Monday, December 18, 2017


We had a nice time.  It was great to relax and talk and drive through beautiful country side by side.  Turns out I like Moab.  I had never been there before.  There's a lot of Utah I've never been to, considering I grew up in the state next door.

We are slowly seeing a lot of Utah though and I love it more all the time.  What a stunning place!

We went to a really delicious Thai restaurant for dinner.  It's the best Thai food (hands down) that we've had since we left Seattle.

At our hotel we got in the hot tub, well one of the many hot tubs.  There were a network of hot tubs and pools and our kids would love it.  We'd probably never be able to get Mark away.  We chose the hot tub that had the most steam.  Another couple joined us.  Adam wanted to explore but there was no way I was getting out until we were ready to go in or I was uncomfortably hot, whichever came first.  So Adam went to look around at all the pools and that left me engaging in small talk with my new friends.  It was a difficult choice, but I opted to stay warm.

The guy enthusiastically told me all about what they had been doing and gave me unsolicited advice about what we should do at Arches (some people just love to feel like experts).  They told me they were going to camp the next two nights.  I asked, "How cold will it be where you're camping?"

"In the 20s," he gleefully responded.

"I don't like camping in the best circumstances," I said.  Which maybe sounded a little snotty so when we left I told them I hoped they enjoyed their camping.

They cheerfully said, "Look for us in the news."

People mystify me.

There was ice on the sidewalk going back into the hotel.  It was cold.  Which is what happens in December.

It felt like the perfect time to be there though.  The hotel was super cheap and there were no crowds anywhere.  At breakfast Saturday morning, Adam started talking about when we could come back and bring our kids.

Then we hit the National Park.  It was beautiful!  I don't have the adjectives to describe it and the pictures don't do it justice but will have to suffice.  At least there are a lot of them....

I loved this tree. There's something just stark and lovely about the desert.

This view reminded me of the Fremont Troll in Seattle.

We took a few short and easy hikes and it was cold but not terribly cold.  We drove around too and I pointed out to Adam what the rock formations looked like to me.  It was kind of like pointing out shapes in the clouds.

Here Adam and I took pictures of each other:

Because we know how to have fun in a National Park.

I went away feeling grateful for Adam + National Parks + not camping + eyesight + a heated car + Christmas lights at our house when we returned.

Speaking of Christmas, on the freeway on the way home, we saw Santa:

He didn't seem to be the jolly old elf I've come to expect.  Maybe he was cranky because he had to drive and he'd rather take his sleigh.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Grateful Friday

We've never been shy about celebrating made up holidays (here's looking at you pikkujoulu).  Today is a holiday for us.  It's our 50/50 day!  Today, Adam and I have been married exactly half of our lives.  We are able to have this day in common because we share the same birthday.  It's like a super anniversary (even though it isn't our anniversary at all).

We're going on a little getaway (which seems perfectly timed because Adam has been busy and I haven't seen enough of that guy lately).  We're leaving Braeden and Mark at the helm.  I fully expect an emptier fridge/freezer/pantry when we return.

Where does one go for a 50/50 day?  I'm glad you asked.  We are going to Arches National Park.  In December.  Why not?  The weather will not be sunny and warm but like Dean Martin's song, "what do I care how much it may storm, I've got my love to keep me warm."

I'm grateful for half a lifetime spent with Adam.  He's everything good in a husband and father.  We are all lucky to have him.

half a lifetime ago

Thursday, December 14, 2017


The inversion is terrible.  I think the elementary kids are staying in for recess because of the air quality.  Also we have no snow to speak of, the deer are everywhere and if the cougar is still around (there was another sighting last week in our neighborhood) it should at least not be going hungry.

Gearing up for the return of all my chicks back in the nest, I changed sheets and pondered the differences of our children.  I put the nice quilt on Emma's bed because she's the only one that can be trusted.  She sleeps like a normal person.

Mark and Braeden both shun top sheets (which seems barbaric to me).  I picked which pillows Braeden has been using when he comes home to sleep (he grabs them from another bed) and put new pillowcases on them.  Why fight his preferences?  I heaved the six (not kidding) heavy blankets off Mark's bed to change his sheets.  I put three back on.  He's the only one besides me that sleeps cold around here.  He's very picky about how exactly the covers are arranged and I almost always do it upside down.  That's why I stopped at three blankets.  He'll redo it all anyway.  And then it will be a weird nest of blankets that only makes sense to him.

There's something soothing to me about slipping fresh sheets on their beds.  I mostly don't see them as often as I'd like and a small thing like clean sheets is something I can do for them.


Since it's nearing the end of the year, I'm coming across Best Books of 2017 lists. I'm carefully adding everything that looks interesting to my ongoing list of books I want to read.  I have a document that is 15 pages long.  10 point font.  It is at once ridiculous and thrilling to have that many books that at one time or another seemed enticing enough to me that I put them on my list.


Laundry has its seasons too.  We lived many summers where I was washing towels and swimsuits daily.  I think I breathed as much as chlorine as our kids did, even though I didn't get in the pool.  Now it's referee season.  Adam is a high school referee in his not very free time and it's striped shirts and black pants in my laundry basket.  I don't mind a bit.  I (perhaps weirdly) enjoy doing laundry.  Folding neat fragrant piles for people I love makes me happy.


Yesterday my visiting teachers came.  One of them asked, "So are you ready for Christmas?"  I said yes.  She was taken aback, "Really?  I was not expecting that answer!  I didn't think anyone was ready for Christmas."

An awkward pause followed, like she didn't know what to say to me after that.

I didn't say it but I think my sisters are ready for Christmas too....

I realized that it was one of those times when you are supposed to say the answer people expect.  Like when someone asks you how you are, you are supposed to say fine.  They don't really want to hear how you are.

And people don't want to know that you're ready for Christmas.  It's not polite apparently.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My mom and dad

Yesterday morning I was talking to someone about difficult family situations.  I found myself over and over saying things like, "My mom taught me..." or "My dad told me one time...."

It would seem like I have wise parents.

And I do.

We had dinner with them last night and then we went to Mark's voice recital.  It was sort of long and with of talent.  Braeden came too (Emma was at work) and later when I was driving him home (their car was at work with Emma) Braeden said, "That was the ultimate in grandparent love, coming to that recital."

I'm grateful for the grandparents our kids have.  Without exception they are loving and supportive.  It's nice to have moorings like that in the world.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Two more adventures with electricity than I wanted


Our outdoor Christmas lights stopped working.  I fiddled with the fuses like I knew what I was doing and I had Braeden unplug and replug the lights but then I was pretty much out of ideas.  I called the company that hangs our lights and a guy came to look at it.

He cut the cord and installed a new plug.  He asked me to flip the switch.

A horrible and scary sound ensued, kind of like a train was running through the house. There was popping and black smoke coming from the outlet.  "Turn it off!  Turn it off!" the guy yelled.  I did then we looked at each other with wide eyes.

He said, "That shouldn't have happened."

I couldn't agree more.

He told me his plan of how he'd fix it.  I said, "Christmas lights are not a necessity.  If this isn't safe, we don't need them."

He assured me he could fix it and he did.  The lights work.  I may even get brave enough to actually turn them on.


As promised, Mark and I went to the DMV after school.  We waited in line and got the book.

We went back to the van and it wouldn't start.  Nothing.  Mark popped the hood, and after talking on the phone with Adam, was going to check if the battery connector was OK.  A guy nearby asked if Mark needed any help.  "I think so," he said.

As luck would have it, the guy was a mechanic.  Our battery was indeed disconnected.  This has happened before and I completely blame the really terrible roads in our fair city.  We didn't have any tools in the van and he didn't have any tools.  He was with his girlfriend.  She had a socket set in her car but the one socket that would fit was missing.

He was chatting with us while he tried to make the wrong sized socket work.  "So are you here for a driver's license renewal?" he asked Mark.  I explained that Mark had just turned 15 and we were there to pick up a book.  The guy looked at Mark and said, "Wow, really?  I thought you were a lot older than that."

"Just 15," I said, "He's tall."

The guy was super short.  He smiled up at Mark and said, "Yeah, I get that all the time too."

I love it when you meet real life heroes who just stop what they're doing to help you.

He couldn't get the connector tightened but he set it on and said we might be able to make it home.  And we did!  It was a little nerve wracking but Mark read the driver's manual to me while we drove.  (Which is not as interesting as it sounds.)

Mark had watched everything our mechanic friend had done.  When we got home he said, "I can fix the van.  I have the tools I need."

Of course he does.  In a few minutes, Mark had it running fine.

I like people who can do things!  And I'm going to start keeping the right tools in the van.  Mark will just need to tell me which I need.

Monday, December 11, 2017


Is this real life?  My baby?!?

Mark at fifteen:

1) Some nights he won't go to bed until we've snuggled.

2)We are going to the DMV today to get him a book to study for a driver's permit.  He's ready.

3) He is stubborn and has strong opinions.

4) He is funny.  He told me the other day that just because American doesn't mean Ameri-should.  He is all the funnier when he is with Braeden.  Their latest idea:  a new version of the LDS Tools app.  It's for all the people in your ward that annoy you.  Mark said, "For example, the guy who can dunk the ball but won't show up for church basketball.  You think, what a tool, and you put his name in LDS Tools."

5) He's also all the weirder when he is with Braeden. (They've started calling each other "youngblood" for some reason only they understand.)

6)  I made Mark French toast for his birthday breakfast.  He ate nine pieces.  They were small, but still.  He eats an astonishing amount of food.

7) Every time we pull into the garage, he asks if there's anything to carry in from the van.

8) He loves music--a great variety of genres, including but not limited to 80s rock ballads.

9) We went out to dinner Saturday night to celebrate his birthday.  He wanted to go to a buffet.  I tried to talk him out of it, because blek, but he told me about the categories of restaurants. Fast food restaurants are for just getting food fast, fast casual is for going with your family, sit down restaurants are for formal occasions (not sure what that means exactly) and buffets are festive.  He said, "A birthday is festive, so I want a buffet.  And also a lot of food."  (I had been blissfully unaware of all these rules.)

10) He's the kind of kid who smiles when you ask him why he's limping and tells you about playing tackle capture the flag with his friends.  He happily told me his friend "laid him out," but Mark still scored the winning point.  Then he proudly showed me the big scrape on his arm.

11) Nearly all of his friends have been hit by cars.  Seriously.  (Mark has been too.)

12) He likes to tell me he's "not as smart as Braeden and Emma," but he can transform his D in Spanish into an A- in less than a week if that D means he can't hang out with his friends.  (Also, I homeschooled him so he's not fooling me.  He's smart.  He just needs to, you know, turn in his assignments.)

13) He is good at building things and fixing things.

14) He loves cars.  He loves reading about cars, looking at cars, telling me about cars and I know he'll love driving cars too.  Pray for us.

15) He has spent most of his life firmly believing he is my favorite child.  (He probably still thinks that.)  He isn't my favorite, but he's the best Christmas present I ever got.

If Mark had a uniform it would be a white t-shirt.  I'm pretty sure 90% of the pictures I have of him, he's wearing a white t-shirt.  Here he is opening his gift from Grandma Geri.  

Mark wanted his cake decorated with Lego candies.  I gave him the candy and told him to decorate it.  His brother and especially his sister had a lot of comments/criticism.

He didn't appreciate their opinions.

I love this kid!

Friday, December 8, 2017


I finally decided enough was enough and I was pulling Mark out of his English class where he isn't learning anything.

I mulled over options and called the school to get an appointment with the counselor to discuss.  He called me back but wouldn't let me have an appointment.  I even said, "So you won't make an appointment with me?"

He said with all sorts of false friendliness, "I really don't think we need to."

I said fine, he could send home the class schedule for me to pick another class.

But I didn't really want to pick another class.  I wanted to talk to the counselor about options.  And what I really wanted was for Mark to not have a class that period so he could be home and we could work together on his online English course.

Mark was skeptical.  "I don't know if they'll let you do that."

I am my mother's daughter.  I said, "Oh, they will."  Pretty much the only time I'm 100% confident is when I'm going into battle for one of my children.  Because I will die on that hill.  (Whatever hill it is.)

I went to the school yesterday with a book in my purse.  I was prepared for a stakeout in the counselor's office until he would meet with me.  I tried to think of Adam (who insists that to get results I will get further if I'm not too concerned about being right) and my dad (who taught me you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar) but in the end I was a little vinegar-y after all.

I sat in the counselor office waiting room for 45 minutes waiting for my chance.  There were a fleet of students in line ahead of me with green slips because they needed to change classes for next semester.  I was very grateful I'd brought my book.

At one point an English teacher (happily not one Mark has ever had) marched in and scolded one of the boys waiting to see the counselor.  "You've missed all this class time!" she shrieked.

"I'm waiting to see the counselor," he said meekly.

The teacher spoke to him with astonishing disdain and disgust.  She said, "Get back to class, now!  You've wasted all this time."  She stormed away.

He sunk lower in his chair, but to his credit, he stayed where he was.  He was, after all, next in line.  I wanted to put my arm around the morose boy with greasy hair and bring him home and feed him cookies.  After he met with the counselor the receptionist in the counselor office quietly apologized to the boy and told him he had done nothing wrong.

I felt ashamed of both the receptionist and myself that we'd let someone bully a child and we'd done nothing to defend him.  I was thinking with regret that I always seem to miss these chances.  Then I was startled to realize that the last time I felt regret about not speaking up, it had involved the same English teacher.  She and I had been selling tickets for The Importance of Being Earnest and she'd said something very racist and I'd been stunned into silence, only wishing later I'd said something.

What is it about that woman?  Maybe I should look up her email address and send her all the belated things I want to tell her.

I finally got my day in the sun and was able to see the counselor.  He looked around the waiting area with a big smile, like he was proud of his popularity.  "Everyone wants to see me today," he said.  "Yesterday no one did."

So that's when I got a little salty.  I told him that I was the one who had called him yesterday.  I said, "Since you refused to make an appointment with me, I decided to come and just wait until you'd see me."  Then he was suddenly Mr. Helpful.  He tripped over himself trying to be accommodating.

To my credit, I didn't roll my eyes.  I told him what I wanted.   I asked him about online courses.  I told him I was considering using BYU independent study and he said that was a great option.  He said it was a very simple process to get Mark out of a class period and I just needed to talk to the registrar.

The registrar sent me to the district office (which is in American Fork so not quite the promised simple process).

The people at district office cautioned me to use an accredited English course.  I said, "I'm considering using BYU independent study."  They told me that was not on the district's approved list.

It was 20 degrees outside and the counselor who told me BYU was "a good option" had been wearing sandals.  I should have known not to trust him.

All's well that ends well and I came home with my notarized paper giving Mark permission to stay home for A1 next semester (they have an AB schedule and I'm going to have to start paying attention which day it is!).

Our kids have had some really stellar teachers.  They've had teachers that inspire and motivate them and encourage and love them.

I wish we could box all the rotten teachers up and send them away somewhere.  Somewhere with no cookies.


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