Saturday, January 30, 2010

They Ask The Wrong Questions

The areas of my expertise are limited in their scope.

I can:

-teach children to read and to do algebra
-make good desserts
-save money at the grocery store
-get stains out pretty well

Unfortunately, my sons have other interests.  I remember when Braeden was five, he quizzed me about checks and balances.  He thirsted to understand politics.  He loves learning about the Constitution.  (I blame his dad.)  I know about checks and balances in our government but struggled to explain it all in five-year-old terms.

Awhile ago, after a conversation with Adam, Braeden wondered what I thought about the Constitutionality of The War Act.

It hadn't ever really crossed my mind.

Luckily, Braeden can read now and find his own answers.

Mark on the other hand, whose reading skills are maxed out with Morris the Moose, still questions me about things.

One day he wanted to know how a car worked.  "You turn the key and voila!" 

"No, really Mom."

I gave him a vague description of my sketchy understanding of pistons and spark plugs.  I don't think he was satisfied.

Yesterday we were driving and stopped at a light by the mill in Mill Creek.  Mark wanted to know about mills and how they work.  I explained that was just a decorative one but that they were used before electricity to do things like cut wood and grind grains.

He was intrigued.

"How?"

"Well...there was a...sort of big...stick (may or may not be the official term) that went in the middle of the wheel.  The water turned the wheel and the wheel turned the...stick.  Then the turning stick would make the machine work that cut the wood or ground the grain."

"How?"

No idea.  Next time I'll just hand him my cell phone and tell him to call my dad.  I didn't think of that.  Instead I suggested we turn on the radio. 

Why can't my boys just ask about a good brownie recipe?

I need some credibility here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Can I Help You?



This morning Adam is working in a call center along with some of his coworkers that traveled to North Dakota with him.

I asked him what that would accomplish.

He said, "Sympathy."

I know full well what it's like to call Adam when I need help.  I've done it once or twice or ten thousand times.

I don't know what it will be like for strangers to call him with their complaints/problems.

I'd like to think I've helped prepare him for this experience.

Talking to strangers on the phone reminded me of when we lived in Connecticut.  The customer service in that lovely part of the world ranged from surly to why-are-you-still-here-breathing-my-air?  (Although there are a lot of really kind people that live there too.)  Occasionally I'd need to call BECU, our bank here in the northwest.  It was always a pleasure.

The good people at BECU were always so over-the-top friendly!  They'd surprise me with things like politeness and have-a-nice-days.  I would feel elated for the rest of the day.  I wondered  if I should call every day just for the boost.

Now that we've found our way back to the West Coast and amiable strangers, it all seems more commonplace now.

Except for when I happen to call BYU.

A few years ago I left my cell phone in my dorm room when I went there for Women's Conference.  I called for assistance.  I talked to possibly the most cheerful college student in America.  She eagerly assured me that she'd do everything she could to help.  I told her my brother would come and pick up the phone.  She asked me his name.  I said Ammon Dahl.

I think she squealed.

"Was he a freshman last year?  There was an Ammon in my ward!"

I told her no.  I felt a little disappointed that I had to tell her no though.  She was so happy.

My phone was returned good as new.

Then, the other day I was trying to register for Women's Conference.  I met difficulties.  Because they've changed their system.  I called and spoke to "Abraham".  I could tell from the wholesome tilt of his voice that it was going to be a delight.  He explained to me that according to BYU, I am still Thelma Dahl with my address and phone number from when I graduated from BYU.  He helped me get it straightened out (except my name...he said I'd have to call the records office for that and I had lost interest by that point).  Abraham made me happy though.  He was enthusiastic and competent and obliging all at once.  And he just sounded so good.

So why do those BYU kids sound so cheerful all the time?

Is it the constant scent of fudge in the bookstore?  Is it being on a beautiful campus surrounded by beautiful and talented people?  Or is it the fact that at any time you could rotate in a 360 degree circle and see someone with open scriptures?

I love that place.

I wonder what I sound like on the phone?  What do people hear when they call me?

(besides the clamoring of three children who decide to start plying me with requests the minute a phone is held to my ear)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why I Love It

I love books.  It is a love that was fostered and encouraged by my mother.  We had books.  My mom had my dad provide two large built in bookshelves in each bedroom when he built their house.  We got books when my mom went on a trip without us.  We got books for birthday presents.  We got books for Christmas presents.  We got books from school orders.

I love to own books because I love to re read them.  I like to look at their friendly faces on my shelves.  I love substantial hardcover books.  I love compact paperback books.  I love elegant slim volumes of poetry.

I love bookstores big and small.  I love used bookstores. I love new bookstores.  I love Amazon.com (and not just because they employ my beloved).

But then something happened.

I ran out of bookshelves.  And I ran out of walls to fill with new bookshelves.

I turned to the library.  At first with nearly disastrous results.  I'd have a book I was looking for, I'd look for it on the computer and go to where it was supposed to be on the shelf.

It was never there.

I'd have Mark in an umbrella stroller.  He'd arch his back and strain against the stroller.  He'd vocalize his displeasure while I looked for books that were rarely on the shelves.

(and loud boys named Mark are rather frowned upon in quiet libraries)

Once I was at the library with Mark and Emma.  Emma must have been 5 or 6 but she was a great reader.  I settled Mark and Emma in the children's section of the library and instructed Emma to read to Mark.  I went looking for a book (that wasn't there).  When I returned to the children's section--after not very long, the library is small--Mark was gone.

"Where's Mark?"

Emma looked up from the book she was reading with a blank look.  She didn't know.

"Where's Mark?!"

Emma said vaguely that he'd left.  I frantically searched the library.  I couldn't find him.  I hurried to the door to look outside where there is a very busy street.  When I passed the bathrooms, I heard him, singing merrily, in the men's bathroom.  It was the happiest song I'd ever heard.  My little two year old with high mobility was also a singer.  He sang before he talked.  I gathered him and Emma and went home.   Later, when I asked Emma, "WHY didn't you read to him like I asked?" 

She answered, "I did read to him.  He left after I finished the book."  She didn't understand that reading to him was babysitting him but like I said, she was young.  It was really my fault.

So I was about ready to give up on the library.  Library + Mark didn't work and I could never find anything anyway.

Then I discovered that I could put books on hold (cue angelic choir singing hallelujah).

Our little library is part of a rather large two county system that has A LOT of books.

All I had to do was find the books online, at home, with Mark well contained.  The library would in turn send me an email when the book was ready for me.  I could pop in and pick up my books (from the D shelf) in about 2 minutes.

Problem solved.

I'm back in books.

I put books on hold like a compulsive shopper (except they're free).  Sometimes I get a big stack of books in at once which makes me a little panicky--how will I read them all?  But another great thing about the library is that, within reason, the due dates are mostly suggestions.  Also, with my ever present pile of books if something doesn't suit me, I can shut it with a satisfying thwap and pick another title.

I love the library.

My basket (of books) runneth over.




And I love that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Follow Up

If you read yesterday's post about my brother and his wife and their wild adventure, you should check out Adam's blog.  He put a link up just for you Enoch and Jennifer.

XX

Is It the Steer's Birthday?

I was reading Christie's blog and she mentioned desert rose plates.

That made me start thinking and usually when I start thinking I end up blogging.

My great-grandma, Olivia Gardner Egbert had desert rose plates.

After she died, my grandma, her daughter, distributed them among her seven children.  She said the plates were to be "special plates" to be used for celebrations.

Thus The Special Plate was born.  Whoever was celebrating a birthday ate off The Special Plate.  My mom had it for Mother's Day, my dad for Father's Day.

Once we were having a group of guests for dinner and my mom passed around a plate of steaks.  My uncle Drew said, "Is it the steer's birthday?"  (My mom must have run out of plates with all the guests and used The Special Plate for the steak...also, by way of explanation, sometimes people that grew up on ranches see a plate of steak and think steer.)

Everyone at the table got the little joke.  And it gave me a cozy feeling inside.  As different as our family was from our uncle Drew's family (and we were different), we had a shared history, a shared tradition, a shared grandmother and great-grandmother, and we each had a Special Plate.

Once I saw a desert rose plate in an antique shop.

I snatched it up.

Then I found one for each of my sisters.

Several years ago, I returned home from Women's Conference at BYU (and unless you're a man, you should be going to Women's Conference...it's fabulous).  My children must have missed me (although they're always counting down the days until I leave and they get to be with their dad) because they wanted to make me dinner when I got home.  I had to go upstairs while they carefully set the table and made me toast.  (Their culinary repertoire has since expanded but not by much.)  I was upstairs, sequestered, waiting for the surprise and I heard a tremendous crash.

It was The Special Plate.  Broken.  On the floor.

I had two thoughts:  (1) how sweet that you wanted to give me The Special Plate to honor me coming home and (2) rats, you broke The Special Plate!

Adam glued it back together but I, for one, don't want to eat on a glued together plate.

Is glue edible?



But look what I found in one of the wonderful antique stores I love?




Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world. 
Susan Lieberman

Monday, January 25, 2010

You Thought YOU Had An Adventurous Life







This is my brother Enoch and his beautiful family.

My sisters and I adore Enoch but when he brought home Jennifer as his fiancé we were surprised.

SHE wants to marry HIM?!  What did he do to get so lucky?

What did any of us do to get Jennifer as a sister?

She is strong and sassy and funny and classy and a great mother.  She is generous and kind and it turns out...resilient.

They had a wild adventure at their house and Jennifer has recovered  sufficiently that she was able to write a very entertaining blog post about it.

This is entirely without her knowledge or consent but here's the link to Jennifer's blog.

You'll thank me.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Guilt Cake

Yesterday Mark read a story to me:  Sam's Wish.

Sam is six at last.  Mom bakes him a cake.  Kim frosts the cake.  They put the cake on a fine white plate.  Sam makes a wish.  He does not tell his wish.

The story goes on and Sam opens his last present and it's a bike.

Sam likes his bike a lot.  "This bike is so fine.  I will use this bike a lot!  Thank you both so much.  This is the wish that I made."

After the story, Mark was a little taken back that Sam has been five all along (this is not our first Sam story).  Five is almost indecently young for someone who has reached the age of seven.

Mark also looked a bit downcast.

I know I spoil him.  I know.  But I can't stand him sad.  After several inquiries he finally told me that he hadn't made a birthday wish.

I said, "Did you forget?"

He said, "No, I didn't ever get a cake."

We'd had Mark's birthday party at a pool and then at a pizza restaurant.  We've never had a birthday party for Mark at our house...always elsewhere.

Have you met Mark and his friends?



Because if you have, you understand.

For Mark's birthday party, I made cupcakes which I deemed easier to transport.



They're Mark's favorite chocolate with blue frosting (favorite color).  I even added little Lego candies because Legos = Mark's first love.

I know, what a great mother!

Except we didn't have Mark make a wish or blow out candles.

I didn't even think about it, but apparently Mark did.

So yesterday I told Mark I'd make him a birthday cake.

He ran to his room and found the Lego he wanted me to copy for the cake.  He wanted a red cake.

Red?  I don't like overly colored frosting.  Bleck.  I told him it may end up pink.  He looked confidently at me and said, "red."

So I tried.  And it was pink.  I decided to add just a little cocoa powder to darken it (and turn it red?  Remind yourself not to have me mix colors for you.)

It turned out a dusty rose.  A nice hue you haven't seen since the '80s (hopefully).

I added more red and it didn't help.



I apologetically showed it to Mark and he said, "I do have some brown Legos."

After dinner we lit some candles:


Happy Birthday to Me

Mark made his wish and blew out the candles:



The cake wasn't that great.  Too much food coloring in the frosting.  Mark beamed and sang the praises of the cake.  Adam struggled to keep a straight face.

My brother Enoch can coax any number of culinary treats from my mom's kitchen with his smile and charm which has always caused a lot of eye rolling from my sisters and me.

But now I think I get it.

When your son throws his arms around you and tells you you made the best cake in the world, you'd make him a birthday cake any day of the week.

Friday, January 22, 2010

And the Winner Is...

This morning I grabbed my nearest child--it happened to be Braeden--and had him draw a name for the shoe drawing.

He's was witness to my glory day when I won the shoes on Christie's blog.  She included a picture of the drawing.

Braeden insisted I get the camera out.


Notice the sweatshirt...go Seahawks!  Worst football team in the nation (or close to it, I only hear about football second hand).


And the winner is:



It says Alena Jo if you can't read it.  When you couple two sets of shaky hands and a mediocre camera, you get a blurry Alena Jo.  Sorry.

Here's a little story for you:

Alena grew up here.  She was friends with my sister-in-law Megan and knew all the family.  (I am pretty sure her mother helped with the food at our wedding reception.)

Alena's sister Audrey is my friend and in our ward currently.

I don't know Alena though.  She found me from a link on my cousin Hannah's blog.

Can you beat that?

In other news, I don't think I'm cut out for blog giveaways.  In addition to not being very good at drumming up interest (at least interest with small enough feet), I wanted EVERYONE to win.  Every time I got a comment I'd think, "I hope that person wins!"

Only one pair of shoes.

Rats.

Thanks to all of you for playing though.  If I had more exquisite pink sandals they'd find their way to your door.

Alena, send me your mailing address and the shoes are yours!

XXXX to you all and especially Diane for the shoes, Christie for picking me and my cousin Hannah for being my cousin Hannah.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Changeable





The most predictable thing about Emma is that I never know what she's going to do next.  She was born in a big hurry...the doctors wouldn't hook me up to the epidural (though I begged) because they said the baby was still "hours away from coming".  She was there 10 minutes later.

You never know with Emma.

One day she's social and the next she's snarling at her brothers to get OUT of her room.

One day she's chatty in the car and the next she asks me to stop talking please so she can write.

One day she tries her hair in a myriad of fanciful swirls and braids and the next she has bed head that resembles an 80's rock star.

I've been able to count on the fact that she is grumpy when she wakes up.  She always has been.  As a baby and toddler, she'd wake up in the morning or from a nap and I'd wrap her in her favorite green blanket and rock her and sing to her until she was able and ready to greet the world.

Braeden never understood that.  He was amiable the minute his feet touched the ground and always tried to convince Emma to be cheerful too.

It was the beginning of Emma snarling at her brothers.

Emma's the only one that I wake up every morning.  The boys are up and bounding around making noise before the sun. But not Emma.  She wakes up groaning and greets any friendliness in the first minutes of the day with distaste.

This I've been able to trust.

Yesterday morning I went in her room to wake her up.  I talked and coaxed and then realized that the Emma shaped lump under the covers was a little on the short side.  Mark was by my side, ready to pounce on Emma with his bouncy good mornings.  I said, "Mark, do you think she's in there?"  I pulled back the covers and saw stuffed animals and pillows then I heard Emma giggling and she emerged from her closet.  She told me cheerfully that she'd been up since 6:00.  She'd showered then hid in her closet until I came in to wake her up.

This morning there was a note on her pillow.

OUTSIDE SINCE SUNRISE

How did she become a morning person all at once?

Mark and Braeden are thrilled by this change in their sister.  They went outside too.  I know I should call them in for school but they're having such a good time out there.


Braeden's the only one smart enough to at least be wearing a sweatshirt.


In the meantime I'll continue to puzzle about my strong willed girl.  Sometimes I think she's so much like my sister Olivia that I'm in for the ride of my life.

And by that I mean a very good ride.

At least it will be interesting.


This is my pretty girl after she convinced me to put some of my make-up on her.  (Adam wasn't home.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why I Love It

Last night Adam told me that one thing he likes about his job is the view of the Puget Sound he gets all day.  He said, "We're so lucky to be so close to the water."

(Adam may or may not be an amphibian.)

I thought about it last night and wondered when was the last time I'd even seen the water that we live so close to.

Too long.

So today we hit the road and drove to Mukilteo.  In a case of extreme serendipity, it was a sunny day.

In January.

In a case of the opposite of serendipity...I forgot my camera.

I wish I could have documented what a glorious day it was.  There were birds swooping and chirping.  Boats and the ferry, children toddling over driftwood that brought back fond memories of when my children used to toddle.  Mark climbed as high as he could on the playground (not very high...it's made for little kids) and Mark and Braeden added onto a fort someone else had already made out of driftwood.  (Mark's going to live there when he grows up, he's decided.)

Emma found a seat on a log and started to sketch.  She never leaves home without either a drawing pad or a notebook.

She asked me to hold her paper while she went to hang upside at the playground and I decided if I couldn't snap a photo, I'd draw a picture of the pretty scene.

I'm not much of an artist but it was fun to try.


Can you tell that's Whidbey Island?  Well it is.

Here are some of Emma's driftwood drawings as well.



 




(I'll take my camera next time.)


We went to Tin Fish for lunch because we were in the neighborhood and I think Tin Fish tacos and french fries doused in malted vinegar may be the best food in the world.  Emma had to order a cheeseburger (she's against seafood except salmon, she declares) so that takes a longer time.  Who orders a hamburger at Tin Fish?

I went to the Rose Hill Chocolate Company which is right next door while we waited.

They're for later:



We can't taste test them without Adam.

I came home a happier woman.

I'm glad I live here.  I'm glad I have the freedom to jaunt to the beach occasionally to search for seals (I did see one).  I'm glad there are such things as fish tacos and chocolate in the world and I'm glad to share my life with these three and their marvelous dad.




Mark loves to kiss me.  He wants to kiss me between every math problem.  I don't mind in the least.




I convinced them to take pictures with me (since I'd forgotten my camera) but only after I'd let Mark do this:




the good thing about bubble wrap is that it eventually gets popped and the firecracker sounds cease


And allowed some goofy photo booth pictures with these two.




Yes, I love it here.

Did You Notice?

Last night Adam and I were perusing my latest blog post.  (He's so kind to indulge my narcissism like that.)  I made a remark about the backwards books on the Pottery Barn picture.  Adam said, "Really?" and squinted at his laptop.

He said, "I didn't realize they were backwards.  You should clarify that."

So this is me, clarifying.

Because it really needs to be noted that someone at Pottery Barn decided that it would be a good and reasonable way to store books with the spines inside so you would have no idea which books were which.

Good thing they have so many OTHER talents at Pottery Barn.


Later today I will add my "Why I Love It" post for the week.

First we're going to go there, then take a few pictures, then I'll share my love.

Before that though, I have to teach my children school.

Like my mom drilled into my head for years and years (and she would tell me now too if I called her and asked her to):

WORK BEFORE PLAY


it's off to work I go

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

There are Two Types of People in the World...

 ...people who read books and people who don't. 


I was reading a magazine article and was encouraged by the author to color coordinate my books...you know, all the red books together, all the blue books together.

Really?

How would I find anything?

To my way of thinking, there are only two ways to organize your books:  alphabetical by author or by genre.  I prefer the latter because I have a lot of different types of books:

picture books (like The Seven Silly Eaters or Good Dog, Carl)

chapter books (like The Chronicles of Narnia series or Diary of a Wimpy Kid)

church books (like scripture manuals or Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith)

my books (like my Jane Austen collection or To Kill a Mockingbird )

Adam's books (like The Political Economy of International Relations or European Intellectual History Since 1789)



I know where to find any of these books (although I have never actively wondered where The Political Economy of International Relations is at any given time).  They have their designated shelf or shelves.

I can't imagine the head-ache of trying to find them if they were color coordinated.

Then I was remembering a picture from a Pottery Barn catalog awhile ago.

These people don't read:




Nor do these people (color coded AND completely inaccessible):

 

(This picture actually makes me feel a little nervous.)


Our similarities bring us to a common ground; our differences allow us to be fascinated by each other.
 Tom Robbins

common ground:  books
ways to keep them:  fascinating?

or just nutty?

Monday, January 18, 2010

National Do Nothing Day

National Do Nothing Day was on January 16 (really, Google it).  Along with Martin Luther King Day we are observing it today.

This is what doing nothing looks like (except notice the tell-tale Wii remote in Braeden's hand).




At first I thought I'd spend the entire day in my pajamas...or better yet in my bed.

Then I started thinking of the unwelcome backlog I'd have tomorrow if I truly did nothing.

So a few maintenance chores are in order.

Then I guess I'm my parents' daughter.  I can't really do nothing.  So in addition to reading a lot and renting a movie to watch with my kids...they're already lazing on the furniture so they're ready...I'm going to bake some bread and purchase some songs from itunes with the card I found in my stocking on Christmas morning.  I may bake a cake.  I'll stop at the library.

Instead of nothing, I'll do only what I want and things I've been wanting to do but haven't had time.

And Do What You Want Day is infinitely better than Do Nothing Day.

So I'm happy.

(and it's not raining)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Creating My Own Cheer

I decided to stop blogging/whining/complaining about the weather.  (It may just be sunny at my house today too once the fog lifts and before the clouds move back in.)  I guess I should say I decided to stop for now.

No promises for the future.

Yesterday I decided to be proactive.  To brighten things up.  Since lighting up a tree in the corner is so last month, I had to come up with another plan.

I hit the dollar aisle at Target:


Do you think drinks will taste more delicious with heart shaped ice cubes? 


Three kids, three big lollipops.  They can't eat them until I deem their decorative need over.


At Costco, you know, for the milk run, I picked up a bouquet of flowers:



I was congratulating myself for perking my house up for less than $15 then I noticed this:




Home grown cheer right at my window (dirty window I'm noticing).  Maybe I need to look less at the sky and more inside my house for a little brightening of my spirits.

And maybe I don't need to wash my windows anyway.  If I'm not going to be looking outside...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pineapple Express

 ...FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR MUCH OF WESTERN WASHINGTON THROUGH
SATURDAY AFTERNOON...
 
 



Along with loving page protectors and chapstick, I love weather. Adam asks me for weather forecasts and sometimes Janet does too. Because I like weather.  I also love maps so looking at weather forecasts combines the two loves: weather AND maps.

It's OK if you think that's a little nerdy.

Our weather forecasters around here are wrong. A lot. It's either really hard to predict weather here or we get pretend meteorologists that don't really know what they're doing. I'm not sure.

But last night I heard tell of a pineapple express. It means warm rain. Plenty of rain. It means flood watches. It means dark skies. It means I'd better get an IV drip of vitamin D.

Yesterday we went to the library at 11:00 a.m. and the parking lot lights were still on. It was that dark.

Adam told me that Phoenix gets more rain than Seattle in the summer.

A lot of good that does me in January.

Last night I told Adam I wanted to take a trip.

He said, "You mean this winter?"

I said, "I mean tomorrow."

"Where?"

"Somewhere where the sun is shining."

He said, "It is COLD in other places."

Not in Palm Desert.

I said, "So can we go?"

"Where?"

"Palm Desert. Tomorrow."

He said sure.

I'm not positive that he was being serious.

I was.

While I'm waiting for Adam to buy the plane tickets (hope springs eternal), here's something to keep Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay:


summer...it will return

Thursday, January 14, 2010

No Time To Say Hello, Good-Bye!




John Tenniel's Illustration of the "White Rabbit"


Yesterday I had a typically busy school morning.  Then right in the middle of explaining Braeden's math to him, my visiting teachers came. 


I dashed downstairs to visit with them.


After that I quickly made lunch.


Then we went to Lynnwood elementary school for a play that niece and nephew Talia and Jackson were in.


I may have gotten a speeding ticket when one of the "revenue cameras" in Lynnwood flashed a shot of me speeding in a school zone (insert sad face).  We were late and I wasn't thinking about things like school zones.


Turns out the play started later than we even were.  So that meant more lovely time keeping Mark occupied on a hard chair.


After the play our next stop was the orthodontist for the second time this week because Braeden had another loose wire.  


Then McDonald's drive-thru for a snack (everyone can get ONE thing from the dollar menu) because our children were stARVing.  (I don't want to talk about it.)


Next was Game Stop because Braeden's birthday money from his grandma is burning a hole in his pocket (and that kid can't stand any more holes in his jeans, believe me).  Braeden has been influenced by his bargain loving mother and he decided to go with Amazon.com after all for his video game needs.


After that we hustled home.  (I should add that all of these trips to and from the car were accomplished in torrential northwest winter rain.)


At home kids wrapped up school work, I changed some sheets on the beds, finished some laundry.  And dishes.  Whipped out a menu and shopping list for the week and watered my poor plants.


Then did some yoga, spent less time reading the scriptures than I should have but was OUT OF TIME.  


Swim practice was next.  We rushed to the pool.  I sharpened colored pencils for Mark, watched my children toil away.


I had them hop out of the pool early so we could make it to our dinner reservations at the Arby's drive-thru (I don't want to talk about it) before Braeden had to be at scouts.  He sprinted through the rain and I started to leave the church parking lot.  Then I noticed his papers that he needed for scouts...one with a little dab of cheese from his Arby's beef and cheddar sandwich.  I parked and ran into the church, dodging puddles and sheets of rain falling from the sky to give Braeden his papers.


I made it home.  I helped Mark practice the piano, instructed Emma to practice next and went to wash Mark's hair.  I sat down to correct the school work from the day then put Emma and Mark to their various beds (where they didn't stay because Braeden wasn't home yet and they knew I was too tired to care.  


Adam and Braeden came home to find me already tucked in my red chair, under a warm blanket, reading my book.


I felt like a wet dish rag that had been enthusiastically rung out, tossed on the floor and then stepped on a few times.  With boots.




The other day I talked to my wonderful grandma on the phone.  She told me to enjoy these days with my children because they are the best I'll have.


I'm trying to believe her.  I'm trying. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why I Love It

Adam is scheduled to go on a business trip to Grand Forks, ND where Amazon.com has some offices.


photo courtesy gfpeck


North Dakota.

Last night I asked him why North Dakota.

I don't think he really had an answer because he said, "Why not?"

It was then my turn to not have an answer.

Except for when I think of North Dakota I think of cold.  Bitter cold.  I am sort of intrigued though.  Sparsely populated places that a lot of people would find uninhabitable entice me a little bit.  Maybe because of where I grew up.

I think my little sagebrush scented corner of Nevada is God's country and I'm sure there are people in North Dakota that feel the same way about their home.

But I heard on the radio the other day that with the wind chill it was -52 degrees in Bismark, ND.

Right now, it's 15 degrees in Grand Forks.

And right now, it's 49 degrees here.

It may be rainy and at times so dismal that the only way I can summon any gumption is to turn on every light switch and light up some candles too, but it's 49 degrees.  At 8:50 a.m. on January 13.

A reason Why I Love It.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Names

I come from a family of namers.  My dad names things.  My dad tried for years to get trees to grow in our yard when I was growing up.  One problem is the whole desert thing.  Then, my parents house is situated on rocky ground.  Very rocky.  There were also "other" problems (like when I accidentally ran the lawn mower over ten tiny trees my dad had planted one afternoon).  My dad finally solved the problem by having Enoch dig a 6 cubic foot hole in the yard.  The tree planted in this rock free sanctuary grew!

My dad named it Frank.

Here are some photos that captured Frank in his summer glory




you have no idea the longing this picture fills me with...summer...sunshine...Nevada

You've got to admit, Frank's a handsome tree.

One summer day I heard an unexpected sound emerging from my dad's shop.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Floyd," was his cryptic reply.  It was his new tumbler, polishing up some spurs.  But my dad names things.

He also named our cars.  (and my brothers name their cars)

This is not a comprehensive list.  I likely don't remember all the cars (and my mom has been pointing out my blogging inaccuracies lately--accuracy?  Who needs it?)

We drove:

Sorrelly
Augustus
October
Brown Brown
Big Brown (sensing a theme)
Blackie
Winnie Mae

Like I said, a partial list.

Why this journey down the list of our named possessions?

Because I come by naming things honestly.

There's a computer generated voice in our school curriculum.  I named her Delores.  (She just sounds so much like a Delores...although I don't actually know anyone named Delores.)  Today we were reading about early American art.  We called on Delores to help us pronounce words like frakturs and grisaille.

A while later, out of the blue, in a quiet moment in the school room (and believe me quiet is only momentary), Braeden said, "I don't think Delores knows how to feel any emotion."

There are very few people in the world that know how to make me laugh like that birthday boy.

FYI:  Here's something I learned in school today.  I learn new things all the time.  Did you know the Pennsylvania Dutch were actually German?  Pennsylvania Dutch comes from Pennsylvania Deutch.  Who knew?  (If you knew stop showing off.  I didn't know.)

Put Another Candle on the Cake

I was a little startled when he went from a sweet bald baby (with a big head)...




To a curly headed toddler (with big expressions)...




Then he changed to a showy wag (with superhero tendencies)...




Somehow from there he became a cub scout (with earnest desires to earn ranks)...




But this is new altogether.

The boy with the quick wit and amiable nature, who tends to be bossy and inquisitive (and who is every day closer to being as tall as me)...




Is thirteen?

Is he old enough to be a teenager?

Am I old enough to be the mother of a teenager?

Apparently so.


Last night I told Adam that starting tomorrow he and I are going to be a whole lot dumber.  Braeden said, "I'm not going to be like that!"  We'll see.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happiness

Every couple of years I reread Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach.




I love it.

Sarah Ban Breathnach is on my top ten list of people I haven't met that I wish lived next door to me.  Maybe she's in the top 5.

The other day I was reading and I came across this:

How happy are you right now?  Do you even know?  Most women know what makes their parents, partners, or children happy.  But when it comes to an awareness about the little, specific things in life that bring a smile to our faces and contentment to our own hearts, we often come up short.

I've been thinking about it.

Right now I feel pretty happy because Adam returned from NYC today and although he's a sleeping heap of man on the bed right now I know that after his nap I'll have an evening to spend with him.

And I'm happy about that.

But what makes me happy besides evenings with Adam?

One thing that makes me happy that I hardly ever get is quiet, alone time.

So why do I home school my children if that's what I want?  A good question with a complicated answer.

I do know that I long for quiet and aloneness.  (and permission to make up words like aloneness)

My kids are old enough that they don't need constant supervision or attention but they're just constantly here.  They pepper me with requests and questions.  Can I have a snack?  What is there for a snack? They're convinced that someday I'll come up with a different answer than fruit or string cheese or a Fiber One bar.  Perhaps I'll tell them, "Oh here's a filet mignon to snack on.  Or would you rather have a hot fudge sundae?"

Also even when they're on their own, I'm aware of them.  Are they doing their assigned tasks?  Is that their actual piano song they're practicing or are they just goofing around? How long have they been playing the Wii?  Is it time for it to be put away?  And if Mark isn't gone in the neighborhood somewhere (and I'm wondering where), he wants to show me his latest Lego creation or he's lost in his own world, flying a space ship and making incessant. shooting. noises.

I used to relish nap time.  The house was quiet.  I knew where they were.  I knew what they were doing.  I knew that the house wasn't getting messier somewhere.

Any chance a 7 year old, almost 13 year and almost 11 year old would relent to naptime?

I could have my quiet time in the evening after they're asleep (all I ask is a solitary hour), but that's when Adam's home and my energy goes down with the sun usually anyway.

I could wake up an hour earlier than my children.

But that would cancel out the whole happiness thing.  (sleep and I are extremely fond of each other)

I'll have to find other sources of happiness I guess.  And enjoy these snack eating, request making, chore shirking, Wii playing children while I have them.

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

I don't think it's snips and snails and puppy dog tails after all.

I think they're made of milk.

When my brothers were teenagers my mother would buy 13 (count them, 13!) gallons of milk a week.  My brothers would sit around the table in the evening and polish off an entire gallon.  Sometimes they'd add chocolate, shake the jug and drink it right from there.

When Braeden was a toddler his pediatrician suggested we limit him to only 3 sippy cups of milk a day so he'd get more of the other stuff he needed.  Adam would ask me in Finnish if Braeden could have more maito or if he'd had his quota.  (I know, how international of us.) Braeden wasn't really fooled, or deterred.  One afternoon he staggered in from the kitchen, lugging a half full gallon of milk that was as big as he was.

MILK!

The love affair has continued for the boy. (Mark is more of a cheese man--the more exotic and expensive the better-- but this post is neither about Mark nor cheese.) Especially lately Braeden will drink a glass of milk.  Then another.  Then a final one.  Then another half glass.  (Then I hand him a napkin because of the milk mustache.) The six gallons I buy at Costco every time I go aren't lasting as long as they used to. Expiration dates are irrelevant.

Today I had a list of errands to do that was as unrealistic as it was hopeful.  I called to check in with my children periodically.  Finally, because I had a meeting at 7:00, I had to abort the mission.  I called Braeden to tell him to turn on the oven because I was coming home with a pizza to cook.  I told him I had to skip the rest of my errands.

With real panic in his voice he said, "Milk!  We need milk!"

I hadn't skipped Costco.

I've been steadily employed for nearly 13 years trying to keep that kid happy and nourished.  I'm not about to stop now.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oh To Be A Seven Year Old Boy

Mark and I were learning about birds in his science lesson.  We had some turkey feathers we were looking at under a magnifying glass (which isn't as exciting as it sounds...unless you're Mark).

I said, "Let's drop some water on the feathers and see what happens."  (You know, in order to show some waterproof qualities of feathers.)

Mark took a deep breath and said, picking up a nearby light saber, "I'll take a weapon just in case it turns into a bird when we add water."

I don't know which to be more delighted by:  he thinks a plastic light saber is an actual weapon, he thought a bird might materialize if we got the feather wet, or he's my son and I get to spend my days with him.

The Bad and The Ugly

My pretend friend Christie  (she's my pretend friend because I read her blog and even though I've never met her in person, I want to) wrote a post on her blog about our real selves vs. our blog selves.  She encouraged her readers to write a post revealing their less varnished, more real selves...down to the photo with no make up.

While I do occasionally record a bit of a pity party here, I usually post The Good.  I only pick pictures to post of myself that are passable; I only pick pictures to post of my house that are clean-ish.  Kind of like how I tidy up before my visiting teachers come over.  It's all about tricking people into thinking you're better than you are.

I'll take the challenge though.

Here's my picture:




So in addition to the jumbled school room clutter in the background, here I am.  No make-up and disheveled hair.  Sadly, that's not much different than when I do have make-up on and have done my hair (or tried to).  Neither make-up, hair or looking photogenic are in my realm of expertise.

And here are the confessions that I have to make...the real things.

The inside of my car is almost always a mess and I really don't care that much.

I love organizing things. I am lousy at keeping things organized.

I ate the chocolate covered cherries Janet gave me for Christmas one after the other and didn't tell my children or Adam that we even had them.

I can be cranky.  Really cranky.  And sarcastic.  Really sarcastic.

I never ever want to eat breakfast with my children and rarely do.  I don't want to talk to anyone first thing in the morning.

I haven't balanced my bank statement for years and years.  Numbers like that make me feel quaky.

I don't take criticism well.

If given the choice to read, write, home school, or work on some creative project,  I will always choose that over house work.  And you can tell.

While my house will always look fairly clean if I know you're coming over, I leave laundry in the dryer until there's another load ready to go in.  If my dishes won't fit in the dishwasher, they have to wait until the next load.  I'm not hand washing them.



(and I was raised better than that)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why I Love It


a thai restaurant in vancouver, b.c.

Marriage is not merely sharing one's fettuccine, but sharing the burden of finding the fettuccine restaurant in the first place.
Calvin Trillin


Adam and I love eating out.  Besides talking about Everything Else, we talk a lot about the restaurant in general.  I was a waitress in the summers when I was in school so I think that entitles me to opinions on service.  Also, I have opinions on atmosphere that Adam patiently listens to.  I am bugged by decorations if they are tacky.  I don't like restaurants that feel cold.  We talk about the food, we discuss guesses on ingredients.  We talk about what we'd serve if we ever had a restaurant.  I always order the same thing and Adam never does.  We share bites.  We get refills on our diet cokes.

Here are some of the restaurants we love (I'm not sure you care...but I won't know if that's the case, you'll just stop reading... so I can proceed).

If you live here too, go to:

Fancy Shmancy:

Arnies or Anthony's.  They're a lot alike.  Amazing food.  Expensive.  I think Arnies is better because they have creme brulee.  We go to the less expensive "Sunset Suppers" when we infrequently indulge in this good stuff.

Pizza: 

Alfy's (our go to, always), Peppered Pizza (it's greasy and thin crusted and sublime), Pegasus Pizza, and our favorite:  Diamond Knot.  The kids can make their own pizza.  I always get the Old Darby calzone.  I have no idea what or who an Old Darby is.

National Chains:

We mostly don't gravitate to these...we've never left Applebee's or Olive Garden without feeling disappointed.  We do like Baja Fresh (although it always feels cold there...even on the hottest day...it's all the black and white), Chipotle (I'm in love), and Red Robin.

Mexican:

Azteca and even better, El Paraiso (I love their homemade tortillas, I don't love that I can't pronounce it correctly.  I told Olivia the name once and she looked at me like I was crazy then said, "Oh do you mean, El Paraiso?"  It sounded completely different when she said it and I can't duplicate it.  Darn.)

Thai:

Lanna Thai and Thai Valley.  These are two I can think of that are close by but I will happily eat my showering rama anywhere.  Throw in some fresh spring rolls and some fake purple orchids on the table and I'm happy.

Seafood:

Tin Fish (the first time I went, the lady who owns the place told me people stay up at night thinking about their fish tacos.  She wasn't lying.  They're that good.)  Also Ivar's...for clam chowder and fish and chips.

Other:

King's Pita (it's a little hole in the wall place somewhere-in-Everett that I couldn't find without Adam.)  They're only open during the day.  They sell enormous pitas filled with goodness.

The Spotted Cow.  It's a great spot for ice cream and hot chocolate.  What more do you need in life?

Piccadilly Circus in Snohomish...when you need some bangers and mash in a place that feels a little like a London pub.

And this all adds up to one of the reasons....why I love it here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Cousin is a Little Bit of Childhood that Can't Be Lost

This is one of my favorite people:




It's my cousin Hannah.  I have a lot of favorite people who are cousins.  I recently learned that maybe I have a lot of cousins.  Adam and I were at a party and playing The Newlywed Game.  Adam had to answer how many cousins I have.  He guessed 40.  I actually have 50.  Most of the women had cousins in the 15-20 range.

How did I get so lucky?

Of course I like some of my cousins more than others (and I'll never tell which) but I digress:

My cousin Hannah.

She offered to let her blog devotees know about my shoe giveaway (again with the shoe giveaway) so I am doing the same.  You should check out her blog if you want to feel inspired by her creativity and charm.

If you want to feel intimidated and like she got all the energy in the world, you can consider that in addition to her artistic enterprising work, she also has twin toddlers and a baby girl.  She's amazing.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Not Pathetic Enough

15 years ago, this past December 28, my sister Marianne married Robert.  Though we loved Robert (and still do), we were not happy about the wedding.  How could she desert us like that?  Never mind that we all three were in Provo at BYU together.  Never mind that in less than 3 months, I'd be engaged to Adam.  How dare she?

Marianne was the golden child in high school.  Star basketball player, valedictorian, charmer.  Her wedding reception in our hometown was huge...standing room only in the church gymnasium.  After all of the clean up, we got home about 2:00 a.m.  (It didn't help endear us to the wedding.)  I slept on the couch because we had guests in all the beds.  I remember my mom waking me up at 7:00 a.m. because we had breakfast guests driving up our lane.  I remember very little about the rest of it.  I think I was too tired.  I know we went to Orderville, UT for another reception.  I know I stood upright in my bridesmaid dress and I know that Enoch drove way way way too fast to get Olivia home to a New Year's Eve party.  (My parents were driving separately.)  I was so tired it was all a blur.  Happily we had a week before school started up again at BYU.  Olivia and I had time to lick our I-can't-believe-she-abandoned-us wounds and to recover from our weariness.  I think our mom was equally tired and for once in her life didn't urge us towards productivity.

We were Tired and school was Hard and we were Sad so we played Skip Bo and ate peanut M&Ms.  Pretty much for a week.

We'd play Skip Bo on Olivia's bed, cards spread out over the bedspread.  We'd play Skip Bo at the kitchen table, only getting up for more peanut M&Ms.  Finally, we started to feel pathetic.  And slothful.  In a peanut M&M haze we would murmur to each other that we really NEEDED to go back to school.  After awhile, our inactivity was getting us down.

Not a moment too soon, it was time to go back to BYU.  We were ready to conquer again. (And ready to hang out in Marianne and Robert's new apartment...she was not lost after all.)

The lesson learned:  when you're tired, take a break.  Take such a break that you WANT, desperately, to get back to normal.

I'm lamenting this vacation that is all too soon drawing to its close.  I'm Tired and homeschooling/swim team practice/what's for dinner/vacant eyes and casual shrugs when I ask Mark where his jacket is/everything is Hard.  I'm not ready to go back.

We've had a good vacation.  We've had a lot of parties.  I've worked on some things I never can do during the school year because I've been too busy.  We've had fun.

But I wish we'd been a little more lazy and a little less busy.  I need to play Skip Bo for hours with Olivia (even though she cheats) and eat artificially colored candies of goodness until I'm ready for the real world again.

Though it's small consolation, my sisters feel the same way.  Marianne has hosted half the free world this vacation...many of them sleeping over.  Olivia has been working on her Spanish curriculum for her bilingual children.  (Luckily the only foreign language I know is pig latin and my kids about have that covered.)  They're busy and about to get busier too.

Sigh.

Is this what it means to be a grown-up?

Rats.

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