Friday, December 28, 2012

The Christmas Letter



For those who missed the print version:

Based on your longstanding friendship with the David Overly Family, you have been selected to receive a ballot for the 2012 Overly Awards.  (You’re welcome!)  Upon completion, ballots should be returned to us at (home address)*

Best thing about living in Utah (select one):
   For the first time in five years, we didn’t have to pack up and move (hallelujah!)
   We don’t have to deal with airport security to visit family and no one in our minivan cares if the kids are crying
   We can watch LDS General Conference in our pajamas

Best lesson in patience (select one):
   David, for trudging through two more busy seasons at Big Prestigious Company
   Bonnie, for cleaning up after innumerable twin-related disasters
   Bonnie, for teaching Michael how to tie his shoes

Biggest accomplishment of the year (select one):
   Bonnie, for successfully potty-training the twins
   Bonnie, for successfully potty-training the twins
   Bonnie, for successfully potty-training the twins (What, you think someone else should win this one??)

Funniest thing to come out of 6-year-old Michael’s mouth (select one):
   “Mom, I finished cleaning my room!  Don’t look under my bed, okay?”
   Trying to decide between marrying his friend, Samara, or his friend, Clara:  “Mom, can I marry two girls?”
    To dinner guests:  "My dad's been caught by the police three times!"

Best thing about Michael learning to speak French in the language immersion program at school:
   If we are ever stuck in France, Michael will be able to ask where the bathroom is
   We have an excuse to eat more pastries
   We can now sound more intellectual by legitimately using phrases like “joie de vivre” and “soupe du jour”

Most creative disaster concocted by our almost 3-year-old twins, Matthew and Leah (select one):
□  The one where Matthew opened the garage freezer, turned the temperature to “off” and then shut the door, resulting in over $100 of ruined food and Mom spending an hour scraping rotted chicken guts and soggy roll dough off of every shelf
□ The one where Leah and Matthew performed what can only be described as a “spice dance” in the kitchen, using entire jars of cumin, ginger, and red pepper flakes,  and, as a bonus, a bottle of blue food coloring
  The one where Leah and Matthew were caught naked on the bathroom counter, up to their knees in a sink overflowing with soapy water, rubbing a stick of butter all over each other and the mirror

Most difficult disaster to clean (select one):
□  Butter smeared all over the inside of the toaster
White-out painted (and dried) all over the kitchen bar stools
Vaseline smeared on the carpet

Cleaning product which has done the most to ensure the twins’ continued survival (select one):
□ Mr. Clean Magic Erasers
□ Clorox Wipes
□ Little Green Carpet Cleaner

Best Way to Keep In Touch With Us (select all) :
□  Send us an email at (email address)
□ Check our blog: www.overlys.blogspot.com
□ Call us at one of our phone numbers:
     Home:   xxx-xxx-xxxx
     David Cell:  xxx-xxx-xxxx
     Bonnie Cell:  xxx-xxx-xxxx

We Want to Wish You (select all):
□ A Merry Christmas
□ A joyful New Year
     Scales that have been set back ten pounds

*Don’t worry, you don’t actually have to return the ballot (unless you want to, of course - in which case, drop it off in person and stay for a visit!)   

Love, The Overlys

David, Bonnie, Michael, Matthew and Leah

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

God is Not Dead

On Tuesday, July 9, 1861, with the nation in a midst of civil war, a fire in the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow claimed the life of his beloved wife, Fanny.  Henry had tried to save her from the raging flames and sustained serious burns.  Fanny was buried three days later, on their 18th wedding anniversary, while Henry was confined to bed, fighting to live.  

Listen to the story, as told by Edward Herrmann and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Its message is more important and relevant than ever:


"...For Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as one war rages without, another rages within.  For the next two years, Christmases come and go.  Henry writes, 'How inexpressibly sad are all the holidays.  "A merry Christmas!" say the children, but that is no more for me.  Perhaps some day God will give me peace.'

"And then Henry learns that his eldest son, Charles, who ran away to join the army, has been critically wounded in battle. Henry rushes to Washington to bring his son home, and after days of searching, he finds him barely alive.  With the outbreak of war, Fanny's terrible death, and now two years later his son desperately clinging to life, we should not be surprised that on Christmas Day 1863, Henry reaches for his pen and writes, "It was as if an earthquake rent the hearthstones of a continent.  And in despair I bowed my head.  'There is no peace on earth,' I said.  For hate is strong and mocks the song of 'peace on earth, good will to men.'  

"Reading his words today we ask, when conflict rages, and pain, grief and loneliness overwhelm us, where is the music of hope and peace?  For Henry, the answer to that question has everything to do with Christmas.  After Fanny's death, he had written, 'So strong is the sense of her presence upon me, that I should hardly be surprised to look up now and see her in the room.  Death is a beginning, not an end.'  

"On that Christmas morning, it is clear to Henry that war, injury, and even death are not the end.  The rising sun turns the icy river to silver, and the windows of the Longfellow home to gold.  Henry's children bundled in winter wool are whisked past snowy fields through wooded hills and valleys along the road to home.  They look up, blinking and giggling in the falling snow, and they hear the sounds that make Christmas Christmas.  They hear the bells!  From his desk, Henry hears them too.  Renewed, he plunges his pen into fresh ink, joyfully drawing it across a sheet of snow white paper: 

"I heard the bells on Christmas day, 
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat, 
of peace on earth, good will to men."

"In those bells the message is clear: on Christmas day a child was born in a stable.  Of that child Henry writes, 'Tho in a manger thou draw breath, thou art greater than life and death.'  And so He is!

"Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, 
God is not dead nor doth he sleep.  
The wrong shall fail the right prevail
With peace on earth good will to men."  

"As the bells ring on Henry dips his pen again and again.  Because Christmas lives on, Fanny lives on, Charles lives on, a nation lives on.  And we, each one of us, may live on as well, in hope and peace forever."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First World Problems: Thanksgiving Edition

Every year, without fail, there it is in the news: whiny American workers who feel that being required to put in hours on Thanksgiving Day is a cruel and unusual punishment akin to slavery.

Since I wrote about the issue last year, I won't rehash the argument. I'm simply going to say this:

WORKING ON THANKSGIVING IS NOT A HARDSHIP.

Thank you.

And to those who were "disgusted" with the retailers who opened their doors on Thanksgiving, let me give you a hint as to how business works:  If no one comes to buy anything on Thanksgiving, stores won't be open on Thanksgiving.  But, as it is, businesses like Wal-Mart and Target make a ton of money by opening for business on holidays.  The fact that they choose to take advantage of this doesn't make them evil, it makes them smart.

Another thing that doesn't make companies evil?  Paying low wages for unskilled work. (I can't count how many articles I've seen in the last few weeks lamenting the fact that "Not only does Ima Cashier have to work on Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart only pays her $8 an hour!!!!")  One should not expect to be paid a "living wage" for doing a job that requires no skills beyond basic literacy and breathing.  If you want to earn more, you must make yourself worth more by gaining the necessary skills, schooling, and experience to move up the ladder or into a different job.  Companies can't just hand out $20 an hour to whoever needs to pay their bills without taking into account the job being performed or the value of the work.  If they did this, the company would implode, and then no one would have a job.

No one working at Wal-Mart is chained to the cash register.  If you don't like how the company treats you or what the company pays you, it is your responsibility to do something to improve your situation; i.e., gain the necessary skills or schooling to earn more money, or get a different job.  And for anyone who thinks that refusing to show up for work is "doing something", you should be fired.

Are companies always squeaky clean in their treatment of employees?  No.  But, again, if you don't like your current situation, it is your responsibility to change it.  That means you might have to find a different job.  You might have to move or go back to school or work more hours, and you might have to turn off the cable TV and the cell phone service for awhile.  A company's responsibility is not to sit around figuring out how to ensure your happiness -- that's your job -- nor to pay you more than you are worth simply because times are tough.  Yes, it's nice if companies can show a little compassion for their employees, but compassion is not doling out salaries or benefits without regard to the value of the job being done; compassion is helping employees increase their value by making sure they have a job to do.

And sometimes, that means clocking in on Thanksgiving.

So let's quit whining and get to work.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Le Blog Post

Last Sunday we had dinner guests.  Sensing the need to adhere to the laws of childhood which demand that family secrets be revealed to the general public, Michael seized the moment of passing the garlic bread to announce, cheerfully:  "My dad's been caught by the police three times!"

Luckily, the "Kids say the darndest things" banter was enough to distract from an in-depth discussion of David's no-longer-secret meth habit.

Kidding, kidding!  It was actually marijuana.

But seriously, a few speeding tickets sound a lot more felonious when your five-year-old is telling stories that conjure up images of a police chase and attack dogs.

Or, in Michael-the-French-student's case, chiens d'attaque.  At least that's what Google tells me, and I took an oath to love, honor and obey Google until it gives me bad driving directions.  Besides, an apostrophe in the middle of a word looks way more French than what I would tell Michael, which would probably be something like "le dogs" or "le woofs" or "le *incoherent phlegm noise*."

As part of his language immersion program, we are required to read to him for at least 20 minutes in English every night.  For those of you who think this sounds like a simple task, let me introduce you to the seventh circle of hell bedtime at our house.  This is an activity where we get everyone in their pajamas, squirt toothpaste all over the counter, make sure someone pees on the floor, and then start fights over who gets to sit on Mom's lap to read Hop on Pop for the fifty-seventh time.

Even a foray into the infamous Curious George Learns the Alphabet by Reading Webster's Complete Dictionary last week felt like a welcome break from Dr. Seuss and his hop on popping.  But that was mostly because I got a laugh out of the fact that George learned "G is for goldfish.  The goldfish looks gay."

Really...?  How can you tell?  Was the goldfish wearing a pink shirt and skinny jeans? (Even taking it at face value, how exactly does a goldfish look "happy"?  It seems to me that a goldfish who won the lottery and a goldfish who recently lost his mother would look equally enthralled with the world, which is to say, not at all).

But Michael loves alphabet books so we read them.  And animals, so we read about them.  Last week he even asked me to add a few creatures to our family gratitude list:  "I'm thankful for the birds and the bees, Mom!" he said.

Hmmm...

Just what are they teaching him in those French classes?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Shepherd's Pie: A History


Last night, figuring I should utilize the Sunday-roast-and-potatoes leftovers, I made shepherd's pie for dinner.  Curious about the origin of the dish, I turned to the internet -- Why is it called shepherd's pie?  Are there shepherds in it? -- Well, I learned that the term "shepherd's pie" first appeared in 1877 after a woman named Mary Shepherd (nee Lamb) got tired of her children complaining about what was for dinner, told the little darlings to "shove off" and dumped all the leftovers in the fridge into one casserole dish.  Then she stood over the table with a pitchfork until the ungrateful brats had finished every bite.

Okay, okay, I might have tweaked the history a bit.  But that's because I've had my own run-in with shepherd's pie.  You see, once upon a time when I was a wee lass, my mom served shepherd's pie for dinner.  Being the obedient, grateful child that I was, when she scooped it onto my plate, I said, "Why thank you, Mother, this looks delicious!" and I ate the whole thing.  Then I offered to do the dishes.

Hahaha!  Whew!  I couldn't even keep a straight face while writing that.

What I actually did was whine and complain and moan about having to eat it.  I whined and complained and moaned so much that my mother finally turned, scooped up a forkful of potatoes and gravy, and smeared it in my hair.

This escalated my whining to utter hysteria.  "Mom!!  N-n-n-nnnow my hair is messy!!"

She did the only reasonable thing:  She dumped an entire pitcher of water over my head.

I tell you this story not to embarrass her, but just to say, Mom, I now know EXACTLY how you felt.

And shepherd's pie?  I kind of like it.

Go figure.

Monday, October 29, 2012

What Happens In Vegas

Last week David and I left the kids with Grandma and escaped to Las Vegas for three days.  We haven't been there since our honeymoon, except to the casino/shopping mall where planes occasionally land.  ("It's a mall!  It's a casino!  Oh, it's actually an airport...")

When we checked into our hotel the woman at the front desk asked us if it was our honeymoon.  Goodness, we giggled to ourselves.  We've been married for 11 years.  Do we look like honeymooners? 

"Anniversary?" she guessed again. 

"No," we said.

"What's the occasion, then?"

"To get away from the kids!" we said a little too loudly and in perfect unison.

Our goals for the trip were pretty much three-fold:  1) No puking (which you'd think wouldn't be hard, especially when you take into consideration our combined 65 years of total alcohol abstinence.  But you know what happened the the last time we had a getaway).  2) Stay out late.  3) Sleep in. 

We were successful at all three.  We were also mostly successful at avoiding all the pictures of naked women scattered around the Strip.  The only naked (well, half-naked) woman I really couldn't avoid was a forty-something spray tan addict whose obvious implants were perched so precariously in her shirt that it rendered her bra a mere balance beam.  I would say worrying that her boobs were going to try for a five point dismount was the most disturbing experience of my life, but that distinction still belongs to the two minutes I spent watching "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," after which I needed electroshock therapy to recover.

Of course, I will also need electroshock therapy to recover from seeing an elderly woman wandering through a casino in a skin-tight leather mini skirt and cleavage-baring top.  My eyes!!

But, we managed to have fun in spite of the constant parade of fashion horrors.  And besides, it made us appreciate anyone who left a few tidbits to the imagination.  I almost stopped some random Muslim lady and said, "I LOVE your outfit!" but I didn't want her to think I was weird.

We went to a Cirque du Soleil performance (where David and I didn't send off enough "Don't involve us" vibes to prevent a clown from spending a few minutes balancing buckets of popcorn on David's head), attended a magic show (where we managed to slump down in our seats enough not to be called on), and were nearly thwarted in our attempt to view the dancing fountains at the Bellagio when police blocked off the access roads and pedestrian bridges to allow President Obama's motorcade to come through.  The president may have thought he had legions of adoring fans.  Actually, 75% of the people were just waiting to cross the street.  The other 25% were hoping to see Angelina Jolie.

Overall it was a lovely trip.  We laughed.  We held hands over quiet dinners.  We stayed in bed just because we could.  And we ate way too many treats.  On the way back to Grandma's, David tried to convince me to spring for one last chocolate-covered indulgence by saying, "It won't ruin our appetites if we s*** it."  As my eyebrows shot up he exclaimed "SPLIT!  I meant split!  I was going to say share and then changed my mind to split!"

We laughed our heads off.  And I can't really hold it against him.  After all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? 

Or at least on I-15.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tales from the Diet

I've been on a diet for three weeks.  It feels like three years.  And it's making me a little cranky.  Case in point:  This morning I told Michael to quit being a jerk to his sister (he was pinching her for the hundredth time this week), to which he responded "Don't call me a jerk, Mom."

Did I say, "I'm sorry" or "You're right, that's not a nice word to use."?  No, I actually replied, "Don't act like one."  For reals.

Then I had to excuse myself to my room for acting five.

By the time the post-lunch letdown had reached its peak (it is just so sad to be allotted one egg and a single piece of toast for "lunch"), I couldn't take it anymore.  I ate an Almond Snickers and I drank milk straight from the jug.  The heavens opened, angels started singing, and my crankiness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress.

Oops, no, that was Beauty and the Beast

But seriously, I actually felt sort of human again.  And not as bitter about the fact that David gets to eat 6,000 more calories a day than I do.  (Stupid female DNA).  Granted, tonight at 9:00 when I don't have any treat calories left I'm going to dissolve into a pile of sugarless self-loathing, but for now, man that candy bar was good.

And it almost made me stop caring that, in a fit of dieting delusion, I bought a dress at Costco yesterday thinking how good it would look when I manage to lose a few more pounds.  The dress is now staring at me from atop my dresser and making snarky comments about my hips.  To which I say, "Bite me."

Mmmm.... bite.

Is it time to eat yet?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Swiffer's Ad Nauseum

Swiffer wants to know: "Is that a mirage, or a man doing housework?"


Saints be praised, it is a man doing housework!  Who knew it was possible for a MAN to HELP around the house?  Oh, where are my smelling salts??

Ugh.

If you know me, you know I hate men-bashing commercials.  And men-bashing tv shows (which, unfortunately, is just about all of them).  And that stupid Carrie Underwood song where she sings about vandalizing her boyfriend's car after he cheats on her.  (Imagine a man singing a song about slashing the tires and bashing in the headlights on his cheating girlfriend's car.  Yep, domestic violence gives you such warm fuzzies, doesn't it?)  Not to mention companies that portray men as such brainless, helpless idiots that they would ingest dog treats when famished (Pepto Bismol, I'm talking to you).

I like Swiffer products, I really do.  But I can't stand the implication that a man doing housework is such a rare event that it would be considered newsworthy.  I realize my husband is a bit cleaner than the average Joe...  All right, all right, I think he would follow the average Joe around with a bottle of Lysol (he actually says things on regular basis like, "The baseboards really need to be cleaned" -- which is good because it means he notices such things.  It is also bad because it means he notices such things).  But, there is not a single husband among the hundreds I've met who has not been willing to help with the upkeep of his own house.  Not one.  So why do we treat it like such an anomaly?

Even in the case of husbands who don't voluntarily leap to use the toilet brush on a regular basis, why can we not stretch our self-focused little minds to consider that going to work every day actually is helping around the house? (You know, by earning the money that keeps the lights on and food on the table?)  Yes, I think we can all agree that men should roll up their sleeves and give their wives a hand at home.  But their wives should ditch the petty score-keeping and appreciate the contributions their husbands are making to the home.

Couples who are true equals recognize that they are a team working toward the common goal of raising a family.  Therefore, it doesn't matter who changes the most diapers or who does the most dishes any more than it matters who earns the most money or turns in the most quarterly reports.  What matters is that both partners are willing to do what is necessary to take care of the family.

Sometimes that means dusting and sometimes it doesn't.  But it always means treating your spouse with respect.

For the record, Swiffer, that's R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Let's stop and have some.

One For the Ages

He's nothing if not dexterous...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's About Time

For my birthday this year I told David I didn't want any gifts, I wanted TIME.  Time with him, time as a family, and time to myself so I can actually shop for a pair of shoes without anyone knocking over displays or screaming at me that they need to go potty.  He has delivered in style.  Last Wednesday he took me to The Piano Guys concert, which was being filmed for PBS.  We landed on the front row.  I was wearing a blend-into-the-background hot pink jacket.  Um, hello, national audience.

Thursday night he took all of us to the circus.  I've never been to the circus before and I was really excited, but not as excited as Leah, who answered every question we asked her throughout the day with, "I see elephants!!!"

We were all impressed with the performing animals, much to PETA's chagrin (they were protesting outside the venue) even though we thought the tigers were going to eat the lion tamer.  They had him backed into a corner and were swiping at him with their giant paws when he said, "Don't worry folks, it's all part of the show!" and I was like, getting eaten alive by angry tigers is part of the show...?

Michael's favorite part was the blindfolded man who jumped through a spinning ring of flaming swords.  Oddly, this was not the act that caused the ringmaster to say, "Don't try this at home!"  He saved that for when the martial arts guys were bending steel poles around their necks.  If you think about it, that makes total sense.  I mean, obviously, steel poles are so much easier to come by at home than, say, matches.

Saturday night David took me to dinner and Sunday we had the extra bonus of attending church by ourselves since we were participating in the dedication of the new Brigham City temple, which wasn't open to the under-eight set.  I must say, it's a lot easier to pay attention when no one is fighting over your lap or your necklace or the box of crayons.

David also reserved tickets next month for a community production of "The Scarlet Pimpernel".  He apologized because it isn't "Broadway" (which I suppose is a necessary formality after you've spent a year escorting your wife to the Great White Way) but what he doesn't know is that I would actually sit and watch paint dry if it means I can have two hours where no one is asking me to wipe their bum.

And speaking of time, isn't it about time I announced the winner of my book giveaway?  I know you are all dying to know.  Michael did the honors of pulling a name out of the bowl and the winner is:

JULIANNE!  I'll send you an email shortly!

Congrats!  And thanks to everyone who participated!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Last Call!

Remember how I was having a book giveaway and all you needed to do for a chance to win was leave a comment on this post?  Well, my husband started coming home from work at a decent hour and I got lost in a state of family bliss and forgot all about it.

So, if you'd like to win a personalized, autographed copy of Shadowed, you have till midnight tonight to leave me a comment.  Or possibly 8 a.m. tomorrow, if you are willing to resort to groveling.  (You know what they say: flattery will get you everywhere!)
 
Come on, you know you want to.

No really, you want to.  It's a fantastic read.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Off

Yesterday I felt a little off.  Then I realized it was because my Frank Sinatra itunes playlist had morphed into his Christmas album and I was Jingle Belling my way through sweeping the floor.

David got home at 1 something last night.  I tried to stay up till he got home (I think you should make a point of going to bed with your spouse and waking up together) but I couldn't do it.  I conked out at 12:30.  Sorry, honey!

In other news, I don't know how he is even alive.

But thankfully the big deadline is getting close.  Phew.  Because I've reached the point where I actually discovered that eating brown sugar straight out of the bag gives me heartburn.  (I think this means I'm officially dwindling somewhere between pathetic and desperate).

Today has not done much to help.  This afternoon I got a call from Michael's school saying he had an upset stomach.  Of course this happened 15 minutes after I put my toddlers down for a nap, so I had to call my super awesome neighbor (thanks Julianne!) to come sit in my house for ten minutes while I went on my rescue mission.  Which, it turns out, was completely unnecessary, seeing as Michael declared himself miraculously healed five minutes after we got home and wanted to play wii.  I banished him to his room for two hours.

To fill the void, Matthew only slept for an hour and then woke up.  So much for my peace and quiet.  So much for my sanity.

Then, while I was mowing the lawn, Leah tried to kill herself when she went flying into the street on her scooter (following her bad example of an older brother) and nearly got hit by a car.  After I saved her and re-started the mower, Matthew pooped in his underwear. 

The bedtime routine just stretched out into an hour because Matthew and Leah both declared a desperate need to avail themselves of the facilities after they were already in bed.  Leah performed.  Matthew did not.  Instead he engaged in a giggle war with Leah that would have been darling if I had not been hanging onto my patience by a fingernail.  Instead I found myself exclaiming, "Matthew, either poop or get off the pot!!"

Then I felt off again because I had just used a common metaphor in a completely literal context.

David says not to expect him until 1 or so tonight, and I just saw on Facebook that Cadbury now makes "SCream" eggs for Halloween.  Knowing that they exist and that I can't get to them is killing me.

I could use a good scream.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

An Insult to Women

Discrimination.  It's a word that gets tossed around a lot these days.  And no one likes to use it more than Gloria Steinem and her minions, who recently got their knickers in a twist over the Democratic National Convention and its horrifying lack of... drum roll please... babysitting.

Yep.  You heard me.  "The Democratic party shouldn't put you in a position where you have to choose between your child and participating in a political convention," said delegate Susie Shannon.

Ms. Steinem and several chapters of the National Organization for Women agree:  "This practice of discrimination needs to end in 2012."

Seriously, ladies?  Not providing babysitting is discrimination?

Oh, for heaven's sake!  Do you even hear yourselves?  If I were Susan B. Anthony I would rise from my grave and smack you.

If you choose to have children you choose the set of responsibilities that goes along with having those children. Among those responsibilities? Finding your own dang babysitter.

The universe is not under any obligation to support your life choices with freebies or perks or even conveniences.  No one -- I repeat -- no one, is required to provide you with childcare, nor are they required to allow you to take your little darlings wherever you please.  To suggest that it is "discriminatory" to expect women to take responsibility for their own children is pathetic, not to mention incredibly insulting to women who are actual victims of discrimination. 

Nothing cheapens a word or demeans its true victims like its blatant misuse. 

For that, these women should be ashamed of themselves.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fall Book Giveaway!

This morning I sat on the couch while Matthew and Leah fought over who got to take up the most space on my lap.  Sensing he could win the battle, Matthew looked up at me with great big puppy dog eyes and pulled out his trump card:  "Mommy... don't feel good."

Not to be outdone, Leah immediately chimed in, "Mommy, Matthew don't feel good but I sick!"

I told them there was room on my lap for both of them.  (There is.  I don't eat all those brownies for nothing!)  So Leah tried a different approach.  She pointed straight at me and said:  "Mommy, elephant!" 

Um, Leah, I understand that you love elephants, but let me give you a few hints about manipulating your mother.  Hint #1:  Never point at the woman who gave birth to you and say, "Elephant!"

So I got off the couch and decided my wounded self-esteem needed a distraction.  Something fall-ish and crafty, which meant a few minutes later I was letting the kids use their fingers to stamp fingerprint leaves on skeletal-looking trees.  I thought the craftiness of it all would cancel out their neurotic need for hand cleanliness, but I was wrong.  Total artwork distraction time: 3 minutes.

Darn it!  I thought I was being so fun!

But since that didn't satiate my need for something fall-ish, I ate leftover apple crisp for lunch.  Ahem, I mean with lunch...  And then I picked up the latest spooky release from four-time Whitney Award winner, Stephanie Black.  Yes, that's FOUR TIMES she has won the award for Best Mystery/Suspense novel.  In your face, Anne Perry!  (No, seriously, Stephanie beat out New York Times bestselling author, Anne Perry, for the award last year).


So you should read her new book, Shadowed, because it's awesome.  Also, because my name is in the acknowledgements, which means I am awesome by association.  And did I mention I'm giving away a personalized, autographed copy for free?  Just leave a comment on this post and I'll put your name in the drawing.  Leave a clever, amusing, or obsequious comment and I will put your name in twice.  Possibly three times, as long as you don't compare me to an elephant.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The One Where I Spout Marriage Advice

Writing the previous blog post had me pondering the topic of an actual cure for divorce.  And then I flashed back to my bridal shower where at least 3 of my friends told me that David and I should never go to bed angry.  Since you already know how I feel about that, I thought I would share some of my other tips for a happier, healthier marriage:

1.  Don't be a jerk. 

I realize this should go without saying, but judging by the number of spouses I've seen treating their other half like garbage, a lot of people seem to have missed the memo.  If you don't think you're a jerk, I have a few questions for you:  Do you ever insult your spouse (in public or in private)?  Treat him like a child (or tell people that he is a child, e.g., "I have four kids... including my husband")?  Make demands instead of treating him as an equal ("Get off your butt and take out the garbage!" instead of, "Would you mind taking out the garbage for me?")  Are you rude, sarcastic, or mean-spirited when you argue?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be a jerk.

2.  Keep the in-laws out of your marriage. 

Once you set sail on the marriage boat, the in-laws need to jump ship.  You and your spouse are your own family now, and you need to do what is best for that family.  This doesn't mean you don't have to accommodate both sets of in-laws or make any efforts toward them, nor are you excused from being kind and understanding, but if your parents are calling every single day or demanding that you come over for dinner every Sunday afternoon, and your in-laws have put dibs on every holiday and every Tuesday in between, they are not supporting your marriage.  Also not supporting the marriage?  In-laws who dole out unsolicited advice, criticize your spouse or her decisions, or interfere with personal family issues.  

3.  Don't speak unkindly about your spouse to anyone, especially not family.

You may forgive and forget, but your mother will remember forever, so if you have an argument with your spouse, do not talk to your mother about it.  If your spouse does something that makes you mad, do not talk to your friends about it.  In the same vein, if your mother insults your husband, defend him.  If your friend disagrees with your husband's career choice, stand up for him.  You and your husband are a team - do not give other people the ammunition to destroy your relationship.

4.  Remember that your spouse is the most important person in your life.  Your kids come second.

Oh yes, I know the little darlings have to come first sometimes.  (They're so demanding, aren't they?)  They have soccer practice and homework and doctor visits and they want you to play with them and cook them dinner and buy toys for them.  (And nothing sucks the air out of a romantic evening like Junior barfing all over your shoes).  But you must remember that your spouse is the most important person in your life.  One day, if you've done your job correctly, all the little chickens will fly the coop and you and your spouse will be a couple of old birds with nothing to focus on but each other.  So make sure you've spent enough time nourishing your relationship - regular dates, regular intimacy, regular kid-free time - that an empty nest is a blessing, not a curse.

5.  Love your spouse the way he wants to be loved.

If you haven't read this book, read it.  Once you know your spouse's primary love language, speak it.  If that means having sex more often, do it.  If that means watching a football game now and then, do it.  If that means remembering anniversaries, writing love notes, or going to the opera, do it.  Marriage is work, but it has the potential to be the most fun work you ever do (and honestly, what could be more fun than rocking your husband's world?)

So there you have it, dear readers.  Get to work!

The "Cure" for Divorce

The title grabbed me - "The Cure for Divorce".  This will be interesting, I thought.  I wonder what the author's theory is? So I clicked on the link, and I found it so fascinating that I'm sharing the secret with you:

The "cure" for divorce is -- are you ready? -- not to commit for such a long time in the first place.  Really.

The author (who is appropriately named "Tad Low") explains his philosophy like this:  "Let's say you've successfully dated a girl for a while. Rather than agreeing to "till death do you part," you agree to a "time-limited marriage": At regular intervals, you either renew or walk away . . . and remain friends. You still have the fancy ceremony, the heartfelt toasts from college roommates, and the slew of candlesticks and Calphalon. But you don't have the pressure of permanence or the soul-draining despair of divorce."

Well, let's toast to that!

What do you say to your girlfriend when you propose?  "Well, honey, I plan to love you, but only for about 1.5 years.  After that I get the goldfish, okay?"

And what happens when kids get thrown in the mix?  Never fear, Mr. Low has an answer for that (I am not making this up):  "Who cares [about the kids]?"

Heartwarming, isn't it?  So sweet to think of a father not caring how his kids feel about their mother getting thrown off the family train.  "If their parents' contract ends," Mr. Low insists, "they're still better off than being stuck in the middle of a traditional divorce."

Are they?  Are kids really better off knowing that their parents marriage is set to expire?  That dad has a specific end date when he is allowed to trade mom in for a younger model?

This is, frankly, disgusting. 

The fact is that marriage is not, and never can be, only about two people and their feelings for each other.  Marriage is the foundation of a family.  And a family cannot stand on a foundation that isn't built to last. 

But, I've got to hand it to Mr. Low.  He's already made me feel like my marriage is stronger. 

After all, I was smart enough not to marry a jerk like him.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

All in a Day's Work

Yesterday we celebrated Labor Day by sending David off to work.  I'm sure I don't get as many points as my sister once did for delivering a baby on Labor Day (she's such a show off...), but I feel like I should at least be able to put some sort of cosmic tick mark next to my name for my efforts.  Um, I mean David's efforts, seeing as he is the one who had to work.

Although, I do feel like I should get some credit for the fact that, after a long day of willful disobedience on the part of my children, I did not lose my temper when I discovered Matthew and Leah had opened a package of goldfish crackers and used cups of water to making a swimming pool for them all over my back porch.  When our resident tattle tale, Michael, alerted me to the mess he asked, "Are you happy, Mom?" (Obviously, why wouldn't I be happy about a bunch of wet fish crackers swimming in their own moosh all over my door mat?)  Then he looked at my face and I must have looked terrifying because his expression faltered a bit and he took a step back before he said, "You're not happy at all."

I told him to help his siblings clean up the mess before I blew my top.  "Blow your top!!" he exclaimed.  "How would you do that?"  Then he dissolved into giggles that sounded like a highly amused fog horn.  I excused myself to the bathroom and remembered to lock the door.

By the time bedtime rolled around I was ready to call every single general authority who has ever stood up in conference and said that his darling wife never raised her voice at their children and say, "How do you know?!  You weren't ever home!!"

But I didn't, because I have a thing about making phone calls.

And then Leah managed to make me laugh when she saw a bug and yelled, "Holy yikes!", Matthew melted my heart by climbing onto my lap and asking to "nuggle", and Michael made his bed all by himself.

Ah, parenthood.  It's the best.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Notes from the Universe

I recently taught Michael how to tie his shoes.  I'm sure there might be mothers out there who enjoy this sort of thing.  After all, it sounds nice --  sit your kid on your lap, sing a few songs about bunnies and holes and going around trees, and voila!  The shoes are tied!

And for Michael and me, the process was exactly like that... except there was no singing and we almost killed each other.  (I suddenly understood why, 20 years ago in the middle of a piano lesson, my mom actually ripped one of my piano books in half).

But, I consider this experience the voice of the universe telling me that I should never home school.  Which has made me wonder, what else is the universe trying to tell me?

Apparently that running is "fun," for starters.  Not only is our upcoming ward (church congregation, similar to a parish) activity a 5K, they keep talking about it like it's supposed to be enjoyable for the whole family.  Hmmm... You know what would be more enjoyable?  Sleeping in and going out to Kneader's for breakfast.

But then yesterday I got an email from Michael's school about a fundraiser involving, you guessed it, a "fun" run!  I think the universe is hoping that if she uses the word "fun" in connection with "running" enough times, I might be duped into re-boarding the exercise wagon.  Unfortunately for the universe, not only did I fall off the wagon, I hacked it into little splinters and enjoyed a tasty smore by the light of the bonfire it kindled.  I'm not even sorry.

The problem is that I am blessed not to have body issues.  I don't look at myself and think I look fat, I look at myself and think I look like me.  Which is not to say I wouldn't like the look of me in size 8 pants, but it's so much trouble to get there...

And I have to laugh at the memory of my newly-engaged self being horrified when my future mother-in-law took a guess at my dress size and came up with "12."  (Tip to all mothers-in-law:  Guess smaller!)  Considering I could have zipped up a size 6 at the time, I was devastated that anyone would think I looked like a 12.  Now I'd be like, "Thank you very much for noticing!  I skipped breakfast this morning!"

Ah, it's funny how things change.  Well, some things, that is.

Running is never going to be "fun."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Cracks Begin to Show

Yesterday was one of those days.  You know, the kind where you get to the end and think, did I really just spend several hours dealing with the fact that my son jammed a marshmallow up his nose?

What is it with boys and holes?

Initially I thought the Lucky Charms crescent would get slimy enough that it would ooze its way down, but then Matthew snorted it up his nose to the point I could no longer see it, at which point I emailed my family to ask for advice and my brother jokingly (?) said I should have Matthew snort milk because milk dissolves those kinds of marshmallows.

I laughed, but I didn't try it.  Not because I didn't think it was a decent idea, but mostly because I figured I would have a hard time explaining it to the doctor, and I didn't want him to put a flag in my file identifying me as one of those moms.

But, it turned out the doctor wasn't any help either - he couldn't see or get anything out, so for now we are assuming the marshmallow made it through Matthew's nose and down his throat.  Or, possibly, it's lodged in his brain, which -- if it doesn't kill him -- could prove to be a convenient excuse when he makes dumb decisions in the future - "Oh," we'll say, "It's just the marshmallow in his brain."

After the doctor we headed to the library, which was a really bad idea seeing as the kids had just spent an hour quietly waiting and had worn out their quota of good behavior for the day.  I returned a library book that Leah had ripped and then we got home and Leah tore a page out of another one.  I'm thinking I will renew this book so I don't have to go back in three weeks and have the Woman in Charge of Page Rippers give me the stink eye because this happened the last time they let us check out books from the library.

Seriously, they should never let us check out books from the library.

As we get further and further into busy season dinners are getting less and less balanced as I throw a few carrots on everyone's plate and figure that magically transforms Ramen Noodles into a nutritious meal.  Michael is spending a significant amount of time each night propping his eyelids open so he can stay awake until his dad gets home, though he has yet to succeed.  Last night he managed to make it till almost 10:30 (two hours after I put him in bed) before he conked out.  Poor kid.  It's hard to have your dad gone so much.

As for me, I may or may not have developed a twitch, I may or may not have have cried when Michael hit me in the forehead with a ball even though it didn't actually hurt, and I may or may not have eaten half a pan of Reese's peanut butter bars for breakfast one time last week.  Okay, that's not exactly true.  It was more than one time.

It was a Costco-sized box and I'm totally buying it again.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Willoughby Syndrome, Part II - The "Hotness" Factor

(If you missed Part I, click here).

A few years ago my cousin asked the following question on her blog (I apologize that there is no link, but the blog no longer exists):  If you could swallow a pill that would make you just a little bit dumber, but would also ensure that for the rest of your life you would have a perfect body, would you take it?

The answers that came from her readers horrified me.  Woman after woman after woman responded that yes, she would take the pill, without hesitation.  Some said they would take several.  Women were lining up by the dozens, willing to hand over a piece of their brains for a smaller pant size. I've never gotten over it.

But it's such a revealing insight into the world we live in.  None of these women were longing to be "kind" or "compassionate", or even to be "beautiful"; they were longing to be "hot."  To look attractive in yoga pants and a tank top and to have bodies free of stretch marks and cellulite.  The focus on "hotness" diminished them as women, just as it diminishes real beauty, because any measure of true beauty must involve soul -- without soul, we are discussing nothing more than flesh.  

And yet, here we are, living in a world where the first commodity of dating is "hotness".  Everyone is searching for their John Willoughby -- someone with whom they can share intense and immediate chemistry and then live their life together in the heat of raw passion.  This is why sexual contact is the first ingredient in nearly all Hollywood romance; it's the ultimate testing of "hotness".  Instant sexual compatibility (complete with fireworks) is expected if a couple is to make a suitable life together.  Everything else, including total incompatibility of values or lifestyle, is overlooked on the road to "Happily Ever After."  (After all, what is more Hollywood than Nice Girl meets Hot Jerk, Hot Jerk changes his ways -- presumably permanently -- for Nice Girl, and then they ride off into the sunset together?)  

This may work in Hollywood, but a dating formula that doesn't require you to disregard physical attractiveness when it is bonded to jerkhood can lead to nowhere but unhappiness.  (If a "hot" guy acts like a pig, you can still think he's hot and still delude yourself into thinking you will be the one to change him.  Hence the thousands of women who date and marry "bad boys" who treat them like dirt, beat them up, and demolish their self-esteem).  But, when there is focus on true beauty, attractiveness is increased by good and kind behavior and diminished by poor behavior.  Thus, a woman who focuses on true beauty protects herself from the inevitable heartache that results from chasing after "hotness".  She may end up with someone who is handsome, she may end up with someone who is plain, but she will always end up with someone who is "beautiful."   

Can hotness without kindness, passion without true beauty, truly be fulfilling?  I say no.  Surely the passion of melded bodies cannot compare with the passion of welded souls (those who are one in heart and purpose and for whom kindness is the first rule of interaction).  And surely hotness cannot compensate for emptiness of soul.

Remember, there is no such thing as a "beautiful" jerk.  And no "hot" jerk who will help you earn your Happily Ever After.

Sorry, Willoughby.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mother Superior

I love having twins.  I mean, how adorable is this?


And now, two-and-a-half years later, I find myself looking at them and thinking they are still unbearably cute.


They are also a handful.  They collude and conspire and do things that neither of them would ever come up with on their own.  And yet, if I hear one more Mom of Multiples say, "Singleton moms have no idea how easy they have it," I'm going to smack someone.

What is this, a contest?  Yes, it is tricky to make sure two babies are diapered and fed and cared for.  But it's also tricky to make sure one baby is diapered and fed and cared for.

Whatever you are dealing with is difficult.  When you have three children it is difficult to manage the grocery store with those three children. But when you only have one child, it's still difficult to manage the task.  With that one child there still comes a learning curve, a reconfiguring of the way you approach every chore, and the mental exhaustion of changing your entire routine to suit a person who screams at you on a regular basis. So it irks me when people go around thinking their difficulties are so much harder to deal with than those of someone else. 

Twins are exhausting, yes.  But it's not helpful to frazzled mothers of singletons to say, "You have it so easy."  In fact, they don't have it easy.  No one does.  The difficulty of a given situation is not based on how hard it would be for you to handle, it's based on how hard it is for that person to handle.

It's like we want the proper amount of points allotted to us; i.e., I have twins so I deserve more points than you.  (Never mind that your baby cries constantly and doesn't sleep through the night).  Or, I gave birth by c-section and you delivered naturally -- points for you!  I breastfed my babies till they were a year old and my husband works late every night (points for me!), you hold down a full-time job and whip up cookies like you are Martha Stewart (points for you!)... the list goes on.

You can't compare apples to apples when you are dealing with bread and grapefruit.  Yes, from the outside it might look like apples to apples, but appearances can be deceiving.  And telling someone that their struggles aren't struggles is damaging and unkind.

Let's have a little more sympathy, shall we?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Willoughby Syndrome, Part I

When I was in high school, one of the oft-squealed-over movies my friends and I used to watch was "Sense and Sensibility."  (We loved movies where people could be unfailingly polite and devastatingly rude at the the same time.  And the abundance of gentlemanly men with handsome faces and table manners only added to our love of all things Jane Austen.  Not to mention the swoon-worthy British accents).

But, my friend and I had a disagreement:  I thought the ending of "Sense and Sensibility" was perfection.  (Spoiler alert!  But if you haven't seen this movie or read the book by now, what's wrong with you?)  The impetuous Marianne ends up with the kind and decent Colonel Brandon (who deeply cares for her) rather than the dashing John Willoughby, who fathered a child out of wedlock and then abandoned Marianne for an heiress with a large bank account.

My friend hated the fact that Marianne and Willoughby did not end up together, and nothing would convince her that this was the right ending.  She thought Marianne and Willoughby were meant for each other.  They shared a passion for life.  He was handsome.  He read poetry to her.  He understood her.  Colonel Brandon was too old and too boring.

I saw it much differently.  Yes, Willoughby was handsome and exciting, but Colonel Brandon was humble.  He was kind.  He treated everyone with dignity.  He sought to be of service whenever he could.  His actions showed Marianne that he loved her, while Willoughby's actions showed that Willoughby cared about no one but himself.

Love isn't about passion, it's about kindness.  People think passion must exist for a relationship to survive, but without kindness there is nothing for that relationship to stand on.

I think this is why I don't understand the phenomenon that is "Twilight."  Love isn't something that bites you, puts you in danger, or demands that you give in to every hormonal urge.  While compatibility is important, the thought that constant fireworks are a necessary ingredient for a relationship to succeed is misleading at best and damaging at worst -- passion may fade with time, but kindness is the cement that holds everything together.

After my first date with David, I came home and wrote in my journal that the evening was fun but that there weren't any "sparks."  Imagine if I'd thrown away the opportunity to get to know him better because there wasn't instant, sizzling chemistry.  What a tragedy that would have been!

How many women discard a Colonel Brandon in their search for a John Willoughby, only to find that the John Willoughby isn't the White Knight they were hoping for?  And how many toss aside a "best friend" like Jacob in favor of a mysterious and dangerous Edward?  Is this truly a recipe for happiness?

Passion is great, yes (and the importance of chemistry should not be discounted), but it should not be the foundation of a relationship.

When you focus solely on fire, you're bound to get burned.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Schooled

Today was Michael's first day of kindergarten.  Unofficially.  (I say it's not official until I can put him on the bus and send him off by himself, which happens tomorrow).  He is so excited.  He has been waiting for this moment ever since he used to stand at our 19th floor windows overlooking 23rd Street and ask me how many more days it would be until it was his turn to ride a school bus.


I can't believe he's so grown up.  And I can't believe that "growing up" means I have to fill out so many unnecessary and repetitive forms.  The good news is that Michael's school is going green so he shouldn't be bringing home loads of paperwork for me to sign.  The bad news is that "going green" means "parents need to print out all of said paperwork at home."

So, I've been printing out forms and answering ridiculous questions.  Starting with: "What kind of experience would you like your child to have in school?"

Does the fact that I'm really tempted to write, "I'd like it to be sort of like Hogwarts, with magic and invisibility cloaks and stuff" make me a bad mother?  Because I'll be honest, if Michael could learn how to apparate, that would be really helpful.

Seriously, could there be a more inane question?  Every single parent is going to write, "I'd like my child to have a good experience."  Sure, there might be a slight variation on the phrasing as some parents will say "good" and others might say "great" or "fun", but it's all the same.  Everyone wants their child to like going to school.  Asking for answers to obvious questions does not enlighten anyone.

And there must be something in the air regarding ridiculous questions, since I picked up the phone as I was making dinner and got stuck taking a "short" survey about healthcare in Utah that caused me to burn the rice.  I could have hung up, of course, but I have sympathy for telephone surveyors ever since I was one my freshman year of college.  (The most exciting thing that ever happened to me at that job was quitting).

So, I agreed to do the survey, even when it got tedious because she had to read full questions even if I knew the answer right away, like "Are you Asian, African-American, White, Pacific Islander, Native American, three-fifths Norwegian or part unicorn?" and I was like, "I could have told you I was white 45 minutes ago."

But, I answered her questions, even the one where she made me think back to the first person who ever told me that women of childbearing age should take folic acid, and then asked me what month and year that was.  Then she asked if I knew whether folic acid was supposed to prevent heart attacks or birth defects and I said I was hoping it would prevent all future phone surveys.

By the time I hung up and remade the rice, it was 7:00.  So we had a late dinner and then I sent the kids outside to ride scooters while I did the dishes.  I meant to put them to bed at 8, but with the evening being so beautiful and them being so happy, I put them to bed at 9:00, whereupon Michael had a massive meltdown about Dad still being at work.  "I want my Dad!  Why does he have to work so much?" he wailed through curtains of tears. 

"It could be worse, Michael," I said.  "He could be doing telephone surveys."

Monday, August 13, 2012

When Dad is in Charge of the Saturday Night Bath

The Olympics: What I'll Miss and What I Won't

Well, the Olympics are officially over.  It was a fitting end, really -- after all, what could signify "over" more than a group of five broads in their late thirties dressed like aspiring Barbie dolls and singing "If You Wanna Be My Lover"?

The closing ceremonies were pretty much a who's who of bands-I-never-knew-were-British.  The only staple of British crazy who wasn't around was Elton John, which is too bad.  I've liked him a little bit more ever since he called Madonna a "fairground stripper".  Though, quite honestly, I have to admit the comparison isn't totally fair.  Surely fairground strippers have more dignity than Madonna.

All in all it is sad to see another Olympics come to a close.  But since it also means a merciful end to Ryan Lochte's obsessive oversharing, I will say a prayer of gratitude and remind myself never to swim in the Olympic pool.  Seriously, Ryan, my two-year-olds know how to make it to the bathroom during a swim.

I will also count myself lucky that I no longer have to listen to the Kanye West of running talk about how he is the "greatest athlete to live."  Memo to "legend" Usain Bolt: anyone who likes to talk about how awesome he is is officially not awesome.

Also officially not awesome?  The US men's track uniforms, which had backs full of holes that looked like someone got carried away with a three hole punch.  And, of course, the women's beach volleyball bottoms, but I've already covered (ha!) those.  And speedos, because they should just not be allowed in general.

I will miss the gymnastics, though.  Except for the rings, because it pains me to watch guys with bulging muscles looking like their faces are about to explode, and the balance beam, because it gives me heart palpitations.  Also Makayla Maroney's nasty attitude (or "nastitude," as Leah calls it) after she cheesed it on her last vault and landed herself a silver medal.  Honey, I realize you were disappointed, but now all we will remember about you is that you were a sore loser.

I will also miss Michael's random comments as he watched the games with me.  Especially his question during the men's BMX biking competition:  "Why aren't they riding with training wheels, Mom?"

Seriously.  You'd think safety was more important these days.

True Love

They haven't lived near each other in four years, but apparently absence really does make the heart grow fonder.



Of course they went from these (totally unposed) pictures to Clara sobbing in the kitchen after Michael told her he wouldn't marry her.

"Michael, I think Clara is worried you don't love her now," I said.

"I DO love her.  I'm just not going to MARRY her!"

Ah, spoken like a five-year-old boy.  (Which is good, seeing as he is, you know, a five-year-old boy). 

But keep dreaming the dream, Clara.  A pre-birth betrothal is a strong thing. 

Besides, both of you would have totally awesome in-laws.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Random Thoughts - Olympic Edition

Last night we sat on the couch watching the Americans swim the 4x100 meter relay.  "Go!  Go!  Go!" we yelled.  "Faster!!!"  We even stood up and pumped our arms a little in the excitement of it all.  Then, when the race was over and the Americans had come in second, we sat back on the couch, put our hands in a bucket of popcorn, and our faces in a box of ice cream sandwiches.

Mmmm... America.

Really, don't you think it's kind of funny that we are all gathered around big bowls of junk food telling people who could probably strangle us with their thighs to "GO FASTER!!!"?

And then I woke up this morning to the news headline:  "Disaster! Phelps Loses His Golden Touch as France Wins Relay."  Um, not to be picky here, but Phelps actually won his portion of the race and gave the Americans a lead.  Yes, I know he didn't perform well on his first race of the games and everyone is secretly enjoying the fact that he's fallen from his golden perch, but seriously, the man has 17 Olympic medals -- 14 of them gold -- and has set 39 world records.  So I guess what I'm saying is I think we should all shut up now. 

We should also shut up about the Queen looking bored and picking her nails for fifteen seconds during the opening ceremonies. I mean -- this is what -- her five billionth official event?  That makes me bored just thinking about it.  (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I say this as someone who fast-forwarded the entire parade of nations because, really, who cares about the team from Angola?  I'm just saying).

Personally, I think it would have been a lot more interesting if they'd brought Voldemort back and let he and Mary Poppins have an old-school duel.

And speaking of Voldemort, I think he has been at work behind the scenes:  did you see the incredible shrinking bikini bottoms of the women's beach volleyball team?  Who wants to play in those?!  For the love of dignity, no woman should ever be required to pick a tiny swimsuit out of her butt crack every time she makes a good save.

As for other things I could do without?  The men's gymnastics teams' armpit hair and those annoying announcers who stick cameras in competitors' faces right after they they biff it on international television.  "You just lost out on the dream you've been training for your whole life!  How does it feel?" 

*Athlete runs away sobbing*

"There you have it, folks!  Another inspiring Olympic moment!  Back to you, Bob."

Unfortunately, we'll never know if Bob Costas is moved by it or not, seeing as too much Botox has rendered his forehead immoveable.  Maybe at the next Olympics they can hand out medals to journalists who can still raise their eyebrows.

I'd watch.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chick Filleted

Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, recently made waves when he stated his views in favor of traditional marriage and expressed his opinion that gay marriage "is inviting God's judgment on our nation."  Now cities from Boston to San Francisco are getting their battle gear on to make sure the fast food chain is not allowed anywhere near their streets.

Boston mayor, Thomas Menino, said, “You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against the population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion. That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the h*** the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”

San Francisco and Chicago soon jumped on the bandwagon, with Chicago mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, saying that "Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values" and that, unless they change their discriminatory ways, Chick-fil-A can forget about sharing waffle fries with the Windy City.

Putting aside the fact that Chick-fil-A is not actually discriminating against anyone (as far as I've been able to ascertain, homosexuals are welcome to eat and work there), does anyone else see a glaring irony here?  You have the mayor of Boston saying, "We're an open city... a city at the forefront of inclusion..." and yet he feels just fine discriminating against an entire company because of the owner's religious beliefs.

Let me be clear:  I have zero problem with someone choosing not to eat at Chick-fil-A because they disagree with its mission or policies (although, as I said, my research has shown me that Chick-fil-A does not discriminate against people because they are gay, nor do they have policies in place that would promote such a thing).  I also have zero problem with The Jim Henson Company severing its ties with the restaurant over the views of its president.  But I have a big problem with government officials stepping in and saying someone is not allowed to open a business in their town because the owner's beliefs do not pass the PC religion test.

Last time I checked, this was America.

When it comes to situations like this, you can't just immediately side with causes you agree or identify with.  For the sake of fairness you have to perform a personal bias check by shuffling the cards a bit.  For example, for those who think the mayor of Boston is justified in his actions:  What if a business owned and operated by a homosexual woman (who used her profits to make regular contributions to gay and lesbian causes) wanted to open a restaurant in a small southern town?  And what if the mayor stood up and said, "Her values are not our small-town values.  We are God-fearing people and I'm going to block her permit so she can't open a restaurant here."  Would you be fine with that?

Try it again, this time throwing new cards in the deck.  What if a Muslim wanted to open a restaurant?  Or an atheist?  Would you still think that a government official is within his rights to block that person from opening a business, simply because of that person's beliefs or lifestyle? 

If you don't like what a business is spending their profits on, that's fine.  You can register your dislike by withholding your money and encouraging others to do the same.  You can write letters and protest and take to the internet.  But the government has no business withholding a permit in this situation.  Especially not when they justify it by waving it under a banner of "freedom" and "inclusion".

Perhaps it's time for those who are screaming for tolerance and understanding to start looking in the mirror.

They might be surprised at what they see.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why High School Is Not The Best Years of Your Life

Recently David and I attended a marriage class as part of an education day put on by our local church leaders.  As the instructor (a licensed marriage and family therapist) tried to explain the differences between the male and female brain, I leaned over to David and said, "The problem is I'm not a normal girl, and you're not a normal guy."

"I am too a normal guy," he said.  "Did you DVR 'Project Runway'?"

Kidding, kidding.  He didn't actually say that.  He said, "Did you DVR 'So You Think You Can Dance'?"

For our anniversary this year he told me I was too hesitant to spend money on myself, handed me a gift card to my favorite store, and said he was going to take me shopping (because he actually likes shopping, even when it's for me).  And he did.  Then he sat on the couch in the dressing room with some guy who looked tortured to be there and watched me twirl around in dresses for like two hours.  I was really dizzy afterwards.

And I've decided that's the great thing about growing up.  Not the dizziness, of course (why on earth did we enjoy that sensation as children, anyway?), but the fact that being an adult frees you to be yourself.  We often joke about the fact that some of our best friends would have thought us total losers in high school.  I'm not making it up when I say the most spectacular move I ever performed in a P.E. class was to hit the volleyball (intending for it to go toward the net, obviously) and see it fly backwards over the top of my head and knock the clock off the wall, which fell straight into the garbage can.  I don't think it's a coincidence that I was wearing a really ugly sweater that day.

In high school I was a total failure at sports and calculus and confidence in general.  I had two left feet (and still do, but now I don't care that I do).  Nobody told me I was going a little overboard on the eyeshadow.  Seriously, why did nobody tell me I was going overboard on the eyeshadow?!  Mom, I'm looking at you.  And as long as we're discussing it, I also have questions about the years 1992-1996 and why you let me out of the house like that.  I mean, really, braces, glasses and a perm?.

But now I'm married to a guy who is not afraid to admit that he'd rather watch "Pride and Prejudice" than play baseball, doesn't care that I have two left feet, unmanicured fingernails, and a midsection that looks like I borrowed it from the Michelin Man, and says "Thank you" every time I clean off the bathroom counter.  Plus he will still use a piece of 2x4 to whack voles for me while I'm mowing the lawn.

This is way better than high school.

On Tragedy, Panic, and Losing Our Heads

I'm sure you've all heard about the horrible tragedy in Colorado where a deranged gunman shot up a movie theater full of Batman fans who were excited to see a midnight showing of the new Dark Knight Rises, leaving 12 people dead and 58 wounded. 

In the how-can-we-prevent-this-from-happening-again panic surrounding news of the massacre, many have taken to the internet to express ideas:  Tighter gun control, metal detectors in movie theaters, guards standing watch at every emergency exit, etc.  There's just one problem: none of these things will actually make anyone safer.

I am reminded of the time I was leading my sister's family on a touristy walk past the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.  Outside was a group of protesters waving signs plastered with statements about the evils of guns and how outlawing them would prevent crime.  My niece, who was about nine-years-old at the time, turned to her mother and asked if this was truly the case.

My sister responded by asking her a question: "What would happen if you made a law preventing good people from buying guns?  Would they buy them?"

"No," my niece replied.

"And what about criminals?"

She paused, thought for a moment, and said, "That wouldn't stop them."

"So what happens when you make a law that means only bad people will have guns?"

"Oh," said my niece, suddenly wiser than a whole group of adult protesters.

Yes, outlawing guns might prevent a child from having the opportunity to pull a gun out of his dad's nightstand and accidentally shoot himself, but it will not prevent crime.  The thing about criminals is that they are criminals.  They will find ways to get around laws.  Particularly criminals of the terrorist variety, who are bent on killing large groups of people, sometimes for no apparent reason.

This is why I can't help rolling my eyes every time I'm trudging through airport security with shoes off, my water bottle empty, and my 3 oz. liquids packed in a clear ziploc baggie.  For heaven's sake, does this make anyone feel safer?  There are so many easy ways to get around these ridiculous security measures it's almost hilarious.  "Sorry Ma'am, but your bottle of lotion is 5 ounces.  That isn't allowed...  Oh, but you have a box of could-be-anything medications and needles?  And six cans of pre-made 'baby formula'?  Go right through.  Hold on, I need to wave that guy through who is wheeling six barrels of 'beer' to the restaurant down the hall."

It's insanity.

And now, thanks to this latest tragedy, we have the general uneasiness that was expressed by one woman I saw on the news who said she wouldn't see the Dark Knight in theaters because it was too "risky."  "I'll rent it at home in six months," she said.  Then, most likely, she hopped in her car, shot down the freeway at 80 miles an hour while chatting on the phone with her best friend, and had a near-miss with another driver who was busy texting.  (Talk about risky).

Not to make light of the very real mental trauma involved when one hears about an act of terrorism, but, for the most part, going to a movie theater cannot be considered "risky."  The isolated act of one psychopath does not make the entire world a more dangerous place.

Losing the ability to reason, however...  Talk about dangerous.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stranger Anxiety

It's hard to be a kid these days, what with all the helicopter parenting and back-to-back private lessons and grooming for the Ivy League that begins at the same time as introduction to solid foods.  You can't go to the playground anymore unless your mom is with you, you aren't allowed to talk to strangers, and you're taught that behind every decent looking man is a pervert waiting to snatch you and murder you in the woods.

This week I had to de-program Michael from the stranger-danger mantra after someone told him that he should never speak to strangers, which he took to mean that everyone he doesn't know is out to get him.

"Michael," I said, "It is always okay for you to talk to strangers.  It's just not okay for you to go anywhere with someone you don't know unless you talk to me first."

"I can talk to strangers?" he asked, eyes wide.  Um, yep.  Permission granted.  You can start with the words, "Sir," "Ma'am", "Please", and "Thank you."

Now, would y'all please stop scaring my little boy into thinking every Grandpa with a lollipop is up to no good?  I don't want him looking over his shoulder in fear every time someone offers him a kind word or a hand getting out of the pool.

This doesn't mean I'm naive.  We talk about what to do if someone tries to touch him inappropriately or tells him not to talk to his parents.  He knows our phone numbers and that, in case of emergency, he should run to the nearest adult (stranger!) and ask them to call us.  But the fact is that most people are decent.  Most men are good.  Most neighbors passing out Halloween candy are not looking to drug anyone.  And most kids just want to be kids. 

How about we quit trying to scare them out of their childhoods?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Don't Be Fooled






It's hard to believe that a girl this cute could stuff a roll of toilet paper down the sink, flood the bathroom, and smear an entire stick of butter all over the front of my kitchen cupboards, isn't it?

Yep.  That's how she gets you.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho

David went off to work this morning a full hour earlier than usual, armed with a frown and a ziploc bag full of excedrin.  After a prolonged hug and kiss at the door he said, "I'll miss you," as if he were boarding an aircraft carrier bound for Afghanistan.  Then we kissed again, because, let's face it, you can never kiss too much.

In a burst of post-vacation blues combined with an uncomfortable awareness that David is back to busy season at work, at 9:00 this morning I ate an entire bar of authentic Swiss chocolate (direct from Switzerland!  Thanks, EHRL!) and followed it with a swig of milk straight from the jug.  Since I ate a bowl of cereal at 7:00, I figure the chocolate and milk counts as "brunch".  That combined with the fact that I was being environmentally responsible by drinking directly out of the jug means I am officially not as pathetic as you think I am.  Besides, none of my children saw me do it.

All right, all right.  I admit to being a little pathetic.  Not to mention that last night before saying our prayers, David and I were swapping less-than-flattering stories about someone we both find to be incredibly irritating.  Then we bowed our heads, folded our arms, and David paused long enough to make it seem awkward before he said, "Um, you pray."

"For our souls?" I asked.

Then we laughed hysterically.  This is how you know we're pathetic and we're going to hell.

Plus, I've been up for four hours now and I'm still sitting here in my bathrobe.  And I just discovered that I have a hole the size of a large planet on the backside of my underwear that has very obviously been gaining size for awhile now.  How I did not notice this before now, I'll never know.

As for my kids, Matthew and Leah are helping themselves to a snack from the box of cereal that is still sitting on the table and Michael is simultaneously watching Team Umizoomi and playing a game on my iphone.  Luckily it's summer and I still have a good 11 hours to redeem myself as a mother before the children go to bed. 

I better hurry if I want the chance to take a shower.