Tag Revisited


Posted on : 7:40 PM | By : Jennifer

My novice as a blogger has become all too apparent. I forgot that when you fill out a "tag," you're supposed to tag other people to answer the same questions on their own blogs. So...Sarah, Lisa, Melissa, and Tania, it now rests with you. It's a simple tag, but fun to peek into what other people do for Christmas.

And speaking of...I am typing this on my new computer! Thank you, Derrick! (I so don't deserve it.) What were some of your favorite gifts this year?

Merry Christmas


Posted on : 10:05 AM | By : Jennifer

I hope you're all having a wonderful week before Christmas. We are enjoying heavy-duty snow that caused a two-hour delay for school every day last week, and are pretty much snowed in this week, which has made our time at home deliciously quiet and lazy. This kind of snow is a novelty for Kennewick, so it's been fun to have a true White Christmas.

I stole this tag from Rachel because I thought it looked fun (sorry I didn't even ask, Rache!)

1. Wrapping Paper or Gift Bags? Gift bags in a hurry, paper when I have time. I really don't enjoy wrapping presents, though...it comes to close to a craft.

2. Real Tree or artificial? Real. Every year I think "we should really get an artificial tree and save the hassle," and then every year once the real tree's up, I'm so glad we didn't. Gorgeous!

3. When do you put up the tree? The first weekend of December

4. When do you take the tree down? Usually right after the New Year, depending on how dry it is.

5. Do you like egg nog? Not really, but Derrick and Rachael can guzzle it like water

6. Favorite gift received as a child? An oversized, stuffed doll that my mom made me by hand, with yellow yarn hair and a yellow and blue flowered dress with bloomers and everything. I thought about doing the same for my girls this year, until I saw the pattern and remembered that I don't know how to sew.

7. Hardest person to buy for? My in-laws. They really do have everything.

8. Easiest person to buy for? Ethan. He loves it all!

9. Do you have a nativity scene? A really cheesy one I got for $8.00 at Deseret Book. We've gone through several sets and keep losing pieces, so I'm holding out for a nice one when the kids are a bit older.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail! Probably my very favorite Christmas tradition...so I'd better get one from anyone who's reading this.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? When I was about six, my brother said he had a fancy gift for me. I unwrapped a beautiful, velvet jewelry box, and opened it anticipating diamond earrings or some other gift so likely from my ten year old brother. Imagine my surprise when a pair of underwear popped out of the box! (At least they had ruffles on the behind.) Still not over it, Doug.

12. Favorite Christmas movie? Mr. Krueger's Christmas. I bawl like a baby every time.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Mid-November. I get about 85% done, and think I'm home free, then remember the last 15% and fly into a panic the week before Christmas.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Does putting ruffled undies on one of my stuffed animals count?

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles. We rarely make them any other time of the year, and I can eat the dough like it's ice cream.

16. Lights on the tree? Yes. All white and lovely.

17. Favorite Christmas Song? "We Three Kings/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" medley by BareNaked Ladies and Sarah Maclaughlin.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Home!!

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? ...Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. Oh, and does "Olive the Other Reindeer" count these days? I read that story to Ethan the other night and realized what a massive ripoff it is of the Rudolph story. She used her nose to "smell" Santa's sleigh home instead of lighting it. Shameless Christmas cash cow, but Ethan loves it.

20. Angel on top of the tree or star? Star. Ours is crooked this year and no number of attempts will straighten it.

21. Open the presents on Christmas Eve or Morning? One on Christmas Eve and the rest Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Un-fun, obligatory parties and the post office.

23. Favorite ornament? The silver snowflake Melissa and Morgan bought us years ago.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? My mom's homemade rolls and pumpkin pie. I guess I'm a traditionalist.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? A new computer and a nap.



Posted on : 5:05 PM | By : Jennifer

I am happy to report that last night I transported a hot, creamy chicken dish, hot rice, hot rolls, a large mixed salad, and three plates of heavily frosted sugar cookies to my lovely friends, Ian and Lora , without incident.

No spills, no burns, no frosting on the floor (or brow.)  That's progress.



Posted on : 2:44 PM | By : Jennifer

So Derrick and I are driving home on Sunday afternoon from a blissfully child-free weekend in Portland, during which we attended his company Christmas party, took his parents to dinner downtown for his mom's birthday, and capped off the night with a viewing of Australia (that's another post) in a lovely and unique theater called Cinetopia (still, another post). I was enjoying the lazy Sunday drive, chatting with hubby about this and that, when he suddenly turned to me and said, "What is that crap all over your sunglasses?" I drew in a sharp breath--such language from hubby!--and flipped down the passenger mirror. A white, shiny goo was smeared across the entire crown of my gorgeous Nine Wests (yeah, that's all I can afford.) I took off the glasses, murmured and clucked in confusion, then checked my purse for a clue. I found it.

"Oh, it was just a stray Junior Mint," I informed him lightly. I'd opened a box at the theater, then slipped it into my purse, half-eaten. (I believe I was distracted when Hugh Jackman appeared shirtless on his horse.) The unsecured JM had apparently rolled out and smashed into my shades, which then rolled around in my purse, thus producing the frosted brow effect. My husband looked at the glasses, then at me, shook his head, and sputtered (sputtered, I tell you) loudly.

"Just a stray Junior Mint?
Just a stray Junior Mint?? Jen, your whole life is a stray Junior Mint!" Although we were both laughing at this point, you may suspect my dear hubby of a bit of nastiness. Before you rush to judgment, however, there are things that you should know. Things that I have kept carefully hoarded and hidden. Until now.

October 2001. Queen Creek, AZ. Our little purple car reeks for a week. We cannot figure out what is causing the smell. While giving it a good interior cleaning one day, Derrick discovers, in a tiny pocket where the trunk meets the backseat, a large wrapped slab of salmon, purchased by yours truly, that has been bathing in its own juices (and the Arizona heat) for seven days and seven nights. Oops! (I added a charmingly girlish smile to this "oops.")

March 2002. Queen Creek, AZ: Our little purple car reeks for a week. We cannot figure out what is causing the smell. One day, upon retrieving his golf bag from the trunk, Derrick is surprised when the shredded remains of a full gallon of milk fall out of the bag. Apparently, I had forgotten to bring the milk in from the store, and it had rolled deep into his golf bag in the trunk, which, of course, explains why it was so darn hard for us to track down that odor. After a week in the 120-degree trunk, it had finally exploded inside of his bag (I mean, a for-real explosion.) Derrick was really happy during the several hours he spent peeling apart and cleaning out the bag. It was an easy, convenient, fun job for him. Oops. (didn't attempt the smile this time.)

August 2004. Kennewick, WA: We are at the famed Benton County Fair on a balmy summer evening when Derrick opens the hatch in the back of the minivan to retrieve Megan's stroller, only to have ten pounds of thawed, rotting ground beef fall onto his feet. (I thought there may have been something I'd forgotten to unload from my Costco run.) Oops.
And my husband does not normally swear. Really.

March 2005. Kennewick, WA: I am filling the basin sink by the washing machine with cold water to soak some onesies that have been violated by my new baby boy. Said boy cries to be nursed just after I turn on the water and, like any good mother, I leave it running to go and oblige. I really meant to go back and turn the water off when the sink was filled. Twenty minutes later, my three-year old walks down the hall and into the living room, where I'm still nursing on the couch, and asks innocently, "Mommy, why are there suds all over the floor?" I look down the hall--the hall covered with brand-new, gorgeous, glossy, dark cherry hardwood--and see a tidal wave of soapy water. It leaked not only into every crack of the hardwood, but into the carpeted hallway and bedrooms beyond. Derrick was extrasuperhappy when the smell of soaked wood and wet carpet greeted him at the front door. Uh...sorry, hon.

December 2008. Kennewick, WA: I generously agree to cook and transport two gigantic foil pans of Cranberry Chicken to the ward Christmas Party. After cooking the chicken, I cover it tightly with foil, making sure to seal each pan. Since there's a good inch and a half of space between the dark red sauce and the top of the pan, I figure that as long as they're tightly sealed, they should be just fine on the floor of the car for the short ride to the church. Derrick is on a business call up until we leave, so I'm rushing to get the kids and the two gigantic foil pans full of dark red sauce out the door. Derrick is still on his cell phone as we pull out of the (inclined) driveway, and is thus still oblivious to the vicious vermin that awaits him. We are all in a good mood, laughing and making merry on our way to the party. I have completely forgotten about the chicken. We park and as Derrick opens the side door to unbuckle Ethan, what meets his eyes and nostrils but an onslaught of the dark red sauce, covering nearly every inch, nook and cranny of our van's lovely gray carpeting. Oozing across the floor, underneath the mud mats, down where the removable seats latch into the floor, out of the opened side door. To his credit, Derrick merely expletes, "JEN!!!", then firmly clenches his jaw. He helps me, the kids, and the dark red sauce into the church, turns back around, and promptly drives off to clean up the mess. He is gone for over an hour, missing all of dinner and most of the program, because: he has to go to the car wash that has a shampoo station, then realizes that he has to go to the ATM to get cash, the store to get change, then back to the car wash/shampoo station. With each stop he makes, he gets extrasuperhappier. To his credit, by the time he returns and I apologize for the ninth time (I'm a whiz with apologies), he seems reasonably at peace with the world. To our credit as a couple, neither of us has mentioned this disaster since. Some wounds are too fresh.

Which brings me to our Sunday drive. The JM episode happened a mere twenty-four hours after the DRS debaucle. And yes, upon further investigation, I found that the single Stray Junior Mint actually represented at least one dozen misplaced mints, all of them melted across my wallet, hand lotion, lipgloss, loose change, receipts, gum, kleenex. An especially naughty mint had even spread itself across Meg's pink plastic Hello Kitty wallet, heavy with $24 dollars of saved-up allowance I'd sworn to preserve and protect. I have spent the better part of this evening scrubbing each item down with soap and an abrasive sponge. My purse is now agitating on gentle cycle; I am now confessing to the world at large.

This has been an emotional but ultimately liberating post. You may think these tales should embarrass me, but little do you know that the real embarrassment is that these kinds of adventures visit our home on a monthly, weekly, sometimes daily basis. Not always as dramatic as those listed above, but always just as annoying. Especially to a certain, highly resilient spouse.

And as usual, dear Derrick was right: My life is akin to a stray Junior Mint. Fairly sweet and seemingly harmless, with a looming disaster just around the next mental lapse. Thank goodness I found a guy who focuses on the Sweet and tolerates the Mental Lapse.

p.s. Sarah, Ashley, and Rachel, you have no business reading this post, you disgustingly responsible, non-forgetful, always on-time supermoms. You shouldn't even be associating with the likes of me (but I'm glad that you do.) And my sisters? Forget it. They belong in the S.A.R. Club. Sisters-in-law? Even worse; they should be co-presidents. My only allie is my dearly devoted mom, who, though not quite as bad as I am, has always sympathized with my "free spirit." Yeah, that's what the two of us like to call it.

Halloween II


Posted on : 10:54 PM | By : Jennifer

Pretty sure this is a movie.  Anyway, as a p.s. to my Halloween post, I just had to steal this irresistable cartoon from my cool friend Sarah's blog.  This one's for you, Don.




Posted on : 9:08 PM | By : Jennifer

There was the perusing, the choosing, and then...

There were the pumpkins!

There was a Glamour Witch and an Indian Princess 

There was a very convincing Spiderman, who refused to pose for any more pictures after his annoying mother took seventy-five of them at his pre-school party. 
(To the left is Spidey's new best friend, Mr. Incredible.  Mom's decided she needs to pony up the cash and  hook poor Ethan up with some muscles next year.) 

There again was  Spiderman, defying his desperate mother's plea to pose with the girls.  "NO!  I don't like pictures!!" was his mantra of the evening.  Hence, Mom has not a single photo of all the children together.  (The humanity!)  He is fully potty-trained, by the way, so rest assured he is not doing what it looks like he's doing here.

There was a visit from Grandma and Grandpa the weekend before,which kicked the spooky season off to a happy start for the kids, and made Dad happy as he relegated pumpkin carving to Grandpa Neal.

There was a swingin' party at Aunt Julie's, followed by a  Trunk or Treat at the church, followed by a Costume Parade on the stage, followed by Trick or Treating in a friendly, cheery, Halloween-conducive neighborhood.  And, most importantly, there was Sixty-Five Degree Weather all evening, which made Mom euphoric, the children energetic, and our Halloween the happiest one we can remember in many years.
Oh yeah.  And there was Candy.  Mountains of candy.  And parents who were too tired to say no.  

Every child's Hallowdream.
(And a dreamy Halloween to you all!)

Hyrum Ray Christensen 1920 - 2008


Posted on : 10:40 PM | By : Jennifer

No, this is not a movie title--I promise I'll get back to that on my next post.  This is the name of my paternal grandfather, who passed away last Thursday.  I'd like to talk about him a little bit.

Grandpa Ray and Grandma Lorraine are the parents of ten--yes, ten--children.  They spent their lives farming in rural Idaho, working harder than you or I can imagine and earning just enough money to support their large family.  Grandpa's faith in the gospel was unwavering, as was his commitment to living it.  He left behind no impressive titles, no big money.  No advanced degree, no lofty church calling.  He'd gained little of what doesn't matter and earned everything that does.  At the service, my aunt said that in one generation from now, Grandpa's posterity will likely exceed 500 people.  That number will, of course, multiply tenfold in years to come.  Today I listened to stories of the warmth, affection, gentle disipline, and tender teaching this man offered his family.  He'd given them all that he had, in every capacity.  My mind, quite on its own, drifted from the small country chapel to the greater country at large, and the political hysteria that's been racking it in recent months.  I thought of the many hopefuls on the local and national levels, and the god-like status they would be flung to upon winning their victories.  How loud their acclaim will be, how noisy their triumph.  My mind found it's way back into the meeting room, warm with the bodies and breath and tears of Grandpa's descendants.  In a few years, five hundred of us will claim his name.  Then one thousand...two thousand.  I wondered:  who is really shaping this nation?  And more troubling:  who am I allowing to shape me?

Distance is, and always has been, alluring.  Most of us yearn to attach ourselves to a cause, or at least a platform, larger and more sophisticated than ourselves, be it intellectual, political or otherwise.  Grandpa didn't have this luxury; he had ten mouths to feed.  He dealt in realities, and in doing so afforded his children, and their children, the unprecedented opportunity to deal in the abstract.  His progeny gets to learn from the safe remove of academic theory and self-imposed virtue about a variety of subjects that may have (probably have) little to do with their real growth and purpose, here and now.  Listening to my aunt's life sketch of Grandpa, I cringed to think how often my vertical quest for Self____ (insert noun here:  Fulfillment, Progression, Aggrandization, Gratification) precludes me from a horizontal quest to help others.  To understand, not influence.  To create, not consume.  I cringed to think how often I'd been seduced by the allure of the distant rather than thrilled by the immediate, which is all we ever really have.  I cringed to think about how, sometimes, I am more passionate about remote issues than I am about the people I claim to be most passionate about.

I once heard a mother of eight compare her life to a white frosted cake.  She said, "To the world, my life looks boring and plain.  But to me," she then swiped a bit of the frosting and licked it off her finger, "it's rich and sweet and spectacular."  I couldn't describe my Grandpa Ray's life any better. Simple to the onlookers, heavenly to the partakers.  Rich.  Sweet. Spectacular.

The Jane Austen (a.k.a) Relief Society Book Club


Posted on : 3:20 AM | By : Jennifer | In :

Have you noticed the chest-beating pride we Mormon Women take in our deathless devotion to all things Jane Austen? Kind of annoying, if you ask me (and it's my blog, so you're asking.) Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Jane Austen movies for many reasons: great dialogue, gorgeous scenery, good acting. But I wonder: what's the obsession? Why Jane and only Jane? And when did building an Austen video library become a legitimate example of Provident Living?

Funny how nobody even mentions the books anymore. (I'm chastising myself here. I read 
Emma a few years ago, and P&P in high school, but that's about it.) I own--and love--a couple of JA movies, but I have aquaintances whom I suspect watch only Jane Austen, be it produced by BBC, A&E, or Paramount. They own any and every Austen DVD available: old versions, new versions, versions based on her novels, versions based on her writing of the novels, versions based on people having book clubs about her novels. Desperate contemporary writers have even published "sequels" to Pride and Prejudice, or Darcy's Story (I swear it exists), telling Mr. Darcy's side of his turbulent romance with Miss Lizzie. And oh...to be Miss Lizzie. Every LDS woman's first(?) and finest fantasy.

C'mon, ladies...haven't we milked this cow dry?

It's just that it's become so predictable. 
LDS Mom=Jane Austin Devotee. I'm suspecting it has to do with losing ourselves in a world wherein women don't clean bathrooms or change diapers or even do their own hair. A gracious cook announces dinner is served instead of us serving it. Combine these savory morsels with the "clean" factor, and you've got a hit with maxed-out moms. Which is a good thing. Sure.

I'd just like to occasionally enjoy a movie that we haven't all seen seventeen times. I'm understating here; you know you've seen Emma many more times than that. I'd like to watch a good film that occurs in this century and hasn't recycled the same six actors repeatedly to fill the lead roles of it's innumerable re-makes. I'd like studios to produce clean movies, made for grownups, that rival Ms. Austen's wit and storytelling. I'd like to appreciate Jane Austen without only appreciating Jane Austen, as our particular female culture seems bent on doing. Every ward book group I've joined, every ward girls' night I've attended, every conversation about movies among LDS women, the main attraction is always the same: Jane, center stage. Time to think outside the box, I'd say.

This post has really worn me out. I'm gonna make some popcorn, grab a quilt, and pop in Sense and Sensibility. Forget everything I just wrote. Willoughby is hot.

Almost Famous


Posted on : 10:20 AM | By : Jennifer

A few years ago, the manager of the Welcome Center in our neighborhood asked if they could have my girls pose for some photos to put in their pamphlets, ads, etc.  Derrick works closely with the Welcome Center, as his firm does the all the civil engineering for our development, but I know that had nothing to do with this request.  I know that my children were needed for their dazzling good looks and me, for my legendary stage-mothering skills.  So, here's a glance back to good 'ole 2004 and some of the photos that ended up in the newspaper, Creekstone pamphlets and magazines, and even in some brochures on airplanes.  (An old friend called us from the airport, wondering what the heck our kidlets were doing on his flight!) So if you're one of the few people on the continent who haven't seen my child stars yet, here's a bit of what the (highly professional) photo shoot produced when Rache was just five, and Megan, three: 

Weren't they sweet?  Well, the Welcome Center beckoned us once again this year, and--sigh--once again I consented to having our good looks exploited for no pay.  (What can you do when your public needs you?)  Picture day just happened to fall on the same day as my half-misery-marathon, so these outfits were pulled out of the closet and not ironed about thirty minutes before shuttertime.  Literally, they were the only solid pieces of clothing in my kids' wardrobe, which is why a multitude of us ended up in brown.  (It hasn't happened yet, but someday I'll show up in something besides a plain T-shirt for my family portraits.)

Here is another completely candid shot of us frolicking in the clover while sharing secrets and giggles.  (A typical Saturday afternoon for our family, of course.)

I imagine these photographs will be splashed across every major magazine in the country, so be watching your Gap ads!  The upside is that we can keep these images at no cost.  So there's our merrychristmasfromtheSmithfamily photo, free!  (I am not kidding.  Expect it in December.)

The downside is that looking at the old photos of the girls made me nostalgic and slightly depressed about how fast my family is growing up.  I've really been struggling with this lately, as I seem to every September when school starts.  President Monson's talk today at General Conference , however, gave me a much needed perspective change.  The main goal I'm taking away from Conference this year:  to enjoy what I have, today, and not wish my time away on the past or future.  To stop trying to do more; rather, keep doing what I am already doing, more happily and gratefully.

I am now opening up the commentary for two answers I hope to receive from all of you:
 1.  What part of conference inspired you the most?
 2.  How cute is my family and how much do I look like I haven't aged a bit since you saw me last?  (Comments for #2 need be neither truthful nor sincere, obviously.)

I'd better run.  Our fifteen minutes of fame are almost up, and I'm gonna make the most of it.  Gotta go find someone to do lunch with!

un- "Happy Feet"


Posted on : 12:25 AM | By : Jennifer

This is a totally unauthorized post by Derrick

This is going to be somewhat personal, a little mushy, and definately a violation of Jen's blogging rules for her site.  Sorry Jen!

I had to hack into Jen's Blogger account and post to her site.  I want everyone in Jen's blogosphere to know how proud I am of her!  This morning Jen finished her first half-marathon.  To make this even more amazing, you should know that she injured her foot a couple of weeks ago and has been struggling with some very painful Plantar Fasciitis.  She took a break from training two weeks ago, and on Wednesday she went out to test the injury on a run.  After a very painful mile, she decided she wasn't going to attempt the half-marathon on Saturday.  This REALLY bummed her out, as she had spent the entire summer training for this event.

However, on Friday she decided she would wrap her foot and give it her best shot!

My wife is tough!  13 miles is a LOOOONNNNGGGG way.  Rachael, Megan, Ethan, and I decided we would drive the van along the route so we could cheer her on.  I was really amazed at how well she did.  At the half-way point, she ran up and gave the girls a high-five and a big smile, BUT, I could tell from the look in her face that she was in a lot of pain.

At about 10 miles, she started to show the pain in her face, and I started to worry.  She slowed her pace slightly, and dropped back from her running partners.  When she passed us at mile 11.5, she had quite the grimace ... both Rachael and Megan both commented that they were worried about her.  They were both getting upset ... but she kept going.

She ended up finishing the entire half-marathon without walking.  I couldn't believe it ... since she had just planned to start the race, send her training partners off to a good start, and quit after a mile or two.

After the race I helped her to the van.  She pulled her shoe off, unwrapped her foot, and exposed a huge protrusion from the bottom middle of her foot.  Her fascia tendons were so swollen that it looked like someone had shoved a marble under the skin.  It looked really bad ... 

I'm so proud of you Jen!  You are such a great example to our children!  Our two young daugters both saw a different side of their Mom today ...

Way to go!



Reality Bites


Posted on : 8:43 PM | By : Jennifer

I've been thinking lately about the difference between Bloggereality and, well, reality. I've observed a rather large gap between the two, at least for myself, and--I am hoping--for all of you (if I'm wrong on this, then I really did get the shaft and my life is pitiful compared to everyone else's perfect children, dream vacations, and stunning good looks.) So, though perhaps my own reality doesn't always "bite," it doesn't always smile, either. Case in point: Big, Annual Camping Trip, lots of planning, some of our best friends, perfect location, lots of junk food shopping, lots of packing, lots of excited kids, lots of excited adults. Bloggereality would report that this trip went perfectly, as evidenced by the perfectly posted pictures, but I am here to set the record straight. I learned last weekend that coming down with something akin to Strep Throat, complete with fever, chills and vomiting in a "cabin" (dare we give it that much credit?) with nothing nearby but an outhouse is, in the end, its own brand of adventure. Real adventure, not sissybloggingadventure. You know what I mean.

After a miserable first night, Derrick kindly suggested we pack up and go home, but I had waited all year to hang out with the Shorts and (name the B movie that made this tune famous) Nothin's Gonna Stop Us Now. So I knocked back enough Extra Strength Excedrin to see me through the day. (btw: did you know that Excedrin is loaded with caffeine? I had no idea, but it explains why it made me feel so geeoood.) I pasted on a smile and tried to have fun, and loved Rachel and Jason all the more for forgiving my going to bed at 9 pm and the wet mop personality I surely had all weekend. (How tragic for them to miss out on my usual, fascinating self.) They even allowed me and my germs to eat at the same picnic table with them. Rachel called me today, almost one week later, to kindly ask how I was feeling and wondered: did I find out if it was strep? She just wanted to know because--and please don't feel bad, Jen--every last one of her kids now have what I had, just in time to go back to school. (And I thought being a wet mop was my worst offense.) She wasn't annoyed at all, just hoped I felt better. Do you see why we're still friends?

So. I didn't get to be hyper and goofy with my kids and howl at the moon in the great outdoors, like I'd planned. But...

I did get to go on a horseback ride with Rachael (my daughter) which was about the coolest thing we've ever done together (horses are super pretty and smell good when you're buzzed on Excedrin.)

And on our last day I got to follow the children through the trees to the "secret place" they'd been doggedly hiding from us all weekend, which we parents had to admit was pretty spectacular.

I got to smell Megan's proud find (think dead. think fish. no. think only fish skin.)

I got to consume mass quantities of Rachel's sublime homemade-yes-straight-from-her-garden spaghetti sauce, which is the new Bomb in my life (need that recipe, Rache! need you to grow the veggies for me, Rache!) I missed out on canoeing, fishing, and the slip 'n slide (achey body napping in said "cabin")...

I got to be in the beautiful mountains with my great friends, great family, and great weather. When you've got the essentials covered, even if things aren't blogperfect, they can still be really, really good.

There was dirt, there was a graham cracker, there was chocolate.
That's all we know.

These two hotties got even hotter when they
made us breakfast two days in a row.

Ethan and Max. All weekend. Do not even ask.

Ethan cruelly takes advantage of Mom's illness and realizes lifelong dream of eating nothing but BBQ Lays for two days straight.

For once, when dealing with Ethan, Dad isn't the only horse's as*.

The elusive Secret Place

Clara had to be the sweetest, quietest, happiest baby I'd ever been around. Yes, I am including my own children in this assessment.

We thought it would be a good idea to let the kids spend alot of time unsupervised in this rocky, secluded area that had lots of water and the lingering possibility of bears. Children do need to explore.

Meg wasn't quite old enough to do her own trail ride, like Rache, but she was a good sport about doing a pull ride with her dad. Considering her size, she may just have a future in jockeying.

The dead fishskin find. Still not sure where she found it, how she got it, why she wanted it. Never did get a clear answer on that.

Remember that scene on City Slickers when they talk about their "best day?" I think the day of the trail ride was Rachael's Best Day. She just couldn't stop smiling. I was so happy to be there with her.
Doped up as I was.

Cool Runnings


Posted on : 2:49 PM | By : Jennifer

I've decided on a B-movie theme for my post titles...I'll see how long I can keep it going.

I am spending the week at my in-laws house in Seaside, Oregon. Laura (my mom-in-law) is wonderful and always insists on watching the kids if I want to go do anything. It's only polite that I take her up on it once in awhile.

So this morning I went for a gloriously long, slow, quiet, solitary run along the beach. For the first time I can remember, the beach was absolutely empty. No people, no dogs. No kids. No cars. No running buddies. No iPod. Just me, the seagulls, the salt-heavy air, and the waves crashing into the velvety Oregon coastline.

There are worse ways to spend a Wednesday morning.

Simple pleasure, perhaps, but too good not to share. Tell me again why we spend money on theme parks?

August Rush (Updated 08/10/08)


Posted on : 8:03 PM | By : Jennifer

Have any of you seen this movie? If you have: I'm sorry. If you haven't: do NOT be duped by this steamy photo. Run...run far, far away from anywhere it can be found or anyone who tells you to watch it. I will refrain from further analysis here (read: Derrick made me delete what I'd originally written because he said some of you may have liked it, and I was being too rude.) Let's just say that, besides terribly good-looking actors, the only worthwhile thing to come out of this movie is the title, which describes how quickly the last month of summer has come upon us. (I know this is a stretch, but I needed a clever title for my post.) In my grand tradition of shove-it-all-into-one-fat-post blogging, I now offer a randomly ordered recap of some of July's activities:

He did it! The stallion on the mountain.
I got to meet him at the dishonestly titled "Paradise Lodge" (think panel siding, no t.v., and unsettling smell of the great outdoors) when he came down off the mountain, and joined him for a group dinner and program afterward. He received an award for summitting from none other than Dave Hahn, who holds the world record for climbing Mt. Everest the most times. (Can you believe we run in such circles?) It was fun to peek into Derrick's alternate universe; he is in fabulous shape and breezed through it all. I am such the proud wife! Read more about his Mt. Rainier climb here, if you'd like.

Visiting the Portland Children's Museum on our way to Seaside. Have any of you been here with your kids? If not, get here! It's so much fun. Derrick was with us, but for once had the camera. Whenever I see pics of myself, I am reminded why I am always willing to be the photographer, not the subject.

Riding the supercool "train" in downtown Seaside. This is one of many pics I took on our Seaside trip, but out of courtesy to the reader, I will spare you the ninety-some beach/carousel/ice cream/boardwalk photos of my children that I take each time we go, except for this one:

It's just too cute.

We had fun, and celebrated the Fourth of July down on the shore, if by "celebrating" I mean freezing on a windy beach while my sweet, naive husband tried to put on a fireworks show with a $19.95 box of fireworks. We all cheered and clapped, but it was like watching a limping puppy trying to fetch a ball. (You really do get what you pay for.) He saved the longest, thickest firework, labeled "Tower of Power" for the final act, it surely being the fiery climax of the entire extravaganza. You can imagine the look on his face, then, when he opened it only to unroll a large poster of a black cat on a yellow background, with the words "Tower of Power" in thick black letters above. We are still unsure of what this poster meant or why it was there (some kind of sinister practical joke put on by the Forest Service?) but it was a grand finale that truly befitted its show. Rachael then burned her foot on a sparkler, making this the second year in a row that our patriotic escapades at the beach have resulted in personal injury. In spite of all this, I do still love my country.

The only thing Megan wanted for her seventh birthday was a snorkeling kit. If only these inexpensive requests would last...

Ethan's summer (and fall, winter and spring) diet. Parts is parts, I guess.

Celebrating my 35th birthday with the family and, more importantly, a Limited Edition Girl Scout Thin Mint Ice Cream Cake from Dairy Queen. Forget what I said about Chukars; this was the bomb! Most of the fam was out of town, so my dad joined us for dinner and cake (again, Derrick took the photo here.) I received a beautiful watch from Derrick, various pieces of artwork from the girls, and this homemade pinata from Rachael:

She spent hours in her bedroom working on it in secret, then filled it with my favorite candy. As soon as she gave it to me she begged me to break it, but I couldn't bear the thought of smashing her handiwork so we kept it for a week before the big bashing. Whoppers still pack a tasty crunch after being trapped in toilet paper rolls and tissue paper for a week!

I've been doing quite a bit of running this month and thought I'd post about it, but it's hard to take a snapshot of yourself while pounding the pavement. So I found a photo that looks almost exactly the way I look when I run. Different hair color, of course...

July also boasted an exciting visit from Riley (to my kids, she has one name, like Madonna). This was followed by an insanely fun Christensen Family Reunion near--not in--Sun Valley, Idaho (read: we were in the middle of nowhere, in a place affectionately nicknamed the "Armpit of Idaho," with no Demi Moore sightings anywhere). I was having too much fun during this trip to take any decent pictures. Sometimes you gotta live in the moment instead of "capturing" it!

And now, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel that I should inform you of a couple of vices I've acquired this month:

Vice #1: John Adams Miniseries on DVDClear your schedule, rent it, put your kids to bed, watch it. Now.

Vice #2: The Cosby Show

You read that right. We cancelled our extended cable (but not our DVR) because we weren't using it much, but now find that there is absolutely nothing on t.v. when we do want to veg. We came across an old Cosby rerun one day and enjoyed it immensely with the kids. It occurred to us later that nothing was stopping us from recording each episode (two per day!) and watching it late at night, or in the afternoon with kids, or while doing laundry...you get the picture. As the summer wears on, Claire and Cliff are becoming part of the family. One night after a mini-Cosbython, I turned off the t.v. and sighed. "I want to be a Huxtable," I announced. "I want to live in their world." Derrick was quiet for a moment, then replied in all seriousness: "Well, they probably have a housekeeper." This was said in the same way you say "That-perfect-lds-family-down-the-street-must-have-a-housekeeper." Because, you know, the Huxtables are real. We thought about it for awhile. "Yeah," I conceded. "They probably do have a housekeeper." We both felt better knowing that the Huxtables must have some help in running things so smoothly. We know we have a problem. I dare any of you to watch it and not get hooked.

After a busy month, we are now enjoying some easy time at home with swimming, tennis lessons, the Wii, puzzles, the park, and that rascal Elvin's chauvenistic tendencies. We're looking forward to the girls spending an entire week at Grandma's alone (!) and our annual camping trip with the Shorts, which will surely be the highlight of an already fantastic summer. I bought school supplies today with mixed feelings. I have loved spending so much time with my kids this summer. Gratitude overwhelms!

Is it really a holiday?


Posted on : 9:43 PM | By : Jennifer

I just realized, sitting here alone at 10 pm while Derrick is climbing up heaven-knows-where, that today is Pioneer Day. Gotta admit it: this "holiday" never held alot of interest for me, except for when I was ten years old and my mom sewed me an apron and bonnet so I could walk around Keewaydin Park nineteen times singing, "Pioneer children sang as they walked, and walked, and walked, and walked...and (high note here) waaalked." It was a hundred degrees and despite my sweat and tears, I unjustly lost the costume contest. Determined to win something, I decided next to brave the watermelon eating contest and promptly threw up afterwards. (Do you remember any of this, Sarah? I'm sure you were suffering right by my side.)

At any rate, July 24th usually comes and goes and I am none the wiser for it. Perhaps it's because I live outside of Utah, or that I am pitifully ignorant of any pioneer heritage I may posses (how long can I use the "it's not my season" excuse?), or that July is always a whirlwind of crazybusy in our family, so this peculiar holiday gets quickly squeezed out. Regardless of the reason, I don't think much about Pioneer Day, and I probably should. Tonight, however, I came across an essay (in the form of a devotional address) that made me do so. It was written for people like me who just don't get into the whole Pioneer Day Thing, and the author just happens to be Tessa Santiago, who was my favorite English professor at BYU. So in the interest of having nothing interesting to write today, I think I'll gracefully bow out of my blog and let Dr. Santiago do the work, since she is such a better writer than I, and, let's face it, its no skin off her back. The talk can be found here, and don't be fooled by its dry title. I guarantee a totally satisfying experience.

Happy 24th of July!

Operation Riley


Posted on : 8:34 AM | By : Jennifer

The sleepless nights, fits of despair, and weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth are finally over: Riley's here! If you are not a Curtis, this post may have little interest for you, but it's big news in the Smith household (and blogging about it gives me an excuse to show off my cute kids.) The girls are having a ball and savoring every minute with their still-best-friend-in-the-world. So far, I think the visit has lived up to expectations:

We started the first day right with Meg's belated birthday party at "Monkey Dooz," the most ridiculously overpriced but worth-every-penny little girls' beauty salon.
They began by dressing up...

Then a careful selection of nail color was agonized over...(do not be fooled by this cheery photo; it took awhile)

Next was the pedicure. (Meg was a little too comfortable in this getup.)

Hair came next. Somehow I think Riley was pleased with hers.

You just don't see coiffs like this anymore!

Paris and Nicole got nothin' on us!

Final results. Move over, JonBenet! The girls partying by the pool, which is how they've spent most of their week (thank you Shannons!) Here they are by the gool 'ole mushroom pool while Meg was in lessons.

Megan won the goofiest costume contest the girls held on the trampoline that night. Riley was her costume designer. We think the puffy undies are what secured the title. Thank you, Heather and Randy, for sharing your cutie with us. We're having such fun! More photos to come soon...