Sunday, December 28, 2008

Santa and those BVDs

In my humble opinion, Santa was uber-generous this year. He gave the girls too much stuff. I think he went a little overboard, because in Santa's opinion, these are the prime Christmas-magic years, where the kids still believe with all their hearts.

But he messed up with one gift: he gave the girls, in Lilia's words, "freakin' underwear" in their stockings. It's really weirding Lilia out.

Lilia: "I like all my gifts, but that freakin' underwear."

Mom: "You didn't like the underwear?"

Lilia: "I like the designs and stuff, but it's freakin' underwear from Santa."

I don't think Santa thought it would be such a big deal. I personally always got socks in my stocking, sometimes mittens. But now that I think about it, I don't think I ever got underwear. An old man giving young girls underwear? Not Santa's finest moment perhaps. Why don't they write a manual for this sort of thing? I guess people just assume parents know better. You know what they say about assuming: it makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me." Give Santa a freakin' break. It's not like he stuffed the sock with a bra.

Why so SAD?

I suffer from what professionals call Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The family I grew up in called it "the wackies," although we called a lot of things "the wackies:" that feeling of dread you get on Sunday nights before facing a long work week, post-partum depression, and the crazy lady in the ward who likes to bear her testimony about her cat.

People who suffer from SAD don't always recognize it, but everyone around them does. Kulani knows to walk carefully, as if on egg shells. He watches me carefully and calls home often to make sure his girls and me are okay. Even the little girls sense a change in me: they scurry pretty fast when I get tense and my voice rises a notch or two. I'm not dangerous when SAD sets in, but I do get grumpy faster than normal.

My symptoms include not wanting to go outside or anywhere. Not caring about much of anything, including taking a shower or brushing my teeth. If I could build a cacoon of blankets around me and stay in one spot until spring, I would. But not doing anything makes it worse, and I start to feel like a caged bird needing to get out. I don't really want to talk to anyone or see anyone except my little family.

I hate it. Like people who suffer from depression, you learn to trudge through it. I know it will go away when the sun comes out. How do people live in places like Minnesota, North Dakota, Sweden, or Seattle? If it gets really bad, I may invest in one of those special lamps you sit in front of that are supposed to help. I've developed other coping skills as well. I force myself to do those things I don't want to do. Exercise really helps. And I let little things fall by the wayside. And thankfully I have a loving, understanding husband who knows when to step in and take the girls and me for a night out.

I have so many things I have wanted to blog about: the fantastic Fisher Christmas party hosted by Kuhia and Susan; the lessons learned from this year's Christmas gifts; and my New Year's goals for weight loss. But I'm feeling too blah-zay to write anything, well, except for this. Don't expect any pictures with this post.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Birthday to Marester!

My younger sister Mary was born this day 29 years ago. BYU was in yet another Holiday Bowl, and my dad was excited that my mom went into labor the same time as the Holiday Bowl, because he could watch the game in the lobby while my mom delivered the baby. These were the old days, folks. My mom says dads weren't expected to be in the delivery room. My dad saw one of his children, the oldest, be born, but he almost passed out. And even though he spawned nine more children, the delivery room was a stranger to him.

Growing up, Mary was my closest confidant. We shared the same room for about four years, me on the top bunk and she on the bottom bunk. We'd read stories together every now and again. And we'd laugh a lot together. And we cried a lot together. We both had the same sense of humor, the same sense of dread, the same sense of justice and injustice in the world; even the same affinity for boys. One of our favorite games was to lie next to each other on mom and dad's bed and pretend we were laughing until we really did start laughing.

Mary was my wing-man. She was always a good sport to tag along with me along all my adventures. I'd even bring her along with me on dates. When I was dating Kulani, I asked Mary to create a mix CD full of awesome love songs for me to give to Kulani. She delivered in fine form. She was the ultimate secretary, always helping me with special requests and tasks.

When Mary was young, she was known for her big brain. She loved to study medical books my grandma gave her and share her knowledge with us pea-sized brains. Her goal was to become a doctor. But somewhere between freshman year of pre-med at BYU and taking the film appreciation class, she switched majors to that super-lucrative film studies program. She later earned her master's degree in library sciences while mothering her first child.

Now she's married with two kids of her own and lives far away in a land named after Indiana Jones. If I could, I would be her secretary for a week; fetching glasses of water, changing diapers, or changing out DVDs of her all-time favorite movies: It's a Hard Day's Night, Pretty in Pink, and Reality Bites (at least, those were her favorite movies when we used to spend Saturdays watching movies). But instead, she's getting this blog post. Happy birthday, Marester! I hope you know how much I dig you; to your very core.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tears for Fears

I come from a long line of weepers. My family's weeping is notoriously bad. I think it's family legend that claims it was the Christenson's tears that started the river Vida in Denmark. My mom is as bad as the Christenson's, but she didn't get that from her mom, so I think the influence of my dad's family must have rubbed off on her.

My Aunt Norma probably single-handedly held the weeping award for 45 years straight. She was the primary song leader the entire time I was growing up, and I think the only song she made it through without crying was "Once there was a Snowman."

But I'm afraid I might be the reigning queen. It's pathetic how weepy I am. It started getting really bad after I left for college and found myself the loneliest I had ever been in my life. That first summer away from home, my mom's family held a family reunion, and to end the festivities, they called on me to give the closing prayer. Surrounded by cousins, siblings, parents: I couldn't take it. I barely choked out the prayer through my tears. I don't think a single person understood a word I said. They haven't called on me since.

Yesterday I was asked to give the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. The entire time leading up to the prayer, I tried thinking awful, terrible thoughts to push back the tears. I tried not to think of the Christmas carol we were singing. I tried not to think of the purpose of church, of partaking the sacrament. I gave a silent prayer to ask Heavenly Father to help me through this prayer.

The time arrived for me to pray. As I started to pray, those same overwhelming feelings I've felt so many times rose up in my throat. A huge feeling of gratitude and awe mixed in with nervousness and fear. I think I got out about five years before the crying started. I tried to turn my prayer to the mundane to help calm my heart: "Please bless the speakers; bless the bishop and his counselors." But then I blew it by thinking about those in the congregation who may have come to church with a purpose: to feel some kind of love and care from Heavenly Father. I thought of those who were lonely this time of year, or who were struggling with an overwhelming house payment and no income to pay it with.

It was all too much. I ended the prayer as quickly as I could. As I sat down, my huband gave me the look that bespeaks sweetness and mockingness, kind of the way we look at old people with Alzheimer's when they say something totally inappropriate. He lovingly whispered to me, "What is wrong with you?" I laughed and wiped away my tears, even though they kept falling for a good half hour into the meeting. What is wrong with me is right. It's enough, woman. Could someone get me a boat? There's no signs of this flood letting up.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Take my parenting quiz!

After reading my first quiz in Seventeen magazine when I was around 13 years old, I knew the coolest job in the world would be thinking up the quizzes that made millions of young girls more self aware of their behavior and aura on the world. Little did I know way back then--when paper notes were still passed, a phone call to a guy you liked still risked running the chance of having to talk to his mom first, and the closest thing we had to e-mails was being in the same computer class with Apple IIe's that had a version of instant messenger--that blogs would give me the chance to be the editor-in-chief of my own little "magazine."

Please be part of my dream come true and take my parenting quiz. All of these questions are based on actual stories from actual friends (not the imaginary ones who visit me nightly). Answer the questions as best you can, then find out what kind of parent you are based on the Cindy scale of parenting (very scientific).

1. You're child's nursery/primary/synagogue/church teacher for ages 5 and under doesn't seem to be doing a very good job, in your opinion, because every time you ask your child about what they learned in church, you get a blank stare. You:

a) confront the bishop/pastor/rabbi and ask that the teacher be spoken to about more appropriate Sunday lessons where something of a spiritual nature is actually taught. (5 points)
b) ask the teacher directly if you can somehow help out to make things better. (3 points)
c) let things be. Perhaps it's your child who just didn't listen. (1 point)

2. Some new neighbors move in next door, and they own a big pitbull dog. You:

a) go over to the neighbor's house, introduce yourselves for the first time, and procede to ask what type of dog that is and demand that the neighbor buy a huge fence to keep the dog in, or the first sight of that dog on your lawn and you're calling the cops. (5 points)
b) take a plate of cookies over to the family and suggest they go halfsies on a new fence separating your lawns. (3 points)
c) let things be. If you start to see problems, you'll deal with it then. (1 point)

3. You take your child to McDonald's and while playing on the equipment, you notice one child with a diaper that appears to have leaked through her pants. You:

a) approach the parent of the child and tell her that you are uncomfortable with her child playing on the equipment with a leaky diaper, because your daughter/son plays on that same equipment. (5 points)
b) fetch the McDonald's manager to have her/him talk to the parent. If he/she won't, take your child and leave. (3 points)
c) let things be. Germs are a part of life. What doesn't kill your child makes him/her stronger. (1 point)

4. At the park, a biggish child is throwing dirt at all the other kids. The child's parent seems to be nowhere in site, or is busily attending to other things such as a book. You:

a) find the parent and tell him/her to pay attention to his/her child. (5 points)
b) tell the dirt-throwing child to please stop. (3 points)
c) ignore the child and tell your kids to avoid the dirt thrower as best they can. (1 point)

5. A Sunday/Saturday/Friday School teacher disciplines your child by sticking him/her in the corner. You:

a) get upset with the teacher because all the parenting books you've read say sitting the child in a corner ruins the child's self-esteem. (5 points)
b) call the teacher and listen to her side of the story; apologize, then suggest the teacher come get you the next time your child acts up. (3 points)
c) don't think twice about it. Knowing this child, you know time-out will be a constant companion for the next few years. (1 point)

6. Your child starts wanting to dress herself/himself, even though they might not have the whole color coordination thing down yet. You:

a) never relenquish control. You have a reputation to uphold, and your children are a reflection of that reputation. (5 points)
b) You let your child choose to dress himself/herself on days when you aren't going anywhere; and you get to dress her/him on days when you are going somewhere. (3 points)
c) Shorts in the winter? Whatever. Just put it on and let's go. We're in a hurry today, as always. (1 point)

7. Your child's bedtime is:

a) at 7:30 p.m. strictly every night, even when on vacation.
b) at 8:30 p.m., except vacations.
c) before 10 p.m., except vacations, summertime, weekends, winter breaks, and summer breaks, and for the kids not in school yet, they can stay up past 10 p.m.

Score:

35-25: You're somewhere between Mussolini and Marth Stewart. You're okay with other people living their own lives, as long as their lives are in strict observance to the same lifestyle as yours. You plan to have exactly two children, spacing them out exactly five years apart because that's what all the best parenting books suggest gives children the best chance of eliminating sibling rivalry. You carry disinfecting wet wipes everywhere you go, and before anyone holds your newborn, you make them rub hand sanitizer on their hands. And if other parents aren't being as responsible as you, you take it upon yourself to set the parent straight. Your child will leave your home as soon as he/she turns 18, and they will likely spend the next 20 years in therapy. They will begrudge all you did for him/her, and you'll be lucky if he/she remembers to send a birthday card on your birthday. But of course, that will likely never happen as you will guilt her/him into sending you one by reminding her/him about your upcoming birthday every other day the month preceding your birthday.

24-12: You're a responsible parent: a veritable Carol Brady. You care enough for your children to help them become able, competent adults, but not so much that you alienate yourself from others by your wicked over-protectiveness. Your children will most likely live safely until the age of 18, when they'll finally sprout their wings and fly. And they will most likely leave as soon as they can, because although you tried to show a balanced life of discipline and love, your child is ready for his/her independance. Your child will visit appropriately every holiday and birthday, and he/she will have fond memories of her/his upbringing. But that doesn't mean he/she will ever want to move back home; no thank you. A little bit of a good thing is sufficient...for both of you.

11-7: You're a hippi at heart if not in reality. You love your children and believe that the best place for a parent is to stand back and let your children be the people that God most intended them to be. If your body will let you, you'll have as many children as God blesses you with; naming each one of them with the same letter of the alphabet or names from the Bible. You're uncomfortable with public education and would rather home school your children or place them in a private school that grades according to how the child thinks he or she did. Or alternatively, you like public education if for nothing else the free bus ride to school. Yours is the house everyone wants to be at. You lean more toward a friend than a parent. Your children will likely never leave your home, opting instead to stay in the bosom of your love. Or... you have three or more children under the age of 6.

Build-me-a-headache

Writer's Note: This was originally written some time in December, but I've been preoccupied with my other blogs to post here, so I'm finishing this and posting it.

Today Kulani and I experienced our first legitimate parenting discussion with our oldest. It was one of those experiences I remember from my past where Mom and Dad would want to speak with Brian or Doug (never Amy or Kathy) alone in their bedroom with the door shut, and we weren't allowed to snoop outside (though Mary knew how to conceal herself under the parent's bed when she could sense a good talkin'-to was about to go down).


Lilia received birthday money from her grandparent's and was saving her money for something special. She decided suddenly this week that now would be a good time to spend her money at Build-a-Bear Workshop. All total she had $18, $12 in birthday money and $6 in money she earned from doing chores. I told her that might be enough to buy a bear, but to not get her hopes up. She may have to settle for just clothes for her bear. I like to avoid Build-a-Bear at all costs, but last year, her kind uncles took the girls on an excursion there while we were at a Christmas party, and spoiled them with new bears and new outfits.


When we arrived at B-a-B, I was surprised to see they'd lowered their prices. She really wanted a Christmas moose, and it was on sale for $12. She'd have enough money to spare for an accessory, I told her. So she picked out a Christmas collar and two bows, as well as the moose.



Those people at Build-A-Bear are geniuses. They make it all so special for the child, allowing the child to pick out the stuffed animal's heart and warming it up by blowing on it. Even if you wanted to return a bear, there's no way you could. They take off the tags; they personalize it so well, that the child may think they're returning a loved family pet. Who would do such a thing?



Because I had other items to also purchase, I told Lilia that I would pay for it and she could pay me back. Mistake number 1. After I purchased the items, I turned to Lilia and asked her to give me her money. Her face displayed sadness. I asked her what was wrong. She told me that she didn't want the moose if it would cost her all her money.


I would've taken the moose back right then if Build-a-Bear doesn't do everything possible to make you think you can't return it. I decided to consult with Kulani about how to best handle this situation. He suggested a meeting when we got home.


Upon arriving home, we shooed the other girls into the other room, and Kulani proceeded to explain to Lilia about money, work, and choices. How did she get to age 6 without us explaining Adam Smith and the invisible hand, voodoo or trickle-down economics, and the intricacies of supply verses demand? Kulani was FBLA president during high school, afterall. Whatever it was we were trying to teach Lilia, it didn't look as though it was sticking. She finally got it when Kulani said, "You can choose your moose, or you can choose the money, but if you choose the money, we are taking the moose to a little girl who will appreciate it, and you'll only be left with your money."

And I added: "Lilia, money means nothing if we can't enjoy it. We should save for things we want, as you did with your money."

Lilia looked at the money, and she looked at the moose. You could see that she had an emotional attachment to the actual money. She'd been saving it for some time. But something clicked and she chose the moose.

I wish she would have chose the money, and then we could have taken the moose to a little girl who didn't have as much as us. That would have been two lessons for the price of one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Little Secret

Come closer. Closer. Closer! Just stick your eyes real close to the screen, as I'm going to tell you a secret. Are you seeing? Okay, I love shopping the D.I. Yes, the D.I. Every self-respecting Utah County resident knows all proper nouns begin with the introductory phrase of "the": The BYU, The Store, The D.I.

My latest find was three barstools I desperately needed. We broke two of ours that we'd bought from the Wal-Mart. It was the cheapest barstools Wal-Mart sold, and as such, they didn't last long. What's worse, they were made with this horrible material that would suck the dropped food from my kids' sloppy eating right into the chair, and no amount of cleaning would make them look better.

As it's the holidays, and we have a few parties to host, I needed new barstools. Also being the holidays, I didn't want to spend much money on needs when we have so many wants we need to buy. So I stopped in to the D.I., and like magic, they had four black, leather-bound barstools selling for a mere $12 a piece, half the price of the Wal-Mart stool I bought a few years ago.
Old
New but old

The D.I. is pretty magical. My angel neighbor Martha's sister says the key to the D.I. is praying before you go. She says it works every time. Whenever she needs something, she prays about it, goes to the D.I., and there it is. Interesting hypothesis.
Reminds me of this couple Kulani and I knew when we were first married. The wife wanted to give her husband a special gift in celebration of his finishing school. So every night she prayed that she'd win the Regis and Kathie Lee morning giveaway. She sent in a postcard, and sure enough, one day she got a call from the show. She answered the question correctly and they got a cruise and a new huge television set.
I'm thinking...Vegas anyone? Let's pray about it!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Speeching of Lilia ...

I love the school Lilia attends. It's the local public elementary school, and it is absolutely terrific. Every school night they send home a book for me and Lilia to read together. Lilia is showing signs of being a perfectionist, and she gets easily frustrated when she doesn't know a word we're trying to read. It's frustrating for both of us, because rather than trying to sound it out, she starts to whine and cry. The teacher sent home a very helpful flyer to help me during those frustrating times when she doesn't know a word. The flyer suggested that rather than continually saying "sound it out," try using the following phrases:
  • Did you have enough words?
  • Can you find the word _________?
  • Does that look right?
  • What sound/letter does it start with?
  • Can you find the tricky part?
  • Could it be __________?
  • Why did you stop?
  • Look at the pictures.
  • Try that again.

This has helped immensely. When I think about it, I'm really quite amazed that the system is set up to educate, and care, that every child has a quality education. I'm sure it falls short sometimes too, but I've been very appreciative of the help Lilia has received.

Lilia only spoke two words at her 2nd birthday. Being a first-time parent, I assumed that was normal. I found out otherwise after her 2-year-old doctor visit. We signed her up for speech therapy with Kids on the Move, a non-profit group. When she turned 3, she qualified for early intervention preschool at the local elementary school, as well as a weekly visit with a speech therapist. Her improvement seemed gradual at first, but last week she graduated from needing any speech therapy at all. She now tests on a level appropriate for her age.

Along the way, Lilia also found her voice. She used to be timid of speaking, afraid that people wouldn't understand her. Now she barrels into discussions of all sorts. I think that's due in part to a good friend she made while in preschool.

I know it's not my talents that have helped her improve her speech. When I tried to help her, I made her feel worse about her speech. However, Mr. Clyde, the speech therapist at the school, had a gentle re-assuring manner that encouraged Lilia's development. On Lilia's behalf, I'm thankful to the Alpine School Board for employing a caring speech therapist and providing early intervention assistance.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How detailed must one get when describing Santa's magic to kids?

My girls have started asking questions about Santa. They're good, appropriate questions, and I find myself woefully unprepared to answer. To be honest, I feel guilty about lying to my girls about Santa all together. I have a good friend who grew up with parents who told them the truth about Santa from the start. Their reasoning was sound, because they figured lieing to young children, especially during the Christmas season when we're supposed to be celebrating Christ''s birth, makes liers of us all and could possibly taint a child from believing in Christ as they get older. I used to think that was silly, but now that I'm a parent, I really respect that logic.

But still ... it's Christmas! I love Santa and the Santa-visit tradition. I just don't know how to answer their questions. And it's not like you're telling one lie; you find yourself making up a whole bunch of stories to explain Santa. And I am perhaps the world's worst lier. It's pretty easy to tell when I lie, because my face turns red, my lips curl up into a smile, and I break down with the truth. Nevertheless, I am persevering the best I can.

Lilia: "How does Santa know when we're naughty or nice?"
Me: "He's got a naughty-or-nice meter for all the kids in the world, and when you do good things, it tips to good, and when you do bad, it tips to bad."

Lissy: "Is Santa magic, and so he can make the reindeer fly?"
Me: "Oh yes."

Lissy: "How will Santa come to our house? We don't have a chimney."
Me: "I just keep the door unlocked that night."

And then you have competing renditions of Santa in television and movies. Lilia has asked me which one is the true-true story. Honey, you have to pray to find out for yourself which one is true.

Help!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cindy's night out; Kulani's night in

I had dinner with my old-time friend LG tonight. LG has the type of life I love to observe from afar but am glad I don't actually have to live in it. I think she feels similarly about me. LG always has a huge amount of drama going on in her life, and listening to it all is highly entertaining. In this last year alone she lost a business, lost a lot of weight, lost two homes, and lost two loves.

You see, LG is mormon and single and 33. The three don't always mesh well together. It's easy to be single and 33. It's easy to be single and mormon. It's easy to be 33 and mormon. It's hard to be all three. For one, the pickings are slim at that age in mormondom. Your choices can be as varied as 52-year-old men who still have a problem "committing," divorced men with four to five children, and effeminate men who may switch teams at any moment. Another problem is morality--I don't think I need to explain that one. I admire LG greatly for hanging in there, even if at times it's by the tippity-top of her fingernails.

The great thing about LG is her encouraging and faithful love of the gospel in a world where faith is dwindling in high numbers. With the death of Elder Joseph Wirthlin, a member of the 12 apostles in the LDS church, I have enjoyed reading about his life. I was surprised to find he played football for Satan's school, the University of Utah. And even near his death, he was rooting for the Red and Black over the Lord's University that wears Blue and White (not Yale). (If you can't pick up on my sarcasm, I'm ashamed of you.) We were discussing what manner of man makes an apostle and whether you'd know a potential apostle if you met one. In typical LG fashion, she said, "I don't think he'd spend hours on Facebook, I'll tell you that much."

While I was enjoying my dinner with LG at Johnny Carino's, Kulani had the task of watching the girls. Near the end of my meal, I get a call from Kulani with Nohea crying in the background. Nohea had a rough night without her mama, and she cried nearly the whole time I was gone. All mothers everywhere understand both the sweetness and sadness of that. It's sweet that your child misses you that much and wants only her mommy; it's sad because your baby is sad, causing everyone else to be going mad.

I was grateful to return to my home where I was greeted with an enthusiastic, "Mommy!" when I arrived through the door. I'm sure LG was grateful to return to quietness and her own bed. I'm sharing my bed tonight with Kulani, Nohea, and Lissy, because Lissy is having bad dreams and Nohea is sick. Nohea and Lissy tend to sleep sideways, kicking my face and causing me to sleep at the other end of the bed. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Crafty Lilia

Lilia, my oldest, is crafty. Seriously. Today she told me her favorite subject in school was "Centers" because then she can do crafts.

I asked, "You like Centers better than P.E.?"
"Yes," she told me.

Must get it from Kulani's side. I have yet to finish a craft project. Every year I sign up for Super Saturday, pay my $20 or so, and then never do I finish a single project. Not a one. The only artsy parts of my side of the family include a penchant for finding all things ridiculous at a garage sale. For example, my mother recently found a set of stuffed monkeys that sing Harry Belafonte's "Day-O." Now that's a talent!

Lilia, however, will write on every scrap of paper we have in the house. Today's drawings were especially good, so I thought I would post them on the blog.

She told me that this was a drawing of a French girl. I think she got the beret just right, don't you? How she knew the French all wear berets, I don't know. (Yes they do, Chrystel, every last frog-lovin' one of you.)
I guess this is a picture of a French boy. He's thinking, "Dad heart" which translates into "I love my dad more than my mom because my mom tends to throw my drawings away," in French.

And this French girl is saying, "Ew like Dad," which is French for "Sheep like Dad."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving with the Christensons

This post is more for those family members who were not with us this Thanksgiving (read: Mary), and for others who might be wondering, "Whatever happened to those darned Christensons?"

Thanksgiving started with a bang with many family members participating in the 3rd Annual Mini-Cassia Turkey Trot at West Minico Junior High.

Here's a picture of MacKenzie, Austin, and Lilia before the race.


Lilia, MacKenzie, and I ran/walked the race in 50 minutes. At first, their only goal was to beat Grandpa C. Every time Grandpa would catch up to us, MacKenzie and Lilia would run faster so as not to be out ran by a 66-year-old who two years ago had open-heart surgery. But Grandpa was a locomotive, always chugging along. MacKenzie and Lilia pooped out by the third mile and Grandpa handily beat them. Chrystel on one leg and crutches even beat the little girls.

Uncle B.J. won the race in something like 16 minutes. Uncle Ed took second. Many wore a silly hat, par for the Christenson course (see below).

The best part about running the local 5K races is running into old friends. I visited with Andrea B. and some other friends from high school. We even ran into the notorious Heiner brothers, who have both broke many of our hearts, sniff, sniff.

Running the race made us feel better about ourselves when we indulged in the feasting later that day. Grandma's legendary cooking reared its head again. Here she is making her awesome rolls.

The rest of the day was filled with puzzles and merriment. Kulani, B.J., Ed, Amanda, and I went to the late-night showing of the new Bond movie. I fell asleep, but the parts I saw were really good.

The next evening was the Christenson Family's annual Christmas party. I hadn't been to this party in years. It was great seeing everyone.

My dad is the second youngest of nine children. All of his siblings except one lives in the Mini-Cassia area. My dad's dad was born in 1898. Grandma C. was born in 1906. When Grandma Christenson could no longer live by herself in her little house near the highway in Heyburn, each of the siblings took a turn watching Grandma around the clock. For six years they cared for her night and day. It was a real testament to their love for her. She was the heart and soul of the family. She died in 2003 at the age of 97, but the siblings continue the tradition of the Christmas party.

The Christenson Christmas party always consists of a pot-luck dinner and talent show. This year, Aunt Norma was in charge. She gave a nice presentation to the oldest sister Neoma for her 81st birthday. Here's a picture of my dad with his oldest sibling Neoma.

Aunt Loreta also presented each of her siblings with a hand-stitched quilt. Here's a picture of my dad with his quilt. Next to my dad is my Uncle Larry who is about 7 to 10 years older than my dad, but looks just like my dad. It frustrates my dad when people confuse them for twins. Uncle Larry inherited my Grandma C's good genes that enables them to keep their dark hair and younger looks.
This is a picture of my grandparents' oldest and youngest grandchildren. My brother Edward is the youngest at 20 years of age. My cousin Craig Zemke is the oldest at around age 62. Grandma and Grandpa had 52 (or was it 53?) grandchildren.

This is a picture of my cousin Chet and his son Bryson. Chet and I have many, many great memories together, as we grew up only blocks from each other and were in the same grade. As they say in redneck country, a girl's first love is her cousin. Just kidding. Although I do remember when Chet had a crush on a girl named Leslie when we were very young, and he used to say he was going to marry her at Kmart. He wisened up through the years and married Michelle Osterhout in the SLC temple; a step above Kmart. He works for the Idaho Department of Labor in Burley, moonlights as a truck driver and horse shoer, and lives in Paul. I still consider Chet one of my best friends.

And here is a picture of all my family sans my sister Mary's family and my brother Doug's family. I love you all!

Impressions of Tempe

Neither Kulani nor myself had ever been to Tempe before the Ironman race. For those not in the know, as we were, Tempe is only minutes from Phoenix, similar to a Provo/Orem relationship. And jutting up right next to Tempe is Mesa.


Tempe is designed rather geniously. Being in the dead of the desert, city managers planned the community in a compact way utilizing water resources. From an outsider's viewpoint with little knowledge in urban planning, it felt very chic and resourceful. Arizona State University is located in the heart of Tempe. ASU had a party-school feel to it, with bars lining many of the streets leading to ASU. Perhaps I'm wrong about the assumption about it being a "party" school, but that's what my gut says.


Even though there is a shortage of water, the beauty of the area is still magnificent. The freeways are lined with decorative rocks and colorful, low-water plants. Not much grass grows anywhere, but cacti can be seen everywhere.


Every restaurant we ate at had awesome service. Even the fast-food joints seemed to be full of people who enjoyed their jobs and enjoyed serving you. For example, upon asking for hot sauce at Church's Chicken, the attendant gave us a huge handful of hot sauce with a big smile on his face. He didn't act like the hot sauce packets were small pieces of gold being withdrawn directly from his bank account. We ate at IHOP twice because the service was so great. The IHOPs around here seem full of surly waitresses wanting us to leave as soon as we arrive.


On Saturday night, we desperately wanted to watch the BYU/Utah game but knew of no place to watch the Mountain network besides a sports bar, which isn't very appreciative of children. From a friend of a friend, we found Nielsen's Frozen Custard shop in Mesa owned by BYU alums. They had a big television in the parlor that carried the Mountain. Other BYU alums also congregated at the ice cream shop as together we watched the Cougars take a pummeling from the Utes. The ice cream helped heal our hearts of the beating.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ironman: A Spectator Sport

Let it be known up front that I have a huge bias towards my children. They are the best behaved, sweetest, kindest children I know...with maybe the occassional exception of a naughty Nohea. Watching the Ironman event with three children 6 and under is a fete in itself. Not thinking I could take a double stroller on the plane, we brought a small umbrella stroller, which is harder to push than a double stroller with no place to nap for smallish adults called kids. Plus, with my double-stroller, I can even manage to shove a third child on the front. Like my parents before, I have learned that if something "says" it fits two kids, surely three or even four can fit. I found once we were boarding the plane that double-strollers were allowed as I enviously watched other Ironman families checking their double-strollers at the gate. Good to know for future endeavors.

I think this post is best told with pictures. The day before the Ironman, they have a 1-mile run for kids. The kids get a shirt AND a medal that says, "Ironman Kids." It's pretty cool. We encouraged the girls to do it. Here the girls are stretching before the race.


Llia was all about it. After the go, Lilia took off running and we never saw her again until after the finish line. Lissy whined for the first half mile about being tired. After she drank some water at the aid station, she started running as if she was perfectly able to run a marathon. She ran all the way to the finish.

Here are the girls showing off their bling.


Kulani left early from our hotel room the morning of the race. I really wanted to see him come in from the swim, so I awoke the girls at 7 a.m. I made the decision to start the morning right by getting the girls some breakfast at the complimentary continental breakfast.
We dashed to the Ironman event. I made it there about an hour 20 into the race. If Kulani had a good day, that's the time I figured he'd make it out of the swim. We watched as swimmer after swimmer made it out of the water, but we couldn't see Kulani. We stayed there for two hours. When I saw the oldest competitor (76-years-young) exit the drink, I knew I had either missed Kulani or he was pulled out of the water. I called my brother B.J. to notify me via the Ironman tracker online whether Kulani made it out. While I awaited his call, the girls played at the Tempe Beach Park.
After we saw Kulani make his first turn-around on the bike, we took a lunch break at a local subway shop up Mills Avenue in Tempe. A couple of the girls started to show signs of tiredness.



We went back to the van for a quick nap, and then watched Kulani make the second loop. Then we found an ice cream shop up Mills Avenue again.


We walked back to Tempe Beach Park with our hotel room pillows and blanket. After watching Kulani come in from the bike and to the run transition, we took a break in the park on our blanket. After walking up and down everywhere that day, sitting on a blanket and eating some snacks we bought at the Ironman Cafe felt awesome. Lilia put it best: "This is heaven!"
Lilia's feet were dirty and stinky from walking that day. She was wearing flip-flops.

Here's Lissy passed out after smelling Lilia's feet.
A lady stopped to take our picture. I thought that was pretty sweet. She thought I needed a picture of me and my girls to remember this day.


After we saw Kulani on the second lap of the run and the sun was down, I placed the girls in the mini-van and we drove around finding Kulani at various places on the run. They slept the whole time. About 10:30 p.m. I woke the girls for the last time to make it to the finish line to cheer Kulani to the finish. In trooper fashion, they accompanied me on the night's last and best adventure. No whining, no crying. Nohea insisted that I hold her, but that was it.


The girls also endured six trips to the port-a-potties. By the end of the night, those port-a-potties were quite disgusting. Our small hardships that day were nothing compared to the pain and suffering Kulani paid money to endure. The experience for all of us was priceless.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ironman: Why?

So the history of Ironman involves three very drunk men arguing over who made the best athletes: swimmers, cyclists, or runners. Their answer to this question would involve taxing athletes to their limits in each of those categories, and the winner would be the Ironman. The first Ironman took place in Hawaii in the '70s. It has since grown in huge popularity causing the Ironman franchise to branch out into other states such as Arizona, Idaho, and Florida, as well as other countries. The Ironman Championships, the mother of all triathlon races, still takes place in Hawaii, but to get a ticket to that event requires a lottery drawing or placing at another sanctioned Ironman event. In other words, a lot of people want to go to the Hawaii Ironman but only a few ever get that chance.

The Ironman distance consists of a 2.6 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile (marathon) run. The reason I provide this brief history is because you would not believe the amount of people who don't know this stuff. A common question from those unfamiliar with triathlon is "Did you do a full triathlon?" The term "full" triathlon means nothing. Each triathlon is "full" in its given distance. What those people usually mean is, "Have you done a full Ironman distance?" Even a sprint distance (400 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) can be pretty taxing. I admire anyone who does any distance triathlon. But people who have no clue about triathlon get this glossed look over their eyes when you tell them you've "only" done a sprint or Olympic or even a Half-Ironman. The look says, "Oh, so you haven't done an Ironman ... pansy!" Kulani no longer has to endure that look. Because from here on out when someone asks him whether he's done a "full" triathlon, the answer will be "yes" no matter what they mean by that question.

Kulani really has to answer why he did the Ironman for himself. But I don't regret encouraging him to go for it. It was great fun being there together as a family cheering him on. Watching the athletes come out of the water, off the bike, and into the finish line was so inspiring. The look on the athletes' faces made it so worth it. The great thing about triathlon is that the very serious athletes are in the same race as the 76-year-old man recovering from open-heart surgery. It's like being in a basketball game with Michael Jordan. The big-wigs are still approachable and encouraging fellow competitors to the finish line.

I watched one 50-year-old lady cross the finish line with a smile so big I thought it was going to stretch to her ears. After she crossed the line she brought her hands to her face and wept with joy. Another old guy crossed the finish line with his granddaughter. His shirt read "Irongeezer." Bleachers line the finishing stretch and even 16 hours after the race has started, spectators are cheering their loved ones on to the finish line: giving high fives and cheering loudly. Ironman even sets up a big jumbotron to watch the finishers. You don't really care how or when your loved one finishes, you're just so proud to see them finish at all. I honestly don't think I could finish in the designated time. (You have to finish within 17 hours or you aren't officially a finisher.) I was just in awe of everyone, especially Kulani.

You see, I nudged Kulani away from his precious cycling into the pain world of triathlon. After watching me train and compete, he decided he'd join me. I watched him on his first day of swimming in the gym as he flopped his arms in a somewhat circular motion that propelled his body slowly and awkwardly down the swimming pool lane. He was done after about two laps. He improved rather swiftly, actually teaching himself how to swim better by reading books on the subject. And now he regularly laps me in the pool. He had his fastest swim finish ever at Ironman Arizona. He also hates running. Running isn't very easy on the heftier guys. But the Perseverating Pineapple persevered to this finish:

video

It was awesome to behold.

Home Again

I have much I want to write about concerning the Ironman Arizona event we just returned from this weekend. I will likely break these posts into three parts, to which I'm hoping Kulani will add his version of events to his blog or the family blog.

The parts include:
  • Ironman: Why?
  • Ironman: The Spectator Sport
  • Impressions of Tempe
The weekend was a whirlwind and we're still trying to process it all. The question that first pops up after completing an ultra-distance race is, "Was it worth it?" Kulani will have to answer that for himself, but from the viewpoint of a family supporting an athlete in this endeavor, the answer is: most definitely. We had a great time and made some awesome memories.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Must love food

You missed Oprah's interview with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett? Well, let me fill you in. I Tivo Oprah and watch her early in the morning while working. Why Oprah? It's not always that interesting, and she leans toward the liberal agenda (which is good and bad depending on my views, of course), but it keeps me awake while working, and I don't have to keep my eyes glued to the TV for every subtle nuiance.

But after her interview with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, my disdain for celebrities tripled. A viewer asked the celebrities: "What is your favorite food, or what would be your last meal?" Cate's answer was a bowl of rice.

A bowl of rice? A bowl of RICE?!

Brad's answer wasn't much better: "I like a lot of things."

More proof that celebrities would be the WORST people to have over for a dinner party. Cate, Brad, you're not welcome at our home. Had they asked me that question, I would yap for a half hour about my favorite foods, restaurants, foods I desire to consume, etc. Our family's motto is "Everybody eats when they come to my house." In that motto is an unstated mandate that you like food. Brad and Cate clearly have no passion for food.

I'm building a theory, and perhaps you will prove it to be untrue, but my scientific mind believes there is a correlation between a person who likes food in relation to their personality. As the personality gets more magnanimous, the adoration for food also increases. A few outliers may exist, but the statistics may bode to hold this theory true.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Home Fries

It's that time of year again when Grandpa Christenson brings us a 50-pound box of Idaho spuds. These are not your ordinary spuds. These are what they call "50 count:" 50 potatoes per 50-pound box. That's right: each potato is about a pound a piece. You can't find them in the grocery stores. You have to have an "insider" to the potato world to get these particular potatoes.

And why are these potatoes so superior? They're great for home fries. The peeling is easier. And now that we have a mandolin, the slicing is easier. Don't waste your money on any of the friers. We've tried a few and they always konk out within a year. Just put the oil in a large pot. A side of ketchup and dinner is served.



Nohea has adopted a new nightly ritual where she skoots the chair around the kitchen and climbs up on the counters. She starts opening the high cabinets looking for heaven-knows what.

Lissy told me yesterday that if she has a boy when she grows up, she's going to name him Jamesy Bear like our neighbors.

Lilia is starting to spell EVERYTHING. Those who have had kindergartners understand this phenomenon.

I also should have never taught the girls the word "funky," as in, "Nohea, you smell funky." They're not so great at pronouncing the "n" part of the word. Please forgive.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lilia Skates to her 6th Birthday


Lilia turned 6 on Saturday. She wanted a Christmas-themed birthday party. At first I suggested ice skating, but then I thought twice about that idea. Learning to ice skate requires serious one-on-one attention, and helping teach four 6-year-olds how to ice skate sounds like a recipe for slush. So then I suggested roller skating. The Classic Skating rink, our local rink, has special skates for first-timers, as well as skooters. Lilia jumped at the idea.
We only invited three friends, so we could fit everyone into my van. My 14-year-old neighbor girl Kyra also came along to assist her little sister Alayna, and she also helped all the other little girls. I took my double stroller and pushed Nono around in it.
Lilia took to skating like a duck to water. By the end of skating, she was even trying out her "moves" on her skates. Melissa had a rough go at first, but after I let her hang onto the stroller, she did great and skated the whole time we were there. Lilia's little friends all did pretty well for their first time skating. It helped that the skating DJ was on his game. Seeing how most of the kids at the rink that day were under 10, he played Disney-friendly songs. We heard Hannah Montana songs, Jonas Brothers, High School Musical, "Who Let the Dogs Out," "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It." As soon as a song would come on, you'd hear the girls say, "I love this song!" My only regret is that I forgot my camera. I promised them I'd take them on cheap night sometime soon. I must film them gettin' jiggy wit it while skating. It's a sight to behold.
After skating we brought the girls back home for cake and ice cream and opened presents. Nono got to the cake while I was getting dressed for the party. Never leave a cake on the counter when your 21-month-old knows how to skootch chairs around, climb on top of the chair, and then scale herself onto the counter.


I drove the girls home afterwards. Later that night, Kulani took the family out for Lilia's favorite food, sushi.
Lilia said it was the "best day ever," but she says that after almost everyday. I was glad to see my love for skating is hereditary. Kulani is a hater of the skating, mostly due to me I'm afraid. I took him ice skating when we were dating. He had never been on a pair of roller skates let alone ice skates, and I had never taught someone how to skate. I did better with the little girls. I gave them the three rules of skating before we set out: 1) When you fall down, and you will fall down, get back up. (2) Bend your knees and lean forward. (3) Have fun.

Friday, November 7, 2008

My Time Wastages

I joined Facebook about a year ago. My younger siblings, in their early 20s, were raving about it. They created "a group" for my family called "Descendants of Karen and Norvel." So I joined, and for about a year I had about 10 friends and wondered what all the fuss was about. But the last few months: boom! I now have like 71 friends, and I find more friends nearly everyday. Many old, dear friends who I'd totally lost track with are now found. The only problem is having all these friends takes up a lot of time. But if you know anything about Facebook, you must watch this HI-larious youtube video. And this song about Facebook is pretty catchy.

Yesterday I deep cleaned my house. I found the proper holders for all my loose DVDs that I'd been piling up on my chest of drawers; I did all the laundry so I could match up as many one-sock pairs as I could, so the pile of one-socks isn't on my chest of drawers anymore; I dusted in my bedroom--a chore I hardly ever accomplish; I washed the girls' sheets and the baby's crib sheet. It took me almost all day. Was it worth it? Hardly. I start to get ancy after I start cleaning my house. No matter how much you clean, you see more places that need cleaned: fingerprints on walls, cobwebs in can't-reach corners, the garage, the yard. And worse, I get annoyed by the girls.

"Don't be playing with toys! Keep them in your toy box. What are you doing drawing? Don't be getting out any more pieces of paper. Yes, I love that you drew a picture of me with a heart around it, but don't do it anymore--let's keep it clean!"

And already there are two more loads of laundry to do. What a time waste!

Sleep. Why can't we go without it? Why does my body crave it nightly? I am prone to an afternoon nap. I'll usually put on a cartoon for the girls and say, "Wake me when the cartoon is over." Like pushing snooze in the morning, I'll say to Lissy, "Just 10 more minutes; just 10 more minutes; just 10 more minutes." My power naps turn into serious siestas. Lilia's gone to school, and Nohea usually naps with me, so Lissy is left to her own devices. She's so sweet when she's the oldest at home. Yesterday during my siesta, I woke up when she placed a blanket over my body. I gave her a big squeeze and kiss. How wonderful are children?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Look to the cookie!

Feelings are going to be hurt today. One way or the other. I think it's time for temperament and coolness. It will be all right. There is genius in the way the U.S. government was established. Remember after Clinton was elected in '92? Two years later Americans voted for a huge turn around with a Newt Gingrich-led Congress. No need to flee to Canada. I mean, really, Canada? You'd choose hockey and freezing cold over football and seasons? Not me.

There have been some pretty heated debates over this election, and I'm not talking about the candidates.

There was the lady in Michigan who refused candy to trick-or-treaters whose parents support Obama. It kind-of sounded like a funny joke, until I read the lady's comments, and she was dead serious. I think her words were, "Oh well, we all have a choice." I can see her shunning one of her own children who might vote for Obama--but, as she said, we all have a choice. Like the good book says, it's our job to shun others for that choice.

Even more disturbing was the man who hung an effigy of Sarah Palin off his house with a noose around her neck. So she might not make the best interviewer, but what alternative universe is that guy living in that makes that "joke" even remotely funny?

We welcome all friends to our house. Both McCain supporters and Obama supporters. Those for Proposition 8 and those against. Quietly, behind the curtain of the ballot box, I'll vote my conscience. But I won't wear it on my sleeve, and our door is open to all. Let us break bread together. Nothing brings us more together than a nice meal cooked by my sweet husband--unless you're vegetarian. We're still trying to devise a plan on how to include vegetarians. We aren't perfect.

Post script: Please note that the following topics have been deemed "safe" to talk about while visiting our home:

  • Proper foot wear and care
  • Scars inflicted on you/by you during high school gym class
  • Your most embarrassing moment involving a member of the opposite/same sex with whom you had the hots for
  • Winter sports you most enjoy
  • Summer sports you most enjoy
  • H.S. football glory stories
  • BYU football glory stories (Please do NOT mention your affection for the U.)
  • Your glory days in general
  • Why The Office is possibly the best television show ever.
  • The untimely demise of Arrested Development.
  • Small towns verses supposed small towns. Burley is a metropolis compared to Blanding or Why having a Wal-Mart automatically makes you a big town.
  • Triathlon/running stories

More to come.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Adventures

What a great Halloween! The weather was great; it sprinkled slightly, but it wasn't too cold. The girls didn't even need coats, even though Lilia's costume included a coat. She was very hot and red by the end of the night. She wanted to go as a weather girl. Lissy was Cinderella. And Nohea went as Bjork wearing the dead duck outfit to the Grammy's (or was it swan?). See proof below.



There were some really great costumes showing up at the door tonight--customers, as Lissy called them. Here are two cute customers: James (Frankenstein) and Bennett (tractor) Horne. Lindsay actually made both the costumes. They were precious.


Kulani took the kids around to the houses this year. We had homemade pizza for dinner. Here's a picture of our jack-o-lantern pizza.

The girls got all kinds of candy, even a coveted FSCB (full-size candy bar) that I only dreamed about but never actually possessed when I was a youngster. I forced the kids out of trick-or-treat retirement when I realized we forgot about the Greenwoods fame toothbrushes (the neighborhood dentist). They delivered in fine form, even giving me an adult-sized toothbrush.

Deerfield Halloween Parade

I thought the neighbors might get a kick out of the pictures I took of the kids at the Halloween parade. I tried to catch as many of the kids as I could find. To see the pictures, just click on the pile. If you want the picture removed from this blog, just notify me in the comments.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Keepin the yap shut

If I have an achilles heel--hard to believe but I do--it would be the big mouth God blessed me with. Don't get me wrong, it has been a blessing (like the time I stuffed 32 grapes in my mouth only to be beaten by my oldest sister who stuffed a whopping 52 into hers), but it's also been a curse.

Let me give you a few examples:

We were living in WyView housing across from LaVell Edwards Stadium at BYU. We were assigned some new home teachers. On their first visit, we were visiting with them and asking the normal get-to-know-you questions. Somehow it came up that one of the home teacher's father had passed away. Please learn from my mistake: when death comes up in conversation, never ask how the person died. So brilliantly, that's what I asked.

Me: "Oh, how did your father die?"
Home teacher: "He was murdered."
Me inside my head: "Murdered? What the heck?! Seriously, murdered?"
Kulani sitting next to me: (Holding my hand so tight as if to say, "If you ask any more follow-up questions, I'm going to squish you like a bug.")

Followed by awkward phrases, silences, and me saying something like, "Can you believe this weather? I don't know about y'all, but this heat is killing me, I mean, uh, it's hot. Hot to trot. Trot, as in horses trot. Did you see that movie about the horse and the little boy?" Nice cover-up.

They should provide classes for key phrases to say when you've found your foot in your mouth.

If I know I have a difficult conversation that I will be facing, I try to practice my dialog beforehand. Recently, I had a conversation with a family member concerning another family member's destructive behavior. The conversation was from love and concern and it was an SOS distress call, but it really helped to think about what I was going to say beforehand. Otherwise, with my mouth, the conversation could have turned to so: "I'm not kidding you. This is the craziest stuff I've ever heard of. You've got to get down there and bust a skull."

Kulani has often warned me to not bring up politics or religion with people. After being burned 1,000 times, I think I've finally learned my lesson. How does Linus put it: "I've learned there are three things you don't discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin."

While in Hawaii, I made the mistake of asking our fishing guide, who was professing his born-again Christianity, what his thoughts were on the Rapture. I'd just watched an interesting documentary on it on the History channel. That led to him asking me what my religion was, and after I answered Mormon, it was all over but the fishing. I had to endure hours worth of dialog about why Mormons aren't Christian, why Joseph Smith was a charlatan, and why I'm going to hell. If only I could swim better; I was tempted to jump off the boat in the middle of the ocean and make a swim for it. He finally managed to calm down, and we ended up having a pleasant conversation about the change from within, and how his impetus for change was having a child die.

I'm a journalist by trade, and I like to ask questions. If I happen to enter my personal thoughts into the dialog, it's only to spur additional thought and conversation. The truth is, when I ask questions, I'm interested in dialog and discussion.

However, what I have finally realized is that the question can be as igniting as the discussion. So it's enough. I'm out. I'll talk with you about movies, books, music, family dynamics; maybe not pets--some people think pets are people too; weather, yard work; not so much your views on schooling; weight-loss solutions, the correct way to clean granite, your favorite brand of sneakers, kids, dentists, body odors, old teachers; not Oprah--she's a surprisingly igniting character; your favorite SNL skits, favorite Brady Bunch episode, etc. So as you can see, we still have lots to talk about. But I'm gonna bust your skull if you say your favorite brand of sneakers is Nike.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why am I crying?

Read this and then this, and you'll be crying too. Hold 'em, love 'em, squeeze 'em while you can.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'll show you iniative, Fisher!

This post is is mostly for Fish's benefit:

Step 1


Step 2

Step 3

How do you like my iniative, now?! Calmer than you are.

A return to nursery happenings...

It's been a while since I posted about our nursery happenings. Perhaps you'd like another look into what goes on in the nursery and why you can thank the dear bishop why you do not have this calling.

Last Sunday was crying-baby central. It was Maya's first week, and she was excited for all of two minutes until she realized her dad was gone, and then it was a break down. Kylie has developed a fear of me and Kulani, but amazingly, she made a connection with substitute Laurie and was able to not cry as long as she stayed near Laurie.

A new girl, whose name escapes me, can sing most of the main verse to "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. I was very impressed and asked if I could sing with her. We sang a great duet to our appreciative crowd of 2 and 3 year olds. We also had two little brother visitors who were as cute as can be. They sang "I am like a star shining brightly" in perfect tone and pitch, something you don't hear too often in the nursery.

Addie decided we should all call her "Linus" for the day.

Kulani has had his game face on for the past couple of Sundays. He'd missed a few previous Sundays due to other engagements, but now he's back into the swing of things. He's been able to quiet down Jackson and Sarah.

Allison is really doing well; she only cries for the first 5 minutes, but then she's playing quietly with the toys.

Josh is the bruiser of the nursery, but in a loving way. You've got to see it to believe it. He's a big kid, and he likes to be hands on with hugs, etc. He gets rather excited when it's time for bubbles or the parachute. We usually assign one supervisor to just watch Josh during he bubbles. But he's been improving, and he has such an angelic face that you just know he doesn't mean to be hurtful; he's just born that way.

Kamen is starting to exert his will on the other kids. The third child in a family always seems to get to that point eventually; our Nohea is also guilty of will-enforcing.

Until next week, the nursery is closed.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Getting cheap ... Fisher Style

So by now we get the gravity of these times...it's time to cut back, cynch down our economy belts, and be uber cautious about spending money. This particular Fisher family, well, we haven't been the best about spending wisely, specifically when it comes to food. The old ways ended tonight!

As Kulani puts it, "I don't work these long hours not to enjoy life." So we've adapted our spend-thrift ways to our foodie lifestyle. Perhaps you'd be interested in how to still be foodies while cutting down on the grocery budget. Here is our one-week plan that we hope leads to a lifestyle habit.

It started with a return check from Costco in the amount of $90. What should we do with $90 to stretch our food budget? Answer: Buy a 13 pound vacuum-packed top sirloin at $2.59/pound, bringing the total to $34.00. Excellent start. Then we bought some other sundries such as pineapple, milk, chocolate chips, bread, stuff for kids' lunches, and a splurge on some discounted hand soap that smelled really good, but now I'm wishing I would have spent it on canned veggies. I'm a sucker for nice-smelling hand soap that's on sale.

The plan:

About two years ago we bought the Cabela's meat slicer that comes on sale during the day-after Thanksgiving sales for $50. It has been a great investment. Tonight Kulani and I sliced up the 13 pound top sirloin to make the following six meals:
  • Two nights of chili (all total--4 pounds of the sinewy stew meat). One night is for the ward chili cook-off and the other batch we cooked tonight to try out our new chili recipe we're going to enter in the chili cook-off. We adjusted an Alton Brown recipe, and you can read more about it on our cooking blog.

  • Two nights of tasty steaks. Again, you can eat cheaper than this, and you could stretch it out too, by throwing in an egg-sandwich dinner night or grilled-cheese sandwich night. But for less than $3.00 a pound, you can also still eat very well.

  • One night of Argentine milanesa. Recipe is also on our cooking blog.

  • One night of Kalbi. Like milanesa, you slice the meat very thin and marinate it in a Korean kalbi sauce (found at Asian specialty stores). We had a leftover bottle of kalbi sauce from the luau.

Other uses for the meat could be:

  • sliced thin for philly steak sandwiches
  • stir-fry
  • stew
  • ground into hamburger for sloppy joes or meatloaf.
All total, with prep and clean-up, it probably took us an hour to get the meat sliced, diced, and bagged. The nice thing is that now everything is pre-prepped for dinner this weak. So not only are we saving money, but we're saving time and calories thanks to portion-controlled meals. For sides we usually keep it simple by either having a potato or rice with cooked vegetables.
The following picture is of the five dinners: Steaks, milanesa, steaks, chili meat, and kalbi.
Kulani slicing the meat.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Here's the thing ...

Do you hate the titled phrase, or do you love it? Like Barack Obama, I'm probably guilty of oversaying the phrase. But it's the phrase I use to relax you, pacify you, then wham you with my incomplete ideological platform.

But here's the thing: I'm not saying one way or the other how I'm voting. But what has been itching away at me, ever since Ben from Chicago brought it up in a conversation many months ago, is why didn't McCain choose Mitt Romney as his running mate? In a word: Mormonism.

As most people know, Mormons tend to vote conservatively, almost exactly along with the Christian right. In other words, they vote Republican (huge generalization, but that's what Political Science is all about). And it's clear from the escallating dialog that Americans were uncomfortable voting for a Mormon, specifically the Republican base made up of Evangelical Christians. Perhaps it was actually that people didn't like Romney, which I can get. I'm not above thinking he was a bit of a flippy-flopper. But part of me thinks it wouldn't matter which Mormon was running for president, he or she would not be electable. My question is, then, where do Mormons fit in? Are we really welcome in the Republican party? Is it time we switch to the Democratic party, but bring the social conservatism views along with us?

At first, Palin seemed like a wise choice for McCain when she showed up to the Republican National Convention with her good looks, cute family, and smacking tone. I wanted to give her a shot. Oh, boy did I. But then she gave those two interviews and, well, maybe you still like her, so I'll be quiet. But what would the election look like now if McCain had chosen Romney instead?

McCain admitted his weak point was the economy; Romney's strong point is the economy. Maybe the poll numbers would still look like they do, but I think it would be closer, maybe even showing McCain with a slight lead.

I know one thing for sure, Romney wouldn't be referring to "average Joe Six-pack," which when I first heard Palin use that phrase I thought up a guy with six-pack abs (yes, I've been in Utah too long). No, Romney would have probably used the phrase "average Peter Priesthood." Now that's a guy I can connect with.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stream of Consciousness

I'm up early. I'm trying to work. I'm tired. And my mind is fixating on the following:

Haters Rant:
  • I hate, no, more like loathe, the following half-words: convo, fave, yumm-o, and the worst: vacay.
  • I loathe Madonna. Never liked her. Ever. Maybe for half a second I liked "Borderline." HATED "Vogue." Guy Ritchie has had enough of her too. Why do I hate her? She comes across as self-absorbed, does everything for publicity, can't relax, and her music stinks.
  • Hatin' on the dishes right now.
  • Hatin' re-watching the Flying Wallenda brother walk the tight-rope on the Today Show. My heart can't take it.
  • Hatin' watching the stock market. Just don't tell me. It's enough already.

Lovers Rant:

  • I love Halloween costumes that are homemade and original, like the giant box of Tide I saw walking around last year.

This early in the morning, that's all the positive things my brain can think of. I'm not sure I'm even going to post this. Looks like I did. Grouch out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Defining Moment from the Third Grade

One of the stated purposes of this blog is to provide a place where we document some of things that we know about each other that our kids (and others) might not know. This is one of those experiences.

In the third grade I was in Rex Anderson's class. My former friend Travis was assigned to the class, but his mother didn't let him make it to the first day and had him assigned to another class. One of the principles that guided my parents was a belief that asking for an exception was tantamount to an assertion that you were more important than everyone else similarly situated. So, they left me in the class.

The third grade was a scary lesson on how a manipulative and slightly deranged man could abuse his power as a teacher. I have some lingering issues with 'Sexy Rexy', if you can't tell. Rex had the creepy habit of letting some of the kids (both boys and girls) sit on his lap as well as letting those same kids enter (and change) grades. I wasn't one of those kids. In fact, it was pretty clear that I was one of Rex's least favorites.

One manifestation of his disdain resulted in the defining moment that provided the title. One of Rex's activities was to have a sing-a-long time. The kids would gather in a semi-circle at the front of the room and then kids could get up and sing any song they wanted for the group. It was generally a voluntary activity. Kenny Roger's "The Gambler" was a favorite. Unlike some of my classmates, I avoided being center stage at nearly all costs. I still have a deep and abiding fear of public speaking. So, it was no surprise that I never volunteered to sing. One day, Rex decided it was my turn to sing. I tried as politely as possible to tell him that I didn't want to. Instead, he stood me in front of the class and made me say over and over, "I'm the Pineapple Capital of the World" as the other children laughed. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. It seemed to go on forever. Eventually, it got old and I was allowed to sit down.

Fortunately, it was the last activity of the day and afterwards I ran the short distance home. I managed to keep it together most of the way, but remember coming undone as I walked through the front yard before I even made it through the front door. I told my mother the story. She immediately called my father, who came straight home. I huddled in a corner in my parents' room, doing my best to get it back together, when my dad arrived. He asked me to tell him the story, and I did my best to tell my side of it through the stammering.

My dad's response was surprising: "What do you think it means, that you're the Pineapple Capital of the World?"

I responded, "I don't know."

"Yes, you do. Think about it. What does that mean?" came my father's reply.

"That I'm Hawaiian?" I guessed.

"That's right. Are you ashamed of being Hawaiian?"

"No."

"Then don't let it bother you. The next time he makes you do that, get up in front of the class and say it proudly."

That realization was life changing. Several days passed. Maybe it was weeks. That interval is a blur, but I clearly remember that the next time we had sing-a-long time, a knot was building in my stomach as we gathered around the semi-circle. Sure enough, Rex called me back up for a repeat performance. With a confidence that belied my fear, I belted out, "I am the Pineapple Capital of the World." It was immediately apparent that the shaming effect was lost on me this time and Rex had me sit down almost immediately. As I sat down, a feeling of pride and accomplishment welled up in me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hot Shower Saves the Night

Nohea has been coughing every night for the last couple of weeks, keeping us awake and annoyed. Up until last night, I gave her a small dosage of children's cough syrup. Then watching my early morning news, I learned cough syrup isn't good for children under 6. They suggested wired and frantic mothers try running hot water in a bathroom and letting the child breath in the steam. Of course I've heard this before, but I'd never tried it. Last night, or rather early this morning, I tried it once Nohea started on the nightly coughing habit. I stood in the hot shower holding her (standing to the side of the spout so as not to get us wet), letting her breath in the vapors for a good 10 minutes. She continued to cough while I firmly yet gently patted her back.

I exited the shower, and miracles of miracles, it worked. Not one more cough escaped her throat, and she is still sleeping soundly next to Kulani as I write this. I've been able to get in some healthy work hours.

I'm amazed at my mothering efforts in recent years. I'm not bragging against someone else's mothering skills (because I've known much better mothers than me), but I am admitting that I feel as though I'm becoming a better and gentler mother with each child. I was able to calmly and sweetly help my baby back to sleep last night even though I was extremely tired.

I remember when Lilia would awaken in the night crying with earaches when she was a baby. We were living with Lani at the time, so we would quickly try to ease her pain. Though I was gentle, my nerves would be a wreck. And then Melissa came and we lived in our new house, and I was probably the least understanding of her needs, making her cry herself to sleep within months of her birth. She was actually a fairly easy baby, though, but not so much of an easy toddler. But she seems to have turned a corner, and she's extremely pleasant to be with these days.

Last night at Family Home Evening, we had the first ever Fisher Family Fitness Test. The lesson was on the Word of Wisdom, then Lilia presented a plan for the family to "eat apples, not candybars; buckle our seatbelts; and brush our teeth" complete with drawings of the assignments (what do you mean you haven't read those verses in the Doctrine and Covenants?). For the fitness test, the girls had to do as many sit-ups as they could, 10 push-ups, 10 kicks with both legs, 10 karate punches, and stretch to touch their toes.

While Lissy was doing her sit-ups and I was holding her feet for support, I instructed her to breathe through the sit-ups. When it was my turn, Lissy held my feet, and upon seeing me struggle, she returned the advice, "breathe through the sit-ups, Mom." That had us cracking up.

Having a family really does bring a lot of joy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My love for Rev Run


Reverend Run--or Rev Run--was on the Glenn Beck Show on CNN the other night. I hate MTV, but I love Rev Run. If you don't know who Rev Run is, here is my brief description. Rev Run, AKA Joseph Simmons, is from 80s-rap-group fame, Run D.M.C. He has since become an ordained minister and has a reality TV show based around his family and life in New Jersey. During the five seasons it's been on MTV, Rev Run's family has been on numerous vacations, had a newborn child die, and adopted a baby girl. At the end of each episode, he texts a sermon from his bathtub doling out advice to live a good life, always ending with the phrase, "God is love. Peace out."
I was embarrased for Glenn Beck. It was almost as though he'd never watched a single episode when he was talking with Rev. The Rev was about to give one of his text-message sermons, when Glenn Beck shut him down, and instead, asked Run's wife Justine to answer the question. Justine is a pretty amazing wife as well, don't get me wrong. She's good-humored and sweet. She and Rev make a really good parenting team, one of the best I've seen on modern "reality" TV shows. Gene Simmons so-called parenthood, or even Ozzy Osbourne don't hold a candle to Rev Run's family.
Beck also talked with the family about paying tithing, prayer, and adoption. One thing the Rev and his wife said that really rang true for me was that they try to raise their family like a business, he and Justine being the CEO and president.
My parents ran their family like a business. My mom held at least two family meetings per day. We had one meeting in the morning for family scripture study and prayer. Then another meeting happened after everyone came home from school. It usually involved everyone saying what their plans were for that day and a reminder of activities coming up that week. In one or both meetings, Mom or Dad would remind us that the "budget was tight" and ask us to try not to ask for too many things.
We looked forward to family outings or vacations. We also looked forward to trips to the thriving mecca of Orem/Provo, our family's favorite destination, to visit with cousins and grandparents, and perhaps catch a BYU home game.
Kulani and I also have a rule about raising kids. Our number 1 rule is to support one another in front of the kids. If Kulani metes out a punishment I think is a little hard, I stand by him. Later, I might mention something to him, but not in front of the kids. Kulani does the same for me. Often he has told the girls, "Don't you treat your mother that way." And I say to them, "Don't look at me for sympathy, I'm on your dad's side." It's usually me who is the harsher one, however. Kulani knows when to intervene tactfully, such as, "Let's go read a book, girls."
I love family dynamics. I wish I would've went to school to study it: a certified family dynamatician.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ironman Championships: Go B.J.!

For those who don't know, my brother B.J. qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. The race starts this Saturday at 7 a.m. Hawaii time. To qualify, he finished first in his age group at the Lake Placid Ironman in July. He thinks he's going to do even better at the World Championships. It's pretty fun to watch the results over the Web. You can watch his progress at ironman.com. His bib number is 1525. It should take him around 9 hours to finish.

Go, B.J.!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pine Hollow Biker Gang

There's a new biker gang in town ... and you'd better be scared.




Be on the look out for the following shady characters:

Lissy the Toad

Ride: Dora the Explorer Hog

Riding Style: Slow, timid

Hang Ups: Whining about how cold she is and how hard it is to turn the pedals over.


Tiger Lili

Ride: Disney Princesses Purple Fixie

Riding Style: Slow and steady wins the race

Hang Ups: Timid but getting braver. Thinks learning to ride a bike includes having training wheels.


Choco Beard

Ride: A plastic bike that's still too big for her to reach the pedals.

Riding Style: Flintstone

Hang Ups: Likes to escape the house to run over to the neighbors' houses to borrow other gangers' bikes.

If you happen to see these ladies, slow down and call their mom.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My Dad, My Butler

My family didn't have a video camera growing up; they still don't have one. However, we do have one video of my family around 1991. I was in the high school video class, so I had access to the school's video camera. I brought it home to capture some silly Christenson moments before my oldest sister Amy left on her mission to Sweden. The part I love about the tape is that it captured my dad as I best remember him: helping out.

"I'm doing a load of laundry. Who needs their coat washed?" That's the only thing my dad said on the whole hour-long tape, and it's endearing to me like you would not believe.
This weekend, Grandma and Grandpa Christenson stayed with us so Gma C could take care of Gma Mac. While Grandma C left for Orem, Grandpa stayed back to help me with my chores. He cleaned my kitchen floor on his hands and knees, taking special care to scrape up paint stains I hadn't bothered to clean up for over a year. He vacuumed the floors. He did the dishes. He was helpful beyond words.


All of my sisters and even my sisters-in-law can vouch for my dad's desire to help ease the burdens of being a mother. Either that or he can't stand seeing our messy houses.