Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Little Known Facts About Me

I think these are fun to answer, mostly because when I go back and read my answers months and years later, it is interesting to see what has changed and what stays the same.

1. What time did you get up this morning?
8:30 am

2. How do you like your steak?
medium rare - pink center, not red

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
The Harry Potter movie (Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince)

4. What is your favorite TV show?
I haven't been watching much TV but I do enjoy law-centered shows like Law & Order, CSI, Boston Legal

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Phoenix in the winter and Colorado in the summer

6. What did you have for breakfast?
I don't do breakfast.

7. What is your favorite cuisine?
Mexican

8. What foods do you dislike?
spinach and liver

9. Favorite Place to Eat?
It's closed now, but really like Abuelo's

10. Favorite dressing?
Depends on the salad. Thousand Island for Seafood Salads, Italian for Garden Salads, Ranch for Chef Salads

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?
1991 Cheverolet Suburban, 2004 GMC Sierra, 1994 Toyota Pick-up

12. What are your favorite clothes?
t-shirt and jeans...comfortable clothes

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?
Europe - especially Scotland and Greece

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?
Depends on how thirsty I am

15. Where would you want to retire?
Upstate New York or my own island in the Carribean

16. Favorite time of day?
late night when the house is quiet

17. Where were you born?
New Mexico

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?
hockey

19. Bird watcher?
Not really

20. Are you a morning person or a night person?
night

21. Do you have any pets?
one dog

22. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share?
I was asked Sunday if I was pregnant. Apparently Cierra shared with her primary teacher that she gets to name the next baby. I'm not pregnant. Just thought you ought to know.

23. What did you want to be when you were little?
a teacher

24. What is your best childhood memory?
family camping trips/vacations

25. Are you a cat or dog person?
actually I prefer fish

26. Are you married?
Yes, just celebrated 7 years in June (except we both forgot so maybe celebrate isn't the right word)

27. Always wear your seat belt?
No, but most of the time.

28. Been in a car accident?
yes, but nothing serious and it wasn't my fault

29. Any pet peeves?
stupidity (different from ignorance)

30. Favorite Pizza Toppings?
I like them all!

31. Favorite Flower?
dandelions

32. Favorite ice cream?
anything with caramel

33. Favorite fast food restaurant?
Taco Bell or Arby's

34. How many times did you fail your driver's test?
passed the first time though I did have to retake the written once in Oregon

35. From whom did you get your last email?
REI

36. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
I would never be so irresponsible to max out my credit card.

37. Do anything spontaneous lately?
Yeah, I got my first pedicure.

38. Do you like your job?
It's a fun change

39. Broccoli?
better fresh than cooked

40. What was your favorite vacation?
Going to Legoland with the boys

41. Last person you went out to dinner with?
It's been a while, so probably Neil

42. What are you listening to right now?
The hum of the computer and children whining

43. What is your favorite color?
purple and green

44. How many tattoos do you have?
none, but I would love to have a dragon going up my leg from my ankle to my knee

45. Coffee Drinker?
nope

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Week Ending 7/26/09

It's been a busy week, which has been good. Lots of good and bad news which I think evened out in the end.

Monday we checked email to learn of the death of our good friend, David Hibbert. Neil sent out messages to those he was in contact with from the "old ward". I love how they always refer to it as such even though the ward changed names, boundaries, and faces multiple times. I took Aaron and Daniel shopping and then Aaron went to spend the rest of the day with a friend. Neil picked up Derek and took him shopping. While they were out, he got the phone call from Chase offering him employment in their Collections Department. We are excited that he has a job and even more excited that it is with Chase. He will have his employment history back along with immediate benefits.

Tuesday I had an appointment with WIC with the little girls. This involved getting their fingers pricked to check iron levels. They were not happy with me. But we got through it and both girls qualify. After that appointment, we went to the library to exchange materials and pick up the last of the reading program prizes. I had a meeting with a scouting friend to help her with the upcoming Wood Badge Reunion Dinner then went to the viewing for Brother Hibbert. It was odd to see the body lying there. I'd never been to a viewing before and can't say I want to repeat the experience. Not even at my own funeral. Neil, of course, knew most of the family and friends in attendance. I knew the people from the ward and a few others that are in the stake. His friend, Alec Smith, came over from New Mexico, and stayed the night with us. The kids have decided that he should be an uncle - he is pretty cool.

Wednesday I attended the funeral for the mother of another sister in the ward and Neil and Alec went to the Hibbert funeral. We received school supply lists in the mail so we put together backpacks for Daniel, Nick, and Cierra and made a list of those things we still needed. We swung by the school to drop off some paperwork, went by the bank, and ran a couple of other errands before picking Derek up. We then went shopping for the needed school supplies and other stuff. Later that night, after Neil had taken Derek back, he and I went shopping for groceries and thwarted an abduction.

Thursday I actually sat down and worked on the surveys. I got them all coded and got some swim time in with the family as well. Friday I tried to enter the information online, but was thwarted by the system. Found out it wasn't anything I had done so that made me feel better. Neil made dutch oven cobblers for the pioneer party at the church and we all headed over for that about 6 pm. We had some good dinner and Neil and I danced a couple of dances together. Note to future entertainers - do not follow the Virginia Reel with a waltz. It doesn't matter how much you love your partner, nobody wants to get that close to a sweaty body. Neil danced with me anyway.

Saturday we slept in and then did some housework. Neil took the older boys shopping (seems like there was a lot of that this week) while I swept and mopped floors. I also dyed my hair and it is now a purplish-red. I've gotten a lot of compliments on it so I must not have done too bad of a job. Then I went and hung out with a friend just to have some alone time. She introduced me to pedicures which I highly recommend to everybody.

Today we attended church. We had some great talks on the savior and the plan of salvation. I skipped Sunday School as I had to stay late in the chapel picking up the cereal pieces Rachel dropped on the floor right as the closing prayer was being said. I went and sat in the back foyer while I waited for Relief Society to start and ended up having a fun conversation with the second counselor of the bishopric. He was having to fill out a questionnaire for BYD tonight so I learned a bit more about him. He also became privy to a couple of embarrassing quirks I have. He's become a reader of my blog so he's aware that I have multiple quirks - most of which could be considered embarrassing.

We had a great lesson in Relief Society as Sister Bentley introduced me to the world of Family Search. My mother has done so much of our family history so I have taken to just sitting back and enjoying not having to do anything without the guilt. But I am interested in seeing what my mom has done and figure out if there is anything I can help with, such as temple ordinances.

After our 3-hour session, we dropped the kids off at home and then went to the Granite Reef ward to attend the farewell address of a boy who should still be 11. Seth has grown into a handsome young man and is excited to head off to Guatemala to serve the Lord. He is the third son to go and has had two excellent examples of missionary service in his older brothers. The Price family is dear to our hearts and we love the opportunity to go visit them and the rest of the GR Ward. We always get asked when we visit when we are moving back. We're not going anywhere until the house situation is finalized - which at this point could be September but of which year is hard to say. We are not in any hurry to move - mostly because the house is a great fit for our family and I despise moving. It is easy to see the benefit our children would have being in a ward where there is an active youth program but also easy to sum up the strong influence our children have in a ward where the youth program struggles for numbers. So for now, all I can say is we are here until the Lord decides he needs us elsewhere.

Have a wonderful week.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Goals and Plans

The deaths of this past week have me thinking. I suppose it is common to become introspective at these times as you hear of the contributions of those now gone. It is not unusual to consider what you are contributing yourself and determine what type of memories you want to have shared at your own funeral. I don't expect mine to come for quite a while. I come from a long line of lively women.

My great-grandmother Bingham lived well into her 90s. I recall spending the summer between my junior and senior years of high school with my grandmother in South Carolina and my great-grandmother was bed-ridden at that time. She must have been sick because I knew she was there but there were no conversations or interactions with her on my part. My grandmother McNeil is now 93 and though she has had some bouts with cancer, she is still fighting. I had actually hoped to get out to visit her this summer but with the job situation, we had to delay. I'm hoping she'll still be around next summer.

My mother is 74. She had a double hip replacement about 10 years ago and I think it made her even more active. I hadn't thought that was possible. So given the long lives that are still being lived in my family, I plan on being around for quite a while longer. This begs the question of what kind of life I want to live.

I admit, I want to be rich. I don't necessarily want to have fancy cars or big houses, but I want to be able to be involved in activities with my family that will help provide those memories which they will relate at my funeral. I'd like to travel. I want my children to be familiar with historical sites; to stand in the Sacred Grove and feel God's Spirit; to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and stand in awe of those who serve our country; to visit Mount Rushmore and breathe in the grandeur of such talent.

My children are growing up quicker than I'd like. My oldest starts high school this year and it won't be long before he is driving, dating, graduating, going on a mission, getting married, and having children of his own. I can't wait to be a grandma. I can, but I'm looking forward to that experience. I have never been close with any of my grandparents. Most of that is due to distance. My grandfather McNeil died when I was 8. My grandma Gardner passed away 4 years ago. My grandmother McNeil is still on the east coast and my grandpa Gardner is a 12-hour drive away. There are distant memories of Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings at G&GGs as my dad's parents are fondly known. Time with my mom's family was limited due to the distance, but I am glad they made the effort to get us out there every few years.

I consider the grandparents my children have. Distance is a stumbling block to close relations. My parents have never stopped being parents as they have been left to raise the children of my youngest sister, who was a child herself when she started having babies. Grandpa Taggart passed away not long after Neil and I married and so none of the children really got to know him. We loved when Grandma Janet lived here in Phoenix though we probably didn't take advantage of that time with her as well as we could have. Now that she is 3 hours away, our time with her is limited. We always feel like an invasion whenever we travel anywhere - this is where being rich would come in handy. We could either buy a travel trailer or just stay in motels. We could fly instead of drive.

So I want to be an awesome grandma. I want to be the cookie-baking, airsoft-shooting, trampoline-jumping, spoil-you-rotten grandma everyone loves. I will not own yappy dogs or any cats. I will go camping and fishing. I will not make you eat all your vegetables. You can have dessert even if you didn't eat all your dinner. I will break all the rules I ever set for your parents and I will override their rules when you are at my house. I will always love you and you will always know it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Books I Have Read

The BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up? Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen X
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien X
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling X
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee X
6 The Bible X
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell X
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman X
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

Total: 7

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott X
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare X
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien X
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

Total: 3

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell X
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald X
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams X
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh (saw the movie - didn't know there was a book)
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck X
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll X
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

Total: 5

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens X
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis X
34 Emma - Jane Austen X
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis X
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hossein
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres3
9 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne X

Total: 5

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown X
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

Total: 1

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel X
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen X
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafo
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens X
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Total: 3

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck X
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas X
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

Total: 2

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens X
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker X
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett X
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante X
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
280 Possession - AS Byatt

Total: 4

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens X
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom X
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle X
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton X

Total: 5

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery X
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare X
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl X
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo X

Total: 4

Grand total: 39

Maybe we ought to consider this list for next year's book club selections.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It Takes a Village

Neil and I did some late night shopping and were headed home to unload groceries. It was just shy of 9 pm and as we are approaching our street, we see a little girl, about 7 or 8 years old, on a scooter on the sidewalk. A gold car is next to her and we watch as there appears to be some conversation, then the girl gets into the car. It's probably nothing, but it doesn't look right. Neil reads off the license plate number and we begin to follow the car. It heads south to Thunderbird then makes a right turn, heading west. We follow. The car switches to the left lane and we do as well. Right before 56th Street, the car switches back to the right lane and heads north onto 56th. We pursue. The next light is Acoma and probably the last street we are willing to allow the car to turn onto to return to the neighborhood before we call the police. The car continues north and I dial 9-1-1.

The operator asks for the emergency and I tell her what we have witnessed. We continue to follow the car which continues north past Greenway and pulls into Horizon Park. We are aware that there is a police station located here and pass this information on to the operator. The car pulls to a stop in front of the station and Neil pulls alongside. The driver rolls down her window and questions why we are following. We explain that we had noticed the little girl getting into her car and were concerned for her safety. Relief hits us all as she explains that her daughters were being unruly so she was going to make them walk home. One had already gotten out, but when the mother saw our vehicle stop, she convinced her daughter to get back in the car.

The operator has overheard the conversation and is probably trying to keep from laughing, grateful that there was no abduction after all. We all are.

Being the Better Person

I faced a conundrum. Two people had died and funerals were being held on the same day at almost the same time - close enough that I couldn't attend both fully. One person was the aforementioned "great man" who has been an important part of my family's life. The other person I had never met but was the mother of a sister in my ward. I can't claim that I have known this sister well or for very long - about the same amount of time as we have been in the ward. To most people, the choice would be obvious - go with the one you know. In fact, the information I had received via email was this:

The Viewing for Br. Hibbert will be this Tuesday night from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm at our building. The Memorial services will be Wednesday at 9:00 am also at our building. Bishop didn't tell me, but I know the burial will be at the Mesa Cememtery. They may want just family to attend there - I don't know.

Unfortunately, Patty's mother's funeral will also be on Wednesday at 9:30. There is no way the date can be changed for either. I just wanted to pass that information on too.


Obviously, the expectation was that members of the ward would go to Brother Hibbert's service and send Patty love and support some other way. This just seemed like a dismal expectation and highly unfair to Patty. Now, to be clear, Patty totally understood that members would attend Brother Hibbert's service and was not bitter nor upset by the circumstances. However, I decided to be the better person and show dear Patty that her loss was just as important. Besides, Neil would represent our family at the Hibbert affair so we weren't completely abandoning the ward's expectations.

Not knowing how long it would take me to drive to the church where Sister Wear's service was taking place, I brought along a book and my MP3 player. I arrived a half hour early and was so proud that I'd thought ahead enough to have my own personal amusements on hand. The family had arrived earlier to spend some time together mourning and reminiscing. Feeling somewhat out-of-place, I sought out Patty for direction on where I should wait. I gave her one of those arm-around-the-shoulder half-hugs which indicates I'm there for her - up to a point. I received a full-body embrace from a lady who was grateful for my appearance and took much more from my offering than I had intended.

After some small talk, I extricated myself from the room and went to wait in the chapel. As I entered the chapel, I noticed boxes of tissue on a chair. I passed those by, knowing I am not really a cryer and certainly would not be expected to shed tears for a woman I had never met. I found a spot, not too close to the front or back but where Patty could see me and glean additional support if she needed it. I glanced over the program and settled in to read my book. At the appropriate time, I prepared for the entrance of the procession then settled back into my seat along with the family.

The service was a typical service - family members shared experiences and memories. Musical numbers were performed. The bishop touched on the plan of salvation. Tears were shed and laughter erupted. Somewhere along the way, I was transformed. My laughter joined in, my eyes became wet, my brain kept smacking me for ignoring the boxes of tissue. I came to better understand who Grandma Betty had been and was saddened that I could not have known her better. I truly felt the loss that Patty and her family had experienced and am so grateful that I was allowed to participate in this final memory of Grandma Betty's life.

At the end of the service I sought out Patty once again. This time the hug was a full embrace and I was the one who received far more than what was intended. I truly became a better person.

Monday, July 20, 2009

When Great Men Leave Us

It is not often that one gets to rub shoulders with a great man. Most often you are not even aware of their presence on this earth though there are a few who are noteworthy enough to get mentioned in the paper or on television. Some leave a mark on your personal world through coincidence but occassionally, there are a few whose influence affects you to the core.

Being away from the computer and normal social circles, we came home from Thatcher to learn of the news of the passing of a great man. It was not unexpected - he had recently become extremely ill as his body fought off a cancerous invasion. But it was only two weeks prior that he had stood in Sacrament Meeting to bear his testimony and there hadn't appeared to be a significant change in his appearance nor his demeanor. He has always looked like an old cowboy and acted as ornery. Truthfully, I haven't known him that long. We moved into the ward shortly before Rachel was born so my association with him has been less than 4 years. However, he has been well-known and well-loved by my husband and his family for years.

You may be wondering why he ranks as one of the great men in my life - especially for having been a part of it for such a short time. He was who I needed him to be at a time when I struggled with church leadership. He made no excuses for his beliefs or his actions, though he was tactful enough not to offend intentionally. He never made me feel like I had to apologize for my feelings or frustrations. He accepted me for the outspoken, bone-headed, obstinate woman I am and found ways to help me turn my weaknesses into strengths.

As I hear and read about others feelings and tributes of this man, I have come to realize that he wasn't the same for everybody, but he was what everybody needed for themselves. There is no way to describe why exactly he was a great man. The truth is, you're either great or you're not. He was.

Visiting Grandpa

Cierra has been bugging us to go visit grandparents this summer. She has been particularly concerned about visiting Grandpa Taggart who died just a few months before she was born. We think it may have been triggered from her visit to the Veteran's Memorial Cemetary when we helped the scouts plant flags the Saturday prior to Memorial Day. She insisted that Grandpa needed a flag. So as we prepared to go to Thatcher, she made sure she had her flag and we promised she would get to go visit Grandpa.

Saturday afternoon we headed over to the cemetary. Grandpa had been cremated and a burial lot had been purchased. There is no headstone yet, but one is planned as soon as the estate is truly settled. We keep thinking this will be the year only to get last-minute paperwork. 2010 is looking good.


Uncle Ian showed Cierra where Grandpa is buried, Dad poked a hole in the ground, and Cierra planted the flag. Next time she wants to take flowers.

Week Ending 7/19/2009

It is definitely summer in Arizona. It is too hot to do anything - even sleep. It doesn't stop the kids from sleeping, which is nice because I can get so much more done when they're not awake. This week has been relatively boring, but we did enjoy a nice mini-vacation this weekend.

Monday I started training for a job which will allow me to work from home. It is mostly data entry and I am excited to be busy and bringing in some money. While at training, a man came in and said hi. I had one of those moments where I recognized the face and the voice but the name and the "why I know him" data eluded me. Once he left the room, I asked my trainer his name and everything clicked. I actually know his wife better than I know him and it had been a couple of years since I had seen either of them. After I finished up training, I ran by the library and switched out books and movies and picked up some of the kids' prizes for the reading program.

Tuesday I went back for some more training and then ran some errands before coming home. Aaron had scouts that night so I took him to the church then stopped to visit one of my VT sisters. She wasn't there but I chatted with her mom who was previously on my route. It was nice to catch up with her.

Wednesday was a clean the house day and I took Aaron and Daniel to see the new Harry Potter movie. It was good but disappointing on some of the changes between the book and the movie. Aaron spent the night with a friend and Daniel and I drove home in a lightning storm. Neil had a counseling session with Alyx and then they went and got something to eat. She indicated that she didn't feel a need to keep going to counseling but rather felt she and Neil could work things out on their own. This is good news at least until she has to convince her mother of the same. We'll see.

Thursday we got things ready to go out of town. This included having the alternator and battery replaced in the suburban - at least it died on us at home rather than on the trip. Neil met with Chase's employment services and we found out today that they have extended a position to him. There is some paperwork and background checks to get through first, but the nice thing is that his start date would be within the year of his termination and so he will start back with his 12 years seniority and 3 weeks vacation.

We left Friday morning to go visit Neil's brother and mother in Thatcher. We got in there about 12:30 and got the kids settled. We then worked on lunch for everybody and just spent time visiting. Saturday we got up early and went up to Mount Graham. Their ward had had a campout so we made it up there in time for breakfast and then just stayed up in the cool air hiking and playing games. We came back into town and treated the kids to snow cones. Cierra and Rachel chose ice cream cones instead and ended up wearing those more than they ate them. Nick had a cherry snow cone and spent the majority of the time trying to keep the ice in his cup or mouth with the result of red-stained hands. We have learned to travel with wet-wipes in the car at all times so we cleaned them up as best we could then headed back to the house.

Sunday was church - they have the 1:00 session. Nick and Rachel fell asleep during sacrament meeting and Cierra had a meltdown when she went to primary. Nick woke up in time to go to primary but I ended up taking Cierra and Rachel back to the house where I packed up bags in preparation to come back to Phoenix. Everyone else got back shortly after 4 pm and we pulled out leftovers for dinner. We spent some more time just visiting and I went back to mom's to finish up a puzzle Aaron had pulled out and we had started Saturday evening. We ended up not leaving until almost 7:30 but we had no time commitments so enjoyed the trip back watching the lightning flashes. The little kids fell asleep and Aaron, Daniel, Neil, and I enjoyed silly and fun conversations.

Once we got home, we got all the kids to bed and put in a movie to fall asleep to. Although I had not seen the movie, I was tired enough that I was able to fall asleep quickly. Now on to a new week.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Facebook

I had relegated Facebook, MySpace, and other similar sites into a "For Teens" category in my mind. When Neil and I staffed on Wood Badge earlier this year, I kept hearing of how everybody was on FaceBook and/or MySpace. Then I kept getting invites to join Facebook. In an effort to keep such spam at bay in my inbox, I joined. Little did I realize that I was now going to get inundated not just by other requests for friendships, but inane comments posted to the Wall.

I have accepted friends from high school, family, previous wards, and online parenting groups. I have accepted friends who I have not talked to in real life in over 20 years, and some to whom I've never actually spoken to. I did draw the line when I received a request from my ex-husband. I figure that if he hasn't bothered to have a real relationship with me or his children since 1999, there's not much reason to pretend to be friends on line.

The relationships between my "friends" and me are not any better now that we are linked on this social website. I have come to realize that many of my high school friends have never graduated mentally. Those who I have met online only through parenting groups remain enigmas - although thanks to the multiple quizzes, I have been given glimpses of which decade they should have been born in and the names they should have been given at birth had their parents had the technology available to them that we now do. I am still related to family (whether I like it or not) and realize that I still rely on their blogs and emails and phone calls to get the full story. The only area where Facebook rules over other websites is that I have more confirmed friends (44) there than I have followers (3) here. Given all the other factors, I prefer this anonymity.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Evil Picture

I'm trying to clean the kitchen. The three little kids are running to and from a duck game on the counter in an obvious effort to drive me nuts. It's working. I finally bark at them to quit running and then glance up to see them all seated on the hearth. Wish I had my camera. Rachel has clapped her hands over her ears in an obvious attempt to drown out my ranting. Cierra has her hands over her mouth as she has just shoved potato chips in and is trying to keep them from falling out. Nick is rubbing his eyes with his balled-up fists. See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil. Should I be offended?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Speak - By Laurie Halse Anderson

In an ongoing pursuit of learning and knowledge and having something in common with my children, I often read books from the Young Adult section. "Speak" is a required reading assignment for Aaron to complete prior to the start of 9th grade English. After requesting a copy from the library, I found the audio book so checked it out. He listened to it and when the actual book became available a few days later, I snuck off to read it before handing it over to him.

This is a short book - less than 200 pages - written from the viewpoint of a 9th grade female who begins the year unliked by her peers. Although the writer does not clue you in immediately as to why she is an outcast, clues are given and the reader can figure out the unwritten details. The majority of the book leads the reader to believe that the main character has quit speaking other than inside her head. She doesn't participate in classes and is perpetually late or absent altogether. By the end of the book and the end of the school year, she is able to find her voice and report her tragedy, but it takes a very long road and it really isn't that well traveled.

I personally had a hard time buying into the story. It's a sad, tragic tale, but not in just the obvious way. I am working on the assumption that she was fairly popular in middle school and had a normal circle of friends, including one BFF. The turning point is an end-of-summer party at which she ostracizes herself by committing a horrendous social faux pas. She calls the cops to the party and now everybody hates her. Her reason for calling the cops is what causes her to cease speaking.

Here's my problem: If I had a daughter who was socially active and engaged in normal teenage activities who overnight closeted herself in her room and quit talking, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't let things go for a whole school year without questioning this major change. I would be calling her BFFs parents, talking to counselors, consulting family and friends, and dragging in home drug-testing kits. Yes, this girl's parents are having marriage issues (who doesn't) and they both work outside the home (been there, done that). But she's an only child. I have 7 and I can still guarantee that I would notice if one of them communicated with me only through written notes.

I can't wait to talk to this teacher to determine why this particular book was picked. It probably has something to do with symbolism and foreshadowing - it certainly can't be for intellectual stimulation.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Week Ending 7/12/09

The new schedule is not working well. I am still sleeping in later than I would like and the kids are being lazy as well. But we'll keep on trying. We are still making it to church on time so we're not complete failures.

Monday Neil did some job hunting at Chase and I worked on packing up stuff and sort of cleaning along the way. Tuesday Neil and I both went to a job fair that ended up not happening so went to the temple instead. You can read of my skirt-shopping exploits in a previous post. It was good to be back at the temple, especially since we had talked about going sooner and it hadn't worked out. Neil held his scout meeting while I focused on finding the floor in my bedroom.

Wednesday was more cleaning for me and Neil went to a job fair which did actually happen but was not very promising. We were supposed to get the carpets cleaned which is why I was looking for my bedroom floor, only to have the people show up and tell me that they were not a carpet-cleaning service but were actually demo-ing a particular brand of carpet cleaner in hopes of making a sale. Given our current situation I told them that they would not be making a sale no matter how good the product and they left the house saving us all from two hours of sales pitch. It would have been nice if they would have cleaned that one stubborn spot in the dining room as a good-will gesture, but such is life.

Thursday I cleaned up the little girls' bedroom which has since been destroyed. This isn't really unusual. Neil went with Derek to his final swim meet and finally got home around 10 pm. Friday I took a break from cleaning and worked on organizing the piles of papers that have been strewn across my bedroom floor. Neil took Derek to the church for a scout campout with his mother's ward and I dropped Aaron off at our building to go participate in baptisms for the dead. Daniel hung out with some neighbor boys and ended up spending the night there. Aaron got back from the temple only to go spend the night at a buddy's house and so it was just me, Neil, and the little guys. We tried to convince them to spend the night in their own beds, but they snuck in at some point and re-strewed my piles.

Saturday I refocused on the piles - still have a couple that I just don't know what to do about. They're not critical, but they could become so. I think I'll just bundle them all up and shove them in my bedside cupboard. At least they'll be off the floor. Trick is to remember what I did with them when they do become necessary. Neil's mom was in town and stopped in to visit. She bought us pizza. The little girls were convinced they were going to get to go home with her and spend the night. They were disappointed when they realized she was leaving without them. We're planning a trip there next weekend so hopefully that will make them happy.

Today was church. We got there on time (early actually) and marvelled at the emptiness of the parking lot. It shouldn't be surprising - anyone with brains and capability leave Phoenix for the month of July. We made it through the sacrament portion and past the musical number before Cierra had to go to the bathroom. We had just come back to the foyer when Neil appeared with Rachel in tears. Apparently Nick had attacked her. While trying to console her, Aaron appeared with Nick so he got to sit by the couch, Rachel was on my lap still mooing, and Cierra was pouting because she no longer had mom's lap or attention.

Neil and I taught in primary then Neil met with the mother of one of his scouts to review what he had accomplished while Aaron met with the new teacher's quorum advisor regarding his position as Varsity Team Captain and also with a merit badge counselor for his Personal Management. He just needs to get a blue card filled out, meet for his scoutmaster's conference and have a board of review and he will be Life. Then it's a few more merit badges and a project and he should have his Eagle by next summer. He could do it sooner, but I want him to be able to focus on his school work without trying to cram everything in and get lost.

My visiting teacher brought by a watermelon and the kids have been bugging to cut it open. That'll have to wait until tomorrow. We don't have enough room in the refrigerator right now so that'll have to be a project to work on tomorrow. It is now almost 9:30 and I didn't get my afternoon nap. I start work tomorrow so I probably ought to get to bed so I can be there on time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Flakes

I got a message today from my dad. My cousin's marriage is off. They went to the courthouse to get the license and her fiance bailed. I can't imagine the pain and confusion she is feeling now. My heart goes out to her and I hope that this experience doesn't sour her on marriage.

How do you recover from this? The invitations have been sent, friends and family are ready to show up at the temple and reception, gifts have been bought - it's quite the embarrassment I suppose. What must people be saying? Hopefully very little and hopefully what is said is in support of her. But what do you say to someone who has been jilted like this? At least she found out now? At least it wasn't across the alter when he decided to say no instead of yes? At least she doesn't have to go through a divorce? At least there aren't any children involved? Nothing really seems right, does it?

I can't say I've been overly close with this cousin. I know she is one of three girls and I think she's the youngest. Her oldest sister has been married for a while and has at least two boys. I don't know if the other sister has gotten married or not. It's not because I don't care, I do from a distance. I am one of the oldest of the cousins on my dad's side and she is probably a good 10-15 years younger than me. We have a lot of cousins - my dad has 4 siblings. There are 7 kids in my family, 3 in hers, 3 in another, one aunt has a lot - I lost track after 5 - there could be 7 or 8 (one died young) and the youngest uncle has at least 5 - maybe 7.

Her family was out on the east coast while I grew up in NM. We knew they existed and saw pictures, but relationships aren't well-built on such minimal contact. The truth is, I was actually trying to figure out if our family could go up for her reception. Neil really wanted to go though I think the draw for him was spending time with his brother and getting out of the heat of Arizona. I'm actually a bit sad that we didn't go, though I wouldn't have gotten my dad's message and would still have shown up for the reception to find, what? I don't know, but I am more sad that I made excuses than I would have been had I found myself in the position of facing my little known cousin with nothing more than a hug and a heartache.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lost in Austen

We had a carpet cleaning scheduled for this afternoon. They would clean two rooms so I chose the dining room and the master bedroom. They have the most carpet. The dining room was easy. We had cleaned it yesterday in time for scouts and it was still in a reasonable state of clutter-free. I did have to re-vacuum, but that's not really surprising. The master bedroom was a different story. It has become the catch-all since nobody is allowed in our room outside of family. It's a fairly big room. It holds a queen sized bed with a headboard which has cupboards on either side of the bed, a couch, a dresser, a chest of drawers, two desks, an exercise/weight system, a table, and a bookshelf. That doesn't include the walk-in closet which holds boxes of books, knick-knacks, future Christmas/birthday presents, camping and hunting gear, and clothes. The room has become overrun with scout stuff, church stuff, school stuff, sewing stuff, computer stuff, and stuff which has no clear category but must be kept nonetheless.

In an effort to be more organized, I have been packing boxes according to category. This works rather well when all the stuff of a category is together and can easily be transferred from a pile to a box. This is not the case in the bedroom. Piles have been moved multiple times and categories have oozed and mixed amongst themselves. So today I must bring order to chaos and must do so before 3 pm when the carpet cleaners are due to arrive. Since I will be spending the day in the bedroom, I throw in a movie. For those who have been paying attention, I do not particularly care for Jane Austen's books yet I find myself drawn subconsciously to movies about her and her works.

I grabbed this movie because it had a good cover and a catchy title. It never occurred to me that Austin was spelled wrong and that this movie was not about Texas, but Jane herself. Well, sort of. The basic premise is a modern English gal is visited by Elizabeth Bennet (Pride & Prejudice) through a previously unknown portal linking the Bennet's attic and Miss Price's bathroom. Of course, Miss Price is an Austen fan and has spent the last 14 years of her life in love with the love affair between the Miss Bennet's and their various beaux. Thrown into their world while Lizzie takes on 21st century London, Miss Price finds there is more character to Austen's characters and is both distressed and anxious when the country society doesn't match up as depicted in the book. Jane doesn't marry Bingley and Charlotte leaves to be a missionary in Africa. Who gets Mr. Darcy? You'll have to watch the movie.

T - 1

Tomorrow is the scheduled sale date for the foreclosure on the house. Our realtor has been talking to them every day. He called this morning to basically say nothing new but that he was to call back in the afternoon. The afternoon call comes and we have been given a 60-day extension. What that means is we now have two months to stay in the house, continue to search for jobs, search for somewhere else to live, continue to pack up all the stuff we aren't going to need in the next six months but want to keep. It is possible that in that 60 days the bank will accept the offer and we will have some additional time for the house to close. They may accept the offer but the buyer will be long gone investing in something else. That will give us additional time to market the house and hope for another offer. Bottom line is we have some breathing room, but don't want to breathe too much.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dressing Up

There was a job fair today. I dressed to impress - black slacks, white and red blouse with a black belt. I did my hair - nothing special, but a bit of gel and a hairdryer beats the normal air-dried look I go with. I printed out 20 copies of my resume. Neil mapquested the address and off we went. It took a little time to find the place. Mapquest likes back roads rather than the obvious route. The place didn't look like a job fair location, but in we went. There was no job fair today. We did get to hand over a resume and received a business card with the business' web site.

All dressed up and no where to go. Neil makes a comment that if I had worn a skirt instead of pants we could go to the temple. We had planned to go last week, but never made it. Probably my fault. It's too hot to sleep at night and too hot to drive during the day. But we're already out and instead of allowing my choice of clothing affect the ability to go to the temple, I suggest we go buy me a skirt. Desert Industries is on the way. I go quickly to the rack with black skirts and choose two to try on. Neil has disappeared. I go to the dressing rooms. First skirt is long and silky. Not silk silky - more like a rayon/lycra blend. I'm liking it until I turn to the side. Long skirt comes with a mile high slit. Were I not wearing garments, this would be a sexy feature. I don't love everything about my body, but I do have great legs. However, there is a difference between a flash of pale skin and a flash of white leggings and sexy quickly turns to weird. Next skirt.

This one is shorter but still knee-length - appropriately covering the garments. It also has a slit. Two actually - one in front and one in back. But they are modest slits and glancing at myself in the mirror, I am convinced this will do. I change back into the pants and head off to find Neil. I swing through the dress racks and he finds me eyeing an animal print with a v-neck. He is carrying two dress shirts, blue cub scout shorts, two khaki scout shirts and is torn over two eagle scout neckerchiefs. I tell him to ditch the yellow dress shirt while I try on the dress. He exchanges the yellow shirt for the eagle neckerchiefs and I get the okay on the dress. I'm ready to leave - he wants to go see the "stuff" section of DI. I remind him our goal is the temple. It'll just be real quick.

It's not and it came with some movies and a Primary CD-Rom. But we're finally checked out and I'm switching from the pants to the skirt in the truck. Bonus of owning a lifted truck - you can change and still have privacy. We get to the temple and I realize the huge mistake I have made in buying this skirt. I never walked in it and as I walk, the front slit now exposes the very clothing I tried to avoid when I nixed the longer skirt. I am instantly uncomfortable and embarrassed. I walk with my purse in front of me. I am now smacking my legs into my purse with every step and am still uncomfortable.
Since we hadn't planned on going to the temple, we have to use the temple's clothing. Not a big deal - I've done it before. We are asked if we will do sealings. Not a bad idea to be reminded of the covenants I made seven years ago. Once we are in the sealing room, we are instructed to put on the packet clothing. The veil stumps me. It's not the style I'm used to and as I stare in the mirror, I know it is wrong, but cannot for the life of me figure out how to make it right. I ask Neil for help. He's a guy. He doesn't wear a veil and he tells me I look fine. A sister comes into the room escorted by a female temple worker. She knows it's wrong and quickly comes over to aid me in setting things right. She whispers that it happened to another sister and the male workers were unable to assist. Like me, they knew it was wrong, but clueless on how to make it right.

I guess I shouldn't be so concerned. It is after all, just clothing. I'm not intentionally trying to be immodest or clueless. But in the future, I shall wear a dress or skirt and carry my temple bag - just in case. For now, I'm happily back in jeans and a t-shirt.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Slug Bug White

Yes, we play the slug bug game, but without the slugging. Aaron has long been teased for the ghost slug bugs he finds which no one else sees. He's a bit competitive. We actually had to ban the game because it was leading to fights. We're still not allowed to play on Sundays. The older kids don't usually play at all but the game is back on.

Nick: Slug bug white!
Rachel: Slug bug yellow!
Nick: There's no yellow slug bug.
Rachel: Uh huh.
Nick: No, you made it up.
Rachel: No, I made it down.

Powers of Observation

You know, you think you tell your kids things. Sometimes I work on the assumption that if I know something, so do they. Take this whole bishopric change. We had been told by a couple of people of the change and I thought in telling Neil, I had also told the kids. Imagine my surprise when Daniel turns to me this morning and asks when Brother Bloom became the bishop. I could've sworn I'd mentioned it. But then I realize I must've been working with the principle of osmosis and assumed that what I knew, he did as well.

Did you know that Tweety Bird is a boy? Ummm yeah - doesn't everyone? Apparently this is another piece of information I had neglected to pass on to my children. And I didn't realize that families all across the nation were having dinner conversations based on the gender of cartoon characters and I'd been committing a social faux pas. Truth is I don't watch cartoons (much) and since the advent of DTV, I haven't been watching television at all. By the way - Magenta is a girl but Blue is a boy and any true Blue's Clue's fan will tell you that the show is ruined now that Blue actually talks. Actually true fans will tell you the show took a turn for the worse when Steve left for college and left Blue in the care of Joe (nice kid, but he obviously has a fear of commitment).

I can only imagine what else I've neglected to tell my children, but some things I guess they should be able to figure out for themselves. So I didn't feel too horrible about the lack of communication regarding the bishop when Daniel's next question was if Brother Hibbert had died. (for those unaware, Brother Hibbert had been the 1st counselor in the former bishopric). Rather than respond at all, I simply pointed to the row ahead of us where Brother Hibbert was seated clearly alive.

Week Ending 7/5/09

Summer has hit Phoenix. We were lucky that most of June was relatively nice especially being out in the sun for day camp. Now camp is over and we are trying to get the kids back on a regular schedule. Last week was a transition week as we tried to convince our bodies that we no longer had to stay up until midnight. We actually made it to church on time today so it must be working.

Speaking of church, we've had a change in bishopric. Our new bishop was the previous 2nd counselor and having worked with him through the various callings over which he was my mentor, I am still having troubles calling him "bishop" rather than by his first name. It also doesn't help that he looks like he's 15 years younger than me and my perception of him is more of a younger brother than the father of our ward.

I never thought I was resilient to change - in fact, I was always wanting to move a lot when I was younger and thought it rather unfair that my father had chosen a profession with the state rather than the military. And I don't think that I am necessarily against this change but I realize that I am having the same difficulty in transferring titles as I was after President Hinckley died. I still have to do a mental process to see President Monson's face when somebody mentions "the prophet."

Anyway, as far as the highlights of last week - we've mostly focused on packing up those things we aren't using and getting rid of those things we haven't touched for the past 6 months (or longer). The little kids got a little crazy and started packing up their rooms. Nick was hard-pressed to find clean underwear since he'd packed all of his clothes. We don't have much of an update on the house. Our realtor has been talking with the bank and the bank has accepted the package authorizing the short sale and the paperwork has actually been assigned to an underwriter. However, the foreclosure sale date has not yet been stayed and no word on whether or not the bank is going to accept the offer. We'll talk to them tomorrow and at the very least push for a stay on the foreclosure. But it still leaves us in quite a bit of limbo. We still have no income and we have no idea when we will have to move. Nor do we know where we will go when we do have to move.

What I do know is that the Lord has a plan for us so we continue to be proactive in the job searching and trusting the rest to Him.