Thursday, February 26, 2009

Phelps Family Roots

Hiya folks. I'm due for my appearance on this here blog. I have to step up to the competition. Since it's really late and I have to go to bed, I thought I'd just leave you with this romantic little episode in honor of my wonderful parents: Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dishwashing Discourse

Today I finally forced myself to wash the dishes that had accumulated over the past couple of days. I stuffed the dishwasher full and piled everything else up to the left of the sink so that I couldn't forget anything. (I rarely allow dishes to accumulate, but I've been in a bit of a kitchen cleaning slump lately.) As I was washing dishes I pondered upon washing dishes and dishwashers. I realized how grateful I am to have a dishwasher - even a crummy cheapola one like what we have. Without our dishwasher the dishes tonight would have taken a whole lot longer. And I'd probably have many more days when I just let the dishes wait until the next day.

But while I appreciate the dishwasher, I feel a little bit conflicted about having one while our children are young. You see, I didn't grow up with a dishwasher. I know my mom really, really would have liked one for many years (especially once all us kids somehow turned the dish washing back over to her), but we didn't get one until we moved into a new house towards the end of my senior year in high school. And, no, I don't want my children to have to go through hand-washing dishes simply because I had to. It's that as I've gotten older I've realized how grateful I am that I had to hand-wash for all those years.

Having several roommates during college helped me to see how growing up with a dishwasher can leave one lacking a few necessary skills. Many (probably most) of the roommates I had were, quite frankly, pathetic when it came to hand-washing dishes. If they used something of mine and washed it by hand, I usually had to rewash it myself because it was so obviously still dirty it made me sick to think of using it again. It was amazing to me to see how low their standards were for clean dishes. Several roommates seemed to not realize that hot water was necessary to the process. And it definitely didn't help that usually all they used was one of those soap-dispensing sponge things. I noticed that those wasted lots of soap, got ridiculously disgusting after a few months (remember, this is a college apartment, so the sponge part definitely never got replaced), and were horrible at scrubbing. Most of these roommates had no idea what "elbow grease" was or how to apply it. The worst part of that was that this lack of knowledge usually carried over to other things, such as cleaning the tub or stove, as well.

So, though I'd always hated doing the dishes as a young child, I suddenly found myself glad that Mom had insisted dishes be completely clean, that I'd learned how to use elbow grease on a particularly stubborn pan and that my hands had, over time, become conditioned to being in very hot water.

Ryan and I spent our first two married years hand-washing dishes. Initially we alternated who washed and who dried each night. We owned one of those soap-dispensing sponge things since that was the only way Ryan would wash the dishes. I kept a washcloth on hand for anything that needed real scrubbing when I washed. But, eventually, we mutually agreed that it was best if I wash and he dry. I didn't really mind washing anymore, since Ryan wasn't a sibling who would purposely drop the silverware into the rinse water like bombs and splash water all over me. In reality, it was probably more that it wasn't keeping me from anything I'd rather be doing and I hated having the little counter space we had be covered in dishes. Ryan was good at getting the dishes clean, but I could wash a lot faster than he could. I'm not sure if that was due to all my years of practice or to his getting lost in our conversations and forgetting that he was supposed to be washing dishes as well as talking! On top of that, he never could get his hands to stand my almost-as-hot-as-it-can-go water temperatures. So, when we moved after those couple of years we threw away the soap-dispensing sponge thing and haven't ever bought another one (which probably distresses Ryan on the rare occasion that he washes dishes).

I worry that our children, if we have a dishwasher in our home, will grow up to be hand-washing pansies like so many of my roommates. My only hope lies in the fact that we still have several dishes, including our pots and pans, that are not allowed in the dishwasher. I'll just have to purposely make them difficult to clean once in a while, just so the kids get lots of elbow grease practice.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gareth Tidbits

Well, Gareth is still a darn cute kid. Some new words that he's learned: monkey, done, milk, water, and horse. I couldn't figure out where he'd picked up monkey until we started doing the monkey song the other day and realized he must've picked it up in Nursery where we sing that every week. At least he's learning something in there! (I'm afraid his spiritual education isn't as advanced as some other kids his age, but he does at least fold his arms for prayers.)

I'm finally getting him to do some of the hand actions for songs at home, but he still never does them in Nursery. His favorite songs are Eensy, Weensy Spider, Ring around the Rosies (which he calls ashes), and the monkey song. Gareth seems to not like structured activities too well. By the time the lesson in Nursery rolls around he doesn't ever want to participate in what everyone else is doing. Usually a couple other kids will see what he's doing and decide it'd be more fun and join him. The other kids are more easily guided back to the activity. I've given up trying to force Gareth back. As long as he's being quiet and not injuring anything I figure I'd rather have him do his own thing than have to be taken out screaming. He's also taken a dislike to holding my hand if I let him down to walk. Someday I'm sure we'll think it's wonderful for him to be so independent.

You know how some kids really like dogs or cats? Well, Gareth is obsessed with horses. Every time we read Rumpelstiltskin we start out "Once there was a poor miller who had a beautiful daughter... and a horse." Every book that has pictures of horses, Gareth is sure to stop and point them out. I hope this isn't an indication of the type of animal he'll want some day.

Gareth's also learned how to jump without holding onto anything and to do a somersault. It's fun to watch him get so excited about such things. Speaking of him getting excited, he still loves the outdoors. We had a nice (albeit cloudy and windy) day yesterday so we took him out to a trail in the area for a walk. After being cooped up for the past couple of months he thoroughly enjoyed wandering free. He threw a great tantrum when it was time to get back in the car. We happily realize that that's his way of saying, "That was lots of fun. Thanks you guys!"

And, finally, here are some pictures of Gareth downing some strawberry smoothie (after eating a bowl of oatmeal and a whole banana - he eats more than I do half the time!) This was a very happy morning for Gareth.

Drinking every drop.

Happy boy!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

When It Comes Right Down to It

When we were looking into graduate schools for Ryan and trying to make decisions we figured we could handle this area because at least the annual snowfall here was half that of Utah. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves in for. Now, I know winter has been a bit brutal all across the country this year (boy, am I glad we're not in Kentucky and without electricity!), but the Indiana winter seems a bit extreme to me. We've had many days when the high is in the single digits, and even a couple of days when it never got above 0. And that's without the wind chill. True, we haven't had as much snow as we usually got in Provo, but Provo never had a -30 wind chill. Because of our horrific winter I've been mentally comparing the places we've lived and trying to decide where I'd choose to stay put if I had to choose between those few places. A futile exercise since I doubt we'll end up in any of them, but it helps wile away the cold winter hours.

I grew up in New Jersey. It can be quite humid in the summer (August is the worst), and the humidity can make the cold of winter cut through many layers of clothing. The fall is gorgeous; I always loved driving along the tree-lined streets and highways in fall. There are lots of trees and there are hills and even a few mountains (that I know are not as big as the ones in Utah or Albuquerque). Thankfully the mountains are smaller so you don't feel like they're going to squash you flat. Other New Jersey pluses: lots of history, beautiful old houses and small towns, and, most of all, you don't have to pump your own gas! I've had many uncomfortable experiences trying to pump gas and wish that every state would outlaw it. NJ does have one big downside: cost of living. Sure, there's no sales tax on food and clothes, but that gets more than made up for elsewhere. Natural disaster-wise, not much. You get the occasional hurricane, but it's not usually as bad in NJ as places like Florida or North Carolina.

Virginia had a nice mild winter, with only a couple of snowfalls while we were there. It does get cold and they can get more snow than that, I'm sure, but from what I know of it, winter seemed great. Summer, though, gets quite hot and humid. There are lots of beautiful parks and country areas (we didn't find Manassas itself to be wonderfully beautiful, but if you got out of Manassas a little ways it got much better). Again, a big downer is the cost of living. More than 25% of our income here was spent on rent. And that was just to get a place that didn't have what looked like 50-year-old appliances, the water heater inside the master bedroom closet, or garbage dumped out in the front lawns.

Provo is better cost-of-living-wise. Of course, I think if I were to end up living in Utah I'd try not to be in Provo/Orem, just because I'd like to not be in the midst of all the BYU students. But while you're a student it's a great area. Spring and fall are nice, but they don't last long (I always wish they lasted longer everywhere), summer can be on the hot side but, as some would again contend, it's a dry heat. My main complaint against Utah is that winter lasts from September until June. Yes, I have seen snow fall in Provo over Memorial Day weekend. It didn't last long, but the fact remains that it fell. If I were into skiing, the mountains and snow would be advantageous, but since I'm not into skiing, I'm not such a fan. The Utah mountains are right on top of you and do want to squash you flat.

And now here we are in Indiana. Summers get humid, I'm sure, though I've yet to experience that. And the winters I've already talked about. And we can get tornadoes here, though apparently in our specific area they rarely touch down. Cost of living is awesome, especially for poor students. There are wonderful farmer's markets through the summer and fall. There are small towns with old Victorian houses that I love (and that you can buy for a lot less money than in NJ). And it's very, very green with lots of trees. Even the houses start to turn green! (I think I'd invest in a power-washer if I had a house with siding and lived here.) I would recommend it as a great place to retire, except that I can't imagine that I would want to suffer the winters here as a retiree. Other places get cold and snowy, but here you have a flat terrain and high winds. The wind makes all the difference in the world when winter comes.

So, when it comes right down to it, where would I choose to be? My ideal place would be somewhere with very little chance of natural disaster, mild winters and summers (though still having them, since I am a fan of seasons after all), low cost of living, lots of trees and hills, small towns with beautiful old houses, and with a law against pumping your own gas! Yeah, I don't think that place exists. But if I had to choose between here and Utah, which has been what I've mainly considered for some reason (cost, perhaps?), I think I'd still choose here. I'm not sure Ryan would agree with me, but the greenness trumps the winters for me. At least for right now. As I said, I don't think I could handle the winters as a retiree. Maybe by then my ideal place will exist.