Saturday, January 31, 2009

Valentine's Day Movies to Impress

One of these days I'll get back to making this a proper family centered blog, but currently, my mind is fixated on more important matters: movies. It is my opinion that movies are the one subject you can still have an overstated opinion about and still not hurt other people's feelings. Even music can be a sensitive subject, but with movies, I'm not afraid to boldly state: "I loved Rocky IV as much as Rocky III."

But picture this, ladies: It's Valentine's Day. Your significant other has pawned the kids off on some nice relatives or friends and he's cooked you a special Valentine's Day meal. He sent you away for a little retreat at the spa, and you come home to see him with his dress pants on, white buttoned-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and an apron tied around his waist as he is preparing the last of your dinner. You sit and enjoy your wonderful dinner together, then he invites you over to the couch where he has chosen a movie for you to both enjoy while you snuggle on the couch. He presses play and the intro music starts to play for ... Top Gun? Rambo? Bond?

No. The trick to a great date-night movie is to meet close to the middle. Here is a list of girl-centric movies that guys can still stomach:
  • Say Anything: John Cusack comes across as a real guy's guy, while girls "get" him. Bonus is the great soundtrack you can always expect from a Cameron Crowe-directed movie.
  • Bridget Jones' Diary: The best fight scene between two guys fighting over a girl ... ever. And Colin Firth loving Bridget Jones "just the way she is" all whilst helping her cook in a suit. Don't go near the sequel.
  • The Notebook: This is high on the cheesy meter, but it works. Oh, does it work.
  • Love Actually: There's a lot of stories intertwined in this movie, some very sad, but in the end, it's about the sweet, exciting adventure of falling in love.
  • Notting Hill: The roommate is enough comic relief to keep your man seated next to you during the entire show.

And if it's your turn to make Valentine's Day magical, might I suggest the following guy-centric films that you would actually enjoy:

  • Gladiator: The death of his wife and child sends Russell Crowe into the depths of despair. You know your man couldn't bare living without you.
  • Batman Begins or Batman: The Dark Knight: They're just really good movies, and you get the sense that Rachel is the real reason Batman has become the superhero he is today.
  • Rudy: Though he's never seen it, Kulani claims to hate Rudy. (It's his bias against everything Notre Dame.) But it's a great movie about believing in your dreams when no one else does, and working hard to achieve those goals. Even though there's not much romance, it really gets the heart beating, preparation for things to come (wink, wink).
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: Finding your one true love again after believing he was dead? Forget about it. It's so romantic you'll chew your arm off. Practice the following line now so as not to sound fake: "Babe, I pray I never have to know life without you, because I don't think I would make it."

What are your Valentine's Day movie suggestions?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Shopping Esteem

Today I found myself stuck in some alternate universe while shopping at Macey's grocery store in Pleasant Grove. Most moms shopping at 2 in the afternoon abide by a certain dress code: sweats, flip-flops or crocs, and a T-shirt with gooey hand smears from young children. But today, someone forgot to tell a few mommies about the dress code.

It was a store full of this:

I guess a Juicy Couture tracksuit is technically passing the dress code, but the fashionista women would have made us regular mommies feel better had they had messy hair, no makeup, or worn a size 14 or larger. To rub it in my face, one of the lady's velour sweatsuit had the word "JUICY" running across her size 0 butt.
It would have been one thing had there only been one lady looking like this, but then I saw another woman, who was more a size 4 but with huge, uh, you know (wink, wink), you know. And then I saw a woman whose face may have put her in her 60s, but her body was screaming 20 year old. Who are these women, and why are they shopping at my grocery store?
I'd like to blame their good grooming on not having children, but this was clearly not the case because they were hauling kids around in their carts.
To add insult to injury, as I was driving home, I passed some teenagers walking home from school. One of the boy teenagers, wearing the clothes only appreciated by the youth of today with the skinny pants revealing a non-existant behind, made a gesture with the fist and arm pumping up and down. You know, the signal kids like to make when passing a diesel truck. So I obliged the teens and honked my horn, and then waved. The group of them exploded into laughter.
And so I enter the mommy years. Smells a lot like teen spirit.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Embarrassing Moments from Masterpiece Theatre

During law school, Kulani spent his summers at an internship in Portland, Oregon, and I stayed behind in Provo to keep my good job and benefits. We saved little money those summers because I flew up to see him often, and when I'd visit, we really loved going out to eat at all the amazing Portland restaurants and fancied ourselves "billionaires." It was hard being away from Kulani those two summers, but the plus side was, I got full access to the remote control. Whatever I wanted to watch, I watched.

And so I started watching Masterpiece Theater on PBS. Yes, Masterpiece. It wasn't a show I enjoyed when I was younger, but I dubbed one of those summers the "Summer of Cindy." I tried improving my mind and body. I took up running again, and completed a marathon at the end of the summer. I started a book club at my work and read J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. I was becoming a renaissance woman.

So one lonely night as I was watching Masterpiece, a knock came at the door. It was Kulani's good friend Brian dropping something off for Kulani. Just as he stepped into the our small 450-square foot apartment, a scene popped onto the telly that should have remained unseen by visiting company. Honest-to-goodness, it was a nude, sexual scene that you would more readily see on Skinemax or Show-it-all-the-time. Being the small apartment, there was no way of hiding the TV. I grabbed for the remote as fast as I could, but not without my guest seeing my viewing choices for the evening.

I blustery tried explaining it away.

Me: "This is Masterpiece Theater, honestly."

Brian: "Master ... piece?"

Me: "No, really, it's public television. I didn't think they showed this kind of stuff on public television."

Brian: "Public ... television?"

So I tell you that little story to warn you as you are watching Wuthering Heights tonight, as I will be. I haven't watched much Masterpiece since that evening years ago, but having never read nor seen Wuthering Heights, I thought it time I venture down the Masterpiece road again. Last week's first part of Wuthering Heights was awesome! Like a lot of BBC actors, the guy who plays Heathcliff seems mismatched and ugly at first, but he grows on you. He is the ultimate bad boy who girls just can't get enough of. The guy who plays Edgar Linton is an equal match to Heathcliff, but he's kind. Fans of Love Actually will remember his memorable role of the tormented man in love with his best friend's new bride played by Kiera Knightly. Join me, will you, for another rousing episode of Masterpiece Theater.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Happy Birthday to me mum!

A very special lit'le lady in my life celebrated her 62nd birthday on Friday. That would be my mom, the selfless and original Karen M. Christenson.

Now before you stop reading, let me relate a few stories of my mom that will hopefully cause her great embarrassment, as I've been planning to get back at her for more than 20 years when she divulged to my 8th grade science class on my birthday that when I was born, I had a bowel movement, and the doctor proclaimed me a "dirty baby." Hence, my nickname for the rest of the year was "dirty baby."

My mom is a teacher, and wherever some of her 10 kids went to school, my mom wanted to be there. So odds are, most of us have actually been a student in one of my mom's classes. For many years she taught english and then science at West Minico Junior High School. Then she taught gifted and talented and remedial high schooler students. Now she teaches english at Burley High School, and if all calculations are correct, this will be her last year.

I think we are all kind-of amazed that my dad found someone like my mom to marry him. Dad is great, don't get me wrong, but my mom is one of those rare individuals who is positive, thoughful, smart, courageous, and just awe-inspiring. But this post is aimed at embarrassing, so to the little known facts about my mom (except by those inside our immediate family):
  • Mom drives like a bat-out-of-hell. Because we drove with mom to school in our ginormous brown van, we knew our life could potentially end at any moment when mom was behind the wheel. Every morning it seemed we were running late, so Mom would floor the pedal to the medal and race to school. The snow and ice didn't even slow her down. We would try to patiently say, "Uh, Mom, you'd better slow down," but then we would get the, "Be quiet. I know what I'm doing. Just don't say anything." So we kept our yaps shut and our prayers flowin'. Miraculously, we never got in a wreck. We assumed it was her California upbringing that brought the wild side out of Mom.
  • Mom tends to doubt before she believes. The best example was when B.J. was trying to jump over a tree via the trampoline in our backyard. He fell from his ridiculously high height and landed on his arm (clearing the tree, so he won that dare). You could instantly tell he'd seriously broken his arm, because his arm resembled the ZZ Top trademark. B.J. ran into the house saying, "Mom, I broke my arm." My mom's response: "How do you know that? I'm sure it's not that bad." Then B.J. held up his arm. Nothing else was said. Mom summoned B.J. to the van, and they were off to the hospital.
  • My mom is a bit of a ham. She's not afraid to dress up in Halloween costumes such as Frosty the Snowman or Sandra Dee, even at the embarrassment of her children who happen to go to the same school as where she teaches. But the best story of her hamminess comes from my dad. When he and my mom first started teaching back in the late 60s, early 70s, they taught at a small junior high school halfway between Menan and Lewisville, Idaho. For one of the pep assemblies, my dad and mom dressed up as African native tribal people (this was long before PC). They wore black tights under leopard-print sarongs and danced around to wild rock'n'roll music (to my dad, anything harder than the Beach Boys) in front of the middle school student body. Half way through the dance, my mom's sarong (skirt) fell off. She was unaware of the sarong falling off, and continued dancing even more wildly when the kids' roaring laughter increased. She finally saw her skirt was not a part of her ensemble, and ran over to pick it up and put it back on. Of course, she continued dancing afterwards.

This is a picture of my mom on her wedding day in 1966. She was 19.

Everything I am I owe to my angel mother, is how me and Abe Lincoln feel. So many great lessons were given to me by example and from discussion with my mother. An especially tender moment in my life was after I had my first child. Post-partum depression set in the moment my mom left after spending a few days helping me adjust to life with a baby. I was a wreck. But every night for two weeks my mother called me to check on me. Her voice was full of understanding and care. She had great empathy, as she knew very well how hard those first few weeks after having a baby can be.

Here's a picture of me, my mom, my mom's mom, and my baby Lilia at less than one week old.

Happy birthday, Karen! I hope my other siblings post their memories about the remarkable lady we're all so grateful to call our mom.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Movie Minute

Kulani hates the Disney princesses. He thinks the story is usually about a girl who changes herself to like a guy. When I think about it, he's right. You've got Ariel, who gave up her voice and life as she knew it to be with the human prince; all the mermen were not her type. (In my Jewish grandmother voice: "What, you couldn't find a nice merman to settle down with and make grand-guppies for me?") Then there's Cinderella whose tears summoned the netherworlds for a Fairy Godmother to help her get all gussied up to meet the prince. And all the princess stories are so formulaic and unoriginal. But Kulani endures a lot of princess stuff and other Disney cheese for the sake of his girls.

So it was a pleasant surprise last Saturday when we rented Tinkerbell and found it to be original and awesome, even Kulani liked it. It's the story of how Tinkerbell came to be. Her talents point to her being a "tinkerer" which mean she helps build tools to help the other fairies bring in Spring to the mainland. But tinkerers don't get to go to the mainland, they have to stay back in Neverland. So Tinkerbell tries to adapt to the other talents and along the way she finds she is who she is, and she accepts her talents for what they are and that she is as needed in the fairyworld as much as any other fairy.

The animation was also very good. I don't know why Disney didn't release that one in the theaters; much better than High School Musical 3 we saw on Monday. (Is it wrong that this grown woman actually enjoyed that movie in a very guilty pleasure kind-of way? The songs were really good.)

Don't be such a hater

So one of my favorite movies of last year has been in almost every Worst of 2008 lists I've read. I think you know what movie I'm referring to: Mama Mia! The biggest complaint I hear reviewers say is that Pierce Brosnan can't sing. Truthfully, his singing wasn't fantastic, but for me, that made it all the more appealing. Imagine for a moment that the hottest guy in the world is interested in you, extra wrinkles and all, and he can't sing, but he knows you like to sing, so you watch him trying with all his heart to impress you with his gravely singing, and your heart just melts. That's what happens every time I watch the scenes where Pierce is singing: my heart melts.

And I grow more attracted to Meryl Streep's acting the older she gets. I used to not see what all the big fuss was about her acting. But now I'm drawn to her movies, and her in them. I can't keep my eyes off her.

Kulani also bought a new 48" TV for the family, and to properly christen the TV, I think a viewing of Mama Mia! is in order. Poor, Kulani. I'll spare him this time.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Liz Lemon = Me

I'm catching up on some Christmas gifts, one of them being the first season of 30 Rock on DVD given to me by my husband, who is a really great gift giver.

As I'm watching Tina Fey as Liz Lemon, I'm realizing that I am Liz Lemon had I never gotten married, and she is me had she gotten married and spawned three kids. Need further proof? Those with considerable Cindy knowledge will understand the following illustrative example of why she is me:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Grandpa McEuen

Writer's Note: Today's post was inspired by a really good talk given by Kenny Christensen in church today. He told a story about the last words his grandpa said to him before he died.

If you managed to wade through the 100 things list listed to the side of this blog, you know that being a caul baby, I possess mysterious fortune-telling abilities. For example, I know Kulani will leave his socks on the living room floor when he comes home at night ... before it ever actually happens. And all growing up, I knew my mom was either pregnant or very close to being pregnant (she had 10 kids). Eerie, I know.
But one time my powers manifested themselves in a sobering way that had me blubbering from California to Idaho in a van packed with siblings and a soon-to-be sister-in-law who couldn't stop sucking on my oldest brother's face. Longest road trip of my life.
Grandma and Grandpa McEuen invited all of us to California with them in Spring of 1993. They generously bought us all tickets to Disneyland, provided a hotel room to stay in, and basically gave us a wonderful memory of a great time spent with them.
Rewind for a moment and let me tell you about my Grandpa McEuen. Grandpa contracted rheumatic fever when he was a young boy that caused his heart serious damage. He lived through it, but his heart was never strong. He was turned down from serving in World War II because of his heart. Grandpa met my grandma when they were young living in Southern California. Grandpa was a newly converted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he met Grandma through a mutual friend. Since Grandpa hadn't been a member a full year, they were married in my great-aunt's living room, then later sealed in the Manti Temple. They had four children and lived most of their married life in southern California.
Grandpa was a true product of the "Greatest Generation." He believed in hard work and sacrifice. He embodied the American ideals of good work, a good family life, and faith in God. He worked his way from a machinist for an aerospace company to an engineer and manager. He didn't have any formal college to speak of, but he learned on the job and ended up rather successful.
We thought we'd lost Grandpa in 1982 and then again in 1989. He had some terrible heart problems both times, which required surgery replacing multiple heart valves. The second time he had serious heart problems they had moved from California to Utah, and my mom would take us to visit Grandpa in the ICU in Salt Lake City. I think I was about 12 or 13, and the sight of Grandpa chilled me to the bone. He was skinny and his skin was green looking. I thought he looked like a zombie. He somehow managed to recover, and he even took a trip to Israel and sent a picture back to his heart doctors of him riding on a camel.

So he seemed to be going pretty strong when in 1993 he invited all of his children and grandchildren on the California adventure trip. As is customary in the McEuen family, we were all given a matching T-shirt to wear to Disneyland. Walking from our hotel room to the park, many of us made the comment that we were all Smurfs, with Grandpa being "Papa Smurf."
Here's a picture of some of us in our shirts that day. (Note my brother and then soon-to-be-sister-in-law came up for air long enough to take the picture. Also notice Hetty's fanny pack: still popular with Idahoans deep into the 90s, but really, do they ever go out of style?)
We had a wonderful time. At night we would meet as a family in Grandpa's hotel room, and Grandpa would lead us in prayer. I remember his prayers after surviving heart surgery as though he were intimately talking to God, thanking Him for the extra time he was given to be with his loved ones.
The day we all left back to our homes was a Sunday and my 17th birthday. Grandpa gathered us in one last time for prayer and to say goodbye. Everyone was in good spirits. Grandpa seemed healthy enough to me, but then my rare talent of predicting the future kicked in. Somehow I knew this would be the last time I would see Grandpa alive. I left the gathering as soon as I could to go back to my room to finish packing. What I actually did was hide in the bathroom and baul. I knew I had to tell him goodbye and that I loved him, but I didn't want to be such a freaking baul baby, I mean, it was probably the worst cry of my life. So I tried to gain composure. For a half hour I tried. Cousins and younger siblings kept asking, "What's wrong with her?"
My mom came in to tell me everyone was leaving. She could tell I was crying and asked me why. I told her I needed to see Grandpa one last time. I found him on the steps going out to his car. I hugged him, and through my tears and sobbing, I told him goodbye and that I loved him. He told me he loved me too.
Then we got in the van and drove home. I cried off and on again nearly the whole way to Idaho. All my siblings wondered what was wrong with me, because even with my hormonal teenager self, my crying that day was a little over-the-top. But without telling her, I knew my mom knew that I knew. She told my siblings to leave me alone. She didn't need to tell them why I was being a blubberhead. My mom later told me that Grandpa also knew why I was crying so badly. I guess sometimes the spirit speaks so much deafeningly louder than words.
Grandpa died about three weeks later from heart complications and cancer. I never saw him after that last goodbye. I've always been glad for that small bit of enlightenment that allowed me to say goodbye to him with all my heart.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Survival Day 2: Blanding, Utah

Dateline: Blanding, Utah
Population: 3,200 (give or take a few)
Date: New Year's Day, 2009

We have survived 50 hours in this town named "Blanding." Like the name itself, the town operates similarly to the hum-drummings of a sloth. Before leaving for our destination, I packed appropriate clothing, boots, hats, gloves, and scarfs to participate in what locals call "sledding." It involves riding down a snow-packed hill on a plastic or rubber "sled" with the affect of causing the person to have "fun." Because we left at 11:00 p.m. Utah County time and had five hours of driving time before reaching our destination, we didn't bother wasting additional time buying our own sled from the commonly known "Wal-mart" store (which are in abundance in Utah County). Instead, we thought we could find a sled in Blanding which surely would have some type of mercantile exchange store that carried such people-moving devices. On the Eve of New Year's Day, I approached the mercantile exchange to purchase a sled, but was instead greeted by a sign that read, "Sorry for the inconvenience, but we are out of sleds temporarily. Expecting a new shipment after the New Year on the 5 o'clock train from the big ol' city."

With sledding crossed off the list of activities to entertain three girls under the age of 6, we turned to our most reliable and enjoyable activity: eating. "The Patio" was closed for New Year's Eve, and basically for all of what school children call "Christmas break." "The Patio" is a local burger and fry establishment, where Kulani likes to frequent every time we travel to Blanding. He says they make a really good chicken sandwich of some sort, or maybe it was the mushroom burger? I'll have to ask when he arrives back from bike riding.

Also peculiar was that most eating establishments in town were closing for New Year's Day. In most parts of the world, New Year's Day is perhaps one of the biggest days to eat out. Especially popular is a meal called "brunch:" not quite breakfast and not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don’t get completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal. You'd love it. Blanding restaurant owners must hate it, because they don't offer it for New Year's, when most of their clientelle have both time and money they'd probably like to spend. It leads us to believe that Blanding must be part of some weird economic blackhole where capitalism and competition does not compute in their idea of the marketplace of ideas.

Since the unfortunate closing of "The Patio" during the peak eating season, we found another place called "Taco Time." We have eaten at Taco Times in Utah County, but this Taco Time was special: it was twice-to-three times more expensive, but not two-to-three times as tasty.

After Taco Time it was time for a visit to the town's grocery store suitably dubbed "Clark's." Those in the know understand that every "good" small town has a grocery store named after the people who originally started the store. The Mini-Cassia area, for example, has many grocery stores so named: Swenson's, Stoke's, and John's. Kulani promised it would be a "quick" stop, forgetting that he was in his small, home town, and therefore, knew everyone and had to "catch up" with everyone. An hour later, we left, but not before I seriously saw an alien sighting much like this:

It turned out to not be an alien but rather a woman with a hairdo similar to the aliens with the big brains in the movie "Mars Attacks." It still gave my heart a jolt.

One very important lesson I've learned since being here is to make sure Kulani gets enough sleep and food. That story will need to be left for another time, even though time is definitely on my side while in Blanding. But I have a puzzle that won't be putting itself together, if you know what I mean.