Thursday, December 31, 2009


I can hardly believe it! I actually made it to the year’s end without taking a blogging break. It was a goal but nothing I had high hopes of achieving.

I started on April 16th and here we are at post #261. The thought that some of you have actually read each of these blows my mind a little.

Over the course of the last several months my blog has come to mean a lot to me. It’s a place I can rest my addled brain and share my Stuff. I’ve spent lots of time wondering if this was a good idea or just a bad one in good idea clothing but your cyber listening and cyber support have been cyberiffic. In a year I’d just as soon be done with, you all are a very bright spot.

I’m going to pretend this an award show for most persistent blogger. Blogging even in the face of a complete dearth of anything important to actually say. Blogging only because I can. A few Thank You’s are in order.

Thanks to Michael for putting up with me and for pushing me to write. I love him and apologize publicly for anything embarrassing I may have written. Thanks to my kids for giving me so much to write about. Seriously kids, it’s almost ridiculous the amount of Stuff you give me. CTM . . .

Thanks to my neighbor ladies Marijke (yes, you count!), Berta, Krista, and Tia. Thanks to Tia especially for being there always.

Thanks to Michael’s high school friends who treat me like their own. Beckie, George, Kelley, and Katie, you’ve all become my friends along the way.

Thanks to all the other friends from my hometown, college, and beyond. I love that I can write as if you’re right there because you sort of are.

Thanks to my extended family that I never really knew before Facebook. Michelle Heath and Sarah Hogan come to mind but there are lots more. I love that we’ve found a way to connect.

Thanks to friends like Kellie, Mindy, Tami, Buffy, and Cynthia who may not fall into the above categories but who have made me feel loved and that maybe I’m writing about universal concepts. Like maybe, just maybe, the universe isn’t conspiring against me.

Thanks to Deena and David for giving us a reason to get out of the house! She’s in the House way too much. You guys are awesome and I’m so glad we’ve become friends.

Finally, thanks to Dianna Stiebrs for being my Facebook Mom. You know just what to say!

To everyone, thanks for sharing my year with me.
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cabin Fever

I don’t know where the time goes.

I don’t mean to remind you that I’m 40 or that another year is done. Another decade too. Kind of. Depending on your school of thought. I’m sort of fixated on something else altogether.

Today I had the whole day spread out before me. Lots to get done but hours and hours to work on it. I enlisted the kids’ help but after awhile it was enough to just stay out of my way. Actually, it would’ve been way more than enough if they could have done that simple, simple thing. The bickering today was off the charts. Insane. And it would come from NOWHERE. Someone would start mudslinging and then immediately claim another did something to them hours before. They know so much better than to give me that sort of excuse.

And the whining! Oh my goodness! The youngest two were in rare form today.

No task I started, including such favorites as microwaving a hotdog or opening an envelope, could be completed without the word “MOM!!!” or something equally annoying ringing in my ears.

So I had all this time but it didn’t amount to much. Yes, the house is looking good* but it took me four times the effort, brain power, and time. I was sure I was losing my mind some time around noon. By the time Michael got home I was ready to take a bath and hit the sack. By myself. And I hate to do that to him. Because he’s just about as frazzled when he gets home.

So. I’m starting to wonder if I need to go back to my old habit of getting up in the middle of the night and cleaning and doing laundry for a few hours. It sounds insane but the quiet is something I don’t get any other time. I don’t even mind working. Not a bit.

It was a day that tested the nerves and tried the patience. They are frazzled and I have none, respectively. That being said, I have to admit there’s nothing quite like a little Rock Band to sooth the savages beasts. At least for a little bit.

*So long as you don’t look in my closets or drawers. Or the back basement room, for that matter. Whatever. It looks better than yesterday.
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Klutz Loves Her Raisin Nut Bran

I took a look in the mirror yesterday and decided I couldn’t wait any longer. I called Tamara Pruett at The Split End and made an emergency appointment. How does a person get an inch of grey at the roots in a month? I headed over this morning and now the hair’s been put back to rights and it’s shorter too. The price tag was such that I’m left considering a) doing my own touch ups and b) growing my hair out again. I mean if it grows that fast I may as well grow it and wrap it around my head like, well, I don’t know like what.

On the way home I stopped by Winco to refill the fridge after the trip. As I filled the cart I found myself walking past my dear Raisin Nut Bran. I almost never buy this delicious cereal because I have no self control with it. A box is two and a half servings. Maybe. It’s funny because there are zillions of far worse foods I’ve eaten in the past few months but this one always looms large as a diet Fail. Maybe because it’s pretending to be all healthy but I know the truth. I sound like I’ve lost my mind, don’t I? Could be. But me and Raisin Nut Bran, we go way back. Way back. For as long as I can remember my mom would have a box of it waiting for me in the cupboard any time I came home. I haven’t lived at home as anything but a house guest since 1988 so it’s officially Tradition. No one else there eats it so I know who it’s for but I can go through boxes of it during a visit.

This time when I walked past the RNB, I threw a box into the cart. And it’s half gone already.

Next stop was the end cap display of frozen El Monterey frozen chimichangas. My spell check does not like the word “chimichanga” for some reason. What’s not to like? This is not a regular purchase but they’re a favorite of Michael Jr. and Kenny so I grabbed a package. I grabbed a package and about ten others hit the floor. Because I’m like that. Almost impressively klutzy. Did I ever tell you about the time I spilled red punch on my sister-in-laws cream carpet at my bridal shower? Well I did.

At home I set about to put some groceries away and do some cooking (a pre-New Year’s Eve batch of spinach dip because we couldn’t wait and a big pot of black bean soup). In the process I spilled a Costco container of grape tomatoes all over the kitchen (no surprises here, it’s what I do) and broke the dishwasher.

I snuck off to have a giant bowl of cereal in the afternoon and watched part of a 48 Hours Mystery. At different intervals during the program, the sound would go for just a couple seconds. It made it seem like the speaker was being censored. Exactly like they were cursing. Sierra and I noticed something similar yesterday while watching a video on the computer about Dominos new pizza (I still think it’s not so good. Me N Ed’s is the BEST). This chef gal was listing the things they added to the new sauce and the last item was bleeped. Sierra looked at me and said, “Wow Mom! What do you think she said?!” Rest assured, I’m sure it was family friendly. Just a secret or something. But of course our first thought was NAUGHTY.

This is probably another topic for another post but sometimes the whole Adult thing makes me nuts. Maybe I’ve already mentioned it. Why does Adult have to mean Cinemax and bow chicka bow wow? Just like those parts of the show with no sound, when we hear the word “adult” in reference to entertainment, we think NAUGHTY. Or Jurassic Perv as one of my children blurted out today. Yeah, that’s right. This child heard the reporter on 48 Hours mention that a man named Dr. Richard Hammond had a hidden video recorder in his bathroom. Instant connection between Dr. Richard Hammond in Jurassic Park. Can’t be too careful about what your kids are listening to, can you?

We need a movie designation that’s for grownups that doesn’t have to have salty language added to get a non-PG-13 rating. It’s almost like an R rating is necessary to be considered Serious and Grown Up. So anyway, it’s a little peeve of mine. That and how small the Raisin Nut Bran box is.

P.S. Michael saved the day and fixed the dishwasher!
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Monday, December 28, 2009

One of Many Resolutions I May or May Not Keep

We woke to a fine dusting of snow and it kept up through most of the morning. Very pretty but not likely to last or amount to much. I was surprised the kids didn’t rush to throw on snow clothes and play in it. I also wasn’t surprised to catch Kenny running around in it barefooted. I wish I was but this is a very Kenny kind of move. “Yes, you have to wear a coat!”, “Where’s your hat?” and “You’ll catch your death!” always fall on particularly deaf ears with that one. I’d write “LOL” next, but you know, I can’t pull it off. Maybe CTM (chuckles to myself)?

Another Christmas letter arrived today, this one from a cousin. He listed the good, the bad, and the ugly over the past two years (he didn’t write one last year) and then proceeded to blame me for feeling the need to write in the first place; my Christmas letter guilted him into it. That’s okay with me; I can take it! It reminded me of my dad this year. At Thanksgiving he mentioned maybe not writing the annual letter but I figured he’d eventually just do it anyway. People look forward to it. It’s always funny and irreverent and includes highlights of the year, semi-fictional accounts of the comings and goings of the dog and cat, his take on world events and, as always, his product endorsements. I was surprised when people began telling me they didn’t get one.

He did the cookie deliveries for mom this year and mentioned being roundly rebuked for holding out on everyone. He told me he’d like to write it but it’s just been a bad year all around; Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize and we’re still in Iraq and Afghanistan. That we are. But as Thomas Sowell said, “Like a baseball game, wars are not over till they are over. Wars don’t run on a clock like football. No previous generation was so hopelessly unrealistic that this had to be explained to them.”

There are a lot of arguments to be made about whether or not we should have started with Afghanistan to begin with. We went in after September 11th 2001 to find Osama Bin Laden and other high ranking Al-Qaeda members and to destroy the Taliban. Surely this needed to happen but of course nothing is so cut and dry. Bush’s decision to make no distinctions between such awful organizations and the countries that provide safe haven means we invaded a sovereign nation. And we don’t fight full on, giving everything we have so who knows how long we’ll be there. Additionally, blah, blah, blah. I just wanted my dad’s letter, you know?

I noticed that a few people actually took the time to write actual messages to me in their cards. Not generic holiday greetings but words especially for me. I think I’m going to write back. Actual letters or at least note cards. Wouldn’t that be something to find handwritten mail in your mailbox? I think I’d like to write a letter or two once a week. I have several New Year’s Resolutions that will surely have a shelf life of less than a week but maybe I can stick with one related to writing. Do you have any resolutions you think you might keep?
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Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Grinch Who Stole Facebook

I’ve spent the last few hours reading Christmas cards and checking names off my Excel spreadsheet list of folks we send cards to. It took a lot longer than I figured; long enough for the grape juice a certain five year old spilled to congeal into a sticky mess all over the kitchen floor. How did I not hear that going on? But it’s dealt with thanks to my trusty Clorox wipes. Oh how I adore my Clorox wipes!

So my Excel list isn’t alphabetized or great or anything because I don’t excel at Excel (I’ll need Michael’s help to make it ignore words such as “The” and “Family” before it starts alphabetizing). But it is interesting. To me. After making my list and checking it twice, I’ve decided to delete several names. And add a few. It takes a few years of not receiving a card for me to cut someone from the list but I’ll do it! Each year Michael tells me the list is too long and this year I’m trying to be practical about it.

As I read through these cards I can’t help but wonder if there was some sort of “Friends and Family of Tiff” discount on trips to Hawaii this year. Holy smokes! I can’t believe how many photos we received of beautiful families sporting leis and blissful smiles. I am very much in need of a tropical vacation but I think I’m going to lobby for Belize. One day.

The drive home today was uneventful. Always a blessing when you head over the pass. Sunny with only a few frosty spots. Not even a lot of traffic. I haven’t been feeling 100% so I crashed not long after we arrived. I guess I needed it.

This evening I sat down to my laptop and “The Sound of Music”. I decided to check out Facebook before I started work on the Christmas Card List and the first thing I noticed there was my neighbor’s list of Top Words. I guess this means words used on Status Updates. I checked out my list and it was fairly predictable:

1) Michael - used 85 times
2) Kids - used 59 times
3) Tiff - used 44 times
4) Why - used 44 times
5) Off - used 41 times
6) Good - used 40 times
7) Josh - used 39 times
8) Think - used 37 times
9) Any - used 36 times
10) Really - used 36 times

I would be more impressed with myself if my list had words like “Jesus”, “God”, “Awesome”, and “Cupcakes” on it but I must not use those words nearly enough. Noticeably missing are items such as “LOL” and “Hubby”. I see them all the time on other folk’s updates. It’s occurred to me since joining Facebook that almost everyone I know uses them (okay, okay, not too many guys on my Friend List use the phrase “hubby”) with ease. Without skipping a beat. I tried to write “LOL” the other day and it felt contrived and weird. But I did it anyway. I did it again today because really, I was Laughing Out Loud. But it looked stupid. It’s funny because it doesn’t look strange to me when other people use it. I just can’t quite pull off the old LOL. And “Hubby”. I can’t do that either. I think if I tried my husband would be compelled to write “LMAO” for the first and last time! Because I’m not the girl with a “hubby”. It’s one more word I just can’t pull off. It makes me feel like The Grinch Who Stole Facebook but I’m limited folks, let’s never forget it.

Well, after snacking on all manner of sugary treats that awaited our arrival home, I think I’ve finally come to a place where I can say goodbye to our friend, the evil Mr. Sugar, for awhile. We need to break up. I won’t be joining the “I Am Willing to Risk Salmonella to Eat Raw Cookie Dough” Facebook group and instead I’m headed to the kitchen for a bowl of Dad’s vegetable soup. Keep me in your prayers; I’ll need all the help I can get!
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Nyquil Induced Ramblings

Sierra found the ornament in the photo on the tree here at my parent’s house. Tom and Charlotte give them one each year and this was one of them. The ornament is a miniature claw-footed bathtub with Santa and a moose kicking back. Sierra held it up to us and demanded to know what she was missing. How was this not perverted? One of us said, “It’s a reindeer. Give them a break, it’s been a long day.” She pointed out that, no, in fact it was actually a moose. And a reindeer wouldn’t be any better. Why are they in a bathtub together? Michael Jr. shouted, “It’s a ‘bro date’!”.

My kids can detect the inappropriate ANYWHERE. Even Christmas ornaments. It’s like a sixth sense.

(How would my son know what a “bro date” is? Did you watch the final tribal council on Survivor this last season? That’s how. I just didn’t see that one coming.)

I better get moving before the Nyquil finishes me off. Let’s see. How was your day? Did you take advantage of the after Christmas sales? I tried to get some things at Target but wasn’t totally impressed with the prices or what was available. We did, however, notice that the red Spike the Ultra Dinosaur was on clearance and there was one left. I had enough gift cards in my wallet with Sam’s name on them so it’s in the back of the van waiting to be snuck in the house when we get home tomorrow. Surprise, surprise.

We meant to hurry down to the movie theater off Martin Way to see Avatar in 3-D in the IMAX theater but it was bumper to bumper from Sleater-Kinney to the front of the theater. Dad bought us tickets in advance so we got in but we had to sit very close to the front. Not ideal. I’m such a dummy; it never occurred to me that Lacey was ever this busy. But what do I know? I don’t live here anymore.

So anyway. I loved the movie. It was like “Dances with Wolves” with creatures from Napoleon Dynamite’s imagination. And daisy cutters, G.I. Joes, and plenty of plastic explosives. I loved it because it was visually stunning. It was easy to forget it was CGI. I loved it also because I’m a sucker for movies about indigenous populations (probably somehow linked to my worthless Anthropology degree) and although, like Michael said, we kept waiting for Al Gore to walk across the screen and sing “Kumbaya”, it kept my interest the for the entire 162 minutes. You have to understand that’s a VERY long time for me.

Here’s what I don’t quite get. This movie is not for little kids. It has a PG-13 rating for a reason. So why the Happy Meal (and other toys) tie-in? I know, I know, follow the money.

I can feel the Nyquil pulling me under . . .
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Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

I set up my laptop in the kitchen this morning so I could post some pictures for Tom and Charlotte and the family in England. Throughout the day I’d walk by and refresh Facebook to see photos of everyone else’s Christmas. I’ve enjoyed them all but I’m left with the same little disappointment I feel every Christmas since I’ve had kids. I see extended families gathered, old and young together. I see this and I’m jealous. If we had extended family to spend Christmas with us, maybe someone else’s kids could lower the behavior bar. Someone else’s children could, potentially, make my kids look pretty good. Cousins with ill behaved children would work well. Someone I could give a sympathetic smile to as they wander off to wrangle their offspring.

Ah but it was a good day. I slept in much longer than is really admissible on Christmas morning and made the kids wait to open things until the adults were finished with breakfast. Cruel, cruel grown folks we are. But anticipation’s part of the fun, right? Finally it was time but instead of a mad rush I asked them to each open one present one at a time so I could record it with the Flip camcorder from Tom and Charlotte. This was almost too much for them but it will be nice to watch later. The dilemma for me is always how to juggle the camera, the list (Thank You cards are a real pain without it), and gift opening. Now add a camcorder. Because no one else will do it. When I was younger I used to think my mom got so many more gifts than us because she would always have several left when we were finished opening ours. Now I’m just like her; no time to get to them. I wish we would all just take turns opening things but that would require each child to get the same number of gifts and I’ve never taken things to that level of organization and accuracy.

Michael surprised me with an audio system for my iPhone and a Chi flat iron as well. No more curls! I made out like a bandit with gift cards, a big box from L’Occitane, and lots of other goodies. The best part was watching the kids open things they were really hoping to get. Always priceless photo ops. And dinner. Mmmmm dinner. I think I could eat prime rib (ends please!) every day of my life. There’s quite possibly nothing I love more in the Delicious Meats Department. And the Ghost of Diets Past (Dr. Atkins) assures me there’s nothing wrong with it.

After dinner Dad and Michael installed the new flat screen TV and although there were a good number of near panics, melt downs, and epithet hurling (none from Michael . . .) it is now up and we’ve basked in its HD glory. It is magnificent and I covet it unapologetically. It was as if those goats on MythBusters were right there in the room with us.

The night has come and as I write I hear my father and husband critiquing the suit on the KOMO 4 weather lady. They are not impressed. Another newscaster joins her on the screen and Dad wonders what would happen if they got into a cat fight. And if perhaps the one with big hair has cookies and stuff hidden up there. So many channels and yet there you go! This is my entertainment.

I have to say I’m happy to have this season of overdoing it over with. I’m ready to get back to somewhat tamer times. Sam, on the other hand, has his sights set on next Christmas already. As I sat down tonight, this is what he said:

Sam: “Mom! I want to learn to build a time machine when I grow up."

Me: "You just watched 'Napolean Dynamite' and you still want to build a time machine?"

Sam: "Yes. Next Christmas can I have a red Spike the Ultra Dinosaur? And wouldn’t it be easier if Santa just brought one big box with all our presents in it?”

It never occurred to me that present opening was a hardship! Things are pretty darned good if you can complain about that. But it would save me a lot of time wrapping gifts; maybe he’s on to something. Oh my. What a day!
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

“What the ____?!” You can fill in the blank but it really wasn’t SO bad. Michael opened the bathroom door, took one look at me, and kept on walking.

I suppose I could’ve sat down with his slippers and ripped out the stitching on the leather soles. There’s something about them I don’t like and I want to try again. Instead I grabbed a barstool and headed for the bathroom. I located my mom’s ancient curling iron and after a few minute’s wait proceeded to cover my head with ringlets. Hence Michael’s shocked reaction.

I’m not used to time on my hands.

Back in ye old days of yore (my childhood) I used to HATE Christmas Eve. “Is that even POSSIBLE?” you ask and the answer is a resounding “Absolutely”. Because Christmas Eve was HARD.

I would’ve loved a leisurely nothing-to-do kind of day way back when but what we had was the never-ending day of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Mom was (and still is) known for her elaborate cookie plates filled with all sorts of gorgeous, delectable, Christmas confections. Almost too pretty to eat. She would fill and wrap many, many, many plates and we would pile in the car to make the deliveries. We’d go as far as Mercer Island and many stops in between. At each stop we would have to sit and visit and smile and be polite. As the day wore on there would be midnight mass to look forward to. Which I didn’t. Because for all of my childhood, I practiced the old Early to Bed, Early to Rise adage. Bed could not come soon enough. What I did like about Christmas Eve was opening a gift of homemade pajamas from Mom. That and Dad’s oyster stew. That was the good stuff. Now Dad drops off the cookie plates early and we get the luxury of having nothing in particular to do.

Michael and Michael Jr. are waiting for me to stop what I’m doing and go play football in the backyard. This is what I’m overhearing as they wander the hallway looking at all the old framed collages of each year:

“Man you were cute. Look Michael. Your mom was hot back then. Dang! Look at you. You look weird when you’re that skinny.”

Nice, huh? Yeah, I know, but it is. At least I’m pretty sure it is. And by the way, I wish YOU a Merry Christmas. I hope it’s the BEST yet.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What Do You Think? Seriously. I'm Talking to You.


My daughter is bouncing off the walls. Silly. Squealing. Getting the little boys ready for bed and telling them they have to so mom and dad can wrap presents. She wants to go to bed to make tomorrow (and consequently the day after) come sooner. To them the mention of gifts is a stimulant of the highest order.

She calls out to Kenny in a voice so loud, speaking so fast I can barely make out the words: “Kenny if you’re sleeping in here I call not being on the edge!”. She has all three younger boys in her room (the TV room), lining them up on the futon and if the noise emanating from that room is any indication, no one’s getting any sleep anytime soon. Oh well, the wrapping can wait. It gives me a little more time with YOU.

We need to talk.

Doesn’t that sound ominous? Like I’m breaking up with you (I’m not) or you've crossed some imaginary line (you haven't). Has anyone ever said this to you? Have I ever mentioned that nothing sends me running faster than being told “We need to talk”? Seriously. It freaks me out.

But we kind of do need to talk. I need some blog advice. We’ll get to that in a bit.

Today my friend (and maybe yours) Teresa (Teri Hull) came down from Seattle with her daughter to join us in some extended Gluttony. When she first mentioned coming down my first thought was this: Could I possibly convince her to pick up some Trophy cupcakes for me? I’m BAD that way. Being the dear that she is, she kindly offered to pick up an order if I called one in. So, today Teresa and Leonora picked Sierra and I up after they stopped at Stewart’s (because OBVIOUSLY) and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Casa Mia catching up on several years of life. I think we need many more lunches to actually catch up but we’re off to a good start. After lunch we drove to Rainier to buy dozens of cookies at Main Street Cookie Company. And take lots of photos. I think we may have freaked out the lady working there; she eyed us rather suspiciously. But seriously, I can’t help myself. I need to take pictures of delicious things. And anyway, I’m the best advertisement they’ve ever had. Just nod. You know I’m right.

On the way back to my parent’s house we stopped for photos of the zonkey on 148th. Here’s where I’d put a hyperlink to my blog back on June 24th when we first visited the cookie shop and first saw the zonkey. But that doesn’t work when I send messages through Facebook.

Which sort of brings me, in a roundabout way, to my blog question. This afternoon Teresa told me I need to make the blog public again. Because it just needs to be. I admit I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks, wondering if I should do it. I made it private originally because I felt certain that there was a particular person reading it for the sole purpose of having her nose in my business. Someone who would never say they liked what I wrote or even admit they read it. Someone looking for something bad to come of it. I’ve had to think and think about whether or not I should sweat that kind of thing. It’s certainly the risk you take when you bare it all (or at least a lot of it) in such a public way. There’s no way to restrict it to Only People Who Love and Adore Tiff. Or At Least Find Her Marginally Interesting. Now my blog site is a sad little place with “No Unmoderated Comments Found” glaring at me daily. I love getting your messages in my Inbox on Facebook but the comments on the blog were fun too because everyone could see what everyone else said. Even better would be a way to comment on the comments so I could easily write back but I’m not clued in enough to figure that out.

So, let’s talk. Send me a Facebook message and tell me what you think. Do you like getting these messages in your Inbox (that wouldn’t have to end necessarily) or do you prefer the way it used to be with the blog open to see without signing in? And by the way, if you’re receiving these messages after joining the group site and would like access to the actual blog, just send me your e-mail address. This is a tough one for me. Probably tougher than it should be. Maybe I need to go munch another cookie and mull it over.

P.S. It’s Christmas Eve Eve—are you excited yet???
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let This Be Over

This is a photo of my dad’s upper barn. The lights are his small memorial to the recently murdered Seattle and Lakewood police officers.

The first killing happened when my parents were visiting us. October 31st. Halloween. Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton was sitting in a patrol car with trainee officer Britt Sweeney. They were talking about a traffic stop when a man drove up alongside them and opened fire. Brenton died at the scene. I read that his partner sustained only minor injuries but psychologically speaking, we all know that’s not true.

The guy responsible for this tragedy had no criminal record in Washington (or anywhere else as far as I’ve read). Christopher Monfort attended the University of Washington and studied law enforcement. In his apartment police found high-powered rifles, homemade explosives, booby traps and a barricade of tires. Who was this guy? I mean yes, they caught him (and shot and paralyzed him) but who does this? Police believe he was a lone terrorist so I guess it could be worse but it’s BAD. Real BAD.

The kind of tragedy that should stand alone in time, surrounded by years and years of nothing of the kind.

Weren’t we just here for Thanksgiving? Less than a month after Officer Brenton was killed, we learned that November 29th in Parkland, something like 30 miles away, four Lakewood police officers were murdered as they started their day at a local coffee shop.

This creature, this awful, awful man, this Maurice Clemmons did have a criminal record. Quite a long record. In Washington AND in Arkansas.

(Thanks for the clemency Huckabee. May this come back to haunt you.)

And who was this guy? I don’t know either. And as he’s now reaping his eternal reward, we can only speculate.

So we should be able to close the chapter on a very, very sad few months. This should be OVER.

But it’s not. It’s just not. Yesterday we learned that two sheriff’s officers were ambushed by a man lying in wait with a gun. Edward Crable wanted help removing his intoxicated brother from his home. His brother, David Crable had a history of arrests for things such as malicious mischief and assault and he also had a no-contact order by his teenage daughter who lived with Edward. The man had a history of terrorizing his family. To the family’s credit, they did all they could to administer CPR and first aid to the injured officers. This story ends with another assailant shot dead.

So. Can this please be over? Or was the October shooting a sort of Columbine? A defining event that ushers in a new, previously unthinkable, chain of events? I don’t even want to imagine how things change when law enforcement officers don’t feel reasonably safe doing their jobs.

I’ve heard these tragedies referred to as “assassinations”, “domestic terrorism”, and “ambush murders”. I guess they all, sadly, fit. I just hope, hope, HOPE that this isn’t the face of things to come.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Deadly Sin #3

Okay, knitting fans, 1 slipper done and felted, 1 to go. Tonight Michael and I drove to Olympia to buy leather soles for them at Canvas Works (this is, unfortunately, not a gift you can surprise someone with AND have them fit properly). As we drove through Rainier I gazed longingly at the very closed Main Street Cookie Company and wondered aloud which days they’re open. I knew it was a strange schedule but the specifics elluded me. Michael announced that he was laying off the sugar. He was going to lean more in the direction of salty meats. I’m all for salty meats but I’ve got other plans. I’ve got a few more days left before I make any major stands in the Delicious Treats Department. Until the stroke of midnight next Thursday, I have every intention of seeing things through to complete catastrophe as far as sugar goes (just short of Diagnosis Diabetes).

After Canvas Works we drove a few blocks to Mercato Ristorante. It was either that or Matthew’s suggestion of The Tofu Hut. Mom assured me that it really is supposed to be quite good but the whole name was throwing me off. Something to try next time. Anyway, Mercato was very nice. As we sat and looked over the menu we overheard two ladies ask if it was too late for the Twilight Menu. Oooh! Twilight! Oddly enough it had less (read: NOTHING) to do with the book series and more to do with the time of day. From 4-6 p.m. they have a three course meal for $17.95 and as it was 5:52 p.m., we went with that. We started with a Cesaer salad and then both chose the petite sirloin steak, grilled with a gorgonzola-herb crust and served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and fresh spinach. The bread that comes with the meal is crazy delicious. Oh and spumoni gelato. Doesn’t it just make you drool? It was super yummy. Wow. I should get paid for such advertising.

As we waited for our meal Michael started playing with his WolframAlpha app. I bought him for Christmas (who am I kidding here? He bought it and told me it was from me). This app. (or the website for that matter) is a computable knowledge search engine and he’s having fun playing with it. Here is what it had to say about today, December 21, 2009:

Today is the 355th day of the year and this is the 52nd week. It is no official holiday but it is the observance of Forefather's Day. It’s the 25th anniversary of the death of Lister Hill, the 21st anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the 41st anniversary of the Apollo 8 launch, the 50th anniversary of the birth of Florence Griffith Joyner, and the 100th anniversary of the death of engineer Charles Benjamin Dudley. We’ve got a waxing crescent moon, sunrise was at 7:55 a.m. PST and sunset was at 4:24 p.m. PST

That’s what? 8 hours and 29 minutes of daylight? Sort of depressing but it is Winter Solstice so it’s only getting better, right?

As we drove back through Rainier I stopped at Main Street Cookie Company to check out the hours of operation. Wednesday through Friday. How’s that for not much? Well, I’ll be heading there day after tomorrow or Thursday to continue the gluttony. Don’t judge me for choosing to sin differently than you! Do I sound defensive? Does this minivan make my butt look fat? Oh New Year, Dear 2010, you cannot get here soon enough.
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Knitting Marathon Loser


Mom made chile rellanos tonight. Green chile burritos too, but it's the rellanos that I love. I wonder if anyone noticed that I ate six of them. That I didn't quite get around to putting anything else on my plate. Probably not. Too busy cracking jokes and poking fun at each other. Tonight we had this exchange:

Sierra (to her dad): "Mom thinks Taylor Lautner is hot."

Me: "So? He is. Except for the Cro Magnon brow."

Michael Jr.: Blah, blah, blah, something about the Upper Paleolithic.

Me: "Do you think I don't know that?"

Michael Jr: "You probably do; you're part anthropologist."

Then he was harassed by everyone for that. On my mom's side or my dad's?

Did you know that the term Cro Magnon is no longer used by scientists? After many years of research it's been determined that they really weren't so very different than Neanderthals to require a completely different designation. Scientists now use the terms 'Anatomically Modern Humans' (AMH) or 'Early Modern Humans' (EMH) to refer to these creatures that look a lot like us but weren't quite in possession of the complete array of modern human behaviors .

"And your point", you ask? I don't have one. I just have nothing much to share today. I slept in till 8 a.m., it rained most of the day, and I spent hours and hours working on a pair of slippers for Michael so I can felt them and fit them with leather soles in time for Christmas. Because really, there's no time like the last minute. I wish there was but apparently for me it doesn't work out that way.

Additionally, I have a reputation with my husband for making and doing things for others and not for him. There was a time when I had a lot of extra free time (before kids) and I made a few afghans for gifts. I went so far as to buy yarn in M.I.T.'s colors and then I had a baby and it just didn't happen. When I did make things I focused on smaller items like socks. I've also made treats for other people, you know, things like that. So this year I vowed that I would make him some Spectacular felted wool slippers, not because he needs them but because I need to show him that he's a priority. There are probably a million better ways I could do it but there it is. So I'm on a serious knitting rampage and hoping to finish the first one before the three hours of the Survivor finale is over tonight.

How's that for a Wife Fail? Ignoring the one you love so you can focus on showing them they're a priority. Hey kids, don't try this at home.
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Acts 20:35

Stop 1970's Tiff! Do not break that seal! Do you know what those Adventure People will be worth on eBay in 2009? No, we don't have hovercraft yet. You're opening it anyway, aren't you?

Man I loved Adventure People. We bought this same set for the kids a few years ago on eBay and it definitely cost more than the original. On the upside, the younger ones still play with them. It's too bad they don't make them anymore. Tom is holding the game "Fat Chance" and I have exactly no idea what that was. But I can look it up . . .

From the box:
"Fat Chance is a rollicking game for children that nutrition-conscious parents will love. Players move Fat Man pawns around the colorful game board trying to collect as FEW junk food pounds as possible. But the temptations are many and it's hard to resist "Pie a la Mound", "Mozzarella Mess", "Sunday Driver" and the "Tube Steak Special" (sic). What a combination - Ugh! Just imagine what you'll feel like after stuffing yourself with all that junk! (yuk!) If you are lucky, though, you'll be able to sweat off some of those pounds in the steam bath. Then if you challenge another Fat Man to a Weigh-In, he'll be the one to flip down the scale not you. What a relief because the fewer pounds you gain the better your chances are of winning the game of Fat Chance."

Seriously. It's like the Biggest Loser!

Do you have memories of childhood toys you wish you'd have duplicates of, hermetically sealed for Future You? I can think of several. Funny though, I never think of that sort of thing when we pick out things for the kids. I never think much about what would have value in the future. That sort of thinking is probably what drives up the price of Star Wars Legos and the reason we can't afford them!

The FedEx Man saved Christmas today! The website said the package wouldn't come until sometime next week but we were leaving for Yelm today. Then, out of nowhere, the date changed to today! Around noon Michael and Tia and I were hanging out chatting when I noticed a FedEx truck outside! I ran, screaming like an idiot, right out the door. In my pajamas. Hadn't quite stopped doing laundry and packing this morning to remedy that. Anyway, after nothing, nothing, NOTHING, Michael went out to speak to the driver. Turns out the book I made for my parents was supposed to be on the truck but he couldn't find it. I was heartbroken. He said he'd be back after a few deliveries; maybe it would show up. And it did! It's funny how excited we can get about the gifts we give. Often far more excited about those than what we receive. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35) sounds like some lame platitude we tell our kids to make them better people but honestly it's true; it really feels so much better. Though I have nothing against receiving. At all. That Spa Day and Tiffany's bracelet are still making me smile . . .
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Thanks Charlie Brown

Check these two out!

Tonight was the Relief Society Board party and The Stealing Game reared its ugly head again. Michael came with the crazy dancing Christmas tree hat and we brought one as a gift as well.

(I should mention something about these obnoxious hats. Sierra loved the dancing elf hat that Krista brought to the party last night. She said she picked it up at Walgreens so we stopped by our local store this afternoon. She was disappointed to hear they didn't have any left because she really wanted to buy one for herself, a friend with a near-Christmas birthday, and for her dad. I called several Walgreens in the area and although most were sold out, we did find two that had four of the dancing tree hats between them so we bought them all. I think we've lost our minds. Also, I think I should probably speak for myself . . .)

I didn't end up with what I wanted tonight (I gave Patti The Stink Eye but she STILL took the gorgeous apron Karen made!) but was, with a little tag team action, able to score Michael the Big City Slider Station. It was fun stealing it from Ben but even more fun rewrapping it in the raggedy wrapping paper left from the party and ding dong ditching it at his front door;). I wish we played this game WAY more often.

Something Patti had us do at the start of the party was to think about what our favorite Christmas movie is so we could share with each other and talk about them. I had to think pretty hard. I mean I always have to watch "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" because OBVIOUSLY but it doesn't quite get to the true meaning of Christmas if you know what I mean. I remember Karen said "Polar Express" and Lynn said "Elf". Tabitha likes all the claymation shows and Becca likes a Kelsey Grammar musical version of "A Christmas Carol" and I think Patti said she likes them all. John mentioned "Christmas Vacation" and Bishop talked about "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Mr. Krueger's Christmas". Michael likes "A Christmas Story". I can't remember Ben's favorite because all I remember was his retelling of "Citizen Kane". Hmm. But what's my favorite. I was last and it occurred to me that it was "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

I love that show. It reminds me of my childhood (because I am OLD) and it's reminiscent of a much simpler time. Also, if you know me you know I have a hard time with all the commercial hoopla of the holiday season and it gets me down. In this story you have Snoopy attempting to win a light display contest ("Win Money Money Money!") and Sally telling her brother, "All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share." I'm right there with Charlie Brown when he yells, "Isn't There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas Is All About?"

Linus brings the focus back where it should be by answering Charlie Brown's questions. "Lights, please." Under the spotlight Linus quotes the second chapter of Luke, versus 8-14:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Just like Charlie Brown, I need to find a way to push past the commercialism of the season and not let it get to me. I need to remember that we've got Charlie Brown Christmas trees all around us who need our love to make them whole. I need to remember Jesus. Thanks Charlie Brown.
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh What Fun!

This is my FAVORITE. This is what I look forward to each Christmas: Tiff and Tia's Annual Christmas Party. No pressure; I just make some punch and maybe a treat. Everyone else brings something delicious and me and my girlfriends have the best time. I can't be sure how many years we've been doing it but it only gets better each time.

Do you go to a party like this? Where everyone brings a wrapped gift and you play the stealing game? I hesitate to call it a White Elephant gift exchange because most people don't bring totally weird things (though Krista's insane wiggling elf hat that lit up and sang "We Are Santa's Elves" was a much coveted gift--way to go Berta!) so it's The Stealing Game to us. We draw numbers and take turns opening a gift or taking someone else's. The third pair of hands that touch it freeze that gift. I have no ability to adequately describe the insanity that ensued when Tia finally got the bug zapper she's wanted each year (Thanks Amy!) and what followed when it was stolen from her! She did get it back and went home with it so I guess I won't be getting any more emergency black widow calls. Krista and a few others wanted to try it out on my black widow but I think maybe they were too scared to get close enough!

We missed Nikki off in Nebraska but Tia did share a bit of her. It seems they've both downloaded the Dragon Dictation app. and if you don't completely anunciate your words, the dictation is, well, not quite what you'd hope for. Nikki decided to sing a Christmas carol into it and then sang back to Tia the words Dragon Dictation thought she said. It was HILARIOUS. I totally recommend this app., not for it's intended purpose but for sheer entertainment value.

Just thinking about tonight makes me all gushy like someone who maybe had a few too many. And any is too many for me, so you know, I LOVE you man! I know my husband and kids roll their collective eyes when they hear the party is coming up and they complain that they're relegated to the basement or somewhere else entirely, but I totally appreciate the time to be with my girlfriends. I know them from all sorts of different (and often overlapping) areas of my life and there are funny little connections between all of us. Buffy and Deena were new to the party this year but it turns out that Stephanie happened to go to high school with Buffy and Marijke and Deena have known each other since their high schoool seniors were in kindergarten. Small world.

Man I red-heart my girlfriends!
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas in Yelm?

1975. What a year. I can't remember what I was opening in this picture (I'll post it on the She's in the House group site) but it must have been Fabulous. How else to explain that look? And the tree. I have to continue to remind myself that this is my journal (which I am SO excited to turn into my own little book on January 1) so I should add details my kids may find interesting later. Anyway, the tree. Mom had this thing about Noble Firs, the Cadillac of Christmas Trees (seriously, I just read that somewhere). Every other year we would dig up a Noble Fir and decorated it with velvet bows and satin balls.

(Because my parents were "green" before it was hip. Back when being environmentally conscious was referred to as being "frugal". Back when their hair was long, my pajamas were homemade, and I would sneak their Whole Earth Catalogs to get a real education.)

I've got it pretty good as far as married folks and Christmas go. We always spend it with my family. We're geographically closer from here but we did it even when we lived in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. They either came to us or we came to them. I feel guilty about it sometimes but Michael's parents are divorced and neither of them have places that could withstand an invasion of seven.

This year I thought we were having Christmas here. Michael didn't have much time he could take off and Tom and Charlotte will be in the U.K. with her family. Let the folks come here, right? That's what I was prepared for. And by prepared I mean being sure the internet gift orders are sent to our house and e-mailing my dad a list of what I want to eat while they're here (prime rib, oyster stew, French onion soup, his famous po' boys and seafood gumbo). Then out of the blue, Michael told me last night that he might take off next Monday and Tuesday and as he's got the rest of the week off, we could just drive over.

Sounds so simple, doesn't it? Except the part about packing for all these kids, making sure we have all their presents as well as room for said presents. Finding someone to tend the tortoise, cats, and fish (I think the black widow can fend for herself for a few days).

The folks called last night to gush over the Oh. My. Gosh. 42 inch TV a delivery truck pulled up with earlier in the afternoon. Too generous. Can't believe it. (Man this is hard to take half credit for.) But anyway, I mentioned that perhaps we could come over their way this weekend and stay through the holiday. That's all that took. So now we get to cross our fingers that all the lovely gifties we've ordered will get here by the weekend. Well, it should be a lot of fun, one way or the other.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'll Be at The Red Lobster in Case You Change Your Mind

I woke up at 8 a.m. (!) to find we were in for a two-hour delay. Even for Michael out at the Hanford area. I guess that pretty little snow that came down last night was joined by some freezing rain causing ADVERSE conditions. It’s dangerous because OBVIOUSLY but also because folks around here are not exactly safe drivers under these conditions. I don’t know if it’s inexperience or inexperience + freaking out but they scare the heck out of me.

What about me you ask? Oh I’m good at this. I’ve got a Connecticut winter with bald tires and four Boston winters and even a few in New Jersey and New Hampshire under my belt; I can manage this little bit of nothing. Really it’s so little I can see the blades of grass sticking all over the yard. Still, Sierra was out there making a snowman. It must be some sort of internal drive. It MUST be attempted with each snow. It MUST.

Today the mailman trudged through the slush and brought me more things to wrap and some cards to open. Under the cards was the latest Newsweek magazine with an insanely close-up picture of Tiger Woods. I wonder how long it takes for this to die down?

(And I wonder how much coal he'll find in his stocking? And how long before there's a calender of his conquests?)

We first heard the news of his car wreck on Black Friday as we drove out of the movie theater in Lacey. It caught my brother Tom’s attention because he’s an avid golfer and pretty much Tiger Woods is the only household name the sport has to offer. Also he probably has a man-crush on him. But anyway, within 2 minutes of hearing the details that were given, Tom had the whole story laid out. And pretty much it was exactly what all the tabloid press has since sketched out and what he’s admitted to. I think that story in particular made a whole lot of us ask “Who do you think you’re fooling?”. Because clearly his private life is our business. And clearly, I’m being facetious but there’s a sector of society that actually feels this way. Otherwise how can you explain those magazines at the newsstand or TMZ?

On Saturday I sat down to a fancy pants lunch at Nouveau Day Spa and the attendant brought me several celebrity news magazines to peruse. With nothing else to do I started flipping the pages. I didn’t recognize a lot of people but when I finally did I started to read (because I didn’t have a Sharpie to draw mustaches). And what I read freaked me out. It wasn’t the subject matter but the tone. The “reporter” wrote as if he or she was writing about my best friend. There was a familiarity that was completely disconcerting. I guess I always figured that people who were interested in celebrities were a little like bird watchers; aware that they are observing The Other. I guess it doesn’t really work that way. It reminds me of “Happy Gilmore” when The Jeering Fan keeps bugging Shooter McGavin to meet him at Red Lobster. *shivers*

Well, it looks like the weather is only getting uglier. Are we in for another delay? My phone’s telling me it will all melt away tomorrow but at least Sierra’s got photographic evidence of that snowman!
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Dinner at the Quintanas

Well, I’ve got SOME Christmas cards ready to go out. Not half but maybe a quarter of them. I’ve had my earbuds in, tuning out Harry Potter and whatever he’s getting up to.

I’ll be doing cards differently next year. Like the photo kind that comes with envelopes. Maybe print up the labels in October. Cross off folks who never keep in touch. I screwed it up a bit this year. I bought cards last January without looking carefully. Some look nice and others are literally only a holder for a photo with a message on the back. They don’t even open. Whatever. The main problem is that all of them only have 3 ½ x 5 openings and I ordered 4 x 6 photos so Michael Jr. and Sam, flanking the group, each have half a face showing. Oh well. It’s the thought that counts. Never mind that the thought was “Why Do I Keep Doing This?”. And why do I keep doing this? Because it’s the done thing and I LOVE getting Christmas cards. I haven’t any right to hope for them if I’m not sending them, right?

This was dinner tonight: When I looked it up I also saw this one: If you try it before me let me know what you think. Doesn’t it look good? I suppose only if you don’t consider broccoli a vile weed. Which I don’t. Because it’s DELICOUS.

While I cooked, that song “Last Christmas” came on the radio. It reminded me of the gal who did my manicure and pedicure on Saturday. That song came on while she did my nails. After it played for a bit she stopped what she was doing and just looked at me. Out of nowhere she said, “How could he give my heart to someone else? The very next day? You can’t give away someone else’s heart.” Awkward. I think I kind of prefer having my nails done by someone I wasn’t supposed to understand.

I spent dinner prep time alternating between actually cooking and removing children from the large bin I bought a Walmart today. I bought it for snow boots, snow pants, etc. because I haven’t been blessed with a mud room (you get what you get with these Alphabet Houses and what you get isn’t a mud room). The kids have turned my kitchen into a disaster area and I’m hoping this helps. But anyway, I should have known better than to leave it empty for any length of time. For reasons unknown to me, Josh spent an hour alternately performing Greco-Roman wrestling on his annoyed older brothers and begging them to lock him in the bin. Me and my big ideas.

The dinner was pretty tasty but Sam insisted he wasn’t hungry. Michael brought home the newest Harry Potter movie from the Redbox and a bag of candy so the deal was the child with the best dinner manners could pick first. Sam had last pick but was lucky to have a pick at all. I had to actually sing to get him to eat. To the tune of “One Night in Bangkok” I crooned, “One bite of broccoli and you’ll watch a movie; you’ll get to pick some candy from the bag . . .” You may as well know that I do awful things like this to 80’s tunes all the time. I should also disclose that it works only because they will do anything to get me to stop. I just can’t help myself; I’m a musical freak.

Dinner ended with Kenny numbing his tongue with ice to see if he could keep from tasting the broccoli (something he learned from Encyclopedia Brown) and me realizing these kids are developing an expensive egg nog habit. But hey, 'tis the season, right?
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

All I Want for Christmas is Not a Snuggie

This morning the phone rang while Michael and I were scrambling to do all the prep work for dinner. Would I help out in Nursery today? Sure, why not?

(By the way, prep work for a crock pot dinner should not take over an hour. The beef and mushroom stew over mashed potatoes was delicious but seriously, I use a crock pot on a Sunday morning for a reason. That's the last time I start a Williams-Sonoma recipe without reading it through carefully first.)

We were late for church which is actually kind of unusual (thanks Williams-Sonoma) and we split up between two rows of folding chairs. Josh made it almost all the way through until he noticed Eric Endres (You may know him as Eric Herman, the man behind the viral hit "The Elephant Song") sitting in front of us.

Josh: "Mom. Mom. Mom. Who's that?"

Me: "Shh!"

Josh (quietly): "Is that Jesus?"

Me: "No it's not Jesus. Shh!"

Josh: "Santa?"

Me: "Let's go."

I don’t know if it’s just me (it’s not) but parents are hard to buy for. They won’t tell you what they want and they don’t need much. I decided (at the last minute of course) that I’d make them a photo book of our trip to England for my brother’s wedding in 2005. I just finished it up this evening and I know they’ll love it but what else to give? Tom bought them a huge flat screen TV that will show up at their house this week (SHHHH!) and he wants it to be from all of us. This is great, OBVIOUSLY, because it is a Fabulous gift of which he will except exactly $0 and ½ credit. The problem is that it won’t be waiting under the tree with a massive red ribbon.

(Oh and there’ s the additional problem of having to listen to the inevitable expletives that will fly when Dad installs it because just like Ralphie, my dad also works in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay.)

Michael’s asked me a few times what I’d like and you know, aside from the awesome chopper in the Williams-Sonoma catalog (Hint!!!), I can’t think of much. I want a gorgeous purse but can’t find one I like. He’s threatened to buy me a Snuggie—you don’t think he’s serious do you?
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Because I Win at Being 40

And just like that, I’m 40.

Somehow, despite all the mental meltdowns and freak outs that lead up to it, it turned out to be the BEST birthday in the history of EVER. My EVER.

At midnight I couldn’t wait and opened my present from Tom and Charlotte. It was a beautiful bracelet from Tiffany’s!

This morning started out right because I slept in and gave myself permission to flake out on the hike up Badger Mountain. I woke up to little boys crawling over me and wishing me a happy birthday and that’s hard to beat. When I got up and saw that there was no snow and a clear view of Badger, I threw on several layers of clothes, screwed my courage to the sticking place and headed out to climb that thing anyway.

When I came home my dear husband was ironing all the clothes for church (!). Bonus. I cleaned up and as I headed out again he handed me a package from the mailman. It was a box of Fat Witch brownies from Fat Witch Bakery in Chelsea Market (NYC)!!! My dear Ellen somehow knew just what I needed.

Next stop, my birthday gift from Michael: an afternoon at Nouveau Day Spa. I haven’t experienced anything like this since our honeymoon at Rosario Resort on Orcas Island. About a million years ago. The massage was incredible though for some reason the masseuse was all set up for the prenatal version. Um, NO. I’m not even remotely prenatal—just one more facet of the BEST birthday EVER! So anyway, they fed me and massaged me and I even left with a pedicure and manicure. It was so relaxing although I did feel a little out of place. I just don’t take great pains to take care of things like rough feet and dry skin. I know, I know, I should. I’m pretty sure L'Oréal said I’m worth it. I knew it was bad when the woman taking care of my feet asked if I use lotion. Ever? “I’ve done the best I could.” How embarrassing! But somehow this doesn’t embarrass me at all and I can’t wait to go back.

And guess what? When I walked out, I was greeted by a flurry of Birthday Snow! I’ve never had that before! The downside was that it was still daylight and I came home to find the kids, all five of them, struggling to find snow pants, boots, gloves, hats, and coats. That’s always a recipe for complete chaos. They “helped” their dad shovel the sidewalks (all but Josh had snow shovels; he used a rake) and then stomped snow all over my hardwood floors but it was still beautiful to have snow on The Best Birthday Ever.

Tonight Michael took me to dinner at Fiesta with Deena and David and we had a great time (except for the part where a GIANT sombrero was slapped on my head and a multitude of wait staff began singing to me in Spanish and referring to me as “Panchita”). We went to see “Invictus” about the events that lead up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup win by South Africa. First of all, although I know that “Invictus” is a really powerful poem by William Ernest Henley (because I win at Google), I must admit the only things I know about the game of rugby are as follows:

a) Michael played for M.I.T.
b) My sister-in-law’s brother-in-law played for London
c) It’s manly. Very MANLY.

And secondly, well, I have nothing. Except have you ever heard a scrum? Ah, the grunting and bleeding . . .

And on that note I will say goodnight and thank you so much for all the Awesomeness you sent my way today! I have the best friends ever.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Goodbye Thirtysomething

Well folks, this is it. I’m saying goodbye to thirtysomething tonight. If you were me, would you open the present sitting on your desk at midnight or wait until morning?

This morning the phone rang off the hook with friends asking and informing. Some told us the power was off at the elementary school but it was supposed to be back by 9:30 a.m. Others called because they lost power and wondered if we had as well. I was wishing school would be cancelled because I hate the comings and goings of early release Fridays but no such luck. Sam was pleased; he had a “Parent Participation Day” and there would be Winter songs and crafts.

(Because OBVIOUSLY we can’t sing about Christmas. It would be cool if we could celebrate this plus maybe Hanukah or Kwanza if there were any adherents in the class. Might be educational or at least marginally interesting. Although you’d never know it by spending time in the kindergarten wing, Fall and Winter are not holidays. At least not to non-Pagans.)

But anyway.

Let me state for the record that I stopped caring about the 40 thing. As far as you know. It’s okay. I’ll only be one day older tomorrow than I am right now. Who knows why we compartmentalize our years into decades and then assign significance to them. I mean, I guess I should, being the anthropologist but whatever. I don’t.

I do have a plan for tomorrow though. I mean to get up early, put on layers of clothes (because we are so VERY cold here!), and hike Badger Mountain by myself. The only thing stopping me is common sense and the pictures of snowflakes I’m seeing on my iPhone weather app. I’ve promised Michael that I won’t go if it’s snowing. It probably won’t be a hard promise to keep; sleeping in sounds awfully nice right now. Not Exciting and Meaningful or anything but nice nonetheless. Besides, I need my rest; I have an afternoon at a day spa to gear up for thanks to Michael. How’s that for a sweet gift?
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Christmas Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

This is awfully late for me, isn’t it? I’ve been meaning to write the annual Christmas letter for weeks and it just didn’t happen. Usually at this time of the year I’m excited to have an opportunity to write but since I started a blog in April and haven’t missed a day since, the urge to write isn’t pushing me along.

So, let’s see. Michael is still at Washington River Protection Solutions in the Hanford area as the Mechanical Engineering Discipline Lead. This means he owns the standards for the mechanical systems and anything to do with it requires his review and approval. This involves multiple cell phones, near constant meetings, and hours and hours of work even after he finally comes home. I know one must be grateful for any job IN THIS ECONOMY but this one? Well, it’s insane. His work has tripled but the pay remains the same. It’s this administration and all the stimulus money flying around. They’re going like gangbusters out at the tank farms trying to accomplish all the tasks they’ve been given money for but no matter how many more people they hire or assistants they give Michael, he still must review and approve EVERYTHING. There’s time for nothing else but church and this year I can finally report that he has a different calling. After many years of being the Gospel Essentials teacher, he is now the Elders Quorum Secretary.

Me? Oh. Hmm. Okay, I am still on the Enrichment committee at church so nothing’s new in that department. Oh and this fall I climbed Badger Mountain for the first time. I’ve seen it every day from my front yard since we moved here but it never occurred to me to actually climb it until my neighbor Tia challenged me. I’ve done it a few times since and although it’s hard, it’s an awesome feeling every time. Let’s see. What else? I pulled Michael Jr. and Sierra out of middle school in November and have begun homeschooling. With the best of intentions we began public middle school but I finally made the decision that the atmosphere wasn’t good for my kids. The constant stream of profanity and Axe body spray (sort of kidding there. Sort of) was too much. So far it’s going well.

Here’s the part where I brag on the kids and leave out most of the unsavory bits you all know are part of the whole parenting thing:

Michael Jr. is 13 and in the 8th grade. He’s still interested in everything to do with the natural world. He finally got a room of his own this year and I think he’s enjoying the peace. Michael loves puzzles (not jigsaw but the brain teaser kind) and recently he taught himself to solve the Rubik’s 4 x 4 and 5 x 5 cubes as well the V-Cube (a 7 x 7 cube). It’s hard to believe he’ll be in high school next year. Soon he’ll be applying to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) high school down the street. Delta High School opened this year and it seems like the perfect fit for him.

Sierra is 11 and in the 6th grade. This fall she took the Good Baby Sitter Course at the hospital down the street. Sierra’s a good little babysitter and also works as a dog sitter when our neighbors need it. I asked her what else she’d like me to add but she said I’m not authorized to share any more. Clearly she feels she’s a woman of mystery…

Kenny is 8 and in 3rd grade. He was baptized on July 26th , the same date I was 17 years ago. What a special day and one I hope he always remembers. Kenny still enjoys drawing and LEGOs and has finally found books that he likes to read. Specifically, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Encyclopedia Brown series are his favorite and generally speaking, he loves scary stories. Kenny is a great big brother and doesn’t grumble much about sharing a room with his two younger brothers.

Sam is 5 and in kindergarten this year. He loves school and has made some great friends this year. At home he refers to himself as “The Good One” and takes pride in making good decisions. It’s actually kind of hilarious. He’s become completely taken in by Pokémon this year (the cards, not the show as we don’t have any channels that carry it) and could speak at length about it without interruption. And he does. Often. I’ve found that if you smile and nod, you never have to actually understand a thing about it. Thank goodness.

Josh. Oh Joshua. Our Josh is 3 years old and needs constant supervision. He’s the cutest thing EVER with beautiful green eyes and a beguiling smile but just ask anyone who’s been around him five minutes, there is nothing this sweet thing won’t get into. I never would’ve considered having more than one child if he’d been our first. Josh definitely keeps us on our toes. This summer we found that Josh needs glasses and he would’ve had them on in the photo except he left them on the floor to be stepped on. Earlier this year Josh moved in with Sam and Kenny and he loves sharing a room with his brothers. They are a little less excited about it because he lays waste to the room on a regular basis. But did I mention he’s cute? And smart as a whip. He knows his ABC’s and colors and shapes and plenty of numbers. He can operate my iPhone with ease, playing games, watching “The Mr. Men Show” on YouTube, and playing songs by Weezer and The Black Eyed Peas when it suits him. I think he’d do fine in kindergarten with Sam if they didn’t mind the fact that he can and will turn ANYTHING into a weapon. With a smile.

This season has been frenzied and busy, busy, busy for me and I know it’s probably the same with you. I had this big plan to get the house completely tidied up and laundry done so tomorrow could be more relaxing. It’s Michael’s day off and early release for the kids. Packages need to be sent, etc. I really wanted to get this done. I’m turning 40 in a day or so and just hoped to wake up to find my chores magically checked off the list. I was well on my way to accomplishing this today when I received a call from school saying the heat was off and parents needed to come collect their children. We woke to -1 degrees so heat is sort of important. Anyway, I arrived at school and realized I had three friends who were either at work or school and wouldn’t have received the message. I found each child and brought them all home. By noon, all ten were sitting around my kitchen table. The chaos and mess that ensued was the stuff of legends. We’ll be straightening up for days.

Had this happened yesterday I think I would be frustrated about it. Cursing Murphy. Not today though. I’d been struggling with the Christmas spirit as I do each year. All the very early Christmas sales and displays, the ads and fakey Santa/Frosty the Snowman/Rudolph/Coca-Cola polar bears sort of stuff wears me down. I need to work very hard to remember what it’s all about. Something I did this year to reinforce the reason for the season is to read from a book I made at church several years ago. There’s a scripture, a song, and a story for each December day before Christmas. Maybe you have a book like this as well. Last night I skipped back a few days to read a story we’d missed because Kenny loves to be read to and was asking for one more story. He sat next to me in a chair in his room and I read the story of “The Cobbler and His Guest” (I was going to add a copy but I think I’ll save a tree and tell you to Google the title). A lot of the stories pull on the heart strings but this one was different. By the time I got to the scripture at the end, I couldn’t continue. Tears poured down my face and I could not speak. Without skipping a beat Kenny gave me a hug and a smile and finished:

“Whosoever shall receive one such in My name, receiveth Me… For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in… Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”
Matthew 25: 35 & 40

This is what Christmas is about. Recognizing that Christmas is only about Christ and loving each other and Redemption with a capital “R”. It was the only Christmas gift I need and I hope you too can have those moments this season when you feel it and cherish it too. Very best wishes for an amazing Christmas and a blessed New Year!


(& Michael, Michael Jr., Sierra, Kenny, Sam, and Josh)
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What I Hate the Very Most

The fighting doesn’t usually start this early in the morning around here. Typically, each child has his or her own routine and things move pretty smoothly. But definitely not this morning.

I don’t know what or who started it (can we all yell, “Not ME!” in unison?), but Sierra decided she was going to pretend Michael didn’t exist. She pretended she couldn’t hear him when he talked. She sat next to him on the couch and then asked Josh to sit where Michael was because, obviously, no one was sitting there. She kept it up until Michael became angry and the arguing began.

MOM! Why won’t you do anything???

This is the point where I feel like that pile of old batteries I have waiting for proper disposal; somewhere between fundamentally useless and potentially dangerous.

This is my least favorite part of mothering. What I hate the very most. Diapering, cleaning up vomit, changing the sheets on the top bunk, even cleaning toilets used by five males—bring it on. I may not like it but I can handle it without skipping a beat. I lose my footing when kids cannot get out of each other’s faces and business. When they go looking for trouble. It makes me CRAZY.

I have a friend named Kat and she handles this sort of thing very well. When her daughters are on a crazy-making rampage, she tells them that they’re draining her Energy. Moms need energy and the kids need to replace it or Mom can’t do the things they’d like her to do. Mom Energy is replaced by doing different chores Mom usually tackles. I thought it sounded silly at first but the more I mulled it over, the more sense it made. I mean it does feel mentally draining to hear bickering. I think mental exhaustion is something that stops me in my tracks quicker than anything else.

After the smoke cleared this morning I thought about my relationship with my brother and how we fought viciously when we were young. It drove our parents crazy and at the time I couldn’t understood why. Oddly enough, if you bring it up now they act as if it never happened. As if they don’t remember much about it. Tom and I smile; we remember it all. I guess it gives me hope because we’ve been friends since I started high school. In fact, I have a birthday present sitting on my desk from him right now. I hope my kids can get beyond the bickering one of these days.

I have glimpses of the possibility all the time. A little here, a little there. Like yesterday after school. Instead of fighting with each other or doing something by themselves, Sierra and Kenny wrote a story together called Mobsters VS. Indians: A Classic Tale. It was about Fat Tony and Frank and a vendetta against Squanto, a rich casino owner. It certainly involved fighting, but at least not each other. We’re getting somewhere.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I Have No Time For a Giant Zucchhini

I should’ve written something earlier. Now my need to write is competing with my need to bake delicious cookies, write a Christmas letter, and edit the Christmas card list. And finish knitting something, fold clothes, unload the dishwasher, fill it up again, scrub the kitchen floor, and clean out the fridge. Oops! Oversharing again.

I really do need to edit the Christmas card list. Just ask Michael who purchased 120 stamps for me yesterday. Not that 120 will cut it, but it’s a start. This year though, I vow to keep the list to family (okay, that still puts us close to 75) and (mainly) out of town friends who actually send us cards. With more than a signature. Seriously. Do NOT bother sending me a Christmas card without telling me something about your life since last Christmas. And a picture. A picture please.

Oooh! Michael just turned on “Better Off Ted”! I’ll pick this up later . . .

Okay. Anyway. Facebook sort of changes this (what DOESN’T Facebook change I ask?). It’s quite possible that I know more than ever about you now that we are Facebook BFF’s. I may very well see photos of you and yours on a daily basis. And since last Christmas, well, you know me VERY well. But still, it’s the Christmas card. I WILL write the silly thing. Soon. Really, I promise.

Should I tell you about how cold it is? Probably you are as sick of that topic as I am. It’s 4 degrees right now and I live in an OLD house. I can hear the ancient heat pump outside wheezing and sputtering, gasping for, I don’t know, a break? But no break seems to be in sight. The cats are suddenly indoor cats and my kids get fresh air only going to and from school. The ones who don’t go to school can feel the cabin fever setting in.

Josh was excited to go to MOPs today, probably for a change of scenery. It was the MOPs annual Christmas party and I was looking forward to the insanity of the gift exchange. This is how it work: We each bring something to give. We take a gift we didn’t bring and sit together in a circle. We open the gifts and sit them in front of us. A bowl is passed around with a pair of dice and each person rolls them. If they both land with the same number you have to trade what you have for someone else’s gift. But no one slows down to wait and see what happens. Every so often another bowl with dice is introduced until there are several going around. A timer is set when we start and when it goes off you’re stuck with what you’ve got.

I probably completely over-explained that but it’s pretty hilarious. And we’ve had years when the game was vicious! I’ll never forget the insanity when one of the gifts was a $25 P.F. Chang’s gift card. It was legendary. This year was a little more sedate. A lot smaller group, I guess. I came home with a candle. The gift I first opened was a large zucchini and several onions. I am totally serious. I would have tried to keep them but I didn’t need the burden of a giant zucchini looking at me, demanding to be shredded and baked into bread. These giant zucchini are vicious task masters and I have enough on my plate right now, don’t you think?
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Monday, December 7, 2009

Not Quite Ready

We rolled out the gingerbread cookie dough this afternoon and immediately Sierra had some ideas. She needed people for her gingerbread house and she made a gingerbot to wreck havoc. He looked sort of friendly so she decapitated one of the gingerfolk to make it look a little more menacing. I knew she was eager to build a gingerbread house this year but I really had no idea she had such un-Christmas plans.

And on with the preparations. I always mean to get all the gifts at least purchased by very early December. And usually it’s not a big deal. This year the kids were oddly silent about what they wanted and it left us kind of stuck.

On Saturday afternoon I cornered each of them while Michael sat at the computer making purchases. It was like pulling teeth! Aren’t kids supposed to spend the months and weeks before Christmas dreaming of this?

Michael Jr. had no ideas whatsoever. He finally remembered seeing a commercial for Wii Sports Resort and it looked fun. Sierra requested money. Not that that’s going to happen. After lots of “I don’t knows”, Kenny decided he’d like some more Legos. Sam knew what he wanted but refused to tell because Santa already knows. Sierra got it out of him: Spike Jr. the Ultra Dinosaur. Josh wants a train. That’s not a lot to go on and I’m at a loss about what to say if any other grandparents ask what they want.

It’s actually kind of refreshing. They’ve been warned that there won’t be an overwhelming tide of gifts this Christmas and they seem fine with it.

Right now the kids are watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. I was surprised when they asked to watch it; they usually avoid the classics. I should’ve known better; they’ve spent most of it laughing at the way the Peanuts gang dances (you HAVE to admit it’s hilarious) and the rest orally rewriting it. Now it takes place in the town of Forks and Charlie Brown is a vampire.
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