Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Meet the In-Laws

When I got married, I lucked out in the in-law department. Today we held the funeral for my husband's grandmother. Today I saw the best in his family.

Ted, my father-in-law is loud and boisterous, and as generous a person as anyone I've ever known. A loyal Mercedes owner, my favorite story to tell about him goes like this: He had an e-class he wanted to trade in. Disgusted by the low-ball offer he was given, he said to the guy, "You dirty bastard! I'd just as soon park it in my back yard and let my grand kids play on it!" Who HASN'T wanted to say something like that to a car salesman at one time or another?

My mother-in-law, Pat, is sweet and kind and has friends all over the world. The thing I love about her is that she never uses her age as an excuse to keep from doing anything. She snow skis, water skis, shops me to my knees, and keeps up with with the latest tech. A proud grandma, her camera is never far from reach.

Julie and Susan (Susie to us) are the two big sisters I never had. Julie is smart and witty. Susie is the person who brightens everybody's doorway. My kids love raiding her candy drawer.

Scott is the big brother I never had. Scott is a sea of calm. But don't let the mild-mannered look fool you. He was in a gang when he was a kid. They called themselves Phantom Fear and walked the streets of their suburban Salt Lake City neighborhood armed with nunchucks. They made one unsuccessful attempt to buy beer.

Chris is the little brother. I already have two of my own little brothers, and I gladly add him to my little collection. Chris is funny and likes my cooking, so naturally I like him. He often gets made fun of for some of the dumb things he did as a kid, but he has recently redeemed himself by spending time with a very smart and very gorgeous blonde named Kim. If he doesn't marry her soon, I just may marry her myself. But I'd really prefer if he'd marry her instead.

Today I listened and watched as each of them spoke of their grandmother and supported each other in their loss. I can't count how many times the words "I love you" were spoken. Are we perfect? Hardly. But I wouldn't have them any other way.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A List

A green plant on the kitchen window sill
The first, teeniest buds on the trees
A fresh new tablecloth
Cookies in the oven

It really IS the little things...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Life Goes On

I am intrigued by disasters. Like a magnet, I am especially drawn to airplanes and earthquakes. As a kid I read up on The Great San Francisco Earthquake like it was going out of style. And I just couldn't get enough of Amelia Earhart. It's the science of it all, I think.

So as you can imagine, I have been riveted by anything coming from Japan. And as usual, at first it was the science of it all. Facts like it sped up the Earth's rotation, shifted the axis, and moved the entire island of Japan several feet to the east... that's like information heaven for a nerd like me.

Then the human toll started to sink in.

My husband and I went to Japan several years ago. It's a beautiful place. We rode the bullet trains and saw the incredible countryside, dotted by Buddhist temples, framed by cherry blossoms. Mount Fuji is even bigger in person. Tokyo is a sea of humanity. I don't even know how to describe what the street looked like when the rush hour trains emptied out. I know I've never seen more people in one place at one time.

Hiroshima is a place that brings you to your knees as you take in what happened there in 1946.

And the food. Oh, the food. I brought home some cookbooks, but have yet to perfectly replicate anything as good as it was over there. But of course, the best thing about the trip was the people. The people were gracious and funny. And kind. And warm. We sang karaoke with our friends and shared a meal that a Sumo wrestler would eat on his own. We laughed until I thought my face would freeze that way. And except for the whole kidnapping thing, I would have brought home a couple of armfuls of beautiful Japanese children.

So maybe what happened on Friday has a little bit of personal meaning for me.

And that got me thinking. Horrible, terrible things happen all over the world. I have no control over that, which is a very hopeless feeling. Even right now, our family is dealing with a Grandma in hospice, whose days on this Earth are drawing to a close. But life goes on. Yes, I can send my widow's mite to the relief effort. I can pray. I can get my 72-hour kits together so that I'm prepared if a disaster strikes here. But even more importantly, I can do good, right here in my little corner of the globe. Just like a Tsunami, goodness spreads. Today I made a head wreath for my very confident daughter, who needs it for her upcoming pageant. Recently I have marveled at her ability to speak words of comfort to her dying great-grandmother; to play little songs for her on the piano. Today I also helped my son with his science fair project. We built a salt water alarm. He said, "Hey Mom, if salt water is ocean water, then this could work to warn people when a Tsunami is coming, right?"

Who knows what good that might lead to in a few years? I can't wait to find out.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Your Mom Went to College...

At the risk of disclosing my real age, I'll begin by saying that I graduated from college sometime during the 20th century.

When I went back to teaching three years ago, I had a lot of catching up to do. In the ten years since I had become a stay-home mom, policies had come and gone, they were speaking a whole new language that I had never been a part of, and kindergarten somehow became less about getting along and more about reading actual books.

There were certain requirements I had to meet in order to get my teaching certificate updated. Among other things, I had to take a two-part test known as the Praxis. I was given a year to take the first part and three years to take the second part. I took the first part at the end of my first year. It was more like a big trivia quiz than a test. I'm really good at trivia. My mind is a steel trap for all kinds of useless information. For instance, did you know that babies don't have knee caps until they're three years old? Needless to say, I nailed it. I even got a special certificate in the mail because I scored so exceptionally high on it, along with a letter stating that I am truly dedicated to my profession for being so knowledgeable in so many areas. Whatever. Useless information.

In two days I will be taking the second part of the Praxis. I've been studying. And I'm worried. This is the stuff that I learned in college. You know, back in the late 20th century. I have to know the names of behaviorists and their theories and tell how I would apply their expertise in my classroom. I need to remember the difference between Piaget and Maslow. Does anyone out there even understand Constructivist Theory?

What I'm saying is, I know how to apply it, I just can't remember what it's called.

I learned more about teaching from motherhood than I ever did in college. Teaching is about common sense. If a kid does something right, praise them. If a kid does something wrong, let them know and praise them for trying harder. Be enthusiastic. If you love to learn, so will they. Be consistent and follow through with consequences. I before E except after C. AND BAND-AIDS FIX EVERYTHING.

It's just too bad there won't be anything on the test about band-aids.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Most Expensive Bag of Spinach Ever

Yesterday I wanted to make a stromboli for dinner, but I was short one bag of frozen spinach. I decided I would pick up my daughter at the bus stop and then make a quick trip to The Store for the spinach. It ended up costing me $162.00.

We've all established that I love where I live. We make Norman Rockwell's paintings look like they were done in downtown Beirut. Well, almost.

Yesterday, my daughter and I were the victims of a drive-by shooting. I was doing the driving, should you have any question. We were driving along the road, behind the town square, when I heard and felt a loud pop. It sounded like something had hit the side of my car. When I turned to look back, the rear passenger window was completely shattered, held together only by the tinting film. The tell-tale BB gun bullet hole was easily noticeable. My daughter, thankfully was sitting in the rear driver's side seat; she pulled a few shards of glass from her wool ski cap.

Not cool.

Knowing that the glass wouldn't hold long against the rain and the snow, I bee-lined it for the glass repair shop. The whole window fell out as soon I parked. The lady behind the computer looked up the proper window and said "I can get you one for $160.00. Do you want me to order it?"

As the rain blew into my car's backseat, I wanted to say, "Nooooo. I think I'll shop around." So they covered it with plastic and the window will be here tomorrow.

When I got home, I called the Sheriff's Department, wanting to report that I was the victim of a shooting. Honestly, I know nothing can be done, but if it happened again, they would at least have someone else on record as well. When I stated what happened, the person taking my call asked, "Did you see who did it?"

Unfortunately I hadn't, as I was busy making sure my daughter wasn't BLEEDING TO DEATH.

"Well, sometimes windows tend to crack on their own," he suggested.

Yes, they crack on their own WHEN hit by a BB gun.

Bag of spinach: $2.oo
New window: $160.00
Having a great story to tell: priceless.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Last night my son said something that pierced me right through the heart.

When my husband and I got married, one of our many topics of conversation included how many kids we wanted. We always thought 3 or 4 would suit us just fine. But, like so many things in life, things don't always go the way you've got planned. As I've mentioned before, pregnancy and I do not get along... to the tune of 5 miscarriages. And I'm suspicious it might even be 7. We never got a real explanation as to why, except that my body doesn't produce enough of the hormone needed to sustain a pregnancy. I'm good at getting pregnant; just a slacker when it comes to staying pregnant.

Anyway, we're absolutely thrilled and blessed to have the two children we have. It did, however, take me a long time to accept the fact that two was our number. But I got over it, made my peace with it, and we're in a really good place now. We're past all the baby stuff, we're not as tied down, we go on great family trips; and I can run errands with nothing but my cell phone and my wallet (and my chapstick, of course).

However, no matter how far you think you might be past something, the littlest of things can still hurt. Last night my son said that when he grows up and has kids, they're not going to have an uncle, and that made him sad. Which made me sad. It's not true, of course. His sister's husband will be their uncle, and he better be the best uncle on the whole damn planet. Also, I'm a solid believer in the whole eternal life concept, so I'm gonna be busy raising 5-7 kids in the afterlife. Does that sound like heaven to you?

But I digress. I was surprised at how sad that little statement made me. I had to go away and cry for a few minutes. I woke up with a sigh this morning. I realized that the pain and disappointment of miscarriage will never ever fully go away. But that's okay. I've got something to look forward to later on. And the happiness will be exquisite.

I write this not for sympathy. I've had plenty of that. I write this for two reasons: 1. Sometimes it helps to write through the pain. 2. If you know of anyone who has had a miscarriage, send them this way. No one understands like someone who's been through it.

What it comes down to is this: miscarriage sucks. Of the many injustices in life, this is one of the biggest. How the most irresponsible, drug-abusing, child-abusing people can have baby after baby (I've taught some of them) and other people can't, is something beyond explanation to me. It stinks to say good-bye to someone you've never even met. Sometimes you don't even get to say good-bye. You wake up from surgery, are given a pain pill, and get sent on your merry way. You have to mourn and grieve without closure. But there's still hope. Life goes on. You can be happy. God will work it out in the end.

You might feel the sad from time to time, but that just makes you appreciate the happy even more.