09 October 2015

Family Photos 2015

Our ward does a service auction in the spring to raise money for the annual girls' and boys' camps. This year, our friend CheyAnne Nielson donated a family photo shoot to the auction, and we won it! We took our photos at the Happy Jack recreation area, and there's a whole funny story about how we locked our keys in the car, but... it's not as cool as these awesome photos!

I can't even tell you how excited I am to finally have photos of the 5 of us!


My handsome little guy is not so little anymore!

His attitude about family photos has greatly improved.

Our Meema!

I love this guy.

The most accurate representation of our family ever.

16 August 2015

The Doughnut Scene

A few weeks ago I put out a call on Facebook for help brainstorming an idea for a name for a doughnut shop. So many good ideas came in! My friends are so clever. As so many of you seemed interested, I thought I'd put the scene up on the blog so you could read it. The thing I'm working on now is called A Problem Like Maria. Here's a quick synopsis:
Caitlyn Mills loses everything: her wallet, her car keys, and one-half of all her socks. But when she loses her grandmother to a stroke, she realizes that her absent-minded lackluster lifestyle has been hurting her family relationships.
She tries to make amends by befriending Mildred, who lives at the same nursing home that Caitlyn's grandmother died in. Mildred is looking for her missing granddaughter, and Caitlyn is happy to help... until she realizes that the absent Maria might end up taking her new place.

The doughnut scene comes about halfway through the novel, after Caitlyn and Mildred make one last-ditch effort to find Maria. This is a first draft of the scene. I hope you enjoy it!

Someone knocked on Mildred’s door. I answered it for her. It was Jake, messy as usual. A big smile broke out on my face at the sight of his faded jeans with a hole in the knee.
“Did I miss the picture?” he asked. I handed him my phone so he could see it. “Nice job. I hope it works, Mildred.” He tapped on my screen a few times before handing it back to me. “I made you add me as a friend so I could share the picture, too. I mean, assuming I accept your friend request.” He chuckled softly. Mildred and Ernie shared a glance.
“I think this calls for a celebration,” Ernie declared. He cleared his throat a few times and adjusted the prongs of his nasal cannula. “Let’s go to the breakfast club.”
Jake rolled his eyes. “Seriously, Grandpa? That’s your idea of a celebration?” 
But from the way Mildred was suddenly patting her hair and adjusting her ring necklace, it seemed like she at least considered it to be a big deal. 
“Am I dressed up enough?” she asked, twisting one of the rings around. 
“You look lovely,” I told her. 
“Old ladies are always told they look lovely,” she said.
“You’ll knock ‘em dead! Literally!” Ernie cackled. Then he whistled. Well, he tried. Jake did it for him. Mildred beamed.
“What’s the breakfast club?” I asked. 
Ernie waggled a finger at me. “You’ll see, young lady.” Jake reached over to grab the handles of the wheelchair, but Ernie swatted him away and offered his arm to Mildred. They led the way out of the apartment; Jake and I fell slowly into step behind them.
“Can you drive? We won’t all fit in my truck,” he asked.
I nodded. “As long as Ernie gives me directions and stops being so mysterious.”
Ernie consented to tell me where to go once we were all safely buckled into my Neon. Jake was able to fold up Ernie’s wheelchair small enough to fit in my trunk. I wished I’d cleaned out the old gas receipts and crumbs in my center console. No one said anything, which was nice. TJ and Mark would have complained. 
 Ernie gave directions the whole way, squished in the backseat with Mildred, oxygen tank safely stored at his feet.
“Turn right,” he ordered. “Then get in the left lane.”
No one said anything else until Ernie directed me into the parking lot of a small brick building. The faded sign over the entrance said “Hole Foods.”
“I don’t get it,” I said. “Did the ‘W’ get erased?”
Ernie just cackled again.

Hole Foods, it turned out, was a doughnut shop. I felt a little silly for not getting the joke right away. We had to wait in line to order; there were six people ahead of us. I sniffed a few times, breathing in the heavenly scent of sweet doughnuts and dark roast coffee. The loud buzz of a dozen conversations dominated my ears, but it wasn’t an obnoxious noise. It was nice. A baby screamed at the table closest to the door, only stopping when his mother broke a doughnut hole in half and gave it to him. Two men in dirty overalls and brimmed hats leaned over a table towards each other, talking angrily in between sips of coffee. It was too loud to tell if they were angry at each other or a third party, and I forced myself to look away before they caught me staring.
When it was our turn, the cashier, whose nametag read “DEE,” smiled at Ernie. “Hi, y’all,” she said. “You’re late, Ern.”
“Had a thing,” he grunted. “Gimme the usual.”
Dee pushed a strand of dark hair behind her ear, revealing little bumblebee earrings that looked homemade. I wondered if she had kids. She tapped on the register with her free hand. “What about your friends?”
Ernie turned to us. “What do you want?”
Jake ordered a cruller. Mildred wanted an apple fritter. I told Dee I just wanted something with sprinkles. She had a bag filled with our order in less time than it took Jake to pull out his credit card.
“I think I have a dollar somewhere in here,” I said, rummaging around in my purse. “Hang on.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jake said. “I got it.”
“You sure?”
“Yeah. You can get it next time.” He smiled at me, and I couldn’t help from grinning back at the assumption that there would be a next time. 
Ernie led us away from the tables in the main room to a little side room. The buzz of voices got louder, and I realized that this was where ninety percent of the noise was coming from. The room was filled with old men, who all snapped to attention as we walked in. 
“Clean it up, gents, there’s ladies present,” one said gruffly. A few of the men tipped their hats to me and Mildred; I was actually flattered.
“Room back here, Ern!” someone called from the back, and everyone scooted their chairs out of the way so Ernie could wheel himself to the table. The squeak of chairs on linoleum hurt my ears, but no one else seemed to notice. An advantage to hearing loss.
Conversation resumed as we sat down, and the men at our table introduced themselves as Wade and Wilson. They shook hands with me and Mildred.
“Nice to see some female folk every now and again,” Wade said. “Especially a looker!” I was all set to blush, until he winked at Mildred. Across the table, I saw Jake shaking and biting his lip.
“I believe you both know my grandson, Jake,” Ernie said. Both men bobbed their heads.
“Been a while, Jake,” Wilson said. “Looks like you’ve been laying off the doughnuts!” He slapped Jake’s upper arm.
“That’s right,” Jake said. “We can’t all stay thin like you.”
Wilson, whose belly was practically resting on the table, laughed so hard that little flecks of doughnut spotted the table. One almost landed on my chocolate covered sprinkle doughnut. I picked it up and took a big bite.
“What you been up to, Jakey?” Wade asked. “Married yet?”
Jake shook his head. “Not yet.” He turned to look out the grimy window. I doubted he could actually see anything out of it.
Ernie cleared his throat and asked Wade about his grandchildren. Mildred glanced at Jake and took a small bite of her fritter. The air around us felt stiff, and I wondered why, but contented myself with finishing my doughnut, resolving to ask Mildred about it later. Like when Jake wasn’t around.

14 August 2015

Catching Up

It's been a busy summer for the Reynolds Tribe. For Sam's 6th birthday we went camping in Yellowstone with the other Reynolds and the Despains.

When we got back from Yellowstone we closed on our house.

We immediately started tearing the walls down and renovating the crap out of it. Our lease on our apartment went until August 14th, so we had the freedom to do some major construction before officially moving in. Our photos and stories from the renovation (which will be ongoing FOREVER) can be found here: http://reynovation.blogspot.com

Then we had to move into the house and clean out the apartment.

Amelia was not a fan of moving. Neither was I.

Ryan also finished up his last course of his master's program. Now it's on to the thesis!
With school and the move done, and only a week of summer vacation left, the Reynolds are off on a mini vacation.

09 June 2015

The US Airmail Beacon System

My parents came for a visit last month. Ninety-five percent of the reason for their visit was to see us, but the other five percent was to check out a little piece of history near Laramie.
The US Airmail System used concrete arrows to direct its pilots in the days before electronic navigation. While most of the arrows were destroyed or rendered obsolete by improved on-board navigational systems, some still exist in various states of repair. My dad, a pilot, learned that there were several arrows in our part of Wyoming, and decided to visit them on the trip. He and my mom took Sammy out to visit one near Cheyenne, and the whole family got to visit the one in Medicine Bow.
The beacon is still standing at the arrow in Medicine Bow, a rarity.

Dad actually climbed the beacon tower to take this photo. He said it was "terrifying."

Close-up from atop the beacon. We left Amelia in the car because it was raining.

Dad and the boys

To learn more about the concrete arrows, you can visit Sometimes-Interesting.com

01 May 2015

Parenting is a Crapshoot

Just when you think you've got parenting figured out...
Sam and Ben are incredibly different from each other. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and somehow they are opposites. Sam had trouble sleeping as a baby, Ben was perfect. It took Ben two tries to be potty trained, Sam took three days. Ben just wants to snuggle, Sam wants to wrestle... and the list goes on and on.

So because my two little boys are so different, I figured I wouldn't have any trouble with Amelia. I don't know if it's because she's a girl, or the third child, or just naturally easy, but Amelia has been a breeze.


We have finally uncovered Amelia's Achilles' heel: solid food.

I loved making baby food for the boys, and they loved eating it. We tried Amelia out on rice cereal at four months old, but she wouldn't eat it. We reasoned that no one would want to eat that mushy crap, so we didn't force it. Now, however, she is six months old, and it's time to introduce fruits and vegetables. I tried Gerber carrots for the first three days. Nothing doing. Today I smashed a banana for her, added a little water and rice cereal for consistency, then gently warmed it in the microwave. She gagged and cried. Benjy tried to eat her banana mush because he is addicted to fruit.
I will keep trying, however. There's got to be something she likes as much as "boopie milk".

This is the face of someone who will be nursing for the rest of her life.

10 March 2015


My sister is a 3rd year vet student at Tufts. She finished her coursework in February and participated in her school's white coat ceremony, symbolizing that she and her fellow students would be let loose upon the world. My parents bought tickets to fly out to the East Coast. Which meant they would of course be visiting their respective families in Maryland and Pennsylvania, even though both families were going up to Massachusetts to see Cassi.
And because my grandpa Lauver turned 80 in February, it meant they were going to have a surprise party.
My mother's family cannot resist a surprise party of any kind. My mom turned 40 the first year after we moved to Alaska, and my dad and her parents arranged for them to visit for her birthday. They've had surprises of random family members showing up at birthday parties, anniversary parties, graduations--pretty much any time they can surprise somebody, they will.
So when my grandmother decided to throw a surprise party for my grandpa to coincide with my parents being in town for Cassi's white coat ceremony, my mom asked me if I would like to get in on the surprise. 
Absolutely I would.
It meant I had to fly from Denver to Baltimore with all 3 kids by myself, but it was totally worth it. We lied to my grandpa and said that the kids and I were also coming to the white coat ceremony. We told a lot of lies that weekend. WORTH IT.

Grandma Huelin made the cakes--even my dad's family was in on the surprise!

Having me and my parents at the party wasn't surprising enough, so my sister flew in from Boston for the weekend and my cousin Steven and his wife came up from Florida.

Do they look happy or what?

My grandparents and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Minus Ryan, who had to work :0(
Also, Cassi looks taller than me in this photo, but I assure you SHE IS NOT.

We hung out at the restaurant for about 4 hours, then moved the party to Aunt Dori and Uncle Kevin's house for another 4. It was fantastic to hang out with my extended family. Everyone had a blast, and the kids were even on their best-ish behavior.

Poor Benjy needed a nap after all the partying.

06 February 2015

Coconut Chicken Curry

I like when Ryan makes dinner requests because a)I like trying new recipes and b) I don't have to decide what to make for dinner. He requested coconut chicken curry around the time Amelia was born, and luckily my mom (who happened to be visiting) had a friend's recipe that she liked. We did modify it a little, and were very pleased with the results. So without any further ado, here is our recipe for coconut chicken curry!

You will need:
Red curry paste
Chicken bouillon
Coconut milk
Shredded chicken

How much of each, you ask? Well, this is one of those recipes that you adjust according to your tastes. I do use one can of coconut milk to about 4 ounces of curry paste, mixed with one chicken breast shredded. If that helps.

Chop the onions
I don't like a lot of onions. If a recipe says to chop one medium onion, I'm more likely to use a quarter of the onion. So you may want more than what I've pictured here.

Next is fresh ginger. This freezes really well, just cut up a large piece of ginger root into smaller pieces, then wrap in tin foil.
I use about 2 "fingers" of ginger. By the way, if you need proof that English is a confusing language, say "I need a finger of ginger" out loud.

I don't like chomping into large pieces of ginger, so I grate it. You could also chop it up. Or, if you are pressed for time...

You can buy a squeezy bottle of ginger paste!

Next, sauté the onions and ginger. I use olive oil, but it really doesn't matter. This will smell awesome, by the way. After the onions and ginger have a few minutes head start, add the garlic. You can chop it yourself, or use the minced garlic you refrigerate that lasts forever. Guess which one I use? Either way, you need the equivalent of about 4 cloves of garlic. Unless you don't like garlic. Then use less. See what I mean?

After those have sautéed for a few minutes, add the curry paste. I like World Foods brand, which I have only found at Albertson's here in Laramie. You might have to try different brands to find your favorite. Like I said, for this amount of onions etc, I use about 4 ounces of curry paste.

Then I add several tablespoons of chicken bouillon (the paste kind, not the cubes).

Stir, and heat for several minutes. According to the jar of curry paste, this allows the full flavor to be released. Fine by me.

Next, add the coconut milk. Save a little bit in the can to taste, because yum.

It should look like this once the coconut milk has completely liquified and mixed with the curry paste etc.

Then add the shredded chicken.

I like to buy a big pack of chicken breasts and cook them in my Crock Pot in advance. Put the chicken in, add water and a couple cubes of chicken bouillon (not the fancy paste, the cubes this time!) I also add garlic. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, then pull it out and shred. I put each shredded breast in its own container, then freeze them. It saves a lot of time when I want to make curry! You can use any kind of chicken, turkey, etc that you like. Our family just happens to abhor dark meat.
Okay, that little note aside... after you add the chicken to the curry you just need to heat it until everything is nice and hot. Then you are ready to serve! We like to eat it over sticky rice, but I imagine it would also be good over egg noodles.

Om nom nom.
My kids won't touch it, so this recipe makes enough for me and Ryan to each have dinner, then some leftovers the next day. What do my kids eat on curry night, you ask? 

Chicken nuggets.

08 January 2015

The Rubik's Cube

My second favorite holiday is New Year's Eve. I love making gyoza (Japanese pot-stickers), drinking Martinellis, and staying up late flipping between Ryan Seacrest and Carson Daly (with a few minutes spent with Anderson Cooper, natch). My genius sister bought on-sale Christmas crackers (the kind you pull, not the kind you eat) to cap off our celebrations. Eight crackers=eight lame jokes, eight silly plastic toys, and eight PAPER HATS.

He was excited to wear a hat, though he later traded for a red one.

Special OJ for a special night.

Mmm. Gyoza and Martinellis.

We were all amazed that Dad wore the hat without complaint.

 Genius sister is a genius.

She might not look it, but I bet Amelia was secretly thrilled to have her own paper hat.

Earlier that week, Sam discovered a Rubik's cube in a closet. I showed him how to play with it, and he wanted to solve it right then and there. I had to tell him that I had no idea how to get all the sides the right colors. He was disappointed, and started to lose interest. But because it was six thirty in the morning and I didn't want him to go wake anyone else up, I told him we could try to find out how on the computer. 
So we did. We used the official solving guide and we solved the crap out of that Rubik's cube. Which has been a lifelong dream of mine. Thanks to my son, I finally sat down and did it.
I made a New Year's resolution this year. Two, actually. I'm going to query another novel in the hopes of finding an agent, and I'm going to learn how to solve a Rubik's cube FROM MEMORY.