Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nightmare

This is absolutely a true story. And it's not for the faint of heart.

When I was in high school, one of my best friends (we'll call him Skippy) was the son of a rose grower. His dad and grandfather owned a huge compound of greenhouses that grew the most beautiful and fragrant of flowers in every variety and color imaginable. The facility was composed of two long rows of greenhouses, stacked like the rungs of a ladder with access at the ends. I remember seeing inside the greenhouses once when I was younger. The roses had been there for so long that some of the stems were as thick around as my wrist. They tangled and twisted around trellises that had become integrated into the plants.

Skippy would bring me flowers if I had a bad day, but other than that, I didn't really think about the greenhouses too much.

Many years later, Skippy's dad had to close his business. The cost of growing roses in this country became higher than the cost of importing them from South America, so he closed the doors and sold the property, greenhouses and all.

It was sold and resold, sitting vacant for several years.

Meanwhile, something terrible was going on inside.

A friend of ours (we'll call her Vi) became interested in renting the greenhouses to start a wholesale plant nursery. She contacted the current owner and scheduled a time to view the property. She arrived to look around and began in the storefront, which included the business office and a small cold storage room where, once, customers could select their own cut flowers.

This is where things began to get a little strange. Vi, an active outdoorswoman, immediately noticed the telling odor of copper pennies, and as her olfactory nerves registered the danger, she began to see movement in places where there should be none -- slithering, hissing movement as the snakes that had infested the empty office took note of the intruders.

She quickly moved on.

Hopeful in spite of this as she contemplated the possibility of starting a new business, Vi entered the first greenhouse. The roses were still there, wild and unkempt after years of neglect. But the constant warmth and humidity had fostered another kind of growth in the absence of regular cultivation, for the infestation apparent in the business office became something akin to a horror movie in the greenhouses. Snakes of countless variety and size tangled in knots and piles all over the greenhouse, hissing aggressively at Vi and her intrusion into their realm. They hung from rafters and coiled around the roses, indistinguishable in places from the turning, twisting plant growth.

Vi exited as fast as she could, but was undeterred in her efforts to open her business in this location. She hired someone to bushhog inside the greenhouses, thinking that surely, he could get rid of the problem. Five minutes in, he turned around, drove the tractor out, and refused to do the job. Turns out, what Vi had seen in the first greenhouse was just the tip of the iceberg.

She walked away.

Sometimes there are just too many snakes.

I have thought about this a lot over the past few months. I am terribly disturbed that these greenhouses, now a phobia-inducing breeding ground for horror, were once the guardians of the symbol of love, beauty and purity. That neglect and lack of cultivation could turn a fertile garden into a den of vipers. Is that really all it takes for the serpents to take over?

I believe this is an apt analogy for the fertile ground of our lives. We have so much opportunity to bring forth good fruit, but the seeds of corruption are sown as soon as we fail in the constant pruning and retraining that are so necessary in cultivation.

I drive past these greenhouses regularly, and as I pass, I am simultaneously compelled to speed up and slow down. I want to see the snakes . . . but I want to have already seen them so I don't have to actually go and do it. We watched The Dark Knight last night (I HIGHLY recommend it), and I recognized the same feeling: I wanted the memory of already having seen it, without the stress of experiencing it in the moment.

They have begun to dismantle the greenhouses this winter, while, I assume, the snakes are underground. I should have gone to peek in the window before the cooler weather hit. Maybe if there are still some greenhouses standing in the spring time, I'll muster up enough courage to satisfy my curiosity.

Anybody wanna come?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reason.

Have you ever heard anyone say, in explanation for some plight that had befallen them, "Everything happens for a reason"? I have. They are always right, because everything does happen for a reason . . . sometimes the reason is that you're stupid. And sometimes the reason is beyond control and comprehension and, well, reason.

I once knew someone who slept through class and flunked out of school. He shook his head, dumbfounded at his terrible "luck", and said, "Everything happens for a reason." The implication was clear: he was not responsible for the failure and he expected God to show him the right path to success since studying and paying attention in very expensive graduate school were obviously not part of the plan.

It goes both ways. It took us seven years to have children, and even then, at the very moment of conception, there were six other people in the room. In vitro fertilization is like that. I remember well-meaning individuals who, learning of our "plight", would pat me on the arm and spout the same empty platitude: Everything happens for a reason. The implication here is less clear. Please explain. Does that mean I have brought this on myself, and the reason my body has failed to be fertile is because I haven't been righteous enough? Or does it mean that I am simply not in on the joke, and in time, I will learn what I should have done in the first place to avoid the problem altogether?

The story of our infertility had a happy ending: after three cancelled cycles of IVF and a lovely surgery called ovarian drilling, we (in a true group effort) conceived the twins. They were born healthy, strong and huge at 37 weeks -- 6lb 7oz and 7lb 1oz. (Yes, I was huge -- although not as big as someone I know and love who also had twins but shall remain nameless.)

I was warned about the possibility of heightened fertility after the twins were born, but I felt wrong about preventing something that we had wanted for so long -- especially if there was any possibility that it might happen the old-fashioned way, and thus, cost a whole lot less than the expensive procedures we endured the first time around.

Imagine my shock/surprise/outright horror (let's be honest) when shortly after the twins' first birthday, I found out I was pregnant. I was in such denial at the possibility that I was nearly 10 weeks along before I finally took a test (at MommyJ's urging) that would have come up positive even if all I did was breathe on it.

I know I'm long-winded here, so I'll get to the point.

Everything does happen for a reason. Sometimes the reason already happened: illness, genetic disorders with no remedy, bad choices. Sometimes the reason is beyond our understanding and only becomes clear in retrospect: had things happened when we wanted them to in the first place, we would be in a very different place right now. And sometimes it's a combination of both: biology and destiny team up to create a sense of timing that seems like a bad joke.

Now, when I look back on the course of our lives, I wouldn't change the timing of our family by even a day. In the midst of it, I wouldn't have wished it on my worst enemy. I still wouldn't. It is a particular and exquisitely unique pain to want something with every fiber of your being, to yearn for something on every level: spiritual, physical, biological, emotional, social. And to feel betrayed by yourself, the very essence and expression of you in the physical world: your body.

Long before we had children, I came to terms with the likelihood that we would never have any. I didn't like it, but it was reality, just as it's reality that we probably won't have any more kids. I stopped being angry at God, and hating my body for failing to function as it was intended. I decided that what's most important is that no matter what, I maintain my relationship with my Savior and continue in the things that bring me closer to God. I learned that the baby game is not based on merit. I developed a relationship with my Heavenly Father that is not based on the barometer of happy events in my life. And I learned applications of Gospel principles that I have since found essential in coping with other trials. I would not trade these lessons for all the money in the world.

There are many whose stories have not resolved as mine did. They are still experiencing the disappointment and desertion that are such a difficult part of dealing with infertility, or miscarriage, or loss or whatever they are going through that feels bigger than they can handle. I pray that their hurt may be healed through the Savior as mine was, regardless of the outcome, and that they may find hope in the possibilities of what may come.

P.S. Talk about stream of consciousness. I started this post writing about my happy discovery in the shower this morning: should I ever lose the use of my left hand, I will still be able to shave under my right arm. Yes, I am that flexible.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Paean to the Minivan

For Christmas, we got a car title. (Wo-hoo! No more car payments for us.) And 600 miles before the warranty expired, a scary noise that only happened at slow speeds, whilst turning. So early this morning, CPod took our Honda Odyssey in to the dealership to have them check it out.

I was surprised to find that all three of our car seats actually will fit in the Date Car, also known as the Honda Accord That I Wish I Could Still Drive All the Time. When MayDay was born, the big boys were still in little seats that are in reality much bigger than the big boy seats they use now, and it was absolutely impossible to fit our entire family in one vehicle all together. Hence the minivan.

You may scoff. I know I did. I swore I would never be one of "those" moms. Had I known then what I know now, I would have hopped on the minivan bandwagon as soon as I saw the glimmer in CPod's eye. (It's completely beside the point that said glimmer happened in a test tube . . . but I digress. I'll cover all that in a future post.)

We decided, on the spur of the moment, to drive down to SC so that CPod could go to the gun club with his dad and brothers. We women-folk decided it might be fun to catch a movie with all the kiddies. And so we headed down the mountain to meet up with the rest of CPod's family.

Usually, these days, when I'm in the Date Car, I'm alone, on the way to a rehearsal, just me and Bono singing away. Or on an actual date with CPod. (Sometimes Bono comes along then, too.)

And so, today, in the car with three children who haven't had a normal bedtime in well over a week, and a two-year-old who is used to a three-hour nap every day but hasn't had a decent one in three days, I came to understand what most of you have known now for years: I LOVE MY MINIVAN.

For two reasons. First, my kids can't touch each other in the minivan. They also can't reach other with Slinkys. Or a play guitar. Or a cheeseburger.

Second, I can't hear them in the minivan. We have the seats arranged so MayDay sits right behind the driver and the big boys sit in opposite corners of the very back seat. The acoustics aren't so great in the minivan, especially on the highway.

I used to complain about this. In fact, it was one of the only things I disliked about our car. But no more.

I think I might write a letter to Honda telling them how glad I am that they are smarter than me. And how grateful I am that their years of experience in car manufacturing has created a vehicle so evolutionarily advanced that it perceived my need for quiet in the front long before I realized the horrible alternative.

Happily, the scary noise the Odyssey was making was a minor issue covered by the warranty. It was fixed by the time we came back up the mountain.

And now, I will count my blessings every time I get in the minivan and only vaguely hear some noise that may or may not be a distress signal emanating mysteriously from the back seat.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Because I can.

And because it's my birthday, and you can do anything you want on your birthday, right? Right. That's why I still had to do dishes and laundry today. At least I got to do them in a cashmere sweater.

(Side note: As I write this, my husband and children are gleefully doing the bunny hop around our house as they dance their way through an entire roll of bubble wrap. No joke.)

So, I've been tagged. Okay, not really, but I want to do this tag, and it's my birthday, so, tag, I'm it!

Here goes -- seven random things about me:

1. My wiring is a little weird. I don't know how else to describe this, but I have strange places on my body that are directly, consistently connected to odd and seemingly unrelated places. For example, I have a spot on my right elbow that makes my back itch. I think this is different than pressure points because it's mostly surface -- no muscle involvement, only skin. My husband kind of thinks I'm crazy, but MommyJ and our mom and both brothers experience the same sort of thing, so maybe CPod is the one who's weird.

2. When I was a little kid, my favorite food was liverwurst. I would take ketchup and liverwurst sandwiches to school every day for lunch. Yeah, no one ever wanted to trade lunches with me. Go figure. I asked my mom the other day how I ever discovered I liked liverwurst -- I mean, who eats that stuff? The only thing we can figure is that she craved it when she was pregnant with MommyJ and I just picked up the habit. Now, I can conjure up a gag reflex just thinking about it, and I'm not even pregnant.

3. I am strangely compelled to stop on Dirty Dancing if it's ever on TV when I'm looking for something to watch. I cannot look away. When I was a kid, I took dance lessons at the studio they used to recruit all of the back-up dancers. Half the girls in that movie were my dance teachers, and I was dying to see it. Of course, my parents weren't about to let their little innocent 10-year-old be corrupted by exposure to such (ahem) filth. Instead, I suggested it every time I went to a sleepover at someone else's house. It was so forbidden, so illicit, that I just kept asking, and by the time I was in high school, I had seen it dozens of times and my girlfriends and I would watch it every time we got together. Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

4. I have some strange sleep idiosyncrasies. I make my bed nearly every day -- even if I get in it immediately. I cannot sleep if the sheets are not tucked in tightly. This is a problem for CPod who is 6'5" but I'm a crazy person if I don't get enough sleep so he just copes with his toes being folded backwards. I also cannot sleep if my feet are uncovered or if the palms of my hands are exposed. There is more, but I'm beginning to sound a bit crazy so I'd better stop.

5. I share this one with MommyJ as well: when I look into the mirror to check out my outfit, I tilt my head to the side. It's absolutely subconscious and it happens every time. Here's why: when we were younger, I had a full-length mirror in my room which MommyJ would also use when checking out her outfits. It was propped up against the wall, and unless you tilted your head to the side, you could not see your head in the mirror. Now, when I ask my husband if my clothes look okay, he tells me to tilt my head to the right and then, and only then, does it look right. (MommyJ, do you tilt right or left?)

6. True story: I got a full scholarship to BYU even though I wrote my essay about how I could belch the alphabet all the way through and then to Q again, and called it not an oxymoron but an oxyMormon. I know. They were one lucky university. (I can't do it anymore, but when I wrote the essay, it was absolutely a true statement. I'll have to start practicing so I can, A: totally impress my kids when they're hanging out with their friends in about 10 years, and B: totally embarass my kids when they're on dates in about 14 years. I also have to add that I wrote two essays. The other was one heck of a paper on Milton's Areopagitica. Oh, I get it -- maybe that's why I got the scholarship!)

7. Yesterday I plucked an eyebrow hair that was gray. GRAY! I had never thought about going gray in . . . places other than my full head of dark, luxuriously curly and mysteriously-free-of-any-signs-of-aging hair. Oh, this opens up all kinds of horrible possibilities that can certainly not be remedied by my talented and confidential hairdresser.

So, it's official. I should probably be medicated . . . maybe this post wasn't such a great idea after all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holding up the ceiling

A poem by Michael Blumenthal (1949 -):

A Marriage
For Margie Smigel and Jon Dopkeen

You are holding up a ceiling
with both arms. It is very heavy,
but you must hold it up, or else
it will fall down on you. Your arms
are tired, terribly tired,
and, as the day goes on, it feels
as if either your arms or the ceiling
will soon collapse.

But then,
unexpectedly,
something wonderful happens:
Someone,
a man or a woman,
walks into the room
and holds their arms up
to the ceiling beside you.

So you finally get
to take down your arms.
You feel the relief of respite,
the blood flowing back
to your fingers and arms.
And when your partner's arms tire,
you hold up your own
to relieve him again.

And it can go on like this
for many years
without the house falling.

This is one of my favorites. It expresses, more clearly than I ever could, the partnership that must exist for a family to make it through all the different parts of a collective life. Lately, CPod has been holding up more than his share of the ceiling. He has not complained even once about his additional dish duties and single-parent bedtimes, nor has grumbled about his lack of clean underwear or home-cooked meals. He's amazing and wonderful and I'd better stop or everyone reading this will begin to wonder if I'm trying my hand at irony. But he's not the only one that deserves a big thank you.

This week, my poor sister-in-law, who will hereafter be referred to as Deshee since that's what MayDay calls her, spent half of her Christmas vacation in the company of my children. She was an indispensible part of our family this week, and I am so happy to call her my sister. My children love her and I fear if we were to have her around more often, they might just kick me out for good!

My mom also took her turns holding up the ceiling over the past two weeks. It's great to have her around because the transition from me to her is nearly seamless since she is merely an older, wiser, more fun and slightly more excitable version of me. Here is why my kids love her so much:


You've been grouchoed!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers

When we were kids, we spent Christmas Eve traveling to my grandparent's farm and back, all in the same day. My parents didn't want to miss the big family get-together, but they felt strongly that we kids should all wake up in our own beds on Christmas morning. (Secretly, I think they were trying to get us to sleep a little longer . . . to no avail.)

This four hour one-way trip done twice in one day kind of prevented the establishment of Christmas Eve traditions, but we still managed to have some good times.

We spent the drive home listening to The Forgotten Carols, counting Moravian stars, making drawings in the mist we breathed onto the windows and scanning the sky for a glimpse of Santa Claus. Somehow, the magic was preserved even though we were not "nestled all snug" in our beds.

One year, about two hours away from home, our car died. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but it was cold and late and when we coasted into a gas station from some obscure exit ramp, all the lights were off and there seemed to be no one around for miles -- no houses, no cars, no civilization. On Christmas Eve, with four little kids, in a van that didn't work.

Suddenly, from out of no where, we saw headlights. A big Cadillac pulled up behind our minivan, and a man in what I can only describe as a gold lame' jumpsuit got out of the car and approached my dad's window.

"Do y'all need some help?"

He volunteered to drive us to a hotel so we would have a warm place to sleep and help us find a tow in the morning. We piled into his big boat of a car. I felt so special to sit in the front between this kind stranger and his big-haired blond wife in a fur coat. My mom and dad sat in the back with MommyJ and our brothers, and we were on our way.

My mom says she and Dad started to get worried when he kept passing hotels on the interstate. Mass murderer? Crazy mental asylum escapee? One after another, after another, he just drove on past. Finally, my dad spoke up . . . aren't you going to stop? This motel would be just fine.

"No, sir. Children should be home on Christmas Eve."

And he kept on driving until we arrived home at 3 AM on Christmas morning.

I don't remember what gifts were under the tree when we awoke later on; I don't remember what we ate or who we saw or anything else about that day. But I will forever be thankful for the kindness shown to my family that cold, cold night years ago.

This year, I have spent too much time away from my family. I have not been around for bedtime since December 3. Instead, my evenings have been filled with rehearsals and performances, choir practices, church meetings, office parties and other things that seemed so important when I was committing my time to them. After two concerts last Saturday night, I came home and checked on my little ones just to remember what they look like.

So, in memory of Roger and Teddy, who got us home for Christmas, I pledge to say No! And to really mean it! Roger was right . . . children should be home for Christmas, but so should their parents. In this season that ends up being the busiest of the year, why don't we all simplify? Why do we feel so compelled to fill our time with things that are less important than those things that are real?

Next year, I promise to do better.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

(Port-a-)Potty Conversations

Last night, we spent a delightful evening with my in-laws. They live in South Carolina near an animal park that must have an astronomically high electric bill at Christmas time, because they have lights numbering in the millions. Every tree, building, fence, animal enclosure, and gate is draped with swags of multicolored little starlights.

I thought MayDay might have a little baby heart attack. Each time he said, "More (breath) Ti-tas (breath) wights!", his voice increased in pitch, timbre and intensity. "More. Mooore! MOOOORE! Ti-tas! Wights! MOOOOOOOORRRRRE!!!!!!!!!" I have never seen him so excited about anything.

Towards the middle of the Christmas light driving tour, you enter a fenced enclosure filled with some small European breed of deer (I'm not sure exactly which breed -- it was hard to see the sign in the dark). You can buy a bag of grain for a dollar, and the deer will come right up to your car and eat out of your hand. Oh, the fun of it all.

The deer were a little skittish -- who wouldn't be? Something just felt wrong about a disorganized group of cars, headlights blazing, slowly stalking these relatively defenseless creatures haphazardly through a big field from which they can't possibly escape, even if we were just trying to feed them. Eventually we coaxed a few up to the car and each child had some creature eat something out of his hand.

But the funniest part was how each kid best thought to call the deer over to our vehicle. Since we were driving so slowly, we let them get out of their car seats. We wound down the windows and they half hung out, one each with Nana & Papa in the back seats, and one with me in the front. As soon as we saw the deer, G-Dog started doing the little clicking noise my dad makes to call his dog. ConMan just started randomly throwing grain to catch their attention -- I must say, this seemed to be the most effective method. And Lil' MayDay -- well, he just started yelling, "Dude!" Because we all know that in secret deer language, dude is exactly how they refer to themselves.

The highlight of my evening came after the driving tour. At the end, there is a petting zoo. You can buy a bottle for $1 and feed it to one of the many baby goats. They have camels and bison and reindeer and oxen and lots of sheep and goats and donkeys. And a big bouncy slide. And Santa Claus. Loads of fun all around.

The boys had a great time. Daddy took them all on the bouncy slide, and, of course, while he was up there with no shoes on, G-Dog had to use the potty. The Port-a-Potty.

I have found that one of the singular pleasures of being a mother of boys is that I never have potty duty when we're out in public. But Porta-Johns are gender-neutral. I swallowed all my indignant protestations and herded my little man over to the nice row of disgusting toilets behind the bison house.

I say disgusting, but I can only assume, because it was so dark we couldn't really see anything. (Thank heaven for small favors, right?) This is how the conversation went:

ME
(very firmly, as we enter said potty): G-Dog, don't touch anything.

G-Dog: Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything.

ME: Okay, G-Dog, I'm gonna stand you up on the side here and you just pee into that big hole. Do you know what's down there?

G-Dog: Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything.

ME: It's a big disgusting pit full of all the things that come out into the potty and you can't flush it, it just all stays down there being gross and stinky.

G-Dog: Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything.

ME: Good job, G-Dog. Let's zip you up and then we're done!

G-Dog: Mommy, I was gonna touch something and then I didn't.

ME: G-Dog, you are awesome. Almost done here. Don't touch anything!

G-Dog: Mommy, can I touch you?

ME: G-Dog, you rock, and you can touch me any time you want. Done!

Can I emphasize here how much I DON'T do Port-a-Pottys? I know, what a mom, right? I was really tempted to just take him out in the trees and let him pee out there . . . but I didn't.

And the bonus for G-Dog? He didn't touch anything. He spends his potty-time trying to devise new reasons he shouldn't have to wash his hands. This kid doesn't flush. He doesn't put the toilet seat down. He doesn't even turn off the light in the bathroom. He only touches the sides of his pants. And he has developed this method of standing just right so he literally doesn't have to touch anything.

This isn't so good for the cleanliness of the boys' bathroom, but G-Dog is thrilled when he keeps himself from being contaminated, and thus, avoids the decontamination process. Or so he thinks.

For now, hand sanitizer tops my list of most useful, miraculous and indispensable modern inventions.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Worst Kind of Irreverence

Our kids don't really have quiet voices. They are the proverbial office pariahs, the Will Ferrell-esque loud talkers who suffer from voice immodulation syndrome. Just ask anyone (everyone) that attends church with us. These boys have absolutely no comprehension of words like "whisper" or "inside voice" or even "hush". They think that reverence means folding your arms and not running, and while that's definitely a start, we would love it if they suddenly developed an ability to keep it down, especially during church.

This has been a problem since they started talking. In fact, my blog title came from one particularly loud outburst by G-Dog. (See this post for an explanation.) And I expect they come by it naturally. After all, CPod and I are both a bit on the loud and obnoxious side, and although we are capable of whispering, sometimes we still get a little out of control.

So keep all that in the back of your mind, and add this little tidbit.

CPod and I decided early on that we would use the correct anatomical names for all body parts when teaching them to our children. All body parts.

And we have three little boys in our family who, obviously, have all of the same body parts, most especially that one particular, most important, gender-defining organ. Ah, yes. The word that need not be posted on a blog for fear of its google-ability, but becomes immediately apparent to the discerning reader. The word with, I would guess, more euphemisms than any other word in the English language. (You should hear the ones we used when I was a kid.) The word which should most definitely not be spoken in church.

Except it was. Today. While the Deacons were passing the Sacrament. During the most quiet, reverent Sunday our ward has had in recent memory. ConMan was apparently in need of some, shall we say, realignment and felt the need to announce it to anyone within earshot. He couldn't have been that loud, you're thinking. Tell that to the six rows of people who stifled their giggles but still had shoulders a-shaking while the bread was passed.

Oh, my. So much for reverence.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Santa Claus all dressed in . . . brown?

Last weekend, CPod and I went on a most wonderful date. We got a babysitter, then went to our little Main Street area for the annual Old Fashioned Christmas. All the shops stayed open late, and each one had plates of cookies and pots of hot chocolate and warm spiced cider for all the patrons to enjoy.

I felt like we were in a movie. The air was crisp, the sky was clear, the moon was high. There were carolers on the corner and a band playing in the gazebo. Santa Claus roamed about "Ho, ho, ho"-ing and greeting any children he saw, and the ringing bells placed on each shop door sounded every time someone crossed another threshold.

Wreathed with halos of our own breath in the frosty night, we held hands as we strolled down the street and browsed through lovely little establishments, each one unique and wonderful. We window-shopped as we laughed and talked and sampled yummy treats, picked up a few gifts here and there, and savored every last child-free moment we could.

It really was that good. Seriously, if it had been snowing, I would have started looking for the camera crew.

That night, after we were home and our babysitter was gone and CPod was tucked snugly in bed, I was finally motivated to finish Christmas shopping. And that's exactly what I did -- on-line. This is thrilling to me -- that I can sit down at my computer, find exactly what I'm looking for for the best possible price, and the UPS man will bring it to my house some time in the next 7-10 business days. Awesome.

I would have been happy with 7-10 business days. Really, I would have. But it seems that this year, the particular vendors that I chose to patronize are really on the ball. Which is why, on Tuesday, UPS men showed up at my house. Plural.

No movie this time -- instead, I thought I might actually be in a TV commercial for Amazon.com.

Tuesday morning, I received an automated phone call informing me that UPS would be delivering something later in the day that would require an actual person to receive it -- they wouldn't just leave it on my front porch. I was too busy to really think about what that meant.

And then, about 6 hours later, Christmas was delivered to my house by two (ADORABLE) smiling UPS guys laden with, between them, 7 packages. Seven! I smiled, and took the boxes from them, and mumbled something under my breath about how shopping on-line is the only way to get Christmas gifts without taking my kids with me to shop in person.

And then on Wednesday, the same two little cute UPS guys showed up with 4 more packages. Some of you may know that Amazon has many different warehouses, each of which ships its portion of your order individually. Lest you think I am a profligate spender, please understand that almost all of these boxes were from the aforementioned gigantic retailer. And each parcel contained usually one, but no more than two items, because, apparently, my tastes are so divergent that none of the items I ordered were stored in the same warehouse. I mean, one box had a board book in it. One.

I saw these UPS delivery men four times this week. Did I mention how cute they were? By Friday afternoon, I was thinking of inviting them in for cookies and hot chocolate.

Not really.

But maybe this week I'll leave them some cookies and milk on the front porch. And a carrot for the big brown truck.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This one speaks for itself.


I nearly cried. Aren't they adorable? And not hitting each other, even though they're most definitely touching. It's a Christmas miracle!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The True Story of CPod and InkMom

Long post alert. I cannot tell this story with less words.

Okay, I've been tagged. And this one is about stuff that's fun to remember, so here goes.

1. Where did you and your spouse meet?

CPod and I met in our BYU singles ward. I know, boring. But here's the real story. First, some background. CPod's sister (we'll call her JPod) was my EFY counselor when I was 14 and she was 19. Secretly, I think she doesn't really remember that I was one of her girls, because if she remembered what a smart-mouth know-it-all I was (was? am.) she would certainly not have given her blessing. CPod claims that he has never in his life driven faster (how fast? 119 mph. I know.) than he did when he drove, in all his 17 year-old invincibility, to that very conference to pick up his sister. Did we meet then? Nope.

Also, CPod and I grew up only about an hour apart (far, far away from Utah and BYU and the small, strange microcosm that is Happy Valley). At one point, his dad visited our ward regularly and my mom remembers this hellian red-headed kid running through the pews during sacrament meeting.

And CPod took my from-childhood-all-the-way-to-now friend's cousin to the prom. I know, it was meant to be.

Well. I was at BYU summer term, as was CPod's roommate. We called him The Weasel. To his face. The Weasel mentioned that he had a roommate from my neck of the woods who would be back for fall semester. We figured out he was JPod's little brother and I didn't think about him again.

In September, The Weasel asked me out, and I went. He was one of those guys who kind of made the rounds in our ward -- I mean, right now I could rattle off at least 20 girls he took out, and I know he kissed a dozen of them. (NOT ME.) So, we ate dinner, and then he tried to take me on a night hike (I wasn't going for that) and instead we ended up back at his apartment to watch a movie on his big screen TV. (I'm serious. 68". CPod talked him into buying it because he told him it would get chicks. CPod is sitting here with me and he says I have to include that he was right, because The Weasel met his future wife at an Apartment 17 movie night in which he called random girls' apartments and invited them all over. Really, I'm not kidding. I couldn't make this stuff up. But I digress.)

This guy thought he was so smooth. He got pillows (!!!) and tried to put the moves on me and I just hugged the arm of the couch wondering how I could gracefully extract myself from a situation that was not dangerous, but definitely uncomfortable.

Enter CPod. He and another roommate had been at The Wilk at a dance, and struck out. I tried every way I could think of to persuade him to stay and watch with us so I wouldn't have to avoid my date, but he read The Weasel's signals instead of mine and left me in the living room. The rest of that date was unremarkable, but when I got home I wrote in my journal about CPod and how nice he had been. (Even thought he didn't rescue me.)

Sad, but true: CPod thought I was nice, too, but wouldn't ask me out for a while because he thought I was part of The Weasel Harem. I maintain that one date doth not a concubine make. At least, not at BYU. Usually.

2. What were the first words you said to each other?

I don't remember, and neither does CPod. Probably something like, "Hey, you're CPod from **? I know your sister, she was my EFY counselor." And his response was probably something like, "Oh, wow, I'll have to call her. She'll think that's pretty cool." Nothing, obviously, very memorable.

3. When was your first date?

As I said before, CPod thought I was nice, but didn't want to take out a Weasel girl. We had a ward FHE a few weeks after we met that was a sound scavenger hunt. (Could this story be any more BYU?) I thought he was makin' eyes at me through the whole thing, but wasn't completely convinced he was interested. But my roommates were -- they saw sparks.

CPod was still slow to act (oh, my, was he ever) until one of his mission companions saw me at church and staked a claim. CPod surprised himself by being a little annoyed at his buddy, and decided to make a move before Thorn did. So. He and some other guys got a bunch of tickets to a Grizzlies (hockey) game up in Salt Lake, and we had a great time. After the game, we all went to Sconecutter (the one and only time I ever went) and then went back to Theater 17 to watch Fletch. Which then turned into Fletch Lives. I didn't get home
until 3AM (I know, I'm a rule-breaker . . . sue me) and I called my Mom (2 hour time difference . . . she was a seminary teacher and would have gotten up in 30 minutes anyway) to tell her I had finally gone out with a Nice Boy. The rest, as they say, is history.

We had a lot of fun dates. CPod played rugby for BYU and I went to his matches, until I understood why he had to tape down his ears and then I was content to just hear about it afterwards. He took me caving, and I took him to the opera. We went to see lots of plays and movies, and he (patiently) drove me to Salt Lake where I participated in an Early Music Ensemble performance of Bach's Saint Matthew Passion (all 4 hours!) at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. Twice. (He should be sainted for that. I mean, at least I got college credit.) We got cheap plane tickets to LA once and went (not alone -- a bunch of us) to see JPod. We went to Park City, and Heber, and Burgers Supreme more times than I can count. He even drove me to Salt Lake when my viola need a ne
w bridge and I had to visit Prier's. Tons of fun.

4. First kiss?

Yes, we had one. And it was spectacular. And on our, I think, 10th date. (I told you he moved slowly.) On a Thursday, in October, after he came to my Philharmonic concert (we played Elgar's Enigma Variations and he loved it -- score one for musical ability), at my front door when he walked me home. I melted.

5. First "I-love-you"s?

Hmmm . . . I know when I thought it, for sure. I took a swimming class at BYU on Mondays and Wednesdays, and after I got home, I was always pretty hammered, so I would put on PJs, towel dry my damp hair, study a little bit and then go to bed. One Monday, CPod called me, hungry after Rugby practice, and asked if I wanted to go to Burgers Supreme. "No, I can't, I'm already in my pajamas," I said, trying so hard not to sound desperately regretful and willing to get dressed again.His answer hooked me for good. He said, "Do you want me to put mine on, too?"

Seriously, I wanted to scream, "I LOVE YOU!!!!!" at the top of my lungs. This was definitely the man for me.

But when did we first say it? (I'm consulting CPod right now . . . he told me to consult my journal.) I think it was the day after finals, but the day before he took me to the airport to fly home for Christmas. We spent a really fun day Christmas browsing (no money) in Salt Lake and ended with really serious words.

That trip home, we met each other's families. Mine were completely aware that I was snowed, but his were not, and I was not an easy sell for Everyone's Favorite Child/Brother/Cousin/Best Friend/Seminary Student. Good times.

6. Long or short engagement?

By who's definition? I mean, it was longer than MommyJ's, but shorter than many at almost 6 months. Almost 6 months of dating before engagement, too. I mean, when you're not . . . you know . . . any engagement longer than 15 minutes is (tough)(risky)(nearly impossible)(unwise) too long.

7. Where did you get engaged?

Thanksgiving Point (it had just opened . . . we were original then. Not so much now.) at the gazebo by the waterfall. It was the first day of spring. (Coincidence. CPod is totally honest in admitting that he didn't realize this at the time.) He proposed with an $8 K-Mart special green plastic-stoned ring. We had just browsed at the jeweler's the day before and I knew he couldn't possibly have a real ring for weeks, maybe even a month. So, he surprised me. Afterwards, we floated around Thanksgiving Point and saw all the animals (my mother thinks it's absolutely hilarious that after we got engaged we went to a petting zoo) and -- no lie here -- we witnessed the birth of a baby goat, and its subsequent struggle to be completely free of the amniotic sac. Beautiful. It was a wonderful symbol for me on that very magical day.

When I got back home to change clothes for our fancy dinner at Mulboons, there were roses in my room. CPod's roommate was in on the scheme (not The Weasel . . . the one from The Wilk dance) and had brought them over while were gone.

I later found out that he did the old-fashioned thing, and called my dad to ask permission. This is exactly how the conversation went, according to CPod:

CPod (Nervous, sweaty palms, totally terrified): I'd like to ask permission to marry your daughter. I pledge to be a husband worthy of someone as wonderful as InkMom (I guess then I was InkChick?).

My dad (Just picture Andy Griffith -- he's a dead ringer): I believe that'd be alright. How 'bout them 'Heels? (It was, after all, March, and he is nothing if not a UNC basketball fan.)

Yeah, my dad's a man of few words, but he gets it done.

8. Where were you married?

Washington, DC LDS temple, August 14, 1997

9. Where did you go on your honeymoon?

CPod's uncle's wife's parents (did you follow that?) own a cabin on Palisades Reservoir in Idaho, near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We stayed there for a week right before starting back to school at BYU, after driving across the country. It was seriously remote and really beautiful -- I mean, we saw moose. It had a TV, but the only video there was Yanni: Live at the Acropolis and no cable, so we watched Yanni a couple of times and then finally found a video rental place at The Dam Store in Alpine. Oh, it was so fun.

10. Where was your first home?

Even though we've lived all across this country in a lot of different places, we're still in it . . . it's wherever the other one is.

Sigh. I have to go hug my husband now.

PS See why I married him? If I'd known before he was actually a dad how incredibly he would do this job, I would have, I don't know, hit him on the head with a frying pan and dragged him to the altar before he had the chance to see my future mothering skills. Because they're a little mismatched.


Yes, reindeer antlers. We went to see Santa Claus at the mall this weekend and they wore the free antlers all day. I had to repair tears with tape about 47 times.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Return of Christmas Spirit

'Tis the season to make music -- or at least, that's how it seems. Today, I played my first of 5 gigs this Christmas. I have the great privilege of playing the viola in several symphonies and other groups. And this afternoon, I participated in a performance of Handel's Messiah.

I'll be completely honest: I was not really looking forward to it. Most gigs pay, but today's didn't. That sounds really selfish, but I said I'd be honest. I had to play violin instead of viola. And I will play in three more performances of this oratorio over the next couple of weeks. I just plain didn't want to do it.

Stay with me here. I've been feeling a lack of Christmas spirit lately. No one has any money, so any talk about gifts carries an implied undercurrent of stress about how to finance said tokens of love and appreciation. And everyone has crappy things happening to them. So how are we supposed to feel good will toward men (in the non-gender-specific sense of the word) when men don't exactly seem to feel good will toward you?

Then, a few weeks ago, a friend of mine, Melissa over at Moments that Matter, posted an entry about music. Her post prompted me to think about the music I love -- because there is just so much -- and I finally got around to Christmas music. It's that time of year, right? I keep Michael McLean's Forgotten Carols in my car year round because it speaks for my heart. "He Was Here" is about the shepherd who slept through the part with the angels and missed the opportunity to adore the Christ child, and it brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it because of this line:

"I know that as the world moves on through time
There will be more stories just like mine
About the souls who've chosen to believe
In something that they never got to see."

So. The Christmas spiritometer began to rise a little. I kept the CD handy, and started listening with my kids during afternoon clean-up time, when we (read: I) pick up toys and tidy the living room before I turn on a show to occupy them while I cook dinner.

One random day, just like all the other days, I started yelling at the kids to participate in cleaning up the mess they helped make. I was getting really frustrated because they were just not listening. At all. And just as I reached the pinnacle of angriness, I heard another of these carols in the background. It was Joseph's song, when he sings, "I was not his father, he was mine."

Deep breath. I stopped yelling and had this total paradigm-shifting moment. I had this vision of Joseph and Mary parenting a toddler Jesus. Did Mary have to stop him from touching a hot pot? Did Joseph have to reprimand him for being careless with tools? I expect they didn't, but it doesn't matter, because whatever their precious and perfect son did, they saw him with an eternal perspective. They saw him as a child of God.

I know that my little boys are not going to grow up to be anything that will even approach the greatness of our Savior. But they do have one essential characteristic in common with their elder brother: they, too, are children of God. I think if we really saw our children (or, really, anyone) for what they are, what they can become -- we would treat them differently. I bet Mary and Joseph didn't yell at their little ones. Or even at each other.

Yesterday, we drove up into the mountains where there are farms that grow Fraser Firs. We hiked around on the mountain in the cold and finally found our perfect Christmas tree. The nice workers cut it down for us with a chainsaw (always exciting for little boys) and baled it up (also exciting!) and we brought it home. Tonight, the boys "helped" us put on the lights. Add a little more Christmas spirit to the meter.

Jump back to today. I went. I played. And as I listened to the words of that most inspired of compositions, taken wholly from scriptural texts, set to what must be the most glorious music ever composed, I felt a resurgence of the spirit I had been lacking.

We celebrate because we have so many blessings -- even in the worst of circumstances, we have the greatest of blessings. We give gifts to one another in semblance of the greatest of all gifts ever given: a sacrifice beyond our comprehension that makes it possible for us to live in the presence of God forever.

Christmas Spirit is officially back.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Bra Revolution and other body issues

When we were growing up, MommyJ and I didn't get along very well. At all. I hated her because she was thin, and she hated me because I had boobs. Sadly, we missed out on a lot of years when we could have been better friends because we were so wrapped up in ourselves -- and when I look back, I can't see that anything was wrong with the way either one of us looked. (I only wish I could be as fat now as I thought I was back then!)

As I have gotten older and endured the changes that happen to a pregnant, breastfeeding, tired, overworked Mommy body, the aforementioned body parts have only continued to grow, so much so that immediately after I finished nursing MayDay, I seriously considered surgically reducing their size.

One day, on a whim, while my mother-in-law was keeping all three boys so I could run errands, I stopped at the lingerie shop in our little downtown area. I had heard they did bra fittings and I wondered what they could do for me. I walked in and said I had some bra issues. Oh, yes, she said, you do. Let's see what we can find.

She didn't even measure me! Just a look, a couple of pokes and prods, some manhandling I hand't been expecting, and voila! A bra that lifted, separated, and took some serious pressure off of my back and shoulders, plus it looked pretty all by itself and did wonders for how I actually looked with clothes on. I tried on many, and I am here to tell you that these babies are seriously engineered, steel reinforced wonders of the modern world.

I was absolutely sold. And then she told me what my size was . . . I nearly swallowed my tongue. It was so far from what I had been wearing -- it's not a wonder I'd been having issues! Who knew that bras with preteen band sizes came in cup sizes so far up the alphabet?

I spent $300.

And then I called my husband and told him the good news: I just saved him $5000 since I wouldn't need surgery anymore! He grumbled, until he saw the results, and he, too, was very . . . impressed. My mom said I looked like I'd lost 20 pounds. Who wouldn't be all for that?!?

Jump to this past week. We had some shopping to do for the boys, so we drove an hour to our local outlet mall. I needed a new pair of jeans, and I'm partial to The Gap, but it pains me to spend $70 for pants I can find for $40 at the outlet.

(Side Note: My brother once said that he thinks The Gap people snuck into his house in the middle of the night, measured his butt, and then made him a pair of pants. This is exactly how I feel about the Long & Leans. I don't know why I ever try on jeans any place else.)

I mentioned in passing that I needed to go to The Gap to see if they had any Long and Lean jeans on sale. This stopped CPod short.

"You wear Long and Lean jeans?"

Yes, I said, I do, and don't they look fabulous?

And please, could you mask your incredulity just a little?

Admittedly, his disbelief is merited: he is a long and lanky 6'5". This only serves to make me look even shorter and curvier than I really am, which is a voluptuous 5'4". And because he, of course, does not understand what I do: you buy the jeans that you aspire to be. That's why I don't buy Curvy and Straight jeans from The Gap -- it might be considered pornographic were I to put on jeans designed to enhance your curves.

Throw all of this into the wonderful stew that is my body image, and add this on top: I broke my treadmill. The repairman came this morning and replaced the warrantied parts, but still, it's not great for your self-esteem to know that you're responsible for splitting the running deck of your treadmill longways down the middle. I mean, am I really that GINORMOUS? Of course I'm not. I can always blame it on CPod.

I am fighting a battle against the insecure me, but I will persevere. Because I know that if I hadn't been running on that treadmill with regularity, I wouldn't be able to finish a 5K in under 26 minutes. (I know, really, I should weigh nothing!) Nor would I have a seriously healthy heart and really low cholesterol. I know that I will not be winded from playing with my children in the back yard. I know that if I have to run for my life, I have a good chance of outrunning whatever is chasing me. And I know that I am truly doing what is best for my body, even if the good health result doesn't have the bonus side effect of making me trim and slim. Ah, well. It's just not in the genes.

I am proud of this Gap Long and Lean size 10Ankle booty -- it's the only one I've got! And I love my 32G bras -- they work better than any I have ever tried before! And I will beat you, CPod, when we run our 5K in the spring -- mark my words!

Postscript: I know we come in all shapes in sizes, and there are probably those of you reading this who wish I would just shut my skinny self up. There are also those of you who see that I wear a size 10 and hope you are never that huge.

Please remember that how we see ourselves is an entirely different matter than how we see each other. You may think I look great the size I am, but feel terrible about yourself -- and if you asked me, you'd find that I think you look great, too. Or, you could be like me half the time -- I doll myself up for a night out with CPod and think I look really hott until I see myself in a mirror or photograph and get a hefty dose of reality. (MommyJ, I think gadonkadonkiness is hereditary!)

Lil' Maa-Maa's New Nickname


Before Lil' Maa-Maa was born, we were very undecided about what we would name him. He was a few days old before we finally settled on something, so until we had something official, we called him LP, as in Little Pooper. Though he's always been a pooper, he was only little for, like, 15 minutes, so that one only worked for a short time.

The big boys came up with Lil' Maa-Maa, and it stuck for a while. But now we're moving on.

Yesterday, the big boys bequeathed Lil' Maa-Maa with a new nickname that, I think, fits him pretty well. Lil' Maa-Maa, in the blogosphere, you will henceforth be known as MayDay.

(They were playing with airplanes when they came up with it . . . little geniuses!)

And also, this picture illustrates MayDay's idea of a good time . . . he gets all the cans out of the pantry and puts a refrigerator magnet on each one, then arranges them into circles and squares, or whatever he's thinking about at the time. Really, who needs toys?!?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Good Girl's Encounters with the Law, Part I

This post is inspired by, and thus dedicated to, my good friend Destinee. Her post from earlier today prompted me to make such a long comment that I decided to halt my hijack of her blog and make an entry of my own.

When I was seventeen, the summer before my senior year, I drove a bunch of friends up to The Nearest City of Any Size for The Ubiquitous Street Festival. I remember I wore this awesome handpainted wraparound skirt that I got at some boho shop in my music camp college town, and I really thought I looked the part of the cool artsy girl. (I'm still trying to nail that look!)

My best friend A. had on espadrilles (sandals with straw bottoms) and in the dark, I'll admit it was hard to tell if the puddles we walked through were composed of mostly water or mostly beer. I suspect probably mostly beer, because after driving the 40 minutes back to my friend's house, my little car smelled like Anheuser-Busch had set up shop in the back seat.

A.'s house was in a little part of town up on the mountain that has it's own police force of 3. I'm not exaggerating. They were -- still are -- notorious for issuing citations for the most minor of offenses, and for having a lot of time on their hands to just sit around and wait for somebody to screw up. Enter me.

I left A.'s house in the dark, and got a little lost on all those windy mountain roads. It was a bit disorienting -- so much so that I failed to come to a complete stop at one intersection. I had barely pulled out onto the cross street when I saw blue lights in my rear view mirror. This was not my first ticket, so I was familiar with the drill. I got out my license and put on my prettiest smile and waited for him to come to my window.

Which he did. Maybe I should have wound it down before he came to the window. Then, maybe, he wouldn't have been assaulted with the unmistakable stench of alcohol when I opened it. Maybe, he wouldn't have been so suspicious of the little brown bag of trash sitting neatly between the front seats.

And maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't have found it necessary to give me a breathalyzer test right out there in front of God and everyone driving past to see. Oh, yes. Alcohol has never passed my lips, but I have had to blow into the liquor stick. With cars driving by. Carrying people I knew. Oh, the horror. At least he didn't make me walk the line.

Just wait. It gets worse.

So a few days before this little ill-fated excursion, I cut my hair. Drastically. Try from mid-back all the way up to boy-short in one fell swoop. And who thinks to get a new drivers license whenever they change hairstyles? Not this chica.

Small Town Cop looked at that license, then looked at me, then looked at the license, then looked at me again. I swear, he was going to take me on down to the station and book me for identity theft until I finally saw the name on his badge.

Turns out, his brother lives two doors down from my parents and when I finally came up with enough details about his nephew, he decided I might be telling the truth. And when he was finally convinced I wasn't a drunk driver out for a joyride, he let me go home with a warning. Where I arrived 35 minutes late. And, thankfully, where I found two parents who totally believed my outlandish story.

And that's why I never go to The Ubiquitous Street Festival in The Nearest City of Any Size anymore!

I was going to post about my subsequent legal troubles, but I'll save those for another post, and just call this one part one. That's all.

Just call me Nebuchadnezzar . . .

Because I am in need of some dream interpretation.

This morning, the twins woke up at 6:40 AM. It was still dark, and after everyone peed (I am seriously proud of how potty-trained they are!), then had a drink of water, they went back to bed. My treadmill is broken (another post to come) so instead of going downstairs to run, I went back to sleep, and for the next 45 minutes, had the craziest dream I've had in a long while.

Here goes.

I am at the twins' preschool trying to volunteer. I am wearing my watch upside down, with the face towards my arm and the battery side up, and I keep checking the time, but, obviously, can't tell it. All of a sudden, Dr. Phil is there. We have a really strange conversation:

Dr. Phil: What's up?

Me: I think I'm going to volunteer to read to a class that doesn't have my children in it.

Dr. Phil: No mother who is serious about her job would dream of doing that.

Me: What? Not serious? It's because I'm serious that I want to go to a different class. My kids behave worse when I'm around and I don't want them to get distracted by my presence.

Dr. Phil: Are you gonna listen to me here? Because I don't have to talk to you and one day I'm gonna be that kid's father-in-law (points to G-Dog).

Me: I'm listening. (I totally seem to believe that somehow, in the future G-Dog will be related to Dr. Phil. Weird.)

Dr. Phil starts pulling out papers and giving me some serious parenting advice that is all kind of foggy now, especially when examined under the bright lights of lucidity. He gives me a prescription for some behavior-modifying wonderdrug and tells me to take it myself.

When I get home, I start the drug, which I have to drink through a straw. I take the first sip, and before I can take the second, my face has erupted in hives and the liquid dribbles down my face when I try to drink it.

And then I woke up. I was absolutely sure that my pillow would be saturated with a cup's worth of something, but it wasn't. And I actually felt my face for hives, and to be certain, examined myself carefully in the mirror. It was ABSOLUTELY vivid and real. And strange.

So, what's your take? Any great insights into my psyche? Because I got nothin'.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Three little pigs . . . or at least hams

My twins are becoming veritable stand-up comedians. Of course, they don't realize this. They just say what they're thinking, and usually, it's funny. Take last Sunday.

As CPod walked them down the hall after nursery last week, they spied the display of pass along cards in the foyer, and asked for "a picture of Jesus." He let them each choose one card, then ushered them along to the car.

I taught in Relief Society, so it took me a little longer to make it outside. By the time I got to the van, everyone was strapped in. I buckled my seat belt and made all the necessary adjustments, and then I noticed ConMan brandishing the pass along card from the back seat. "Look, Mommy! We're invited to Jesus!"

Cut to this week. In our nursery, they keep the top half of the dutch door open. As my dad walked past the door, he stuck his head in to check on the boys and say hello. G-Dog caught sight of him and said, "Hey, PopPop! We're getting ready to have snack time!" And then, with a conspiratorial, I-can-totally-hook-you-up grin, "Come back in a few minutes and I'll give you a pretzel!"

Oh, yes. Because nursery contraband is, I'm sure, on the top of PopPop's list of favorite snacks.

And we can't forget Lil' Maa-Maa, who has recently discovered the knock-knock joke. His repertoire consists of exactly one:

Lil'Maa-Maa: Not-Not

Mommy: Who's there? (Sometimes, Maa says this part himself: Hoo dere?)

Lil'Maa-Maa: JOOOOOKE!

I rest my case.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Farewell, dignity! It's been a fun ride!

TMI alert. I'm just saying.

I think I've finally hit bottom. Literally. And let's just say that where I ended up, I never care to see again. Let me explain.

I hate folding laundry. Actually, HATE is not quite strong enough of a word. How about detest, despise, revile, abhor, loathe -- it is absolutely my least favorite housekeeping chore. Folding big person laundry isn't so bad, because one load of CPod's laundry consists of two pair of jeans, a couple of t-shirts, and a bunch of dark socks, since he is ginormously tall. But the little kid laundry around here drives me bonkers. Oh, the little sockies! I swear, they multiply in the drier and not by cloning, since somehow, they still never match. Ever.

Last night, after procrastinating as long as possible, I sat down on the couch to watch Life (a trippy experience in and of itself . . . the main dude really resembles my husband a lot) and tackle a mountain of under-4 laundry about two weeks tall. (MommyJ thinks my children's wardrobes are much too extensive. If they were any smaller, I would have to do laundry with much greater frequency. See, MommyJ? There is method to my madness!)

So I'm folding along, grateful to have brain candy on TV so I don't have to think about what I'm doing. I am surrounded by little piles of footie pajamas, blue jeans, and t-shirts, and the ever important tiny undies. I am about half-way through the embarrassingly large mound of clothing when I pick up a pair of Lightning McQueen tightie whities and notice . . . a skid mark. And not like, oh, hey, a little brown stain left over after washing, maybe we should have some wiping technique remediation, skid mark. More like still dirty, and what are these doing in here with all of my clean, fresh, detergent-smelling clothes that I am in the midst of folding?!?!?

Take a deep breath. Because that's what I did . . . with every pair of tiny briefs. Yes, you heard me. I have literally hit bottom . . . about 20 times. About halfway through, I noticed CPod laughing quietly from his chair. I was so focused on sniffing out the dirty ones that I didn't even catch a glimpse of Dignity as she left my presence forever. She was long gone, probably hitched a ride with Destinee's Dignity on the way out of town after she sopped up spilled soup with her finger, and hot on the trail of MommyJ's Dignity who was, I'm sure, scarce by the time she ate all the Almond Joys from her kids' Halloween candy.

Sigh. I thought I might miss it, but I don't. A lack of dignity is somewhat liberating. Just think -- if I had even a shred of dignity left, this would be the post-that-might-have-been and your lives would be missing a certain je ne sais quoi. So glad I could be of service.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Lament of the Non-Superhero Crimefighters

CPod has Tuesday mornings off, sometimes. Let me rephrase. CPod almost always has no patients scheduled on Tuesday mornings. He does not, however, almost always have nothing else to do on Tuesday mornings. Week before last, he filled in for his sick father (who's profession is the same as CPod's). Last week, he chopped wood for my dad. This week, he chopped wood for a man in our ward who injured his neck trying to get it done himself. (I suspect he likes what chopping wood does for his biceps.)

Now, I'm not complaining. Really, I'm not. I love my husband dearly. He is remarkably selfless, as evidenced by his recent Tuesday activities. He is a giant among husbands (and not just because he's 6'5") and goes out of his way to make my job easier. His love and respect for me are apparent in his every action, and he is the only daddy I know who even approaches the greatness of my own father. He is really fantastic. I love having him home. I also (to a certain degree) love not having him home. And here is why.

He is Superman. Or Batman. Maybe it's more like Mr. Incredible. (All of these claims are backed up by his tale of outsplitting the pneumatic wood splitter this morning, totally impressing the missionaries who were there to help out. It's always nice to have tools, like a 16 pound splitting maul, that make you seem more powerful than you really are, right?)

And if he is Mr. Incredible, then I am the inept cops who can't seem to get anything done until he swoops in at the last minute to save the day.

Have you ever thought about what it must be like to be an ordinary cop in Metropolis? Just as you think (operative word: think) you're about to get things under control, this tall, good looking guy in a cape shows up, finishes your job and then takes all the credit: newspaper stories, adoring children, swooning women, and, to add insult to injury, abs of steel, because he just decided to cut soda from his diet and lost 27 pounds as a result. (I exaggerate. It's really more like 10 pounds.)

Today, while he was splitting wood, I stayed home with the the Munchkins. I fed them breakfast, and then spent a full hour (no exaggeration) crawling around our house on my hands and knees searching for Lil' Maa-Maa's missing monster truck. When I couldn't find it in the house, I went outside in my jammies, braless, with booger-woman frizzy hair for all the neighbors to see, and searched for it in our yard, all to no avail.

When I tried to get everyone dressed, all civilized behavior deteriorated into fits and tantrums on the floor for three entirely different reasons. And at the precise top of the bell curve of noise, CPod walked in the door, produced granola bars for all the little ones, and then sat down to watch cartoons with them. They piled on top of him happily and called me mean, and said that daddy was the best, and continued to sing his praises ad nauseum, until I finally went back to take a shower and let their demi-god father finish the dressing ritual. I used all the hot water.

Part of me sees him as my savior, too -- I mean, I like to think I would have gotten things under control if he hadn't shown up when he did, but the reality is, it probably would have gotten worse before it got better. And I am truly grateful that my children at least respond to one of us in a satisfactory manner. But I sure wish that, occasionally, it could be me!

Sigh. Maybe one day my children will also look at me agog, eyes wide at the wonder of my mere presence in their lives. (Please don't tell me any different -- it's kind of that thought that keeps me going!) Maybe not. Or maybe I just need to have a little girl who will appreciate really fantastic black suede wedges and hair products that work, and find value in things other than monster trucks. It's not hero worship, but, hey, I'll take what I can get.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll have to be satisfied with G-Dog who said this morning as I helped him get his shoes on, "Thank you for making me feel better, Mommy." I don't even remember what I did, but I know he gave me a big, unsolicited hug.

And Lil' Maa-Maa, who goes with me to the fabric store when the twins are in preschool, and lovingly runs his hands over beautiful prints and says, "Pretty, mommy." And stands behind me as I piece a quilt on the sewing machine, playing with my hair while he watches the creation of something extraordinary.

And ConMan, who, every time someone new comes to our house, takes them to my bridal portrait hanging in the dining room and says, "My mommy is a princess."

And CPod, who never fails to express his love and appreciation for my efforts on behalf of our family; who is the one who told ConMan I am a princess; who reads books I recommend just so we have something intellectual to talk about; who spends so much time thinking of other people and allowing me the time to have a brain outside of motherhood that he rarely has opportunity for his own pursuits.

I think it just might be enough.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Moon!

Our bedtime routine with the kids is pretty set in stone: potty, bath (sometimes), jammies, teeth, stories, family prayer, family sandwich (big family hug and lovefest), tuck-in, dreams. They are easy to put to bed. In fact, Lil' Maa-Maa sticks his thumb in his mouth, grabs the blanket, and sighs as we lay him down, so happy to finally be by himself, no longer terrorized by big brothers.

Leave it to G-Dog to make the routine a little interesting. The other night, a no-bath night, we brought out the jammies and stripped the boys down to Scooby-Doo Underoos, and told the big boys to run and use the potty. ConMan went a running, and G-Dog followed -- or so I assumed. Suddenly, I heard, "Look, Mommy!" I turned my head to see the fullest moon I think I have ever seen in my whole life, punctuated by an impishly smiling face peeking out from in between little three year old knees.

Now, I have never told G-Dog that some people think it's funny to show their butt. I have never even mentioned that it's an option, or even has a name, but somehow, he came up with the gag all on his own.

What do you say? Do you laugh? I sure did. And now I've set myself up for countless future moonbeams from my delightful little devil.

In other news, ConMan stuck Yo-Gos up his nose on Sunday. Twice. "Mommy, Yo-Gos fit just right in noses."

Yes, ConMan, but is it really the best idea to put them there?

The best part? As I dexterously used the tweezers to pull a pink one, and then 10 minutes later, a purple one, from ConMan's little nostrils, he opened his mouth for me to just drop them in after extraction. I mean, really, can we waste treats as precious as Yo-Gos?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Declaration of Independence

Long post alert. Consider yourself warned.

Those who don't want to hear about politics on a blog, stop reading now. Or don't. It won't be what you expect.

I like to consider myself an independent thinker. I pride myself on my ability to think. I like to think -- in fact, thinking keeps me up most nights way past my bedtime. And lately, I've spent a lot of time thinking about politics and economics -- two things closely tied in this current climate of market instability. I discovered that I didn't know that much about economics, so I educated myself, and then I did some more thinking. (Something must occupy my mind when I'm folding all that laundry. My brain retreats from The Backyardigans in futile efforts of self-preservation. Into the thick of it! Into the thick of it!)

Here's where I landed: I'm taking this independent brain of mine right on down to the Board of Elections and changing my party affiliation. I am not a Democrat. I disagree with most of the basic planks of the Democratic party platform. But nor am I a Republican -- and it takes a lot for me to say this.

I do not look forward to the implementation of Barack Obama's healthcare reform initiatives, nor am I sure how our small but incorporated business will bear the new corporate tax structure. I disagree with Democratic stance on many social issues, but not as many as you might think. And I cringe every time a new (soon-to-be-dysfunctional) government agency is created to once again relieve people of their personal responsibility. I resent the fact that so many people are dependent on our government for basic needs, but I also know that there are people who legitimately need to take advantage of these services.

I do believe we should be good stewards of our environment, but I am only willing to take that so far. I mean, trees over babies? I still can't believe the party that espouses protection of the environment is also unwilling to protect unborn children.

I cringed to see John McCain's healthcare plan as well. I questioned his ability to bring this country out of the economic doldrums (isn't he the one who said he should have listened in his college Econ 101 class?), and worried about Sarah Palin's obvious lack of knowledge about things she should have already known, or, at the very least, researched before subjecting herself to nationally-televised interviews.

I take great issue with legislators who, when they leave office, either by their own choice or the action of voters, are so ill-prepared for the real world that the only way they can provide for themselves is as lobbyists. While public office is a time-consuming job that deserves to be compensated, I suspect there are too many in office of both parties who will prostitute themselves in any way it takes to maintain a seat.

So where does that leave me? I think it leaves me unaffiliated. Goodbye, Republican Party! No more straight party tickets for me. I will research the candidates -- every one of them -- and vote according to individual platforms. I will not assume that just because we belong to the same group, we are like-minded individuals. If I don't like the Republican candidate, it doesn't matter -- I'm an independent now! If I criticize the Democratic candidate, it's not because I'm biased -- I'm my own political machine, not swayed by party-line persuasions. There are many issues that baffle me -- poverty, corporate greed, illegal immigration, countless others. And so, from now on, my vote will have to be earned. Period. How about you?

Side note: CPod and I looked at a county-by-county election map of the whole country, a sort of red-county, blue-county map of the US. We've decided the parties should be renamed City Mouse and Country Mouse.

And here's what my Y-chromosomed family members look like when I ask them to show me their muscles:
Cowboy, rugby player, race car driver, ninja warrior. Love it. I was a gypsy, but you'll never see a picture, because I'm the only one that takes any!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

THIS is a GOOD day?!?

Today, there were 18 kids in the nursery at church. 18! It felt like Utah or something. At the beginning of Relief Society, they asked for volunteers to help out since they were understaffed, and since my offspring account for fully one-sixth of all kids in the nursery, I felt obligated to comply. So my friend Mary Kay and I gathered up our belongings and hoofed it on down to little kid land.

Now, my children are not known for being great examples of reverence . . . or anything else spiritually commendable, but at 3, 3, and 2, what can you expect? I don't know what I expected. I thought they might be at least as good as they are at home. Apparently that was a little too much to ask.

The twins are the oldest kids in there, so for snack time, they sat at the head of the table, kings perusing their subjects with pseudo-benevolence and the bipolar kindness/cruelty of preschoolers. They fought -- loudly -- over who got to say the blessing on the snack, even after their teacher said repeatedly that the one who was the most reverent would earn the privilege. (I guess fighting over praying privileges could maybe qualify as spiritually commendable, right?) G-Dog flipped out because they had to stand at the table to color instead of sitting in chairs. ConMan melted because I didn't finish coloring his picture the right way. G-Dog stole crayons from other kids, and berated them for coloring on the wrong side of the paper, and policed everyone who wasn't doing what he thought they should be doing, including me. Too bad introspection isn't on the 3-year-old to-do list -- he might have had a couple personal problems of his own to police!

I'm sure I didn't help matters -- I mean, I'm not the authority figure in nursery. Who am I to tell them not to dip pretzels in their neighbor's water, especially if the nursery leader doesn't care (or chooses not to battle over little things like that because of the sheer number of kids and the ease of cleaning up the inevitable spilled water)? Who do they listen to? I don't want to undermine her authority, nor do I want to hold them to a higher standard than the rest of the kids . . . I have a lot to learn before I can be the room mother of a kindergarten class!

Lil' Maa-Maa wasn't so bad, but I did have to change his stinky diaper. When we returned to the nursery after de-pooping, he jumped through the door, threw his arms up, and said, "Ta-da!" The twins think they're the kings of the room, but Lil' Maa-Maa's got comedic timing all over his brothers.

So, in a fit of frustration, I asked the nursery leader if my kids were this awful every Sunday. She smiled and said, "Actually, today's a good day." Ha-ha, that's a funny joke, I know, they're great kids, aren't they? Oh, wait . . . what's that? Ah . . . you're not kidding. Guess we've got some work ahead of us before these little monsters are ready for Primary, or maybe it's the other way around.

Does my tithing money go towards abstinence education? Because I'd totally be willing to volunteer my children for parental-readiness reality checks. I think these services could be valuable to other demographics as well. Grandchildren coming to visit? Let my kids show you how child-proof your home isn't. Can't afford to pay a demolition crew for your remodel? Just tell my kids you need them to make sure not to destroy anything, and they'll do it for free -- plus PB&J for lunch, of course.

Well, I guess you just keep trying. I wish I could pre-experience for my kids -- that I could just, for example, tell G-Dog that no one wants to play with a bully without him having to experience that rejection for himself as an impetus to change his behavior; that I could convince ConMan that if he doesn't stand up for himself, other kids will always push him around, and avoid the other kids actually pushing him around. But without that first-person perspective, they won't ever learn anything . . . and neither will I.

So what did I learn today? That I'm not ever going back to the nursery again. Ever. Or at least not so long as I have kids in there. I'm much too happy being blissfully ignorant of double-trouble shenanigans to voluntarily deprive myself of the adult conversation and spiritual uplift of Relief Society.

And that we have to just keep doing the things that we're doing -- family prayer, FHE, reading scriptures with our kids (all three verses) -- because, like Nephi, " . . . we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins (2 Nephi 25:26)." And maybe, if we're consistent, and truly humbled by the magnitude of the spiritual potential inherent in each one of our children, we will see a little glimmer of hope, baby steps of spiritual progress, imperceptible day by day, but still moving us all forward in pursuit of our eternal goal.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Well, what else would you wear if you just wanted to be comfortable all the time?

Two nights ago, the big boys got to wear new jammies. They were excited because these new jammies are just like Lil' Maa-Maa's -- one piece zipper jobs with grippy feet, soft, warm, fleecy, and comfortable. Now, maybe almost-4 years old is a bit old for blanket sleepers, but they're still making them so I must not be the only person buying them. I like the idea of my little ones being toasty warm in their beds when the wind is blowing cold outside, even if they kick all the covers off in the middle of the night.

G-Dog and ConMan raved about these sleepers. ConMan informed us he was going to tell all his friends at preschool the next day about his jammies with feet in them. G-Dog thought it was really cool that his jammies had a zipper. I mean, really, it was like Christmas morning, as excited as they were.

Fastforward 18 hours. We came home from preschool yesterday, and G-Dog disappeared back into their bedroom. I was fixing lunch and didn't think anything of it. All of a sudden, he's there, right next to me, completely naked except for little skivvies, holding his blanket sleeper. "I just wanted to get comfortable, Mommy."

They have now decided that blanket sleepers are the absolute best choice to wear underneath Halloween costumes. Hey, I think they're right -- one-piece long underwear with feet? If I weren't absolutely convinced that such attire would hug my butt and accentuate the old saddle bags a little too much, I might be tempted to seek one out in my size!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wholesome, delicious, and consumed by small children everywhere

Yesterday, our family went out for lunch together (to the "ham store" -- see this post for another funny story about this place). Our children love this particular restaurant, and they eat better there than almost any other place -- even home, sometimes. So we weren't that hungry for dinner, but, and you can call me crazy here, I feel somewhat guilty if I don't provide sustenance of some sort for every meal.

Enter CPod. I was playing outside with the kids when he got home from work. Inside, left to his own devices, he decided to cook up some steel-cut oats for dinner. (He's really awesome, I know.) If you haven't tried them, you should, especially if you're an oatmeal fan in the first place.

Now, Lil' Maa-Maa can eat himself some oatmeal. He loves every bite -- or at least every bite that doesn't somehow drip down the front of his shirt to the chair or hardwood floor (the kid is supremely mess-making talented). The twins? Not so much the oatmeal fans.

ConMan has been known to fake-wretch if my culinary efforts do not meet his standards (read: Honey-Nut Cheerios, Eggo waffles, hors d'oeuvre-like slices of ham, cheese and crackers, applesauce, grapes, and string cheese -- you get the picture). And G-Dog accidentally-on-purpose spills anything he doesn't want to eat. ("Oh, no, Mommy, it's been on the floor. I can't eat that!" Unless, of course, it's a cookie, in which case the 10-second rule is sure to apply.)

So CPod and I stood in the kitchen wracking our brains, trying to figure out a way to get them to eat oatmeal when, and I'm totally bragging here, I had a moment of absolute genius: what works in cookies, will probably work in the bowl. And that's how we came to put chocolate chips in our cereal. Let me tell you, I am a believer. If you add the chocolate chips to the oatmeal the same time you put in your sweetener of choice (mine is dark brown sugar), stir briefly, and then immediately pour a little milk on top, the chocolate melts, but doesn't entirely lose it's shape . . . yummy, gooey, lusciousness in a bowl. And it's good for you! Two of my kids actually liked it. ComMan was the hold-out, but we persuaded him to eat three daddy-sized bites, and then I could go to book club with a clear conscience.

In other news, yesterday, the twins and I went on a preschool field trip to a local farm. Everyone came home with a little mini-pumpkin (G-Dog was absolutely insistent that we get an extra one for Lil' Maa-Maa, who spent the morning with his daddy walking our land and going out for breakfast) and then everyone went to bed with a little mini-pumpkin, too. Adorable! It's like they think they're stuffed animals or something. I caught ConMan and G-Dog watering their pumkpins this morning, because then they could grow into big pumpkins. How can you be mad about that mess of water all over the floor?

Also, I've decided to boycott the game Jenga for . . . oh, the rest of my life. Not because I've played it lately, at least not officially. But because I had a really awful experience at the grocery store the other night. Let me explain.

I make a really fantastic salad with spinach, apples, walnuts and cheese. Out of walnuts, though, so I picked some up at the store late the other night . . . really late, like 11PM. And I'm really trying to be frugal, so instead of buying the prepackaged walnuts, I tried to use the self-service bins where you pull the handle, and the chute opens up to fill your bag with your desired nut variety, or trail mix, or whatever. Tried. Over and over. Because those walnuts were crammed in that bin just like Jenga pieces. Every time I pulled the handle, one walnut would loosen just the slightest bit, enough to give me hope that maybe next time it would fall, and if one could fall, the 6 ounces I needed might soon follow. Here's how it went down: Shake the container (violently, repeatedly -- no one's around, it's nearly midnight and the store is about to close), pull the handle, about a thousand times, catch my one walnut in the bag. Mind you, the bin is on the bottom shelf, so I'm like half-way sit/squatting on the dirty grocery store floor. Repeat. Again. Again. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I know that eventually, just like Jenga, the entire house of cards is going to fall and I'm going to end up with a lot more walnuts than I bargained for. Which is exactly what happened. Oh, well. Walnuts, anyone?

And here's the recipe for the salad:

Spinach
Granny Smith apple, peeled and thinly sliced
Toasted walnuts
Small cubes of sharp cheddar cheese

Dress immediately before serving with:

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. maple syrup (I know!)

Enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2008

You're So Vain . . . and other tales of the highlands

This past weekend, my sister and I and our spouses took a long-anticipated, greatly-appreciated, totally relaxing backpacking trip to the top of Mt. LeConte in the Smokies. Relaxing, you say? Hiking in the rain and cold, round-trip 13.3 miles, up steep inclines and across scary-because-there's-nothing-underneath-you cliff faces was absolutely, completely and totally rejuvenating on so many levels -- yes, relaxing. Because, see, at the top of Mt. LeConte are a lodge, some cabins, and even a few flush toilets (wo-hoo!) -- yes, primitive, without electricity and somewhat Little-House-on-the-Prairie-ish, but they cook delicious meals for you and they keep you warm, and there is no noise -- no exaggeration here -- at all. It's like the mountain just absorbs any noise the other guests make and you are insulated from the world (no airplanes, cars or trucks, televisions or radios, no phones, unless you are as tall as my husband and you align yourself like an antennae while standing in the one spot on the mountain that gets any signal). God bless our family -- Mom kept MommyJ's kids, and our little brother and his new wife kept my little ones. (The news is good -- Gramma doesn't want to have anymore children, which is good because, well, she's 56; and The Newlyweds still want to have children even after spending two days with mine!) A good time was had by all.

MommyJ and I are the vain ones. Both of us got up early Friday morning and fixed both hair and makeup before we began our trek up the mountain. Josh totally made fun of MommyJ for "smelling too good" and making an effort to be attractive on the mountain. Who you trying to impress, right? I mean, this is the man who didn't even bring a clean pair of socks with him. Strangely enough CPod refrained from haranguing me. If you know him, you know this is odd. No comment on my perfectly coiffed curls? No poking fun at me as I applied makeup in the car, driving in darkness through the curvy roads of the Smokies? Nay, not even a look askance, nary a word was spoken. I am convinced it's because he's seen how ugly I looked in the pictures taken when we were at Mt. LeConte earlier this summer, and if he is to be allowed to post them on his Facebook page, I have to look good (my requirement, not his), and until he changes his password, I will keep removing photos! I think maybe I'll let him use this one:

We hoped for some great views of fall colors, but with our rainy weather and serious fog, it just was not to be. Instead we ended up with fantastic sunset and sunrise, and some pretty cool shots of people next to Nothing. (You'll see what I mean.) All in all, a great trip -- and we plan to repeat it ever year that we possibly can, and when our kids are big enough that we trust them to not fall off a cliff, we'll bring them with us.

Side note: many of you who have known me for a very long time (cousins, college roommates, high school friends, and such) may notice my wild woman curly hair. I know, you're thinking, "Her hair isn't curly! She must have a perm." I assure, I don't. MommyJ will vouch for me -- she is insanely jealous of the curls and would be the first one to give me up if they weren't natural!

And now for the slide show . . . and a brief explanation for each image.

See, I told you . . . totally Little House. I mean, when you check in, they give you a key to the flush toilets (they have latrines for the non-paying riff-raff who just do a day hike or stay in the AT shelter up above the lodge) and a pail with directions to the hot water tap!

Me and MommyJ in front of our totally awesome sunset . . . the lodge was completely socked in by the clouds, so the hike to Cliff Tops was a bit of a gamble, but we were rewarded for our efforts.

People next to Nothing. This is why Mom can't ever do this hike. She might be hyperventilating right now just looking at the vast expanse of space beyond the edge of the rocks.

Sunrise wasn't bad, either. The best part about it? It didn't happen until 7:45AM, which is just perfect when you took a loooooong nap the day before, and then stayed up until the unbelievable hour of 10PM playing Yahtzee and Trivial Pursuit by lamplight the night before.

On the way home, we started out above the clouds, then hiked through them, and then finally emerged from the mists and finished below the clouds. We also sort of hiked through the seasons -- we had snow flurries on top of the mountain (high of 48, low of 28 when we were there), beautiful fall leaves through the mid-elevations, and a lot of green at the trailhead. Beautiful! We saw at least 4 distinctly different ecosystems, varying by elevation, proximity to water, and exposure. Just amazing. Now you go do it!

For more images of this trip, and a different perspective, visit MommyJ's blog. Or don't. I may have bored you to death!