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:

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.