Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cleaning House OR 20 Blog Posts in 1

Honestly, my brain can't focus on continuing "A Love Story" until I clean out some of these other things from my brain. Lots of little random things I don't want to forget.


1) How both Will and Elizabeth were voted among the top three students in their respective classes for the Storytelling Festival at school. Elizabeth read something from one of our favorite picture books, Zen Shorts, and Will did a bit from an old Bill Cosby act. (Brandon has some of Bill Cosby's old stuff on his iphone that his Dad used to play for him when he was young, and our kids just love it!)

2) How Brandon and I are giving up sugar for Lent and it feels GREAT! (Me + excessive sugar=depression and lethargy, so I really need to watch it.) We knew 100% abstinence would be expecting too much, so we indulge on Saturdays and call it our Devil Day. On Devil Day last week we ordered a flour-less chocolate cake for dessert at a restaurant after dinner, and that was after eating part of a piece of Magleby's $60 chocolate cake for "breakfast" in the morning. (A patient brought some into Brandon's office.) The moral of the story is that it feels good to eat rich, delicious garbage when it's actually in my mouth, but then I feel kind of gross and depressed afterward. (That's only if I overdo it, which I kind of did, which is why it's better sometimes to make sugar totally off limits since I don't have a strong enough shut-off valve.) (And yes, I know we're not Catholic, but the idea behind Lent is a good one for people of all Christian faiths, don't you think?)

3) How 3 of the 4 awesomely Japanesey bento boxes I ordered for my kids have arrived in the mail and the kids have started taking their lunches to school/friend's houses in them. Get a load of the hysterical Engrish on Will's:
(DEAR LABEL We are passionate about lunch communication. The lunch is a good day pastime.)

This one is Rachael's. It's from the movie, "My Neighbor Totoro" which you should watch with your kids THIS weekend.
Is this just the cutest lunch you've ever seen? It takes no more time than whatever you're already doing; probably less.  
Speaking of Totoro . . .

4) How we are LOVING the Hayao Miyazaki films, watching them one by one on Netflix, and then ordering them on Amazon--they're all worth purchasing! The first to be released as a major motion picture in the U.S. is in theaters right now, and you should take your kids to see it this weekend (have a Ghibli Studios marathon): The Secret World of Arietty. You should know that these movies move much slower than most of the in-your-face movies for kids. (That's what we love about them. And they're even 2D.) They are slow, but with story lines and characters that totally draw you in, and if you notice, every one of his movies is full of gorgeous nature and music. (The other reason we love them.) And of course we love the overt Japanese elements like the nature, the food, the architecture of the homes and their way of communicating/interacting with each other. (THANK YOU Betsy for introducing us to these movies, and for giving me the idea--and the first tools--to make bento lunches!!)

5) How we still haven't been skiing this year because of a lack of snow or the lack of a free Saturday, but we've had fun doing some indoor active stuff like tramp parks . . .

. . . and ROLLER SKATING a few weeks back. (Everyone, including me, upgraded to the roller blades--way easier.) The kids loved it! I think the last time we went roller skating as a family was when we were still living in Iowa City and broke as a joke. We used to go to the free family skate night at the local rec. center where they had really old rental skates and we just went around the gym with cones. No music, no lights, just our little family and the guy working the "rink" who had a slight mental disability and a crush on me. Fond, fond memories.

6) How this Republican presidential nomination race is becoming the most insanely protracted affair in the history of American politics! I feel like it's my Super Bowl and there's a playoff game (debate or primary) once or twice a week. It's killing me, but I can't turn away!

7) How after both Brandon and I AND the Binky Fairy failed to get Rachael to give up the binky at night for good, Elizabeth managed to do it in one miraculous night while snuggling/reading books together in one of their beds. I just realized I don't even know how she did it! I was just so happy she did.

8) How Will had an orchestra concert last weekend (he's in the junior program of the Lyceum Orchestra program, of which the most advanced group helped Steven Sharp Nelson to create THIS phenomenal youtube video--they are high schoolers for crying out loud!) and we all went to Sub Zero afterward:

Love how she really thinks she's playing:
Yes, he's making this face on purpose:
And this one:

9) How Brandon's next youngest brother, Damon, had dinner and spent the night with us last night while in town for something work related and we veered off our holy lent track just a bit and shared two of our prized gourmet root beers with him when the kids weren't around.

10) How Kate is so amazingly artistic that her art teacher tells her she doesn't even care how long it takes her to finish making something, she will get full credit no matter what because she just wants her to do whatever she wants to/can to the ultimate. Here's her portfolio just to keep her art in this semester. It will get totally thrashed during the semester, and Kate will try to throw it away at the end. I think it's gorgeous, but Kate says she doesn't really like it and it's just "doodling". What???

11) How Will is totally into wearing bright red socks to school or his "Stepping Stones Pre-School" tee which FINALLY fits him. This t-shirt has been a joke in our family for years. Why in the world his pre-school ordered t-shirts this size for 4-year-olds I have no idea, but I seriously can't believe he's actually wearing it to school. (Well, I can, because he's just funny that way.)

12) How my kids absolutely LOVE to play around on Google Earth. They have gone to Honolulu, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, and the other day Kate was on top of Mt. Everest. Heck, Elizabeth even went to Mars. Seriously. Get your kids playing on Google Earth.

14) How I really do think we will eventually get this house, but there are various and sundry details making it so it's not your usual cut and dry deal. We're in the process of getting more detailed appraisals right now.

15) How Brandon and I got a couples massage for a belated Valentine's Day date last weekend. (When we gorged ourselves on flour-less chocolate cake.) This is our new annual treat, and this year the place we went to was a little too "Mother Earthy" for me, but how can you complain about a full body massage?

16) How Brandon DID make it to Dads with Doughnuts for at least half of the time (crises averted!), and the PTA president told me the reason they do events such as these is because "studies show" the more parents are in the school the better the children do. (Heather, your comment about that was so interesting, especially because I had just read something along the same lines about male influence ((or lack of)) in the schools just the day before, which totally reminds me that I'm supposed to be promoting this truly FANTASTIC article on Deseret News about the war on boys that took quite a bit of effort/research to put together. Please read it!)

17) How tonight my dear, beloved, devoted, faithful husband went digging through the trash can outside to see if he could find Will's book report that I accidentally threw away. (Will forgot to turn it in, so when I found it in his backpack a few days after the due date I assumed it had already been graded and I chucked it. You don't save all your kids book reports, do you?) I guess he could have waited until I got home and made me do it since I'm the one who threw it away, but he probably knew I couldn't (wouldn't?), though I did retrieve a really nice watch that Brandon gave me for me birthday out of a latrine at a George Bush rally several years ago. (True story. Don't ask for details.)

18) How Elizabeth managed to down about half of a honey bear on one bowl of cereal when I wasn't noticing one day, and how she is so darn cute when sleeping:
19) How we're finally getting some real snow that's actually covering the mountains and sticking to the ground now that it's March 1st tomorrow. It is pretty:

20) How it's already time to come up with another post for Friday even though I feel like I just barely finished this one. (Comments always appreciated!)

Peace out.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Gift of a Long Goodbye

Every so often we are blessed with days, hours, or even just moments that seem to freeze time and transport us to a place different than we were before. While the feelings of the moment may be fleeting since we are always inevitably thrust back into the everyday life of work, children, laundry, bills, etc., I believe that if we let them, these moments can change us forever. If we train ourselves to recognize and truly receive whatever those moments are trying to teach us, we will never be the same again.

I've had these kinds of experiences while immersed in music and nature, when reading powerful words/stories found in great literature or scripture, and in some of my darkest hours of personal struggle when Heaven came down to comfort and guide me. And, of course, I've had this experience at the birth of each of my children. But today, I had this kind of experience through an interaction with another person. It was a fortuitous two hours with a dying man.

My husband's Uncle Brent (and really, he is as much--if not more--of an uncle to me than I ever had in my own family growing up, so I feel funny even writing "my husband's uncle" because of how I feel about him--he's MY uncle) is dying of cancer. After he, his immediate family, and all the rest of us got over the initial shock, denial, and grief of it all, he is blessing us all with the deliberate gift of showing us how to die with dignity, courage, and great love.

I wish there were some way I could have recorded the entire conversation so I could go back over it again and again for both the wisdom and pure joy of it all. We laughed, we cried, we laughed until we cried. I felt privileged to be in the presence of a man who it seems is practically transforming in front of my very eyes from an already great man into someone almost holy. (He'd hate to hear me say that.) I think he would at least agree that this process he is going through is a holy one, but only because he is allowing/inviting it to be. And believe me, I could feel it working it's magic.

It's not really my place (nor is THIS place the place) to share the details of our conversation, but if I could share just a few of the priceless things I took away from this life changing experience it would be these:

1) Many of the seemingly insignificant and even mundane moments of our lives can be seen as great gifts--even miracles--when viewed with an eye of gratitude. As I listened to him talk about how he's been blessed during this whole process, it made me realize how much of my own everyday life should be seen as a rare gift to be cherished. Even the fact that we just "happened" to be at another appointment near his neighborhood, and "happpened" to call to see if he were up to a visit (we've been avoiding it knowing how many other people must be wanting to do the same thing and didn't want to wear him out), and how he "happened" to be home alone with nowhere to be, and we "happened" to be alone without our children and a free morning making it possible to visit the way we did (quietly and personally)--he considered that yet another miracle in his life. And I would agree. 

2) Not only does death bring into sharp focus what is most important in this life, but also what brings us the most joy. My personal interpretation of this is having meaningful experiences and interactions with loved ones. Funny how this whole home purchase obsession just fell by the wayside after talking to him.

3) For those with faith in the next life, death is not a dreaded, fearful thing. He talked about being able to cry and mourn with his family and others who will miss him because he understands that's where they are, but that he himself was not feeling either depressed or anxious. It seemed clear that once he decided to give up aggressive, curative care for palliative care (wanting to enjoy his last days), he started to view this close-to-the-veil time as an opportunity to get a "head start"on the things he will be learning in the next phase of his and his family's eternal life. Things like loving.

4) He talked a lot about loving, or "living in harmony with others" as he put it so beautifully. Not just those closest to us and easiest to love, but everyone. He has always been an incredibly accepting person, and this experience seems to be sharpening that endearing characteristic in him. He spoke of both finally "getting" certain things about his wife, as well as some touching moments he has had with atheist friends and doctors who don't share any of his personal beliefs.

Thinking of my own sister and all the ugliness that comes with longterm cancer, Uncle Brent helped me to remember that cancer can be viewed as an opportunity to see the beauty all around us in this life, to forgive and heal old wounds, and to love in a way you've never loved before. Most importantly, he helped me to see that the process of dying can be a wonderful "head start" to becoming the people we were originally created to be as we move on to the next phase of our eternal development.

And maybe that's why my two hours with Uncle Brent felt like those experiences I've had in nature, with music, while reading powerful words, during prayer, and when giving birth to life itself. Because in the end, death isn't death at all, just another part of creation.

As he said, cancer is the gift of a long goodbye. For now.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Last night's Blue & Gold banquet was a success, and I always love talking about Japan when I get the chance as I did last night for the teenage girls at church (immediately following the banquet). This morning I had a webinar for the bloggers at Deseret News on various and sundry things, and this afternoon I played family secretary/personal assistant for several hours while Rachael was in the land of imagination with a neighbor boy in our playroom. (This family secretary gig is starting to monopolize much more of my time than I could have ever imagined when my kids were younger. I'm just glad I found black clothes for Will's orchestra concert tomorrow and finally made some hotel reservations near Zion's National Park for spring break in April.) This evening I went over to the middle school to accompany the two different musical numbers being judged for (WHAT DO THEY CALL THAT WHOLE THING ANYWAY?) and--you won't believe this--about one page into the sweet and lovely Irish ballad sung by a quartet of equally sweet and lovely young women, my alarm to remind Elizabeth not to drink anything else before bed to avoid having an accident started going off: BOING BOING BOING! (Yeah . . . THAT one.) Finally, we had our second Learning Circle meeting of the year tonight at 9pm and it was positively wonderful. Such a great group of ladies. I took a lot of notes.

Last but not least, the homeowners still can't make up their minds about what price they are willing to accept for the house, so we are in a tormented holding pattern.

What this means is that I haven't finished Part 3 of "A Love Story" yet, even though I have now listened to the relevant parts of the old audio tapes from 1995 of us telling the story while it was still fresh. (They are classic! Brandon sounds like a teenager.)

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


We were supposed to find out about our home offer today, but our realtor couldn't make the meeting since he was with his wife who was recovering from a surgery she had done that morning by my husband. Isn't that just FUNNY? Tomorrow we will hear. (Today when you read this.) Tomorrow. TOMORROW!

Parents of babies/toddlers/pre-schoolers are CRAZY if they think that having school age children will make their lives easier. It IS easier in the sense that you can actually get something done without a small screeching child clinging to your leg (though Rachael can still throw quite a tantrum, so we're not totally out of the woods), but it is DEFINITELY not less busy. After making breakfast and sack lunches for everyone, doing the middle school carpool, cleaning up the kitchen, taking the middle 'uns to the elementary school, exercising, doing some laundry, showering and getting ready, taking care of some computer business (like emailing the PTA president with my totally sincere question, "WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THE PURPOSE OF DADS & DOUGHNUTS?", and going to the grocery store . . . this is what my 3-10 shift looked like tonight:

3:00 Pick up Elizabeth early from school and take her to the dentist to get her expander put in.
3:30 Practice with a couple of 9th graders for their upcoming vocal duet. (I'm on the piano.) 
3:50 Kate and Will get picked up for their monthly group piano lesson. 
4:00 Coincidentally, while practicing with the two girls, a neighbor comes to the door asking if I could play for her son on the saxophone later in the evening because their accompanist is stuck in St. George. (I guess it's that time of year everyone is being tested/judged in the middle school/high school.) Since I'm already there on the piano, we practice.
4:30 Make some shepherds pie for dinner with Elizabeth while Rachael howls and howls because I took away the ipad. (Too much screen time today!) 
5:00 Kate and Will get home from piano, and I start a game of Monopoly Jr. with Elizabeth and Rachael to keep them off the screens and calm Rachael down. 
5:15 Brandon takes Kate to harp. (Thankfully, he had a short day today.)
5:40 Eat dinner with everyone but Kate.
5:50 I leave to pick up Kate, taking her some dinner to eat in the car.
6:20 At the high school with Kate to accompany my saxy neighbor. (Couldn't resist that.) 
6:45 Back home and making sure Will is working on his book report that is due tomorrow. (Last night we were up working on the rest of his Fitness Badge which is also due tomorrow.) 
7:00 Practice with the last batch of singers, a quartet of 9th graders. 
7:30 Clean up dinner while Brandon helps Will with the rest of his book report. (Again, thank heavens he was home tonight!) 
8:00 More cleaning and creation of a new mess: Making a cake for the annual Cub Scout Blue & Gold Banquet tomorrow at 6pm. (We're doing a carnival theme with a cotton candy machine and the works. Tomorrow evening is going to be even crazier than today between orchestra, preparing for and executing the banquet, as well as doing a presentation on Japan immediately afterward for the teenage girls at church. Bring. It. On.)
9:00 Move people toward bed. It's a way-too-long process around here that involves books and prayers and drinks and snuggles. The more tired I am, the longer this takes. (Brandon keeps the process moving along more often than not.) Kate is still working on homework, and Will is still wrapping up his book report project. (Because you know 5th grade book reports aren't just reports, they are art projects. My favorite. That's sarcasm.) 
10:00 Will is snuggled up to me with his shark pillow pet asking me to pick out string colors so he can make me a bracelet. What's going on? It's 10:00!!
10:20 Finally, everyone (read: Kate) is finally in bed and Brandon is bringing me lavendar apple lemon tea. Or something like that. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Love Story: Part 3 (A Stalled Project)

Brandon's two cents from my last post: He is quite certain I was late EVERY SINGLE DAY for the three months we served together with the exception of one day near the end of our missions when (after tiring of his incessant nagging about my lack of punctuality) I showed up on time with the announcement that I had only done so by cutting out the sacrosant scripture study time from my morning routine. (But you better believe I had my make up on . . .) 

Also, the dreadful "bag dresses" were called JUMPERS. (How and why did he remember that?) 

Typing up the stories of how Brandallyson came to be just happened to coincide with our cleaning out of "the office" this past weekend--a room in our rental house that is meant to be an office, which we have only ever used as a repository for our boxes of office "stuff" while waiting to move into our final resting place. (We find out tomorrow if our insulting offer on the most beautiful house ever was accepted or not. It's a down economy, folks, and we lost major money on our house in California, so they can take our offer or leave it, but we have reason to believe they will take it, and the anticipation is just about killing us!!)

Quite coincidentally, in the process of cleaning out the office I came across some long-forgotten-about gems: No less than FOUR audio tapes titled "B&A History". Once I saw them, I totally remembered telling our meeting/falling in love/getting married story into an audio recorder while driving back to BYU from Lake Powell after my first Reynolds' family vacation just a few months after getting married. (Isn't that cute? Kind of like Justin Beiber already writing his autobiography.)

Needless to say, I have both put out a request to my babysitting co-op group to see if anyone has a tape player I can borrow for a few days as well an order to for a tape to mp3 converter that should arrive in a few days.

I just feel like I shouldn't move forward without access to all the juicy details.

(And I also feel like I should say that I really like Brandon's old girlfriend who ended up marrying a guy from his church in California and then becoming good friends with my sister-in-law. She's super nice and totally funny and really pretty, and I probably only thought bad things about her when I saw her picture because my deeply buried subconscious was crushing on my future husband. I would probably be good friends with her as well if it weren't for the fact that she used to kiss to husband. That's just kind of kimochi warui. Icky.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Kid Dates

That's what I call them, anyway. I try to squeeze them in whenever it works--the most common date being a breakfast on a Saturday morning with whichever parent is available/preferred to go to Kneader's or IHOP.

But last week I happened upon an advertisement for BYU's "Winterfest"--a series of productions being put on up at the Conference Center in Salt Lake every weekend of February into March by the different performing arts groups at BYU, so Elizabeth and I saw the BYU Theater Ballet perform "The Snow Queen" on Friday night together, followed by dinner at Blue Lemon. (And it was so fun to read in the program about Sandra B. Allen--chair/director/everything of the BYU ballet department for the last 113 years. Sounds like she's retiring this year, but her name brought back memories from when I accompanied for the BYU ballet classes. Sandra actually taught the first class I played for, and I'll never forget the feeling of total and complete panic when I showed up to work at 8:00 at Monday morning for the first time, and after being given no training whatsoever--just a massive book full of about 20 hours of music I had never seen before--I suddenly heard her say, "Plies . . . 5, 6, 7, 8 . . ." After a moment of awkward silence and a sideways glance, I suddenly realized I was supposed to be providing the music for the dancers . . . NOW! Okay! Here we go! That was a serious crash course in sight reading and faking it. ((Luckily, sight reading is my strength. That's how I got hired, but still.)) That was also the beginning of my carpal tunnel syndrome. I played about 20 hours a week for over a year. Do you like my stories within stories? And my run on sentences?)

Here's Elizabeth with the wicked Snow Queen:
The reception with the dancers after the performance:
Mac and cheese at Blue Lemon:
I love these little private, one on one dates with my kids when I can pull it off. It's such a totally different dynamic than when all the kids and family are together. It's so much easier to really see and hear your child when you are alone with just them and no other distractions--like other children! (Same principle as the spouse date, really.) Not to mention Elizabeth still adores me and would like nothing better than to spend a night out alone with Mom. It's hard not to want to oblige since I know she won't always feel this way. In any case, I highly recommend kid dates. 

And wouldn't you know it, right after seeing the Snow Queen, we finally had the first decent snow this winter--on February 19th. Crazy! 

Part 3 of "The Love Story" tomorrow . . .

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Love Story: Part 2 (Make-up and Spaghetti: The Enemy)

I feel the need to clarify a little about my stance on pop culture. Let it be known that both Sponge Bob and Diary of a Wimpy Kid are welcome in our home. (Not preferred, but welcome. Kind of like you reluctantly welcome the annoying neighbor kid into your home and then they grow on you a little bit and finally you realize they aren't having too terrible of an influence on your child--they're just annoying.) The Office and Dr. Oz have a place on my tivo list (even if I don't get around to watching them). We own the complete DVD sets of Star Wars, Lord of The Rings, Pirates, and Harry Potter. I do Just Dance on the Wii with Elizabeth, and my firstborn spends most of her waking hours with headphones on listening to Owl City, Coldplay, and the Beatles. (I'm listening to the Owl City station on Pandora as I type: Neon Trees' "Animal"--did you know they're Mormon?) We're just selective about our pop culture, that's all. And again, I stand by my snobbish statement that certain segments of pop culture are really, really lame, shallow, and unintelligent. (Not like Diary of a Wimpy Kid . . .) Stuff that makes me fear for the general mental, moral, and emotional state of the masses. I'm talking Kardashians, Monster High dolls, vampires, Jersey Shore--random things I arbitrarily judge and designate as TRASH. (It's just my opinion, and everyone's entitled.)

The reality is--at least according to my dreams--I actually have quite an obsession with celebrities and fame. While I probably saw less than 10 full episodes of Oprah in all the years she was on the air, I have dreamt of having lunch with her backstage. Then there was that dream about me cutting Bono's hair. (No surprise, though. I kind of love him.) Heck, just the other night I had a dream about making a grilled cheese sandwich for Mitt Romney! (I'm not making this up.) And tonight? Well, I watched a little American Idol for about the 3rd time in my life. So I may as well ask: What TV shows/music would you recommend as the better side of pop culture? What's worth your time? Give me some recommendations!

I established my position as a woman not needing direction early on. 

I did this by showing up to the daily morning meeting when I was good and ready. The morning schedule outlined for the missionaries was ridiculous, not taking into consideration the time needed for a sister missionary to look halfway decent--like someone you would actually want to talk to. "Frumpy" was something you could easily slip into as a sister missionary, and I was determined not to go there. I deliberately eschewed bringing any of the dreadful waistless bag dresses on my mission. (What were they called?) They were quite popular among sister missionaries at the time, but I was afraid of growing into them if you know what I mean. (ALWAYS have a waistband! One of my mottos in life.) I have never been someone to leave the house without makeup on, and that wasn't going to change as a missionary. But doing my hair and makeup every morning meant I was occasionally (or was it frequently? chronically?) late to the morning meeting.

Reynolds Choro was a man of order and liked everyone to be on time. I told him I thought looking my best was a higher priority than being on time, but he disagreed. (He hadn't seen me without makeup on.) As the senior sister missionary he thought I should be setting a better example, so to help motivate me to be on time he thought up a clever little plan for "the people" who came late: They would have to sing a solo for everyone else when they finally showed up. He obviously didn't know me very well, because I have no problem making a fool of myself in public (kind of like it, actually--stories for another day), so I would simply walk in the door (late) singing! That was the beginning of many years of him not knowing what to do with me.

But our biggest run-in came on the day of the infamous spahetti dinner that wasn't.

Eikaiwa (English conversation class) was a free service we provided as missionaries every week, but it wasn't always at the top of our lists to be prepared with a really fabulous lesson since it wasn't that hard to wing it with Japanese people who hardly knew any Engrish. Most of them really just wanted to practice simple conversation. (And rub shoulders with cool Americans. Seriously, they really liked us, which always confused me because of that whole incident in Hiroshima . . . and also because they avoided us like the plague when we showed up at their doors with name tags on that said JESU KIRISTO.)

Technically, all missionaries were supposed to come a half hour early to prepare for Eikaiwa, but in reality, that didn't happen very often. Again, Reynolds Choro was a man of order and a man of the handbook, so he tried to solve this problem by having a special meeting in which he reiterated how important it was for all of us to come a half hour early to prepare, and then he committed each of us to do it.

Well, that next week when it came time for Eikaiwa, wouldn't you know it, but quite literally it was THE busiest day of my mission. I'm sure this isn't surprising, but the Japanese people aren't exactly knocking down the doors of Christian missionaries begging to be taught the path to salvation, but on this day I truly had teaching appointments all day long. After a very full day of teaching many sweet people and biking all over tarnation to get to them (on our extremely unattractive, gearless, Wicked Witch of the West bikes), Brimley Shimai and I were doing our best to get to that darn Eikaiwa preparation meeting, but we were famished and in serious need of some food. We grabbed some ingredients from our apartment to make a quick and simple spaghetti dinner at the church before Eikaiwa, which is exactly what we did. Honestly, what good was I going to be if I didn't have food in my belly? I would be a big, crabby mess, that's what. I may have even burst into tears in the face of some unsuspecting Japanese person simply because my blood sugar was low. I am a slave to sleep and food.

So there I was about to put the first bite of spaghetti into my mouth when Reynolds Choro came storming into the kitchen asking why his senior sister missionary wasn't downstairs for Eikaiwa preparation! (We were like 2 minutes late.) Well, I tried to explain the situation to him (thinking he might be impressed that we had teaching appointments all day long) and do you know what his response was? He reminded me of my commitment to be at Eikaiwa preparation, and then he physically took my spaghetti laden fork out of my hand and sent me downstairs like a scolded child! Like I said, I was a pretty serious rule keeper so I went with it (plus, I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of being able to say I was someone who didn't keep my commitments), but not before pointing out to him that I had FAR more contacts and appointments than he did so maybe he should think twice about trying to tell me how to do things. Oh, I was mad!

And how WOULD these two people ever fall madly in love and get married?

Another day, another story.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Love Story: Part I (Reynolds Choro)

It turns out that Snoopy Poop Dog isn't dead after all. But Whitney Houston is. And she was right up there with Prince and Michael Jackson in my book. (Prince is still alive, right?) I really fell for her with that "Greatest Love"song. Tracy Schneider and I used to sing our guts out to that one in her bedroom back when I was still a fan of pop culture. This from a text exchange with my sister-in-law who is 13 years younger than me and clearly way more in the know than I ever hope to be again. Laura: Maybe Brandon was thinking of biggie smalls or tupac or nate dog, or the guy from the dougie group. Me: Are those real people???? Laura: Yes. Real people. All dead rappers. Me: Sweet. That's going in my next blog post.

I wrote up another type of love story for Deseret News today (sitting in the #1 spot for most popular in blogs, thank you very much!), but as I sit here next to Brandon on Valentine's Day (reading an article on "The Journey of the Apostles" in National Geographic . . .) and reflect on his pure awesomeness (he was on the news tonight for his part in saving the life of a teenage girl after a major car accident--I'm not making this up) I thought it high time to record the love story that got me into this mess. (Heaven help me if Rachael didn't talk so much today--demanding a constant stream of responses--that it actually killed off some of my brain cells. And another FIFTEEN YEARS of teenagers in the house just may be the death of me.)

Yes, in the spirit of the Pioneer Woman, I think I'd like to record our love story. (It's a totally different flavor of course, but every love story is worth telling, right?) And I think Valentine's Day is the perfect day to start. (Could I have a few more parenthetical statements?)

My first impression of Brandon was not a good one.

I had just been transferred to the city of Sendai, Japan (yes, where the tsunami was) for the last three months of my mission. Brandon was the "Zone Leader"--the missionary in charge of the "zone" we lived in that included about 26 missionaries--and I remember walking around the corner of the foyer of the church and running into him. My initial thoughts weren't very nice: Arrogant rich kid from California. 

Not exactly love at first sight.

I don't know why I even thought those things. I didn't know a thing in the world about him--not even his name at that point. I like to attribute it to my deeply intuitive powers of discernment. He was from California, his family did have more money than I was used to, and he was, well, confident. (Confidence and arrogance can be easily confused.)

We served together as missionaries in that area for just three short months, but anyone who has done anything like missionary work in a foreign country knows that three months is an eternity.

Before I go any further, there is something you should know about Mormon missions. (This probably isn't news to anyone.) The rules are strict. Very strict. And the Sendai, Japan Mission was SUPER DEE DUPER strict. So much so that we had a rule to never talk about life back home with other missionaries because it was considered KANKENAI or unrelated to missionary work. So having a romantic relationship with another missionary wasn't even on the radar. It was next to impossible, really, unless you were a serious rule breaker. And I was not a rule breaker. Not only did I avoid even THINKING about the possibility of having a romantic relationship with another missionary, but I ABHORRED the stereotype and joke about certain sister missionaries only going on a mission because they had nothing else to do and just wanted to find a husband. That was SO not me. I had wanted to serve a mission from the time I was about 14 (another story entirely) and solidified that decision my senior year in high school when I spent my spring break with sister missionaries in Des Moines, Iowa and had several faith building experiences. I was the girl who sent a "Dear John" letter to a guy back home who was kinda sorta waiting for me because I didn't like the distraction of thinking about someone in a romantic way whilst in the business of proselyting. (I'm not kidding when I say I was serious business.)

This is the stage I feel compelled to set before I explain how I met my husband in the mission field.

The exception to the "NO KANKENAI" rule was the monthly meeting on transfer day when the missionaries would get together to welcome the newcomers and get to know each other a little better. That's what we were doing that day at the church. Everyone got out their "jikoshokais" (little books full of personal pictures we used to introduce ourselves to Japanese people so they could see we really were totally normal 20-somethings in our lives back home even though we rode around Japan on bikes wearing name tags, dress clothes, and HELMETS ((no one wore bike helmets in Japan but the Mormon missionaries))) and we passed them around, asking each other questions and making connections.

I still clearly remember the picture of Reynolds Choro's girlfriend. Big hair, big earrings, big lips. Just the kind of girl he would go for. Yep, I've got this guy pegged. (I have no idea where any of this was coming from, and you should have seen my hair in the 80's. Talk about big.)

It went downhill from there.

Brandon likes to say that I thought of myself as the AP. (Assistant to the President--the only other position above a zone leader.) I guess you could say that I didn't feel it necessary to be led by a 20-year-old guy (what with me being the ripe old age of 22), let alone a snot nose kid from California who thought he was the stuff.

When we have told people the stories about how we didn't get along in Japan, they frequently suggest there may have been some romantic tension going on from the start. Maybe. But if it was, it was on a very--and I mean VERY-- subconscious level. (See paragraph 4.)

Doggone it, it's just too late. To be continued . . . .

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pop Culture and Role Models

I know a lot of kids (who am I kidding? kids and adults) idolize athletes, pop singers, and movie stars, but we are kind of clueless at our house about the sports world (I know the Super Bowl was last week, but I couldn't even tell you who played . . . Giants and ??? what cities were the teams even from? I have no clue . . .) and I am REALLY selective about which parts of pop culture I let into our home.  I may even go so far as to call myself a pop culture SNOB. I don't know where this came from since I was the girl who had posters of Sylvester Stallone and Tom Howell all over my bedroom (does that date me or what? who speaks my language? Outsiders anyone?), and one of my favorite birthday presents in 8th grade was Prince's "Purple Rain" LP given to me by Christina Nielsen, but I find I have this general disregard for most things in pop culture that I arbitrarily designate as shallow, lame, or generally unintelligent. I felt very full of myself the other day when I made a joke about the Kardashian sisters and Kate didn't even know who I was talking about. BAM! Score one for Mom. 

Okay, I just googled "pop culture" and found this on Wikipedia. I'm officially a snob: 

Popular culture is often viewed as being trivial and dumbed-down in order to find consensual acceptance throughout the mainstream. As a result, it comes under heavy criticism from various non-mainstreamsources (most notably religious groups and countercultural groups) which deem it superficialconsumeristsensationalist, and corrupted.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]
The term "popular culture" was coined in the 19th century or earlier[11] to refer to the education and general "culturedness" of the lower classes, as was delivered in an address at the Birmingham Town Hall, England.[12] The term began to assume the meaning of a culture of the lower classes separate from (and sometimes opposed to) "true education" towards the end of the century,[13] a usage that became established by the interbellum period.[14]

Lovely. (I still stand by my snobbishness . . .)

No, I don't make my kids sit around and read "The Secret Garden" in between etiquette class and chess club. Luckily, you don't have to indulge in what I would deem "stupid" pop culture to have fun and be entertained. There is SO MUCH out there that is both smart as well as entertaining. (Would someone please put a stop to the production of the Monster High dolls? Please?)

Our current favorite is 

Will came running out of orchestra a couple of weeks ago utterly beside himself because his current idol, Steven Sharp Nelson, was in the house taping his latest youtube video with The Lyceum Philharmonic.  He wanted his autograph, so I took him back in and encouraged him to go up and talk to him, have him sign some of his music, and then (after quoting the end lines from THIS youtube video back and forth to each other ) I took these horrible yet awesome iphone pictures:

I love having cool, smart role models for my kids. (One last pianoguys youtube video you really need to watch right now. In fact, why don't you just go subscribe and help make these guys famous instead of snoopy poop dog or whoever the heck is out there making the big bucks these days . . .) (Brandon just told me that guy died, so I'm sorry if that was disrespectful. How he knows that I have no idea, because he is currently reading about the rice planting and harvest festivals in Japan. So pop culture.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

L.A. Power of Moms Retreat (OR The Best Weekend of My Life)

Okay, so maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it was pretty awesome. To leave the "dun colored heath" behind and go to this in January? Come on:
But the beauty and weather of southern California were just the icing on the cake. The best part was being with so many wonderful women in the same place at the same time. Saren and I flew down together and we seriously didn't stop talking for a second. Both of us had sore necks from having our heads turned the entire time. Then my brother-in-law, Todd, picked us up at the airport and it was so fun to see him and catch up a little. After settling in at my in-laws, I took Saren to super cute and quaint downtown Montrose for lunch at the Black Cow. I was sad that all our other meals were planned because I had about 5 more places I wanted to take her and April! Here we are after lunch:
We headed over to the Palmer's house up Angeles Crest early afternoon to help get things set up. I was happy to do a grocery run for the retreat organizers for some last minute things and thoroughly enjoyed driving around the streets I used to call home with the windows down and the sun on my face. That afternoon's session was April's "Mind Organization for Moms" program that she's adapted from David Allen's best-selling "GTD" book. (She's now a regular blogger for his website.) I can't say enough about it! I have yet to implement the whole program myself, but even the few steps that I do use have changed my organizational life, big time. (And that's saying something, because I'm not one of those people that just loves to organize every aspect of my life, even if I do like the benefits.)

That evening, the three Chapman sisters-in-law (all married to brothers from the same family) put on a DELICIOUS chicken cacciatore dinner with the best dressed up french bread I have ever tasted (equal parts parmesan, mayo, and diced onion on top, baked in the oven) as well as the most ADORABLE dessert plates with four different bite sized treats and a shot glass of milk. Brilliant!
Those would be hand made "Power of Moms" daisies on the top of those delectable cupcakes . . .
That night we had a little slumber party at my in-laws. I could seriously talk to these girls ad nauseum. We pretty much do when we're together, to the point of exhilarating exhaustion. Why is it SO FUN to talk and talk and talk with like minded women?
Saturday morning, ready for the full day retreat at the Palmer's GA-ORGEOUS home:
April's cute mom, Zoe, was there, along with four of her sisters and a sister-in-law:
The morning session focused on "Taking Care of the Person Inside the Mom". I did a presentation on being your own kind of "perfect"mom, Saren talked a little about the idea of "margin" (I'm reading the book right now), April and Saren talked about negative self-talk and "Thought Replacement Therapy", and the author of "Real Moms Love to Eat," Beth Aldrich, talked about moms nourishing themselves with food.

This may look intimidating to have a room full of 65 "supermoms," but I'm telling you, the women that come to these things are a self-selected group that are always surprisingly down to earth, grounded, and focused on things that really matter (family!) so it's hard not to feel an almost immediate connection:
I stole this next picture from April's blog. I wish I had videotaped the whole thing because I honestly can't remember half of what I said. I was refining my notes forever and ever, and had just barely printed them off right before the morning session began, and then I didn't even look at them more than once or twice for a quote. I get so energized by these audiences, and have so much fun when I'm up there that it makes me wonder why in the world I spend several weeks beforehand practically sick to my stomach from anxiety and self-doubt. It was so nice to get positive feedback from the moms there since my preparations for these presentations as well as writing articles for Deseret News/the site is normally done alone in my head in my pajamas late at night. It feels really, really nice to get specific validation from real live people every once in awhile!
More great food provided by Panera for lunch:
Discussion groups during lunch about finding more joy in motherhood and parenting partnerships. GREAT discussions:
Afternoon session on the three family systems: family economy (work and money matters), family legal system (discipline), and family culture (traditions). This is the Eyre's specialty, but both April and Saren presented. Susan Chapman, one of the retreat organizers, also did a presentation on learning your children's love languages. Here's Saren:
Midway through, my sister-in-law's adorable little baby Claire was fed and happy, so I offered to drive her back home to the babysitter who was taking care of her other kids. On the way back to the retreat I couldn't help but take a little drive up the crest where you can see a view of both downtown and the ocean (on the right). I shed a little tear driving up there. I miss L.A.!
After the retreat we got a picture with all the current and former residents of La Canada for a write up in the local paper. Lara (Brandon's good friend in high school), Shauna, me, Erin, and Amy. I had no idea before, but Amy and Lara are cousins, both hysterical, and the two of them together had me laughing 'til I cried! Especially playing "Reverse Charades" the night before. Hy. Ster. I. Cal.
Okay. Crazy, crazy! This is Andrea who now lives in the L.A. area, who I last saw when my family lived in Florida my sophomore year of high school TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO! So fun to see her and catch up. Neither of us knew the other would be there:

And this is a new Reynolds sister I never knew I had--Taunie. She's actually Saren's cousin, and just one more amazing woman I got to know through The Power of Moms. These retreats never last long enough, but the friendships frequently last far beyond the short weekend:
Pain and agony:
Tears and sorrow:
The retreat organizers/presenters Susan and Sarah, myself, April, Lisa Palmer (hostess), organizer/super chef Amy, and Saren. Please note that I'm wearing skinny jeans for the first time since I last saw Andrea in Florida, like TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO:
The retreat pictures stop there, but after a Saturday night training session for a handful of moms who want get more involved, April insisted Saren and I perk up and do a podcast with her at like 11:30 back at my in-laws' house! That girl never stops! We were so tired it was just funny. Sunday morning April drove back home to Corona at about 5am while Saren and I slept in and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast with my mother and father-in-law. (I'm so glad we had that time to visit with them.) Then Saren went to my old church with me where I tried hard not to cry multiple times seeing all those wonderful people and the teenage girls I used to teach. (All seniors now.) The classes and lessons were all fantastic, followed by another nice lunch and visit with my mother-in-law after church (wish I had thought to take a picture!) followed by a beautiful walk with Shauna up in my old neighborhood. (Shauna and Todd still live there, just a block over from where we used to live--sniff, sniff!) I couldn't help but take a few pics in front of our old house:

More wonderful visiting time with my father-in-law who drove us to the airport, more neck breaking conversation with Saren on the plane . . . . sometimes I forget just how much I love socializing with adults!! But not just any socializing. I've never been good at endless small talk. Drives me crazy. And that's why I think I love these retreats so much, because we talk about such substantial stuff which leads to other meaningful topics and the result is getting to know people on a deeper level that is just so satisfying. (I already linked to April's post about the weekend. Here is Saren's.)

I think what I love about these experiences, conversations, and associations the most is that they help me to both remember as well as learn more about who I really am and what I can do. That's all there is to it. I wish every mom could make it to one of these retreats!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Re-entering the Blogosphere

Exchanging Will's cello bow for a smaller one, delivering good-bye gifts to friends who are moving to London for two years, hosting the babysitting co-op, wrapping up the Engineer Badge with the Webelos, meeting with our realtor to put together an offer for a house, doing the February bills, taking my old college roomate and dear friend to lunch for her 40th birthday, attending pre-school parent/teacher conferences (apparently, Rachael is VERY social and popular--especially with Chase, her boyfriend), finishing Will's science fair project (Does cranberry extract affect urine pH?) and going to the fair itself, dropping off a present to a friend who is having a baby, taking Kate in to Brandon's office so he could lance, drain, and pack a funky looking abscess that had developed on her knee (she was NOT happy, but it had to be done), contacting her teachers for her assignments after missing school, doing both the junior high and pre-school carpool, going to the car wash, bank, drycleaners, and Target (twice), transporting children back and forth to cello, futsal, and theater class, picking up the repaired vacuum, dropping off next year's pre-school registration papers at the district office with a note saying the birth certificate and immunizations are "in the mail" after spending the morning on the phone/computer requesting both from our old pediatrician in LA and the California vital records department (that's right- I never ordered Rachael's official birth certificate, because I'm organized like that). 

That was my Monday-Wednesday, and I left out cooking, cleaning, laundry and other usuals. (Though dinner has been things like breakfast burritos and canned soup . . .) I also started to work out with weights again since Will went into Netflix and messed up my "Larkrise to Candleford" queue and I haven't had anything worthwhile to watch on the treadmill. (But I'm expecting the right DVD in the mail tomorrow--yippee!) I didn't realize how soft I had become in such a short amount of time If a 20 minute workout by Denise Austin can make you sore, you know you need to beef up a bit more . . . 

If I wanted to go all the way back to Sunday night, I would also tell you about borrowing my neighbor's vacuum (since mine was in the shop--two actually, but it turned out that one completely died) to spiff up the house before Saren's family came by for dinner on their way home from St. George, and how I decided to clean between the leather couch cushions for the first time in years, and in the process heard/saw a round shiny thing go up the coil/tube thingy and was just SURE it was my wedding ring that I lost over 3 years ago in California, and so I spent quite a bit of time with gloves on pulling apart the contents of a very full vacuum bag like you would pull apart cotton candy (though it was hair, not sugar strands keeping everything together) only to find a shiny metal BALL, like you might use in the game "Mousetrap." Utterly gross and disappointing. Especially since the contents of the bag weren't my own. (Sorry, Jen. You know I love you, but sorting through other people's vacuum bags is just too much. Don't take it personally.) 

This is my re-entry into the blogging world. I really do need write on a regular basis. (Not just Deseret News stuff, but personal stuff.) It's my way to stay connected with the real world and not just the world in my head!

P.S. Brandon's here beside me reading about "The Diety of Luxurious Foods" and "The Monkey Rice Field Prince" in one of his Japanese culture books. And he made me tea.
Related Posts with Thumbnails