Tuesday, December 18, 2007

more getting into Christmas

We continue to ramp up the Christmas mood around here. Holiday movies are of course fun and festive. Making sugar cookies and candy with one of Kari's Christmas mixes playing in the background is essential, if not somewhat backbreaking.

Something I really look forward to every year is going to the Christmas concert of the Colorado Mormon Chorale. A huge part of that is going to see my father sing, but it really struck me this year how much the Chorale's concert really helps put me in the Christmas spirit. This year was extra fun because Katie got to come and share it. She loves music, but even more so when it's being sung by her Opa. I'm so happy that she could see him sing. This year was a nice mix of carols, primarily traditional but with a couple of wild cards thrown in as well. This year's African carol added some nice energy. It's so nice to go to a Christmas event where the focus of the activity is actually on the birth of the Savior.

I kept thinking throughout the concert that it was at one of dad's concerts that I first met the fellow who would eventually marry my sister. I remember coming up on them from the back, and thinking 'Wow! They already look like each other! Time is not going to make them morph into looking like the same person any more than they do right now.' What a great guy she found to be her partner.

If only she lived closer to help me wrap presents! And I mean wrap - I don't have enough pillow cases for all of the kiddos' goodies!

Friday, December 7, 2007

paper clips

I just finished watching the documentary Paper Clips. What a great little film. It really got me thinking of the power that one person really does have to bring about change, even from something seemingly small. In brief, a principal of a middle school in Whitwell TN was trying to come up with a project to help teach her students about diversity. Whitwell is a depressed rural community of about 1600 people - 97% of whom are white and protestant. They decided to study the Holocaust, and in the course of their studies needed a way to visualize what 6 million was. Paper clips chosen because they were worn by Norwegians as a silent protest against Nazi policies. The students started writing letters to people, and it slowly gained speed. From just a few paper clips to start, they have now gathered more than 30,000,000.

As the film started, I kept thinking how interesting is was that a school in the South would start a project like this. Whitwell - as described in the documentary - is 20 miles from where the Scopes Trial took place, and 100 miles from the birth place of the KKK. The assistant principal described growing up in a home where racial slurs were common, and even though he had a black roommate in college, he used them himself at times, even in front of his roommate. This just confirmed my stereotype of the South as being the center of all racism, based on my vast experience with books and movies and NEVER having visited the South in person. And then, the man talked about how people from the North and the West assume that all folks from the South are racist, ignorant hillbillies. While this project was started to teach their kids about diversity, he hoped it would also teach others about people from the rural South. OUCH. Here I was, feeling a bit of the 'I was raised in Boulder, went to school in Berkeley, aren't I the queen of tolerance toward all men' and he nailed it. That's exactly what I think. Ignorant, intolerant hillbillies. Not exactly consciously, but there nonetheless.

The actions of the Germans are of course an extreme example of intolerance run to the extreme. As are the actions of The KKK in the South. People don't just wake up and decide to eliminate a race of people. A judgement is made made based on something, and that judgement takes hold.

I know, this took a bit of a dark turn, but think about it. I'm not saying you're in danger of running out and grabbing a pitchfork, but how tolerant are you? Is different inherently bad? Really cooking my noodle is how to teach my own kids tolerance in a place where there aren't a tremendous number of people that are all that different from them. Guess I'm not as different as those 'hillbillies' from Tennessee after all.

It's just amazing to me what little sponges these guys are. The first thing that Alex does when he sees anyone is smile. He also loves to attack chins. It could be from the teething, but I like to think it's because he gets smothered with kisses all the time, and so he thinks that's how people greet each other, with complete and total happiness. Katie addresses him as Alex, but also as handsome, because that's what I call him. Katie is a little parrot - everything we say, she repeats. It's a good check for me - helps me to actually listen to what I say. Hopefully more good than bad will be absorbed by my little sponges.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

hooray for tivo

This morning I got to share another Christmas tradition with Katie, thanks to the magic of Tivo: we watched Uncle Dave reprise his role as Hermy in the classic claymation 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.' Roger hates it, but it's one of my favorites, although I have to admit that the Heat Meizer does one of my favorite song and dance routines of all time.

Any favorite videos that won't be missed this year?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

getting into Christmas

Here's where we see I am no photographer, and am also seriously lacking in the patience it would take to become such. Younce got me thinking about Christmas traditions, and so here we are. This year I was HOPING that Katie would be old enough to be excited about the ornament-a-day advent calendar, and I was right! At least so far. She likes to reach into the pockets, and is quite particular - SURPRISE! - about where she wants the ornaments to be hung on the tree. I like that this calendar is basically the same as the one we had when I was growing up, with just a few small changes to make it our own. Sewing sequins all over the place really did provide the effect I was looking for, although it took forever. I'd still like to do something more with the background to make it look like it's snowing, but I haven't come across any small snowflake-type sequins, and adding clear ones to make it sparkle just seemed like it would be more of what was already done on the tree. This was one of my favorite things growing up, and it's fun to be able to start this tradition with my own little family.
We found a good spot this year to put out part of the nativity set. It's fun to watch Katie check out the figurines and go over the Christmas story as we look at them all. It's also nice to have a visual reminder of the real reason for this season.

It's also fun to go out with Katie looking for 'Christmas Houses.' We took a meandering route home from the park the other evening - Captain Handsome had a long nap, so we were late making it outside. But it did provide a good excuse, albeit a bit nippy out, to go and check out some Christmas lights. I love that Katie gets excited to see Christmas lights, and all the kitschy stuff that people put in their yards. The cheesy gigantic blow-up deals are her absolute favorite!

I would like to copy Younce and make stockings that are unique and representative of each member of our family. Outside of Seven, however, I'm still just not certain what the theme of each stocking would be. Interests change. How do I figure out what Katie and Alexander will be into years from now? Or even myself and Roger for that matter. I'd probably be safe with ribs and a smoker on Roger's stocking. If I made a sock for Katie this minute, there would be dolls, trains, books, and M&Ms on hers. Alexander's would be covered in something drippy and gooey. Hopefully that will not always be the case! Harder still for me to do something that isn't just copied off of a pattern.

So, what are your favorite Christmas traditions? And . . . What would YOU put on a stocking for anyone in my family?!

Monday, December 3, 2007

faster than the speed of light

'NUMMMM! Man, this is dah-WISH-us!'

Someone is having some trouble letting go of the plug, and someone ELSE is having trouble with all the whining that comes along with that. It could also be that someone #1 is simply super-tired since she was up being a bookworm last night. At any rate, in an effort to distract her, I suggested we make 'fancy drinks' before lunch. Katie suggested lemonade, so today's drink was raspberry lemonade with seltzer and ice smashed up in the blender. Amazing what happiness a pink liquid drunk with a straw can bring! She's smiling so hard she can't even open her eyes! It made mom happy as well. I love a fancy drink as much as the next gal.

Moments later, girlfriend is all smiles, happily slurping away on her lemonade and contemplating eating some cheese sandwich, until she spies her advent calendar over on the wall . 'I want candy!' Since I'm the mom, I say NOPE!

Cue the tantrum! She still has a lot to learn as far as beating her hands on the ground and shrieking louder if she wants to compete with Aunt Mag for tantrum skills, but this one wasn't bad. Maybe it was just the contrast between total happiness and utter and complete sadness just seconds later that made it a good one.

Before too long, I'll have some video of Alexander climbing up the bookshelves. For now, he gets around by rolling like a roly poly, spinning around on his belly, and sliding backwards on the floor. Until the climbing shots, here's a good smile just so sister doesn't score all the print.



Tuesday, November 27, 2007

the plug

Well, it is time. Time for weaning Miss Katie off her plug addiction. This is no overnight project, but we are definitely making some progress. Today we present an Ode to the Plug. Above you will see the plug in Katie's preferred position. She was quite particular about having the handle pressed up under her nose for some reason. Ours is not to reason why.

video

Here is an example of favored plug activity - the super spin. She started doing this, apparently without really thinking about it. She just hangs out or even walks around, spinning her plug. Silly monkey.

I find interesting the objects that Katie has found for comfort. She is a blanket kid, a doll girl, and a plug kid. Stereotypical choices, all three. In the car she likes to have a book handy - that's my girl! We cannot leave the house many times unless she has all these four items. She didn't have this behavior modeled directly for her, but I suppose that we did teach it to her. Crying girlfriend - give her the plug. Time for bed - here's your blanket and your dolly. Her choice of the ugliest doll on earth as her favorite is her own contribution to the story.

Lately she has a new favorite: her 'I love Aunt Mag' t-shirt. Given the choice of what to wear, that's the first thing to come out of her mouth. 'Aunt Mag shirt!' Today she had to carry it around for a while, saying 'I like Aunt Mag shirt.' Sweet girl. I'd say it's a good replacement for her beloved plug.

Monday, November 26, 2007

adversity and example

I recently went to another funeral. This funeral was one of the most uplifting meetings I've probably ever attended. Not that there wasn't crying - this was a funeral. Most of the crying was not being done by the family, but by the others in attendance.

The funeral was for a woman who died after a 25 year struggle with Parkinson's disease and rheumatoid arthritis. A number of things really struck me. In no particular order:

This woman planned her own funeral. She had been on the verge of death for a number of years. Her primary hope for her funeral was that it not be about her, but that through her funeral at least one person in the audience could become closer to Jesus Christ. That's how she lived her life, and that seems to be how she wanted to be remembered. This got me thinking about my own life, mostly in a positive as opposed to morbid way. What would I want my own funeral to be like? Not that I am even close to being ready to go. Which got me thinking some more . . . Not that many people want to die, but more often than not the timing of things is not their choice. What do I have left undone? Where should I be spending a little more time?

A number of comments were made about her illness, and how she chose to not let it define her. It's a horrible disease - two horrible diseases - and they both struck her quite young. She said that given the opportunity, she would not have changed the course of her life. She would not have chosen to be healed from her diseases. Being ill forced her/allowed her to do things that she would not have taken the time to do, and blessed her family in ways that they would not have been blessed had she been healthy her entire life. This got me thinking about my own adversities in life. Now, grant you, they are nothing compared to this. But with the benefit of hindsight - which is to say, at the time things were occurring I did NOT say HOORAY! I'M GROWING - I think I can say that I wouldn't change anything about my life. The things I learned through not so delightful times has shaped who I am. I wouldn't be the same person without those experiences, good or bad. Hopefully I've learned what I needed to from them so they don't have to be repeated, and I can experience new and different forms of 'torture' in the future. :)

One of her sons told of how when he was young, he remembers running all over the house yelling 'MOM' as he searching for his mother. He'd often find her kneeling by her bedside, praying. She never yelled at him to knock it off and leave her alone, but she also did not acknowledge that he was there until she had finished. This got me thinking about the example that I set for my kiddos, as well as the example my parents set for me. I don't think I have ever heard my father say an unkind word about anyone. He has certainly gotten testy at times - he is still human! - but he's never ripped on anyone. My mom never had to teach us about service, it's just what you do. Someone needs something, you help them out. I was trying to count how many 'strays' we took in to the 'Reese youth hostel' and I lost count at around 10. I'm sure I'm forgetting many. Thanks mom and dad for all you taught me by doing, instead of preaching. I hope that I can set the right pattern for my own kids.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

happy thanksgiving!

Hey Tommy, Julie, Mag and Kalle, David, Pam, Katharine and Griffin, and the rest of you all that couldn't - or chose NOT to! - make it back to Colorado for Turkey Day this year. Here are the pies for this year's feasting. From the left, we have apple with a crumbly topping; 'chocolate mania' - chocolate/butter crust, almost flour-less chocolate brownie topped with cream cheese mixture, swirled with more chocolate; key lime; peach custard; mini-blueberries; pumpkin; and mini-pumpkin and key lime. The key limes went to my pie helper on the right. The apple went to some of our tenants, who have taken it upon themselves to refinish the kitchen cabinets. They are crazy indeed, and trying to bring that kitchen into the current century is worth more than a pie, but right now that's all we can do!

Sorry we don't get to break crust with you all on this day of gluttony and lounging about. I'm thankful for you all, far and wide, and we'll just have to make more pies when you're close enough to enjoy them! Of course, we will skip the pumpkin, since mom is the only one that wants eat that one anyways!


Just for a chuckle, here is a picture of a girl who really wanted to go swimming. She kept asking me for days, and then found her swim suit and took it upon herself to show me how serious she was. She originally tried to get her arms in the suit with her sweater on, but was unsuccessful. The rest she managed all on her own!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

trip to CA

Alex and Katie have finally made it to northern California! Lizard was flying out to visit Mag in Mountain View, and she had a layover in Colorado. We jumped on the flight and borrowed her lap for one of the wee ones. I don't know that it was the relaxing vacation she was originally intending, but we had a lot of fun! We flew out on Halloween, but little Miss Katie wasn't in the mood to be a leopard. Alexander is still willing to do things my way most of the time.

Thursday Liz and Mag went to the spa and got massages. I got to kick it with my entourage. That night we visited Aunt Amy and Grandma Dorothy out in Danville at Amy's house. Sometime during the week Aunt Mag found Alex's second tooth!


Friday we dragged Kalle with us to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Katie was most excited about the sharks and the octopus - they currently have a great white shark that they are rehabilitating to release back to the ocean. The otters were also a big hit.

(not my photo) Saturday we headed over to Berkeley for some Zachary's pizza, tie-dye for Lizzy, and some strolls down memory lane for Kat. We parked near my old apartment, just down the street from People's Park - which is still full of homeless people - and walked up Telegraph to the campus. It was fun to stroll around campus a little bit. It really is a fun campus - lots of open grassy fields - but boy had I forgotten about the steep slope from the top to the bottom! The view of the bay from the Lawrence Hall of Science is still fantastic. Too bad I couldn't remember which building up the hill I used to work in. I guess some information starts to leave after 20 years!

Sunday we drove up the coast to the beach at El Granada, in honor of Dave and Pam's bunch. Once we got set up, the fog totally rolled in and froze us out. This did not stop Katie from playing, or Alex from giving Aunt Mag lots of kisses! If we had just continued on to Montara or Linda Mar we would have had nothing but sunshine the whole time! After the beach we went and had dinner with Aunt Mary in Pacifica, and had some girly spa treatments with her. The herbal hand scrub was amazing!

(not my photo) Monday we headed across the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods. We would have hit the beach again if it hadn't been totally foggy. The redwoods were gorgeous - a 600 year old tree had fallen a few weeks ago, so they're in the process of rerouting the walking path a little. Katie enjoyed running around, although she wasn't too keen on wearing a sweat shirt. Her purple fingers are on view in the photo album of the kiddos. Driving back across the bridge, I MAY have ran the toll. The sign said 'carpools - no toll'; we were definitely driving with more than 3 people, but I just paused and then zipped right through. We'll see if a ticket shows up in the mail! Mag and I were laughing so hard afterwards that I missed the exit for 19th Ave/Highway 1. We ended up taking 101 home. Guess I was a little cooked after our week of playing!
We flew out at the crack of dawn Tuesday. So sad to say goodbye to our North-America-based aunties! When we got home, Katie slept for about 6 hours, and would have slept longer if I hadn't woken her up for some dinner! Thanks Mag and Kalle for giving up your bed for us, and thanks Lizard for letting us come along on your trip! We didn't get to really chat much with the little people running around, but we had a great time. Hopefully we didn't totally wear out our welcome and we'll be able to invite ourselves over again soon!

environmental pondering

A post from another blog - lowercase numbers: the link is just over to your right - challenged folks to try to walk a little instead of just hopping in the car. My knee jerk reaction was 'Yeah right, tree-hugger boy. Easy for you to say. Try that idea with small children!' But honestly. How much harder is it to strap the wee ones into a stroller instead of into their car seats? Who doesn't need the sunshine? And how about getting myself moving a little more often? What better excuse than doing my small part to save the planet?

That challenge - thank you Mr. Pulsipher, and sorry, I don't remember how long ago it was offered, but it has indeed been a while - got me thinking about small things I can actually do to use less energy - fossil fuel kind or non-renewable, that is. It would actually not be so bad if I expended more energy. So now, if it's a minor grocery run, we walk it. This also has the benefit of actually only buying what is on my list, instead of everything that looks good. One benefit of where we live in Wrongmont is that we are just one block off of Main St. - easy access to many fine eateries such as Good Times, Chipotle, and Three Margaritas, as well as fine shopping Murdoch's Ranch Supply and, my childhood favorite, BigK. We even took a stroll over to the monster Wallmart before our trip out West - even though I HATE Wallmart, the walkability of it won over hopping in the car and going to Target. Insanity. It's a whole new Kat! The car trip that we've cut out that struck me as the silliest was to the park. There's a pretty good park about a mile away, which we used to drive to most of the time. Let's hurry up and drive to go play! That's just funny to me. Half of the fun is the getting there. And if we actually get to wait for a train, it's like Christmas morning for little Katie!

Other painless changes:

  • Switching out incandescent bulbs to CFLs as they need changing. A little pricey at first, but they should pay for themselves in no time.
  • Hanging a few loads of laundry out on the line instead of using the dryer. I admit I'm not ready for crunchy, scratchy towels, but I actually like the feel and smell of sheets that have dried outside BETTER than ones dried in the dryer. Bounce tries hard to recreate that smell, but nature wins on that one.
  • Garden/canning adventures. We are not self-sufficient over here . . . yet. But we're practicing. With Roger 'McGyver' working his magic on the watering system and grow boxes, we're getting a pretty good little garden going. I just need to figure out how to keep the poachers out of my blackberries! There are a fair number of man hours involved in the canning process, but in a couple of days I canned 20 quarts of apple juice and 42 pints of apple sauce, all with fruit from a tree that we do little in the way of taking care of. The grapevine that we don't even water yielded approximately 25 quarts of juice as well. And my cost, outside of sweat? A trip to Boulder to borrow all the equipment from my mom! :)Since I'm not ready to grow EVERYTHING we eat yet, buying locally-grown produce and making more things from scratch are relatively painless changes too.
  • We've (by 'we' I of course mean Rog) started to install low-flow toilets, experimenting with our place first. Jacuzzi makes a nice one that actually works well - the American Standard did not have adequate power for our needs, shall we say. The city pays $50 for the old toilet, and we easily saved $20 off our water bill with just one toilet changed out.

Just some musings. Once again, I've been surprised at what actually paying attention to things in my little world shows me. Bottled water has been making me shake my head lately. Buy a Nalgene bottle and a water filter if you really need one! Why so much plastic?! Guess a little Berkeley rubbed off on me after all!


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

the magic of cash

You know those ads for visa, where everyone is happily swiping their credit cards until the whole works comes to a screeching halt when one customer whips out some of the green stuff to pay? This is one actual case of truth in advertising.

Rog and I have been trying a new experiment. For our personal discretionary spending money we've switched to a cash only system. We've only been doing it for a month, and it has already made quite an impact. I was laughing about it last night in Target. I was looking to replace something, and there was a choice between two options - one of which cost only $2 more than the other. In the old days, I would have grabbed the more expensive one without even thinking about it, because it MIGHT be more useful. Instead I actually stopped and THOUGHT about it, and went with the least expensive one, because it really was exactly what I needed.

It's interesting to me how quickly my usage of money has changed. Over the past three years our spending style has really evolved. We've gone from not really paying attention at all and just buying what we wanted - which worked because neither of us is TOO ridiculously extravagant, if you don't count pinball machines and the shiny sparkly things that Kat likes - to this new cash operating system. Now we actually think about what we're doing with the green stuff: Do I really need it? Do I REALLY want it?

Mostly it makes me laugh at all of the stuff that we used to consume without even thinking about it. That 1 second moment of thought makes a huge difference. In one month I've already spent over $100 less than usual - and that includes some treats for Katie for our plane ride to party with Mag and Lizard! The grocery bill has magically gone down too, even though that good time still goes on MasterCard. Somehow the cash mentality has filtered into my subconscious and changed the plastic habit a tad without me even thinking about it. Craziness. This just means I'll have more moolah to play with at Christmas!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

the power of words

I only had 20 minutes for my lesson on Sunday - well, I TOOK 20, when I probably actually had 15 - and some of that limited time had to be spent on clarifying 'not repressing things' vs. 'changing your perspective,' so I wanted a re-do. I just wish that I had been able to drive home the main idea a little better - with a few more minutes it could have happened. So just for my own brain, here it is, informally outlined.

The lesson was based on the talk The Tongue of Angels by Elder Holland.

The power of words: 'It is by words . . . [that] every being works when he works by faith.'
God SAID, 'Let there be light: and there was light.'
There was a comment about how our words can actually be a reflection of the 'state' of our faith; i.e., positive words coming from us, positive direction of faith at the time.

Chance for perfection: 'For in many things we offend all. [But] if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.' James 3:2.
It's interesting to me how the same words can have such a different effect on people. I read this and saw hope: here is one thing I actually could be perfected in. Someone else I know read this and thought: here is one more way for me to fail.

Elder Holland addresses four groups of interactions: husbands to wives, gals to everyone, the way we speak to children, and the way we speak to ourselves. I focused on the way we speak to ourselves.

Without thinking about it - just write the first things that pop into your head - complete the sentence: 'I am ___________________.'

Look around the room and take note of all the things that are brown. Now close your eyes. Tell me everything in this room that is yellow. We see what we are looking for - what our attention is primed for.

At different times for me I might complete the above sentence with any of the following:

  • I'm tired
  • I'm crabby
  • I'm doing great
  • I'm progressing
  • I'm fat
  • I'm happy
  • I'm sad

I've noticed that if I dwell on the 'I'm tired' - come on! Who isn't? - then I really am truly tired all day. But if I choose to focus my attention on something else, I don't tend to FEEL tired all day long. I have a friend who really doesn't enjoy being pregnant. Whenever we'd talk while I happened to be in that state, she'd say 'Don't you just hate being pregnant. I'm so glad it's you and not me!' I can think of worse states to be in - I am not necessarily at my best when I'm prego - Rog will be happy to concur - but I can think of plenty of worse states to be in. Focusing on the downsides just makes me FEEL worse than it actually is. (This is where we went off into the weeds - the comment was 'If I'm crabby, I think I should just say ''I'm crabby'' and be ok to go with it for a while.' So I tried to make the distinction between NOT ignoring/repressing how you feel but trying to change your perspective on it. What I SHOULD have said was that once you've identified something perhaps not so positive, what can you do to change it? With the tired example, do you perhaps need to practice saying NO so that you don't exhaust yourself? What can you do to rejuvenate yourself so that you actually aren't as tired? If this means cutting out a few hours of tv at night, or saying 'no' sometimes, or taking a walk, DO IT. I get a little tired of always identifying problems but not solutions.)

'In all of this, I suppose it goes without saying that negative speaking so often flows from negative thinking, including negative thinking about ourselves. We see our own faults, we speak - or at least think - critically of ourselves, and before long that is how we see everyone and everything.' (Elder Holland)

Elder Orson F. Whitney: 'The spirit of the gospel is optimistic.'

The challenge: look at your list of 'I am _________.' Identify if they are even true statements. You are surely NOT the biggest jerk in the world. Replace the negative ones with something that IS true. And if it is true and you don't like it, what are you going to do about it. Try starting off the day with 'I AM good enough, I AM progressing, I AM blessed,' and see if that makes a difference in how you see the world around you. Does this 'small' - not always so EASY to execute - action change your day?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

pumpkins

We broke protocol and dressed up in our costumes a little early to go and check out a pumpkin farm. I admit it - the kiddos are a little small to care about this stuff, but Katie did enjoy the petting zoo. She only got rammed by one feisty goat. :) When Katie scores a mass of candy at the up-coming 'trunk-or-treat,' I'm sure she'll be more in the spirit of Halloween. I'm crossing my fingers for dark snickers and milky ways!

cultural differences

Question: is this the face of a grandmother? My siblings will probably be snarky and answer - GREAT grandmother! But seriously.

Yesterday I officially rented out our latest vacancy, to a gal and her 16-year-old daughter. Seem like nice folks, but I've been wrong - SOO wrong - in the past. Time will tell. (Incidentally, the previous tenants have called asking when I'm going to be returning their security deposit. If you think there is going to be much of that $600 left after making up for your late rent, the black carpet, all the missing blinds, and the door with KNIFE holes in it, you are going to be disappointed very shortly! But that is for another day . . . )

Anyway, I pull up in my 'ride' last night - the double stroller with my entourage happily riding inside - and the gal said: 'Oh, how sweet! Are these your grandchildren?' I have to say it catch me off guard. I just told her I got started late and left it at that.

I'm the first to admit I'm no spring chicken, and I am not going to be in any 'Oil of Olay' ads anytime soon, but GRANDMOTHER?! COME ON!

After I thought about it a little, kicking it at the park afterwards where we are always the only Caucasians in the crowd, it struck me. In her culture, I could quite easily be a grandmother. If I had my first kid between 16-18, and then my kid had HER first kid around the same age, I could be a grandmother. SCARY! And it would be perfectly normal for the grandmother to be taking care of the grandchildren.

It makes me feel not quite so out of place in my own world. I might be a late bloomer, but at least I'm not a grandmother yet!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

our deepest fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves:
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.”

- Marianne Williamson

Thursday, October 11, 2007

fun with trash

Do you ever wonder 'where did all this stuff come from?' This is a picture of the remains after our most recent tenant vacated their 2-bedroom-1-bathroom apartment. Granted, this unit did have some yard attached to it, so ALL of this stuff wasn't crammed into their apartment. But still! How on earth does one collect all this junk? And believe me, it's junk.

I'm always amazed at the stuff that people leave behind when they move. Included in this load of treasures is a dog house (these folks had 3 different dogs in the three years they rented from us), an aquarium, a number of bike frames, and a bed frame. The bed frame we can use - it just needs a coat of paint. The rest is all broken, unusable junk. These guys are not the exception - it seems to be more the rule of folks that rent in our area. If you drive along some of the 'rental rows' you'll see the same story in many front yards: random stuff that is ALMOST ok but that is missing some key element that would make it actually function. Some amount of time and effort and possibly money were expended to gather this stuff, but then it just ends. Do they have grand dreams of making millions on eBay sprucing this stuff up? Christmas gifts for the next year? Do they really think they are going to somehow patch that cracked aquarium and slap some fish in there? Is it going to be a new bookcase instead?

It just seems like instead of saving up to buy one quality item, 100 cheaper items - that don't work or don't last - are purchased instead, to then just end up in the back of Jethro for yet another load to the dump!

Naturally, all of MY possessions are truly treasures. No junk in my crib. Just don't ask Rog - he might give you a different answer. I have a stained glass workshop that doesn't get used, but that's not broken, I'm just busy with little people instead.

Any of you lurkers out there feel like commenting on stuff you have laying around that you have grand designs of fixing, but that have instead been left languishing in the corner, like that bear corduroy hoping to get his button sewn on again.

i forgot to mention the car they had sitting in their parking space for over a year that never ran!!

Friday, October 5, 2007

labels

A few weeks ago I walked up on a conversation between two gals at the park. One of the gals recently moved here, and is starting the hunt for a house. I walked up as she was saying something to the effect of ' . . . And there's no point in looking in Boulder. They are just so liberal there.'

Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut, but then I would cease to be Kat. I went off on how everyone always makes the claim that 'Boulder is the Berkeley of the West' and that, having experienced them both for extended periods of time, I thought that assessment was crap. If the gal had said 'We're not looking in Boulder because houses are too ridiculously expensive there' I would have left it alone. THAT is a true statement. She's only lived in the area for 2 months, and yet already Boulder is that 'liberal place.' I've got $10 that says she hasn't even BEEN to Boulder, and, on the off chance that she HAS, it was probably just to the Pearl Street mall, and the punks around the east end of the mall have determined her opinion of the entire city.

Naturally, her labeling of Boulder without much basis makes ME jump to the conclusion that she is a sheltered twit from Idaho. So whose labeling is worse? :)

It's funny (funny 'hmmmm' vs. funny 'ha ha') how we often jump so quickly to conclusions. In some ways, it's necessary, simply because of the sheer volume of information we have to process on a daily basis. We use the clues we see to make judgments that are, much of the time, accurate. If we analyzed EVERYTHING ad nauseum, we'd never get anything done. However, obviously sometimes this system fails us, and the judgments we make based on a first impression or seeing someone in one particular situation turn out to be completely wrong.

All this got me thinking about my first year in college. I had three roommates. We didn't know each other - just found a place together through the Institute. Two of us were active in church, two were not. The two who weren't active were nice gals, so that's whom I hung out with. The 'pious' roommate - 'poo face' - told everyone at church that I was 'WILD.' I learned this because by the time May rolled around - after a year of essentially no one talking to me - I had finally grown enough of a spine to put myself out a little bit more try to talk to people. After chatting for a while a gal said 'Wait. You're Katharine? You don't seem wild to me!' Based on one person's assessment, I was labeled 'WILD' which, ironically, at the time couldn't have been further from the truth.

Has having a negative experience with being labeled changed how I judge people? One would HOPE so, but no, not always. I still think that gal from above is an inexperienced twit, even though I don't really know her. :) My assumption will likely make it that much more difficult for me to get to know her better.

Hopefully I will be at least partially conscious of the labels I attach to my children. I do think that people generally live up to our expectations of them. So if I get it stuck in my head that Katie is X, she probably will be - most probably because that's what will stick out to ME; because that's what I have preconditioned myself to see. Ahhhh, just so long as X does not equal 'cheerleader.' ;)

Also curious to me is how the ways we label OURSELVES affect our own behavior. 'I'm not good at Y,' so then I don't even attempt Y anymore. I've already decided that I can't do it. 'I'm a jerk, so people just need to get over it.'

So many labels, so little time to combat them all!

Friday, September 28, 2007

rental rant #2

I have another question for you: What happened to consideration for one's neighbors?

For the first time in our exciting management history, we have opted to NOT renew a tenant's lease. A paying tenant. In light of my previous rant, you're probably asking: 'Are you nuts?' Maybe so. But while these guys pay their rent - 2/3 of which is paid by the Longmont Housing Authority even - that is about the extent of their lease compliance.


  • These guys have had a dead car parked over there for at least a year. 'We're getting that inspected next week.'


  • They have 'gatherings' almost every night, where they and their friends steadily ooze across the entire front lawn area, smoking and drinking, and intimidating the other tenants in the building to stay inside their own apartments, or blocking them from reentering their homes.


  • Once they finish up outside they move it on inside, where, now drunk, the couple that lives there fights and yells for a while.


  • When asked how many times the police have been over there this year, an indignant 'only twice' was offered as a response. (The second time, the male tenant got arrested for mooning the cops as they were driving away. Smart fella.)


  • They have had at least 3 dogs - at different times - and a ferret, all on a lease that requires approval for animals.

It's a little funny being on the other side of the line now. I mean, as a renter, I thought some of the clauses in my leases were silly, but being the law-abiding soul that I am (if you don't count the speed limit) I never really considered violoting any of them.


Sad for many, but better for us, the increase in the rate of foreclosures - CO has ranked#1 in this arena for much of the past couple years, but has recently fallen to #5 - has really helped the pool of renters improve dramatically. Hopefully we'll be able to get a GOOD tenant in there in no time.


Fortunately, dealing with the renter drama really gives me some great practice getting over my fear of confrontation. It's been an interesting evolution of Kat, minimizing the emotional components of dealing with people and shifting into more of a complete mindset of 'it's just business.' What's that? You don't like me? That's a shame. I don't particulary care for you either.


So what's the word? Have you ever moved because the neighboring tenants have been so bad? Did talking to the landlord ever help? Did you ever get anyone kicked out because of their nonsense?

Monday, September 24, 2007

rental rant #1

Finally, you say, a posting to justify the name of the blog! I'm sure you - all of my vast reading public - have been waiting on pins and needles for some insight into the world of rentals in Longmont, CO. Well, your day has finally come.

First question for you: When did paying rent become optional? How is this not one's FIRST obligation?!!! Mr. 'I-can't-pay-my-rent' tells me he has no money this month as he's sitting on his rear watching 'platinum' cable programming on his 55" TV. He's talking on his cell phone, there's a big trampoline in the backyard, and evidence of many, many cases of Bud that . Hummm. I have basic cable, and in the past somehow always managed to pay my rent while going to school and earning my rock-and-roll-lifestyle wage of $8-10k/year. Ask me if I feel sorry for your mismanagement of funds. Go ahead. I dare you.

Out of the 20 renters past and present that we've had, there have been 7 total deadbeats. The partial deadbeats in there ended up making up their back-rent. Well, except for the 'midnight movers,' but they actually left the place clean, outside of a pot of beans on the stove. I don't really count them in the deadbeat tally.

  • 5 accounts are currently with a collections agency. Only ONE of those is actually making the required payment.


  • 1 we took to small claims court and garnished her wages - that one was GREAT! These tenants had the outside faucet 'magically' leap out of the wall, flooding the basement on the 4th of July for approximately 10 hours. The broken water balloons and balloon-filling attachment on the hose laying in the mud next to the faucet were purely coincidence.


  • The most recent one we evicted and won a judgement, but they bolted the state so now off to collections they go. These would be the same folks who claim they cleaned the place to 'move-in' ready. 'Someone must have came in after us and put a cat in there.' Ahh, yes. The infamous 'poo fairy.' Always running around, leaving presents for unsuspecting landlords. Also, bags and bags of empty aluminum cans are now considered a 'move-in' gift. If you aren't receiving these fine incentives from your current landlord, consider moving to Longmont. We can hook you up.

Contrary to popular rumor, landlords DO actually have live, warm, beating hearts. I can understand a glitch in the funding source. Things out of your control can happen. People fall ill. Even the 'accident' of being arrested and spending some time in the pokey can be an explanation - although I don't personally see that as something outside of your control. But it's your life. So then you make it up. I do NOT understand getting upset with ME because I am enforcing your half of our agreement. You have a roof over your head, it's not my job to pay for it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

influence

Roger has a goal to read 24 books this year. His kind of books - mostly real estate, finance, tax strategies - are not usually what I would consider real page-turners; HOWEVER, this one was seriously fascinating. It's a study of the 'tricks' people - particularly sales people and advertisers - use to get you to follow their lead and do what they want you to do, often against your own better judgment.

For example: Have you ever wondered why restaurants hit you with little mints when they bring you your bill? Is it because you had the garlic bread appetizer? Has your breath been sending patrons out the door before they've even been seated? Perhaps. (My breath has certainly warranted mintification at times.) But studies have shown that the giving of this 'gift' increases the amount of tip a patron will leave. More moolah, simply because of a cheap peppermint presented on the little brown check tray!

I know I have poo-pooed the 'soft science' of psychology for many years. In recent years, however, I have been coming around. There are actually many studies done with reasonably-sized groups which don't reach completely outlandish conclusions. (One of my favorite psych studies from the undergrad years was on the effects of sugar and learning. 4 students drank a glass of lemonade before being tested, 4 drank water. The lemonade students performed better on some memory test than the control group that drank water, therefore sugar makes people smarter. HELLO!) Now that I have a small group of test subjects under my own supposed control (n=2 so far), I have become more interested in the field.

This entire book is great. Pertaining to children, I found two studies of particular interest. Do these hold true for REAL children, or more importantly, how do they work in practice?

1. We accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressure. Basically, if you want your child to believe in the correctness of an act, threats and bribes aren't going to cut it. They need to continue the desired behavior when we aren't there. Somehow they need to accept inner responsibility for the actions we want them to take.

Briefly, 2nd-4th-grade boys were forbidden to play with a fancy, expensive robot (1 out of 5 toys in an array). One group was threatened with stiff punishment, while the second group was simply told 'it is wrong to play with the robot.' In both samples, 1 out of 22 boys played with the forbidden toy initially. The interesting result comes next. 6 weeks later an assistant was sent to check up on the affects of the different instructions. Out of the 'punishment' group, 77% chose to play with the robot, while only 33% of the second group chose that toy. The author suggests that the children didn't play with the toy because they decided that they somehow decided they didn't want to play with it.

2) People fight against restrictions of their freedom. If something is scarce, we tend to want it more.

24-month old boys were brought into a room with two equally-attractive toys, separated by a plexi-glass wall. In one case, the barrier was 1 foot high; i.e., it presented no obstacle to them, as they could easily reach over it. In the second group, the barrier was 2 feet high; i.e., the boys had to walk around to access the second toy. With unrestricted access, they boys showed no preference to either toy. In the presence of an obstacle, however, the boys went directly to the obstructed toy, contacting it 3x faster than the unobstructed toy.

The author describes this behavior as the need for the 2-year old to determine 'vital questions of choice, rights, and control.' They are testing where in their worlds they can expect to be controlled and where they can be IN control. Naturally, consistency will help everyone. This would suggest that the more times you can provide choices - so that the child is making their own decision, even while YOU are controlling (at least some of the time) the choices they are choosing from - the better off everyone will be.

Just how naive am I?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

identity part deux

This is a bit of a post script, but it's still stuck in my brain. One of the gals from the 'my husband does this; I live here so I'm cool' group made the statement: 'I really hope that my daughter is pretty when she grows up.' This brought the immediate thought to my brain: ' I just hope that my daughter is smart.' Pretty you can fix - with enough money and paint - but you can't fix stupid.


It just struck me the funny - funny hummm, not necessarily funny ha ha - things one might wish for one's offspring. Like it's something that parents have THAT much control over in the first place. Sometimes I think people wish qualities for their children that were/are their own weaknesses. But are they things that are lasting or of actual value?


I mean, hoping that your kid is pretty? This kid isn't a complete troll. Not necessarily a kid you immediately gravitate to and say 'WOW! What a striking child.' But also not a little girl who needs to hide under a rock. What damage will be done to this poor girl if her mom puts out the VIBE of 'I hope you become pretty' instead of 'You are my child and I think you are GORGEOUS! '


What do you wish for your child? And how have you stopped yourself from trying to control this too much?


I have this crazy notion that if I provide lots of different experiences, or access to a variety of different stimuli, I can help GUIDE my children to finding out their own identities, as opposed to forcing my own notion of who they should be upon them. My 'wishing' for intelligence could be just as harmful as someone wishing for cuteness - if I don't accept my daughter for who she is on her own. But since she is cute and a button AND a genius, I guess so far we're ok. :)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

identity

I've been thinking a lot about 'identity' lately. How people define themselves. How I define myself these days.


I hit many a 'park day' in my current phase of life. Who's got cabin fever? One day, I walked up to a group of gals, and the gist of the part of conversation that I got from them is that these gals are women who form their identities by what they wear, what their husbands do for a living, what their kids wear, and where they live.


Another day, I was talking with a gal who just moved here. We were doing the basic 'where are you from? what brought you out here? spiel. She phrased her answers like this: 'We just graduated from XX. We've always worked for smaller companies, but now we are trying working for a larger company. We're not sure how we like it yet.' Does this mean that you and the two-year old tag along to Ball with your husband everyday? Did you take the tests in college? Did you do the projects?


Does this happen when you don't have an education of your own? I am the first to acknowledge that I would not have finished my Ph.D. without the help of Rog. He was a tremendous support and a fantastic coach. I would have either quit, or harpooned the whale and been sent to prison without him to talk me down off the tower, so to speak. But he doesn't - at least I don't THINK so - consider my degree somehow his. I don't feel like I work at IBM. I might not think that ANYONE should work there these days, but it's Roger's job over at big blue, not mine. Is this way of thinking happen when you're a youngster and you get married?


I think I'm really just giving this knit wits too much credit for being representative samples of women. Maybe I just hit the 'outliers' all in one pod. After the first incident, some of my friends with small children showed up. One is an artist and one is a nurse. One actually helps her husband - a dentist - quite often with his practice. She's never used the 'we,' and in her case it actually does apply sometimes!


I guess right now, at this moment and not necessarily in any particular order, I'm a wife, mom, retired researcher, crazed canning lady, deep-in-the-closet glass artist who occassionally knits wee sweaters and reads to escape.


Who are you?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

sleep

I find myself actually daydreaming about sleeping. Dreaming about sleeping when I am actually finally asleep. It's such a strange phenomenon, how dominant sleep - I should say the IDEA of sleep - has become in my brain.

I have never had a huge need for a lot of sleep. I used to think napping was a total waste of time - think of the things that could be accomplished with that time! Think of the projects! How could anyone possibly need more sleep than what they get at night?

Of course, it needs to also be stated that I have been and occassionally still am sometimes delusional. Being 'opposed to' naps does not mean that there have not been times in my life when I have been obviously sleep deprived, and SHOULD have done something different. My sophomore year of college I literally slept 4 hours a night. It was a heavy 'playing' year, and my friends were studying disciplines that were not as homework/study intensive as moi. Typical days were, roughly, up at 6 am to study, class from 8 until 12 or 1 pm, work until 6 pm, come home and make dinner and hang out until 11 pm, study until 2 am (long after everyone else had gone to bed), start the whole game over. Good plan, right? As long as I kept moving, it worked.

There were, however, two classes that caused narcolepsy to hit without fail. No matter what I tried. Astronomy - a 1.5 hour 2x a week lecture class of about 200 students, so not a HUGE deal - and a neuropsychology class - more problematic, since it was a class of 30 in more of a seminar format and my seat happened to be RIGHT at the front of the room. I tried bringing my lunch, pinching myself, drinking gallons of liquid before hand, all to no effect. Every class from 1:30 to 1:45 pm I'd zonk right out. Biggest irony: that was the only class at Berkeley for which I 'earned' an A+. Crazy. Just shows how little professors actually know.

The above picture is so misleading. From this image, you would THINK that little Mr. Handsome is a guy who enjoys, and is good at, sleeping. And I guess during the day this actually does hold true. He is a good little napper during the daylight hours, which is great because then Miss Katie gets some mom-time all to herself. Nighttime is a totally different story. Every three hours, with the accuracy of the atomic clock, the little man is up and ready for chomping. ARGH! I find myself more and more often trying to manipulate time during the day so that I can sneek a nap. And my narcolepsy is GONE! No more falling asleep at the drop of a hat. This might suggest that a couple of three hour blocks of sleep is more effective than one 4 hours stretch, but it just doesn't feel like it. Of course, I'm also not 20 anymore. :) My brain just seems to be harder to shut off than ever. And naturally the more I think how limited my window of opportunity is and how I REALLY need to fall asleep RIGHT NOW to maximize it, the harder it is for that to actually happen. HELP!

post script
I scored a nap this afternoon. I am a new person - or more closely back to my 'normal' self - whatever that means. And Rog rocks.

Monday, September 3, 2007

is there anything your child could do that would make you stop loving them?

I recently taught a lesson in RS. (I'm currently the 4th Sunday teacher in our ward.) The topic this time was the Point of Safe Return. The talk is about repentance - no matter what you do, God loves you and will never stop loving you. It is never too late to fix things in your life that need some tweeking. My 'starter thought question' was the above - 'Is there anything your child/parents could do that would make you stop loving them?' Certainly they (children/parents/loved ones) are quite capable of doing things that we're not excited about. Actions that might make us really not LIKE them particularly at the time. This was really in my brain since the death of a friend's older brother. He had, shall we say, some rough patches in his life. Even physically threatened his parents at times. Yet at his funeral, his mother talked about how 1) at the end of his life, the two of them at the least talked on the phone every day and always closed with 'I love you' and 2) the day she found out that they would be able to adopt him was truly one of the happiest days of her life. It just made me think about how, if an imperfect mortal person can be so forgiving of the pain that someone - their child even - had caused them, how much more real God's forgiveness is.

I hesitated to ask that question, however, well, mostly because I tend to over-think things. I mean, does Hitler's (or Stalin's or whichever other mass murderer comes to mind) mother still love him? Does she see him as the small child learning to walk and talk, or as the man he became? No, I did not include this in the lesson. Just something I was thinking about. It's certainly possible to imagine lesser circumstances where the answer to that question would be something other than 'no.'

But there is something about the parent-child relationship. Replacing 'child/parent' with 'loved one' just doesn't have the same power. There is a unique bond between parents and children. With loved ones, maintaining that loving relationship seems to be more of a choice, it takes more of an effort. Perhaps we should put the same effort into our familial relationships, but that's a discussion for another time.

Anyways, I received two interesting responses to that lesson. Right after church, a woman came up to me and said that indeed, there was a time when she did stop loving her daughter. Apparently for awhile her daughter really put her through the ringer. She did eventually straighten up and their relationship is now o.k. again. This is exactly what I had feared when posing the question - that it could bring up painful memories for someone. However, that very question was actually a big help for someone else. The week after that lesson a woman called me and said that thinking about that question made her realize that she wasn't too broken to make things right again. It was time to come back to church and fix the things she needed to fix, and she needed to stop putting it off.

The power of words just continues to amaze me. The same words often cause such completely different impacts/bring up such totally different feelings in different people. Duh, right? But this example really impressed upon me anew the power of words. The same phrase, seemingly simple on the surface, brought up memories of heartache for one woman, while providing hope for another. Crazy. All because of the differences in their experiences, and the difference in perspective those experiences gave these women.

Small wonder then that when I say something as simple as 'the fishtank is dirty,' the reaction is sometimes greater than I expect.

Another note from the discussion - we ended up talking about what 'forgetting your sin' means. In the talk, Elder Uchtdorf desribes that while God forgets our trespasses, we don't, in part to keep us from committing them again. He quotes Alma 36:21 about the joy he felt when he had been forgiven. Earlier in the chapter, (v. 19) Alma said he remembered his PAINS no more. One woman said that she and her husband have completely opposite interpretations of this: He believes that when you're really repented you have no memory of the act anymore. She's of the camp that you remember the guilt and pain you felt to keep you from repeating yourself. I think I lie somewhere in the middle - the MEMORY of feeling pain and sorrow remains with us, but the actual feelings are removed.

So what do you think - do we ever really get over the pain of what we've done? There's no reason to beat ourselves up forever over mistakes of the past, but does getting over the pain somehow mean that we are taking it lightly? That somehow we aren't truly sincere in correcting our flaws?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

rites of passage

1. Here we go. I have resisted jumping on the blogging bandwagon, but the time has come. The family is getting too far-flung to keep close track of, and that bothers me. Plus, I have these gorgeous children to show off. I need a more effective medium than the occassional email with photo attachments.

It just seems a little narcissistic, presuming that anyone out there would be interested in reading the random inner-workings of kat's brain. But that's silly, because I really enjoy reading OTHER people's blogs, so that's just insecurity talking. And anyways, whether or not anyone else actually reads this is not really the point, now is it? While one purpose of this little experiment is to chronical some of our family happenings, and try and stay better connected with you all, another big part of this is to jot down some of the conversations that go on in my head. Random thoughts. Things that strike me. Just to get them out of the cue. Free up some RAM, if you will. Things that might go in a journal, if I could write as fast as I can type. Or as neatly.

2. This summer I finally took the plung and completed my first solo canning run. Peaches. Lots and lots of peaches. 28 quarts of peaches, 10 pints of jam, 4 pints of peach syrup. The Reese's tree was loaded, and I tried to move fast and beat the gals at mom's work to the produce.

There are so many crazy feelings associated with the whole canning process. I have been the slave labor on so many canning runs, it was a little strange to actually be the one in charge of the pressure canner. Not like it's this complicated piece of machinery, but for some reason the IDEA of all that pressure on bottles of glass brings explosions to mind. I don't know why this feels like such an accomplishment, but it does. Doing jam - big deal. Invert cooked fruit in a jar for 5 minutes and you're done. But actual canning? Now I feel like an actual grown up. I could go live in the mountains like some crazy hermit, and as long as I had a source of propane, I could put up food on my handy dandy CampChef. Not that I'm ready to go for meat yet. I'm not THAT much of a pioneer.

The question all this canning puts into my brain is this: If I can spend 7 hours - over 2 days, mind you - blanching and skinning and cutting and processing peaches, why can't I spend 1 hour or so a day cooking a decent dinner? Lately my first thought when it comes to dinner is either waffles or cold cereal. Cereal is at least fortified with vitamins and minerals. You eat it with dairy. Throw on a banana and you're covering all kinds of important food groups.

So here comes my first plea: What's for dinner? Katie's clearly willing to help. If you don't live close enough to invite me over to eat it, tell me if what you're making worked out and if it's something I should try on my guinea pigs out here!