Wednesday, December 19, 2007

State of the Fisher Union Address

Time flies on wings of lightning, a favorite saying of Grandpa Christenson's. Another year gone, and what do we have to account for it? We sometimes wish life was as easy as 11 years ago when Kulani and I were a-courtin'. During the semester break, Kulani and I spent most of our hours jumping from one "dollar movie" to another. Our only concern was each other. But now we have three other "concerns," that of our three children, and truthfully, life seems more full and fun.

It's good to take stock of this past year. Most of our days were likely spent like many of yours: get up to the alarm after pressing snooze seven times, brush teeth, get dressed, get kids up and dressed, have breakfast, lunch, dinner, read stories, brush teeth, go to bed. But there were a few stand-out days here and there this year that caused us to either cry or laugh, and just generally make us grateful for this adventure called life.


  • On February 3rd, Nohealani was born. She has been our biggest child. She's a lot of fun. She is furniture walking now, and prefers that to crawling. She's already running for Congress, as she loves to give back pats. She is the youngest in nursery, because Mom and Dad were just called as nursery leaders, so she gets to start nursery early. She still looks most like Kulani and may even keep her brown hair.

  • Melissa is her own little self. She doesn't like me combing her hair, and she likes to choose her own clothes. I'm really not sure how mothers with girls who have perfectly coifed tendrils do it. Melissa is loving preschool, and the teacher tells me she even has friends who fight for her attention. My Melissa? Our biggest success: Melissa being potty trained. The secret: giving her a cold shower every time she wet her pants. That sounds harsh, but it worked (and it was our last resort). It only took three cold showers for her not to wet her pants anymore.

  • Lilia is finishing up her last year of preschool with the wonderful teachers and friends at Deerfield Preschool. Her class has less than 10 this year, and she's been progressing very well. Her speech teacher says she's really catching up to others her age. She loves to talk. She's a fun-loving girl who loves to run, swim, and be with family. She ran in two races this year: the Provo 4th of July Fun Run and the Orem Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. She enjoyed her experiences with each.

  • Cindy is still working part (part)-time at home for DHI. She's lucky to get in 10 hours of work per week. It's more of a hobby than anything else at this point. She really enjoys writing help documents and user's guide, just like some people like doing scrapbooking and crafts. Cindy also competed in two triathlons: Hawaii Half-Ironman and Spudman. Starting after the new year, training commences again for the Vikingman.

  • Kulani is still at Workman Nydegger in downtown Salt Lake City. Kulani's job is similar to Cindy's, only on steroids. Think of watching paint peel all day, then times that by 20 and you get some idea of what Kulani does. It's not so much that it's boring as that it's boring and difficult. But he's sticking with it on behalf of the family, and one of the side benefits of his job is that it affords us a yearly trip to Hawaii. Besides his usual Hawaii Half-Ironman pilgrimage, Kulani will be competing in the Arizona Ironman in November. Ouchy, mama! Kulani also bought the family BYU season football tickets, and we all went to every game except the Utah game. Kulani took his friends who would really appreciate being there and not get cold and start complaining about wanting to go home. Another victorious year over the Utes! That was definitely a highlight.

A few downer days included:

  • Grandpa Christenson having quadruple bypass surgery on his heart. All seems well now. He eats less chocolate cake with Mom's awesome chocolate frosting.

  • The cement guys taking our money to finish the cement drive on the east side of our house, but never seeing the cement truck show up.

  • BYU's loss to UCLA (at the first part of the season). They barely squeaked out a win at the Las Vegas Bowl.

  • The late-summer ban on children swimming in public pools in Utah County. Swimming was our life until then. Kulani even got sick from the outbreak (lost six pounds in one week).

Now it is on to weightier matters and budgetary spending appropriations. The New Year is full of possibilities and potential adventures. Please allow this blog to be your guide to our life. If we could, we'd include you in our family, but you have your own lives to live; your own blogs to create. You're busy, we're busy. But you're always welcome here.

Thank you. We love you. And God bless you!

Sincerely,

President and First Lady Fisher of the United Family of Fisher

Monday, December 17, 2007

Levity

It's time I start posting at other hours other than 5 a.m. in the morning. My last few posts have not been family related, nor have they been light-hearted. I must return to what brings me the most pleasure: my family. We had a busy weekend. We stayed over night at Hotel Daddy, also known as Kulani's office, on Thursday night. Then we took off for Idaho Falls at 2 p.m. on Friday to make it to a family party before my little brother Wayne's wedding early on Saturday morning.

The wedding was nice, even though it was early in the morning. Wayne and Hannah (his new bride and my new sister-in-law) looked very happy and sweet together. There was a family dinner and reception after the wedding in Rexburg. It's been a while since I've been to that part of Idaho. During the winter, it seems very bleak. Kulani and I had a good discussion concerning family and extended family on the drive home from Rexburg. We sped home to make it to my friend Laura's annual Christmas party in Salt Lake City. We left the girls with Uncle Lani and Uncle Patrick. Laura's party had some really great Italian food, because Laura likes to play up her Italian side. Plus, she owns and operates an Italian restaurant in Salt Lake City. Then we drove back to Lani's to pick up the girls. To our surprise, Lani had taken the girls to Build-a-Bear Workshop and bought them brand-new bears. Lilia won't let her bear down for a nano-second. Melissa, on the other hand, has already given her bear an actual bath (not like the "air" bath they give the bears at Build-a-Bear). She'll have to wait for her bear to dry before she can play with her again. At church we started our calling as nursery workers. That's a pretty tiring calling. Then last night we had a dinner with some friends. I'm tired. My house is a mess. I'm banning myself from the Internet for one week because it's such a time wastage. I'm banning myself after this post, that is. I'll include pictures later when I make the time to upload them.

I could post more, but this will have to suffice.

I'm cleaning up the house now, I promise.

Blogging: The New Commandment

Our friend Ben turned me on to a "bloggernacle" site called http://www.timesandseasons.org/. It has since become a daily ritual to jump over to that site once a day. I also visit the http://www.lds.org/ site once a day. But today I learned the two worlds became closer to one. On the lds.org site it had a story about Elder Ballard advising students to use blogs and other media to help people understand the LDS church better (see it here). Then I jumped over to the timesandseasons.org site where they were discussing this speech, and I found the following blog site which Elder Ballard highlighted in his talk here. The blog is about one man's desire to flood the world with the Book of Mormon. The man has guts, desire, and focus like nothing I've seen before. If you have time, read some of it. After you read it, all you will think to yourself is: gees, and I have a hard time doing my visiting/home teaching.

With Mitt Romney running for president of the United States, I have been keenly interested in what the media outlets are publishing about the LDS church. I often read the reader comments of major mormon-themed articles in major news publications. I always love reading when an actual mormon gets involved in the discussion, because it seems to elevate people's understanding a bit. You can almost always tell when it's a mormon verses a non-mormon poster. Even better than a mormon posting is when a non-mormon posts on behalf of mormons. The person's post usually goes something like this: "Hey, I have a lot of mormon friends, and they're good people." I hope to be one of those people that someone would say that about. Others have said things better than I ever could, but even still, I think each of us has a unique voice that can say what our heart feels about a variety of subjects. And if it's truthful for you, others will feel the truth.

In our little world, we have a huge mix of friends, many who have a belief that the church is true but just don't have a desire or a need to go to church and associate with like-minded individuals. I get that. Church can be dull. Church members can be obnoxious or even frustratingly nosy or insincere. Plus, it's a bother to go to church. You have to shower, brush your teeth--too much hassle. Others have called church members hypocrites. That one gets my goat up a little bit, because everyone is a hypocrite. Just by calling someone a hypocrite makes you a hypocrite. But I've always operated with an inside-out philosophy. If church is boring, be the impetus to making it less boring. If those around you are insincere, make sure you ARE sincere. I'm talking more to myself here than to others, because sometimes I need little pep talks to keep me focused on being an active, loving Latter-day Saint. The natural man is an enemy to God, and trust me, I know too well how easy it is to be a natural man (er, or woman).

This little blog isn't necessarily intended to be a testimonial of our beliefs in the mormon faith, but we are mormons, and we do believe it's Jesus' church that has been re-established on this earth today. If you have further questions or comments, we welcome them. If this subject has made you uncomfortable, our apologies. But we can't hide from who we are. And you're still welcome at our place for dinner at anytime. If religion can't bring us together, Kulani's cooking definitely can.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ch-ch-changes!

Kulani and I like to watch a show on A&E called "Intervention." It's about actual addicts (ranging from gamblers to heroine addicts to anorexics) who face an intervention of their friends and family. Their purpose is to create a makeshift "bottom," where the addict will have no choice but to go into rehab. I've often wondered what it takes to get people to seriously change. Firstly, it doesn't seem like you can "get" anyone to change; change comes from within. Even going to rehab won't help someone unless that person wants to change.

I used to be a cynic and think most people don't change. I still think most people don't change, but now I do think people can, and I have the biggest respect for those who seek to change. It's hard to look objectively at yourself and see the changes that need to take place (I still bite my nails). I often wonder what the precepitating event in a person's life is that causes someone to think, "Something's not right in my life. I need to change." I listen to Glenn Beck from time to time, and he talks about his change, and his precipitating event was losing jobs due to his alcoholism. But what is the event that causes people to change for the worst? What causes someone to start drinking, smoking, eating, not-eating, gambling, etc.? It seems more common to see people change for the worst, or maybe that it seems easier to change for the worst and much harder to change for the better.

The best advice I ever received from someone was to not try and change someone, but let God do that job. I'm not sure why I brought up this subject. I think it has to do with a loved one of mine whose life is so contrary to how he used to be living, and it makes me wonder what it will take to bring him back. One thing is for sure, however. In order to change permanently, I really do think it requires a network of support from others. I know if I were fighting inner demons, I would need a hand here or there to pull me above the fray. In other words, I may need to change my circle of influences to be around those people who would not aide and abide my addiction. I know the main purpose in going to church is to worship God, but I have a second reason for going to church, and that is to be around people who, in my mind, are at least trying to make an effort to live a better life.

This discussion has brought me back to my weight-loss goals. It's time I remove all obstacles from my pantry and refrigerator. Kulani has taken on a huge goal, and I can do more to be his impetus. For more details, read his perseveratingpineapple blog.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Rock Star Mommy

I have a dream job of sorts. I get to work from home for as many hours I want editing documents and writing help information for a truly amazing company in Provo. To say I love my job is putting it mildly. I worked for them for six years before having my first girl, Lilia. I was promoted to manager of the technical writing division, and then when I started working part time, I was shifted back to regular technical writer, which I'm fine with. Somedays I'm afraid my great little world will be yanked from under me, but for now, it's working out great.

And every year this company has a Christmas party that includes great food and somewhat good entertainment. This year they had a cover band, who allowed audience members to sing lead on songs they chose. I was feeling good last night, so I put my name on the list. And then I just sat back and waited, thinking the whole time, "What did you just do?"

The time arrived for me to sing. The main band leader was great. He gave me some tips, then I was up. I chose to sing a song from my high school days, 4-Non Blondes's "What's Up." I heard the intro, and then I belted it out. "25 years and my life is still, tryin' to get up that great big hill of hope, for a destination." They had the lyrics there for people to read. I couldn't believe it was coming out of my voice. I was trying to hone Janis Joplin's spirit to really belt out the chorus ("And I said hey, yeah, yeah, yeah, hey, yeah, yeah..") And boy did I belt it. I don't know how loud I was singing, but somewhere during the song it became less about singing and more about letting out an inner demon. I tore the song up. The song was mine. I was really feeling it. I felt like a rockstar. Kulani was pretty impressed. I think he was afraid for me, and then he was stunned. Neither he nor I knew I had it in me. Others of my workmates liked it too, but it was the song--I love that song.


It was the funnest three or four minutes I've had in a long time, and it went straight to my head. I woke up early this morning with the song still in my head, the memory keeping me up, awake, and alive. Now I'm thinking of ways I can scheme in some guitar lessons and become a closeted rock band wannabe. I, like most people, have always wanted to be in a band. I got my chance last night, and now it may become an addiction. I don't think my messy house and harried kids need another activity their mother does, so for now, I'll have to hide the pick and guitar in the back of my mind. But if you've ever wanted to be a rock start, the band plays every Thursday night at Port O' Call, and for a few minutes, you too can be a lead singer of your own rock band.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hope

I woke up early this morning full of an emotion I don't always recognize: hope. The early morning hours have always been a weird time for me. In my youth, my father would get us up early on occasion to help out in the family custodial business when we were too busy to get it done in the evening. In college, I was an early morning custodian for three years. The early morning hours are not all they're cracked up to be. Most mornings I feel a complete sense of dread. Some mornings I can feel down-right hostile. I have to remember to keep it in check, because these bizarro negative feelings will creep up in those early morning hours to the point where I'm looking for a one-way ticket to anywhere but home.

Maybe it was do to a great day at church (those sometimes rare church meetings where you feel complete love for everyone around you), the beginning of the holiday season, or the comets have alligned to put my biophysics in harmony--but I feel joy, joy, joy down in my heart just now. I feel renewed. I'm ready to make this holiday season the best possible for my girls and my husband. I'm ready to see the good in people, even those who I feel lack moral character. I'm ready to forgive flaws. I'm ready to get out of my comfort box and hug another sister or brother who I may not know. Similar to feeling motivated to do exercise, I'm motivated to be a better Christian.

Perhaps another reason for my hope may be that Melissa, my precious middle child, is making an effort to be potty trained. She made it to the toilet all by herself, without me having to drag her. I'm feeling like a very successful parent right now, because unlike Lilia, who did it mostly on her own, I have been the teacher, the instigator, the guide in helping Melissa be potty trained. I don't take her crying and "no's" for an answer. I haven't let her whining break me down and give up. I have stayed firm and committed. And yesterday--a breakthrough. She went poop on the toilet all by herself (after she went poop in her pants a few hours earlier, but I calmly changed her underwear and made her stand in a cold shower and said, "You poop your pants, you have to take a cold shower"). And if Melissa at 3 1/2 can be potty trained, there is hope for all of us.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sushi Arms

Kulani has been perseverating about knives for a few months now. He has quickly built up a pretty nice knife collection. The last time he went to Benihana's, he sat at the sushi bar so he could watch the sushi chefs do their magic. He also peppered them with questions about knives. Last night, he wanted to put all his hard, obsessive work to the test, so he made us sushi. We invited over Lani and Patrick, and later Alika stopped by after work to finish up the spoils. As always, it was delicious. He made a few Philadelphia rolls, a "sunrise" roll or "Utah" roll (it has salmon and lemon, so it tastes almost like a breakfast roll), a California roll, and a roll he called the "Patrick" roll. He made it for Patrick, who really likes Tamago--a Japanese-style omelette.

Melissa loves sushi. Lilia likes it too, but it seems like Lissy loves it more. Poor, Melissa. She and I have gone the rounds this past week trying to potty train her. She's 3 1/2 years old. She should be potty trained already. With Lilia, it just seemed like she started going on the toilet by herself at the age of 2 1/2. I've had to strong-arm Melissa, and she still fights me every time. The other night she pooped her pants twice. It almost sent me over the edge with rage. I had to walk away from her and give Kulani an "S.O.S." phone call.

I watch a few kids from the neighborhood a couple of days a week. The kids are the exact same age as my kids. The parents are really nice, and I don't mind watching the kids because they get along very well with my girls. But sometimes watching two infants can get hairy. They're fine as long as I'm holding both of them. So nothing gets done when the kids are over here. I just sit in the recliner holding the babies, and asking the two older 5-year-olds to grab this and that for me. In ways, I feel lazy just sitting there. But it's also kind of nice. I think I know a little better the difficulty in having twins. Holding the two babies inspired the following poem:

Arms
At times I wish I had three arms.
I saw a woman who was born with four,
But two didn't work so well;
functioned more like decorations.
And if I had three, then I'd wish for four or more--
God must shake his head at us complainers.
And I'm ashamed for complaining
When I pass someone with only one, or worse--none.
But still, holding twin babies in this rocking chair,
Each hand holding a bottle to their suckling mouths,
I'd love to have just one more extending from my belly
And holding the remote control.
The TV is stuck on soaps again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Accusations

Last night we were sure we had a murderer in the family. You see, we have a new creature stirring in our house. It's an orange kitty that Lilia named Blossom, but he's a boy. Kulani says he's like a "cherry blossom," which in old Japanese culture used to signify the kamakaze warrior. The kitty is on the daring and crazy side. We've only had him since Saturday. We got him from an old man in Ben's neighborhood. There I was, minding my own business, when this old man named Peter approached me. The man wore two button-up plaid shirts, and I later find out he can't hear or see very well. I was standing in Ben's driveway when he appeared. He asked if we wouldn't like a kitty. His momma cat just had three kittens, and his wife was making him give them away. He wouldn't take my hesitation as a no. He insisted me and the girls go over to his house and take a look. Once I saw the kittens and the girls started begging, I couldn't say no. Peter almost cried to see his kitten go.

But we brought him home, gave him some food, showed him his litter box, and he's been surprisingly easy to take care of, even more so than our dog. The only complaint is that he uses my leg as a scratching post, runs all over the keyboard when I'm trying to do work, and occasionally hisses at Jesse, but for good reason.

Jesse, our dog, has been a little put out. Last night around 7 o'clock, we could not find Blossom. We looked upstairs, downstairs, under every bed, everywhere. Kulani went outside to look. Then I went outside to look. No Blossom. By 9 o'clock we started getting scared. By 10 o'clock we started thinking Jesse might have done something to him.

"My guess is that he got outside and either a coyote or Jesse ate him," Kulani said. The thought of Jesse killing Blossom really made me sad. How could I harbor a killer in my house? For a slight second, and in a very small way, I imagined what it must have been like to be Eve when Cain murdered Abel.

Around 10:30 p.m. while I was making some cheesecake to go along with our Thanksgiving dinner to be had on Thursday, I heard a very faint, "Meow." Kulani was about to go outside one last time and look for Blossom's mangled remains. I said, "Wait. I hear a meow." Kulani thought I was imagining things or hearing Blossom's floating spirit. Every time I went to the pantry, the meows got louder. Was he hiding behind the flour? I finally found him in an empty box on the bottom shelf of the pantry. He'd gotten stuck and couldn't get out. We were so relieved to have found him. The girls went to bed thinking they'd lost their kitty.

I woke up this morning to this:


Blossom quickly made himself welcome in our home.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bits and Pieces

We're snoozers. Have you ever known someone or been roommates with someone who is a snoozer--the ability to press snooze on the alarm clock every 10 minutes for up to an hour and still sleep? I'm sure if you are not a snoozer, this can be VERY annoying. But luckily for us, Kulani and I are both snoozers. And luckily, we now live in a home. When we lived in WyView some years ago, the walls were pretty thin. Our poor neighbors weren't snoozers. By the end of the semester, after the first alarm went off, we'd here this banging on the wall we shared between us. Yes, the geniuses who designed WyView put the master bedrooms next to each other. You could hear other sounds as well, but we won't go there.

Kulani's nephew Alika visited us last night. Alika is a singular fellow. He returned from a mission in sunny California and is now attending BYU. I feel as though I am personally responsible for helping Alika get into BYU, because it was me who went around collecting all his important data that he needed to submit before the application deadline. I trapsed up to the UofU with newborn in one arm and two girls following to retrieve his transcripts; I called his old high school to fax his transcripts; I made sure his essay was in on time. And it paid off--he got accepted into BYU. And now it's paying off for me, because Alika is a wonderful guy to have around. I'd like to adopt him if I could. Last night when he stopped in to visit, he heard Nohea crying and picked her up while I prepared dinner. Nohea knows and loves Alika. She layed her head down on his shoulder and snuggled into him. It melted my heart to watch him hold her. Then Alika helped me clean up the dishes. If you know of some single ladies who are the cream of the crop, let me know. Alika deserves a good woman in his life. And he's good looking to boot.

Poor Jessie is sick today. That dog has somehow managed to wedge himself into my cold heart. Poor guy keeps having to throw up or something, so he shakes his head feverishly to wake me up and have me let him outside. He doesn't bark to wake me up, he shakes his head, which causes his ID tags to clank together. He's had some close calls where he almost threw up on the carpet, but we somehow managed to get him outside before he did. How does a pet know and care enough to not throw up on the carpet? It's pretty amazing when I think about it. We always say that Jessie is a horrible security dog because he would lick the intruder and nothing else. But he amazed us last night as we were sitting around the dinner table. All of us were accounted for, so it surprised Jessie when someone (that someone being Alika) walked through the door without knocking or ringing the doorbell. He instantly let out a bark. Jessie does not bark. I've heard him bark maybe once. Kulani and I just looked at each other stunned. Maybe he's a good guard dog afterall.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Housework

I've been falling a bit behind on my housework as of late. It just seems kind of pointless to me. I spend a couple of hours each day cleaning for what? To do it all again the next day or even the next hour? Right after I had Nohea and was training for the Hawaii Half-Ironman, I hired two ladies to come clean the house. They came every other week, and it was like heaven to walk into a clean home. But it seemed I spent at least an hour to two hours cleaning up in preparation of their coming, so I stopped seeing the point. Plus, bills were tight. So now it's all up to me again.

But today I got a reprieve of sorts. Lilia has a friend who is about a month older than her that lives on our block. She loves to help me clean my house, and who am I to deny her of the privilege. She helped me put the girls' toys away, then she asked if she could vacuum. She didn't do the best job vacuuming, but you know, I'll live with it. I used to love a perfectly tidy house, but the older I get, the more I realize, just tidy enough is perfectly fine.

To my dismay, one of the things I am most ashamed about is my drive for a perfectly clean house. My upstairs neighbor at WyView was moving about six years ago. I had planned a day to ultra-clean my apartment. They were busy moving. On my trip out to the dumpster, I met her coming out of her apartment.

"Looks like it's moving day for you," I said to her. "Is everything going okay?"

"Yes," she said. "We just have to clean the apartment now."

And that's when I said the proverbial phrase, "Well, call me if you need some help." And I left back inside my house to clean my own home. I didn't have children at the time. She had a little boy. I didn't have to work that day. I only had one, small 400-square foot apartment to clean. Why didn't I stop what I was doing and help her out? I found out later that she was really sad that no one from the neighborhood came over to help her move. I was so ashamed.

It's said that we regret the things we don't do more than the things we do. Thanks to the little neighbor girl who showed a great example of service to me today.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Happy Birthday to our Sweet Lilia!

Yesterday was Lilia's birthday. In about four hours, a half dozen little girls will be here to help us celebrate. Lilia loves doing art projects, so for her birthday this year, we're doing crafts. We're decorating little hand bags and hats. But yesterday, we celebrated as a family by going to the BYU vs. TCU game. I wrote BYU an e-mail to ask them if they could please have free knit beanie caps with the Y logo on front, fireworks, and a canon boom in honor of Lilia's birthday. They delivered in fine form. I told Lilia about the e-mail I sent for her birthday. She was very impressed and grateful to BYU for the present. Lilia said she had a great time at the game, and Dad let her have her pick of one BYU item at the Cougar Den store. She chose a zip-up sweater with a baby cougar on the front.

Lilia is our trooper. She rarely complains. I think it must be due to no longer having earaches. When she was young, she had many, many earaches. She finally overcame them at 2 when the doctor put tubes in her ears. Perhaps because she no longer is in pain, she sees no need to complain about other things. At any rate, we love our Lilia.

Lilia goes to a special preschool because she has speech delay. She sometimes has trouble making new friends, because kids her age don't always understand her. Recently, she was invited to a birthday party for another little girl in the neighborhood. I knew a lot of the girls, even the older girls, would be at this party. The older girls are kind of snotty and they don't include Lilia. Rather than not allowing her to go, I told her my trick. "Lilia, if those girls don't want to play with you, you just say, 'that's okay. I'll find my own friends.'" So as I was driving her to the party that was to be held at a trampoline fun house, I overheard Lilia repeating to herself, "That's okay if you don't want to play with me, I'll find my own friends." It broke my heart and made me proud at the same time to hear her say that. After the party, she told me she made a good friend with the boy down the street. "He was so funny, Mom." That's my girl!

When you're old enough to read, Lilia, I hope you'll enjoy reading these stories about yourself. You are a precious jewel in our family. We love you very much. I know why we give gifts on birthdays more now that I'm a parent. Because you and your sisters are the best gifts your dad and I could have evern dreamed of having.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Meal that Takes Me Home

Last Saturday we took the girls to Disney's Ratatouille at the American Fork "Sticky Shoe" theater. We enjoyed the movie thoroughly. If you are a foody, like our family is, you no doubt also love this movie. But one scene really touched home for Kulani and me. It's the scene where the food critic takes his first bite of the ratatouille meal the rat made for him. The movie flashes back to his boyhood days, his bike is broken in the doorway, and his mom is cooking at the stove. He sits down at the table, and his mom places a bowl of ratatouille in front of him to help ease his suffering. The true definition of comfort food.

So Kulani and I were discussing our comfort foods. We each have many meals that bring us back to mom's home cooking. For me, it's homemade spaghetti, roast and mashed potatoes, and dad's pancakes. Mom's fried chicken is still the best I've ever tasted, and it's the simpleness of it that makes it great. For Kulani, it's pancakes with sweetened condensed milk, fried rice, and meatloaf. He also has a fondness for custard-filled long johns and Kentucky Fried Chicken, because growing up in Blanding, those were two food items you couldn't find. So when his dad was out of town for work, he'd bring back custard-filled long johns and Kentucky Fried Chicken that didn't even reach the table before it was eaten.

But the main dish that would take Kulani home faster than a jet airliner would be kalua pig and poi. Good times in Kulani's house growing up were marked by having pig and poi. Even now, no one is in a bad mood around Kulani's family's dinner table when pig and poi are on the menu.

For me, the item that takes me back are homemade french fries. Sometimes for a family outing, we would follow the harvesting combines picking up renegade potatoes. Our goal was to find the biggest potatoes we could. We found some doozies. Then we'd take them home, peal them, cut them up, and deep-fat fry them. It made for long nights, but the french fries were sooo good. And it seems that was the dinner for the night; just potatoes, with ketchup as the side.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Bill Routt

I called Bill Routt the other day to see if one of his girls could babysit for me. Bill's oldest girl was born on my birthday, and she'll be turning 16 this year. Time flies on wings of lightning, a saying of my dad's. Bill's been a close friend of the family since the 70s. He now lives in American Fork with his wife and three daughters, and he's also probably the nicest guy on the planet.

Bill started working for my dad's custodial business when he was in high school. He graduated in 1977, so basically around the time I was born, Bill was already a member of our family circle. Before Bill left for his mission, he played nanny for me, my older sister Kathy, and my brother B.J., who was the baby at that time. (Side note: Kulani says the Christenson's tell time based on the baby. "Who was the baby at that time?" and then we'll finish the story.) My mom taught school on and off when we were younger. According to Kathy, Bill was the best babysitter of all time. I remember very little about that time, except I do remember him putting me down for a nap. I also remember that before Bill left for his mission, he bought Kathy and I our very own bottles of strawberry shampoo and toy vacuums and brooms, so we could help mom with the household chores. My older siblings count Bill as their favorite babysitter. Bill made up a song for us that we still sing in our family. After watching my brothers hoover in mouthfuls of Ramen noodles, Bill created the Manners Song. It goes something like this:

Manners are important,
Use them everyday.
For you want to look nice,
When you hold your spoon.

Bill was also left in charge of the house with my brother Doug when my parents went on their only trip to Hawaii. He kept the lawn mowed and the house clean. When Bill returned from his mission, he went to BYU to go to school. He stayed in Provo, working at the MTC in the visa and travel department. My sister Amy and brothers Brian and Doug loved seeing Bill at the MTC. But then he got a job in the computer industry, and that's where he is today.

It was always great having Bill around. He married later than most LDS marry. He was in his 30s. So we got to see a lot of Bill when he came home. He'd take us to the movies, or he'd come to Thanksgiving dinner. His wife, Allison, is a really nice woman, and they come to all of our family's weddings and baby blessings.

Bill embodies why education is the key to success in America. Bill had a sparse upbringing. His father was abusive, and his mother divorced him. She was left on her own to raise six kids. My parents and surrounding community members helped Bill and his family. Bill went on to get a bachelor's degree and later a master's degree. Some of his siblings have done similarly. They have made their lives better for themselves, accompanied by help from good friends. It's said that we have two chances at a family; one we were born into and the other is our own. If one wasn't great, we can be instruments in making the next one great. Bill is a big part of why my first family was so great. And it's a joy when I see him around the community and we visit for a while.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Jokes

Yesterday we braved the snow and rain to watch BYU beat up Eastern Washington University. We decided to try out the Dine and Dash option available from the University Mall food court. If you eat anywhere in the University Mall, you can get a free bus voucher that will drive you to the BYU game. So we ate Chik-Fil-A, had some Burger House corn dogs, and of course, drank an Orange Julius before the game. While eating in the food court, Kulani starting taking out his beanie cap with the BYU logo on the front. As he pulled out his hat, he said, "My cap's a little more understated than that guy's." I turned around to see what he was talking about, and that's when I saw a huge cougar face sitting atop the head of a middle-aged man. I turned around and burst into laughter. The joke was perfectly played. Kulani could have said, "I wonder if he's going to the game." But the joke he said was so much funnier because it was A.) slightly self-effacing, and (B) underplayed. Beautifully done.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Comment Away

I think I changed the settings on my blog, so it no longer requires a password when you comment, so feel free to comment as much as you want. My sister Amy kept having a problem when trying to comment. Hopefully, I have fixed it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Utah Mormons: A study in statistics

One time when the family was in New Mexico for a family reunion, one of my cousin’s husband's asked us, “Are you Utah Mormons?” My brother Lani, who was actually old enough to respond to what he was saying, had no idea what he was talking about either. It was the first time either of us had heard the expression. Since we were in fact from Utah and Mormon, Lani said we must be.

As I interact with others who are in Utah visiting, they tend to dismiss almost any disagreement that we have about virtually anything to the fact that I live in Utah. Great generalizations rain down about how Mormons are in Utah versus how they are everywhere else. Maybe it’s true. I doubt it.

I’ll admit my experience with Mormonism is limited to two summers I spent in Oregon. Let there be no doubt that I met a fair number of crackpots while I was up there. My theory is similarly analogous to Utah drivers. Dug did a great review of drivers at http://randomreviewer.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!4E0E3C618B689CDB!1249.entry. I’ll do my ham-fisted best to summarize his point – everyone occasionally does something stupid while driving. Multiply the frequency at which an average person will make a silly mistake driving by the number of people on the road and you’ll see that Utah Drivers are really no worse than average drivers anywhere there is an urban population commuting to work.

And so it goes with Mormons and Utah Mormons. What is it that makes a Utah Mormon? I’m not sure, since the only time I hear someone using that logic is when they are dismissing someone else’s argument. You know, the blowing-a-raspberry or calling-someone-stupid-kind-of response you gave as a child when you couldn’t come up with a decent response to something. And now I’m being dismissive and I digress. Returning to my point, outside of Utah, the number of Mormons within the local population is markedly lower than it is inside of Utah. Thus, on any given day it’s probable that you interact with less Mormons. By extension, the likelihood that you’ll run into a Utah Mormon is less likely. On the other hand, spend any amount of time in Utah County , and you’re nearly surrounded by Mormons. Given that immersion, it doesn’t take long to run into a "Utah Mormon." So my question is, are there a higher percentage of "those" people in Utah, or is it more of a function of density? In reality, I think the answer is somewhere in between, but I’d guess it is a lot closer to the density. I’m not going to discount the fact that zealous people tend to exhibit more zeal when they are among similar people.

An interesting point to mention is that some people I have interacted with have told me the only reason I even thought a certain way about a given topic is because I’m from Utah. This was even when my feelings about the subject, and consequently my argument, are different from most of the rest of the people in the state. So, I guess my whole point is, the next time you get ready to dismiss someone’s argument on the basis that they are a "Utah Mormon," try to resist the urge and engage the argument on its merits. I don’t think, “Well, that’s because you’re from Utah ” is any better of an argument than “Well, what do you know, you’re just a (insert your least favorite societal class here).” - Fish

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pumpkinland '07

This is Lissy the Toad. I'm writing today's blog about our trip to Pumpkinland. We went to Pumpkinland at Vineyard Orchards in Orem as part of my preschool. Mom drove me, Lilia, and Nohea to the field trip in our mini-van. We met up with my classmates there.

Pumpkinland has lots of pumpkins. We saw big pumpkins, small pumpkins, and medium-sized pumpkins. Pumpkins are generally orange, but some are yellowy. Lilia taught us a rhyme she learned in her preschool:

I am a pumpkin big and round,
And I sit on the cold, cold ground.
Now it's time to get out of this place,
And go home and carve a face.
With a nose (clap, clap)
And eyes (clap, clap)
And a mouth (clap, clap)

We also went through a corn maze; saw chickens, rabbits, goats, and ducks; played on the pumpkinland playground; viewed the light alley; and slid down the pumpkin tower. I found a friend to run around with. As we left, they gave us a complimentary small pumpkin. Me and Lilia drew faces on our pumpkins. For lunch, Mom drove us to Arctic Circle for a Square Pumpkin meal, which included a Halloween flashlight. We had a great time.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hmm, mmm. Now let's talk a little politics

Recently, I watched Senator Harry Reid from Nevada address BYU students and faculty at a Tuesday Forum. I found his talk interesting and well done. I liked how he didn't waffle on his political leanings, nor was he apologetic. He stated his beliefs summarily and concretely.

I am talk radio's worst nightmare. I am the swing vote. Since I have been old enough to vote, I feel as though it has been my vote that presidential candidates have been wooing. I will not always vote Democrat, and I will not always vote Republican. And sometimes, I'm making up my mind seconds before I enter the voting booth. I stood in front of the ballot a good five minutes in 1996 when finally I marked the box for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. (Shocking, I know.) And I stood another five minutes before voting both times for George W. Bush.

But when listening to Harry Reid, and finding an article from the Boston Globe about Mormons and political neutrality, I was relieved that by being a Mormon, possibly more so than many other religions in America, I CAN choose who I want to vote for. Many Mormons here in Utah forget that our church is firmly apolitical except on a few (very few) issues.

We're lucky to have friends on both sides of the political line, and we enjoy hearing and sharing other's viewpoints. However, there are a few issues Kulani and I feel almost passionately about. Kulani and I felt strongly about these issues before we ever met one another. Luckily, we feel similarly about them. We have other issues we don't always agree with one another, but the following are those we do agree.

1.) Seperation of Church and State. Though the words aren't explicitly written in the Constitution, they are very much implied. The freedom to practice religion does not mean pushing it on others as well. Prayer in public school does not seem appropriate. From Mormon history, we know too well what it's like to be the religious minority and people not understanding our beliefs. Can you imagine what it would be like if you were a Hindu or a Muslim leading a prayer in a Utah school setting? However, I am in favor of outside school release time, such as seminary or Christian Ed. But those are non-school sponsored events, and the wonderful Constitution does allow for such practices. Also, requiring Biology teachers to teach divine design (creationism) as well as evolution seems unnecessary. I think if people believe that, as in many ways I do (not literally do I believe the world was created in 7 days, but I do believe God and his son Jesus Christ created the world, and perhaps used known scientific methods to do so), they can teach their children in the home or at church. Requiring Biology teachers to do so seems over-the-top. We've all had science classes. We know how science operates. Faith and science don't always mix. It's a struggle, but it's also life. Others have articulated it better than me.

2.) School voucher systems seem like a return to segregation. You've all heard this line: "The Utah school systems are sooo bad." I'm always curious when someone says that. Are they meaning the kids aren't safe? The class sizes are way too big? The curriculum is dumbed down or too hard? The solution for some of these people is two fold: 1) private school or (2) home school. Both choices are good choices if you believe that is the route your family needs to take. What we don't like is asking tax payers to help pay for that choice. An ad on TV makes it sound like taxpayers would be saving money by taking the $3,000 in vouchers and going to a private school and saving the other $4,000 while reducing class sizes. Kulani puts it best. He uses a public bus analogy. To have buses run all day, there is a set cost. No matter how many people get on or off, it will still require a set amount of gas, money to pay the bus driver, maintenance costs, etc. A few children leaving the public school system to pursue private school will not lessen the cost by much. The schools still need to be heated, teachers still need paid, etc. So rather than taking money away from public schools and giving them to a select few to go to private schools, why not invest the money into more schools, more teachers, and thereby, reducing class sizes. And the other ad has it right: even though the vouchers will give families $3,000 to go to private schools, most private schools cost much more than that to attend. So families would need to come up with another $3,000-$8,000 to attend. For median-to-low income families, that option isn't fiscally viable. And let's say everyone takes the vouchers. Then what's left of the already existing public schools? Will we need to implement an acceptance board, requiring our children the increased stress at a tender age of trying to "get into" the best private school? And what of those students who aren't very smart? Who will educate them? Because if I want a good reputation as a school, I don't want to take those students who don't test well. But the Utah State Constitution requires that all children under the age of 16 (or is it 18?) be educated, so who will run those school where students aren't exactly the smartest? And really what it stinks of is a return to segregation. I don't see parents putting their children in schools where a big mix of students can be found. I'm guessing parents will want their children to attend schools with children who have the same socio-economic background. And what about rural communities? A voucher system would be useless for them. Perhaps I've said enough. Much more could be said.

3.) Meat is not murder. It's no surprise that we are not vegetarians. We aren't. We love the Smiths, we even love the "Meat is Murder" CD, but we also love meat. For us, this is not a political statement. Did you ever see The Contender with Joan Allen? She plays a woman who becomes the vice president of the United States. I personally hated the movie. At any rate, there's this scene where she's sitting at dinner with a very powerful Republican senator, and the camera keeps zooming in on close-ups of the senator's ultra-rare huge piece of steak. She was eating a big salad. For me, the scene was symbolizing that the senator was a back-water, ignorant hick, because as everyone knows, only back-water hicks eat rare pieces of meat. Well if that is so, what about the French. 'Nuff said. (But what about the French???)

To sum it up, we are against prayers in school, school vouchers, and for meat. We welcome your comments.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Adventures of Undieshead and Polkanuts Girl


Last time we left our two super heroes, Undieshead was in danger of running out of clean underwear do to the evil conivings of No-no the Messtastic. Messtastic had found her top-secret underwear drawer and rubbed her grimey hands all over Undieshead's clean underwear. Then in an effort to ensare Undieshead, she left a trail of clean, unsoiled underwear that led to a devious trap.
"I'm trapped," Undieshead called out, hoping her super-crime fighting sister, Polkanuts Girl, would hear her distress call. "Good thing I always keep a clean pair of undies on my head. This may take a while to escape."


"I have you now, Undieshead," No-no cackled, showing off her toothless, crumb-laden smile.


Just then, Polkanuts girl arrived waving a chocolate ice cream popsicle.

"Messtastic. We meet again. Perhaps you'd like a bite of this delicious, staining popsicle," Polkanuts girl taunted, diverting Messtastic's attention away from Undieshead.



"Chocolate... popsicle. Must have ... chocolate popsicle."

"And look. I'm standing on a newly cleaned, beige carpet," Polkanuts Girl taunted. "I'm sure at least $100 went into the cleaning of this carpet."

Messtastics weakness for all things chocolate smeared into all things clean got the better of her. She reached for the popsicle, only to have Polkanuts Girl feed the chocolate popsicle to her trusty canine sidekick, Jesse Shedder.


"No, no, no. You fools!" Messtastic shouted, as Undieshead and Polkanuts Girl escaped her greasy grip. "I'll find a way to get you both!"

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Grandpa Christenson

We bought a bag of Hershey's best-selling bag of chocolate Halloween candy. We ate most of the candies and what do you think was the candy that didn't get eaten? Whoppers. Whoppers bring me back to my childhood--to be specific, to my Grandpa Christenson's house in Heyburn, Idaho. Grandpa loved two candies: pink mints and Whoppers. He always had Whoppers in the milk carton, which Kulani said he also grew up eating with his family.


A few years back, I went with my parents on a road trip to St. David, Arizona, the place my grandfather was born and raised. My grandpa was born two years before the turn of the century. Essentially, my grandpa grew up during the tail end of the old wild west. As we were visiting Tombstone, a town about 20 minutes north of St. David, my dad remembered his dad telling him that he carried a pistol around town at the tender age of 12. It was rough country where my grandpa grew up. His mother died when he was young and his father remarried a woman my grandpa was never too fond of. He ran away from home to live with an uncle in Idaho when he was 14 or 15. He went back for a year after he was first married to work in the mines in Bisbee, Arizona--a small town just north of the Mexican border and very close to St. David. Grandpa even lugged Grandma's piano with them when they moved there. They only lasted about a year, before my grandpa was involved in a mining car accident that crushed his body and put him in the hospital. Grandma was pretty home sick, so after Grandpa recovered, they decided to move back to Idaho, where my grandpa worked at many trades, including bus driver, mechanic, and farming.

My grandpa died when I was 10. The Mets won the World Series the night he died. I've always hated the Mets since then. Grandpa had a stroke in 1975 which caused his speech to be non-understandable by most people, including me. Some of the memories I have of Grandpa include his choice of candies, him sitting in his rocking chair watching Bonanza and Lawrence Welk on television, and seeing him walk to the Post Office everyday. I remember one time staying over at his house when Grandma was in the hospital, and he made us breakfast the next morning. Grandma always made a big breakfast when we stayed at her house, but Grandpa tried to do his best to offer us everything Grandma would have.

But going on that little trip to Grandpa's birthplace was life changing in a lot of ways. We took a tour of the mine my grandpa likely would have worked in, and it made me appreciate what that must have been like. When we visited St David, we found my grandpa's mother's grave site. It was an old, run-down cemetery, but finding her name made it feel more homey. We also found a street in St. David called "Christenson Street." Not very many people spell it with an "on" at the end, so we thought maybe it was named after one of our relatives. It was great being with my dad during that trip. It was his first trip there as well, and it was touching to see how much it meant to him also. I'm missing Grandpa right now, and every time I see Whoppers candies.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

My Lili Bear

I'm not a huge Sofia Coppola fan, but sometimes she really says something in her movies that I haven't heard before. Lost in Translation is one of those movies. I'm not a super great movie critic nor am I really great at analizing movies, but on occasion, I like to analize, especially with movies such as Lost in Translation. I can't recommend the movie to anyone because it has some nudey parts that were just not needed, unless she was trying to say that all men are dogs and after one thing--in that case, she said it loudly and clearly. But other parts were hauntingly right on. But I'm rambling. The reason I bring it up is because there's a great line Bill Murray's character says when Scarlett Johanson's character asks him about what it's like to have children. He says, "Your life, as you know it... is gone. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk... and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life." That's how I feel about my children.

Yesterday, I took my girls to the movies, Transformers to be exact. I'm not sure I've ever had so much fun at a movie. The girls were enthralled. Lilia has a best friend who is a boy. And Lilia knows that Bracken likes the Transformers. So she was carefully watching the movie as if so she could discuss it with Bracken later. She said to me, "I'm going to tell Bracken that I saw Transformers at the movies." Then later she'd ask me, "Who were the good guys again?" I'd tell her, "the Autobots." And she'd say, "And who were the bad guys?" "The Decepticons." She asked me those questions all the way home, each time trying hard to remember the names. Maybe it's a stage, but I really hope my girls always stay as cool as they are now. They love being with us, and we love being with them. I hope they don't become teenagers who think they're too cool to be with their parents.

Later we went to dinner, and Lilia kept saying she was having so much fun. I just want to live in those moments. I did catch a quick glimpse of what the teenage years might look like, however, this summer at Lagoon. I took Lilia and some of her older cousins to stand in line to ride The Bat (or whatever it was called), a family friendly roller coaster. While in line, I was teaching all my nieces and nephews some of my sweet dance moves I learned in the 90s. I whipped out the Roger Rabbit, Silly Feet, the Running Man--I was really grooving. I look over at Lilia and her face is bright red. She puts her arms out and tries to stop me from dancing. She starts pulling me and says, "Mom, come over here. Come stand by me over here." I think she was embarrassed. Embarrassed. Of me. Can you believe it? She's 4. I thought the nieces and nephews thought I was cool, but maybe I wasn't. Well, if Lilia is going to get embarrassed by my dancing, wait until she's a teenager. You'd better believe I'm volunteering to chaperone her prom. And then I'm bringing out the big guns: the moon walk. Aaah yeah.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Throwing the Baby into the Dish Water


Mother: Thy name is multi-task. In an effort to help mothers everywhere, I'm designing an environmentally friendly and time-saving technique of doing dishes, laundry, and bathing the baby. The solution: the kitchen sink. All can be done in the kitchen sink and all with the same water, but perhaps more Dawn dishwashing detergent added with each new task. As you can see from the above picture, this saved so much time that I also had time to make cookies with my oldest daughter Lilia. Genius.

But seriously, we love our kitchen sink. Nohea is not really bathing in the same water as I washed the dishes in. It's new water, but I'm still using Dawn. My mom bathed us and washed our hair with Dawn when we were growing up, no joke. When we got soap in our eyes, it stung like a son-of-a-gun. I just put a drop of Dawn in for bubbles. She loved it.

We are a bit prideful about our kitchen sink. Our good friend Pete Liddel did an amazing job installing granite countertops in our kitchen. He found this deep sink to also install, which he obtained for a very inexpensive price and passed the savings onto us. We are very grateful to Pete for his workmanship and savings. And we love our deep sink. You can put huge pots in there to clean, big trash can buckets, and even big babies, as shown in the picture.

Here's another great picture of our Nohea bathing:
Lilia wanted me to post two pictures she took last night with her photography skills:
This is Kulani sitting in the living room. He is a floor sitter. Do you have one of those in your family? Kulani prefers sitting on the floor to sitting on the couch or chair.
This is a picture Lilia took of me. Man, do I know how to pose or what? Lilia captured the essence of me: flashing the Mom gangsta sign. You just flash that sign and moms-in-the-know will show up at your doorstep with cookies and dinner. But now that I've shared our secret, I'll be watching my back a little closer. Anyone who tells the moms-in-the-know secrets gets dipped in flour and deep-fat-fried at the nearest tanning salon. Ouchies. I'm not sure I have enough Strawberry Shortcake band-aids to fix that booboo.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fun Pictures from BYU Homecoming

Here are some fun pictures from the last BYU home game:

This is a picture of my sister Amy cheering and my sister-in-law Sherrie thinking, "Why am I at a BYU football game?" Sherrie and Doug met while Doug was in Aggieland in Logan. But they still like to cheer on the Cougars, bless their hearts.


Though it may look differently, this is not a picture of someone soliciting for money to support the Christian Children's Fund. This is my brother-in-law Nathan (married to Amy) holding his son Ty Douglas. Amy and Nate named their two sons after two great BYU quarterbacks: Ty Detmer and Steve Young. We're hoping Ty gets to play for BYU in the future so we can call him "TouchDown" Smedley.


This is the Christenson cousins wearing the blue and pink. From left (hiding) is Austin Christenson, Grace Smedley, MacKenzie Christenson, Lilia Fisher, Sarah Smedley, and Melissa Fisher.

This is the Cougar core of the TT south endzone. From left, Big Fred, Dee, Grandma, and cousin Marjean. Grandma doesn't make it out as much as she used to, so I'm glad I took this picture while I could.


Here's the two parents who started it all: Karen and Norvel Christenson. In their lap is Nohealani Fisher. Since Dad's heart surgery, we pray the Cougars no longer have close games. You especially don't want to be rooting for the other team while sitting near my dad in Cougar stadium. He gets a little ... unruly. He once threw ice and his cup at a bunch of nearby USU fans. Not pretty.


This is Ed and his friend Charlotte. Ed is now a freshman at the Y and dating a lot of the lovely co-eds. I'm not sure if he actually went to the homecoming dance with Charlotte. Ed is my brother, after all. They're not really known for spending a lot of money on dates.


This is my oldest brother Doug and his family, Sherrie (wife), Austin, and MacKenzie. Not pictured are his son Luke and daughter Carly. Doug and family moved to Tremonton in July. Before that, they lived in Gardnerville, NV, for about 12 years. Doug works with ATK helping design rockets, etc. He's an engineer and Sherrie is a hair stylist. I have many fond memories of sitting by Doug at the games. As anyone will tell you, Doug can be the loudest person on earth. We once got tickets in the student section, and Doug refused to sit the whole game. His reasoning: We're in the student section. We should be as loud and obnoxious as possible.

And this is my cutey Nohea and my other cutey buns Kulani. Kulani bought the whole family "Y" shirts. Don't they look similar? Kulani finally got a child that looks like him.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Uncle Fred


Anyone who has been around my family for any period of time knows Uncle Fred (he's the one holding the binoculars in the picture above). He's one of those uncles whose first name really is "uncle." Even my friends called him "Uncle Fred."

Every year since before Steve Young took the field, Uncle Fred bought at least a dozen BYU season football tickets.

Uncle Fred's family is small. His wife died when I was 2, and he has one girl and one boy. He didn't remarry until about two years ago to a lady named Dee, who we also love.

Uncle Fred shared his love of BYU football with those of us who would appreciate it. And boy did we appreciate it. We were invited to at least one home game a year. Occasionally we even got to bring a friend.

Do you know how much Uncle Fred could have sold for his tickets to the 1990 BYU vs. Miami game? Probably enough to pay for the season tickets. But he gave his extras to us, and I was even able to take my good friends Keri and Jana.

I have a ton of great memories going to the games with Uncle Fred in his section (Row 17/18, seats 36 and up, section TT). In the old days, pre-9/11, they let you bring in your own food, and Uncle Fred always had licorice and chocolates.

We like to imitate Uncle Fred in our family, and I think most of my brothers wish they were as cool as him. He's one of those people who just oozes cool. He resembles Tom Selec, because he's had a moustache since long before I was born, and he has deep dimples in his cheeks when he smiles. He's rather tall, around 6 foot 6 inches, slender build, and a full head of brown hair with tannish skin.

When we were kids, he always knew all the songs and music from the 60s and 70s. He took us skiing once, and on the trip up to the mountain, he played the Beatles--the first time I'd heard their stuff. My own parents were a bit squarish in their musical tastes, even for their day. (Their favorite groups were Sons of the Pioneers, The Four Kingsmen, the Beach Boys pre-Pet Sounds.)

When Uncle Fred comes into a room, he kind of struts in and everyone kind of stops to hear what he's going to say, and the first thing out of his mouth is usually, "Hey, what's happenin'." And me writing that just now doesn't sound so cool, but you should here Uncle Fred say it.

And probably the most quoted phrase I've heard many of my brothers and other family members try to emulate is Uncle Fred's grunty expression. I'll try to explain it, but you've got to hear it to understand it.

If someone makes a comment, really about anything, Uncle Fred might make another sly comment in his deep voice, then grunt out some sounds followed by, "You know what I'm sayin'."

When I lived with Grandma McEuen in college, Uncle Fred came over everday after his work with the Department of Recovery Services to make sure his mom was okay and to check if she needed anything.

Sometimes we'd talk, and he'd tell me stories about people in the area. I loved it when Uncle Fred stopped by for his visits. It broke up the monotany of the day.

For my senior project in getting my journalism degree, I interviewed Uncle Fred about the Department of Recovery Services. He spent an hour being interviewed by me. My story was pretty lame, but I still appreciated that he would talk with me and allow me to publish his comments.

So to Uncle Fred--you're one in a million. You'll never meet anyone like him.

Personal Essays

As time allows, I'll be devoting sections of this blog to people who have affected this family. My one rule is that it must remain positive in case the person stumbles onto this site and reads about themselves. I don't know about you, but I don't generally like surfing the web and finding derogatory blogs written about me. Maybe I'm projecting my own feelings, but I think most people don't like that. And maybe I'm the only one, but I'm one of those people who would like to hang out around my body after I'm dead just to hear what people are saying about me and stories they remember about me. Well, why wait until death? I think it's time we let some of you know how much we think about you and love you. So let the personal essays begin ...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Family Dog


Jessie is our family dog. Currently, he is our only pet. I do not foresee a future family pet, but Kulani keeps hinting at a cat, which I'm not so fond of. People generally reside in two camps of thought: those who like family pets and those who don't. Inside those two camps are two other camps: those who like furry pets indoors and those who like furry pets outdoors. Ours is a family of liking the family pet indoors. In the home I grew up in, the family dog had to stay outside ... on a long chain ... even in the dead of winter. But we have many fond stories of our family dogs in the Christenson household, just like Kulani has good stories about his family cats in the Fisher family. (His mom also did not allow inside pets.)
But back to Jessie. He was almost taken to the sausage factory on a few occasions. We got Jessie when he was 6 months old. For the first six months of his life, he stayed at the breeders home, who taught him how to be a good dog. So, not because of our doing, Jessie is basically the best dog in the whole world. However, he has his misbehaving moments. I used to watch children in my home, and sometimes the kids would open the door and Jessie would bolt out of the house and down the road faster than I could catch him. He got caught by the dog catcher on a few occasions.


So we bought him a shock collar and a periphery fence you bury underground. For some reason, holes existed in the periphery fence, because Jessie was able to escape from the electric fence. So then we invested in the radio fence. It's a little box that emits a circular electrical pulse that Jessie cannot crossover without getting a huge jolt. The safe zone is only in our yard. Ever since then, he has been the perfect dog. He can be both inside and outside the house. As I tell Kulani, Jessie and I have more of a working relationship. He knows I'm not huge into petting him and showing him a lot of love, but I'm the one he comes to when he needs to go outside or needs food and water. He goes to Kulani and the kids for love and affection.


There's a family in our neighborhood that Kulani and I try to emulate. We love this family, and all of their kids seem so well behaved and nice. We had them over for dinner once, and they told us, "We have pets because we're raising kids." We took that as our own philosophy. The value of a family pet is well-worth the effort. Children learn to love animals, which in turn helps them to love other living creatures including humans. You have to teach children how to be kind to animals and pet softly. A pet can be a child's best confidant; pets, especially dogs, are eager to have human touch and companionship. And it also teaches responsibility in feeding the pet.


Before we got the shock fence, Jessie ran away and came back with a badly damaged eye. The vet said it was likely from someone hitting him with a bat or something. That eye is now dead and blue looking, poor guy. But he doesn't act too bothered by it. Our vet, Dr. Coleman (AKA THE BEST VET IN THE WORLD!), said these types of incidents are common with dogs and not to worry too much about it. If it flares up, we visit Dr. Coleman, and he gives us a prescription that helps the swelling and charges us a mere pittance for the visit. If you live anywhere in Utah County, I must advise you take your animals to Dr. Coleman. He's cheap and excellent, and he understands that pets are pets; not children. Because when all is said and done, we'd pay as many thousands of dollars as possible to fix one of our children's eyes. But Jessie? He'll just have to make due with the one.

Luau '07



It has come and gone. If you missed it, my apologies. We had plenty of food to wipe out starvation in three third-world countries, or at least starvation for a whole bunch of people for approximately 4 to 12 hours depending. We fed approximately 150 people in three different groups. From noon to 2 p.m., we fed family. From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. we fed the neighbors. From 4 p.m. on we fed Kulani's law firm associates and his biking buds. Kulani manned the grill the whole time, and I played sous chef and daycare worker.



Luau By the Numbers:
  • 120 pounds of chicken (chicken quarters marinated in Kulani's "Hauli Killer" sauce and finished on the grill)
  • 50 pounds of sirloin (sliced thinly, marinated, and grilled to make Kalbi)
  • 120 pounds of pork (cooked slowly in ovens overnight, shredded, then add in juices and salt)
  • 20 pounds of potatoes and some carrots for Argentine potato salad (a throwback to the mission)
  • 30 cups of rice
  • Two big salmon fillets from Costco for lomi-lomi salmon (with fresh tomatoes from Angela's garden)
  • Six Costco packages of mild Italian sausages (to grill Argentine style, with chimichurri sauce)

And special thanks to family who helped provide more authentic Hawaiian cuisine: Angela brought her chicken long rice. She makes delicious chicken long rice. Kuhia provided the ever popular Haupia (coconut pudding). This year he brought just the right amount, as there was none left over. Kehaulani brought awesome guava cake. Jonelle brought poke and poi. Mighty tasty. And friends brought desserts and salads. Thanks to all.

A very special thanks goes to my sweet neighbor girl Kyra O'Brien for watching Nohea for me so I could have two hands to work. And to Alika for being so helpful with whatever we asked him to do. And to Ben who helped man the grill all Saturday.

This year we tried entertaining the little kids a bit more by having a treasure hunt. That only lasted all of 10 minutes. So next year we'll need to work even harder on the games. Not to be Grandpa Simpson here, but in my day, all we needed were two things to represent flags or a ball, and we would go to the park to play some type of ball game or capture the flag. Kids these days need entertainment. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

The question I get asked the most when we do our annual luau is why? Why go to all this work for no particular reason? For us, it's two fold. We are continuing the traditions of Kulani's Hawaiian ancestry by remembering how to cook the native foods, and in keeping with Hawaiian traditions, you do NOT exclude anyone from a luau. You must have enough food for anyone to drop in and have some. And secondly, to be together with people and enjoy their company and talk with each other. With the invention of blogs, Internet, text messaging, the ability to communicate in person with people may be on the same path as the dinosaur. We're doing our part to keep the lines of communication open. If you missed it this year, there's always next year. Mahalo.


Pictures: Kyra holding Nohea at the luau.



I bought two gazebo tents at Big Lots for 75% off for $25 a piece. They served us well for the luau then broke apart after the event. Good thing I paid the 75% off price and not the full pop. The following is a picture of people eating underneath the tent. We also set out blankets and pillows, so in true Hawaiian style, people could take a nap between feeding one and feeding two (or second lunch, as some hobbits call it).

Monday, September 3, 2007

Go, Mighty Cougars!

For nearly every important home game over the past 10 years, Kulani and I have had seats in Cougar Stadium. Last Saturday, we again took our seats in Cougar Stadium to watch them retire number 14--Gifford Nielsen's and Ty Detmer's number. Ty is my favorite BYU quarterback of all time. Me and my friends Jana Baily and Keri Anderson were in attendance when BYU beat Miami in 1990. They passed out paper ties that said "Tysman for Heisman." Later that season Ty won the Heisman trophy. And now we are continuing the tradition (or brainwashing if you're with the other teams) of watching Cougar football with our daughters, as we are now a family of season ticket holders. Kulani helps teach a class at the law school, so we qualify for faculty tickets. Our tickets aren't too far away from my sister Amy's family or from Uncle Fred's tickets. Uncle Fred is the one who instigated our love for Cougar football. He's been getting at least a dozen season tickets for BYU football since the early 80s. His family is small, so he gives the other tickets away each game, and occassionally he sells some. Growing up, we were able to go to at least one game a year thanks to Uncle Fred.
The team looked great on Saturday when they beat Arizona. Kulani didn't get to sit with us because he had the difficult task of sitting in the Legacy seats and eating the prime rib lunch, chocolate-fountain-dipped fruit, BYU ice cream, and other goodies. A friend of his gave him the ticket. So we took my nephew Hekili to the game in Kulani's spot. Hekili is 11 years old and loves playing football. He hadn't been to a game since he was five. It was a complete joy to take him. Not only did he help me with the girls, but he was just entertaining to watch. Some of the things Hekili said:
"I can't miss the haka. Yes, that is so cool!"

"Oh, I want to play here someday so bad!"
"Can I keep this souvenir cup? Thanks!"
"I'm going to have this fight song memorized by the end of this game."

Hekili even printed out the lyrics of the fight song so he could sing it after every touchdown. He didn't know they flashed the words up on the scoreboard for people to sing along. It's easy to treat young kids to those kinds of activities when they're so appreciative. Here's a picture of Hekili at the game.

Here's a picture of Lissy having a meltdown at the game. It was quite hot.


Here's a picture of Nohea being sweet at the game:


And here's a picture of Hekili and Lilia on the Cougar.


Can't wait for the next game!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Founder's Day Dinner

Every year, BYU law school alumni and their spouses/guests are invited to a fancy dinner at the Little America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City for a celebration called The Founders' Day Dinner. It is one of the highlights of our year. We never miss it. When Kulani was a student in law school, we could go for $10 a plate, because generous wealthy law firms helped cover the cost so students could also attend. Now we're part of a law firm, so we get in free thanks to the firm. The first three years we went, they served filet mignon. The last few years it's been not as good, but the speakers have more than made up for it.


BYU law school does a very good job of bringing you into the circle and giving you a big hug. The Founder's Day Dinner, in a way, is about remembering the old timers; the ones who started the school; the fathers. And rather than having us forget about them, they retell stories that make you somehow feel a part of something bigger. BYU in general tries to make their students feel at home by offering devotionals, etc. But BYU law school, with its smaller classes, can do a little better job at it. And last night was no different. Elder Bruce C. Hafen spoke on his memories of the founding of BYU's law school and why the church board okayed such an endeavor. Elder Hafen was only 31 when he and Rex Lee (then 37) tried influencing prominant LDS attorneys and law faculty to take a chance on teaching at BYU's newly formed and not-yet accredited law school. His stories were endearing and personal. I'll share one with you here. He and Rex Lee were on the high council together in a BYU student ward, and during one of the meetings, President Lee had fallen asleep. Elder Hafen leaned over to Lee and said, "They just announced you're supposed to give the closing prayer." President Lee opened one eye and softly said to Elder Hafen, "The first amendment to the Constitution says we have the freedom to choose religion. You worship your way, and I'll worship mine." After being dean of the law school, President Lee went on to be solicitor general to the United States and argued cases before the Supreme Court. After that, he returned to BYU as president of the university.


I didn't get into BYU the way most students do. My acceptance letter was kind of a backwards acceptance letter. It said, "Come to summer school, and we'll let you in for the fall." So I went to summer school. At the bottom of my acceptance letter was President Rex Lee's signature. I have always felt that it was him who personally allowed me come to BYU. Elder Hafen said Rex had a huge fondness for BYU. And in his last welcoming devotional in 1995 before he died, Elder Hafen said he still saw tears form in Rex's eyes when they sang the school song. That's how both Kulani and I feel about BYU.


The following are some pictures of the Founder's Day Dinner. We brought our friends Amy and Ben with us. Ben went to the Universty of Chicago Law School (the same law school Rex Lee and Dallin Oaks attended), and when Ben was there at Chicago Law, he wrote to Elder Oaks to ask if they could use his name in forming an LDS law school society. Elder Oaks gave him the okay. I think their society was called the Dallin H. Oaks Law Society. (BYU's is called the J. Reuben Clark Law Society.) Anyhow, he was able to talk with Elder Oaks last night about the letter, and Elder Oaks said he remembered getting it. I snapped the photo so Ben could send it to his fellow society members (it's dark and blurry because I still haven't figured out how to fix my camera, so sorry about that Ben). The other picture is of me and Kulani with cheesy smiles because we love this dinner so much. My sister Amy was supposed to be there last night, but I never saw her. So Amy, if you were there, sorry we missed seeing you.






Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Summer Days ... Drifting Away

It's been a packed summer for us, and we're kind of sad to see it go. Lilia had her first day of preschool today, and Melissa will be going to preschool in a week. I'd say summer is officially over, but Kulani says we need one more Labor Day barbecue and then we'll officially call it over. To recap, this summer we ...


  • Went to Hawaii for a week.

  • Lilia played on her first T-ball team: the Bears (not so much bad news)

  • Kulani competed in the Hawaii Half Ironman, Provo Olympic tri, Echo Reservoir tri, Spudman tri, and Jordanelle Olympic tri.

  • Cindy did Hawaii Half and Spudman.

  • Lilia ran in the Provo Freedom Days fun run, with me, Lissy, and Nohea chasing after her in the stroller. We couldn't keep up. She got 2nd in her age group.

  • Kulani ran close to Steve Young in the Freedom Days 10K. Oh, if we could only bottle his sweat!

  • Went camping with our new tent a total of five times. We took nephew Hekili with us one time so he could get his Webelos badge.

  • Attended the awesome McEuen family reunion.

  • We put our American Fork Fitness Center membership to good use by going swimming often (see video)


video


But now we are bushed. We enjoyed spending the summer with those of you we did. In general, we didn't have as many visitors to our house. Perhaps we haven't been hospitable enough. Please forgive. We are anxiously awaiting the coming of BYU football season. We can smell it in the air already. We got family season tickets thanks to Kulani's "faculty" status. Our seats are near Uncle Fred's and Amy&Nate's. Soon, our family will dominate the whole south end zone. For now, it's time for a nap.


Friday, August 17, 2007

A Study in Psychology

Kulani took an introductory class in psychology when he was a freshman at BYU. In the class he learned of a study involving pictures of newborns. Participants were asked to match the pictures of infants to pictures of their supposed biological parents, both father and mother. Some low percentage of the people were able to match the baby to the mother, but a large percentage of people were able to match the father with the infant. In other words, babies come out looking like their fathers. Pyschologists could say there are a number of reasons for this phenomenon: 1) It helps the father to better bond with the baby. Oh, he/she looks like me! I love him/her! (2) It helps establish who the father of the baby is. (Think Maury Povich's voice: You ARE the father!)


It's an interesting study, and one that is easy to determine between Kulani and me, since we look very different. The following are pictures of my three girls just days after they were born. You be the judge. Do they look more like me or Kulani? To refresh the memory, here's a picture of Kulani and me:



Baby 1 (AKA Lilia):


Baby 2 (AKA Melissa):



Baby 3 (AKA Nohea):


Now when Kulani goes anywhere with the girls without me around, he sometimes illicits funny stares: People think he's kidnapped some blonde-headed couple's kids. My girls look most like me now. It's still left to be seen how Nohea will turn out. So far, she still very much looks like Kulani.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A fond farewell to Cousin James

Today is President Faust's funeral and it will be televised on BYUTV, and I hope to catch it. President Faust is a distant relative of mine. He's my grandma's first cousin once removed. This picture was taken near the gravesite of both my mother's and President Faust's great-great-grandma, Eliza Lyman, in Central Utah. They were both there after a large Lyman family reunion. My daughter Lilia is the baby in my mom's arms. My mom was taking care of Lilia that day, so I could get some chores done and errands run in Provo.

I'll remember President Faust for a few things: 1) He gave a great talk at BYU Law School's Founder's Day dinner about serving others. He was a lawyer before he became an apostle, and he spoke about some of the pro bono cases he took while a lawyer. (2) His last General Conference talk on forgiveness. I'll never forget how he broke down in sobs as he told of the admiration he had for the Amish people's capacity to forgive. And (3) he grew up in the same family tree as my grandmother. I feel as though I have a window into the type of family he must have grown up in, and the type of family he most likely also raised. From stories of my mother and grandmother, my grandmother's family were good cooks. They lived a real farming lifestyle near Delta, Utah. The men would have a big breakfast before heading out to the fields, then they would come in for a big lunch complete with homemade bread, and then they would have family dinners at night together, complete with fresh vegetables from the garden. It sounds idealic.

Monday, August 13, 2007

McEuen Family Reunion '07

Every other year since 1982, my mother's family--the McEuen's--get together for a 3-day reunion. As I get older, this reunion gets better and better for me. My mother has three other siblings, and they rotate taking turns for the family reunion. My mom's dad was an engineer in southern California for Grumman aeronautical. Because of his good 401-K plan and also because of my grandma's nice penchant from the state of California (she worked at the DMV for 22 years), my grandma has a nice little retirement nest. Grandpa died in 1993, but before he died, he took the whole family to Disneyland. And my grandma likes to treat us all during the reunion, and this year was no different. Uncle Pat and Aunt Vivi (from Redding, CA) were in charge of the festivities this time. They did an excellent job. On Friday night, we ate a nice dinner in the Skyroom at BYU. I've always wanted to eat there, but never got the chance while at BYU. It's a beautiful place with windows that look out to Y mountain. We also had greeting games, which turned out to be so much fun. I always start out greeting games with anxiety, but by the end, I was approaching relatives left and right with questions like, "Can you swim a mile?" Then if they could, I cross them off on my bingo chart. You know the drill. There was also a talent show that night. I was able to get my 4-year-old to dance her one-minute hula dance. Very proud moment for her ol' mom. I was amazed at some of my relatives' talents. The next day we went to Lagoon and then rented out the Davis Aquatic Center all for our family later that night. All the food was also provided. The next day was Sunday, so we saw the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast early in the morning, then had Swedish pancakes (Uncle Pat's specialty) afterwards. If you're keeping track, all of those activities equal lots of money, but kind Grandma (and I'm guessing Uncle Pat and Aunt Vivi) footed the bill for everything. It was so nice! Muchos appreciated. But even if we didn't have the money to do all of those fun activities, just being together and talking would have been almost as great. I love visiting with my family. The turn out was really good. All of my Aunt Kathy's kids made it. All of my Uncle Fred's kids made it. All but one of my Uncle Pat's kids made it. And all but one of my mom's kids made it.

I've always been very connected to family. I'm grateful to have a little family of my own, too. And being a parent is probably the most joyful thing I've ever done. It's especially great sharing the responsibilities with Kulani.