Monday, October 29, 2007

Sheepish Morning

This morning, as I was getting Jaxon and Savanna out of the car to go into the gym for (my) Pilates class, Reed already started running towards the gym door. I called to him to wait, and so he came back to the car. I asked him why he was trying to get into the gym so fast, and caught only the end of his sentence, "" I looked at him, then down at his feet--yep, his feet. No shoes. No socks. (And I thought I was on time. Ha....) So I piled all of us back into the car (1-5 minutes) to go back home (seven minutes), pick up his shoes (30 seconds), and come back (seven minutes). I also called the gym daycare to let them know we'd be at least 15 minutes and 30 seconds late. :)
There's a newly paved road near our house, a road that carves its way through a few hills and next to one isolated neighborhood. Well, I got on that road and was making pretty good time, considering it has no set speed limit (yet). I rounded a curve and several feet ahead were several feet of several sheep. A nice herd of sheep with one cowboy-hatted-horse-riding man (and his dog) rounding them up. And although they weren't crossing yet, they were close enough that I had to slow down quite a bit to pass. So it was more like ten minutes home, which is fine, because I had to laugh at the sheep instead of being annoyed by Reed forgetting his shoes, and the boys were delighted. Reed kept saying, "Mom, there's black sheep! Black sheep!" (Apparently this concept was completely new and exciting.)
The way back was about the same, except that the sheep had made it across and were mostly out of the way. And rounding them up in the rear was a man on a horse, with a cowboy hat and--guess!--a cellphone, from which he was texting. To who, I don't know. The herder in the front? "Dude, this herding thing is sooooo cool. Will you be my BFF? JK. LOL." What do sheep herders text? I can think of a million bad jokes. Baaaad jokes. (Couldn't resist.)
*Source of cartoon sheep:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Veterans, humanity, words for thought, words for catharsis....

I've been waiting to blog about this, partly because I've been formulating my words, but also because Phill has been gone since Monday (home tomorrow, though!), and I've been struggling just to keep our stupid kitchen table wiped down....but I'm going to see if it'll come to me now, and if I can write this thing that's been on my mind for two days now.

Since June of 2005, the summer that I was pregnant with Jaxon, busy with Reed, and lonely without Phill, there was the veteran named Lendon. I walked into our Wal-Mart, and to my left, there he was--sitting in the McDonald's. He caught my eye, saw my burgeoning belly and my bubbly Reed, and waved with an enormous smile. Then he beckoned me to come over. So, in my fascination with all people who will allow me to be fascinated by them, I went. There he sat, a very old man with tanned, wrinkled skin, white hair, and twinkling (though somewhat faded in color) brown eyes. And I noticed something else. On the dark green jacket he wore were medals. And next to him, placed carefully on the windowsill, were two pictures: One of the old man, and a black and white one of a man much younger, in full uniform, with a bright smile, holding a little black plaque with white letters on it.

He said some sweet things to Reed, told Reed that he was a soldier. Reed said with a gasp, "My Dad is a soldier!" And Lendon looked up at me. I said, "Yes, his Dad is in Iraq." And Lendon, pointing at my belly asked, "Is that one going to be a boy?" And I smiled and confirmed that yes, this one would be a boy, too. Lendon was very excited to hear this, and told me that boys are "wonderful." Then he proceeded to tell me that he was 87 years old, and very plainly stated (with a smile) that he is a WWII veteran. I have to admit that my response wasn't very articulate, given that I was trying not to cry. There are a million reasons why, and there are no reasons why....but every time I see him I feel like crying happy and sad tears.

Every time we went to Wal-Mart after that, there he was. Waving from the window at McDonald's, with a sad little breakfast and his two pictures on the windowsill. I've wondered several times if he doesn't quite have all his faculties about him. I've decided several times that he does. I have talked to him many times, and although he has told me every time that he is a WWII veteran, I don't think it's because he's forgotten my face or forgotten if he's told me this. I think it's because he doesn't want anyone to forget it, and I think it's because of course he can't forget it.

When I moved to Provo, upon first walking into Orem's seems-like-right-before-Christmas-all-the-time Wal-Mart, I involuntarily looked for Lendon, and then felt my stomach drop into my shoes. (Of course he wouldn't be there!) I didn't forget about him. I just put him aside for the time being. But when we moved back here, I realized with a start as we went to Wal-Mart again that I would probably see him. And then of course I wondered for a sickening moment if he might not be there, if he might have died in the last ten months that I had been gone. He hadn't. He was there, and he waved, and we went over to him. My eyes were watering when I said, "I remember you! I'm happy to see you!" And Lendon said something to Phill that still makes me cry even to write it--he said, "You're a soldier." And turned to me and said, "And you have two boys!" See? He remembers that. He doesn't remember it every time. But he remembered it then, the summer that Phill came home.

He's still there, Lendon Griffin. And he still says every time, "You know, I'm a WWII veteran." Every time I talk to him, if I can persuade him to talk just a little more, I learn a little more about him. This last time (Monday), he was actually in line behind me, buying Halloween candy. I learned this time that he is now 89, and takes medication for old age, and he's very proud of the fact that he doesn't shake. He showed me his steady hands. "Look! I don't shake at all." But he really surprised me when he said, "You have beautiful children! Did you know I was an orphan? I grew up in an orphanage, and when I met my wife--oh, I was not a Mormon, I was smoking and drinking, but she converted me--when I met my wife, I asked her, 'Will you give me a family? Because I don't have one.' Well, we got married, and my wife had four children, and she couldn't do anymore, and I told her that it was okay because she kept her promise and gave me a family." Not only that, but I got this from him, too: "You know, when I was in the War, we went to Italy, France, Germany....those Germans--not the Nazis, those good for nothing....--not the Nazis, the Germans. When we went there, they gave us hugs and spoke better English than we did."

Every time I look at his watered-down-brown eyes, I can't help but wonder what they've seen. And I keep hearing him ask, "Did you know I was an orphan?"

This might sound strange, but I feel blessed that he talks to me. That strangers often talk to me. Abby says I "collect" people. And it's true, in the most loving sense of collecting....people are my treasures. I love them--all ages. Their idiosyncrasies make me laugh, and sometimes I'm really laughing inwardly if it's a very strange stranger talking to me. But I'm still interested. And I still like most people I meet. That same Monday that Lendon chose to divulge such a priceless bit of information, there was someone else who happened to approach me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I probably look rather dwarfed by my three children as I push the cart around Wal-Mart, continually saying, "Put that down. Please stop. I love you, too. No, you can't have that. I know you like it. No. NO." Or maybe I look approachable, amiable. (Or maybe my children are so adorable they invite comments from perfect strangers. Yes. I like that one.) Whatever the reason, a very old lady approached me and said, "Oh, you are so blessed. What beautiful children." And I smiled (while on the phone with Abby) and said, "Thank you." She wanted to keep looking, so I paused obligingly, still talking to Abby. Then this elderly lady began to talk to me. (I have to say I really love that she didn't care that I was on the phone. I really do. I'm not being sarcastic. I think it's great that she didn't have the sort of technology-fearing respect for it that some people have.) So I told Abby to hold on, because I knew she'd love to hear the conversation that was spontaneously happening between me and this lady. She proceeded to say, "I have a recipe for you. Are you ready? It's easy. You take three or four containers of yogurt, strawberry or something. You add a tablespoon of sugar to each container, mix it, stir it like this (and here she did the stir motion), and then put it in the oven. You spread it on a cookie sheet. It takes two sheets. And then you put it in the oven overnight at 175 degrees." I asked a few questions just to make sure I had it right, and then she told me her name. She told me her name, that I could find her name in the phone book if I needed more recipes, and lastly, "The homemakers love me. I'm a godsend."

I like these random conversations with strangers. But are they all really strangers? Certainly there have been people from whom I feel no sense of safety or friendship or kindness. Obviously I don't approach those people. But every now and then a seeming stranger will talk to me, and I get the feeling that there are those seeds of the same thing in all of us. I know what it is. We're all human, but it's much deeper than that. Don't you ever get that feeling that we come from the same source, that we shouldn't be walking around in our shy lives so oblivious to each other?

"Did you know I was an orphan?"

Saturday, October 20, 2007

6 Habits/Facts Tag

I've been tagged by Crystal! It looked like a fun use of time, so here goes:

The rules: Each player lists 6 facts/habits about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 6 people.

Fact/Habit 1: I'm a champion for the underdog. Actually, let me re-phrase that: I love the underdog. If Phill and I watch a game, I always root for the team who's not expected to win, or hasn't won in ages, etc....some of my favorite neighbors are the weirdest ones, and my favorite people are the least expected ones. I find it really satisfying to get to know someone who doesn't look interesting (sort of an underdog, you might say), and find out the interesting things about them. (Because there is something interesting about everyone.)

Fact/Habit 2: I like stories. I like to read them, I like to make them. Sometimes I imagine an entire story about a stranger, just to spice up the dusty corners of my mind. (And sometimes I do it to make me feel better if someone was highly unpleasant...."Let's she was making cookies for a party and they burned, and her hair wouldn't do that cute curl she likes it to do, and her dog pooped on the couch." And thus a comforting story is born. Sometimes.) I write in my mind an awful lot. I wake up and mentally write. I see something interesting and mentally write. I'm inspired and I have to make something of it.

Fact/Habit 3: I love (doing) photography. I like the way light makes ordinary things turn into art, or how something extraordinary becomes even more interesting when it's frozen into a picture. I love people, and so I love pictures of people, especially strange people. (And here we see the underdog fascination popping up again.)

Fact/Habit 4: I always sneeze once when I take my first bite of anything chocolate--ice cream and pudding, to be specific.

Fact/Habit 5: I like to challenge myself. Well, more specifically, I like the satisfaction of meeting a challenge head-on and succeeding. I would like to do the 2008 St.George Marathon. Just to finish it. Just to say I did. (Actually, Phill has agreed to do it with me. So it's a deal! St.George 2008!) And on this note, I like labor--yes, I mean labor to birth a child. I realize I've just said something really weird and possibly earth-shaking. But it's the truth. For me to explain why I like it would take up probably two pages. It certainly has a lot to do with the second sentence of this paragraph. But if you want to know more, I'll happily tell you (in an email, where I feel free to take up more space & time).

Fact/Habit 6: I love being a mother! I love the way my boys say "Mama". I really do relish this so-called domestic life, but it's not always domestic--it's wild and chaotic and unexpected and exciting and a hundred other things at any given time. It's hard and it's rewarding, it's demanding and it's fulfilling. I will never say "I'm just a mom." And I won't even say "I'm a stay-at-home mom." I may need/want to work one day, or I may not. What does it matter? I'm a MOM! And stay at home? Are you kidding? I'm at Wal-Mart or the gym or the library or the doctor's or the school 70% of the time.

Extra #7: I realized, in reading over this, that I seem to have painted myself in a rather favorable light. Which is fine, but let it be known, I have plenty of gross habits/icky facts about myself. But why would I post them here? :)

Extra #8: I talk like a man when I want my kids to pay attention to me. Believe me, there's logic to this: the kids tune out my mommy voice. They hear it so much, day in, day out, that when they hear any other voice, their little ears open up!

Christine, Abby, Anna, Heidi, Camilla, Melissa, and Jenn: Tag! You're it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm really excited about three things I just ordered from Amazon:

If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland

Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food by Jessica Seinfeld


Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Lots More Learning Fun! (a DVD based on the book, with other fun added things.)

I'm excited about these three things because:
-I love to write, and I've been writing more lately. The book will just help keep the wheels turning, and probably be very motivating.
-I heard about this cookbook from Oprah, about whom I usually have mixed feelings, but this seems to be a pretty good recommendation. The idea is genius. Oh, and I saw her interview of Jerry Seinfeld for his new movie, and he had such awesome things to say about his wife (Jessica) that I was intrigued--by both of them. So I'm buying her cookbook, and I'll probably go see his movie. :)
-Abby owns this DVD, and I've been wanting it since I first saw Reed shake his little bottom to the intro music. :)

Mmm...yay for good media.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Good food

My dinner menu has gotten more ambitious! I tried a new recipe, just on a whim, and it turned out so well that I've decided to try a new recipe once every one or two weeks. (This is VERY ambitious for me, considering I've only just gotten the hang of making dinner most every night....) Included on the plan for the next two weeks: Peanut chicken (using the amazing dressing Mom and Dad brought us from Japan--there's actually a recipe for really great peanut chicken on the Smucker's website), Noodles Romanoff (a recipe that looked really good, fast, and easy in the Betty Crocker cookbook), and Halibut fried in potato flakes (the halibut is from a friend who brought some back from Alaska!). Ambitious, indeed! :) The new recipe I tried (twice last week) was so yummy (and easy) that I had to post it. I varied some things. I put more dressing than was asked for--actually, lots more. And I just used boneless chops, not bone-in. And....let's see....oh. I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil. I do that a lot. It just tastes better. And seems less greasy. And I also used just plain old rosemary, instead of leaves. And the dressing was not reduced fat. So here's the recipe:

(by way of
Quick & Easy Pork Chop Skillet

Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 29 min
Makes: 4 servings

4 bone-in pork chops (1-1/2 lb.), 3/4-inch-thick

1 tsp. oil

1/4 cup KRAFT Light Balsamic Vinaigrette Reduced Fat Dressing, divided

1 small onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried rosemary leaves

1 can (15-1/4 oz.) pear halves, undrained

BROWN chops in oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat 3 min. on each side. Remove from skillet; set aside.

ADD 2 Tbsp. of the dressing, onions, garlic and rosemary to skillet. Cook 3 min.

RETURN chops to skillet. Add pears and remaining 2 Tbsp. dressing. Simmer on medium heat 10 min. or until chops are cooked through (160ºF). Arrange chops on platter; spoon sauce over chops.

****I also made up (well, I say made up, but I'm sure I've seen it somewhere) a side dish that was REALLY good, and went really well with the chops.

Slice about ten red potatoes lengthwise into skinny fry-like strips (okay, they're basically fancy fries). Coat them in olive oil, sprinkle with salt to taste (it's really good if you can use a salt grinder and do sea salt over them), and then either put oregano, rosemary, and garlic powder on them, or just put on some Mrs. Dash. (I recommend the latter.) Put them on a baking sheet in a 450-degree oven for 45-55 minutes, until golden and somewhat "wilted"-looking. :)

I'm actually having fun trying newer recipes. As long as they're relatively simple, and the ingredients aren't too outlandish (Spanish paprika, anyone?), I'm finding that I'm up for it.

*Just so everyone knows, I've also included several fast and easy recipes in my two-week plan....the three recipes mentioned above are really the only ambitious ones I've chosen to try. Line upon line....

Monday, October 8, 2007


Again, more pictures. I couldn't help it. I'm so enjoying being a mom of a girl, and dressing a girl....I used to hate those baby headband things. Actually, I kind of still do. But I put one on Savvy and she looked so cute I left it on all through church. So I have a picture of that. And then today it was cold, so I put a little pink fleece baseball cap on her, and of course that was so cute I had to take a picture. (Not to mention her cute striped long-sleeved onesie and khaki overalls....I know. I'm a little out of control.) And then I took some of the boys, and I also had some from my Mom and Dad's visit (coming for conference), so--that's why I have so many pictures to post. Melissa, I think Savanna looks startlingly like you. I guess I shouldn't be startled, considering you are her aunt. But it's really striking to us sometimes. (*Oh, I apologize that a couple of the pictures aren't that great quality. And I forgot to mention the one of all three kids together. It started out as only Savvy on the floor, and then Reed and Jax had to come and be next to her, sweet brothers that they are.)

Friday, October 5, 2007

An Ode to Friends

Lately I've been appreciating my friends even more than usual. Yesterday, on the way home from dropping Reed off at preschool, I was realizing how I've had several friends who were there at some of the most pivotal moments in my life. My gratitude for them was overwhelming, and the only way to make it more easily absorbed is to write about it. (And I don't think it would hurt for some of my bloggity friends to see how fondly I think of them.)*Note: I haven't mentioned Phill for the reason that I would take infinite blogs in trying to adequately describe what he means to me. Maybe one day I will be able to describe it in words beautiful and descriptive enough, but that would be called a book.

To Rachel Thomas, who was there the moment I found out my brother had died. I left her house to go home, but she was there when I came sprinting back, finally able to cry once we were holding each other. We were nine years old. Our worlds consisted of barbies and dress-up and stuffing AAA bras to feel more grown-up. But when it was time to accept things of a much less pretend nature, she was there, cushioning the blow.

To Mary Anne, who made living in Belgium even more of an adventure and a pleasure. To our Red Blanket Mondays, when we would spread the red blanket in a field somewhere, eat macaroni and cheese, and listen to the birds that hid in the grass and made sounds like Nintendo.

To Christine....oh, there are too many words. How to condense? To Christine, who eased my passage from blissfully ignorant child to fully awkward teenager. :) She was there when my heart was broken by a boy for the first time, there when I needed someone to understand the different beat to which I marched. She was there, supplying hair dye and junk food and laughter and wisdom. And still there when I moved away, countless times, still there as my center point to come back to, until at last we found our eternal friends. (And still, she's there.) So to Christine, I'll use that phrase you see idly written in cheesy Hallmark cards, but nonetheless a phrase that takes on new meaning in this instance: Thanks for being there.

To Camilla, who patted the chair next to her that first Sunday in Cedar City, and didn't bat a single centimeter-long eyelash when I asked if my breath was bad. "I'd hate for my breath to be horrible while I've been whispering to you this whole time." -"No, it's fine. It's not bad. It smells like nothing. Go ahead and keep whispering." To Camilla, because she was there the day Phill left for Iraq, there to commiserate without trying to make me feel a cheerfulness that wasn't yet there. And there when I came home (sans Phill) from the hospital, holding Jaxon, my second of the three biggest comforts. There, holding healthy snacks, and offering them to me when I closed the door on my mother, who had to go only two days after Jaxon's birth. (She cried with me.) And every time I went to Cedar, seeking comfort, it was her house I went to, her cozy livingroom where I shed my tears and then wiped them away, ready to face the next obstacle. Camilla, you have been a constant during all the change. (*I miss you. Excrutiatingly.*)

To April, who saw my first meeting with Phill, and stayed my friend even as Phill became the top priority. April, who lessened the ache of moving from Belgium to Georgia. April, who was happy when I was happy, sad when I was sad, laughing with me and crying with me.

To Camille: Seems we've both been through an emotional hurricane of sorts, since we first met. We're like two trees whose tops seem far away, but whose roots are closely intertwined. We've changed, but our friendship has only been strengthened by those changes. Camille, how do I say thank you? How do I say thank you for holding my hand (and my aching belly and back) during my labor with Jaxon? Thank you for holding me up for those hours, physically and emotionally, standing willingly and humbly in the place Phill would have stood, had he been able to. Thank you for the wealth of knowledge you bring, teaching me new possibilities that make my mind grow a little more every time I hear of them.

To Robyn: How is it that you were so strongly my friend in just moments? You were so suddenly so important to me, so loving to me, that it seems as if you have been my friend from before we were born. You jumped in halfway through the storm of Phill's deployment, and rode out the rest with me. And still you stay. Robyn, my loyal Birdie.

And to Jenn, the last I will list of these eight proofs that Heavenly Father places some of His heavenly guardians around us in the form of friends: I'm still sure it's no accident that my car battery kept dying that January, and that you were The Lady at the Front Desk. I liked you immediately. I liked the pictures of your curly-haired girls and your solid tank of a boy, and I liked that you couldn't stop talking about them. I liked that the second time I went (a second heavenly nudge?), I still liked you immensely. And I love that you didn't think I was weird when I asked you to come over, as if I were a nine-year-old girl asking if you could come play. To Jenn, with whom I laugh, cry, get goosebumps, pray, and remember my inherent worth. You were an answer to prayers then, when I cried in the night for a friend in Provo to help me weather the rest of Phill's absence, and you are here now, as the same answer to more prayers.

To all my friends, listed above or not:
I am endlessly grateful for you, for your presence in my life, for your unselfish and unconditional friendship and love. You are an integral part of my happiness, and I'm always praying that I can return the immense pleasure of having you for a friend.