Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Messages From Emma: Cryptic and Otherwise

Yesterday I found this in the school room.

I'm not sure who it was intended for (because it's in written with Greek letters).

I'm not sure why Emma would write something using the Greek alphabet.   I'm not sure about a lot of things about that girl.

Sometimes she makes things more clear though.

It was her turn this year to set up our little Christmas village.  (You wouldn't believe the negotiations that have to take place over whose turn it is for what.  Oh?  You're a mother?  Then you do believe me.)  Emma proudly configured the houses and people on top of the piano.  She was excited to show it all to Adam when he got home.

"This is my house," she said...

"...here's you and me, Dad..."

"...there's Mark's son with the tree and my daughter and her friend by the snowmen..."

 "...there's Braeden with his son..."

"...there's Mark..."

Am I the only one that feels nervous that Mark is holding an ax?

"...there's Braeden's daughter on the swing and my son..."

Adam asked, "So where's your mom?"

Emma paused.  "Um...I guess she's in the house."

Sometimes I get embarrassed by the effusive love and attention my children shower me with.

Janet and I like to tell each other the following quote at such times:
Motherhood is not for the fainthearted. Frogs, skinned knees and the insults of teenage girls are not meant for the wimpy.
~ Danielle Steel

And she isn't even a teenage girl yet.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Things Broken

It started with my red chair.  My perfect little red chair that I bought for $35 from a yard sale.  My talented father-in-law had recovered it in a cheery red fabric and I loved that chair.  Well, it broke.  It was old.

Our telephone stopped working too.

Then our camera stopped working.

On Thanksgiving morning, Olivia called me (on my cell phone).  She said, "Where ARE you?"  She'd been trying to reach me on my home phone which wouldn't work.  I told her the sad tale of everything broken.

She told me that Marianne had a broken dryer, dishwasher and her water was a perplexing shade of brown.  ( I should add that Marianne has six children and when you have six children you need a dryer, dishwasher and clear water. )

Our conversation turned to our Thanksgiving preparations and Olivia wowed me with her description of the two different kinds of sweet potatoes she was preparing.  I said, "Well you can make two different types of sweet potatoes because you don't have anything broken.  Those of us that do have to have lower expectations for ourselves."

It started me thinking though. What usually happens is I ruminate about something for a few days then write a blog post to clear my head.

I've been thinking about broken things, broken hearts for example.  A young mother in our extended family passed away the day after Thanksgiving.  She left behind a two year old daughter and loving husband.  The rest of us feel a little broken hearted.

When I was in high school my friend Wyatt drove off the icy road one day and through the neighbor's fence into a field.  The next day he went and repaired the fence.  Broken things need to be mended.

Adam and I read online about our camera.  Evidently the problem it's having is a common one.  Apparently for scores of people, the solution has been to bang the camera against their knee and it works.

(We tried it.  It didn't work.)

Sometimes we can't fix what's broken.  For example, when in high school I drove through a fence after sliding off a slick road, my dad and brothers fixed the fence.  I don't know how to fix fence.  (Wyatt incidentally told me how unfair this was but in the culture where we resided, there were girl jobs and boy jobs and fixing fence was a boy job.)

I've been thinking about how we're all a little broken in various ways.  We all need a little mending.  Some of it we can do ourselves.  Sometimes we can try crazy fixes like banging our camera against our knee which may or may not work.  As my thoughts turn to Christmas, I have been reflecting on the Savior, the mender and fixer of our brokenness. 

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:  and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows...
Isaiah 53:4

Indeed good tidings of great joy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Race I Don't Want to Win

Last night as we were leaving the movie theater (Harry Potter), I saw over a hundred people lined up outside Toys R Us.  I heard it opened at 10:00 last night.  There is nothing inside any store that would entice me to stand in that kind of line.  I am not a Black Friday shopper.  No, not me.

I'm a Black Friday decorator.  Today's the day I pull out all the boxes from under the stairs and transform this place.  I love it.

My children love it too.  Mark has been counting down the days 'til Black Friday.  Last night Adam explained to him why it is called Black Friday.  He shrugged.  I think he always thought it had something to do with decorating.

I've been thinking about it and really wondering why my kids love this day so much.

Because I'm not that much fun.

This morning I read this by President Dieter Uchtdorf who is remarkable in my sight.

...it's rather easy to be busy.  We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules.  Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list...Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.

He was talking to me.

There is nothing I like more than a to-do list.  And if my to-do list is ever short enough that it's doable, I feel mildly uncomfortable and start adding things to the list.  Aren't I an important person if I accomplish superhuman feats?

No, not really.  I'm just unpleasant to be around.

Sometimes my days feel like a race.  In order to win the race (which means crossing off everything on my list), I have to squash the happiness of everyone around me.

This isn't a race I want to win.

So here are my goals for today:

1-I'm not going to make a list* (that physically pains me but I'm not going to).
2-I'm going to be patient with dawdling children.
3-I'm going to blare Christmas music and burn a cinnamon candle.
4-I may or may not get everything done.

 *besides this list--baby steps, OK?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Am Glad For Many Things: Nearest and Dearest

It’s easy to complain about our 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

If you have children you know what I mean.  Nothing tests the limits of your physical stamina, patience, flexibility and unselfishness like children.

But there's nothing like children. 

There's nothing like the way they make everything (except trips to Costco) better.  They bring a delight and fresh energy to everything they touch.  I am thankful for my children, for how they entertain me, instruct me, challenge me and make everything I do worth it.

It's amazing the lengths you'll go to in the name of helping your child.  And that stretching is good for me.

(If you'd ever seen me do yoga, you'd know I need all the help stretching I can get.)

I am grateful Adam is my husband.

I can be sitting next to him at church and poke my elbow into him when something makes me want to laugh and he'll whisper back, "I know."

And he does.

I can give him a "get me out of here" look in a crowded room and he will.  Sometimes when I don't even realize I've given him a "get me out of here" look.  We can carry on a whole silent conversation over our children's heads with eyebrows and head nods.

He's the piece that makes me whole and the superhero of our family.  He's the driver in snow storms, the calmer of nerves and the one with an idea for dinner when I'm out of inspiration.

And he always makes me laugh.

Chains do not hold a marriage together.  It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. 
~Simone Signore

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Am Glad for Many Things: Family

I have been blessed both by the family I've been given and the family I joined when I married Adam.

I'm grateful for my dear parents and for Adam's.  My children have spectacular grandparents.  I hope I can grandparent in a similar way.  The older I get, the more I can understand the important influence good parents can be.  And mine are good.

I'm grateful for my siblings (including their spouses).  They are the most entertaining group of people I know.  We tease each other and meddle and even compete a little, but when the chips are down, we are a force to be reckoned with.  My brothers and sisters can be warriors when they are needed and there's no one I'd rather have on my side.

I'm indebted to my grandparents.  I appreciate what they taught my parents but I also appreciate the off limits food that was available only at Grandma's and the merry outings and holidays and birthdays spent.  I'm thankful for the mediocre basketball games they watched me play in and the school plays they diligently attended.  I'm thankful for birthday cards with money slipped in and their dear handwriting telling me that they loved me and they were proud of me.  

What more could I want?

I'm glad I have cousins.  I have a lot of cousins and don't see them very often.  There are a few of them that I cherish though.  I don't remember ever not loving and adoring my beautiful cousin Leslie.  (Come to think of it, maybe that's why Mark melts me a little...he has the same red curly hair as Leslie...)  My cousin Hannah is one of my heroes.  She is likely one of the busiest mothers in America but also one of the most talented.  I recently asked her for some advice on a craft idea I was hatching and she promptly sent me back a whole passel of (really good) ideas and help and tutorials.  She's amazing.

I learn from my family. I learn how I want to be.  (And sometimes how I don't want to be.)  Families are flawed and unpolished and not always ideal but I agree with this:

Family life is a bit like a runny peach pie - not perfect but who's complaining? 
~Robert Brault

Do you remember the song, "I Am Glad for Many Things?"  We used to sing it EVERY week for Family Home Evening.  I'm not sure how that happened.  I also don't know who started singing it in an off-key round but my money is on either Olivia or Tabor, the two cheekiest members of the family.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I Am Glad for Many Things: My Favorite Hymn

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

I remember once when I was growing up, I woke up in a square of moonlight that was streaming in my bedroom window.  (I didn't have bedroom curtains until I moved away from home...we didn't need them.)  I was delighted.  It felt magical.

When we were waitresses, sometimes Marianne and I would drive home on full moonlit summer nights.  We would be exhausted from our jobs but giddy from the moon and the long shadows cast from its brightness in our world of no light pollution.  We'd swing on the swing set and glory in the moonlight.

For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

Years later, Marianne was leaving for a mission in South Carolina.  I would be going back to BYU and Olivia would be staying in Nevada.  Tragedy to our secure little sisterhood.  It was one of those amazing full moons the night before Marianne left.  We climbed into Sorrelly, our pink '69 Chevy Impala (did we tell our parents?) and drove down the valley to Starr Creek.  We leaned against the dusty car and talked.  Marianne reminded us that wherever we were, the moon would be the same.  She said she'd think of us whenever there was a full moon.  Olivia and I promised the same.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

On Saturday Adam and I bought his Christmas present, a bicycle.  Since it's too big to hide in any of my normal present hiding spots, I guess he gets it early.  Saturday evening, at Braeden's bidding, we rode our bikes in the light of a full moon to the park.  We have a helmet rule around here but not one of us wore a helmet.  Maybe it was too beautiful to be bothered with helmets...and several of us were wearing stocking caps.  That's almost as good right?

We swung on the swings and Mark and Emma climbed a tree.  We watched the moon and clouds and listened to the night.

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tis the Season

This morning I was encouraging Mark to hurry with his shoes and socks.  We were on our way to pick up Braeden.  I think we were late every day all week to pick up Braeden and especially yesterday when I was so late that I was speeding and got a ticket and am now $154 poorer...

Anyway.  I was hurrying Mark along.  In his slowest chattiest way he told me that it's Crunchy Season again.  I didn't know what he meant.  Leaves?  Ice?  I distractedly asked him what he was talking about.

He said, "My socks."


Mark wears his sandals exclusively until I throw them away.  (Do you think I'm kidding?) He is back to wearing his socks and shoes and he stuffs his socks into his shoes when he takes them off at the door and apparently...doesn't change the socks so they get crunchy.

Get a new pair of socks Mark!!!!

I'm just doing my part so you will be reassured that you are a very good mother.  A mother whose son does not mark the season with crunchy socks.

You're welcome.

Also, I was late picking up Braeden again because this time I drove the speed limit and that (as it turns out) takes longer.  My mom is reading this and thinking, you need to leave earlier, Thelma.  I know.  I know.

I Am Glad For Many Things: Health

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.
Mahatma Ghandi

I am a pretty healthy person.  I'm not as healthy as I want to be, but as Adam would tell you (because he keeps telling me it's a pipe dream) I'm not perfectly healthy.

(And why can't I be perfectly healthy?  Never sick?  Never tired?  Too much to ask?)

There's nothing like being a little under the weather from time to time to make me profoundly grateful for my health though.  I am so grateful that I have energy.  I may have more tasks than I have time but at least I have energy.  Without it, I wouldn't stand a chance with my to do list.

I'm going to (try to) stop complaining about an occasional sore around my eye, a head-ache, my sometimes sniffly allergic nose.

I've got a healthy body to take me places and places to go!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
(from The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Am Glad For Many Things: Friends

Life is partly what we make it, and partly what is made by the friends we choose.
Tennessee Williams

I like taking credit where I can and I have to say...I am really good at choosing friends.  I have some marvelous ones.  In nearly every place I've lived I have made friends that would be worth moving back for (as long as I don't have to pack).  My friends truly have made my life a different, richer and better place.

My friends listen, validate, lighten, understand, encourage, help, entertain and carpool.  I'm glad I have them.

I Am Glad for Many Things: Stuff

Stuff is replaceable--as opposed to people--but I am grateful for stuff.

I'm thankful for a house to warm me inside and out.  I'm thankful for a van that is on the verge of being a clunker and Adam's car which is a clunker.  We're living on borrowed time with both of them but they get us from here to there, protected from elements and even in relative comfort.

I'm grateful.

I'm thankful for my supremely comfortable bed and pillow and for hot water and a deep bathtub.

I'm grateful for refrigeration and electricity and computers and indoor plumbing and books and music and fleece and sunscreen and Advil and Diet Coke.

I'm glad for shoes and photographs and antibiotics and telephones and plants and colors and pumpkin pie.

I'm thankful for a garbage service I can pay to take my garbage away and for the library.

I'm grateful for Clorox wipes and self cleaning ovens and dishwashers and vacuums and our furnace.

There's no way I can list all the stuff in my life...my abundant middle class American life...that makes my life better, easier, happier and safer.

But I am grateful.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Am Glad For Many Things: Adversity

In my philosophy class in college I learned, "Men are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of things."  I think it was the philosophy of the Epicureans but it was a long time ago so I may be wrong.

I've always remembered the idea though...and tried to apply it when I could--and when I remembered.  It makes me feel better and gives me a different way of looking at things.  For example, you already messed up your morning, are you going to have a ruined morning and a ruined day?  A ruined week?

Sometimes it doesn't work though.

Sometimes trials are big enough that just thinking about them in "a different way" doesn't help so much.

Sometimes they're just too all encompassing.  They do ruin your whole day, week, month and there's not much you can do about it.

Ironically, those are also the ones I'm thankful for.  I wouldn't wish them on anyone and certainly not on myself or those that I love, but there is, believe it or not, an upside to them.

In the midst of an affliction so grievous that you feel like you'll be consumed, you do have a choice...maybe the Epicureans were right about this too.  You can let yourself become bitter and depressed and hopeless.  You can.  (And no one will blame you really.)

Or, you can let it slowly and gently change you into a different, stronger and better person.  Kinder, with more tolerance and with more empathy.

It doesn't happen overnight.  I've found though, when I'm in the midst of something more than I can handle, there really are opportunities for silver linings.  I pray more.  I listen more.  I go to the scriptures because I am searching for comfort, peace, understanding.  All of those activities really do work at bringing light into your life.  They live up to the hype.

It's a comfort to have a choice.

I can break or I can bend or I can stand strong and immovable (with admittedly, a little bit of wobbling along the way).

I collect quotes like some people collect pottery or stamps.  The ones about adversity are fabulous, unless you're actually having a hard time then you want to tell the quote to shut up.

Here's one I like though:

I have not lost faith in God. I have moments of anger and protest. Sometimes I've been closer to him for that reason.
Elie Wiesel 
(Elie Wiesel is a holocaust survivor so I think he knows a thing or two about what he's talking about.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

When Life Hands You Illogically Sized Rooms...

Make lemonade.

Or a Christmas present wrapping station.

Our bedroom is the biggest room in our house.  I wish it weren't.  For one thing, I don't really know how to furnish it...bowling alley?  Putting green?  I don't posses the decorating prowess to make it more than furniture huddled on the edges of a big room.  I also wish I could take part of it and put it in our compact kitchen or miniature dining room that will never house a dining room table.

Since I don't think it likely I'll invite dinner guests to eat in our room, I decided to enlist the space for a different purpose.

I dragged my laundry room table into our room and created a place for wrapping Christmas presents.

In the past I've wrapped gifts sitting on the floor in our bedroom--the door has a lock--which isn't comfortable.  This year I'll wrap them in a more pleasant way...

...and not be sorry I have a too-big bedroom.

It's all in how you look at it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Phone Book

This is a picture of my sister, Marianne.  I love it.  It captures her very essence.  Wild and free.  (Well, as wild as a thirty-something-Mormon-mother-of-six is, I guess.)

She's pale like a Scandinavian and tall and willowy like a...well, I would have said Dahl but some of us are more short and stubby and are sensitive about it...

Here's her family:
some of my favorite people in this world

There's a whole lot to love about Marianne.  She's good at reaching things on the top shelf.  She's never been known to not be able to cheer me up.  She can put on mascara while she drives and makes anything she's involved with a party.  She is good at writing skits and birthing lovely children and organizing her reluctant siblings.  She also has very enchanting and useful quirks.

She doesn't want to under any circumstances be addicted to anything.  (Is that why she's so thin?)

As I've lamented, I lost my cell phone.  (sniff)  It had every number in it.  Every number that I don't have memorized or written down elsewhere.  I know a few family members' home phone numbers but none of them were home and I was Silent in Seattle.  I couldn't get in touch with anyone.  I finally tracked Marianne down.  (I called her oldest's cell phone...I found where Braeden had scrawled her number on the back of a paper.)  Marianne and her family were at 12 Mile.  It's a hot springs 12 miles away from town (oh, the nuance in the name!).  They were swimming.  There's snow on the ground there.  I talked to Clarissa and she apologized for not giving her mother an earlier message (but I challenge anyone to ever truly be mad at Clarissa...I don't think it's humanly possible).  She handed Marianne her cell phone and said, "Don't drop it in the water."

Marianne was sitting in a hot springs, surrounded by snow.

I told her I needed phone numbers.

She rattled them off.

I said, "How do you know all these numbers?"  She confessed that she doesn't know how to program her own cell phone.

"Also," she said, "I don't want to be dependent on my phone."

She doesn't want to be dependent on anything, but I hope she doesn't mind.

I'm forever dependent on her.

Help one another, is part of the religion of sisterhood.  
~Louisa May Alcott

The above pictures were taken by Marianne's sister-in-law, Deborah.  She is as beautiful as she is talented.  If you live in Utah, do yourself a favor and hire her to take pictures of your family.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Conflicting Personality Traits and General Snobbery

One of the simple pleasures of my life is saving money, especially on groceries.  You have to eat--food isn't a luxury item--but you don't have to pay top dollar for your food.  I love reading the grocery store ads.  I love a deal.  I've been known to brag about how much I saved at the grocery store.  (Maybe I'd have more friends if I didn't do things like that...) 

But here's the conflict:  I also love high end grocery stores.  Going to Whole Foods is a transcendent experience.  I love all the fancy-schmancy food.   I love the novel foods from different parts of the world.  I love the basic, wholesome goodness of it all.  Even though it's pricey.

Adam calls me a grocery store snob.  (Also I would only go to Wal-mart in an extreme crisis.)

A WinCo Foods opened not too far from us.  It has created quite a buzz.  I was pretty sure I was going to give it a wide berth.  (I've been to WinCo Foods before.)

But then I got the flier in the mail.  Oh the good deals!  They were amazing.  How could I turn down $.48 canned vegetables?  $.18/lb bananas?  $1.98 for a 12 pack of Diet Coke?  How could my frugal-grocery-shopping self resist?

Every time I drove by WinCo it looked like a crazy madhouse.  Cars and people everywhere.  I didn't want to go but $1.98 for a 12 pack of Diet Coke?!?  I recruited Adam to be my sidekick...or I was his sidekick, I'm never sure which.  We went a few nights ago after our kids were in bed.  Adam predicted I would get cranky.  I said, "That's why you're here, so I won't get cranky."

He said, "I'm here so you'll have someone to take your crankiness out on."

(It's so nice to be married to such an optimistic guy.)

I promised I wouldn't be cranky.

Adam promised I was a grocery store snob.

And he was right.  I think it was when I saw a few people with dogs in the store.  There is something essentially and categorically wrong with dogs at a grocery store.  There were blazing good prices but clogged (at 10:00 at night) aisles of slow moving people.  Also, the food options weren't stellar.  There were shelf after shelf of sugar laden cereal and pasta-roni with precious few healthier alternatives.

I will keep going to Albertson's, my old familiar.  I'll go to Whole Foods when I need something snazzy and I'll send Adam to WinCo Foods if I need a screaming deal on something.

He's usually willing to take one for the team like that.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Have You Ever?

Have you ever been told that your brother called you but you can't call him back because the only place you have his number is inside your cell phone which was dropped on it's head on a beach and now gone forever?

Have you ever been snippy on the phone with an unsuspecting Verizon employee because of the frustrating process of replacing a phone?  (Dear Verizon Employee:  I am sorry I was snippy.  My exasperation would have been more accurately directed at myself because I'm the dummy who lost the phone.)

Have you ever told your children to pick up the same things they left in the same places as every other day of their lives?

Have you ever wondered if your children are in a secret conspiracy to make you crazy?

Have you ever realized with a hollow despairing feeling that you have two children signed up for basketball at the local elementary school?  That's four hours of practice a week!

Have you ever puzzled over what delusion you were under when you signed them up?

Have you ever been so cranky that your sweet first born, in an attempt to cheer you up, tells you that the dinner you just heated up in less than 10 minutes and is packed with who knows what chemicals "Looks delicious?"

Have you ever been home from a trip for 4 days and not unpacked yet?

I've never done any of these things...I was just wondering about you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Perspective Adjustment

Sunday afternoon, the glow of returning home with my children wore off.  I was sick.  (My eyes--you know it's always my eyes.)  I lay in bed and argued with Adam that I was fine to go to Braeden's church meeting with him.  Adam said, "Stay home and rest."

I finally said, "OK."

But I wasn't happy about it.  I was unhappy that my health was so fragile that one little vacation turned my eyes back into itchy, swollen, oozing, pain.  Too much information?  Sorry.

I woke up way too early yesterday because I was worried about all of my everything.  Including my eyes.  (My eyes that get worse from stress.)

I made a long list of what I needed to do--both the school and homemaking plans that needed to be attended to since my hiatus.  I had no idea what we were going to have for dinner but decided I didn't have time to worry about it.

I ricocheted through my day.  I was gone for most of it because of various appointments (one of them being my eye doctor...I love that guy but I see him too much) and transporting children.  I squeezed in planning the school week.   

When I got home from one set of errands, there was a frozen chicken and rice dinner from Costco from Janet.  She knew about the day I was having and wanted to help.

(She's as good as gold isn't she?)

I congratulated myself for surviving my difficult day.  It had a breakneck pace. I hadn't approached everything I needed to get done, but I'd done what was vital.  I felt like something of a warrior.

Then last night Emma and I went to Target.  Our goal was to buy gifts for a care package for a little girl in her class who will later be donating bone marrow to her brother with leukemia.

I was humbled.

My day wasn't hard at all. 

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  
~Thornton Wilder

Today I feel alive.  I am conscious of my treasures.  Three healthy children are my treasures.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blue Heaven

I see the eight of us with our 'Secret Annexe' as if we were a little piece of blue heaven, surrounded by heavy black rain clouds.
Anne Frank

Anne Frank was amazing.  I'm not sure how she possibly maintained the optimism she had when in hiding.  It is inspiring though.  

Today I am surrounded by heavy black rain clouds.  Literally.  It's really coming down out there.  Also, with my re-entry into real life after my trip, I have a lot to do.  And it's not all fun stuff.  Last night, as is my custom when I'm sort of dreading the next day, I tried to think of at least one thing to look forward to.

I couldn't.

I'm disappointed in my lack of imagination.

Until I can come up with something to be cheerful about, I'm going to keep Anne Frank in mind.  I'm going to try to keep a little piece of blue heaven inside of me.

The heavy black rain clouds can do whatever they want.  

They're not going to bother me.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Today I lost my cell phone at Jones Beach State Park on Long Island.


My brother-in-law, Kelly, grew up on Long Island and he told me he spent his summers at that very beach.

So now I feel like Kelly and I have a bond.  Or Kelly and my cell phone have a bond.

I comforted myself that my cell phone is in a better place.  Who wouldn't want to live on a beautiful beach?  (And it is beautiful.  Good job for spending your summers there, Kelly.)

I comforted myself that I'm in a better place now too.

Home with my kids.

P.S.  If you call my cell phone and someone with a Long Island accent answers, tell them to send it to me.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Part Two: The Food

Our New Haven tour wouldn't have been complete without some New Haven pizza.  There's nothing like it in the world.

They call it apizza and it's life changing.

We went to Pepe's, where the style of pizza originated.  We waited in line outside on the street.  We stood in line behind two women about our age who complained the entire time about their friends.

I've been reminded how cranky people can be on the East coast.  Especially women.  And between the amazing scenery and pizza, they should be a lot happier.

We ordered a margherita pie...

...and a white clam pie.

I've gained about 50 pounds on this trip and I think this could be why.

Afterward, with a wicked grin, Adam asked me if I wanted to go to Stop and Shop for some Turkey Hill Chocolate Cherry Cordial Frozen Yogurt.  It used to be our favorite treat.

(Are you sitting down?  You should be sitting down before you read this next part.)

Adam didn't remember how to get to Stop and Shop (seriously, are you sitting down?) and I did.

I told him where to turn and he kept saying, "Really?"

And I'd say, "Really."

And there was Stop and Shop.  I know, I was the one who did the grocery shopping, I should be the one to remember the way but it was surprising that I could remember and Adam couldn't.  What's next?  He'll ask me to help figure out his computer?  To interpret foreign policy?


It rocked my world.

Then my world was further rocked.

No Chocolate Cherry Cordial Frozen Yogurt.  The humanity!  The heart break!

Adam suggested we try Shaw's.  I was starting to get braggy by that point as I directed Adam to Shaw's on Dixwell in Hamden.

Shaw's was no longer there.

It was a Shop Rite, but Shop Rite with a jazzy new logo.

Once inside it reminded me of Shaw's though.  In the frozen food aisle I remembered the time a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked me "what on earth" I was feeding my cherubic baby to make her so lovely.

I was pretty proud of myself that I was nursing Emma and therefore deserved kudos.  (This was of course before I took Emma to her 9 month appointment and the doctor told me she was starving but we don't have to go into that here....)

We made another discovery in the frozen food aisle at Shaw's Shop Rite.  No Chocolate Cherry Cordial Frozen Yogurt.

You'll be happy to know we didn't go away empty handed.

I'm pretty sure I've gained more than 50 pounds.

Part One: Sightseeing

One of my favorite day trips we used to take from New Haven was to Mystic and Stonington.  The first time we went to Mystic, back in 1997, we saw Santa Claus come into town on a tugboat.  I was hooked.

Mystic is a touristy little seaport near the Rhode Island border.

This was my first time being there without a stroller.

As we were pulling into town Adam reminded me of the time we drove there and we had to quickly pull over so I could throw up.  (I was pregnant with Emma at the time.)

Good times.

We looked in the shops and regretted that Bee's Dairy was no longer there.  We went to a little Scandinavian gift shop.  I think the owners of the store asked the Scandinavian countries for their garbage to sell.


(we didn't buy anything)

After Mystic we drove to Stonington.  It's the most lovely drive in the world.

sorry this is blurry...it was taken while driving... but I wanted to show the rock walls

We went to the beach.  It's not shielded by Long Island so the waves are bigger.

It was stormy and magnificent.

If I'd had a kite string I think I would have flown away.

Someday if we decide to become bank robbers or something so we can afford to live there, we'll move to Stonington.

Our only problem will be deciding which house to buy.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

At Clark's Dairy of All Places

Today was the big day.

We went to Cheshire--site of the "spaceship park" that was Braeden's favorite and site of the enormous Christmas tree on the town green which we visited the year I was enormously pregnant with Emma.

We went to Hamden and spied our old apartment.  We saw the way they'd spiffed up the pizza restaurant across the street.

We drove down Whitney Avenue to New Haven.  We recognized restaurants and beautiful houses and parks.  We remembered street names and what was down those streets.  It was like waking up from amnesia...we remembered things we didn't know we had forgotten.

In New Haven we found a place to park and fed the meter with a few coins I scrounged in my purse (not so different from our poverty stricken student days).  We went to Clark's Dairy for lunch...right across from The Great Wall, the Chinese restaurant where Adam loved to meet his friend Kelly for lunch.  Sitting in the dingy and pleasantly homely diner, across from Adam, that's when I started to cry.

Of all places.

As I wiped my face with the cheap, thin napkins, Adam smiled at me and nodded his head.  "It's emotional," he said.

And it was.

I can't be in Connecticut without thinking of Braeden.  We lived there in the intense period of motherhood where I went nowhere without him on my hip.  Connecticut was where I started to learn how to be a mother.  And Braeden taught me.  I saw his mittened hands and Winnie the Pooh hat on the playground outside our old apartment.  I saw his short little legs, wearing overalls among the leaves on Prospect Street.  My baby.  Now he's nearly as tall as I am with much bigger feet and much bigger ideas.  He no longer thinks everything I do is heroic.  I can no longer make everything better with fruit snacks and an Elmopalooza video.

I also can't be in Connecticut without thinking of Emma.  My Yankee doodle sweetheart, she's my Yankee doodle joy.  Born here, she's the best thing to ever come out of Connecticut if you ask me.  I thought about carrying her around, swathed in pink, while I tried to keep up with Braeden.  I thought about pushing them down the street in Hamden to the library in our double stroller.

Maybe I cried in Clark's Dairy because growing children is hard bittersweet work and their incessant growing is maybe the hardest part.

I thought about myself too (surprised?).  I wish I could go back and talk to myself back then, the self that resided in Connecticut.  Sometimes I was frightened and lonely and homesick.  As we drove on Edgehill Road among the houses that still catch my breath with their beauty, I remembered going to one of them with Adam.  His professor lived there and we were going to a party with his classmates.

I was intimidated.  I remember agonizing over what to wear and how to act.  It felt like junior high all over again.  I didn't have a good sense of who I was or why.  I wish I could go back and tell that self to relax.

Maybe I cried because I miss my friends.  The friendships I forged in Connecticut were keepers.  When driving today near their houses, I felt a pang.  We were so connected back then.  We spent pivotal years there together, in the trenches.  Our husbands were in graduate school, our children were in diapers and we were surviving on student loans.  I want to go back and be kinder to my dear friends while I had the chance and we all lived there together.  I want to go back and babysit for them, make them dinner, tell them how amazing they were and what a help they were to me.

Maybe I cried because of him.

this was taken yesterday in Central Park when it was sunny...today it only rained

Before moving to Connecticut, I had never lived more than 4 hours away from my parents and I almost always lived close to my sisters.  I hadn't really grown up or left home.

Connecticut was the refiner's fire of our marriage.  Adam and I became Us.  I look back on the fifteen plus years and feel infinite gratitude.

I love my life.  I love my husband.  I love our memories.

(and I miss our kids!)

Not Yet

Last night when I talked to Mark on the phone, I was dodging throngs of people and trying to keep up with Adam.

Mark said, "Mom, it's weird to wake up and not have you here.  I'm not used to it.  Are you used to New York?"


Not yet.

I don't think I ever want to stay long enough that I'll get used to it.

Yesterday was a good day though.  Exhausting but exhilarating.

Adam and I took the subway together then went opposite directions...he to work and me to MoMA.

It did not disappoint.  I wandered around soaking it all in.  Then I took another lap past the Seurats and Van Goghs.  Then another walk past the Monets.

I sat on a bench in a room lined with Barnett Newman's paintings and wondered if I could duplicate them in my own house.  On my walls.  Maybe not.

Adam called me when he was done and we had lunch at Pret.

It's one of my favorite places to eat in London.  I knew they were in NYC as well and luckily there was one right around the corner.  After, when I was "doing the dishes," there was no recycling place to put the Diet Coke cans.  I looked all around the room.  Throwing a soda can in a regular garbage feels like sacrilige.  I'm from Seattle for heaven's sake.  I finally asked an employee and she took them from me.  She told me she'd take care of them and called me sweetie. (Maybe she tossed them in garbage after I left.)

Adam and I rambled through Central Park a little.

It truly is a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle that is Manhattan.

But you still know you're in New York City.  There are still crowds and sounds and...smells.

Adam and I parted ways again while he went to MTV offices at Times Square.  (They're clients of Amazon's...he's not considering a career switch to become a rock star.)  I poked around in various shops while I waited for him.  Then, ready to drop from all the walking walking walking, I sat on some steps and watched the city pulse around me.

In one store I was chatting with the friendly clerk.  He wondered where I was from and what I was doing in the city.   I made a small purchase.  The clerk pulled out a large bag for me.  I said, "I can just put it in my purse.  I don't need a bag."  He looked at me like I'd suddenly sprouted donkey ears.


"I'm from Seattle," I reminded him.

He smiled, shaking his head and said, "You hippies."

I guess.  Maybe in the Evergreen State being "green" just seeps into you and you can't help yourself.

Adam and I met back up and he fired up his laptop to read restaurant reviews.

We don't take dinner lightly.

We ended up at a wonderful little Turkish restaurant that looked like nothing much from the outside but turned out to be delicious.

We were both tired and determined to get our rental car and ditch the city for our next destination, the quiet of Westchester County.  As we were walking, we passed the Majestic Theatre, where The Phantom of the Opera is playing.

On something of a whim, we bought tickets.  We hadn't planned on going to a show because they seemed so pricey.  But pricey is relative.  When you spend $4 for an 8 oz bottle of Diet Coke (as I had earlier in the day), pricey becomes relative.

The Phantom of the Opera was amazing.  I have seen the movie and I know the songs and both my sisters have seen the play (and told me all about it) but nothing prepared me for the way I felt at the end.  Even though I knew the Phantom was sort of a psychopath, I felt like crying for him.  He was an AMAZING singer.  An AMAZING actor.  The sets and costumes and orchestra...

I loved it.

I wished Braeden and Emma had been there with me, Braeden and Emma who inundate our home with piano renditions of the musical.  (I never should have bought them that piano book.)

We rented our car and headed out.  When we started heading north out of the city, I started seeing signs for New Haven.

I think I'll cry when we go there.

I was happy happy happy in New Haven.  And those were formative years for our marriage and family.  I wish Mindy and Lisa and Apryl were still there.

That would make me happier still.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Start Spreading the News

Hello from New York City.  Hello from our midtown hotel room that cost 4 times the amount we usually pay and is approximately the size of a shoe box.  A toddler sized shoe box.

So far it has been a great trip.

Snuggled up to Adam for 5 hours in the friendly skies was not bad.  We shared a pair of headphones and watched CNN reporters have fun with their touch screens predicting the election results.  We also watched part of a DVD from my trusty compe`. 

At JFK, Adam navigated the hired car drivers who wanted to overcharge us and led us to a yellow checkered cab.

The last time I was in NYC (ten years ago) the cabs all had battering rams on the front.  They don't any more but their general battering ram philosophy hasn't seemed to change much.

We checked into our shoe box and headed to Hell's Kitchen in search of some food.  We settled on a little Italian restaurant where I ate my fill of the most amazing penne arrabbiata.  From there we walked to Times Square and basked in the mega wattage.

We saw a little taste of home on the big screen.  Our man Dino Rossi.  They haven't declared a winner in the Washington senate race yet.  But they haven't counted my vote yet.  (I know because I just mailed it in late Monday.)

This final picture is for our children:  a foppish dandy.

Tip tip and a cheerio.

We love and miss our babies.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dear Adam,

As you requested, we went to the pumpkin farm to buy the biggest pumpkin we could because they all cost $1 today.  (And you have big plans to light a bonfire in it and send it down the river tonight.)

Words like deluge and pouring rain seem like understatements for today.

We slogged through mud and puddles and waterlogged straw.  We tried to lift the biggest pumpkin but it was too heavy.

(Your expectations have a way of lowering when you're inundated with the Northwest's finest fall storm weather.)

We still got a big pumpkin.  It was all Braeden and I could do to maneuver it into the enormous wheelbarrow and then into the backseat of the van.

You'll be happy to know the behemoth cost $1.

The Peppy Pumpkin Patch People tried to convince me to get more than one...they were only $1.  I'll have you know I smiled when I said no. 

The fact that I was smiling is remarkable.

The pumpkin rolled around the back of the van leaving a muddy swath in its wake as I drove across the valley and home.

I was sure it was going to smash.

It didn't. 

We got it into the garage and now it's all yours.  And the resulting muddy laundry is all mine.

my poor jacket...not shown is Braeden who looked like a mud man and the back of the van which is frightening

The point of this message?

You owe me.


I think a trip to New York City and Connecticut will suffice.

Let's go tomorrow.


Scrooge DNA

Mark loves pumpkin guts as much as Braeden is repelled by them.

My favorite viking and flip flop wearing clone trooper

Emma getting into character with a sad face to be a hobo.  Emma with facial hair frightens me.  I was surprised she spelled friends wrong on her sign.  When I pointed it out she said, "Mom...I'm a hobo?" 

Emma told me I'm the Ebeneezer Scrooge of Halloween.  It's true.  I am.  I'm not proud.  I don't decorate my house for Halloween.  I don't dress up.  I am not even hiding my joy that Halloween was on Sunday so we "couldn't" go trick-or-treating.  (Darn.)

Here's what worries me though:  I'm ruining the holiday for innocent future generations.

I can just see my progenitors with a photo of me, throwing darts at it every October 31.  Because of me, my kids are less into Halloween.  They've gone through their stages of angst over my attitude (see first sentence of this post).  They've complained about my lack of decorations/enthusiasm/costume wearing.

But then the other day Braeden said, "Mom, I get why you don't like Halloween.  I don't think I like it either."

Sorry future generations.

And then there's Mark.

Oh, Mark.

He was a bundle of enthusiasm in his clone costume.  He ran the gauntlet at the school Halloween carnival with panache.  He stood in line, trading tickets for chances to win; winning tickets then trading them for cheap junkie toys.  He ate lukewarm pizza.

Mark and Gavin

At the church Halloween carnival he was equally committed to the task at hand:  noise, sugar questing, noise.

But then he came to me and said, "I need to go somewhere quiet."

I saw my great chance, "Do you want to go home?" I asked maybe a little bit too willingly, "Because I'll take you home."  (We did after all, have two cars.)

He said, "No.  I haven't gone trick or treating yet."


Later he found me again.  This time with his clone costume crumpled in a ball and a dangerous look on his face.

"Home," he said.

I whisked him to the parking lot before he could change his mind.  On the drive home he complained about all the noise.  All the people.  All the Halloween.

I thought, he's just like my dad.  (We named Mark so well.)

Then I realized, I'm just like my dad.

So, dear future generations, don't blame me.  I inherited this the same way you did.  (And who knows where my Dad got it...long ago there was a pale faced Scandinavian who disliked Halloween and crowds and excess...we'll blame them.)


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