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


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!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.