Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Bears part 2

We didn’t have more money in 1996, probably less because I was no longer working and about to give birth to Braeden, our bear was a big upgrade though.

Meet Fergus.

Adam bought him at the BYU bookstore and it was love at first sight for yours truly. He’s still my favorite of the bears (maybe because he’s the last one that was given to me and only me...I'm not bitter, really).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas Bears part 1

Every year when I start pulling boxes out from the closet under the stairs, the first box that gets opened is the one holding the Christmas bears.

From the first year we were married, Adam has found a Christmas bear. The first few years, he presented the bear to me. Much like Everything Else, that changed when we had children. He now surprises them with the bears. Because he’s a pretty creative bear himself, he finds creative ways to give the bears to the kids.

Every bear is lovingly named and remembered with a story of how it came to be part of the family…except for when we forget the name or circumstances behind the bear.

I have an annual promise of creating a scrapbook to document the bears so we can refer to the book and not falter in our devotion to the little guys. It’s sad to look into their expressionless, expectant faces and come up empty on what to call them. Since I may or may not ever make good on my promise of the scrapbook, I decided the least I could do was document them here on my blog and we can check back every year when bear amnesia sets in.

First there’s Smith.

Doesn't your heart go out to anything that ugly?

He was named after the grocery store, Smiths, which is where he was purchased one night in Provo, UT in 1995. I look at the poor tacky little grocery store bear and that first poor tacky little Christmas is conjured up. We had a small little tree—a real one—that didn’t smell one bit for some reason. We bought a scattering of red apples (which I still love) and some burlap looking ribbon that I tied into bows for the tree. We had few presents and even fewer decorations in our miniature apartment. We did however, have Smith. (He used to have a really ugly “jingle bell” that Braeden obligingly chewed into oblivion a few years later.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday Quandary

Growing up we always had (fabulous) Thanksgiving dinner at my grandma's house in Salt Lake City. We'd stay a few days and usually end up visiting my aunt as well for a haircut in her basement salon. One particular year, when we got to my aunt Mary's house she gestured us toward her hall closet in a conspiratorial way and opened it. The entire closet was full of wrapped Christmas gifts. And it was only Thanksgiving! I was dazzled. And the die was cast.

I am completely done with my Christmas shopping (and wrapping unless you count the Amazon package that is due to be delivered December 2). I am an early bird and I like being an early bird until I have my Black Friday Quandary.

Besides loving to be ready for Christmas so I can enjoy the season, I love love love saving money. I feel mildly uncomfortable when I see commercials for amazing deals and I'm not going to partake. The discomfort is compounded when I'm told that in the current economy, there will be even deeper discounts. My fingers are itching to grab my American Express card and hit the road in search of some bargains.

I don't want to go shopping today though. Maybe my mind is still clouded by tales from my childhood of people going to blows over Cabbage Patch Kid dolls. A personal goal in my life: avoid retail hysteria.

And I want to decorate for Christmas. That's a lot more fun than anything else I could think of doing today.

Time to "haul out the holly". We need a little Christmas now.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Other Things

My thoughts are reminded to turn towards gratitude this time of year. And I am thankful. I could list all of the wonderful things in my life I am grateful for but this morning I started thinking about the “other” things. A be-thankful-for-your-trials kind of thing.

That always sounded a little cliché or like someone was trying too hard. Thankful for your trials? Really?

And then I tried it.

I’ve never felt so blessed.

I’m thankful Adam was unemployed (twice). It enabled us to move to Washington. It gave Adam a lot of time with Braeden and Emma in their preschool years they wouldn’t have had otherwise. It made me appreciative enough for a job that I don’t mind his long hours as much as I used to before the unemployment.

I’m thankful for post partum depression. I am more sympathetic towards mental illness.

I’m thankful for Adam’s trips. Besides the trips to London I was able to take, I feel more capable from my brief stints as a single mother and I appreciate Adam more when he comes home.

I’m thankful for when we were poor, which has made me more frugal.

I’m thankful for being busy which has made me more efficient.

I’m thankful I moved away from home and family. That is a harder one to be grateful for…it doesn’t have the retrospect of the others. It has changed me though. I am stronger and more independent. I am better at making friends. I have lived in some beautiful places.

And I love knowing there will always be a place in the world—that smells like sagebrush—that makes my heart sing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It Happened Again

I think whenever you do something unconventional, you will be met with a variety of responses. You get used to it.

Every once in awhile though, someone’s blatant opposition to your choice smacks you in the face and you can’t help but feel…smacked in the face.

People comment—often—about me home schooling. Sometimes people are full of praise and admiration. I find that kind of hollow because I don’t think I’m doing anything heroic. I’m just doing…and a lot of times it feels like I’m not doing it all that well.

Sometimes (like today) people are full of suspicion and even hostility. I don’t understand. Are people that concerned about my children? Are they afraid they need to intervene? I don’t think so. My sturdy children don’t really look like children that need an advocate. Are people afraid that I’m judging them because they’re not home schooling? Do they feel defensive? I don’t think that’s it either. I don’t care what other people are doing.

Today I realized that a segment of this population who is opposed to me home schooling will be watching with interest—and perhaps glee—for my children to fail when they enter school finally. They will then maybe be validated that they were right all along and I shouldn’t be making this crazy choice. (I know, I’m probably just really paranoid but some people have such a malicious look about them.)

I’m asked why I home school. I’m asked how long I’m going to continue this madness.

I don’t know the answer to either question. Why I home school is as simple as I wouldn’t miss teaching them to read for the world. Why I home school is as complex as Braeden telling his incredulous peers that profess dislike for their sisters in socially appropriate ways that his sister is his best friend. I doubt that would be the case if they didn’t learn together day in and day out in the same room.

I found the following song, sung to the “Twelve Days of Christmas” tune. It’s funny because I’ve heard all of these things from people. It’s un funny because I’ve heard all of these things from people.

On the first day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Can you homeschool legally?"

On the second day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the third day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the fourth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the fifth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "YOU ARE SO STRANGE! What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the sixth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "How long will you homeschool, YOU ARE S0 STRANGE, what about P.E. , do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the seventh day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE!, what about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the eighth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, what about P.E. do you give them tests, are they socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the ninth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "They'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE!, what about P.E. do you give them tests, are they socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the tenth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "What about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE!, what about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the eleventh day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "I could never do that, what about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, what about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the twelfth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Can they go to college, I could never do that, what about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

As I struggle with the day to day am I doing a good enough job as their teacher questions I think of the luxury it would be to send them to a teacher. Let her assess their progress. Let it be someone else’s responsibility. Believe me I understand why people choose that route.

I also understand that while I can’t succinctly verbalize what I’m doing and why when I’m under attack, I am happy in my knowledge that this is the right choice for us. I relish the dynamic, chaotic cacophony that is our home school life. It’s never the peaceful respectable school I envisioned before I started but what about mothering is ever peaceful and respectable?

Superglue and Making Chinese Food Taste Better

No, they’re not related. I just have superglue on my mind because it’s on nearly all of fingers. More on that later.

On Thursday I rented Kung Fu Panda for us to watch as a family. We were too busy that night…I think it got too late. It didn’t happen any of the nights and it’s due back today so we decided to watch it for FHE last night. (don’t judge us)

Adam loves Chinese food and I don’t but that man’s wily. Yesterday he said, “Let’s have Chinese food for dinner to go with the movie.” Everyone was wildly on board.

When Adam got home the debate was on. Should we get take out and bring it home? Should we eat in a Chinese restaurant? Should we go somewhere and get me something non-Chinese? I said that I was fine with Chinese…it was all part of the Kung Fu Panda experience. The kids wanted to eat inside a restaurant until Adam mentioned going to the place where Mark is a celebrity. Then they all wanted take out.

There’s a little Chinese take out place (it’s by Fred Meyer if you have a red head and want to go) where the people there love Mark and all of our kids really. I’d never been before, only heard the stories. I’ve heard about them hugging all three kids, kissing Mark’s head and giving Adam extra food because of Mark. Adam has actually stooped so low as to exploit Mark by taking him along to pick up the food. Shameless.

Last night I went along to see what all the hype was. When the lady behind the counter saw us walking towards the glass door from outside, she literally started jumping up and down and waving and had a huge smile. I’m pretty sure no one has ever been that excited to see us approach. Over and over she told us how happy she was to see us. She told me how much she loved my kids (Does she know my kids? Because I could tell her stories…). She told me how cute they are and she was thrilled because now she “got to meet Mommy.” We were all standing around waiting for our food and feeling loved. She asked about Halloween and wanted to know about our costumes and candy consumption. She wished us a Happy Thanksgiving and sent us on our way with our little boxes of Chinese food. On the way to the car, Adam said, “See?” I told him I couldn’t believe how happy she was to see us and Adam said, “I think it makes the food taste better.”

I think he was right.

And the superglue?

Adam married a family of people that glue. My dad works with his hands and when they crack, he glues them together with superglue. In the summer when Marianne’s feet crack because she is a flip-flop aficionada, she superglues herself back together. A few years ago, Tabor was breaking a mule and was bucked off. Tabor’s handsome face collided with the mule’s solid skull with bad results. Tabor didn’t go to the doctor though. He superglued his face back together. (He had dried blood stuck in the glue.) Months later, it was when Enoch went to Arizona to visit that he told Tabor something wasn’t quite right with his face. After reconstructive surgery on his facial bones, Tabor is back to his former handsome self (and doesn’t even see double anymore). Superglue. We’re believers.

So Adam has a crack in the bottom of his foot. I bought some superglue. Adam said, “What are you going to do?” (I know, right? How can he doubt the power of superglue?) I said, “Superglue was invented during the Vietnam war to glue wounds together.”

He said, “Where did you hear that?”

I said, “My dad.”

Unlike me, Adam doesn’t necessarily take everything my dad says as absolute truth so he went online. He read about superglue and Vietnam “This urban legend is actually more fact than fiction.”

Hah! You don’t doubt my dad.

Adam was lying on the family room floor, checking his laptop for his schedule tomorrow and there his feet were, just waiting for glue. I got out the superglue and read the package, “Avoid contact with skin.” Will no one believe my dad on this one?

Here’s when trouble began though. Maybe I’m not as smart as my siblings. The glue sort of exploded all over my hands when I put the applicator on. I (quickly) rubbed some into Adam’s foot and ran to the bathroom sink but not before I had a thin layer of glue all over my fingers. It is not coming off. I guess it will be a fun experiment to see how long it takes for my skin cells to regenerate.

It can be a science lesson.

No big loss without a little gain.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekend Update

When we were first married and poor, Adam decided that I should cut his hair. It’s a well-known fact that I’m no good with hair. I told Adam that and he didn’t care. He told me we would save a lot of money by me learning to cut his hair.

I told Adam that my brief stint as a hair cutter had been drawn to an abrupt conclusion when my dad told Enoch that if I cut his hair again, he’d have to quit playing basketball.

I was that bad at hair cutting.

Adam still didn’t care. It’s also a well–known fact that Adam doesn’t like to spend money needlessly. My dad said Adam was one of those good Mormons that goes to town with the Ten Commandments and a $20 bill and comes home without breaking any of them.

So I started cutting Adam’s hair. I was really lousy at it. It took a long time and caused me all kinds of stress.

And Adam had some really bad haircuts. He always forgave me (sometimes I used to wish that he wasn’t so forgiving and would fire me once and for all and go get it cut by a professional).

Eventually I got better at cutting Adam’s hair (if you see Adam after a haircut and don’t agree just keep your opinion to yourself). A while ago, Adam wanted a haircut and I said, “Do you think we’ll ever reach a point where you will go somewhere to get your hair cut?” Adam looked injured. He said, “I like to have you cut my hair.” That’s when I knew…my job for life.

In October, my sister-in-law Megan, colored my hair for me. It was my first jaunt into the brave new world of hair dye. While she was doing it I wondered how anyone could possibly be coordinated enough to do it solo. Yesterday I decided that I needed to color my hair some more.
And guess who helped me?

Adam was a very good sport about it all but not all that thrilled. I told him that maybe after 14 years he would be really fast at it—like I’m faster at cutting his hair. He groaned. And said he needed to start earning a lot more money. Don’t you just love it when the shoe is on the other foot like that?

Adam asked me to cut his hair after he was done. I didn’t complain once. I think we have a very symbiotic relationship going on hair-wise.

Here’s what else we did this weekend:

--I spent all of Saturday afternoon sequestered in my bedroom with the door locked and my “Christmas in Progress Do Not Disturb” sign hung on the door. I worked as Santa’s little helper and had a lot of fun in the process. Mark was out terrorizing the streets with his gang of light saber wielders. Braeden and Adam were watching the BYU/University of Utah game at someone’s house with Direct TV and Emma, who is the most self contained person alive, was in her room, happily reading or writing or doing whatever it is she does. I love having a daughter who finds alone time as divine as I do.

--I started listening to Christmas music. I usually wait until after Thanksgiving but when your bedroom is scattered with wrappings and ribbons it’s hard to resist.

--On our date Adam and I stopped by Lowe’s and looked at tile (we are considering tiling our bathroom—a job we are in no way qualified for but hey, we do hair and we’re not qualified for that either). We also looked at toilet seats. I told Adam that’s what I want for Christmas. I’ve been coveting Janet’s toilet seats, which are svelte and designed for easier cleaning. It doesn’t get more romantic than Lowe’s on a Friday night looking at toilet seats but I’d have fun in a Turkish Prison Camp with Adam so it worked.

--Adam and Braeden came home to a lovely scene of Emma and me working on our project (we’re embroidering an advent garland with little felt pockets) and dinner was simmering on the stove. Adam and Braeden said, (not in a good way) “What is that smell?” It was dinner.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Glad I Was There

This morning I was laying in a medicated haze, not wanting to get up. I took benadryl last night so I wouldn't cough all night and could breathe (important things). Benadryl is good stuff for making me sleep but the next morning, I always feel like I've been hit by a truck. I didn't want to get up.

Even the thought that tonight I had a date with Adam didn't make me want to get up. My bed was warm and comfortable and I wanted to stay there. (I'd get up in time for the date, I reasoned.)

Because I'm the mother and the teacher and if I don't do it no one will, I dragged myself upright. When I called the students to school, none of us were very thrilled to be there.

Then it was time for Mark's phonics lesson. Then Mark read his first word. (The word was "sat".) He can recognize all our names but this was his first honest-to-goodness-sound-it-out-reading. And I was there. What a thrill. It reminded me of the first real word Braeden said (bus) and the first real steps Emma took (on a Sunday afternoon in Hamden, Connecticut). There's nowhere I would have rather been.

Not even my bed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Talent

Some people have real talents like art and music; waxing eloquent or building things.

My talent?

Grocery shopping.

I read the Albertson's weekly ad flier like it's a novel and I'm all about unit pricing and stocking up when things are on sale.

Here's what I did today.

I know it's sort of a lame talent. It's mine though. I won't win any awards or save the world but I do leave Albertson's every week with a goofy happy grin and it helps soften the blow of how much I spent at Target today. (gulp)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How To Depress a Five Year Old

Here's the poem I was supposed to read to Mark today for kindergarten:

Lady bug, lady bug,
Fly away home.
Your house is on fire,
Your children are gone.
All but one and her name is Anne,
And she crept under the pudding pan.


P.S. We skipped the poem.

Sick Day

A while ago I cursed myself by bragging that I haven't had a cold in a long time. I told Adam (because no one else will listen to my shameless bragging as nobly as he does) that I must have a really great immune system. Really great immune system=really great person. That's the conclusion I drew at least.

Well, pride cometh before the fall. I got a cold. Yesterday I felt miserable. I told my kids that while they could do some of their school work without me, we wouldn't do the things I had to be involved in. Braeden tried to act sympathetic but the other two didn't even try. When there's no substitute to call, it is a great day when the teacher calls in sick.

They did their token school work then did who knows what. I was too sick to notice. Being a mom means you can't ever be really truly too sick to function so I did drag myself to the kitchen to heat up some soup for lunch. I instructed Braeden to be in charge of chocolate milk for Mark and throughout the rest of the day when my kids were hungry because soup is never enough for them, I'd tell them to go eat something. They'd say "What?" and I'd reply, "I don't care." It's a nice thing about not having toddlers anymore. You couldn't exactly turn a hungry two year old loose in the kitchen.

I sat in my living room, in my green chair with the ottoman...the one everyone fights over during our afternoon silent reading time...and I read. It was nice but my eyes got tired.

I drank five cups of hot apple cider.

I felt like I really should do something productive so I made some phone calls and tried to make some appointments. My cold also caused me to lose my grasp of the English language so that didn't go too well.

I gave up and decided I'd just watch TV. I (patiently) waited until The Clone Wars: Star Wars Episode 2 1/2 was over before I kicked Mark out of the family room. (It's a really stupid movie so if your five year old son isn't addicted to it, you have my respect and admiration.) I watched Ellen Degeneres and the Bonnie Hunt Show. I also watched a PBS travel show. They were in Norway. It's partially the homeland of my ancestry. I saw a lot of people with skin as pale as mine. I imagined my Dahl forefathers on the shores of the fjords, wearing great looking sweaters. I even saw a guy that looked a lot like my brother Ammon except with slightly longer hair and a Norwegian accent.

My one nod towards doing anything worthwhile was driving my kids to their piano lesson. (They walked home...I had only one trip in me.)

It was a pretty lame day. Besides the bright spot of my sister-in-law Jennifer calling me, I was bored and felt sluggish and just sick.

Here were the good things that happened though.

1- The world didn't spin off its axis because I didn't even have a to do list.
2- Adam made a wonderful salmon dinner and made our children clean the kitchen.
3-Mark snuggled with me--and actually sat still--during scripture reading last night.
4-I realized that I'm really glad that I'm usually too busy to watch daytime television.

This morning, in a very patronizing sweet voice, Braeden asked me how I was feeling. I told him, in my raspy sickly voice that I was better and we're having school.

He fought hard to make his face look happy that I feel better but I can tell. He was really hoping for another sick day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Last night “Halloween Town” and “Christmas Town” collided. With unfortunate results.

Every year I look forward to going to IKEA before Christmas and getting new decorations for my house. Every year I’m delighted with the red, the white, the straw.

This year it was like taking a drink and expecting Sprite and getting water instead. A startling disappointment.

I know that some designers like to have a theme for Christmas. They like to mix it up and have a whole new look each year. I also get that you sell more stuff if people buy all new matching decorations each year.

I think there should be a rule though. The stuff has to be pretty. And in Christmas colors. Not Halloween.

I know this stocking isn't all that's the only image I could find though. Imagine this look intensified with orange Christmas ornaments and brown and green wrapping paper.

I blame some Swedish designer who’s depressed by the thought of a long dark winter. C’mon depressed Swedish designer, get a light box. It’s not Christmas’s fault.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I’m Getting My Hair Cut…or Not…or Maybe I Will

I’ve been contemplating a haircut. (Or as Adam said, “stalking the idea of a haircut.”) Here’s the problem with my hair: I am never satisfied. I can perhaps trace that back to the fact that my aunt Mary is a beautician complete with a salon in her basement. When I was growing up, I would have her cut my hair…and often. She would do whatever I wanted for free. As a consequence I had pretty short hair that slightly changed styles every month or so (you can’t drastically change styles with short hair). I can also maybe trace my dissatisfaction with my tresses to the fact that I’m not really good with hair and never have been.

I decided a while ago that what I REALLY want, in a perfect world, is hair that I have to spend less than 30 seconds on, no money and looks really beautiful all the time.

Is that too much to ask?

Speaking of asking, I’m driving my loved ones crazy. I keep asking Adam about my hair. It’s longer than it’s been in a while. “Do you like it long?” “Should I cut it?” “HOW should I cut it?” “What do you think?”

He really just wants to be left alone. He has no opinion on my hair. In his perfect world, I would not ask him questions about my hair.

Yesterday I was determined to get it cut. Then every few minutes I’d change my mind. Then I’d change it back.

I got really desperate and asked my children. Now Emma should be able, in theory, to have a trustworthy opinion as my fellow female in the house. So far I’m not sure how much stock I’ll put in her ideas. It’s takes a lot of effort for me to get her to comb her hair and she would wear the same ratty thing every day if I let her. (I’m not complaining. I read a magazine article about ‘tween girls being unnaturally sexualized and trying to be “hot”. It seems like a lot of girls Emma’s age are overly concerned about their looks and clothes and trying to be the next Hannah Montana or Jamie Lynn Spears--yikes. I’ll take my girl with the wild hair and equally wild imagination any day.)

I digress. We were talking about my hair…

Emma looked at my hair contemplatively and drew a line on a nearby dry erase board (we were in the school room) and told me I should get that much cut off. That seemed arbitrary and like I said, I don’t trust her all that much.

Next I asked Braeden. He emphatically told me I should NOT get my hair cut. He said, “All girls look better with long hair.” Then he looked at his sister and said, “Sorry Em, but you’re growing your hair long right?”

The three of us traveled to the bathroom mirror (see how desperate/sad this was getting?) and they stood behind me and held my hair up to the level I should get it cut.

Mark became curious and walked into the bathroom and stood in front of me. I looked at him in the mirror and asked him what he thought about my hair.

He shrugged and said, “I like hair.”

In other words, cut your hair, don’t cut your hair. I don’t care.

Right back to where I started.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Harrison Hot Springs

This is what three children zoned out watching a DVD look like.

They sound like...silence.

As mentioned in my last post, we spent the last two days in British Columbia with Adam's parents. We had a great time.

We stayed at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa and this is the view when you walk out the front of the hotel...not too shabby.

We relaxed in the various hot, hotter and hottest pools.

Mark and Grandma Geri

Well some people relaxed more than others.

It was fun and sort of creepy walking around a hotel full of people wearing matching white bathrobes...except for the free spirits like Emma who brought her own from home.

Braeden became a martial arts expert as soon as he donned the robe.

We went on an "Explore" as Winnie-the-Pooh would say after we left Harrison Hot Springs this morning. Adam is after all, the child of his parents and they do that sort of thing. That's where he got it. We went to the Othello Tunnels which is a trail that used to be train tracks. It was pouring rain and dazzlingly beautiful.

Emma, like me is not a big fan of caves or tunnels or closed spaces in general. I tried to take a good picture of her swinging her arms as she was speeding through the tunnels but it was dark in there and didn't work so well. She was demoralized when she learned that after all of her efforts, fighting the demons of claustrophobia to get to the other side of the tunnels she had to turn around and walk back through them. There was no other way. If anything Emma is determined though. She flew back through them and left me in her dust...well it would have been dust...if it hadn't been raining so hard.

We stopped and bought ketchup flavored potato chips for Uncle Scott--which you can only get in Canada (because they're disgusting and taste like cold french fries and nobody likes them. Except Scott.)

And so home again.

Small and Simple Things

When I was in 5th grade my family went to Reno for a state Farm Bureau speaking contest that Marianne was competing in. We didn't stay in hotels often so it was a Big Deal that we were going to stay at Circus Circus and the girls would have their own room.

We had two queen sized beds and our own TV and bathroom. It was the very lap of luxury.

Now when I stay in hotel rooms, I don't experience the same luxury. We are at Harrison Hot Springs in B.C., Canada and staying in a nice enough hotel room. At three in the morning I was laying in bed, missing my own really big bed...having fond memories of memory foam. I was wide awake and uncomfortable and bored. Because when you're in a hotel room with your family sleeping, you can't really do anything interesting--besides sit on the cold tile floor in the bathroom and read. I know because I've done it.

I saw the dim glow of Adam's laptop and decided maybe I'd get up and read some blogs. I tried to log on but since it's Adam's work computer, I didn't know his password. I knew it was either a Finnish word or a place in London. Didn't narrow it down too much.

I sat in the dark room, bored and increasingly cranky. I listened to Adam and Braeden and Mark toss and turn. It was stuffy and miserable. I finally realized Adam wouldn't mind if I woke him up for the password. So I did. He sleepily sat up and wrapped his arms around me, sorry I couldn't sleep. Then he staggered over to his computer and punched in his password. He asked me if I minded if he turned the fan up and went back to sleep. The room became cooler. I pulled on a sweater and heard my husband and sons quiet and sleep more peacefully. I live in a family of people who love a cold room. I sat at the computer and started to think about things. Emma was next door, sleeping with Adam's parents. They are the ones that organized this little vacation and we drove here in their posh van. They bought an extra set of wireless headphones for our kids to use and new DVDs for them to watch. I was grateful for them.

I thought of Emma and how we all decided to go and kiss her goodnight before we went to sleep because she always has to kiss everyone before she can sleep. I was grateful for her.

I thought of Braeden. He drives me crazy with his first born bossiness and inserting himself in adult conversations. The flip side of that is that he's confident and assertive and clever. He's a problem solver and witty...and a really responsible babysitter. I was grateful for him.

I thought of Adam, happy to be married to a man I could wake up because I wanted on his computer. Happy he's more interested in my comfort than his own. I was grateful for him.

I heard Mark. He sleepily said, "Mom." I went to his bedside and he was sound asleep. I pushed the curls off his forehead and kissed it. He sighed deeply and snuggled into his pillow. I was grateful for him.

Sometimes in the middle of a sleepless night, it's good to be reminded that life is good and even a small hotel room can have its charms if it's full of the right sort of people.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Don't Ask Me to Explain

Saturdays are our day to clean our house. And it always needs it. Three weeks ago, Braeden was camping with the 11 year old scouts on Saturday. Two Saturdays ago he was watching his cousin's football game. Yesterday he was at a scout merit badge clinic. (I don't like the rapidity with which he is growing up and being away from home but that's not what this post is about.)

The past three Saturdays has found me with Emma and Mark as my Saturday Cleaning Task Force. And there was a major rebellion yesterday. The only thing worse than Saturday cleaning is Saturday cleaning with mutinous children. I did what I do when I don't know what else to do.

I bribed them.

First with leftover Halloween candy. And that didn't really work too well.

Then I pulled out my big gun and told them IF they helped and IF we got all the work done, I would take them to Madagascar 2 which is newly in the theaters this weekend. This was enough to put a gleam in their eye and a spring in their step. Emma even offered to help Mark clean his room. I considered taking her temperature to see if she was delirious.

They walked around the house singing "You've got to move it move it..." and swinging their hips but they were cleaning and not complaining or revolting so life was good.

I instructed them to change into clothes that were a little less waif/orphan like and we headed out. While we were walking towards the theater, I glanced down at Mark. He was wearing pajama pants. Blue flannel pajama pants. Don't ask me to explain.

He said he thought they were a more comfortable kind of jeans. He doesn't like jeans. I can't explain it; I live in jeans. Isn't that the uniform for Americans? And he has a box of jeans that Braeden has outgrown, just waiting for him to grow into. But he doesn't like them.

And the final thing I don't want to explain: Braeden got home from his merit badge clinic before we left for the movie.

And we took him with us.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Taking Tacoma by Storm

Today we went to Tacoma for a field trip. The best thing about the field trip was that Adam joined us. This means one important difference from most every other field trip we ever take. We didn't get lost.

We went to the Washington State History Museum which I can now recommend as a good destination for kids.

There was a woman from the Salish tribe who wove both baskets and stories and told us interesting things.

everyone...especially Mark...had a lot of questions for her

Whenever we go somewhere like a museum, Braeden seeks out people to ask questions of or just chat with.

It's a big mystery where he got that trait...

Adam and Braeden chatting with a museum employee...I think about mining (this could be why they usually know more about things than I do).

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the model train. They had an accurate replica of what Tacoma looked like...I think in the '50s and several little trains moving along the tracks.

Someday if Mark aspires to be a runway model (and we'll have to discourage him because I don't think he'll have the physique for it) we can look back on today as the day he had his first taste of modeling. He loved dressing up in the costumes and making faces at the camera:

When he donned the bonnet, I decided it was time to end the photo've got to admit though, he'd be a darling little girl.

We left the museum and headed for the Chihuly Bridge of Glass. It was amazing.

The finale of our trip was a short ride on the light rail train to check out Tacoma.

After realizing there was a security guard on each train and some pret-ty scary characters lining the way, I think I would be OK if we never live in Tacoma. It was fun to visit though.

The Fall Meal

One idyllic Saturday in October we had a glorious day. It was in Connecticut and Braeden was one year old. The salad days. Back then we sauntered rather than hurtled through our days. I thought I was busy but I thought wrong.

This particular Saturday we went to a pumpkin patch and enjoyed New England in all of it’s autumnal rapture. I don’t know if New England autumn was more appreciated by me for its breath-taking beauty or because it was no longer miserable humid summer. Either way, I loved fall. This day was just what fall should be. Cool air, sunshine, crisp leaves underfoot. We got our pumpkin then came home and made pumpkin shaped sugar cookies and decorated them with orange frosting and chocolate chips. Later I made pork chops with apple onion stuffing and maple butternut squash. It was the perfect fall meal to end the perfect fall day and thus The Fall Meal was born.

Every year since I’ve made The Fall Meal. Sometimes we’ve had the Fall Meal under adverse conditions. One year we were living in Washington and fall in the Pacific Northwest sometimes means torrential rainstorms and then the wind knocking trees down because the saturated ground can’t support them. During one such storm I was in the midst of making the Fall Meal and lost power. I had to finish on the front porch with a propane stove. It’s that important.

This autumn I think I’ve been busier than I’ve been in my whole life. I bought all the ingredients for The Meal but haven’t been able to snatch an evening worthy of it. Last night I gave up and made it anyway…even though it had been a typically hectic day. Even though I had a baby shower to go to in the early evening. Even though by the time we sat down I had a massive head-ache and Mark complained about not liking the stuffing (the impudence!). I made the meal anyway. I squeezed it in just like I more or less squeeze in anything that happens these days.

And I liked it.

maple butternut squash

pork chops

apple onion stuffing

the dessert--pumpkin cupcakes which we may or may not have needed considering the recent influx of candy the household has seen

Go here for recipes. It's all pretty easy to make...especially the cupcakes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sleep in Peace

Last night, even though the things I voted for may or may not have come to fruition, I went to bed with a peaceful happy feeling.

Maybe it’s because my kids have been learning about the French Revolution. I’m glad to live in a country where there’s a transfer of power with no guillotine involved. I’m glad to be in a country where everyone can vote…and a lot of people did. I’m glad to be in a country where the loser in a campaign gives a gracious concession speech and is applauded by the winner. I’m glad to be in a country where a race formerly thought sub-human in some corners is now represented in the highest office in the land. I don’t agree with his politics but like every other American who doesn’t agree, I’ll give him a chance. I’ll be free to have my own opinions and I’ll be free to speak freely about those opinions. And I’ll keep voting.

What a country!

Monday, November 3, 2008

No Fame, Fortune…or Pickles
I gave my children a school assignment and told them that whoever made me laugh the most would win a pickle. It was a dead tie…and we have no pickles. I decided instead that I would reward their efforts with fame and fortune. Since very few people read this blog and there’s no fortune involved that’s not really panning out either. They did make me laugh though.

The assignment:

Complete each sentence so that it makes sense. Pay attention to the word in boldface.

Emma’s best:

We had to cancel the picnic when I died.

I associate the month of June with penguins.

I can justify my actions by sleeping the day away.

The directions were so misleading that I was mislead.

Dancers stay flexible so they can choke people quickly.

The photo was so vivid I could stare at the sun and think, “bo-ring.”

Braeden’s best:

At last, we ended the dispute by eating each other.

The directions were so misleading that I ate them.

We had to postpone the game because of a walrus attack.

I am cautious when I eat light bulbs.

When I imagine glamour, I picture my face.

I don’t home school my children just for my own entertainment. Sometimes it just works out that way.

Check This Out

You might thank me for making you laugh until you're gasping for air.

You may not thank me because you'll have this song in your head all day (like I do).

Either way, you should watch this. Adam has a link to it on his blog.

The Big Send Off

Last night, in concert with our kindred spirits, the Jorgensens, we loaded up our pumpkins and children and headed to the Snohomish River to send our jack-o-lanterns off into the world.

Adam and his ideas...

We started the custom five years ago when we lived near the banks of the Stillaguamish River. Adam and our children sent the pumpkin away. A tradition was born.

This year, since Mark had his very own pumpkin, he was a little unsure he wanted to send it down the river. He vacillated between thinking it was really cool and really tragic. Before we left, I heard him confiding in his stuffed animals in his room.

"OK guys, I'm sending my pumpkin down the river. I know, I'm sad too. But it's going to be AWESOME!!!"

We slipped into the dark river park which we were pretty sure closed at dusk and it was past dusk.

Every kid had a pumpkin.

Almost every kid.

Adam and Eric lit candles inside each pumpkin.

And they were released to the river and the Puget Sound and eventually the Pacific Ocean. Is pumpkin a delicacy for fish? There might be some happy fish out there.

The floating lanterns didn't work so well. Mostly they filled with water and cries of excitement fizzled with the wet candles. (And yes, Adam and Eric are already scheming about how they can make the pumpkins work better next year.) About the time Adam decided it might be more fun if he hurled a lit pumpkin into the river instead of gently releasing it, the park ranger showed up. He was shining his spotlight down on the dock at this loud group of people pitching things into the river in the dark. I don't think it looked very good.

Adam walked up the dock and explained our actions. The park ranger came down and shined his light in the eager faces of our children and into the dark river dotted with orange floating orbs. He said, "I have never seen anyone do this before."

He should hang out with Adam more.

He left us to it. I'm not sure he knew what else to do having neither the authority or enough handcuffs to haul us all away.

My only regret of the night: I didn't have the nerve (like Eric did) to capture on camera Adam explaining us to the ranger. Darn.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It Takes a Village

I’ve been having a professional dilemma…as a teacher/parent. It involves one of my best and brightest students/children. In keeping with my belief that troubles are divided when they’re shared, I’ve repeated and rehashed it with my sisters…and Adam…and Janet. Yesterday I had the chance to talk to 2/3 of my brothers about it too (I would have talked to Enoch too but as he later explained, he was in a precarious and illegal driving situation when my phone call came in and decided he needed to concentrate on the matters at hand…good choice Enoch). They’re busy and have jobs and I can’t talk to them as easily when they’re doing things like folding laundry so I don’t talk to them as much as I’d like.

I’m missing out.

They listen. At least I think they do. It’s hard to tell on the phone…they could be setting the phone down and throwing darts at a board while I prattle on. I doubt that was happening yesterday though. Ammon was driving on the freeway while I talked to him and Tabor was in a field, checking his horses. No dart boards involved.

Anyway, they listen. And they understand. They understand like someone who’s known you since your Cyndi Lauper days. They also, in their way, tell me to get over myself. And they say it kindly so I don’t get mad.

It takes a village to raise a Thelma. I’m glad Marianne, Olivia, Enoch, Tabor and Ammon are in my village. I think we’re missing an important key to the whole village thing though. Aren’t fellow villagers supposed to live in the same…village?

Trick or Treat

It wasn't even as much fun as Mark's expression here would lead you to believe.


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