Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Some People Don't Like Me

I have been through a painful process over the last few years of realizing:

Some people don't like me.

I try to be friendly and cheerful all the time.  The consequence has been that throughout my life, most of the people that I have enjoyed being around have also liked me.  This has given me a somewhat delusional sense that all people like me.

But I have had plenty of opportunities, especially since entering my 30's, to realize that some people don't like me.

I have mostly realized this because they have told me so.  Point blank.  To my face.  Specifically informed me of the reasons why they don't like me.

Interestingly, the reasons some people tend not to like me have turned out to be some of the very same reasons why I like myself.

And that has been hard to handle.

I won't go into specifics, partly because three of the people who have had the courage to explain face to face why they don't like me are still friends of mine on Facebook and two others (who only explained why they sometimes don't like me) are related to me.  Also, I won't go into specifics because that isn't the point of this post.

Not only have I realized that some people don't like me, I have realized that some people won't like me.

I met a new person who doesn't like me this last week.  He also had the courage to tell me to my face exactly what he didn't like.  However, unlike the others who expressed themselves privately and whom I respect and continue to consider friends (despite their not always liking me), this person told me in front of my Dickens bosses, my cast, my sons, and his camera crew.  And as shockingly uncomfortable as the ensuing minutes were, I also got to realize something else.

Some people do like me.

Some people like me for ALL the exact reasons why a few people don't like me.

A recent Facebook quiz got it dead on:

Big Buddha, I am really sorry I cut you off.  I didn't mean to be rude; I was just looking for the efficient solution to the quandary in which we found ourselves.  Yes, I guess I do often respond quickly.  Yes, I speak very directly.  Yes, your pointing this out in front of everyone bothered me a whole lot more than I let on.

Some people don't like me.  It saddens me to see this list grow.  I'll do what I can to take your destructive criticism and make positive changes to how I interact, especially with strangers.  

But I like me.  So I won't change much.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Night After Dickens

I get asked in nearly every radio and television interview, "You've been with the Dickens Festival for a long time now.  What makes you stay year after year?"

My answer for me is easy: family.

And yeah, I'm definitely talking about this one:

Gen 1: Mom and Dad; Gen 2: Michelle, Andrea, Jack; Gen 3: Alex, Dylan, Adam

But I am also talking about this one.

Some of them came to Dickens because they were my students. Some were already practically family. Some followed me over from other theater projects. Some joined their own family after watching the fun. Others truly just showed up the auditions hoping for a positive experience. But no matter where they came from, each of them ended up in the same place.  A Dickens family.

Which made the decision to trade this 44 person family for the 5 person one that lives within my same walls particularly difficult.  But last night I resigned, in my own quirky style, via poem.

The Night After Dickens
by Andrea K. Fife

‘Twas the night after Dickens and all through the streets
All the vendors were boxing their wares and their treats
And the boxes were wheeled through a room now so bare
It was hard to believe London had ever been there.
The orphans were headed straight home to their beds
With leftover soot still anointing their heads.
And having checked in every apron and cap,
I started to dream of my own winter’s nap.
I thought of five nights in consecutive years
When saying goodbye had brought nary a tear.
No “farewell,” no “so long”, no “pip cheerio”
For in only nine months, I’d be ready to go!
I would hold the auditions; I’d see my old friends.
I’d teach that old shuffle-step combo again.
But this year was different, I’d already decided
To leave this dear project o’er which I’d presided.
These five years were perfect, each one a delight,
But five years is five years.  Six wouldn’t seem right.
And so then I’d stay on for years seven and eight,
I’d get clear to ten without taking a break.
I’d be worn out and busy at Christmas each year,
And though I would certainly hold memories dear,
I’d miss out on football, I’d miss school productions,
I’d miss family parties, I’d miss my church functions.
I’d miss… well, I’d miss a lot more than I honestly know.
I have to step back and just watch my kids grow.
And so with great fondness for each of you now,
I take my own quiet last Dickens’ year bow.
Thank you for making this last year just right.
Happy Christmas to all!  And to all a good night.

I cried when I read the poem aloud to Kirk.  Alex cried when he asked me to read it to him.  It's an emotional departure for us all.  Which is why an incredible gift, orchestrated by my mom and given by the cast, means so much to me.

Some women have their fine china.  A prized possession they hope to someday pass on to posterity.  I don't have china, or quilts, or a cedar chest, but now I have a hand-painted porcelain nativity set purchased at the Dickens Festival by my very last cast.  I have wanted a nice nativity set since marrying 13 years ago, and this one is perfect.  The picture doesn't do justice to the reverence of the animals - one of my favorite features.  It doesn't highlight the tiny details - the lantern, the pottery, the baskets.  It doesn't capture the tears I shed when I realized what a gigantic gesture this family of mine had made for me.

I look forward to a lifetime of carefully unwrapping each delicate piece and placing it near the handcrafted stable.  Of picking up one particular Wise Man to see the insignia, "Dickens 2014."  Of remembering the people who were a part of not only my life, but the lives of my children.  Me from 29 to 33, Adam from 5 to 9, Alex from 3 to 7, and now Dylan at 5 - we have lived Dickens.  And I know our lives will forever be better for it.

Thank you not only to the cast of 2014, but to 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010 as well.

In fact,

"Thank you very much."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

This Week's Plate

Disclaimer: This post is intended neither as a complaint nor as a pat on my own back.  Please take it simply as statements of fact and accompanying reflections.

I've started a few different posts this year in which I intended to express some honesty over the struggles I've had the last few months, but I had a hard time putting it out there without sounding ungrateful.  My life is awesome.  I have an incredible husband, intelligent kids, a beautiful new house, a great job, plenty of friends, hobbies I enjoy... it seems completely unfair that I mention that some days I can barely convince myself to get out of bed.

But yesterday, my friend Amy re-posted a great article that helped me consider my exhaustion from a slightly different perspective.  Go ahead and read it here if you're interested.

Interestingly, I really don't find myself comparing my plate to that of others.  I have always firmly held to the following beliefs:

  • Everybody gets to pick their own priorities
  • It's totally okay to have different priorities than mine
So when somebody says, "I don't have time to sing in the Ward Choir," I promise I really don't think, "You don't have time? What are you doing with your 24 hours."  Because I know that I really do get to chose to put the things that are on my plate on my plate.  And I generally like having them there!

No, my problem over the last 10 weeks or so has been comparing my plate to my previous plates.  3 years ago, I performed in 3 shows, directed 2, and was completing my Masters degree.  And I felt vivaciously full of energy and like I could conquer the world.  I pulled all-nighters to get it all done.  I bounced right back and did it again!  I hiked.  I read.  I worked.  I blogged (a whole lot more than I do now).  

Now, I do the things I committed to.  Mostly.  I feel like I am getting things done, but not particularly well or in a particularly timely way.  I procrastinate terribly.  I do very little I feel I can be truly proud of, and there are piles of things that just don't get done.  Literally.  Piles.

My bedroom floor

What's wrong with my plate?

The other times I've tried to write this post, I didn't dare.  Every single thing on my plate is a good thing.  A thing that makes me happy.  A thing I want to do.

But I probably wouldn't sit down and eat everything on the dessert plate all at once.  [I say probably because I actually might.  But that would ruin the metaphor.]  I purposefully created the graphic to include things I love.  Things I have a really difficult time turning down.  But if I ate every single one of those, even over the course of a week (that's 2 desserts per day, folks), I would feel physically weighed down.  I'd probably get diabetes.  The doctor would probably tell me I could never eat frosting straight out of the can again.  And where would I be then?

I still don't know what's wrong with my plate.  Why it seems to have suddenly shrunk and refuses to hold all the desserts it once held.  But I don't want whatever the stress-level disease is equivalent to diabetes, that's for sure.  

To be honest, I'd rather fix the plate.  

But since that doesn't seem to be working, I may have to pass up a few desserts.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Default Parent Theory vs the Project Manager Approach

I read a pretty interesting blog yesterday.  To fully understand the direction of this post, you should probably read it too, here.  And then wander back to this blog to hear my take.

After reading this aloud to Kirk (omitting some of the words I don't like to say out loud), we agreed this "default parent" thing sounds exhausting!  We're grateful to have our own approach that, so far, works pretty well for us.  In the 22 hours since discussing our theory, the language has crept into our daily vernacular as we point out the parts of our kids lives over which we have become the "project manager."

Case in point.  Wednesday was Adam's first Pinewood Derby.  And, 6 days later, his big 4th grade castle project is due.  If we lived in a "default parent" household, one of us would be burned out and exhausted tonight.  Instead, Kirk acted as Project Manager of the derby:

And I headed up the castle project:

What does it mean to be the project manager?  The project manager is chiefly responsible for being aware of deadlines and requirements and should handle any logistics outside the reasonable scope of responsibility shouldered by the project-bearing child.  Trips to the store.  Power tools.  Brainstorming.  Re-focusing.  Motivation.  Scheduling.  Each of these duties fall to the Project Manager.

This is not to say the other parent is absolved of responsibility.  The Project Manager can delegate any portion of the project to the other parent who, as the other parent, is still required to be at least vaguely aware of deadlines and willing to help as needed.  I texted Michelle to arrange for red paint for the derby car's tail lights.  Kirk drilled the holes in the drawbridge.  I'm proud to say the Fife family acts as a team.

But as we discussed the internal workings of our household, we found that this Project Manager concept doesn't just apply to... well, projects.  We have each, over the years, stepped up and become Project Manager over the many tasks required of involved parents.

Kirk is Project Manager over daily homework assignments.
I am Project Manager over large school projects.
Kirk is Project Manager over administering medicine to sick children.
I am Project Manager of dentist appointments, well-child visits, and vaccinations.
Kirk is Project Manager of sports sign ups, practices, and fundraisers.
I am Project Manager of audition preparation, lessons, and rehearsals.
Kirk is Project Manager of making dinner.
I am Project Manager of meal planning.
Kirk is Project Manager of laundry.
I am Project Manager of new clothing purchases and meeting school uniform requirements.
Kirk is Project Manager of dinner.
I am Project Manager of breakfast.
Kirk is Project Manager of car maintenance.
I am Project Manager of home organization.
Kirk is Project Manager of throw-up and potty accidents relating to children or pets.
I am gratefully not involved in any way.  :)
Kirk is Project Manager of electronics, subscriptions, and utilities.
I am Project Manager of family pictures, traditions, and holidays.
Kirk is Project Manager of lost items.
I am Project Manager of keeping Kirk busy finding lost items.  ;)
Kirk is Project Manager of buying birthday party presents.
I am Project Manager of Christmas presents.

In our house, there is no "default parent."  Our kids generally go to whichever parent happens to be available for the solution to their dilemma, unless their question is specifically related to a clearly defined Project Manager.  For example, the kids would not ask Kirk a question about practicing the piano, and they mostly know better than to ask me questions about their video games.  We laughed when we read the part of the "default parent" blog that mentioned the calendar.  We both share a Google calendar that includes not only the details of our individual schedules, but also the daily obligations of each child.  At any given moment, we are equally aware of the schedules and commitments of our kids, and on any given day we are equally involved in pulling off the intricate plans required to get each kid where he belongs.

It can still be exhausting, for sure, but after contemplating what it would be like to be primarily responsible for everything on the list, I am grateful that the "Project Manager" approach works for us.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Helping Verb is a Very Fine Man

If you've ever been privileged enough to have Mrs. Casdorph as a teacher, you will easily finish out the rest of one of many grammar chants ingrained so permanently in your memory that they might as well be stamped upon your very soul.

A helping verb is a very fine man;
He gives a verb a helping hand.
Like: am, is, are, was, were,
Be and been,
Have, has, had,
Do, did, does,
May, might, must,
Can, could,
Shall, should,
Will, would.

You might also recall that the first 7 on the list can also appear as linking verbs and the subsequent six, when appearing as the main verb in the sentence, may be action verbs.

And if you haven't ever been a student of Mrs. Casdorph, you will either find yourself relating to this line of thinking or you will write me off as totally crazy.  Fair enough.

The chant is honestly of little importance to the story except as a fun anecdote to introduce the topic of helping verbs in order to tell this story:

Monday morning as we were doing our daily scripture study, Adam questioned the accuracy of the following phrase found in Alma 53:11, "...had it not been for the pity and exceeding love which Ammon and his brethren had had for them."

"Had had?" he questioned.  "Mom, why does it say had twice?"

"Because the first one is a helping verb and the second is an action verb."  I was grateful to share this vocabulary in common with my sons so the fairly complex question could be answered in relatively few words.

And then I remembered this, which I had meant to post as soon as it aired.

And then I started to chant... "A helping verb is a very fine man..."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Three Unrelated Stories

Three Unrelated Stories

about three very related boys


On a Tuesday night in September, I drove Alex to meet Kirk and the other boys at Arctic Circle to make good on our promise to reward captured flags with ice cream.  But that's another, even less related story.  The important detail to note here is that Alex and I got some rare one-on-one time during which he laid out the difficult conundrum with which he currently struggled.  Did he want to become a rock star like Austin or a composer like Ally?  I got all excited to know he had either of these musical aspirations and launched into a full-blown monologue about how he didn't have to choose.  How some people are lucky enough to get to write their songs AND sing them.  Taylor Swift.  Garth Brooks.  And at the restaurant, I showed him YouTube videos of how cool it can be to sing your own songs.

Fast forward 16 hours to the following Wednesday afternoon at school.  The students all filed in to the multi-purpose room for the super-duper-top-secret assembly, the subject of which even the teachers weren't apprised.  Imagine my surprise when there, right before my son, is a man who is famous both for writing and singing his own music.  There, on stage, was Michael McLean.

He opened at the piano:

Do you think that it's possible for strangers like us could be friends
In just a moment or two...

For an hour, he was part musician, part comedian, part motivational speaker, part life coach.

And 100% cool.  The kids loved him.  The teachers loved him.  And I hoped Alex heard every word of the message Mr. McLean had come to share: don't let anybody blow out the candle of your dreams.

And then it happened.  I had walked to the front of the room to put away the sound equipment when I saw it out of the corner of my eye.  Alex, my would be composer, speaking one on one with his new idol.  Michael McLean down on my son's level telling him he could do it.  Not 24 hours after he disclosed his dream to me, Alex seeing someone who had overcome significant odds to make it happen.


My third son has a different dream.  A dream that perhaps his mother might possibly decorate for Halloween.  I never have before, but this year I promised my kids they could throw an awesome Halloween party, which means I have to decorate.

Dylan has developed a new frustration recently; basically he is frustrated with me all the time.  For not knowing what's for lunch.  For not knowing when we will go to the store.  For not committing to a date to decorate.  He asks these incessant questions, and I respond, "I don't know."  To which he huffs, rolls his eyes, and explains yet again, "You can just choose.  You just choose when to decorate."

Well, I finally chose today.  And despite some minor hiccups (like not having any of the supplies on hand), we managed to at least make the monster door he'd chosen from Pinterest.  He insisted it had to be a scary door, and apparently this design fit the bill.

I was beyond frustrated when he wouldn't budge on a single detail.  No, the eyes couldn't be yellow.  No, they couldn't be light orange.  Thankfully, I finally found one sheet of orange paper that met his meticulous eye.

And it was all worth it when he proclaimed the door a success and demanded that I take a picture.  I'm just hoping I haven't set a precedent I'm unwilling to keep up.


Speaking of pictures, I had to snap a quick one of Adam's "Saying and Phrase" assignment this week.  After studying the idiom "birds of a feather," he had to complete a Venn diagram listing the similarities and differences of two people.  No surprise, he chose Aiden B.

We have been hearing about Aiden B. for years.  Aiden B. and Adam have been best friends since 2nd grade, but since we don't live in the same city as the school, hanging out away from school pretty much hasn't happened.

Until this year.

Apparently the boys have decided they will hang out this year, and we frequently find out last minute about the plans he, Aiden B., and Caleb have made.  The disclosure is followed by begging, which is generally followed by the 15 minute drive to Aiden's house.  We finally managed to host Aiden last week, and it was great to pretty much not see either boy for hours as they executed the game-system related plans they had carefully laid.

Having attended a school across the valley from where I lived, I understand how challenging it can be to be friends with people you don't live near.  But my lifelong friendship with my 4th grade BFF, Rosie, helps me put in perspective that Adam's school friends could very well be his friends for life.  Just in case he ends up 33 and still friends with Aiden B., I thought I had better document the Venn diagram showing their similarities (they both like chili) and differences (mostly number of brothers and opinions on seafood).

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Proud Mama

"That's his monologue?" Jack questioned, watching Alex study the Hogwarts Sorting Hat song before his Dickens Festival audition last night.  "I'm just reciting the Preamble to the Constitution."

"Well, when you're the director's son," I replied, "and you're a contender for a good role, you have to work twice as hard as everyone else to prove you deserve it."

And I have to say that he has definitely worked hard.  His audition actually began back in July, when our family was asked to speak in church.  I gave Alex the option to sing or speak, and just like his mom would have, he chose to sing.  I chose a song purposefully a bit higher than his comfortable range, curious to see how he would handle it.  I also chose one with difficult intervals so I could get a feel for his skills as a soloist.  "Every Star is Different" from the Primary Children's Songbook fit the bill perfectly and matched the theme he'd been given.

Working with him was a delight!  I was impressed by how teachable he was, and how willing he was to take direction.  We often practiced for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, which seemed pretty remarkable considering Alex's general lack of focus.  And when the big day came, he stood confidently at the podium and sang his song.

He passed my first test.

So I chose an audition song I hoped would impress the vocal director (a.k.a., Grandma).  He has been working on "Solla Sollew" for two months, and he put in hours on it this week alone.  We worked hard on not breathing so frequently, but his asthma makes that difficult for him.  Still, he was willing to try my suggestions and never fought me or got teary.

He passed my second test.

We fought about the monologue, though!  He didn't like any of my ideas, explaining it was hard for him to use an accent on things that weren't written for an accent.  When I suggested something from Harry Potter, he agreed.  I found the Sorting Hat song online, and he liked the quirky lines.  His face lit up each time he delivered the line, "I'll eat myself if I can find a smarter hat than me."  Sold.  In one week, he memorized its 32 lines and practiced with his cute accent.  He sat on the front porch and recited. He practiced in the car.  He only rolled his eyes once when I suggested that we practice.

(His first attempt at all 32 lines unassisted, caught on video by placing my phone in the glove box.  Keep in mind this was 6:45 a.m., and that he could see himself on the forward facing camera.)

He passed my third test.

Auditions finally came last night, and I didn't really need to hear his song or see his monologue.  I was evaluating his attitude.  He entered in a group of six auditioners which included his brother, his Uncle Jack, and our good friend Logan - a sure recipe for distraction should he choose to make it.  He sat quietly on his chair, waiting his turn, and made no disruptions during the other five auditions.  He approached the audition table hesitantly, and I saw a brief flash of what could quickly become silliness.  But he took a breath, suppressed his giggles, and forged confidently on.

He passed my fourth test.

There are more tests in store as he attends callbacks today.  Will he take direction from Grandma?  Can he work hard in a group with other kids?  How will he interact with the potential Cratchit parents?  Can he sing high enough for Tiny Tim's song?  I don't know.

But this mama is proud that he made callbacks!

And speaking of proud...

Remember my child that has only been speaking for 2 years?  Last year, he was too shy to even walk into the same room as me if I was running a rehearsal.  This year he stepped up to the plate and not only auditioned, but blew his Grandma away.  Well done, Dylan.  (He matched pitch even better at his audition.)

It's fun to be a theater mom, and I love directing the Dickens Festival shows.  It's even better when I get to do both!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

That Shoud Have Been a B Flat

One of the most frequently occurring annoying scenes of my childhood went something like this:

I sat at the piano located one floor below my parents.  In our yellow house in Kearns, their bedroom was upstairs while the piano was on the main floor.  When we moved to Draper, their bedroom and kitchen were on the main floor with the piano in the basement.  

My dad went about his business on the upper floor.  (Most memorably, he was in the kitchen.)

I played a sour note on the piano.

Dad called down, "That should have been a B flat..."

I groaned in exasperation that not only did he call me out on my mistake, but that he could pinpoint from a floor away exactly which note I had missed.

It was nearly as annoying as I found him to be when playing pool.  I'm sorry, but when someone insists on sharing with you the mathematical angles they intend to use before sinking a ball into a predicted pocket... on every. single. shot... it really is just annoying.

He would misinterpret my groans as the desire to hear him gloat about exactly how he knew exactly which note I'd missed.  I tuned this part out, but seem to recall it generally having to do with a combination of the fact that he has nearly perfect pitch and some excellent knowledge of music theory on which he could base his Sherlockian deductive reasoning to determine that the note I had missed was the fourth of the scale, meaning I was likely playing in the key of F, because who would miss the fourth in say, the key of C or the key of G... and therefore it was obviously a missed B flat.

Fast forward many years to a family-altering decision Kirk and I made almost a year ago.  Our boys absolutely loved their piano teacher, but she didn't actually have room for both of them, so they were sharing a lesson time slot and getting only a 15 minute lesson each per week.  They were not progressing as rapidly as I had hoped, and even Kirk was noticing that they weren't as good at the piano as he'd expected.  We decided on an option I had sworn never to do: home school piano lessons.

I'm calling it home school with complete respect for those who've decided to pursue this option for their children's entire education and in reference to all the best parts of homeschooling:

  • flexibility
  • pacing specific to each child
  • lessons that fit the values and priorities of the family
I decided against rigid once-a-week lessons for the boys and instead instituted a loose framework in which the boys study piano nearly independently but with my experience nearby.  Basically, I provide the piano books.  The requirement is that they practice for 15 minutes each day or pass off one song, whichever comes first.  This moves the boys through the Bastien books I used to teach from at approximately the same rate as me assigning 4 to 5 songs per week, which is actually one more song that I used to generally assign when I formally taught.  I also provide insight and help when I hear, "Mom, I need help."  Other than that, I stay out of it.


I have definitely been guilty of giving an unsolicited, "That should have been a B flat." 

But in my dad's defense, it turns out it really isn't that hard to know which note Adam is missing.  It really is possible to determine that the note he missed was the fourth note of a major scale, and that he wouldn't have been likely to miss the fourth in the key of C or the key of G.  So obviously he missed a B flat.

Plus he misses B flats nearly every day.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Did You Look in the Downstairs Bathroom?

I caught a bit of Saturday Night Live recently, just enough to catch most of Louis CK's hilarious monologue that sounded to me like the kinds of questions LDS missionaries must answer all the time.  
  • "Do you guys think there’s a Heaven?" 
  • “Where’s Heaven?”
  • "How do you know [there's no God]?"
  • "'Our father, who art in Heaven.' Where’s our mother? What happened to our mom?" 

Of course, he wasn't really looking for any answers; he was using these common questions as a jumping off point for what was, in my opinion, hilarious albeit a bit irreverent.  Still, I found the questions to be good solid questions, and his theories to be worth contemplating.  I particularly enjoyed his take on faith (even if he didn't realize that's what he was discussing).  

I’m not religious. I don’t know if there’s a God. That’s all I can say, honestly, is “I don’t know.” Some people think that they know that there isn’t. That’s a weird thing to think you can know. “Yeah, there’s no God.” Are you sure? “Yeah, no, there’s no God.” How do you know? “Cause I didn’t see Him.” There’s a vast universe! You can see for about 100 yards — when there’s not a building in the way. How could you possibly… Did you look everywhere? Did you look in the downstairs bathroom? Where did you look so far? “No, I didn’t see Him yet.” I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave yet; it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m just waiting until it comes on cable.
(For more info and a video from this monologue, click here.)

I watched this on a Saturday night.  Yep, I know for sure, because it was Saturday Night Live.  The following Monday, the boys and I reached Alma 30 in our morning scripture study.  We met Korihor, the anti-Christ, who demanded a sign to know if there is a God.  The exchange between Alma and Korihor went like this:

And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?  And he answered, Nay.  Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ?  For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.  And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not?  I say unto you that he have none, save it be your word only.  But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them?  Believest thou that these things are true?
After Korihor demands a sign "that I may be convinced there is a God," Alma responds:

Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God?  Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets?  The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which more in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
I, too, believe that the earth and the galaxy and the intricate way in which each continue to perform the necessary functions to sustain life are evidence of a God.  But I also get that for the scientific minded, there may be many other explanations of how and why the universe functions.  Therefore, I cannot say that I know there is a God because of the wonders of the earth.  

I was talking to my friend Logan, a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints recently returned from his mission to Chicago.  He told me that he and his best friend Taylor like to ask people to share their conversion story - that it is a great way to get to know someone.  And so I thought about my own conversion story, the moment at which I decided to say for sure there is a God.

It went something like this.

It was in the fall of 2003, making me a newly minted 22-year-old.  I had been married for two years, and since I had gotten married in the temple, that meant I had made sacred covenants in the temple with regards to myself and my marriage.  Up until the previous year, I had never experienced anything I would have considered to be a trial of my faith, and as such I had a very young testimony.  If asked, I would have expressed my belief, but my actions over the course of a very difficult year would have testified otherwise.  

In 2003, I experienced the devastating miscarriage of a pregnancy we'd tried to achieve for a year.  Two months later, Kirk went in for the knee surgery that altered the course of our whole lives, costing him the muscles in his left thigh and us our first home together.  While we lived with Kirk's parents, I witnessed my sister-in-law become happily pregnant despite a lifestyle contrary to the principles I held dear.  I helped my husband in and out of bed so he could perform life's most basic functions like using the restroom.  I attempted to begin a career in real estate, despite my overwhelming desire to avoid people in general after losing our baby.  And Kirk and I suffered silently, each afraid to add to the other's burden.

My faith was tried.  Suddenly the principles I'd held to my whole life seemed less likely to be the principles that would bring me happiness.  I made choices contrary to the teachings of the prophets.  I put my sacred covenants in jeopardy.  And I came to a point when I realized I had to decide.

It all came down to one very big if.

IF everything I had been taught was true, there was only one way for my family to be eternal.  If I wanted the comfort of knowing the spirit of the child I lost was happy living with my Heavenly Father, then I would have to believe there was a God.  And if I believed that much, I would need to choose to live the way He would expect me to live.  

IF none of it was true, then my choices didn't matter, and I could continue to search for happiness outside the principles of the gospel.

Interestingly, my faith-affirming conversion moment came down to one simple thought, not too far from the comedic monologue with which this post began.

How could I possible know for sure it wasn't true?

My decision to right my life was based on nothing more than a hope that all I'd been taught was true.  A hope that through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, my family could be happy again.  And to that hope, I have carefully added testimony, line upon line as directed in the scriptures until now I could give a list of evidences.

Most days, I know there is a God; I know He is a loving Father who wants nothing more than for me to choose to follow His plan and receive the blessings He has in store for me.  I know it because when I follow the commandments He has given through the mouth of living prophets, I am happy. 

But some days, His hand in my life is a little harder to see.  Some days, all I have is hope. 

Maybe I can't always say "I know."  But I have faith.  As Alma says a few chapters after his experiences with Korihor:
And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.

I don't have to check the downstairs bathroom.  I don't need to see God.  My faith - my hope - is the foundation of my testimony.  And that's enough for me.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Clown-faced Apple Eater

When I shipped the kids off to spend a week with Grandma Tess and Grandpa Randy, I sent Dylan with a whole bag of food.  The contents of that bag included:

- Enriched white bread
- String cheese with the highest amount of protein per serving
- 100% fruit juice boxes
- Cheese slices
- Bacon
- Yogurt (key lime, orange creme, lemon pie, and vanilla)

This, plus an assortment of breakfast foods, is what Dylan eats every day.  A typical meal consists of a cheese sandwich with ketchup on it plus a helping of either bacon, string cheese, or yogurt depending on his mood.  A recent well-child check up indicated that Dylan is in perfect health, and that I actually don't need to worry about his incredibly limited diet because he is actually managing to get the nutrition he needs.  At my insistence, however, our pediatrician agreed to consult with the Primary Children's Rehabilitation therapists across the hall to find out if there are any therapies available to help me send my child into adulthood eating more items that I can fit in one grocery bag.

I've been looking forward to the evaluation all summer.  I figured it would result in either a pat on the back and assurances that I needn't worry or in an action plan to help Dylan try new foods without gagging.  It's not like I haven't tried everything to get him to eat.  I mean, I really have tried.  Coercion, consequences, bribing, pleading, forcing, starving... you name it, I've tried it.  It wasn't until I read a study linking kids who talk late with kids who have sensory sensitivities to food that I realized this was maybe out of Dylan's control.

And then I backed off.  It was actually during this back-off period that Dylan added string cheese and bacon to his list of approved foods.  He also recently helped eat an order of cheese fries, and opted to try a banana - without even being asked.  Backing off seems to be working pretty well, but I still looked forward to the evaluation to see if there was anything at all that I could be doing to help him on his quest to find foods he considers "yummy for him."

I got up early Thursday morning to prepare for the evaluation.  I was asked to bring a selection of foods I know he will eat and foods I would like him to eat.  Adam was pretty jealous this morning as I prepared eggs, chicken, mashed potatoes, and bacon... and then told Adam to have a bowl of cereal.  I added yogurt and string cheese to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lunchbox and headed off to D's first session of therapy.

I had to stifle laughter as I participated along with Dylan as his therapist, Helene, guided him through getting closer to eating the new foods on his plate.  She asked him to move the food from its container to his plate using his bare fingers.  It was interesting to see how difficult it was for him to even touch eggs with his fingers.  Helene added an apple from her own lunch to the array, and he didn't mind adding that one to his plate.

She started with the bacon, an item she knew he would eat.  She asked him to touch the bacon to his nose, cheeks, and chin before eventually giving the bacon a kiss.  I had to mirror these actions with my own piece of bacon; I have to say it's the first time I've ever kissed my food before eating it.  He had no problem kissing the bacon, but when asked to repeat the process with the egg, he adamantly refused.  Only after Helene had picked up the egg and touched it to his nose, cheeks, and chin and then after I had repeated the procedure was he able to pick up the egg and touch it to his various facial features.  He repeated the process with the chicken, with much less resistance.  Helene asked him to bite off a piece of the chicken and spit it out.  He was able to do so, but immediately wiped the inside of his mouth on the outside of his arm once the offending chicken had been spit out.  She didn't push chicken any further.

Next came the apple.  After completing the touching and kissing ritual, Helene showed him how to make a clown face using the apple.  I thought it was a pretty sneaky way to get him to bite into the flesh of the apple!  After he posed for a picture, she asked him to bite the apple and spit it out.  He didn't wipe his mouth clean, so she directed him to take another bite, chew it, and spit it out.  Only after he had accomplished that did she ask him to take a bite, chew it, and swallow it.  She showed him how to move the portion he'd eat to the side of his mouth for chewing and explained that he wouldn't feel so much like gagging if he chewed it over there.  He successfully chewed and swallowed the apple!  She asked him to take another, bigger bite, but his compliance resulted in an involuntary gag reflex.  She explained to him that it will take practice, but if he keeps practicing, his mouth won't think apples are yucky anymore.

Helene explained to me that a child his age should be able to eat 10 foods in the protein, starch, and fruits & veggies categories.  After filling out his 10-10-10 chart, I could see that he only eats 6 proteins (4 of which come from dairy and one of which is specific to a certain Thai restaurant in Sandy), 8 starches (none of which are whole grains), and 0 fruits and veggies.  Adding apples as his very first fruit/veggie was a huge milestone.

I've been tasked with the homework of getting him to chew and swallow 2 new foods per week, and he's been tasked with eating more apples.  But our plan consists of more than that.  After watching Dylan eat and considering which foods he already eats, Helene informed me that she believes Dylan has reflux.  The foods he has chosen are precisely the sorts of foods that limit stomach acid production and help relieve the pain of reflux.  In addition, he frequently complains of stomach pain, which I had dismissed as a sign of continual hunger.  Dylan gets to join me in taking daily medication to limit the production of stomach acid, and we will monitor him over several months to see if his symptoms decrease.  Hopefully the combination of treating the underlying medical condition as well as working daily to help him accept a wider variety of food textures will result in a kid who eats a healthy variety of foods.

To be honest, I'm overwhelmed.  He needs to meet with Helene twice monthly, and I need to work daily food practice into our routine.  But I am encouraged that there is a plan, that Helene is confident we will see results, and that with any luck, our days of ordering a cheeseburger with no burger are in the past!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Puerto Rico: Part II

Having three rental cars and staying at two different locations meant a bit of natural grouping as we went about our way.  We spent most of Day 1 with Brett and Lisa, most of our travel time with Skye, Michelle, and got to spend most of Day 5 with Jack.  As we moved in and out of these smaller groups, we would all come back together with funny stories of the day to share.  Whether it was recounting that Suman thought there would be pandas (because there was bamboo…), that Jack screamed like a girl when a bat flew by him, that Dad fell into a river face first, or that Lisa heckled the person in the kayak next to her (thinking it was Michelle), telling stories about each other was one of the most fun parts of the trip.  Here are my favorite stories about each of my 9 travel companions.  For fun, I’ve listed them oldest to youngest.

Day 1 found us in Old San Juan, touring the defensive military forts once used to protect the island.  After stopping to eat lunch between the two major castilles, Dad suggested we get a family picture near a particularly valiant looking sheep statue.  We gathered around, Jack recruited a nearby ice cream vendor to take our picture, and we posed.  Dad was a bit disappointed, however, assuming he would get in trouble if he chose to sit atop the sheep.  When one of the local police decided to photo bomb our picture, my mom asked if my dad would be allowed to sit up there.  He looked a bit confused by the question, then shrugged and responded, “We say nothing…” then continued to contemplate, “… except maybe be careful?”  So Dad climbed up on the sheep statue, reminding me that one of my dad’s best qualities is enduring ability to stay young.

Before we left for Puerto Rico, my mom explained that she had decided not to participate in the zip lines, because being terrified really isn’t her definition of fun.  She asked that we not tease her about her decision or pressure her into changing it, so we were all very surprised when at the last second she had me sign her up for our reservations.  I remember witnessing her fear of heights once as a child when the small ferris wheel at Liberty Park got stuck with us at the top, and I knew I couldn’t even imagine what it must be like for her to strap on the safety gear and head out to that first zip line.  She managed each of the first seven runs, seemingly glad to be up there with the rest of us.

It was on the 8th and final run, however, that I could see her start to waver just a bit.  This run stretched out over a huge canyon with nothing except open air in front of us.  Several people were not making it all the way across, meaning they were left to pull themselves in with their arms as they dangled by their safety harness over the canyon.  Suman went right before her, and he didn’t make it across.  Still, she stepped up and allowed herself to be hooked in.  Lisa, Michelle, and I watched as she went across, each hoping aloud that she would make it to the other side.  We watched her dot in distance slow to nearly a crawl, but it appeared she had never stopped moving.  Convinced she must have made it, we were surprised to find out that she had stopped short of the target and had to pull herself in, she had just done it so quickly we didn’t even know she had stopped.  It feels pretty awesome to know Mom would put herself through that just so she could hang out with us.  (I don't have a zip line picture, so I'm posting Mom trying the natural waterslide.)

Probably what I will remember most about Kirk from the trip was that every time we passed a Church’s Chicken restaurant, he yelled out, “Church’s Chicken!”  We passed a lot of them.  Just sayin’.  Pretty much any memory I can conjure of Kirk is one in which I was laughing.  So I will include this picture for posterity.  (His idea, of course.)

There are few people in this world who will, without question or reservation, go along with whatever foolish idea I come up with at 4:00 a.m.  I am very lucky that one of those people married my sister.  Our flights arrived at the San Juan airport around midnight on Friday, but we could not pick up our rental cars until 8:00 a.m.  This meant 8 hours together in the airport.  We were a bit surprised to find out that we had absolutely no furniture to sit on and no access to drinking fountains or restrooms during the night.  So we settled in to make the most of it.

The frequent TSA announcements in both English and Spanish got old really fast, so I proposed turning them into a game.  When the announcement was in English, the last person to put a hand on his or her head had to do 20 jumping jacks.  When in Spanish, the last person to touch a finger to his or her nose had to do 5 push ups.  Not only did Brett joyfully execute over 200 punishment jacks, but he was the first on board when I proposed the next level.  When English, we each had to run to touch one of the airport’s many support columns (no two people on one column, a different column than last time).  When Spanish, we had to stand on a nearby ledge.  It was Brett’s playful personality that had me running from column to column because he would consistently beat me there and who managed to block Michelle from standing on the ledge.  If I know I have to pull an all-nighter, I know I want Brett there with me.

Somehow when we chose teams for the game of football we played on a sandbar in the ocean, the split seemed a bit skewed.  The four youngest members of the family joined together on one team, leaving Dad, Mom, Lisa, Brett, and I on the other.  We were losing terribly, discovering that all it took was a long throw from Skye to Jack who was waiting idly in the end zone for their team to score.  Our team, on the other hand, had to carefully gain yardage on each of the four allowed downs.  On our final down, Dad had the ball and was scanning for an open teammate to throw it to.  Each of us was blocked by an opponent, until Lisa ran up the bank to ground higher than everyone.  Dad threw the ball, and Lisa scored the touchdown.  Her face beamed with pride, and I just thought, “That’s my sister!”  Sadly, I don't have a picture of that.  Instead, I'm posting a picture of her nursing her ant-bitten legs back to health.  Seriously, I have never seen ant bites swell like that!

While some of us had big fears to conquer and did so in highly visible ways, I watched Michelle push herself just one step further than her comfort zone whenever she could.  Her first day in the ocean, she headed out further than she had ever gone.  Although the rainforest vegetation reminded her of Jurassic Park, and she harbors a very literal fear of dinosaurs, she put up with family’s teasing and headed off into the jungles.  Though she couldn’t bring herself to squeeze through a cave’s small opening, she was willing to enter when Skye found a less claustrophobic tunnel.  When everyone was jumping off tall rocks and cliffs, she chose a ledge just out of her comfort zone and jumped from that.  She then completed several subsequent jumps, starting a little higher each time.  Not surprisingly, she did it all in her own quiet style, conquering Puerto Rico in her own way.  And yeah, if she's gonna make faces like this, I'm gonna post them.

My young, cool, brother-in-law has a bit of an addiction.  He is addicted to climbing stuff and jumping into water.  This trip provided three different locations for him to get his fix and two favorite moments I will remember.  The first was when he climbed up the rocky face of  La Niebla to get to a jumping place.  I watched as the waterfall beat down on him from above, and he carefully studied the rock for his next foothold.  I’ve never seen anybody look so at peace in their surroundings.  The second was when he stood at the top of La Cascada and chose not to jump.  After assessing the conditions, he decided it wasn’t safe.  Even though I am always impressed by the stuff he is willing to jump from, I was more impressed to see that he really does know how to keep himself safe.

Always the first to say, “I’m in,” whenever an adventure was mentioned, Jack signed up for the 5:00 a.m. departure group on Thursday.  Planned to include 5.5 hours of driving for 6.5 hours of adventure, we knew we had to hit the road early.  At 4:40, I checked his “bedroom” (he chose to sleep on a lawn chair in the laundry room) to make sure he was awake.  I expected to see my little brother, someone whom I would need to wake up and help supervise.  Instead, I saw a grown man, kneeling beside his lawn chair bed, with his hands clasped in prayer.  I quietly ducked back out, confident that my “little brother” can certainly handle himself, and teach his big sister a thing or two with his excellent example.  Also, he likes to climb stuff.

When I climbed to the top of the 25’ cliff to jump into the pooled river water, I saw Suman just hanging out up top.  I asked him if he was going to jump.  “I want to,” he said, “but I can’t find the courage.”  I explained to him that I didn’t have the courage either.  I had started on a smaller rock to test myself, and only after that felt fun did I decide to try the tall cliff.  I told him I would jump with him from the smaller rock if he wanted, and then if that felt fun to him, he could try the big cliff.  We both jumped from the shorter location, and then I got busy doing other things.  Several minutes later, Suman had climbed the cliff again, and he seemed ready to jump.  With the whole family cheering him on, he found his courage and made the jump.  I guess maybe I do still have a little brother to look out for.

Of course Puerto Rico itself was incredible.  But it was great to get a chance to remember how incredible the adults in our family can be without the distractions of our young kids.  Three long matches of 5 on 5 volleyball without anyone having to leave to settle a dispute, change a diaper, or plan around nap time?  That may honestly have been the best part of the whole trip.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Puerto Rico: Part I

I am nearly certain we spent a month in Puerto Rico.  According to the calendar, we were only gone for nine days, three of which were entirely consumed by travel and arrangements.  However, when I think back on everything we did, it just doesn’t make sense that we fit it all into one trip.

And so, I know I need to quickly write down the details before they all conjoin into one big mush of memories.  I’ve already given my family a heads up that I expect them to do the same so I can combine all our stories into a family book.  Since I know I am prone to a bit of self-indulgent verbosity, I’m going to break this into two posts.  Here’s PART I of my Puerto Rican memoirs.

Prelude – Saturday: Rental Cars, Hotels, Grocery Shopping, Tropical Storm Bertha
Day 1 – Sunday: Church and Old San Juan
Day 2 – Monday: Waterfall #1 and Zip Line
Day 3 – Tuesday: Beach, Volleyball and Local Cuisine
Day 4 – Wednesday: Tennis, Beach, Volleyball, and Football
Day 5 – Thursday: Waterfall #2, La Cueva del Viento, Observatory, Tunnels, Bioluminescent Bay
Day 6 – Friday: Family Picture, Volleyball, Waterfall #3

The strangest thing I saw in Puerto Rico was a stretch of PR-Highway 52 where for several kilometers, all the road signs faced the wrong way.

While Puerto Rico offered a variety of gorgeous scenery, the prettiest thing I saw was the way the trees often formed canopies above the roads we traveled.  This was especially true on our drive toward the area of San Sebastian toward La Cascada del Guama.  We got to kayak under similar canopies of trees on our way to the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo.

The worst moment of the trip for me was when I thought I had broken a couple of toes and was worried it would stop me from experiencing the 25’ natural waterslide at El Charco Frio.  Determined not to let the toes stop me, I shoved my foot into my tennis shoe and hiked the requisite mile to La Cueva del Viento.  Although they remained purple and swollen the following day, I made it with surprisingly small amounts of pain to the cool runoff water from the El Yunque Rainforest.  These cool waters (plus the adrenaline provided by the many recreational opportunities) proved to be just what the doctor ordered, and I am claiming to have been healed.

I had expected the native Puerto Ricans to speak Spanish primarily and to probably also be well-versed in English.  It was frequently helpful to have Jack along to translate.  Most surprising to me, however, was how much I would miss being able to read things in English.  At first it was fun to try to put my limited Spanish to the test to translate billboards and shop signs, but I quickly grew weary.  Even the grocery stores, which often featured bilingual signs, made my head swim as I tried to quickly separate what I could read from what I couldn’t.  I didn’t expect to feel so out of sorts when my ability to quickly read and understand written language was taken away.

I got the biggest thrill from jumping from the top of a 25’ cliff into the third of three pools at Charco Frio.  Even though I have jumped from higher before (for example, the 10 meter platform at Lava Hot Springs), I haven’t jumped in a long time.  There is something absolutely terrifying about choosing to step off sure footing to fall through the air and hopefully land with grace into the deep pool below.  I’m glad I got to experience that terror!  The second biggest thrill came from the last and longest of the eight zip line canopies we rode.  Employing Jack’s “Spider Man” method (which he finally got Michelle and I to comprehend when he told us to think of the upside down kiss), I observed the canyon below me as I tipped my head completely upside down.  I counted slowly to 63 as I soared across the 2,000 foot plus line, silently hoping my speed would be enough to carry me all the way to the other side.  Yep.  Also awesome.

Perhaps my biggest challenge in Puerto Rico was one I chose for myself: I wanted to eat something I had never eaten before.  That came in the form of both “yuca,” a potato-like plant, and “plantains,” somewhat akin to a banana.  The plantains I ate smashed and formed into what looked somewhat like cornbread.  Before I ate barbeque chicken, I seemed to actually like it.  I ate half the serving, intending to come back to it later.  After eating my chicken, however, and attempting to return to the plantain, I discovered perhaps I had just been really hungry.  It actually tasted kind of gross.  The yuca, on the other hand, was gross from the first bite.  Oh well, I tried.

The funniest moments in Puerto Rico were often associated with the many inside jokes we amassed during the week.  The first of many oft-repeated references was to our first meal in Puerto Rico.  Stopping for breakfast at Burger King, many of us struggled to read the Spanish menu displayed on television screens.  The menu showed a rotation of about 4 different pages, and just as we would come close to figuring out what each page said, the screen would display something new.  Jack and Mom had ordered, followed by my order.  Michelle allowed Lisa and Brett to go ahead of her so she could have a few more minutes to decide.  After taking their order, the woman behind the counter turned her back to Michelle and ignored her for several minutes.  When Jack finally spoke to her in Spanish, indicating that his sister would really like to be able to order, she replied, “Well, she should have ordered with the rest of you,” as she reluctantly agreed to serve Michelle.  Unaware of the woman’s reply, Michelle later remarked, “I don’t think that lady likes me.”  Jack laughed.  “She doesn’t.”

One of the silliest things we did in Puerto Rico was to come up with English pronunciations of the Spanish locations.  Jack, recently returned from his Spanish speaking LDS mission in Bolivia, seemed to like this only slightly more than he liked our butchering of the native tongue.  That is to say, he really didn’t like it at all.  A few of my favorites include the city where we stayed, “Human Cow” (Humacao), the national rainforest, the “Yucky Forest” (El Yunque), and a restaurant we used as a rendezvous location, “The Racist Restaurant” (Restaurante Raices).

And by far, the best part of the trip was being there will my family, which is why Part II will include my favorite specific memory of each person with whom I spent the last six days of epic adventure!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The 11th Anniversary of our 2nd Anniversary

I suppose we could celebrate our 13th anniversary this year, since getting married was a pretty big deal.

But I recently found this in a box of old stuff, and considering it's the only poem Kirk has ever written for me, that seems like a pretty big deal, too.

So here's to the last 11 years with a man who apparently wrote me a poem 2 years in.  :)

Looking at this profile I am the perfect man.
Could it be this is part of some eternal plan?

Chatting with you I felt so at ease.
Would she got out with me if I said please?

The pressure is off she just asked me.
Now all I have to do is agree.

Time for our date, could she be my spouse?
Time will tell, where is this long house?

I'm finally there excited to meet a parent.
Her sister answers, she likes me it's apparent.

My date isn't here so I talk with mom and dad.
She just drove up, first appearance not bad.

First date now over, should I give her a kiss.
Wow what can I say that was pure bliss.

It's now a week later and up to Logan for fun.
I can't believe this she is definitely the one.

Two and a half years I am happy as can be.
I stand all amazed she is still in love with me.

Look back in time we had times both happy and sad.
We even joke about the times I've made her mad.

To me she is so gorgeous I can't believe she is my wife.
I count my blessings that she is mine for an eternal life.

I love her so much it hurts to be apart.
I don't know how she did it but she has won my heart.

So just keep doing what you do.
Always remember that I love you.

--Kirk Fife

Friday, July 25, 2014

Days Since Last Accident: STILL 1...

"Remember that time when you got stung by a scorpion?" -- a phrase that I will frequently direct at Lisa.

A few fun facts I've learned in the last 16 hours:

  • There are 56 species of scorpion in Arizona, only one of which has strong enough venom to be considered lethal.
  • Although incredibly painful, scorpion stings aren't generally dangerous for healthy adults; only the very old or very young need worry.
  • Pain, numbness, and tingling are all to be expected and not a significant cause for concern.  The symptoms to be on the lookout for include drooling and rapid eye movement.
  • Poison control is an excellent support in case of a scorpion sting.  They will frequently call to check up on the victim, giving knowledgeable feedback regarding symptoms and concerns. 
  • If you HAVE to get stung by a scorpion, try not to let it sting you just above your wedding ring.  The finger will swell, and you will end up in this sort of situation:
 Poison control's biggest concern was Lisa's wedding ring, which was stuck soundly on her swollen finger.  Fortunately (if one can consider a lost wedding ring to be fortunate), her ring was just a cheap replacement since her actual ring got stolen from a gym in Georgia, so the welfare of the ring was of no concern.  Poison control suggested the E.R. to remove it; Lisa figured she had a cheaper option in Grandpa Casdorph.  Grandpa came over, tools in hand, and was able to cut only the spacers attached to size Lisa's ring and then, after spraying Lisa's finger with Windex, pull her ring off.

She was forced to act particularly calmly throughout the entire ordeal because she didn't want to make my kids panic.  She told Dylan she was trying to be as brave as he had been the day before, and even as her pain and symptoms clearly intensified, she put on a great front.  She even managed to play some Phase 10 while waiting to see just how she would react to the venom.

She had a pretty terrible 4 hours.  Pain, and lots of it, was compounded by a headache, dizziness, nausea, and sweating.  Armed with information from my Aunt Sally that she will likely experience the intense pain for at least 30 hours, she focused on lessening the other symptoms.  By 9 pm, she happily reported to Poison Control that the dizziness w, as subsiding, leaving her mostly with the just the pain.

Of course, Brett and I think it was just a huge ruse to get out of packing the Uhaul.  Arizona was just a temporary stop for them on their way to their new life in Las Vegas, and a change in plans has them moving this weekend instead of mid-week next week.  Lisa insisted, as she lay in pain on her back on the driveway helping direct the traffic of her packed belongings, that she really would have rather been loading the truck.  We joked that we'll see what she says when she and Brett have to unload it on Saturday.

I haven't spoken to the patient personally this morning, but Brett reports that she says she slept well and feels a bit better.  We are all hoping she will have a speedy recovery (some research indicates the effects can last 7 to 10 days), and that she will be well enough to drive to Las Vegas tomorrow, to help unpack, to work for my Dad installing lockers in St. George on Monday, and to be unaffected by the venom during our family's upcoming trip to Puerto Rico.

I am hoping I will soon lose the urge to whip around suddenly in a panic each time a stray hair or string convinces me there's a scorpion on me.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Days Since Last Accident: 1

I stood in the school bathroom with worried fifth graders surrounding me.  Someone had, of course, gone to get Mrs. Casdorph, and I was silently grateful to know my mom was somewhere in the building. I wondered if I was about to be in trouble as well as injured; if I hadn't been where my mom had asked me not to be, my blood would not be covering the sink and counter.

Technically, if I hadn't accepted a dare from the 5th grade students who were a year older and probably a foot taller than me, my lip wouldn't be punctured and bleeding, either.  But mom would be sure to point out that my first misstep was in ignoring her specific instructions not to go out to the playground with her 5th grade students after school.  This wasn't the first time I had done so since receiving the instructions to the contrary, but it was the first time she was going to know about.

She entered the restroom, dismissed the onlookers, and started to clean up the mess I had made.  She didn't seem angry, just a mixture of calm concern and disappointment.  I explained my injury.  It had been easy to stand on the ladder that ascended to the monkey bars and jump to catch the third rung.  But the 5th grade students were catching the fourth rung.  At their insistence, I attempted the feat despite knowing I was probably too small to accomplish it successfully.  My fingertips had just barely made contact, altering my body's momentum and angle such that I found myself parallel with the ground and falling quickly toward it.  Lacking the self preservation skills that would, four years later, have helped me choose flight instead of fight when faced with a falling piano, I did not get my hands down in front of my face.  Rather, I met the gravel playground base head-on.  Or more accurately, chin-on.  My mom couldn't be certain whether the injuries connected, but I was definitely bleeding from both the inside and outside of my lower lip, and she was concerned that my teeth may have gone straight through.

The doctors determined that I had two separate lacerations.  The outer appeared to be cuts caused by the rocks I'd collided with, and they were superficial enough to heal on their own.  The inner, however, were deeper ruts cut by my front teeth and would require two stitches to kick start the healing process.  Both, it turned out, would scar.

 I was about eight at the time, which would have made Lisa four and Michelle two.  That means my mom had 14 child-years of being a mom before her first emergency visit.

Now, with nine-year-old Adam, seven-year-old Alex, and four-year-old Dylan, I am 20 child-years into motherhood (of three boys, no less), and have officially completed my first emergency room visit for a child's nearly identical injury.

Grandma and Grandpa Casdorph had ended up in Arizona for just a couple of days, so we had arranged to meet them at Great Grandpa's pool for an afternoon.  We'd been playing for nearly two hours, going through the usual cycle of pool fun: tag, underwater breathing contests, and impressive jumps off the waterfall area (approximately a 3 foot jump).  Dylan had been showing Grandma what a fish he has turned into.  He can swim!  Not only that, but he's comfortable "sinking" now - going under the water with the confidence that his body will help him pop back up.  This has freed him to jump from the waterfall without the hindrance of the pool noodle he had been using to keep afloat.  He did several forward facing jumps, coached by the adults on how to land feet first instead of doing a belly flop over and over again.  I did a few back dives, trying to teach Adam the skill.  Dylan wanted to try, too.  I told him he wasn't going to be quite big enough for that trick, so he asked if he could just jump backward.

I was a little worried.  He has a huge noggin which means pretty much any motion he tries ends up with his face forward.  This is not a great position for jumping into a pool backwards.  But I let him try it, and he was proudly successful.  He scrambled out of the pool and lined himself up to try again, all smiles.  As I was explaining to my mom the reservations I harbored and concern about how he might land face first on the cement, he lined up to jump again.  And something went wrong.  A foot slipped out from underneath him, and I watched him enact the exact scenario I had just described.  Grandma and I both quickly swam to him, my mom getting there first and pulling him out of the water.  Blood streamed down his face and into the water.  I took him in my arms, and we were soon both a bloody mess.  I carried him to grass and began an inspection the best I could but able to see little through all the blood and tears.

Grandma started to clean him up, much to the dismay of Grandpa who had gone to get his cell phone camera.  He asked Dylan if he could please bleed a little more so he could get a picture with the blood running all the way to Dylan's belly button since Grandma had wiped that all up.  Dylan laughed, and he put all his tears behind him.  He lay perfectly still and calm as I determined that there were cuts both inside and out, that I couldn't be certain if it went straight through, and that I would be taking him to a doctor.

Dylan relaxed with my sunglasses while I made the inquiries necessary to locate a covered facility in the Mesa area, and then we headed off to the Banner Desert Hospital, only 8 miles from Great Grandpa's home.  Upon arrival I discovered that this hospital has both a traditional ER and a separate children's ER, a fact for which I would soon be grateful.

The facility had Where's Waldo murals in each patient room and cartoons on tv everywhere we went.  The staff spoke directly to Dylan whenever they entered a room, and only after he appeared comfortable did they speak with me.  His nurse's approach, in particular impressed me.  "Hi, Dylan," he began.  "I am so sorry you are hurt.  My name is (I can't remember), and I am here to help you feel better.  And guess what, I brought you a sticker!  Do you like stickers?"  He overheard me call Dylan by his nickname, Dyl-Pickle, and he referred to him as nothing else for the rest of our stay.  It was so comforting to be in a place who knew how to translate their medical jargon into kid speak, informing Dylan of everything as it happened.  I asked him later if he had been scared at all, and he looked at me like I was crazy when he responded with an emphatic, "No..."

Cleaned up a bit and resting before his procedure

As it turned out, he did not bite all the way through.  His injuries were the opposite of mine, though, with the inner being shallow and the outer being deep.  I mean... deep.  I saw it as they pulled it back to investigate, and I didn't even know that the piece of skin leading from chin to lip was so thick.  It took 8 stitches to patch him up, and he endured the ordeal awake but loopy from the calming gas they'd given him.  He didn't whine or cry at any point until the effects of the gas had worn off and he processed the instructions that he wouldn't be allowed to swim for a week.

Stitched up and drugged up
We got to stay at the hospital for an exciting extra hour, because Dylan refused to come out of the effects of the gas.  He was too wobbly and giggly for them to release him, so I got to read a few extra chapters of the book I brought along while I waited for him to recover.  All said, we spent 5 hours in the ER before returning to greet his anxious brothers.  I was happy to see Adam and Alex engaged in a game of Phase 10 with Brett and Lisa, their minds clearly distracted from their worry.  When I told them Dylan wouldn't be allowed to swim, Adam looked at Dylan with concern, stretched out a hand to touch him affectionately, and announced, "Then I won't swim, either," to which Alex added, "Me too."

Since dismissal from the hospital, Dylan has needed no pain medication, has slept through the night, and seems happy and positive.  And we have officially ended our injury-free streak.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mission Accomplished

Starting at the very back of the line

 Only crazy people get up at 5 am to go run 3.2 miles with a 4 kids for the simple sake of helping Adam, Alex, and D earn their "fun run" Unplugged badge. Apparently, Brett, Lisa and I have joined that loony club. While technically we were only a few of the many lined up to run, our group boasted the youngest registered runner of the day (Dylan) and the youngest baby we saw in a stroller.

We spent the week leading up to the race doing training walks and harbored no misconceptions about how the day would go.  Our goals were simple: 1) walk and 2) finish.  Based on the 2.5 miles we did in about an hour on Wednesday, we hoped to be done in under 90 minutes. And we hoped Great Grandpa Casdorph would serve us bacon when we showed up at his house for our post - race breakfast.

We also hoped to see some familiar sights, having chosen a race at Kiwanis Park, home of the famous (on my blog, at least) playground camel. We got more than we dared hope for on the trail: a trip past the ducks, the camel, and even Great Gr&Gr's old house on College Ave.

The kids had pretty good attitudes during most of the distance, though Al complained of a side ache. D probably walked 3 or the 3.2 miles on his own two feet, spelled off by one brief piggyback ride before the mile 2 marker.  He even jogged on his own across the finish line. Our troop finished dead last at about 70 minutes, a full 20 minutes faster than I had really dared hope for.

And there was bacon at Grandpa's.

Mission accomplished.

Finished! 1 hour 10 minues