Monday, February 26, 2007

In which I pull out the "unrehearsed" acceptance speech

Nora and I watched the Oscars together last night. She was mesmerized by the sparkly clothes and bright lights. I was mesmerized by the sparkly clothes and bright lights. We made a good pair. Nora also clinched the Most Adorable Baby on the Planet title by demonstrating her new clapping skills whenever she saw the audience applauding another award. Cuteness with a capital Q I tell you.

Nora also agreed with me that Meryl Streep looked a little silly in her Prada trenchcoat and gypsy beads, we being uniquely qualified as fashion judges since we spent the day hanging out in plaid pajama bottoms and hand-me-downs from big brothers, respectively. Thank goodness, unlike Meryl, our sense of style has not been clouded by a lifetime of critical acclaim and 14 Oscar nominations.

I’m not sure why I get a kick out of watching the Oscars. Maybe it dates back to the days when my older brother Scott would rent a tux and host his Oscar party every year so we could make our own nominations for “Least Dressed” and “Outfit Most Resembling a Bathrobe” awards. Maybe it’s because even while I arrogantly pretend to be above the celebrity-worshiping, National-Enquirer-buying percentage of the population, I secretly find myself caught up in the spell of the Beautiful People. I admire them and despise them. I wonder what their lives are really like. I aspire to their slenderness and sophistication. I even sympathize with the fact that their lives have no sense of privacy or normalcy (whatever that means) almost as much as I resent them for having nannies and personal trainers and private chefs and never having to ask themselves those really hard parenting questions like, “Is my child truly sick enough to merit the $20 copay or should we wait for her ears to start bleeding before jumping to any conclusions?”

Andy Warhol, in his Marilyn silkscreens, captured the “incredibly familiar yet totally exotic” quality of the star personality. I see Marilyn and think I recognize her. But I never knew her. I wonder if she even knew herself. Warhol wrote, “I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic.” And I presume he meant that figuratively although if you include collagen and silicone in the definition of plastic, you could take it literally as well.

Warhol was also the one who said that “in the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” And see, thanks to my blog, I have hit the mark already. I even have a Google ranking that sends my blog to the top of the query list whenever someone types “crapbooking” or “pee smells like tuna.” If that’s not world-famous I don’t know what is.

And speaking of my blogging self, this is officially my 100th post (or as Gabie would call it, my ten-tieth post). There’s likely some blog-protocol I’m supposed to follow (Do I put together a retrospective slideshow accompanied by “If I could save time in a bottle”? Do I send out flowers to my readers? Do I take myself out to lunch and present myself with a cheap watch?) But, alas, I’m only slightly less clueless about the blogging world than when I started several months ago, so I’m just going to do a little happy dance with my feet as I continue to type and call it good.

Okay, I confess, I did prepare a little speech just in case. I have it tucked inside my Dolce and Gabbana gown. Ah, here it is….

I'd first like to thank the Academy. I’d also like to thank my incredible family for their support. Even though they don’t comment very often, I know they are loyal readers (and not just because they suspect I will say something frightening about them, although sometimes I’m sorely tempted just to see who’s paying attention). I’m thankful to my old friends who visit and my new friends whom I’ve met since I started this strange venture. I never knew how having an audience would transform my writing so dramatically. I am honored that you spend your valuable time reading what I have to say and then spend even more time posting a comment to let me know you’ve been here. Oh how I look forward to your comments, which make me feel like a celebrity and are often more lucid and amusing than my original posts. I’d like to thank my 10th grade teacher Mrs. Bestor for…… *cue loud music from the orchestra pit* ….. but wait! I’m not done yet! I haven’t even told my kids to get to bed..... *giant hook comes out from side of stage and pulls me off, still shouting “thank you! thank you all!”…..*cut to commercial*

Saturday, February 24, 2007

I promise I don't make this stuff up

The Triumvirate* has decreed that the time has come for another batch of Gabie-isms. Most of these are from our recent trip. The pudding one came from a couple of weeks ago, but I saved it because it made me laugh. You know, without a blog, I would be jotting these things down on scraps of paper and losing them, so blogs are a good thing to have around. Gabies are good to have around too. But you’ll have to get your own because I’m keeping mine.

*Ethan Caesar, McKayus Crassus, and Gabie the Great

Gabie on the true meaning of President’s Day:
“If we’re gone on present’s day will we still get the presents?”

Gabie the mathematician:
Here’s a new number I invented: Ten-ty. It’s another word for a hundred. Ten-ty is a little more than ninety.

Gourmet Gabie
Gabie: I’m going to make your sandwich today Mom. I have a new recipe – and you’re really going to like it – it's called a peanut butter, honey, bologna, tuna sandwich.
Mom: Uh, sounds great Gabie, but I think I’m already making my own sandwich, so I’ll pass.
Gabie: But Mom it’s not a pain to make at all. And it’s my yummiest sandwich ever. You might even get addicted to it. That means you want it all the time.
Mom: (thinking there’s little chance of developing a peanut butter, honey, bologna, tuna addiction, but you never can be too careful) No thanks Gabie.
Gabie (persistent as ever): If you like it you can make it on your own. But you might need a little bit of help, so I’ll help you with it. I’m the only one who knows how much to put in it. And which side to put the peanut butter on. It has to go on a certain side.
Mom (half annoyed, half amused): Listen Gabriel, I don’t think I would like those ingredients together. Thanks for offering, but I really truly do not want a peanut butter, honey, bologna, tuna sandwich
Gabie: But how do you KNOW you won’t like it if you’ve never tried it?!?
[Help! He’s using my own logic against me. It’s hopeless. Do I give in like a coward and let him make the darn sandwich, take a few nibbles off the edges while he glows with pride and then dispose of the rest when he trots off to watch Sesame Street? You betcha.]

10 minutes into the drive to Arizona, from the back of the van:
"Vacations are just like being home, only better."
[Sometimes I think Gabie is a walking t-shirt slogan.]

After getting a few cactus pricklies in his ankle:
“Mom, this injury is pretty serious. I think I’m going to need a cast and a handicapped parking pass.”

At the Body Worlds exhibit (where real human bodies are on display for anatomical study):
Mom (pointing to another body and wondering if this was a good place to bring a 5 year old, even if he is rather precocious and really fascinated with the human body and wants to be a doctor someday): So what do you think of this one Gabie?
Gabie: I think that man was very unlucky.
Mom: Why was he unlucky?
Gabie: Because he’s dead.

Later at the same exhibit:
“They’d better hurry up and finish with this man’s body so they can put it back in his grave where it belongs.”

And the one I saved because I just should have seen it coming but I didn’t and it totally made me snort:
Gabie: Hey, lets all have some pudding.
Mom: Sorry buddy. We can’t have pudding right now, it’s lunchtime.
Gabie: But I want some pudding. We could each have a different flavor.
Mom: No Gabie. It’s lunchtime.
Gabie: Oh, alright. [pause…] Then can I choose what we have for lunch?
Mom: Sure. What should we have for lunch?
Gabie: Pudding.

Friday, February 23, 2007

living on the ledge

My friend Tara had to twist my arm to get me to the Phoenix Art Museum. How crazy is that? Of course I wanted to go, but I was worried about the kids and worried about Ken trying to keep track of all four of them in a strange big city without me, and worried about the cost of the tickets, and worried about dragging poor Tara with me through a museum at the speed to which I am accustomed, which is only slightly faster than it took for the artworks to be painted in the first place.

As it turned out, Tara talked me into it, bought the tickets, never complained once about my torturous pace, and added her own insightful comments as we went along. Ken had a good time with the kids in the Science Center and they never missed me. It’s nice to know that I can indulge in doing something entirely selfish once in a while and get away with it.

I also now have stored up in my head at least a year’s worth of art to write blog entries about, so I have Tara and Ken to thank for that as well.

I’ll start with my favorite painting in the museum – Girl at the Window by Nicolaes Maes – from the "Rembrandt and the golden age of Dutch art" exhibit. The placard next to the painting described it as a critique against the sin of laziness. I disagree. If the artist meant the scene to criticize laziness, why would he have made it look so appealing? The gorgeous colors, the lush fruit, the beautiful girl set in a beautiful space – I could not get enough of this painting. I stood in front of it for several minutes and soaked it in. I even had to come back and look at it again after leaving the exhibit. (It’s also one of those cases where the reproduction literally pales in comparison to the real thing. The colors were so much richer than they look now. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Or maybe you could buy a plane ticket to Phoenix and see for yourself. I’m sure you can stay with Tara. She won’t mind – as long as you leave a few bucks behind to replace the plunger you broke while you were there.)

I don’t think the girl in the painting is lazy. She is just thinking. She thinks a lot. And in her thoughts as with her body, she inhabits ledges – she stands at a windowsill, the border between the inside and the out, between the shadows and the light, between contemplation and action. Her age also puts her on the ledge – she is young enough to resemble, with her flushed cheeks and apricot-colored headband, the sweet fruits that frame her window. But she is old enough to know what comes next, and here the clichés of “ripening” and “fruitfulness” threaten to take the metaphor too far. But she is not there yet. She is only leaning into maturation. She has opened the window but she remains safely inside.

And there’s the critical difference between a window and a door. The girl may be at the ledge, but she can only lean so far. If it were a door, the next step would be implied. But with a window, there may be observing and contemplation and planning, but no stepping. Only thinking. Which is not a bad thing, or even a lazy thing. Unless you stay at the window for too long. And if, like the girl in the painting, you’ve brought a pillow along to make the ledge more comfortable, perhaps that’s a bad sign.

There’s a moment at the beginning of Hamlet where Hamlet promises his dead father that he will sweep to avenge his murder “with wings as swift as meditation.” The irony, as it turns out, is that Hamlet’s meditation is anything but swift. It takes five Acts for him to act. He wastes a good deal of precious stage time meditating and holding up skulls and talking to himself and thinking up future movie titles like “What dreams may come” and “The undiscovered country.” And in the meantime, the bodies begin to pile up around him.

If you’re still with me, and I’m not sure why, my point in all this is that I think I think too much. I need to do less living on the ledge and more living on the edge as in doing brave things and acting on my good intentions. While in Arizona, I visited one friend who is about to turn 40 and has decided it’s time to quit her comfortable job and go into business for herself. On the way home, we stopped to visit two more friends who are about to put their home and savings on the line to buy 10 acres of land so they can board horses. I admire the heck out of my gutsy friends. In their honor I would like to do something daring.

But what to do?

I would suggest shaving my head, but Britney beat me to it. I can’t sign up for a marathon right now thanks to the sore foot. I’m not too fond of horses. My teaching job isn’t all that comfortable to begin with and my other job – my full-time mothering job – well I don’t think my kids would appreciate it if I quit that one. So that leaves me with the one thing I’ve always thought about doing and talked about doing and daydreamed about doing but have never taken past the “wouldn’t it be loverly” stage: writing a book.

It’s all there inside my head but I have to spend the time to coax it out and write it down. This will take some sacrifices because I already feel like I have no time to spare. But I think, if it’s important enough (and it is) that I can find 30 minutes a day to commit to it. I plan to keep up on my blog because it’s good therapy for me (plus Gabie thinks it’s HIS blog and would be greatly concerned if I neglected it.) But if you notice that I’m not commenting as much on your blogs, please don’t hold it against me. Call me a lurker, call me selfish, call me crazy, but please don’t call me lazy.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I'm in Arizona but I left my clever at home

I think these photos all cry out for cute captions. But I'm still on vacation and apparently so is the cute caption writing part of my brain.
Any suggestions?

This one is at Glen Canyon Dam.

The kids out in the desert.

McKay, Ethan, Tara, and the giant bag o' kettle corn at the zoo.

Me with the boys on our train ride.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

parting is such sweet

Right now, outside my window, the sky god is shaking flakes on my yard. It’s not a real snowstorm, just one of those fluttery dustings meant to remind me that the glimpse of positively balmy 50 degree temperatures we enjoyed last week was just a cruel tease and yes, it is still winter. Normally, I would feel oppressed by this weather and get all sad and sluggish because that’s what reptiles like me do. But today, I thumb my nose at the sky god and his dandruff problems because we. are. going. to. Arizona!

Arizona – where the year-round sandal-wearers dwell. Arizona – where both my Maid of Honor and Ken’s Best Man live – though not in the same town. Arizona – where the only thing the sky god sends down is carcinogenic ultraviolet radiation. Ah. I can’t wait.

And neither can my kids. Note to self: In the future, do not announce to Gabie that we are going on a trip until we have actually loaded him into the car and driven away from the house.

Every day for the past 2 weeks, Gabie has asked for a trip departure update. “Is it tomorrow? Is it the day after the day after tomorrow? Can we start packing yet? I’m taking all of my animals because they’ve never been to Arizona. Can I take my penguins? My penguins will like Arizona because they don’t really like the cold anymore. Can I take all my fruit to show Tara? I’d better get packing. How many days left?”

On our last trip, I finally relented and let him pack his own suitcase far in advance. This gave me plenty of time to send it through the Parental Customs Inspection. Hmm, let’s see here: no socks, no pants, no underwear, but he has packed a pair of pajamas, 20 shirts, Panda, Panda’s entire wardrobe including raincoat and hat, 3 sets of scriptures, a bagel, and a stack of coupons. What more could you need for a 10 day trip? Seriously, you never know when you’re going to want that 50 cent discount on a jar of soy sauce.

I can’t really blame Gabie. Half the fun of trips is in the planning. I like to research things to do (museums, parks, natural wonders) and gather up supplies in advance. One of my favorite pre-trip rituals is loading up at the library with books and music CDs and books on tape to listen to on the drive. Yesterday, I went to the library and took along a list from Michelle of great movie soundtracks to check out. I can’t wait to hear the Rachel Portman ones and the boys can’t wait to hear the Danny Elfman ones. Ken has the new Norah Jones CD and Gabie insisted we check out every Sesame Street collection the library owned. Now if baby Nora will just sleep in the car for 10 hours straight, we’ll be all set.

There’s probably a reason why I should not write about family departures on my blog. After all, someone could read this, figure out where I live and break into my house while we’re gone. So let me just warn any potential thieves that we’ve taken precautions. We’ve got amorous cats posted at every door. Besides, it really won’t be worth your trouble to break into our house since our most valuable possessions will be in the van with us. Listening to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sesame Street.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sharing a valentine that is not my own

I don’t know Chris Williams. He lives in my state. We belong to the same church but not the same congregation so I have never met him. I’ve seen his face in the news several times this week and heard his tragic story, but beyond that, I cannot begin to say I know him or appreciate how deeply he is suffering. I only know that his story is one of those heart-wrenching ones that both draws me in and terrifies me. It makes me want to grab my children and never let go.

Chris Williams was driving with his family last Friday when their car was hit by a Jeep Cherokee driven by a 17-year old boy who police say may have been driving under the influence of alcohol. Chris Williams’ pregnant wife and two of his four children died in the accident. In his first statement to the press – within hours of the crash – Williams said he forgave the driver. He forgave this boy who destroyed his family.

In yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune, another article on the story started this way:

“To those who wonder how Chris Williams was so quick to forgive the teenager who crashed into his car Friday, killing his wife and two children, consider this: when Williams was 16, he accidentally struck and killed a 4-year old boy.”

The story goes on to tell how in 1981, Chris Williams had been driving to work when two boys darted out in front of his car. One boy survived the accident, but his 4-year old brother died three days later at the hospital. Following this accident, “People showered Williams with forgiveness and kindness.”

25 years later, Williams was willing to return the gesture when the tables were turned. He said that on Friday night, still sitting in the crushed car, he knew his wife and children were gone. “I had a decision to make because I knew it was going to be a lot of healing that I needed in my life. . . I decided to forgive then and there.”

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Chris Williams has asked the public to “extend a single act of kindness, a token of mercy or an expression of forgiveness.” Then he requested that you write down your act and send him an email so he can read them to his two surviving sons. He said: “I can think of no greater valentine that you can present to someone or that my sons and I can present to my sweetheart that that.”

I’d like to contribute to his valentine. I’m not sure yet what my act will be. But I’m going to start by posting this message. Then I’m going to turn off my computer for the rest of the day and play with my kids.

Chris Williams’ email address is williamsvalentine (at)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A little story

Early this morning as I was groggily climbing back into bed after feeding Nora, I heard the vastly unwelcome sound of a baby crying. I roused myself again and stumbled down the hall to check on her. She was still asleep. So was Gabie. So were the older two boys.

I heard the crying again and realized that it was coming from outside. It was more than crying, actually; it was pitiful wailing like I haven’t heard since the series finale of thirtysomething (when the sounds were coming from my own head). What on earth? Has someone deposited their newborn on my porch? Or is it just a police siren gone bad? I opened the front door in a panic, and first one then a second cat exploded from my bushes and darted across the yard.

And then all was silent.

Apparently on cat calendars, Valentines Day is the 13th of February.

Monday, February 12, 2007

An aromatic post

The painting of the day is Still Life with Fish by Alexander Adriaenssen. It was the smelliest painting I could find. It also came complete with a cat (you may have to click to enlarge it to find the cat) and one of those eyeballs that follow you around no matter where you go. Just try walking back and forth in front of your computer screen and see if it doesn’t. Yes, we have reached the pinnacle of great art on this blog: creepy eyeballs from severed fish-heads.

Last week I gave a ride home to Blake, a boy who lives two houses down from us and is good friends with my son Ethan. As Blake climbed into our van, he said, “Hey your car smells exactly the same as your house.”

“Is that a bad thing?” I asked, a bit concerned.

“No, it just has a certain smell.” Blake replied.

Always in teaching mode, I then explained to him the highly scientific principle of House Odor: “Did you know, Blake, that everyone’s house has a distinctive smell to it, but the people who live there are so used to it that they are the only ones who can’t smell it?”

Blake didn’t hesitate: “Yeah, but MY house doesn’t have a smell.”

I tried not to laugh, “My point exactly.”

So now I’m wondering what my house smells like. I have a few suspicions, considering there’s a row of wet diapers lining the windowsill in my daughter’s room and I haven’t emptied the kitchen garbage yet from last night’s 3-garlic-clove dinner preparations. It also likely smells of burnt vacuum-guts thanks to our Hoover that psychically sensed the passing of its one-year warranty date and self-destructed this weekend in a cloud of stinky rubbery smoke.

I also hate the fact that lately my front porch and back steps both smell like eau de tabby cat. We do not own any cats but the neighborhood felines have taken a liking to our house and appear to be marking the portals with their scent. I wonder, will it protect our home from some future cat plague like blood on the lintels at Passover? All I know is that every time I come or go I find myself involuntarily launching into Phoebie’s chorus of “smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you….”

What else contributes to the distinctive smell that must hang over my family like an olfactory coat of arms? If I had to break it down to its various components, I would venture to say it includes….

Tide with bleach
Target brand unscented fabric softener that really has a scent to it no matter what the box says
various crock pot meals from the nights I’ve been gone to class
pizza from class nights I haven’t planned ahead
his and hers deodorants
the oatmeal I cook religiously for breakfast every morning
the bacon I cooked in my kitchen 2 years ago
baby shampoo
baby lotion
baby puke
potting soil
Ramen noodles
Lysol cleaning wipes
wet sneakers
pee (yes we have 3 boys)
air freshener in the bathroom to cloak the pee smell
ripening bananas
rotting potatoes
furnace filters
my mother-in-law’s perfume
the two fuchsia blossoms on my Christmas Cactus (which annually celebrates Christmas in February as if it knew it belonged to a family of late bloomers)
lemon-scented floor cleaner
books (old, new, paperback, hardback, they all contribute a different smell)
kettle-corn flavored microwave popcorn
basketballs, footballs and soccer balls (and the occasional sweat that comes from using them)
the odors of creative children: paint, pen fumes, glue, and miles of scotch tape
the sweet, milky breath of a sleeping baby
the toothpaste scented breath of sleeping older children

I’m tempted to reach for the cliché and suggest that my home smells like love. But unlike fabric-softener, love really is unscented. Love is a different kind of family essence. It does resemble House Odor in the sense that we have our own unique kind of family love that differs from every other family. And like House Odor it’s made up of the million little things – past and present – that we do and are. And like House Odor it saturates our shared spaces and clings to us. It clings to each of us so pervasively that we get used to it and take it for granted, and when we come home, we feel it in such a comfortably familiar way that it goes remarkably undetected.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Oh my neck

I have 3 announcements today.

1. The list of finalists for the Share the Love blog awards has been posted and sadly, my humble blog is not among them. Shed a tear if you must, but then head on over and vote for my friends Scribbit, Owlhaven, and What on Earth is that Smell who are still in the running.

2. After yesterday’s post, I feel the need to clarify something. I wasn’t really adopted. (I know this because sometimes I glimpse in the mirror and think, “Hey what is my mother doing in my bathroom!”) I love my weird family. I aspire to their level of weirdness. And the fact that the Shopping List is now (and I hope forever) in my possession tells you I cherish our memories of weirdosity.

Oh, and also, while my sisters and I didn’t always get along, the only hair pulling I honestly remember was between me and my brother Steve. I just didn’t think that would be nice to mention, it being his birthday and all.

3. I have a goiter.


It doesn’t look like this (link not for the squeamish) but it does feel like a huge golf ball in my neck. It is probably just a swollen lymph node and I get this from time to time. But last night when I got home from class and was already feeling sorry for myself because I looked like Rubens’ painting of Marie de Medici (see image at right), I sat down to read some blogs and wound up reading some old posts written by a good friend about her experience with radiation therapy for a tumor in her throat. (I am so sorry Sandra. I had no idea you went through all that).

Then I panicked. Ken is used to me going all hypochondriac on him, so when I put my Humanities degrees to good use, did some online research and diagnosed myself with a list of new and frightening ailments, he tactfully suggested I was unlikely to die of Tuberculosis, Sarcoidosis, Toxoplasmosis, Secondary Syphilis, Yaws or Cat Scratch Fever.

Thus it must be a goiter. I am resigned to my fate.

Ken remains unconcerned. I feel the need to steal a line from my Great Great Great Grandmother Dixon - the line she apparently said so frequently to her children that they carved it on her tombstone:

“You’ll miss me when I’m gone.”

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What I found while looking through a box for something else

For my brother Steve’s birthday, I thought I’d post my favorite photo of the two of us. I knew I had the original in a box somewhere so I commenced searching. An hour later I found it (aha! I knew it was in there) but in the meantime, I was smiling and chortling and rolling my eyes at the various other things I stumbled upon. Here is one worth sharing.

If I ever need evidence to support my claim that I grew up in a family of weirdos, here is exhibit A. The Shopping List. My mom had taped this paper to the fridge (I notice that it was attached with strapping tape -- a reminder that certain things like regular masking tape, scissors, clean spoons, and apparently the ability to take anything seriously were hard to come by in my home). Mom started the list innocently enough with the words “vacuum bags” and then it all went downhill from there.

I can almost tell from the handwriting which items were contributed by which of my crazy 8 siblings (I only claim the musical notes and the rabbit food. They tell me I was adopted). Most of the items require little explanation if you’ve seen the films that defined our generation: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, and Monty Python. A few others are inside family jokes made at the expense of, for example, a certain sibling who was infatuated with Harrison Ford and had recently been involved in a fender bender with a Ford Mustang sporting a $500 emerald green paint job. Some – like the Stella androids? – I still can’t figure out.

The parts that make me laugh the hardest are the unassuming little items like “bird seed” and “light bulbs” that were actually needed at the store. As if there were ANY hope of this list making it off the fridge and into a store in our lifetimes. The fact that she saved it speaks highly of my mother, who bred all these lunatics with patience and creativity. She deserves some kind of holiday in her honor. Oh, yeah. They’ve already got one of those.

Shopping List
vacuum bags
Romulan Ale
Retinox 5
“Bones you know I’m allergic to retineys!”
Indiana Jones
Gary Indiana
Illinois Smith
Han Solo
My Son, Luke
I’ll never join you! (followed by a “leap” and a line that falls to the bottom of the page where it says “Chewie! Get under him”)
Musical notes
Flash. Ahhahhh
Where? WHERE?
A Hamster and a microwave
[some Chinese characters I can’t read.]
A fold up tent
The action in M*A*S*H* is intents.
conditioner (hair)
freeze dried lizard skin
a newt
Klingon eradicator
small rocks
hair spray
rabbit food
bird seed
European swallow meat
a coconut
burnt witch
a large wooden badger
light bulbs
essence of Gelfling
a herring
1 holy hand grenade
4 coconut cream pies!
(crash bang thunk)
coffee filters for filtering fuzzy orange juice
instant tang
a purple elephant gun
Harrison Ford
Ford Mustang (with $500 emerald green paint job)
Ford Prefect
a shrubbery
Monosodium Glutamate
Tea and biscuits
No, not the biscuits!
The castle of AAAAAAaaaaah
Bore worms
No! Not the bore worms!
500 “Stella” androids
Breakfast cereals and lice and fruit bats and anchovies and orangutans
a speak and spell
an umbrella
tinfoil and a saw blade (ouch)
a fork
Old Spice aftershave
Sea Breeze
No! Not the Sea Breeze!
Fried Burgers
Fried Worms (with ketchup)

And here’s the photo I was looking for of me and my little brother Steve. Yes he is as weird as the rest of them but has managed to channel all his creativity into an amazing career in video game production. I admire the heck out of him for taking the heart-stoppingly brave leap into starting his own business and making it work. He is also as kind-hearted as they come, very smart, the father of 3 wonderful kids, the husband of a woman I love like one of my own sisters (only without the hair-pulling-fight history), an aficionado of card games galore, my very first and most loyal blog reader, and a walking Groundhog Day soundtrack. What more could I ask for in a brother? Happy Birthday Steve.

Don’t drive angry.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Notice anything different?

My generous sister-in-law Echo and my brilliant brother Scott have frittered away several perfectly useful hours on my behalf and fixed my header. Wahoo. It delights me to have something unique since as I mentioned 13 times before, I strive to be quirky. Needless to say, the generic Blogger template was not so quirky. I kept bumping into other blogs with the same look and wincing with embarrassment as if we’d both worn the same dress to the prom. The dress we all bought at Walmart. The tacky one on clearance.

The original photo of the mosaic came from a student of mine who dutifully returned from a trip to Europe with a disk full of images for me. I tell all of my students to please bring me photos since they get to travel all over the globe, wander through museums, gaze upon ancient ruins, and inhale those intoxicatingly musty cathedral smells while I’m stuck here in a place where “old” is measured by decades rather than centuries. Anyway, sometimes the guilt-trip works and they bring me pictures of tiny stones and grout that prove to be useful.

My favorite part of the mosaic is the single deformed piece (tessera) off to the right. Can you see it? The one that looks a bit like a molar? I like him. He’s my kind of guy – bucking the system and refusing to conform to that whole trapezoid mentality.

In quilting, there’s a superstition that says every quilt should have at least one obvious flaw in order to let the evil spirits escape. It’s a nice tradition. I like being able to look at my highly flawed finished quilt and say “man, that is one righteous quilt.”

So the non-conformist tessera blesses my blog and keeps out the evil spirits. Perhaps he will keep out the evil spammers as well.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The best medicine

I’ve been planning to jump aboard the Smart Habit Saturday bandwagon for a few weeks now, but when I stop to consider the many many MANY goals I’d like to set for self-improvement, I’m overwhelmed. I know Lara’s philosophy is to take one small thing at a time and follow through with it, but my natural tendency is to go for the total overhaul or nothing at all. So every week, I’ve watched the bandwagon roll past – full of smart, habit-formers – and I wave. “Catch y’all later!”
Leonardo Da Vinci (from sketchbooks)
This week I’ve been thinking about laughter. I’ve also been admitting to myself that I rarely laugh. Sure I find things amusing and I try to be amusing myself. But how often do I really Laugh Out Loud? Literally. My husband has commented that I don’t seem to enjoy comedies. But the truth is that I do enjoy them. I just do it in a silent, self-absorbed kind of way. My sense of humor bubbles below the surface and I manage to keep it all to myself.

My kids laugh. They think air is funny. They even sit around my laptop with me and get all hysterical over my blog entries. Ethan tells me it’s “the funniest blog ever” and then he says (with all the sincerity of a child who has never seen Misery) “I am your number one fan”.

I know my kids laugh because their happy noises only have one volume setting: ear-splitting. Boy laughter is inevitably linked with loud, raucous chasings through the house or explosion noises and flying Lego. It comes in bursts of wild abandon. And, frequently, it escalates rapidly to non-funny injuries. Perhaps this is why I find myself so often yelling at them to “just stop being so GOOFY!”

But I know that laughter – real, physical, shaking of the gut laughter – creates endorphins which in turn make you happier. (Side note: did you know the study of laughter and its physiological effects on the human body is called gelotology. Does this mean that the study of what happens when gelatin makes you laugh is called Jello gelotology?). Anyway, I know that I could truly benefit in many ways from adding laughter (and apparently more Jello) to my diet. Most importantly, the kids need to see me laugh more. They take their emotional cues from me. They know before I do when I’m grouchy or upset. All I have to do is let out a single *sigh* and McKay asks me what’s wrong. Why can’t my mirth be contagious too?

So this week I’m setting a goal to laugh every day. I’m going to giggle and snort and chortle if it kills me. I want to develop the habit, even though for now I may have to consciously let out a good hearty fake guffaw now and then.

I’m also refuse to be deterred by how pathetic it is that I have to actually set a goal to laugh.

The best news is that I’ve already gotten in my dose today. At breakfast, Nora was crawling around and we noticed she was blowing a huge snot-bubble out her nose. I joined the boys in relishing the moment of hilarity. Even Nora looked up to admire all our silliness and she grinned a huge, tooth-less, bubble-faced, “man, you guys all look ridiculous!” grin. And we laughed some more. And it felt good.

Friday, February 02, 2007

ta daaaah!

What on earth is that obnoxious trumpeting noise?

Could it be fanfare over the fact that Nora (She of the 7 Plagues*) only woke up screaming twice last night (a vast improvement over the previous five nights)?

Could it be the celebration of Ethan’s acceptance into the gifted program I was so worried about– the program that almost makes up for the fact that next year he will be attending the armpit of all Junior Highs – the same Junior High I attended 25 years ago and the same Junior High that made us say when we bought our home “It’s a great house but we’ll definitely have to move before Ethan gets to 7th grade”?

Could it be voices praising God for the snowfall we received last night – the snow that cleared out the gunky air that had been pressing down on our valley and clogging up our lungs for the past 2 weeks? (I walked out to start up the van this morning and had to stop and stare at the incredibly beautiful mountains – white and glowing with highlights of pastel colors. Breathtaking. How is it even possible that I live in such a surreal place?)

Could it be the hoopla over the much anticipated release of the final Harry Potter book?

Nope, sorry, it’s just the sound of me tooting my own horn**. I’ve been nominated for a Share the Love blog award. There are roughly 8 gazillion other blogs nominated, most of which are far more interesting and popular than mine, so I’m trying not to let it all go to my head and order new business cards or anything. But I am flattered by the acknowledgement. I’ve even been nominated in two categories: Best Humor and Best Writing.

Of the two, I think I’m more excited about the Best Writing nod because, as you may have surmised, I tend to SHED BLOOD over each post, which, I confess, sometimes makes for labored prose and sticky keys. Often I write and re-write a paragraph until the words begin to swim in front of me and stick out their little pixilated tongues in mocking defiance. “Nya, nya, you only think you can write. Go make yourself useful and wash some dishes or something you pathetic human.” And I keep typing anyway because, Hey, words can’t swim and don’t have tongues. So there.

And then there are those nights when I wake up with the compulsion to double check my spelling on a previous post. Does asinine really only have one “s”? Shouldn't it have two? And did you know that headbutt has no hyphen, while butt-head does? Too bad they don’t have a blog award category for “Most full of totally useless trivia” because I would be all over that one.

Anyway, the voting has started at this place. You don’t need to own a blog to vote. Everyone is allowed one vote in each category. The top 5 blogs go on to a finalist round and the winners will be announced on February 14. May the best blogs rise to the surface of the vast pool.

*1. RSV, 2. Sore throat, 3. Ear infection, 4. Cutting first tooth, 5. Simultaneously cutting second tooth (seriously, they both started poking through this week. Poor thing), 6. Constant, acidic diarrhea, probably from the antibiotics for plague #3, 7. Diaper rash developed as side effect of Plague #6.

**feel free to snicker at the unintended fart joke here. Or just go visit The Smiling Infidel who puts my fart jokes to shame and deserves the “Best Humor” award far more than I do.