Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mormon Women: From Fugly to Fantastic

I've heard people quote Mark Twain about his views on "ugly" Mormon women, but not until Google did I find the exact reference, as copied below:

"With the gushing self-sufficiency of youth I was feverish to plunge in headlong and achieve a great reform here [Utah] --until I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched. My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically "homely" creatures, and as I turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I said, "No--the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure--and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence." Chapter 14 of Roughing It.

Written like only Twain could write it.

Maybe I should be more personally offended by this quote as he is referring to my great-great grandmothers, but instead, I got a pretty good chuckle.

I can also laugh at it because "ugly" and "Mormon women" no longer go hand-in-hand. Maybe they never did, but I wasn't around then to judge. Although I have seen some photographs from my geneology charts that would confirm it. But I'm here today, and I'd say besides Southern California and parts of Arizona, the most beautiful people in the world live on BYU campus.

I'm trying not to be biased. Let me lay out my case:

A roommate of Kulani's during the Portland years was visiting Utah one summer, when he happened upon BYU campus. He saw beautiful co-ed after beautiful co-ed cross his path. He later asked Kulani, "What do they put in the water there? Those were the most beautiful girls I'd ever seen." This roommate was from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, so maybe he didn't have much to compare to.

But there are other clues. I have various and sundry friends who dislike Utah County. I try to pinpoint what it is about Utah County that makes them uneasy. I understand not liking an area. I've never been fond of Logan, for example. But I still try to uncover whether it's just a preference "feelings" thing, or are there real reasons for their distaste in the area.

Almost without exception the reason is because people seem too perfect: perfect houses, perfect hair, perfect bodies, perfect teeth, etc. I think my friend Keri put it best: "I never once was ashamed of my body when we went swimming in Wisconsin." Perfectness is annoying. Living amongst perfect people all the time, you kind-of get used to it ... kind-of. Okay, not really.

Maybe it's an evolutionary thing or maybe it's a spiritual thing that has changed Mormon women from looking drab to fab. Maybe it's a comeuppance type of phenomenon. Who doesn't know an ugly couple who had beautiful children, and vice versa. What goes around, comes around, is how my dad explained the Universe to me as a child.

I hope my grandkids won't hate their parents too much. If I'm to truly believe the previous paragraph, my grandkids will be the ugliest people on earth, as my girls are the cutest. Like I said, I'm not biased.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Breaking News: Kulani Changes Poopy Diaper

After putting the older girls to bed last night, I retreated to the basement to log in a few miles of running. Kulani was finishing up his workout on the recumbant bike, so I left Nono to him. Usually, when Nono has a poopy diaper and I'm busy doing something else, I hear Kulani call, "Cindy, Nono is poopy." I stop what I'm doing, and I change her.

It's our division of labor that really plays to each of our strengths. I have a bionic nose that I can shut off completely. I think it was all those years of growing up in southern Idaho and attending a high school that sat downwind from a sugarbeat processing plant. (Note: Processing sugarbeats does not smell like sugar.) Kulani has a bionic nose that allows him to smell pungent odors from miles away. A feature he inherited from his mother.

But last night, Kulani changed her himself. I think it's the first diaper he's changed since Lilia was born. When Lilia was born, Kulani prided himself on being the first to change her diapers, and in fact, he changed most of Lilia's diapers for those first few months of her life.

Despite his gag reaction to all things stinky, he fought it back and changed Nono's diaper. That's my man.

I have found my zen. During the day, the TV is not mine. During the night, the TV is not mine. But when I'm on the treadmill, the TV is mine. And I love TV. It is my drug. Last night I watched a terribly sad episode of Intervention on A&E (which episode isn't sad?). This lady had a really bad case of anorexia. She had two lovely daughters who would beg her every morning to wake up and make them breakfast. She wouldn't wake up. The frustrated father would call her on the phone every morning, and she still wouldn't wake up until around 10 a.m. And then she wouldn't want to make them lunch either. Nor did she interact with them in any way except to tell them to leave her alone. Her oldest daughter had had enough of her, and you could tell from her face how much she disliked and didn't trust her mother.

The girls in the documentary were about my two oldest girls' ages. It was really sad. I couldn't believe someone would get so bad that they would shirk all parenting duties. After that cheerful program was another program about gambling mothers.

Nono slept with us last night, and I would have brought in the other girls too if we had a bigger bed. Sometimes I'm just so glad for the life I have, and the problems that are mine.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Cindy kindly requested (mandated) that I write this post. She promised to abstain from editing my posts for content and grammar if I obliged, so here it is. As a disclaimer, the neighborhood has changed a lot since we moved in.

When we first moved in, the streets were constantly caked with clay and the air filled with dust as the houses were being built out. Many of the houses were filled with contractors who did little to hide their plans to move on from the houses as soon as the tax regulations let them keep their gains. It made for an unfriendly lot. As an example, my small-town sensibilities were shocked one day as I drove up the street to my house and waved to a group of neighbors gathered in a front yard. Instead of a typical wave for a greeting I was met with a scoffs and a couple of giggles. You know, the 'as if' look the impossibly hot girl shoots the band nerd when he says 'Hi' in the movies. Lesson learned - the northern end of Pine Hollow were, for the time, a bunch of pricks. That's fine - I wouldn't bother inviting them to the luau we were having that spring.

But the neighbors on each side presented a different problem. I was going to be building a bonfire in my backyard. The fire department was fine with it, but as a common courtesy I thought I'd tell the neighbors what the fire was going to be all about and invite them to the shindig. With most of the neighbors it went fine - after all there were only three homes on our end of the street. One woman clearly had some hangups. When I knocked on her door, I could hear her approach the door and walk away. As I walked down the street, she came out with phone in hand to assess the threat she had so deftly avoided. And predictably, she watched nervously as we started the fire for the luau. Apparently it was too much for her, and she called the fire truck. But it gets better.

The day after the luau we blessed Lissy. A great moment with friends and family around. After sacrament as I held Lissy and talked to some friends, she pushed her way through the crowd. "Hi, I'm XX, this is my husband XY. You've seen us, we've seen you - we're your neighbors. How many people are living at your house?" she started. Confused, I told her that it was just my family. "Your 'family'," she insisted, "who does that include, exactly?" By now I was completely perplexed, "Me, my wife, my daughter that she's holding, and my daughter that I'm holding." Her interrogation nearly complete, she needed to just clear up one last detail, "So just the four of you, right?" By now the clouds in my head were clearing and I started to get mad. "Right."

Of course, this gem of a human was assigned to be Cindy's visiting teacher. Cindy did nothing to disabuse her of her mistaken notions. When she asked Cindy what I did, Cindy told her I liked to work on bikes. "Ooooh," she responded, as if she'd figured out what it is I really did to afford the home. I'd like to think she thought I was a drug dealer or maybe a coyote. Her crappy attitude continued for several months.

After a while, XX finally heard what I really did for a living. You wouldn't believe the difference - suddenly we were up to snuff in her eyes and worthy of something better than a sneer. Aren't those the genuine, friendly types of neighbors you'd love to have? They moved on a while later. The rest of the builder crew moved on as well. The PineHollow Biker Gang is about as rough as the neighborhood is these days.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Guide to Western Pronunciation

We had a new dad in our nursery a few Sundays ago, and as is polite, I asked him the usual questions: name, occupation, where do you live, how much has your 401K lost. Then I asked him from where he moved. His answer: BOYZEE (Boise).

Must not have lived there very long, I say to him.

"We lived there 8 years, so pretty long."

What? He lived in Boise for 8 years and he was still calling it BOYZEE? I felt the vein in my forehead pounding. I was suddenly sympathetic to Freddie Quimby, the nephew to Mayor Quimby on The Simpsons, who threatened a french waiter who called "chowdah," "choudiare."

"It's pronounced Boy-SEE, Boy-SEE! I'll kill you! I'll kill all of you! Especially you in the jury!"

But it's nursery, so I let it slide. But I gotta wonder what is happening to my people in Idaho? Are there so many outsiders that Boise is indeed now known as Boize? Or is it becoming "big city," where people don't want to make waves or correct others. Are Idahoans "keeping to themselves?" Where are the bossy, motherly, settin'-things-right Idahoans of my youth?

Are you telling me that in Boise if I go to a grocery store on a coldish day with my children not in coats or shoes I'm not going to have at least five grandmotherly ladies lecturing me on dressing my children appropriately? Does no one say anything to the youthful boys about hitching their pants up above their underwear? Do people turn their heads when a spiked, blue-haired punk gets on the bus, rather than staring him down with a crinkle inbetween their eyes?

My Boise friends: you are letting me down. As soon as someone new moves into the neighborhood, your first duty is to bring them a bag full of fresh zucchini from your overgrown garden, and then remind them that it's Boy-see, not Boy-zee, and if you hear differently from them, their house will be pelted with the over-ripe tomatoes from your garden.

Don't go big city on me, Idaho. Let's not turn into Col-"aw"-"raw"-do or Nev-"aw"-da. Double-points if you're still calling it Pokey or Pocatell-"ah."

But I do give one pass to a certain singer who we revere in this house: Morrissey. During his one and only concert in Nampa, Idaho, he came bursting onto the stage saying, "Hello, girls and boyz-ee." Now that's just cool.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Doug's Roast

Last night we headed north to a little place off the beatened path called "Bothwell." It's a tiny town outside the fairly small town of Tremonton. My oldest brother Doug turned 40, and his wife invited us all for dessert and a "roasting" of Doug.

I'm sorry I forgot my camera, but anyone who knew Doug, he looks the same, but he's now sporting a goatee because his wife thinks it's "sexy." They're stuck in the 90s.

Doug is a singular person. He was basically one of the biggest influences on my psyche since birth to age 17. Once he married, we didn't see him as much, so his orbital force was snapped, like the moon falling away from Earth.

Doug is the living definition of gregarious, optimistic, and fun. He never takes himself seriously and is quick to forgive and focus on the enjoyable parts of life. And he's super goofy and there are TONS of things to roast him about. A few include:
  • He was kicked off the bus as a kindergartner for saying, "King Kong plays ping-pong with his ding-dong." He couldn't get back on the bus until he wrote an apology letter to the bus driver.
  • He loves Star Trek and Star Wars.
  • He is drawn to 7/11 Slurpees like a moth to flame. He never passes a 7/11 without stopping and buying one.
  • Have you ever known someone who buys the movie theater pickles? (The movie theater has pickles, you ask? Yes, they do.) Doug buys one every time he goes to the movies.
  • He flunked out of Ricks College with a .8 (or was it less?) grade point average. (After his mission he turned it around and actually got an engineering degree from USU to the amazement of my parents.)
  • Doug cannot spell his way out of a wet papersack.
  • Doug's first kiss was at the age of 23 when he played the part of a wood sprite in our church's play. He got a kiss from the princess. His next kiss didn't come until a year later when he met his to-be wife Sherri, who instantly made up for lost experience. (It was gross, to say the least.)
  • Doug and a couple of others painted the "87" on the high school's roof when they graduated.
  • Doug is responsible for daring Brian (one of my other brothers) into near death on at least three occassions: walking across the "frozen" Snake River, jumping off cliffs at Cauldron Lyn, and pulling him behind the family van with a sled attached to a rope that was attached to the van. Brian would take any dare, and Doug exploited that.

When I say Doug was the best brother in the world for my early growing up years, I'm not exaggerating. When he came home from his mission, he lived at home for a couple of years while he went to CSI (College of Southern Idaho, not Crime Scene Investigation). Every Monday night during those years, we would head over to the church and play volleyball. We set the net to the men's height. I think Doug had secret desires to make the men's Olympic volleyball team. Because of it, I was able to make the varsity volleyball team my junior year.

Doug was the type of brother that didn't mind his younger siblings hanging out with him. He usually encouraged it.

"Who wants to go with me to Dairy Queen?" He'd ask. We'd all volunteer.

Also during those years, he was in charge of taking us cleaning the buildings as part of the family custodial business. Doug loved discussing what he was learning in his classes while we were cleaning. We had discussions about centripital verses centrifugal forces, Calculus equations, and the meaning of 2 Nephi. Really, no subject was off limits. Doug knew something about everything, and if he didn't, he faked it. Doug's philosophy was to answer every question, even if he was wrong, with conviction: it kept the riff-raff from questioning his authority.

After cleaning, Doug almost always treated us to either a Slurpee or a Dairy Queen treat. I idolized Doug. He had this green sweatshirt that read, "I'm Okay, You're a Dink." When he left on his mission, I wore it at least once a week. I thought it was the funniest shirt of all time, mostly becaue it had belonged to Doug.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I talk to my boss at work on a week daily basis. He's a 56-year-old bachelor with no immediate family living close by. In fact, he only has two nephews; the rest of his immediate family are dead. He's a rather interesting guy to talk with, and I'm pretty sure it will be me who will find his body when he finally goes "tits up" (his phrase, not mine). I'm surprised he's still walking around on God's little acre of Earth. His brother died when he was 51, and his dad was 46 when he died. His mom had those sturdier-than-an-Amish-barn Mormon genes and died last year at 90.

Today he took a diabetes test because as part of the wellness program at work, he found out his glucose levels were alarmingly high. To get ready for the test, he gave up two cans of Pepsi, out of his six cans he normally drinks. Remarkably, the test came back clean. He says it was because of his regular consumption of potato chips, where a significant majority of the fiber he eats each day comes from. This guy has nine lives, and he's used up at least seven.

He used a couple of his lives when he was around the age of 24 and hit a hog with his paper-route truck in Georgia. He was thrown from the truck and severely damaged some internal organs. The insurance money from the accident was just enough to get him back to Provo to finish school, and hopefully find a wife. He still hasn't found a wife, but he does celebrate "Hog Day" every year by indulging in all foods that come from a pig.

Another of his lives has been spent in the dentist chair. I've never met anyone who goes to the dentist more than him. My sister Kathy served a mission in some rural parts of West Virginia, and she said a common thought amongst many of those West Virginians is to just pull all the teeth in their 30s so they don't have to worry about them for the rest of their lives. I keep telling my boss he should adopt to those ways. And then I strum a refrain of the Deliverance tune on my air banjo. He gets my "southern, inbred" humor, even though he doesn't appreciate it.

When I actually worked in the office, it drove me crazy whenever he would rub his belly when he would talk about foods he liked to eat. This boss, mind you, had the same size belly as me and a co-worker when me and the co-worker were nine months pregnant. And every time he bought a Pepsi, he would put the cold can of Pepsi under his armpits to cool him down AND warm up the Pepsi. He calls it a win-win.

But the most annoying thing about my boss is when he gives me advice on eating right and working out. About eight years ago I ran my one and only marathon. He started dishing out advice on how to train and not over do it. I was so fed up with his "advice" that me and another co-worker challenged him to a foot race. It was a 50-yard dash. He was sure he would beat us. No surprise, he didn't. I think we crushed his ego pretty badly. Being raised in southern Georgia when desegregation wasn't implemented until he was in high school, you can imagine the shock of being beat by two women in a foot race would do to his system. One more of his nine lives down the drain. If you can believe it, he thinks he can beat me now that I've had three kids and gained a few pounds. I don't want to risk killing him to prove him wrong.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Siblings: Can't live with them, can't live without

This crazy woman in California who had the eight kids via in vitro fertilization has my mind fixated these days. Supposedly, she hated being an only child when she was younger and decided at an early age that come hell or high water, she was gonna have herself a large family.

The decision to have many children or not can be a lose-lose situation. I've heard only children complain that they really wanted a sister or a brother, and I've heard children of large families wish they were an only child. (The funniest story I ever heard was from my sister-in-law's in-laws, and the only girl, who was not the oldest, was complaining that her parents should have only had one child, to which her oldest sibling responded, "I wish they would have stopped at one, too.")

Having never been an only child, my guess is that only children are showered with lots of individual attention from the parents. That can be good and bad, I guess. Good because of attention; bad because only one person to blame everything. No need to ask, "Who left this opened can of tuna in the cupboards?" Uh, Mom, I guess now is as good a time as any to finally admitting to that one.

But having lots of siblings isn't all it's cracked up to be either. There's always one sibling who gets more toys than the others. The used Porsche she got to drive to school for an entire year. The expensive $250 letterman's jacket. The Estee Lauder makeup for prom. Kathy! Kathy! Kathy! Sorry, what was I talking about?

Siblings. So now I'm a parent of three delightful girls, and already sibling rivalry is creeping up. My second is the perpetually picked on one. I have a soft spot in my heart for her. (I was the very, very picked on one, too, right, siblings?) But I also have a soft spot in my heart for my oldest, who is eager to please and very helpful. The funny thing is, when she's away at school, the second one becomes more helpful and more sweet. But when all three are together, she whines and says things like, "You didn't give me a high five for being a great helper." Well, Sweetheart, you just sat on the couch watching TV and refusing to help. But she doesn't see it the way I see it. She sees it as me playing favorites, and not as me rewarding good behavior.

And then there's the baby of the family who is just adored and knows it. She can do no wrong. And then parents ruin the hopes and dreams of the baby of the family by having another baby, and the cycle continues. Knowing where and when to end that cycle is a delicate, private decision.

But if Grandma McEuen ruled the world, she'd limit children to four. That's what she told me once when I lived with her. "When your mother called me and told me she was pregnant with you, I told her she was a 'blockhead.'" You see, I was the fifth child. Grandma's perfect family ended in four: two boys and two girls. Mom went on to have five more children after me. But maybe Grandma was right. Maybe Mom should have stopped at four. Sorry, B.J., Mary, Hetty, Wayne, and Ed, but we all know the perfect family stops at four. What? That would mean I wouldn't be born either? I mean, five. The perfect family stops at five. Now who's the blockhead?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nohea Does the Toddler Two-Step

I've been trying to write this post for nearly two days, but every time I sit down to write it, my now 2-year-old Nono climbs on my lap and wants me to read her a book. And who can resist that?

Nohea turned 2 on Tuesday. I was reading something in some magazine about sharing with your children stories of when they were younger, and I realized that I don't have the best memory. No shock to Kulani, of course. Hopefully this blog will be filled with the things my mind will surely forget.

Nohea has fit into our family like a favorite blanket. She's so loved by all of us, and she brings so much love to our family. She wants to be just like her big sisters and do everything they're doing. I like to say that she thinks she's one of us, in which Kulani always replies: "She is one of us."

Here are some of my favorite things I love about Nohea:

She has great bed-head hair in the mornings.
She loves to sleep with Mom and Dad and breaks out in a huge smile everytime she's allowed to sleep with us. She gets so riled up that it takes her a while to finally fall asleep. She touches my face and snuggles with Dad, then comes back over to me.
Nohea prefers me first thing in the morning. Even if Dad gets her out of her crib, she has to have Mommy first thing, and then breakfast. She prefers Dad if she's been hurt in any way.
Nohea is my most precocious child. You can't leave her alone for very long or something like the above happens. Her sister claim she painted herself, but I have my doubts. The lines and dots are all a little too perfect for self application. She wants to climb on everything and doesn't seem afraid of heights. She's fallen off of the barstools on more than one occasion. Even at her 2-year-doctor visit she managed to fall off the chair.

Nono loves her sisters. She'd rather be with them more than anyone, especially her oldest sister Lilia. She will sometimes torment Melissa. Both older sisters are very good to Nono, though, and help her like they're little mommies.

Nono's nickname has won her many little nursery friends, because all kids know the words "no, no," so they all know Nono's name.
We just love Nohea to pieces. Happy Birthday, Nohea! I hope we survive your terrible 2s!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Revelations of my Tomboy Past

I'm pretty embarrassed about my tomboy past. Once junior high hit, I quickly figured out that being a tomboy no longer allowed me access to the guys the way I desired. No, tomboys are sidelined once junior high hits. And though I tried to bury my tomboy past, I don't think I fooled too many people that I was actually a high-maintenance girlie girl. Not when my footwear choice for prom was Chuck Taylors.

But there was a time in my dark past when I could tell you stats on best teams in the NFL. I even ordered a History of the Superbowl book from the book orders in 4th grade. My favorite team was the Pittsburgh Steelers but only because it was my best friend Keri's favorite team, who only loved them because her older brother Cory loved the Steelers back when Mean Joe Green and Terry Bradshaw played for them.

At recess the boys let me play two-hand touch football with them, mostly due to my cousin Chet vouching for me. And I wasn't bad, honestly I wasn't. I had pretty good hands and could catch a well-thrown spiral. The other sports didn't appeal to me as much as football. I used to dream of being the first NFL woman quarterback. Every year I watched the Quarterback Princess TV-movie-of-the-week starring Helen Hunt.

I'm not as in to football as when I was younger. I don't have a favorite NFL team. When Kulani and I watch football together, he tries to make it interesting for me by mentioning which of the players played for BYU back in the day, as I still follow BYU football religiously. Our favorite NFL players come first from BYU, then Kahuku High School graduates, then Utah; we're always surprised by a Utah State player in the NFL; then an MWC player, then a BSU player or a player from Idaho. To keep women interested in the game, it would be good to flash up a player's life's stats: married to the same woman since college, three kids, favorite household chore is doing the laundry, etc. But that's sexist, isn't it? Men can do laundry. I wouldn't sideline Kulani if he decided that life choice.