Monday, December 22, 2008

Bad Bad Blogger--For Shame!

It's not like I never have time to blog. I've actually been off work all month with a dislocated shoulder. And my arm still works. So you'd think I could type just one or two little blogs. You'd think . . . I don't know what my problem is other than I'm just a major flake, OK? Anyway, here are some things I've learned in the last month since I've written.

*When you tell your husband you're done with your Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving, and then he looks at all the purchasing that is going in the Christmas column, you know you're doing a fair amount of impulse buying. Like a month's worth. And everyone's getting WAY too much for Christmas. And you're sort of in deep doo-doo. Yeah, that's me.

*A dislocated shoulder for five days (yes, I rock) hurts like hell. Lortab is good for lessening the pain and for getting off diet coke!! Yes, I'm off it after 25 years. And I owe it all to the lovely narcotic Lortab. Bless you! You eased my pain. As of this writing, I have not had caffeine, (well, OK, I've had some chocolate) since December 1, the same day I dislocated my shoulder trying to put up decorations. And I really don't miss it. I guess it is possible to improve your health a little at a time. Any ideas on how to get off the Lortab? HA! Just kidding.

*I think we underestimate the power of a good night's sleep. I've had sleep apnea for a couple of years now and just got diagnosed last month. Now that I am getting better sleep, everything is improving in my life. Lots of sleep is a beautiful thing.

*My girls can make more money babysitting than I can working in the public schools. All they do is babysit. I'm glad they can buy their own Christmas gifts since I've already exhausted that department. I'm proud of them for being good babysitters. Oh, and by the way, I used to make $1 an hour babysitting. And the kids I babysat were ROTTEN TO THE CORE! My mother made 25 cents an hour. And my daughters make wads of cash. Not fair that in one generation babysitting inflation has gone up 100 percent! My grandmother would tell me that life's just not fair, and that I shouldn't complain. She probably made 5 cents an hour! And she was probably just fine with that. Oh, the injustice of it all!

* My Christmas tree is gorgeous. It makes me happy. I will rip it down and trample it in another week, but for right now, it's just lovely.

I am loving reading A Christmas Carol. The language the message, the lessons are all so inspiring this time of year. I would like to take this opportunity to quote a passage that I find particulary moving. Scrooge and the ghost Marley are discussing Marley's demise because of his negligence of his "fellow-beings" AND Scrooge's imminent demise if he doesn't change his ways:

"But you were always a good man in business, Jacob," faltered Scrogge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground.

"At this time of the rolling year," the spectre said, "I suffer most. Why did I walk through the crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?"

Have a Merry Christmas, and may we all remember to be concerned with our "fellow-beings" who are in need every day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gratitude in Fractions

Life moves along whether you blog or not. So I'd better blog before I forget everything that is happening in my life. Of course my legions of followers will be upset if I neglect them too long.

Things to be grateful for today:

1. The school year is 1/3 over. The principal reminded us of this with cookies in the faculty room. I can't believe I've actually survived 60 days in the autistic unit. Only 120 more. I remain unscathed as of today, but who knows what could happen tomorrow.

2. My Christmas shopping is 2/3 done. Thanks to a day off a couple weeks ago and Darren's great gift ideas, we're well on our way to the finish line. That's a good feeling.

3. The sun has been shining 2/3 of the time. If there were a sun god I would worship him or her, because I hate life without it.

4. I have been working out three days a week at Curves which is 100 percent of my goal. Lesson learned: If I make smaller goals I can reach them. If I would have said 4 or 5 days a week, then I wouldn't be reaching my goal, and that would be another thing to fail at. Know what I mean?

5. My house is 1/2 clean. It will never be 100% clean, so I will take what I can get. Darren has been going crazy cleaning with our new Kirby vacuum. He's got to get his money's worth. Our carpets look better than they have for months.

6. The work week is 4/5 over. Who can't handle one measly Friday? What could possibly happen on Friday that could mess up my life? Hmmmmm. I don't want to find out.

7. Barack Obama is president-elect. Looking at the tears streaming down all those African American faces on national TV made me 100 percent proud to be an American. I am proud that America has looked beyond race and made the right choice. I am hopeful and excited for the future. I am intrigued by this intelligent, understanding man.

8. Sammie's play is over. Oklahoma was great succes! It was 50 percent wonderful, 50 percent a pain. But she made some great new friends, so I am 100 percent happy about that, and I know she is too.

And who ever said I was below average in math?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

One Party County

Yes, I live in the reddest county in Utah, if not the whole blasted USA. For many in my neighborhood, they've forgotten that we live in a democracy. That means, all you lovers of the constitution and American values and patriotism, that I don't have to VOTE HOW YOU VOTE. I can vote how I want, and you can't do a thing about it. I wouldn't think of trying to change your mindset, and I certianly would never rip down your McCain signs.


Yes, it's really cute to pull down my Obama/Biden lawn sign. Tee hee hee. You are so funny. What? You can't believe someone in your neighborhood who shares your religious values, does NOT share your political values? Or are you wondering do I really share your religious values? Am I going to corrupt your children at church with my liberal ideas? You can think whatever you think.

Remember when they read that statement at church two weeks ago about how political affilitation is a PERSONAL CHOICE and that our religion does NOT ENDORSE ANY SPECIFIC PARTY? Hmmmm..

I can't wait for this election to be over. I'm sick of feeling like a freak show at the circus because of my political choices.

Grow up people.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In Anticipation of my Five-Day Weekend

Now that I have a five-day weekend ahead of me, I can write a bit. That's right, I have off Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday! I am thrilled. And best of all, my birthday is tomorrow. Wasn't it sweet of the Alpine School District to give me my birthday off? I thought so.

I think I'll take the kids to Gardner Village tomorrow to see the witches. I've been wanting to go the past two weekends but it's been raining cats and dogs. Tomorrow is supposed to be glorious.

Today was a crazy day at school. Don't ask me how autistic kids know it's a three-day week instead of a five-day week, and so they need to fall apart on the last day of the three day week---but do they ever! It was a circus.

There was a lot of whining about not wanting to do spelling, PE and everything else. One boy cried for Mommy off and on. Some even broke down in tears over the fact that they didn't want to go to PE, and how mean the PE teacher is. One kid spent most of the day lying on the floor, refusing to get up and untying his shoes the minute I tied them. He found my marker hiding place, and now I've got to find of new one. He refused to go to the bathroom and then had an accident right before lunch, and when we tried to get him to go change instead of get in line for lunch, he pitched a fit, thinking he would have to miss lunch. So he went to lunch in a very bad way, and sicked us all out.

Toward the end of the day I didn't care if he was lying on the floor, if his shoes were untied or if he stole all my markers. I just wanted him to go home to his poor mother who has probably gone completely gray and senile because of him.

We had head bumps, pushing, slamming doors, throwing blocks and screaming and swearing, among other lovely situations. We had ketchup everywhere after lunch and filthy hands from playing with the rubber on the playground. We had to run extra laps because of not listening. Oh yeah, one kid got his head stuck in the back of a chair and we had to figure out how to get him out. He also refused to do his spelling, and missed recess because of it.

This is real life baby!

Some good things happened, too. I got some chocolates for my birthday. I got to check out a brand new book from the school library. I got to visit with some nice teachers during lunch. I got to pay $200 for a new retainer for Sammie. Oh wait, that's not on the good list. But it still happened. Yep, Sammie stepped on her retainer, and no amount of super glue could undo the damage. Way to go Sam! Oh, and Merry Christmas, too!

In other bad news, my cell phone went through the wash and is not very happy about it at all. It thinks every call is a roaming call, and is continually in "searching for service" mode. I will not mention how many of my other cell phones this has happened to because it speaks very poorly of my ability to care properly for them. And other things, unfortunately.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Month of Stuff

It's pathetic that I'm now blogging once a month. My life has changed so dramatically. I'm not sure if I like that I never sit down to blog anymore. I feel like a lot of my life is going unrecorded, and I definitely feel a void. Plus, I know the masses out there are SOOOO upset!

All in all, life is going well. My job is good and I am enjoying the great kids and teachers I get to work with every day. We now have a girl in our class with cerebral palsy and autism. She is in a wheelchair. It has been a challenge to get used to how to care for her.

Fall is beautiful and warm. We've had a string of drop-dead gorgeous days; one couldn't ask for better weather. I keep thinking it's going to end, but it doesn't. Each day competes with the next for most beautiful. I love fall.

Adrienne got asked to homecoming last weekend, by a guy she's been friends with for years. Now we begin the process of dress shopping, something I'm told could take weeks by friends who have done it before. Apparently finding the right dress for homecoming is akin to finding the right wedding dress. When I went to school dances in the 80s, I just put on one of my church dresses or bought a new church dress. We never wore formals and now I know why. Sheesh! Good thing I'm raking in the big bucks these days working for the Alpine School District! Whew!

I am disgusted at corporate CEOs who are profiting from the huge financial crisis. I am disgusted with their greed and lack of accountability. I am disgusted that my children will inherit the mess fueled by their greed and selfishness. I don't think anyone in government knows what to do about it, really. Not McCain, not Obama, and definitely not Sarah Palin, who probably thinks she can put on lipstick and kiss it all better with her pit bull/beauty queen lips.

Just a bit about Sarah Palin. She scares me in ways that I can't express. But here goes! With all her talk about family values, what she has done to her family in the last month is deplorable. She has hidden a pregnancy, hidden from her children that it would be a down syndrome baby, brought her pregnant teenage daughter into the media's unforgiving limelight, all while claiming that they are one big happy family!

A woman who would put her family under a microscope to try to assume a job that she is woefully unprepared for . . . I don't get that. Why would anybody do that to themselves? Why would anyone do that to their children? Why did John McCain ask her to be his running mate? Why did she say she didn't even hesitate to say yes when he asked her? She didn't even think? That is increasingly obvious. She can never undo the consequences of her decision NOT TO THINK! AUGH!!!!!

I get to go out with Mom and Lisa tonight. I'm excited.

We have an awesome new grocery store in town. I am thrilled. It is full of people who never shop at Wal-Mart. That is why I love it. There are no crabby mothers pushing around screaming kids yelling, "I told you I'd smack you if you didn't shut up!" and then whacking their kid. Not one is sight. Aren't I a snob? It's called Sunflower Farmer's Market. The reason I love it is because when I shop there I feel like I'm in Seattle or Virginia or some other cool place besides Utah. Any place that makes me feel cool in Utah, I like.

Darren and I saw Hale Center Theater's production of Aida last night. It was fantastic. We loved it. We are thinking about buying season tickets. It is lovely to be able to go out to the theater on the weekends! It's been many years since that's happened.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Steady Humming of Little (or not so) Mouths

Life has changed drastically for me over the past 10 days. I am happy to say that I like the changes, I like the pace, and I'm not slowly going insane like I thought I would being the "para educator aide" in an autistic class full of 7-9 year olds. But the first five days however, all I could think was "What have I done, what have I done?" I didn't necessarily want to undo it, but I wasn't sure I wanted to keep on doing it.

Along about Wednesday of last week Darren said, "So, I'm worried about you. You don't like this job like you did last year, I can tell." I have learned through trial and error that if I don't like my job I don't tell Darren. I pretend like I do. He will accuse me of never liking any job ever, and I didn't want that. So I told him all was well, that it was just the first week that was really hard, and that things would look up. Then I started praying they would. And they did. Thankfully.

I didn't get any bruises or scratches this week like some of the other teachers in the other classes did. I didn't have any kids throw themselves on the floor and kick and scream and refuse to participate like some other classes. I didn't have anyone run away.

I did chase one wild boy all around in order to get him to sit down, and now I don't need to do any exercise at all this week. Phew! I did get my elbow fondled by another boy, which was the strangest experience ever. He kind of went slack-jawed and all glassy-eyed as he stroked the rough spots. While this was happening, the teacher started laughing and said, "He does that to me all the time!" I was deflated and a bit jealous. I thought my elbows must have been something extraordinary. I guess not.

Other highlights of the first days of school:

* Getting hit in the head--hard--with a basketball and feeling a bit lightheaded.

* Watching Meaghan pick out every single gosh-darned crunch berry out of her crunch berry ceral and getting screamed at because I poured the milk on before they were all off.

*Groveling to the lunch ladies for extra french toast for Toby. I was told he'd have to pay for an entire other breakfast, but that couldn't he have some fruit or yogurt to fill him up? Lunch ladies don't budge, from their hairnets to their toes. That's what I learned. Yessiree.

*Realizing that my brain CAN function in the morning if I coax it a bit. This was a lovely revelation, because for many years, I have truly believed that my morningitis was a degenerative condition. The good news! I can change.

*Everybody, regardless of age or station should have a MANDATORY ten-minute relaxation after lunch where they are forced to be quiet, close their eyes and listen to nice music.

Today I have been married 20 years! For 20 years Darren has put up with me. We promised to always drive each other crazy and we have done exactly what we promised. We have both fulfilled our marriage vows and then some. I got some chocolate covered cinnamon bears from the BYU Bookstore (divine!) and some Burt's Bees Foot Cream. That was a major hint on his part that my feel need a little TLC. Love you sweetie!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Back to School or Baby that was Short

It has not been a great summer of posting. I seem to have hit a writing slump, and I have slumped down pretty far. But I'm hoping to pull myself out of whatever funk I've slipped into in and start producing again. I know my fans are heartbroken that they haven't heard from me for so long. Tee hee.

SO . . . How's your summer? Mine seems like the shortest on record. Every year I say that but this year . . .phew! Maybe it's because things have chnaged and I'm actually going back to school this year with the kids instead of staying home while they go back. Yes, I must say that my life is about to change in a big way.

No, not the master's degree thing. That's still a big old maybe. The teaching thing. At Foothill Elementary from 8-2 every day. I will be an autism aide for six hours a day!! I don't know if I am up for this, but here goes. I have a senior in high school and college tuition looming for her next fall and several expensive (just look at the weak dollar!) months in Europe next summer. I need to work. Plus Darren says I am much happier and spend less money when I work. If I'm at work, I'm not shopping. Funny how that works. I always said he was brilliant!

Did I just write that my daughter's starting her senior year? This is mind boggling, absolutely terrifying to think that that wailing red little human(Sorry Adrie) will be living next fall in a dorm with friends and not under my roof. I feel like I have been smacked across the face. I am stunned and I feel like crying. Seventeen years has passed way too quickly. When she was baby I was in a time warp. Time never seemed to pass. Then all of the sudden . . . . .she's even more beautiful than I ever thought, and I love her more than I ever thought.

So things are different this year, and there is a lot to do to get ready. We had a fantastic vacation up at the cabin, probably the best ever, and made many lovely memories. Now it's time for reality to hit. Four kids and me have to be ready to go to school on Monday the 18th. That's in a week. Darren has to go to his school, too, but I'm gonna let him get ready himself, thank you.

I am so done with all three girl's birthdays. Three in one month is a killer financially and otherwise. Sammie's was on Aug 7 and we had a big family dinner for her a few days before that. Before we went to the cabin she got a cell phone. This was a big deal! It's lime green and has keyboard for texting. She was thrilled. She wanted to get pastries at Gloria's Little Italy on her birthday and so we went. Chocolate cannoli, anyone?

The day before I took her school shopping. This included a new pair of glasses, two new pairs of shoes, two pairs of levis and assorted shirts. This also included a break at the Nordstrom cafe which kept us going even longer. It's not "shop til you drop." On this particular day it was "shop until you are comatose, and then go home and fix dinner." The next day she got her hair cut and needed various styling "products."

Sheesh. And that day was also junior high registration. Double sheesh. Not cheap in the land of many children per family school district. And that was just one kid!!!!!!

Darren made her make salsa with him and work in the garden because of all these extravagances. How can junior high registration be an extravagance? Hang on, honey, high school registration is next week. They will probably make us pay more for the privilege of being a senior and because the school is being rebuilt. Go Orem High Tigers!

Top ten things to do before next Monday at 8 am.

1. Buy food for lunches. Good food, the kids said, not carrot sticks and yogurt. Good food to them means Zingers and Pringles. I haven't bought Zingers since my senior year in high school. That was the same year my friend Chris Tebben bought a coke and candy bar every day for lunch when her Mom thought she was buying school lunch.

2. Get Nathan's hair cut whether or not he's kicking or screaming.

3. Do all the laundry so that it won't pile up more than three feet that first week of school.

4. Put up my PTA bulletin board at Cascade before back to school night.

5. Lose 10 pounds by Friday night so I can get into my swimming suit for the ward swim party.

6. Find Nathan a guitar teacher. Any suggestions?

7. Sign Leah up for BYU creative dance.

8. Celebrate my 20-year wedding anniversary!I made it 20 years, but I don't know if Darren has or not. I'll let you know on that one . . .

9. Go to back to school night and pretend that my son's teacher isn't the same teacher that drove us all insane with ridiculous homework when Sammie had him.

10. Make everyone lay out their clothes on Sunday night, except for the teenage girls who will try on 20 different shirts Monday morning, leave them ALL on the floor as they leave claiming they have NOTHING TO WEAR! I will find many of these shirts, perfectly clean, but now wrinkled, in the wash a few days later. I know they will do this because it's in their genes (not jeans!)

Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Goin' to the Cabin

Tomorrow I'm going to the cabin in Montanta. I've been going there since I was a wee babe in arms. I've taken my own kids when they were babes in arms. Now they're no longer wailing babies whose nighttime crying echo through the uninsulated cabin at 2 am to keep the relatives awake.

Now they just scream. Usually for joy. They scream because they're at the cabin, because they're playing Pit on the porch, because they caught a fish (keep your fingers crossed) or because they're jumping off the end of the pier into the frigid lake. They're screaming because they're being towed behind a boat on an enormous floaty thing with their cousins.

They might wail a bit when I'm trying to get a palmful of slivers out with my tweezers or, heaven forbid, needle. They might complain when it's their turn to "do the dishes" without a garbage disposal or a dishwasher. Or when it's their turn to set the table for 14 people next weekebd when all the family will arrive for a little reunion. Or when it's time to clean the cabin and go home there will definitely be protests.

But these are the cries of kids living life and having fun. I prefer these cries to inconsolable babies in the middle of the night. You could say my cabin ship has come in. I've been waiting for lots of years for the kids to be manageable and self-sufficient at the cabin. And this year it might be the magical one, the one where I get to do want I want. I might be able to sit at the beach for several hours without having to get up to take care of anybody. I might get to read on the beach--something I haven't done for 15 years.

I will teach my kids that rather than walk all the way up the hill to the cabin to use the bathroom, to do what I used to do--walk out into the lake. If they refuse they can walk up to the cabin by themselves!!! Hooray.

When I want to read on the porch swing in the afternoon, they can join me to read together or they can go do something else for a while. Guess what? Nothing will happen if I ignore them. Yee haw!

I will miss a few things. Snuggling with babies in fuzzy sleepers in the warm cabin beds. Watching their toddler faces consort with fear and excitement when they see the bearskin hanging on the cabin wall. Watching them put sand in their mouths at the beach and then scream when it tastes horrible. Watching them go back and forth in the wooden swing that latches onto the beam on the porch. Seeing them in the high chair that me, my siblings and all my cousins used as babies.

But I'm ready to move on to this exctiing phase. I don't think I'd go back if I could.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Last Weekend's Great Blog Material

"Oh, Ellen, that's great blog material," my mom told me after I'd described the events of the past few days. Indeed I had to agree, that the only thing good that came out of last Friday and Saturday was the hopefully good story it would make in writing or telling. Oh, and the 70s TV reminiscing around the campfire was a definite plus.

OK, you've all heard of youth conference. It's where youth leaders from church spend weeks organizing food, shelter and bathrooms for 25 teenagers. For one night away they pack 17 coolers full of stuff for dinner, breakfast, snacks and other essential equipment. Actually they didn't have to bring the port o potty. It was delivered for a pretty sum, the bishop told me when I was in the throes of wishing I were dead.

I didn't have to do much for youth conference. Just show up with Adrienne at this cool ranch house in Heber, Utah, for the festivities. I arrived just as they were serving taco salad for dinner. I had a reasonable amount of taco salad, and then the girls and I set up our enormous tent. We argued about whether to put the rain flap on, but decided to leave it be.

The speaker (a former Eastern-Euopean biathalon Olympic gold-medal winner, recently joined the LDS church and moved to Heber Utah) was inspiring and mesmerizing to listen to. She brought her Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals to show us, but those stayed in the box for most of her talk. The things that were most dear to her were church and family. The gold medals were kind of an afterthought. Even the 12-year old boys were quiet for this story.

Around the campfire the over 40 leaders and I had a great time thinking of all the theme songs we remembered--"Beverly Hillbillies," "Genie," and "The Partridge Family." We laughed and laughed and ate s'mores. I ate one, a reasonable amount considering that at one point 16-year old Tyler G. had fourteen marshmallows stuck in his mouth. He didn't spit them all out, either. Probably 10 of them went down all at once. Typical youth group disgusting stuff.

Bedtime came. I settled on an air mattress next to Sammie and Adrie. Managed to fall asleep. About 2 in the morning I awoke suddenly. My stomach was grumbling, and I felt queasy. In the tent next to us 16-year olds Stephanie and Rachel were telling each other their life stories--loudly! We yelled and them to stop and they'd hush for a few minutes, and then gradually put more drama(and volume)into their voices. It was impossible to sleep, and my stomach was not cooperating.

I thought maybe if I used the port 0 potty I'd feel better. It was a reasonable assumption. So I found my flashlight, put on my shoes (but didn't tie the laces--this is important!) and unzipped the tent. I started to make my way across the meadow through all this brush. I wondered why we were were camped so far away from the potty. There was a dry stream bed that you had to jump over, and I did so but not well. That darn shoe lace tripped me and I smacked down hard on my left shoulder on a giant rock.

So now I was lying on a rock at 2 or 3 in the morning feeling like my arm was broken, and really needing to use the bathroom. I pushed myself up with my right arm, and climbed out of the dry creek bed, a bit dizzy and disoriented. My left arm would not move.

I stumbled into the port o potty and managed to do my business. But then couldn't pull my pants up because my left arm was throbbing. I pulled my pants up on the right side and got into the car. I scootched around on the seat until my pants were up. Then I started praying for my throbbing arm and queasy stomach. I knew I needed help.

I woke up Jared and Amy Hess who were sleeping in the back of the truck near my car. They got a chair for me to sit down in. Jared went to get the bishop and his wife. They stumbled onto the scene, and asked me what happened. I said I needed a blessing, that my arm woudln't move. They gave me a blessing and then drove me to Heber Valley Hospital where I threw up for 10 minutes in the bushes after the car stopped.

In the emergency room I was required to lie flat on my back so they could ex-ray my arm. I prayed the whole time that my stomach would settle enough so I could get the ex-rays. At one point the bishop's wife, Cynthia, had to take my bra off because the metal was interfering with the imaging. SO there was poor Cynthia walking around the hopsital with my bra. I took deep breaths as they stretched my arm backwards ever so slowly to get the right picture.

My arm was not broken. It was deeply bruised, the doctor said. I could move it better now. Back in the car. Back to winding roads. Back to upset stomach. A minute before we got back I asked the bishop to pull over so I could throw up. Which I did. It was now 5:30 in the morning, and the bishop and Cynthia went back to bed.

I stayed in the car, wishing I could die. The stomach pain was unbearable. It reminded me of being in labor, except that when you're in labor the contractions stop and you can catch your breath. These pains were like going through transition in labor with no stop.

And it's not like I could go sit on the port 0 potty, either. And there was no where to lie down. It was hellish.

After writhing around in the car for an hour, I finally called Darren. "Come get me!" I begged. "I feel like I want to die."

Forty-five minutes later he pulled in, my knight in shining armour who was less than amused by the whole situation. The first thing he told me was that I wasn't going to girl's camp in two weeks and that I was never going camping again without him. Those of you who know Darren, know that he says things as they are.

We stopped in Heber for some Pepto Bismal which helped me get down the canyon. Darren also bought a bagel sandwich that made me sick to look at. Darren had me down the canyon in about 25 minutes. I collapsed in my bed but not to sleep. I endured about 8 more hours of steady pain. The only time I felt a little better was when I stood in the shower, which I did several times for 45 minutes. Darren called the on-call doctor who said I was probably having a gall bladder attack. He was about to take me to the emergency room again, when all of the sudden the pain let up a bit. Just a bit. Enough for me to collapse in exhaustion for about six hours of fitful sleep.

At 6 pm I emerged from my room, happy that I was alive and that the pain was gone.

Since then I have not had another attack but there is a 70 percent chance that I will. I have given up all fatty foods because that is what triggers an attack.

At my annual physical on Tuesday (just happened to have it scheduled), the blood they drew showed that something wasn't functioning optimally with my liver, and that probably means that I really am having gall bladder problems. Thanks for the stamp of approval, doctor's office. I also had a bladder infection.

So on Monday bright and early I go get an ultrasound so they can look at my gall bladder. Whether it's just irritated or has a string of stones in it remains to be seen. Whatever the result, I am probably headed for surgery if I want to avoid another attack.

So that was my weekend. How was yours?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Have New Counters and a New Sink!

No, I will not be scrubbing the white formica into my old age as I predicted. I will not be scrubbing ever again, because my new high definition laminate is so incredibly stain-resistant and non-porous, not to mention fleckled and grantite-looking, that no strawberry juice will ever be able to weasel its way into the surface to cause any sort of stain whatsoever! And my inegrated sink is so incredible lovely, who would have thught a sink could be lovely. But it is. And I love the little spray thing that comes out of the actual faucet.

And no more orange, faded fakey-wood ugly cabiets. They are painted white, and look fresh and brand-new. I am thrilled. I have waited nine years for this moment. I actually enjoy cleaning up after dinner and cooking is fun when one doesn't have to worry about staining the counters.

Thanks to the US Congress for the economic stimulus check that made this home improvement possible. We have done our part to stimulate the economy and then some.

Thanks to Darren for spearheading the cupboard-painting project. It was a big deal! And a huge improvement! He will no longer have to listen to me saying that I want to paint the cupboards and get new counters. He can listen to me say that we should start thinking about the floor . . . so in another nine years . . .

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Not Again Nathan

I had just locked the bathroom door behind me when Adrie screamed up the stairs, "Mom, Nathan's hurt bad--COME QUICK!" I finished as fast as humanly possible and ran up the street to where the neighborhood soccer game was going on.

Darren was at a conference in Washington, D.C. This was all mine.

Nathan was lying on the grass with a bunch of kids hovering over him. My neighbor, Alex, had a towel wrapped around his leg. Adrie whispered, "Mom don't freak out" as Alex moved the towel aside quickly to reveal the most hideous gash I had ever seen. Two of Nathan's buddies stood around with gaping mouths looking from me to Nathan anxiously. Nathan's knee was split six inches across, clear to the bone.

"What did you hit, Nathan?" I asked. Nathan moaned.

"We think the sprinkler head," Alex said. "But we're not sure."

"He must have been going 100 miles an hour," I told Alex.

"I was sliding to get a goal," Nathan choked. Ahhh. The all-important goal. Something to risk life and limb over. Literally. I hated all sports at that moment.

I managed not to react, but mustered up all the serenity I knew I had hiding somewhere. We called the neighbor over, Jeff, and his wife, Debbie, who is a nurse. "He needs to go to the emergency room right now," Debbie said calmly after a small glance underneath the towel. Jeff and his son Mark loaded Nathan onto my lap into Alex's back seat and I cradled his head and told him stories in the back seat as we drove to the ER.

In the ER we were first among all the other patients after the nurse looked at his leg. They made him stand on the scale even though I told the nurse exactly how much he weighed. I couldn't believe how slow it was to get checked in.

The worst part was the multiple shots into the open wound to deaden it. He was amazingly brave and strong during the ordeal. He would squeeze my hand when a shot went in and grab my head. When the pain dissipated for a minute, he would relax and wipe away the tears. I was it at that moment. His only comfort.

Then came irrigation of the wound. The nurse washed out a tons of grass and dirt with warm water that Nathan said felt really good. He managed to let a small smile escape.

Grandpa Greg and Uncle Alan showed up to give comfort and a blessing. Thank you both.

Then came stitches. The doctor thought it would take 20 minutes. It took nearly an hour. He did the under layer first with the self-dissolving kind. Then the top, which took nearly 30 to get the wound closed. When finished it looked like a baseball. Then ex-rays to make sure it wasn't broken. Then a tetanus shot. Then a knee immobilizer so he can't bend his leg.

Speaking of baseball, Nathan's out for the season. Sound familiar? He can't bend his knee for five days or the stitches could pop out. We are trying to find ways to entertain him.

Just Monday he was at the pool with his two soccer buddies, jumping off the diving board and going down the slide.

That's out for a month.

UGGGHHHH! I don't know if I can take it for the third time in nine months.

We clean the wound, change the dressing and slather it with antibiotic ointment three to four times a day. We take Tylenol with codeine for the pain. We are grateful to live in the era of TV, DVDs, game cube, computer games and board games.

We're grateful he didn't sever any tendons and need surgery. He has escaped surgery several times in the past nine months.

I am wondering how to build a bubble around my accident-prone, super-competitive son, to protect him from himself. Or to at least give the neighbors a break.

Jeff, my neighbor, called later to see how Nathan was doing. He said he's had five boys, hundreds of stitches, and too many trips to the ER to count. "It's just boys," he tries to reassure me.

Darren and I are not so sure. We think he needs to chill out when he's playing sports. Especially when it's just on someone's front lawn. He plays everything like it's the finals in a tournament!

"That's one tough kid you've got there," Jeff said. From how the past year has gone, he's going to need to be tough.

Later I remembered my Dad and his multiple scars. He had a smiley-face scar on his knee as well, and when he was entertaining kids, he used to love to pull up his pants and move the scar around and pretend it was talking! I wish I could remember now the story of how he got it. I probably heard it a hundred times.

It was eerily similar to Nathan's!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Baby A and Baby B are Born!

The miracle of birth has blessed our family. Check out this amazing photo show that will warm your heart.

Monday June 2 was a grueling day for the Kim and Alan Hawkins family and the Grandma Rene and Grandpa Greg Hawkins family. The Ellen and Darren Hawkins family were also worried and a bit stressed toward the end of an unfairly long labor. We kept getting texts all day long that would lead us to believe that Baby A and Baby B were going to make their way into the world soon. Then we wouldn't hear back forever. Of course we imagined the best and the worst off and on all day.

At 9 pm after about 24 hours into Kim's labor we started imagining the worst. While Darren was wondering why his tomato plants seemed sick and was consulting an online website and Nathan was working on his cub scout merit badge, Adrie, Sammie, Leah and I were climbing the walls. At one point I yelled, "How can you care about something so insignificant as tomato plants when those babies haven't come yet?"

"Settle down!" he told me.

"But you've never felt what that feels like physically!"

"Yes, but I was there with you. Will you take these tomato leaves into the nursery tomorrow and ask the guy what's wrong with them?"

It would be my greatest pleasure.

We got a call about 15 minutes later. Both babies were born, 7 minutes apart. Both were OK. But the seven minutes in between their births were minutes that Kim and Alan would like to soon forget.

Cheers erupted.

Baby A came out as planned, looking well and breathing well. But Baby B was coming out legs first, breech! While the doctor pulled on Baby Bs little legs four strong people were pushing on Kim from on top in strategic locations. It was excruciating despite the massive epidural block pumping it's soothing magic into Kim. They were minutes away from a C section if baby B didn't get out soon. The pushing and pulling continued. Right when they were about to do a C section, the doctor felt the tightness dissipate, and they gave a huge heave from on top and Baby B came out blue and not breathing.

They whisked her away and worked on her for several minutes before she sputtered and cried, flooding Kim and Alan with blessed relief.

And then yesterday, these perfect, dark-haired pink bundles came home from the hospital to three sisters and a brother who had long been waiting to meet Baby A--Lauren Elizabeth, and Baby B--Olivia Diane. Olivia's little legs are bruised quite badly from being pulled on, but both babies are amazingly perfect and gorgeous.

Welcome to the world, Lauren and Olivia.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

School's Out

Another school year has whizzed by, except for April when it was never nice weather and I didn't like that and was mostly grumpy. Sorry for all who have to deal with me daily. It's the weather's fault!

Adrie took two AP tests a couple weeks ago, and hopefully passed. I personally think they're overrated. But she's taking three next year. Sheesh! We celebrated by taking her and a couple of friends to this awesome new Italian place in downtown Provo. She's got great friends. I am very happy about that. Now she's onto lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons. She wants to do this 40 hours a week.

Sammie is volunteering helping kids learn art this summer, babysitting, going to girls camp, and attending an acting camp. She might fit group piano in there somewhere.

Nathan is doing soccer camp in June and not much in July. He's playing little league baseball until the end of June. Go Red Sox. His fielding is great, and his batting's improving. I will try to get him into some swim lessons. He hates swimming. My goal is to get him through the summer without hurting his ankle!

Leah had a fantastic clogging recital last week. She shined! She starts swim lessons tomorrow. Later in June she has an art camp (the same one that Sammie's volunteering with) and a cheer camp at BYU. I know cheer camp sounds horrible. But it's mostly tumbling and dancing. And she loves that. She may come attend an occasional clogging class.

My sister's gonna be here in three weeks or less! Yeah.

My sister in law's gonna deliver twins any second now. Exciting.

Two sister in laws will be here later in the month.

My brother Mark and sister in law Ginger started a blog. If you love plants and boating and Seattle and interesting things about home repair and landscaping you'll love what they have to say.

Happy June. One of my most favoritest months of the year.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On Writing

A member of my family tells me (and she shall remain nameless) that she doesn't like my blogs that air my dirty laundry. "How can you say such personal things for the whole world to read?" she asks. Her definition of dirty laundry and mine are not remotely in the same universe.

In response to this family member, I tell her that there are only about 5 people who read my blog and that doesn't constitute the whole world. Then I tell her that compared to some blogs, I barely scratch the tiniest surface of "personal." So I wrote that I gained tons of weight when pregnant in a previous blog. That's a fact that stares me down on a daily basis. It's obvious. Believe me, I'd change the reflection if I had the dedication.

But today I need to write about writing. Writing is hard. I'm feeling that writing for publication is high near impossible. Reach for the stars, people say. Live your dreams. At the rate I'm going, I'll reach my dream when I'm 70, with not many years left to enjoy it. Published authors will tell aspiring authors that if they don't enjoy the writing process then the end result isn't worth it. But is the process supposed to take most of your life and nearly all your emotional energy? And what if in my aged state I have to read my published novel with a magnifying glass? I guess I wouldn't be the first.

The problem is this: I don't know if I'm willing to dedicate that much energy to maybe realize a goal later in life. On the other hand, something could happen next year and I'd be so glad I held on. Patience has never been one of my virtues. How I wish it were. I think how so many things would have turned out a little bit better. In other words I want the prize without working up too much of a sweat.

Yes, I got a rejection letter today. It was formal and polite, the way rejection letters are. It did mention the name of my novel, so I knew that it wasn't a form letter. It was nice to see someone else write the name of my novel instead of me. That means it exists; it lives. I gave it life. Do I continue to try to keep it alive?

Here is why novel writing may not be a suitable fit for me. Writing is a solitary job. I am not a solitary person. Writing demands the ability to pick yourself up and try again. And again. And again. I tend to want to stay on the ground when I'm down. Writing requires sacrifice of personal life and time with loved ones. I don't know if I could bear to neglect my family as it would fill me with enormous guilt, or if they could bear to be neglected. Even if it meant I was living my dream.

Here's why novel writing is a suitable fit for me. When I am writing I sometimes feel as if I am flying through the sky without a hint of fatigue. When I write something it is permanent. Nothing can take it away from me, short of a major computer catasrophe. I want to do something for others that has brought me such incredible pleasure and happiness in my life--write something that is worthy for someone to read.

So I will blog my little heart out, and feel a surge of satisfaction everytime I click on the publish button.

If only book publishing were so simple.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Throwing a Frisbee in Class

really by Nathan Hawkins, written for the Hawkins Herald, our family newsletter. Only typed by his mother, Ellen.

Throwing a Frisbee in Class

I always get in trouble in inside recess. I don't mean to, but you have all this energy and ther is nothing to do inside. So one day on inside recess a kid in my class named Jake brought a football into class. And people started playing do I joined in.

I new I shouldn't of but it's so temting. And on my first throw I threw the football and it hit a girl in the head. Right then I knew I was in big trouble. So I went to the bathroom. Our teacher (Ms. Wells) wasn't in the classroom but I knew I would be in big trouble because we have the worst tattletales in our class. So I knew I was dead meat.

I spent along time in the bathroom but I knew once people told our teacher would send out a search party to find me. We always had search parties when someone was out of the classroom. And when we were in trouble you had someone come with you and make sure you don't run away. Any way I decided to go back to class. And sure enough she was arranging a search party. And I had to pull my card.

And Alex the kid who told on me came with me to the first grade to make sure I didn't run away when I got to first grade. I had to right a letter to the girl I hit with the football. It went something like this:I'm sorry I hit you with the football. It was an accident. I hope you feel better. From Nathan.

And the other time I got in trouble I was throwing a frisbee and I had to write a 1 page essary on why throwing a frisbee in class is unexeptable. I think I've learned my lesson.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why it is Inappropriate to Throw Frisbees in the Classroom


by Nathan Hawkins, fourth grader

I am writing this paper (in cursive) because I was throwing Frisbees in the classroom at lunch recess.

You see, it was pouring rain outside and the principal said it was an inside day. I hate inside days because then I have to sit quietly at my desk instead of play basketball, football, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, four square and kick ball outside. Just because it was raining I don 't know why we can't play outside. It's just a little water. And the problem is that I just have all this energy, and it is torture for me to sit still when I could be running around.

I only have to write a one-page essay. Scott, Brandon and Jeremy have to write a two-page essay because they threw it five minutes more than me and I only threw it three times. After I threw the Frisbee three times I sat down at my desk and read The Battle of the Labyrinth because I knew I would get in trouble from our substitute Mrs. Felberg. I am trying to finish this book because all my friends are jealous that I have it and want to read it after me. My Dad bought it for me in hardback because he's trying to get me to read instead of play sports and break my ankle again and not play game cube all the time.

So this is why it is inappropriate to throw Frisbees in the classroom.

1. Cause you could hit somebody and hurt them. I should have learned this lesson. Last December I accidentally hit Jessica in the head with the football on an inside day and Ms. Wells pulled all my cards and I had to do a whole bunch of stuff like go see the principal. I went to see the principal but she wasn't there. Whew!

2. Cause someone might be trying to read and that would disturb them.

3. Cause it is against school rules and we should obey school rules.

This is now almost one page. I am sorry that I didn't obey. And if I tell my Mom about this paper she's gonna blog it across the whole world. But if I don't tell her about it she will find out anyway cause she's the Duty Guard and she walked in the classroom and saw me throwing the Frisbee.

She will think it's great blog material. I think this is totally humiliating.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Full (OF IT) Professor

I'm going to have a lot of fun with this post today. I hope I can honor my husband's significant achievement without becoming too irreverent.

My dear huband is now a full professor. He isn't half full or partially full or associate full or assistant full, he is a totally FULL PROFESSOR. This means he is full to the brim, fully loaded, full of vast stores of information about human rights and international relations that the average joe will never know. This means he can speak in another language at academic gatherings with other people who are equally FULL, and where I just smile and look cute when his colleagues ask me what I got my Phd in.

"I got my PHd in human reproduction," I'd tell them. "My specialty is conceiving on the first try with a sub specialty in always being overdue during the most sweltering summers and with a sub-sub specialty on gaining enormous amounts of weight with a sub-sub-sub specialty on being incredibly hormonal and irritable during the whole thing."

Before I got smart I used to tell them about my lowly bacehelor's degree, because I wanted them to know I could do something other than get pregnant multiple times. I wanted them to know that my brains worked as well as my ovaries. Or that they were at least in the running.

But then I realized that to these academicians, a bachelor's degree is akin to graduating from kindergarten. So now I just smile and talk about the family, and they pretend to care a little, and then they go back to speaking their unique language with those who can understand them.

They call it "talking shop." I call it "pontificating." At these gatherings, academics are totally FULL of many obnoxious words. When they talk about their specialty, their voices change. They become loud and forceful, and they use words that you can't even find on because they are so specialized to their own specialty within the specialized specialty within the discipline.

"What language is he speaking?" I whispered to Darren at one of these gatherings.

Pedagogcial epistomology," he responded.

"Fascinating," I nodded.


"OK, I think I'd like to go back to our hotel room and watch Sesame Street if that's OK with you."

I've learned to tune Darren out when he starts using this academic tone, but I'm good at tuning out his other tones too. I especially like to tune out the tone he uses when he's angry that the kids have left their stuff all over the house. Or the tone he uses when I thinks I should be doing something other than reading the paper and sipping tea. Or the tone he uses when he is reviewing our finances. Actually I can't hear this tone because I'm usually half way to Target by the time he assesses the damage. When I get back, he's usually cooled down.

The official letter he received from the university president said, "Congratulations on this significant accomplishment. We appreciate your devoted service and trust that you will continue to develop not only your capacities as a teacher and scholar but also your contributions to the mission of the university."

But what I really wanted to know was how much of a raise he was going to get. The letter didn't mention that important detail. Did this mean I could get my new countertops, or that things would stay about the same? I flashed forward 30 years or so, and imagined myself with the Comet and a sponge, scrubbing those pesky stains off the white formica countertops. I had totally white hair and the skin on the back of my arm shook as I scrubbed in my granny apron.

"Been scrubbing these countertops since 1998 now, Darren," I'd say. "Now it's 2038."

"It's good for you, dear," he replies. "Good exercise."

"Got burcitis in my shoulder from scrubbing these counters."

"Counterops are a lot of money."

"So's burcitis. Countertops would have been much cheaper in 2008."

"It doesn't matter now. We're nearly dead anyway."

"Guess so." scrub scrub scrub.

OK, that was irreverent. But I just couldn't resist.

In all seriousness, I am so glad I married someone with such an incredible ability to accomplish. I am very proud of him. Congratulations on being making it to FULL.

What's the next hurdle? Spilling over?

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Sweet Shopping Trip

Most shopping trips aren't sweet, or even fun or enjoyable for that matter. Most include mundane things like food and gas and dry cleaning or buying a diet coke. Today I had a very sweet shopping trip, though, with my youngest daughter, Leah.

When I picked up Leah from school she reminded me that I PROMISED her I'd take her shopping for her best friend's birthday. I really didn't have the time. But you know those promises. I don't want her to think I can't ever be trusted. She already knows that I sometimes can't be trusted to take her places I said I would. So I acquiesed. Leah wanted to go to Target or Shopko or someplace like that to buy a gift for Camryn, her red-headed pal.

My mind raced for a different alternative. I couldn't bear to go into Target one more time this week. You usually have to drag me into Shopko. Then I thought of this darling antique store, very close, very convenient. I knew Leah could find the perfect treasure for Camyrn there.

We headed into the Planted Earth, an old house converted into a charming antique store. Leah was enchanted with the wall to wall stuff. I was enchanted with how enchanted she was. She walked in the door and looked around and smiled. There was so much to look at! There were no aisles, no rattling shopping carts, no loud speakers, no glaring lights. Instead there were displays grouped according to themes that were lovely to look at. Aprons, watches, match boxes, plates, books, watering cans, just to name a few. A tightly manicured poodle (live!) was watching us from the corner.

First we looked at some jewelry, then some plants, then some sea shells. Leah gently turned them over in her hand, trying to find some perfect ones for her friend. She was calm and thoughtful. She was quiet and reflective. She looked so sweet and beautiful sitting there, trying to make a choice. I loved her immensely at that moment.

She got two clam shells, and two spiral shells. We found a purse display that had a hot-pink snap open style purse, the kind my Aunt Hazie used to carry around (except hers were always brown and huge, it seemed). Leah had found her gift. And to top it off, it could be a receptacle for the precious shells!

She was delighted to find that there was an entire floor upstairs that we had not discovered. She took my hand and we trotted upstairs to discover more wall to wall treasure. Her eyes darted from item to item. So much cool stuff.

I was delighted to spend 30 minutes shopping with my daughter who is growing up way too fast. I wished there were more hours to peruse antique stores with her. I was surprised at her maturity when I said I didn't want to go but that we needed to take her sister somewhere. I was grateful I had exposed her to something unique, something that just might stand out among the countless trips to the "regular stores."

She brought the purse home and found a gift bag and tissue. She put some lip gloss and two miniture bottles of nail polish she'd picked out last week next to the shells. She snapped the purse shut, and then opened it up to look at it again.

She remembered the miniature watering can we'd also bought for her own doll, Jessie. "Jessie just loves to water things, Mom," she told me.

"I hope Camryn likes my present, Mom," she said, a bit worried. And I worried a bit, too, since you never know if a seven-year old will appreciate an unconventional gift.

"She's going to love it because you picked it out so carefully for her, Leah, " I told her. How could she not?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Five Flagrant Fouls

I love the way those words sounds together--five, flagrant fouls. That's what we estimate was committed against Nathan's soccer team at the game on Tuesday night. The ref was a ditzty 15-year old who had actually babysat for many of the kids on the OTHER team, so there was no chance she was going to listen to us when we started yelling because our boys were getting hurt. The more we yelled, the more she ignored the fouls. So we lost, 0-1, the first game in the tournament. We would have won if could have taken those penalty kicks.

At last night's game it was about 20 degrees with the wind chill down in Soccer Siberia. May 1st! Can't believe we're still freezing to death this late in the season. We were bundled up like we were about to embark on an Arctic Expedition, but we still froze. That wind knows no mercy. It looked like we were about to pull this one out, when the other team scored about a minute before the end of the game. So we tied 1-1. Most disappointing since we let Nathan come out of the goalie box and play forward (injured ankle, remember). He actually got the ball down there about three times and tried to score at least two of them. Then they just couldn't keep the ball down there and it was too late. Oh, well, we have another chance tomorrow to redeem ourselves. It better be warmer!

Sorry I am so rough in reporting sports. I don't know all the appropriate, cool terms to use when explaining what happened. Just ask Darren. Once, 20 years ago, when I was editing some sports stories for the Daily Utah Chronicle at the University of Utah, I changed a whole bunch of sports lingo that I thought sounded strange, and thus botched the stories. "But that's how you do it in sports!" the sports editor yelled at me. "Don't you read sports?" No. Never had.

The sports writers wouldn't speak to me for a week, and Darren, as editor in chief, had to DOCK his wife's pay for a day for committing those flagrant fouls upon the sports stories. When you're making $20 a day, that's a huge deal. He had to prove that he wasn't showing FAVORATISM toward his wife. Needless to say, I didn't speak to Darren for a few days either, and I slammed his office door so hard it nearly shattered the glass on the way out. It is a story we laugh about now. Well, not really.

Moral of the story: Never work with your husband. Never edit sports stories if you don't know a thing about sports.

Twenty years down the road: Have never worked with him in a busines setting since. Yeah, I'll work with him in the garden or in the house, but that's about it. Have never applied for any sports editing jobs.

BTW, we, as parents were very positive and supportive and did not yell once at the ref at last night's game. It helps to have a decent ref, though, and he was very polished. Jumping up and down and cheering helped to keep us from getting frostbite. GO RAPTORS! My voice is hoarse. I think I'm liking basketball as a sport option for Nathan. It's never cold. It's one of the only few sports where you'll never be cold watching.

OK, Sammie wants to learn how to play lacrosse. Anyone have any lacrosse sticks out there she could borrow to give it a try? Anyone know of any lacrosse teams or leagues? Wait a minute, isn't this another sport that is played OUTSIDE? Maybe I don't want her to come across a lacrosse stick. Hmmmm.

Have a great day, all.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Michelle Times Seven

"Hi, Ellen, this is Michelle."

"Oh, hi Michelle." My mind frantically races as I attune my hearing to the individual nuances in each of their voices. Good. I've identified Michelle B.

I have had a day full of Michelles. This is a good thing. My life is ever so much richer with them revoling around me on a daily basis.

My day started at 6:30 am when Michelle B. picked me up to go swimming at the rec center. She's my triathaon training buddy. We keep working out together for our "future triathalon," yet neither one of us has registered or plunked down the money yet. Hmmmmm. We spend a lot of time discussing our inadequecies in all areas athletic.

At school, principal Michelle L. stopped me to ask had I heard about this woman in Salt Lake City who blogs and makes $40,000 a month? I hadn't, but went home and immediately looked her up. Here's her site: Dooce. Wow. Michelle L. is retiring as our principal this year. How many principals do you know that know every kid's name--first and last--and who their siblings and parents are? She does. She will be sorely missed at our school. She is a walking child encyclopedia blended with tons of love and caring for the kids she is responsible for.

At home there was a message from Michelle B., telling me some more information about our futuristic triathalon.

Michelle G. called later that day to remind Adrienne about a young women activity next week that she needed to work on.

Michelle B. the second (I have two Michelle B's) called to change the time that Adrienne was babysitting tonight.

Back at school I met Michelle K. in our sons' 4th grade classroom for a pizza party. I brought the soda and she brought the pizza. I was all innocent enough. I had brought an assortment of pop. They were on sale at Smith's for 63 cents a liter. So I bought several I thought the kids would like. The one that looked like generic Sprite, however, turned out to be a generic Mountain Dew. We did not discover this, however, until a half a dozen kids had already drank a full glass and one shouted, "Hey this tastes like Mountain Dew! Cool!"

Michelle K. looked at the ingredients carefully. Yup, she said, caffeine was one of the first few ingredients. We looked apologetically at poor Mrs. Mendenhall who had do deal with all the chidlren we had caffeinated for the rest of the afternoon. Oops. We put the rest of the bottle away. She's thinking I'm a total loser parent, I whispered to Michelle K.

Ten-year old Alex, who had somehow had two glasses of "Mountain Dew" was rolling around on the carpet, and other chaos was errupting as we cleaned up and left. "She's going to hate us," Michelle K. laughed as we walked out of the school together. I agreed whole-heartedly. After school Nathan said Alex worked harder and better that afternoon than ever before, and that maybe he should drink Mountain Dew every day.

Tonight while I was spraying the vegetable garden, Michelle H. came by to drop off Kyle to play with Nathan and bring presents she bartered for in Mazatlan. Out of all my Michelles, she's been in my life for many years now. I feel like I know her and her family the best. She's takes the cake in the extremely thoughtful and helpful department. How I will miss her when she moves to New York next year. Hey, but another excuse to visit New York again.

Later I got on my blog and saw a comment from Michelle C., who I used to talk with weekly but have not seen for more than a month. How I miss her wit and humor and listening ear. I'm going to figure out a way to see her next week. Michelle C, are you out there. Want to have lunch next week?

An hour later, "Mom, phone's for you!"

"Who is it?"

"I dunno. Sounds like Michelle."

"Which one?"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Back to Reality

I'm sipping hot cocoa from my cool Statue of Liberty mug (it's still not warm enough here for me, thus the cocoa in the middle of the day) and thinking about our awesome trip to New York City.

Here are the things that surprised me the most about the city:

1. How the grocery stores have aisles and aisles of cheese of every size, variety and ethnicity. How you could try a different kind every day for years and still be enchanted by the flavors and textures.

2. How there is so much fresh produce everywhere that looks interesting and unique. How we are indeed a land of plenty, and then some. I wish we could somehow divide it up better amongst ourselves.

3. How litter-free the streets are.

4. How many varieties of trees and flowers there are everywhere. For a major metropolitan city, there is always some green and color around. Flowering trees smell the same in the city as in other places.

5. How people are friendly, funny and helpful.

6. That seeing a Broadway play really is a dream come true. That seeing two Broadway plays was more than any person should ever ask for.

7. How you could never get bored in a million years. Just walk down the streets and look at the people and activities swirling around you.

8. How riding the subway cost $200 for the week we were there.

9. How exhausting getting around is. How our legs and feet were always tired, but that we really didn't want to stop going and doing.

10. That cupcakes can be absolutely beautiful and banana pudding can rock your world. Check out Magnolia Bakery. That peanut butter can have so many flavors. Check out Peanut Butter & Co. Way, way, way too many things to check out.

I'll make a small dent on my next visit. Until then.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Big Apple Two

The best thing about eating in New York is that everything tastes just a little bit better than you expect it will, and you can eat whatever you want, at whatever hour of the day your heart desires. For example, if you get the sudden urge to eat Southern Cantonese on a Saturday nite, you just might be in luck.

Such was Grimaldi's Pizza in Brooklyn. The red checkered tablecloths, the coal-oven roasted flavor, the fresh ingredients all combined for an incredible lunch. My son, Nathan, who thinks Little Ceasar's is the cat's meow, said it was the best pizza ever. That's because it's real pizza, son, made with fresh ingredients. We took the foot path across the Brooklyn Bridge to walk off the pizza and the homemade ice cream we'd picked up after lunch.

The kids were interested in seeing ground zero, and we spent some time looking at the old gravesites in the cemetery of St. Paul's Chapel. St. Paul's was a relief center for 8 months after 9/11, and is now a museum that chronicles those horrific days and months after.

That nite, Darren and the kids (sans Leah) went to the Yankees/Red Sox game. Nathan insisted on wearing his Red Sox hat on the subway after the game. Yankess fans were yelling at him, "Hey, theeeer, get that a kid outta heeeraa, don't ya know this is the wroooong town ta weaaaar that hat in?" They didn't seem to mind riding with the drunken Yankees fans, and thought the whole experience was fabulous. Plus that, the Red Sox won, and so Nate got to see his team win in Yankee Stadium! "Wouldya look at that hat that kid's goooot on-whatdaya think youur doin' theeeer kid?" New Yorkers are great.

Friday we strolled through Central Park and ate a terrible hot dog that was most disappointing. The kids rode the Carousel and then the girls went shopping to H&M. After shopping in the children's department with Leah for 45 minutes, I was reduced to sitting on the floor at the top of the escalator, where the girls would rush by every 20 minutes or so and throw clothes at me, or ask me what I thought. After I had sat there for an hour, eaten a granola bar and cleaned out my purse, Leah had to go to the bathroom. Of course there was no bathroom available there, so Sammie took Leah next door to Victoria's Secret to use the restroom, and a lady accidentially sprayed perfume in her eye. (Plus there was no toilet paper.)

Saturday we got up at he crack of dawn to get in line to see the Statue of Liberty. Now that security is so tight, the lines wind all around Battery Park. So we got there at 8:15 and were some of the first people in line to get on the ferry over to Liberty Island. I must say, coming up on Lady Liberty is an incredible experience, and one can only imagine those thousands of immigrants and how their hearts must have been pounding as they passed her. Leah is fascinated by the Statue--her size, "her bun," the tablet she's carrying, why she's green, etc.

Ellis Island was remarkable as well. The museum that tells the story of many of the immigrants paints a very vivid picture of how America became the melting pot that it is. I loved learning about where all the people came from, what they went through once they got here, and how devastating it must have been to find out you had come all that way only to be sent back because you had some sort of communicable disease. Some immigrants spent months on Ellis Island, recovering from illnesses and going through insurmountable red tape get to Manhattan.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Big Apple

New York is fabulous! The pulse, the people--how much there is to do in so little time. How much money I can spent in mere seconds--it's just astonishing! Who would have thought!!

First I must say that my feet are not used to walking so much. They hurt. If I walked this much every day I would be SKINNY! So everyone, just to reiterate, if I lived in a big city I'd be thin, but since I don't, I'm not. I am dependent on my car for everything!

It is sooo nice to see people of color and hear different languages being spoken almost everywhere! I don't want my kids growing up thinking that everyone looks like them in Happy Valley. DIVERSITY! How I've missed you.

Here's what we've been doing the past few days besides wearing out my feet:

Day One: Took the subway to 5th Avenue and all the cool stores. We visited FAO Schwartz where we had the most amazing mint malted milk balls ever. They put Whoppers to shame. Leah had a great time exploring Doll World in all its amazing pinkness. Only $7,000 for a life-sized stuffed Triceratops! No problem.

We walked into fancy stores like Tiffany's and Cartier Jewelers and Bergdorf Goodman where we looked like the Clampets (Jed, Ellie May, Granny and Jethro) compared to all the sleeeeeeek, polished salespeople wearing black. On each corner of Tiffany's there were GIANT vases of forsythia (the bright, yellow spring flowering bush). It looked like they had ripped out entire plants out of the ground for the vases. Adrie was eyeing some $28,000 earrings. No problem, I said. Hang on sweetie, I'll buy those for you just as soon as I get Dad the $500 tie in Bergdorfs!

Then lunch in this cool restaurant called Prime Burger where we got to sit in our own customized booths with individual swinging doors/trays for each person. The burgers were delicious. If you wanted lettuce or tomato or anything other than a plain burger on bun you had to pay $2 more but we didn't know that at the time. It was a great slice of NY life sit and listen to all the regulars eating their burgers and sipping cups of joe.

The Disney store (four floors high) put any mall Disney store to shame. Seriously! It was like being at Disneyland.

More shopping. Mac World was very cool. H and M trapped Adrie and Sammie in its snare for about two hours while Nathan writhed in pain at being in a clothing store. Darren took him into the NBA store where he got to shoot hoops to vent his frustrations in the middle of his sister's clothes trying-on frenzy.

American Girl Place was everything that Leah could have wanted and more. She and her Bitty Baby Jessie got matching outfits! They are adorable I must admit. She got to see in person the doll she wants for her birthday. A lady commented that she looked just like Kit, freckles and all. She was peachy happy for the rest of the day.

Time to go back to Aunt Amy's to take a nap because Darren, Adrie, Sammie and I had to rest up so we could go to Wicked!!
AMAZING, FABULOUS, INSPIRING, OUTSTANDING! It was three hours of unforgettable music and costumes and characters.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fractured Growth Plate

I told him to turn off the TV and come upstairs for church. I thought it was a little odd that he ran upstairs and put on his basketball shoes instead of his church shoes, but he's 10, and burning energy every waking moment is of utmost importance to him, especially since he had three hours of church ahead of him.

He would wear his basketball shoes to church if I let him, anyway.

"Put on your church shoes," I said.

"Mom, I'm just gonna shoot a few hoops before church." I didn't feel like arguing.

I had just finished putting makeup on one eye when I heard the screaming followed by his sisters taunting, "Nathan, you're such a faker!."

"Go get Mom!" he screamed.

I was outside in flash in all my one-eyed beauty watching a screaming , writhing child get grass stains all over his church clothes.

"It hurts!" he yelled, red-faced.

"What hurts?" I yelled back.

"My ankle! I went down on it hard!"

"Is it the same one as last time?" He nodded and wheezed, tears streaming down his face.

"He's not faking," I told his sisters. "Go get Dad." Nathan and I hobbled into the house, where he fell down in the doorway and proceded to roll around on the carpet, crying.

"It's his same foot," I told Darren when he came in the room." We looked at each other with worried-married people eyes. I pictured Nathan last fall, on the sidelines, watching his team struggle, a big green cast up to his knee. Then I pictured him last week, defending the goal like no one's business, blocking all but one of the other team's goals. Please, not again.

We got him on the couch and put ice on his very swollen ankle. We sent the girls to church and then talked ahout what we should do. "I think it's just a sprain," my husband said after consulting his online medical encyclopedia.

"I think we should go get it checked out, " I said. "We're going to New York in two days." He consulted his encyclopedia again. We decided to wait until morning. When we ate cake on the patio later that day he was chasing Leah around throwing water-soaked balls. No sign of a limp.Then he came in and sat down for the rest of the night. I breathed a tentative sign of relief, and then said a fervent prayer before bed.

In the morning, I peeked under his covers at his ankle while he slept. It was still big as an apricot. I made him get up and walk. He was limping. I called the orthopedic surgeon, the one who treated him last fall for an almost similar injury.

At 11:30 we were playing hangman in Dr. Mortensen's sports medicine office. We were using words and phrases associated with New York like "Big Apple," "Statue of Liberty," and then "I hope this doesn't take long," and finally "It always does" when Dr. Mortensen came in to look at the exrays. Small tear/fracture in the growth plate, he told us. Four weeks to heal. Be careful walking around New York. Good news, a removable ankle cast will be fine. If he rolls it again, the plate could break and he would need surgery to repair it.

Nathan's shirt came up over his eyes. He tried to not care, but there was just too much to care about--two more games, the tournament after that, the hopes of a fantastic finish, the memories of sitting it out last season. He shuddered a bit. We talked about what might happen. Maybe he could play a tournament game. Maybe. Always a bunch of maybes.

I came home and emailed the coaches. Dear Ryan and Doug, I am so sorry to tell you this . . . "

When I was helping him pack earlier today, I noticed he had hung up his church clothes, the ones with grass stains all over them. It was the first time he had actually got them on the hanger right.

I took them off the hanger and threw them in the dirty clothes to deal with later and then tried to think about what shoes he could get over the ankle cast. I went downstairs to look through his shoes, and tried not to think about next Wednesday's game, the one where he'd be watching and rooting, every muscle in his body aching to play.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Here Comes the Sun

It's amazing what a little sun can do! It makes me feel like a normal person again, not an eskimo bundled up against the elements grouching around trying to get warm. That's what I've felt like all week. And then today . . . . aaaah, I feel alive, like I actually have blood pumping through my veins.

My sister is going to be moving back to Utah and will be living very close to the old neighborhood where we grew up. In fact, her kids will go to good old Bonneville Jr. High and Cottonwood High School where Lisa and I went. I just can't believe this is happening--that I will actaully live within driving distance of my sister. We can spend holidays together. I can invite them over on a boring Sunday afternoon and we can play some games and chat. We can get into spats and then make up.

Darren and I took Nathan and Sammie biking tonight. We went on a long ride all over. It was great to spend the time with the kids doing something we all enjoy so much. It's nice to have reached this point with the kids. Biking makes me feel alive, just like sun.

I spent a fair amount of time helping Darren dig rocks out of the vegetable garden today. He always wondered why his tomatoes didn't do so great in a certain spot. It's because they were growing over a major rockbed. We filled up half the garbage can with rocks. He will have to take it out to the curb this week; I won't be able to budge the can.

New York City here we come! We are all so excited packing and talking about what to bring and what to do! I will hopefully be doing a daily blog about our goings-on in the Big Apple so check back from time to time.

Sammie and I made the most amazing carrot cake for Darren's birthday today. So moist with tons of cream cheese frosting! My husband will be 42 on Tuesday--also tax day. We are celebrating by seeing Macbeth together one evening on Broadway. I think he is more excited for this than the Yankees/Red Sox game.

I'm just looking forward to getting out of town for a while.

Monday, April 7, 2008

If you can't say somethin' nice . . .

"If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all." That's what Thumper tells his Mama when he's scolded for saying mean things in Bambi. I don't know if I can say anything nice right now, but I'll try to make Thumper proud.

But today already has a bunch of strikes against it. It's Monday, it's cub scouts, and it's snowing! I miss my Dad who's been gone 12 years, I don't want to stand in the freezing cold at recess, and I think I have hayfever which is making me tired and lazy. I have never had a touch of it before. I am not feeling very charitable thoughts toward anyone, and this makes me feel even worse.

It looked like a blizzard this morning for about an hour and a half. It's April 7 people! Can someone just put me under until it's really spring? When I wake up, I promise I'll be nice. I'm thinking of places I can move to when my kids are older so I don't have to deal with January-March. I think Darren's ready to ship me off a lot sooner. Like maybe any minute.

We're going to NY in a week. The change of scenery will do everyone good. Even if it's cold and rainy in NY, I still won't be cold and miserable here.

Even though I did four loads of laundry on Friday, there are six more today. How is that possible? I had every speck of it done of Friday, and now there are piles again. I guess until people stop wearing clothes this will be my lot in life. Maybe I'll have less in summer because people wear less clothing, and it's lighter. Maybe. Who knows.

I can swim 500 meters in 20 minutes! This is pathetic! My daughter can swim it in 6 minutes, 14 minutes ahead of me. I keep telling myself, she's 25 years younger and she's been swimming competitively for years. I'm just an overweight 41-year old with no training and no endurance who is attempting the impossible. Sorry Thumper. . . .do I have to be positive, too?

I'll write again tomorrow when I'm feeling better.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Night Fog

Why am I always so exhausted on Fridays? Was it the classroom full of 25 first graders that did me in? Maybe. I just want to curl up and sleep! But I'm not gonna. Here's what's going on in my world:

I actually swam 500 meters today (mostly with my butt up so the lower part of my body was NOT dragging) and so I'm feeling better about this whole mini trialthalon thing. I could feel it when I got into a rhythm and my feet kicked as well and I was actually moving a bit faster than a snail's pace. I do backstroke when I'm too tired to keep doing freestyle. This is a more restful stroke but dangerous! There you are la-la-la-la-la looking at the lovely ceiling acrchitecture and thinking about how you need to file your fingernails, when BONK! you reach the wall. Hello wall. Were those stars on the ceiling before?

Soccer started. I froze to death watching Nathan's game on Wednesday night. Spring soccer weather is always so volatile. You have to dress like you're heading for an Arctic expedition just to get through the game. He scored two goals! Way to play Nate!

Adrie made it to school on time once this week! Congrats Adrie! Way to be! She's slacking off since the term is over. But I must admit, she about killed herself off making up all her unexcused absenses last week. And now she's so tired she's just creating MORE unexcused absences. Such is the life of a high school student who goes to a school where the attendance policy borders on fascism.

Leah was darling in her clogging performance last night, but I kept wondering why did they put her on the back row and the tall girls on the front row? I couldn't see my own kid. Just wondering.

At my writers' meeting I learned all about character development and now feel inspired to use some of the techniques in my book that keeps calling out to me. Thanks, Clint Johnson, for an inspiring evening.

My book club this week was a riot. We read the young adult novel "Life as We Knew it" about a family that must live through the earth's tempestuous climate changes when a meteor crashes into the moon. They live for months on food storage with not heat or electricity. We discussed how we all felt like hoarding food after reading this novel. Nancy pointed out that she had flenty of food storage in her hips, and then that got us all talking about our own personal food storage. I said I had at least six months around my middle! It was a riot. We laughed and laughed.

Now on to more sobering things. Earlier this week I posted a very negative blog about Iraq and President Bush. I decided to delete it, but still would like to say a few things without going on a tirade (I hope this is possible). Four-thousand American soliders are dead as we enter the fifth year of the war. President Bush stands up and speaks about this saying that these heroic soldiers will not die in vain and this makes me incredibly angry and sad and the needless loss of life. I am disgusted at him and his policies and can only hope that some day he'll be humbled enough to realize what he's done. Check out to see the damaging affects of this very reckless decision by a very arrogant man.

I am calmed a bit when I think of going to London next summer. Here is a picture of the London Centre where we will live with students and other faculty families. Start saving up to come and visit us 'cause in case you didn't know, the dollar is not just weak, it's gasping for breath! Isn't this just the coolest?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Adrienne and Samantha are both out of braces now. Both have beautiful smiles that light up their faces and my life. Sammie's big day was last Wednesday when all of the sudden she was amazingly transformed from cute girl to gorgeous girl when those brackets came off.

The refreshing thing is about Sammie is that her appearance was the last thing she cared about. I don't think she hardly looked in the mirror. Instead she was focused on NOT going to school that day and devouring the huge bag of "no-no treats" (sticky candy, etc) that the orthodontist had given her as a a congratulations for getting her braces off. Then she came to the elementary school with me where she played kick ball with the sixth graders and swung on the swings. She did make me take her to Hogi Yogi after recess, but she was mostly happy as a clam hanging out at home.

So we have some light up my life (think Debby Boone--I sang that song until there were tears streaming down my face in the 70s) smiles going on around here. I'm sure my other two kids will have their own turn to get straight teeth in a few years or so. Having braces seems so much of the norm right now for kids. I know it is because all my friends who didn't get them or did get them and they didn't work are NOW getting them in their 30s and 40s. I think my aunt in her early 50s is a metal mouth tinsel teeth.

I doubt if anyone calls anyone metal mouth or tinsel teeth or brace face (thanks Mark) anymore since a good majority of kids and some adults too, have braces on. If some kid was so bold as to shout out "Hey tinsel teeth" in the hallway at the junior high, perhaps 40 kids might turn and glare at the bare-toothed kid and he'd feel like a total outcast.

My babish friend Alison--check out the link to her blog--just got hers off. Wow! My equally babish sister-in-law Cathy got hers off a while ago--Yowza! It's amazing that these two women could get any more beautiful, but they did!

All I can say is getting braces on and off these days is sweet compared to what I "went through" in the early 80s. Here are the top ten reasons why it's totally better today:

1. If you brush well, you get to put your name in a drawing to win ipods and mall gift certificates or a flat screen TV (well maybe not that last one).
2. Your orthodontist wears gloves so you can't feel his freezing cold hands and smell their metally smell from working on the previous kid.
3. You can watch TV or any DVD of your choice while you're getting worked on. I would have killed for Brady Bunch or Gilligan's Island or anything while I was sitting there with Dr. Ammott.
4. Orthodontists stand behind you instead of next to you now so you don't have to hear their growling stomachs at a lunchtime appointment.
5. Your Mom has to check you out of school to go to the ortho because there's not way you can walk a few blocks by yourself in this day and age.
6. You get to choose which color you want laced through your brackets and change them every month! For example, you can be green in March for St. Paddy's Day and orange for Halloween, pink for Valentine's Day. All I had was silver. And those bands went all the way around my teeth. Today they're called brackets and they're only adhered to the front somehow.
7. They don't pull teeth anymore, they make space for them. Having four teeth pulled was awful!
8. Who's ever heard of a head gear anymore--the implement that said "extreme loser" if you dared wear it to school.
9. If you want to pay more, your braces can be invisible.
10. Orthodontists are in it for the business. You're going to go to the one who tells you you're absolutely beautiful, and with that smile we're going to create, you can stop traffic. You won't choose your orthodontist just because your next door neighbor is his assistant/secretary!

Kids are spoiled rotten these days!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Should Have Known

I should have known better about a couple of things before I did them. Have you ever had those thoughts that you shouldn't do something--right as you're doing it? And you keep doing it anyway? Full steam ahead, despite the consequences. Some turn out OK, others stay with you, no matter how hard you try to shed their memories.

I should have known that taking Nathan and his best friend Kyle into a restaurant on his birthday would only end in chaos and embarassment. They are incapable of eating together without turning in to a pair of hiccuping hyenas. Add Sammie to the mix--who eggs them on mercilessly--and Adrie to the the mix-who sullenly glares at me for putting her through such anguish--and you've got an "I should have known" situation. When we drove home, Nathan was still hiccuping, Sammie was still laughing hysterically, and Adrie was texting every friend in her address book to report on how she's being subjected to the horror that is her family.

I should have known that if Adrie got a Facebook account that she would get to chat with MY friend more than me and that they would talk about things and not tell me about them. And that if I happened to look over her shoulder to see what was going on with MY friend, that I would be given a nasty teenager look and told to respect her privacy.

I should have known that when I took the test to find out which Jane Austen character I most likely resemble that I would be Maryanne Dashwood. I should have known that I didn't need to take the test, that I am like her her every way shape and form, even if I wish it were otherwise. And that even if I wish I was more like Elinor Dashwood--level headed, calm and rational--I can't turn myself into someone I'm not.

I should have known that if I got onto the Coldwater Creek website where 400 items are $14.99 or less that I would end up buying several of those items. I should know that I have a weakness for this website, and to avoid it like a classroom of coughing, sneezing, nose-blowing first graders.

I should known that if I bought Darren some clothes that he really needs--not from Coldwater Creek, of course--that he would not want them until he decides that all his other clothes are threadbare and unsuitable for someone in his position. He may not decide this until the summer, when he doesn't really need work clothes anyway.

I should have known that the day Nathan starts soccer practice is not the day to have him try on his soccer cleats to determine that they are so tight he can barely move. I should have known that suggesting he just play with squished toes for one practice would not be acceptable since don't I know that he's been waiting for this day since last October?

I should have known that trying to play that hymn in Relief Society on Sunday after I told the conductor I couldn't play it would result in humiliation and anger. From now on I will only consent to play songs that I know when I am asked to play them with two minutes' notice. I will not pretned that I can just play anything like I used to.

I knew better.

Monday, March 3, 2008

For Some Odd Reason

For some odd reason the kids are off school today, and so I'm off work today. Nathan wants to flood the sandbox with the hose (a July activity) and I told him it was only two degrees above freezing and that the hose wasn't even hooked up. "But Mom, it's burning!" he replied. I don't get how kids' temperatures are completely out of whack with reality.

We celebrated Nathan's 10th birthday this past week. He is such a cute boy. His party was inviting a bunch of boys to the church to play indoor sports games. The highlight was midnight football, where you try to scrimmage the football across the floor on your hands and knees, and in the dark. For some odd reason, the boys took to this game like a bee to honey. They loved it so much, in fact, they wanted to play it again on Saturday. They were having so much fun that I had to bribe them into opening presents and eating cake. Who would have thought.

For some odd reason, I have loved being an aide in the autism class. People think it sounds incredibly hard, and sometimes it is, but mostly it's just great. I had no idea I would enjoy it so much. It was sad this week when the normal teacher came back from her maternity leave and I didn't have to get up and go to work at 8. But it was OK, too. There are a million things I need to do around the house. Not that I want to do them . . .

For some odd reason, my family has stumbled upon an amazing opportunity. We found out last week that Darren will be directing the London study abroad program for BYU in summer 2009, and that our entire family will get to live in London for two months playing and doing touristy things. And since it is in the summer, there is no school to worry about for the kids, just play. We will live in a flat in downtown London and there is a cook who makes meals for the families and students. I cannnot believe our good fortune. My friend Gina told me she didn't want to hear one complaint about anything come out of my mouth for the next five years! I don't know how to express how excited we all are.

For some odd reason, I'm learning to swim for my mini triathalon. I think I will be able to do the swimming part. I don't know about the jogging part, but I'm pretty sure I can swim and bike. Thanks to Adrienne who is training us old fogies not to drown while keeping our butts up in the air and our feet kicking straight. We could not do it without her. We owe her.

Spring is thinking about coming. It decides to comes for a few days, then changes its mind. While it was here on Saturday, Darren and I cleaned out all the flower beds, raked the yard, and got ready to plant peas. On Sunday morning we awoke to a dusting of snow, a sign, perhaps that winter was tired of dumping inches on us and was tapering off a bit. It has been a cold, snowy winter.

For some odd reason and a strike of good luck for me, my sister is moving back to Utah. I can't wait to have her here, close enough to see on Sunday afternoons, close enough to share holidays together. We will all spend some insane days together at the cabin this summer, where cousins will get to be cousins and aunts and uncles can be aunts and uncles. Grandma can be Grandma, and turn off her hearing aid when she can't stand the chaos anymore. We will take walks, play in the lake, pick wildflowers and maybe huckleberries. We will play games, get sunburned, skip rocks, and take the canoe out. Maybe we will see a moose near the cabin when we're sitting on the porch sipping hot cocoa. Uncle Mike will take us fishing, Uncle Darren will take us hiking, and Uncle Mark will take us out in the boat.

For some odd reason, I get to be a part of all of this.