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Friday, October 31, 2008

Pssst...

Just a little note to anyone who cares! I am in the running for a really cool prize from Crash over on her blog! But currently I'm getting whooped by someone else, so if you like me even a little, or thought my Bigfoot story was the least bit entertaining, could you please go here and vote??? The poll is on her sidebar, and I'll be forever grateful to any voters if I win. If you want to check out the competition, go here. I mean, that's only fair, right?

(But you're still supposed to vote for me - let's not get confused about THAT!)

Thanks;)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Repetitive Tears and Talking Animals

When my hubby and I got married, we were too poor to buy a TV. We were married in July. For our first Christmas, my mother-in-law gave us one. But we were too poor to afford cable,and since apartment living put an antenna out of the question, it didn't really help our TV-less condition.

A few months later (right after we FINALLY purchased a microwave), we scrounged up enough for a VCR. It was so exciting! We owned a whopping five movies, and they were all from my personal collection of old musicals. While I was more than content to watch Doris Day and Judy Garland every day, my husband wasn't quite as entertained.

We lived in this TV-deprived state for almost a year and a half. Then we moved. In our new duplex, sticking out of the wall, was a cable hook-up. Hmmmm. T.V. was finally an option.

We passed.

I know it sounds crazy, but we both had no real desire to sit around watching cable all day. Why? Mostly because with no children, a whole 900 square feet to clean, and no yard to take care of, we both knew that's exactly what we'd end up doing.

We've been married for eleven years. We have four children. We still don't have TV. What do we have? A huge video collection. This means that essentially, we sit around watching the same movies over, and over, and over again. But that isn't the strange part. The strange part is how I keep crying over the same scenes, in the same movies, over, and over, and over again.

It's blowing my mind.

Take the movie Ever After with Drew Barrymore, one of my personal favs. It's on my go-to list of movies I feel like watching almost anytime. The incriminating cry scene? The big reunion. The old servant guy gets sold by the mean stepmother, and is being shipped to America. Danielle (Barrymore's character), saves him and brings him home.

The scene changes, showing his old wife hoeing in the garden.

Camera pans. Danielle and old man are walking toward old wife/woman.

She looks up. She sees him. She drops her hoe, picks up her old dress, and runs towards him. Tears streaming down her face, scrawny legs going as fast as she can, while he runs to meet her with arms outstretched. They embrace. Triumphant-yet-emotional music plays, as other old servant and Danielle join the embrace.

I cry EVERY TIME I watch this scene! How can you not cry? They are so old. They have so little. They love each other so much!

My husband thinks I'm crazy and laughs at me, but it gets worse. At least in this movie I'm crying over people.

The next offender? Both the Incredible Journey, and its re-make, Homeward Bound. The remarkable thing? I don't really even like these movies. Especially the new one with the talking animals - way too obnoxious for my taste. Yet despite this, without fail, the reunion scene brings tears to my eyes.

I have been known to break down and bawl.

I'm not even an animal lover! (I like them, but come on - they aren't people) But when those little kids hear those dogs barking off in the distance, and then see them barreling down the hill, I start to feel the tears pricking. It's bad enough with the first dog and the cat, but when the oldest boy thinks his old dog couldn't make it and turns dejectedly back to the house only to hear that far off bark - I'm done for. By the time the boy and his dog collide (even with that ridiculous dog voice practically ruining the whole thing in the talking-animal version) I am a mess.

But this is not the most ridiculous example.

You know the movie Babe? That's right, the one about the pig? There is a scene in this movie (again, a movie I could totally do without) that will actually cause me to drop what I'm doing, move into the living room, and watch with rapt attention (shushing my kids if necessary, so they don't ruin the mood), knowing I'm about to cry.

Over a talking pig.

??????

Which scene, you want to know? Or does it make you cry too, so you've already guessed.

Fine, I'll tell.

It's the end of the movie. Babe and the old man have just taken the field during the sheep herding competition. All the people are laughing, mocking the crazy old man with his pig, and you know he's got to be feeling a little insecure.

The pig runs over to the sheep and holds that ridiculous conversation (revealing he knows their secret "sheep chant"), and the old man just stands there silently watching.

The people are still laughing.

His wife is hysterically crying because she's sure her husband has gone insane.

And then the sheep start to move. In a column. With the pig behind them.

The crowd goes silent. Jaws drop as they watch in disbelief.

More ridiculous animal-conversation happens, and the sheep do everything they're supposed to, ending up in the little pen.

The silent old man walks forward, grasps the gate, swings it shut on the amazing, pig-herded sheep, and the latch clicks in the heavy silence...

And then pandemonium breaks out! Everyone is jumping and shouting, and cheering for the old man and his pig! You think they couldn't be cheering any louder, but as the judges all present perfect scores, the crowd goes wild!!!

And I cry.

Because I'm so happy the old man doesn't feel stupid, and everyone finally appreciates him and his pig.

Why do I get so involved? And why do I feel extra sympathetic because he's a tall old man??? And why don't I get desensitized? I was crying over this scene just two days ago. Crying, and marveling at my ability to continually empathize with made up characters, doing made up things, in movies I don't necessarily even love, involving talking animals.

I'd ask if anyone else does this - just for re-assurance - but I'd be scared of the response. I have this sinking feeling that I'm alone on this one. But if someone wants to lie, and pretend like Babe makes them cry too, I'd be totally grateful.

If you think about it, I am now kind of like the old man. Here I am, feeling a little insecure about what I've just shown the world, and there's that crowd of readers - laughing, mocking, and jeering at the crazy lady...

Except I'm not so tall. Why does that help?

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Sad Tale

I have this really cute pair of earrings. They fit into that "perfect earring" category, if you know what I mean. They're smallish, so they don't overwhelm. They're pewterish silver, so they go with anything. They're dangly but not very long, and they have this cute little rosette at the bottom with a cute little low-profile pink stone in them.

And I can never wear them.

And no, it's not because I'm allergic. The real reason is much, much, more pathetic and sad than that. The story goes something like this:

Two years ago (yes people, that said TWO YEARS AGO), I was doing my thing, just walking around my house (cleaning again, because as you know I am ALWAYS cleaning), when I find this cute little pair of earrings lying on the bureau in my living room. They sparked the following conversation:

Me: Hey, does anyone know where these earrings came from?

Liam: (seven yrs old at the time) Oh yeah, those are from Grandma.

Me: They are? How do you know? Did she give them to you?

L: No, I found them in the mailbox.

Me: The mailbox? Well how do you know they're from Grandma if you found them in the mailbox? (My mother always writes old-school cursive, and I knew there was no way he could have deciphered that).

L: Because it came with a note.

Me: What did the note say?

L: I can't remember.

Me: Well, where is the note?

L: I threw it in the garbage.

Me: The kitchen garbage?

L: No. The big garbage out by the road.

Are you following this? That would be the big, disgusting, garbage garbage, that all the other garbage goes into. The big smelly one the actual garbage truck dumps on Wednesdays. The garbage way too disgusting for me to scrounge around in looking for some mysterious note from some really nice, thoughtful person.

I was irritated. Frustrated. Exasperated. Why? Why, why, why would he think it was okay to throw away a note? A note written to his mother, accompanying a gift? If he hadn't been so cute - and so pathetically sorry when he realized he'd done something horribly wrong - I would have turned into "Mean Mommy".

But I didn't.

I still had hope. After all, surely I could find the giver of the cute earrings, right? I mean, I don't know that many thoughtful, generous people, right?

Wrong.

I called everyone I could think of. For weeks, I would randomly think of names and call people to ask them if they, by any chance, left a cute little pair of dangly earrings in my mailbox.

No one knew anything about it.

"That's okay," I told myself, "even if I can't thank the person, I can still wear them - right?" Wrong. I can't wear them, and it's so unfair. It's bad enough that some kind, thoughtful person was generous to leave me cute earrings and a note, and I never even thanked them. They no doubt already think I'm the most ungrateful person ever.

But how much worse would it be if they saw me WEARING the earrings - actually utilizing the results of their generosity? There I'd be, with the cute earrings dangling from my earlobes, talking away, STILL not thanking them for the kind, thoughtful gift. Then they'd know - without a doubt - that I really was the most ungrateful person ever.

As it is, the mystery giver probably thinks I just didn't like them. But why, oh why couldn't they have ever called just to say: "So, did you ever get those earrings I left in your mailbox? I was worried one of your kids might have taken them and thrown the note into your big nasty garbage can, and that you might not have known they were from me."

But no, instead they were just too kind and thoughtful to bring up the subject of a pair of earrings I no doubt hated.

And so, the moral of this story is - If you ever mail (or leave in someone's mailbox) a cute, thoughtful gift accompanied by a note, but then never hear from the person regarding the cute, thoughtful gift - CALL THEM! Make sure they actually received the gift (and accompanying note)!

And if anyone reading this blog is the sender of my cute, anonymous earrings, please reveal yourself! I'm tired of only wearing them when I'm out of state visiting strangers, or taking the risk, wearing them anyway, and then feeling compelled to ask every person I know if my earrings look familiar to them.

It's bad enough that someone out there thinks I'm the most ungrateful person ever - I should at least get to wear the earrings

Friday, October 24, 2008

Psychic Drawings and Sasquatch Sightings

FYI: The following story is one hundred percent true. It is NOT made up. It ACTUALLY happened. And believe me, it was REALLY, REALLY, REALLY spooky. If you're easily scared, please - TURN BACK NOW!!! This incident scared me to death for years after it happened. I'm still not sure I'm over it... But in the interest of winning a Stupid Twilight T-Shirt as a possible prize for CTD's Spook-A-Rama, I decided reliving it this once was a risk I would just have to take.

I was born and raised in Bigfoot country. (I KNOW! It's scary already!) For those of you somehow unaware of the more familiar term (Bigfoot), the scientific name would be Sasquatch. That's right, big, hairy, telepathic, but extremely shy, man-like creatures who leave gigantic footprints, seen by hundreds, yet still discredited by the rest. But believe me people, they are real. I've seen one (sort of), and that's what this story is about.

Generally speaking, my family is big on Bigfoot believing. If you don't believe me, check this out(this is supposed to be a link to Annie's Bigfoot post, but I can't get it. I'll update it tomorrow - sorry). This may seem strange to those of you non-Bigfoot-country-dwellers, but trust me when I say around here, we're normal. Everyone (especially grade schoolers) believes.

Now, back to my story.

I was in second grade. I was at my friend Lisa's house. Tired of making paper airplanes and taping grasshoppers to them (as the pilot, co-pilot, and passengers, of course), we wandered inside where our two older sisters were hanging out.

They were watching TV. The news was on. THERE HAD BEEN A BIGFOOT SIGHTING!!!!

WOW. We were totally into it. Within moments, Lisa's older sister's VERY active imagination was working over time, and she was using her psychic abilities to sketch a picture of Bigfoot.

She had her eyes closed while she sketched. It was VERY convincing.

Then she let us in on the big secret. Bigfoot lived on the hill behind their house.

Yep. That's right. You know that logging road we were supposed to stay away from? The one never used, and all grown over? It wasn't the transients and drug dealers our parents were worried about - IT WAS BIGFOOT!

Whoa. The idea was so intense Lisa and I had to get out of there. We went back outside. Our grasshoppers were dead. There was nothing to do. Until Lisa conceived her brilliant plan.

"I bet if we go up there we'll see Bigfoot."

Chills ran down my spine. I immediately pictured the hairy beast from the psychic drawing. I was terrified. I was chicken. I was seven. I wanted to go home.

"Yeah," I replied noncommittally.

"Well, come on then - no one's looking, let's go!" And before I could back out she was headed for the logging road.

I almost peed my pants, but I followed.

The main road came to a dead end just past Lisa's driveway, and turned into the old logging road. As noted, it was all grown over, and led straight up into the hills behind the girls' house. As we headed up the path, we were soon surrounded by the dense brush and trees that quickly fill any open spaces on the Washington Peninsula. Tall trees bordered the old road, and sunlight trickled down through the green canopy.

Did I mention I was terrified?

As we walked, Lisa kept up a rambling monologue about Bigfoot, and everything she knew about them. We were getting farther up the road. Farther from safety. We went round a bend, and looking back I couldn't even see where the main road started. I tried not to panic.

Then we saw the stump.

It was small. It was right on the side of the road. IT WAS CHARRED.

Yes, it had obviously been blackened by some kind of sinister fire, and as soon as we spotted it Lisa grabbed my arm and jumped back, pulling me away from the stump.

"Oh my gosh! Look at that stump - this is not good."

"Yeah?" I replied, trying to control the urge to run screaming down the trail.

"Wait. I better check..." she muttered, creeping closer to the stump with an outstretched hand.

"OH MY GOSH!!!" She yelled, jumping back the moment her fingertips made contact, "It's still hot! Do you know what this means?" she asked, looking at my terrified face with expectant authority.

"What?"

"Bigfoot. Don't you know they breath fire? One was JUST here. IT BURNED THIS STUMP," she continued, looking quickly into the trees surrounding us. "It could still be right here..."

She continued walking. Having no brain, I continued to follow.

We went about ten yards farther, when she stopped abruptly, eyes wide, frantically sniffing the air. She grabbed my arm again and said, "Do you smell that?" while continuing to sniff as hard as she could.

I sniffed. I SWORE I smelled something... I just didn't know what.

"Yeah," I replied, waiting to be told what it was I was smelling.

"It smells just like rotten fish and garbage - do you know what that means?" she asked me, eyes wide with both excitement and terror. "That's what Bigfoot smells like. We've got to be close."

Before I could gather my wits to make another intelligent response, she gripped my arm tighter, and swung us around. "Did you hear that?" she whispered, her eyes darting all around, peering as far into the trees surrounding us as possible. Standing in complete silence for several moments, we listened to the forest around us.

There was creaking, and snapping (I swear), and the breeze was moaning through the treetops. This ominous sound drew Lisa's attention, and tightening her grasp on my arm (like that was even possible at this point), and clutching me in genuine terror, she pointed into the treetops.

"There! Up there! He's in the trees!" she cried, literally screaming in my ear.

"Where?!" I yelled, half sobbing, knees shaking, as I gazed up into the trees above me. It was all leaves, and dark, and light, as the bright sun cut its way through the canopy of the trees. It was impossible to make out any distinct shapes as the trees moved with the breeze, swaying and moaning and creaking like tall scary monsters.

"Why would he be in the trees?" I yelled back - finally coming up with something half intelligent to say in the midst of my terror.

"Don't you know that Bigfoot can fly?" and then, before I could digest this last comment, "OH MY GOSH, THERE HE IS!"

"WHERE?!"

"THERE! Can you see him?" She asked, pointing madly into the treetops. My heart was pounding wildly. My mouth was so dry I could hardly swallow. Almost out of my mind with fright, I followed her gaze into the dazzling light of filtered afternoon sun. So many shapes were forming and morphing as the trees moved this way and that, I didn't know where to look or what I was seeing.

"Over there! Over there," she yelled, practically crying herself, "Can you see him, CAN YOU SEE HIM???!!!!"

"I SEE HIM!" I yelled back, and without another thought we ran screaming, pel mel, as fast as our seven year old legs could carry us, back down the old road, past the stump, around the bend, and were both sobbing by the time we hit the pavement. We ran into the house and stumbled over each other relating our Bigfoot sighting to our sisters, who sat in rapt attention absorbing every word.

"I knew it," Lisa's sister said meaningfully when we finished. "That picture was a sign. You saw the Sasquatch I drew."

It was a solemn moment as we took this in. We had witnessed both Bigfoot, and Lisa's sister's psychic abilities in the space of an hour.

What a day.

And I've been a true believer ever since.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Regarding Annie (and giving hope to mom's with young daughters who don't always get along)

Sisters. They can be so many things. And given the fact that these relationships are founded in infancy (and all the obnoxious years of childhood and adolescence) they don't always get off to the greatest start. Somehow, children often fail to see the "potential" behind their siblings behavioral characteristics, and mistake these qualities as "annoying." I was guilty as this as a child, and now I have an opportunity to make up for my lack of foresight in a small way.

So here it is - a big plug for my little sister Ms. Regarding Annie, on behalf of her help-me-see-my-hubby fundraiser.

In case any of you missed the memo - or haven't discovered her blog yet - her husband is currently across the country at "spy camp", training for his new job.

He's been there since July, and won't be home until December.

She has three kids five and under.

She deserves a little support and sympathy.

But I'm worried that if people feel like they don't know her (or anything about her) they won't feel compelled to buy one of her Stupid Twilight T-Shirts. So I've decided to give you all a little history.

She was born bald, red, and big (over nine pounds) and with a good set of lungs. Since I was only two at the time, I don't actually remember hearing her cry, but the volume potential of her voice had to have started at birth. I'm sure of it.

Somewhere around age three (okay, it may have been a little sooner) she finally grew hair. Although I never would have admitted it at the time (or for over a decade later) her platinum curls were pretty darn cute. She truly was "the little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead." For those of you not familiar with this rhyme, it goes on to say "and when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid." I remember repeating this rhyme often as a child - we were sure whoever wrote it knew Annie.

One Christmas she had chicken pox AND scarlet fever at the same time. I spent a lot of my childhood being irritated with Annie just because she existed (totally not fair, and I take it all back), but that Christmas I remember feeling genuinely sorry for her.

In first grade (and several after that) she was know to get off the bus proclaiming it to be "the best day in her whole life," come into the kitchen, read her chore list, and change her tune to tears, and her proclamation to "this is the WORST day in my whole life!" Despite this, however, her chore-completion record was somehow always better than mine. Just to be fair, I thought I'd better throw that in.

She started planning her own birthday parties at a ridiculously young age, and my poor mother was swept along by the determined, and extremely social tide that was "Annie". These parties were not small affairs. EVERYONE was invited, and there was "itinerary." (Does this surprise anyone who knows her?)

Jr. High. Keeping in mind that I considered being annoyed by Annie a full-time job during this time period (because I was bratty like that), I'll just say a few things. She had a lot of friends (all of whom I found annoying, proving my opinion was tainted), she did some very impressive science fair projects, and she talked so much she developed vocal nodules.

When I was sixteen, and Annie was fourteen, tragedy struck. Our older sister left for college. Up until that point I had always managed to stand/sit/associate with Laura. Now she was gone. There was no one left but Annie. What was a bratty older sister like myself to do?

For a couple of months I moped, and gave no ground. But as most every one knows, there is a HUGE difference between a twelve/thirteen year old girl, and a fourteen year old girl. Think Mia Maid vs. Beehive. It's like a universal truth. At sixteen, even I was forced to (slowly) acknowledge that she wasn't really that annoying. She'd stopped pinching boys' butts, and was actually kind of fun every once in a while. (Probably the same "while's" when I wasn't successfully ignoring her). I was finally forced to admit that Annie wasn't so bad. We started to "hang out." I actually enjoyed having her around. It was crazy.

Eventually, I came to appreciate most all of her finer qualities. That out-going, center-of-attention thing? Kind of nice to have on hand when you go somewhere out of your comfort zone, want to meet people, but don't know how to go about it. Her dorky sense of humor? Well, since mine is frighteningly similar (and almost as dorky), we do tend to "get" each other. The event-planning, jump-in-and-get-it-done (dare I say bossy) side of Annie? Even this has been known to come in handy on several occasions. What can I say? The girl knows how to get things done. She has way more energy than me for making and following through with big plans.

And she has some great embarrassing moments. Like the time she flashed the painter. She's accidentally flashed so many people the girl could be considered an exhibitionist.

She has tons of other talents, and there are countless stories I could tell, but this post is really about her latest project. Her Stupid Twilight T-shirts. She called me last week and forced me to brainstorm some possible slogans. Within a week she had the t-shirt designs ready to go, and a blog up and running.

Amazing. Only Annie would turn a hair brained scheme into a viable fundraising project in under a week. You've got to give the girl credit. And she really does deserve a trip across the country to see her hubby - I mean, she wanted to go bad enough to conceive, plan, carry out this t-shirt thing, right? I say that kind of ingenuity and determination deserves to be rewarded. So (right after you leave me a comment) go visit her Stupid Twilight T-shirt sight, and put in an order. And leave her a comment by your favorite design so she'll know you were there. She really does deserve this one, so let's not let her down!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Help Me! I'm Drowning In Indecision!

As most of you probably know, I have four children. And if you've read this post, or this post, you know that I hate my house, and have only two bedrooms. And a husband, let's not forget him! That makes six people, and two bedrooms. To be fair, they are very large bedrooms, but still. Only two.

Right at the top of the stairs we also have a fairly large room, but the stairs come right into it, and there's no window that would be in the room if we walled part of it off (and the fabulous 1925 construction of this house won't support a dormer), and you have to walk through it to get to both the other bedrooms. Currently we use it as a family/catch-all room. "Family" because it has a tv and a futon, "catch-all" because it's also crammed with everything normal people, with normal closet-filled houses would put out of site.

So you can see that this room is not a proper bedroom - just a space where someone could sleep.

One of the bedrooms houses all three boys. The other - the math is pretty simple here - belongs to my husband, myself, and my two year old.

Can you see the problem here? Can you see the difficult position I'm in? Can you see how I need an answer to this dilemma? (Moving would be an acceptable solution, if only it were an option). What do I do with all the children?? When do my husband and I get our room back??? I have a few possible scenarios, but none of them seem all that great.

First lets take the boys room. Do any of you know what it's like to have three kids in the same room? It isn't always terrible - especially if we stagger their bedtimes, but it definitely has its drawbacks. For instance, all it takes is for one kid to be feeling very awake, very obnoxious, or get the giggles, and bedtime becomes a joke. Especially if someone else is legitimately tired, and trying to go to sleep. The other night when the Missionaries stopped by just after we'd shut them all in there, it sounded like a war zone with all the boys yelling simultaneously at each other to shut-up.

This word is not even allowed in our house! I'm sure I would never say such a thing...

Anyhow, listening to all the yelling (and wondering why they couldn't understand that if someone actually WOULD shut-up they might get some peace), and trying to nod and smile at the Missionaries, brought my problem into the forefront again.

How do I get peace at bedtime? What to do with the girl-child? Can that room hold one more? Can that room stand ONE MORE VOICE??? I know this will come as a shock, but despite her very feminine and lady-like manner, the girl can hold her own when she's around her brothers. Besides that, she would be way too much of a novelty in there. They'd be so busy playing with her, and trying to make her laugh, no one would EVER get to sleep.

So much for option one.

On to option two. This would be moving someone out into the "family/catch-all" room, and then filling the void in the boys room with Miss Meara. Sound good? Maybe not. In the first place, we like to use the family room. And (even though this sounds totally paranoid) I worry that if there was a fire, anyone sleeping out there would die fast from smoke inhalation, since there's no door. PLUS, even with one kid out of the bedroom, putting Meara in there would cause all the same problems. She'd still be loud, and she'd still get everyone distracted from sleeping.

This makes me wonder if I should just stick with plan one after all.

Or, we could just leave things the way they are and hope that some miracle will occur, making moving an immediate possibility.

But I really want her out of my room. I am NOT a kid-in-the-bedroom kind of mom. I can't stand it that whenever she wakes up - night or morning - she knows I'm right there.

And so it goes. I run these exact options through my head, with these exact arguments, follow this exact pattern, and end up exactly where I am now.

Completely undecided.

So if anyone out there has an opinion - or can see an option I haven't thought of yet - please share your wisdom with me! There must be a best (or at least better-than-all-the-rest) option out there... If only I could see what it was.

I'll be waiting in suspense for all your sage advice.

Please don't disappoint me.

(But if you can't think of any advice, sympathy and commiseration are totally acceptable). (Thanks).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Confessions of a Non-Crafter

Hi. My name is Jen, and I hate crafts. Perhaps the word "crafting" would be more appropriate, since it is the actual act of cutting/pasting/hot-gluing/painting etc. that I detest. Always, I have been horrible at these things. Always I have forced myself to craft anyway, hoping to improve my skills. After all, surely if I were any good at it I'd start to enjoy it, right? I mean, I only hate crafts because I'm so bad at them, right? This is what I've always believed.

It's true that there have been moments (of the brief, fleeting variety) when I've lamented my lack of crafty talent. Relief Society, for instance. Relief Society Super Saturday (aka: big, huge, crafting Saturday around Thanksgiving that is nothing but cutting/pasting/hot-gluing/painting etc.), to be more specific. These kind of activities are mostly a chance for me to display my lack of talent/ability to all the amazingly crafty women in my ward. During such humbling experiences, I always have pangs of craft-ability longing. But these have way more to do with my pride than any actual desire to make "stuff."

There was also that time I decided to make a couple of flower arrangements to give away as thank you gifts. Anyone can put some of that green foam stuff in a basket and stick some flowers in, right? There isn't even any gluing required, how could I possibly fail?

I failed.

And the sorriest part of this story? I gave the people the flower arrangements anyway. Yes, you should be cringing right now - I certainly am. If there's anything worse than a craft-challenged individual, it's one with zero craft-shame to accompany their creations.

Then the scrapbooking phenomenon arrived. And stamping. Both these activities left me feeling completely baffled. Why would people get out all that stuff, i.e. paper, glue, scissors, glitter, and all the other little scrapbooking paraphernalia, and spend all that time making a mess, just to have to clean up, put away, and STORE IT ALL SOMEWHERE IN THEIR HOUSE???

Then at some pivotal moment of time I came to the following realization: These girls actually enjoy the process of cutting/pasting/hot-gluing etc. Not only do they enjoy it, they think it's fun enough to make up for the clean-up/put away/storing business. ????? I cannot comprehend.

I realized this when two girl friends of mine started scrapbooking once a week and invited me to join them. At first I admired their dedication to making those family records. I figured only women who had set the bar high would be willing to force themselves to set aside one night a week for such torture.

Then I realized they actually enjoyed it. Shocking, I know.

At first I was determined to try it out so I could gain a toleration (I knew love was too strong a word) of scrapbooking myself. "It shouldn't be hard," I told myself. "I'm willing to do about anything to get out of my house one evening a week to hang out with girlfriends." I should have jumped on that scrapbooking excuse the very next Thursday.

But I didn't.

I tried to, really I did. "It wouldn't be that bad," I told myself. "I might even enjoy myself." I even considered just stopping by to chat while they did all their cutting and pasting, just for the social side of it. But I couldn't. And frankly, my aversion to all things scrapbooky puzzled me. It made me reflect a little on my anti-crafting feelings.

I made a surprising discovery. A weight-lifting one, even.

I have always hated crafts! This aversion didn't start in Young Women's that time we were supposed to make Christmas wreaths and mine was so hideous everyone thought I made it as a joke - it started way before then. My birth, most likely. Suddenly I could distinctly remember sitting in First Grade (FIRST GRADE, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE) dreading Art. What kind of First Grader hates Art???

Me. I detested it.

All that tedious cutting, and pasting, and heaven forbid they ask me to paint anything - I am seriously the world's worst painter EVER. And that includes everything from paper and small craft-like objects, to walls. It all takes so much time... Really, just the thought of Art always made me tired.

So, why would this realization be such a relief?

Because I'm excused. I don't actually hate crafts because I'm bad at them - I'm bad at them because I hate them. Can you see how that's sooo much better? How it totally absolves me from any non-crafting guilt for the rest of my life??? I honestly feel so much better about attending Enrichment meeting now.

And then guess what I discovered?

I AM NOT ALONE! There are other women who proudly stand up and say "Hi. I hate crafts." How do I know this? How can I support such a reckless claim? Because I found them here. Right on the old Mormon Mommy blog. What gets me, is all the times I passed up this blog because it was listed under the crafty women heading, and had the word "glitter" in it.

I now love this blog. I sit around waiting for each new post - and they ALWAYS deliver. you really need to spend a little time looking around to fully appreciate their genius. And they're probably getting sick of me, because I have to put in my two cents on EVERY post. Just so I can feel like we're all best non-crafty friends.

So now I've come clean. I've admitted my genetical defect to a world of crafty mormon women. I'd be worried you'd all cast me off now, but I happen to know that judging is frowned upon in your religion, so I'm feeling relatively safe.

And please don't try to save me. I know you're shocked, but as you can see, I'm in good company. I'll be fine.

And I'll never feel guilty again.

And I'm NOT signing up for any Christmas crafts at Enrichment. So there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sister For Sale

The other day I was talking to my father-in-law (who lives in another state, and who we rarely get to see), and finally mentioned to him that I have a blog. Funny that it's taken me so long to get around to giving him this info, since originally our far-away-family was one of the driving forces behind my intro to the blogging world three months ago. Because this blog is all about my kids, right? I mean, I do mention them at least every ten posts or so... Do you think that's enough to incite grandparent involvement? I'm not so sure.

I did, however, decide that I should probably take a moment to put up some fresh Baxter children info - just in case someone in the inlaw-fam actually decides to check out the old blog. So here goes:

Today I was in the living room with my kids. I think I was cleaning or something (because I never waste time doing anything else), when I saw Meara whack Conan over the head with a toy. The attack was provoked, but still.

I'm busy reprimanding my violent daughter, and I hear Conan say "Why'd we have to have Meara? We should sell her. *sob, sob*"

I was going to ignore this remark due to the head injury (and the fact that he learned it from his brothers, although in their version it's usually him up for sale), when he tacked on the next part:

"Maybe Grandma will buy her."

Well. This proactive approach got my attention. Besides that, it was way too funny to waste on just me, so I quickly say, "Why don't you call Grandma and ask her?" (I know. Great parenting Jen - you're kid wants to sell his sibling, and you jump on the bandwagon. Yes, there should have been some lecture, and maybe a chorus or two of "Families Can Be Together Forever," but I couldn't help myself).

So we call. I dial, hand him the phone, and listen in to the following conversation:

C: Gwaaamma, *sniff, sniff* (he's still recovering from the attack), ummm, will you buy Meara?

G: Buy Meara?

C: Yeah.

G: Well, I'd like to, but I don't think I have enough money.

C: Oh. Well, you can just have her then.


I'm not sure which is worse - his lack of devotion, or his bargaining skills. He didn't even bat an eyelash, or reconsider the price! He definitely needs that lecture. And the song.

In his defense, however, I would like to report that he and Meara do generally get along. They've been playing together a lot lately, and their favorite game is "Puppy". In this game Conan's the puppy, and she's the tyrannical/adoring puppy owner. It's one of my favorite kid-games to eves-drop on. I'll be in the kitchen, and I'll hear her in the other room:

"Pu-ppeeey, (in her most authoritative two-year-old-boss voice) COME HERE! Puppy, SIT DOWN! STAY!" (complete with hand gestures, and immediately followed by...)

"Awww, puppy (in her most adoring two-year-old-obsessed-with-cute-puppy voice, as she hugs and kisses the puppy), nice puppy."

It's all very cute to witness, I have to say.

And now I have one more story regarding Conan. I think Rusty's finally realizing just how much his little son actually worships him. First off, Conan obsesses over the fact that he looks just like his father. Which he does, minus the red hair. Seriously, he's like a little, blond, Rusty clone. But then the other day he took it to a new level of adoration.

Apparently (I wasn't here for this one), Rusty and Conan were talking, and somehow the subject of getting old and dying came up. Rusty's way more brave than me, because he jumped right into how someday "Mommy will get old and die, and Daddy will get old and die." Since the major source of my childhood anxiety was this exact issue, I'll do anything to get out of admitting these facts to my small children. But once the information was on the table, Conan took a moment to digest it and came up with the following:

"Whelp, Dad" (whelp being one of his staple sentence starters) "when I get old, I'm gonna put my arms around your neck like this," (picture cute-four-year-old arms around big-strong-Dad neck) "and we can die together."

So, I don't care if he wants to sell/give away his little sister. The kid is priceless.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why You Should Make Your Children Learn Piano

Today the other two pianists in our ward were both gone. For me, this translates into the following Sunday:

Play the organ for Sacrament meeting, and step in last minute for a musical number.

Play for the first hour of primary.

Run down and play for the Young Women so they can practice the song they're singing next week.

Hurry back and play for Relief Society.

Stay for choir, and realize there's no one to play the piano. Surprise!! I get to show off my fumbling, oops! I mean "sight reading" skills. That was great for the old self-esteem. It would have been easier for the poor people trying to sing their notes if I'd actually PLAYED any of them.

Went home for two and a half hours, and had my kids practice their piano lessons. This I obviously can't blame on the missing pianists, but still.

Went back in to church AGAIN to play for a Young Women's program - and found out they'd decided to do a last minute musical number, and oh, by the way, would you mind singing along since there aren't that many of them???

(As a side note to this last one, I actually wouldn't have missed the program for the world, and really was totally happy to play - and even sing. It was just so ironic that my piano-playing Sunday just kept going on, and on, and on...)

So, please. If you have children, make them take piano. I'm begging you. There are not enough of us (outside of Utah anyway), and it's DRIVING ME CRAZY!!!!!! I don't care if they hate it, some day they will thank you. (But not on days like today. On these days they will curse you - and all those nice parents who failed to force their children to continue on even though it was "boring" and they "hated it", because if those parents had just done a little more forcing, then maybe their child would be in your child's ward, and could PICK UP A LITTLE PIANO SLACK!!!!)

Ugh.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

If a Train Heads South at 78 mph, and a Goldfish Swims in Circles Counter-Clockwise...

I felt really smart today. Well, first I felt really stupid, but after that? Smart. And I would just like to publicly say that if Macy's wanted to hire me to figure out how much wrapping paper (of different prints, no less) they would need for their holiday gift wrapping business - and how much it would cost to buy it - I could handle it. In fact, I would be all over it. I'm actually surprised they haven't called already...

So I get to work this morning (local high school, substitute teacher, three periods of freshmen in Career Something-or-other right off the bat) and discover one of my biggest subbing pet peeves.

When I entered my class-for-the-day with approximately ten minutes to spare before second bell, I find this in my sub notes:

"We're starting a new section today on managerial and administrative blah, blah, blah. The lecture notes and instructions are on the following page (lies, all lies, by the way), and here's an outline of the project.

Groups of three with a leader, note-taker, and presenter. (Can I just say that one brilliant freshman asked what these jobs required?)

Give them the following information:

You work at Macy's and are in charge of the holiday gift wrapping from the day after Thanksgiving, to Christmas Eve. Statistics from the two previous years show that daily, you will need 20 small boxes, 30 medium boxes, and 50 large boxes. 45% of these use Santa wrap, 15% use Peaceful theme wrap, and 40% use Snowflake wrap. The wrapping paper comes in 100 sq ft rolls, and you cannot purchase partial roles. How many rolls of each kind of wrapping print will you need? If the wrapping paper costs 5 cents per sq ft, how much will your total wrapping paper cost? Groups should be prepared to present their work to the class when I return.

Yeah. Here's about where I started to feel really stupid. There's nothing I hate more than when a teacher decides to let me introduce a new section (without at LEAST informing me first), unless it's a teacher who wants me to do some kind of lab with lots of complicated steps without giving me detailed instructions OR an answer key.

Did I mention story problems were not my strong suit? At all???

I'm standing up there with these stupid instructions desperately thinking, "isn't some key information missing here? How big are the dang boxes?" .

Is it just me, or does anyone else think a little more info for the poor sub might have been kind?

So here's me in front of the class once I had them in their little groups, and had given out all the instructions listed above:

"Okay, does anyone know what the first step should be?" (this is said very hopefully) (hopes are dashed moments later by a room full of blank freshmen stares).

"Well, I don't really know either, but we need to figure this out so we don't all look really dumb when your teacher comes back." (Nothing like making yourself look really smart and competent in front of your students, right? And thankfully, this was right about the time I noticed a pile of boxes on a side table, with a bunch of rulers.)

"Hey look - some boxes. And rulers. I think we should start by measuring the boxes..." (but how to go about it? Under pressure my brain was just kind of spinning, spinning, spinning. Some kind of measurement that has to do with wrapping paper in 100 square foot rolls...)

I finally swung a deal with the class that if they would all measure away for the first half of the period and think REALLY hard about what they should do next, I'd tell the teacher they'd been good. I spent the rest of the period ruminating over the problem. And by the time 2nd period showed up - I was smart again. I actually managed to figure the whole thing out, breezed through the next two classes like a story problem genius.

Can I just confess that a part of me enjoys this sort of thing? No doubt this is because when it all comes down to it - I like a challenge.

Even if it requires looking like a fool in front of a room full of teenagers. Actually, that's just like taking the whole thing up a notch, which just makes it that much more exciting. And the payoff? Knowing at the end of the day that you handled it. That the old "mom brain" is still working after all.

And so, if there's anyone reading this post who would like a little challenge to wake up a brain spending too much time on housework, here it is: Go back up to the instructions, figure out ALL the steps required to answer both questions (since you don't have the boxes you can't really do the whole thing), and time yourself. Then in the comments you can leave your time. The first person who takes the challenge can also list the steps, and if you think they missed something, list your own version.

After all, I know you're all jealous of my experience today, and wish it had been you. But please try to deal with your feelings, because "Thou shalt not covet," and after all, everyone can't be a high school sub.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Simon Says... Follow Me!

Once again, I am forced to direct traffic to that other blog I share with my blogging/real-life buddie Natalie, Desperately Seeking Skinny Pants. If you've ever been a woman, or have ever battled it out with your body's amazingly resilient fat cells, please come join me. Apparently I'm in need of some accountability, and if no one comes through there's no telling what might happen next...

And please don't panic - I'm sure I'll be back here posting my regular drivel in a day or two. Today I simply feel the need to address the issue of my body, and the wardrobe it would like me to fit it into.

Hope to see ya there!!!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Another Reason Why I Shouldn't Be In Charge

I am responsible for giving all the children (and probably some of the adults in my ward) the world's worst sugar high. Last night was our ward's Potluck/Harvest Party, and as I've mentioned previously, the powers that be have decided I need to enhance my party planning skills, and I am now the ward Activities Person. As you can see, I am so out of the activity-planning loop, I'm not even sure what the actual title of my calling is.

I just know that several times a year I must plan, carry out, and clean up huge group activities.

And that it is not my forte, because my brain isn't organized, non-procrastinating, or detail oriented. Yes, we remembered the silverware and plates - but of course we (I) forgot the cups. And the napkins. Apparently, I just wouldn't be me if I didn't forget one of these important items. Oh well, right?

I'd almost rather go back to my previous job of being Primary President. If I hadn't determined that weekly headaches were worse than (pre-activity) headaches lasting a week, it would be a toss-up.

The Harvest Party was supposed to be all about food. Healthy food, to be exact. The kind people grew in their gardens, the wholesome stuff they canned, the good and nourishing things they brought to eat at the potluck, etc. The food theme shouldn't surprise anyone, because if you know anything about me at all, you know that my life practically revolves around food. I love food.

As great as it is, however, bringing food to display and eating food for dinner didn't seem like enough of an activity. What about the children? Surely they need some games, right? And prizes? Looking back, it's clear to see how my thought process totally revolved around food. Not just any food, but sweet, sugary food.

There was the "Candy Walk." Exactly what it sounds like - just walk around and get candy kids, we're giving it out for free. Not the cheap stuff either - I have "good" candy connections to put in charge of events like this. The candy in our Candy Walk was stuff like mini Almond Joy, KitKat, BabyRuth - the Costco goodie bag, if you're familiar with it.

Then there was the donut eating contest. Donuts on a string for all the little children who had just finished gorging themselves at the dessert table. That's right kiddies, just cram that donut in your mouth, and before you have a chance to swallow, we'll shove another piece of candy at you just for playing!

Pin the tie on the Bishop? The Bean Bag Toss? Candy as both victory AND consolation prize at each activity!!!

And as if that weren't enough, a sprinkling of the candy corn mix with the little candy corn pumpkins on all the tables.

Oh yes. And the good people bringing their produce and canning for display deserve a reward. How about chocolate? That's right, all those little children, with all those little sugar-bug infested teeth, got a pile of big old chocolate coins (the cool ones that actually look like fifty cent pieces) for bringing an entry.

Gee, I wonder why the dear primary children were running around screaming like Banshees on the world's biggest sugar high while we attempted to clean up around them? I really and truly believe that only Halloween itself can possibly compete with my Harvest Party when it comes to sweets and sugar. When I realized just how much sugar was flowing (some children - like mine - won candy in the Candy Walk like twenty times), even I was a little taken aback.

Will I be liable for dental bills? What about parents who lost their minds trying to put sugar-loaded children to bed when the activity finally ended at 8:30? Will they send me anonymous, threatening mail? (Even if they did, I'd still know who they were. I was passing out the candy, remember?)

I have to say, I'm feeling a little responsible here. Where was the message of Health? "Here children, look at these nice vegetables you grew in your garden. I'll bet you would all just love some zucchini, but unfortunately the actual focus of this activity happens to be sugar. And more sugar. Sister S. is cranking out powdered sugar covered elephant ears in the kitchen RIGHT NOW, so run along and help yourself."

Should I feel guilty here? Am I a horrible person who is subconsciously passing my love of sweet, fattening food at Harvesty-Fair-type events on to innocent children?

On second thought, maybe I should do it again next time. If those powers that be decide my sugary-food-one-track-mind is too harmful for the children of the ward, they might feel compelled to release me and put me in the library where I can't possibly pose a food-threat to anyone.

Hey, it could happen. I believe in miracles - it's part of my religion.

For now, however, I suppose I should just act like nothing happened. Sugar? What sugar? I have no recollection of sugar, sweets, or a Harvest Party, so don't try pinning your kids cavities on me! If I can just hold out for twenty-six more days, Halloween will come along and erase all memory of my Loads-of-Sugar-For-the-Children Harvest Party.

Any guesses on why I love Halloween?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Girl-Child

I totally remember fighting with my sisters - especially Annie - and even occasionally getting into a snit with my best bosom buddy Kelly. There was sassing, there was tattling, and definitely bossing going on. I distinctly remember exchanging insults with Kelly when we were about nine. The very worst thing we could call each other? Miss Priss. For some reason, this was THE insult of the century.

Now I have three boys. They do not fight this way. After the initial incident, their fights go more like this:

Someone gets tackled.

Someone gets choked.

Something gets picked up and used as a weapon.

Something gets broken.

Mom joins the fray, and heads roll.

Can I just say a little bossing and tattling would be refreshing?

Well guess what? I now have a girl. Finally, someone is content to just be prissy (and bossy). I actually call her Miss Priss as a term of endearment - which strikes me as ironic every time. And can I say that this whole girl thing is so unlike any of the boy things I've been through?

Yes, she knows how to sword fight, and has some karate moves, and loves to play in the dirt with her brothers. However. She also likes babies. And kitties. She thinks she's in charge of every human even close to her two year old size, and goes around mothering everything that will let her. Today while I was cleaning the bathroom she brought her baby in, helped it use the toilet, wiped it, and moved to the kitchen where she placed it in the high chair so she could feed it.

SHE'S A GIRL, PEOPLE!!!

Don't get me wrong, I love my boys (and hear they will be WAY easier to raise after the first ten years). And, I even feel comfortable saying I have really nice boys, who get along fairly well with each other.

But it's just different. Like a whole half of me as a mother has been able to come out and play! I'm having so much fun, and enjoying her girliness sooo much, it's prompted me to list the top ten reason's why it's so much fun to have a girl after having three boys:

1. She doesn't pick up every long, stick-like object and wield it like a sword.

2. Or gun.

3. Or break everything that is precious and dear to my heart with said sword-gun-stick.

4. She says things in her sleep like "Pretty, pretty girl", and gets to wear long, silky nightgowns.

5. Potty training. Need I say more?????

6. At football games she already copies the cheerleaders - and I never even pointed them out to her. Like the estrogen sporting female she is, she honed right in on those cute girls waving pom poms around, and instantly got up and did her best to follow along.

7. She may play with her brother's "guys" (even throwing in an occasional sound effect), but if they hurt each other they get reprimanded - and the victim gets patted lovingly while she holds him over her shoulder. Honest. Is that not the cutest thing you've ever heard??

8. She actually wants to be like me, rather than that big redheaded guy all the little boys around here are so smitten with. Finally someone throws herself against the door when I walk out of it! (Not that I want her to hurt herself over me, but gee whiz - for nine years I've watched my husband being followed around by a bunch of little Baxter groupies. FINALLY it's my turn to have a fan!)

9. She already knows how to open and apply makeup. (Okay, okay, I know this isn't necessarily desirable in a two year old - especially when it's mascara, her personal fav, all over her face during sacrament meeting. However. As stated in #8, it's the fact that she's feminine that counts here. She wants to be like ME!)

10. At Christmas and birthdays when she's older, she'll actually be excited to get clothes. And all the other cheap little girly things that most every girl gets thrilled about. And we can do lunch. And decorate her first apartment. And pick out homecoming/prom/wedding dresses. And when she has babies I'll be the actual mother of the mother - rather than just the mother-in-law (translation: she'll want ME there holding the baby and taking care of her). And she'll call me on the phone when I'm old and lonely and we'll chat. And I could go on, and on, and on.

I know that everything on this list does not come guaranteed with a girl-child. There are no "for sure's" with your children because they will grow up and do their thing. I know of lots of women who do not have this kind of a relationship with their daughter(s), and I know there's a chance Meara and I won't actually be soul mates.

But if we're not, it won't be because I didn't pray constantly that we would be.

So for right now, I'm just going to plan on things turning out this way regardless, because any other option is completely unimaginable and unthinkable at the moment. So wish me luck, and enjoy your girls - they are SO MUCH FUN!!!!