for my family. I love spending time with them, and coming home to them when we're apart. I'm thankful for our extended family and the chance to spend time with them—this weekend we had a great time with Rob's family in St. George, and even got to meet our Atlanta cousins for the first time. 

"A happy family is but an earlier heaven." ~George Bernard Shaw

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful for: my faith

"...thy faith hath made thee whole."  ~Mark 5:34

This pretty much sums up how I feel about the gospel of Jesus Christ. It has made me whole. I'm grateful for knowledge of God's plan, and I feel his love in my life. I hope to be "an example of the believers," especially to my own kids, so they'll develop their own faith and the joy that comes with it.

Thankful for: books

"A house without books is like a room without windows."  ~Heinrich Mann

It's no secret that I love to read. I consider it a strength and a weakness. After a very productive and busy couple of months remodeling, I've retreated to one of my favorite places, book-land.  As Rob and the kids will attest, when I'm there, I might as well be in another country. I like to think that I return a better person, relaxed and (if it's a really good book) even inspired. And they don't have much right to complain—luckily, they love book-land as much as I do!

Thankful for: things

I know, I know. Life is not about things. I'm thankful for them anyway. Here's an incomplete list of the little things I appreciate:

my running shoes • toilet paper • method pink grapefruit hand soap • audiobooks • costco • the office • my library card • lucky jeans • automatic garage door openers • light • brownies • my mac • target • our furnace • my bed • mountains • fresh fruit • my camera • lockers • a new pantry • colors • my marked-up scriptures • cereal • disposable diapers & wipes • fleece • rice bags • wait wait don't tell me • fireplaces • turtlenecks • toenail polish • aveeno lip balm • cardstock • my ipod • extra gum • rei • dansko shoes • christmas cards

"First things first, but not necessarily in that order." ~Doctor Who

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thankful for: art

Today I went to a baby shower for my sister-in-law, and her aunt had some great Chinese artwork. It's not something I spend a lot of time thinking about, but I love to look at beautiful things. It's hard to beat nature, but there are some pieces of art that take my breath away too. Someday it'd be fun to make a "Top 100" list of my favorites, but for now, just appreciating it all in general.

"Great art picks up where nature ends."  ~Marc Chagall

Friday, November 7, 2008

Thankful for: candidates

 If anyone is bored, just make a public commitment to post everyday...your schedule is bound to become crazy. 

But, if I had made time to blog on Wednesday or Thursday, I would have expressed this: I am thankful for people who are willing to run for office. I may not agree with all of their stated positions, but I'm amazed that they are willing to endure a campaign. Even the local candidates have to deal with criticism, long hours, fundraising and rejection. It's something I have zero interest in ever doing.

Thank goodness our house runs a little more like a monarchy than a democracy—I'm pretty sure there are days that the constituents would happily vote me out of office and take over themselves. :)  

"A politician should have three hats. One for throwing into the ring, one for talking through and one for pulling rabbits out of if elected."  ~Carl Sandburg

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Laugh with me

Alright, I was trying to be funny with that last gratitude post title, but Rob tells me it still sounded pretty bold and presumptuous. Let me assure anyone bothering to read this that I really have an entirely unhealthy and insecure opinion of the way my body looks. I'm just grateful for what it does, for which I take no credit whatsoever. 

This just in

Sorry, I'm going from not posting at all to posting way too much. But I'm very excited to have this new, super-comfortable sectional. Rob, forget what I said about cleaning out the garage today—I'll be taking supervising from the couch to the next level. There is some danger that I may become permanently welded. :)

Thankful for: my amazing body

Ha ha! Just though I'd give you all something to laugh about on election day. No, my body is not amazing in the way that a swimsuit model's is. But, as much as I complain about its size, shape and increasingly, it's unreliability, I am truly grateful for all my body does. When I posted the last entry about fall, I was struck by how much joy I have thanks to my senses. I'm grateful that 80% of my senses are fully functioning, and also very grateful to science for correcting near blindness. I'm awed by what my body has done: it has carried and delivered four beautiful babies, come back from life-threatening infection and finished four marathons without too much protest. But I'm especially thankful for the daily functions and health that I take for granted, allowing me to enjoy every other good thing in my life.

"A sound mind in a sound body is a short but full description of a happy state in this world."
~John Locke

Monday, November 3, 2008

Copycat gratitude

This summer I had a cool experience while swimming at the tennis club. There was another mom there with her kids who asked me if my name was Michelle. It turns out she had read a comment I left another friend's blog and clicked through to my blog. I'm still shocked that anyone would bother, but I'm so glad Julie did! I love to check out her blog, she's the optimist and fun mom I'm trying to become. I especially loved this recent post about gratitude. So I'm not only plagiarizing her idea to post my blessings each day during this month of Thanksgiving, I'm copying the first thing on her list.

Fall is my favorite season for many of the same reasons. I love the bright colors of red and yellow leaves against a bright blue sky. I love the crisp, cool air and putting flannel sheets and a warm comforter on the bed. I love the anticipation of a new school year, and even the homework doesn't get old for a couple of weeks. :) I love the family birthdays and the holidays. I love hot chocolate and curling up with a good book. I'm always happy to make soup again and to bake. And I'm so grateful to be living near the mountains again. I love what I see out my windows in the fall!

"The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man." ~Joseph F. Smith

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The New, Revised (and Improved!) Dictionary

This morning our power was out until after 11:30 a.m. Since we have a tankless (electric) water heater, we put off baths and showers, hoping the power would be back on before church at 1:00. We lucked out, and I told the girls to hustle into the bath. Ellie informed Ainsley "Yeah, it's Fast Sunday...that means we have to hurry!" 

Catching up

As much as I love daylight savings time, I must admit that I love to "fall back" and get an extra hour. And with that hour to spare, really I have no excuse to be so behind here. So I'm backdating the highlights of the past few weeks and hoping to do a better job staying caught up now that our remodeling is finally at the touch up stage—minor stuff that usually doesn't get done for months if not years. :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween insanity

Since Halloween Scrooge has already covered the negative aspects of the day, I'll share the highlights:

The kids love halloween. They love to dress up. Thanks to the Stringhams for outfitting our little duck and granting Ellie's wish to be a witch this year. Joey was a fairly friendly looking vampire (I only got one photo with the fangs). Robbie took the easy way out as a soccer player.

They also love the parade at school. Except for one sad little duck, who really wanted to be in the parade too.

And of course they love the class parties. This year I was in charge of Robbie's class party, so it was a crazy morning—I had to have all the kids (in costume) and party supplies at school by nine, and finally got home around noon, long enough to pick up a few things before heading back to pick up the kids at 1:05.
Then we headed to the church for the cub scout party. Robbie and Joey got to be mummified, plus they played games, had a treasure hunt and decorated cupcakes.
After that we headed to grandparent's houses for trick-or-treating. Of course Ainsley fell asleep in the car, but woke up at the last stop, Great-grandma Clayton's. It was all I could do to not fall asleep too.
By the time we made it home for dinner I was almost agreeing with Halloween Scrooge. After some Jamba Juice, I caught my second wind, and enjoyed taking the kids to a few favorite neighbors for trick-or-treating. One of our neighbors hands out freshly made scones, and another makes flowers or swords out of balloons.  It really was fun. Best of all, the kids knew they were leaving their candy out for the great pumpkin, so they were content to head home and watch Scooby Doo and the Goblin King. Sure enough the great pumpkin came and traded all their candy for some small toys—Ellie & Ainsley got Polly Pockets, Joey got an Iron Man action figure, Robbie got the latest installment in the Alex Rider series, and we got a candy-free house! 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

59 days

Here's what things looked like around here before September 2nd. Not bad, but outdated.

Since I couldn't get any time off my full-time job as mom to work my second full-time job as general contractor, I really neglected documenting the whole process. Here are a few shots of the many steps that went miraculously fast: demolition, removing walls and building new ones, new windows, plumbing, electrical, insulation, drywall, redo of one wall and bar (thanks Davy & Dad!), paint, fireplace, tile, finish work, cabinet installation, countertops, shutters, and finally carpet, on October 24th.

We're still moving things back upstairs, and need to get furniture and curtains in the living room (I'll post photos later), but everything major is done!

In case you're wondering which food was first prepared from the survey, it was E) none of the above. After spending the day unpacking boxes on Saturday, I made the kids some oatmeal for dinner while Rob went to the store for groceries. We did have a spaghetti dinner on Sunday, and finally made brownies on the 30th, after getting the walls ovens connected. I'm looking forward to getting back to cooking and adding recipes here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rob's worst nightmare

As he states so eloquently here, Photo Scrooge's "idea of hell is a visit to Kiddie Kandids (or any other over priced photo studio) with four kids on a Saturday morning." Which is exactly what I did this very Saturday morning. He was at school, and thus spared the torture. I think it was worth it. My favorite shots are lucky candid shots, but it's nice to have a portrait besides the one taken at the school once a year. And I'm much wiser now—instead of taking each kid on their birthday and buying a bunch of poses that I'll never use, I just take them all at once for one close up and a couple of group shots. We were done in record time and stopped at Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone reward afterward.  

Friday, October 17, 2008

Three going on thirteen

I really feel like I'm getting a preview of the teenage years sometimes. At three, Ainsley isn't about to be told what to do. She has picked up on some of her siblings expressions that they wouldn't have even thought of at three, like rolling her eyes at me while saying (very dramatically), "that's sooo boooring!" She loves to "do it herself" and is into everything. If I had a nickel for every time we've said "Ainsley get off of the table/counter/couch/insert other dangerous place for toddlers here" we'd be rich. No wonder she's had more goose eggs than all of my other kids combined. As we often tell her, it's a darn good thing she is so cute. I'm looking forward to another fun year. 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Joey's baptism

This is probably the most significant event that I've neglected writing about over the past few weeks. It's a big, once-in-a-lifetime milestone. And though I would never expect an eight year old to fully understand the doctrines of the gospel, but I do know that Joey wants to follow Jesus, and I'm so happy that he's started down that path. We had a really nice meeting at the stake center. I especially liked the talk about the fruits of the spirit—we've used it many times since then to help the kids try to identify whether or not the spirit is present. Joey and one of his friends in our ward were then baptized and then confirmed. Joey tells me this was his favorite part, because he received the Holy Ghost. 

It was great to have so many family members and friends there to support Joey (even his first grade teacher came)! Because our house was filled with boxes of cabinets, we all gathered afterward at the new downtown Hagermann's and gave the new employees a chance to have a pre-opening with customers who would be back no matter what. The new store is awesome, and the food was great as usual, but the best was not having to clean my house before or after the party! Thanks to Chris and Cara and other Rileys for painting, preparing and pulling it off in time for this.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Quick photo update

As the general contractor of our remodel, I haven't had much time to document the whole process—maybe a few weeks from now, when everything is done and I've cooked a few fabulous meals so that photo scrooge feels like this was all worth it, I'll have time to do a recap. In the meantime, we now have hardwood floors:
and a front door:
a pantry, which I'm very excited about:
shelves in the new den, which photo scrooge is very excited about:
plus doors for said den, so he can shut the rest of us out: 
Tomorrow we'll have a railing and the cabinets will be delivered!

We should be cooking within two weeks, which leads to the all important question in debate around here: what to make first? Cast your vote in the sidebar poll, or leave a comment. 

Monday, September 22, 2008

Eight years old

We are now 4/5ths of the way through birthday season, which begins July 28th and ends October 17th. The days sometimes seem like years, but the years are flying by like days. It's hard to believe Joey is already eight. It's a big milestone around here—he'll be baptized next month.

Looking back through my photos to find a few for this post I found myself smiling again and again, and having a hard time picking my favorite shots. Joey is a big personality in a skinny (but strong) little body. Here are some current highlights:

  • He's definitely a redhead!
  • One of his superpowers is making friends.
  • He thinks he'd like to be a chemist when he grows up.
  • He loves pepperoni pizza, roasted potatoes & carrots and most treats.
  • He's usually the first kid awake.
  • This week's note from his piano teacher said "Joey was AWESOME today!"
  • He is a great brother!
  • He's a great help around the house. A few jobs right now include feeding Jamaica, setting and clearing the table, vacuuming the basement and reading to the girls.
  • He's a good student and a teacher's pet.
  • When he's happy, everyone's happy. (Unfortunately, the reverse is true too).
  • He still lets us call him Boo.
  • We love him, and we're proud of him!

Friday, September 12, 2008

It will all be worth it

Photo Scrooge is in danger of being renamed "Remodeling Scrooge." He is not dealing well with the chaos, as you may have read here, here and here. But now that the demolition is done, we will be seeing some progress—the new walls are in, the cabinets have been ordered, the plumbing will be done tomorrow, the electrical on Monday, and the insulation on Tuesday, so hopefully we'll get the drywall started on Wednesday. Anyone want to help me pick out countertops and flooring?

Back in business

After two and a half painful weeks without my computer, I am happy to report the latest addition to our family is a new iMac. It is  a thing of beauty. And function—I don't even think of it as a luxury anymore. I've been working on not drooling on the super-cool aluminum keyboard.

So, now that I've balanced my checkbook, downloaded my photos and caught up reading e-mail & blogs, I'm going to try to post the highlights of the past few weeks, backdating a few just to break things up. We've been so busy that even if I hadn't been without a computer, I'm not sure I would have had time to record it, but there's some good stuff that needs to make it into the year-end book. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Ellie had a few extra days of summer vacation, since the kindergarten teachers had individual student assessments during the first week. Ellie's teacher is young and cute. After Ellie's assessment I asked her what she thought about her teacher and she agreed that she was very nice, then added "And I love her clothes!"