Thursday, December 27, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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Vacation is so nice.

I got a Kindle for Christmas.  I used to consider myself a book purist, but I've decided that the convenience of carrying lots of books in a very small package is so much easier than trying to haul around a whole stack.

The girls got the white Christmas they've been dreaming of for two years now.

And I've discovered that I've turned into an old person.  I have no desire to play in the snow.  It's too cold.

I do wish I could go skiing, though.  Stupid costochondritis.

You can never watch The Princess Bride too many times.  And watching it with a roomful of people who also quote every line is a bonus.

The girls are spending a few days with my parents while Chris & I stay with his parents.  I think we're all winners here (except maybe Chris's parents...sorry about that.)

We got a robot for Christmas.  Best present ever.

Trying to coordinate a group of people to go see a movie I've been dying to see was probably not the best idea, because I have to wait til everyone can go.  So not fair.

Your turn!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Christmas that Almost Wasn't

A bit of a warning: this is a really long post.  I tried to make it shorter, but it's just not as much fun if you don't get all the details.  Bear with me, and hopefully it will be worth it once you've made it all the way through!  

When we left all of our family behind in Utah seven and a half years ago, it was with the unspoken understanding that we would bring the grandchildren home every year for Christmas.  So every year we pack our bags full of winter gear and Christmas presents, load up the car, and drive for 12 hours to spend a few weeks with the people we love.

This year was no different.  We loaded up Friday evening and got up early Saturday morning to begin our drive.  We usually leave around 3:00 in the morning so the girls will sleep for the first part of the drive, but this year the alarm malfunctioned and we didn't take off until just after 5:00.

We warned the girls that this would be a different drive than they were used to, because they were going to be awake for a lot more of it than they were used to.  Changes in plans do not go over well for people with Ebert genes, so we wanted to give them enough of a heads up that we didn't have to deal with drama when it took forever to get to Grandma's house.

Well.  It was certainly a different drive.  Just not for the reasons we anticipated.

About 3 hours into the drive, we were passing Pendelton, and I turned around to take a picture of the girls, who had snoozed a little and were now all happily occupied with movies and various other activities.

Little do they know...

Chris and I began talking about how efficiently we must have packed, because it didn't seem like the car was quite as full as usual.

And that's when it hit me, like the proverbial ton of bricks, that there was a very good reason why it didn't seem so full: because it wasn't.  There were three bags of Christmas presents at home in our closet.

All of the girls' Christmas presents.  ALL of them.

While packing Friday, I had gone through all the presents we were bringing with us and organized them into bags and boxes.  All the wrapped gifts for our families and from the girls to each other were in a pile on my bed, next to a giant - closed - box of unwrapped gifts for Chris and myself and the couple of things that were for the whole family.  Everything the girls were getting was sorted into three big grocery bags and put out of sight in my closet, where they had been hiding for the last several weeks anyway.  And, due to some miscommunication about what, exactly, was in the giant box, where they still were.

Once I had finished repeating variations of "Oh my gosh" and "Oh, no, no, no, no, no" and was able to explain to Chris why I had launched into complete and utter freak-out mode, he pulled the car off at the next exit, and we got out so we could discuss the situation without three extra pairs of ears.

Our first thought was, of course, that we would have to turn around and go back.  Another three hours in the car, except this time moving further away from our goal.  Our second, happier, thought was that maybe we could continue on to Utah, and somehow manage to book a plane ticket for either Chris or myself from Salt Lake to Portland and back again.  Because he travels for work, Chris has MVP gold status with Alaska Airlines, so he called them to see if there was anything they could do for us.  And there was, to the tune of $700.  The day before Christmas Eve is not a good time to book a last-minute plane ticket, FYI.

Back to square one.

So while I freaked out some more, Chris called his dad, hoping for another, less freaked out brain to help think things through.  After determining that the only keys to our house were with us, meaning no one could get in and overnight everything to us, and that no, we couldn't just rush out and replace everything once we got to Salt Lake and then return the stuff in our closet once we got home (which was also my dad's suggestion - he even went so far as to offer to start searching right away and save us some time), his dad realized that not only had Chris's brother and his girlfriend stayed overnight in La Grande, 45 minutes down the road, but that they were still there.

After much frantic phone calling back and forth between the three parties, it was determined that we would head to La Grande and meet up with Blaine and Mel, who would then take our car and continue on with the girls as far as Ogden, where Grandma & Grandpa would then meet them, give them a car, and take the girls on to Sandy.  Chris and I, meanwhile, would take Blaine & Mel's car and head back to Portland.  It is important to note that these two are saints, because not everybody would willingly agree to lock themselves in a car for seven hours with someone else's children.  Not even parents willingly do that.

All the way to La Grande we discussed with the girls what was happening.  The hard part was being as clear as we could about why it needed to happen while still being vague enough to keep from destroying certain beliefs.  We told the girls we forgot the presents and needed to go back and get them.  Ellie, who was sitting in the way back, immediately piped up, "No we didn't!  I can see them!  They're right here!"  And Vicki said, "Yeah, I carried them to the car."  And we said, again, "Nope, we forgot the presents."  Vicki caught on then, and started telling Ellie, "No, just trust them, they forgot stuff.", all the while with a look of horror on her face as it dawned on her just what had been forgotten.  Lexi didn't say much, but I think she's trying hard to hold on to certain beliefs, despite her brain telling her otherwise, and she didn't want to think about it any more than she really had to.  Once they understood that a return to Portland by some of the people in our car was inevitable, they immediately promised to be good for Blaine & Mel.  With the alternative being more time in the car, it was an easy promise to make.

So we got to La Grande around 9:30 in the morning, and, after a gas and potty break, Blaine, Mel, and the girls took off in one direction while Chris & I took off in another.  Four hours later, we were back home in Portland, where we headed straight upstairs to the master bedroom closet, pulled out my three very organized bags of presents, and put them in the car before grabbing a quick lunch and getting back on the road.

At one point, I called Mel to see how things were going, and she answered with, "We just had the best experience at a gas station.  With llamas!"

Llamas make any trip worthwhile

So things went great for them.  Fears were unfounded: the girls behaved, no one threw up, I was the only one who freaked out the entire trip.  It's not surprising, really, considering they've made this drive twice a year for the last seven years, but it's good to know they can do it.

And it's a good thing Chris and I like each other.  We talked, we listened to podcasts, we enjoyed music that we wanted to listen to... it was like a very long date, in a car.  And we decided to enjoy every minute of it.  What else could we do?

As much as we just wanted to get to our final destination, we knew that it would be too much to try and drive straight to Salt Lake, so we stopped around 10:30 at the Super 8 motel in Boise and had an impromptu overnight date.  After breakfast at Denny's we set off again at 8:45 the next morning, stopping in Ogden to trade cars with Blaine before finally arriving at Chris's parents' house just after 2:00 Sunday afternoon.

The total driving time for us came to 20 hours.  Yikes.

But, guess what?  It was totally worth it.  Because on Christmas morning, we got to see this:

Roller skates!
Perfect for the budding artist
Google Nexus tablet - she's been dying for this for a year now
Robotics 101
She didn't take the skates off or put down the
bunny all day long

I will be the first to admit that this was truly a first world problem.  There are so many people in this world who didn't even have presents to leave behind.  And, of course, we know that Christmas isn't about the presents, but the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Still, we were blessed this year to be able to provide some things for our girls that they really wanted, and it would have been sad for all of us if they'd had to wait for two weeks to receive them.

It turned out to be the best Christmas we've ever had.  I don't know whether everything was better because we had to work so hard to have it here, or if it's just that we really scored this year as far as knowing what the girls wanted, but whatever the reason, it was an excellent Christmas.  Well worth 20 hours in a car.

And, besides, now we have an awesome story to tell.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pants, part 2

I did it.  I wore pants to church.

Between Wednesday morning, when I made the decision to participate in Wear Pants to Church Day, and today, I've had a lot of time to think about this event, and what it truly means to me.

I did not expect the backlash that swelled around this event.  It seemed fairly innocuous to me, a great way to make a statement without really making a statement.  As people have said over and over, on both sides of the argument, it's not about what we wear to church, it's about what's in our hearts.  But for most Mormons, dressing up for church is a very important sign of respect for our Father in Heaven, and a way to separate Sunday, our Sabbath Day, from the rest of the week.  And I completely agree with this.

But I also agree with the many Mormon women who feel that the scales are out of balance when it comes to men and women in the Church.  I listed a few reasons for this in my original post on pants, but since I wrote that I found this excellent post, which lists more, many of which resonate with me.  Knowing there are women who feel like they do not have a voice or a place in this church that they so fully believe strengthened my resolve to participate in the event, to wear pants to church today, not to protest the "dress code", but to show solidarity and support for women everywhere in the Church.

I've had one prayer in my heart constantly over the past several days: that the Lord would help me to have my heart in the right place today as I went to church in my gray slacks, and that he would help me to be able to touch at least one person in the way that they needed.  I told Him that I didn't even need to know about it, but I asked Him to just let me be a light to someone today.

As far as I could tell, I was the only woman in pants in my ward today.  Chris wore his new purple tie (purple being the color historically associated with the suffragette movement and the suggested way for men to participate), and Vicki wore her black gaucho-style pants, which she unashamedly wears to church on a regular basis (despite admitting to me that she has gotten some strange looks and a few questions).  I know people noticed my pants as I walked in, but no one said anything, and I didn't feel any animosity.  I often sing with the choir on short notice, and I was asked to join them today, but I respectfully declined because I didn't want to draw attention to myself when I'd already made it clear that I wouldn't be "parading my pants down the aisle" (although the reason I gave the choir director was that I didn't know the song, which is also true).  It was a very pleasant meeting with two wonderful talks on keeping Christ in Christmas, and I felt comfortable (both spiritually and emotionally as well as physically) and content.

And after the meeting was over, as I was standing up ready to leave, a lady that I've always admired came up to me, gave me a hug, and said she agreed with everything I'd written on my blog and wanted to let me know that she'd have worn pants if she'd had any that were appropriate.

So today I'm thankful that I chose to wear my pants.  I'm thankful for an answer to a prayer, for the opportunity to be a light, and for the strength to stand up for what I believe is good and right.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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It's been two weeks since I posted.  I have been super busy.  Did you miss me?

If you don't think I'm weird enough yet, you should read this post of mine (although unless you simply stumbled across this blog, you've probably already read it.)  I hope it will help people, especially my fellow Mormons, to understand that there are all kinds of people in the Church, doing the best they can with what they understand the Gospel to be about.

I am done with another term of school!  Wait, let's add some more exclamation marks to that!!!  !!!!!!  You truly have no idea how very, very relieved I am about this.  The bad news: I didn't do as well as I would have liked.  The good news: I didn't fail.  My GPA will not be as high as I would like it, but I made it through two very tough classes and I'm not ready to call it quits.

Next term is smack in the middle of Girl Scout cookie season.  Ask me how excited I am to sell cookies again.  Someone save me the trouble and buy 50 cases...please?

I can't wait to get my house clean and have Christmas already!

Over the course of the past week I have had a chest x-ray, a blood draw, a CT scan (and a miserable fail at an IV.)  Turns out that, except for an alarming lack of accessible veins, I'm completely normal.  I'm just in a lot of pain on my left ribcage.  Good times.

There are some who might argue about the "normal" part of my last sentence.

I have the most awesome sister.

I'm looking forward to Vicki being able to help me with my math class next term.

We may have splurged a little bit on Christmas this year.  But it will be pure awesome.  Chris is finally getting what he's wanted since he was three (so he says.)  I just have to make sure the girls get a chance to play with it, too.

My brothers are pretty awesome, too, by the way.

After seeing it all over facebook lately, I finally figured out what SMH means.  Why do we need more acronyms?

A few years ago I adopted Gandhi's admonition to "be the change you want to see in the world" as my mantra.  I'm proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone and speaking up so others can see things from a different point of view.  And I'm trying to remember to let myself see things from a different point of view as well.

Your turn!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The idea of dressing up for worship is an old one, and a common one in most Christian churches, though more and more churches these days have adopted a come-as-you-are attitude that encourages people to come to church with a focus on worship and not on the dress of those around them.  I have no problem with this, because I’m most comfortable in jeans and t-shirts every day of the week.

However, I also really love the idea of dressing our best for the Lord.  As someone who wears jeans and t-shirts every day of the week, I enjoy making a distinction on the day that is set aside for worship.  Sunday is a special day, separate from the rest of the week, and when I put on my “Sunday best”, it’s helping me to make that distinction.

I own a very nice pair of gray slacks.  I bought them years ago to wear to work, and I pull them out every once in a great while now that I no longer have a job that requires business casual attire.  I also own a denim skirt, which is very clearly denim (in other words, not so dark it could be mistaken for navy cotton).  It is socially acceptable (within the Church) for me to wear my denim skirt to church, but not my gray slacks.  Why is this?  If we are supposed to wear our very best for the Lord, why is it acceptable for me to wear something that would be rejected at most jobs that require people to dress up (for example, can you imagine a female senator or governor showing up for work in a denim skirt?), but it is not acceptable for me to wear pants that are much more dressy?

A group of women have organized this Sunday, December 16, as “Wear Pants to Church Day”.  They are encouraging women to take this tiny baby step toward a little more equality in the Church and wear “...not jeans, or sweats, or yoga pants, but dress pants. Tailored suits and flowing shalwars and holiday-appropriate black velvet. Pants that are modest, elegant, and feminine, and not at all out of place in a church house (not that we think you need to be any of those things to worship God!).”

Their purpose for this event?  “…to give voice to and express support for women who don’t conform to traditional gender roles and those who seek gender equality in the LDS church.”  There are those of us out there who, for whatever reason, don’t fit in to the traditional gender roles defined by the Church.  Women who feel uncomfortable at church.  Some may still continue to attend, some may not.  Everyone has their struggles, and until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, it’s wrong to judge them.

I guess now is a good time for me to come out and say it: I am a feminist.

I’m also a Mormon.  It’s kind of an awkward place to be.

Now, before folks go getting all riled up, I’d like to address the term “feminist”.  See, there are certain individuals out there with a public presence who try to silence women, especially strong women, by distorting the message of feminism, and calling us belittling names like “femi-nazi”.  We are not demanding to be the same as men.  We are not trying to take rights away from men, or to make the world entirely gender-neutral.  I’m proud to be a woman and happy to be different from men.  What I’m hoping for, and praying for, is the equality that should be extended to all of God’s children, regardless of race, religion, or gender - the equality that is lacking in so many places and points of view.  As Sandra Ford said in her recent post on Feminist Mormon Housewives:

"We envision a world where we can participate fully in our religion, where we are afforded the same opportunities as our fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons: a place where programs for girls receive funding on par programs for boys; a place where young women are encouraged to serve missions on the same terms as young men; a place where women can finish their schooling without being criticized for putting off marriage and pursue careers without being condemned for abandoning the home; a place where mothers can bless their sick children and preside alongside their husbands in the home; a place where our spiritual progress is based on our worth as individuals, rather than on our relationships to the men around us."

I like being a woman; I don’t want to be a man.  I don’t want to be better than the men around me.  I don’t want to have more than them, or be above them in any way.  I simply want to be equal.

I consider us a feminist family.  Ask Chris; he’ll say the same.  (In fact, sometimes I think he’s more of a feminist than I am.)  With three daughters, it’s important to both of us that they grow up to be strong, independent women, that they are sure of themselves and comfortable with who they are. 

This is not about the Priesthood.  Over and over in the Church, women are placed second to men.  The budget for youth programs for girls is much smaller than it is for boys (the Young Men and Young Women programs generally have the same budget, but the Scouts often have an additional, separate budget even though they fund the same boys; Cub Scouts get a rather large portion of the Primary budget, but the Activity Days girls don’t generally get a budget at all).  I was fortunate enough to grow up in a part of the world where the Boy Scout program was not part of the youth program at church, so our activities were pretty similar, but I dread the day when Vicki, who would spend all summer at camp if we let her, realizes how many camping trips the boys take and how much more money is spent on them compared to the girls.  This is one reason why we will continue with the Girl Scout program in addition to the Church programs, at least as long as our girls want to.  Women do not give the prayers in General Conference, though two or three may speak over the course of the four general sessions.  The Priesthood session takes place the same weekend as the general sessions, twice a year, but the sessions that are specific to women take place the weekend before, are referred to as “broadcasts” rather than “sessions”, and alternate between the Relief Society in the fall and the Young Women in the spring.  Women are not called to positions such as Ward Clerk or Sunday School President, even though neither of those callings is a Priesthood position.

The fact that women do not hold the Priesthood in our church is not why I will be wearing pants to church on Sunday.   Maybe women will hold the Priesthood one day, maybe they won’t.  But I hope one day my daughters will be able to walk into church in a nice pair of slacks, maybe chat with the people in the next pew about the beautiful prayer Sister So-and-so gave last week in General Conference, and then send their daughters off to Young Women, where they’ll make plans for their next camping trip.

I believe in a loving Savior who knows me as an individual and loves me for who I am and who I want to become.   He knows my strengths and my weaknesses, and, most importantly, He knows my heart.  His Gospel is a gospel of love, of understanding, of forgiveness and mercy.  When I show up in Church on Sunday in my gray slacks, I believe He will understand why I am wearing them, and He will be proud of me.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Random Thankful Thursday

Since it's Thanksgiving, but also Thursday, I think I'll share some random things I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for modern technology.  Because of it, I can be a college student and still be home when my children are home, and I can stay in touch with far away friends and family.

I'm thankful for good cookbooks, so I can make and enjoy super tasty food.  And I'm thankful that I won't have to have my mouth water for too much longer before I get to enjoy today's feast!

I'm thankful for Mythbusters, because they've helped teach my daughters that science is cool.

I'm thankful for a warm bed and a roof to keep me dry.

I'm thankful for chocolate.

I'm thankful that I've learned how to make healthy food that tastes good so I can enjoy the chocolate.

I'm thankful for Blaine and Mel.  It's nice to have family that aren't too far away.  I'm thankful they're here right now to entertain the girls while Chris & I cook dinner (and I'm thankful to hear them tell the girls that they don't associate with kids who fight.)  And I'm thankful for the great-smelling food they brought with them.

I'm thankful for good neighborhood friends.  We are blessed to know some amazing people.

I'm thankful to be a part of a book club.  Over the past two years I've read books I would never have read otherwise, and I've been able to participate in entertaining and enlightening discussion with a wonderful group of women.

I'm thankful for a job that I enjoy.  It's been a long time since I've had a job outside the house, but I get to spend three mornings a week being entertained by a handful of kids.  I hope they get as much out of our time together as I do.

I'm thankful for a bond of friendship that has lasted over 20 years.  I wish we got to see each other more often than we do, but I'm grateful we've been able to keep in touch all this time.

I'm thankful for my parents.  I'm the person I am today because of what they taught me.

I'm thankful for my wonderful family.  I have been blessed with a wonderful husband who loves me in spite of me and three healthy, amazing daughters who make me smile every single day.

Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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I would like to know how it is that I managed to get 331 pages into the second book in a series before I realized that the main character is blonde, and not brunette like I'd been picturing her.

I still haven't missed a day this year! (the blog isn't up to date, but the pictures have been taken, I promise!)

I was going to share a video, but apparently it's been pulled from YouTube.  Bummer.  It was really funny.

Christmas break needs to come quickly.  I'm very, very much looking forward to not having any classes at all between Spring Break and next fall.  Happy, happy days.

My brother-in-law in Australia posted a guide to Aussie speech on his blog.  My favorite term is "budgie smugglers", which refers to men's bathing costumes, specifically speedos.

Hey, did you hear about the clowns who went to the KKK rally?  Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right?  Watch this:

Dwight Power for the win.

Your turn!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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I had all kinds of things in mind to put in this post today.  I just can't for the life of me remember what they were.

My first baby turned 12 yesterday.  It's very strange.  I loved that little baby so much.  But I love the person she's becoming, so I guess it's okay to say goodbye to the baby and welcome the young woman with open arms.

Ellie and her best friend were each selected to be "Super Student of the Week" in their classes.  They spent the afternoon working on their posters.  It's amazing how big of a deal something that small can be.

I am already tired of school.  The two classes I have this term are killers.  I am very much looking forward to the fact that I won't have any school at all from Spring Break until Fall term starts again.

My brother-in-law Russ is awesome.  He fixed the family picture I want to use for Christmas cards this year so that I'm not wearing sunglasses anymore.  Like I said, awesome.

Wait, is he still my brother-in-law if he's married to my sister-in-law?  As in, his wife is Chris's sister, so not actually related to me.  How does that work?

I wish I had a constant recording of my life so I could always remember the hilarious things Lexi says.  She cracks us up on a daily basis.

Halloween candy is a curse and needs to be exorcised from my house.  Post haste.

I was just told by Vicki's piano teacher to "work with her on a dead hand."  Best piano teacher ever.

Your turn!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I'm proud to say that I voted in yesterday's election.

I'm also proud to say that I didn't vote in the 2000 election.

You see, I was a little busy:

It was before everyone had digital cameras, so I had
to resort to taking a picture of the scrapbook page

And now, that 6lb 9oz baby girl, the one who became the most determined baby and toddler in the world, the one who grew into the most self-confident little girl I've ever met, that little baby is now a smart, cheerful, funny, beautiful, twelve-year-old young woman.

...who can make a perfect paper airplane!

And I'm not just blessed to be her mother.

I'm privileged to be her friend.

Happy 12th birthday, Vicki!  Thanks for making me a mother.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday (the un-random Halloween edition)

We interrupt this regularly scheduled Random Thoughts Thursday to bring you a Halloween-themed post.  This post is brought to you by the knowledge that there are far-away grandparents and an uncle in Australia who really want to see the girls Halloween costumes, and by the fact that I actually have time to blog today.

Random Thoughts Thursday will return at its regularly scheduled time next week.

About two months ago, Ellie told me she'd decided once and for all what she wanted to be for Halloween.  This is the girl who has fairly readily molded her costume ideas to my will for the past six years.  I should have enjoyed that more while it lasted, because this year she decided to be...a volcano.  I usually make the girls costumes, but even if I'd wanted to buy them this year, I have no idea where one would go to find a volcano costume.  So we got creative with the several yards of black felt that Chris has had stored in our cedar chest for the past 10 years, and here's what we came up with:

Pretty darn awesome, if I do say so myself.  Here's another angle:

And one more, because I was feeling artsy:

Her original plan was to have her hair all ratted up and sprayed red, but we tried that for the church Halloween party, with traumatic results when it came time to clean it up, so we came up with the headband instead.  She got pretty good at explaining to people what she was supposed to be, and was over the moon when someone actually guessed right.

Lexi usually goes for simplicity when it comes to costumes.  Her main goal is to just have fun and get candy.  I completely understand that, and appreciate how easy it is to create her costumes.  This year we just had to hunt down a Viking helmet, and the rest I threw together in a few hours using a couple of t-shirts and some fake fur.

And the "okay, stop taking pictures now" picture:

Vicki originally wanted to create an elaborate steampunk costume, but as much as I would have loved to do that (and make something for myself, too, I just didn't have the time.  So she decided to be "Alberta" Einstein instead.

We had fun fluffing up her hair (you can't really tell, but we sprayed it white), and those eyebrows and mustache were a fantastic find.  This is one of my favorite pictures of her, ever:

Here are all three together:

And it wouldn't be Halloween without Chris and I in our goth costumes:

Scary, no?  We also had tattoos:

(That picture is from a party we went to a few days before Halloween.)

So, there you have it.  Hopefully this satisfies those of you dying to see what the girls came up with this year. The only things that scares me now is wondering what, exactly, Ellie is going to decide to be next year.  What could possibly top a volcano?

One last shot of all three girls:

And thus concludes the Ebert family costume roundup of 2012.  Join us again next year when we discover just how much weirder it can get.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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Life has become so much more insane the past couple of weeks.  I started my job, which means I'm gone all morning Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.  It's amazing how cutting just those few hours out has made my craziness even more crazy.

We went to Parent/Teacher Conferences for Vicki tonight.  We talked to her four core teachers (science, social studies, language arts, and math), and every single one of them commented on how she's "good at advocating for herself in class".  Basically, what that means, is that my daughter is Hermione.  It's fitting.

Less than a week until Halloween, and it's entirely possible that I may not have even begun working on the girls' costumes.  Never mind that we have a Halloween party to go to on Saturday.  Good times.

I'm grateful that Lexi chose to be a viking.  Horned hat and brown dress, and she's good to go.

Now, anyone know how to make a volcano costume in less than two days?

We finally got our print from the family pictures we took this summer!  I can't wait to get it framed!

On Saturday we went to the corn maze with our good friends, and afterward we went to the pumpkin patch.  We told the girls they could pick any pumpkin they wanted, as long as they could carry it.  The one Vicki chose weighed 33 lbs.  It may have taken her 20 minutes to cover the ground it took every one else five minutes to cover, but goshdarnit, she carried that pumpkin.

After watching the Presidential debate Monday night, Ellie told Chris she plans to be the first female President.  And the first thing she plans to do is paint the White House purple.

Your turn!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Presentations of Pure Awesomeness

We love our local public schools.  We feel like our kids are getting a good education there.  We've had some excellent teachers, and great experiences with the administration listening to and addressing our concerns.  But sometimes we feel like they're not being challenged as much as we'd like.  So a few weeks ago, Chris and I decided to offer an incentive for the girls to do some extracurricular work.  We told them we'd pay them to research a topic and present what they'd learned to us.

Vicki's reaction was pretty much, "Meh."  Of course, she's a busy girl this year and is taking an especially challenging math class, so I can understand her not wanting to fill her downtime with extra work.

Lexi, however, jumped at the chance.  She just spent all her money on an iPod, so she's eager to fill that piggy bank back up.

She spent about a week researching the states of matter.  Chris gave her some advice and a little guidance, but she did the bulk of the work on her own.  Once she was finished with her research, she put together an awesome PowerPoint presentation for us.  I wish I had thought to actually record the whole thing, but since I didn't, here, at least, is the PowerPoint part of it.  She had notes printed out, with all kinds of information for each slide, but you'll have to use your imagination as you watch this (it's a little long and there's no sound, so feel free to skip ahead):

Not about to be outdone by her sister, Ellie decided that she needed to do a presentation, too.  Inspired by the states of matter, she chose to do her presentation on...wait for it...gas.  Oh how I wish I could have included her commentary, too, or Chris's description of her "research" process (essentially, it involved Google image searches, and him asking her, between fits of laughter, "What else is a gas?")  You will definitely want to watch the whole thing on this one:

A few comments: I have no idea what that's actually a graph of, but Chris says she told him, "We need graphs and charts!"  When she got to the "liar, liar" screen, she told us, "This means you should never hold your gas in.  You should always just let it out, or this might happen."

My kids are awesome.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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Am I crazy for being appalled that my college classmates would use emoticons and "lol" in a graded assignment?

The sun has been shining for the last couple of days, and it's heavenly.  Of course, it was shining for the last several months.  But the two were separated by a week of rain, and I'm mourning the passing of our gorgeous Indian summer.  I love Fall, but I love it best when it's crisp and sunny.

I need to get busy on Halloween costumes.  That volcano outfit is not going to make itself.

I love listening to Ellie read.  She's come a long way in just the last few weeks.

There's no school for middle schoolers tomorrow, so Vicki and her friends are going on a "field trip" to the Portland Art Museum.  We did this last year, and it was great.  Even if they're not learning, they can still learn.

Lexi told me this morning that her iPod isn't quite as exciting as she thought it would be because she can't take it to school.  Translation: she was hoping to look cool with it.  Poor kid.  Life's tough.

I am fundraisered out.  Please let there be no more fundraisers at either school for a long, long time.  At least until Girl Scout cookie sales are over.

I'm not looking forward to cookie sales.  It doesn't start until January, but I'm already dreading it.

My brother-in-law moved to Australia last month.  Now Ellie wants him to send her a koala.  Secretly, so do I.

Also, he wants the girls to make a video of the toilet flushing so we can compare and see if they really do swirl the opposite direction down under.

Vicki's been complaining of a stomachache for the last several days.  We finally figured out the problem - gym class.  She's using muscles she hasn't been using before.  Definitely a good thing.

My kids hate my nutrition class.  It's ruining their lives.  I love it.

Your turn!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday (nearly Friday edition)

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My life these days has evolved into a very boring routine.  I get up, take the kids to school, go to work (3 days a week), come home and sit in front of the computer to do schoolwork, pick the kids up from school and take them to dance classes or piano lessons (where, assuming the laptop worked, which it doesn't right now, I would do more schoolwork) or Girl Scout meetings, come home, make dinner, do more schoolwork, and crawl into bed.  Boring.  I guess I'll get "me" time in four years.

So far I still have high A's in both my classes!  I haven't had any exams yet, though...

I almost cried when I discovered that Dave's Killer Bread is, indeed, 100% whole grain, and therefore actually good for us.  Unlike the "whole grain" white bread I've been buying, which is not, in fact, whole grain.  Too bad my kids won't eat bread with seeds in it.

There is no school tomorrow, and for this I am very grateful.  Sleep is a beautiful thing.

We told the older girls that we'd pay them to do research projects outside of school.  Vicki's response was pretty much, "meh", but Lexi jumped on it, and tonight she gave a PowerPoint presentation on the states of matter.  It was awesome.

On Saturday I did something I haven't done for a long time: I fell off my bike.  My hands are scraped up, my knees are bruised, and my dignity is lying somewhere on the bike path in Maywood Park, but otherwise I'm fine.  There are a lot of things that are hard to do with scraped hands, though.

I haven't updated my 365 blog in a few weeks, but I'm fairly certain I've still taken a picture ever day.  At least, I hope so!

Okay, so that "me" time thing up there...not entirely true.  I'll finish my pre-requisites after Winter term, but the nursing program (assuming I get in) won't start until the following Fall.  So I'll have a few months of "me" time before the craziness sets in for real.

I like that I get paid to spend time at the girls' school, which is what I was doing all the time anyway.

Halloween costume preparations are underway, and my kids have become incredibly creative.  Vicki is going to be "Alberta" Einstein, Lexi is dressing as a Viking, and Ellie wants to be...a volcano.  I am so not making this up.

Your turn!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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This afternoon I was driving down the freeway and had to swerve to another lane to miss cases of toilet paper that had fallen out of someone's truck.  It sure looked pretty blowing in the wind, though.

I'm hosting book club at my house tonight.  Too bad I haven't finished the book yet.

You know who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?  Me, that's who.  I thought I was intelligent until I started reading To the Lighthouse.  I know what all the words mean individually, but I have no idea what they're saying all together.  No idea at all.

Taking a nutrition class is fascinating, but it's also a little depressing because it's made me realize that we have hardly any truly healthy food in our house.

I wish I still remembered how to speak Spanish.

Saturday is Ellie's 7th birthday.  She's not excited or anything, though.  Nope, not at all.

Saturday is also the harvest carnival at the elementary school.  Busy day.

Did you know October is Anti-Bullying Month?  I didn't until today, but now that you know, too, you should watch this video:

Educate your kids and the kids you have contact with.  Bullying is wrong, no matter the sentiment behind it.  Treat other people the way you want to be treated.  Don't be a bully.

Your turn!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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The other day I got up and discovered that I'd been wearing my underwear inside out for the last 24 hours.  That was an interesting way to start the day.

Today I had to be finerprinted for my new job.  They don't use ink to do that anymore, just computers.  It was kinda space-age.

Vicki is learning to play "The Phantom of the Opera" on the piano.  When she practices just the left hand it sounds a lot like Mr. Bean in the Olympics Opening Ceremonies.

On Monday, our neighbor promised Ellie that she'd have her sprinkler on this afternoon so Ellie could cool off on the way home from school.  Not only did Ellie and her friend Katie get soaked to the bone by the sprinkler itself (good thing it was 80 degrees this afternoon!), but Ellie got even more soaked when she slipped on wet stone and fell in the pond.  Good times.

School started for me on Monday.  I'm feeling a little frantic, but mostly under control right now.  I just have to keep telling myself I can do this.

I read this article last night.  It's scary.  Why do little girls need to think that sexy is good?  What's wrong with just being cute and sweet and wearing clothes that were made for children?  I hate shopping for clothes for my girls and having to shop around the mini hooker clothes.  The slideshow at the bottom almost made me cry.

But, to contrast that scary article, how about this awesome one?  Marcos's mom is a teacher at the girls' school.  What an amazing, levelheaded kid.  His parents are bursting with pride, and rightly so.

Your turn!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday (evening edition)

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I've been in training each morning this week for my new job.  I don't actually start the job until the second week of October, but the training has been good.  I'm going to be a reading tutor at the girls' school.  It's more intensive than I expected at first - I'm not just tutoring, but actually teaching kids to read, from the very beginning.  I think it will be a lot of fun.

Short e is a hard sound to teach.  Say "egg", and chances are you didn't actually use a short e at the beginning, but more of a long a.

I don't like really hot weather, but I'm not sure I'm ready for cold, wet weather, either.  Maybe just mid-70's and partly sunny.  That's not too much to ask, is it?

I want to update my phone's OS, but it says I don't have enough free space.  I guess it's time to take off all my pictures.

Ellie just showed me how she can wiggle all four of her loose teeth at once.

I love the fact that all three of my girls have used their own means (bikes or feet) to get to school every day so far this year.  And the only days I've picked anyone up in the car have been Lexi's dance days.  That will likely change, but it will be nice while it lasts.

Classes start on Monday, so I figured today would be a good day to go buy my textbooks.  Nobody told me it was New Student Orientation.  Yikes.

Our insurance company changed our network, and now we have to choose between staying in that network and finding new doctors for Chris & me or changing networks and finding a new pediatrician.  Considering we've seen the ped. considerably more often than either of us have seen our doctors, it looks like I'm in the market to replace the doctor I just found in May.  Good times.

Your turn!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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Yesterday I reported three cars for being illegally parked in the bike lane by our house.  That sort of thing didn't bother me until I started riding the girls to school every day.  So not safe.  At least whoever owns the cars won't know it was me who reported them.  That is, unless they saw me taking pictures of their license plates...

This morning Ellie somehow managed to get peanut butter on her one clean school shirt, and while I scrubbed it off and ranted and raved and begged to know how exactly she'd managed it, she said, "A magician never reveals her secrets."  I have no idea what I'm going to do with that girl.

This week the girls started back up with their extracurricular activities.  I've been to the dance studio twice and head to piano this afternoon.  I also started back up with some of my volunteering duties at the school.  And all yesterday evening I couldn't figure out why I was so tired.  I already miss the nothingness of summer.

School starts for me in another week.  Not sure if I'm ready yet...

One of my eyes sees more blue tones and one sees more red.  Am I weird for noticing this?

My house is really quiet.

I think I have successfully brainwashed Vicki to the point where she's actually looking forward to the Les Miserables movie.  Lexi sings Phantom of the Opera songs to herself, and Ellie keeps talking about wanting to watch Hairspray again.  My work here is done.

I can't read lips at all, but I imagine if I tried the results would be something like this:

Your turn!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

She's Not Me After All

I think parents are always looking for a little bit of themselves in their children.  "She has my eyes!" "He looks just like me when I was that age." "She's her father's daughter." "His hair is just like mine, poor kid."  I do it with my girls all the time.  Ellie has my bone structure, Lexi my sensitivity.  And Vicki...well, Vicki is the most like me.  I see myself in every part of her.  She has my hair, my eyes, my love for music, my sense of humor, my optimism, my voracious devouring of books.  Apparently we also share the same awkward run.

Yesterday, though, she told me about something that happened in school that made me glad she's not just a mini-me after all.

Apparently this generation's New Kids on the Block is a band called One Direction.  I only know who they are because I happen to be friends with a great number of middle-schoolers on Facebook.  In our house, we listen to what the girls sometimes call "old people music".  Some of it is, but not everything.  Our kids are exposed to a multitude of music genres, old and new, but contemporary pop is definitely not one of them.

I guess yesterday in Vicki's band class, a girl was wearing a One Direction t-shirt.  Although my daughter can identify all four Beatles at a glance and tell you which musical any given song is from, she had no idea who was on this girl's shirt.  Now, if it had been me in band class that day, I would have just kept my mouth shut, but Vicki innocently said, "Who's on your shirt?"  After feigning shock, the girl told her. At this point, if it had been me, I would have laughed like an idiot and said something super intelligent like, "Oh, right, duh!  I totally love them!  I...just...didn't recognize them...'cause your shirt was wrinkled...and...yeah."  Vicki, on the other hand, said, "Oh.  I don't know any of their songs." At which point every girl in the room went into heart failure and then expressed their deepest sympathies to Vicki, who I'm sure they now all assume must clearly be repressed.

I would have died of humiliation on the spot.

Vicki thought it was absolutely hilarious and will probably now ask the same question to every other One Direction shirt-wearer in the school.

She is not like me, because she doesn't care at all what other people think of her.  She is proud, strong, and confident in who she is, and she doesn't let anyone take that away from her.  I wish I could have been like that at her age.  Dang, I wish I was like that now.  I don't know where she got that confidence from, but I'm so thankful she has it.

I love this kid so much, and I'm glad she's her and not me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Common Word - Thoughts on September 11

Eleven years ago, I was watching Sesame Street with my then 10-month-old baby girl.  When the show ended, I flipped the channel over, hoping to find something a little more grown up to watch.  What I found instead changed the world forever.

I thank God that I was not personally affected by the events that took place on September 11, 2001.  I was living in Salt Lake City, surrounded by all my family.  I didn't know a single person in New York City or Pennsylvania, and the closest friend I had to Washington D.C. was a teacher in Northern Virginia.  Everyone I knew and loved was safe.

Even then, though, I still felt pain.  Pain, shock, horror, and disbelief at what was done to my country, to my fellow men.  I also felt overwhelmed at the response of so many, both by Americans and by people from so many other nations.  I remember seeing American flags proudly wave from homes, cars, and buildings all over the world.  I remember hearing "I'm Proud to be an American" (a song that, as a former expatriate, already had a dear place in my heart) play over and over on the radio.  Most of all, I remember the amazing sense of kinship I felt with all my fellow Americans.  Everyone came together to stand united in the face of such tragedy.  That feeling of unity is something I will always treasure, a beautiful rose risen among the ugly thorns of terror.

I wrote the following post in March of 2009, and I've reposted it on 9/11 once before, but I feel it is appropriate to post it again today.  Enjoy.

A few months ago I read a book called The Faith Club. It was written by three women – a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew – who met together in the wake of 9/11 to discuss their beliefs and to try to come to an understanding of each other. It was fascinating to follow the journey each of them made as they learned and reached out to each other. What on the surface seemed like a simple thing – a social gathering, a time to build friendships and learn a little from each other – became a turning point for all three as they struggled not only to understand the beliefs of the other two women but also to gain a deeper understanding and testimony of their own as they were challenged in ways they had never been before. It was inspiring. I have a friend who is an Orthodox Jew, and we’ve discussed our religions, and their similarities and differences. Reading this book made me wish I knew a Muslim woman, too, so I could start my own faith club. Of course, I’d probably include another Christian, of the more mainstream variety (I already have one in mind!), since Mormonism is different enough to warrant some discussion there as well.

Anyway, since reading this book, I have had such a desire to come to an understanding with people of different faiths. I’m not looking to agree with them, or have them agree with me. I just want to understand and find common ground. All three of these major world religions come from the same beginning. We are all Abraham’s seed. There are major doctrinal differences, things that will probably never be agreed upon, but we all pray to the same God, whether we call Him by the same name or not.

This brings me to the purpose of this post. Lately I have noticed that a lot of Christians (Mormons included) still seem to harbor ill will towards followers of Islam. The more I see or hear of this, the more it upsets me. I’ve been having a hard time sitting by quietly and allowing these things to go unchallenged. I suppose I can understand the sentiment behind the mindset; after all, terrible things have been done in this world in the name of Islam. However, I firmly believe that these things are being done by people who either do not fully understand the true message of their religion, or who chose to follow only select words, without giving heed to the full meaning in conjunction with the rest of their religious beliefs. I am no expert on Islam, and cannot even claim to be an expert on Christianity or Mormonism, but I do believe that none of these faiths condone the things that are being done in the world today in the name of God. It makes me sad to see the way all of Islam is being lumped together as a religion that tolerates, supports, and even encourages violent acts.

The truth is that, just like there are different sects of Christianity who hold to different sets of doctrine, there is a small portion of Muslims who believe it is the will of God that they engage in jihad, or holy war, against other nations. But this is not true of the majority of Muslims. It amazes me how we Christians are so willing to believe this misleading information when there is so much out there that gives incorrect “facts” about our own beliefs. There are websites dedicated to informing the world that all Mormons are polygamists and all of Mormonism is of the devil, in the same way that there are sites that would have the world believe that all Muslims are jihadists and that all Islam is evil. They’re out there; we’ve all seen them at some point, and when they’re about our own beliefs we’ve all been disgusted and outraged that anyone could be so misinformed and disrespectful about something we hold sacred. Why, then, can we be so willing to believe things about other religions without doing unbiased research. Ah, the appeal of a Faith Club…

I have been bothered by this for awhile now, feeling like I should say something to stand up for a people, who, in my experience and study, I have come to believe are generally kind and peace-loving, but I haven’t known how to go about it. Until yesterday, that is, when I read this article in The Oregonian. It talked about an open letter to Christians written and endorsed by many Muslim leaders. This letter, titled “A Common Word Between Us”, calls for an understanding between Muslims and Christians, using passages from both the Qur’an and the Bible to make its point. It establishes the fact that the two greatest commandments in both Islam and Christianity are to love God above all else and then to love your neighbors – all your neighbors. Who can argue with that? And, given that, who can really believe that Islam teaches unprovoked war with others?

I’m not writing this to start anything. I’m not necessarily even looking for comments this time (although they’re always welcome!) This is just something that has been on my mind for a long time, and I finally found a way to bring it together and put my thoughts and feelings down in print. I have a great love for my Father in Heaven, and for the faith that has led me to that love. But I also have a great respect for those who are strong in their own faith, even though it may not agree with mine. I want to learn as much as I can about those faiths so that I can understand my fellow men, and grow to love them as my neighbors. Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I strongly encourage everyone who reads this to take a look at the Common Word website, and to take some time to think a little bit about loving our God and loving our neighbors, and allowing all men the privilege to worship how, where, or what they may.

I will leave you with the concluding paragraph of “A Common Word”:

So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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You absolutely MUST watch this video:

Now visit the website. (from there, be sure to check out the blog and Facebook page.)  There is so much awesome in this idea I can't even begin to express it.  Maybe I need a ProxyVid for that...

School started for the girls this week, Lexi and Ellie on Tuesday and Vicki yesterday.  Since Vicki started after the younger two and yesterday was early release, today is my first full day home alone since June.  It's quiet.  I like it.

It's a little scary to think too much about the fact that I have a 7th grader, so I try not to think about it at all.

I start school in another week and a half, and then I start my new job not too much after that.  I'm going to be a (paid!) reading tutor at the elementary school.  I'm excited!

I was going to clean out the garage today, but I managed to put it off long enough (with good reason) that I think I just need to wait until tomorrow.  Oh, darn.

Lexi, Ellie, and I biked to school on the first day.  Apparently we're trendsetters, because since then there have been more bikes on those racks than I've ever seen in our seven years of going to that school.  How cool is that?

It would be nice if all my extreme Republican friends on Facebook remembered that they have at least one Democrat friend.  I'm just sayin'.

I'm getting ready to order something called the Cansolidator for my pantry (which is actually my garage, which is one reason why my garage needs to be clean out so badly).  Is is horrible that the cheesy name made me search elsewhere first?

Your turn!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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School starts in less than a week.  We are definitely ready.  Well, at least I am.  I can only handle "there's nothing to do!" so many more times before I lose it completely.

I hope the school will be ready to open by Tuesday.  They've been remodeling all summer, and it still looks like a construction zone.

We took Ellie's Girl Scout troop to the Enchanted Forest yesterday.  Awesome fun.

Six 6-year-olds really wear a person out.

Last night Vicki went to a birthday party and didn't get home until 11:30.  I guess it's time to start getting used to that kind of thing.  In a little over a year she'll be a teenager.

And if that's not scary, I don't know what is.

I'm fairly certain I put my home phone on the Do Not Call registry, but I keep getting "very important messages" about my "credit card account".  Often "Rachel" at "cardholder services" calls me.  Or someone with an indistinguishable name calling about my "Windows computer".  The little bit of glee I get from hanging up on them is outweighed by the sheer number of calls I have to hang up on.  I miss the good old days, when we got prank calls from kids who thought it was funny to swear at us.

Why do my kids' feet grow so fast?  I'm tired of buying shoes that only fit for a month.

There is a jar of Nutella downstairs that's crying out for someone to spread it on a banana.  I think I should probably go help with that.

Your turn!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Random Thoughts Thursday

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Today I finally accomplished one of the things I've wanted to do since summer began: have a PJ movie party with my girls.  We watched "Hairspray" and loved it!

I am slowly indoctrinating them with showtunes.  Pandora radio helps.  Hopefully by the time the Les Mis movie comes out they'll want to see it with me, because I know Chris won't.

The realization that school starts back up for me in a month has kicked me into high gear, organization-wise.  Not sure why, really, but I'm going with it.  The girls cleaned up their room and we rearranged a little bit of furniture.  The beds, unfortunately, have to stay where they are, but we switched their shelf with their dressers and it helps immensely.  We also cut down the bunkbed ladder and hung it from the side of the bed, rather than having it lean into the room.

I used three different saws to complete the ladder project.  I am woman, hear me roar.

I also cleaned out the playroom, sorted through all the toys, and pared things down considerably.

And then Ellie remembered that, actually, she does play with toys, and set back my plans to give everything away.  Sigh.

I won't be babysitting much this year, but I am likely going to be taking a part-time job at the elementary school as a reading tutor.  I hope I can juggle that, along with my schoolwork, because I have a feeling this term is going to be brutal.

There are certain anatomical words that I said more times before noon today than I normally say in an entire month.  Bless Ellie and the randomness of her mind - "Hey, Mom, what hospital was I born in?" led to a whole lot more than any of us thought we were going to discuss this morning.  I think Vicki and Lexi felt like they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It's 3pm - probably too late to change out of my jammies now, right?  Right?

Your turn!
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