Sunday, December 27, 2009

The BFG by Roald Dahl

I had heard of this story many times as two of my children have read it and many other of Dahl's works. But it wasn't until recently that I decided to read it myself. This decision was spurred after doing a classroom observation for my schoolwork. I have to have 80 hours of observation before I can begin my student teaching. The class was a 2nd/3rd grade classroom of about 10 students. It is the teacher's first year at this school, though she has at least two years prior experience in teaching. The class was about halfway through the book on the day of my observation, and the teacher did such a delightful job of reading. I particularly enjoyed the voice she gave to the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) and the way she so accurately mispronounced the words as written.

The book is a quick read and a delightful, fanciful story of a little girl who is carried away by the BFG after she spies him blowing through a trumpet in the middle of the night. Although the BFG is friendly, thus the name, he actually isn't very big for a giant and is not typical of giants in many other ways as well. The young girl witnesses the existence of more typical giants and is warned by the BFG about what will happen to her if the other giants were to find her. She is horrified when she learns that giants eat people and devises a plan to save the human race from the giants, with the help of the BFG.

It is a rather silly book, but fun to read and full of confusing words that sort of make sense. If you have children in the 7-10 age range, this is a recommended read for them and you.

Thank You Notes

We have always tried hard to get our children to follow the age-old tradition of writing thank you notes. Some years we've done better than others, but apparently, there has been some success. This morning, Cierra asked if we could take Ruger to church. We explained that dogs generally don't go to church (I assume that service dogs would be allowed). Dad added that we needed Ruger at home to protect the house while we were away. Shortly after we observed Cierra dictating to Nick (because he can write) a letter thanking Ruger for guarding our home.

Here's hoping he'll be as helpful when it comes time to write the holiday thank you notes.

Week Ending 12/27/09

Well we're coming to the end of the holidays and the end of the year. My goal is to send out a year in review at some point, but we just finally got family pictures done yesterday so the letter will wait until those come back.

The week has been busy. I worked Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, did visiting teaching and last minute shopping and errands on Thursday, thoroughly enjoyed Christmas day on Friday and relaxed on Saturday. Neil worked Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and a few hours Saturday morning. He had Wednesday off to celebrate his birthday. He took the kids to the zoo, did some Christmas shopping, then spent the evening with Alyx and Derek.

We were all spoiled with presents and family and are now dreading the going back to work this week. I at least enjoy my job, Neil tolerates his. We've decided his manager is a complete idiot and unfortunately it only gets worse as you go higher up in the company. This is probably one of the reasons why Neil has decided not to pursue management with this company.

Church today was entertaining for me. I got to play in nursery without actually getting out the toys. Instead, we had a lesson, ate snacks, sang songs, and kept the kids active with a variety of games such as London Bridges, Ring Around the Rosy, and Motorboat. Maybe I'm just slow, or maybe it's learned behavior that we fail to question, but as we did Motorboat, I realized that the words and the actions conflict at the end. For anyone unfamiliar with the action poem, here are the words and the dilemna:

Motorboat, motorboat go so slow (participants walk slowly in a circle holding hands)
Motorboat, motorboat go so fast (participants run in the circle, still holding hands)
Motorboat, motorboat step on the gas (participants suddenly brake and fall to the floor)

Did you notice that - you've just stepped on the gas, yet the actions have you coming to a stop rather abruptly as if you had actually stepped on the brake. Granted, fast and gas rhyme, whereas fast and brake do not. Coming to the conclusion that the words and actions did not match, I attempted to change the actions to fit the words and pick up speed. This is not recommended, especially when playing with small children because picking up speed actually causes them to fly through the air and I swear this is not what caused one little boy to end up with a goose egg on his forehead, but that is a foreseeable end.

Next week I'm helping out with the Valiant 11/12s and I'm pretty sure there will be no call for Motorboat in that class.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Blessings

Now that the stockings have been unstuffed and are no longer hanging with care, but rather strewn throughout the house haphazardly; and children are somewhat nestled - at least the older ones - while the younger ones are having fun with their newfound toys, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the blessings we've experienced this Christmas.

First, we are still in our home. We are patiently waiting the bank's decision on the short sale offer and really in no hurry to move. We expect that they will make a decision once the holidays are over and they realize that it has now been over a year since they have received any type of payment from us. It's not that we don't want to hold to our obligation, but the reality is we never should have been approved for the original loan and we are in no position to even afford the payments of a loan modification. But the blessing is that we were able to have Christmas in a warm, comfortable home that is large enough to hold our family when we are altogether.

This brings me to our next blessing. Once again, we have all the children together in our home. Alyx even spent the night and we will be taking a family portrait later this afternoon. The spirit in the home is peaceful, which is a change from a couple of years ago when Alyx was always here during the court-appointed parenting time but was resentful and moody. While I always loved her, I admit I did not enjoy having her in the house with that attitude most times. Her attitude now is more in tune with our whole family - very laidback.

That attitude is what I consider my third blessing. As much as I love the holidays, I really do not get into the whole decorating thing. I love the decorating, actually, it is the un-decorating that I dislike. The tree is now pretty dry and I am ready to remove the few ornaments that made their way onto the tree and toss the tree out into the woodpile. I love that my children are willing to toss the ornaments onto the tree in a very unorganized way. They enjoy the decorating and do not need to have me being anal about the positioning of each ornament or deciding which ones should be allowed on the tree and which ones are too gaudy to be displayed. And I admit to having a few of those ornaments. But those are blessings as well as they reflect my childhood Christmases and traditions we have carried forward.

I am grateful for food. And I am grateful that my family does not expect any special feast or spread. This is a carry over from my own family where mom always had too much food and candy and we were allowed to graze throughout the day without any formal sit-down dinner. We have plenty of food and the children can graze at will without expecting me to jump through any hoops to make food, especially since I really don't cook anyway.

Another blessing is our ward family. We struggled to fit in and still don't, but as I have come to know individuals, I am realizing that there really isn't a place to fit in. People are just people and often what we see in appearance has little relevance to who the people are on the inside. As I have had the opportunity to get to know many on a more personal and individual basis, I realize that I fit in much more than I thought I could and I don't have to do anything special to be accepted. Now, granted, that means that there are some people who just don't get me and we will never be friends, but I am finding that those people are becoming fewer and fewer as time goes by.

We were blessed by being visited early in the season by the single sisters of the ward. They chose to be Santas to our family and brought presents and goodies. They sang carols to us and forgave the intrusions of unexpected visitors relating to my scouting position as Popcorn Kernel.

I was particularly blessed this year by being able to work part time. In addition to the extra income, I have made some wonderful friends and strengthened other relationships. One lady in particular has become dear to my heart. She is a single woman who desires marriage and companionship but is such a strong personality in her own right. She ended up with an extra ticket to the performance of The Forgotten Carols by Michael McLean and invited me to come along. What a blessing. I was excited to get dressed up a bit and to enjoy some away from work, kids, home time. The performance was good. I wasn't too sure at first how much I was really enjoying it. I love music and have always liked McLean's music in particular. The songs were good, but I just wasn't real sure about the whole story line. During the second act I found myself wanting the time to be done so I could just get back home. In retrospect, I realize that even though I wanted the time away, there were still many things going on at home and my mind was still engaged at home and unable to fully experience the performance. It really wasn't until the end when Michael came back out on stage and talked to the audience that I really started feeling the spirit of what was intended. This portion actually prolonged the away time, but it was when I really was able to put off the naggings of the mind and understand the message of the performance.

And that brings me to my final blessing - not that I don't have many more that I could name, but this one is big. It is the blessing of knowing the Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes, I know that He wasn't really born in the cold of December, but in the early months of spring. But this is the season we celebrate His birth most fully. And while most of us know the traditional story of who was there at this blessed time, His existence touched the lives of far more than those who were physically there to celebrate His birth and participate in His life. Because I know Him, He inspires me to be better, to strive harder, to live more fully following His example.

Merry Christmas to all and may the miracle of Jesus touch your life and lead you to be a better you.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Almost Week's End

I realized that I haven't been blogging regularly nor am I even able to get the weekly update in. So since I have a few spare moments, I thought I'd just get down what has occurred over the past few weeks.

The kids just finished up their last week of school and are officially on Christmas Break. I am done with popcorn except for turning in some money and leftover popcorn to council. The Christmas shopping is mostly done although I imagine that it won't be until I start wrapping the presents that I'll have a better indicator of what percentage of "done" I am.

I've been busy with scouts and school and soccer and church programs and school programs and work and other things that I don't quite remember. Last Saturday was the ward Christmas program. I was supposed to be an angel with other children angels. Instead, I had a blazing headache and was sent home by the Activities Committee Chair. Daniel stayed and played a shepherd and then got a ride home with a good friend. My roasting pan with the hams I had cooked didn't make it home and Neil said he couldn't find it at church on Sunday. My headache was still waging a war on my body so I stayed home. Hopefully the Activities Committee Chair knows its whereabouts. The roasting pan, not the war.

Tuesday the school had its final soccer game. We scored a goal and got a 4th place trophy. I was happy both for the outcome and that the season is now over. Wednesday was Pack Meeting. They had an awesome display of color guard by a Marine Corps, who also stayed and talked about the Toys for Tots program and other cool military stuff. Wednesday and Thursday were half-days for Aaron, Derek, and Alyx as they had finals and then Friday off. Thursday was the Christmas program for the younger kids. The pre-school group did a cute musical program which involved a lot of rocking back and forth and hard-to-decipher singing. The school-aged children put on Dickens' A Christmas Carol with a little bit of personal flavor. Daniel played Dickens with a horrible English accent, Nick was Peter Cratchett, and Cierra was part of the choir. Given their ages and abilities, they did a good job. Grandma Janet happened to be in town and so shared the evening with us. Friday was a half-day for the younger children and so I did some housework and school work during the morning then spent the afternoon herding cats. That evening we went to a Christmas party hosted by some friends. Lots of yummy things to eat and a fun musical presentation. Santa even showed up.

Today we all pitched in and cleaned house, except for Nick who ended up with the flu. It had hit Rachel and Cierra at the end of last week and beginning of this week so it was just a matter of time. Nick was a real trooper about it though, even covered up his own puke trail when he missed the toilet. He seems to be feeling much better tonight so hopefully will be able to go to church tomorrow. If not, Neil will have to stay home as I've been asked to cover in the nursery and we figure it'll be easier to send his three boys to the other Primary teacher if he can't be there.

We got a little time to ourselves tonight as we went grocery shopping. Dating really isn't something we get to do very often because of our financial situation, but we've found that it's more about being together and away from the kids than the activity we actually do.

I've got to get to bed so I can get up and moving in the morning.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Week Ending December 6, 2009

The weeks seem to get busier as we get closer to Christmas. This past week was pretty much the same schedule though my visit to the ER in the middle week caused me to change some activities around. I am finishing up the last of the Popcorn Fundraiser for the district so I had many phone calls and emails from the various units as we figured out who still needed what, who had product to return, and how much they all owed. It will be truly done by next week, one way or another.

Monday, being the last day of the month, Neil had to work from 7 am to 6:30 pm. He took Alyx and Derek out to dinner as there wasn't much time to spend with them. We had had them both last week for Thanksgiving and it was fun to spend time with them both.

Tuesday was a typical day including school, work, soccer practice, and scouts. Wednesday started out typical, but ended with a visit to ER, having blessed friends willing to pick up my children from school and me from the hospital. Neil had worked the late shift (12-9) and was so sweet to offer to come to the hospital with me. I assured him that it was better than he go to work and if necessary, I would call him. He stayed up with me most of Wednesday night even while I slept and was willing to call in to work on Thursday so he could run the kids to school and get my drugs. Luckily, the kidney stone passed a little before noon and so he was able to get in an afternoon nap and I was able to get things accomplished for our District Roundtable that night. He went to roundtable while I continued to recover.

Friday the kids had their half-day and I picked them up, ran down to the council offices to pick up some missing popcorn, and then took Cierra to the doctor to attend to some warts. She has a small one on each wrist and two on her big toe. The doctor decided to freeze them right then so Cierra has been experiencing her own pain. The freezing seems to be working and it is hard for me to see these blisters of viral infection and not want to just cut them off. She has caught one of her wrists a couple of times so she now walks around with a handkerchief. It has been particularly hard on her since anytime she gets any type of owie, she wants a band-aid and the doctor told us we can't put a bandaid on the warts if the freezing is to do its job.

Friday night we went down to the temple and looked at the temple lights. The missionaries are a bit zealous this year. Normally once we mention that we are already members, they might ask for a reference, but they also seem to be attentive to who the other missionaries are talking with. It felt like every missionary was on the attack and it made it difficult to enjoy the lights. We left within an hour due to that and the particularly cold night. Neil then took us down to his place of business to see the four-story Christmas tree. There was also an arts and crafts fair going on, but it had already closed down by the time we got there. So our visit there was long enough to take pictures of the tall tree and to chat up the security guard. We then headed for home knowing we had a busy Saturday coming up.

Saturday morning we had tithing settlement. We had planned to get dinner the night before at IHOP, one of our favorites, but because of the late hour and tired children, we put it off until breakfast. We also traded in for Denny's because it was closer to the church. After tithing settlement, Neil dropped me and the girls off at home and then took the boys over to the Thunderbird Building for an Eagle Scout project. When they finished with that, I took Aaron for a hair cut and then Neil took Daniel and Nick on a hike that Daniel needed to complete as one of his scouting requirements. Aaron went over to a friend's and I worked on homework and housework. When everyone got back home, Neil and I went out to pick up some needed groceries.

Today was church and we were all up and to church on time. The suburban has been groaning and we've determined that it is in need of a brake job. It got us to and from church and will be going to our mechanic tomorrow. It was fast and testimony meeting and many great testimonies were borne. We also had a great lesson in Relief Society on the attributes of Christ. I am now listening to the First Presidency Devotional and President Monson has begun to speak.

On to a new week.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I'll Take Childbirth

I've known pain, excruciating pain. I've given birth 5 times - all vaginal. I'm not sure why that is important, but doctors always ask. I have never had an epidural and I'm not a big fan of drugs in general. I think I have a high tolerance for pain, actually, and only have given in to modern medicine when the occasion really called for it - like childbirth. Even last spring when I needed a root canal but it had to wait until after my trip to Disneyland with a bunch of cub scouts, I made due with Advil. Granted that was partly because the Vicodin I had been prescribed made me puke and I really wanted to go on some rides without losing my lunch.

Wednesday morning I stopped by Circle K for a cup of hot chocolate and a breakfast sandwich. The sandwich was a bit soggy and I regretted the decision, though I did enjoy most of my hot chocolate. I got to work about 9 and about 10 started feeling crampy. The kind of cramp that says you need to high-tail it to the bathroom to avoid any embarrassing stenches in the office. Usually the trip to the bathroom spells relief. Not this time. After sitting on the toilet and taking care of business, I found myself in agony trying to stand up. I managed, washed my hands, and had the urge to visit the toilet again. Similar situation, still no relief from the cramps, but the discomfort seemed to be subsiding.

I went back into the office and tried to get some work done. As I talked with co-w0rkers, they noticed that I was grimacing. One mentioned appendicitis and now I am really freaked out. Finally after multiple trips to the bathroom and on-again, off-again pain, I decide to go to the doctor. I assure them that I am capable of driving and head out. I make it as far as the bathroom, where once again I feel the urge to go and find myself crying from the pain going across my belly and up my back.

I go back to the office and one of my co-workers takes me to ER. I am not a fan of ER. I've never been there for myself, but have had enough experience to know that it usually involves a lot of waiting. Plus, there is that side of me who is doubting that I am experiencing anything worse than a bad case of gas and I really don't want to pay $100 copay to be told I'm a wuss who can't handle a little gas. Luckily, the ER is slow and I am taken back almost immediately. The next few hours involves puking, drawing blood, peeing in a cup, and a catscan of my abdomen. Other than the catscan, this resembles my childbirth experiences rather closely. Luckily, the peeing in a cup comes back with the result that I am not pregnant, for which I am grateful. It had been on my mind that there was the slight possibility I was dealing with a tubal pregnancy and could imagine the complications that would involve.

Finally the doctor comes back and tells me that I am not a wuss after all. It is not a bad case of gas and on the positive side, it is also not appendicitis. I have a kidney stone. Now I have heard the stories of people who have had kidney stones. I have also heard this experience described as almost as bad as the pain a woman endures in childbirth. Since I have now had both experiences, I admit, there are some similarities, however, there are also some glaring differences.

First, pain is involved with both child birth and kidney stones. It is acute pain that comes and goes. However, childbirth pain is generally in the form of contractions which do subside and you know that if you can just get through this part, you can then breathe. With kidney stones, the pain is inconstant. It doesn't come in waves and you have no clue when the pain will stop.

Second, childbirth involves another human being and doctors are quite concerned if the process takes overly long as it is not healthy for either mother or child. Kidney stones only involve you and doctors are nowhere near as concerned about getting this thing out of your body quickly. In fact, you shouldn't bother them unless it takes more than 5 days for the stone to pass.

Third, in childbirth, the contractions give you an idea of how fast you are progressing. Plus there is the information from the doctor about how big your cervix has become. You have a pretty good idea of how much longer the process is going to take. Kidney stones do not have any such indicators. The pain can be random in both severity and occurrence. You only know you are in pain and very rarely do you have any clue on how close this thing is to passing.

Fourth, childbirth results in this precious addition to your family and people bring you gifts. A kidney stone is roughly the size of a grain of sand. Other than the thrill of knowing it is now out of your body, there is not much cause for celebration and I've never heard of anyone being thrown a kidney stone shower or receiving presents for enduring this hardship.

So, for the record, although we have taken measures to not have any more children, and thus no more experiences of childbirth, if given the option between that and passing a kidney stone, I'll take childbirth.