Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Jan requested I post some pics of my home. Here is the only picture I have of it. It is a picture from two years ago- our first spring here in PA. We had just dug out the shrubs planted on our front hill and put in ivy. As you can see, the ivy was still small. So was Claire. She had just turned two in that picture.

This is a typical home for our area, old, brick, and really small. But to us it is our little slice of heaven. It is our first home. Though we curse its smallness, lack of closet space, no a/c, and its general falling-apartness, it will always have that distinction and charm of being our first house. Therefore it is romantic. It was built in 1931. I love to imagine the first people who built the house, and how excited they were to be moving into something so new, so grand. Maybe it was their first house also. There is a cold storage room in the basement that use to be the coal room. You can see where they patched up foundation of the slot where the coal was dumped into the room. There is also a random toilet in our basement, set in a stall with no door. This is from back in the day, when the men would come home from the mills, so dirty, that they had to come in and get cleaned up in the basement before they could go upstairs.

Our home was newly remodeled when we bought it, so we haven't done much to the indoors. But the yard was a mess. It had just been neglected for years. It was mostly weeds and decrepit cement blocks. We had a good time fixing it up and landscaping it.

Here is last years flower garden. I have learned a lot about what grows here, how difficult it is working with clay for soil, and what plants I like and the ones I never want to plant again.

Here are the steps and the retaining wall that we put in. I also leveled half of the yard because it was on a slope. Everything in our town is on a slope. We supposedly have steepest street in the world in our neighborhood. Supposedly.

For those who don't know Jan, she is one of the funniest people you will ever meet. She is just so happy to be around, and she is extremely kind. When I was 11, they divided the ward that I had been in my whole life, with all my friends in it. We were one of the few families who were moved to a different ward. I was heartbroken. Jan was my Merry Miss teacher. There was only one other in my class, and I felt pretty lonely. But Jan was incredible. She reached out to me and made me feel like I was her friend. She will give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. Literally. I remember she had a white jean jacket she let me use once for an activity, and she told me after I was done, that I could keep it, since I liked it. That means a lot to an 11 year old .
After that she was called to Young Women's, where she rocked! Me and my sisters still talk about the activity where she planned all the prizes- salt n pepper tape (piece of tape with salt and pepper on it), trip to see the stars (a walk outside, and look up), etc. She made everything so fun, so creative. She is amazing. She is one of the many people who made that ward AWESOME. I loved my time in that ward and I know Heavenly Father knew what he was doing when he put our family there. It was a blessing for each and everyone of us. And it still continues to be a blessing for me to keep in touch with someone as wonderful as Jan.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Love Story

Where do I begin, to tell the story of how great a love can be?

Last weekend was Claire's fourth birthday and we did the whole hoopla birthday party, blow out candles, open presents thing. But all that is really secondary to the story I want to share. A love story.

The day before Claire's birthday, while I was grocery shopping for the upcoming party when Claire asked me, as she usually does, for one of those foil balloons they have stationed all over the blasted grocery store. Well, for the first time in her life, after hundreds of times asking, my answer was yes. I even let her pick it out. The lucky balloon that caught her eye was a shiny Dora balloon. It was love at first sight. She held that balloon with her the rest of the day, asked to sleep with it that night, and it was still glued to her hip the next day. She danced with it, talked to it, hit it repeatedly, just like any healthy relationship. When all the kids came for the birthday party, someone (he will remain nameless for his own protection) let her take the balloon, aka, the love of her life, outside with her without tying it to her wrist. Well, obviously you know what happened next. At some point Dora makes a rather sudden and quick getaway, leaving Claire abandoned, heartbroken, devastated. I was inside and I could hear her gut-wrenching cries. Being a hundred percent honest here, I have never seen or heard her so sad in my life. She could not be consoled. She asked her daddy, through her sobs and tears, "Please, dad, can I grow wings so I can fly up and get my balloon?" Heart-wrentching. I know.

Well, most other parents would have used this as a good teaching tool about cause and effect, choices and consequences. But being the pushovers that Cody and I are, we immediately sent Cody off to the store to purchase another balloon, pronto. I will not have my little girl jilted in love at such a young age. My Little Pony and Cinderella quickly filled the void in Claire heart that stormy Dora had left in her wake.

I know. We are pushovers. But it was her birthday. Okay, no more excuses. What is done is done.

So to make a short story as long as it possible could be (too late), here is the rest of b-day party in pics.

For an activity, we had all the kids decorate their own crown or pirate hat. As you can see, Claire liked hers simple, with the ever cool, "FO?" slogan on it. However, I made one for Claire, too, because who knew foamies were so much fun? I did get a little carried away, but I was in foamie heaven.

We sang happy birthday and blew out the candles. Can I spend a minute lamenting on the cake? Of course I can. All year long I look forward to decorating Claire's birthday cake, doing something special, trying something new. But this year, I got sick the week before her birthday, and when it came down to it, I just didn't have time. Big bummer. (You can see Claire's decorating job, her finger marks in the frosting. That little stinker.)

Claire loved all her presents. The Tinker Bell wings were a big hit, though she loved each and every gift and played with them all later that day, and the next, and the next.

Words cannot describe how much I love and enjoy Claire. She is so loving, so creative, so energetic, so disobedient (this isn't a part of love about her, but I had to throw it in there). She gives the best hugs, she says the funniest things, she sees the world in an amazing way, and she dances to the rhythm of her own steel drum. Happy Birthday to my little girl.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Touch of Class

I wouldn't call it writer's block because I have had ideas floating around in my head for months. I am still at that stage of blogging where no matter what happens, no matter how trivial, personal, or dire, my first instinct is to think how can I put that in a post. All the time. I have been blogging for a year and a half, you'd think I'd get over that, but I haven't. So it isn't writers block that has kept my away. It is writer's repugnance. No, that is too strong of a word. It doesn't capture the right emotion. It's more of a repelling feeling. Every time I would think about sitting down and committing to writing to a post, I just felt like something pushing me away. Okay, okay, it was reading. I just wanted to read a book. Or several. Sorry, I know I am lame. But tonight, just as sudden as the repellation started, it was simply washed away. So here goes.

I don't really like to play practical jokes on people. I just feel uncomfortable about it. You know, what if they get mad, what if it goes wrong, what if it is a lot crueler than I think it would be. That is kinda my real fear. Sometimes I find humor in things that are insensitive and inappropriate. At girls camp my first year, my tent did a skit in front of the whole camp, and I was imitating the camp director, telling us a sensitive story from her past. I thought it was all in good humor, until I looked over at her and she was crying. I felt HORRIBLE. Fifteen years later, it still feels horrible. So I don't want to run the risk of feeling that gut wrenching, butt-twisting guilt for 15 years over one simple practical joke. But this year is the year of holidays for me. I am trying to be just a little more festive for each and every holiday- April Fools would be no exception.

So I started planning early. Early meaning the day before. March 30. It was subtle. A few well placed complaints of not feeling so well, tossing around the word 'nauseous' here and there, and then this all topped off with the occasional putting my hand on my stomach. I know, class A acting. Cody didn't think much of this. But that is okay, I didn't expect him to. That's how subtle I wanted to be.

April 1. After dinner. I asked if anyone would care to join me in the study for fruit or brandy. Not really. I actually suggested we all adjourn to the living room where we would play fat dog and watch TV. Once I had Cody hooked on watching Battlefield 360, I went upstairs, flushed the toilet, pulled out a pregnancy test, waited three minutes (I know you are amazed at my attention to detail. Well, either amazed, or maybe you just feel sorry for me), and then I shouted, "Oh No!" This is the part I started to get embarrassed. I mean, I felt really silly at the prospect of acting this whole gag out. I honestly did have second thoughts at this point. But I had wasted one pregnancy test by taking it out of the wrapper, so I was committed! I go down the stairs waving the pregnancy test around, trying to get Cody's attention (he is really into his WWII show), but finally he turns and says, 'what?'

I say, "I am expecting!" But this is the part I was not expecting. As I made my announcement, my eyes start to well with tears, my throat gets a bit constricted. Holy cow, I am an amazing actress. I honestly don't know where the tears came from. It probably should have been my first sign that this joke wasn't very tasteful, but really, since when have I ever had a grasp on things that are tasteful. This is coming from a girl who announced to her seminary class that she appreciated that the seminary building had 2-ply toilet paper in the bathrooms. Taste isn't my strong suit. Anyhoot, I digress.

Well, Cody just has a look of shock. "What do you mean?"

As if I wasn't clear enough waving the pregnancy test around saying I was expecting. "I'm pregnant!"

"What? How did this happen? Are you sure? Go take another test." I have to admire his clear thought and helpful line of reasoning.

"I don't have another test!" So this is the point where I expect him to start getting freaked out. You know, that look like he just found out that there really is a world of people under the ground that are at every moment trying to poke his bare feet with needles. But no, he just sits there with a silly little grin.

That would be sign number two that this joke is not classy.

So then I go upstairs, taking Claire with me trying to tell her to go down and tell daddy, "APRIL FOOLS!" but she had no interest. And you all know how obedient she is. So finally I went downstairs again, and Cody is still sitting there with that silly shocked grin, and he looks up and says to me, "Well, this is good. This is a good thing!"

Punch me in my kidney! It was at this point, finally, that I realize just how much this joke is insensitive, tasteless, and un-classy. The final blow was when he put up his hand to give me a congratulatory high five.

So I play this practical joke on him expecting him to freak out and he has the audacity to take it like an honorable, loving man and father. How dare he!! I felt like a heel. I told him it was a joke, and he also handled that with class and good humor. He is a good man (though later he told me his first thought, when he heard I was pregnant, was "hello Odyssey". That must have been what the silly smile was for).

As payment for making light of a wonderful, exciting, and sacred event such a pregnancy, I was blessed with having real nausea for three days this week. Nausea so strong, I could hardly move. I thought that was appropriate enough. I'd rather three days, rather than 15 years of payback.

On a positive note, my sister Monica also played an April Fools joke on my parents, calling them and telling them she was expecting. I know, so trite, right? Except it is true! Congratulations, Monica and crew, I am so happy for you!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Pinch that

So spring break lasted a little longer than I thought.