Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Blues

We hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year. We trade off years celebrating the day with my family and three of Tom's siblings and their families.

I didn't give the holiday much thought; indeed, I kept forgetting that Thanksgiving was on Thursday of this week. I've noticed that I do this when I am feeling stressed about something--my mind just refuses to think about it until it absolutely has to. Late Wednesday night I remembered why--this is the first holiday since my mom passed away. It was last Thanksgiving when I first learned that mom was sick. I remember being very concerned, but hopeful that with good medical care she would get better. It never occurred to me that she might not see another Thanksgiving.

I feel that I should apologize to Tom's family; I wasn't a very festive hostess. The plentiful food was very good as usual, but nothing really hit the spot for me. I was happy to see everyone and their cute kids. I normally enjoy visiting and laughing and playing games. I just didn't have much laughter in me this year, and my pathetic acting skills weren't up to the task of hiding it. Forgive me, Amie and Jen, for being even more reclusive than usual. (I'd apologize to Jessica too... but she's used to me by now, I think.) I'm like a wounded animal sometimes; I just want to go hide somewhere and lick my wounds. I wasn't angry or grouchy or irritated, even when Hunter (Taylor?) found himself a bottle of bubbles and spilled it on the floor. I was just sad.

I'm sure next year will be better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A funny thing happened on the way home from the Orthodontist

After the shocking orthodontist appointment, I was famished, so we went to Taco Bell. Karianne was driving, and I thought it would be good for her to experience a drive through. She ordered successfully, and we pulled forward to the window. As we stopped, we both noticed at the same time that she was about three feet away from the window. She said, "Oh. Do I need to be closer?" I said, "Yes." And giggled.

Unfortunately, there was a car behind us, so backing up and angling closer was not an option. Just then the Taco Bell worker opened the window, and as luck would have it, it was Chelsea Talbert from our ward. She laughed with us about the unfortunate placement of our vehicle. Karianne opened her door and handed over the cash in exchange for our food. Chelsea continued laughing until we pulled away. I think Karianne's head deflated an inch or two right about then.

Seeing as how the dinner plans called for ingredients that I didn't have at home, Karianne then chauffeured Susan and me to Macey's, our family's favorite grocery store (that's their motto--and it's true!). When we got there, she parked perfectly, and we got out.

Karianne and I play this little game when we go somewhere together. Each of the front doors on the van has a master locking switch. We each try to be first locking the door. This time I won. I locked the door from the passenger side just as she closed the driver's side door. She did a little double take, and I grinned wickedly at her through the windows, to let her know that I had won. Then Susan shut her door and we went into the store.

We had a lovely time at Macey's. We smuggled in our Taco Bell bag, feeling all rebellious, and bought a 44oz Sprite to share at a table in the deli. After consuming this ridiculously late lunch (it was 4:30pm), I resisted buying the yummy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies at the bakery and instead put more sensible items into the cart, like egg nog, steak, candy, and ice cream. Hey. At least one of them is healthy. And the candy was for my cub scouts. Consider also the fact that I had two adorable, highly persuasive teenagers which I love with me, and well, you can see that I had no chance. Besides, this post is not about what I bought so why am I defending myself to you?


After handing over the money, we pushed the cart out of the store and to the van. I reached into my pocket for the keys. Nothing.

"Dang! Where are my keys?"

I looked in my purse for the keys. Nada. I turned to Karianne, aka "the driver", and said, "you have the keys, right?"

Karianne did not give the response I was hoping for. Instead, her eyes got big, I mean really big, and she ducked and slunk to the driver's side door while I repeated the futile search again, hoping for a different result the second time around. Who moved my cheese?!

"Mom? The van is still running."

This took a moment to soak into my Sprite marinaded mind. How could the van be running....?

Oh. NO. I turned and frowned at her in disbelief. Say it isn't so.

"Mom. The keys are in the ignition."

That's ok, I thought, since I have a spare key in my purse. My old purse. Which was sitting at home on the counter next to the toaster oven.

I clapped my hand to my forehead and raised my face to the sky in my best Luke Skywalker imitation. "Noooooooooooooo!"

I looked back at Karianne, who had mysteriously transformed from a confident teenager to a frightened little kid. I vaguely noticed the other shoppers in the parking lot staring in our direction. And then I laughed. The ridiculousness of the situation couldn't be ignored. Sure, she'd gotten out of the car without turning it off and walked away, but I was the one who locked the door. Actually it would have been impossible for Karianne to lock the door on her side--the van will not lock from the driver's side if the keys are in the ignition. And because I was just as much to blame as she was, how could I be mad at her? If I got mad at her for something I'd done, then I would be a hypocrite, and I'm trying to set a good example for my offspring, here.

I assessed the situation. There was a spare key at home in my purse. Nathan was at home, so I could call a neighbor to go get the key and bring it to me. Tom was the next idea. I looked at my watch: 5:10. Tom worked out at the gym just a few blocks down the street from ~5-5:40. Perfect! I called his cell phone -- no answer. That meant that his phone was in the locker room.

"Ok," I said, "Dad's at Gold's Gym. We'll go and get dad to bring us back and open the van with his keys."

"What do we do with the groceries"? Susan asked.

Uh... "Leave them here, behind the van."

Karianne looked at me like I was crazy. "Why don't we just bring them with us?"

I snorted. "I am so not carrying several bags of groceries to Gold's Gym with me." Then a new thought appeared. "I know: we'll hitchhike. That will be way faster."

Karianne's eyes bulged again. "We can't hitchhike!" She said it like it was a dirty word.

"Sure we can," I said. "Why not?"

"It isn't safe!" I could hear her think "duh", but wisely, she didn't say it out loud.

"It is if you pick the right ride, "I said. "Tell you what, you and Susan wait here, and I'll go."

"We'll get mugged!" Karianne gasped as an involuntary shiver slid down her spine. "Besides, it's cold out here!"

"Fine. Why don't you two go back into Macey's with the food and wait at the deli. I'll call you when I get back."

With that, I turned and surveyed the parking lot to identify a friendly looking person to ask for a lift. There was a couple loading bottled water into the back of their pickup--no room in the cab for me. There was an older woman getting into her car -- I figured I'd scare her if I approached asking for a ride. Then, I saw her: a young mother loading her groceries and two young children into her four door sedan. Perfect. I approached, explained my situation, and asked if she could possibly give me a quick lift to the gym. She laughed and agreed, and didn't seem scared of me at all. Amazing.

Once at the gym, I had Tom paged to come to the front desk. After a minute, they let me wander onto the workout area to see if I could find him. Where was he? A ward member saw me and came over, and said that I had just missed him. I looked at my watch - 5:20. ?? He wasn't usually done by then. I called his cell again. No answer. I called home. No answer.

Why doesn't he answer his phone? He should have it with him. Why doesn't anyone answer at home? Calling a neighbor was starting to look like the best option after all.

GREAT. Now not only am I stranded without a car, but my kids are stranded somewhere else, with melting ice cream to boot. My sense of humor was starting to wear thin.

Still looking for my stolen cheese, I called Tom's cell twice more, to no avail. Then one more try at home.

"Hello?" Nathan said.

"Nathan!" I yelled into the phone. "Is dad there?"

"I don't think so....lemme look downstairs." I waited. "Nope, he's not here... oh, wait. He just walked in the door."


The ice cream was only partially melted, and my girls will hopefully recover from the trauma of being abandoned at Macey's while their mother hitched a ride with a complete stranger. I have since transferred my spare key to my NEW purse, and Karianne thinks that it will be awhile before she leaves the key in the ignition.

Dinner was late again... but this time it wasn't my fault!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sticker Shock

Now that we have an income again, we decided to give away all of it to the orthodontist. We do have dental coverage, and all the receptionists gush about what great dental coverage we have.

So yesterday Karianne and Susan had their initial consultations. Sure enough, the doctor said, they need braces. Before I bit my tongue, I was about to ask him if he ever consults with someone who doesn't need braces. But I decided that he didn't know me well enough to get the joke, so I refrained.

Then he gave me the estimates for the work they need.

Holy overdraft Batman! Our portion is $3180. Each. Assuming Nathan's work is the same, that's freaking $9540 out of pocket! And we have GREAT dental coverage, lest you forget.

Must. Not. Hyperventilate.

We love to hike, oh how we love to hike

It was a beautiful autumn day last Saturday; sunny, with light breezes and mild temperatures. A perfect day for hiking the Y.

Yes. That Y. Makes me kind of tired just looking at it.

Twenty years ago last month, Tom and I hiked the Y for our first "official" date. I'll tell you the story sometime. Twenty years seems like a long time to know someone, doesn't it? That's more than half my lifetime.

Everyone is always so cheerful at the trailhead, full of excitement for the adventure ahead. Fools--all of them.

You may notice the absence of Megan in these photos. That's because she elected to play with her cousins over hiking the Y with us. Smart girl.

Guys, the Y is UP the trail. Get moving.

A much needed rest, to enjoy the view. The Marriott Center is on the far left.

Yeah, that little white flat box thing. Waaaay down there.

Finally, after much huffing and puffing, perseverance, and whining on my part, we made it to the top. What looks so white and crisp and smooth from the valley floor is a bit underwhelming up close. Notice that the paint has chipped away from the rock/cement mixture at the bottom of this pic.

Look at the chillins, so proud of themselves. And with good reason. They remained cheerful and energetic through the whole hike. Unlike their mother, who transformed into a whiny baby before the first switchback.

They basked in their conquest of the mountain, and celebrated by tossing pebbles down the Y, with the occasional chocolate chip added in when mom wasn't looking. Extensive experiments show that pebbles bounce farther than chocolate chips. You might want to file that little factoid away for future reference.

Back at the bottom, Karianne and Nathan reclining on the roof of the privy. I hope they didn't do any peeping down the skylight while I was in there.

And finally, a picturesque sunset across the lake to top off a perfect afternoon. Let's do this again sometime. After I'm dead would be good.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Upgrading: Laundry Room

I bought a new front loading washer/dryer set on clearance last month. Just because they were last year's model, I got these beauties for $600 less than the original cost. Friday evening, my very handy handsome husband installed them for me. Purty, aren't they? The washer and dryer, I mean. Tom is just flat out handsome, which probably doesn't affect his handy man skills, but he's sure fun to watch. But I digress.

The acquisition of these new appliances has started an avalanche of remodelling wishes. I now want the cement wall framed and sheetrocked. I want cabinets. I want a wall mounted ironing center. I want a water filtration system to deal with our impossibly hard water.
In short, I want to spend a lot of money.
Sigh. One thing at a time. For now, I have nifty new toys that make washing clothes about as fun as laundry is allowed to be. Lucky me!

Four Eyes

I'm glad I never made fun of people who wear glasses. Not because I pride myself on being all nice, or anything. But because I am now among the four eyed masses. At least when I read.

Apparently my eyes are getting old. The doctor explained that my poor little lenses aren't as flexible as they once were, and that's why after reading or computer work, everything at a distance is blurry.

So, last week I got my new reading glasses. They're ok I guess. I mean, I really like how clear the words on the screen are, and that I don't have to work to focus like I did before. I just feel like I look old. Or maybe I just feel old. Nobody in the house has laughed at me yet, at least where I could hear.


My good friend Christine twisted my arm to fly to Indiana to visit. Okay so she didn't twist very hard. Alright, I admit that she didn't twist at all...she just invited me. So I went. And it was fun. Way Fun.

What could there possibly be in Indiana to do that's fun, you ask? Not much, unless you like gazing out the car window at mile after mile of farms (which I do). BUT - in Chicago, there's lots of fun stuff to do.

Exhibit 1: Museum of Science and Industry
This place was very cool. My two favorite exhibits were Star Wars and the U-505 Submarine. Star Wars is just plain cool, so that's a no brainer. We had a weird karma thing going with the sub, which I'll explain later.

The Star Wars exhibit was filled with the actual costumes and models that were used to make the movies.

Staring at what are you?

Christine was pretty excited to finally meet Chewie. I didn't have the heart to tell her it was just a costume.

Awww, what a cute widdle dwoid! Oh, and please ignore the date stamp. These photos were actually taken November 2, 2007. Somebody needs to learn how to program her camera.

"My date's cuter than yours."

"Maybe so, but yours has body odor."

The original stormtroopers were always my favorite. I know they were supposed to be bad guys, but I choose to think of them as misunderstood.

Yeah, bite those nails. Little did we know that Darth was just a pudding hearted softie inside. How disappointing.

There were also interactive stations where Christine had to elbow little kids out of the way to get her turn.

Here she is building a robot. Notice the tongue assisted concentration.

This one was a cool holographic game where you moved cards around on a board, and the screen showed a Tatooine moisture farm. The object was to place the condensors at optimum locations in order to achieve the highest efficiency and volume of water harvesting.

Next it was on to the awesome exhibit of the only German U-boat captured during WWII, the U-505.

We spent most of our time at the museum walking to and from and around and under this submarine. Not because it was so fascinating; well, it was fascinating, but not THAT fascinating. No, this hunk of steel kept sucking us back into it's vortex.

Upon arriving at the museum, we bought our tickets, which included a specific time to enter the Star Wars exhibit. We had an hour to kill, so we wandered around and found ourselves at the entrance to the U-505 exhibit. It was fascinating. As the hour wound to a close, we attempted to buy tickets for the on-board tour of the sub, for 1:30, giving ourselves two hours at Star Wars. The silly ticket machine wouldn't print, so we had to get help from museum employees. At 11:35 Christine secured a hand written note that would get us into the 1:30 tour. We raced off to StarWars.

About the time we were testing the robot we built, I looked at my watch, and to my horror it said 1:25pm. Wow - those two hours went by fast! We rushed through the rest of the exhibit, and then trucked back to the other end of the museum to do the sub tour. Huffing and puffing, we race walked up to the entrance to the tour and handed our note from the teacher to the attendant. By this time my watch read 1:45, so I proceeded to beg for her to let us in to the tour even though we were late. The puzzled attendant looked at us like we were insane, and said hesitantly, "But, it's 12:45." What?! I then remembered that Chicago is in the Central time zone, and my watch was still on Eastern (Indiana) time. D'oh! We smiled sheepishly and slunk away to other parts of the museum to kill 45 minutes.

At promptly 1:30 Central Time, we arrived at the submarine tour entrance for the third time in two hours, and presented our pathetic note to yet a different attendant and talked our way into the tour. It was very cool, and worth all the frantic hiking.

Exhibit 2: Downtown Chicago

After the museum, we headed north along the waterfront to downtown Chicago, to locate the theatre and parking. I don't remember being downtown in a city with so many skyscrapers before. I know, I'm a hick. So I had to do the touristy thing and snap pics while Christine was navigating the one way streets and trying not to hit pedestrians.

This, uh, sculpure was unlike anything I've ever seen. A huge, whatever-shaped mirror. Judging by the crowd, I think a lot of people felt the same way.

How often to you get to take your picture in a mirror?

Exhibit 3: Wicked

The highlight of the day was seeing Chicago Theatre's production of Wicked. Wow. The set, the music, the orchestra, the voices, the dancing.... just, wow. This was my first Broadway experience. I think I just might be addicted. Karianne and Susan expressed more than a little jealousy over this experience of mine, and are now lobbying to take a trip to see it in LA. Hm... we'll have to think about that.

Thanks Christine, for a wonderful weekend!