Thursday, July 31, 2008

An L.A. Sort of Day

Adam had a commercial audition this morning, and he invited Conor and me to tag along so we could have some time "alone" on the drive. I like to come along to the auditions, and because it's usually the same group of guys at all of them, I'm even starting to recognize faces. I like to crack a few jokes with all the stressed out actors, calm them down a bit. It's a tough, tough business, for sure.

Today he was auditioning to be Satan's demon helper. Yes, it's true. Satan has a white, sorta nerdy sidekick. It's a Capital One ad that will only run in Canada about hell freezing over because of all the great perks Capital One's No-Hassle Rewards plan offers. He was a bit nervous that the whole thing was symbolic, that maybe it's some sort of sign that he's being asked to audition for this role. I told him he only needed to worry if he gets it. If his agent calls up and says that out of the thousand demon helpers they auditioned, he's the one that's perfect, then maybe he's got something to worry about. And wait, then would that be a test? Is he not supposed to take it? Well, I say if hell's gonna pay the bills, then it's good for something.

On the way home, we stopped at a gas station. Just after us pulled in a Corvette Stingray with no hood and primer all over the back end of the car. Can't miss that, right? It parked next to us on the opposite pump. Adam went in to pay and came back out and leaned into the car and said, "Do you know who Tommy Lee is?" Yeah, sure. The guy that Pamela Anderson married. "Well, he's right there." And sure enough, there he was, pumping his gas into his inconspicuous hoodless Stingray. It's always kind of weird when you see a celebrity, whether you like them personally or not. I'm not a huge Tommy Lee fan. I'm not even a small Tommy Lee fan. But there he was, standing right there.

Now, people think I see celebrities all the time because I live in L.A. I don't. Adam does more often because he leaves the house. I rarely do. Well, I go to the grocery store, Church, and Target. No luck at those places yet. This was actually only the second time I've seen a celebrity while living here. The first was Tom Bosley. You know, the dad from Happy Days? We were in line at a photography place waiting for Adam's head shots, and Mr. Bosley walked in and got in line behind us. Adam had worked with him years ago and wanted to go say hi. But Adam called him 'Bob' on accident and that didn't go over very well. No it didn't.

So, today I realized that the only two celebrities I've seen here have both been 'Tom's', and well things usually happen in three's, right? And there is a certain Tom I'd sure love to run into. . .fingers crossed ladies, fingers crossed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


You probably heard. Southern California had an earthquake yesterday morning. It was the first one I've felt since living here. It was at 11:42 am, and I was sitting at the piano with a little 5 year old girl. There was a mild rumbling and the house shook just a bit, but I wasn't sure. Sometimes the boys run into the house from outside on their skateboards and it shakes, or somebody jumps off the top bunk upstairs and there's a shake. But it caught my heart off-guard for sure. I looked around during the stillness, and then it started again. I knew this time. It was distinct and lasted for several seconds. The lights hanging from the ceiling were swinging and some things fell off of shelves. I swooped the little girl from the piano bench and we got down on the floor up against the couch, and my older kids got into doorways. Adam grabbed Conor from his crib (he woke up from the shaking) and made sure he was safe. And then it stopped. No big deal. No damage. No injuries. But it was unnerving during it. Everyone has been talking about "The Big One" for so long down here, and how it's so overdue that you just never know if this is it. How long will it last? How big will it be? What will the repercussions be? We were lucky this time. Seismologists are saying it's a "wake up call". The epi-center was just over an hour from here, but I know it was felt as far away as San Diego and even Las Vegas. It was a bit awe-inspiring to feel the power of the earth like that.

Our prophets and leaders of the LDS Church have always encouraged us to maintain a year's supply of food and water and supplies. This kind of self-reliance is smart living for a number of reasons, and it has been a boon to us during times of unemployment or financial hardship. I was very sad to have to leave all of my wheat and pasta and water drums behind in Utah when I moved here because there simply was no room in the moving truck for them. I have felt vulnerable ever since.

And during the three years I've lived here, there has been a seeming increase in the warnings to prepare, and I'm doing the best I can on meager resources. When Gordon B. Hinckley died early this year, maybe a lot of people don't know that just three weeks before he died he broadcast a Stake Conference for just the members of the Church in southern California, where he spoke along with a few others, and the theme was "Get Prepared". It was loud and clear. Prepare your houses, get your storage in order, strengthen your marriages and families, get ready. It was very sobering. And it's been on my mind ever since.

A few months ago, our Stake held a huge community Preparedness Fair, and Adam was asked to do a video on earthquake preparedness, of all things. That was a great learning experience for all of us, to go through the drills and reenact the scenarios on film. The kids knew just what to do when the house started shaking. Nobody panicked.

I am praying for the resources to get our house in order so that we will be prepared. I found a great bulk food co-op here, and I have my eye on an excellent wheat grinder and mixer. My heart is right, and I know the blessings will show up and a way will be provided. I want to be ready. I want to be free from fear and panic in the event of an emergency situation, and be able to focus on the safety and calm of the people in this house. Even be able to help others, if possible. Yesterday's "wake up call" has done even more to strengthen my resolve to follow the counsel given to us by living prophets.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Oh, Happy Day!

They're home!

I can tell because I suddenly have no time and someone's constantly hungry. Food is disappearing and the dishes aren't. But, oh, what a pleasure to feed them!

I can tell because there's giggling girls playing cards with Uncle Tony. . .

And a flurry of video game action happening in the family room. . .

I went to the Burbank airport to pick them up on Friday afternoon. The first one to come out and greet me was Aiden, running to me, with a huge smile on his face. He wrapped his arms around me and said, "You stand out in the crowd, Mom. I knew it was you immediately because you're so pretty!" I just started weeping. To have him back in my arms and to see his little boy face. He's bigger and I missed it. I hate that. But I was so, so happy to see him and squeeze him and just cry and laugh.

Lyndsay and Dylan came a minute later, and I hugged these two kids of mine that are now taller than I am. More tears. Sweet Lyndsay that missed me so much and called every single day that she could, just to talk. ("I just want to call you and talk to you all day every day, Mom."--what a blessing that my 14 year old daughter feels that way!) She's even prettier, if that's possible, her teeth are even straighter, she's taller. And I missed it. Dylan greeted me with, "Mom, you're a sight for sore eyes! You are so beautiful! I didn't realize how much I missed you until I saw your face." (How lucky am I that my 12 year old son says that to me unabashedly?) I had to stare at them, touch them, smell them, hold them close. I just wanted to listen to them all the way home. Just talk to me. Let me hear your voices.

So life got loud and messy and busy in an instant, and I'm happily exhausted. Conor remembered them and ran right up to each of them with hugs. Caitlin and Sean spent the weekend with us, and to have everyone all together was pure bliss. We had Family Movie Night on Friday, and Lyndsay's birthday celebration on Saturday, followed by attending our Stake's production of The Music Man. Which was incredible. Full orchestra and everything. Living in Los Angeles has some perks.
Here's the cake, which Hannah believed I could do. Thanks, Hannah. Your chocolate cake recipe turned out incredibly. And Lyns was surprised and delighted with my design, which makes it all worthwhile.

Here are a few more photos:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Up and Coming

At least, I like to think so in my fantasies. My last post, "Stop at the Eleventh Hot Dog Until Next Month" was chosen by BlogHer and the editors at iVillage to run as the featured woman blogger post! The link and my picture will be posted on iVillage on Tuesday! I was notified last night and I can't even tell you how excited I am. Very cool.

Also, one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world has a daughter who is kicking some tail in karaoke competitions. She won one, which gave her the opportunity to compete on the 4th of July in the Gilbert, AZ celebration before the fireworks. She won that too, and is now competing in "Kiddieokee", a kids' karaoke contest on 96.9 FM in Phoenix, AZ. Madison Vance is her name. Sweet, sweet girl. I was there with her mom when she was born, and she's such a little angel still, at 12 years old. A musical angel too, playing the piano and the harp, and now singing. If you'd be so kind to vote for her, go to:

Click on "Kiddieokee"

Click on "VOTE NOW"

Enter your email (only one vote per email address)

Go to the 10-12 year old age group.

Scroll down to the bottom and find Madison Vance and vote!

And stay tuned for news that she's an American Idol contestant and needs your votes then too.

Thanks, everybody! And pics and family news very shortly! Everybody is safe and sound and HOME.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stop at the Eleventh Hot Dog until Next Month

You know your kids have been gone a long time when you see cobwebs in their sneakers. Kids never sit still long enough for spiders to move in and set up shop. And though it's been a long six week absence, my oldest three will be home on Friday! Yay!

I read an issue of a parenting magazine this week. I hardly ever read magazines, especially parenting magazines, because I. . .well, I'll just admit it. I rarely ever read something in them that I don't already know. How arrogant is that? Every now and again I see a good mom's-eye-view piece detailing a personal experience that I like the spin on, but I already know how to deal with colic, potty-training, getting kids to help around the house, school bullies, and nightmares. I don't usually fall for all those gotta-have-'em gizmos that are always coming out to make a mom's life easier. To me, it's mostly all clutter, and clutter that's gonna be past its prime in 6-12 months anyway, so I'll choose to struggle through without the "perfect solution" to this-or-that. I think most of the recipes they give in those magazines are highly impractical and ridiculous (though admittedly cute). Like I have time to cut pimento eyes and bell pepper smiles? And why are we giving in to cutting sandwiches into flowers and sailboats just so a kid doesn't have to eat the crust? And what are you doing with that waste??? Why does dinner have to look like something other than dinner to get a kid to eat it? Woman, you better think twice before you start catering your dinner plate to be entertaining to your child. Who has time for that? You're setting yourself up for a bad fall later on down the line. What ever happened to eat it or starve? With the time you saved on not making the cucumber and American cheese into a sailboat stuffed with tuna, you can read your child a book--now there's an idea! And I will never buy a product that gives a kid permission to draw on any wall, anywhere, because that would just undo all the work I've been doing with "we only draw on paper!" We can't keep changing the rules on them! (Here let me paint your room with chalkboard paint so you can have permission to color on the walls! There just wasn't enough dust in here already. Or, here are these great markers for bath time. Because after I'm done scrubbing the tub, I really want to scrub the walls too. And I like my bathroom to look like an inner-city underpass. Let me find a way so you can do whatever you want and life can be all about YOU. Not.) I digress.

But I was struck with how terrifying these magazines can be for mothers. Did you know that if you eat hot dogs one or more times per week during pregnancy that your baby has double the risk of developing a brain tumor? And that if a child eats more than twelve hot dogs a month he has nine times the risk of developing leukemia? Or if the father eats more than twelve hot dogs a month the risk for the child is the same? So, stay away from the hot dog eating contests and the men who win them!

You also must worry about toy recalls for high levels of lead in the paint, the high levels of bisphenol (BPA) in clear plastic baby bottles which has raised "concerns" that they may cause neurologic and behavioral problems in children. Thunderstorms may cause asthma attacks. Car seats in the center back reduce injury risk by 43%, even though you can see your child better in the rear passenger side. There's arsenic in your water. Oh, and tap water is more regulated than bottled water after all, great. Grilling food causes carcinogens. Be careful of pesticides and herbicides if your child is playing in the garden. Sunburn pain-relieving gels may cause seizures if your child swallows even a small amount. Worried about the feces that are flying through the bathroom air and landing on your child's toothbrush? Well, you should be. (but they have this great new gizmo to protect the bristles of your child's toothbrush, and in these fun new animal shapes!) Soy formula isn't better for milk-allergic babies after all. And the list goes on and on.

How do any of us survive? How do we have time to do anything but survive? These magazines make it seem like a full time job to keep our kids away from harmful, cancer-causing, seizure-inducing, leukemia-forming, toxic, dangerous, potentially hazardous STUFF. When are we supposed to have fun?

Well, I take it all with a grain of salt. Shake my head at it all. The world gets better. The world gets scarier. The world gets easier. The world gets more dangerous. I have enough to worry about with the character of these kids I'm raising. I guess they're stuck with a mom who only lets them drink water (as in not soda or juice) when they're thirsty--filtered tap water, thank you; who makes them eat fruit and vegetables for snacks--that are either organic or have been rinsed for pesticide residue, and a mom who never cuts the crust or the peels off of anything (that's where the vitamins are!); who won't let them have cell phones or more than 30 minutes a day on the computer, and who has banned MySpace; and a mom who makes them go to bed when it's still light outside because she believes that most behavior and attention problems with kids are due to not enough sleep. Read to them, talk to them, pray with them and for them, love them, make them work and go to church, and bake them cookies. The bare bones of motherhood.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It Just Got Better

I am so excited. My two favorite men on this planet now have their own blogs, and I am seriously giddy about it. I almost want to keep these treasures to myself, but no, that would be selfish. I feel I must share the good news with you so that you can be giddy too.

My Adam has started a blog! Okay, remember the dinner conversation I made mention of? His posts are sure to entertain you in similar (though hopefully a bit censored) fashion. Adam is the middle child of seven, but the oldest boy. The story goes that his mother sent in a family portrait for some acting call or talent tryout, but only Adam was selected. The little tiny guy with the bright green eyes, amidst a sea of dark brown eyes. He booked his first commercial when he was about eight years old, for McDonald's, and has done over 100 national commercials since then, along with various TV and movie roles over the last 28 years. I love it that he is super modest and humble about all the experiences he's had. He doesn't even have copies of most of his work, and has to be pushed to talk about the cool people he's met or the opportunities he's had. I've only begun to learn that he's been on every show from Webster to Home Improvement. But he shares a tiny bit in his opening post. He is probably the funniest guy I've ever known, and he's funniest when he's not trying to be. He also has a deeply tender and sensitive side, and is thoughtful and philosophical. He never takes himself too seriously, and can laugh at himself with the best of them. I think if you bookmark his new blog, you'll find yourself going back for more. It's my pleasure to share him with you for your entertainment.

And my Dad is blogging too! Almost daily, he gives us puns and rhymes, wisdom and wit. My Dad, as I've blogged about before, is the smartest, wisest, most interesting person (not man, person!) I know. I adore him. I'm so proud to have even a smidgen of his DNA. He began his blog several weeks ago, in which he keeps us laughing, thinking, and scratching our heads, asking "what the?". He has a thoughtful worldview, and a tried and tested testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is always seeking, always learning, and mostly always laughing. (I can hear him now!) He will post on everything from family stories to his gardening adventures, archaeology, and everything in between. You should definitely become a loyal reader. You'll learn something and be highly entertained, I promise. Oh, and scroll down to the bottom of his blog and check out his comic "George and Georgie". Yeah, he never stops. It must be exhausting to be in his mind, but oh, so fun!

Okay, so go on now, go say hi! Tell 'em Jenna sent you! Give them both a blogland welcome!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to sun2shine! who won the MikaRose giveaway we sponsored this week! Her name was drawn from the 30 entries we received. A big thank you to Michaella Lawson, owner of MikaRose for her generous giveaway, and I hope the rest of you will make sure to go on over and get dresses for you and your little girls. That was fun! I'll do my best to find more giveaways for you.

I have more to post but while the baby is being quiet I'm going to try to get a 20 minute nap. Wish me luck and I'll be back soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Husband's Demand to Blog...

When Jenna asked me what should she blog about today, I said "let me write it for you. " This is her husband, Adam.

Tonight, Jenna was complaining that she is tired of being fat and poor. Gee, what do you say to that even when it's not true? Well, about the fat part anyway. You girls really have us against the ropes with that one. I can't really give her condolences or show grief for her feeling that way, because that's just as bad as if I agreed or called her it myself. But then again I can't try and convince her she's not either, because then she'll think I'm placating her, which means I'm trying to avoid saying that I really think she is, which again, gets me in trouble. So, I realized this: Don't say anything. Just start groping and kissing until she forgets about it.

The truth is girls, Jenna is just right. She has without a doubt the sexiest legs I have ever seen; from her dainty ankles, to her razor sharp shins, to her always silky smooth shave that goes all the way up... A true babe. And why is it she thinks she has to be some hard-body cover girl on the front of some cheesy magazine? What Jenna doesn't believe is, is that guys don't really want some hard-body gym-freak to snuggle with. It feels too much like you're cuddling with a man. Leave the six pack and triceps to us. We like some squish on our woman. In fact secretly, we like that no matter where our hands are, it's like we're caressing a breast. A perverse confession maybe, but still it's true.

Since Jenna has begun teaching piano, she has been noticeably happier. Maybe it's because she's really good at it, or maybe it's because people actually have to pay her to boss them around, or maybe it's how all these older men from church have suddenly developed an interest in learning to play, so they try to set up "private lessons". I must admit, I'd pay 20 dollars to sit on a bench next to her for half an hour too. Luckily, Jenna has made it a company policy to not fall for that one.

Whatever you do, if you're the type of person that feels stupid if you lose at a board game, never play Jenna at Scrabble. She's a human dictionary. She cried in that spelling bee movie. Mensa even extended an invitation to her, but sadly... she was too broke to pay the fees. True story... I think.

Another thing about Jenna, is that she never ever smells. It's a weird freak of nature. No body odor, sour feet, bad breath, nothing... Ever. It's like a superpower.

People often ask me how I got such a beautiful and equally great a woman to marry me... My response? "You gotta lie to them on the Internet". Which I did. I added an inch to my height. Which had me sweating the whole way to our first meeting, because unlike the other girls, Jenna was actually the same exact height I had said I was on my website. And her last husband, also named Adam, has me by more than a foot. So when we met, of course she called me on it almost immediately. Luckily, I was able to convince her that our heads were just shaped different and her eyes are placed higher up on her face, so it just seems like she's looking down a bit.

I guess what I'm finding myself painting for all of you who read these blogs, is that the truth is, Jenna is better than me in almost every way. She's taller, smarter, less smelly, sexier... But, in my own defense, there is one thing I have that is better than her... I'm far more lucky than she is.

Now let me ask her to correct my spelling...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Birthdays and Anniversaries

The birthday of our marriage. It's been a good day. Adam took me (and Conor, though to his credit, he did make some calls to our friends to try to arrange a babysitter, but without luck. I'm thrilled that he even thought to do that, and taking Conor was a joy anyway.) to our favorite little Italian place in Montrose for dinner. I was craving me some Chicken Parmigiana! Dinner conversation with Adam is never dull. And never politically correct. Hardly ever even couth. But funny. Entertaining. Endearing. Yes, he is. I give glory and deep abiding gratitude to God for pulling us through this last year.

On another note. I love conversations with little kids. I try to get to know each of my little piano students on a personal level. Find out who they are, what they love, what their lives are all about. I figure if they know I care about them, they're more likely to do what I say. So far it seems to be working. One mother told me last week that her son said randomly during the week, "I wish I was Miss Jenna's boy." Ouch. (to her), but it touched her that her son loves his piano teacher, and it made me all weepy for him.

But today I had some fun dialogue with Alex. He's 5. Well, on Sunday he'll be 6. Here's how I know.

"On Sunday is my birthday and so we're going on a Disney Cruise for 7 days and so I won't be at my lesson next week."

"Wow, a Disney Cruise! That sounds like fun! Will you get a cake for your birthday?"

"I don't get cake. I get all the Disney characters."

"Oh, I see. And who is your favorite?"

(after a long pause) "I don't know, but they'll all be there. You should come to our house to see my piano. It's bigger than yours. It's this tall (he shows me with his hands) and this big (he shows me with his hands)."

"Sounds beautiful. Maybe someday I can come see it. You are one lucky little boy, you know."

"I know."

"I mean, I've never been on a cruise!"

"I've been on two boats."

"Well, I've been on many boats, but a cruise is different."

"Well, with the cruise that makes three boats I've been on."

"Yes, that's true."

"My dad and my mom and my brother and my grandma and grandpa are coming on the cruise with us."

"Sounds nice. Where are you going on the cruise?"

"To the beach."

"Oh, I see. So, what does your Dad do for his job, Alex?"


"He must work very hard."

"He works all day and all night doing his paperwork. He always works."

"Well, he must be looking forward to this cruise then!"

And my last question remained unasked. If you give a child a 7 day Disney cruise for his 6th birthday, what do you do for his 7th birthday, or heaven forbid his 16th? They'll think of something.

*Don't forget to enter the MikaRose giveaway! You have until Friday at midnight! Go here for the details!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What We Do for Love

I finished Stephenie Meyer's The Host last night. The last two hundred pages were very hard to tear myself away from, and I have to admit I got a little emotional just before the end. I think we're really lucky to have this human experience. All hardship, temptation, and trial aside, the range and depth of emotion that we are privileged to feel is a blessing! And the power of the emotion we call love, in all its many forms, really is overwhelming. Wanderer was willing to do previously unthinkable things in the name of love. So was Melanie. So have I.

Tomorrow is my 3rd wedding anniversary. Hallelujah! You have no idea what a milestone that is. We made it another year. Another year behind us. Another year we never have to live again. And believe me, with the things that we've had to deal with, making it through another year is a triumph! But then again, I suppose every year that any marriage survives is a triumph in this world of shifting values where quitting is easy and self-gratification is the name of the day. So, hooray for us, and hooray for you who every day are doing the grunt work of marriage, in the trenches, learning the lessons, gleaning the rewards. It's a satisfying place to be.

What have I learned in this, my third year of my second marriage?

1. Shut up.
2. You don't need to say it.
3. It won't help if you do say it.
4. You'll only make it worse if you say it.
5. Even though you're right, still don't say it.
6. He already knows, so don't bother saying it.
7. If you say it, you still won't be happy.
8. If you say it, he still won't stop.
9. He's happier when you keep his faults to yourself. (see #6)
10.Most things will work out, so be quiet.

I'm a slow learner, I guess! But I have to say, that I do believe that our souls find another soul who is perfectly suited to teach us the hardest lessons that we must learn in mortality (but I do not believe that there is only one such soul for each of us), and that there is divine wisdom in the choices we make in spouses. I had that sense when I married Adam. That though I didn't understand fully the reasons at the time, I had this feeling that my union with him would be a blessing so great that I could not even fully comprehend it. And I have learned to trust the process of marriage, for it isn't simply an event. And I think I'm a better me this year than I was at this time last year, so it must be working. Thank goodness for that.

I love you, my Adam. You and me against the world. (Literally, right?)
*(If you haven't already entered the MikaRose dress giveaway, please see this post and enter before Friday at midnight! Good luck!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

I have fourteen piano students. Many of them do not practice as they should, and invariably they have very good reasons why not. For instance:

"We got a new dog and that took all of our time."

"I was just too tired all the time."

"My mom wouldn't let me."

"I just didn't understand."

"It was just too hot."

"We didn't get home until late."

But this next one was my favorite. The little boy, who is five, began to play his piece and was noticeably fumbling. He kept playing his way through, and in between measures, this was our conversation:

"You didn't practice this song enough, did you?"

"Well, I had to go to the bathroom."

"The whole week?"


"Whoa. That's weird. I've never heard of having to go to the bathroom for an entire week."

"Yeah. I had diarrhea."

"For a week?"


"You're lucky you're not dead. Did you have time to eat?"

"Yeah, but the rest of the time I was going to the bathroom."

"Did you have time to watch TV?"

"Yeah, but then I had to go to the bathroom."

"Were you able to sleep?"

"Yeah, but when I woke up I had to go back to the bathroom."

"This is the weirdest excuse I've ever heard, you know."

And so it was. And meanwhile, Mom was cracking up in the back room listening to this story of her son's intestinal backfiring. No, she said, he wasn't sick in any way. So why go to such lengths to excuse not practicing?

Well, probably the same reason I go to such lengths to excuse myself from not doing any number of things that I know I should be doing. Exercising, cleaning the bathrooms, writing a letter to my grandmothers, playing with my children more, finishing that article, reading my scriptures, eating carrots instead of cookies, you get the idea.

'cause I'm too tired.

'cause the noise would wake up the baby.

'cause I can't find a pen.

'cause it's too hot.

'cause I'm upstairs and my scriptures are downstairs.

'cause cookies taste better.

But the truth would be that because right now I'm feeling like a lazy procrastinator who'd rather do fun things than dutiful things and. . . (now we're getting to the heart of things!)

I don't feel like it!

*(If you didn't enter our MikaRose giveaway, you have the entire week! Go to this post and follow the instructions. You can enter until Friday at midnight, and the winner will be chosen on Saturday morning from all participants. Good luck!)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Giveaway! MikaRose Girl's Dress!

You're gonna want to get in on this one! MikaRose is a fabulous little treasure, specializing in modest dresses. What a concept! The dresses are classy, chic, and oh, so pretty. I've been eyeing them for some time. The dresses all have female names, so it's easy to identify the ones you love. I especially like the Eva and the Isabelle. But I would be happier to have one of each and not have to choose at all! And one of my favorite things about MikaRose is how affordable the dresses are.

Well, just this past week, MikaRose announced its new line of little girls' dresses! They are so adorable! So darling, in fact, that I find myself wanting to buy one of each and then try to have another baby girl. You will love them! I asked the generous Michaella Lawson, owner of MikaRose, if she'd be willing to promote her new line by sponsoring a giveaway on my blog, and she jumped at the chance! So, all of you with little girls, or any of you who has a niece or friend with a daughter's birthday coming up, you're gonna want to get in on this super fun action.

There are five darling dresses to choose from, again, all with girl names. All of the dresses are 100% cotton and machine washable (because who wants to dry clean children's clothing?). The dresses all come in sizes 2 through 6, and some to 6X. (Why does my daughter have to be turning 14 tomorrow?!) And best yet, every dress is only $19.99! You could actually buy one of each and spend less than so many little girl dresses in those trendy boutiques!

Here's how to enter to win: Go to the website MikaRose and browse around. I know it's hard, but decide which dress you would want if you won, and leave me a comment on this post with the name of the dress and why you love it. The contest will run all this next week and the winner will be chosen randomly (by someone other than me) next Saturday. The winner will be given a $30 gift certificate to MikaRose, which will cover the cost of the dress plus shipping. Sweet deal, huh? You lucky ducks! Now, go tell your friends! It's a great day to love pink!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Perspective from Parley

My dad gifted me his copy of Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt a few years back with the following inscription:

"Presented to the lovely Jenna Lynn by her doting father on this 19th day of April, 2003, knowing her to be a woman of great curiosity and spiritual attainment, whose thirst for truth surpasses even his, and whose desire for righteousness is unequaled. May God bless her forever and ever. Amen."

Well, I don't know if I can really live up to all of that, but whenever my dad gives me a book, especially one of his own, I pay attention. At the time that he gave me this book, I was going through extreme personal trials, and I can remember him telling me that Parley Pratt also experienced much opposition and personal trial in his life, and that he was a great example to follow in his humility and steadfastness.

I'm reading this treasure again, now. There are a couple of things that have stood out to me in this reading. For one, he doesn't give much written space to the horrible things that happened to him, just as I imagine he must not have given much of his emotional, mental, or spiritual energy to them. He accepted them as part of his life and apostleship, but didn't let his adversities (of which are many, and devastating) define his life or his character.

Parley lived in dire poverty most of his life, even since his childhood. His father, and later he, lost their entire farms due to the inability to come up with the entire mortgage amount due for the yearly payment. It didn't matter that they had cleared acres and acres of wilderness land, or that they had built a house on it, or that they had farmed it. The crop didn't sell well that year and so out they went. With nothing. Twice. I'm reading it, mentally screaming about the injustice of it all, and he's already moved onto bigger and better things. I'm not sure my journal would consistently read the same. But that was a quality of Parley. He casually mentions that he walks 1500 miles on foot through thigh-high snow and that he is sick nigh unto death and that his wife is suffering with consumption and loneliness and that they are destitute and that oh, they've been trying for ten years to have a child with no success, and he is falsely imprisoned and on and on and on. But if you blink, or skim over the page, you'll likely miss it. Because despite all of that and more, he's so grateful to be part of the rolling forth of the kingdom of God. He is party to miracle after miracle. Doors are opened, blessings poured down upon him, healings left and right, and he is able to meet the challenges set before him. And he can only rejoice.

Another example of a briefly mentioned trial takes place in 1834, when a small army of about 200 men set out to take supplies to the misplaced Saints in Missouri, crossing on foot a distance of about 1000 miles. They make their camp by Fishing River, in Ray County, between the forks of a stream, which are about 6"-8" deep. Suddenly a storm of enormous strength and ferocity rises up and assaults them with torrential rains, winds, earthquakes, and lightning. They find themselves struggling to get to an open meetinghouse nearby for shelter. The tents have all blown away, and many of the men are laying eight inches in water and nearly drowned.

The next morning, he casually mentions, those little forks of Fishing River are now twenty to forty feet deep and rushing. And they are made aware that an army of outlaws had discovered them and would have attacked them, had it not been for the sudden storm, which prevented the mob from crossing the stream to get to them.

The other thing that impressed itself upon me was how providential this trial was for them. God obviously sent the storm to protect this group of people. I wonder if the people, at the time, and without this hindsight perspective, were thinking, "Why me? When will the difficulties end? When do I get some rest?" Especially after all they'd been through and endured. And it got me thinking about my own trials, and I wonder how often they are a protection for me? Either literally, as in something even worse would happen had they not come, or maybe spiritually they have been a protection. Trials definitely tend to keep one on one's knees and with one's heart tuned to the whisperings of the Spirit. Staying close to the Lord is most certainly a protection against vulnerabilities that often accompany times of trial.

Trials protect us. I'd never really thought of it that way before.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Closer Look Meme

So, even though I tried to avoid being tagged as this meme was going around, laying low, keeping my comments with those who played to a disinterested minimum, somehow I was spotted huddling over in the corner by the oh-so-talented Annette. Since I'm an extremely good sport, I'm willingly participating, even though my pictures aren't nearly as enthralling, and my house isn't as pretty. This, folks, is The Closer Look Meme. A meme in pictures.

1. My kitchen sink. Now, I almost started out this whole thing dishonestly. When I learned that I'd been tagged, the first thing I thought was, "Oh, crap. I haven't done the dishes today." I had fully intended to lie and get my sink all shiny first, but then I figured I was just too tired to pretend today. I admit that I'm very lax about housework when my kids are gone for the summer. I'm busy doing other stuff. So, here's the gosh honest truth:

2. My fridge. Again, not so interesting. I hardly ever go shopping when my kids are gone either. Nothing much exciting here, except for all those delicious strawberries I got on sale, and can I just tell you that Yoplait's Fiber One yogurt, the Key Lime flavor is a treat?

3. My favorite shoes. I only have one perfect outfit that these shoes go with, but I love them. I feel chic and sexy and feminine when I wear them, and I always get compliments on them.

4. My bedroom closet. Of course, I share with my husband, and I tried to keep most of his side out of this picture. To the left is his little office, with a desk and two computers. And about 8 empty soda cans, 3 old bowls of cereal he ate late at night, a half-eaten Nutri-Grain bar, a stale bag of chips, and tons of papers that should be thrown away. He's not the tidy half of this relationship, lemme tell ya. But I love him anyway.

5. The laundry pile. In this, I am content. My kids do all their own laundry, so I only do mine and hubby's, and baby's. We have hampers in our bedrooms. This bucket in the laundry room is for towels, dishrags, and bibs, etc. So exciting.

6. What are my kids doing right now? Well, my three oldest are camping with their dad in Arizona. My two stepkids are with their mom. The lone Conor is here with me:

7. My favorite room: Yes, because it's where lots of the books are, the karaoke is in here, the music is in here (well, not the piano), the TV is in here, and the red couches are in here. It just feels happy to me in the family room.

8. My most recent purchase. Well, besides this impressive pile of hygiene products that I got for 72% off this week on the Grocery Game

. . . I guess it would be this book. My treat for the summer. (I don't really spend money on me.)

9. My dream vacation: Ha! Right now a weekend at Vegas would be a dream! But since I watched P.S.--I Love You, I'm dying to go to Ireland, and maybe do a castle tour.

10. A self-portrait.

Okay, there it is in all it's glory. Not so bad, I guess. I think I'll tag Laurie (because her life is never dull, so how could the pictures be?) and my cute sister Hannah, (because I keep checking her blog and she hasn't written in a while, so maybe this would get her going again.) Have fun!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Deposit a Fortune

I had to stop at the bank yesterday with Conor in tow. I was holding him on one hip and balancing checks and cash from piano lessons in my free hand, trying to navigate the spiffy new Bank of America ATM's, when a lovely black woman (and I don't mean that she was simply African-American; she was the deepest, darkest, almost-black, with a brilliant white smile and sparkling eyes set against her dark complexion) exited the bank. She was tall and thin, with her hair shaved very close to her head and a long sundress on and heels. She had a beaded necklace and dangly earrings. Her peripheral vision must have caught sight of Conor, because she swung around and had to swoon about his bright blue eyes and blond curls. She asked me a question about him, and as I turned my head up (in between sliding checks into the ATM's slot, she caught her breath and immediately changed her questioning.

"Who are you?" she asked.

I giggled a bit self-consciously, aware of the line that was building up behind me. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, what do you do?"

"Well, I raise kids and teach piano, I guess."

"Oh, girl, there is something mighty powerful about you! Look!", at which she held out her bare arms (she was wearing a bright yellow sundress), and I could see that her skin had broken out in big, bold goosebumps. "This hardly ever happens to me anymore! What is it about you? Who are you? I gotta get some o' that!" and then she wrapped her arms around both Conor and me and gave us a little hug from behind. I wasn't sure exactly what was happening.

"Girl," she said. "There is some good energy about you. I don't know what it is, but you are powerful! God be with you. God bless you. Something good is coming for you." She again showed off the goosebumps that covered her arms and chest.

"Oh, good," I said, trying to face my stack of $1's so I could shove them into the blinking slot. "I could really use something good." I turned and smiled to the line waiting behind me, with a look of 'forgive me'.

She wished me well and began to walk away, but stopped ten feet away and called back, "Girl, get over here. There's something there!" Again with the goosebumps.

"Well, I have to finish my deposit," I said, wondering if this was a dangerous situation or not. There is an interesting collection of souls congregated in the Los Angeles area. But, then again, there were plenty of witnesses. And she didn't seem dangerous. Or even all that crazy. And I've met crazy. She seemed a little "off", but well-meaning and sincere. I finished up my deposit and walked down to where she was standing, directly in the sun. Sweat glistened on her black skin. She told me that she had to read me. That she didn't do this anymore, but she used to do readings, and there was just something there, like a lump in her throat or in her chest and she had to get it out. She told me she was 55. She asked if I had other children and whether they were all safe and healthy and if my grandmothers are alive. All yes.

Then she said, "Is your husband in a very low place right now?"

"Um. Yes, as a matter of fact."

"What's going on there?"

"Well, he's been looking for work and it's been very hard."

"Is he into computers? Something with computers?"

(at that very moment Adam was at home studying to take his Microsoft A+ certification test) "Yes," I replied.

"And balls, going back and forth. Something with balls, (and she was pantomiming hitting balls, as with a racket, back and forth). . ." the goosebumps burst forth again.

"Well, he plays ping-pong a lot."

"Yes, something big is coming for him! Tell him to act on it! There's lots of money in it for him. You go home, girl, and tell him to act on it."

She said many more oddly identifying things about Adam, and about his movie script, and she had this sense of frustration as she was 'reading' me because she sensed there was something that she just couldn't quite put her finger on. Something she felt but couldn't pull out in the right words. But eventually, she sent me off, a little befuddled, but with words of encouragement nonetheless, and I was tickled by the experience. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before.

When I got home, I ran up to him and said, "The weirdest thing just happened at the bank." This is usually not good news, but as I started the story, Adam, who gets a kick out any sign anywhere that hope is on the horizon, ate up every word. He talked about it all night. "What do you think it means?" he kept wondering. "You should have invited her over for dinner."

And so, we'll wait and see.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mad at Mediocrity

When I lived in Small Town, USA, I was hired as a teacher in a new charter school. This charter school was promoting their "classical education", which is why I was hired, because I had homeschooled my own children for many years with a classical program, designed around the Trivium and outlined in my well-worn copy of The Well-Trained Mind. I was asked to help write the curriculum for the school since the two founders/owners really had no experience with classical education (One of them, in a radio interview promoted our school as preparatory to an "Ivory League" college. . .yeah.) Anyway, despite its pathetic roots, we did have a great vision for this little school in this little town, and the job itself, coming just at the tail end of my divorce, was a huge blessing to me.

We needed to come up with a slogan for the school, which would be printed on the back of the t-shirts. My dad, who also taught there for a short time, came up with "Mad at Mediocrity", which I still love. The only problem was that wherever we wore those shirts in Small Town, USA, people couldn't pronounce 'mediocrity', let alone know what it means. So I'm not convinced they were 'mad' at it.

But I am.

I am not a mom who supports kindergarten 'graduations'. I think they're ridiculous. I am not a mom who thinks that every kid who played on the team should get a trophy, or that every car in the Pinewood Derby should win some sort of ribbon.

I think my kids, and your kids should lose sometimes. I think they should come in last (or maybe worse, second) and not cry about it.

I think schools should give number and letter grades instead of stupid point systems, and I think if you don't study you should get an "F" and not a second chance.

I think if I ask you to make your bed and you only pull the bedspread over the messed up sheets instead of doing it right the way I taught you, then you should have all the blankets pulled off the bed and you should do it over again.

I think that your Sunday-best does not include the flip-flops you just wore to the beach on Saturday, and that you boys can expend the energy to pull up your pants.

I think if you're asked to sweep the floor (and you're old enough to sweep the floor and have been taught how) then there should be no crumbs left on the floor. Not even in the corners.

I think if you're supposed to fold your laundry and put it away, then you should fold your laundry and not just shove it in the drawers. Or don't be mad when I come in and empty all your drawers and make you start over again.

I don't think little effort should be rewarded. And I don't think I'm mean. But don't we have enough (excuse me, but it's the only word that I know that fits the way I want it to) half-assed people in this world doing half-assed jobs? And can't the mothers and fathers rise up and demand more from their lazy, self-indulged, entitled children? Have some pride!

So, when you come for piano lessons and I told you that if you practiced a song at least ten times then you would get a treat, you're not getting a treat if you only practiced six times. And if you do practice ten times, then your little sister (who didn't) doesn't get a treat just because you did.

And if you lose at something, then you should be happy for the winner and determined to try harder the next time if you want it badly enough, because that's how the world works. It does not cater to your feelings. And if I did, I would be doing you a grave inservice.

And you should learn that a job well done is its own reward, and that self-esteem comes from hard work and the confidence that you can do something correctly and whole-heartedly and well.

So, today, I am mad at mediocrity. We're the most powerful nation in the world and we're slipping into mediocrity. Doesn't it start at home like everything else? Can't we raise kids who are not big babies who think that every time they bat their eyelashes they deserve a treat or that just because they're alive they deserve special privileges? Isn't that unfair to them?

Please tell me you're okay with your child losing, and that you're not okay with "just enough to get by" all the time. Please tell me you're mad at mediocrity too. Please?

Monday, July 7, 2008


Well, apparently Conor does NOT like fireworks. Poor little guy. But the parade, the motorcycles, the BBQ with friends. . . all of that was A-OK.

I love the 4th of July. I've always tried to instill patriotism in my children's hearts. I am disheartened at how few people know the lyrics to our national anthem and other patriotic songs, and how illiterate we are as a nation about our Constitution and the history of our country. I was really bugged that our little town parade was hardly patriotic at all. It was basically one long commercial. One self-promoting business or person after another, and I'm thinking, "What does this have to do with the celebration of our nation's independence?" And don't answer me with 'free enterprise' because that's not good enough on the 4th. Let's have some reverence for the sacrifice it has taken and continues to take to keep our nation free and great. Let's see some respect for our Founding Fathers and the documents that make us stand apart from others. At least sing the National Anthem and have some veterans ride by for heaven's sake! I don't care that you don't want a Home Depot in Sunland or that Century 21 just hit some new all-time record. We're missing the point, people!

There's my Independence Day rant. Excuse me. Now, on to other things.

We've been passing the lazy days of summer with parks, walks, and swimming.

I miss my kids! I hear from at least one of them every day, most often Lyndsay, who is ready to come home, but still has three weeks to go. I know they are having so much fun and creating memories, so I'm comforted. Their dad will be moving from Show Low, AZ, so this might be their last visit there, which is a bit nostalgic even for me. Show Low is dear to me, but also painful. We moved there with such high hopes and dreams, and I left alone with a whole different set of plans.

Is anyone else getting panicked at the thought that it's already July? School, Halloween, Christmas. Oh my gosh. I bought my first Christmas present over the weekend and stashed it away. A drop in the bucket, but at least it's a drop!