unexpected gifts

I've been doing a lot of bellyaching lately -- and during the holidays no less, which has probably landed me on The Naughty List. (Santa, if you could just dump that semi-truck load of coal on the side of our house that would be great.) It's been a trying couple of months, to say the least... and I admit, it's been hard to set aside the trials and shift gears into "Merry and Bright."

But this week I've received some unexpected gifts that have rekindled my holiday spirit:
  • Sang Christmas carols for the opening and closing hymns at church Sunday, something I look forward to all year long. We even sang one for a rest hymn -- bonus!
  • Gathered at a neighborhood eatery to have lunch with girlfriends, something I rarely get to do these days.
  • Received a disco ball from a coworker for Christmas. It's multi-colored. It rotates. It's freaking awesome. Combined with my ever-running space heater, my office has now been officially declared a DISCO INFERNO. (Woot woot!)
  • Had a chance meeting with a dear friend I haven't seen in months, but whom I think about all the time. After 30 minutes of chatting, laughing and hugging, we set a lunch date for next week that, as far as I'm concerned, could only be postponed by Armageddon.
  • In spite of a small bite of this (ahem) and a tiny taste of that (ahem, ahem!)... the scale, for the most part, has been kind. Cue the Hallelujah Chorus!
  • I was able to sit down and read my two favorite magazines (Real Simple and O) from beginning to end. Enough down time to read two magazines in one week, one right after the other?! This also qualifies as a Bonafide Holiday Miracle.
  • Monday I took the day off and was home baking... around lunchtime there was a knock on my door. There stood the four little boys who live next door -- ages 3, 5, 7 & 9, all bundled up and cute as can be -- who quickly launched into Jingle Bells (the unabridged version), followed by We Wish You a Merry Christmas. I was so surprised but so happy to see them, and before long I was singing right along with them. I gave them each a fresh-baked cookie and off they went to the next house, smiling and waving goodbye.

On a Monday afternoon, right there on my doorstep.... herald angels singing. It simply DOES NOT get any merrier than that.

May we all find joy in the unexpected gifts this season has to offer... the ones that take us by surprise and, hopefully, take root in our hearts. Merry Christmas!


14 & 41

Today I am 41. In a couple weeks Tyler will be 14. The chronological juxtaposition presents a number of interesting contrasts:

14: Lots of zit cream
41: Lots of neck cream

14: "That's what she said."
41: "Because I said so."

14: Ungodly hours spent on Facebook (chatting, posting, quiz-taking)
41: Ungodly hours spent on face (tweezing, smoothing, concealing)

14: 5,000 calories a day
41: 5,000 calories a month

14: Xbox
41: Botox

14: Irritable
41: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

14: Bieber hair
41: Bieber who?

14: Blows off homework to hang out with friends
41: Blows off friends because someone never does their homework

14: Crosses the line
41: Holds the line

14: Frequent sufferer of consequences
41: Frequent sufferer of heartburn

14: Girls: The Be All & End All
41: Girls: The Devil Incarnate

14: Tolerates and is tolerated
41: Tolerates and is tolerated

Whattaya know... something in common after all.


the pretty tree

Like many people, every year we put up two Christmas trees in our house: The "family" tree, home to all macaroni sculptures, felt snowflakes and school pictures framed in green glitter, and

The Pretty Tree.

The beautiful, yet fragile, tree.

The tree with the delicate beaded snowflakes...

And the slender, vintage (which is French for very breakable) ornaments...

And the golden, glittered glass balls...

Neslted here and there among sprigs and sprigs of

...shimmering bronze berries.

Ah, yes. The Pretty Tree. The tree nobody but Mom gets to touch.

Not only because it would be reduced to shards and rubble in a matter of miliseconds...

But because The Pretty Tree is one of the most peaceful exercises
I engage in during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

And every evening, even if it's only for a few minutes,
I sit in the living room and just take in The Pretty Tree.
The warm glow has a way of softening the tension from the day,
and reminding me of the beauty of the season...
which usually reminds me of the many beautiful blessings in my life.

The Pretty Tree is the Christmas gift I give myself.



I always imagine Patience as a ball of yarn...
a soft, powdery blue sphere.

On its best day, Patience sits neat and tidy in the center of the brain,
not a single tattered strand or a string out of place.

If Patience is tested... by traffic on I-15, a deadline at work,
or a mouthy, surly teenager at home...
the well-ordered little orb can begin to fray a little.

If it's tried some more... by, say, a vicious case of smallpox,
the current state of the economy,
it can also begin to unravel. Rapidly.

And before you know it, Patience... once neat-as-a-pin... can become:

A muddy, mottled mess.

Insanely misshapen and horribly out of sorts.

So frayed and strayed from its cozy cranial nest that one end is actually trailing out of your nostril by the end of the day.

I know it's supposed to be the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, with those holiday greetings and gay-happy meetings. But if I'm being honest (which is a prerequisite to avoiding the Naughty List)...

I am too threadbare to care.


I'm thankful... really I am.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and, you guys, I'll be honest: I'm finding it difficult to achieve the level of genuine appreciation suitable for the occasion. It's a combination of factors... not the least of which being the nasty sucker-punch I took this week from a punk-ass known more commonly as WINTER.

See what I mean? Not a whole lotta grateful up in here.

So, for the sake of the holiday... and my general disposition... I will now perform A Deliberate Exercise in Gratitude. Feel free to follow along... or if you'd rather go back to Googling "great recipes for stuffing," that's just fine, too.

I am thankful...

For a dog who:

  • Has selective hearing
  • Sheds
  • Smells
  • Disobeys
  • Sheds
  • Has the most wretched breath in canine existence
  • Did I mention the shedding?
  • Comes barreling out of the doggie door and into the garage, his entire ass wagging, to greet me every night... as if my triumphant return from the office is, paws down, the best part of his whole day (which doesn't say much for Dingo's day... but it's a nice shot in the ego for me)

For a husband who:

  • Has selective hearing
  • Fights me tooth and nail over two degrees on the thermostat
  • Bellyaches when he finds rotten food that I've thrown away "because some of that is still edible" (hon, are you referring to the Ziploc bag?)
  • Stalks me around the house and turns off every light that I turn on... in an effort to, you know, SEE WHERE I'M GOING
  • Gets Dingo worked up in a frenzy right before bedtime (which is the same effect as giving a toddler 16 cookies and a Red Bull chaser)
  • Holds down the fort, makes me laugh and reminds me that everything will be ok... someday

For a kid who:

  • Has selective hearing
  • Can never, ever, never, ever... NEVER EVER... hang up his wet towel in the morning
  • Is quick to take out his many adolescent frustrations on his parents
  • Prefers that his grades this term resemble a roller coaster, but not in a good way... more in a this-isn't-fun-at-all-my-head-is-killing-me-and-I-think-I'm-gonna-vomit kind of way... and then ignores it until confronted and yelled at by the nearest grown-up
  • Inspires his mother to read online articles about how wine "takes the edge off"... and then daydreams about hitting the nearest liquor store after work
  • Takes a (very short) break from shredding the last vestiges of my sanity and makes me laugh... which reminds me that everything will be ok... someday

This concludes my Deliberate Exercise in Gratitude... or, as Tom Turkey might say:


Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.


what happens when there's a smattering of down time at the office...

"Someone at the ribbon-cutting used an unusual word in their speech today."

"Oh yeah? What was it?"


"Really? Yeah, that isn't a word you hear very often."

"I know... I think I'm going to try and work that into a sentence today."

"My word of choice in that particular area is grundle."

"Oh, yeah... that's a good one, too."

"Do you think a bevy is technically more than a grundle?"

"Hm... I'm not sure..."

"I think a grundle is more than a bevy... no evidence to support that, just a gut feeling..."

"I'll buy that... but here's the real question: Is a grundle more than a plethora?"

"Ooooh... good question... I think in order of quantity, highest to lowest, it goes plethora, then grundle, then bevy."

"Yeah, that sounds right..."

"But here's another question: Do you know what's less than a bevy?"

"Tell me..."

Triumphant grin, and then: "A smattering."

Smiling and nodding. "Whooaaa... great word. And definitely less than a bevy. Nice work."

Moral of the story: It's a grundle of fun to work with a bevy of word nerds like me.


how I am

"Hi, how are you?"

"I'm fine... and you?"

"Just fine, thanks."

Most of us have this exchange every day, several times a day. Most of us also understand that this exchange is only meant to be a general pleasantry, rather than an invitation to regurgitate the minutia of our lives all over the poor soul who was trying to be polite. We all know people who do not understand this, do we not? You know, the folks who have no problem launching into a 45-minute blow-by-blow of their border collie's recent bowel obstruction surgery... or the altercation they had with the Costco cashier over a pallet of toilet paper.

ANYWAY... to the actual point of my post.

I understand that when people inquire as to my well being, the appropriate response is to smile, stifle the gory details, say "fine" and go on my merry way. However, until further notice, I would like to respond by saying:

"I have a son in eighth grade. How are you?"

This is the most accurate summary of my general state of mind at this point in my life... so it seems to be the most appropriate response.

This new response is not based on a desire to expound... I'm not interested in broadsiding my family, friends and the lady who waters the plant in my office once a month by prattling on about the particulars. And I don't need to, do I? Think about it. If this is what I actually said to people, they would either:

  1. Say "Oh... yeah... eighth grade..." and then blankly stare off into space
  2. Cringe and back away as if I just pinched them with a pair of hot pliers
  3. Offer their condolences and, two days later, bring me a casserole

You know why? Because everyone has an eighth-grader, had an eighth-grader or has been an eighth-grader. We all know. We all remember. And we all would throw ourselves into the nearest active volcano if we ever had to do it over again. Right?


I've decided that trudging through the eighth grade myself was a hell of a lot easier than watching it dump all over the person I love most in the world.

Now... before his grandmothers start panicking and calling our house, let me just say that Tyler is doing fantastic under the circumstances (the circumstances being the hormone-saturated, drama-infested psychotic Land of Adolescence). He's got all A's and B's in school, he's playing football, he has lots of friends, and he is serving as the Deacon's Quorum president. He is a handsome young man with a cute sense of humor and a good heart... and I. AM. SUPER. LUCKY. Luckier than I deserve to be.


We do have our moments... and when we do, the reality of the situation slams me upside the head... and the blood rushes to the surface, and... well... dammit, it just hurts.

I'm sad that I am no longer the primary influence in my child's life... and sometimes I'm scared about who has taken my place.

I'm forever curious about what he's thinking... what makes him happy, what makes him sad, what makes him worry... but I stifle my urge to interrogate, because I remember how much I hated it when my mom did that to me.

I'm always unsure about whether I'm giving him too much space and privacy... I am always, ALWAYS questioning whether or not we're balancing that correctly.

I hate that we go through times when I can't trust him completely, and not because he's evil or manipulative -- but because he's a 14-year-old Human of The Male Persuasion. This model comes complete with a deluxe set of perils and pitfalls, which means there are times when I have to step in and exercise good judgment when he has misplaced his own. ("Ty, did you leave your Good Judgment in your locker again?!") He doesn't like that at all, which I totally understand. And I totally don't care. When I have to choose between loving him and trusting him, I will choose loving him EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I'm always worried that he won't emerge on the other side unscathed... because I know he won't. We've all taken our share of beatings in the Land of Adolescence, and Tyler will be no exception -- and I'm more or less relegated to a spectator in the crowd, watching the brawls as they come along.

I know that if he is ever going to learn to stand on his own he has to do it on his own steam, armed with his God-given abilities and the principles and values we've taught him. This realization makes me anxious, but not because I doubt his inherent knight-in-shining-armorness. It's because, on any given day, I honestly don't know if I've done everything I can to ensure that his armor will hold. Some days I smile and pat myself on the back. Some days I cry and know that I have failed him. Every day I pray that the best I can do will be enough.

So... if it's been a while since we've chatted or we haven't run into each other lately, and you're wondering how I am?

I'm just fine, thanks. :)


rainy day + football game =

A double wash cycle.
(Taken this past weekend.)


game pics

I'm a little behind in posting game photos... but here are a few from last weekend's game, which marked the Stallions first WIN!

Ty played well... in fact, he had an amazing interception. He jumped up in the air with the opponent, snatched the ball out from the air -- out of the other kid's fingertips, in fact -- and fought him for the ball all the way down. When they both landed on the ground we still didn't know who had the ball... and then, flat on his back, Tyler held the ball up in the air. His team went NUTS! The sidelines went NUTS!

His mother's reaction? Well... Full-Tilt Gonzo is about as good a description as there is.

Out of the 367 photos taken that day by the team photographer... also Tyler's mother... did she happen to get any photos of this amazing interception? That would be a big fat bummer of a NO, WE SURE DIDN'T... And we can thank the Full-Tilt Gonzo for that.

But here are few I did manage to get. (And by the way, I really did take 367 photos that day.)

Below: As the reformed soccer player, Tyler is the team kicker.
In this shot he kind of looks like a reformed ballet dancer, too.
Very nice toe stand, son.

The next two photos are right after the interception. I recovered in time to at least get his teammates' mad props... but I know I'm still a total loser.

Above: Heading in after the game's over... WE WON!
Below: Celebrating with Dad... proof that teenagers are never too old for a hug.


post-bath pandemonium

We gave Dingo a bath today, and afterwards there's always a frenzy.

In his furious attempt to get the water off his fur as soon as possible, he used to go around the house rubbing himself on the carpets, the walls, the furniture... leaving a wake of white dog hair as he tore through the house. (Which is one of those super naughty things he's always doing. Naughty, Dingo, NAUGHTY!)

We quickly solved this problem by coralling him in the bathtub. Not only does he stay put, but this way we can also take the blow dryer to him to speed up the drying process (the dryer is set on warm, not hot, so all those PETA folks can relax). Thing is, he's not crazy about the dryer either... so in addition to trying to get rid of the water, he's also trying to escape the wind coming from that loud white thing the humans are pointing at him.

All of which makes for an endearingly schizophrenic performance... which we've captured on video for your enjoyment.

We hope you're as amused and exhausted by it as we are.


social (networking) outcast

I came across this article today: 10 reasons not to join Facebook

All I can say is amen, amen and A-freaking-MEN!!

I'm not trying to stage a coup against social networking. Like television, the Internet and, well, technology in general, good things can come from it. But unfortunately, humans are wont to take a thing and contort, twist and mangle it into something that ends up being unhealthy on some level. Enter Facebook, which singlehandedly makes 500 million people unproductive at least, and self-destructive at worst.

And honestly, what the hell is up with people submitting themselves to the foolishness that is Facebook "friending?" I mean, didn't we all endure enough of that in junior high and high school??? Oh, dear. I can't get started... Suffice it to say that I just think it would be great if folks would read an article or two like this one and, God willing, come to their senses a little bit.

I realize my opinion on the matter makes me a social (networking) outcast, but that doesn't bother me. And you know what? It doesn't make these 10 reasons any less valid.

Just somethin' to chew on between all that friending and farming and quiz-taking.


kickass piggies

So, after a rough afternoon (part of which involved a certain teenager and the dentist, which I will expound on tomorrow), I decided to treat myself to a pedicure. And since I knew it might be the last pedi before my little piggies are tucked away for the winter, I decided to go full tilt gonzo.



The photo doesn't do them justice.
The sheer awesomeness of them has enveloped my entire being.

I am now invincible.


follicular intensity

My hair is VERY big today. I washed it today and, as is customary with Day One of my Hair Cycle, the result is RIDICULOUS volume... but not the kind of volume you see in a Pantene Pro-V television commercial.

More like the kind of volume you'd see if Peter Frampton and Rosanne Roseannadanna had a baby.

Or if you combined a 1984 Poison music video with the Jersey Turnpike.

Or if I stuck my head into a cotton-candy making machine for an hour.

Or a poodle on meth.

Day Two of the Hair Cycle -- clean, but slept on and significantly less voluminous -- is always better, so tomorrow I won't be nearly as self-conscious.

I better run... I'm due to straddle a Trans-Am in acid washed cut-offs in an hour.



He kicked...

And chased...

And charged...

And wrestled...

And wrangled...

And it just wasn't enough.

But it's a new day, a new week... And a new opportunity for victory.



Tyler's working very hard at football this year, and it's starting to pay off in increased playing time. (And increased scrapes, cuts and bruises... he could probably be mistaken for someone who got hit by a car while riding his bike. But hey, it's good for him!)

Saturday his team lost, but they played great... Ty had more playing time than he's ever had, which was fun for us to watch. I was able to snag this photo of him during the second half, when he was playing left tight end (which, according to Ty, is like a lineman/receiver hybrid) and was thrown a long pass:

I know! Awesome, right?
It would've been even more awesome if he had caught it.

But hey, it's still a cool picture.

Next time, son! You're doing great.


my FEYvorite

I'm not particularly starstruck by celebrities. I think it's a function of age, combined with the fact that I'm really too busy to care about who the Kardashians are tripping into bed with or that Lohan has failed a drug test and violated her parole. Again. (Would anyone be surprised by that at this point? I mean really, aren't we just expecting it every 28 days or so?)

Sometimes at the beauty salon I pick up one of those gossip mags and, as I flip through it, I realize that I don't know who ANYBODY is anymore, unless they're a major pop culture icon (like, say, Jennifer Aniston) or they're close to my age (like... uh... Jennifer Aniston). Except for the gentle reminder that I am no longer all that young and apparently not very hip or cool, this does not bother me. I don't have any hopes, dreams or fantasies about being BFF's with Megan Fox or hooking up with Josh Hartnett. (And yes, I had to Google "hot twentysomethings" to find names to plug in here. I'm pathetic!)

But I must admit: I often think it would be super cool to have a slice of pizza with Tina Fey.

I'm not enamored with her in a president-of-the-fan-club-who-bought-an-old-pair-of-her-socks-on-ebay kind of way. I just think she's incredibly clever and smart; she's a talented writer who has worked very hard and channeled her abilities into a pretty amazing existence. She's done everything I would have done if I'd chosen a different path... and, frankly, if I'd had enough guts... and for that, she rocks. (I guess, technically, she 30 Rocks.)

I watched her interview with Matt Lauer on Today yesterday, and I thought the same thing I think every time I watch a Tina Fey interview: She and I could totally be friends. Yes, I'm serious! I think we have a lot in common... she's a writer, she's funny, she's not afraid to be exactly who she is... she's even avoided hopping on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagons for the same reasons I have (finally, someone who would relate to my resistance!).

And also, there's this little gem of a comment she once made about herself:

"I like to crack the jokes now and again, but it's only because I struggle with math."

This statement actually makes me wonder if we're twins who were separated at birth... so because of all that, I'm just gonna put this out there:

Tina: If you decide you're in the market for a smart-ass writer-friend from Utah who's willing to fly to NYC for lunch on a moment's notice, just tell me when and where.

And if Amy Poehler is available, bring her along.


three rings outta nowhere

Today I had to run to The Gateway (a plaza-like mall in SLC) to return something. I was already downtown because I had just submitted a proposal for work, and we had another proposal we were working on today that I needed to help with... so I gave myself about 13 minutes to get there, park, return my item and hurry back to the office.

When I got to the Gateway, they had completely blocked off the "main drag" -- a road down the middle of the shops where once in a while, if Karma is smiling on you, find can a parking spot. And finding parking anywhere else was proving to be a small nightmare because there were also cars EVERYWHERE. I couldn't imagine what all the fuss was about on a Wednesday afternoon. By the time I parked in the bowels of the underground garage and come up on the elevator, I had already wasted eight of my 13 minutes... so naturally, I was feeling annoyed and more rushed with each passing second.

The elevator doors opened, and I was hit by a barrage of kids... preschoolers, toddlers and babies... all accompanied by their moms, and a sprinkling of dads and grandmas. (It was the largest fleet of strollers I think I've ever seen.) My first thought was that Gymboree and Old Navy were going out of business and giving away their remaining inventory for free... I couldn't imagine another reason why this many Utah moms would be here at the same time.

But there was, in fact, another reason: They were all there to see the Ringling Bros. "officially" come to town in the form of a parade. Balloons and acrobats, clowns and stiltwalkers, miniature horses with feathery headdresses -- "and elephants, elephants even!!" a little girl told me, her big blue eyes all happy and sparkling -- all making their grand entrance down The Gateway ANY. MINUTE. NOW.

I was well past my 13 minutes, but I was no longer annoyed and rushed. In fact, I felt just the opposite. After all...

The circus has come to town!


option #2

There are times when my job has an adverse... dare I say devastating... impact on my family. That time was at 6:12 this morning.

"Ty... I have to leave, honey. I need to be at work by 7 today."

His eyes shoot open. "What??? You're leaving right now?"

"Yes. I have a noon deadline so I've got to get a jump on things."

"Why didn't you tell me last night?? Who's going to do my hair???"

Hm... the Follicular Ecosystem is endangered. Definitely a crisis.

In an effort to avoid future catastrophies like this one, the options are:

1. Mom quits her job, which guarantees her presence at RIDICULOUS o'clock in the morning for any and all teenage grooming emergencies.

2. Someone needs to learn how to use the flat iron by themselves.

I'm thinking Option #2 is the ticket.



Last night we had our friends over for the U of U's first away game against New Mexico. In an effort to be entertained by watching our offspring do something strenuous (isn't that one of the perks of having kids?), the parents decided that the kids had to do push-ups for every point scored, just like the cheerleaders do at the home games.

Some kids are in fine form. Others might need some upper body work. You be the judge.

After they're done, two-year-old Taylor -- sporting a crimson tutu for the big occasion -- decides that she wants to do some "push-ups" like the big kids... which, as you will see, is hysterical. (Please ignore my counting of Tay Tay's push-ups, I got a little distracted by the cuteness.)

Final score of the game: Utes 56, Lobos 14.

Final outcome at the party: Tired kids with aching arms, Grown-ups openly pleased by the discomfort.



I'm pretty sure our tailgating shindig tomorrow won't look anything like this...
and it's totally unfair that all these boys have nicer legs than me.

Here's to a toe-tappin', knee-slappin', high-falootin' weekend!


molar dilemma

I went to the dentist this morning, and two of my teeth have been assigned an "Official Watch."

Is that like a tornado watch? Or a tordando warning? (What's the difference between those two, anyway?) I guess it means that these two teeth are looking sketchy and, if I'm not uber-brushing and hyper-flossing, are in danger of succumbing to The Black Hole... you know, the one that involves a drill and some filling.

The teeth in question are #12 and #20. I have no idea which teeth these are... I think #20 is a molar. #12 might be a bicuspid... or is it a bicarbonate? A biathalon? (I'm not especially dialed in to dental vernacular.)

At any rate, it was made very clear to me that this is not casual observation. As of today, the entire staff at Genesis Dental is on high alert regarding my #12 and #20.

Maybe in a couple months I'll get a voice mail:

"Hello, Kareen... this is Genesis Dental calling. Just wanted to let you know that we're still watching your teeth with avid interest. Please let us know immediately if there's something we need to be concerned about; otherwise, we'll continue to hold vigil over #12 and #20 until your return in March. Until then... be safe, brush regularly, and know that we're watching."

That would totally make me feel like Jason Bourne. Or James Bond. Or that dude from The Fugitive.

Or... maybe it would just make me feel like a chick with a couple of schlocky choppers and a semi-creepy dentist.

P.S. Attention Tooele County: Flouride is not... I repeat, IS NOT... a communist plot to undermine public health, so could you consider throwing a splash or two into our water? Of course, to take such a measure might mark the beginning of the end of the Hillbilly Nation out there... but believe me, that would not break my city-slicker heart in the least. Seriously, GET WITH THE FLOURIDE PROGRAM!!


ELLE. oh. vee. ee.

Today's blurb is dedicated to one of the most captivating cherubs I know.

Everyone, this is Elle.
Elle Kennedy Johnson.

Elle lives in Las Vegas with her
equally captivating twin brother, Liam, her super cool daddy, Jeff,
and her most awesome mommy, Suzanne, who is one of my dearest BFFs.

Yesterday I was having one of the crappiest days ever. As in
kind of crappy... so I went to Suz's blog for some relief.

This is the photo that turned it around for me:

Her chubby arms. Her chipmunk cheeks.
(Suz, is that a dimple in her chin? Or drool?)
Her funny little grin as she makes herself at home
in a pile of clean blankies and burp cloths.

How can I possibly stay at DEFCON ONE
with this level of cuteness smacking me between the eyes??
It's preposterous.
It's reedeekyoulaaahs.
It cannot be done, I tell you.

So I relaxed, took some deep breaths...
Took in a little more Elle-ness...
and I felt better.

I mean, seriously. How could I not?

Elle Belle, you charmed me right out of my funk...
and for that, baby girl, you rock!

I owe you big hugs and kisses...
And that pony I promised you when you were still in the womb.

Lots of lovesies,
Auntie K-Fraud


17 blurbs

On my way to work this morning I decided I needed a goal. So here it is: I'm going to blog about something EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for the rest of the month.

This is an exercise in motivation and discipline... my attempt to keep the creative juices flowing a little better than they have been of late. I can't guarantee that every post will runneth over with awesomeness, but for some reason I'm thinking I need to give it a shot.

Heaven knows I need something else to fill my day.

So, this counts for today. One (boring and benign) blurb down, 16 to go.


eighth grade

So... this is what eighth grade looks like:

Three inches taller, ten pounds heavier and much longer hair than seventh grade.
(Here's the photo comparison from last year to this year.)
Very handsome. Very grown up.

First-day ensemble: Hollister skinny jeans, plaid oxford, black Pumas (size 9).
He was pretty stoked about finally fitting in men's jeans this year...
For me, it's just another red flag: Time's passing too fast.

The hair is a careful, tenuous process.

These days the top of Tyler's head is like a delicate ecosystem. A single uncooperative strand -- like the one we dealt with this morning -- puts the entire system in danger of complete collapse and, in turn, triggers a catastrophe the likes of which are known only to Old Testament folks.

Thanks to Mom's arsenal of styling tools and products, we managed to get his coiffure under control and avoid Armageddon.

Bella, our neighbor across the street and one of Tyler's BFFs,
shows up at 7:15 for the walk to the bus stop.

The fact that they are totally adorable together is not lost on me.
Nor is it lost on my friend Kristi, Bella's mom.
We have already arranged their marriage.
I'm sure this photo will be in the collage we put together for their reception.

"Bye, Mom. You can stop taking pictures now."

Bye, son. Love you. Have a great year.


the a team

Since Saturday we've been immersed in football tryouts: Four sweaty, grueling days that have thus far resulted in a busted lip, massive body bruising (what the hell are those pads for, anyway?) and a skinned knee that could use a large sterile dressing -- or possibly some epidermic grafting. (Tyler continues to believe that his knee is oozing pus... I continue to reassure him that it's simply the layer of fluid that, under normal circumstances, is contained by skin.)

Anyway, the beating and the bruising and the busting-his-butt has paid off: Last night at 10 o'clock we got a phone call from the head coach, and Tyler has made the A Team. He's over the moon... and I'm off to the drugstore to buy more gauze and bandages.

I'm proud of you, son! Play great, have fun... and, for my sake, try and steer clear of the offensive line.


yoga poser

For most of my life I have classified yoga in the same category as changing the air filters in my house and taking vitamins: The "Probably-A-Good-Thing-To-Do-But-Pretty-Much-Not-Interested" category. This is largely due to my (fairly reasonable) assumption that in order to enjoy yoga, you must be extremely flexible and have an acute sense of balance.

I'm 0 for 2.

I played sports growing up, and every year we were given a flexibility test... you know, where you sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you, and then you attempt to lean forward and touch your toes with your fingertips. (Notice I said attempt.) Year after year, coaches and trainers would give me the bad news: According to their Very Official Flexibility Chart, I was as limber as a 76-year-old man with advanced rheumatoid arthritis. (Something every 15-year-old girl longs to hear.) Since then I've been convinced that my hamstrings aren't actually made of the muscular fiber found in humans, but rather some kind of unyielding polymer composite only found in petrified forests and X-Men, a mutating alloy that calcifies with each passing hour.

I also have equilibrium issues... to put it simply, balance is not my thing. [Right now my husband is turning to The Dingo and making smart-ass remarks about how "unbalanced" I am. Very funny, hon. And by the way, don't talk about me like that in front of the dog.] Anyway... the truth is, if a doctor poked around my inner ear and discovered a few parts missing, it wouldn't surprise me. In fact, it would explain the annoying tipping-over-for-no-apparent-reason thing that I have.

So... you can understand my hesitation to try something that I'm clearly predisposed to suck at.

But after reading some stuff and talking to a couple friends who are cuckoo for chakras, I decided to start going to the yoga classes at my gym. After five months, here are some of my suspicions confirmed:

  • I'm still as agile as a 76-year-old man.
  • My inner ear function is, for the most part, dysfunctional.
  • My favorite pose is Child's Pose... the one you go to when you're "resting" between other poses. (Big surprise.)
  • My favorite part of yoga overall: Yoga pants. Super comfy.

However, I've also made a few surprising discoveries:

  • It's ok if you're rigid and rickety, because yoga actually increases your flexibility and balance as you do it. Which means maybe five years from now I'll be as nimble as, say, a 68-year-old man.
  • Even if you can't hold a posture perfectly... or even decently... you can still reap the benefits from the pose if you hold it as correctly and as best you can.
  • Yoga is about control and stillness, and I happen to be a huge fan of both these things... so this is a good fit for me.
  • The most shocking of all: You can suck at yoga and still enjoy it.

My hamstrings remain fossilized and I'm tipsy enough to suggest that a breathalizer test might be in order... but the truth is, I've felt really good these past few months. So yoga has officially been reclassified to the "Make-Time-For-This-Because-It's-Actually-Pretty-Great" category.

In other words... I'm down, dawg.


prodigal son

Today Tyler came home after a camping trip with his dad... 10 days of four-wheelers and fishing, campfires and pine needles. Last night he called me to let me know they were back in town... and also tell me how much he loved me, and that he was counting the minutes until we were reunited once again.

Fine. I made up that last part.

I suspect Ty called because his dad told him it would be a good idea to check in... which probably hadn't occurred to him at all. In fact, I'm almost positive it hadn't occured to him, because our conversation went like this:

Mom: "I'm so glad you're back, honey!"

Ty: "Yeah... me, too."

"On a scale of 1 to 10, how ready are you to come home?"

"About an 8." Promising.

"On the same scale, how ready are you to play golf again?"

"Probably a 9 1/2."

That one was easy... he's played golf every day this summer, and I knew he'd be chomping at the bit to come home and swing the wrenches. But the next question was a toss-up:

"And how much have you missed me while you've been gone?"

(Slight pause while he decides if he should be honest.)

"Uh... maybe a 7." Honesty prevails.

Seven's pretty respectable, considering that he's almost 14... but I figure I'll try negotiating a better number.

"So... does 'maybe a 7' mean possibly an 8?"

"No. I just couldn't decide between 6 and 7, so I rounded up."

I gasp... he chuckles. (I know, right? What a punk.) He loves messing with me. I love it, too.

But part of me--the part that always wants him to need me just a little bit--would have loved an 8 even more.

Welcome home, happy camper.


so... where was I?

The last time I posted a blog entry, the world looked like this:

And now, it looks like this:

I decided to boycott blogging until Mother Nature stopped being a tempermental bee-yatch and the daily forecast began consistently using words like "sunny" and "hot" and "no rain in sight."

For the record, if I happened upon a crowd staging a protest against an Unseasonably Chilly June, I'd join them in a second. If people were picketing in support of the right to assume that spring would actually be pleasant... well, hand me a sign, sister, cuz that's one line I'd be happy to stand in.

Make no mistake: I am the Norma Rae of crappy weather.

Actually, I'm kidding... not about the Norma Rae thing, that's all true... but that's not why I haven't blogged. I've just been busier than any human has any business being with things like: Attending my brother's college graduation... visiting my niece in the hospital (she's fine now, thank goodness)... going out of town for work... going out of town for fun... coordinating my company's annual breakfast (700 people over to the office for pancakes)... and on top of it all, just putting in long hours on other projects. I do come home occassionally and reintroduce myself to my family... thankfully, there's still a spark of familiarity there.

Even more thankfully, things have slowed down... just a little, and not for long... so I thought I'd reconnect while I have a couple minutes to breathe. I have some fun stories from the past several weeks... hopefully I can get around to sharing a couple before I'm caught in the undertow again.

In the meantime, there's a perfectly good summer evening going to waste as I type (see second photo)... and since Mother Nature finally threw me a bone, I think I'll go out and enjoy what's left of it.


The Best Singer Gets the Finger

My calling at church is the Primary Chorister. For those of you who are, say, Catholic (and, therefore, have the luxury of sitting through Mass in relative peace and relaxation), this means that I'm in charge of teaching music to the children in our congregation every Sunday. The Primary organization is for all children ages three through 11.. and remember, Mormons take the "multiply and replenish the earth" mandate pretty seriously... so that means I teach music to about 27,000 kids every week, give or take a few.

Ok... maybe slightly less than that. But not by much.

I've been the chorister for two years now, and I love it so much that I've formally requested that my tenure in this post become similar to a Supreme Court Justice appointment... or like being inducted into the Mafia, minus the racketeering and the body in the trunk. You know... a called-for-life-don't-even-think-about-going-anywhere-because-this-is-it-for-you kind of situation.

We have all kinds of fun learning new songs and singing old favorites... and because we're having so much fun, I've been known to stick my foot in my mouth a time or two over the years... but nothing like what happened today.

For the new song we're learning this month, I came up with a TEAM theme. To help teach the song in an interactive way, I have several team-theme props that the kids are using: Little pennants, pom-poms... I even bought a couple of foam fingers, like this one:

Today I was choosing certain kids... those who were singing the best... to come up and select a prop from my bag. Then they got to be part of the "pep squad" that stayed up in front and cheered the other kids on to sing great. One by one, the props were pulled from the bag and we'd sing our song... until there was only one prop left in the bag: A green foam finger.

The kids knew it was the last prop in the bag... they were totally pumped to sing great and, therefore, have a chance at being chosen for the "pep squad"... so they were all excitedly chattering away. Remember, there's 27,000 kids (give or take) in the room, so it's getting louder by the second... and the wheels are starting to come off the truck.

This motley crue of Mormon kids can go from Hallowed Angels to Animal House in about six seconds flat. I've seen it with my own two eyes, and it's not pretty. I wasn't about to let that happen... so, hollering over the chatter, I reminded the kids that they ONLY had a chance to be on the pep squad if they were singing... not talking.

And then, being the clever girl that I am, a catchy phrase popped into my head. The phrase rhymed... it was perfectly suited to the occassion... and frankly, I couldn't have been more proud of myself for thinking of it so quickly. So without hesitating I let it fly, loudly and proudly:


I'll just let it hang there for you... just like it did in the Primary room for about three seconds.

The longest.

The kids got quiet... and then they suddenly felt weird and awkward, but you could tell they weren't exactly sure why. The adults got big eyes, and then their hands immediately covered their mouths as they tried stifling smiles and laughter.

The Primary Chorister was horrified by the realization that she just, in effect, told 27,000 Primary children that she'd be firing off a lewd gesture for their efforts. She was aghast that she'd fallen victim to that horrible thing: The thing where something sounds AWESOME in your head and then, as soon as you give voice to it, it's a huge mistake that makes you want to jump into an active volcano.

Thankfully, we were able to move forward rather quickly. The song was beautiful, and nobody... I repeat, NOBODY... got the finger.

Nevertheless, I'm half expecting the Bishop to call me tonight... after all, his three kids are part of the 27,000... but with any luck, they've forgotten all about the incident.

I'll cross my... uh... fingers.


Punked by Mother Nature

Is it really April 1st today?


Of course it is.

You're HILARIOUS, Mother Nature. A total riot.


FOUR Better or Worse

This week Dave and I are celebrating four years of blissful matrimony.

Four years of: "You don't have to talk so loud... I'm standing right here."

Four years of: "Speak up, I can't hear a word you're saying!!"

I'll let you decide which quote belongs to whom.

Four years of quibbling over toothpaste (whether or not the tube is truly empty) and the proper way to load a dishwasher ("Cereal bowls go up here, like this... hellooo!"). Four years of discussing how many lights need to be on at any given time. (Dave says one light at the most, and only if it's absolutely necessary... which, incidentally, is also up for debate.)

Not to mention four years of what I affectionately call GlobalTHERMOSTATnuclear War. I've been working on a post about this on and off for months, and very soon I'll be hitting you between the eyes with our ongoing... uh, heated... exchange about the temperature in our home. (And after you read it, you'll be amazed that we've stayed married this long.)

For four years we've been meeting in the middle about money (Frugal McDougal married Spendy Wendy)... supporting one another's career paths (long hours and weird schedules)... and above all, chaperoning our kid from childhood into adolescence, which is a constant tag-teaming effort to ensure that he comes out on the other side a normal, happy human being and not a sociopath.

Through all of this, Dave holds down the fort and lifts up my spirits. He's smart as hell and wickedly funny, though most people don't know that about him. He listens and listens and listens AND LISTENS to all my boisterous blathering—and then, when he finally gets a word in edgewise, he's always diplomatic (whether or not I deserve it), and he always says what I need to hear (whether or not I like it).

He supports everything I do—especially my writing—but he hates being the center of attention... which means he's reading this and can't decide whether he's moved or mortified. (My money's on mortified.) He's the most patient person I know... and he never, ever expects me to be anyone other than exactly who I am. To paraphase the song by Blessid Union of Souls: He loves me for me.

This is where I should post one of our wedding pictures—but I can't bring myself to do it because, while Dave looks dashing and handsome, I look like Shamu in a beaded jacket. So instead, here are a few pictures of my groom about 40 years before we fell in love:

 Seriously, those rubber pants are HOT...

Look at that face and tell me that's not Dave... he looks exactly the same!

Sorry, hon... I couldn't resist.

Four years ago we said I do... and even though he unplugs my space heater 10 times a day, I still do.

Love you, hon.


Just BROWsing

Last night before bedtime, Tyler—peering critically at my face—wrinkled his nose and said:

"Mom... you have gray hairs in your eyebrows."

Daily reminder from a Teenager that I am the Aging Mother of a Teenager: Check.

Because I'm so mature, I reply:

"At least I have TWO eyebrows... unlike some people in this room." We're the only humans around for miles.

"Whattaya mean?" he protests. "I have two eyebrows!"

Actually, he's right. No son of mine would leave the house rockin' a uni, especially considering the epic (harrowing? cautionary?) tale of my own eyebrows.

Oh, the stories I could tell. The hours I spent sitting on the floor in front of my mother, who had three different pairs of tweezers and the intensity of a renegade paratrooper... the pictures of me in college when I rebelled and refused to pluck them for two solid years.


Anyway, T's brows are indeed still plural—but lately I have noticed a general increase in their volume. Based on personal experience, my instinct was to think "growing together." But that's not the case at all.

Now it's my turn to peer at him, wrinkle my nose, and say:

"Wow... actually, Ty, your eyebrows are getting pretty... uh... tall."

And it's true—those eyebrows are gaining some serious altitude on that forehead of his. In fact, upon closer inspection it would be more accurate to use the term "bushy-to-the-point-of-resembling-fur"—but I love my kid to pieces, and Lord knows adolescence is hard enough without your mother sucker-punching you in the Self Esteem. So I stick with tall. (And pray, daily and fervently, that he never never EVER reads my blog.)

"Did you know your eyebrows had gotten that... tall?"

"Yeah, I guess. I don't know. Did you know your eyebrows had so many gray hairs?"

Silly boy. "Oh, yeah. I color over them every day with an eyebrow pencil."

"You do?"

"Yep." Glancing at his forehead, I add: "I'm an expert at eyebrows. I can fix any problem that has to do with eyebrows."

We both stand there. I'm half hoping he takes me up on my offer. He doesn't.

I want to push the issue... I want to thin those suckers out right there on the spot... but while I know exactly what to do with bushy eyebrows on a 13-year-old girl (thank you, Renegade Paratrooper), I'm not sure the same protocol applies to a 13-year-old boy. So I drop it.

And then I finish shaving his upper lip with the electric razor—which is what we've been doing the whole time.

"There ya go, bud. You're all set."

Once a week he asks me to shave his moustache (don't get me started)... because he's not ready to do it himself. I'm happy to oblige, because I know it's one of the few "Mom-I-need-you" things left between us. And because I know it won't last much longer.

And because I know those things, I'd never ruin a perfectly good shave (moment) with talk of tall eyebrows.

"Thanks, Mom... you did a good job."

I sure hope so.


The Rebate Debate

My work peeps and I go out to lunch together, as work peeps are known to do. More times than not, our lunchtime conversations go off on funny tangents... which can make for some good stories.

Or blog posts.

Several weeks ago Matt, Aaron and I went to Costa Vida. As we were chatting, I mentioned that I had a rebate form at home that I had to fill out and mail in. And that I didn't really want to fill it out, but I had to because Dave was making me. And it sucked that Dave was making me, because filling out rebates is HARD and DUMB and I don't want to be bothered with them.

The whole time I'm talking, Matt and Aaron are looking at me with an expression they probably use when their wives are saying something they think is completely ridiculous (although I'm positive that Amy and Michelle, whom I adore, would never ever say anything ridiculous).

"How much is the rebate?" Matt asked.

I roll my eyes, inconvenienced even by questions about rebates. "It's for $50."

Incredulous pause.

In general, Matt and Aaron are both extremely polite and diplomatic, but they both enjoy a friendly debate amongst friends (especially Matt). So, after I tell them how much the rebate is, Aaron starts in on his burrito... and Matt starts in on me.

"Let me get this straight," Matt says. "All you have to do to get $50 back is fill out the form, attach a couple of things to it, put it in an envelope and mail it... and you're not interested?"

"Nope," I said. "I just don't want to bother with it."

More incredulous pausing.

I realize that Matt said exactly the same thing Dave said when we discussed it the night before... and then it dawns on me: I'm trying to curry sympathy from two people who share my husband's passion for value and frugality! I'm attempting to convince my cost-conscious colleagues to sympathize with my blatant and unapologetic fiscal apathy... and failing miserably.

I'm horrified... but I'm steadfast.

"Dude," I say, my chin stuck out in protest, "I won't get my money for... like... three months! Maybe even longer!"

Non-plussed pausing.

"So what? You'll get it eventually, right?"

"Probably... but that's too long to wait! And filling out those forms and enclosing all that crap is too time-consuming!"

Even more pausing.

Aaron is silently smiling at me and getting comfortable... he's more than happy to sit back, relax and watch the train wreck in progress. Meanwhile, Matt has come up with a new angle to test my commitment to the Too-Damn-Lazy-to-Claim-Free-Cash platform.

"What if you were outside and, all of a sudden, a $5 bill blows past you down the street. Would you chase it down?"

Without skipping a beat, in an effort to clarify the scenario I ask the most obvious question:

"What season is it?"

Surprise-attacked pause.

Matt doesn't get it. I've thrown him off... which is hard to do, because he's a smarty-pants. "Uh... what season is it?" he repeats.

"Yeah... Is it winter, spring, summer or fall?" I'm silently high-fiving myself for discombobulating him.

"Uh, ok... it's winter. But what does the season have to do with it?"

I'm actually hurt that he doesn't see the connection. Any friend of mine knows I believe with all my heart that if Satan was a season, he would be WINTER. (A bit ironic, I know, considering he's reported to live in a fairly warm climate.) Point is, Matt should know exactly where I'm going with this.

"Because if it's cold outside, you know there's NO WAY I would chase down a $5 bill because... uh, it's cold outside."

It finally registers. "Ah, yes, of course," he says. "Winter is evil. Sorry, I forgot. Ok, so let's say it's 75 degrees outside. Would you go after the money then?"

"Probably not."

Bonus round of incredulous pausing. I start to wonder if these guys are going to give me a ride back to the office.


"Because! I'm not going to look like a fool chasing money blowing in the wind... that's just silly! Besides, you've seen the shoes I wear to work. Do you honestly think I would trot down the street in eighty-dollar high heels for five measley bucks?"

Now they're thinking many things about me... things featuring words like "diva" and "hoity-toity" and "sucks to be Dave"... but mostly they can't believe that, if a perfectly good finsky meandered past me in a breeze, I would turn on my (high) heel and walk the other way.

In fact, Matt refuses to accept this. He's determined to find my threshold, the point at which I am willing to concede this cockamamie platform.

"So how much money would it have to be for you to chase it down the street? Ten dollars?"

I wrinkle my nose. He rolls his eyes.

"Ok, ten dollars in 75-degree weather. And you're wearing flats." (Like I said, a smarty-pants.)

I think it over... and shrug my shoulders.

His eyes widen. "You wouldn't chase down TEN DOLLARS?"

I shrug again, picking at my tortilla. Any second his corneas are going to pop out of their sockets and land in his refried beans.

And then they'd be refreyed beans!! Ha ha ha, hee hee hee, ha ha ha ha ha...


Dumbfounded by my obvious aversion to rational thought, Matt blurts: "Twenty?! Would you chase down a twenty-dollar bill?!"

The threshold at last! "Yes, I would definitely chase down a twenty-dollar bill."

Matt's smelling victory, but he knows he's not quite there. "Would you really?" He asks, his eyes
narrowing. "Even in winter?"

"Yes!" I insist.

And then, because it's the absolute truth and I can't help myself, I add:

"Unless it's actually snowing, and the money blows across the street. I wouldn't want to cross the street in the snow... especially if I'm wearing those cute red pumps that I love."

Threshold destroyed. Victory in tatters. Work peeps chalk me up as a total wackadoo.

As we headed back to work, I'm sure Matt and Aaron were silently thanking their lucky stars that they only have to put up with my nonsense from 9 to 5.

I was silently thanking my lucky stars it wasn't snowing.

P.S. It's been 30 days since I mailed that rebate to the Godforsaken Black Hole of Rebate Redemption and, of course, I haven't heard a peep. Only seven more months to wait.

P.S.S. Is anyone else with me on this, or am I the only one with a "No-thanks, I'm good" policy on rebates? If so please give me a shout out... it might help chip away at the huge complex this conversation gave me...


Cupid Pops

For Valentine's Day this year I made cake pops. Cake pops are a signature confection of Bakerella, who has a fabulous blog about all things baked and beautiful. Her creations are adorable in a holy-crap-she-must-never-ever-sleep kind of way... and because I prefer shut-eye to pretty much everything else, I mostly just peruse and admire her mad baking skills and insane cuteness.

However... because I'm feeling brave in the kitchen these days, I decided to give her cake pops a whirl in Cupid's honor. (And because I decided that I had FIVE HOURS to spare on a Thursday evening after Zumba class.)

This is actually the second time I've made cake pops. The first time was a couple of weeks ago, just to see if I could pull them off. It was definitely a learning curve: I made some mistakes, then made some adjustments... and below is my second, more confident attempt:

This photo makes me think of the game Candy Land.
If the Milton Bradley gang were so inclined,
they could easily add Cake Pop Grove to the board.

Oooh... sparkly and glittery... and when you bite it, it's RED VELVETY!

Once they were chocolate-dipped and candy-coated,
of course I had to put them in pretty packages...

I mean... go big or go home, right?
Since I was already home, I had no choice but to go big.
And then, at 12:56 a.m., I went to bed.

My Cupid Pops aren't as cute as Bakerella's creations... her shoes are big ones to fill, as you can see here, and I'm just taking baby steps! But I think they turned out pretty cute... and yummy. In fact, Dave and Ty ate one and it was like the Diapered Cherub himself had hit the bullseye on my guys... they instantly began to swoon and profess their undying love for me!

Or, maybe they said: "Hey, these are pretty tasty. But do we have to call them cake pops? That's kinda girly."

Personally, I prefer the swooning-and-professing version.