Bring (dis) Honor to Us All


Posted on : 9:58 AM | By : Jennifer

Do you remember this song from Mulan? I was reminded of it when my daughter saw my Halloween costume a few weeks ago. About three hours before the big church party I was running like a mad dog through Goodwill, frantically trying to throw a costume together. It didn't need to be great; I just had to keep my promise to some girlfriends that I'd actually dress up this year. The clock was ticking furiously, and just as I was about to fall back on that fallback of all costumes--the dreaded "'80s girl"-- I spotted a long, blue "silk" robe peeking out between a ripped ballerina tutu and a deeply stained graduation gown. In a flash of genius, I thought "I'll go as a geisha! It will be a real, bona fide Halloween costume, and totally unique.  Perfect!" With a flushed face and fingers trembling in anticipation,  I bought the robe ($2.50--a little steep), stopped at the fabric store for a quick, lime green obi, stopped at the drugstore for white face paint, and finished up at a local Chinese restaurant for some hair-adorning chopsticks. This would be my first Halloween costume in a decade, and I was going to do it right.

One hectic hour later, after getting the kids all done up, I receded to my boudair and went to work. I painted my face white, my lips red, slicked my hair back w/the chopsticks, and even found some white hose. (When was I ever wearing white hose? Please forgive the transgression). A pair of slipper-like shoes finished the look. I stood back and sized myself up in the mirror, and had to admit that for a robust blue-eyed blonde of Danish descent, I looked, well...nothing like a geisha. But I looked like a dorky American mom trying really hard to play a geisha, and I was cool with that. I mean, it was the Edison Ward Trunk or Treat. Expectations of ingenuity weren't exactly soaring.

So I walked out and showed my girls the finished product. They smiled and asked exactly what I was dressed as. I didn't have time to explain what a geisha was, so I just said, "Oh, I'm like one of the girls on Mulan." (Yes, Walt Disney has provided the frame of reference in which I'm raising my children, thank you very much.)

So then Rachael asks, in all seriousness, "Oh, you mean like one of the girls who dishonors her family?" At this point, I was sniffing too much face goo off my upper lip to let this comment bother me,  so I muttered something about eastern beauty and yelled at the kids to get in the car.  As we were pulling out of the driveway, Megan said, "Mom, you don't look pretty, but you look good."

We soon arrived at the ward party, which had the biggest turnout in the history of ward parties.  I was happy to have such a vast audience for which to make my glamorous debut.  Derrick would be meeting us there from work, and I couldn't wait to show him my costume. How proud he would be, married to such a creative and fun woman! He sauntered my way with a smile on his face. In a low voice he said, "I heard my wife was coming as a lady of the night. Cool."

"What do you mean, lady of the night? Where did you hear that?"

"Oh, I passed by ---- and ------- (male friends of ours who shall remain nameless) and they told me you came as a prostitute."

"What? A geisha's not a prostitute! Haven't you read the book? A geisha is a beautiful woman who entertains with tea parties and innocent dancing. She is not a prostitute!" I was not as insulted by this attack on my costume as I was by the bald ignorance standing before me. Everyone knows that geishas are not prostitutes. (Well, not really.) Derrick was unruffled.

"Whatever. I just think it's pretty sweet that you came to the kids' Halloween party as an Asian hooker. Great example for our girls." His lazy smile incensed me.

"I am not a hooker! I'm a geisha--I'm a geisha! A geisha is not a hooker! Haven't you read the book?" Why I kept asking him if he'd read Memoirs of a Geisha, I do not know. I think I was trying to point out the fact that he had not read it, and therefore had no store of knowledge concerning Asians or their hookers. (I, on the other hand, was surely an expert on far eastern sexual politics, seeing as over a decade ago I read an Oprah bestseller.)

"C'mon, I'm just teasing. I think you look great."

"Whatever. I am not a hooker."  I stood against the hallway, arms folded in front of me, my surly pout enhanced by its small, red-lined lips.  Derrick patted me gently on the shoulder.

"I know you're not a hooker, Jen. I know." Worse than this shameless condescension was the fact that he never once told me that I looked pretty. I began to wonder: Was Megan right? Was it remotely possible that I did not look attractive with white face paint, bloodred lips, and slicked back hair? An Asian hooker was one thing, but an ugly Asian hooker? That was suicide.

No, I told myself. I'm a geisha, I'm a geisha...I'm a beautiful, elegant woman who entertains through dance and song. I'm a lovely water lily, a delicate rose...

We made our way through the crowded, noisy hall toward dinner in the gym. A (male) friend passed by and lowered his voice toward me. "Ooh, a lady of the night, huh? Niiice."

Bringing dishonor to my family
(and don't tell me that's not one hot geisha)

Who knew they made light-up orange light sabers with pumpkin handles? Thank you, Value Village.

The proverbial '80's girl. Much cuter when you haven't live in the '80's.

Even as a witch, Rachael understands the need to sidesaddle.
(I must be doing something right.)

So you see, the kids looked darling, I looked trashy (and apparently ugly), and we had a busy, fun, killer Halloween.  Great ward party--Derrick won second place in the chili cookoff and my fishing game was a hit. The kids got tons of loot, and I even sprang for the expensive chocolate candy, which redeemed my sorely under-decorated trunk.  Now it's on to Thanksgiving in Seaside and Christmas at home.  Love this time of year!

The best line of Thursday night T.V.


Posted on : 7:35 AM | By : Jennifer

Kenneth on 30 Rock: "I feel as useless as a Mom's college degree!"

I have never laughed so hard at a television screen. Finally, somebody said it.

Gettin' My Freak On


Posted on : 10:42 AM | By : Jennifer

Ethan's, Megan's, and Rachael's carving artistry.

To Do Before Friday at 2:30:

  • Create final touches on kids' costumes, hair and makeup

  • Create costumes for Derrick and I

  • Create oceanic backdrop for ward carnival fishing game

  • Create and decorate two dozen cupcakes with kids (they insist on helping, which really speeds things up)

  • Create presumably contest winning chili

  • Create presumably contest winning cornbread

  • Do not create apple pie.  I really dislike creating apple pie.

  • Create basket of goodies to "boo" our neigbors.  We got boo-ed two weeks ago, and have still failed to respond.  I know.  Ungracious.

  • Create imaginative trunk display for the (freaking) Trunk or Treaters

  • Create stylish yet casually coordinating outfits for family pictures on Saturday morning.  First must purchase such outfits.   

  • Create more money in my checking account.

  • I am not a creative person.  I know many of you reading this are.  Help! And pardon my french (and the pun), but what the freak is going on?  When did Halloween become a quasi-Christmas, complete with a checklist, baking and stress?  Am I the only one feeling the heat?  (I doubt it.)  Despite the to-dos, I think we'll still have fun. Or at least my kids will.  Hope you do, too.

    Happy Halloween!

    October Sky


    Posted on : 9:27 AM | By : Jennifer

    Great movie.

    Okay, I don't usually post in a family-journal kind of way.  For me, blogging is just a random, silly outlet that I use to blow off steam when I'm in the mood.  (As you can tell by my sporadic postings, I'm a very moody blogger.)  But we just had such a nice October weekend, I'd like to stray from my norm and actually write about what we did.  I apologize in advance that you have to read about someone else's kids doing cute things, but I will be mocking my husband (as usual) so bear with me.

    Friday night:  Three-hour Primary Program practice in the chapel.  The only good thing about this is that afterward, the weekend had nowhere to go but up.

    Saturday morning:  10-mile run with my good friend and running/life mentor, Stephanie.  Am I bragging about the 10 miles?  You bet. But before you're too impressed, think of an elephant rumbling down the grasslands of Africa.  That's about how good I looked and felt doing it.  Imagine how much better I felt when Stephanie offhandedly informed me that she'd already ran seven miles before I showed up, and then spent the last three miles of our route texting her kids--while running.  She was that bored.

    Saturday morning:  Ethan's final "flag football" game (term used loosely) and trophy ceremony/pizza party.  Ethan was more excited about the trophy than anything that transpired on the field all season.  I am proud to say that my son loves to chase and tackle the other players, just never when or where he's supposed to.  During this last game, I think he finally began to understand that you are supposed to be somewhere in the general vicinity of the football.  I consider that a successful season for a four-year old.

    Thank you Coach Martin--there's a special place in heaven
    for people who voluntarily coach four-year olds.

    Saturday afternoon:  Partook of neighborhood "pumpkin patch."  This is truly hilarious.  Our HOA scatters a bunch of pumpkins in an empty house lot around the corner, then takes families over on a "tractor"--a golf cart with a bale of hay strapped to the back--to select pumpkins.  Afterward we go back to the Welcome Center for lunch, treats and pumpkin painting.  My kids absolutely love it, and it saves me a trip to the real pumpkin patch, which I've been to nineteen times for school field trips.

    Have you ever seen such a lush autumnal landscape?  

    Mom and Dad are all smiles at the efficiency of the 
    "Pumpkin Patch."  See the bale of hay?  Authentic, I tell you.

    Saturday afternoon.  Took a rare and much-needed nap w/hubby, then woke before him and read in bed for over an hour--during the day!  Can I tell you what a treat this was on a Saturday afternoon, when I usually clean my house or run not-fun errands?  Thank you, DVR, for the quality child care that afforded me this blissful opportunity.

    Read it now.  That's all I will say.

    Saturday evening:  Cleaned up house, got stuff ready for Sunday, dropped the kids at Grandma's (thank you, Cindy!) then used free movie tix to see yet another Really, Really Bad Movie.  Yes, we actually spent two hours viewing All About Steve with Sandra Bullock (it was the only non-animated, non-R-rated option.)  It could not have been lamer, so I will not admit that I sortakinda enjoyed it in a way.  There's just something about Sandra.  I know she's not an Oscar winner, I know her movies are bubble gum, but I still feel like I'm watching an old friend with the big white smile on the screen.  And I do think she's funny.  I dare you to rent this, but don't say I didn't warn you.  And don't tell anyone you want to impress that you kind of liked it, which I know you kind of will.

    Sunday morning:  The Big Show.  My kids thought they were debuting on Broadway (not that we like to make things all about us.)  The planning/practicing/kid-herding for this annual event has loomed over my (and many others') head(s) for some time, and through what can only be described as divine intervention, it went off without a hitch.  I'd even say it was beautiful, especially when my little ladies performed.  Rachael played lovely prelude music on the piano, and Megan played a lovely solo (Teach Me to Walk) on her violin.  Even Ethan knew all the words to the songs and sang them with...let's just call it gusto.  Suffice it to say that nobody in the congregation could miss Ethan Smith's performance up on the stand.  As an ironic bonus, he was seated next to the Bishop for the entire meeting.  Sometimes I wish video cameras were allowed in church.

    Sunday afternoon:  Wonderful home teachers visit with a nice message, save one hiccup:  they brought a large, clear jar of colorful m&ms and set it on the coffee table before us.

     We all stared longingly while pretending to listen to said message.  Afterward, we were ready to dive in when our usually kind home teacher informed us that we could only have one m&m every time we did an act of service.  He'd even written "Service Jar" on the glass with permanent marker.  Was he kidding?  As soon as he left, we started backlogging everything we'd done in the last few weeks that could qualify as service:  housework, churchwork, homework, ab-work.  We rewarded ourselves amply.

    Sunday evening:  Looking forward to a primaryprogramless week and lots of fun Halloween activities.  Any ideas on a couples' costume that my husband will actually be seen in?  Am I the only one who thinks his face lends itself to a vampire disguise?  (The jaw, the abnormal frowning ability...somehow it just works.)

    A Poser's Dream Comes True


    Posted on : 11:24 AM | By : Jennifer

    St. George Marathon
    October 3, 2009
    Final Time: 4:10:17

    I've never considered myself a Real Runner. Real Runners wear overpriced Nike gear, drink "goo," and run marathons. Well, last weekend I did all three and though I still won't put myself in the Real Runner category, I'll certainly stake my claim as a very excited wannabe. I ran my first marathon, and what an experience! I could write pages (as you surely know), but I will restrain myself and give you the highlights:

    No injuries: My knee miraculously healed, and I ran like a dream. I felt fantastic the whole way, except for the last two miles when my body decided it was done. I pushed through it, though, and finished with a smile. I was so excited!

    Perfect weather and unparalleled scenery. Anyone who's been to Southern Utah knows that the world turns pink when the sun comes up, which is when we started our run. We had front row seats to the desert's best. Breathtaking.

    Accomodating staff: Maybe I was just a doe-eyed newbie, but boy, did it feel like we were in good hands. The runners were provided with water, gatorade, fruit, power bars, muscle cream, vaseline, and even goo along the way (although that was more of a punishment--imagine having your throat injected with a cup of rotten caramel while you're panting for air). We were met at the finish line with misters, medals, flowers (if your husband's as sweet as mine), and a parkful of free goodies. Who said Real Runners were healthy eaters? Everyone went straight for the free soda and ice cream. That's when I knew I was among friends.

    Good--no, great--company: In addition to the thrill of running the race, I got to do it with my good friend, Wendy Sunderlage, whom I haven't seen in years, and her sister Kerry and good friend April. What a fun and encouraging group of gals to sweat with! We talked and laughed and almost cried together. Wendy's sister provided us a huge, lovely home to stay the weekend in with enough beds for everyone--the most important thing pre-race! Her parents were also in town and were so generous, cooking for us and helping us get ready. After the race we showered and layed around for awhile, then went to "Five Guys" burger joint for dinner. Either it was the post-race appetite or that was about the tastiest hamburger I've ever had. Wendy's husband, Rob, is a good friend of ours, too, and does alot of climbing with Derrick. Laughing and hanging out with these generous, funny friends was as meaningful as finishing the race. I'm so glad we've kept it touch over the years.

    I was scared silly about this whole thing but, as everyone who's ever run a marathon promised me I would, I now just feel giddy. And grateful. I feel thankful, thankful, blessed and lucky and thankful: for health and strength and dear friends and red rock and no blisters and misters and free ice cream and hot showers. But mostly for my husband, who's listened to me obsess over this for weeks and has not only endured it, but has treated me like royalty through the entire experience.

    And, yes, I'm also thankful that it's over. Now you don't have to hear about it anymore, and I can go back to blogging about the things I do best: watching bad movies and forgetting important stuff. No posing there!

    Where have all the cowboys gone?


    Posted on : 10:08 PM | By : Jennifer

    Does anyone remember this touching duo circa 1984? We watched this movie with the kids on tv the other night, and I gotta's fantastic. No, really. Funny, touching, relevant (well, except for the whole karate theme...) and very family-friendly. The kids enjoyed it about one-tenth as much as Derrick and I did. It's a valentine to the eighties, and I'm tellin' ya, those were the days. Derrick still has the hots for Elizabeth Shue, and I tried, unsuccessfully, to convince him that I had her exact hairdo in highschool, except mine was twice as big. (I grew up in a small town, okay? Spiral perms were the rage.)

    As so often happens in life, this seemingly unimportant piece of fiction took on a profound meaning in the days to follow. As my three faithful readers know, I've spent the last six months training for the St. George Marathon coming up in October. I've trained hard, stayed injury free (you may recall my unfortunate foot incident from last year) and have gotten incredibly excited about this fateful day which is now less than three weeks away. We've booked plane tickets and hotel rooms and I've had my jitters and the whole nine yards. So, the other night I'm out running, feeling great, and out of nowhere--whoosh!--a sharp, searing pain shoots up my left knee. I try to run on it--nope. I stop and walk for a while then try again. Nope. I walk the rest of the way home, ice it for awhile, it feels better, and I go to bed, not daring to think I may be truly injured.

    Woke up the next day--sore. Ouch. Didn't run, iced it, ibuprofined-up. Have stayed off it for two days. Am not even considering the possibility that it won't heal immediately. But what I am wondering lately is this: Where is my Mr. Miyagi? If you want to know how I feel, what I need, just take a look at this:

    Daniel-san's pleading to be healed, and oh, how he's healed. Mr. Miyagi simply claps his hands together high in the air, rubs them for awhile (remember the cymbals?) and magically heals Daniel-san's poor, victimized knee. Daniel-san then stands up and strides out to become the champion of the All-Valley Karate tournament, besting his enemies, winning his true love, and proving himself to the world.

    I don't ask much. And I've quite a bit in common with Daniel-san: I dress five years behind, am kinda broke, and rely way too much on my mother. So, again, I'm asking the reader and the fates alike: Where is my Mr. Miyagi? What gives? I need his warm guidance, quiet strength, and pearls of wisdom. But mostly, I need that cymbal-crashing, hand-rubbing, far-eastern magic to fix me up real nice for this marathon. I need it bad.

    In the unlikely event that Pat Morita* does not read this and show up on my doorstep, does anyone have any other ideas? I'm a hurtin'.

    *and I just read that Pat Morita has died. which kinda ruins the story. sorry. to Pat's family. and about the story.

    And WHOOP, there it is


    Posted on : 6:13 PM | By : Jennifer

    What could have inspired my husband to make such an outlandish, uncharacteristic "whoop whoop" gesture in the above photo?  Well, last weekend, Derrick and I enjoyed one of the most scenic, exhilirating and exciting weekend getaways of our married life. Where could we have gone, you might ask? What did we do? Well, I'll start by telling you what this exotic vacation did not include:
    • First class airfare (or any airfare)
    • Tropical destination
    • Luxury hotel (or any hotel)
    • Luxury rental car (or any rental car)
    • Showers. As in, we did not shower. At all.
    • Running water.
    • Flushable toilets.
    • Sleeping in late. Or any sleeping. As in, we did not sleep. At all.
    • Attractive (clean) clothing.
    • Attractive (clean) hair and makeup.
    • Fresh Breath
    • Basic Personal Hygiene
    • Time alone together (which was probably a good thing, considering the above three items that were not included in this romantic getaway.)
    Our exciting weekend did include the following:
    • Cramming into two borrowed, oversized vans with eleven other sweaty passengers.
    • Multiple trips to outhouses, cleverly euphemised by the race sponsors as "Honey Pots."
    • Multiple shots of hand sanitizer instead of soap and water after Honey Pot use. These were usually followed with the handling and consumption of finger foods, like power bars, bagels or crackers. (I'm still trying not to think about it.)
    • Driving and getting lost for 24 straight hours (did I mention, with no sleep?) through enough windy roads to require additional visits to the Honey Pots
    • Running three legs of 3-7 miles each: uphill, downhill, in the dark, on the freeway as semis zoomed past, and through scary downtown Portland alone at midnight (where was the security, for the love?)
    • Talking, laughing, crying (one of our valiant runners had an unfortunate encounter with a pothole in the dead of night), yelling, cheering and praying (to finish with some sort of dignity.)
    • The curious, aforementioned "whoop-whoop" gesture, which Derrick is still at a loss to explain. (Please don't judge.)
    • Wondering what lifestyle changes we should make when this really is one of the best weekends we've ever spent together. (Please don't judge.)

    Yes, it was Oregon's very own Hood-to-Coast, also known as the "Mother of all Relays." This race begins at beautiful Mt. Hood and ends on the equally beautiful beach of Seaside, Oregon. 1500 teams of twelve runners each take turns running for a total of 179 miles. Here's a few highlights:
    Despite minimal training and a knee injury, Derrick runs really well and brings our team across the finish line at the beach. (Classic Derrick, procrasting and then pulling it off at the last minute to hoards of cheers and applause. I'm not bitter about my own training for months ahead of time, really.)

    Sporting my wickedhot neon vest just before a midnight run on the freeway. I was terrified, in this order, of a)the long uphill route, b) getting hit by a speeding semi, and c)getting attacked from a psycho in the neighboring woods. I survived all and actually had a fantastic run. (And by the way, I think my upper arm should be alot thinner and more toned for all of the freaking running I've been doing. But that's another post.)

    What Derrick will be wearing next year.

    How can a weekend involving all the glamour listed above and Captain Underpants not be romantic? Forget Hawaii and the Bahamas...we've found our Happy Place.
    And all kidding aside, this race was inspiring in every way. 18,000 runners cheering each other on, beautiful scenery and most of all, a truly great team to do it with. Great job Chi, Paul, Dan, James, Derrick, Jason, Jenny, Meg, Amber, Michelle and Rachel! I've never had so much miserable fun in my life. Let's do it again next year!

    Pulled, Mold 'n Cold


    Posted on : 6:43 PM | By : Jennifer

    My three loyal readers may have noticed that I haven't posted anything for awhile. This is because:
    a) It's summertime; b) we've been gone a lot, which means I have alot to blog, which means I don't want to blog because it's too much work; and c) my Adult ADD (a "friend" diagnosed me) inspired an eight-week long indifference to blogging. The cycle has completed itself, however, and I now hope to make a Travolta-esque comeback.

    I am fully planning to do a long, painfully boring "catch-up" post with pictures of my cute kids and family reunions. In the meantime, however, I felt it only right that I share with you the three real highlights of my summer. These will be listed from the least to the most important, although they're all huge:

    1. My first ever successfully-grown head of lettuce.
    I've planted gardens before (with very little success), and was always told it was too hot to grow lettuce here. What do those Master Gardeners know? My garden is actually kickin' this year, and I'm so excited! I snipped this lettuce for a tasty Sunday salad. Harvesting and eating out of my backyard? Totally blogworthy for me.

    2. My first ever Jell-o Mold

    I reluctantly made this for Megan's baptism/4th of July barbeque. I have always had strong views on Jell-0, like the abolitionists had strong views on slavery. My husband, on the other hand, loves it. For 10 years I've protected my children from this particular bit of Mormon kitsch. Derrick, however, thinks I'm cruelly depriving them of a colorful (read: slimy) piece of Americana. This year, as my daughter's religious rite of passage transpired within the Season of Jell-0, I decided to offer my family their own edible rite of passage with a patriotic, layered ring. I gagged down a small bite (yep, it's still nasty), but the rest of my family inhaled it with gusto. It made a real big dent in our otherwise highbrow culinary habits.

    And don't think just because this is a white trash dessert that it was easy to make. It was a major pain in my white trash backside, what with the multiple layers and all. (And please forgive my messy, white trash fridge. We had tons of company. It's usually spotless, really.)

    3. My first ever Slurpee

    I took my first sip of this icy, chemical concoction a few months ago when treating my kids one hot spring day. Would you believe I'd never, ever bought one before? It was love at first slurp, especially since they have Crystal Light flavors now. No calories, no carbonation, no caffeine...that pretty much qualifies it as a health food, right?

    And here's the real bragging right: Our 7-11, on Clearwater Avenue here in Kennewick, Washington...yes, my humble the SLURPEE CAPITOL OF THE WORLD. You think I'm kidding right now. I am not kidding. They sell more Slurpees than any other 7-11 in America (hence, the world), and consequently have the largest Slurpee flavor selection anywhere. I think it's around twenty-five flavors. (Still not kidding.) They have a banner out front and, more recently, a ten-foot trophy (still not kidding) inside with a massive metal cup on the top. I dare you to go in and ask one of the proud cashiers about their store's status as International Slurpee champions. If you can get out of there in less than twenty minutes, I'll buy you an AppleMango 42-ouncer myself.

    My one complaint? The term slurpee. Couldn't we call it an iced-fruit beverage
    or even a slushed punch? There's gotta be a way for a grown woman to drink up in a more dignified (un-white trash) manner.

    Letting Go


    Posted on : 1:09 PM | By : Jennifer

    These are the kind of weekends I love. A little fun, a little work, a little relaxation. Alot of sun, alot of friends, alot of family. Not alot of errands.

    I have but one minor complaint about this weekend, and it 's about some serious attachment issues concerning the following:

    For the past four years, this shirt has covered my back during housework, late night videos, reading in bed and cooking things with red sauce. It also covered my belly during post-baby bodydom and 'round the clock nursing.  I bought it at Old Navy for approximately five dollars right after I had Ethan. It was loose, cool, comfy, and, as you can see, terribly flattering. It has been my trusted friend and companion these long years of Ethantoddlerhood, and it is not without a lump in my throat that I bid it farewell tonight.

    I discovered several rather large holes in its front panel today, and I wondered: how long had they been there? Weeks, months, years? I wouldn't know; I generally avoided mirors when wearing this shirt. I decided that stumbling upon these holes tonight may have been the Universe telling me that it was, in fact, time to let go. (Vanity certainly wasn't going to do it.) And so with trembling fingers I pack  Good 'Ole Purple into my Goodwill bag and send it soaring into the great beyond. May it grace another mother's menial tasks (read: life) the way it has graced mine.

    A FINE howdy-do.


    Posted on : 6:48 AM | By : Jennifer

    A few years ago, Megan traveled through the age-old rite of passage that is obtaining her very own, very first library card.  She had been begging me for one for months, but the prerequisite for this shiny, steel-gray gem was the child's ability to write her first and last name without help.  Megan was but a wee preschooler at the time, and despite her parent's conviction that she was surely a genius (our child?  could she be anything but?), the little darling could not yet patch "Megan" and "Smith" together without a bit of prodding by mom.  When the blessed day arrived that she could finally do so, she marched up to the desk, signed the form, and emerged triumphant with her first (of what I fear will be many) credit-card-of-sorts.  She felt grownup and proud, and I thought the whole episode was so cute.  Until today.

    Meg had an unusually voracious appetite for books at the 'ole Mid-Columbia Library today, and she wanted to check them out on "her" card.  (Out of convenience, we usually use mine for the whole family.)  I agreed, and she whipped that baby out of her embroidered back pocket with the flair of Poncho Villa.  She slapped it down on the desk, shiny as new, and waited for some service.  A pale blond woman, whose white face disappeared into whiter hair, sat behind the desk.  She scanned the card, then peered down her bifocals at the young patron with a smile/frown.

    "You can't use this today."

    "Why not?"  Meg's eyebrows would have furrowed, had there been
    hair there to furrow.  (Her face is still completely smooth and hairless, with spider veins on her temples, like a newborn's.  I love it.)

    "You have a fine of ten dollars."

    I felt Megan's hand stiffen in mine, and saw her flinch behind a calm face.  Ten dollars!  Ten dollars!  Such a sum of money!

    "Yes.  Ten dollars," said the librarian, as if she could read our silent thoughts.  (I am not kidding with these italics.  She actually repeated the amount emphatically, in a sort of stage whisper.)

    I stood quietly, unsure whether to lecture or reassure my daughter.  Before I could speak, she looked up at me with her toffee-drop eyes and said, "Mom, I think I have enough allowance to pay for that."  I wanted to hug her.  She didn't even consider asking me to pay for it, though I had already begun wondering how I could justify doing so.  Her sweet offer, however, gave me a perfect launch into Teaching Responsibility.

    "Yes, honey, ten dollars is alot of money, and you'll need to pay it.  We'll come back and pay it next time when you can bring your allowance." 

    Her upper lip visibly stiffened as she braced herself to part with such a dear sum of money.  How I wanted to pay it for her, and relieve her suffering!  But I dared not, for then what would become of this child?  She may go through life without an understanding of care, responsibility, even the value of a hard-earned dollar.  No, I must be strict, much as it tore at my pulsing mother-heart.  For the good of my children, I would set an example of careful accountability.  After all, they would someday take after their mother.  Passing on my discipline and frugality was the least I could do.

    I then pulled out my own library card so I could check out the entire family's materials.  I decided to use the self-checkout machine this time (I'd had enough of Pasty-Face Drama Queen behind Customer Service.)  I went to scan my first book, but was promptly halted by a large indicator on the screen:

    PATRON OWES $12.40



    You know...I've decided that the only industry weathering the storm of this horrific economy is the wretched Public Library System, and they do so off the backs of harmless little borrowers like me.  If the Civil Engineering industry was clearing half the profit that Public Libraries were, I'd be buying all my books in brand-new hardcover, folding the corners and staining the pages all I liked, and then shipping them to you, my less fortunate friends, in a gracious and condescending gesture.  And I wouldn't give that shabby MCL the view of my upturned nose.  (Oh, the twisted fantasies I keep.)



    Posted on : 9:36 PM | By : Jennifer

    Yes, I realize that I am too old, too motherly, and too Mormon to title my blog with such a coarse expression, but please read on before you judge.  As with everything else I do wrong, it's really not my fault.

    Yesterday I was dressing Ethan in my favorite shirt of his, which, of course, means he hates it.  Yet I insist on him wearing it at least twice a month so that I feel better about having bought it.  I got both arms in his sleeves when he looked down and noticed what I was putting on him. 

    "I don't like this shirt!  I don't wanna wear this shirt!"  The standard howls and shrieks ensued.  

    "But why not?  You look so handsome in it."  My voice automatically kicked into soothing mother gear, calm and gentle enough to annoy even myself. 

    "I don't wanna be handsome!"

    "Come on, honey..."

    "No!  I don't wanna be handsome!  I wanna be AWESOME!!"

    Good grief.

    "I WANT MY SPIDERMAN SHIRT!!" (I know all caps is annoying, but Ethan's entire personality is all caps, and there's just no way around it.)

    From this statement, I can only assume he was requesting the ketchup-red atrocity that has been lurking in a quiet drawer where I attempt to hide a regrettable pile of hand-me downs (thank you, Julie) that I keep around only for painting and playing in the mud.  This shirt has an enormous blue, crackly, off-centered iron-on of Spidey that hits Ethan about three inches above his belly button, because the shirt itself is short enough on him to qualify as a crop top (there's a term I haven't used since '89.)  Furthermore, I have never been able to successfully determine whether this sad and wilted occurrence is an actual shirt or, in fact, a pajama top.  It fails either way.

    Which brings me to the story of another young man who obstinately refused the title of Handsome when it was generously offered him.  When Derrick and I were engaged, several people in our glittering social circle came out of the woodwork and started telling me how "handsome" my fiancée was.  Not "cute" or "attractive" or "good-looking," but always, "handsome."  I started hearing things like, "Got yourself a handsome fellow there," or "That fiancée of yours is a handsome man, very handsome."  I would have accepted these compliments with the pleasure of a young girl in love were it not for one curious fact: they all came from gray-haired men in their mid-sixties.  My bishop, some old family friends, and my creepy Uncle Louis.  Never heard a peep about my husband's studliness from a single woman, only men. Still not sure what that was all about.  But I digress.

    Upon relating this well-deserved praise to my espoused, his reaction was less flattered than I would have expected. (I mean, give me a second-hand compliment about my looks and I'm yours for life.)  He simply frowned and said, "Handsome sucks."


    "Handsome sucks."

    "What do you mean, handsome sucks?  Everybody wants to be handsome.  Clark Gable's handsome.  Brad Pitt's handsome.  Tom Cruise is handsome."

    "No, those guys aren't handsome.  Handsome sucks."

    " Well, what do you want to be?"


    Good grief.  Did they make spiderman crop tops in mens' sizes back in '95?  Derrick could have used one, although the over-sixty set may have found it a bit puzzling on their new young darling.  As the years have gone by, however, we've both decided that Derrick's geriatric fan base was, in fact, alot younger, cooler, and more observant than we once gave them credit for.  In fact, if anyone knows who's handsome and who's not, it's retired grandpas.  Just ask my handsome husband. 



    Posted on : 10:11 PM | By : Jennifer

    His problems are over. The Logitech Harmony 620 is here.
    Derrick P. Smith will be mocked by multiple remotes no more.

    Happy Easter


    Posted on : 9:21 AM | By : Jennifer

    Easter Weekend Lovelies:
    • Introducing Ethan to Thai food on Friday night while Grandma whisked the girls off to Hannah Montana:  The Movie (and yes, I did want to see that flick myself)
    • Watching my girls imitate Miley's dance moves--quite impressively, I might add--all weekend long
    • Running a 5k with my husband on Saturday morning
    • Beating my husband in 5k on Saturday morning
    • Not letting my husband forget it since Saturday morning
    • Coloring eggs with the kids; making treats with the kids; eating too much candy with the kids
    • Watching kids perform creative skits about the New Testament on Saturday night; Ethan playing a mean "Martha" who is too busy making "My Tomato Sauce!" (as he called it) to sit down and listen next to Megan's angelic portrayal of "Mary"
    • Beautiful music in church on Sunday morning
    • First Sunday back in Primary as new 2nd counselor; loving being back in there with my own little lovelies
    • Hedonistic Easter feast after church, during which we reversed any benefits gained during 5k run
    • My parents coming over to celebrate Easter and their 41st wedding anniversary.  Dad giving Mom floor tickets to Billy Joel/Elton John in Seattle.  Them acting as giddy as newlyweds.  Me loving living by my parents. 
    Easter Weekend Not-So-Lovelies:
    • My niece announcing that she was "suspicious" of the Easter Bunny on the car ride over to our house
    • She and the rest of the kids sneaking back to our room to google up and learning that the likeliest candidate for the E.B. was, in fact, their parents
    • Us adults enjoying ripe strawberries and lemon chiffon cake out front, blissfully unaware that our childrens' innocence was being shattered just two rooms away
    Guess you can't win them all.
    But it was still a great weekend.

    How was yours?

    Good Friends + Bad Movie = Great Times


    Posted on : 10:56 AM | By : Jennifer

    The only thing more fun than watching a good movie with your friends is watching a bad one. So it happened this blustery March weekend when our good friends, the Shorts, came for a visit. Before I launch into my critical tirade, I must convey the level of fun we always have with the Short family. They are fun, funny, intelligent, witty, easygoing, gracious, generous...and that only sums up their personalities. Of course they are gorgeous and glamorous as well (they're friends of ours, for Pete's sake.)

    Somehow we couldn't manage to get a picture of the four
    of us together. But at least I'm posting these. Baby steps.

    We wanted to break down some of the misconceptions our West coast friends may have had about Kennewick being a small, crusty town, so we decided to show them some of the classier hot spots: the bowling alley, the Rollerena and, of course, Costco.

    boring use of handlebars

    fun use of handlebars

    ethan thinks he's hit the jackpot with a computer screen from 1985

    how cute is this family?

    Believe it or not, we had a blast at all three places, and Rachel scored a cute pair of jeans at Costco, which she claimed was the first article of clothing she'd ever purchased there. (Was she kidding? My closet is full of Costco and Target staples. Am I the only woman who buys her clothes at the same stores she can get produce and toilet paper? I thought this was normal.) But I digress.
    Nothing so flattering as the floodlights at Celebrity Bowl.
    After appeasing our children with the aforementioned activities, we did manage a little adult fun. We hired two sitters, hooked them up with pizza, and then made our way to Anthony's for dinner (on the river; pretty; yum). Jason wowed us all by entering the famed "Oyster Slurp" contest which was being held in the foyer of the restaurant. Yes, four grown men stood around a table that was graced with large platters of raw oysters, and at the signal, slurped them up as fast as they could. We were expecting great things from Jason, who was the only true northwesterner at the table, in addition to being at least 25 years younger than all of the other contenders.

    Talk about a smug grin.
    (He thought he was pretty hot stuff with those oysters.)

    Alas, it was not to be: our poor Jason came in dead last, finishing only half his platter of oysters as the victor slurped his own up at an unbelievable rate. Oh, the agony of defeat.
    Remember, Jason, that you are a successful attorney and champion golfer.
    We all have our talents.

    After a scrumptious dinner at Anthony's, we were perfectly positioned for a bit of candy and a great movie. Unfortunately, there was nothing great playing, so we settled on Taken, a Liam Neeson action movie (yes, we ladies were being generous.) This movie was well done and fast paced, BUT....because of the subject matter, I do not recommend it for mothers, fathers, women, or men with any kind of regard for the sanctity of life or the dignity of the human soul. In other words, Derrick and Jason loved it.

    After the flick, it was only 9 pm and we had a couple more hours before we needed to get home. The usual Kennewick nightlife--i.e., concerts, gallery openings, jazz clubs--seemed hard to find on this particular Friday night. So what to do? See another movie, of course! And due to some lofty (but highly classified) theater connections, we were able to get into the next one free. So we decided that This One's For the Girls (a big shout out to Martina), and dragged our hubbys to He's Just Not That Into You, hoping for a fun, feel good show that would end the evening on a high note. But as with Jason's ill-fated slurpoff, it was not meant to be.

    This movie was not original, funny, or clever. It was: unoriginal, boring, crass, and forgettable. Think of every irritating cliche you've ever seen in a romantic comedy, times it by two hours, and you've got He's Just Not That Into You. I'm surprised the critics were as easy on it as they were.

    Besides the predictably lazy morals, the worst thing about this movie is its illustration of men and women. Men are made out to be self-centered, immature jerks who seemingly can't stand women, don't want to marry women, don't want to be married to women, and don't want to be bothered with women, period.(Maybe that's why half of the characters are gay.) The women fare no better. They are silly, whiny, and naive, with the emotional maturity of fourteen-year old girls. The women who are older and more mature are played as uptight, boring, and lifeless. These female characters put up with or follow around men who, apparently, just don't like them much at all. I sat there wondering, "Do men really hate women this much?" I was surprised that so many "empowered" female actresses would consent to play roles that made women look so victimized, so ignorant, and so stupid.

    (I used a whole lot of adjectives in that last paragraph. Fifteen, to be exact.)

    And there you have it. Alot of smart, funny people I know liked this movie, so I may make some enemies from this post, but I dare not consent by my silence.

    Having said all that, I can now admit that I'm glad we saw this movie because it spawned a fun game on the car ride home. We will call it something original, like: What's the Worst Movie You've Ever Seen?

    Derrick: He's Just Not That Into You
    Jen: The Object of My Affection
    Rachel: Circle of Friends
    Jason: The Ultimate Gift

    So now what I want to know is: What's the worst movie you've ever seen? I can hardly wait to find out. Whatever your answer may be, I hope you at least got to enjoy it with some good friends and Original Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (not their ugly stepchild, Reese's Pieces. Really, Jason, what were you thinking??)

    Remote (out of) Control


    Posted on : 9:14 PM | By : Jennifer

    Question:  How angry does your husband get when you finally get the kids to bed and he's anxious to catch up on last season's 24 DVDs and he can't find the remote control anywhere--anywhere--in the house?  (Without said remote, he cannot watch DVD at all.)  On a sliding scale, would you say he's:

    a)  A little disgruntled
    b)  Put out
    c)  Seriously put out
    d)  Fully irritated
    e)  Raging

    If you answered "a" through "d," you have my condolences.  If you answered "e", please call me.  I need someone to talk to.

    If Life Were Hard, It Wouldn't Be This Easy


    Posted on : 11:18 PM | By : Jennifer

    Anyone read this Sheri Dew book? Can't say that I have, but I'd love a copy if you want to send it to me. It crossed my mind this afternoon, because I was thinking about how not-hard--I'd even venture to say blessed--my life really is:

    • Last Sunday was a really great day at church and home. Don't you just love these (somewhat rare) Sundays? I taught Relief Society and am still kind of on that high you get when a lesson is out of your hair. Had a good dinner, had the missionaries in our home with a wonderful investigator, had our first official "Family Council." (hint: do not start by telling your three children, who have been harassing you for a puppy for the last two years, that this is a time they can "bring up anything that's on their mind." Trust me.)

    • I spent this Tuesday morning getting my hair done and perusing the sale racks of Fred Meyer while my good friend Stacey watched Ethan. (It's the Kennewick version of a day at the spa followed by Nordstrom, but I Take What I Can Get.)

    • Ethan asked me to give him a mohawk this morning. Dad usually puts the kibosh on this, deeming it "goofy." I, on the other hand, agree with Adam Sandler: "Goofy is the new Handsome." And Derrick was at work this morning, so while the cat's away...

    When I was finished, Ethan looked at himself in the mirror and said "Mom, is this a flowhawk?" I had no answer. I'm finding that I really don't know what a flowhawk is. But I think it may go something like this...

    Uncanny. And don't think Ethan wouldn't be all over the cigs if they were available.

    • Last night, we had some good friends over for pizza and Pseudo-FHE. When you just can't face cooking dinner or planning home evening for your family on a Monday night, Pseudo-FHE is a very manageable, guilt-free way to go. Simply find some of your favorite people in the ward and invite them over for pizza. You've now taught your children an invaluable lesson on fellowshipping. Gorge on pizza (take out; don't you dare do homemade!), then stick Enchanted in for your kids while you and your friends talk and play games, uninterrupted for a solid ninety minutes. If your friends bring cookie dough for dessert, like ours did, even better. You see how it all works out? Everyone eats (family dinner, per church counsel), everyone is in the same room together (family [at] home, per church counsel), it's at night (evening...per church counsel?) and alot more fun than listening to one of Mom's crafty, charty, laminated lessons. Follow my rationale on this and like I said...easy, peezy, lemon-(guilt free)-squeezy.

    • Yesterday I was on the phone with my sister. She was putting dishes away while talking to me. She digressed from her story just long enough to mention that there were small curds on her cake pan that she thought might be mice poop. Hopefully not, though. Mice poop. She was calm, almost disinterested, and got back to telling me her story. How does this little anecdote pertain to posting on my blessed life? A few years ago, mice poop would have caused my sister to call an exterminator, a realtor, and a lawyer. I think many of my irresponsible escapades horrified her orderly sensibilities, although she always reacted discreetly. My neatfreak, on-the-ball, Type A sister (and I mean that in a loving way, Jaim) is, after three kids, finally crossing over to the dark side, where mice poop--and any poop, for that matter--is of minimal concern. Welcome to my world, little sis. You may forget your keys, your kids, and where you are, but I guarantee you'll like it here.

    • I am worried that my stylist colored my hair too dark this time. I asked for lowlights, but they look like lowdarks to me. My scrupulously attentive seven-year old noticed my new 'do right away and said "Your hair looks different." I expressed my concern about the dark color, and she immediately reassured me.

    "Actually Mom, it looks better this way. Before, I mean it was kind of blonde and there were dark stripes in it and, well, you just looked kind of really blond and brown and, you know..." She smiled nervously.
    "Bleached-out and scraggly?"
    "Yeah," she gushed, relieved that I'd said the words for her. Of course, knowing how horrible my hair looked before makes me all the more confident in the way it looks now. Derrick then came home and, surprisingly, noticed my darker tone, too. He said, "Your hair looks really nice. It's very thinning."
    "What do you mean, like my hair's getting thinner?"
    "No, it makes you look thinner."
    "I don't know, it just makes your face look thinner or something, somehow...I don't know..." His voice wisely trailed off at this point as he edged away from the kitchen counter where I stood in front of a large block of knives.

    Such are my family's versions of compliments. Apparently, I went from a bleached-out, fat-faced blonde to a silky, svelte brunette in the space of two hours. As I stated earlier, however, I'll Take What I Can Get. Hence, their devoted praise makes the post. Last fun thing in my not-so-hard life?

    • My parents brought us back chocolate covered Macadamia nuts from Hawaii. They are my favorite. Guess I'd better schedule another cut and color soon.

    Perfect 10


    Posted on : 9:17 PM | By : Jennifer

    Rachael turned ten yesterday. Ten. We had her party on Monday since there was no school. The girls had a great time gliding around the local ice rink, stopping only for the briefest nod to cake and presents. I stood and watched, freezing and dwelling on the surreal nature of it all. (Sorry about the dark photo--it was taken in terrible lighting through a pane of glass.)

    How could this be the tenth birthday party I've thrown for my little daughter? I remember her first birthday party in our tiny apartment in Lake Oswego. It really doesn't seem like that long ago. And in another ten years, it's possible (though not probable, I hope) that she could be married! If you know me, you know I was flirting with depression by now, thinking such thoughts, until something wonderful happened. Ethan threw a major fit.

    A full-blown, MacDaddy humdinger. I scolded, I threatened, I gripped, I swatted, I yelled. And right then, the epiphany hit me harder than my son hits his sisters: Older Kids Are Easier. They're more interesting to talk to, require less physically, and show you some results for your many years of parenting. In sum, with older children, you get more bang for your buck.

    Don't get me wrong. I am in no hurry for Ethan to age; in fact, I've spent many moons wishing I could slow down time and enjoy my wee ones a bit longer. But then, on days like today, I wonder: what if my wish came true, and they stayed three forever? Oh, I'm so thankful I don't have magic powers. (Yet. I'm not giving up.) I suppose that children growing up too fast beats the alternative: permanent toddlers.

    This may sound like a sour attitude toward toddlers, but what I mean to convey is an optimistic outlook about the inevitability of change, especially within our families. I'm still sad that my kids are growing up, and probably always will be. When they're thirty, I'll mourn that they are no longer twenty. But there's not a single thing I can do about it, so I'd better learn to just enjoy.

    And having said all this, I will also say that I am thrilled with the way my not-so-little Rachael has turned out so far. A perfect ten, if you ask me. I am not kidding or just blogbragging (blagging? brogging?). She's pretty fantastic.

    As was the cake Aunt Julie whipped up for her. Hooray for talented sisters!

    Your ticket to a fantabulous 2009


    Posted on : 4:36 PM | By : Jennifer

    Forget inspirational gobbledy-gook about improving yourself this year.  We really don't need motivational books or speakers because it's been my observation that, without exception, bumper stickers act as a calming voice of reason for life's toughest questions.

    Seriously, have you ever read a bumper sticker that didn't convey wisdom, beseech repentance, or simply ooze with sophistication?  I can see why automobile owners are eager to show off their quick wit and political savvy in this upscale manner.  Any car, no matter how expensive, looks classier with a big, bright bumper sticker tacked on the rear.  The larger the letters, the better.  Swear words are especially engaging.  After my (second) trip to Costco today, I nearly rear-ended a sticker that said it all:

    Get out of Hell Free
    (John 3:16)

    Who needs religion when you've got Oprah, Mitch Albom, and bumper stickers?  And to think I've invested so much of my time...