While we were at Granny and Grandpa’s house over Christmas break, Stella was taking a bath (under Granny’s supervision) with the Little People, Dora the Explorer, the Marina, and a large plastic pig. At one point, we are told, Stella turned the Marina upside down, making it a floating platform for a macabre display: she lined up the Little people and Dora in a semicircle around the pig.

Granny: “What are you doing?”

Stella: “I’m sacrificing a pig!” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

We were in a hurry to get everyone dressed and out the door to wherever we were going when Stella ran into our room, dressed in her doctor coat and waving her syringes and otoscope in Jesse’s face, and said, “Dad, can I just take out your appendix real quick?”

So Jesse had to drop what he was doing and lie down on the bed while Dr. Stella administered anesthesia. She got so caught up in taking his temperature that she forgot to remove his appendix. ____________________________________________________________________________________________

At bedtime while reading stories…

Jesse: “Come on, we’re going to read the Billy Goats Gruff.”

Stella: “It’s the Three Billy Goats Gruff, Dad.”

Jesse: “Oh, ok, you’re right.”

[After the part where the biggest goat crosses the bridge and charges at the troll, the force of the crash sends the troll flying off the page]

Stella: “The troll went flying into the forest and the Lamanites ate him!”

Jesse: “Are you sure?”

Stella: “Yeah!”

It’s a wonderful life

It’s a wonderful life

Dear Stella and Sophie and unnamed baby brother,

These are the kinds of things my Facebook friends post on New Year’s Eve:

“This year has simultaneously been the most sad and beautiful I’ve ever experienced. The lows have taught me to see the good moments with more gratitude and joy than ever before. I laughed and cried with my wonderful husband, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of frolicking through a fields of lavender, I ran through the streets of Paris in ballgowns with friends drinking rose and taking pictures, I squished into a euro van with five wonderful friends and road-tripped through Spain and France, I cliff jumped into a glacial waterfall, hiked gorgeous mountains, grew a garden so epic i didn’t have to buy produce for 5 months, fed and snuggled baby goats and baby humans, made new friends that I now count as family, had the most amazing adventures with old friends and grew our family by one very fluffy member. I’m so grateful for everything this year has given and taught me in the midst of great sorrow and welcome a new year of challenges and joys the new one will bring.”

Here’s my recap of 2017. After reading, tell me who had the better year…

This year was exhausting. The antics of an almost three-year-old Stella, and a three-year-old Stella have taught me to appreciate ice cream. Specifically hiding in the kitchen to momentarily silence the Guilty Mom voices in my head with heaping spoonfuls of Cookies and Cream while Stella was otherwise occupied by stress-inducing activities, SUCH AS unraveling toilet paper from the roll at an alarming rate, OR drawing goatees on her chin with permanent marker, OR cutting all my oil pastels in half with scissors… I cried and screamed into pillows, I tiptoed around minefields of goose poop that litter the grass of my daughters’ favorite public park, I ran to Safeway at 6:30am because the night before, I forgot to buy Stella a sugar free treat to share with kids at school on her birthday; I squished into a San Francisco bound train car on BART with my infant and toddler (plus an overflowing diaper bag and a bulky 30 lb stroller that doesn’t maneuver conveniently in any circumstance whatsoever) and some mentally unstable vagrants who attempted to read my future with tarot cards; I dove into the shallow end of our apartment complex swimming pool to retrieve the flip flops and dry towels Stella tossed into the pool on purpose (along with dirt clods from the nearby planter boxes), endured a hike down a barren, rocky mountain carrying a 22-pound Sophie while a whiny Stella refused to walk by herself unless I recounted the story of Abinadai burning at the stake, grew a third eyebrow (pretty much) because I neglected routine hygienic tasks like eyebrow plucking (who has time for that?!), fed and snuggled small humans after they vomited on me during a five hour car ride home, made new friends (i.e. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry via binge watching all four seasons of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix) that I talk to aloud during occasional spells of delirium induced by sleep deprivation, had the most harrowing email exchanges with the editor of THE MAGIC HOUR who requested major last minute revisions to multiple spreads only days before Christmas. I’m grateful for mostly everything 2017 has offered and welcome a new year of blissfully undisturbed restful slumber, since Stella and Sophie now share a room and wake us up at 6:00 am instead of periodically throughout the night. Oh wait, I’m having another baby in eight weeks. Nevermind.



Christmas 2017

Christmas 2017

2017-11-23 Family [1]

After Jesse graduated from the Yale School of Management in May 2016, we left New Haven and ended up in Lafayette, CA. Jesse now works for the Kaiser Permanente Headquarters in Oakland. He is a “Senior Strategy Consultant on the Strategic Market Planning & Execution team” (that means he makes lots of power point presentations for Very Important People and gets to help decide how much insurance will cost and often eats catered lunch while wearing a suit). His top achievements of 2017: building a sand table for Stella; convincing Sophie to allow him to hold her for more than six seconds; and listening to the entire Harry Potter series during his morning commute (it only took six months).

Sarita had a baby named Sophie in September 2016 and has spent the last year trying to figure out how to be a mother of two squirmy girls (that means she makes lots of homemade play dough and treads carefully through the minefield of plastic dinosaurs and Legos that is the living room and usually eats leftovers for lunch while wearing the same sweatpants she has worn the previous six days). In October, she finished illustrating DADDY, ME, and the MAGIC HOUR by Laura Krauss Melmed (Sky Pony Press, May 2018). Her top achievement of 2017: that one time in June or July when the apartment was clean and the laundry basket was empty and she made dinner.

Stella is three, but looks like she’s five and a half. Her response to everything is, “NO, right NOW!” When she’s not making unreasonable demands, she’s playing “Dr. Stella” (i.e., drilling holes in all her patient’s teeth, courtesy of the Play-Doh Doctor Drill ‘n Fill dentist toy. She appropriately dubbed her patient, Mr. Unlucky). She also enjoys drawing and writing with markers, cooking, cutting up catalogs into confetti sized pieces, eating marshmallows, and saying words like “minuscule.” Thanks to Stella, our reptilian friends from the Mesozoic Era no longer face the sartorial dilemma of roaming the earth unclothed. Her top achievement of 2017: handcrafting felt underwear for her dinosaur figurines after reading DINOSAURS LOVE UNDERPANTS. If you ask her why she’s so good at making dinosaur undies, she’ll say, “Because I have dexterity.”

Sophie turned 1 in September. We do zhua zhou around here, or the Chinese first birthday celebration. It’s a dynastic tradition in which babies are offered an array of symbolic objects and they choose one or two without being prompted. Their choice supposedly indicates a future lifestyle or occupation. Sophie chose the cupcake. Cake = ability to enjoy life’s pleasures. According to Sophie, life’s pleasures are live animals (especially dogs and squirrels) and any and all stuffed animals. Her other interests are poking holes in things, flushing the toilet (but only when it’s empty), playing a friendly game of “Throw the muffin on the floor,” and snuggling. She tricked everyone into thinking she would be a mellow baby with no sense of humor, but she has proven to be just as lively and easily amused as Stella, with the added bonus of being an even more adept climber. Every day her parents have to rearrange the furniture so she doesn’t die.

Happy 2018!

Love , Jesse, Sarita, Stella, Sophie & baby brother (due 2/26)



We bought onions at the store this week…

Mom: “Where’s my onion?”

Stella: “It’s hiding.”

Mom: “I need it for the soup.”

Stella: “No. I hid it so you won’t kill it. It’s my baby.”

I found it a few days later. She had stuffed it into her desk. I think someone has been reading SOPHIE’S SQUASH again… ____________________________________________________________________________________________

This week we also made an advent calendar out of burlap pockets trimmed with glittery ribbon. Stella inspected one of the finished pieces and said, “Mom, these are magnificent pockets!” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

One of our illustrated Bible story books, in the chapter on Moses, says that God smote Egypt with maggots. That was news to all of us:

Stella: “What’s maggots?”

Mom: “They’re larvae, or immature bugs, and they live in rotten meat, and later they turn into flies. They’re really gross. They look like this…” [as I pull up a picture on Google images….ugh, why did I do that?!]

Stella: “Oh look, they’re minuscule worms.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Stella helped me make a bingo board for my primary class. The pictures we placed on the squares were all related to stories of living prophets: Daniel, Samuel, Noah, Abinadai, Moses, Joseph Smith, President Monson. We needed to fill one last square and weren’t sure what picture to place there, so I said:

“Maybe something from the story of Moses. What should we put here?”

Stella: “How about boils? Can we put boils right there?”

Mom: “Eew, no!”






While Dad was trying to work on his computer, Stella couldn’t resist needling him to the point of frustration, when he said, “PLEASE! STOP!”

Stella said dejectedly, “Don’t yell at me. You shouldn’t yell at little kids!”

We laughed.  ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Mom told Stella to put something away in her room and come out after closing the bedroom door. Stella disappeared and didn’t come back. After a while, Mom said, “Stella! What are you doing in there? Stop plotting and come out!”

Stella: “MOM! I’m not plotting like Laman and Lemuel!” ____________________________________________________________________________________________

While telling the story of Jonah and the Whale for the first time:

Mom: “…And Jonah sailed as far away from Ninevah as he could, in the opposite direction. He was trying to run away from God, but God got upset and threatened Jonah’s boat with a big, terrible storm. The people on the boat were angry with Jonah and tossed him overboard. Then he got swallowed by a giant [dramatic pause]…what do you think swallowed him?”

Stella: “Um…I think it was a shark!” ____________________________________________________________________________________________





Terrible Twos…and Threes

Terrible Twos…and Threes

“Whoever came up with the term “terrible twos” must have felt very foolish after their kid turned three…”
― Jim GaffiganDad Is Fat

2017-07-20 Stella 3rd birthday [1]

In the months leading up to Stella’s third birthday, I thought there was no way age three could be worse than age two. I thought if I could just get past two, everything would be fine!

It is NOT fine.

The tantrums are epic. She screams herself red in the face until she’s choking and hyperventilating because you said NO to wearing rubber boots to bed, or putting on nail polish right before a bath, or eating jelly beans for dinner; or YES, she has to wear underwear today, just like every other day…

She is totally rude. Now, when people smile at her in the grocery store and tell her she has the most beautiful hair, she grumbles and whines and turns around so she doesn’t have to look at them.

And she thinks she’s a baby. I know the “experts” say it’s just a phase or whatever, but it’s still maddening to hear the incoherent, monosyllabic mumbling that comes out of her mouth. Her height does not help the situation. She looks like a realllllllly immature five-year-old when she says, “Da da, look, I wet!”

AND, she likes Taylor Swift songs. Gah! But I guess that’s my fault for letting her watch the movie SING and letting her dance to the “pig song…”

The good news is, she usually reserves the worst of this unpleasantness for whenever Dad is in the room. We don’t know why, because he doesn’t put up with it any more than I do. Wait, I guess that’s not good news. Never mind.

On the other hand, Stella is so sweet and happy and articulate. Those are her two extremes: she’s either delightful or demonic. There is no middle ground right now.

At her best, Stella can be reasoned with and you can actually have a conversation with her, sort of. Example:

S: “I want Shark! Will you go get him? He’s in Sophie’s room.”

D: “I’m sorry, but we don’t have Shark any more.”

S: “No, we do, he’s just in the other room. Will you please go get him?”

Dad, in hopes of having a tender, teaching moment to impress upon her young mind the importance of decluttering and sharing your abundance with those less fortunate, continues:

D: “Ok, I’ll go check…”

He comes back and makes up some baloney story,

D: “You know, here’s what happened. There was another girl who didn’t have any toys and we knew you had so many toys and would want to share with her, so we gave Shark to her so she would have something to play with. Doesn’t it feel good to share and help kids who don’t have toys?”

S: “No. I want Shark!”

Generally, Stella is almost completely self sufficient and helpful. When she’s in a good mood, she’ll do whatever I say. Thank goodness. And one of the most amazing things about her is her resilience. I stopped keeping track of how many times a day she falls down or bumps into walls or scrapes her knees or elbows because it’s never been a big deal. She’ll cry for two seconds and then say, “I’m okay!” It’s the best.

Her latest trick, when you compliment her on how good she is at doing X, is to respond with, “Yeah, I have dexterity.” We said dexterity means you’re good at doing things with your hands, such as: helping to make dinner by chopping vegetables (with a butter knife); painting our nails (with child proof nail polish); cutting up catalog paper into confetti-sized bits; writing (her name, the alphabet); drawing (flowers and outlines of hands with added fingernails and jewelry details, the Cat in the Hat, “potato people,” which are ovoid outlines of bodies with bulbous eyes and sticks for arms and legs); coloring all my printed MAGIC HOUR sketches with colored pencils on the light box after I’ve transferred the lines to watercolor paper; watercolor painting; coloring with markers; drilling holes in her play doh dentist patient’s teeth (his name is Mr. Unlucky) after administering healthy doses of Novocain; playing Dr. Stella, which entails bringing all her stuffed animals back from the dead by taking their temperatures and giving them flu shots; filling up all her purses with Legos and carrying them around the house; taking empty cardboard boxes and stuffing them with the most random assortment of toys then hiding the boxes in weird places; the list goes on….

She also likes looking at pictures of Australia (since reading, ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY, she tells us she’s going to Australia every day) and reading GREEN EGGS AND HAM and of course, hearing about every little thing that happened in the Bible and Book of Mormon (current favorite stories: Joseph of Egypt, Moses, Laban’s death, Abinadai’s death, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Noah’s Ark)

I suppose these bright spots are worth the aggravation of three-year-old tantrums…just kidding, what am I saying?

2017-09-04 Stella labor day [1]2017-09-04 Stella labor day [2]2017-09-04 Stella labor day [3]


Coming soon…

2017-11-01 brother announcement [3]

February 2018. Surprise!