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.