Monday, April 30, 2007

Freakin Flippin Bird Crap

A few days ago, I commented on Eve's blog making reference to my Mormon faith. She indicated that she had no idea I was a Mormon. I wasn't sure I believed her, because if you went to BYU, live in Orem, Utah, and have five children, it should be pretty clear to which church you claim allegiance. Then I realized the truth: Eve had no idea I was a Mormon because I don't talk like one, at least not very often.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we are strongly encouraged to use clean and intelligent language. In other words, you shouldn't hear a lot of swearing from Mormons.

In an effort to follow the letter of the law, but not necessarily the spirit of the law, non-swearing swear words have been adopted in some Mormon subcultures. For example, crap, shister, shucks, and shoot, replace the crass term for poo. Terms such as flippin and freakin supplant the really bad word. Gosh, goll, and gawh prevent anyone from breaking one of the ten commandments (number three in case you haven't read Exodus 20 lately.) And while their use is sometimes justified since they can be found in the Bible, dang and heck are the generally more acceptable replacements for their Biblical counterparts.

And so if you come out to your driveway on a spring morning to find a bird left its mark on your freshly washed SUV, you could say, "Oh my freak! A flippin bird left crap on my gosh darn car! Dang it all to heck!"

And somehow, many people I know, would absolutely consider this to be "clean and intelligent" language.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

You Can't Fool Me

A couple years ago, my younger sister Kim and I took our kids on a road trip from Utah to California. We had started out later than planned, and ended up pulling the Yukon over around 1 AM to sleep at a hotel in Nevada for a few hours, before continuing on at sun up.

In an attempt to save money, we decided to share a room at the hotel. However, with Kim and her three kids, as well as me and my three children, we knew most hotels would frown at eight people in one room. So we devised a not-so-subtle plan. I would check-in with the boys and the luggage, and Kim would enter a few minutes later with no bags, just the girls, and we would all meet at the room.

For the most part, things went according to plan. I registered at the front desk and then proceeded through the lobby up to the room with S2, Kim's two boys, and all our bags. I called Kim on her cell phone and told her our room number, and she delayed a few minutes by the car before proceeding through the lobby empty handed with D1 and D2 as well as her own daughter.

We were careful not to let on to the children about the plan, because we did not want them to think we were being dishonest. And we thought we had been discreet with our sneaky plot. But D1 who was ten at the time, was too smart for us and sensed something was up. As she walked through the smoke filled lobby adjacent to a casino, she realized, "I know why you and my mom don't want anyone to see us go to the hotel room all together. Kim grimmaced, knowing we were going to have to explain our dishonesty, but replied innocently, "Hmmm? What?" D1 nodded, "Yeah, you're afraid if we all go up together everyone will think you guys are gay."

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sing, Sing a Song Part Two

Vacations at Grandma and Grandpa's house in California were a life of luxury!

My sisters and I would use the nutrition facts on the side of the cold cereal box and carefully calculate to make sure we ate enough bowls of the munchy, crunchy, milk soaked grains to equal 100% of all our daily vitamins and minerals. We would not leave the breakfast table until we all completed the goal. There was no reason to load up as such at the morning meal, we just did it because of our love for the frosty flakes and because Grandma didn't care at all.

Then we would leave our grandparent's large, spacious, air-conditioned, custom home to sit in the RV parked on the RV pad. There we would sit for hours playing Uno and eating Pringles. And once again, we were shocked, because Grandma didn't care one bit! You'd think she or Mom would miss us, being out there all day, away from their side, but they seemed to handle our absence surprisingly well.

Sadly, vacations don't last forever. And it is a scientifically proven fact that while traveling to California in the rear of a station wagon takes forever and a day, traveling back home to Iowa takes even longer.

But not to disappoint anyone, on the way home, my sisters and I would create even more original numbers. This was an all-time favorite:

Oh, I wouldn't live up North it's way too cold,
Wouldn't live down South it's way too hot,
Wouldn't live our East it's just not right,
Wouldn't live out West it's not my type.
So I'll just stick in the middle of the U. S.,
Just stick in the middle of the U. S.,
All ---- My ---- Life because
I wouldn't live up north it's way too cold...

{Repeat until you hyperventilate}

I really wish I could sing these for you all, but come to our next family reunion and my siblings and I will gladly perform them in person.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sing, Sing a Song, Make it Simple To Last Your Whole Life Long Part One

Vacations provide families with fond memories, photo album pictures, and souvenirs. My friends' parents would take them skiing at resorts in Colorado, or swimming along the sandy beaches of Florida, or even sight seeing across Europe. Their vacations always involved powdery snow in the mountains, or palm trees and hammocks by the ocean, or world famous museums and landmarks. My vacations were just as thrilling since my parents took me to a relative's house where I didn't have to do gardening chores for an entire week.

My parents did not believe in hotels. Ever. Which is why our vacations always involved a close relative. Or a distant relative. Or close friend of the family. Or a not-so-close friend of the family. Or friend of a friend of the family.

Since hotels were out of the question, instead of stopping to rest along the way, my parents would drive 30 hours straight across the United States until they reached our destination. One parent slept while the other drove. Every four to six hours they would trade off. In this manner we left Iowa to drive across Nebraska, then Wyoming, then Utah, then Nevada...

In order to pass the monotonous stretch, my sisters and I sat in the back of the station wagon singing songs. After countless hours of singing every song we knew numerous times, we would eventually make up songs. One such original ditty went as follows (complete with actions):

Oh, I'm broken up to here, (put your hand on your forehead)
I fell apart last year, (droop your head and shoulders)
I'm so mad, (look angry)
The people are so glad, (smile broadly)
'cause I'm broken up to here, (put your hand on your forehead)
I fell apart last year, (droop your head and shoulders)
I'm so mad, (look angry)
The people are so glad, (smile broadly)
'cause I'm broken up to here... (put your hand on your forehead)

And so it continued. For eternity. Or at least until we reached Grandma and Grandpa's house in California.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lost in Translation

As parents DH and I have told our children that their grades in school are not as important to us as their effort. If they try their best and turn in all their work, we have assured them that we'll be fine with whatever grades they earn.

A couple days ago D2 was in her classroom and had done very poorly (as in extremely poorly) on a reading exam. The 2nd grade teacher stood before the class after handing out the corrected tests and cautioned, "Some of you did very bad on this test and your parents are going to be mad." D2's hand quickly shot up and when called upon, she boasted to the teacher and her peers, "My mom doesn't care about my grades at all. She won't be mad. She doesn't even care if I get an 'F'!"

So once again this week, I am having DH drive carpool as I am too embarassed to show my face at the school.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I Think I Think

One of D1's favorite little sayings goes as follows: "I think I thought a thought, but if I thought the thought I thought I thought, what was I thinking?"

Well, apparently David McMahon thinks something about me, as he nominated Uncommon Notions as one of five blogs that makes him think. At first, I was very excited. It is nice to be recognized for your thinking cap, you know? Then, I realized just because I make him think, does not necessarily mean I am a noteworthy thinker. I could simply be making him think, "What is she thinking?"

Either way, I'll accept the distinction and run. In return I am tagging five other blogs that make me think. Here they are:

1. Eve the Quest Writer that I hope will still remember me and the other small people when she is a rich and famous novelist.
2. Snippets and Blabbery where, like a 25 cent toy vending machine, you never know what you are going to get.
3. S1's TJ Side of Life whose blog proves, despite his height and love for the claustrophobic hobby of scuba diving, he takes after his mom in at least one sense.
4. Jenera Healy's A Day In The Life that authenticates the existence of at least one Republican living in Oregon.
5. Colleen at a Simple Kind of Life where her life is really not as simple as she may try to lead you to believe.

I was going to award Craver Vii, but since he was already tagged a couple weeks ago, I'll pass. We don't want anything this big going to his head.

And now for the fine print:

The rules are: a) If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to five blogs that make you think, and b) link to this post so that people can easily find the origin of this award.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I Am My Dog and My Dog is Me?

An article in the Sunday paper has me in a panic. It explores the possibility that our pets are a reflection of our inner selves. If this is true I am in a world of hurt.

First of all my Shih-Tzu, named Cookie, is 20% heavier than the average dog of her breed. Hmmm…I don’t have anything to say on this subject except, so far, not looking so good.

Secondly, she is a mess. When she was younger I would take her to the groomer regularly to style her coiffure and trim her nails. Now, I’ve come to accept that she is a family dog, not royalty, and she runs around most of the time looking like a rag muffin. If that is a reflection on me, my expensive new hair straightening iron is not doing its job.

Perhaps worst of all, Cookie is a barking, raving lunatic. My neighbors must truly be saints, because not one of them has tried to feed her rat poison, yet. I know I too can be full of jibber jabber, especially when I get the opportunity to converse with people who experienced puberty before President George W. Bush came to office, but I hope no one sees me as a yapping crazy lady.

Finally, the saddest realization is: (all you animal lovers just close your eyes for the next few words) I hate my dog. Not that I wish her any harm, at least not permanent harm, but most days, I just detest her food, her smell, her mess and her uppity ways. And if I hate my dog, what does that say about me and how I feel about myself?

All of this is is a reality I am not prepared to face. The more I think about the article, I am convinced it was published in order to drive otherwise sane housewives like me to seek professional counseling.

I feel the need to shake these disturbing thoughts and do something refreshing. Something that will make me feel whole and normal again. Where is my adorable dog? I need some matted hair to rip through with a comb.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Heroes and Killers: A Look at The Virginia Tech Massacre and the Trolley Square Shooting

The recent national tragedy at Virginia Tech is the seeming escalation of similar incidents in recent history. On Monday, April 16, 2007 thirty-two people were murdered at the rural Virginia school, the largest such massacre to occur in United States history. Only two months before, on February 12, 2007, a shooter at the Trolley Square shopping mall in Salt Lake City, Utah took the lives of five unsuspecting bystanders. While the immense tragedy of these and kindred events can fill one with a measure of despair, the sometimes unlikely heroes that arise from such catastrophes can rekindle in our hearts the hope for good that exists in a world noticeably brimming with hate. And we marvel at how some sink to become killers, while others rise to heroism.

At least one hero paid the ultimate sacrifice amid the chaos at Virginia Tech. Liviu Librescu spent last Monday morning as he had numerous Mondays before, in Room 204 with his students. But no one could have predicted his last lesson would be one taught by his heroic actions rather than by his knowledge for theoretical mathematics. When shooter Seung-Hui Cho attempted to storm Professor Librescu’s classroom, the seventy-six year old Holocaust survivor physically held the door shut while encouraging his students to jump to safety. It was not until the last student leaped from the second story window that Cho was finally able to gain entrance into the classroom where he fatally shot Liviu Librescu.

The police responding to the recent Salt Lake City shooting, including a quick thinking off-duty officer, were the touted heroes in that tragedy. Coming to the aid of a public threatened by the disturbed shooter, Sulejmen Talovic, their skillful actions ended the life of the well armed young man before he could take even more innocent lives.

The Trolley Square killer Sulejmen and the Virginia Tech hero Liviu began life in similar circumstances. Sulejmen witnessed suffering unlike a tender young boy should. Growing up in war torn Bosnia, Sulejmen was only four when he and his mother fled on foot after Serb forces overtook their village. For five years he lived as a refugee in Bosnia, before his family moved to the United States, settling at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Utah . While in Bosnia, Sulejmen lived in Srebrenica, only a couple years before thousands of men and boys were slaughtered there in what would later be known as Europe’s worst massacre of civilians since World War II.

Growing up during World War II, Liviu was still a toddler when Hitler came to power legally. He lived much of his early life amid unfathomable persecution. Though untold millions were victims of the widespread Holocaust genocide, miraculously, Liviu survived. Several years passed before he escaped Communist Romania, and eventually made his way to the rolling green hills of Virginia.

Sulejmen Talovic and Liviu Librescu. Each began life as most of us could never imagine. Both were survivors of their murderous, warring homelands. Yet each fashioned a strikingly different life from the other.

One dropped out of school before obtaining a high school diploma. Another was an internationally renown professor of aerospace engineering. One was a loner, opting for isolation over companionship. Another was a family man, well esteemed by friends and colleagues alike. One came to the United States, unable to forget the evil that had beset him in his youth. Another came to the United States having survived evil, only to come face to face with it again. One was a killer shot by heroes, the other a hero, shot by a killer.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cold Cereal Infestation

Growing up in Iowa, I was raised by parents that were conservative and practical. Mom never purchased cold cereal. It was expensive and didn't stick to our ribs. Instead, breakfast carbohydrates consisted of oatmeal, homemade granola, cracked wheat, cooked rice or toast (made with thick slices of homemade wheat bread, of course).

My best friend Kerry's house, however, was a modern home with sliced white bread and, naturally, cold cereal. Kerry's parents had noticed my affinity for the store bought cereal delicacy when I visited, as I would eat numerous bowls in one sitting. Since Kerry's dad worked at a grocery store, he was always bringing home damaged boxes of the crispy stuff for free. One Friday I was over after school and when it was time for me to leave, her mom sent me home with a couple slightly bent boxes of cereal, claiming they had more of the mouthwatering morsels than they could eat.

At 6 AM the following morning my sisters and I got up very early, like usual, to watch Saturday morning cartoons. We sat in the family room that was still dark in the early morning hours and turned on the TV. In the glow of the television we sat eating bowls of the prized cereal and milk. We happily took huge drippy gulps of the rare flakes, mesmerized by mind numbing Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.

Suddenly one of my sisters gasped, claiming to have seen something. She insisted it was a tiny flying bug. I briefly paused, looked around, and seeing nothing, I continued chomping the delicious sugary granules. Then, I thought I saw a flying bug. I stopped slurping and noticed another. Now confident of the presence of the critters, I alerted my sisters and in our fear-induced frozen silence we noticed several little bugs, back lit by the TV glare, flying around us. Shrieking we inspected further and realized they were flying out of the cereal box we had placed on the floor in front of us.

Nothing ruins a love for cold cereal like seeing nasty weevil bugs soaring from your cereal box, and nothing ruins an appetite like seeing dead ones that have drowned in the cold milk of your half-eaten cereal bowl. And somehow Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons were never the same after that either.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Sob Fable

It has been Spring Break this week at our house. Since there has been no school all week and a vacation was not in our plans, we’ve been vacationing at home. Which translates into a fun activity each day and staying up really late each night. After almost a week of this bustle, it is starting to take its toll.

Last night it was 11 PM when DH and I were ready to succumb to exhaustion. We turned off the TV, told the girls (who would stay up until 2 AM if given the opportunity) to brush their teeth and head upstairs to bed. Upon entering our bedroom, I kicked off my slippers and flopped on the bed.

DH was snuggling under the covers when he asked as to the whereabouts of S2. It was then I realized that he had not gone to bed when S1 did, but was still at the neighbors watching a movie. Completely worn out, I assured DH, though I did not necessarily believe it myself, that our son was responsible and would be home as soon as the movie ended. A few more minutes of silence ensued then DH supposed, “What if he fell asleep during the movie? Will they wake him up? Will they even be able to wake him up?”

DH’s worrying was not unfounded. Such a scenario is highly likely for S2, as he seems to go into automatic sleep mode at 10 PM no matter how hard he struggles to stay up late. The poor kid has never experienced New Year’s Eve celebrations. Even the midnight fireworks fail to rouse him from his seemingly drug-induced slumber.

As we laid in bed a couple minutes more worrying about S2, we finally decided we needed to go across the street and bring him home. But did I mention we were in our nice, comfy, thick-mattressed bed? And it was really late? And we were really tired? Another minute passed before DH offered weakly, “Do you want me to go?” A long pause set in. “No, I can,” I faintly replied.

I tried to will myself out of bed, but before I had even moved a muscle, I realized I could hear D1 and D2 brushing their teeth in the hall bath. So I called out for them. D1 came into the room and feebly turning her direction, I asked her to take D2 (for protection from the boogieman, of course) and go get their brother at the neighbors. Seeing this as a way to delay bedtime by at least ten more minutes, D1 and D2 readily agreed and quickly left.

What kind of mother sends her little children out after 11 pm on an errand? My kind. My overworked, burned out kind.

A few minutes later as Mr. Sandman was within grasp, I remembered hearing the front door open and close. Confident my children were safely home, I let sleep overtake my drained body. Only a few minutes had passed when my dreamlike trance was abruptly ended by a sharp scream. DH and I both sat up, then the crying unfolded. Loud and long. And it sounded as if it were coming from a little girl’s lungs...outside!? I bolted out of bed and ran out the front door to see D1 trying, rather unsuccessfully, to lug D2 across the street. I rushed to their aid and carried D2 into the house.

Apparently, the girls had fetched their brother and sent him home while they stayed and talked with the neighbors. Yes, at 11:30 at night. When the girls finally started to make their way home, D2’s big toe failed to see the small metal scooter lurking in the neighbor’s lawn.

I spent the next 15 minutes calming down D2 who was crying more out of fatigue than pain. An ice pack, a back rub, and a face tickle later she was finally ready for bed.

Moral of The Story: If you are too tired to do a task, you are certainly way too tired to have your children do it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Sanjay's t-shirt said it well: Life is beautiful. And before 4 pm on Wednesday afternoon, so was my kitchen. While I appreciate the philosophical sentiment on the American Idol hopeful's t-shirt, I've struggled to appreciate his singing. However, he is in good company since Sanjaya Malakar was not the only funky teen whose notorious career came to a screeching halt on Wednesday night. The same can be said for S1’s baking days.

Yesterday after school, S1 tried to make some cupcakes while I was away from home. It required several cellphone conversations to finally direct him to the location of a cake mix, baking cups, Kitchen Aid mixer, eggs, then another cake mix (my first clue that things were not going well) and cupcake tins. It was during a distressful fifth phone call in which I finally assured S1 not to worry, that yes, forgetting the oil is a problem, but that I could bake the cupcakes when I arrived home.

As I pulled in the driveway my son stood there with a face almost as forlorn as his chocolate cake batter dribbled t-shirt. Upon stepping out of the car he gave me an unsolicited, slightly awkward hug. DH raised his eyebrows and nodded, most likely thinking something like, “Hey, our son loves and appreciates his mother. That is so heart warming. I am the best Dad ever.”

Since I am not as gullible as DH, the hug put me on notice. I did not comprehend, nor could anyone have fully comprehended, the extent to which the venture had gone astray. I stepped into my kitchen to find five crummy cupcake tins, four mucky mixing bowls, three empty egg shells, two disheveled Duncan Hines cake mix boxes, and countless batter spills adorning the sink, oven, counters and kitchen floor. All this is what was left after S1 attempted to clean up. Now the hug was making much more sense.

While I have difficulty comprehending what is so complicated about combining water, oil, and eggs with a mix and beating for 2 minutes, I think S1 tends to make baking more challenging than it actually is. Much akin to what Sanjaya does with his faux hawk silly stunts and singing. And like observing the latest-to-be-voted-off idol sing, watching S1 bake can be excruciating, however, you can’t help but appreciate his unique style. Cake battered t-shirt or Life is Beautiful t-shirt. You gotta admit they are both lovable.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Holiday Hitch

I listed our home on a vacation exchange website a few weeks ago. We want to go to Disneyland this summer and a home exchange could be an affordable and comfortable way to travel. Seeing as it worked out so nicely for Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Soon after paying the sign-your-life-away, never-get-a-refund membership fee, I contacted a family in California only a few miles from the dreamy theme park that my children cannot wait to visit. They own a modest home, want to travel this summer, and have Utah listed as one of their travel spots of choice, so the trade is ideal.

Our vacations plans are proceeding nicely except for one tiny detail. My inbox has been void of any response from the House Near Disneyland Family. When I didn’t hear anything for a day or two, I figured they don’t check their email on the weekends. After a few more days passed, I thought maybe they logon to their computer only once or twice a week. After almost a week of silence, I convinced myself they were out of town for Easter. But now? I am running out of excuses to comfort my fragile ego.

I have reread my listing description and searched my posted photos for any hints as to how I have frightened the House Near Disneyland Family into hiding. I avoided posting any pictures of S1 and S2’s bedroom and bathroom, made certain not to mention the dog, and gave no insight into how my house heats up like an oven despite central air, most of July, August and September, so I am at a loss.

As I tend to be gluten for punishment, I decided to research the site again for a home for trade. This time I was not too picky and searched all homes that listed Utah as one of their preferred destinations. There are just over 10,000 listings on this site. Guess how many of those people want to travel anywhere in Utah during anytime in the next three years? Twenty-eight.

Interestingly enough, a full quarter of those people live in Australia. They are probably David’s neighbors. It is not that I wouldn’t love to visit Down Under, but I could never afford all the plane tickets. And if I could afford to fly a family of seven to the land of kangaroos and Koala bears, I’d still be faced with the problem of no Disneyland theme park within driving distance.

And so it seems our summer vacation is going to be no holiday.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

For the Love of Scouts

I gave birth to our fifth child last summer. She is our tail-ender, or retirement wrecker as our friends affectionately nicknamed their little caboose. When I had an ultrasound and found out she was a girl, I was silently relieved knowing I would not have to do yet another round of Cub Scout Pinewood Derbies and Merit Badge Pow Wows. I can handle sleepless nights, the chicken pox and chaperoning field trips. The most difficult tasks of parenting hands down are 1) Scouts and 2) The Birds-and-the-Bees Talk. With a daughter, half the hard stuff is never an issue. But it seems DH and I will be tackling another round of The Birds-and-the-Bees Talk soon.

I am planning such a discussion because I found some rough drafts of a love letter on my desk. I was able to identify them as such because of the pink marker lettering and hand-drawn hearts. I am posting the text of them here so that when DH sees them he will know it is time to have The Birds-and-the-Bees Talk with our second-grader.

I figure it is DH’s turn since I had the talk with S1 and D1. Of course we are skipping S2, but only for now. Since S2 is not yet writing love letters (at least as far as we know) we are going to have to bump D2 up in his place.

The first enchanted epistle is as follow:

To: UtahJazzMan
I see you ever (sic) day and you are hot!
I am Lauren

The second draft is decidedly more bold:

Do you want to kiss me?
yes or no or maybe
I (heart) U

While I am not certain as to the identity of UtahJazzMan, my concern for D2’s affections can be comforted by only one thing. It is my dearest prayer that UtahJazzMan, in addition to possessing a love for NBA Basketball is also a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America. If this is the case, he will certainly be too busy planning next year’s Winter Klondike to have time to notice let alone kiss D2.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Elusive Song Lyrics

If you have never eaten at Jason’s Deli you are missing out. While I can devour a Spinach Veggie Wrap with ease, DH is partial to the California Club. But the food is only part of the reason we frequent Jason’s Deli. Mostly, we go for the music. They play the very best songs from the 80’s: the songs you love, but forgot existed.

One not easily forgotten number is Prince’s "Little Red Corvette". My friends and I could not get enough of this song in 1983. I’ll never forget a summer night when Julie and I were out on her trampoline in the backyard singing the lyrics acapella. Come on you remember them, so sing with me, I guess I shoulda known, by the way U parked your car sideways, that it wouldn’t last. See U’re the kinda person that believes in makin’ out once. Love 'em and leave 'em fast…But it was Saturday night, I guess that makes it all right... If I may interject and point out to my children, parents and Sunday School class: Saturday night never makes it all right, and I did not believe that then, or now, or at anytime in between.

Anyway, all was just fine until we got to the chorus. Julie started at the top of her lungs, Pay the rent collect, Baby you’re much 2 fast. And as I softened my voice, not certain I heard her correctly, she continued, Pay the rent collect, U need a love that’s gonna last. How she ever confused little red corvette with pay the rent collect, well who knows. But man was it funny!

Perhaps it was almost as entertaining as the Kenny Chesney song I botched on our Saturday night date with friends. DH, in addition to jazz, enjoys Kenny Chesney. He was introduced to the country artist on a midwinter play-some-golf-where-it-is-warm road trip. Upon DH’s return he downloaded several of Kenny Chesney’s songs from iTunes

On Saturdays while doing his Honey Do List, he plays them and sings along. Sometimes, he even sings real loud and we dance. He does this so often that I thought I knew every word to “When the Sun Goes Down”. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that when the sun goes down, we’ll actually be “groovin.”

Groovin' sounds fun and all, but I thought it was something else. I thought this because when DH sings the song, he always sings something else. I know now that it is not because he doesn’t know the words, but because he thinks he’s funny, or cute, or sexy, or something. When DH sings the song to me, he always replaces “groovin’” with another verb. One commonly used by building contractors as they described the process with which they adhere dry wall screws. And that is how I thought the song went. So that is how I sang it. On Saturday night. At the top of my lungs. In front of all our friends.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why Did God Make This Place?

When I was growing up my father took us on a mandatory nature hike at Waubonsie State Park every spring and every fall. He insisted we go so that we could enjoy nature and take notice of the miraculous signs of spring as well as meditate on the stunning colors of autumn.

I acknowledge the wisdom in this tradition now as an adult. As a child and teenager, such thoughts completely escaped my reasoning. We lived in a very small town with a large span of empty land in our backyard. We worked in gardens, fruit trees, and farm fields all summer accompanied by bugs and noxious weeds and so I was confident we got plenty of nature. But whatever Dad said we did. And so we hiked at Waubonsie consistently to view the change of seasons.

After a few years of this practice, the walks became mundane and my sisters Jackie and Christine and I agreed we could handle something other than the routine stroll of the geriatric park visitors. We convinced Dad we should make our own path and explore the unmarked portions of the park. And surprisingly we also persuaded him to let us be the guides. However, Dad always followed at the back of the pack, presumably to make sure since he left home with five daughters, that he would return home with five daughters. I am certain he had promised Mom at least that much.

Many times my younger sisters Michelle and Kim were helplessly victim to the adventure seeking older sisters. One fall we were on our biannual hike and had gotten severely off course. Much more so than any hikes previous to this one. Our trek had turned out to be longer than expected. By late afternoon, our packed lunches had been devoured hours ago and were nothing but a distant memory in our minds and stomachs.

Finally , we came around a knoll and found a rather steep, mangled hill that we soon realized would lead back to the main trail close to the entrance of the park. We quickly decided we had been gone long enough and we would make the now recognizable return via the direction the crow flies. As in straight up the hill. A task simple enough for a crow, but not so for five young girls. Our steep ascent was complicated by sticker bushes, slippery piles of fallen leaves and branches that although were pushed aside by the person in front of you, would mercilessly snap back in place just as your unsuspecting face passed by. In this manner we made the hairy climb. Finally at one point my youngest sister Kim, who was only five or six at the time, stopped and turned to Dad. Tired, hungry and nearly beaten she implored, “Why did God make this place?”

As I watch the news and read the newspaper, and especially today, on a day set aside for remembering the victims of the Holocaust, I can’t help but wonder as my sister did, “Why did God make this place?”

But as the thought is verbalized in my mind, I quickly know the answer. Just like the hill at Waubonsie State Park, this world was formed because it adds a measure of beauty and joy to our lives and the experiences and trials we are facing will make our final welcome home a sweet and worthwhile one. These trials are ours, and allowed to be so by a loving Heavenly Father.

And when those branches keep slapping my unsuspecting face, I try to keep my sights on the safe passage just over the rugged hill. All the while I am fully aware that I would not be truly happy forced to follow a predetermined path. And though at times my trials seem so impossibly difficult, I am reassured to know someone bigger and all-knowing is watching over me to eventually bring me safely home.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Dutiful Moment in Time

Friday evening D2 and D2's friend joined DH and I in the kitchen. We were enjoying plenty of conversation and cookies when, all of a sudden, D2’s friend stood up and without saying a word, walked to the front door. The rest of us quieted and DH asked our neighbor what she was doing.

D2 explained on her suddenly mute friend's behalf, “She has to be home at ten P.M. and it is nine fifty-nine.” We glanced at the clock and sure enough the big hand was almost to the twelve and the little hand was on the ten. Following the brief and apparently accurate explanation, her friend proceeded out the door.

DH and I were left in a bit of a stupor. Since when are third graders that responsible? And since when are second graders able to tell time with such precision?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Hanging On Until Independence Day

As a parent, it is part of my calling to foster independence in my children. I hope my offspring catch on, because I plan on showing them to the front door on their 19th birthday, and will bade them farewell with only a suitcase and a kiss. However, there are moments when I fear my plan may be jeopardized and that my children may never provide me the crowning glory of an empty-nester. Their blatant lack of self sufficiency becomes apparent at the oddest times, like when I make a call for hangers.

A call for hangers is what I do when the laundry room is void of hangers, yet crowded with clothing. So I make a house wide request for all hangers to be brought to me. Then S1-D2 quickly scatter and collect every single empty hanger from their closets, floors, drawers, and under their beds.

The other day I was in such a need and so I made the call for hangers. D1 and D2 brought in a few and then S1 and S2 came upstairs with hangers. Lots of them. Hangers slung on their fingers and indenting their thumbs. Hangers suspended from their arms and even sagging on their t-shirts. It was quite a sight - their plethora of hangers.

As the boys stood at the entrance to the laundry room, S2 looked at me shaking his head in disappointment. And as he tried to raise his weighted arms, he chastised, “Mom, don’t you think you should have made a call for hangers a long time ago?”

It is clear that if I expect S2 to be accountable for his food, shelter, clothing and medical expenses in seven short years, I’ve got my work cut out for me. Because right now, he won’t even accept responsibility for his own jumble of hangers.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Hey, Jen, Mi Casa es Su Casa

I have a confession. I am a diehard American Idol fan. As that makes me only one of over 30 million people, in this regard I am not very unique. But someone who is not so commonplace is Jennifer Lopez. In case you forgot to pay your cable bill, Ms. Lopez was the guest performer/mentor during Latin week on American Idol.

Supportive dialogue unfolded as J Lo coached the contestants, yet I am still reeling from her more personal confessions. For one, Jen disclosed that at her house they watch American Idol every week. Secondly, she professed her adoration for Beatboxer Blake Lewis. These revelations caught my attention because I had no idea that Jennifer Lopez and I had so much in common. Seriously, who knew? Just think about it. Every Tuesday and Wednesday when Jen and Marc are sitting on the couch with a bowl of popcorn viewing the American Idol gang, well so are DH and I! And when I am mesmerized during another one of Blake’s stellar performances, J Lo is swooning too.

It is just so surreal that she and I are so alike. Never in a million years would I have guessed it. But the secret is out, and our parallel lives are more than obvious. Seeing as we are practically sisters, I should give her a call this week ‘cause I’m certain she’ll want my banana bread recipe. And since we are so tight, maybe she can loan me that armful of silver bangles ‘cause dang they are hot!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Checking Account in Check

Despite the less than spring-like temperatures lately, I am convinced that spring is here. I’ve received confirmation as to the truth of this surmise based on the fact that most everything is growing. My sneezy nose and weepy eyes will attest to the fact that the pollen count is thickening. And S1 and S2 have been less than thrilled about the lawn mowing required since the grass is rising. But sprouting has occurred beyond the obvious springtime cues.

For example, D2’s unfinished homework pile is swelling. My restaurant accounting paperwork is mounting. The laundry pile is always flourishing. And since it’s been a few months since New Years Resolutions, although I've avoided obtaining actual proof, it's possible I may be thriving as well.

There is hardly anything around me that is not expanding. Except…unfortunately, despite the tulips planted by the front doors of the depository, and the cheesy Easter cut outs at the teller windows, my bank account seems to be oblivious to all hints that spring is here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Checkin’ Out DH

On Monday evenings we generally try to spend the evening as a family. Yesterday evening after dinner, I was temporarily delayed so S1-D3 proceeded downstairs with DH, who was in charge of family time. I joined them about ten minutes later, curious to see what DH had cooked up to entertain the children. Imagine my surprise, when upon entering the family room, all the eyes of my impressionable children were focused silently on the television, fully engrossed in World Series of Poker on ESPN. In case you are wondering what the big deal is, this was not at all what I would consider an appropriate family time activity. And DH knows that.

I quickly suspended the television power, and we redirected ourselves by playing Apples to Apples. If you are unfamiliar with this game, it is more family-oriented than poker as no gambling is involved. But more importantly, it can be played by anyone ages 7 to 70 without much adaptation (my favorite feature) and is over, as in start to finish, in about 15 minutes (DH’s favorite feature).

The game unfolds when, in an effort to secure the coveted green adjective cards, one red noun card is played per player, per round, in a hope that it will be chosen by whoever is “it” as the best match. At the end of the game, we each read the green adjective cards we accumulated, as they are supposed to provide insight into our personalities. DH won our game and as such had gathered five green cards. According to the game tradition, these cards indicated that DH was tall, skinny, hard, dangerous, and wonderful.

If you do not know DH personally, you may be wondering, if this accurately describes him, so let me help you out. Is DH tall? He is 6 foot 3 inches. Check. Skinny? In 1989 he used to weigh 185 pounds, so check. Hard? When we were dating he had bulging bicep muscles and a flat stomach, but now….Well, if hard-headed counts, then for sure, check. Is DH dangerous? He likes risk, which is why he drives fast, skis, scuba dives, and swims in rivers. All things a safe person like me disdains. Definitely check. And if you add all that up, somehow someone like me finds him to be completely wonderful, even though he watches poker with the children. So big check!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Donny Osmond is My American Idol

My mom’s little neighbor saw DH at one of our restaurants the other day. She tugged at her mother’s arm and said, “I know that guy from somewhere.” While pointing to DH, the 5-year old brunette continued, “I think he’s on American Idol.”

Well, in case you did not already know, DH is not nor has he ever been on American Idol. In fact he is not famous at all. No one in our family is famous. Infamous? Yeah, there’s a couple, but not famous. And we live in Utah so we rarely get to see famous people. Oh, I know Robert Redford supposedly lives 8 miles down the road from me. And while I’ve been to his resort many, many times for dinners, concerts, and parties, I have disappointingly never even caught a glimpse of his shoelace.

So I was caught completely off guard the other day when D2’s neighbor friend was talking about her other friend with a famous uncle. I questioned the neighbor friend and asked, “What is he famous for?” “I guess he’s a really good singer. But I don’t know ‘cause I’ve never heard him sing,” she diplomatically replied. “Hmmm,” I prodded, “But you’re sure he’s famous?” “My friend says her uncle is very famous,” she assured me. “His name is Donny Osmond,” then with a shoulder shrug and with both palms facing up, she looks directly at my stunned face, “I know, I’ve never heard of him either.”

Da….Wh….Ah….OH MY HECK!!!! I had no idea that D2’s friend was hangin’ at Donny Osmond’s niece's house! He’s not just famous, he’s dreamy. "Paper Roses", oh how I love paper roses. I never missed a single episode of Donny and Marie growing up. Of course the ultimate was his performance in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the DVD of which I own and watch in high definition on our 50” Sony purely for the astounding Biblical insight it provides.

It has been a couple days since D2’s friend broke me the news, but my stomach is still in knots. I’ve already decided I need to volunteer to be my neighbor girl’s full-time chauffeur for play dates and certainly all birthday parties. I’m thinking a birthday party at a famous person’s niece's house, would call for mandatory chaperoning, especially if the extended family is invited. And perhaps I could sneak off during Pin the Tail on the Donkey and see what old posters or purple socks are lurking in the basement. Oh, and my camera – I’ll definitely need that. Actually, maybe the Polaroid and a Sharpie, so Donny can autograph the birthday party photos. For D2’s friend, of course. Oooh, and I need some really good recording device so when he sings “Happy Birthday” I can capture the vocal and then I’ll sell it as an mp3 on iTunes. It is clear that I’ve got some planning to do.

You know, this is all really DH's fault. If only he had some kind of American Idol connection, I wouldn’t have to go to these great lengths just to stalk a celebrity.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

We Learned Much Things

If you were to objectively review any given day, you may be surprised at how much you learn in a brief 24 hour period. You may find, as my privately schooled friend (as in 4 years at a private high school and 4 years at a prestigious private university) said just yesterday evening, “We learned much things.”

And he is right. We all have learned much things. I learned much new things on Friday alone. A few are listed below:

1. Sleep apnea machines, while they should not be a laughing matter, can provide an excellent source of merriment. If you ever require the use of one, don’t be shy. Try it on and wear it when you sleep or even when you read or watch television. Oh, and be sure to opt for the jock strap/mouth closure accessory as well. I understand that it is an extra $26 well spent.

2. While some may believe it to only be an old wives’ tale, it truly is illegal to deface money. By doing so you could incur a fine and a 6 month prison sentence. I confirmed this when researching the penalties D2 may face if caught by the feds. She received a two dollar bill from Grandma for Easter. But since all her siblings received one as well, she wanted to make sure, if hers was misplaced, no one else could claim it as their own. A fine and six months in the clanker - isn't that a harsher punishment than most first time-offender drug dealers face?

3. Dog food is “not good for you, but is also not toxic.” I learned this little nugget after calling Utah Poison Control. I called the emergency number because D3 considers keeping the dog bowl behind closed pantry doors a terrible inconvenience. At the tender age of 10 months she has learned to watch for the moment someone leaves the pantry door slightly ajar and seize the opportunity for some snack time.

It’s surprising to realize the knowledge all around you, just for the taking. So as you go through your day, be sure to take notice of the much things you learn too.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Busier Than a One Armed Paperhanger

My father-in-law George called Thursday evening and when I asked how he was, he replied, “Busier than a one armed paperhanger.” In case you’ve never heard this phrase before, which could be possible if you’ve never met my father-in-law, but definitely not possible if you have, let me explain.

This expression is thought to have originated in Mississippi. I don’t know if they have a high percentage of single limbed people employed in the wallcovering business in that state. Perhaps there was just one particularly notable appendage-missing member of the paperhanger's guild that started the idea. Either way, someone obviously found non politically correct humor in how incredibly overloaded this poor contractor was. And so a phrase was coined.

The paperhanger response is just one of many great "Georgisms", as I affectionately like to call them. In case you never get the opportunity to meet George in person, here is some of what you’ll be missing:

“Smells worse than the south end of north bound sheep.” This can be used to describe a variety of situations from babies waddling in bad diapers to dinner cooking on the stove.

“Look! A rose between two thorns.” At first glance, not too unusual until you realize he is almost always using it to describe himself while seated between two women.

“More nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rockin' chairs." Most often this is used to aptly describe upcoming doctor and dental appointments.

“My you’re looking beautiful today.” Actually, a seemingly nice compliment if you disregard that he most often conveys the sentiment first thing in the morning, when he is talking to you over the phone. On the mornings I get those phone calls, you can be sure that I am not looking very beautiful, but, I probably am busier than a one armed paperhanger.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

My Albertsons Loves Me

Getting anything in the mail other than an account statement or credit card offer is rare. In our family, I've declared that all fake credit cards that appear in the mailbox belong to S2. He’s been collecting them for nearly two years and has a stack six inches tall. Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking and yes, I will be selling the collection on eBay to pay for his college. D2 gets all the stickers. While they are not as prolific as the fake credit cards, they are understandably more fun. We will not be able to sell them on eBay though because they have been put to good use all over bedroom furniture, kitchen appliances, car windows and my unsuspecting back. Be certain, that while S1 and D1 do not have any designated mail benefits, I am not playing favorites. These continual gifts bestowed by the mail lady are small tokens of compensation S2 and D2 receive for being the middle, oft-ignored children.

Needless to say whenever I receive real mail I get a little tipsy with excitement. Like yesterday when Albertsons wrote me. The letter was very grand indeed. It began by [thanking me] for being one of [their] very best customers. You know, I do patronize Albertsons grocery store regularly, and I spend more in a month than most people spend on their mortgage. The letter makes a surprising assumption though as it is hoped that [I] will continue to choose Albertsons for all of [my] shopping needs. While it could be possible, do I really look like I buy my shoes, makeup, clothing and furniture at Albertsons along with my groceries? The letter goes on to suggest that if [I] have any special requests…Hmmm… I’m guessing they are referring to things like vallet parking or radio stations – do you think they’d crank up the volume and blare Dr. Laura? …or just need assistance…Uh oh, busted! They’ve obviously noticed how unruly it is when I bring S1-D3 to the store with me.... I shouldn’t hesitate to give [them] a call...or time I visit.

Now that is dandy! So incredibly dandy, in fact, the letter is almost perfect. If only it had included one of those fake credit cards. Or some stickers.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Back in the Olden Days Before Will Smith Made Movies

Tuesday evening D1 came upstairs excitedly telling me about a television program she had just watched. “It was a TV show," she began, “with Will Smith.” Then she further clarified, “Back in the olden days before he made movies, he made a TV show.” And in mistaking my shock-induced silence for ignorance, she continued, “It was called The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

So as I sit here pondering this, I’m uneasy. How could my otherwise bright 12-year-old not know about the olden days? The real olden days. The days when children would dip candles and churn butter for chores. Girls always wore dresses and boys all wore suspenders. You attended the one-room school house for learnin’, and attended to 'business' in the one-seat outhouse. Pa drove the horse and wagon while ma, with her hair in a constant bun, held the baby. Those, without question, were the olden days.

Will Smith’s legendary television show was still gracing the airways in 1995. I’ll admit back then Martha Stewart was an icon, not an ex-con. However, I can not sit quietly while anyone calls the year Sheryl Crow won a Grammy for Best New Artist the olden days. In the year of the remarkable Super Bowl win performance of the Steve Young led 49ers, 32 cents stamps dotted first class mail and dot com companies dotted Silicon Valley. It was also the year 150 million of us watched O. J. Simpson’s not guilty verdict being read. Bill Clinton was playing President while Newt Gingrich was remaking America. Seal was singing Kiss from a Rose, and Tom Hanks held us in suspense on his ill-fated space mission.

We all remember it like yesterday, because it practically was yesterday! In less than two years Will Smith went from a Philly teen in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to Agent J in Men in Black. But apparently those were a ground breaking two years, as we managed to shake from the shackles of the olden days to finally emerge into modern day. And luckily for D1 and her iPod, instant messaging, and cell phone, we pulled it off. Perhaps it was even more miraculous than Tom Hanks safely returning from his Apollo 13 mission.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Knees, Noses, Legs and Fums

On the way home from school last week S2 asked, “Mom, is it fum or thumb?” D2 quickly answered, rolling her eyes at the fact that she needs to answer such simple questions for her older brother, “It’s fum. Duh!”

Speaking of fums, for two weeks DH has been complaining of a tender one. The accident occurred during some old man city league basketball tournament. This was not the first time DH has come home injured from playing basketball.

Once he hurt his knee. It was an intense injury and he eventually had to have the knee scoped. Following the procedure, as I was wheeling him out of the surgical center, DH started puking in an apparent poor reaction to the anesthesia. I really don’t like puke, nevertheless, I decided to bring DH home anyway. He convalesced for a week on the couch where he was miserable, I was bored, and the pain medication gave him nightmares of the Grim Reaper.

Interestingly, many of DH’s basketball injuries have turned out to be less significant than he would lead me to initially believe. One leg affliction was allegedly so intense, he had to be carried home by two large men who took him straight into our bedroom. A physical therapist was even called for an emergency in-home treatment. Somehow the next day DH was miraculously walking without even so much as a hint of a limp. When we were college students, DH came home from a late night scrimmage with what he insisted was a broken nose. We woke up sleeping S1, climbed in the car and rushed to the ER. After paying our $50 co-pay, they played with DH’s nose, x-rayed it and sent us on our way. No broken nose, just a broken budget for the month.

So a couple weeks ago when DH complained of a sore fum, I knew it was probably just a jam or a sprain. Even the swelling and deepening purple tinge didn’t sway my diagnosis. He must have felt that it was not too serious either, because DH played in two basketball games following the initial trauma. Naturally, I did not feel the least bit guilty making him haul a refrigerator into one of my grandpa’s rental properties over the weekend.

Monday afternoon, however, when he could take no more discomfort, DH went to the InstaCare. One hour and 30 minutes later, he came home with proof of a broken bone. Sporting a great sympathy-attracting cast that can only be removed for showering, he's been gathering compassion from everyone. According to the doctor, it is necessary for proper healing so instead of a bum fum, DH will have a plumb fum. He is not supposed to wrap the ace bandage that surrounds the cast too tight or he could end up with a numb fum. Frankly, when I see the doctor bill I’m certain I’ll find his dumb fum to be sum fum. And, as soon as his ball buddies come a callin’ I suspect his chum fum will become a gamesome fum.

Monday, April 2, 2007

“A Verbal Contract Isn't Worth the Paper It's Written On” (Samuel Goldwyn)

This weekend D1 and Friend of D1 decided to play a game with S2 and Friend of S2. This is a game they have played before. It involves D1 and her friend owning and operating a business establishment, a.k.a. a restaurant, and S2 and his friend patronizing said restaurant. Sounds simple enough.

However, far too many times the game has run afoul. Allegedly, D1 and her friend have laboriously created a four-page printed and bound menu, set out the table cloth and candles, donned aprons and prepared gourmet omelets, only to have S2 and his accomplice, in an act of reckless abandonment, give up in hunger, grab a microwaved pizza, and in bad faith, without notice of cancellation, leave minutes before they were to be seated at Le Gamblet (the official name of the swanky French bistro that occasionally occupies my Orem, Utah kitchen).

When called upon to judge, I am forced to recuse myself due to personal conflicts (namely being parent to both defendant and accuser). When pressed for a verdict, I must side with the defendants as case law has shown that without a contract, the girls have no recourse to recover damages. And so, too often, the boys exit freely without being found legally liable for any wrong doing.

It was S2 and his friend’s idea to play the game this time. But D1 and her sidekick were cautious. So, they presented the boys with The Contract which was to ensure completion of the game, referred to hereafter as “FOLLOW THE RULES!!!!!!!” and a form of payment, referred to hereafter as “the Keychain”. Here it is, in its entirety, exactly as I found it Sunday afternoon:

We agree to play a game with you that involves a restaurant. You can do whatever you want but Friend of S2 must give Friend of D1 the Keychain.

___________________ ____________________
Sign Here

Now D1 and her friend, as I mentioned, have been through this before and in addition to The Contract, also presented the boys with an addendum. It is as follows:

Now play talk will be involved. No laughing for any weird reason. FOLLOW THE RULES!!!!!!!

__________ _________
Initial Here

Surprisingly, both parties signed and initialed The Contract without seeking representation.

Happily, upon execution of The Contract neither party was found to be in breach of said contract at any time. The girls put on a fabulous meal, and the boys enjoyed their cheesy bacon omelets so much they even left a fifty-cent tip, along with said keychain.

Whether or not the girls will choose to adopt a set of bylaws for Le Gamblet and its future participants, is yet to be determined. However, if they don’t make it in the restaurant business, I’m confident they would do well to opt for law school.