What I've Been Reading Instead of Cleaning My House

Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Memory #3

Go back a few years, it's New Year's day and Nigel and I invite Geo and her husband out to lunch at a local Indian restaurant.

Everything is going well and then Nigel chokes, coughs, and hurls all over the table. He drinks some water and hurls again! What the heck? Nigel and Geo's husband go into the bathroom and they soon return. Everything's OK. Nigel takes another drink of water and spews water all over!

Please note that all through this little episode, Geo is horrified, her husband is helpful, Nigel is confused and I'm going back to the buffet for seconds (it's an ALL YOU CAN EAT buffet! I have to get my money's worth!).

The poor waiter has no idea what's happening. We're trying to hide the barf with napkins, less he think the delicious food is making Nigel sick.

We go home and Nigel feels OK, but he still can't keep anything down. Even his own saliva gets spit up immediately after he swallows.

Finally, he can't stand it any more and we decide to go to the emergency room. We don't have a car, so we call my nephew, Fred, to drive us to the hospital (yet again, Fred saves the day). Fred has just gotten back from the slopes, so he takes us over in full ski gear.

Of course, in the emergency room, everyone thinks that it's FRED that needs help (since he's in the ski clothes), and not the crazy man spitting into a cup.

They finally look at Nigel and realize that a piece of chicken is caught in his throat. It isn't blocking the entrance to his lungs, so he can breathe just fine, but it is blocking the entrance to his stomach, so he can't swallow anything. The doctor has to sedate him, stick a claw down his throat and pull it out.

The doctor is NOT pleased about being called in on New Year's Day (if you don't want to work holidays, you should be a teacher, NOT a doctor) and keeps commenting about how the piece of chicken didn't have a single bite mark in it. Nigel swallowed it whole.

Nigel, on the other hand, is coming out of the anesthesia and drunkenly telling everyone he sees, "It was the best Indian food I've ever eaten! It was so good. It was the best I've ever eaten!"

Hey Geo, want to go out to lunch again? (ha, ha, ha)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Memory #2

Our friends throw a big New Year's Eve party every year. It's a lot of food, fun and friends. It's especially awesome because you can bring your kids (don't have to find a sitter -- yay!).

One year we decided to leave a little bit before midnight because it was starting to snow. We were about a quarter of the way home when the snow really started coming down. The snow was so heavy that it broke our windshield wipers! There they were, spinning around crazily like a baton twirler in the Miss America pageant.

Since it was New Year's Eve, no place was open for us to call for help (this was before my infamous "flat tire" incident that prompted our finally getting a cell phone). At one point we parked underneath a car wash car port to wait out the storm.

We ended up driving home at about 10 miles per hour with the windows down so that Nigel and I could stick our heads out to see the road ahead. Our poor kids were freezing to death.

Yes, we did make it home in one piece (though the windshield wipers did not). Needless to say, I think we'll stay in this New Year's Eve.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Year's Memory #1

My fondest New Year's memory was when Nigel and I were first married. Our neighbors (also a newlywed couple) invited us over.

We sat around watching "Viva Las Vegas" while spraying whipped cream into our mouths (our fabulous hosts had supplied us each with a can). Later, our friend's little brother came over and read to us out of "Sein-Language" in his best Jerry Seinfeld voice.

Very low key, very casual, but oh so much fun. Just talking, laughing, and enjoying each other's company. The best way to ring in the new year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"A Christmas Story"

So we spent the day watching "A Christmas Story" (they were running a 24-hour marathon) and Frances' favorite part is when Ralphie is helping his father change the flat tire and says "fudge." Shortly thereafter, this conversation transpired between her and I:

"Mom, you and dad say the F-word all the time."

"What? We do? When do we ever say that?" (OK, I can totally see Nigel saying it, but me? Never)

"Yeah, but it's OK because you use it the other way. You know, like when the D-word is OK to say sometimes." (As in "damn" and beaver "dam")

"I don't get what you're saying. When is the F-word ever OK to say?"

Exasperated, Frances rolls her eyes at me and says, "You know, when you FLIP the pancakes."

I'm blaming "Napoleon Dynamite."

Visions of Sugar Plums...

Last year we started a tradition of making gingerbread houses.

OK, this is ME doing it, so I don't make gingerbread. We just use graham crackers, various candies and Dot's recipe for icing (butter, milk, vanilla, powdered sugar, food coloring).

Last year Jeffrey made a gingerbread motorhome.

This year he made the scene from "The Polar Express" where the train was breaking though the ice into the water before it got back on the tracks. Of course, in his interpretation, some of the children had fallen into a whirlpool and were being eaten by piranhas.

Now THAT's Christmassy!

Many Happy Returns

We were so spoiled this Christmas. Here's a rundown on some of our gifts:

Jeffrey made Nigel a hammerhead shark made completely out of empty toilet paper rolls and packing tape.

Alice-Grace got the Lil Luvables Fluffy Factory (it's a mini Build-A-Bear Workshop). It works amazingly well and takes NO batteries. A definite thumbs up on this one.

Frances got the Totally Me! Sewing Machine which did not work at all. We returned it today (behind another family holding the same toy and it was put on a pile of other sewing machines). She was really looking forward to learning how to sew, so this was very disappointing (though we were happy to see that it wasn't just us that couldn't get it to work).

Jeffrey must've gotten 10 Lego sets and not a single duplicate in the bunch. Plus, all the clothes given to the children fit!

Frances got the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine and realized that she can just go outside and get a cup of snow rather than shaving ice-cubes for 20 minutes. Yeah, just try that in July!

Our Secret Santa gave Frances and Alice-Grace beautiful Alexander Girlz dolls, complete with extra clothes that they sewed themselves! Now that's going the extra mile!!!

Of course, there were many more gifts and a big thank you to everyone, especially our Secret Santas.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Last night the doorbell rang at midnight. We were Secret Santa'd AGAIN! We had so many presents, it was amazing. Here I was talking about my kids getting overwhelmed with just three presents, now they each had about 10! I told the kids that Santa had to leave the presents on the porch because our fireplace was blocked by one of my nativity sets (I collect them).

My kids woke me up at 4:30 AM to open presents. I got them to wait until 5:30 AM. I then let them just look into their stockings until about 6:45 AM when Nigel got up.

We then had a great time opening presents. Frances opened all of hers first. Alice-Grace unwrapped some of hers, but didn't open all of the packages until later. Jeffrey, on the other hand, didn't finish opening his presents until 5:00 PM!!! It took him almost 12 hours to open his presents! He had to make each Lego creation and play with each Hot Wheel set before he would open the next gift. After a while, we all took naps and would wake to see him still opening presents! It was the never ending Christmas morning.

Then we went to Lorna's house and visited her family.

All in all, it was a great Christmas -- over the top -- but a great Christmas and one that we'll remember for years to come.

Oh, did I mention that I didn't have to go to work?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Spirit

I am way excited for Christmas.

Maybe it's because I don't have to work (either job), maybe it's because of all the gifts under the tree (that I didn't have to run out to buy), maybe it's because I'm loopy on Nigel's fondue (did he cook out all the wine?).

I think it's because we had a great Christmas eve of family, food and fun.

My brother and his wife (Henry and Julene) came to visit with their two adorable sons. Jeffrey was so excited to finally have some boys to play with. Lorna stopped by really quick. Our friend, Gayle, came to spend the holiday with us. We visited, ate cheese fondue, read the Christmas story, and everyone got to open one gift.

Oh, I'm so looking forward to tomorrow. Did I mention that I don't have to work?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Secret Santa

It's official. We're pathetic.

I came home from work and there were TONS of presents under the tree. We were ding-dong-ditched, obviously someone's service project. The worst part is that the presents appear to be from a GROUP of people (different handwriting, my kid's name spelled three different ways, etc.). I can just imagine that meeting:

"We need to do a charity project for a needy family in the neighborhood. Does anyone have any ideas?"

"Hey, what about Lois' family? I hear she has her nine-year-old daughter cut her hair."

"I've also heard that she's never been to Wal-Mart."

"Yeah, her husband doesn't even have a job. He just sits around all day drawing pictures."

"And they only paid $1.00 for their car."

"What? They're definitely deprived. Yes, we must help out Lois' family."

I'm sure that's how it went.

Seriously, I'm very thankful for the plenty that's under our tree that has made my kids' eyes wide with Christmas joy. I'm especially thankful because these are people who KNOW us and LOVE us. Santa came early this year and we thank you, Santa (and your many elves).

After all, this is the season of giving -- and receiving -- joyfully.

Friday, December 21, 2007

And the Band Played On

I was in my high school's marching band -- I played the oboe. I know what you're thinking. There's no oboe in a marching band! Well, my high school was very limited in its extracurricular activities, so there was no orchestra. Hence, the world's only marching oboist.

At Christmas our marching band would play in the annual Boat Parade. We would all get on a boat that was decorated with tons of lights and sail around the marina playing Christmas tunes.

Well, one year Ernie the trombone player was a little too close to the side of the boat and a little too enthusiastic playing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and dropped his slide right into the Pacific Ocean. Now THAT was a memorable Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Paying It Forward -- Some More

My sister, Myrna, gave me a phone call on my birthday. This is a new tradition she started a few years ago after our Aunt Darlene's death.

See, Aunt Darlene and Myrna have the same birthday and Darlene would call Myrna on their birthday every year.

After Darlene passed away, Myrna started calling me on my birthday every year (they're in the same month).

Isn't it great the way one person's kindness inspires us to pass it on? Thank you, Aunt Darlene.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Another big box "full slip" experience today. I went from store to store trying to find a charger that does AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt batteries. The stores would have some of the batteries, but not the charger; or they would have the charger, but not the rechargeable batteries. I was about to give up when a salesperson suggested, "Have you tried the battery store?" What? There's a battery store? We went there and the staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and they had exactly what I wanted. They now have a loyal customer for life.

Also went to Toys "R" Us, which my mother always referred to as Toys "R" Ours. She could never get the name straight.

My friend's grandma always called ShopKo, Shop-OK.

I love people who put a "the" in front of words. Such as The Food 4 Less or The Macey's.

My kids refer to Carl's Jr. as Star Burger.

When Frances was little, she always wanted to go to Donald King -- yeah, I can't tell them apart, either (though now my kids know that McDonald's has better toys).

Dot also calls the I-Max theater The Maxi. As in, "Are you going to see the Maxi?" Very humorous when we're in mixed company.

Nigel's father used to refer to Dunkin' Donuts as Drunken Donuts.

I think the funniest was my elderly neighbors who were big "Wheel of Fortune" fans. Every night the wife would yell to her husband, "Edward, Edward! 'Oh Vanna' is on!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Homemade Holiday

I was babysitting some children and Frances was talking about what she was going to buy people for Christmas. One of the girls I was tending looked at Frances incredulously and said, "You BUY presents? We always make ours."

Now this is a girl who was raised right.

Since I'm the baby of the family, I was always the one making the crazy home-made gifts that I know everyone hated, but they all kept them just the same.

I remember one year my mother got rid of all our decks of face cards (there must've been something in General Conference about the evil of cards or something). Now, I come from a family that LOVES to play cards. What will we do without cards?

I decided to make my own, but with animals on them so that they wouldn't be "evil." Well, I'm not exactly known for my spelling skills and at the time I didn't quite understand why my brother, Clark, loved playing "Go Fish" with my homemade deck of cards. I can still hear him giggle as he would ask:

"Do you have any Loins?"

A Christmas Movie: Take Two

When I look back on the old Christmas movies that my family did every year, I notice a pattern.

Besides filming us hanging up our stockings, my dad also filmed us on Christmas day getting our filled stockings and opening our presents. When we were really little, you could see my brother, J.D., secretly stealing candy from the other kids' stockings. As the years went by and we all got older, one thing would not change. EVERY film showed J.D. stealing candy from people's stockings! He'd be in his 30s and still stealing candy!

I shouldn't be surprised. This was the same brother who would steal food off my plate during the prayer at dinner and he would hold a fork to my side to keep me quiet while he did it.

But no one could ever hate him. No matter how mean he was to us (including cutting off Rena's hair with a pair of toenail clippers), we still loved and adored him.

Though I should warn his wife and son to hide their candy this Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ladies Who Lunch

Sometimes my husband surprises me.

Like the time I commented briefly about how much I liked so-and-so's hair. For my birthday, he had called so-and-so, got the name of her hairdresser, made an appointment for a cut and color (back in the days when I did cut and color -- now I go gray and let Frances do the cutting), and paid for it.

I always complain that my favorite Mexican restaurant with the mango salsa no longer exists. He researched on the Internet and found another Mexican restaurant that served mango salsa. Then for my birthday, he arranged for my dearest friends and family to be at that restaurant for all of us to have a special lunch together.

There I was with my sister, Lorna, my nieces Babs and Ginger, and old friends, co-workers, and neighbors. What a great time we had. From the owner who refused to take our order ("No, you don't want that. You want this. No, this is much better. Don't order that.") to my friend talking about wanting a Prozac lick in her kitchen, to Lorna knowing a little TOO much about poison -- we laughed until our sides ached.

Thank you, Nigel, for making my birthday so special and for knowing that I needed that. Sometimes you just need a good lunch with your best girlfriends to realize how lucky you are.

In the Company of Women

I feel energized, rejuvenated, inspired. Why? Because of the company of women.

The other morning I went to a delicious breakfast celebrating the birthday of a woman we all love and adore (and seems to always weave her way in and out of my life). How wonderful that someone who has never met me would allow me into her home, cook breakfast for me, and then read a book aloud to the woman of honor that left us all in tears.

So many other women were there. Some I know very well, some I know as acquaintances, some I know through blogging, and some I only know because they know my sister, Lorna. It's a good thing that Lorna is totally awesome and loved by all who meet her, because it made them welcome me into their fold with open arms and open hearts.

What a fun time we had eating, talking, sharing, hitting a boot pinata with symbolic rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, invading a neighbor's home to see her Christmas decorations (which has since inspired me), and just being there to listen to each other's triumphs and foibles.

Sometimes in the madness of going to work, taking care of my children, avoiding cleaning the house, and supporting my husband in his endeavors, I lose sight of who I am. Thank you, women, for bringing that back to me.

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille

Back in the early 50s, my father worked in TV. Even though he soon left that job to work as an electrical engineer, he still had some of that movie magic running through his veins.

It started with a Super-8 camera taking simple films of his growing family hanging up their stockings every Christmas eve. As the years went by, we couldn't just hang up our stockings, we had to have ever more elaborate skits that went with the hanging of the stockings. Regular lamps weren't good enough, my dad had these super bright spot lights that would blind us all as he would yell, "Open up your eyes!"

Lorna's husband, Jorge, proclaimed ours "The Cecil B. DeMille Christmases." Just like real film making, we had to wait forever for the lighting to be just right, we'd finally get our skit perfect and my dad would realize that he had the lens cap still on (or no film in the camera), and it would always go over time and over budget. I would half expect to see a couple of grips eating at the Crafts Services table in our living room with the way these productions would play out.

Then in the early '80s, we were introduced to video tape. SOUND. Just like the old silent movie era actors, we were kind of hesitant and some of our skits were still done with no sound. After a year or so, we used this new medium to showcase J.D.'s band or Rena's vocal lessons. Soon, all the neighborhood kids were also involved in our movies.

My favorite Christmas film was when the entire family was struck down with the stomach flu, but we still went on with the show -- with all the kids carrying pots around for barfing in.

Another good one was when Ardale went on and on about how proud he was of Spence and how much we miss him while he's on his mission. Then we hear Spence in the background say, "Don't you mean Henry?" Oh, you should've seen my dad's face on that one.

Just like in real life, we try our best to plan things out and control everything. And just like in real life, our favorite memories consist of the times when everything goes wrong.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Upside-Down, Boy You Turn Me

M-A told me to write a blog about upside-down Christmas trees. I guess there's a new trend of hanging trees from the ceiling so there's more room for presents underneath. I checked it out on the Internet and was not impressed (if I was computer savvy, I would put some links -- but alas, I can barely figure out how to work the rat -- oops, I mean mouse). Does anyone else remember the Wilkinson Center Ballroom being decorated with upside-down trees hung from the high ceilings every Christmas? I guess they were trend setters.

It reminded me of one Christmas when my mother was musing over where to put the tree. She delights in rearranging the furniture and finding a new place for the tree each year.

Rena, Stillwell and I suggested that she should have the tree sticking out from the wall horizontally. Well, she was NOT amused. In fact, she said, "That's enough. Go to bed right now."

We looked at each other, shocked. Was she serious? Go to bed? It was about 3:00 in the afternoon and I was 16, Stillwell was 18 and Rena was 20!!! We shrugged our shoulders and went up to our rooms to bed.

Happy Hurl-idays!

A young girl barfed right by my cart where I sell candy in the mall last night. Not a little bit of spit-up, a huge puke puddle that extended about 3 feet. Nothing kills chocolate sales like the smell of vomit in the air.

Anyway, we called the mall management and told them we needed a clean-up between the candy cart and the curling iron fascists. The smarmy curling iron guy soothed the embarrassed feelings of the little girl and I gave her a plastic bag and a mint in case of future "episodes."

We put a bench over the puddle so people wouldn't walk through it. I was quite amused by the teenage boys picking up their girlfriends and trying to push them into the barf (nobody can say "I love you" like a teenage boy) and two middle-aged women who decided to SIT on the bench!

Finally, after 30 minutes (seriously, THIRTY minutes!), the mall clean-up crew came to the rescue. Happy Hurl-idays indeed!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

When Nigel and I were first married, we always had a real Christmas tree (or one that I made out of construction paper if it was an especially bad year). One year we were buying our Christmas tree at one of those home improvement places. As always, Nigel got distracted by something shiny and left me alone in the store to pick out the tree, buy it, and drag it 6,000 miles through the parking lot to the car (OK, so maybe it wasn't 6,000 miles, but I was NINE MONTHS PREGNANT with Jeffrey at the time, so it felt like it).

Anyway, after that fun little experience, I decided to buy an artificial tree. I picked out a good one that was on sale and then couldn't fit the box in my little Toyota. I had to call my nephew, Fred, and have him pick it up in his truck (I swear, I get more pathetic every year).

We had that tree for many years. Like most pack-rat Americans, our living room got more and more furniture and less and less room for a Christmas tree. My niece and her husband, Babs and Spike, offered us a skinnier artificial tree that would take up much less space. We gladly accepted and put the new tree up.

What to do with our old tree? Nigel put it up on FreeCycle and I was afraid that it was much too late in the Christmas season for anyone to want a tree. Boy was I wrong. We had at least 25 people who wanted that tree. Nigel quickly dismissed the ones who wanted it because they didn't want needles on their "brand new carpeting" or bought a bigger house with "higher ceilings" and wanted a bigger tree. Being Nigel, he picked a family who wanted to give Christmas to a woman whose husband died three years ago, leaving her with two children to raise on her own and she just lost her job. They picked it up and I must admit it filled us all with the Christmas spirit. Way to go, Nigel.

Oh, by the way, I'm having the kids decorate the house for Christmas this year. Our new skinny Christmas tree is only decorated 2/3 of the way up (as high as my kids can reach), but I'm keeping it that way.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

So one of the smarmy curling iron sales-thugs at the mall got fired for sexual harassment.

In fact, I was right there when the irate husband wanted to kick his butt.

The sad thing is, I was also right there when he was giving his sales pitch to the lady, and it was the SAME sales pitch he always gives (and the same one the WOMEN give).

Miraculously, they found ANOTHER aggressive Eastern-European smarmy guy to take his place. Where are they finding these people?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An Open Letter to School Teachers...

I know that you want to give my children knowledge of the world around them and let them appreciate other cultures, but can you please STOP hyping holiday traditions that are celebrated in other countries?

I don't appreciate having to run to the store late at night (after working 8 hours at my main job and 4 hours at my seasonal job) to get treats to fill up my kids' shoes because the next morning is St. Nicklaus Day. I tried to explain to my children that we don't live in Germany or Austria and that we don't have a single drop of Western European blood running through our veins, but they were intent to celebrate this holiday that YOU TOLD THEM ABOUT.

I'm praying that they're not taught about St. Lucia Day because I will not torch my kid's hair on fire trying to create a hat-wreath of candles in order to celebrate ANOTHER tradition that we don't follow here in America.

Why don't you get them all excited about Ramadan? A holiday that consists of 40 days of fasting -- I can get behind that one. Why aren't you pushing that on our children? Why does it always have to be the ones that entail costumes and/or presents?

Thank you,

A very tired (and not so global) parent

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Boo to the Big Box

I hate those big box stores: Wal-Mart, K-Mart, ShopKo, Target, etc. Doesn't matter which one it is, I always have the same problems (OK, so I shouldn't lump Wal-Mart in this category since I'm proud to say that I have never in my life stepped foot in a Wal-Mart). Have you had these same experiences?

I get a flier in the mail advertising my favorite video for only $5. I go to the store and they don't have any. It isn't that they're sold-out, they never had any. The salesman tells me that only one store in the entire state got ONE copy. Why advertise it? "Oh, to get you in the store," he says.

Sure the store has TVs, ramen noodles, jackets and fishing poles all under one roof (which I think is so not kosher -- you shouldn't be able to buy milk and clothing at the same place), but just try to find some variety per item. I had to buy a full slip for my new job, so I reluctantly went to one of these hated stores. The sales girl told me they don't have any full slips, and they only had one style of half slip and it only came in one size. WHAT???

Just try to get some information from the salespeople at these places. They haven't a clue. It's either not their department or they just don't know anything. It drives me crazy -- like the salesman who told me I didn't need to measure the space in my kitchen for a new dishwasher because all dishwashers are exactly the same size (yeah, tell that to the installation guy who had to warp my counter to shove it in there).

Conversely, last night I had to get my daughter some snow clothes for an upcoming ski day. I could've gone to one of these mega-marts and gotten some cheap stuff, but since I had no idea as to what I was buying, I needed some guidance. I went to a small outdoors shop up the street and the salesman knew what he was talking about, let my daughter try everything on (including socks and long underwear) to make sure they fit and even gave me a discount at the register just in case she ended up not liking skiing.

When was the last time a big box did that for you?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rocking Around the Christmas Tree

One of my favorite things to do at Christmas time is turn off all the lights (except for the Christmas tree lights) and crank up festive holiday tunes and dance like a crazy person. Right now my children are young enough to dance with me, but soon they'll be teenagers and absolutely horrified by their mother dancing, so I have to take advantage of all the Christmases I have left.


  1. "Christmas in Hollis" by Run DMC -- I'm sorry, but this is hands down THE best Christmas song ever! Can't wait for the Mo-Tab to do their version.
  2. "I Saw My Baby Wearing Santa's Beard" by They Might Be Giants -- my daughter Alice-Grace sings this "I saw my baby wearing Santa's bib," which makes more sense.
  3. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Bare Naked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan (I also like Bare Naked Ladies' version of the Hanukkah song).
  4. "I Pray on Christmas" by Harry Connick Jr. -- this song started my love affair with bluesy Christmas rock.
  5. "Silent Night" by Tiger Fire -- I'll admit it. I absolutely loathe the song "Silent Night" (I know, yet ANOTHER reason why I'm going to rot in hell), but I love this version because I can dance a mean "robot" to it.

Hair Apparent

I occasionally work right next to one of those kiosks in the middle of the mall that sells curling irons. You know, the one where the women from some unknown country accost you and try to force you to let them straighten and/or curl your hair? I don't know what human trafficking ring they're enslaved to, but these women sell their little hearts out (are there curling iron "pimps" out there that'll put the hurt on them if they don't make their quota?).

Anyway, I'm overhearing one of them doing her best sales pitch to the father of the girl she's curling at the moment and he asks her how much it costs. She replies, "One-seventy."


Now I hope she meant $1.70, because if I'm going to spend $170.00 on a curling iron, it better magically give me the ability to speak at least two romance languages every time I use it.

The worst is if you balk at the price, they kick you out of the chair with only half your hair curled/straightened. So now there's a multitude of women (and sometimes men) walking around the mall with very bad hair -- but not speaking a lick of Italian or French.


Because of my seasonal part-time job, I get to spend a lot of time at the mall. I work right by a women's clothing store that fills their front window with strappy, metallic, stiletto shoes. Not being a shoe person myself, I don't quite understand the allure of these podiatrist's nightmares, but their "Strumpet Trumpet" must be calling pretty loudly because females from age 6 to 106 head a bee-line to this store.

I even observed one woman who parked her stroller full of kids outside the store so she could try on pair after pair of these heels. Luckily I consider myself a "watcher of all things smaller than me," so I kept a sharp eye on them -- at least until her shoe fetish feelings were satisfied and she returned to her children.

I know they're pretty and sexy and all of that, but not after seeing all these women limping through their shopping excursions because they just could not be seen in public in sensible flats.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Feliz Navidad

Jeffrey is my Christmas baby. I remember being in the hospital and hearing all the other new moms being surrounded by family and friends. Nigel was home taking care of Frances and everyone else was busy getting ready for their holiday festivities. It was just me and my new little baby and despite my love for hospitals (sometimes I just go and eat lunch there when I'm NOT sick), I was feeling lonely and a little blue.

Then I heard it -- carolers. A small family came by with a guitar and they stopped at my door and sang "Feliz Navidad" to me and my tiny boy. It was just what I needed. Though I must admit this is NOT one of my favorite Christmas songs, I now can't hear that song without tearing up.

If you ever go caroling at a hospital, please don't forget the maternity ward.

Tradition! Tradition!

When my brother and his wife were first married, Julene asked Henry what his childhood Christmases were like. He talked about all the traditions, including getting breakfast in bed, peanuts in his stockings, putting up Christmas lists, etc. and didn't give the conversation a second thought.

When Christmas day came around, Julene surprised Henry with breakfast in bed. Henry complained, "Oatmeal! I hate oatmeal!" Julene was shocked because this was his family tradition. "No," Henry replied, "Our mom forced us to eat oatmeal so that we wouldn't make ourselves sick eating candy all day. We all despise oatmeal" (in fact, Rena and I used to throw the oatmeal out the window, Stillwell flushed it down the toilet and Spence spooned it into his sock drawer every year).

When Henry looked in his stocking, it was filled with peanuts in the shell. "Peanuts! What am I supposed to do with peanuts?" Again, Julene was confused. "But you told me you always got peanuts in your stockings." Henry answered, "Yeah, they were just used as filler so they wouldn't have to fill them with so many toys and candy" (I'm positive those same peanuts were recycled year after year).

Then Henry looked under the tree and it was filled with presents for him. Julene had given him EVERYTHING on his list. She didn't understand that our family put up lists every year, but we never expected to get the things on them -- maybe just one or two if we were lucky. Then he felt REALLY bad because he had only given Julene one or two things from her list, and she was probably expecting ALL of them!

Traditions are what make holidays great, but we should understand the meaning behind them and understand when to change them to fit our situations. I'm sure that Henry and Julene have many wonderful and new traditions they enjoy at Christmas, and I'm sure that they still laugh at their first one.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Santa's Dead

As I'm in the twilight between awake and sleep last night, I hear this conversation transpire in the living room between my two younger children and my husband:

Alice-Grace: Mom told us Santa was dead.

Nigel: What?

Jeffrey: Yeah. Mom told us Santa was dead.

Nigel: She did not.

Alice-Grace: She did. For reals.

Jeffrey: Santa is dead.

My last thought as I drift off to sleep is, "Oh Lois, you're going to burn in hell for this one."

OK, since some people were worried in my last post, let me state that Santa does come to our house, but just to fill the stockings. But for some reason, my kids totally ignore the stockings and I have to practically force them to look there. I guess Santa only counts if he leaves big huge presents. It isn't like the stockings are filled with rocks or peanuts in the shell (that's for another blog) or something, Santa brings fun stuff like Kindereggs and Pez.

So this year I've decided to steal one of Rena's traditions and have my kids play Santa Claus (since he's passed away and all). She has each one of her kids put on a Santa hat in the middle of the night and put a secret treat in the stockings. My kids seem to be excited about the idea, so we'll see how it goes.

And just for the record, I told them that St. Nicholas who Santa Claus is based on is dead.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Presents of Mind

I never know how to do presents with my kids. When they were really little, Nigel and I would just buy whatever and stick it under the tree. Frances would open one or two gifts and be done. She had no interest in anything else (Jeffrey and Alice-Grace just ate the wrapping paper). So we would put some presents aside to save for later or for their birthdays.

My friend told me that her kids get three presents each -- an article of clothing, a toy, and a book. This sounded like a good idea for us. After all, if three presents was good enough for baby Jesus, it's good enough for my kids. Well, I didn't count on all the presents from the grandparents, teachers, etc. Again, the kids were overwhelmed with so many presents and we were still putting some aside for birthdays.

Now we pick names out of a hat and each person buys ONE present for another member of the family. That seems to be working so far.

But then, last year my kids noticed that Santa never brought them presents. Oops!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Season's Greetings

I have a love/hate relationship with holiday newsletters. I love writing them, but I loathe copying them off, addressing the envelopes, and mailing them (to be perfectly honest, I still have some from last year that I haven't mailed yet -- sorry!).

Also, it seems that I'm sending these newsletters full of "fascinating" tidbits about my family's life to people who are either very much aware of what we've been up to all year or people who really could care less. So what's the point?

I have people that I send newsletters to only because they send me newsletters. Are they only sending me newsletters because I send them newsletters? It's a vicious cycle.

Also, what's the shelf-life on newsletters? Am I supposed to keep these things forever? What about the holiday photos? Keep the ones from family and throw away the others?

Rena got fed up with the stress of getting the "perfect" family photo, so last year she sent one that actually looks like her family (kids with eyes closed, looking in the wrong direction, and/or picking noses). Now that's a photo I'm going to keep!

I'm not a total Grinch. Some newsletters are great. I love Ben's "Holiday Holler" just because of the title -- I even disregard my newsletter/resume rule for it (if it's more than one page long, I don't read it). M-A's newsletters are always hilarious (and my last few have been copies of her style -- I hope she considers it flattery). I always look forward to my mother's newsletter to see how little she writes about me (She'll write three or four paragraphs on Lorna and I'll get something like, "Lois is still alive").

The best Christmas newsletter of all time was one that I received from my friend's mother. She fancies herself a poet and one year she wrote about finding a dead body in the dumpster behind her home -- all in iambic pentameter.

I was all for boycotting a newsletter this year and I almost had Nigel talked into it, but then Geo's husband brought over a huge box of art paper, including some in the loveliest shade of green which Nigel is now enamored with. He says that HE will do the Christmas newsletter. Now, if I can just find a dead body...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Small Joys III: The Last Crusade

This is the last post in my month of gratitude. What a joy it has been to sit back and reflect on all the things I'm thankful for. It's been surprising how many simple things bring a smile to my face. One of my favorites are the small phrases that become part of my every day vocabulary because of people I've met or situations I've experienced. Here are a few:

ALL MY MAKEUP FELL IN THE TOILET THIS MORNING -- code for "I'm going to change the subject." This comes from a friend of a friend who could never keep up with the topic of conversation and would just say the strangest out of the blue things. This is especially comical because Nigel says it all the time (much to the shock of people who don't know what it means).

PLEASE PASS THE RIPLEY and WHAT DO YOU MEAN DID YOU WIN THOSE CLOTHES? -- code for "I misunderstood what you said." "Please pass the Ripley" comes from my brother, Spence, who misunderstood when his son said "Please pass the syrup, please" (we also now refer to syrup as "Ripley"). The other phrase comes from when I misunderstood my father asking "Are the windows closed" to my mother and I thought he said, "Did you win those clothes?"

SPACKY HAND -- referring to when your hand suddenly spazzes out and you drop something or accidentally hit something. This comes from Sister Spackman who had an unfortunate arm-to-industrial scone mixer encounter and would occasionally lose control of her hand (which was great because she was the ward organist and we would wait in anticipation for a "Spacky Hand" moment).

DO YOU THINK I CAN TOUCH MY KNEE TO THE CEILING? -- said before doing something very stupid that's sure to result in bodily harm. This comes from my sister, Rena, who was jumping on the bed and touching various body parts to the ceiling -- her head, her ear, her tongue, etc. Then she had the bright idea of touching her knee to the ceiling. She jumped as hard as she could and unfortunately didn't realize that her head would impact the ceiling way before her knee would.

HAPPY NEW YORK -- code for any English phrase horribly mangled on a consumer product because it was made overseas. This includes "Spoopy" book bags and "Winnie The Puff" stuffed animals.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Elder Nigel

Here's another reason why I love and am grateful for my husband, Nigel.

When Nigel was a missionary and an investigator agreed to be baptized, he would have a member of the local area baptize the person so that they would always have a connection to that ward or branch. He knew that he would be transferred to a new location or eventually go back home, so he wanted the new member to have a special bond with someone that would always be close by.

I also love him because I never knew this about him until years later at my own daughter's baptism and one of his old college roommates related this to us in a talk.

I love you, Nigel!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thanks for the "Meme"-ories

So Geo tagged me with a meme. Since I'm not sure exactly what "meme" means and there's no way I can compete with Geo's and Compulsive Writer's very creative and witty memes on the same subject, I'm going to stick with my theme of gratitude:


  1. When I was sick in bed and bored out of my mind, she brought over her prized Martha Stewart Living magazines for me to look at (as well as her fabulous collection of Esther Williams videotapes).
  2. When I lent her my car, she returned it with a full tank of gas AND she vacuumed out the interior!
  3. She didn't get mad at me when Nigel gave her husband a pet snake and the feeder mouse escaped and nibbled through her food storage.
  4. She's an awesome example of being a caregiver as she's taken in her in-laws, grandmother, friends, relatives and various animals (dog, cat, chicken, etc.).
  5. She drove me to the hospital when I was in labor with my babies (at crazy hours in the wee morning) AND she drove me back home with my new bundles of joy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pay It Forward

I'm grateful for those people who go in and out of my life quietly, yet profoundly. They inspire me to follow in their footsteps and be a better person.

When I was a young "Sunbeam" in church, my Primary teacher and I shared the same birthday. That year she came by my house to bring me a card to celebrate "our" birthday.

But it didn't stop there. Every year on my birthday she came by my house to bring me a card. She did this for many, many years, and then the cards and visits stopped (I still don't know if she moved away or passed away and now I'm sad to say that I can't even remember her name).

A few years ago I found a girl who shares my birthdate. Now every year I go into her classroom at school and surprise her with a bag of candy or balloons or some special treat to celebrate "our" birthday.

I realize that she doesn't know my name or why I do this, and that's OK. What's important is that she knows that she's special and remembered -- just like I was.

"We are Virginia Tech"

I'm grateful that Nikki Giovanni didn't take the easy road and decided to become a poet (because you know her parents were like, "You want to do what? Why don't you do something useful like study accounting?").

After seeing her read this poem, I so wanted my own poet to follow me around and inspire me when I feel down or discouraged. Thank you, Nikki Giovanni and thank you to all those who follow your hearts and in so doing, lift the spirits of others.

“We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile. WE are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to know when to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did not deserve it but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, but neither do the invisible children walking the night to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech.

The Hokier Nation embraces our own with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think, not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility we will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness.

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail, we will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech. "

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Small Joys II: Attack of the Clones

I'm grateful for people who aren't homogenized Americans (you know, we all talk the same, look the same, dress the same, etc.) and still use local phrases and pronunciations.

I love that Nigel says ta-BLOID when referring to those trashy newspapers.

I love those that still say "fark" for fork.

I love people who say EYE-talian (you know, the ones with the yummy pasta).

I love that my mother-in-law talks like a character in the movie "Fargo" (don't you know).

I love that my father says "rut" beer.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanks, Nigel!


  1. He can watch the VH-1 "Hip Hop Honors" and sing along to every rap song.
  2. He goes along with all of my crazy schemes ("Yeah, Lois, covering the living room with tin foil and and pretending we live in a submarine is a great idea!").
  3. He cooks -- very well.
  4. He lets me take naps in the afternoon.
  5. He understands Yiddish.
  6. He never gets mad when I use up all the hot water (which is often).
  7. He always has a new conspiracy theory (I always thought those "Smoking Gun" guys where hot).
  8. He would go out and buy me club sandwiches when my pregnant body was craving them (usually at 3 AM).
  9. He cooks Thanksgiving dinner every year.
  10. He loves me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Huge Blessings

Words cannot describe how very grateful I am that my nephew and niece survived this.

Musing on Gratitude

Rabbi Irwin Kula said this on the "Today" show on Thanksgiving Day:

"You can be disappointed with your life and still be grateful."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Simple Pleasures IV: The Fourth in the Trilogy

Happiness is a new toothbrush (especially when the bristles in the old one start shedding and cause you to gag every time you brush your teeth -- or is that just me?).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Run, Lois, Run!

I am grateful for experiences like this:

When I was in high school, my best friend and I thought it would be fun to join the track team (everyone was allowed on and that way we could avoid regular PE).

The coach noticed my lack of ability and decided that I would run the JV two-mile event. Since there were no girls in our area that ran the JV two-mile, I would automatically win as long as I finished the race and our team would get the points.

I felt I was suffering enough just by running eight times around the track during meets, so I never did anything during practice. I would goof off all week and on competition day just walk/skip/amble around the track, finish, and win.

Well, obviously my coach and I weren't thinking ahead because since I was "undefeated," I had made it to the regionals/area/state competition (I'm so non-athletic, I'm not even sure which one it was -- I just know that for the first time I was actually competing against people and these were girls that lived, ate and breathed running).

Mine was the first race of the meet, so at least I could get it over with quick. We started the race and I soon got lapped. No big deal. Then I got lapped again! OK, this is bad. Then, all the other girls finished the race and I still had two laps to go! As if that wasn't humiliating enough, the officials decided that I was taking too long, so they made me run on the inside of the track (the grass of the football field) so that they could set up the hurdles for the next race.

By this time I figured that everyone had forgotten about me and hoped they thought that I was just warming up by running on the grass. I was also seriously debating faking an appendicitis attack, but I couldn't remember which side my appendix was on.

When it came time for my last 100 meters, they let me run on the track again and I finally crossed the finish line. I was hoping to fade away quietly, but the crowd in the stands was always aware of me and they all stood up and cheered when I finally finished (but I'm convinced they were cheering more for the school that let "that special girl" join their track team).

Well, many years later, I've realized that I am "special." I may not be the most prepared, I may not do all the things that I should be doing, but I do finish the race. I don't give up, no matter how tempting it may be. I may not have the most triumphant end, but I'm sure there will be a crowd of people cheering when I do.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Simple Pleasures III: The Search for Spock

We have a little three-year-old neighbor girl who looks like a complete angel. She has blond hair and always wears the cutest clothes (unlike my children who look like something the cat batted out from underneath the refrigerator).

Anyway, she has a not-so-hidden evil streak that brings me such joy when it comes out.

The other day she was trying to get her one-year-old brother in the house and said to him in her squeaky tiny toddler voice, "Come on, numb-nuts!"

Her father turned around surprised and asked, "What did you say?"

She batted her baby blues at him and replied, "Nothing."

Oh, I'm so thankful for three-year-olds. Rena always called that the "magic" age (though I think she meant that she no longer had to cut up their hot-dogs and they could play with regular toys), but I think everything they do is adorable.

Aging Gratefully


  1. Get to be the crazy old lady on the block wearing a housecoat with curlers in my hair holding a shotgun yelling, "Get the hell off my lawn!" to the neighborhood kids.
  2. Get to make nonsensical comments in church every week (something along the lines of "My name is Cleo, but everyone calls me Honey because I'm so sweet" or "In 1953, President David O. McKay gave me a special assignment to help save the devil's soul").*
  3. Get to wear crazy clothes and hats (because everything looks adorable when you're under 5 or over 85).
  4. Get to give people odd gifts like nails attached to empty thread spools or bags of hair.**
  5. Get to fulfill my dream of being one of those Super Bowl streakers (because who's going to tackle a naked old lady limping across the field with her walker?).
*Actual phrases oft repeated in sacrament meetings.
**Lorna got the empty thread spools -- I must admit it was my Jeffrey who gave our neighbor a bag of hair as a gift.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Simple Pleasures II: Electric Boogaloo

Driving around at night to see the Christmas lights in a car whose heater works.

(Oh, and not running over a dog while doing it -- remember that, Rena?)

"What's Your Cat's Name -- Herpes?"


(After 13 years, he decided that he couldn't tolerate us anymore and decided to live with the neighbors who eventually renamed him and took him out of state with them)
  1. No more feline farts (he especially liked to pass gas on Julene and our friends referred to him as "The Windy Kitty").
  2. No more vet bills (he would get in fights and get huge gashes across his tummy that required stitches. Once he threw up in his "cone" and then shook his head so that cat barf went flying all over the place! Also, the vet told us to wrap up his wounds with gauze pads and bandages. Have you ever tried to get an ace bandage around a cat? We finally went with maxi pads and held them in place by sticking the poor cat in our baby's onesie).
  3. No more Jeffrey scurrying up the furniture and screaming whenever the cat walked by (for some reason the boy loves snails and bugs, but is petrified of anything with fur).
  4. No more rescuing him in the middle of the night because his paws are frozen to the metal roof.
  5. No more peeing on my pillow -- WHILE I'M STILL SLEEPING ON IT!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Small Joys

I am so grateful for public restrooms that do NOT have those automatically flushing toilets.

Is there any kid alive who isn't scared to death of those things?

I'm so tired of standing in the corner of the stall covering the sensor on the toilet. Thank you old fashioned johns!

Thankful for Wrinkles?

I love that as I get older I get the "Ardale" wrinkles. These aren't cute little laugh lines or distinguished crow's feet. These are deep furrows that run from my eyes all the way down to my jawline. I love them because they make me look like my Aunt Viv.

Aunt Viv is hilarious. She always has funny stories -- mostly about losing her glass eye. "And then my eye fell down the kitchen drain!" or "So I'm chasing after my eye as it rolls down the hallway at church!" You always want to sit at Viv's table at family reunions.

The funniest was at a wedding reception and just out of the blue Viv blurts out, "I love a good fire." She doesn't mean going camping and roasting marshmallows, she's talking about when a house or school burns down!

The best part was when my Aunt Glynnis (on Dot's side of the family) said that she also "loves a good fire." She related a story about her son-in-law coming home from a SCA party (he was in full suit of armor regalia) late at night saying that there was a good fire going on. Glynnis ran out of the house in just her nightgown and they drove up to the local "make-out spot" so they could get a good view of the fire down in the valley. Of course, a cop showed up. I could just imagine what was going through his mind when he saw this woman in her nightgown, a man dressed as a knight, at the local "lover's lane" watching a house burn down.

Oh, aren't you thankful for crazy old aunts?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

"Holy War" by Nigel

I'm grateful for the example of my brother, Spence:

In school he had a hard time reading, so he used his own money to pay for a speed reading course so that he could keep up in his classes.

After many years, he finally graduated from college. I've lost count of how many schools he attended and how many credits he finally ended up with (but amazingly enough, still fewer credits than Nigel graduated with), but he didn't give up and got his degree.

Because he loves to fly, he joined the Air Force. After basic training he had to take a physical to get clearance for flying. Well, the geniuses at the medical center gave him the GESTATIONAL diabetes test. It came back positive -- for diabetes, not pregnancy -- so he wasn't allowed to fly. He knew that he didn't have diabetes, and he fought and fought to get a new test and have the results changed. By the time they figured out their mistake, he had his birthday and was now too old for the Air Force and they kicked him out.

Not one to be deterred, he joined the Army and did basic training AGAIN. He had to change from flying planes to flying helicopters, but he now loves flying helicopters and has served in the military for over 20 years.

He also has some funny stories. There was the time he came home from a job interview that he thought went really well and then realized there was a big bird turd on his suit coat (nothing says "hire me" like feces on your clothes).

Our favorite story was when he was bishop of a branch in Korea. His wife bought him a tie at a local market and he wore it to church. One of his counselors came up to him and said, "Why are you wearing that tie? Especially to church?" Spence didn't understand what he was referring to. "Don't you know what those are?" he asked pointing at the tie. Spence looked down and said, "Yeah, colorful ghosts." The counselor chortled, "Those aren't ghosts, those are CONDOMS!"

Please keep Spence in your prayers. Tomorrow he returns to serve another tour in Iraq as a medevac pilot, saving lives and not giving up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Parvo -- It's Not Just a Disease for Dogs


  1. MLB Life Science Museum (my kids refer to this place as the "Hippo Store").*
  2. Four seasons (OK, 3.12 seasons -- it seems like spring lasts about two days).
  3. Eating my weight in snow cones at the Freedom Festival every summer.
  4. Walking to church.
  5. Sweet's (especially on luau night).
*One of my favorite stories is about my co-worker who was going to take her kids to the zoo in Pepper Pond City, but the weather was bad so they decided to go to the MLB Life Science Museum instead. She was explaining to her children that they were still going to see animals, but that they wouldn't be alive. Her kids looked at her horrified and sobbed, "Are they going to be in piles, Mommy? Are they going to be bloody?" OK, maybe she could've explained that better.

The Widow's Mite

This is one of Dot's favorite experiences. I hope I have all the details right:

When Dot was Relief Society president, there was a woman in their group that was really struggling financially. I'm not sure what her situation was, but her condition was quite dire.

Dot and her counselors decided to have everyone bring some canned food to their monthly activity so that they could collect it and bring it to this woman. Of course, they didn't announce who the food was for because they didn't want to embarrass her.

Well, the activity was going along great and Dot noticed that in walked the woman that they were collecting the food for -- and she had some cans in her hand. Even though they were probably the last bits of food in her home, she was willing to share to help out a "sister" in need.

I'm so grateful for people that look out for others -- and those that are willing to share.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thanks for Letting Me In

A few years ago, I was sitting in church when a newly ordained priest was saying the sacrament prayer for the first time. He kept making mistakes and having to start over. After about the fourth time, I noticed that the woman sitting next to me was pounding her fist and saying, "Come on! Come on!"

Now, this woman is one of those that's always dressed to the nines and demands perfection from everyone around her. You would understandably think that she was angry and frustrated that the sacrament was taking so long.

But a few weeks earlier she had told me about her son who had a horrible stuttering problem and how it would just be agonizing for her to see him suffer through trying to say the sacrament prayer.

She wasn't angry or frustrated. She was sympathizing and her heart was aching for this young man and his struggles that she knew oh so well.

When he finally got through the prayer, she grabbed my hand and smiled at me.

Now I smile thinking of her and how grateful I am that she let me into her life, so that I could better understand her and in turn, better understand all those around me. Thank you.

Leslie J. is My Hero

Leslie J. is so awesome, she makes me look past the fact that she used to be a cheerleader in high school (Leslie J.: "I was a cheerleader." C. Jane: "You were a cheerleader? You know what that means, don't you?" Leslie J.: "Yeah, that I'm peppy and full of spirit!" C. Jane: "No, that you're easy." -- oh, C. Jane you are also my hero) and was part of student council in college (BYUSSR -- oh, I mean BYUSA).

Anyway, Leslie J. is Jeffrey's primary teacher.

You've got to understand, Jeffrey HATES church. We would have to get him dressed while he was sleeping or he would catch on that it's Sunday. We would physically restrain him in the car and then literally drag him into the building. He would stick out his arms and legs and grip on to the door jamb and it would take both me and Nigel to pry him off and stick him in his chair.

After a while, we just gave up and let him stay home. Every week that Jeffrey missed church, Leslie J. would mail a note that she missed him (not hand deliver, not e-mail, but sit down and write a message, put it in an envelope, and mail it off).

After a few weeks, Jeffrey started going to church, just to see his teacher (Of course, it also helps that Leslie J. is totally gorgeous and all the boys in her class are in love with her). It's so great that Leslie J. speaks to her class like real people and is genuinely happy to see them each week.

One day while watching "Veggie Tales," Jeffrey turned to me and said, "You know what, Mom? I believe in God." What??? Is this the same boy that drew a picture of the temple on his poster of "Things I Hate" in preschool?

The icing on the cake was Stake Conference (known in our house as "let's sleep in Sunday"). Of course, I had to go to the adult session Saturday night because Leslie J. was speaking (she did awesome). I also went to the Sunday session and asked if any of the kids wanted to go. Frances and Alice-Grace declined, but Jeffrey piped up that he wanted to go. He sat through two hours of church, sang along with the songs, drew pictures of the people that spoke and at the end of the meeting, he turned to me and said, "Mom, I want to go to Stake Conference every time!"

I'm so very grateful for people like Leslie J. Thank you!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Going the Extra Mile -- or 100

A talent that I don't have but wish I had is going the extra mile. It's not that I don't want to, but I never think about it.

For example, at a recent gathering, a woman was given the assignment of putting numbers under people's chairs for a game. Now, if it was me putting numbers under the chairs, I would've just ripped a sheet of paper into squares (I'd be too lazy to even find the scissors to cut them out), hand write the numbers on them, and then tape them to the chairs. Well, this woman bought these beautiful circle tags, calligraphied numbers on them, put a grommet in them and tied silk ribbons to them to attach to the bottom of the chairs.

OK, doing something like that NEVER occurs to me!!! Maybe that's a bad example because I really can't fathom spending that much time and money on something that's just going to be thrown away five minutes later, but I do appreciate the thought and beauty involved.

But here's the kind of extra mile that I truly strive for:

When I was a teenager, our youth group would go down to Mexico every Christmas and bring food, clothes, and gifts to a few families. We would raise money all year and collect things, wrap presents, and learn Christmas songs in Spanish.

You'd think that was enough, but one man in our group drove up to the mountains, filled his pick-up truck with snow and drove it all the way to Mexico so that the kids in this village could have a snowball fight at Christmas time.

Now that's going the extra mile -- or 100. I'm so grateful for people like that and the inspiration they are to me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Don't Forget to Vote!

I don't think that I've ever missed voting in an election since I turned 18. It's not that I'm super politically minded, but it's more of my fear that if I don't vote every year, they may take my name off the polls and I'll have to register again (and I don't know how to register to vote).

Similarly, I had 100% attendance in junior high and high school. I found out years later that my brother, Henry, also had 100% attendance for the exact same reason ("Mom, I know I'm coughing up a lung and bleeding from my eyes, but I can't miss school, I don't even know where the office is!").

Also, I feel bad for the voting officials in my precinct. My area is full of college students, so none of them ever vote. Also, I vote in a car dealership. A CAR DEALERSHIP! Who votes in a car dealership? So the officials are always very excited whenever ANYONE shows up (Geo and C. Jane, you know what I'm talking about).

Plus, I always think of that British suffragette who threw herself in the middle of a horse race for "the cause." She throws herself in front of a horse and I can't get off my butt and vote? I think not.

So get out there and vote -- and be grateful that you can.

Waiting for the Babies to Come

After you get married, always the first question out of people’s mouths is, “Are you pregnant yet?” The months and years go by and they ask, “So, when are you going to have kids?” You jokingly answer with “All the righteous women in the Bible were barren” or “I was originally born a man.”

But even worse than the questions is when the questions STOP. Now it’s official. You’re part of “the club,” those couples without children. The members and their reasons for membership are varied, and the dues are very costly.

You walk around like a recent amputee with phantom limb pain – you can feel that baby on your hip or a small hand clasped in yours, but when you look down, there’s nothing there. The worst is Mother’s Day at church and the young men hand you your “pity” potted plant. It’s one disappointment after another – like Henry and Julene, after being 10 plus years on the adoption waiting list and when it looks like they’re finally going to get their boys, the agency “loses” their information and they have to go through it all over again.

The worst was standing in a crowded room and seeing a man yell across to another man, “Hey, where’s the rest of your kids? I thought you had six.” “No, just five,” he replies.” The first man continues, “Really? I thought it was six.” And you want to run over and cover his mouth and yell, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” Because they DID have six, but their little baby girl – their ONLY girl – had just died. But you don’t and the father doesn’t. You just smile and continue on with your life, because that’s one of the rules of “the club.”

You come to the realization that it's not going to happen for you and you take the box of baby clothes and baby toys that you've been saving and you slowly, one by one, wrap them up and give them away to others who have realized their baby dreams.

But then, the doctor announces, “It’s a girl!” And this little, perfect child, who you already know, is handed to you. Wonderfully, a few years later you have a boy, and then another girl. And just like that, you’ve been kicked out of “the club.”

I'm so very grateful for my three beautiful children, but I'm also thankful for those seven years in "the club" because it has given me insight and empathy towards those who are still members of it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

No Place Like Home


  1. Shortest Main Street in America.
  2. My elementary, junior high, and high school were all on the same block.
  3. Early morning seminary -- held in a park!
  4. Dr. Demento was always the grand marshal of our Fiesta La Ballona parade.
  5. People like Hung Tri Ngoc (his real name) who actually said, "Wouldn't it be great if real life was in 3-D?" And we could NOT convince him that it really WAS in 3-D.
  6. Using the high school auditorium for high holidays because the synagogue isn't big enough.
  7. Getting let out of school early to watch them film "Eight is Enough" down the block.
  8. No car washes or bake sales, we raised money by being audience members for game shows.
  9. Out of work actors for school teachers ("Hey, Mr. Galbraith, didn't I see you in a video of 'Streets of Fire' playing a pimp?" -- and my brother-in-law even became my science teacher after his character got killed off on "General Hospital").
  10. TITO'S TACOS!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

"It's Fast Sunday, So We Need to Make It Really Fast"

After church, Alice-Grace and I were preparing asparagus. She was snapping the spears very quickly and said, "It's Fast Sunday, so we need to make it really fast."

I love Fast Sunday. I look forward to it every month. And it's not for the reasons you think.

I hate that most of my budget money goes to food. I hate shopping for food. I hate cooking food (it's a good thing we have Supper Club, or we'd starve). I hate doing dishes.

That's why I love Fast Sunday. It's such a relief to know that I don't have to think about food at least for a few hours.

My secret wish is to be able to get all my nutritional needs through breathing alone. Just imagine, no shopping, no cooking, no cleaning. No kitchens, no supermarkets, no toilets. Take a deep breath and say, "Oh, I'm full. I can't inhale another bite."

Until that day comes, I'll be grateful for Fast Sundays.

Simple Pleasures


  1. Dishwasher.
  2. Bags of pre-grated cheese.
  3. Auto-defrost freezer.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Dreams Really Do Come True

It's official. I just got my dream job. The job I've been dreaming about ever since I was a little girl.

I'M A FLEA'S CANDY LADY!!! (Yes, I changed the name to curtail future law suits)

I get to wear the white dress and hand out free samples and everything. Now, it's just for the Christmas season, but at least I've got my foot in the door.

It's a good thing that I stopped dying my hair and let my gray show because they like to hire "mature" women. So, should I be insulted that I got the job? No way!

When I go job hunting, it's all about finding the right kind of atmosphere for the most hilarious experiences. I try to live my life based on having great stories to tell my future grandchildren.

Currently, I watch TV for a living (seriously, I do).

The best job was when I worked at a veterinary hospital and part of my job consisted of pulling the dead dogs out of the freezer and handing them to the pet cemetery guy. Not a walk-in freezer -- a chest freezer! I had to literally dig through frozen dogs to find just the right one. I was always a little wary because I was just there in a lab coat and bare hands and the cemetery guy was in full bio-hazard gear. Did he know something I didn't?

Oh, dreams really do come true.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"The Cantaloupe Kept Rolling Off"


  1. She played "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning" while the congregation was exiting the church because someone lit the drapes on fire during the seminary graduation.
  2. One year she gave away kittens as "treats" for Halloween.
  3. At the age of 75, she's started violin lessons (and we thought she was nuts when she started banjo lessons at 40).
  4. She's a "Beet Digger" and proud of it.
  5. She planted corn on the roof of the house (When Lorna asked her why she planted corn on the roof, Dot replied, "Because the cantaloupe kept rolling off").
If you need any more reasons, check out October's "Watch It Jiggle?" and "I'm Boiling a Tongue" blogs.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lois the Antenna

When I was younger (in the days before cable), our TV would only get good reception if someone sat BEHIND it. Since I was the youngest, I was always relegated to the position of "antenna."

One Halloween my siblings wanted to watch "Trilogy of Terror" starring Karen Black. I'm telling you, the only thing worse than watching a scary movie as a child is LISTENING to a scary movie as a child. I still have nightmares.

That Explains a Lot

Nigel's very first memory is of a Frankenstein statue in his room right next to the crib. That explains a lot.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"I'm Boiling a Tongue"

Disclaimer: My mother, Dot, is actually a very good cook -- in fact, she makes the best scrambled eggs ever -- but sometimes she has some SCARY food ideas. Here are just three:

We always dreaded a special occasion, because these inevitable words would come out of my mother's mouth, "Dad got a raise, so I'm boiling a tongue." You could smell it a block away. Not only would there be a huge cow's tongue coiled inside of a pot of boiling water, but she would stud it with cloves. CLOVES! I still can't go near those orange pomander balls at Christmas time. Actually, tongue is very delicious, but it's best eaten with your eyes closed.

Dot is anemic, so we ate a LOT of liver. I loved the onions that went with it, but it was hard choking down that liver. We ate so much liver that we used to collect the "liver lids" and use them to make home-made "Shrinky-Dinks" (for those of you who don't eat organ meat, liver comes in a little tub with a clear plastic lid).

My mother is best known for her "butter sandwiches." After making school lunches for nine kids and five foster kids every day, you can quickly figure out why. The sandwiches consisted of two pieces of white bread and one pat of butter (Butter? Who am I kidding? It was margarine, or "Oleo" as Dot likes to say). The margarine was always straight out of the fridge, so it couldn't be spread at all. It was just a square of solidified vegetable oil in the middle of the bread. So lunch time usually went something like this -- bite bread, bite bread, bite bread, bite a HUGE CHUNK OF MARGARINE, gag, try not to throw up, bite bread, bite bread, bite bread. Needless to say, I quickly got a job in the school cafeteria and ate school lunch everyday.

Monday, October 29, 2007

From the Scary Minds of Toddlers

I was sound asleep and Alice-Grace crawls into bed with me. No big deal. Then a few minutes later, Jeffrey crawls into bed with me. A little crowded, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Then I smell something really weird. Why do my kids smell so bad? I go to ruffle Alice-Grace's hair and and instead of her usual tangles and dreadlocks, I get a hand full of goo! I touch Jeffrey's head -- again, a hand full of goo! What is going on here?

I turn on the lights and realize that Alice-Grace and Jeffrey had gotten up in the middle of the night, gotten into a can of Cheez-Whiz (why we even HAD Cheez-Whiz, I'm not sure), and made themselves toupees out of processed cheese product! I guess you can say that they had "Cheez-Wigs."

It was so gross. It was all over me and all over the bed. Nigel and I had to get up and give them baths in the middle of the night. We had to wash their hair about eight times before we got all the grease out of it.

I know that I should've taken a picture of this, but I was too tired and too angry at the time. Let's just say that there's nothing scarier than two bored toddlers up in the middle of the night.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Lick the Spoon!"

I just had a baby and I was feeling miserable and I must've been suffering from postpartum psychosis or something because this happened:

Nigel had killed a spider (a real spider this time) and for some reason, his weapon of choice for killing spiders is a spoon. Not a shoe, not a book, a SPOON! Being Nigel, he left the spoon with the squished spider still attached to it on the dresser.

Every time I walked by that dresser, the voices in my head kept saying, "Lick the spoon! Lick the spoon!"

Of course I never licked the spoon, but it was scary enough that I even THOUGHT it (or the voices in my head thought it).

Are you technically "crazy" when you can realize that what you're thinking is crazy? Now whenever I'm afraid I may start "gardening with the fairies" (Rena's phrase for going cuckoo), I call it a "lick the spoon" moment.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


So I was pregnant AND sick with the flu and just felt miserable. Then I started hallucinating that I had been bedridden for so long that spiders had spun webs all over me.

I sat up in bed and freaked out. The next thing I know I've dragged my husband out of the bed, across the floor and into the closet. The whole time I'm yelling, "Spidos! Spidos are going to get me!" (Good to know that in times of stress, those six years of speech therapy go right out the window)

My husband then stripped the bed and started smashing my (imaginary) spiders. By this time, I realized that it was just a dream and I crawled back in bed and went right to sleep. Poor Nigel was so confused. Here I was freaking out about spiders one minute, and then happily sleeping the next.

Friday, October 26, 2007

"No, But My Cat Can"

This is a favorite family story. I wasn't there when this happened, so hopefully I have all the details correct:

Late one night, my parents, Dot and Ardale, were sound asleep. A loud KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK came to the door. Dot and Ardale cautiously opened the door to find police officers on the porch asking if they were OK. My parents said that they were all right and asked the police what this was about. The police replied that they had received a 911 call from this address and were here to check it out. Neither Dot nor Ardale had called.

"Is there anyone else in the house?" asked the police officer.

"Just our son, J.D." answered Ardale.

The police and my parents went up to J.D.'s room. Sure enough, they could see that the long extension cord that connects to the upstairs phone was in his bedroom, but the door was closed. Dot and Ardale were starting to panic, wondering what kind of danger their son was in. The police motioned that they had to enter the room first.

The police kicked open the door and swarmed into J.D.'s bedroom. Of course, J.D. wakes up freaked out of his mind to see himself surrounded by police. They soon realized they he was OK and hadn't called 911.

Ardale finally asked, "Are you sure you have the right house? What phone number did the call come from?"

The police told him the number and they realized that this was the other phone line located in Ardale's office in a small building in the backyard. Now my parents' minds were really racing. Did someone break into the office and get hurt? What's going on?

The police went through the backyard to the small back house. They gingerly opened the door and there they saw our cat -- sitting on the speed dial button for 911 with the receiver knocked off the hook.

Many months later, a salesman telephoned to try to get Dot to purchase a security system for the house. She replied that she wasn't interested because she has dogs to protect her home. The salesman said, "But can your dogs call 911 in case of an emergency?" Dot answered, "No, but my cat can." And promptly hung up on the salesman.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Scratch, Scratch, Scratch

When I was a young tween (back in the days before anyone knew what a "tween" was), my parents were gone for the evening and left me, my sister Rena, and my brother, Stillwell (and Stillwell's friend, Red) alone in the house.

I went into my parent's bedroom to find the TV magazine, which was usually on the organ bench. Yes, my parents have a full-size organ in their bedroom (the kind that plays MUSIC, not a kidney). As I was looking through the newspaper, I heard a "scratch, scratch, scratch" coming from the organ. I stopped, looked around. Nothing. Again I searched through the pile of newspaper. "Scratch, scratch, scratch." I looked closer at the organ just as a big black, hairy thing came out from the keyboard! AAAAAHHHHH!

I ran to get Rena (a bad choice since Rena is the most paranoid person there is on the face of the planet, but Stillwell and Red were busy playing "Risk" and didn't want to be bothered). I dragged Rena into the bedroom. She didn't even have to wait to hear the "scratch, scratch, scratch," she was already running out of the room.

Finally, my parents (Dot and Ardale) got home. Rena and I told them what was going on. Of course, they just rolled their eyes and ignored us. We begged and pleaded for them to check, and finally they relented.

With Ardale lifting the top of the organ off and Dot lecturing us about how we shouldn't watch scary movies -- BAM! A huge black cat leaped out of the organ and ran terrified out of the house. We, of course, all started jumping up and down and screaming.

Somehow, the neighbors cat had gotten into our house, crawled up into the organ and then couldn't get back out! Who knows how long it was in there! (And judging by the smell of the inside of the organ, it was a while)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Because I'm Worth It"

Someone once asked my mother-in-law, Lilu, why she dyed her hair. She said, "Because I started going prematurely gray at such a young age." The person retorted, "Well, but now you're 45, it's not premature anymore." She thought this over logically and replied, "You're right." And she never dyed it again.

I've always been impressed by that since I am also one that started going gray way back in high school. Well, I'm not quite 45, but I've decided that it's not premature anymore and I've stopped dying my hair.

Those old L'Oreal commercials ended with the tag line, "Because I'm worth it." Well, I think that I'm worth a lot more than a box of hair dye at the local drugstore.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Watch It Jiggle?

Here's an entry from my mother, Dot, who lived through the Great Depression, so she's totally awesome at staying within her budget:

"I have always prided myself in the fact that I could whip up a meal from my food supply or find a substitute for a missing ingredient.

"One time I even looked through a cookbook for a recipe that used just the staples I had on hand (I found one that was called Tuna Roll-Ups. It was made with tuna and celery wrapped up in Bisquick like a jellyroll, and then topped with gravy -- I substituted Cream of Chicken soup. It turned out great). With such experiences, I began to feel confident in my ability to "make do."

"Then came the day -- we were having guests for dinner. I believe they were the missionaries serving in our ward at that time. I had everything prepared, except for the beverage. I wanted a fruit punch to give color to the table, but did not have any on hand. No problem. I would substitute Jello and use it like Kool-Aid. I heated the water to dissolve the gelatin. It would be a delightful cherry flavor. I added the cold water and then poured up the "punch" into the crystal goblets. It all looked so pretty. I had tasted it, and it even tasted better than cherry Kool-Aid. It just needed to be a little colder, so just before sitting down, I put ice cubes in the goblets. BIG MISTAKE! After saying "grace" and starting our meal, to my horror I discovered too late, the the ice cubes had "set" the Jello!"

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lois Gets Dragged Kicking and Screaming into the 21st Century

I always prided myself on NOT having a cell phone. I come from a long line of phone haters and the thought of actually carrying one of those horrid things around with me was too much to bear. As my neighbor likes to say to the cell phone kiosk salespeople in the mall, "I would rather have chlamydia than a cell phone!"

Then, one day I was driving on the freeway quite a ways from home with Jeffrey and Alice-Grace in the car. I took my eyes off the road for one second and BOOM! I must've hit something because my rear tire just shredded up. I pulled over to survey the damage. Of course, I didn't have a spare tire.

I raised the hood of the car and waited for someone to stop and help me. Nothing.

I got little Alice-Grace out of the car, held her on my hip and tried to look pathetic on the side of the road. Again, no one stopped.

I figured out pretty quick that they don't have emergency call phones on this freeway.

Looks like I was going to have to take matters into my own hands. There were no buildings or houses around, but there was a frontage road running parallel to the freeway with cars going considerably slower that I could easily flag down.

I got myself, Jeffrey and Alice-Grace out of the car and over the freeway barrier. I then hopped off a ledge and brought the kids down with me. Then I had to crawl under a fence (I tried to climb over it, but let's just say that my chain-link climbing days are over). I got a truck to stop and the man very nicely let me borrow HIS cell phone to call AAA.

I then crawled back under the fence, boosted the kids up on the ledge and then -- OOPS! I had easily hopped off the ledge, but soon discovered that it was about a six foot drop with no foot holds and I couldn't get back UP the ledge! Now I was stuck between the freeway and the frontage road.

Then I noticed a steel spike sticking out of the freeway barrier and I got Jeffrey to loop my purse strap to the spike (luckily it has very long straps). I then held on to the purse and used it to help me scale up the wall to get to the top of the ledge.

Success! The tow truck guy soon came and got us and our car back to home.

Needless to say, by the next month I had bought a cell phone.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Visit Your "Loco" Library

When Frances was little, she was watching PBS and came into my bedroom and asked me, "Mom, what does 'loco' mean?" I replied, "It's Spanish for crazy." Hey eyes got really big and she clapped all excitedly, "Oh, mom, can we go to our loco library?"

I like to say that I have a storage unit full of books -- it's called the public library.

I had a coworker who once said that the most important item in her purse was her library card.

I love the library. It's my favorite "free" thing. Not only can you get books, videos, music, DVDs, and access to FAST computers, but they have so many fun programs. There's family activities (puppet shows, mimes, musical acts), children's classes (who knew kids could be so enthralled learning about Sputnik or the Titanic?), story times (though we miss Mr. Glen and Mr. Nathan), and movies.

The library is our home away from home (and it's a lot cleaner, more organized and quieter!)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Do You Have My Quarter?"

This is a blog I stole from Babs about her paper route as a young girl:

"...speaking of those 8 doors i delivered to, there was an old man that lived at one of the houses and he was always on his porch when i came by. When i would hand him the newspaper he would be kind enough to give me a quarter. well, this happened so much that i came to expect it. One day he wasn't on the porch, so i rang the doorbell and when he answered the door i gave him the newspaper and said, do you have my quarter? yes, I'm a selfish little girl, but who cares, i got my money!"

(Note to Babs -- what's with the lowercase letters? Are you taking a stand against the hierarchical nature of capitalization?)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


So I'm talking to Fred about how some cafe was ripping me off. They were charging me a whole dollar more for a combo with juice as opposed to a combo with soda pop. Now I know that juice normally costs more than soda pop, but if I bought the drinks by themselves, they were both $1.25 each! Why should juice be magically more expensive just because it's paired with a sandwich and chips?

Frances pipes up, " And they're totally over-charging for the juice to begin with because right on the bottle it says, 'Hi, me five cents.'"

Fred and I look at each other -- What the heck?

Then it dawns on me that Frances was reading HI ME 5 CENTS -- as in if you live in HAWAII or MAINE, you get a FIVE CENT deposit on the bottle!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Choose Poverty!

Why am I so budget conscious?

Well, long story short, Nigel and I decided that he would quit his job and concentrate on his art. Ever since he finished school, he's been working hard to support me and the kids. I didn't want him to be on his death bed regretting that he had never tried to make it as an "artist."

So instead of him working full-time and me working part-time, I'm now working full-time and he works on his art full-time (well, as much as he can while also taking care of the kids). I guess you can say that we're choosing poverty.

Now I really have to work on staying within my budget. No extras, no luxuries. Do you think I can do it?

Not Freegan Buying It

I first started really thinking about the psychology behind consumerism after reading the book "Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping" by Judith Levine. I love stuff like this. I still need to read the book by the lady who wore the same dress every day for one year (OK, I'm so pathetic that I've practically done that without the intent of writing a book about the experience) and the book by the women who went a year without buying anything made in China (I do that when I take the kids to the toy store -- "You can buy anything you want, but it can't be made in China!" -- that explains all the Legos and Playmobile stuff in our house).

I then looked into the Freegan movement. This is a group of young people who are sticking it to "the man" (who is "the man"? Am I "the man"?) by not buying anything. They dig their food out of dumpsters and live in abandoned buildings. They also don't believe in holding jobs. OK. I don't quite get this. You're not paying for anything, but someone else DID pay for that food and building you're using. I'm not a big fan of the something for nothing philosophy.

Now I'm way into Freecycle. Freecycle is a group of people who post things on the Internet that they either want to receive, or want to give away. The thing is, it all has to be FREE! So far we have given away coupons for craft stores (I don't craft) and we've tried to give away a scout shirt and school workbooks (though the problem with Freecycle is a lot of time the people never show up to get the items). I have received an awesome dress from a nice woman who replied to my pitiful pleas for clothes (I hate shopping for clothes, but let's save that for another blog). I've seen kittens, baby clothes, food, furniture, and even a car listed for free. It's great.

Another great way to get free stuff is to help people move. Since we live in a high-turn-around area (read: lots of college students), people are constantly moving in and out. Nigel and I always help them move and inevitably, they get sick of loading up their belongings and ask, "Do you guys just want to have the rest of our stuff?" This is how we got the majority of our furniture, a PIANO and even our pet frog, Bluto.

Then there's the free hot-dogs and pizza at R.C. Willey. I figure that I bought a bed and a TV from there, so they owe me some free snacks and soda pop.

What are your favorite "free" things? Please comment!

Monday, October 15, 2007

CAR-nal Knowledge

I've come to the conclusion that all my money woes come from cars.

When I was first married, I had no problem keeping in my budget -- and I think it's because we didn't have a car. And I'm not talking about the cost of the car, insurance, gas and repairs. When you don't have a car, you can only buy as many groceries as you can carry. When you have to load up your dirty laundry in a duffel bag and walk for half an hour to get to the laundry-mat, you have no desire to buy more clothes. You can't even get to any place where you can spend your money.

Of course, we have been really lucky in the car department. Our first car was a loaner from my military brother, Spence, while he was stationed in Korea. When he got transfered back to the States, he very nicely let us keep it. FREE CAR! We loved that little car, but eventually we had three kids in car seats and no longer fit in a little two-door Toyota. We passed on his kindness and gave it to a family who desperately needed a car.

Then my sister, Rena, bought a new minivan and gave us her old one. ANOTHER FREE CAR! That was great until it kept dying on us (usually in the middle of an intersection or on train tracks) and no mechanic could figure out how to fix it. We donated that one to the Kidney Foundation.

My other sister, Lorna, then stepped up to the plate and gave us her old minivan. A THIRD FREE CAR! I mean, you can't beat that.

What will I do when this car dies? Well, I've got five more siblings...

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

So I write about donating blood and what a great thing it is and then today I get a letter from the American Red Cross stating that one of their employees lost a laptop which contained personal identity information -- mine. So now I have to put a fraud alert on my credit report. Oh joy.

The Devil's Department Store

The Devil's Department Store -- Satan's Supermarket -- Beelzebub's Big Box

People are always floored when I tell them that I have never stepped foot inside a Wal-Mart. That's right. I've never seen a "greeter," ordered McDonald's food while buying a blouse, or been hit in the head by "falling prices."


Well, first of all, there are no Wal-Marts where I grew up, so it wasn't something that I was accustomed to. Wal-Marts are a more rural phenomenon, and I lived in a big city where you had to wait for a place to burn down before you could put in a Burger King or other store (with the riots, you would've thought that would happen much more often).

When we moved to Parvo, we didn't have a car and the local Wal-Mart was quite a ways away. It just wasn't something I ever did.

Then IT happened. I got a phone call from my sister, Rena. She was ranting, railing, gnashing her teeth, foaming at the mouth, etc. She had just had a "Wal-Mart experience." It goes something like this:

She had been shopping at Wal-Mart and they were offering a special photo special for family portraits. She made an appointment, paid her sitting fee and was all excited. When it came time for the photo, she spent the whole day bathing and dressing and combing her four children. She made her husband get off work early in order to be in the picture. Finally, they were all ready to go. They quickly drove over to Wal-Mart before somebody barfed on their new clothes or gave their sibling a black eye. They scurried in to find out that there was no photography studio, no record of an appointment, nothing. They talked to manager after manager, nobody knew anything about it.

She was so mad, she went home, immediately called me and made me swear that I would never go into a Wal-Mart for as long as I live.

And I haven't.

Super (Supper) Club

So in my never ending quest to save money on food, we've started a Supper Club (I once accidentally typed it "super club" in an e-mail and that's what my husband constantly refers to it as -- that's what I get for making fun of his cake we got at the Mexican bakery that had "Hoppy Birthdoy" written on it). Every Saturday, me, my sister Lorna, and my nieces Babs and Ginger (and sometimes Molly when she's in town), each make a big dinner and then divide them up amongst ourselves. That way we have a variety of meals for almost the whole week.

I have to say that I love it. It actually makes me excited to go grocery shopping because I have a plan (instead of wandering the aisles moving things off and on the shelves -- yes, the can of peas in the diaper aisle? That's me). It makes me look forward to cooking and then I get to hang out with my wonderful sister and nieces.

Oh, and the food! It's been great. The best part is that Lorna goes totally nuts. She can't just give you one or two cookies with your meal, she has to give you a whole package! She doesn't just do a serving of lasagne, it's a whole pan full! Everyone should have a sister like her (me? I'm the slacker who willing sits back and receives -- it's not my fault she's an overachiever).

Seriously, this is the best thing ever. Not only do I stay in my food budget (of course, that's also thanks to Frances), but I get lots of delicious dinners ready to eat. Yum!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

When Life Gives You Lemons...

So my son, Jeffrey, is obsessed with money, candy, and Legos.

When he was really little, he used to collect money. Not to spend, just to have -- like stamps or rocks. His cousin used to let him take money from his change dish, but we had to stop that since Jeffrey then thought it was OK to take money from ANYONE's change collection! We weren't allowed to visit many of our friends' homes after those incidents.

We were at the mechanic once and Jeffrey wanted some candy from the vending machine. We didn't have any quarters, so he decided to just reach in and grab some. He immediately got his arm stuck in the machine. He was crying and wailing and I could not get him out. The mechanic came running with a tool. Jeffrey took one look at that big wrench and really started screaming bloody murder and trying to climb on top of the vending machine (his escape route of choice is always straight up). Finally, the mechanic bent the machine's opening enough for us to get his arm out -- with his hand still grabbing a box of Lemonheads.

Once I came home from work to see my then five-year-old boy alone at a busy street corner selling "lemonade." He was completely alone and his lemonade consisted of paper cups of water mixed with dirt. I asked him what he was doing. He said that he needed to earn money to buy Legos. I promptly found his father (Nigel was in the house, completely unaware that Jeffrey was out there alone) and chewed him out. The worst part of it was that he had actually made some money! People had actually come and bought dirt water from him!