Friday, March 28, 2008

Spring Break - PNW Style

I'm glad I snapped this picture earlier today because now this light dusting of snow has melted and the sun is shining again. Wait...now it's cloudy. OK, now the sun is back again.

On Easter Sunday there was a short discussion about weather when someone said how sad she felt for people in other parts of the country that had to wait so long for Spring, as if we here in the Pacific Northwest don't have to wait for spring at all.

I guess it's been a while since I experienced that other season in between winter and spring called "break-up." And no, this doesn't refer to a particularly bad ending to a relationship. Those who have spent time in Alaska, the Yukon Territory, or anywhere else that has several inches of ice as a permanent fixture on the ground from November through April will have a better idea of what I mean by "break-up."

As a missionary in Alaska, I clearly remember watching the April General Conference broadcast and feeling really irritated by the abundance of panning shots of Temple Square, filled with flowering tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and pansies. They even had popcorn popping on their apricot trees for crying out loud! It was as if they were just trying to rub my nose in the fact that in Alaska, I still had a good month before I'd even see pavement, let alone a daffodil. Not a good attitude with which to start off General Conference, I can tell you that!

So, when it was mentioned how wonderful our Oregon/Washington spring is at Easter dinner last week, all I could think about was those of you in Arizona, Texas, California, Georgia and Southern Utah who keep telling me how beautiful it is. As if your verbal praises are not enough, you send pictures of you and your kids in...what's it called again...oh that's right, SUNSHINE!

It's easy to feel sorry for myself when I focus on how much better everyone else has it. So, this week, I've tried to notice how the cloudy skies really intensify the vivid greens and bright yellows, reds and pinks. I've paid attention to the flowering trees and the chirping birds. But most of all, I've remembered what it's like to be in a place where there is still several inches of ice on the ground; where I would still be tromping around in my heavy Sorel Snow Cat boots and wearing 3 layers of thermal wear on my legs. I'm enjoying not having huge pot holes where the ice has broken up to navigate both in car and on foot.

That's right, I'm thinking of you, Minnesotans and Alaskans. No offense, but you are making me feel so much better.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Balloons

I hate balloons. I wish I had a latex allergy so I could justify a total household balloon ban. I may have inherited my aversion to balloons from my mom, who also hates balloons, but I recently found out that she hates them mostly because of the potential for loud, unplanned popping noises.

My hate of balloons goes much, much deeper than that.

1. Balloons stink. I can’t even stand the way balloons smell just out of the package. Slightly worse than the just-out-of-the-package smell is the inflated balloon smell. Worse still is the 3 day-old balloon smell. Nothing is viler, however, than the odor of a 2 year old inflated balloon, wrinkled and pathetic, which emerges from behind the TV entertainment center and is batted carelessly around the room by little boys. (I’m feeling a wave of nausea just thinking about it!)

2. Balloon noises are irritating and grating. Since my boys can’t tie their own balloons, and since I mostly refuse to touch them, they are usually left to inflate their balloons and release them to fly around the room, making that horrible ppffffttttllbbbtttt noise and shooting bits of spit out their back ends.

I don’t like the noise of balloons rubbed against hair, or when balloons are squeezed and twisted. Sorry balloon-folding clown guy…it’s not you, it’s your evil balloons I can’t stand.

The sound of a balloon popping, while still unpleasant, indicates the end of the balloon’s life, and so I find I can tolerate that noise somewhat. However, if the balloon is popped by a child, a lot of crying usually ensues, which definitely qualifies as an annoying, balloon related noise.

3. I can’t stand how balloons feel. I won’t touch a balloon unless I am either popping it or throwing away the little busted bits of it. The worst kind of balloon to touch is the one that has been inflated for a while, then gets deflated and is all feathery and rubber. Ugh.

4. Stale balloon air makes me gag.

5. I’d rather clean up after 10 bathroom emergencies (use your imagination) than have a kid hand me a balloon to blow up that has been repeatedly blown up and deflated and is now dripping with spit.

6. Getting hit in the head with a balloon while I’m driving causes me to utter really angry threats. (I’ve seen my boys laughing at me in the rear-view mirror!)

My dislike of balloons is so strong, I’m wondering if I actually might have an allergy to latex. I checked on-line to see what the symptoms were and they include:

• Itchy, red, watery eyes
• Sneezing or runny nose
• Coughing
• Rash or hives
• Chest tightness and shortness of breath
• Shock

I think I could definitely make a case for chest tightness and a shortness of breath, and probably shock. At the very least I think I could qualify for latex intolerance.

Monday, March 24, 2008

BJB OD

Do you know what stinks?

When you see a dish of brightly colored jelly beans sitting out on the counter for festive Easter snacking and choose a beautiful black jelly bean sitting amidst the greens and reds and pinks to grab and eat. Greens and reds and pinks are perfectly good jelly beans and purples too, but sometimes, you just want a black jelly bean.

So you grab the black jelly bean and pop it into your mouth, bite down, and wait for the licorice explosion. But here’s where it stinks…it’s not a black jelly bean at all, it’s grape; a dark, purple grape jelly bean.

Usually, there is nothing wrong with grape jelly beans. But if you are truly expecting a black jelly bean, then grape jelly beans suck.

After getting myself all worked up about eating a black jelly bean yesterday, I was sabotaged by a grape, not once, but twice. It was just too much. So today, when I saw a bag of all black jelly beans at Walgreens at 50% off, I decided to buy them and satisfy my need for a black jelly bean or two.

I didn’t even have to look as I plunged my hand into the bag again and again; it was a black one every single time. And when I say “every single time” I mean for about an hour while I tried to get into my latest book that I was about to return to the library, but which my mom promised me was just about to get better.

So, the book is getting better, but I’m quite done with black jelly beans. Or, as my sweet grandma A. sometimes calls them, “jack belly jeans.”

Most everyone has a black jelly bean opinion, so what's yours? Love 'em or hate 'em? Is there anyone that is honestly indifferent on this subject? Come on, be honest.

Here is what Jim Halpert has to say on the subject:

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Dyeing

When we dyed eggs this afternoon, the boys started off by carefully using the little copper egg dipper-thing to dip their eggs in the dye cups and lift them out. After a while though, it just became easier to use their fingers to dip and retrieve eggs. The result...well, see for yourself.

Also, the grout on my white tile counter top is now green and blue in places. Yay.

Friday, March 21, 2008

When I Finally Lose My Mind...

If one day you find yourself wondering why I seem to be one burrito short of a combo platter, please consider the following:

Me: Good morning Jonah. I made you an omelet for breakfast. Why don't you sit down and I'll get it for you.

Jonah: I don't want an omelet.

Me: OK, would you like some cereal? We just got strawberry frosted shredded wheat. Do you want some?

Jonah: Yes.

Me: (I place the bowl of cereal in front of Jonah who is seated at the table.)

Jonah: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I don't want the milk on the cereal! I want it in a cup.

Me: (I suddenly remember Jonah's weird cereal preferences, swear I will never forget again, and dump the cereal in the sink, rinse and dry the bowl, and pour DRY cereal in the bowl and milk into a cup. I place both things in front of Jonah.)

Jonah: (apparently appeased)

Me: (Unload the dishwasher, check my e-mail, blogs, Dear Abby, eat the omelet originally intended for Jonah, clear the table of the other kids dishes, rinse and load them in the dishwasher, help Ethan get his lunch and backpack together and get him out the door, make beds)

Jonah: (whining, with untouched food sitting in front of him) Moooooooooooooooooom, I don't want this. Make me an omelet!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Belated Post

I can't believe I forgot to post about Isaac's birthday. After dinner at Chevy's (uno, dos, uno dos tres!) we came home for cake and presents. I think Ethan and Jonah were almost more excited about Isaac's presents than Isaac himself. When Isaac opened a brand new pack of Pokemon cards, Jonah wanted to start trading immediatly.

By the way, when you live in a house full of boys you learn that one of the "funniest" parts of having a birthday is using those completely annoying, juvenile trick candles that never blow out. Hilarious.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Boys Only

This may not be the most adorable kid picture I have, but it illustrates just what I love about our street. Also, since I just got done doing a presentation to Ethan's class on the artist Bev Doolittle, I can't help but see this picture as a suburban reflection of Bev's artwork. How many kids can you see camouflaged in the trees? OK, not all of them are "camouflaged." Some are just wearing camouflage.

Answer: There are 6 boys in the trees and only two of them are mine.

One of the things this picture doesn't show is the 3 boys in the garage trading Pokemon cards just a few feet away from the trees.

There are so many boys on our street and every sunny day after school, they all gather to climb trees, trade Pokemon cards, dig up bugs, launch baking soda rockets, throw balls at each other, re-enact star wars light saber fights, collect rocks and sticks and hit tennis balls against the garage door.

I think it's just great that there are so many good kids in our neighborhood for our boys to play with. More than that, however, I'm really, really glad that everyone is OUTSIDE!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spare Change

So I'm cleaning up around the house and I've collected a nice pile of change. However, the change is mostly Korean (I think) with a smattering of assorted game tokens. I know where the Korean money came from, but these game tokens mostly have me confused.

Golfland is in Castro Valley, so I'm sure we picked up that token several years ago and it's been rattling around the house. But I've never heard of "Jungle Jims" or "Jeepers" and I don't expect that we will ever go there for whatever they have to offer. (Something with lots of coin slots I'm sure.)

I've admitted before that I throw pennies away. Not huge piles of pennies, but one, here and there from time to time. But now I have 13 coins that look impressive, but which I will never use. I really want to throw the whole pile right in the trash.

There is a part of me however, that feels there is something wrong with throwing money away. I guess it's the way that people always talk about throwing money away like it's such a bad thing. (Don't buy anything from the Dollar Tree...you will just be throwing your money away.)

I have a few ideas for how to rid myself of these coins without throwing them away.

The first is to toss them into the back yard. Ethan just purchased a metal detector and would LOVE to search for coins out in the yard. It could keep him busy for maybe an hour. Better yet, I could go to the playground and bury the coins under the bark chips for more of a challenge.

However, I'm guessing these coins will eventually end up back in the house, on the floor, under the couch, in the kids piggy banks.

The other option is to bring the coins to my neighbor, from where I believe they originated. Then I can give her the option to do what she wants with them. Again, I picture that somehow the coins could end up back here eventually.

I'm just tired of picking money up off the floor. Money and pencils. It never seems to end. And the money isn't even anything I can use, so...that stinks.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why I Love My Stitch Ripper


Friday, March 14, 2008

For My Book Group



Hey Ladies! A month ago we read and discussed Freakonomics and I shared that my favorite chapter had to do with why drug dealers still live with their mothers. I was fascinated by the account of the sociologist who lived for six years with a Chicago gang. Evidently he's written a book called "Gang Leader For a Day."

Interestingly the author, Sudhir Venkatesh, refers to himself as a "Rogue Sociologist." I wonder if he got that idea from his friend Steven Leavitt, the "Rogue Economist" who wrote Freakonomics and included Sudhir's account in his book?

Anyway, I happened upon this interview Sudhir did with Stephen Colbert and thought it was interesting and fun. He didn't mention anything about that college educated gang leader that eventually went to prison, so I'm guessing he's still there. (As you remember, I felt pretty bad about him.)

I watched this video twice to make sure it didn't have any offensive content and it's all good except the last 20 seconds has one crude remark that I didn't understand. So, there's your warning.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Only a Matter of Time

It was bound to happen sooner or later and yesterday, it finally did. Yesterday I tried to "pause" my husband.

I will be the first to admit that I love having a DVR. My life has changed: I no longer spend time watching commercials, ever. I don't flip out if one of the kids gets out of bed to ask me a silly question during my favorite show. If I see an ad for cool show, I can arrange to record it in a matter of seconds. I can't go back to regular TV...I won't go back.

So last night after cleaning up the dinner mess and sending the kids off to get their pajamas on, I settled in for a little Jeopardy. With in minutes, Robert came in the room and asked me to pause Jeopardy so he could tell me something he had heard on NPR. (Something about how the biggest deterrent to burglaries is a locked door.)

I was listening intently when anywhere from 1 to 3 boys came downstairs. It has evidently never once occurred to any of my children that I could possibly be in a conversation that doesn't include them. In fact, I think it completely eludes them that I am not ready to fully engage in absolutely anything they would think to say at any time of the day or night. When I hold a phone to my hear, the phone somehow becomes invisible. Any conversation I have is somehow occurring at frequencies not audible to my children. It's truly bizarre.

This was the case last night when the kids came in the room during my conversation with Robert. As a reminder, Jeopardy was paused, Robert was talking and one of the boys chimes in with something like, "Mom, I'm thirsty I need a drink, I'm thirsty I need a drink, drink, get me a drink, I'm thirsty, drink, drink, drink."

With my hand on the remote my thumb hit the pause button. This automatic response was completely subconscious. In essence, I wanted to pause Robert, take care of the incessant drink-whine, un-pause Robert, finish listening to his home safety lecture and get back to Jeopardy as quickly as possible.

Instead, hitting the pause button started Jeopardy again and exposed my desire to pause Robert. Did I mention it was a subconscious desire?

Monday, March 10, 2008

A TV Education

Was anyone else surprised when they learned that the average size of a seahorse is around 5 inches in length? For me, this picture had a lot to do with that misconception. I'm still under the impression that if I need someone to quickly shut their mouth and keep it closed, I am to give them something called "alum." However, an experiement conducted from the top of my bunk bed when I was five taught me that not only will I not float gracefully through the air if I'm holding an umbrella, but also, the umbrella will do absolutely nothing to break my fall. Who knew! I wonder what other ways pop culture is leading us astray?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

And the Winner is....

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest. When it finally stops raining kids have to get their outdoor playtime any way they can. The other day, Jonah and his two buddies decided to race slugs down the slide. I'm not sure who's slug won, or if the boys even stayed around to wait for the finish. My guess is that the slugs are either still working their way down the slide, or got eaten by a robin.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Disney Tip #8 - The Final Tip

I’m tired of doing Disney tips so this will be my final Disney Tip post. I’ll never get to the top of the Google search results list with “Disney Tips” because there are just too many “Disney Tips” sites out there already. (Yes, I do check every day to see if one more post gets me into the top ten search results. Kind of pathetic, but what can I say.)

Also, I’ve got a bunch of other things to blog about. The kids have been super cute the last few days and I have some funny stuff to say about them.

I’m not sure what to name this post or what tip to give. Mostly I thought the picture was cute but also a little telling of how we approached Disneyland. Certainly, we were not the only ones to carry sleeping kids out of Disneyland at 10pm, but I can tell you, the last few hours of this night, Jonah didn’t really get much out of his Disney experience except a nifty, overpriced souvenir, and he barely stayed awake for that.

Frankly, I’m surprised that Isaac was still awake and chipper at the time this photo was snapped, but he was sick the first two days so I guess needed to make up for lost time.

So, what’s my tip? Have fun at Disneyland. Play hard because you never know when you’ll be able to come back to the Happiest Place on Earth (unless you live in Southern California and have season passes.)

Disney Tips, Disney Tips, Disney Tips, Disney Tips, Disney Tips! (Take that Google!)

Disney Tip #7 - Take Great Photos

I would one day love to take a photography class and purchase a super fabulous, extra fancy SLR digital camera. Until that day, I must rely on my natural artistic talent and aging camera to capture the happy moments our family will cherish forever. (Unless a house fire or flood destroys all my albums and computer records.)

A flash of photographic inspiration came on our recent trip to Disneyland when I saw a Disney employee take a picture of a family. The Disney photographer, as you probably know, takes a picture, then you can stop by the photo booth on your way out of the park, or log onto the computer later when you get home and purchase prints of your professional Disney photo. Of course if you read Disney Tip #5, you know that Disney will charge you a pretty penny for these pictures.

When I noticed the Disney pro taking pictures, I realized I could set up the same shot and take my own professional looking picture. Ok, I know this has probably already occurred to 98% of you out there, but it seemed like a “Eureka” moment to me.

For the above picture, the tall people knelt down and the short ones stood. The photographer also knelt down so that she could capture both us and the whole Sleeping Beauty Castle in this shot. I never would have thought to set a shot up that way on my own, so copying the Disney pro was very helpful.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Drive Down Memory Lane

Today I am going to take a momentary break from Disney Tips to bring you a little glimpse into my past.

Here we have a picture of my mom and Jonah riding in the “Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies” at Disney’s California Adventure Bug Land. These bumper cars were definitely designed for the 6 and under crowd. There is no need to worry about jarring bumps because the bugs move very slowly.

The thing that caught my eye when I looked at this picture was the location of my mom’s hand, hovering just over the steering wheel. When I saw this, the floodgates of my memory opened and I found myself back in the driver’s seat of a Volkswagen Rabbit (diesel), with mom teaching me how to drive.

My mom’s hand often hovered just above the steering wheel while I was learning to drive. Mom was certainly patient, but definitely panicked during our driving sessions. Most of the time, though, mom’s hand was not hovering over the steering wheel, but tightly gripping the emergency brake, ready to yank up at the first sign of trouble. Her other hand clung to the door handle for dear life. (If we still had that brown Volkswagen Rabbit, I could show you the indentation her hand left in the plastic handle.)

My favorite part about our driving lessons, however, was when mom’s foot would slam down on that invisible brake pedal located on the passenger side of the car. Of course no matter how hard she came down on that imaginary brake pedal, it never seemed to make a bit of difference.

So, evidently, driving in a bumper car with a 5 year old at the wheel is as nerve wracking as teaching a 15 year old to drive a stick shift on the busy freeways of California. Fortunately for Jonah, the bug cars didn’t have emergency brakes!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Disney Tip #6 - Cash for Snacks

Theme Parks are known for many things, but reasonable prices is NOT one of them. So, unless you want to leave the park for meals, pack a little something for your family to eat inside the park, you know, so they don't starve or, heaven forbid, whine.

There are lockers available just outside of the Disneyland entrance where you can stash your snacks, or you could carry them around with you until lunch time. Supposedly, Disneyland has a policy about not bringing in food but we brought food into Disneyland every day, including obvious, plastic water bottles, and never got stopped at the bag check.

Even with your superior planning and foresight, it will be hard to walk by every single food vendor with out indulging. Around 2pm, when you've been seriously attacking Disneyland for 6 hours, your sugar levels will start to falter and you might feel lightheaded. It's possible your pre-schoolers just might be tired of trekking all over the park and need a little break.

At this point in the day, you will gladly pay $3 for a few teaspoons of sugar in the form of cotton candy. More than that, you should pay $3 for cotton candy. And don't feel bad about it either. Cotton Candy will give you a chance to sit for a few minutes. Everyone can share in one, $3 cone of cotton candy and feel like they are getting a substantial snack (if your group consists of one or two adults and a few small children). Most importantly, the sugar rush will give you the energy you and your kids need to get through the next six, fun-filled hours at Disneyland.

Cotton Candy vendors accept cash only, so make sure you have $3 with you at the beginning of the day and you will be ready for your cotton candy break later in the day.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Disney Tip #5 - Free Ride Pics

When you go on those exciting rides at Disneyland, your picture will be snapped mid-ride (usually at your most unflattering moment) and you will have the opportunity to buy a print of your picture at a little booth near the ride exit. The pictures will cost a million dollars. OK, I'm exaggerating a bit: a million dollars is for the 8 x 10, it only costs half a million dollars for the 5 x 7.

Don't get suckered into spending way too much money on a picture of you freaking out on a Disneyland ride. Instead, take your digital camera or your camera phone and take a picture of the picture displayed on the monitor.

Admittedly, it will not look as good as the one you could buy for a million dollars but consider this: Once you walk through the Disneyland exit at the end of the day, you will wonder why you are wearing a mouse-ear hat with flashing lights in the ears. You will also wonder what you are doing with a light up Mickey Mouse spinning thing and a lanyard heavy with $180 worth of Disney pins. All of these things seemed like a really good idea when you laid down your hard earned cash for them, but now that you’ve left the magic of the park, they are really just reminders that you got suckered.

The same will be true of your overpriced thrill-ride photo. So just take a picture of the picture to remember the moment. When you get home, you can have it blown up and put in a garish frame if you are still under the impression that would be a good idea.