Friday, October 31, 2008

What's Black and White and Red All Over?

That would be Cruella DeVille.

Her alter-ego, Madeline, is my Halloween nemesis. She's normally such a sweet and easy-going gal but Halloween brings out some OC tendencies that she keeps hidden the rest of the year. She plans her costumes well in advance down to the very last detail. Off-the-rack costumes? No how, no way. The year she went as Sacajawea, she was holed up in her bedroom beading a headdress for most of the month of October. The year she wanted to go with an Asian theme, I suggested Mulan (quick, easy, at the Disney Store), and she scoffed at it. She had created a character named "Lotus Blossom" who had a whole history that Madeline would somehow be representing in costume.

So this year when she said she wanted to be Cruella DeVille, I was so relieved. A Disney costume! Thank you Madeline! She took it upon herself to find the wig on-line and I procrastinated until 3 days before Halloween to find the rest of the costume. Who would have guessed that there is NO Cruella DeVille wear to be found? Not even a Cruella pattern. I suggested a Dalmatian-patterned scarf. Madeline wanted a lined coat. We compromised with this full-length cape. The red fur was the most awful stuff I've ever worked with. But she was pleased.

Moving on to our more reasonable trick-or-treaters. Here is child who doesn't need to be Lotus Blossom, but is perfectly happy being run-of-the-mill Mulan:

Abby wanted to dye her hair black for the night. I was told by the woman at the costume shop that this spray-on hair color would be easier. NEVER AGAIN!

And the smallest one was Madeline. Not to be confused with her sister, Made"lyn", this is MadeLINE. The little girl from Paris.

They made for an interesting trio. As is always the case in Western Washington, we prayed for no rain. It had rained all day long but stopped in time for trick-or-treating. We did have to deal with our muddy dirt road but at least we didn't need umbrellas. Of which, surprisingly, we have none.

Maya Qiu looks truly stunned by her impressive candy-haul. Note, this is the home of teenage boys. Notice the pumpkin on the porch who they said had eaten too much candy. I have a feeling my teenage boy (this year's candy hander-outer) will be re-creating that at our house next year.

"She was not afraid of mice. She loved winter, snow and ice and to the tigers in the zoo, Madeline just said Pooh Pooh." But the jack-o-lanterns in the window are a little scary.

When the other trick-or-treaters got ahead of her, which was always, Maya would say, "Mom, hold my hat please" and off she'd sprint. I offered to carry her goody bag too, but she hugged it close to her chest and said, "I CAN DO IT MYSELF!" Yikes. This girl knows where her Halloween priorities lie.

And so does her dad, the dentist, who has already helped himself to a large quantity of his children's Halloween bounty.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Scenes from a birthday

Madeline turned 12 on Saturday. It's a milestone birthday in our church because she moves from the kid's primary organization to the Young Women's. Instead of Sharing Time and "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree," she'll be introduced to "The Strength of the Youth" pamphlet and firesides. It's enough to make a mom want to sing "Sunrise, Sunset." And in that nostalgic mood, I share with you a scene from October 25, 1996....

We were at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City and I was marveling over the fact that we had a girl. Since we'd started with a boy, I'd pretty well decided we would be a boy family and was honestly shocked that we had a female baby. Madeline was my easiest pregnancy and easiest birth. (She was considerate like that from a very early age.) Lyle was in his junior year in dental school and in a prosthodontics rotation that often kept him away from home, Adam was a very busy 2 1/2 year old, and I was earning extra money by watching another newborn girl and two other toddler boys in our little condo. Heavenly Father knew I needed an easy baby and Madeline joined our family.

Fast forward 12 years, and for her birthday Madeline wanted to spend some time with Mom at the mall, a pre-teen place to be.

But we had a great time. We ate lunch, Madeline tried on clothes, and she bought lip gloss. Once again, bring out Tevya and the violin and "Sunrise,Sunset".

While Madeline and Abby and I spent the afternoon at the mall, Lyle was home preparing a spectacular birthday feast. He makes the most amazing salads. They look great, they taste great and they have things like sugar-coated pecans on top. The gravy bowl next to the salad is holding a scrumptious vinaigrette. For the main course, Madeline requested the same meal she's requested every birthday for as long as we can remember--spaghetti and bread sticks.

After dinner we rolled our full bellies over to the family room for the opening of the presents. The first was from Adam. After opening several boxes of decreasing size, she came to a piece of PVC pipe which she had to blow into to extract a tiny balled-up piece of paper. The paper said that all of the Do-My-Jobs-For-Me/ Be-My-Slave Coupons that Adam had been using for apparently quite a long time were now null and void. I had no idea such coupons even existed and was unaware that Madeline had been living under conditions of servitude. She seemed very relieved and thought it was a wonderful gift--the gift of freedom, how could there be anything better?But the rest of us tried and Madeline also got a vest she'd picked out from the GAP, a pair of earrings, a necklace, and...

a Flip video Camcorder! Adam was just a little jealous as you can see him trying to pry it out of her hand while she was talking with her Grandma on the phone.

The little girls had baths and got into jammies and then out came the Coldstone Mmmmmint Chocolate Chip ice cream cake. Before you watch this video, I have a few things that I need to point out.

1) Adam has a very nice singing voice and he tries purposely to sing out of tune.
2) When Lyle stops him from singing out of tune and Adam innocently asks, "what?", he know full well what Lyle is talking about.
3) He continues to purposely sing out of tune.
4) I am taking pictures with the still camera at the head of the table which accounts for the flashes.
5) Notice the toddler on the right-hand corner of the screen, who is very quick and has amazing lungs.

As I was getting this video uploaded, I noticed Madeline had named it, "Maya's Devious Move." This is the photo I got from the other side of the table, with Madeline saying, "Hey, isn't the birthday girl supposed to blow out the candles?"

Poor Madeline. We did a re-do and she nearly set her hair on fire, she was so closely guarding her candles. We love Madeline dearly and are so blessed that 12 years ago she was sent to our family.

Friday, October 24, 2008

If you don't know how to pronouce something, SAY IT LOUD

In my last post I wrote about feeling proud of my newfound computer skill. True, the day before I had inadvertantly shut down Blogger with my incompetence, but now I could do it. I could cross out words. Just like this. I'd mastered it. I even ended my post with "Drumroll please....." and then I crossed out the sentence: "Don't be surprised if you see a lot of this in the future." How witty of me. I pressed Publish and then View Blog, and then HOLY COW! I had done it AGAIN! Everything after "drumroll please" was crossed out, all gadgets, all comments, everything. I knew I hadn't forgotten to use the backslash, which was the crucial missing component the day before, but this time I used it after the s instead of before it, which apparently is a big deal.

It's one thing to meekly admit that you're ignorant; it's another thing to brag that you're not an idiot while at the same time publicly demonstrating that you absolutely are.

This brings me to a Lyle story. When we were dating, he couldn't figure out how to spell my name. Despite my spelling it out for him on more than one occasion, he consistently got it wrong. The possibilities were endless. Aileen, Ilean, Ilene.... He just couldn't get it right. Finally he bragged that he HAD it. He could spell my name. Just to demonstrate, he dropped a get-well card off at my apartment when I had the flu. I saved the envelope, because he truly was confident that he was right. The pencil is pretty faded, but I think you can still read it.

Eilene (note the correct spelling) And he was wrong AGAIN! I once heard advice that if you don't know how to pronounce something, say it loud. Lyle and I seem to have latched onto that mantra. While we're saying things like, "Drumroll please.... Look how I've mastered Blogger" or "Note correct spelling," what we're really doing is screaming at the top of our lungs:

I don't know how to use my computer!

I don't know how to spell my fiance's name!

This leaves our daughter Madeline wondering if we REALLY met in a comparative literature class or if it was perhaps a Life Skills 101 class. But actually, I just first saw him in comparative literature, we met in the waiting room of the ER. The fact that we were there requiring professional assistance should have been a sign of things to come. Yes, we still need help. Eilene, you've crossed out our whole blog and shut down the blog-o-sphere. Help!(/s>

The Day I Shut Down Blogger

I had a busy day yesterday. I did laundry, drove kids to various activities, bought dog food, shut down Blogger.....

It started simply enough. I wanted to cross out a word, just one little word. Blogging people do this all the time to be witty and clever and I wanted to be witty and clever too. In the sentence I'd written about pleading for mercy in grading, I thought that really the word mercy wasn't accurate since I deserved an A. So, I wanted to strike out the word mercy and add in the word fairness. I thought I understood how to do this.

I clicked on the "Edit Html" tab and I was instantly transported to a land I've never before visited. This land had its own language and strange rules and customs. The inhabitants were dressed in symbols and their ways were strange to me. But I'm not a novice to foreign travel. I've walked through the Vatican, I've hiked up a mountain in the Alps, I've stood on the Great Wall of China; I can hang with these Html people.

I found the word I wanted to cross out, Mercy, something I was to learn Blogger would not be granting me, and as I understood it, before the word I needed to add this sign < and then the letter s and then that same sign going the other direction. After the word Mercy I needed to do it again. It was so easy. I had spoken the language of the Html people. I clicked Publish and then View Blog.

WHOA! WHAT HAPPENED? In my attempt to speak the language, apparently I had erred--and they are not forgiving in Html land. Every single word after "Mercy" was being crossed out. Even all of the stuff off to the side, all crossed out. In China, if my tone was a little off, they giggled, they tried to redirect me, they gave me the benefit of the doubt. But they're ruthless in Html and they don't like foreigners. I instantly tried to correct my ways, but they wouldn't even let me back in the country. They ripped up my passport, they took away my Visa.

I sent a frantic e-mail to my friend Lisa:

Help! I tried to be clever and cross a word out in my post from this morning, and I THOUGHT I followed directions, but take a look at my blog now!! Yikes, what have I done? I can kiss my 11 followers bye-bye.

What the heck happened? Now I'm just trying to erase it and never again try something techy like that, but it won't even let me do that. It says "Blogger is temporarily unavailable". Is it unavailable to you too or just to me? I think Blogger wants me to get a life.

Lisa wrote back:

Yep. I went and looked and yep. You’re in trouble. You totally messed up......And I tried to comment and it did say blogger was down.

Lisa went on to tell me that I'd missed a crucial backslash in my use of the Html language. Just one little backslash. Picky, picky picky.

I envisioned a scene from a movie where some kid is playing around with different codes on his computer and then suddenly all the lights start flickering off in the greater Chicago Metropolitan area, leaving the kid in the dark saying "Oops" and his Mom downstairs yelling, "Johnny!" Was it a just a coincidence that right when I started messing around in places where I shouldn't have been, all foreign travel was blocked, the whole country was shut down?

So, if you experienced a Blogger shut down yesterday around 1:00 West coast time, Oops.

And take a look at my previous post. Do you see the crossed out word? Oh yeah, I've got that one down. So, drumroll please....
Don't be surprised if you see a lot of this in the future.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Feeling a little long (and blue) in the tooth

When I was in college, I went to my professor's office to discuss a grade he'd given me on a paper. It was a B and I really felt in my heart of hearts that it should have been an A. It took guts for me to enter his private office. Even in college, it felt a little weird for me to see my teachers in any realm outside of the classroom. This professor's office may have been close to the classroom in proximity but the family photos on the desk made it feel akin to walking into his living room. And since our relationship was always: You lecture to me, I take notes and study your every word; finding equal footing was difficult. Finding equal footing while pleading for mercy fairness in grading was not going to happen. I had just broached the subject of my paper when his phone rang. I quickly gathered it was his wife. His body language clearly said he was upset. He rolled his eyes, he threw his head back, he ran his hands through his hair. Finally he screamed,

"Well, you tell Audrey, that under NO circumstances is she to have her BOYFRIEND in her BEDROOM!"

I tried to slink down a little farther in my seat.

"We've got to set some boundaries here and I think the BEDROOM is a reasonable spot!"

I wondered if I should come back at another time.

"You tell her that I could care less if their feet are always on the floor. She's an immature teenager and he's a PUNK!"

I stared at the books on his shelf, obviously so engrossed in the titles that I wasn't hearing a word.

"Under NO circumstances are you to let her walk out that door with him! I WILL NOT ALLOW IT!"

I quietly slid my paper off the desk and tried to sneak out.

"He's taking her on his MOTORCYCLE? Look, there's a student here. I'll be home as soon as I can."

He hung up the phone, took a deep breath, smoothed his hair and instantly morphed back into composed professor of fine literature. "Now, let's take a look at that paper......"

It was a phone conversation that stands out in my mind as one in which I was an awkward witness. I shouldn't have been there. I shouldn't have known anything about Audrey and her punk boyfriend. I was an extra person in a private space behind a closed door where this man could normally have these types of closed-door conversations.

With the seemingly universal use of the cell phone, does anyone still have closed-door phone conversations? If they do, they must be like plotting a murder or something because otherwise I've pretty much heard it on any given day in Target. But I've adapted to cell phones. At least I'm not in a confined space with my professor; I'm usually in a pretty open environment where I can wander a respectable distance away while still hearing the juicy details. It makes for interesting shopping.

The new learning curve for me is the whole Blue Tooth technology, wearing-your-cell-phone-on-your-ear trend because now not only do I hear the conversation, I think they're talking to me and I respond. This happened last night at Barnes and Noble.

"Hey, How ARE you?"

"Good, thanks. Just getting away from the house for a bit.....oh sorry, you're on the phone....didn't notice..."

Then I feel embarrassed. But I ask you, why should I be the one who's embarrassed? I took the high road and assumed that this person with no visible communication device was talking to me rather than just talking to herself. That was nice of me, right? This also happened in the produce department at Albertsons.

"What are you making for dinner tonight?"

"I'm actually trying out a new stir-fry recipe......oh, sorry."

Embarrassed once again. I would guess that new users of the concealed cell phone must have a period of adjustment. If it were me, I'm quite sure I'd hold my hand to my ear just to emphasize the presence of the phone, which I realize is defeating the whole purpose of hands-free technology. So I'm pretty sure Blue Tooth phones are not in my immediate future. If I appear to be talking to myself in the grocery store, you'll know it's the real deal. Time for you to be a friend and make a phone call. Make a phone call to the mental hospital on your concealed phone. Make a phone call to the mental hospital on your concealed phone while the person picking out cantaloupe thinks you're talking to them, and everyone else is just listening. Because a phone call to the nut house used to be a closed-door conversation, but now it's probably not.

*As a side note, I DID get my grade changed to an A. And I'm sure it was because I deserved it, not because I had somewhat scandalous information (we were at BYU after all) regarding the offspring of a certain Comparative Lit. professor.

*And on a personal note, to my dear friend KT, the rebellious daughter really was named Audrey. I'm sure all other Audreys are paragons of virture and very unlikely to cause their parents even a moment's grief.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You're One of Us

Several years ago I visited an elderly great uncle and his wife in California. Uncle Frank was one of my grandfather's 4 brothers. Being with my uncle was as close to being with my grandfather as I'd ever been. Or at least as close as I could remember. My grandfather and grandmother had died along with other family members in a plane crash before my second birthday. Uncle Frank looked like an older version of the pictures I'd seen of my grandfather. I'm sure I'd met Uncle Frank when I was a young girl and lived in California, but it had been many, many years. When Uncle Frank opened the door to the adult woman who'd come to visit, he stood looking at me for just a moment, and then while giving me a warm hug said in my ear, "Oh, sweetheart. I'd have picked you out of a line-up as Glenn's granddaughter. You look just like a Kelley."

Hearing him say that gave me a feeling of happy pride. The pride didn't come because the Kelley's are known for their stunning good looks, and as a matter of fact the largish nose was probably the distinguishing characteristic, but I felt connected to people who I'd never known and felt part of a larger picture. It was weirdly similar to the feeling I had when I got my first varsity tennis team uniform. I put it on and it was obvious to everyone that I was now part of that group. As Uncle Frank said, in a line-up he would have picked me out. He would have said, "Yep, that's one of ours."

When we were in the waiting phase of our adoption I probably saw hundreds of referral pictures, the tiny mug shots that accompany a child's file. Each time I'd think, Could I look at that baby and say, Yep, she's mine? When we finally got our referral, Lyle and I first read through all of the written information that had been e-mailed to us. We knew that her pictures would be at the bottom and I wanted to kind of sneak up on them, casually take her in starting with the tip of her head and then I could work my way down, stopping to process each bit of information. Somehow I scrolled too fast and suddenly there she was--a round-faced, healthy-looking 6 month old, sitting in a walker, jauntily kicking up one little bare foot into the air.

She literally took our breath away. I knew her. It was like looking at the face of a long-lost friend. I would have picked her out of a line-up, I know it. I noticed her beautiful Chinese features, but I also thought she looked like her siblings. I put our 4 kids' baby pictures together and made friends and family humor me by saying that they could see the resemblance too. She so belongs with this group.

Once Maya was told by a little girl in Kinko's that I was NOT her Mommy. The little girl's father was obviously mortified and kept telling her, "No, honey. That is that little girl's Mommy." But his daughter could not be swayed. "No, I KNOW that's not her Mommy." Maya's chin quivered and she pointed to me and said, "Dat my Mommy right dare." For a good week afterward, Maya would tell complete strangers, even before they had a chance to say hello, "Dis is MY Mommy. MY Mommy." She wanted to make sure they knew from the get-go, just in case they didn't happen to notice.

I hope that as she grows older, she'll always feel like she belongs exactly where she is and that she can always find something of herself in the faces around her. It may not be the same stunning effect as the parent/child dental students, but I think Abby said it best when she was in Costco and was told that she didn't look very much like her sister. Abby looked confused and just shrugged her shoulders and answered, "Well, I said we're sisters, not twins."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Casting Call

This morning I spent some time with Adam in the Cast Room. No, he hadn't earned a spot in a play and it was nothing similar to the "Green Room" where cast members might socialize, it was this type of cast room:

This is the first time we've ever had to have one of our children in a room such as this, and hopefully it will be the last. On Saturday Lyle and Adam were playing flag football over at the church when Adam dislocated his thumb. Just the description of his thumb's angle makes me queasy, so it's providential that I was not in attendance. Adam tried without success to put his thumb back into its rightful place and then Lyle took Adam's hand and told him that what he was about to do would really hurt. Then he YANKED it! UGGGGHHH. It gives me shivers just thinking about it. The yank did successfully snap his thumb back into place, but the next day Lyle decided that maybe a few x-rays should be taken. "Because," he said in all seriousness, "someday he may want to be a dentist." (For everybody else, the thumb on their right hand is pretty optional.)

The doctor said no bones were broken and he doesn't think the ligament was torn, so no surgery is needed. BUT, the ligament was stretched and the growth plate may have been damaged, so he'll be in a cast for nearly a month. The fun of homework time will surely increase as I act not only as the whip-bearing homework prodder, but now scribe as well. I hope to at least get a star for neatness.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Risky Behavior on the Weekend

Ever since I publicly stated my dislike for the board game RISK, my kids have been at me. "Do you really hate RISK, Mom?.... Have you given it a chance?... Maybe if you tried it just one more time...."

So, in the name of family fun and unity, our Saturday evening found us in battle formation with the following lines drawn in the sand:

*Eileen's Purple Terror was firmly entrenched in Europe.

*Lyle's Black Plague started in Australia and was prepared to spread northward.

*Adam's Green Machine was spread everywhere and ultimately went nowhere.

*Madeline's Yellow Fever was reaching epidemic proportions in Africa and South America.

*Abby's Blue Goo held the U.S. and was continually battling to stave off the yellow fever.

*And Maya Qiu's Red Spread had a strangle hold on Asia, which we thought was cute.

Adam's Green Machine reportedly had a strategy. Maya's Red Spread had absolutely no strategy. As a matter of fact, the Red Spread did everything wrong, boldly spitting in the face of all military know-how. And yet, looking at this picture, can you guess which army always rolled 5's and 6's, and which army couldn't seem to roll over a 3?

And so very quickly the Green Machine was shaking in its boots and licking its wounds up in its namesake country of Greenland. The Black Plague taunted the Green Machine's battle worn soldiers and in the voice of the Sicilian Vicini sneered, "Un-Emploooyyed in Greeeeenlannd," which seemed poor form.

The Purple Terror absolutely could have taken out the Green Machine, but the Purple Terror was hanging out in the Swiss Alps and wanted everyone to just live in peace and harmony. Against all odds, the Green Machine reved itself up and continued chugging away.

The Red Spread, however was becoming problematic. The Spread was up past its bedtime. Red Spread needed to meet bedspread. Yet anytime her father, Black Plague, would ask the Red Spread if she wanted to quit or keep fighting, the Spread always valiantly yelled, "Keep Fighting!" Because it's fun to roll dice and if you're not rolling dice you might just take your extra pieces and form little families and make up witty dialogue as did the Blue Goo.

The Blue Goo did this because a) the Goo does that type of thing often and b) RISK is really that boring. Besides, the Blue Goo just didn't have a heart for world domination and her troops were dropping like flies to the evils of the Yellow Fever. And no matter how much you dislike the game and wish you were doing something else, it's still sad to lose good men.

The Yellow Fever was ruthless. She killed her victims in horrible agony and then heartlessly tossed them into very colorful plastic graves, mocking their sad demise. Yellow Fever annihilated Blue Goo and began sweeping through the Green Machine. The Black Plague however gave the Fever a taste of her own medicine and the Fever reached a boiling point.

While the Fever was simmering away in South America, the Red Spread was out of control in Asia. The threat of the Spread made the rest of the world nervous and the Green Machine, no longer unemployed in Greenland, fell victim to one of the classic blunders. To once again quote Vicini, "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

The Purple Terror moved in and finally the Red Spread was defeated. In the end, the once all-powerful ruler whimpered like a baby, sucked her thumb and called out for Mommy. It was a sad display. The leadership of the Purple Terror stepped down and her army was taken over by the fallen commanders of the Green Machine. Purple Terror carried the fallen Red despot upstairs to bed where she repented of her ways and promised to never again wish for world domination.

Meanwhile downstairs the Green Machine fell victim to injury and sickness and the Yellow Fever and Black Plague sneezed and coughed and vomited all over each other until both were so sick and tired they didn't care who ruled the world and they just wanted to go to bed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Phases of the Moon

I was mooned for the very first time in my life this week. That might come as a shock, but it's true. The mooning took place in our den. It's not a den of iniquity or a den of ill repute. It's a respectable place with books and a computer and a globe. Now, I'll describe the incident and you can decide if what occurred constitutes a full moon or some other phase of the moon.

Lyle was sitting at the computer and I was standing behind him glancing over his shoulder at news of the day. A three year-old ran in with a mischievous look on her face. She was wearing a yellow and orange striped Halloween-themed shirt and nothing else. She turned, bent her knees, stuck her derriere out in an exaggerated stance and wagged. While wagging and pumping her arms she yelled out in rhythm with the wag, "HINEY, HINEY, HINEY.." and then she ran.

I think that constitutes a mooning. One might argue that since she already was without pants, a public pulling down of the pants is a required element of the moon. But I think it's all about the attitude and the attitude was most definitely there. As her parent, I feel it's important to stress that this behavior has not been taught and was completely shocking to us. She's never witnessed a mooning. The only moon she knows is in the night sky. So this got me thinking that something about the "moon" must be innate. When did it start? Where did it originate? Why is my toddler doing it? And because of my need to get to the bottom of things, I did some research.

The first recorded mooning (although the term hadn't yet been coined) took place during the Hundred Years War. The year was 1346 and in the Battle of Crecy several hundred Normandy soldiers "exposed their backsides" to the British archers. One can only imagine the officer in charge shouting out the order, "Hear Ye! In honor of our noble King, I have a plan....." Now I am not a soldier and I don't have a mind for military maneuvers, but to me, this seems ill-advised. Because while the Normandy soldiers felt they were presenting something akin to this:

The archers saw only this:

The record is scant but says that when the soldiers dropped their pants and their defenses, "many of them paid a high price for doing so."

For over 400 years the verb "moon" has meant "to expose something to light". Since the mid-1700's the moon has been the shape metaphor for the buttocks. Surprisingly, it took college students over two hundred years to put these two thoughts together and it wasn't until 1968 that the modern day usage of the term "mooning" was coined. Before that, mooning was a perfectly respectable word. Besides shedding light on something, it also meant "wandering idly" or "romantically pining". The "mooning young boy" described in classic literature is of a bygone era. The modern-day mooning young boy is not nearly so endearing.

In the news recently there was a headline which may have caught your attention. I know it caught mine: "College Debate Coach Fired After Mooning Opposing Team". Apparently Dr. Bill Shanahan, an assistant professor of communications at Fort Hays State in Kansas, just ran out of things to say. Yet, as with our incident in the den, it's all about phases of the moon. Unlike our mooner, this coach was initially wearing pants which he did very flagrantly pull down. However, in his defense, only the khakis came down and not the boxers. No skin was involved but by all accounts the attitude was there. Some feel that with this more subtle phase of the moon, firing was a harsh punishment. I disagree solely on the grounds that a debate coach should have more verbal skills at his disposal. He said that his actions "must be judged in the unique context of college debate, marked by its passion and rigorous intellectual engagement." And ability to unbutton your pants faster than the opponent.

In 2006, a Maryland court of appeals ruled that mooning is a form of artistic expression protected by the United States Constitution, which I'm sure would please the founding fathers. Furthermore, although the court considered mooning "disgusting" they also considered it a form of free speech and not indecent exposure. So, legally, our mooner has a leg to stand on. She has two legs to stand on as a matter of fact. Two legs to stand on and wag her rear end at us.

And while the U.S. legally allows it, the NFL frowns upon it. In 2005, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss celebrated a touchdown by pretending to pull down his pants and moon the Green Bay fans. The papers dubbed it a faux moon. And as we all know, this is not in keeping with the morals and values of the NFL and he was fined $10,000.

The African country of Senegal takes an even firmer stance. Nineteen-year-old Patrick Devine from Ireland was acting on a dare when he dropped his pants and mooned the home of the Senegalese Governor. Patrick was spotted by a local man who tackled and detained him until authorities arrived. Normally, Patty sounds like he was a good boy. He was an engineering student at Queen's University and was there in Senegal teaching English to children. But there's a time and place for all things and Senegal is not the place for mooning and while the neighbors are watching is not the time. For a month, with diplomats frantically working in his behalf, Patty lived in La Maison de la Correction where he reportedly shared a cell with 40 other prisoners and pulled not a single mooner.

So what do we do with our cheeky toddler? How do we keep her from a life of NFL fines and incarceration in foreign prisons? Maybe if she'd been wearing pants at the time, the urge to moon wouldn't have struck her. Maybe she knows a three-year-old hiney is still pretty cute. Maybe it was a form of protest in response to naptime. It's hard to say, but to be safe we may take away all of her pull-on (and off) pants. And to be doubly safe, maybe today I'll go buy her a belt. A complicated belt.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Be Nice to People Who are Doing Hard Things

On my wedding day, an adorable little girl with long blond pigtails called me Aunt Eileen, which was a first for me. Stephanie was wearing a floral dress with the unconventional addition of purple hiking boots. And you can't help but love a girl like that.

Stephanie is all grown up now and is simply amazing. I've heard that one of her cousins wrote an essay about her for a junior high English class and that the teacher scrawled in red pen across the front of the paper, "Is this person REAL?" Stephanie was valedictorian of her class, won the state track meet two years in a row in the 3200 while also snagging the silver in both the mile and 800. She dances ballet in point shoes and can look graceful and beautiful one minute and then turn around and compete in the elite women's division of a grueling Half-Ironman triathlon. She wins writing contests, volunteers for service organizations, plays the piano, plays the clarinet, attends science study camps, sings in choirs, and learns things like Greek in her spare time. She's a girl who works hard with seriously impressive results. She has every possible door open to her and with all options on the table, she's decided to go on a mission for our church.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, mission calls are considered inspired. The applicant doesn't choose where they want to go; they're called. And Stephanie was called to Norway. From all accounts, Norway is tough. Many if not most missionaries come home without a single baptism. Stephanie is a young woman who's certainly shown she's up for hard work, but she's also always gotten pretty tangible results. She'll definitely have results, but they might sometimes be hard to see. I know this call was inspired and that Stephanie will be great for Norway and Norway will be great for Stephanie.

Almost 20 years ago, Lyle was also at a point in his life when he had every door open to him and he chose to dedicate two years to his Heavenly Father by serving a mission. I think Lyle was good for Brazil and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Brazil was good for Lyle.

Although I didn't know him then, when he left on his mission I'm sure he was a pretty typical 19 year-old. He cared about girls and sports teams and music and movies. To this day, he says there's still an entertainment void for him from 1989-1991. "Hey didn't you ever see, THIS movie.....?" or "Doesn't THIS song bring back memories?.....Come on, you've got to know was made in the early 90's......?" Nope he missed it. Instead of watching Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in GHOST, he was following mission rules and getting up at 6:30 AM for scripture study. He was knocking on doors in the morning, and then hoping some nice people would give him lunch, and then working hard again until lights out at 10:30. He lived with a companion 24/7. I've met some of these companions and know that Lyle's patience was probably tested.

I love that during his mission he accepted and gladly wore knit ties made by a church member on his own personal tie-making machine. I smile when he tells me that he pondered getting a pocket protector because of the pens that stained his shirt. Even without the pens, his front pocket bulged with the pamphlets that sometimes spilled out of his shirt and onto the floor of crowded buses.

I can't help but laugh when I picture him singing hymns and demonstrating the soprano part to women in an area where he said the people were incredibly beautiful but very tone deaf. I'm thankful that in a country known for gorgeous women and scanty clothing he heard counsel like, "Steel you heart, Elder" and I'm even more thankful that he listened.

He lived in some hard places and ate things that were very unlike Mom's cooking back home in Idaho. He learned to always wear sandals in the shower because of the bugs that could bite your feet and bury eggs. He befriended a parrot. He kept all of the pictures that were drawn for him by little children.

He had eggs thrown at him and once caught one unbroken in his coat pocket and resisted the urge to throw it back.

He learned the language and still sings "I Am a Child of God" to our children in Portuguese. He loved Brazil and loved the people. He studied the scriptures like he never had before and strengthened his testimony. When our teenage son asked him this morning how many people he converted in Brazil, he told him not a single one. Heavenly Father does the converting.

In his non-mission life, Lyle excelled at water skiing and could (and still can) do an impressive dock start and jump the wake with one ski. I'm sure there was a pang of envy when Lyle's family sent him this postcard when he had just a few months left on his mission:

Because while they were doing that, he was busy doing this:

Which is why I respect missionaries of all religions. These are people who are willing to put aside their normal lives and do hard things for the Lord. When a missionary comes to my door, regardless of the affiliation, I always tell them I admire them and I always offer them a drink or a snack. When I do, I think of someone in Brazil helping Lyle pick his pamphlets up off the floor of the bus and I think of someone in Norway giving an encouraging smile (and maybe a bit of lutefisk) to an amazing missionary who's coming their way.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Having a Barn Doesn't Bring You Any Closer to Riding off into the Sunset

Most people know this. Yet this is the type of lesson I continually need to learn. Lyle says I'm a "romantic" and by that he doesn't mean the roses and hand-holding type of romantic. No, definitely not. He means the "if I put a sachet in my drawer my whole life will be pleasantly fragrant and lovely" type of romantic. And Lyle plays into it. When I said we needed a barn....because we needed horses.....because we live on acreage.... because people who live on acreage should have livestock, he willingly complied. He built me probably the cutest barn on the planet as evidenced here:

And when we got horses, my romantic heart pictured this:

When really my heart should have been picturing this. A whole lot of this.

But Lyle is not solely of a practical bent. When he got the dog cart for our noble Bernese Mountain Dog, I know he pictured something like this:

He drove down to Oregon to purchase this:

This cart that the "working class" Bernese dog is not hitched to. This cart that has Lyle looking somewhat frustrated. This cart that seems too big for our labrador retriever. Because when Olaf learned of Lyle's plan to turn him into a beast of burden, he gave him a look like this:

Which is why THIS is hanging in the gararge:

And THIS is lounging in the entryway.

Which brings us to why our horses are currently living with friends and why we're still no closer to riding off into the sunset.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Postal Time Warp

My friend Lisa mentioned yesterday that she receives flyers from AARP. Being one-half of a married couple named Vernon and Eileen, we get a fair amount of "mature" mail as well. The mail I find funniest though are the items we get on the other end of the spectrum. Let me explain.

Many years ago, right after college graduation and before Lyle (Yes, that would be V. Lyle) started dental school, we lived with Lyle's parents in Idaho Falls. When we moved, unbeknownst to numerous relatives, their mail moved with us. Don't worry. It was never important mail. We didn't get bills or Christmas cards, we got all their junk. They should have thanked us. We got Carole's mail-order bulb catalogs, Cari's cross-stitch newsletter, and for whatever reason, lots of car dealership specials for Laurel. It's been many years and several moves later and we STILL get mail for Lyle's extended family members. Oddly, we even get mail addressed to Nanette B., Lyle's oldest sister who has been a Johnson for oh.... what is it, about 25 years now?

The very best though was the flyer announcing A FREE GYMNASTICS CLASS FOR DELPHA! Yes, Delpha. This would be Lyle's grandmother. Now, one would think that the name Delpha probably should have caused someone to scratch their head a bit. Did they REALLY think anyone named Delpha would be up for a routine on the balance beam? And the funniest part about it was that the flyer was addressed to the PARENTS of Delpha.

This is the couple we're referring to:

Which proves that mail can be transferred only so far.

And looking at Lyle's great-grandfather's hair, it also proves that my Lyle and Lyle Lovett were descended from the same gene pool......which explains the slight wave to Lyle's hair and his ability to woo brunette women far exceeding him in beauty.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

As Per Request....Lyle's Valentine's Poem

I could have also named this post, "Why Eileen Never Wins"

There once was a gal named Jenny.
As bonny a lass as you’ll see.
She had a deft touch with make-up and such
And worked in a mortuary.

With a bit of rouge and some lipstick
She could make the most homely shine
She could take Barney Fife, and you’d swear on your life
It was Mel Gibson/ Brad Pitt combined.

The dearly departed never looked finer
Then when under Jenny’s good care.
The bags under Mrs. Jones eyes before her demise
Why you’d swear they were never there.

And what of poor Martin de Bouvair
Who’d had such an horrendous comb-over.
With Jenny’s great knack after his heart attack
You’d think he’d a full head of hair.

Her Boss, Funeral Director McDuffy
Admired her magic each day.
Saying "You’re a Heavenly maid as you practice your trade
Amidst all this death and decay."

Jenny was far from flattered.
For McDuffy she considered a lout.
On most every day she’d be heard to say
"With you I would never go out!"

"The dead folks I work on are so pleasant.
They’re quiet and don’t make a fuss.
Unlike you they don’t leer or try to nibble my ear,
And my make-up they never would muss."

But McDuffy, he was persistent.
To the crematorium he followed her one day.
As he tried to kiss her lip, she started to slip

And fell in to her suitor’s dismay.

This romance in one sense was a hot one
It ended before it could really start up.
When the process had finished Jenny was greatly diminished
In fact she could fit in a cup.

So the moral of this tragic story
If there’s anything that may be learned,
I think ‘twas Ben Franklin that said it,
"A Jenny craved is a Jenny urned."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I've Been Tagged

Today marks my first week of blogging! Most of my time has been spent transferring all of my old stuff over from the website, but I'm already liking the switch.

My good friend Jen tagged me a few days ago and I've been trying to avoid it. I prefer telling all of my kids' secrets and not my own. I was tagged a second time by Lisa, also a newbie blogger and now I'm feeling like I should just get this over with. SO, in no particular order:

1. I'm competitive and a bad loser.
And it's not pretty. I asked Lyle to give me a specific example and he kept going on...and on.... and on..."What about the time you hit me with your binder when I got a better grade than you?", or "What about when you threw your Scrabble pieces on the floor?", or "Oh yeah, you've got to tell about when you pushed that lady at church basketball"...... Anyway, apparently it's a problem that I need to work on.

2. My legs are not wimpy.
Actually, truth be told, I'm sure they are wimpy now, but they didn't used to be. Years ago when I ran track and we'd have weight room days, wow, you should have seen me on the leg press. Small crowds would gather. When Lyle hears someone is moving, he always offers my services. On our wedding day the photographer asked for some fun photos of Lyle carrying his new bride, but Lyle wanted none of that. He insisted on this:

3. I love to do research.
When I was little I remember one summer begging my dad to assign me a research topic. He chose Amelia Earhart and being a pilot himself, he ripped my report apart for piddly technical deficiencies and gave me a B. I still hold a grudge but I also still love to do research. My dream job would be as a researcher for the show "Biography" on A&E.

4. I love to write.
I once won the humor division in the Beck Family Valentine's Day Poem Writing Contest and I hold that as a very high honor. Lyle's family is quite large and the competition is fierce. Lyle almost always wins "Most Humorous" and leaves me hoping to get "Best Captures the Spirit of the Day". Come Home Billy Bob was my last win, and that was several years ago. My most recent entry, Gollum Finds Love, won honorable mention, so I've been close, but no cigar. I'm hoping this year I'll be back on top. Gotta' keep Lyle away from the computer.

Come Home Billy Bob

Won’t get no lovin’ this Valentine’s Day
Since Billy Bob’s left me and gone his own way.

Wasn’t much of a catch, I gotta speak true,
But still I can’t help but feelin’ real blue.

I first spotted him walkin’ along old Interstate One
I thought, “To heck with clean livin’! I want some fun!”

I always been careful, done just what I’m told,
But how could I leave him out there in the cold?

Took him on home and gave him some grub,
Got familiar real quick, and gave his belly a rub.

Ain’t never seen a back so covered with hair
He could do with some groomin’ ‘bout everywhere.

He needed a bath and some love and attention.
Did things in my trailer I won’t even mention.

But still I was sure that we had somethin’ real.
And now Billy Bob’s gone. You guess how I feel?

I’m tryin’ to focus on this here poem of woe
When in crawls Billy Bob! Now he’s lickin’ my toe!

I knew he’d come home, scratchin’ at my back door
No love like a dog’s, I said that before.

This Valentine’s Day appears to be turnin’ around!
Now I needs me a man to go along with the hound!

Gollum Finds Love

Gollum was loathsome, that much was well known.
There’s no way that he'd ever find a love of his own.

With pasty white skin, and a bony, bent body,
It looked pretty doubtful he’d be anyone’s hottie.

His hairs were few and what he had was all greasy,
Finding a woman for Gollum sure wouldn’t be easy.

He knew she was out there, they just hadn’t yet met,
So he signed himself up for "Middle Earth Bachelorette"

The bachelorette was an elf, pointy ears, hair of red.
She was truly a beauty, but there wasn’t much in her head.

Gollum sized up the others and felt a wee bit out-classed,
Ork, hobbit, and dwarf made up the rest of the cast.

The hobbit looked dapper, clearly his feet saw a comb,
The ork was well-muscled, and that cute dwarf… (or now was he a gnome?)

Anyway, their group outing was to a candle-lit cave,
Gollum turned on some "Smiegel" and tried to behave.

The elf giggled and laughed, she was a regular flirt,
And that ork sure talked big for a guy made from dirt.

The dwarf was real witty and the hobbit romantic,
Poor ugly Gollum felt pretty darn frantic.

He stood, which was brave, with just a cloth round his middle
And in his hoarse voice asked, "My precious, how about a riddle?"

"Oh yes! A riddle! O.K., I’m ready now!"
The elf crossed her eyes and furrowed her brow.

"A box without hinges, key, or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid,"

"Oh, my! That’s a toughie, you sure are smart!"
Telling a good riddle is indeed a great art."

"I have lots more where that came from, my dear,"
And he whispered "egg" into her elvish ear.

"Oh, of course! A brain such as yours is so rare!"
With my looks and your smarts we’d make quite a pair!"

Gollum found love! He pinched himself!
Who would have guessed it? Can you imagine! An elf!

"Yes, my dear Gollum, my love I do bring,
Now from you all I need, of course, is a ring……."

* And as a side note, I hate The Lord of the Rings books and movies. My son loves them so I get this information second-hand. Just wanted you to know.

5. I love genealogy and family history.
Amongst my proudest accomplishments are the World War II histories I wrote of my dad's uncles who died in the war. I spent countless hours researching and making phone calls and collecting old photos and documents. I loved talking with my uncles' military buddies, now men in their 80's. My Uncle Grant's fellow pilots all had nicknames and one particular man I was interviewing suggested I call and interview another member of their squadron. "But," he said, "when you call, be sure to ask for Sexy." Uhh-huhh. I just couldn't bring myself to do that. When I was talking to "Sexy" on the phone, midway through the conversation, he cleared his elderly throat and said smooth as silk, "You know, you have a very attractive voice..." Sixty years after the war, Sexy was still making the moves!

6. My hair was straight, then curly, then straight, and no chemical treatments were involved.
When I was a little girl I had straight hair. When puberty hit, my hair went afro on me. As the puberty hormones calmed down so did my hair but it stayed decidedly curly. When I was pregnant with Adam my hair straightened into a non-descript, messy, grown-out perm look that has persisted. And speaking of hair, I'm plagued with gray. I can't remember a time when I couldn't find gray hairs on my head. I've pulled grays out of my children's heads and my oldest is only 14. It's a curse. If there were an experimental drug, I'd take it. My fear is that Lyle and I will become a George H.W. and Barbara Bush type of couple and everyone will mistake me for his mother. Lyle might actually start calling me Mother.

7. I love nerdy word games.
Give me a roaring fire and a Scrabble board and I'm a happy woman. Lyle and I played Scrabble every Sunday evening for years. When we didn't have quite enough time for Scrabble, we'd play Boggle instead. I love the category on Cranium where you have to spell words backwards. I hate the category that requires you to hum. Tunes elude me. I hate the game RISK. I always feel like we should just get along anyway and I have no beef with Greenland so why should I invade their territory? Besides, the game has way too many short pointy pieces that I frequently step on up in the playroom. Give me Scrabble any day.

Jen wanted a list of 8, but I'm maxed out with 7. This was painful.