ENJT with ADHD

1% of women have an ENTJ personality. 2.5% of women have diagnosed ADHD. Nearly all of my strongest strengths and weakest weaknesses are attributable to one or both. While I find it interesting to find bits of myself in all I read, sometimes I have to remember to just "letter go."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Classroom High: Discovery

I'm betting that for the next twenty months, there will be a new weekly feature on my blog titled "Andrea's Attempt to Come Down from the Classroom High."  I just love learning.  The flow of ideas, the discussion of point and counterpoint, and the opportunity to excel get me all pumped up, and even though it is after 10:00 and I should be exhausted from four hours of class, here I am recapping the second night of my masters program.

For me, tonight was all about self-discovery.  I discovered some things I didn't know about myself.  Re-discovered things I'd forgotten.  Was called out on things I'd maybe not like everybody to know about me just yet.

1. I talk really fast.  I know this.  You probably all know this.  This was an issue all throughout my undergrad work at the University of Phoenix, because the coursework calls for a ton of presentations.  On the feedback forms, my peers constantly commented that I talk too fast.  I don't know how I forgot about this, but tonight after my first group presentation of the program, the professor opened it up for critique.  One girl's hand flew up.  "You did a really great job of presenting the information, but you just talk so fast.  I honestly just can't listen that fast, and I kept getting lost."

2. I agree with a perennialist philosophy of education.  That basically means that I think if you teach a kid to think, he can master any concept.  Therefore, I think that teaching thinking is at the core of a teacher's responsibility.  Guess what?  In a class of 11 students, I am the only perennialist.

3. I may possibly be an elitist.  This one is a hard pill for me to swallow.  I attended private school K-8 (with the exception of an aforementioned terrible 7th grade year at Midvale Middle School in the the ALPS program), and I've spent my entire life trying to make sure that I am not a private school snob.  But based on my perennialistic educational philosophies and the fact that I also tend to agree more with Plato's idealism and Aristotle's realism than with the other general philosophies, all signs indicate that I am an elitist.

4. I have listening comprehension skills below that of a first grader.  Again, I know this.  If you looked at my SAT scores through grade school, you'd see a clear pattern indicating this is not my strong suit.  If you know my dad or brother, you'll also know it's a bit of an inherited trait.  But boy did I feel pretty stupid when after listening to the presentation of a story as it would be taught to a first grade class and being asked to hold up my picture of a bale of hay each time the story mentioned hay, I could not answer the simplest of questions.  "Why did [crap... I forgot the stupid bear's name.  Did I mention certain Casdorph's are also known for their short term memories?] get to go on a hay ride?"  No clue.  "When did [bear] go on a hay ride."  I looked at the visual aide and deduced from the night sky complete with harvest moon that the answer must be "at night."  I even vocalized said answer.  Guess what the correct answer was?  "Friday."

5. I blush deeply when I feel the spotlight on me.  After discovering I am the only perennialist in the class, the professor moved on to the elements of perennialism in the classroom.  Her PowerPoint slide read, "Education prepares you for life.  You don't have to find it relevant or interesting."  She paused and then asked the class if they'd heard me say something like that earlier in the evening.  Sure enough, in my portion of our group presentation just before asking the class to sing a drill, I explained that they don't have to like music, but they did have to participate.  She then called attention to the bottom of the slide and pointed out that in a perennialist view, the teacher's role is to "engage students in discussions that require analysis and evaluation of ideas."  She then pointed out that the activity portion of our group project (designed by me and taken straight from the lesson plan I am teaching to my 4th graders tomorrow) was precisely an analysis of our subject matter (form in music), and that of all the groups, ours was the only one which evaluated the student's learning and gave them instantaneous feedback.  I could not have provided a more textbook example of my education philosophy, and it was honestly a bit uncomfortable.

6. The other education philosophies aren't nearly as dumb as I originally thought.  After listening to my teammate Ben describe how, at the Title 1 schools where he teaches, his philosophy of Behavioral Constructivism is essential, I was able to gain an appreciation for others' points of view.  As he put it, if you can't keep a kid out of a gang, it really doesn't matter how much math he knows.

I have a feeling that this entire masters program will provide plenty of opportunities for introspection and hopefully plenty of nights where I need to unload an over-stimulated mind before bed.  I bet you didn't know you were all going to school with me!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Buried Treasure

Perhaps this post is best started with the announcement that the revolving doors of the Fife household have once again accepted house guests.  This time around, we're landlords, with paying renters making use of our extra bedroom and sharing the guest bathroom.  Lee and Mariah, thus far, are no trouble at all to have around, and we anticipate no trouble in the future.

A side effect of moving aside to share with others is an increased need to evaluate and re-vamp the storage areas of the house.  Closets, garage, living room ottomans, all needed a big makeover.  It was one of those it-gets-worse-before-it-gets-better projects, and for about two days, my house looked like Hurricane Katrina had come through.

But the game room closet now appropriately houses sewing and craft supplies, the downstairs shelves have been reorganized so that I can easily see which clothes will next fit Adam, Alex, or Dylan.  There's a specific box for Easter stuff, the guest bathroom stuff is tucked away, and the shelves are moved the 18" to the left that Kirk has wanted to do for years.  My music is now upstairs in the living room storage ottomans, within a few steps from the piano as it should be.  The dust is settling, and I feel inner peace of knowing there's a place for everything (though I rarely take that statement to the next step; just knowing there's a place is good enough for me).

The best part of the journey was that, though I am not a "keeper of stuff," I found several buried treasures through my journey.

From the ottomans (and I have no idea how it got there):


A letter from my mom - I am certain one of those Trek-inspired letters, but a great letter nonetheless.  My favorite excerpts:

"Your countless hours of practice on the piano have really paid off.  Do you remember when you first began I used to tell you that you needed to learn to play well enough to be of service to the church?  Well we could not begin to count the hours of service that you've already given, and I'm sure that you will continue to serve the Lord with your music for the rest of your life."

"I'm glad that you've always been a happy and busy daughter of God.  Continue to participate in everything and to encourage those around you, and the Lord will continue to bless you for your efforts."

From a back corner of the game room closet:


Kirk's notes in his planner outlining how to get to my house to pick me up for our first date.  Be sure to read the long house story to understand the significance.



A birthday card from my then-friend now-brother-in-law Brett Larsen, sent from his mission for my 20th birthday.  I can't really seem to choose a favorite excerpt, so here goes:

"Dear Andrea,

Well, this card isn't the same as it was in the store, somebody must have switched cards with me while I was paying for it.  The more I read it the stupider it gets, so I'm going to quit reading it and start writing.  Sound good to you.  Good.  Well, you are no longer a teenager.  It sucks huh, I wouldn't know cause I haven't even made it to the teen years mentally yet.  But I've been told it sucks.  Yes I'm in a weird mood.  Why, you ask?  Well, I don't know.  Maybe cause the guy we live with is a little weird, he woke us up at 4:00 in the morning watering the cement right underneath our open bedroom window.  Maybe cause I just saw a drop dead gorgeous girl at the store and I couldn't even flirt with her.  Maybe cause I got a shot in my Butt yesterday and it has hurt to sit down ever since.  (I could give you more details on that, but I'll spare you!!  Ok maybe I'm just plain weird.  Wait a second, this is your birthday card, not mine, on to you.  Well, I haven't seen you in a year, so I don't have a whole lot to really busy you about.  And your married, so I don't want to peeve your husband by making up some story.  And I can't even celebrate your birthday with you cause you happen to be quite far away from me at the time.  So I guess that all I can really do is tell you to Have a Happy Birthday! and I'll be there in spirit.  And another thing I can do is quit rambling to you can you can have your birthday make out session.  No not with me, you're married, that's a sin.  Take care.  Elder Larsen."



Chuck-E-Cheese pictures were Kirk wasn't even in the same picture as me.  That one brings a self-explanatory smile.


Heartfelt Christmas cards from my generally emotionally unavailable sister Michelle, specifically outlining what a great husband I have.

From the Storage Room:
I located my old quadruple combination scriptures and decided that since Adam's reading has vastly improved, it's probably time for him to take real scriptures to church.  Cleaning them out for him, I came across a fun reminder from at least 12 years ago.  Those of you who've known me that long will enjoy it.

No, I'm not a keeper of stuff, but it was fun to find these items hidden among my years of accumulation. I'm glad I kept them if only to rediscover them yesterday, scan them in, blog about them...

and throw them away.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How a Fife Says Thanks

I've blogged before about the reasons why I love being a Casdorph.  But the best thing about getting married is that you get to be a part of an entirely new family, often one different from yours.  In my case, very different.   So it is with a bit of a disclaimer that I post the pictures of why it is so great to be a Fife.  I say now, scroll down at your own risk.

First, though, I'll post a few nice pictures of the family together for Thanksgiving.  Mom Fife made a wonderful meal, and Mark and Rachel's deviled eggs were a bit tangier than usual - just the way I like them. I ate too much jello (thanks Marie) and way too many rolls (par for the course).  While the big boys watched football and the little boys played in the yard, I enjoyed casual conversation and kept my nose in a book.  All in all, it was a perfect holiday.



Aunt Marie and Aunt Heather spoiled Dylan, cuddling him whenever possible, and Aunt "Ri" sang through "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" several times.  I'm grateful to have sisters-in-law whose children are far past the cuddly-needy stage D is in and who enjoy picking up some of my slack.



But the defining moment of the day was catching Heather red-handed with my camera, and then scrolling through to see this:



Thankfully, these are not what they look like.  Touch your shoulder and look at the crease of your elbow.  Go ahead... do it...

Yeah, she convinced her husband, my mother-in-law, and Aunt "Ri" to model their elbow butts for my camera.

Nice.

And that is how a Fife says thanks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Little Corner of Geek

I'd like to think everybody has that thing they get all geeked up about.  Star Wars, Twilight, Harry Potter.  World of Warcraft.  For me, it's a fictional place called Pern.

I was hooked on Pern when, in 6th grade, we read the first book in a trilogy, Dragonsong.  The main character, Menolly, was the daughter of a craftsman in the Fishcrafthall.  Her true passion and talent, however, was for music.  When she sliced her hand gutting fish, her mother - an expert healer - purposely stitched it up incorrectly to prevent Menolly from becoming a harper (musician).

Menolly lives on a planet called Pern, where the biggest threat to life comes in the form of Thread, which falls from the sky like rain and kills any living thing it touches.  The only thing which can kill Thread is flame, and the most effective warriors against it are dragons.  Each dragon has a rider on whom they've impressed, or bonded telepathically.  The political structure of the Weyrs (groups of dragons and their riders) is as ornate as it is interesting, as is the manner in which the Weyrs fit into the overall structure of Pern.

Each citizen of Pern belongs either to a Weyr, to a Hold, or to a Crafthall.  Each Hold (somewhat like a city) has its own Lord, or governing official.  The Holds pay a tithe to the Weyrs for protection from Thread.  The Crafthalls train professionals in areas such as harpers, fishers, farmers, miners, and printers.  These craftsmen are then assigned to various Holds to carry out the duties which they've learned.  The Hold supports the craftsmen in their area.

There are over 25 books set on Pern in various periods of the planet's history.  I've read them all, many more than once.  Even now as I think of it, I am a bit mentally lost on Pern.  I remember characters like Moretta who risked her life to go back in time to bring forward several Weyrs to save Pern when Thread unexpectedly returns.  That I remember any detail at all is a testament to how much I love these books.  Ask me the name of the characters of the book I finished earlier this week, and I likely can't tell you.

So why am I getting my geek on today?  Anne McCaffrey, my favorite author of all time and creator of Pern, passed away at the age of 85.  It's just kind of weird.  I never really thought of her as a person before.  Just a name to spout in answer to the frequently asked question.

In tribute, I am going to read a book of hers that I've not yet read, The Ship Who Sang.  It isn't a Pern book, so I've not yet come across it.  But I owe to Anne McCaffrey my early love of science fiction and fantasy, and I want to do something to honor her legacy.

Thank you, Anne McCaffrey, for creating my little corner of geek.

**Update**
Such a geek am I that I'm worried those of you not familiar with Pern will think the things on the cover of Dragonsong with Menolly are dragons.  They aren't.  They're firelizzards.  Just sayin'.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Tale of Three Cities

Over the last two weekends, I have seen no less than 5 musicals.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the Empress Theatre's Forever Plaid and a stake production of Joseph..., it was the three high school musicals to which I was looking most forward.  Never having been to a production at any of these schools, I had no idea what to expect - which was half the fun!  I was surprised in mostly good ways by three productions at three schools in three different cities.

Bye Bye Birdie
School: Cottonwood High School
Who I Know: Adam Wilkins, Director
My Date: Some cute guy I met named Kirk

The Good:
Cottonwood used a very talented, quite large, live orchestra.  The live overture, played from an actual orchestra pit, added that extra something that just puts you in the mood for a great show.  Kirk said he'd never seen people clap for the overture; I commented that maybe he's never seen them deserve it.

The set incorporated stairs and platforms to give great places for its 80+ cast.  The varying levels added texture to both the blocking and choreography, especially in large group numbers.

Areas for Improvement:
Sadly, the choreography was largely non-existent.  Even Kirk picked up on it, jokingly impersonating the choreographer, "Ok... we're going to bounce.  And then... we're going to bounce this way."  Bye Bye Birdie, like most musicals, relies on production numbers to keep the audience awake.  This one didn't succeed.

I was also somewhat unimpressed by the vocal direction.  Harmonies, when present, were frequently out of tune.  Many of the leads seem to have been cast in parts outside their vocal range.  Surprisingly, despite their large cast, chorus numbers were very difficult to hear.

The sound system did nothing to add to the show; many microphones sounded like they were in a tunnel, and several others worked only intermittently.

Summary:
I enjoyed many of the characters portrayed on stage, and Conrad Birdie had a very nice voice.  Overall, however, there was little I could grab onto and just love.  I left feeling like the show did not reach its potential.

West Side Story
School: Granger High School
Who I Know: Luke Johnson (Student Director), JJ Freeman, Cameron Sellers, Gum Marco, Denton Gno, Jamie Munson, Jeremy Gidney
My Date: Tess Fife (mother-in-law who happens to work at Granger)

The Good:
The choreography for West Side Story was imaginative and told the story well.  The movement was consistent with the mood and style of each piece, although there were many instances where I wished a bit more time had been spent in making the moves precise.

I loved the way Granger used lighting to influence the mood.  I found out after the fact that my friend Cameron actually designed the lighting.  The set, comprised of many large turning flats, worked well, and the scene changes were completed efficiently.

Areas for Improvement:
Granger's sound system was not much better than Cottonwood's, with mics frequently not working.  I recognize there is little the schools can do to fix this, but it still brings down the overall quality of the show.

The girl playing Maria did not quite have the upper range for the role, and her high notes frequently came across as shrill and piercing.

Summary:
What Granger did best was to capture the mood of a hard-to-tell story.  Although there were technical things I would have changed, the cast helped me to feel this story.  I was very impressed by the girl who played Anita, and I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of the male leads.  All in all, this was a very good production.

Guys and Dolls
School: Cyprus High School
Who I Know: Roy Nichols III, Evan Brown, Tane' Glaus, Dustin Hamp, Warren Tharp, Caleb Aston, Perry Whitehair, Arvid Bryce Johnson, Aleea Brunson
My Date(s): Arlee Heslop, Skyler Bluemel-Fife, Adam Fife (for the first act)

The Good:
Harmonies that were in tune.  Microphones that worked.  A chorus that I could hear.  Clean, creative choreography.  Leads cast in appropriate vocal ranges (mostly).  Perfect costumes.  Amazing set/set changes.  Impressive detail in the characterization.  You name it, I pretty much loved it.

Adelaide was amazing.  The two guys who play Nathan Detroit's buddies were AMAZING.  The actors had been trained to hold the end pose of their song while the audience clapped.  And - let me tell you - the audience clapped.  I swear "Luck be a Lady" almost got a standing ovation.  I'd have stood if someone else did.

Areas for Improvement:
I still didn't love the leading lady here.  Across all three schools, the range of the ingenue seemed to be just beyond the range of the girl cast to play her.

Although I loved Roy Nichols III in the role of Sky Masterson, sometimes I wished he didn't lay on the character voice so thick.  In the moments where Sky's honesty should have shown through, the character voice (especially in his singing), made me feel a bit detached from the emotion.  I do wonder, though, if I'd have picked up on that if I didn't know Roy.

Summary:
Guys and Dolls was a great, high-energy end to my High School Musical weekend.  Even though the show was nearly 3 hours long, I never felt the energy lag.  I really couldn't have asked for more from this great production.

I am sad I missed Alta's Crazy for You, where I could have supported a few other friends and seen Susan DeMill's choreography.  I'm thinking that with my involvement with youth in the area, this pre-Thanksgiving musical tour may become a bit of a tradition for me.  Thanks to the great shows I saw, I am already looking forward to next year.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Follow by Email

Okay, this post is going to sound super egotistical.  Oh well.

For the last quite a while, I've had Facebook set to import my blogs as notes.  Many of you have been reading and commenting that way, and I've really enjoyed reaching an audience outside the actual blogosphere.  Sadly, that feature is going away tomorrow.  Although I write my blog for me, both as a family history and as a method of relaxation, it kind of makes my day when you guys read it.

So, if you got here from a Facebook note, do me a favor and click on the link to see the original post.  I've added a new feature to my actual blog, "Subscribe by email."  If you don't want to have to actually visit my blog, but you still want to read my stories, that's a pretty good way of doing it.  You'll get the full text of the blog plus pictures sent straight to your inbox, no extra clicking involved.

If you want to make sure you don't miss any of my craziness (falling into ice cream), the kids' antics and updates, my occasional rants, and my obnoxious opinions, head over there and subscribe.

Yep.  Egotistical.  Oh well.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Process

"I put my pants on just like everyone else... one leg at a time."

Eating a bowl of cereal isn't like eating an Oreo or a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.  It's one of those things that most people just do the same way.  Put cereal and milk in the bowl.  Eat it.  Period.

Of course, there are exceptions.  When eating Marshmallow Mateys (seriously... who actually buys Lucky Charms?) many of us probably save the marshmallows for last.  As kids, my sisters and I used to try to guess the number of pieces in a bowl of Honey Buzzers (HoneyComb...) and then count each piece as we ate.  Sure, I'll occasionally eat my Fruity O's by color; who doesn't?

But still, the process is the same.  You just eat the cereal.  Then, if you're a milk drinker, you drink the milk.

Not Dylan.  On a personal mission to challenge anything considered conventional, he developed his own process early on.  He drinks the milk first, then eats the cereal.  On particularly thirsty mornings, he demands that I refill the milk in his bowl, and he'll drink two or three helpings before touching the cereal.  I think it's weird.  I think it is adorable.  I think it is perfect, and I hope he never stops.

What could be more fun than sitting around as a family talking to Dylan's new wife and having her comment on how weird it is that he drinks the milk first?

But I imagine he'll outgrow it, and all I will have left is this blog to remind me of his own little process.






Friday, November 18, 2011

Doin' What Comes Naturally

I'm thinking that just like baby boys seem to be born with an innate knowledge that cars say, "Vroom," girls may come to earth already knowing how to draw a heart and put their initial plus the initial of the boy they like.  Or maybe its environmentally perpetuated.  Either way, it apparently starts as early as first grade.



Dear Adam,
Thanks you for being my friend cuz I dont get to play with friends at reses som tims. remember that we hat to do this (picture of lines crossing) with are fengers I want to play with you on tuesday askce awer Moms that maybe that we cood play. Shood we be best friends for ever. If you can play on tuesday at my hows or your hows. we will still have fun still and I howp that you can send a card back I would love it if you send a card back.  to Adam from Brooklyn Love Adam.

Personally, I think Brooklyn has great taste.  My first crush was a similarly brown-haired, green-eyed boy named Ben Gunderson.  Of course, I was in the third grade, not the first, and he and my best friend Becky were boyfriend and girlfriend, so I certainly never wrote him a love note.  I do think I developed a type clear back then, though, since - looking back - many of my crushes followed that dark-haired theme, and I even wound up marrying a brown-haired, green-eyed boy.

I encouraged Adam to send a card back.

"Why?"

"So Brooklyn's feelings don't get hurt.  She worked really hard on this card, and she wants to know if you want to be her best friend.  You should probably at least answer her question.  Do you want to be her best friend?"

"Sure."

Apparently another thing boys do naturally: form one word responses to the outpouring of a girl's heart.

I provided a piece of purple paper and then left the issue alone.  This morning, he said, "Oh, Mom... remember that card I need to write for that girl?  I should either do that today or Monday."  I seized the opportunity and helped him spell his answer while I hovered in this distance, unloading the dishwasher.



Certainly not as wordy as hers, he got straight to the issues.  He'd like to play.  He's grateful for the card. No commitments to "best" friendship or usage of the word "love," but he did include a picture and his phone number.



And so it begins.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Making it Official

I'm back to beating the proverbial dead horse again, but this time with some official information.  After the pediatrician-recommended Speech and Language Pathology Evaluation, Dylan has a diagnosis, and we have a sort of a plan.

The results of the "receptive" part of the assessment rank Dylan at an age equivalent of about 2 years 4 months, actually slightly ahead of his actual 2 years 1 month.  Just shows that, like I always tell people, Dylan can understand everything I say.

But on the "expressive" portion, he ranked in the 1st percentile with an age equivalent of 1 year 0 months.  He's a complete year "behind."

Thankfully, however, there is no cause for concern.  The therapist feels he will talk when he's ready; right now he sees no need for it.  In the meantime (which may be a long time), we've been encouraged to take several specific actions to help him gain confidence:

- Parallel talk: we're supposed to let him direct the play, and we label the crap out of everything he does, constantly repeating nouns and verbs until we've annoyed even ourselves.

- Expansion: we get to mimic every noise he makes, giving him confidence in the sounds he's capable of and encouraging him to try out new ones.

Things we're supposed to avoid:

- Pressuring him to talk: if we ask questions, they should be ones he can answer non-verbally.  We can ask things like, "Where's Dylan's nose?" because he can just point to it and receive affirmation.  I also have to stop trying to get him to repeat me.  For now, we just just repeat him.

- Descriptive words: when we label, we're supposed to stick to simple ideas like "dog."  Once he starts to make a sound that resembles "dog," we can expand to things like, "Yes!  Dog.  Black dog."

After just a few days of sticking to the plan, he's already started to make a lot more noise.  That's all it is right now - noise.  But realizing that he's basically a 1 year old in the expressive communication department will help me to be patient when he can't tell me why he's crying.  The therapist said that he should start to learn new consonants and sounds over the next 4 to 6 months, and that as long as he does that, we have no reasons to worry.

We've trained Adam on the plan, and he took to it immediately.  You can see him in this clip modeling both the parallel talk and the expansion.



I did have to laugh when a new family acquaintance told me, "Yeah, you're little one doesn't talk to me much," assuming Dylan was just being shy around a new face.

"No," I assured him.  "He just doesn't talk at all."

I'm still looking forward to the day when say, "Why did I ever wish he would talk..."


Friday, November 11, 2011

America, Our Home

Apparently I should have gone back and read last year's post from Veterans Day.  Perhaps then I would have better prepared myself to be choking back tears as I attempted to lead my students in their prepared songs.  My traditionally cold-hearted self just can't seem to adjust to the feelings of patriotism, pride, and reverence that a heartfelt performance of a patriotic song can inspire.

It doesn't even seem to matter to me what song.  Looking out at a sea of students singing "The Star Spangled Banner," watching hands on hearts and eyes on the flag, but seeing also that they aren't just going through the motions.  Listening to my first graders sing the horribly-high-for-them rendition of "America the Beautiful," watching the third grade proudly wave flags through "You're a Grand Old Flag," and beaming with pride as the 6th grade delivered the lesser-known "Children of Today."  Add to the emotion the fact that I lost my voice weeks ago and just can't seem to get it back, I definitely mouthed more words today than I sang.

But the part I'm learning to look forward to is hearing the words from the students.  For example:

"Veterans may not have x-ray vision, super strengths, or the ability to fly, but they have what matters.  They possess the values that ensure our country remains free."  Yep.  Chills even as I type it.

"The cost of war can be so extreme that some veterans are unable to tell their own stories."

"Freedom is not free.  Its cost is time, courage, and love."

Of course I am proud to be an American.  But on days like today, I am proud to get to interact with this new and rising generation at a school which values and emphasizes patriotism.

These guys aren't my music students anymore; they are Navigator Pointe Academy's 7th grade choir.  I'm not going to pretend that their notes are perfect; they aren't.  But they stood to sing today, facing a stage full of veterans, and delivered words that I knew they meant.  I couldn't help but be touched.

"America, our home, America, our land,
Our hearts fill with pride as humbly we stand.
We honor our flag, the red, white and blue.
America, there is no greater land, no land like you.

America, our home, oh, you have been blessed.
There's bounty untold.  You've given your best.
A beautiful land where dreams can come true,
America, there is no greater land, no land like you."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ice Cream in my Hair

You know those crime dramas that start zoomed in on a picture of the body and then step backward in time to tell the story?  Well picture this:

I'm lying flat on my back, semi-deliriously doing some combination of laughing and crying, with ice cream smeared across the left side of my neck and through my hair.  My mother is rushing toward me, looking very worried, and asking if I am okay.  And despite the throbbing pain in my left shin and both knees, I got up slowly to start to assess the damage.

No, this is not some flashback of a childhood memory.  This happened last night at approximately 6:55 pm.

40 MINUTES BEFORE THE EVENT

I was sitting at the counter, preparing a few final details for my Dickens Festival rehearsal, when my cell phone rang.  It was Skyler.  "Hey, I've talked myself into going and getting a shake.  So what kind do you want?  I'm at Arctic Circle."  After the rundown on available ice cream flavors and mix-ins, I settled on vanilla ice cream with cookie dough and brownies, and got back to work.

Skyler arrived at my house, shake in hand, ready to carpool to rehearsal.  I gathered my things: binder, ipod, charger, camera - all in the rolling briefcase issued to me by the Dickens Festival, computer and power cord in my laptop backpack - along for the ride tonight because my mom needed to borrow it.

I gathered my coat and keys and headed to the car.  During the 17 minute drive, I enjoyed approximately 3/4 of my shake while discussing the day's events with Skyler.  (Tragedy of the missionaries who were recently killed, whether or not we believe in ghosts, faith verses science and how to balance the two...)  We arrived at the Utah State Fairgrounds 12 minutes before seven and were mutually surprised to see my mom there already.

7 MINUTES BEFORE THE EVENT

"You actually get here on time when you take the right roads," my mom said as she got out of her car.  I walked around to the back of mine and lifted the hatch to see not two bags side by side, but only my laptop case.

"Oh no," I said, followed by an audible sigh.  I walked around to check the interior of the car, knowing I would not see the all-important briefcase.

"What are you missing?" my mom asked.  Skyler replied for me, "Her bag with all the rehearsal stuff..."

"My iPod, my script," I started.

"The key..." Skyler finished.

The key.  Crap.

After a quick discussion, it was decided that my mom would try to find a security person to let us in while I called Kirk to see if he'd rescue me, like usual.  After I hung up the phone, Skyler started to walk toward the back fence.  I remembered we'd had a discussion about how we thought it was probably possible to break in through the back door of the building.  "Genius," I said, as I hurried to catch up.

1 MINUTE BEFORE THE EVENT

"I'm just coming with you to make sure you don't get raped," I joked as we walked from the semi-lit parking lot into the dark area behind the fairground's Pioneer building.

"You know what's kinda not funny about that?" Skyler asked.  "This week on the U campus, there's been a groper.  Yeah, he groped two different women, so there's been alerts going out and all sorts of stuff."

"Crazy!" I replied as we reached the back doors.  One firm tug and the doors came right open.  Relieved that my cast would at least not be stuck outside in the cold, I hurried - shake in hand - to enter the building and open the front doors.

5 SECONDS BEFORE THE EVENT

While the front doors were clearly visible across the room ahead of me, the divisive space was incredibly dark.  I plunged confidently ahead into the darkness:


Had I been able to see, I would have seen this:


A raised metal lip to the door frame.  A large wooden box placed directly in the entryway...

THE EVENT

I went down.  Hard.  And thanks to a combination of shake-in-hand and my personal lack of self-preservation skills, I had no hands to catch myself with.  I fell hard, first onto my knees and then completely forward practically onto my face.  And then I realized I was no longer holding my shake.  My assumption is that I fell on it, causing the 1/4 which was left to spray out in a forward trajectory.  My hair, worn down and curly, interrupted its trajectory and absorbed a respectable amount of ice cream.  I lay face down on the floor, trying to collect myself, while Skyler laughed at me.  Out loud.

POST-EVENT

"Are you okay," he finally asked, through his chuckles.

"I don't really know," I laughed/cried.  "It hurts really bad.  Can you try to turn on the lights?"

As he headed toward the breaker box, my phone rang.  It was Kirk, calling to clarify my request for him to bring my bag.  I answered with a laugh/cry, and his tone instantly changed.  "Honey, are you okay?  What happened?"  Still face down on the ground, I explained I was fine and had just fallen.  He said from my tone he had thought something was seriously wrong.  We wrapped up our conversation, and then my mom called.

"Skyler and I broke in," I laugh-cried.

"I saw that," she responded.  "Are you going to come open the front doors?"

"Well, I kind of fell," I continued.  "And it hurts really bad."

I rolled over onto my back and started to assess the damage - ice cream first.  Skyler went to get me some paper towels to try to get the mess out of my hair and then went to open the doors.

Apparently my tone had really worried my mom, too, because when Skyler opened the front doors, my mom hurried to my side with that efficiently worried style moms have when their children are in need.  The edge of my pain had finally subsided enough that I felt ready to stand up.  Plus my mom looked way more worried than was necessary; I figured I'd better ease her tension.

I stood and pulled up a pant-leg.  Nasty goose egg and abrasions on my left shin just at ankle level?  Check.  Knees tender to the touch but not showing any signs of bruising - yet?  Check.  Ice cream smeared across my cheek and neck?  Check.  Cast members who'd seen the last few moments (starting with the ice cream evaluation)?  Check.

A great story to tell to next year's cast?

Check.

But do I have a picture to immortalize on the blog?  Nope.  My camera was in the missing bag.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pathological Liar


On Sunday as Alex passed the Primary President and was not able to put a penny in the jar for bringing his scriptures, he informed her, "My scriptures were stolen."

As has become customary for the adults in primary, she glanced up at me for verification.  I shook my head no.

Adam's turn came, and he also had to pass by without putting in a penny.  The president asked, "Oh, were your scriptures stolen, too?"  I spoke up, and as the only people left in the room were the teachers and presidency, I explained, "No.  I only have one pathological liar."

Everyone laughed, knowing I was exaggerating a bit.  Alex's babysitter chimed in with, "He's not a liar.  He just has such a huge imagination."  And it is so true.

There was the day when he explained to Kirk that he had not stolen a piece of chocolate cake and eaten it in his bedroom.  What appeared to be chocolate crumbs was - in fact - "brown sugar bugs" which had infested his bedroom.

The time two summers ago when we stopped by for a visit at Grandma's school, and when the time came to leave, we couldn't find his shoes anywhere.  According to him, they'd been taken up in a rocket.

Sure, a lot of kids tell stories.  They do it to avoid getting in trouble.  They imagine during play.  But the difference with Alex is that his imagination is so vivid, I think he actually believes the stories he tells.

This morning he found a toy frog in the hall.  "Mom," he said, "I wished for two things.  A skateboard and a frog."  And he's convinced those wishes came true, because someone left a skateboard in our garage, and he found a frog this morning.  The thing is, though, I know he found the things first, invented the story about the wish, and now completely believes that if he wishes for something it will come true.

In my recent scripture study, I came across Alma 18:22.  "And he knows all the thoughts and intents of the heart; for by his hand were they all created from the beginning."

I find the conjunctions and pronouns in this verse very interesting, because they leave the idea up to interpretation.  Does our Heavenly Father know the intents of our heart because He created us?  Does our Heavenly Father know the intents of our heart because He created the thoughts and intents?  Or are the statements not as linked as that would suggest.  Perhaps the conjunction "for" was intended more as a fancy "and."  A statement that Heavenly Father knows our thoughts followed by a statement that He created us?

I'm curious because, as a parent, I feel like I have special insight into the thoughts and intents of my children's hearts because I created my children.  They are a part of me, so I get them in a way I think no one else can.  I kind of like the idea that the reason Heavenly Father knows the thoughts and intents of my heart is because He created me; He gets me in a way no one else can.

While Alex may at times seem like a pathological liar, ready to create a story that ensures his removal from any trouble, I know it stems from his ability to create a world and believe it is real.  I believe our loving Heavenly Father can see similarly redeeming qualities in the choices we make.  I believe this ability comes not because He is God, but because He is the Father.

And because I'm the mother of a bundle of imagination, I'm probably in for years of sorting out the intents of his heart.

***UPDATE***

As I clicked the button to publish and shut down the page to help Alex look for the projector remote, Alex and I had the following conversation.

X: Maybe Daddy took it.
M: Daddy didn't take it.  I used it this morning after he left.
X: Then it was a ghost.  Ghost-es are real.  And I heard a sound like it was a ghost.  So a ghost must have come down and took it.
(Pause as we continued to look for the remote.)
X: (Muttering to himself throughout the basement) Totally, totally real.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Self-Motivated... Sorta


Long before we even got married, Kirk and I talked about piano lessons.  I'm sure it was tucked somewhere into a discussion about whether or not we would force our children to do something they didn't like.  The result was a list of things we'd certainly encourage (football, performing) and one item we'd force: piano.

I also knew all along that I would not be playing the role of piano teacher in this journey.  My mom taught me for a brief period of time before our constant battle resulted in me taking lessons from my Aunt Dawna.  Even that wasn't enough separation for me, however.  Aunt Dawna was an excellent teacher.  She expected me to practice and got after me when I didn't, and sadly, that hurt the familial relationship I may otherwise have had with her.  I mean, who wants to see their piano teacher at family parties?

My personal rule is that piano lessons start after the child is able to read.  With Adam's leaps-and-bounds progress on that front in school this year, I knew it was time to find a teacher.  But apprehension about the practicing fight coupled with indecision as to who to hire as a teacher helped me drag my feet.

It was actually Kirk's frequent suggestions, "Don't you think it's time to get Adam started on piano?" or "We really need to find Adam a piano teacher," which motivated me to get my act together.  Alex's preschool teacher also teaches piano, and since I've been thrilled with her teaching style for preschool, it seemed she'd be a good fit.  We had to wait a couple weeks for an opening, but he's officially been a piano student for 3 weeks.

I attended the first lesson so I could get a feel for her style.  Having been a piano teacher myself, I didn't want to push my way on him at home; I would rather support her way.  I was impressed.  For one, she really loves teaching piano.  (Insert image of me shaking my head here, because that's a concept I just can't quite grasp.)  Her rewards system, while a bit complicated, rewards practicing and allows the students both instant and delayed gratification through the issuing of tickets which can be saved up and exchanged for prizes.

I thought adding piano lessons into the mix would be a big headache and a constant battle.  Not so.  On weekdays, he simply practices the moment he walks through the door.  On weekends, he'd probably have yet to practice because I can't seem to remember it's a part of the new routine.  But a great phenomenon has happened.  Adam is self-motivated to practice (sorta... I assume the tickets affect that motivation), and he'll suddenly realize, "Oh, Mom... I need to practice the piano."



We're changing lessons from Thursdays to Tuesdays this week, meaning he had two fewer opportunities to practice this week.  Before school this morning, he quickly ate his breakfast and packed his bag so he'd have extra time to practice.  He seems to look forward to the lessons, remembering to pack his piano folder in his school bag so I can drop him off on the way home.  He has his flashcards down, and while his hand placement and timing leave something to be desired, he's only three weeks in.

I love hearing him say, "Oh, Mom... this is my favorite song."  I'm adjusting to not being able to leave my own piano music out on the stand all the time, and I love that my piano gets played at least once every day.  I'm still anticipating a fight down the road, but for now I'm grateful to see this in my home:


Sunday, November 6, 2011

3 Little Dalmatians

"Fifteen! Fifteen puppies! How marvellous! How marvellous, how perfectly… Ugh! The devil take it! They’re mongrels… no spots! No spots at all!  What a horrid little white rat.  Ugh!"  -- Cruella DeVille


Like dalmatians, it takes my kids a while to get their spots.  Kirk noticed that Dylan has finally gotten his first freckles, and I figured it would be fun to note the freckle progression.  So here it is: a close up of three little noses, slightly freckled, moderately freckled, and densely freckled, each boy on his way to full-fledged Dalmatian!


Dylan

Alex

Adam

Friday, November 4, 2011

Twinkle

It seems that for every word D doesn't say, I'm more than willing to fill in the silence.  Sorry if it seems like I'm beating a dead horse here, but it's just kind of the big thing in our lives right now.  We get reports from his sitters about what words he tried out that day (apparently he says "woof" and "weeeeee"), and even Adam and Alex are constantly trying to get him to say stuff.

So when we were at Walmart the other day, and I heard a faint, "Gwee-ko, gwee-ko" come from the shopping cart, I was more than a little shocked.  Sure enough, Dylan was trying to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

I'd have preferred a more useful word.  Maybe like "more," or "drink," or even "no."  But if "twinkle" is the word he wants to say, I'll take it.  If singing is the only way to get him to talk, he's come to the right house.  And, I have to admit, his little voice is absolutely adorable.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Back in the Day

When I was asked to answer several questions about myself as a Junior High student (for a teacher spotlight board at the school), I was understandably reluctant.  Junior High was not a great time for me, and the questions seemed to highlight my weaknesses.  I considered prettying up the answers, but then decided that an accurate representation of one who struggled through that time might be just what the students would like to read.  So I answered honestly.

I knew I'd made the right decision when my boss thanked me for my spotlight paper and said she thought many of the students would appreciate hearing my answers.

I got my paper back today and decided to share that same honesty here so that someday perhaps my own struggling Junior High kids might see that it wasn't all roses for Mom, either.

So here it is, an expose' of Andrea, the Junior High version.

1.  I enjoyed reading, and my favorite genre was fantasy.  Anne McCaffrey was my favorite author then, and she is still my favorite now.

2.  I disliked "busy work."  I struggled to complete assignments when I did not see a clear purpose.

3.  It is hard to say what my teachers thought of me.  I attended three different schools for Junior High, and the different teachers at each school probably thought different things.  The teachers I liked probably thought I was hard-working and smart.  The ones I didn't like probably thought I talked a lot.

4.  My favorite subjects were math and choir.  Although I have always loved reading, literature, and English, I did not really enjoy these classes in Junior High.

5.  My grades were good, but they were not as high as they could have been if I had worked hard to do my very best work.

6.  My best friend varied year to year as I changed schools, but the best friend I made in 9th grade was my best friend all through High School.  The rest of my friends were people who had similar interests and values.  I met them either through school or through my church activities.

7.  I struggled a bit with honesty.  I wanted everyone to think I was smart and talented, but I didn't always work hard enough to be as good as I wanted to be.  I learned some difficult lessons during Junior High about being honest with myself, my parents, and my friends.

8.  My parents thought I was capable of anything I put my mind to, and I think they were frequently frustrated when I chose not to do my best work.

9.  My dream was to become a writer.  I even rode across the country on a bus to get to a summer Journalism camp.  Although my dreams changed, I still enjoy writing and do it as much as I can.