Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Best Friends Forever

Rosie Simmons was my first best friend, though it wouldn't surprise me if I wasn't hers. I don't remember meeting her, which is pretty great because it means I don't remember a life without Rosie. 

Rosie was the first person to commission me as piano accompanist (4th grade talent show). She was the one who begged my mom to let me pierce my ears. The guest invited to watch My Girl in the theater and sleep over for my 11th birthday. The first person I told when I found out Mrs. Casdorph would be moving up to 6th grade with us. Rosie invited me to try out for my first community theater production, introduced me to Ace of Bass, gave me her hand-me-down designer label jeans, and remains the only person with whom I ever owned a split-heart best friends necklace.

Rosie and I were something else.  First, she was a full foot taller than me.  Each time I watch the tiniest girl in my 5th grade class at NPA walking alongside one of the tallest, I think of me and Rosie.  While we were vastly different in height, it was our quirky personalities that seemed to match so well.  

Many of my recesses were spent in a far corner of the field with Rosie, making what I think we called "potpourri pockets."  Or maybe "pouches."  I can't quite recall.  This consisted of two large leaves from the corner tree, gentle stitched together with fresh pine needles.  We would then stuff these pouches/pockets full of natural bits of whatever.  Grass.  Other leaves.  Stuff that, according to us, smelled good.  There was probably a hundred kids on the playground.  And two best friends, sitting under a tree, sewing with pine needles.

It wasn't always so nice, though.  Fourth grade brought the Epic Jinx Battle of 1991.  I remember it like it was yesterday.

Challenger had this awesome play structure made entirely of metal.  It was monkey bars, but so much more.  The sides were like large ladders, and opposite the monkey bars were the gymnastics bars.  Parallel bars, two high bars, and a lower bar.  If we weren't busy sewing, Rosie and I could frequently be found playing my favorite of elementary sports: bar tag.  Sometimes, I think I still have the callouses I worked up through hours of flipping and swinging.

One particular recess, Rosie and I were playing bar tag with some friends when we said the exact same thing at the same time.  "Jinx!" we both shouted.  And then came the battle.

"I said it first..."

"No, I said it first..."

While the details are hazy, I do remember this argument lasting days, and at one point I took off my BFF necklace and gave it back to her.  I remember the argument continuing on into the classroom, and our teacher, Mr. Gagnier, sending us back outside to hash it out.  I remember tears.  And finally, reconciliation.  It was literally the biggest fight I have ever had with a friend.  This I think of each time a student at school says, "Jinx."  

Although by 6th grade we'd each acquired a new official BFF (Shayla Billings for me and Courtney Jenne for her), we've been a part of each other's lives ever since.  Rosie and I made Madrigals at Alta High School together, a dream we'd shared since the group had performed assemblies at our elementary. We sang together in what we called our trio (the two of us plus Katie Baird), most notably singing "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" at the talent assembly. Rosie attended not only my wedding reception but the receptions of both of my sisters and made sure to buy a seat in the audience each time I have played a major role. She returned to the stage a few years ago, and we got to perform Joseph together - for the second time in our lives.

If I thought hard enough, I would likely discover that Rosie has been a part of 75% of my life. So when I got to go to her recent baby shower, I wasn't surprised to see people I knew from elementary, from theater, and from high school. As Rosie put it, "I don't really have family, so I keep up with my friendships."

As she patiently awaits the birth of her baby boy, she is preparing to have a huge impact on a new little life.  But what she may not realize is what an impact she has already had on mine.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

TBT - Stories Behind the Pictures 02.13

Thanks to a series of unfortunate events occurring more or less at the same time, much of 2013 is in danger of being lost to me.

{the series}

  • I was over scheduled and consequently not blogging much.
  • My computer was stolen in September (and I lost about a year's worth of pictures).
  • Kirk didn't have his phone's pictures backed up, and he didn't think to transfer them when he got a new phone in November.
But the silver lining lies in the simple fact that I had, at least, discovered Instagram.

Each time I would snap a quick picture and distribute it to the masses via the easy platform, I felt guilty.  There was a story behind the picture.  One I should have been telling using WAY too many words, as is my style.  But I clicked and cropped and published and hurried on.

Now I'm glad I did. 

Here is a more permanent archival of all things February 2013.

Original Post: I really needed this surprise this morning. Thanks, hon!  Kirk and I aren't particularly romantic.  You'll find no grand February, anniversary, or birthday gestures at our house, and that is how we like it.  In fact, as we watched several of our friends end up disappointed as Valentines came and went, I was once again grateful to have been proposed to over ramen noodles.  I knew what I was getting into, and Kirk knew that when I say, "I really don't need anything," that isn't code for, "Please go overboard in trying to come up with some extravagant holiday plan."  In looking back on last February's post, I am happy to see evidence of our simple ways.  A sticky note stealthily added to my computer screen at home so I would see it at work.  Perfect. I love you, too, babe!!

Original Post: Reasons why it is hard to date a 5 year old.  This has apparently become a February tradition, considering I recently posted a nearly identical picture of Dylan asleep on the way to the same theater.  Part of my gig with the UTBA has become that I'm a bit of a resident Young Audiences reviewer.  It works out perfectly, because I get to take my Young Audience members to see the show.  The boys have come to look forward to our "dates," and I've discovered that it's actually a great genre of theater.  The theaters who are doing it have money to put into the productions, so the production quality is high.  I've yet to hear an out of tune lead or microphone issues at these productions, and honestly, I have the attention span of a 6 year old, so the shorter shows are perfect for me, too!

Original Post: Showing off his reading skills to Grandma (and providing little brother with some storytime).  One of the magical things about Kindergarten is the world that becomes available when you learn to read.  Alex took to it more quickly than Adam did, which wasn't really surprising since he was always the one more likely to grab a book and snuggle with Grandma.  I am grateful for a family that will drop everything to read to my kids (or in this case, to be read to).  It's also interesting to look back at what kind of a book Alex was reading a year ago.  Now, he reads each morning - with relative ease - from the Book of Mormon.

Original Post: You may think this says, "Wo, wo." But in tonight's scripture study, we shared much giggling after Adam read, "Woo, woo unto Jerusalem..."  Speaking of reading from the scriptures, that is a habit we tried to start last February (it didn't take).  I actually remember as a kid reading our scriptures in the car as a family on the way to school.  One morning, Lisa mispronounced "Amulek" as "Alma-Yuck," which - to this day - I giggle about silently whenever someone mentions the correct pronunciation.  Well, "Woo, woo," has definitely become my family's "Alma-Yuck," as the kids now giggle every time one of them has to read the word "Wo" in the scriptures.  Think about it.  That's a lot of giggling.

Original Post: I am computing over the vent (on fan) again with the intent to keep my computer from overheating while I ask it to do the equivalent (according to a troubleshooting forum) of conducting an orchestra with a baton and - with that same hand - playing a fiddle. Come on, computer... you can do it!  Ah, the cursed Values Assembly.  When February rolls around, I get a little extra stressed as the audio-visual end of a major school assembly falls to me.  Thanks to the great programs available from Adobe (and a husband who finances my hobbies), I am able to mix the music and video to create some pretty cool stuff.  But my former computer (the one now stolen) just couldn't handle it.  I am glad I finally gave up on HP.

Original Post: Watching Alex double check the pictures to verify his read-aloud comprehension just makes me beam with pride. Each kid has different talents, and reading is one of his!  Another book!  It is plain to see what I was excited about last February.  Now I'm excited to see the big brothers passing along this love of reading to Dylan.  Last night, I had to delay bedtime by 15 minutes, because I found all three boys huddled together around a book.  Sleep is important, but I am a firm believer that a love of reading often comes from watching the examples of others.  Well done, Big Brother and Tiny Brother (Dylan never uses their names) for teaching Dylan that books are fun.

Original Post: Bob. More about him very soon at  I actually followed through and introduced Bob to the world.  So all that is needed now is a Bob update.  Sadly, we don't see much of Bob anymore, but when we do, he is frequently accompanied by his newer buddies, Hank, and Baby Bob.  In reality, Bob is the reason I blog, because if I didn't take a picture and write it down, I would forget the specific stages involved as my kids turn into real humans.  I am grateful to have at least one picture of what was a really big deal in Dylan's life for awhile.  Hopefully when the next "Bob" moment comes along, I'll be ready with pen and camera in hand.

Original Post: Why yes, I do have the best mother-in-law ever. Two tickets to a touring Broadway production plus some cash for goodies! Thanks, Mom!  I took Michelle with me to the show, and unfortunately, we didn't really end up enjoying it.  For people who enjoy the style of music, it was probably great, but we both got pretty bored even before intermission.  However, it was fun to see the touring Broadway level production quality, particularly the amazing effects that can be accomplished when money doesn't appear to be an issue.  Someday, I would love to have season tickets to a theater like Capitol so I could love or hate really expensive productions.

Original Post: Breakfast in the car got a whole lot more practical when Alex informed me of a secret compartment for cups. Who knew?  Want to know the best part about this picture?  Today, I re-discovered that my car has a secret compartment for cups.  Want to know how many times I've used them in the last year?  None!  That's the best part about having a terrible memory; I get to discover exciting things over and over and over again.  A year from now, I'll probably read this post, see this picture, and think, "Oh yeah!  My car has a secret compartment for cups!"  It also means that Amy gets to tease me when I don't recognize the name of a major character - two weeks after book club, and that Kevin has to prove to me - with photo evidence - that I've played a certain game at his house.

It's not the essay I would have originally written about each picture.  I've lost the opportunity for back story, for context, for nuance.  But thanks to Instagram, I haven't lost the memories.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Alexland Theory

I remember being worried that the structure of school might cause Alex's imagination to fade as he learned to supply expected answers.  If the little boy I found talking to his hangers yesterday is any indication, Alex is well into first grade with Alexland still holding strong.  Actually, carrying out full conversations with inanimate objects (which of course talk back to Alex and to each other) is one of Al's strengths.  He frequently reminds us of Fred Randall, from what is quite possibly my favorite movie of all time:

If someone were to ask me to list Alex's strongest qualities, the list would look something like this:

  • Imagination
  • Charm
  • Charisma
People flock to Alex.  I hear Alex stories almost daily at work.  So I was quite surprised to experience a very different Alex story for myself.

Each Tuesday and Thursday I get to end my workday by teaching music to my own sons.  Alex's first grade class attends music from 1:10 to 1:30, followed by Adam's third grade class from 1:30 to 1:55.  Although I love teaching each of my 350 students, I am particularly partial to two particular Fife boys.  

Yesterday, I taught Alex's class an old African-American song called "John the Rabbit."  It's a fun little song about a rabbit with a particularly annoying habit of jumping in the garden.  We had discussed bad habits and their consequences, and I had taught the easy lyrics and repetitive medley.  Wanting to allow the students an opportunity to get out some wiggles in a creative way, I invited the students to stand and act out the story of the song, which includes the phrase "Yes, Sir," at the end of each two-measure phrase.  I encouraged the kids to choose an action to do each time they sang "Yes, Sir," and then fill in the rest of the story if they wanted.
I watched as 25 children wiggled and danced and giggled and sang and looked quite delighted to participate in a physical and creative way.  But as I scanned the classroom, I saw a very sad little boy who looked overwhelmed, confused and reluctant all at the same time.  My Alex was not moving a muscle!  

I scanned the room again; maybe he was not the only student who didn't find the activity fun.  When my eyes rested again on the sullen face of my typically vivacious son, I had confirmation that he truly was the only kid not participating.  I knelt near him and suggested a few "Yes, Sir" actions, each of which prompted only a negative shake of the head and brought Alex nearer to tears.

"I just can't think of something," he said, clearly frustrated.

Suddenly, I remembered an experience from Kindergarten.  His teacher had come to me with an example of Alex's incomplete journal.  Each day he had been asked to finish an open-ended prompt.  Yesterday, at lunch I _________________________________.  Something that makes me really excited is ___________________________________.  His teachers assumed his pretty constant lack of focus was prohibiting him from completing this independent work.  They had kept him in from recess to complete his prompts, and some days he had been late to art.  Nothing seemed to motivate Alex to finish this assignment during the allotted time.

After some investigation, I discovered it was neither obstinate behavior nor lack of focus that kept Alex from completing the sentences.  Rather, his huge imagination made the realm of possibilities so vast that he couldn't pick one.  While other students quickly settled on a finishing phrase, Alex sat, becoming more and more frustrated with his inability to settle on the perfect answer.

In Kindergarten, I fixed this by practicing with Alex in the car.  We would give him open ended statements and help him understand that it was even okay to make up an answer!  Soon he could confidently finish the prompts.

As I watched Alex's frustration grow, I remembered this experience.  He wasn't okay with just doing something, as I had suggested. He wanted something epic, and he just couldn't pick!  

I went back to the drawing board, ignoring the boring suggestions I'd given to clap his hands or salute.  Everyone else was already doing that.  Instead, I offered the sorts of solutions I figured Alex would eventually come up with: jumping twice (turning 180 degrees with each jump) and a large, silly, full body motion somewhat akin to a jumping jack.  Then I told him to pick one of those two options.  

He gave in, choosing the 360 turn.  Soon, the whole class was jumping, and that was okay with me.  Alex had joined the fun.  It didn't take long for him to stop thinking so hard about coming up with creative things to do and to just start doing them.  Instead of being the only kid not participating, he was the only kid lying on the ground at the suggestion of the cabbage being cut down.

How interesting that my intensely imaginative son has a really hard time being creative on demand.  How interesting that the seemingly simple request of a music teacher can send him into near tears.  How interesting that I witnessed, firsthand, how similar overwhelmed Alex looks to stubborn Alex.  It is no wonder last year's teachers thought he was just digging in his heels.

I am grateful for a life that allows me to observe my kids in a classroom setting and to discover the wonderful (and difficult) things their teachers already know about them.  I am grateful for Alex's first grade teacher who has helped him learn the behavioral and academic requirements of school without in any way damaging Alexland.  And I am excited to be entrusted with this very special child to help him learn how to stay himself in a world where no one else is quite like Alex.

**Side Note: 

A difficult side effect of Alexland is that Alex has a really hard time completing routine, independent tasks, like getting dressed each morning.  He regularly gets distracted somewhere between Step 1 (ie: picking up his underwear and lifting one leg) and Step 2 (ie: actually putting said leg through said underwear).  I require that he gets dressed with his door open, since my routine is designed to keep me nearby, putting on makeup in the nearby bathroom.  I can listen for the rustling sounds that indicate getting dressed verses the silence that often accompanies daydreaming.  However, my constant reminders have become as annoying to him as they are to me and resulted in daily fights just to get dressed.

I am proud to report that I recently came up with a genius solution, which has now worked for two consecutive weeks.  I share this not to brag but to offer an alternative if you find yourself sounding like a broken record, barking exhausted orders at a child who needs constant assistance staying on task.

He calls it "my video," which I noticed this morning he was reciting about 30 seconds ahead since he enjoys racing its descriptive reminders.  One particularly frustrated morning, I grabbed my cell phone, pointed its camera at a towel on the floor, and hit record.  I then patiently prompted Alex out loud through each step of getting dressed.  I got bored about 3 minutes in and started doing funny voices and singing made up songs.  My personal favorite is the "Belt Song"

Belt time, 
Belt time,
Alex is putting on his belt now.

I also enjoy the "Vest Rhyme"

Alex is the best,
Alex needs a vest,
Alex is the best, 
Alex needs a vest.

I think he's particular to the button up shirt section which references Alex the Contender, in my best announcer voice.  That's the part I heard him quoting this morning.

"Can he get a fourth button?  Why, yes he can! Alex has buttoned his fourth button, folks!"

The video is 8 1/2 minutes long and prompts Alex from drying himself off after his morning shower through pulling on each individual sock and shoe.  He has yet to finish after the video, and he prides himself on being able to finish ahead of the video at least a few days a week (since the first 3 minutes is literally me trying to get him to successfully put on his underwear, there's an easy way to get ahead).  

I feel calmer each morning knowing it will take Alex precisely 510 seconds or less to succeed in getting dressed.  I can stay focused on my own tasks (even venturing ALL THE WAY upstairs today while he got dressed) and know that at the end of the video, I'll have a clothed six year old.  We don't have to fight anymore, and each morning I get to praise him for getting dressed all by himself.

(Full disclosure: the fact that he wears a uniform to school makes this much easier; he wears literally the same items each day.  Also, he sets each item out the night before.  I can't even imagine how distracted he would get if he had to retrieve items from various areas of the room!)

If you have a kid who struggles staying focused in a room by himself, give my video idea a try.  For now, it's gold in our house!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

TBT: 7 Ate 9

Do you know why six is afraid of seven?  Because seven ate nine!

Do you know why I never managed to blog about Adam's 8th birthday last year?  Me neither.  According to Instagram, I had good intentions:

I am pretty certain I had more pictures on my computer that got stolen in September, but one thing I've come to be really grateful for is the auto-backup feature of cell phone picture taking that preserved one full-dragon shot for me.

I wish I had the pictures of the family at our favorite Thai restaurant: MeKong Cafe.  I feel pretty proud to be the mother of a child who chooses Thai for his birthday dinner!  I also wish I had any other specific memories of the birthday or subsequent party.  But that's what I get for not blogging it right away!  :(

So I'm doing better this year.

Four weeks ago, Adam turned nine.  He requested a "Cyprus" cake this year in honor of his first football season as a Cyprus Pirate.  Although he still feels a bit lukewarm about the sport itself, the football banquet with all its assorted team branding has given him a healthy amount of Cyprus pride.  I knew he'd be expecting a football cake, but that seemed too easy, and I really wanted to surprise him.  So I went a different direction:

He was a perfect combination of surprised and delighted, especially when he realized his Cyprus Pirates cake came with a piratey addition to his beloved Disney Infinity collection.  (Thanks, Kirk, for that perfectly correlated gift addition.)

We also continued what he's requested become a birthday tradition: dinner at MeKong Cafe.  Not only does the birthday boy love the taste of what my family calls "Crying Tiger," (it's actually Thai barbeque beef, but its Thai name literally translated - according to Thai missionary Grandpa Casdorph - is crying tiger) but the sort of vegetarian redhead even eats the grilled pork.   

As for the birthday boy himself, he's gearing up to play baseball, joined the chess club at school, and touts science as his favorite subject (because he gets to do experiments).  He spends most of his free time visiting the new house or being the best cousin ever.  (I wish I could add "being the best brother ever," but his bossy streak runs a mile deep, and he's pretty much always pestering someone.)

He is quite proud of the fact that he's taller than my shoulders now, and I'm quite proud of the fact that he hasn't yet outgrown liking to hang out with me.  The day after his birthday, he got to be my date to Casey at Bat, a show I was reviewing for UTBA, and we both enjoyed the show and the Cracker Jacks.  And a few weeks later when planning an "activity with a family member" in order to meet the requirements of a Faith in God goal, he asked me if I would like to go on a date with him.  We made lunch together (frozen burritos), then headed to the dollar theater to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.  I got the chance to talk to him one-on-one on the way to theater and was delighted when his questions turned to the subject of Joseph Smith and how he got to choose what church he went to.  (Adam was confused why one of his best friends couldn't continue to attend our ward after moving.  "Joseph Smith got to choose what church he went to...")

If I'm leaving behind an accurate, complete picture of this kid, I would also have to add:
  • Whiny when tired
  • Emotional all the time
  • Can't remember to put his glasses on for the life of him
  • Has to know the plan at all times
  • Sloppy penmanship
  • LOUD!
But all of that is balanced out by his sweet testimony, his nurturing personality, his quality school work, his responsibility, his helpful nature, his compassion, his athleticism, and his confidence.  Of all the nine-year-olds in the world, I am grateful Heavenly Father sent me this one.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Not as Trapped

With Princess Ty and Aunt Michelle around, I'm not as BoyTrapped as usual, and I have to admit it has been nice.  Recently when the Fife girls got together for their anti-SuperBowl girls' night, I stole a beautiful niece to attend with me.  (Michelle loves football and chose to watch the game.)

Although Tyler comes from a 50% girls family, she's definitely BoyTrapped most of the time.  She lives with my circus.  Her closest cousin (and long distance buddy) is also a boy.  She's given her heart to her daddy, and she has Uncle Kirk wrapped around her finger.  So it's kind of nice to think that if she ever needs some girl time, she's got "Anna."

As for the boys around here, they seem to get along just fine without us, too.  (Uncle Kirk isn't actually sleeping.  He's just resting with Ryder investigates his watch.)

Have I mentioned I love living with an adorable niece and nephew?

And that I miss this adorably photogenic guy ALL. THE. TIME.?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Of Mountains and Molehills

Part of the language arts curriculum at NPA is the sub-subject "Sayings and Phrases."  Each week, the students study an idiom, colloquialism, or cliche whose figurative meaning doesn't necessarily match its literal.  5th grade's list includes things like "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," and "birthday suit."  This week's phrase was "Don't make a mountain out of a molehill."

Have you ever been mid-mountain-making and known it, but still been unable to put down the shovel?  You recognize how un-worth-it the Thing you're upset about is, and everyone else is totally ready to move on, but there you stand, adding pebbles and soil and sometimes even planting pine trees for shade, if you plan to be there long enough.

I was surprised to find myself making mountains on Valentine's Day because it's such a small-deal holiday at our house that I would have classified any potential snafus as pre-molehill material.  Ant hills at best.  But I'm still getting used to the emotional response to the added pressure of being a full time working mom and being constantly at war with myself over not being with the family more.  Plus, this year we had decided to scale back our traditional "Old Spaghetti Factory and Bowling" date with the kids to a budget friendly "Make Spaghetti and Wii Bowling" since we're working hard to meet the financial requirements of closing on the new house.  I was anticipating a bit of disappointment from the kids, so in my mind, the cheaper substitution needed to be great.

So I had a few ideas of how to make the simple feel epic.  And since the root of our tradition is to teach the boys about dating, I wanted to turn it into a lesson.  Not every date needs to be expensive.  Just spending time together can be awesome.  I hadn't run my ideas by Kirk yet because I knew he had worked for my dad that day and wouldn't have been home long by the time I got home from work (around 5:30).  I figured I would get home, we could decide if we were too tired and needed to postpone until Saturday, and then we could discuss my ideas.

First, I wanted to make dinner together.  Spaghetti is pretty no-nonsense, and Alex has been mentioning lately that he would like to learn to cook something.  Second, I wanted everyone to dress up, just like we would have if we were going out to the restaurant.  I wanted to talk to them about the level of respect you should show on a date and remind them that how we dress affects that level of respect.  Finally, I wanted to talk to Kirk about the possibility of sneaking over to the new house with our spaghetti and a blanket.  I think it helps the kids when they feel like they're missing out because of The New House to give them concrete reminders of what we're sacrificing for.  Plus it would have been fun and special.

I was thinking about these options and weighing them against my level of tired as I drove home from work.  Kirk called to let me know our Wii wasn't working (which I had known) and to see if I wanted him to arrange for us to go to his parents to bowl.  I agreed with that plan, but Kirk sensed a bit of hesitancy in my voice.  "Are you alright?" he asked.  I responded that I was just tired, which was true.  By the end of Friday, I am generally pretty drained.

He then went on to let me know that Michelle had our spaghetti dinner ready and waiting for when we got there.  She had asked him if it was something I was going to want to make or if it was okay for her to make it, and since I hadn't told him my plans, he told her to go ahead.

And I got my shovel.

I calmly expressed my regret to Kirk and ended the phone conversation, not fully committed to the mountain yet.  I wanted to build it out of his sight and then choose to either show it to him in all its glory or kick it down and pretend it never existed.  So I texted a friend:
"Am I allowed to be bugged that my spaghetti and bowling night has somehow happened without my involvement or input, or do I just have to be grateful for a well-meaning sister and husband who thought they were saving me work?"
I wanted her to pick up a shovel and dig with me.  She didn't.

"Probably grateful.  You can complain to me, though."

I went on to explain how wronged I had been.

"I just wanted to make dinner with the boys.  But it is already made.  Also I am super tired and probably would not have done our celebration today.  I could have done it tomorrow when I was home more and not exhausted.  But they already made the spaghetti.  It's a dumb thing but I feel like what's the point of even celebrating now."

Yep.  Adding a bit of a tantrum to the mountain-making.  But I decided, at Amy's advice, to just be grateful.  I put down my shovel right where it was and put on a smile.  Oh well, it was just one Valentine's Day - a holiday I really don't care that much about.  I went home, greeted a sweet and cuddly Dylan, sat by my loving husband, and prepared to have Valentine's Day atop my self-made mound.

I considered asking the boys to at least dress up.  Kirk was still in his dirty work clothes from a day on a CASSCO site.  Dylan had chosen to wear sweat pants.  Adam and Alex looked nice enough in their uniforms, but not necessarily date-ready.  But atop the mound, it didn't really seem to matter.  I did notice, though, that Michelle had set the table with a tablecloth and some cute napkins, and it was clear she was trying to make our night special.  I tried to force myself to disassemble the mountain, but the dirt wouldn't budge, and I let my family take their seats in their everyday attire.

I was surprised to find that Michelle wouldn't let us dish our own food.  She intended to serve us.  As she filled our glasses, sprinkled cheese on our spaghetti, and refused even to allow us to scoop our own seconds, I immediately regretted everything I'd said or felt over the last 15 minutes.  Michelle knew our family might be a bit disappointed by our scaled back tradition, and she had done everything she could to give us the restaurant experience we were giving up.  And I'd been upset about that.

I am such a spoiled brat.

I climbed down my mountain, embarrassed to stand in its shadow, and enjoyed a meal I didn't have to cook, serve, or clean up after.  Michelle wouldn't even allow the boys to do their own dishes.  And I felt particularly ridiculous when I asked Michelle what she and Skye were doing for the holiday.

"I don't believe in Valentine's Day," she responded.  Which as I thought about it seemed completely true.  The pink.  The outpouring of emotion.  The expectations.  The non-Halloween-ness.  Michelle doesn't hate Valentine's Day.  She simply doesn't recognize its existence.

And she had spent the day making certain that my family got to enjoy a holiday she normally doesn't even acknowledge.

Spoiled.  Brat.

I thanked Michelle.  I fessed up to my earlier annoyance (knowing at this point that I would want to blog about my emotional epiphany and she would find out sooner or later that I had initially been annoyed).  I recalled that a student had given me a Valentine's cake mix and frosting which could replace the spaghetti as a means to cook something with the kids.  And I decided to enjoy the rest of the night with my family.

We made our cupcakes.  (Adam got egg on his finger and made his traditional pumpkin-guts face.)  We bowled.  (Alex schooled everybody but his mama.)  We talked about cheap dates, and I shared stories of a few of my favorites.  (When asked to share his stories, Kirk said, "I didn't really date.")  And we all had a great holiday.  I'm glad I stopped building mountain long enough to enjoy a great night with my family.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fear Monologue

I don't know if anyone else monologues internally or if that is specific to my brand of crazy. I don't mean listening to a stream of internal thoughts... I mean actually composing and memorizing theatrical monologues.

Well, I have one I have been working on for a long time. Some day when I audition for something super dramatic, I will perform it and pretend it is something anonymous I found on the Internet because it is way too dark and personal to admit to writing myself.

It starts like this.

That's what I would say if you asked me what my greatest fear is.  Or maybe "paper cuts on my tongue," because I am irrationally afraid of those, too.  You'd feel satisfied knowing you got an answer, and I would feel safe knowing the real answer had stayed with me...

Good stuff, right?

One of my major fears didn't make the monologue, though.  Not because it's so big I don't like to talk about it. But because it is hard to explain.

I am afraid of falling pianos.

Not like Wylie Coyote, ACME-type falling. Just falling over pianos. But still.

Sometimes it is hard to know if it's still a real fear, because it's not like I am really around that many falling pianos to see if they are still scary.

Well, today I was.  And guess what?

They are.

We had an assembly at school with a former Miss Utah contestant as a guest speaker. She planned to play the piano as part of her performance, so the custodian and a junior high boy lifted the school's digital piano onto the stage.  It didn't tip over. But it was perilously close as the front wheels rose higher than the rear.

I flew out of my seat toward the piano, despite being seated at a distance too far to do any good. I immediately felt foolish, but since others had at least been audibly concerned, my pride was largely intact.

It was during the ensuing moments that I realized how real my fear had been. Once out of danger, others resumed their enjoyment of the program. I heaved heavily, fighting the urge to leave the room to work through the minor panic attack alone.

So how does one acquire a panic inducing fear of pianos?

I don't have any aggregated data to support my theory, but personal experience suggests that having an upright tip over and land on your leg works quite well. 

The full story takes awhile to tell (if you tell stories like I do). Because first you'd have to understand the concept of pizza day at a school without a cafeteria.  Basically, on this one special day, students don't have to brown bag it, and the whole school smells mouthwateringly amazing. On one such pizza day while I was in eighth grade, the unthinkable happened: the pizza was late. Bored and hungry, my friends and I found something to pass the time. Amalie, an amazing pianist, sat down to play. I opted to watch, choosing the small ledge on the soundboard as a stool enabling me to see over the instrument's high back. Erica joined me in spectating but wasn't as fulfilled by watching and listening. She decided to gently rock the piano in time to the music.

Sensing the lack of sense employed in her decision, I suggested she stop. She didn't, and I didn't get down. 
(If I could change one decision...)

Now I have to interject my dad's description of my self preservation skills. 
"She has none."
It's true.  Most people have "fight or flight."  I have a third and fourth possible response, neither of which are particularly useful. I am generally stuck choosing between analysis paralysis (the dangerous state of neither fighting nor flighting), or the Signature Andrea: save the piano.

It probably goes without saying that this was a classic case of "Save the Piano." And the piano didn't get hurt at all when it pinned my knee to the ground.

Somehow I didn't break anything. I have nothing to show for the horrible experience except a thin scar from huge amounts of swelling, a legacy of warning signs on Challenger's pianos (do not move or play this piano without supervision), and a really awkward fear for a pianist.

I guess it's an okay story. But it would make a really weird monologue!

[BTW, you can ask but I probably won't tell. Sorry for being vague!]

Thursday, February 13, 2014

TBT - Inventory of Life Experiences

As part of my bachelors degree program at University of Phoenix, I was required to write an "Inventory of Life Experiences," basically to justify the credit I was requesting as "prior learning."  As we packed up our stuff last summer to move into the basement, I came upon the pages and set them aside to someday blog.  Yes, it's a somewhat sterile personal history; the kind I was willing to share with complete strangers.  But it's a history nonetheless, and as such, it belongs here.

It is kind of funny for me to read between the lines of what I wrote to remember the stories how they actually happened.  It is interesting to me that wrote a history that didn't include friends or relationships prior to Kirk (and it seems a little unfair to the pivotal people who shaped me).  It's not surprising that a detailed account of my education is what seemed like a personal history to me.  And it is kind of cool for me to get to read something I wrote three months before Adam came into our lives.  The last nine years certainly have been a totally different chapter.   Here it is, the stuff that 23-year-old Andrea thought was important.

My Personal History

I was born on September 28, 1981 in Ravenna, Ohio to Charlie and Jackie Casdorph.  We lived in Ohio until my dad graduated from college.  During this time, my mom worked at a bank.  We moved to Utah when I was four, and I know very little of Ohio other than it is where I was born.  I had a very happy childhood with parents who loved me and supported me in everything I did.

When we moved to Utah, my mom started working for a private school, Challenger Schools.  She worked her way up through the system and eventually taught in the middle school.  I attended Challenger for preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and eighth grade.  I was able to skip first grade because I was very ahead in my school work.  I believe my love of reading comes from the excellent education I was able to get early in life.  It also comes from the fact I rarely see my dad without a book in his hands.  Education was always very important to both of my parents.  My mom was actually my teacher for both fifth and sixth grade, and she was the best teacher I have ever had.  Some people probably thought being the teacher's daughter would mean school would be easier.  For me, it meant my teacher knew exactly what my potential was, and anything less than that was not good enough to get an A.  In fact, I never got straight A's while in my mom's class.  I always got a B+ in penmanship, because she knew I was just not trying.

When I was in seventh grade, Challenger did not have a middle school.  I had the option of going to Crescent View Middle School, where all the kids from my neighborhood would be going, or Midvale Middle School, where I could participate in the ALPS program.  My parents left the decision up to me, and I decided to go to Midvale because education was very important to me.  This turned out to be a year of very had lessons for me.  First, I was a little surprised to find the kids in the ALPS program were not very accepting.  They had been in school together most of their lives and had no interest in making new friends.  I spent much of the year immersed in Anne McCaffrey novels, trying to escape the void that was my social life.

Second, I did not like very many of the teachers.  At Challenger, I had always felt my teachers really cared about whether or not I succeeded.  At Midvale, I did not feel this same sense of caring.  I really did like my English teacher, though.  His class was enjoyable and informative, and I felt he really cared about his students.  About halfway through the year, he had some health complications and had to resign from teaching.  He was replaced by a woman who knew less about the rules of grammar than I did.  I had a very strong foundation from fifth and sixth grade, and when she would teach the class an incorrect principle, I tried to respectfully point it out.  She felt I was being rude and disrespectful, and she did not like me as a student.  At this point, I made a very bad subconscious decision that I did not need to prove anything to her.  I chose not to turn in a research paper for which I had already done the work, simply because I did not want to do anything to please her.  I ended up failing seventh grade English in the fourth quarter.

The next year, Challenger was restarting its middle school program.  They would have a seventh grade, but no eighth grade.  I made the decision to return to Challenger as part of the seventh grade class because each of the subjects except math would still be ahead of what I had learned the previous year at Midvale.  For math, I was given an Algebra II book, and I mostly taught myself.  If I had questions, I would ask my mom, and she did her best to help me.  There was no one at the school, though, who taught Algebra II.

In ninth grade, I had no option but to return to public school.  This time I decided to attend Crescent View.  I had an enjoyable year and got good grades.  I also began to make some friends and enjoy the social situations.  I went to Alta High School where I participated in the music programs.  I was in the Madrigal and A Cappela choirs as well as the Jazz band.  I took several AP and honors classes, and I got pretty good grades.  However, I did not work as hd as I could have.  I could have easily earned a 4.0, but at this point in my life, it just wasn't important to me.

For college, I decided to go to Utah State University to study music therapy.  The subject seemed like a great way to combine my love of music with helping people.  When I got to USU, though, I discovered I did not enjoy my music classes, because they turned my favorite thing into work.  Additionally, the music therapy program seemed full of people who weren't quite talented enough to make it into the vocal performance or piano performance majors.  I again made a bad subconscious choice, this time to quit trying to succeed in college.  I began missing classes on a regular basis, generally attending only the rehearsals for the choirs I was in.  I got F's and incompletes in most of my classes for two semesters.  I came home for the summer an decided to try to major in English.  However, my next semester at USU was just as unfruitful.  I ended up dropping my classes and moving home before the semester even ended.

A few months after moving home, I decided to post a profile of myself on a dating site,  I didn't want to pay to post the profile, so I did not include a picture.  I had posted the profile out of boredom and mostly forgot it was there.  After a few weeks, though, I got an e-mail from a very nice-sounding guy who essentially told me that he was perfect for me.  He said he had read my profile and that he fit my description of the perfect guy, except that he was not musically talented.  We communicated for a few days through instant messaging, and then we decided we should go on an actual date.  One week after meeting online, we met in person.  One week after that, we were engaged.

Kirk and I got married on August 10, 2001.  Our first year of marriage seemed very easy.  We adjusted to living with each other without too much trouble, although we rarely got to see each other because I was very busy with work and teaching piano, and he was very busy with work and school.  Although I had always wanted to wait a year after marriage before having kids, when I got married I suddenly had a very strong desire to have a baby.  I stopped taking birth control and expected to be pregnant within a few months.  That is how it had happened for most of my friends.  It didn't work that way for us, though.

In December of 2002, we got a dog named Sam.  I had begged my husband since we had gotten married to let me get a dog.  I think he could tell that since we still didn't have a baby, I really needed something to give my affection to.  Then in January, we found out that I was pregnant.  We had been trying for so long, and we were so excited, so we told every one we knew.  We probably told a few people we didn't know.  In March, I had a miscarriage.  For weeks, I had to endure people telling me "it was probably for the best," and that I would "get another chance."  Then for months after that, I would run into people who hadn't heard who would tell me I was way too skinny to be pregnant.

In May, Kirk went in for some routine knee surgery and came out with a Staph infection.  After two separate hospital stays, we ended up moving in with Kirk's parents because I could not take care of him alone.  Kirk couldn't even get out of bed without my help for about a month.  During this time, he had an IV in his arm.  In addition to all the medicine he needed to receive, the bag had to be changed twice daily, and I had to give him shots in his stomach at regular intervals.  Kirk became depressed at his loss of mobility.  I was still depressed from the loss of the baby.  After about 6 weeks, he was able to go back to work, but he was still not really able to bend his leg.  In addition to all the emotional stress, we also had a huge amount of medical bills piling up.

Kirk and I had always been able to communicate effectively, and it had kept our marriage very strong up to this point.  However, Kirk started to hold in his emotions about his injury because he could tell I was very upset about the baby.  I didn't want to talk to Kirk about the baby, because he was so emotionally laden due to his injury.  Added to the strain of living with Kirk's parents after having been so independent, our communication issues started to have a huge toll on our relationship.  I started spending more and more time away from the house, immersing myself in rehearsals for shows and spending time with my friends.  I felt guilty for not being there for Kirk, but my guilt just drove me further away.

Things finally came to a boiling point after about 6 months of steady decline.  Kirk and I were able to acknowledge our individual and joint issues and begin talking about them again.  I went to counseling for a few months to get some help sorting out the emotions I was feeling.  A few months later, we were able to buy our own house again, which helped in more ways than one.  It has helped emotionally to provide a place that is just ours.  It has also helped Kirk's knee to improve because there is a lot of yard work to be done.  Our relationship is now stronger that it ever was, and we have learned the important lesson that there is nothing more crucial in a relationship than communication.

After having such a difficult time in 2003, Kirk and I decided that we were going to ave a good 2004.  We felt we really deserved it.  I know you can't actually plan those things, but so far the year has been great.  We love our house (and the second dog we got shortly after the house), we are becoming more financially stable, and I am six months pregnant.  We have been married for over three years, and having endured what we had endured, I am certain we will be married for many more.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

{Sorta} Professional

Were it not for the pesky inclusion of the tiny word {main} in the definition below, this week I could consider myself a professional writer.

Also, were it not for the pesky inclusion of the tiny word {main} in the definition above, I could at various times in my life considered myself a professional:

  • Graphic designer
  • Accompanist
  • Choreographer
In reality, I realize I'm just a lucky amateur.  But I'm feeling pretty big-headed and proud this week to have gotten paid - for the first time ever - to write.

This is a big deal for me because once upon a time, I wanted to be a writer.

Once upon a time before that, I wanted to be a teacher.  But my mom didn't want her daughters to be teachers (go figure), so I picked a different dream, and it was to be a writer.

My parents liked this dream.  They liked it so much that they packed up their 14-year-old daughter and put her on a Greyhound Bus and sent her - all alone - to journalism camp in Des Moines, Iowa.  I liked it so much that despite being incredibly alone and terrified as simultaneously the youngest kid at camp and the only Mormon in attendance, I paid attention, and practiced writing, and had a grand experience.

In fact, every time I write a blog in which I begin in the middle of the story, I think of two things:
  • The Emperor's New Groove wherein the opening shot is of a llama in the rain and
  • Journalism camp in Iowa where I was taught to always start at the most interesting part of the story
And every time I think of journalism camp I think of three things:
  • Asking the other kids why they smoked, did drugs, and had sex and receiving the answer, "Because we're bored," 
  • QOSE, an acronym that stood for something totally inappropriate made up by this really cool kid named Seth, the clear social leader in the group and
  • The last day of camp when Seth pulled me aside and thanked me for being willing to stick up for my beliefs.  He said I had really impressed him.  And I probably learned more from that than from any other experience at the whole camp.
And since I'm busy making lists, whenever I think of Greyhound busses I think of the power of the priesthood:
  • My parents walked me into the station, and as we looked around, I think we all got a little scared.  My dad took me back out to the car to give me a father's blessing.  When we walked back into the station, a kind looking older woman approached us and asked if I was traveling to Des Moines.  It turned out she was headed there, too, and she offered to let me travel with her.
  • Somehow, my bus went to a different station than where the University had planned to pick me up.  I had some cash with me, but not enough for the cab fare from Point A to Point B.  Thankfully, someone else needed to go the same direction and split the fare.
  • My bus broke down on the way home, and I arrived many hours later than expected.  Because this experience was about 5 years before cell phones became popular, my parents had no way to contact me.  Because of the power of the priesthood, I felt protected the whole way home.
But I've digressed.

I don't remember why my dream changed, or even the direct progression of what it changed to.  I just know I didn't become a journalist.  And I didn't become a writer, except to jot down my life experiences for posterity and the enjoyment of my friends who, for whatever reason, seem to like this blog.

And then, almost two years ago, I found the Utah Theatre Bloggers Association.  They let me write for them in exchange for tickets to the shows I review.  I've had a great time and seen some great theater, but it didn't exactly seem like a dream realized.  

Until today.  Today I got paid to conduct an interview, write it up, and have it published on the UTBA site.  Today I am a professional writer.  {at least for a day}

View my article here:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wait... This Isn't Normal??

First - read the article here (if you didn't click the link on FB yet).

Then - close your eyes and remember back to the lesson on genetics about dominant and recessive genes.  Remember the fun little matrix where you'd line up "Big B - Little b" and "Little B - Little B" to find out that according to simple genetics, a (Bb) brown eyed and a (bb) blue eyed parent would have a 75% chance of producing a (bb) blue eyed kid?  Well, let's alter the inputs to consider N as the dominant, non-musical gene and m as the recessive, musical gene and then consider child X with parents (mm) musical and (mm) musical.  Statistics and scientists agree that child X is going to end up (mm) musical.

Enough of the vagaries.  Let's apply the theory to a whole family.  My dad was raised in a musical family.  Each of his siblings plays one or more instruments (and plays them well).  My mom is the daughter of a concert pianist who made certain each of her children were able to both sing and play (again... well).  They met in choir at Ricks college, and most people who happen upon this blog know one or more of the (mm) musical results.

Finally - read my explanation of how scary true this is and the thoughts that went through my head:

1.  Family Reunions always consist of family concerts around the piano.


  • The Casdorphs (specifically my dad and his siblings) performed "Country Roads" at my grandparents' 50th anniversary party.
  • The Nelsons like to sing parts of "The Messiah" for fun on Christmas Eve.
  • One Nelson reunion literally involved a pre-printed songbook so we could all sing along.
2. You've been to more orchestra, band, and choir concerts than rock concerts.

Examples:  Just since the time Kirk joined the family in 2001, I estimate my poor husband has attended at least:
  • 16 choir concerts (estimated 10 high school and 6 college)
  • 2 band concerts (glad Jack didn't stick with that...)
  • 30 or more elementary or junior high choir performances
Those numbers don't include musical theater.  Following Michelle alone has probably been over 30 shows.

3. Every sentence is finished with a line from a song in a musical:

More accurate for my family: "Every situation can be summed up with a quote from Into the Woods."

4. You could name every instrument in the full orchestra before the age of 10.

I'm not saying that one was true.  But I am going to point out that Kirk recently showed what it's like to be a (NN) non-musical kid.  An LDS missionary with a passion from drumming had been dining at our house and pointed out Skye's nice "hat stand."  Kirk laughed at him and pointed out the poor elder's folly.  "No, that's for the drum set.  It's where the cymbals go."  The room when totally silent as we all tried to determine whether he was serious.  Michelle and I finally explained to him that the cymbals (or HIGH HAT) did in fact go on the aforementioned "hat stand."  And then we laughed a very (mm) laugh at his expense.

5. Thanks to the mandatory piano lessons, you were the best in your class on the recorder in elementary school because you already knew how to read music.

  • Yep.  That happened.
6. No matter where you go for family vacations you check to see if there are any musicals in town.

Once upon a time, my family loaded up into a truck and 5th wheel trailer and drove from Utah to New York and back.  We saw lots of stuff along the way and made one unexpected but memorable stop in Ogallala, Nebraska.  The truck had broken down, and with parts a day away, we ended up with time to see the sights.  I tried to be all sullen-teenager (seriously, my journal from the time reflects little beyond missing the two guys I was trying to decide between and how much I missed then having been dragged away for 2 1/2 weeks), but I just couldn't resist the charms of the singing cowboys at the local dinner theater.

7.  As a kid you thought it was strange that your friends' families didn't all know their vocal part.

My family doesn't really like sitting together in church.  It was all fine and dandy before Michelle and Jack could pick out their own harmony parts - Mom, Dad, Lisa, and I could each trade between the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass lines in the hymns without having to double.  Thankfully the tenor and bass can be doubled up an octave with is almost like getting to sing in six-part harmony.

9. Your family is always asked to perform together at events - and you can literally throw a concert together in minutes.

We have binders.  Literally.  If we don't have time to put together something new, we have a go-to standard set of both sacred and secular Christmas, a few Sacrament Meeting favorites ("Bow the Knee" and "Come Thou Fount"), or the original music from the original fireside co-composed by my mom and me.  No piano available?  We can always do "Prayer of the Children."

11. Every family vacation schedule started with blocking out rehearsal time and performance dates.

Still does.  I hope it always will.  (Though this is one of the major reasons I decided to leave EYT behind.)

16.  All of your black clothes were originally purchased as concert attire.

Okay, this one applies more to band members (though I can certainly pull together a quick concert-black).  For choir kids, this should read, "All your formal dresses were custom made to match the rest of the choir," or "You've owned your own tux since you were 16."

17. Somehow your house always had twice as many music stands as people living there.

I own two of my own.  So, yep - twice as many people as I am.

18.  You got the "good" part in music concerts as a kid because you could read music and sing in tune.

I'm not certain if everyone would agree that "alto" is the good part, but I do remember wanting nothing more than to be cast in the quartet in my high school choir's top 40 revue.  I don't need solos - just give me an exciting harmony.

21. As soon as you are alone as a family after any performance the critique session begins.

Oh how I wish I could teach this skill to Kirk!  "How was it?" I ask.  "Good," he replies.  Doesn't he know that the whole point in going out to ice cream after a show is so there is plenty of time to pick it apart?

23. It is not unusual to find rosin, reed water bottles, or valve oil in any drawer in the house or cup holder in the car.

Again, this one needs an edit for the choir and musical theater crew: "It is not unusual to find sheet music in every bag and binder and on every flat surface in the house (and probably somewhere in the car)."  Also, "It is not unusual to find mic tape in any drawer or cup holder."

24. When talking with friends in sports, you would accidentally refer to try-outs and practices as auditions and rehearsal.

Oh. So. True.

25. Half time??  Oh, you must be talking about intermission.  I only came to see the band.

I went to two high school football games.  To sit with the band.  My high school basketball team made it to some important game that meant playing at Rice Eccles Stadium (edit thanks to friends who point out my mistakes: the Hunstman Center).  I went.  To sit with the band.  My dad came with me.  And embarrassed me terribly by asking to play Dave Dunn's trumpet.  

26. You know the terms "front of house," "stage left," and "upstage," and can use them without thinking.

I just referred to a part of my classroom as "stage right" this week.

29.  Family birthdays aren't over until there's a rendition of Happy Birthday complete with harmony and a descant.

Yep.  And now every time it happens, I think of "The Office" episode about the high harmony.

30. You're basically the Von Trapp family, just without the Nazis.

Whatever.  We're the Casdorph family - which is even better.

Oh, and we aren't snobs, which means we're willing to let even the non-purebred hang out with us:

Adam: Nm, Alex: Nm, Dylan: Nm, Kirk: NN, Brett: Nm, Suman: probably NN (I'm classifying Skye as mm, which makes Tyler and Ryder mm, too)  (Though Brett got Nm, his efforts at making the m dominant make John an mm)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

TBT - Following Jack's Footsteps

Throw Back Thursday always seems like such a fun idea when I see others post old High School pictures, etc. on Facebook.  I'm not throwin' it back that far, but I'm going to use TBT as a chance to catch up non-sequentially and guilt-free on the things I should have blogged as they happened but was far too busy to actually do so.  With this year's 11 a.m. church schedule, I will be spending a few minutes each Sabbath on my corner of Family History: in recording our family's story one tidbit at a time.  So here is the first installment of TBT.  Coming up next week?  The 2013 Fife Grandkids Gingerbread House Competition Winner!  

In 2001 when I met Kirk, Jack was 7.  The day after Kirk and I got married, Jack got baptized in my parents' swimming pool.  Kirk was around to see Jack get the Aaronic Priesthood.  Kirk was around to wonder (with the whole family) whether Jack would ever be taller than his short sisters.  Kirk was there when, just before Jack turned 16, he finally surpassed my 5'3".  Kirk was there when Jack graduated from high school, when we sent him off to Indiana to attend Rose Hulman, and when Jack went through the temple.  With the notable exceptions of Jack's first day of Kindergarten and the milestones of babyhood, Kirk has pretty much had a front row seat to the whole Jack show.

Which is fun, because as I have a tendency to compare my boys to my little brother, I have someone who can knowingly agree or disagree.

One fun comparison is size.  As I mentioned, Jack was not exactly tall.  Sometime in his early teen years, he finally grew a bit and rid his dresser drawers of items that no longer fit.  He called me to see if I might want these items as hand-me-downs, even though at the time Adam was probably at most 2 or 3 years old.  Luckily, boys styles don't change that much, and I figured the pajamas, flip flops, and track suits would work just great someday when Adam finally grew into them.

Well, at 8 years old, Adam grew into the smallest of the clothes Jack abandoned as a young teen.

Adam LOVES to wear Uncle Jack's old clothes, especially since Jack is currently serving an LDS mission in Bolivia.  

And as Adam follows in Jack's footsteps in silly little things like pajamas, I can't help but hope Adam will follow his Uncle's example in other ways.

I hope Adam will value education and work hard in school.

I hope Adam will take future leadership opportunities in Young Men's seriously and serve the Lord willingly.

I hope Adam will not take himself too seriously and will have the laid-back kind of confidence Jack has always had.

I hope Adam will be there for his friends and surround himself with people from diverse backgrounds but with common values.

I hope Adam will choose to serve a full time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I hope Adam will continue to be an example to his younger brothers and cousins the way Jack was an example to him.

It starts with an old pair of pajamas; who knows where Jack's example will lead.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Utah ABC's

I have an adorable nephew named John.  He lives in Georgia, so I don't get to see him nearly as often as I would like.  But even with the distance, his Fife cousins think he's pretty amazing.

So when Christmas was approaching, we wanted to do something special to let John know that even though we can only hang out with him a few times a year (if we're lucky), we want to be a big part of his life.  Since he was just shy of a year old, a fabric ABC book seemed like just the ticket.

We searched our photo archives, snagged a few new shots, picked out fun fabrics and fabric printer paper, and got to work.  Thanks to the help and patience of all of my men, we were able to complete the project in a weekend.

But silly me - I didn't take any pictures of the actual book!  All I have are the photos we printed.  In the real book, the older boys wrote each letter and what it stood for in colorful fabric markers, which kinds of made them vary in legibility.  The boys also designed and created the book's cover (not pictured).  But if you're interested in what sorts of things a one year old might miss, see below:

And if you're interested in helping John get to see his cousins more often, let me know of any theaters in the West that might be looking for an awesome audio engineer.  Maybe we can convince his parents to move closer.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Hokier the Tradition...

Despite my groans upon hearing the lesson's topic, I was fortunate to be in attendance during Decembers combined Young Men's/Young Women's Sunday lesson on family history.  In addition to showing a few cool videos, the teacher had kids read aloud and discuss a New York Times article about the "secret sauce" that holds families together.

Apparently, a mid-90's study showed that the single most important thing we can do for our families is to develop a strong family narrative.  According to the study, hearing stories gives kids a sense of their "inter-generational self."  Hearing the successes and failures of their ancestors helps kids develop the confidence to face difficult situations.

The military, I guess, is finding that giving its recruits a sense of history is turning to be more effective at creating camaraderie than the more traditional "break-em-down-together then build-em-up-together" methodology.

Anyhow, there was a particular part of the article that stood out to me:

Dr. Duke recommended that parents pursue similar activities with their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this sense of history: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. He mentioned his family’s custom of hiding frozen turkeys and canned pumpkin in the bushes during Thanksgiving so grandchildren would have to “hunt for their supper,” like the Pilgrims.  “These traditions become part of your family,” Dr. Duke said.
Now, whenever I think of our family's traditions that others may think are hoky, I think, "Wow!  What a good job we are doing."

And here's one of them.

If you've been around the blog long enough, you saw a brief homage to this tradition in an Arizona recap 5 years ago.  But I didn't do it justice then, so I will try now.

As a child, Christmas to me meant Arizona.  Almost yearly, we escaped the Utah cold and headed to 70 degree weather outside Phoenix.  Grandma and Grandpa's house on College Avenue was a pretty amazing place for a vacation.  It was pretty much an all-inclusive resort with food continuously available inside and a the huge Kiwanis Park out the back fence.

The family dogs (our dog Angie was the daughter of Grandma and Grandpa's dog Jiggy) loved the walk.  My parents loved the tennis.  But we loved two things: sitting on the camel and feeding the ducks.  I have never been to Arizona without sitting on the camel and feeding the ducks.

I don't hail from a picture taking family.  My mom much prefers to just enjoy the moment than to try to capture it.  I'm sure if I searched her house I might find a few more pictures, but I'm grateful to have visual proof that I've been sitting on the camel at least since I was 6 years old.  Considering we didn't move to Utah until I was 4, and Grandma and Grandpa didn't move to Arizona until after that, I'm pretty sure this 1987 classic may be the first camel picture.

Since I am a capture-the-moment kind of girl, my own collection starts in 2001, the first time I took Kirk to the camel.  I also required my siblings to pose for posterity.

To my Arizona Camel Pose of 2008 (featuring Kirk, Adam, and Alex) archives I can now add the Family Pictures at the Camel adventures of 2014.  Everyone was a really good sport as I forced them to sit on or near the statued beast.

It's a camel.  Which is weird.  And I'm hoping it will be one of those "frozen-turkey-in-the-bushes" traditions that glues our family together.

Of course, we also fed the ducks, each member of our growing extended family filling a unique role (mine was Historian).

Of tradition, Mark Twain wrote:
“The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it”
―  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
W. Sommerset Maugham said:
 “Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.” 

In an October 2000 talk in the semi-annual general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Donald L. Hollstrum said:
"Uplifting traditions play a significant role in leading us toward the things of the Spirit. Those that promote love for Deity and unity in families and among people are especially important."
Yeah, it's just a camel.  But you know that object lesson where someone tries to break a stick (not so hard) and then tries to break a bunch of sticks bound together?  Well, that camel may just be the straw that makes us unbreakable.  Even though Grandma and Grandpa moved to Mesa a few years ago, you can bet we'll take a drive to Kiwanis park to add another stick every time we visit.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

4 Pics 1 Word - The Tale of the Treacherous Trip

I've been a bit silent.  I should mention that my grandma died.  But then I'd feel like I should talk about the fact that my grandma died.  And I'm not quite ready yet.

And then I think that to say anything before talking about the fact that my grandma died minimalizes the importance of a pretty big deal.  But a lot of life is happening while I am sitting around waiting to be ready to write about my grandma.  And I'm still saying plenty in my head.  So it's time to start somewhere.

My grandma died, and that meant going to Arizona for her funeral.  After lengthy discussion, final travel plans included my mom, Alex and I leaving at 4 a.m. to begin the 669 mile drive that Google Maps suggested should take 10 hours and 9 minutes.

We arrived at 6:00 p.m.

Just in case you thought I was perhaps giving irrelevant details, I call your attention to the 14 hours between departure and arrival.

How was the drive?

Of course everyone already in Arizona asked.  That's what you do.  Just like I asked Brett and Lisa, "How was the flight?"  For some reason, the details of one's travel seems to serve as a compelling prelude to The Stuff That Really Matters.  (FYI, I just stole a literary trick from a book I just read in which I capitalized stuff that shouldn't be to make it seem proper and concrete.  Hm.  I feel like a thief.  And a bit like my grammar-teacher mother is ready to mark my blog with her red pen.)  As such, it seems like the details of my travel, which was actually quite memorable, may make the perfect - if lighthearted - introduction to my Stuff That Really Matters.  So here goes:

The Coolest Part:
We stopped for gas in a tiny "town" called Cliffdwellers somewhere between Kanab and Jacob Lake.  Actually, I don't know if it is a town at all, but there was a sign that said "Cliffdwellers," and I was never certain if it was simply stating an interesting fact about a handful of people who may or may not be dwelling in a cliff, or if that's the town name.  Either way, they sell gas there, and my mom's car was particularly thirsty.  As we pulled up to the pump, my mom took one look at the older-than-dirt gas pumps and wondered aloud if they even worked.  I noticed the displays were lit, so we exited the car.  "Well, I don't think I'll be able to pay out here!" she said, and we both laughed at the thought of actually going in to the gas station to pay.

We walked into the surprising large market and shared our observations regarding the method of payment with the cashier who was likely as old as the pump itself, and I instantly wondered how many times a day he responds to similarly unimaginative comments from tourists who think they're alone on the highway.  He quickly responded, "Nah, you just wave your card over it."  Don't tell her I said so, but my mom actually did a double-take, glancing at the old pump for just a moment before realizing his joke.

The Best Public Relations:
Turns out there are road closures on Highway 89 every Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.  Apparently there were signs on I-15 and such alerting travelers to these closures, but when you are just listening to the voice of the nice GPS lady and don't really know you'll be traveling on 89, (and noticing things isn't really one of your ninja skills anyway) you don't really know about it until it is 9:30 a.m. and you arrive at a nice woman holding a stop sign.

There's a whole lot more story between that moment and this one, but fast forward to 11:20 a.m. We had joined the queue of vehicles eagerly awaiting 11:30, the vehicular equivalent of Black Friday's "open, open, open" shopping chant, and we were doing the same thing we had done for most of the previous 7 hours: talking.  I had just had a flashback of being stuck with friends on 1-15 in a snowstorm on the way to St. George last month, and I shared a story with my mom about how my friend Arlee had taken a look at the dark snowy expanse and commented, "Well, this would be a terrible time to play 'I Spy.'"

We were starting to wonder if 11:30 was an estimate or a hard-and-fast deadline and continuing to lament the fact that a nearby vehicle's horn was blasting continuously when a truck drove slowly past in the opposite direction.  Two people were seated on the tailgate looking particularly official, and I started to fear bad news.

Never would I have expected what happened next.  The truck people offered us donuts, granola bars, water, and hot chocolate. For free.  Apparently they do that every day: drive up the queue giving out free goodies to keep the inconvenienced people happy.  Well done, road construction company.  Well done.

However, I do have a tip.  If you're going to pull off an awesome PR stunt like that, brand the vehicle.  Brand the people.  Brand the water bottles.  I was so impressed, and I want to give credit where credit is due.  But alas, I can only thank the ambiguous individuals in orange safety jackets.

The Triumphant Moment (that turned out not to matter):
Okay, back to 9:30 a.m.  We've just arrived at Stop Sign Lady, and we're really confused.  Mostly because 30 minutes prior, I had gotten a text from my dad saying to take 89A, so when I had finally actually seen an "89 Closed" warning, I had assumed that wasn't a problem: I was taking 89A.  So now I'm feeling super confused and frustrated.  I try to check the UDOT app for information but I had deleted it recently and had only enough internet connection to allow the download to trickle through.  I called my dad, who pretty much treated me as though Stop Sign Lady must be an illusion because she surely could not exist.  I must be lost.  Or insane.  Had I gone through Kanab already?  "No, Dad, I know what Kanab looks like..."

Sidenote: Kanab was a pretty big part of my childhood.  Many summers featured a two-legged trip from Salt Lake to Tempe with the first leg driven by my parents.  Mom and/or Dad drove the kids to Kanab where we'd meet up with Grandma and Grandpa.  Parents drove home while grandparents drove the kids the rest of the way to Arizona.  I have super specific memories of my cousins (who occasionally accompanied Grandma in her van) wondering at the fry sauce available in Kanab.  Memories of camping there 2 weeks after Jack was born (on the return-trip exchange).  Particularly specific memories of the Shell station where the exchanges took place.  I know what Kanab looks like.

When we finally found out about the scheduled closure (which explained why both Kirk and Skye's vehicles made it to Arizona without meeting Stop Sign Lady) my mom and I decided to stop and talk to a patrolman we'd seen and ask if there were any ways around.

Nope.  That was pretty much the answer.  There is one way to Kanab, and that way happens to be Highway 89.  Well, except that he had indicated it may be possible to get through on dirt roads, but he couldn't confidently give us directions.  His recommendation was that we drive 10 minutes back in the direction from whence we'd come and wait at the restaurant.

Well, we couldn't do that.  We wanted desperately to be in Arizona with family, and with the viewing scheduled for 6:00 pm, we were on a deadline.  I called my dad, this time able to confidently explain that I wasn't crazy and that the road really was closed.  I told him that if he could find a dirt road route on the computer that we'd be willing to try it.  We waited on the roadside for his return call, which included the  directions I hastily scribbled on a nearby envelope.

We set off a bit warily, looking for things like "the brown dirt road that only goes to the left."  Dad indicated that we would actually cross into Arizona on this dirt road and shortly thereafter we would return to real roads.  The plan was to let the GPS take over at that point.

We found the indicated dirt road, which incidentally turned out to be a bit more of a sand road.  Nestled in next to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes ("So pretty," I remarked, "that we should go there on purpose sometime.") the trail seemed like a bit much for my mom's Camry to navigate.

I had another flashback of a trip to a sand dune when a family acquaintance got the truck stuck in the sand.  It was during this series of misfortunes that Kirk hit me with a trailer.  "But that's another story, nevermind..."

The Camry actually did quite well, and I was really impressed with how calmly my mom was handling this whole thing.  I was also really grateful I'd chosen to travel with Alex.  Had Dylan been there, he'd have been freaking out about the dirt road.  (He passionately hates them.)  And if Adam had been there?  Well, I'm just glad I didn't have to listen to his 8 year old solutions to every conceivable misfortune.

And then we came to a hill.  We made it halfway up before the Camry refused to go further.  While I was busy mentally planning how two women and 6 year old were going to get the car out of the sand, Mom was expertly backing down the hill without digging the tires deeper.  I mean - seriously impressed!  Well, she did back into a tree-shaped scrub brush, and I had to go stand on the branch to break it so she didn't tear even more paint off her car.  But I know I would have gotten stuck.  So serious props to her.

And then we had to decide whether to try again.  I prayed internally and felt okay about trying again.  I scouted ahead; atop this hill did the road get better?  As I scouted, I discovered that the far left of the trail, still encased in morning shadows, was actually frozen solid.  On my recommendation, Mom bore hard to the left and pretty much gunned it.  We made it to the top!  And it felt ridiculously satisfying.

The Scariest Part:
We were feeling pretty good about our success on the hill and made it a mile or so closer to the border.  But as we rounded another corner, our spirits dropped as we saw what lay ahead.  A bit of a gorge.  Some solid rock.  A huge, steep hill, with sand just piled at the bottom.  I scouted.  It looked awful.  I called my dad, who seemed unconvinced that we were on the right brown dirt road.  After I coached him through using Google satellite to zoom in on the entrance to the road and after the subsequent long discussion regarding the tree/round-about-esque outcropping within a few hundred yards of the turn, he was convinced we were on the road he'd suggested.  And he also agreed that upon zooming in, it really did look much more like a "trail" than the "road" he'd recommended.  I described the upcoming hill and told him I'd be texting him a picture so he could decided if we should try it.

His response:

"Turn around!"

So we drove back down the Hill of Triumph and headed back to 89.  Our off-roading had progressed the clock from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m., and we knew our best option would be one final visit to Stop Sign Lady.

The Nerdiest Part:
In my conversations with my dad, he had reminded me that mom's speedometer is apparently inaccurate.  He said it reads 5 mph slow, so I should encourage her to drive 5 mph faster.  Once we finally got through Kanab and hit the open road, she took his suggestion.

And she got pulled over.

She was going 85, and apparently he speed limit was 65.  Whether the 5 mph recommendation was a hoax or not, she was definitely speeding, but we both became increasingly curious whether the speedometer assessment was accurate.

Also, I really like the distance = rate x time formula and have fond memories of using it for fun on long drives as a child.  I had earlier suggested testing dad's information and with the now added impetus of the speeding ticket, mom agreed.

So she set her cruise control at 70.  I measured the time between mile markers.  55 seconds.  I found the rate of speed in mps and then converted it to mph.  I showed all my work, because that's how I roll.  And I took a picture so I could show my math students.  65.45 mph.  As usual, my dad was dead on.

If You're Wondering:
We made it to Arizona at 6:00 pm, precisely the time of the viewing.  We had my dad's suit, so he had to borrow one.  We showered and dressed and made it to the church before 7:00.  And then it got real.

And that's a story for another day.