Thursday, December 31, 2009

Annual Report

In 2009,

Cal learned how to walk.
Leah potty trained.
Jolie started kindergarten.
Jack finished graduate school.
Katie (see above)

We appreciate you sharing 2009 with us, and look forward to including you in our 2010.
Next year promises to bring big changes to our family. Stay tuned -

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Giveaway Miracle Spectacular

Six years ago, my sister's husband Richard got tickets for all the brothers-in-law to see Lord of the Rings on Christmas day. It was the film's opening week and tickets were sold out, so he called the opportunity a "Christmas miracle."

This initiated a family trend of terribly misappropriating the phrase "Christmas miracle." Like the time my nephew flung his sister's underwear toward the tree, and it landed exactly where the star is supposed to go.

Yesterday at Kmart, I admit the phrase came to my mind again when I beheld a fresh shipment of these, just in time for the holiday:

It was at that moment that I decided to forgo the family Christmas cards this year in favor of a spectacular blog giveaway. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. And yes, people who read House That Jack Built, you are one comment away from the opportunity to call one of these babies your own.

Before you get too hysterical, I should mention that they were all sold out of Leah's flesh-colored hedgehog (Kmart shoppers do tend to have impeccable taste). But I did manage to secure a lavender elephant,

a hot pink pony, which the packaging appropriately describes as "lifelike,"

and a blue dragon, also "lifelike"

On the back of the package are detailed instructions for use (so don't be intimidated), as well as the phrase "PATENT PENDING," just in case anyone gets the big idea of tapping into the market for latex animals that inflate to resemble human gall bladders.

To qualify, tell me one thing you want for Christmas (BESIDES these). I will pick three winners next Wednesday, 2 at random and 1 based on my favorite response.

Prizes will be shipped for delivery by Christmas. This of course is assuming I can convince postal authorities that I am not in violation of any federal law. ("Sir, I realize they are SO lifelike, but I promise these animals are just pretend!")

If all goes well, one of them - and feel free to indicate your preference - will be inhabiting your stocking on Christmas Eve, poised to delight everyone on Santa's nice list.

Also, they are just creepy enough to punish the ones who have been naughty.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Dressed

My favorite mother-in-law picked out these dresses for the girls (thank you Daneille!).

Because when it comes to overdressing for church, I say, why should Easter have all the fun?

Right Cal?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Morning Bird & Medicine Girl

Jolie believes that everything deserves a name.

Every toy in her room has at some point been assigned one, or several, and what she lacks in creativity she makes up for in consistency. Six of her dolls are referred to as "Baby Jesus."

Once when her friend Gillian was over to play, we overheard the following conversation:

Gillian: Pretend we live all by ourselves

Jolie: Yah. And pretend we have different names

Gillian: Okay. Pretend my name is...Samantha Alexis

Jolie: And pretend my name is...Los Angeles Mexico

Imagine her delight last week when her kindergarten teacher explained the Native American custom of bestowing names based on events and even animals. She came home certain she had been born into the wrong culture.

At her insistence, we have since been referring to her by her proper Native American title. "Morning Bird."

Afraid Leah might feel left out, Morning Bird deliberated rather intensely one afternoon, then formally bestowed her "Medicine Girl."

Medicine Girl comes in peace. As long as you are willing to share your food.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mouse or Leah

Want to test your skills?

This is a game we play often. It's called "Mouse or Leah?"

#1 Mouse or Leah?

#2 Mouse or Leah?

#3 Mouse or Leah?

#4 Mouse or Leah?

Answer Key:

1. Leah

2. Leah

3. Leah

4. Leah

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eye of the Beholder

Leah loves to draw during sacrament meeting.

That is to say, Leah loves to draw during sacrament meeting when she's not busy grinding Lucky Charms into the carpet, flashing her Dora underwear to various members of the congregation, or scouting out unsuspecting toddlers to hug, and then drag helpless toward our bench. By the neck. (I am so sorry Miranda)

Last Sunday however, we enjoyed an unprecedented 10 minutes of peace when she fished the markers out of my bag and focused on creating this masterpiece:

When she was done she sat quietly for a minute examining the finished product, then suddenly had a total meltdown.

I managed to calm her down using the few Lucky Charms that hadn't made their way into the deepest fibers of the floor, then asked what was wrong.

She pointed to a green shape in the middle. The one with the blue line to the left of it, right above the words "Crafty Ladies Retreat"...

She tapped her finger on it and said, "THAT part."

"That part what Leah?"

"That part's too messy."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Oblogatory Halloween Pics


For his first Halloween, Cal wanted to dress as his Grandpa Jack, a college football official (yes, Grandpa Jack is the handsome Head Linesman you’ve seen on ESPN). Unfortunately, infant head linesman costumes are hard to come by (skeletons and sweet peas as far as the eye can see. Not a thing for aspiring referees).

So, our Jack customized one himself. Ladies, that shirt is hand painted! (That Jack! Don’t let the backward baseball hats or affection for Sunday football fool you. He is a crafty, crafty man.) He’s also responsible for Minnie’s custom headpiece.

And while we’re rolling the Halloween credits…I’d like to also thank Aunt Aileen for the Minnie Mouse dress, and tazcat1032. Tazcat1032 is the heavy smoker who sold us Jolie’s entire Tinkerbell getup on Ebay for only 15 bucks. It’s a good thing she looks so cute in it, Tazcat. Because, my gosh, she smells like tobacco.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Last year, I casually mentioned on my blog that I tried to read Twilight but never finished because I did not enjoy it. This prompted a whole slew of positive, constructive comments, such as, "What is WRONG with you??" "Vampire hater" and "You are no longer invited to my children's weddings."

Well ladies, you will be pleased to know that I am now a little older, a little wiser, and madly in love with a vampire.

No, not because of the book (I never did finish it), but because it appears as though I have given birth to one.

This week, Cal strategically grew two new teeth. Just in time for Halloween.

Step aside, Edward. There's a new heartthrob in town.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pomp & Our Circumstances

For the entire 8 years we’ve been married, Jack has been a full time student. To put things in perspective, when his cub scouts ask him what grade he’s in, he says, “Twenty second.” And he’s being completely serious.

On Friday, his doctoral dissertation was filed after receiving approval from its committee of advisors. In layman’s terms: He’s like, totally finished.

Jack said that being a PhD doesn’t feel any different. But actually, our lives have changed quite dramatically.

For instance, we just moved from a two bedroom apartment built in the 1960s, to a two bedroom apartment built in the 1970s. And our rent doubled! You may not be able to see the difference between our new place and our old one, but I am certain we are enjoying the luxury of unseen seismic upgrades.

Since graduation, I have also found it necessary to come up with new things to complain about. As residents of student housing we went six years without a dishwasher, washer or dryer - Something I loved to lament, particularly in my journal. (200 years from now my posterity will want to discuss the hardships of their ancestors - I always thought it would be fun to be cited as a reference). Now that we have home appliances, I’ve been testing out some new material (“Dear Journal, I miss the laundromat, and am so tired of emptying this dishwasher!”)

One thing that has not changed, unfortunately, is my inability to explain exactly what it is that Jack does. The title of one of the papers in his dissertation, for those who don't believe me, is “Accurately Sized Test Statistics with Misspecified Conditional Homoskedasticity ??????” (question marks added for emphasis).

Now, he is employed as a Lecturer of Game Theory. If you are wondering what Game Theory is, or why it takes 6 years of home appliance deprivation to earn a degree that qualifies one to teach it, you will have to ask Jack himself. I will give you a hint: It has nothing to do with designing an NFL offense.

And thus begins the next phase of our lives, and the end of a 22-year phase of Jack’s. I will spare you the details of how proud I am of him. But as a few of you know, graduate school has been a very winding road. More than his degree, I will always be impressed by the way he handled the process of obtaining it. He demonstrated a lot of integrity when he didn’t have to, and a lot of persistence when he didn’t necessarily want to.

Plus, contemplating Misspecified Homoskedasticity is no small feat when your ivory tower looks like this

I snapped this picture a few years ago while Jack was working on his dissertation. I can’t tell you how many hours he spent studying while wearing a fussy baby in the Bjorn, or how many lectures he prepared at the park, while pushing the kids on the swings.

I think that’s what they call graduating with honors.

(*Editor's Note: The author of this post acknowledges the possibility that at the time this photograph was taken, Jack was not actually working on his dissertation, but rather managing his Fantasy Football team.)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Make a wish

In the year and a half that I've been blogging, I have managed to participate in almost all the popular blogging trends - I've hosted a giveaway, shared my favorite recipes, even responded to a tag or two.

That leaves just one thing on my list: Throw a spectacular birthday party for my children, then follow up with a post of enviable photographs and details.

Well our Leah turned 3 last week, thank
goodness. Now I can check this off my list.

Before the party began, we had to pick a theme. If I have learned one thing from talented bloggers, it’s that a party is not a party unless it has a theme.

After some careful thought, we selected, “We are in the process of moving.”
(Jack tried to call it, “Leah gets the shaft,” but I thought that sounded sort of

Because you will no doubt want to throw your own child a “We are in the process of moving” party, here are step by step instructions for pulling it off:

1. Invitations: Rather than constructing formal party invitations, try suddenly tossing down your packaging tape and saying, “Honey we have got to do something about Leah’s birthday. It is today.”

2. Guest List: Only immediate family members are invited to a “We are in the process of moving” party. The only friends I wanted to see last week were the ones capable of lifting our solid oak bedroom furniture (and who fully intended to do so).

3. Decorations: Carefully drape all scratchable surfaces in bubble wrap. Festive!

4. Seating arrangements: As guests arrive, they are invited to play a fun little game called, “Try to find a place to sit.” To make the game challenging (albeit slightly dangerous for children) cover the floor with various obstacles, such as cleaning supplies, industrial dollies, and miscellaneous furniture laying on its side.

Here, our guest of honor has taken her place beneath some collapsed cardboard boxes.

Which brings us to #5,

5. Dress: No hair bows or, for that matter, grooming of any kind is allowed at a “We are in the process of moving” party. In fact, if you look closely, you will notice that some of the children aren’t even wearing pants.

6. Cake: The cake was Jack’s responsibility. Ten minutes before the party began, he took Leah to Kmart (a natural place to go when you are in the market for pastries). The two of them came home with this:

Don't worry ladies. One paper plate, a little creative stacking, and a decorative candle later, and it looked super classy.

7. Party Favors
: At a “We are in the process of moving” party, children are given anything that will keep them quiet and out of your way. For big sister Jolie, this meant the bag of Rainbow Cotton Candy she has been requesting for two years. For two years I have politely declined (“No Jolie. That stuff gives me the creeps.”). But at a “We are in the process of moving” party, the answer changes to a celebratory, “Yes, yes. Anything that will keep you quiet and out of our way.”

8. Meal: Little Ceasar's large pepperoni, $5.00. Conveniently located inside KMart (Because Jack and Leah were already there, you know, picking out the cake.)

9. Serving Wear
: Children are welcome to eat from paper plates or, if they would prefer, straight off the floor.

10. Entertainment: Who needs a clown? Dad is soooo much fun after single handedly disassembling and transporting the storage shed and all its contents.

11. Gifts: “We are in the process of moving” gifts can be purchased at CVS Pharmacy, exactly 2 hours before the party begins.


One kickboard. Summer Clearance. $2.99

One Barbie toothbrush. Sale. $2.99. and,

One inflatable hedgehog punching ball. The hedgehog was filthy. If I had to venture a guess, I would say it had already been blown up by at least 7 little CVS customers. But. It was 60% off. (Normally I would hold out for 75%, but look how cute it is!)

Happy Birthday Leah! It’s all for you. It took an excessive amount of planning and effort, but it was worth it.

Also, so nice to pause from such a busy week and see the children truly enjoying themselves.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Class of 2022

The same week that Jack is preparing to graduate, our Jolie is strapping on her giant blue backpack and taking her very first steps inside a classroom.

Here are the two of them, first day of Kindergarten. Jack has tears in his eyes. Jolie is a little nervous. Both have a lot on their minds.
And here, the moment I got teary eyed. When the bell rang, Jolie first kissed Cal goodbye,

and then told Leah she wanted to tell her a secret before she left.

. .
I would give anything to know what that secret was, but didn't dare ask. I know all about secrets between sisters. (Plus, I like to imagine it was something precious, like, "Take good care of Mommy while I'm away," when in reality she was probably cracking some joke about poop.)

Finally, the last picture we took. Just after the classroom doors were closed.
Now that I've learned how quickly the first five years fly by, I went home and spent every free moment of the day scooping up Mr. Class of 2026 and giving him kisses.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Business & Pleasure

With graduation just around the corner, Jack has been all work and no play. Afraid this is making him a dull boy, he sent me and the girls to Utah to have lots of fun without him. Also, to launch our modeling careers.

First, the girls struck a pose for See Jane Shoot.

I tell you, that See Jane Shoot. She is the next big thing.

Not to be outdone, I then beat out countless hopefuls to be booked as a hand model for my sister-in-law Dawn's latest venture, Pink Honey Designs.

Dawn's work is exquisite. Check it out here.

I'm afraid all the attention has gone to my hand's head. Since the shoot, it has been demanding the most expensive lotions, nail polishes, insurance policies. It's probably a good thing the vacation ended at the ascent of our promising careers.

Plus, the kids sure missed their daddy.
And now we are pack. back. Back, and packing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dress Form

Several people have given me the same advice for packing to move...eliminate, eliminate, eliminate.

I agree. I just think it's so much more fun to acquire stuff.

I bought this last month at a darling vintagy store in Redlands. I justified the purchase by calling it my "birthday present," although by then I'm pretty sure that excuse had run its course.

When I brought it home, Jack said something like, "Oh Kate! Wow!" (Which I've learned is what dutiful husbands say when they're thinking, "What on earth?")

It's a dress form. And I had to have it.

I understand Jack's confusion at the time (and, admit it, yours right now), as he was not yet able to catch the vision.

I didn't want the dress form, I explained to him. I needed the dress form. To store the girls' hairbows.

So cute, huh?? I think it will look darling. Sitting inside its U-haul box.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

You should give him liquor

This is my to-do list from last week, straight from my Franklin Covey:

To Do:

swimming lessons a hair appointment a upload photos a order Cal’s birth certificate a finish/ship bows a start packing a primary meeting a birthday thank yous a maritime museum w/ Lee a PAC meeting refreshments a return library books a call Natalie a plan picnic a book Jack’s flight a cake contest a finish sharing time a
schedule visiting teaching

This is my to-do list from this week:

To Do:

Cal is teething.

I cut the video to 6 seconds (you're welcome). If you're interested in a more realistic glimpse of my week you can play it on repeat. All day. On full volume. At night, download it onto your iPod and program the alarm to wake you to it about every 3 hours.

Poor little boy. And boy, am I tired.

A man at the Cotsco food court asked me if he was teething. When I said yes, he said, "You should give him liquor."

I was about to crack a lame joke ("someone should give his mommy liquor"), but was afraid he might actually take me up on it. To be honest, I think the guy might have been "teething" himself.

Still, he had good intentions. I just prefer infant remedies that don't involve me getting carded...Suggestions?

Friday, June 26, 2009

T minus

After six beautiful years in Santa Barbara, we are down to just nine weeks left.

This has meant a little bit of crying, and a whole lotta this

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Today our oldest turns five.

I once heard someone say that raising children is like making pancakes. You kind of mess up the first one before you get it right. If that’s true, then Jolie has endured our rookie mistakes beautifully. It also doesn’t explain the time I thought it would be funny to hold Leah, our second, upside down, and I accidentally dropped her on her head.

Today, much to celebrate. Five years, three delicious pancakes, Happy Birthday to...

n. One who prides herself in being the oldest child. Jolie’s favorite shirt is one that says 'Big Sister.' When putting it on recently, we overheard her saying, “Sooooorry Leah. They don’t make shirts that say ‘Medium Sister.’

4. adj. An avid vocalist with an eclectic taste in music. Our nickname for Jolie is "iPod Shuffle,” because you never know what song is coming next. It's not unusual to hear her belt out “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet,” followed immediately by “Girl Put your Records On.”

5. See also -





Open Minded

A Brother Like No Other

(Written by my mother Susan Foutz, who would like to clarify that she actually has two brothers like no other ) If you lived in Arizona in t...