Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Hundred

In Pilates, it's a grueling core strengthening exercise. In blogging, it's a rite of passage when one reaches 100 posts. I've been eagerly looking forward to trying my hand at it. It's okay if you don't want to read them all. But if you do, I hope I am able to sufficiently entertain. And I hope you'll still like me.

1. I was named after Conan the Barbarian's girlfriend, from the comic book! My dad told me he still has the copy of that issue.

2. I attended kindergarten at Timpanogas Elementary in Provo, UT, and I still very vividly remember my teacher, Marilyn Hatfield sitting me on her lap when I cried because of what she told the class were "butterflies in my tummy".

3. I also still remember the school song, and if you'd like I'll sing it for you anytime. With gusto.

4. My family moved to NJ after my kindergarten year, when my dad had graduated from law school.

5. We lived with my Italian grandmother for a while when we first moved there.

6. That was when I began to idolize my dad's sister, my Aunt Lori. She would camp out with me on the livingroom floor and tell me about the neighbor's rooster that sounded like Donald Duck.

7. I went to five schools before 4th grade.

8. Once, when I was walking to school by myself in Willingboro, NJ (not the safest place, but hey, it was a different time), I got to the corner and couldn't remember the way. I started to cry, standing there on the street corner at an intersection. A blue Cadillac pulled up, rolled down the window, and the passenger asked if I was okay. I told the woman I was lost and couldn't remember how to get to my school. And I couldn't remember the name of the school. She figured it had to be a certain one, asked if I wanted a ride, and though I knew I wasn't supposed to get into a stranger's car, I did. They took me to school. And I never told my parents. (Sorry, Mom and Dad)

9. I was skipped from the first grade to the second grade.

10. I loved to play school as a kid. I even taught my brother Josiah how to read. Neighborhood kids were students of mine as well. And there was homework.

11. My favorite Christmas present as a child was when I was 8 and I got a chalkboard.

12. My third grade teacher ruined Santa Claus for me. She said to the class, "We all know Santa doesn't really live in the North Pole." I played it cool, but I was ever so confused. My mom confirmed this terrible truth when I got home and asked her. I still fought to believe and listened for sleigh bells for several years afterwards.

13. My favorite house we lived in was a huge white Colonial on the Delaware riverbank in Beverly, NJ. I could draw a floor plan still to this day, though I was 8 when we lived there. (and check out that sale price back then...1981??)

14. Once I got a pretty good spanking for going down to the river to play on the frozen ice chunks that had been pushed ashore in the winter.

15. Next to the Carriage House/garage of that house I used to dig up shells, beautiful shells. I had a Simon and Schuster Shell guide and I would identify them. I would wash them and coat them in clear nail polish and lay them on my windowsills.

16. We lived in that house when my Grandfather Baker died. I remember my mom coming into my room to tell me.

17. My favorite town I lived in was Merchantville, NJ. I still think it's probably one of the best towns in the world, and every child should be so lucky as to grow up there. I miss it.

18. I attended Merchantville Elementary School from the middle of 4th grade to 8th grade, and my favorite teacher was Mrs. Holt.

19. I walked by a Pet Shop every day as a child, People's Pet Shop, and would go in and look at all the sad pets. I saved my money and bought my own cat when I was in 5th grade. He was a black Persian/mix and we named him Merlin.

20. I was in the County Spelling Bee in junior high.

21. It was down to me and 2 other kids, and I got out on the word 'insidious'. I thought it was a trick word, spelled like 'hideous'. It's not.

22. I loved Little House on the Prairie as a child. I looked very much like Laura Ingalls, and I was called that quite often. But I've been called worse.

23. I won several poetry competitions and had some poems published in state anthologies. I had to go to a local college and read my poems.

24. I won the Knights of Columbus coloring contest in 5th grade. My grandparents took me to the awards ceremony and I was given a medal and my picture, framed. A family pledging allegiance to the flag. The trick was in the outlining, people. Really makes it look finished.

25. I have never stolen anything from a store.

26. But I have snatched a few things from people's houses when babysitting. Like I used to take their Afterglow tapes home to make copies, and then return them. What a nerd.

27. I loved to play house with my sister Amanda. We were mothers to our other two sisters, Hannah and Abby.

28. We had made-up names. I was Dianne Myers, she was Kathy Smith.

29. We would take the big thick JCPenney catalog and circle bathrooms and bedrooms in the home decorating section of what our houses looked like.

30. The only pop star poster I ever had hanging on my bedroom wall was this huge poster of Debbie Gibson. I had every tape and knew every song word for word. I also had a video of her concert. I told you. Nerd.

31. My husband saw Debbie (who now goes by Deborah) Gibson in his acting class last year, and almost embarrassed me, but he restrained himself.

32. In junior high, I was completely on board with the Cabbage Patch Kid craze. My kid, Kristin Marie, even had a slumber party and all of my friends' kids came. Even my 6th grade teacher's doll attended. What a good sport.

33. I can wiggle my ears.

34. I used to love going to my friend Marnie's house after school because she had great junk food and pretty much no rules. We would split a can of Beefaroni and watch Charlie's Angels, and then eat Butterscotch Krimpets and dance to the (record) soundtrack of A Chorus Line. One song made me very embarrassed, and I made Marnie skip it. Again, nerd.

35. When I was 7, I found in a drawer a diagram of an episiotomy in some pamphlet my mom had stashed away. It scared the living daylights out of me.

36. When I walked to school when I was about 7, I passed by a candy store each day that sold penny candies. I loved to go in and buy 100 Swedish fish, which were put into a brown paper bag and I would eat them as I walked.

37. It was in that candy store, while I was waiting to buy my Swedish fish, that I heard grown-ups talking about how President Reagan had been shot. I went home and told my mom, and she hadn't yet heard it on the news, so I felt like I had important things to say.

38. I still love Swedish fish (only the red ones), and sometimes I still have important things to say. But not as often as I wish.

39. One of my favorite things about being the oldest child was being able to get the other kids to do what I said. They were like my own little army of slaves, as long as I didn't abuse the privilege.

40. For a small price, they would walk to the store for me to buy me treats. For instance, I went through a Welch's grape soda and Cheetos phase, which then switched to Funions, which then switched to Planter's Cheez Balls. Sometimes I had a 100,000 bar (not called 100 Grand yet) to go with it, or a Butterfinger. As long as the sibling got a candy bar out of the deal, he/she would happily walk to CVS for me.

41. I used to collect stickers. My friend Marnie and I spent much of our time together in 4th-6th grades arranging, acquiring, and trading stickers. Her parents even took us on a few trips to New Hope, PA to shop for stickers. I had an album and the stickers were organized by category: Dazzles, Scratch-n-Sniff, Puffy, Hello Kitty...

42. I stopped biting my nails in 4th grade. It was around the time we were learning about Saudi Arabia and had to make shoebox dioramas, although these two facts are not related.

43. When we were learning about Saudi Arabia we had to eat stuffed dates. I took one bite and thought I was going to throw up. I ran to the drinking fountain and almost did.

44. Back to my nails: when I was waiting for them to grow out, I wanted them to look long and pretty, and since I wasn't allowed (or rich enough to afford) Lee Press-On Nails, I made my own out of Scotch tape. I would put a piece of tape on my nail, cut it into a rounded shape on the end, and then polish it. They were bendy, but I thought I looked like hot stuff.

45. I used to pretend to smoke candy cigarettes. But that's as close as I've ever come to substance abuse. I've never had a sip of tea, coffee, or alcohol, and I've never smoked or tried drugs.

46. I used to ask my mom to make Snickerdoodles for me. She made the best Snickerdoodles.

47. "Snickerdoodle" became my first husband's pet name for me when we were newly married.

48. When I was in 8th grade, Miss America, Sharlene Wells, came to our Stake to do a fireside. I
wrote her a letter afterwards and mailed it to her, and she wrote back with an autographed picture. I still have it. 49. Also, when I was in 8th grade, astronaut James Lovell came to our school to do an assembly. I got my picture taken with him and his autograph too, which I also still have. What a groupie.

50. That summer I worked at my dad's law office, and my favorite part was when he took me to lunch every day. We would walk down the street to a little Italian place and he would buy me a slice of pizza.

51. It was during that summer while working at his office that I got my period for the first time.

52. Thank goodness the secretaries kept sanitary supplies in the bathroom.

53. It took me 2 days to tell my mom, and I finally got up the courage during a commercial break for Action News, while she was folding laundry. I blurted it out, red in the face and sweating bullets, and she exclaimed, "Well, Hallelujah!" And then she asked me if I knew how to count out my cycle. I was so relieved, and embarrassed.

54. Once we had a pet squirrel. It was a baby that had fallen out of the nest. We named it Sylvester Stallone and let it crawl all over us. It slept in a Fisher-Price van out in the garage, but after about two days we woke up to find it frozen to death. We buried it in our pet cemetery in the backyard.

55. I started taking Latin as my foreign language in high school because I knew I could never trill my r's for Spanish, or sound authentic enough for French. Plus, my dad had Hebrew and Greek covered.

56. I won the school spirit cake decorating contest my freshman year of high school. And then again in my Junior year.

57. Even then, I loved looking through Wilton cake decorating books.

58. I used to pretend to do shampoo commercials while taking a bath. I would read all the fancy marketing stuff on the bottle and do the Price is Right hands thing. You know what I mean.

59. The first guy I ever kissed was Tommy Johnson, just before I turned 16, but it was only a sweet peck on the lips. It was enough of an initiation though to give me the confidence to hit the field.

60. The first guy I was ever in love with was Hank Groman, a tall, dark, and handsome musician. He always wore shirts and ties, and dress shoes, and could play the piano like nobody's business. He also played the steel drums. I tracked him down a few years ago and he still makes my heart go pitter-pat. Ah, the memory of first love. I'll always be a goner for Hank, no matter how old we get. And I can never hear "Bridge Over Troubled Water" without thinking of him. He played it often on the piano. And those eyes....Hank? Are you reading this? Kirsten knows what I mean.

61. I have this weird quirky thing where I have to smell my hands after something has been on them. Like, if I get milk on my hands, after I wipe it off I have to smell the spot where it was.

62. This is why I don't like ketchup. Have you ever smelled your skin after there was ketchup on it?

63. I also have to smell my dishrags, and my hands after I use a dishrag.

64. I used to be very dramatic about life. Like, when I was a teenager, I would make cassette recordings of me talking about life, my feelings, my testimony, etc., just in case I died. That way I could leave something of me behind. So retarded, I know. I should listen to some of them sometime and get a good laugh.

65. I do not like to share milk products. Gross. I will not give bites of my cereal, or ice cream, or give you a swig from my glass of milk.

66. I am not a daring eater like Luisa. The most daring thing I've ever eaten was piranha that I caught in the Amazon River. Tastes like chicken. I'm kidding. More like tuna.

67. I love casseroles. I know that to many they look like piles of brown glop, but they are so good and comforting to me.

68. I used to play records at home and pretend to lead the orchestra with a piece of dry spaghetti. Don't act like you didn't.

69. My favorite candy bars are Milky Way, Caramello, 100 Grand, Peanut Butter Cups, Take 5, Twix, Cadbury Cream Eggs, Peanut Butter M&M's, Peppermint Patties, and Junior Mints.

70. I used to be addicted to doing aerobics with Jane Fonda. I felt the burn, baby. And I had great abs.

71. My senior year I beat the girls and boys record for sit-ups in the whole school. My dad still talks about his pride.

72. I was in the school musicals my Junior and Senior years. My Junior year was "Annie Get Your Gun". In my Senior year, we did "Once Upon a Mattress" and I was up for the lead against my best friend, Kirsten. She got it. I was not disappointed to "lose" to her, and she did a fantastic job.

73. Several romances developed with the boys in the plays. Maybe I've always had a secret thing for actors.

74. I love to have a bowl of cold cereal late at night in bed. I love Cocoa Puffs and Captain Crunch the most. Oh, and Cookie Crisp. All the bad kinds.

75. I am an avid journal keeper. I've been journaling since I was 4 years old.

76. I also keep journals for each of my four children. Each one was started on the day that I found out I was pregnant with them. I will give them to them when they move out.

77. I also keep Baby Books for each of my kids.

78. Oh yeah, and a separate Christmas Journal, that has beautiful holiday photos of Williamsburg, VA. It has pages for each year, with things to fill in about Christmas that year and a place for a family photo. The husband in the pictures changed halfway through, but it's still so fun to look back on.

79. My children all keep their own journals too. And they LOVE to hear journal entries from when I was their age. They love to laugh at what a nerd I was.

80. I cannot dance. I always wished I could. In fact, it's deeper than that. When I watch a dancer perform, I have this swelling within me, like it's familiar to my spirit. Like it's something I once knew how to do, or would be good at, but I just never learned. Does that make any sense at all???

81. I used to play the flute and the piccolo in the school band.

82. I have been homeschooling for twelve years, with a one year break in there.

83. My mom taught me to sew, knit, and cross stitch, but I never could pick up crochet. Of course, I was 8. Maybe I should try again.

84. For most of my childhood I wanted to be a teacher, but for several years through junior high and high school I considered being an OB/GYN.

85. I'm so glad I didn't pursue such a challenging career because of how it would have taken me away from my own children, but I do sometimes toy with the idea of becoming a midwife.

86. In 1985, our parents took us on a vacation to Washington D.C. (I think we lost Micah in one of the Smithsonian's), and to Mt. Vernon, home of George Washington. Mt. Vernon was my favorite part.

87. In 1989, My parents took us on a really great vacation that included visits to the Joseph Smith home, the Sacred Grove, the Hill Cumorah, and then on up to Niagara Falls.

88. I wish, wish, wish that I could see Riverdance on Broadway. And have my husband there with me, who has never been to NYC.

89. (11 more to go...this is getting harder!) I love to plant things and grow things. I have also toyed with the idea of becoming a Master Gardener, just for fun. One of my dreams includes having my own yard, lush and blooming, with fruit trees, berry bushes, and a gorgeous garden.

90. Someday I really want to go on an African safari. And to Rome. And to the Orient.

91. And everywhere, really. The only country I've visited has been Peru, and that really put the bug in me. There's a lot of world to see!

92. I've had many jobs, including managing a dry cleaners, managing a mail service/packaging store, bank teller, and yoga instructor.

93. When I'm caught off guard and scared (like if someone sneaks up behind me) I sing opera really loudly. I don't know why, it just comes out.

94. I have many, many favorite memories of my first marriage, but up there at the top was the trip we took with our three children to Alaska for a few weeks. It was heavenly, and had you told me that less than a year later he would leave, I wouldn't have believed you.

95. I have horrible teeth. We seem to have inherited really weak, soft-enameled teeth, prone to disaster. I have spent more on my teeth than I ever spent on a car, and I've never even had braces.

96. My life has not turned out the way I planned, and I'm trying very hard to be happy and grateful anyway. My faith is that the end result will be even better than I planned.

97. Oh! Here's a weird random one! I used to idolize this one teenage girl in my ward. I thought she was so pretty, and so cool, and so everything. She was a senior when I was a freshman, so anytime she gave me the time of day I felt like a queen. She sat next to me in Seminary, and clipped her long fingernails off one day, and asked me if I wanted them. (long story). I said yes, and I kept them in a ziploc bag in my drawer for years. I told her about that 15 years later and she laughed her head off.

98. (you can see I'm really scratching the bottom of the barrel now, right?) I love all things bedtime: nice pajamas, quality bedding and pillows, bedtime stories, etc. Someday I want to have a very dreamy bedroom that truly feels like a sanctuary instead of half media room, half office...with a bed in there.

99. I collect Noah's Ark things, especially Christmas ornaments.

100. I love to cry. I love books that make me cry and I love movies that make me cry. I love to be able to evoke strong emotion like that in other people. Crying feels good sometimes. But even more, I love to laugh. Hard, loud, bent over, hysterical laughing...the kind that makes me cry.

Now that this list is done, I'll probably think of a million other things that I should have put on here. Oh well, if you've read this far, then you rock! And I want to be your friend! Thanks for sticking it out with me till the bitter end!

Something Beautiful

I attended a baptism on Sunday for a little 8 year old boy in our ward named Lewis. He and his four younger brothers came to live with their grandmother in our ward because their mother has had serious problems that have left her incapable of being a parent at this time. His brothers are two sets of twins, ages 6 and 4. That's a lot of boys! I was asked to lead the music for Lewis' baptism, and I gladly agreed.

I sat about three rows back, and watched as people from the ward filled the room. And all of a sudden, one of the twin boys said with such pure joy, "It's Mommy!" and five little boys ran into the hallway, which I could see just through the doorway, and jumped on their mommy, who was crouching down to receive them.

She came in quietly and discreetly and sat down at the end of the front row, and her lap and arms overflowed with her little ones. They looked at her with such reverence and love and acceptance. They were telling her all the details of their lives, and she was caressing each one in turn, and nestling her nose into their hair, and rubbing their backs gently. And smiling. And crying. I heard one of her boys say to her, "I miss you, Mommy."

They've been away from her for several months, and though they get to visit her, she isn't quite ready to have them back yet. Having never seen her before, and only seeing the results of some of her choices, I am afraid that maybe I had made decisions about her in my mind. But she loved those babies, and they loved her. They adored her. They had stars in their eyes for her. She was their everything. They forgave her. I couldn't take my eyes away, it was so beautiful to see. A mother's love is powerful, but the love of a child transcendent. It's why the Savior loved them so. It's why He asked us to become like them.

I ached for her ache. At the end of the service, she would give over her children to her mother and go home empty-handed. I prayed that she has a speedy recovery and can resume her role in their lives. God bless all the little children.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I'm so grateful that even though I haven't had the inspiration for an incredible story of my own yet, I still have the appreciation for the stories that others write. Man, oh, man, what an experience a well-told story is. I will read anything that Khaled Hosseini writes for the rest of his life. You know how A Thousand Splendid Suns did me in. Well, I just finished reading his debut novel, The Kite Runner. Really, really engaging. I can't wait to see the movie, although I'm sure it will not measure up to the beauty of the writing.

I'm grateful that I was blessed with four new piano students in the last week, bringing me up to 11! My goal is 25 eventually, and I'm getting there. It's an amazing feeling to be entrusted with little ones, and to teach them to love music.

I'm grateful that after a very slow period, and tumultuous times in Hollywood right now, Adam just booked a commercial for Macintosh! They didn't even do call-backs this time! Out of more than 600 people who auditioned for his role, they decided to book him without even a second thought. This is incredible, because usually the process involves a call-back, and then being put "on hold" for an agonizing, roller coaster ride of several days while the men in suits decide. It's rough. But this time, just a phone call from his agent that he got it! He goes for wardrobe on Monday, and it shoots on Tuesday. You have no idea what a blessing this is. But I do.

I'm grateful that I'm finally over my stint with the flu. I didn't know I was so sick, but apparently... thank goodness for ensuing health!

Friday, January 18, 2008

As the Dew

A little verse came into my mind the other night, the words just placed there, in answer to a prayer. I quickly wrote it down in the notebook I keep by my bed. It's been a gentle nudge in the right direction.

Speak sweetly, lips.
Remind the tongue
that faults not seen
are allies won.
Seems obvious enough, but using my words to be uplifting, encouraging, and edifying can be a struggle for me. I'm so grateful for those who can see through my faults to my intentions, and know that my heart is a seedbed of goodness, and I'm trying to keep it weeded!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Oh, how the years go by

Dylan-boy is 12. My sweet little hurricane. Now he is anxiously awaiting armpit hair and a voice change. (He has me frequently check for any sign of hair under his arms, but so far, nothing.) His birthday celebration continued on for about a week, beginning with Grandpa and Grandma Holiday coming for his ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood, and ending a week later with a shark cake and some friends. In the middle there, Lyns and Dylan went to the Los Angeles Temple for their first trip to do family baptisms. They each did 100 names, the little troopers that they are, and the highlight for Dylan was doing an ancestor whose name was Harry Potter. Not even Harold Potter, just Harry. He'll always remember. It was glorious, and here are some pictures, which are always better than my words.

Happy Birthday, Little Man! I love you, and I couldn't be more proud of who you are becoming.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Try, Try, Try

Aiden made the decision to be baptized. He's read the Book of Mormon, and he has a basic understanding of the promises he would be making. He wants to do the right thing and to follow Jesus Christ. He and I were honored to have my dad, his Grandpa Holiday, drive out to southern California to perform this sacred ordinance, as he has done for Aiden's two older siblings as well.

I remember my baptism day well. We lived on the Delaware Riverbank in Beverly, NJ. I remember what I was wearing (a sweet, homemade pale yellow dress with bitty flowers and a tie at the neck). I remember my dad taking me into his library and interviewing me prior to practicing how the baptism would be performed. I remember the sense of anticipation, and feeling like a bundle of nerves. I shared my baptism day in 1981 with a boy in my Primary class named David Paoli, who always teased me by calling me "Jenna of the Jungle". (If only he knew how that name stuck and a variation of that is now my screen name on several sites!) I remember crying because of emotions and nerves, and how the bishop of our ward talked about it, but only with my permission, which I remember thinking was such a kind and considerate thing to do. But mostly, I remember how I felt that day driving home, looking out the van windows and thinking that all the world looked more vibrant and alive, and feeling new, and clean, and determined to stay that way.

Well, that didn't happen.

But one thing that I am grateful for, is that I have never lost my determination to want to feel that way, and that desire has kept me on the path of continual repentance and perserverance.

We had a friend taking pictures for us at Aiden's baptism. He captured this one candid moment that really struck me. Literally, the boy Aiden, my sweet little one, looking into the waters of his new life. He is young and pure, not baptized for a remission of sin, but for obedience's sake. Willing to trust in the Lord and do what he can to do as He has asked. As his mother, I like to believe that he will always be pure and innocent, but the wiser part knows better. He'll be on that same path with me, repenting and perservering, for the duration of his life, I hope.

Last night, as I rocked Conor before bed, we played his lullaby CD as we always do, and I sang along with my very favorite song to sing to my babies, "Jesus Once Was a Little Child". The verses end with

"Try to be like Him,

Try, try, try."

It occurred to me that those extra three 'try's' were not merely filler words to finish out a song, but a principle of truth that in our quest to become as Jesus Christ is, we really do have to keep trying over and over and over again. Thank goodness for do-overs and second chances. Thank goodness for the invitation.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

It's been a spectacular start to the new year. My dad and stepmom just left after a five day visit for our whirlwind weekend celebration of Aiden's baptism, Dylan's ordination, and Lyndsay and Dylan's first temple trip to do baptisms. I'm a proud mama. And then, just when I thought it couldn't get any better.....

...Conor, age almost 17 months, toddled into the dining room while I was on the phone finally saying "Ma-Ma-Ma"!!!! I almost dropped the phone. My baby has been wordless so far, except for "da-da" and "uh-uh-uh". He knows just what he wants. He has a whole collection of signs he uses proficiently. He loves language. He just refuses to use it. But today he said "Ma-Ma"! Finally I get some recognition!

I jumped up and down and grabbed him up and kissed his face and said, "Say it again! Ma-Ma!" He did the sign, and gave me a kiss. Oh well.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Who Needs Fireworks?

In the Van Sciver family that I grew up in, New Year's Eve was a party! Eating, and eating, and eating, and playing games, and watching movies...and at midnight, all 11 of us on the front porch with pots, pans, and spoons, banging the heck out of everything and screaming, "Happy New Year!" This seemed a worthy tradition to continue in my own family, and the older my kids get the more they look forward to it. So, neighbors? Sorry. Happy New Year to you!

The night was interesting. Caitlin and Sean are still in Hawaii, but my kids were here. We had a feast for dinner, and then some extraordinary brownies with peppermint ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert. We watched George C. Scott blow us away as the finest Ebeneezer Scrooge EVER, we played some Olympic-caliber ping-pong, and as the night waned and irritability set in, we pulled out the karaoke! The down side to the night was that Conor fell and cut his forehead open on the corner of a drawer and there was blood everywhere. Everywhere! Thank goodness Daddy was home to help Mommy not freak out.

Today begins a new year, and I love it! I have three main resolutions this year, which I'll save for another post, but I feel very optimistic about 2008. I think it all goes up from here! I hope for you too!