January 27, 2009

Kids keep you humble...

Tonight I have had a most humbling experience.

Savannah is in 4th grade this year and, like most kids, asks me for help on her homework quite frequently. Usually this is never a problem. I mean, come on, how hard is it to keep up with 9-year-olds in any subject? Spelling - no problem; science - no problem; history - no problem... You get the idea. After a hard day at work, sometimes this request for help makes me feel like one of the world's most brilliant people. Mom knows it ALL, so bring it on! Tonight is math homework, which hasn't been a problem either.

Now let me just state that math was never my best subject in school, to put it mildly. I remember when I was in 6th grade that my teacher at the time, Mr. Guyon, wanted to put me into the accelerated math group, but I declined. I still don't know what that man had been smoking to suggest such a thing! In 8th grade I actually had a decent math teacher who took the time to explain problems and made you feel very adult-like and responsible for asking questions.

Unfortunately, that year was the last decent math teacher I ever had. The following years were filled by the football coach (who only helped the jocks or discussed the latest game ad nauseum); Mr. Porter-Pedon, your stereotypical computer nerd who had absolutely NO CONTROL of the class (I learned nothing about math that year, but I do remember discussing some really good books with Heath, the boy I had a crush on at the time. One author he suggested, Patrick McManus, is still a favorite!); and my junior year by the cheerleading coach, who not only favored the ditzy dance-team members, but was a first-class witch to anyone who dared take her away from discussing the latest moves to ask a question pertaining to geometry *THE NERVE*. After that experience I decided that I had taken my fill and I was now done with anything even remotely pertaining to numbers, thank you for asking.

I taught the boys, as soon as they entered kindergarten, that some day, when they entered junior high, they were NEVER, EVER to bring me their math problems. I guess I forgot to impart that wisdom to Savannah, or maybe I just didn't specify a good age limit. Anyway, tonight she came to me with math book in hand and a scowl on her face. But tonight, for the first time after she read me the story problem (my old arch-enemy), I felt my face transform into a matching scowl (guess we know where she gets that look!). After making her read it through two more times, I grabbed the book, thinking she had to be purposely leaving something out. No such luck...

We finally figured the problem out, but not before reading through the last 3 chapters and then finally consulting the index. Why can't they just speak in plain English, and why do they have to make it so hard on us poor, aging parents? Don't they realize how demoralizing it is to admit, "I'm not even smarter than a FOURTH grader?!!!"

January 24, 2009

A blessing and a curse

This week in my walking/jogging class, I have at times been both thankful and sad that I am one of two "elders" in the class. The other is a 60+ something amazing lady who doesn't look a day over 50 and is on her 2nd knee replacement since she wore the first one out too quickly! I only hope I am in half as good of shape when I get to that age... Anyway, since I conveniently broke my toe the week before the class started, I am only allowed to walk, not jog. At first I was sad about this.

Two years ago, after 30 years of lethargy, I started "running" 5k's. The first one I did to support my friend Christy whom I had been walking with. We did the Paradise "Trout and Berry 5K" as practice for the "Top of Utah" 5k which she had signed up for. Another friend of ours, a little younger than us, decided to come along too. Rather than just walk it, she decided she'd run to see what time she could do it in. I said to myself, "If Renee' can do it, I can too!" The whistle blew and we both took off. I managed to stay behind (okay, I'll be honest: WELL behind!) her for probably the first half of the race, but after that my body declared war and it was all I could do to stumble through the remainder of the race. In my defense, there WAS a gigantic hill that some devious-minded person put at the end of the course. Anyway, I finished the race, and I wasn't even last.

What I had failed to remember, as I trailed in Renee's dust, is that she had run the Top of Utah Marathon the year before. I was very proud of myself for rising to the challenge, and for the rest of that summer, after I was able to walk again, I entered several more, improving my time a tiny bit each race. Last year I had plans to do even more, but then I began the fun journey with Meniere's and the vertigo problems. Needless to say, I didn't do ANYTHING last summer.

But back to the story... I had signed up for my class so that I could once again get in shape and start running this coming summer. Since I can only walk (although I am speed-walking, so it's still definitely a workout), I have to admit that I feel a little bit like a slacker as I watch all the others in the class run past me.

However, this past Thursday, the instructor decided to kick it up a notch by alternating 2 laps of running with 1 lap of doing lunges. I decided that the toe could probably withstand the lunges, so after walking my first 2, I joined in and did 1/2 lap of lunges. OH. MY. WORD. I have never felt such pain in all of my life. It was at that moment that I decided that aging was a GOOD thing, and if I couldn't use it as an excuse for NEVER doing another lunge again, what point is there?!!!!

As I sit here today, my thighs feel like they may never recover. The 4-month old kitten jumping onto my lap elicits tears of pain, and it is almost impossible to walk up or down stairs. With age also comes wisdom: I am so glad I stopped when I did or I would probably be wheelchair bound now!

January 19, 2009

Tag, I'm It!

Last Monday, I ran across a post from Zakary over at Shindig called "Taggedy Ann" with the following instructions:

1. Go to your documents (I changed this to "my pictures" in my documents file).
2. Go to your 6th file.
3. Go to your 6th picture.
4. Blog about it.
5. Tag 6 friends to do the same.

In my never-ending search for blog ideas (I seem to be going through another dry spell; trying to catch up on laundry just ISN'T that interesting), I thought I'd see, just for fun, which picture would be my Tagged destiny. Imagine my surprise when this little beauty popped up:

This is, of course, my youngest son Braden for those of you who don't know us. For future reference, if you see a picture of my children and are wondering who is who, Braden is always the one with a bandaid, cast, stitches, etc. on some body part. The bandaid featured prominently on his forehead here is probably the 27,316th that has been in that exact same spot.

When he was little, Braden bypassed walking and went straight to running. The only problem with that is that he spent all of his time looking down at his feet and not enough time looking ahead. Needless to say, he spent most of his first few years with a giant goose-egg on his head from running headlong into furniture, parked cars in the driveway, etc. etc. I seriously worried that he would grow up and look like one of the Coneheads of SNL fame due to the calcium build-up. Luckily that hasn't happened (at least not yet!).

When he turned 5 he learned to ride a two-wheeled bike, just like any normal kid. Within two weeks, he had also mastered the art of standing on the seat, balanced on one leg, hands in the air, with a grin from ear to ear. I quickly learned that when I heard the words: "Hey mom! Watch this!" that it was more than likely something I really was better off NOT seeing. And then I wonder where all my grey hair has come from!

The picture in question was taken on the first day of summer camp 3+ years ago. That summer, Josh had volunteered to be a camp counselor during some downtime he had before going active duty, knowing that both Evan and Braden would be at camp and that he'd be able to have some quality time with them. Our home had been a beehive of activity for days, getting all the sleeping bags, flashlights, bug spray, etc. etc. that was needed. The boys were in high spirits as they headed out on their grand adventure around 8:00 a.m. that morning.

By 1:00 p.m. that same day, the home phone rang with the camp nurse asking for "Braden's mom." Never a good feeling... After making it safely to camp (which had been my main worry given that they were riding with Josh!), the campers had stowed their things in the cabins and then gone swimming in the swimming pool. Braden, true to form, had to show his prowess on the diving board. And he couldn't just jump off the diving board into the water, OH NO, he had to perform some sort of convoluted back-flip with half a spin, yada yada yada.

Well, as the picture shows, THAT plan didn't turn out so well... His head didn't clear the diving board, and as he spun around, he managed to break his front tooth in half (exposing the nerve), skin most of his face, and get the obligatory goose-egg on the forehead. That day was probably one of the longest of Braden's life (he has several others I'll have to blog about another day) as the exposed nerve made it extremely painful to talk or, as he said, even breathe. And if there's anything Bray loves to do, it's TALK, and talk and talk and talk and... There are days that Tom and I often look back longingly at that quiet day... :) Tom drove to pick him up while I stayed home calling dentists' offices on a Saturday. I finally was able to get hold of my own dentist and made an appointment for 9:00 p.m. that evening. The missing portion of the tooth was never found, so he rebuilt the tooth (at great cost, of course!) and now you'd never even know it's not his own.

As of today, Braden still lives life on the run. That kid has more energy bottled up inside him each day than I was allotted for my entire lifetime! At least I can never grumble that life at our house is ever boring...

Anyway, who else wants to play tag?

January 12, 2009

To a "T"

Before I ever took the plunge and began blogging, I discovered, completely by accident, several blogs that I really love to read. One of my all-time favorites is Lorrie Veasey's "Our Name is Blog," which is one of my guilty pleasures. This week Lorrie is playing the Alphabet Super Game wherein bloggers such as myself who are in desperate need of blogging ideas can request a letter of the alphabet to use for a "Top 10" favorites list. I totally forgot to beg to be released from the letters Q or X, but she was merciful and assigned me the letter T instead.

So, in the spirit of the amazing Letterman (remember that show? He was able to leap the capital T in a single bound!), here are my 10 favorite things:

1) The Trinity - as in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I was extremely blessed to have grandparents who took me to a Christian church as a child, giving me a solid foundation to build my life on. I totally get that I am a sinner, saved by grace, and I try not to take that for granted (although I know I do, a dozen times a day). I cannot imagine trying to get through life without that assurance.

Plus the knowledge that "God is watching" has kept me, on more than one occasion, from hanging my children upside down by their toes or returning them to the rock I swear they crawled out from under!

2) Tom Jones - as in my hubby, not the aging(well, okay, maybe that part), hip-swaying crooner of "What's Up, Pussycat." Although he'll sing it for you if you ask. But I beg of you, don't ask... please?

I love Tom because he always makes me laugh (even if I'm trying not to), he has Bee-Yoo-Ti-Ful puppy dog brown eyes, and is really a big softy deep down though he tries not to show it. AND he called me on his way home from work to VOLUNTEER to make dinner tonight. Who wouldn't love this man?!!!

3) Tea - I successfully fought the urge to put this as #1 on my list, but decided that I really ought to put my priorities in the right order, at least on paper. As a kid it always seemed to be an enormous treat to get a cup of tea with milk and honey added: simple child, simple pleasures! I guess some things never change, except for the milk part. Blechhh! What was I thinking? My favorite is probably Earl Gray, but a quick glance in the cupboard behind me also reveals Constant Comment, Peppermint, Tension Tamer, plain black, Mandarin Orange Spice, Cozy Chamomile, Chai Latte, and Celestial Seasoning's delicious Sleepytime tea that I sip minutes before bedtime. And these are just the ones I currently have on hand.

4) Travel - I LOVE to travel, but unfortunately I don't get to do it as often as I'd like. My first favorite travel companion was my Aunt Lois who made a promise to little 5-year-old me when she was still in high school that when I turned 16, she would take me to Mexico City. Although I probably would have forgotten all about it, she never did. We spent an incredible (on many different levels!) week in Mexico City and the surrounding area, climbing the Aztec pyramids, getting our tennis shoes shined, drinking Pepsi from a bag, and walking miles and miles (and that was just to see one sight. How tall was that building, anyway?!).

Tom and I spent our honeymoon driving the length of the Oregon coast and seeing the Redwoods in California and last May we spent a week in No. Carolina for Josh's Special Forces graduation - my first time in either the East or the South. In recent years we've tried to take family vacations and so far we've managed to take the kids to see the Pacific in Washington and Oregon, been to Glacier National Park (my newest favorite!), Yellowstone several times (I'll have to blog about our first trip there as a family - it's amazing we ever traveled together again), Rocky Mountain N.P., Teton N.P., and various sundry parts in between. Let's just say that I never met a road trip I didn't like!

Oops - I can't neglect to mention the trip I took with my mom, dad, and brother to see Mount Rushmore. For some reason my parents couldn't afford to take vacations until AFTER I moved out, but that trip, taken while I was going through my divorce, was worth the wait. Note to self: Next time DON'T let Forrest carry the video camera!

5) My Tahoe - She's a gas guzzler, but she's roomy enough for the the kids and all their crap, errr, belongings, and there's still room for groceries too. I can drive through town without feeling knobby 16-year-old knees poking me through the seat, and the radio works. More than anything though, at this time of the year I appreciate it for the 4-wheel drive. How did I ever survive a winter without it?!

6) Tunes - I've blogged several times about my love for music, but no list of T's would be complete without my Tunes! James Taylor immediately pops to mind as a top too, but there are so many other greats that I couldn't just limit it to him. For Christmas, #2 bought me an adaptor to play songs from my mp3 player over the radio in #5. I can hardly wait to use it the next time I #4!

7) Theatre - Several years ago, as part of the quest to get my degree, I had to take a "Creative Arts" appreciation class. So far, it has proven to be one of my very favorite classes as it uncovered an absolute love of the theatre. We are lucky enough, in our small valley, to have some wonderful venues. Now if I only had more money so I could go see it all! And if you ever get the chance to see "Seussical the Musical" - just do it! And Stomp... and...

8) Tomatoes - I knew no list would be complete without some sort of food, and I have to say that there couldn't be a more appropriate thing! Tomatoes fresh from the garden are as close as we'll get to heaven this side of the grave. Oh, and tuna fish casserole is a favorite too, but I'm no longer allowed to make it. Somewhere after the first year of marriage, Tom exclaimed "If I have to eat this one more time..." So, yeah... :)

9) Teachers - Here again, I've been very blessed with the teachers I've had over the years. Sure, I had a few awful ones, but for the most part I'd say I was very lucky. As a kid I was really shy and exceedingly geeky, and many of my teachers went out of their way to help build my confidence and let me know it was okay to be a bookworm. In high school it was the encouragement of a few truly great teachers that helped me get past that shyness and really come into my own, and now I have the privilege to work with a great bunch of teachers too, many of whom inspire me just as much as those I've taken classes from. You know who you are... :)

As a parent, it's also been interesting to see the effect a teacher can make in the kids' lives. Evan's English teacher last year, Mrs. Pettis, should be eligible for sainthood, and I'm not even exaggerating. I wanted to cry when Braden didn't get her this year. I only hope she'll still be there when Savannah gets into 9th grade, or at least consider coming out of retirement! If ever human cloning is allowed, she should be the model.

10) Finally, True Friends - What more can I say? I'm the type of person that has a lot of acquaintances, but only a few close friends. But once you've earned my trust, you're stuck with me forever, whether you like it or not!

Who wants to play next?

January 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Joshy!

Today I am sending out a giant happy birthday wish to Josh (or Joshy as Savannah calls him). He turns 23! Looking back, it is so hard to believe that he could have made it this far, and it gives me such hope for Evan and Braden's future.

Tom and I were married when Josh was just 9 1/2 years old, and he and Tom had been bachelor's together, without need of a woman, for many years, thank you very much! Needless to say, Josh and I had many power struggles over the years which weren't always very pretty. I think it boiled down to a line from a favorite TV show of mine from the early '90's about a dinosaur family. He made sure to let me know, over and over again back then, that I was "NOT the Mama!!!" - especially during his teenage years. However, growing pains aside, he has truly grown into one of my favorite people and I cannot imagine not having him in my life - even if he DOES dog me when he comes home for visits, or invites me to lunch and then expects me to pay ;-) (You know I'm NEVER going to let you off on that one!

In honor of his birthday, I thought I'd blog about my favorite "Joshism," the day he rounded up one of our wayward cows, Oscar (as in, "the Grouch"). I think he was about 13 or 14 at the time.
The year after we bought our home, which sits on a 2-acre lot in what could still be classified as "the country," Tom thought it would be a great idea to get horses and/or cows, remembering with rose-tinted glasses times from his childhood. I tried to remind him that "real life" doesn't always happen like we remembered , but to no avail. Soon after, a family from the church we were attending moved to Colorado and couldn't take their farm animals with them. We scooped up 3 of their young steers with the intent of raising them for beef. Great idea, right? And we got them for a really good price too. In hindsight, we probably could have gotten them to pay US to take them off their hands, considering that Oscar was possessed.
Anyway, we spent one long, hard month building the fence and fixing the holes around our pasture, and then we had the 3 "adorable" cows delivered. And they really were cute too, for about the first 12 hours. It soon became apparent that the other two really were sweet and tame, but they liked to follow the lead of Oscar, who could beat David Copperfield in being able to escape any prison you set up to hold him. I swear we spent half of our life during that time chasing cows around the yard, the neighbors' yard, and once or twice even on the other side of town. It got to be that I didn't even want to come home because I knew what awaited me: the sight of 2 of the cows hanging out in the front yard, with Oscar nowhere to be seen.
One day, as Tom tells it, he came home from work around dusk. As he was sitting in our kitchen looking out the window, when all of a sudden he saw Oscar maniacally tearing past, eyes bugged out, tongue lolling. He moved over to the window to take a closer look and jumped back after seeing another maniacal blur, dressed head to toe in army camoflauge, face makeup included.
"What the *#$( !! " he thought to himself...
He discovered that the first blur was of course Oscar, but the second was Josh, looking more than a little like a character out of Rambo. He had come home from school to find the steers, once again, missing in action. After rounding up the first two, he tried many many times to sneak up on Oscar so that he could herd him in the right direction, but every time the stupid steer caught sight of him, he'd take off again. They were not exactly friends by this point, and I guess that something inside his little teenage brain just snapped. He came in the house, dressed up in Tom's Army uniform (he was still in the Reserves at the time), covered his face in his camo makeup, and went back out on the prowl.
Poor Oscar was so freaked out by this strange creature screaming and chasing him, he ran straight past the house and actually jumped the fence back INTO the pasture, bypassing the gate, to escape him.
Mission accomplished - HOO-AH!

January 7, 2009

This little piggy...

...Cried "whee whee wheeee..." all the way home.

Yes, today I'm going to indulge, just for a moment, in a pity party. I feel guilty even doing so, because I personally know so many others who are dealing with things much rougher than I, but still. Sometimes a girl just needs to vent, and since this is my blog, I'm giving myself permission.

So one week ago, I tripped over Stitch, our sweet black lab who just happens to be the same size and have the same temperament of a dopey horse. In attempting not to then fall and crush Annie, our little dog, I did what I'm sure looked like a really peculiar dance, and then smacked my foot full force into the counter, breaking a toe on my left foot. Coincidentally, this happened mere minutes after I posted the blog about Savannah's foot. I'm thinking that it was Divine retribution for calling my daughter a "Spaz" on the world-wide-web. :-) Unfortunately, the dumb thing really hurts. And I've signed up for the afore-mentioned walking/jogging class, which ought to make things interesting.

Then Saturday night I was attacked, completely unawares, by a miserable head cold. I did not think it was possible to have so much snot in one head, and I feel just a little like I've been run over by a Mack truck. The saddest part is that I've already had my one cold for the season, recovering from it just a few weeks before Christmas. I NEVER get more than one cold per season. I feel so betrayed...

Then today, my Meniere's decided to rear it's ugly head too. For the last couple of months I have been having one "small" vertigo attack every 7-10 days, but I can cope with the small ones. They're miserable while they're occurring, but generally afterwards I feel "mostly" fine. This morning, however, I woke up literally mid-spin to another small attack. After it passed, I got up and went about the business of getting ready for work. As I prepared to brave the cold and start my Tahoe for work, I got another, this one about 7 on the Richter-scale. It was a doozy of a dizzy spell (try saying that 3 times fast!). So, not only was I slightly late for work as I waited for the ride to come to a halt, but I was nauseated and off balance for the rest of the day too. Walking through the grocery store tonight was a treat. There's something about the closeness of the aisles and the height of the shelves that make me want to throw up...

Finally, there's the latest news at the University: The president announced at a faculty senate meeting on Monday that the Utah legislature, if they have their way, would like to cut roughly 19% of our budget ($30-million) for the upcoming year, which will mean cutting roughly 660 jobs or so within 6 months. That's worst-case scenario. Best case is that they will "only" cut 11% ($17-million), or a mere 300+ jobs. Tenured faculty are of course protected, unless they get rid of entire programs. I, sadly, am just a lowly staff member, so I'm easily expendable. At least that is what the clowns at the legislature probably think. Needless to say, conversations at the water cooler are not very inspiring.


It's probably a good thing I'm not feeling well today. It gives me the perfect excuse to go crawl under the covers and pretend the world (or at least idiot congressmen) doesn't/don't exist.

January 4, 2009

My wish

I guess it’s time to put in writing my new year’s resolutions. Obviously, “stop procrastinating” should be at the top of my list! That aside, I have the usual that most everyone else has: eat more healthy foods, drink more water (Tom and Savannah have dictated that one to me), get in better shape, become a better mom, wife, etc…

This year I am taking concrete steps to achieve at least some of these goals. I have enrolled in a walking/jogging class at the university so not only do I have a financial stake, but I will be graded on my attendance and participation. For someone on the 20-year track to a degree, every credit counts! My ongoing battle with Meniere’s is forcing me to do better with the healthy foods (although I still have to overcome my fiendish craving for salsa and chips), and I really will try to drink more water, much as I’d like it to be flavored with a teabag or two… I am also resolving to read more books with an inspirational theme to them or books that deal specifically with dealing (sanely) with children . I am also resolving to write more frequently on this blog.

More than anything , though, I want the theme of my life this year to be BALANCE. I don’t know why, but the past few years it seems like my life has been completely off-center and I’m always trying to catch up or just stay on top of things, both at home and at work. I’m sure part of it has been the health challenges that life has thrown at me. Other parts have to do with the craziness that comes with having two teenage boys in the home. And of course husbands, though you love them to death, bring their own brand of fun to life.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself this past year is that I have allowed myself to become somewhat of a doormat again, and I don’t like that. It took me many years and some hard lessons to discover my backbone, and the fact that I had a right to stand up for myself. For some reason, this year I rolled out that old welcome mat that says “Walk on me.” That has to stop, and much to my immediate family’s chagrin, I have already started taking steps to correct this. I have to say, it feels good to stand up and call B.S. when I see/hear it!

For Christmas, one of the gifts I received was a book called “Gift from the Sea,” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I’d heard of this book before but had never actually read it or even knew what it was about. I started reading it several days ago, and so far I love it. However, I’m not getting very far because I can’t seem to get past the second chapter; I keep returning to it again and again. It seems to summarize beautifully exactly what I’ve been searching for.

Each chapter in the book (at least so far) deals with a different shell found on the beach as the author spends a solitary week on an island. Here from the chapter on “Channelled Whelk” are some thoughts that spoke especially to me as she looks at the empty shell:

“…his shell – it is simple; it is bare, it is beautiful… My shell is not like this, I think. How untidy it has become! Blurred with moss, knobby with barnacles, it shape is hardly recognizable any more. Surely, it had a shape once. It has a shape still in my mind. What is the shape of my life?

“The shape of my life today starts with a family… I have also a craft… The shape of my life is, of course, determined by many other things; my background and childhood, my mind and its education, my conscience and its pressures, my heart and its desires…

“But I want first of all – in fact, as an end to these other desires – to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact – to borrow from the language of the saints – to live “in grace” as much of the time as possible… By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony.”

That is exactly my desire! I only wish I had the talent to describe it half as beautifully as Ms. Morrow-Lindbergh did. She continues on:

“…For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider’s web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives…”

The bottom line is that there are no easy answers, but I feel better knowing that I’m not alone in my search to find them!

January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!!!

This Irish blessing seems especially appropriate as we head into a New Year:

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.