Thursday, February 28, 2008

The London Times

We made it!

I am currently sitting in a dark hotel room, trying to let Adam sleep and keep Braeden and Emma to a whisper. We are messed up as far as sleep goes. If there's a trick to jet lag, we don't know it.

Yesterday...which was really two days...or one and a half (It's way too much math to consider the 8 hour time difference.) was full of adventure. Braeden and Emma don't remember flying so that was a new experience for them. When we were at Disneyland and riding on a Ferris wheel in California Adventure, Emma cried and wanted off and I let her. It didn't work on the tarmac in Seattle though. I wouldn't let her off. She was in panic mode because of the angle that she saw planes taking off. I assured her it wouldn't be THAT bad. She squeezed the life out of my hand at take-off then said, "Oh, that was fine." She spoke in stressed out clipped tones for the entire flight to Vancouver though. When I finally thought she'd recovered, she asked, "Is this plane out of control?" No, I think it's in control.

Take-off from Vancouver was nowhere near as intense. She was a pro by then. Neither Emma or I slept on the flight but Braeden did for about three hours. Emma was sitting by the window and every few minutes slid the window shade up and down to check out the view...or non view since we were above the clouds and it was dark most of the time. She discovered the Northern Lights in one of her window checks though. Everyone around us was asleep and it seemed like the show was just for Emma and me. The entire horizon was lit up with greenish blue light. I told Emma, "This is magical." She smiled at me and I was very happy to not be sleeping.

Braeden woke up very grumpy but by the time we'd landed he'd cheered up. We made our way through customs (thank you bright pink fast lane card!) and to Adam. We were a disheveled, bleary eyed, tangled hair mess but he was nice enough not to mind. The Heathrow Express train had some closed tracks so we had to take the Tube which took LONG and didn't afford any impressive views. At Paddington station switched to a taxi but not before we smelled french fries and followed our noses to McDonald's. A little bit of Americana. Adam groaned, "No, not McDonald's." I didn't know if I was hungry or not or what meal I should even be hungry for but Adam relented to the kids' pleas and bought lunch.

We finally got to our hotel, Adam went back to work and we napped. Braeden woke up happy this time and Emma was a snarling mean bear. I'm glad that they take turns not handling the sleep thing so far.

With Adam we went in search of some food...this time I was hungry...and went on the Tube to Westminster. We were still groggy and not completely convinced of the merits of our journey I think until we climbed the stairs out of the Tube station and were met with an eye full of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament all lit up against the night sky. Wow. We walked around and looked at the buildings and rode a double decker bus (front deck) back to our hotel.

On the bus

The London Eye is in the background.

Big Ben

After a fitful night I'm ready(?) to hit the city streets. Our plan is Kensington Gardens, Victoria and Albert Museum and The Natural History Museum. Wish us luck.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nervous Nelly

Tomorrow’s the big day. Heading off to London. And I am nervous.

I am worried I’m going to forget our passports. (When I mentioned this about a week ago, Adam looked at me like I was worried about forgetting to breathe. Just don’t forget them, he said.)

Among the many things that are good about Adam, he is great at traveling. He packs light and packs very well. Often when we’re going on a trip, he just takes over packing my suitcase when it won’t close. He takes everything out and refolds it and there’s room to spare. He also is rarely lost and if he is lost, he never panics, quickly regains his bearings and is just fine. I am almost always lost. I panic, get more lost and stress out my children.

If I was going to London with Adam, I would feel completely different. I’d let him worry—or not worry, because he doesn’t—about all the details. But he’s already there so it’s up to me.

I try to be prepared. I had Adam tell me everything I need to know for the trip. He could do it in his sleep but it was a mistake to ask. I got overwhelmed by all the details I don’t remember from when I went to London last time. “Remember that long hallway in the Vancouver airport?” No. “Remember when you get to customs in Heathrow?” No.

So now I’m trying to remember to go up instead of down on the escalators in Vancouver. To go to International Transfers instead of customs. To take the far right line in Heathrow customs because it’s the short one…for frequent fliers. I’m very obviously not a frequent flier and I’ll be arrested by the frequent flier police for fraud as soon as they see my clueless expression but Adam gave me his magic bright pink card that indicates I belong. We’ll see if I can pull it off.

So the actual getting to London is nerve wracking. My only saving grace there is my very extroverted son who is more than comfortable talking to anyone and everyone to get information. He’ll see me through.

Once we get there, Adam will be there to greet us, which is immensely comforting. He’ll take us to our hotel for a nap. Everyone in the world has a different way to combat jet lag. I’ve heard take melatonin, drink a lot of orange juice, drink a lot of water, eat a lot of protein three days ahead of the trip, eat a lot of carbohydrates two days before the trip, eat normally the day before the trip, don’t sleep when you get there if it’s not night time. Then Adam said we should take a short nap right when we get there. He’ll wake us up when he gets back from work and we’ll hit the town. OK. I already missed the boat on the changing my diet for three days and where does one find melatonin to take and how much do you take anyway? I even thought about drugging my children and self up on benadryl for the flight but it gives Emma hallucinations (seriously) and it knocks me out cold and I think I should be at least a little bit alert.

So assuming we get to London and can combat jet lag, my next item of anxiety (I excel at anxiety) is the navigating around the city while Adam's working. We will have two choices, underground or bus. Yesterday Adam told me that he was stuck in Paddington station for a few hours because someone was killed and they shut down several lines. Great. Wonderful. Adam clarified, they weren’t killed on the TRAIN, it was on the track. A train hit them or something. Oh, well that’s just fine then. Nothing to worry about. You can be very sure I’ll have an iron grip on my kids’ hands. Two kids, two hands, no letting go.

Then last night Emma talked to her grandma on the phone. She suggested Emma write down the name of our hotel on a piece of paper and put it in her pocket in case we get separated. What?! I did NOT need that idea planted in my head. I have NO intention of getting separated from my children.

It’s hard being a crazy woman. But there you have it.

And it isn’t all agitation. I am EXCITED. I have my plan all ready. We’re going to see some amazing things and hopefully my children will always remember this experience (for good reasons…oh no, there I go again). Yesterday I was flipping through a magazine and my eye caught a recipe for some scones. I nearly swooned. That’s right, scones! I remembered the scones I nibbled in little caf├ęs and shops all over London every chance I got. Yes! Scones! We are going to have a marvelous time.

Friday, February 22, 2008

“Love is like an earthquake-unpredictable, a little scary, but when the hard part is over you realize how lucky you truly are.”

My 20-plus-miles-from-home hometown is Wells, NV. I grew up in the middle of the sagebrush but we drove the dusty gravel and paved roads to Wells for school and church.

Wells is an interesting place. If you didn’t have a compelling reason to stop there, like gas or food, you wouldn’t. My college professors, a married couple, Tom and Louise Plummer, teased me about Nevada and said that they played a game when they drove through the small towns of Nevada. They would challenge each other, “What would you do if God said you had to live THERE?” Wells is that kind of town. The wind blows. There are two legal brothels and no movie theater. The streets are empty. There’s one flashing red light at a four way stop.

And I love Wells.

There are the best kind of people that live there. And in the outlying ranching areas. People wave at each other and greet each other. The high school gym is packed for every basketball game and more than packed for every high school graduation. Everyone wears the really hideously ugly high school colors…orange and black…with pride. People are loyal to each other and stick together, especially the down on their luck types, of which there are plenty.

When I was growing up, along with other Mormon families, we would go to the annual Presbyterian Harvest Dinner after church. The school borrowed chairs and tables from the Mormon church for school events and when I was in about 7th grade, we had church at the high school while our church was being remodeled.

Wells was a soft place to fall while growing up. Some of my teachers had taught my parents in school. I could walk anywhere safely. There wasn’t a person I could run into that didn’t know that I was a Dahl and who my parents and grandparents were.

There was an earthquake in Wells yesterday. It sounds like it was traumatizing. I didn’t even know about it until I got an email from Nate who is Rachel’s husband. Rachel, one of my favorite people and former college roommate, went in the hospital yesterday to give birth. Nate wanted to tell me that news but Rachel also was concerned about the earthquake in Wells and wondering about my family. What!?

I called my dad. As the phone rang, I imagined they were either fine or buried under a pile of rubble. That must be why I hadn’t heard from them. Thankfully it was the former. And they’d been on the phone all morning. My family lives on a lot of “round rocks” as my dad said and a log house, like my parents’, apparently rolls right with the punches.

Like the good sisters in Zion that they are, my sisters were on the phone, checking on the people they visit teach and friends. Marianne couldn’t get a hold of her husband, who’s the bishop. He wasn’t answering his cell phone. He was driving around visiting people and checking on things. Part of the church was condemned and he was dealing with that and helping wherever he could. I love Robert and his earnest goodness so it warms my heart to picture him in that setting.

My other dear friend and college roommate, Erin, called to check on my family and later in the day I heard from Ilene Stubbs, who moved from here to Utah last year. She remembered my family was from Wells and wondered how they were. My sisters-in-law contacted me and wondered how everything was.

I couldn’t help it. I felt loved. My heart was nearly 1000 miles away all day in a little beat up town in rural Nevada but my friends were right there with me.

Yesterday the Relief Society presidency called my dad (who is grateful for his recent release as bishop, I’m guessing) and asked him to make a roast. They were feeding people last night. Along with others, they fed 500 (at the elementary school because the high school gym is condemned as well). Most people had utilities restored by then I think but they needed to be together. Needed to hear each other’s stories and support each other. It’s what small towns do best.

So, Tom and Louise, I guess if God said, “You have to live THERE,” it would be OK with me.

View Larger Map

Wells Earthquake Video

Enoch sent me this video from the surveillance cameras at his truck wash in Wells. You can see the earthquake start at 6:09:42. It continues for a few seconds and then skips forward two minutes because of the power outage.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

Back before I used to subject my long-suffering family to tangential and extensive emails, I used to write in a journal. In the inside cover of my journal, I wrote the following quote by Nancy Mair: I will write myself into well being. Well, I need some of that today.

I am grumpy. I think I'm grumpy because I'm tired of hearing the whining and complaining coming So why am I complaining? Is it that my desk is buried under the detritus of weeks? Is it that I have laundry to fold and dishes to wash and I’m not doing them? Is it that I have too much to do and I am not doing well at ANY of it? Is it Braeden’s heroscape game spread all over the dining room floor? Is it the spot on Emma’s bed where (oops) she “spilled” her gum? Is it that Mark insists on running around the house, yelling and smacking walls and siblings just because he has such a huge amount of energy? Is it that my shoes are too tight and my heart is two sizes too small? Whatever the reason, the heart or the shoes…I’m grumpy.

What I really need is a good shot in the arm of gratitude. So here I go. What I’m grateful for. Today.

1. Sunshine. In February. In Seattle. Amazing.
2. Taking Mark to the car wash during Braeden and Emma’s piano lessons. He told me over and over it was the best day of his life. Who am I to argue with that kind of unabashed joy?
3. Adam, Adam and forever Adam. He listens to my whining and complaining and loves me anyway and gives me advice and encouragement and if nothing else works, wraps his arms around me.
4. Talking on the phone with Janet…having someone I can talk to until one of our cordless phones die out and we have to finally go back to our lives.
5. I made it to the gym today!
6. My kids are healthy.
7. My husband has a good job and I get to stay home full time with these healthy kids.
8. I get to take my kids to London! The big frequent flier pay off!
9. I can home school my kids and watch them learn all the while fulfilling my dream that started in first grade when I wanted to be a school teacher like Mrs. Jund.
10. Clicking on the “publish post” button when I write a blog. I feel like a real writer for 20 seconds.
11. Hearing my kids reenact Guillermo (from Jimmy Kimmel) trying out for the Wiggles.
12. It’s the last week of basketball.
13. We got our car back from Aldercrest Auto Repair. We are once again a two-car family!!
14. Adam wasn’t hurt in the accident that landed his car at Aldercrest Auto Repair.
15. Emma wanted books with her birthday money.
16. My mom taught me how to make bread. Nothing nourishes body and soul like homemade bread.
17. Good books to read. Right now I’m reading 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith. It’s funny.
18. It’s the Blue and Gold banquet tonight (sorry Janet) and guess whose son turned eleven and no longer has to go to those…well, until Mark is eight.
19. Good quotes, like the following:

It’s easy to complain about children. But when we want to express our joy, our love, the words elude us. The feelings are almost so sacred they defy speech. –Joan McIntosh

I’ll stop complaining. No more grumpy. I promise.

And the Guillermo video...

I know what you're didn't think I, who barely knows how to check my cell phone voice mail, was smart enough to attach a video to my blog. Well, you're right. I am not that smart. I'm married to one who is though.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Emma's Birthday

Yesterday Emma turned nine. I'm so glad that she's my girl. I think everyone needs a girl. Someone to make you pretty Valentines and steal your hairbrush. Emma's grandparents gave her a book for her birthday: The Girls' Book-- How to be the Best at Everything. It's contents, among many other things, include How to make shadow puppets, How to whistle really loudly, How to eat with chop sticks, and my personal favorite, How to cope if zombies attack. Emma was reading it aloud to us last night. I wondered where the time had gone. Just when did my tiny baby wrapped in pink at the Yale New Haven Hospital become this tall confident girl, laughing as she read "If you have no choice but to stand and fight a zombie, always check your body carefully for bite marks afterward."

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hazards at the YMCA

I grew up in rural Nevada around horses. When you take a saddle off a hot dusty horse and turn it out into a field, often it will buck and kick its legs and roll around on the ground, presumably getting the feel of the saddle off its body. I finally realized when watching Mark play in his basketball game at the YMCA on Saturday that that is what Mark reminds me of when he plays.

When Mark plays basketball, it is with pure joy. Mark approaches everything with either pure joy or real contempt. He’s an intense kid and feels things strongly. And he loves being in a gym.

He doesn’t at all get the concept of basketball. He runs around, sometimes making zooming noises, sometimes holding his head to the side like he’s trying to resist the g forces. Occasionally, seemingly as an afterthought, he’ll steal the ball, or grab a loose ball but then he doesn’t really have a clear concept of what to do with it and he hands it off…usually to one of the timid little girls on the team.

You can imagine that little kids who are really into the game and really get the concept of basketball get irritated with Mark. Who is this wild-eyed red head and why is he disrupting our game? Similar to how Mark is either really happy or really not, kids seem to either really like him or really…not.

A lot of kids genuinely like Mark. They go out of their way to say hello to him. I have watched out my window and seen neighborhood boys actually coming to blows fighting over Mark’s attention. There are those that feel otherwise though. I was visiting teaching once and a small boy came down the stairs and told his mom that it was time to go home. She said, “But you are home.” He pointed upstairs to where Mark was playing (and presumably ruling the roost) and said, “No, HIM.”

There have been several athletic basketball playing boys that feel the same way. Get him out of here. As paroxysmal as Mark is in his basketball playing, he is really pretty fast, strong, athletic and aggressive (he got none of those qualities from yours truly) and when he decides he wants to get the ball, he’s hard to stop. This doesn’t further endear him to anyone.

So Mark’s been shoved, kicked, punched and tripped. It never really bothers him much. I don’t like to see it but I usually just let it go because unlike my other two who I feel such a compelling urge to protect, Mark seems somehow like he doesn’t need my protection.

On Saturday there was an intense kid on the other team. He was also a red head but with a buzz cut and a UW headband on his shorn head. He was a pretty good little player and was in control of most of the game. Mark randomly decided to go after a loose ball and got it from the other kid. The other guy yelled out in rage and pounded on the mat that covered the wall (so that’s why they placed the mats there). Then he started kicking the wall. Mark was oblivious and handed the ball to this little girl, Isabella who is so tiny I’m afraid she’ll fall over if Mark runs by her too fast. Mark zoomed away, probably forgetting the whole incident.

The other player did not forget. He got in Mark’s face and tried to underhandedly get him for the next few minutes. Mark didn’t seem to be minding so neither did I.

Then it happened. Mark was running down the court. Headband kid was standing his ground. I saw a particular look in Mark’s eye. He lowered his shoulder like a football player and literally flattened the kid. I yelled out, “Mark!” and I told Adam, “He did that on purpose!” Adam said he was sure that was not true.

I knew better. And I ejected my son from the game. I took him off the court and held him on my lap…on the floor because there are never enough chairs at those games. Other mothers smiled over at me with an understanding smile. They’re the mothers whose children sometimes run crying from the court because they’re hurt and they then sit on their mother’s laps. I smiled back. Let them believe that Mark is sitting here because he’s hurt, I thought. He was really sitting there because he was in trouble. I asked him if he had done it on purpose. “Yes,” he admitted in a small voice. “That’s a mean kid.”

No flattening other players, Mark. You just can’t.

Since I gave birth to this big strong kid, I figure it’s my duty to civilize him. Teach him things like don’t knock kids over.

I do take comfort in the fact that for all the abuse Mark takes from frustrated kids on the basketball court, he is really very good-natured. He is a head taller than almost every other kid and could conceivably flatten them all if he decided to. He’s usually just happy to be in a gym and happy to share with the smaller kids who would otherwise never get a chance to touch the ball.

And like Adam said, “No one complained when Mark knocked that kid down.”

Of course we won’t mention that to Mark. We’ll just tell him, “No flattening other players. You just can’t.”


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