Thursday, February 4, 2016

Photo dump: January in Pictures

I used to scrapbook—now I take pictures on my phone and forget to document anything.  Here is my attempt to capture the past month:

Calvin broke his left radius and ulna back in November.  One splint, two casts, and one surgery later, he got his final cast off on January 4th.  He was so happy to have that itchy, smelly thing come off (and so was I!)



Evelyn begins sounding out words on signs she sees.  (This was at the doctor’s office, the same day Calvin got his cast off.)  Evelyn is four and a half years old and I haven’t begun any official curriculum with her yet, she’s just picking things up as we go.  I love this “learning to read” stage.  She was so cute.  Now she wants me to help her spell everything as she writes it down.



Watching the State of the Union Address.



Proof that my kitchen does get clean. Sometimes I look at these pictures just to remind myself that dreams really do come true, if only in the three or four hours between meals.




Halfway into the month, I discovered the French Cafe station on Pandora and decided to play it every time I cook. I whip out my French accent and sing along as I concoct delicious, gourmet meals now---hahahahaha!  I even decided to make a French meal—or the American, “whatever I have in the pantry” approximation: Croque Monsieur sandwich, grapes, and green beans (French cut, does that count?!)



One weekend, I was moving stuff around in the garage. It was cold, so I came inside to grab my hat.  Calvin took one look at me and asked, “Planning a heist?”



Alan Rickman died this month. I am taking it very, very hard.  Even though I never knew him personally, the characters he portrayed and the stories he told through his work, and his personal contributions to humanity and the arts impacted me deeply, and have made me a better person.  He will be terribly missed.The kids and I saluted him with hot chocolate and words from a traditional Scots/Irish farewell song, The Parting Glass:

Of all the comrades that e'er I had
They're sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e'er I had
They'd wish me one more day to stay

But since it fell into my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I'll gently rise and softly call
"Good night and joy be to you all"

Rest in peace, sir.



We celebrated Julio’s birthday with a little party at home with just the family.  Gloria made his cake.  I got to set it on fire.



We discovered a little pioneer cemetery in our town, tucked between the railway and a new housing subdivision.  A total of 12 people are buried there, nine of whom were children.  It is believed that everyone there died in from a diptheria epidemic.  The Kuna Historical Society located 11 of the 12 graves and set up the markers. Volunteers keep the area litter free and place flags and trinkets on the graves, and maintain the fencing, the sign, and the plaque wall indicating who is buried there.


One of the people buried there is known only as an “Immigrant Woman.”  I wondered where she was from and what her name was. I wondered if she spoke English and how long she had lived in Kuna before she died.  I guess we’ll never know.


I snapped this picture of the rainclouds at twilight outside my house---I loved the velvety blue gray of the skies and the drizzle and the smell of rain—it was so beautiful, and kind of mysterious looking!



Our town is not very big, and apparently our only claim to fame is being the “Gateway” to various natural attractions—which are kind of lame in my opinion—the pioneer cemetery, the Kuna Cave, The Birds of Prey Conservation Area (okay, that is pretty cool, but not really exciting to look at), and a few other little things.  Nevertheless, I took the kids on a field trip to explore our little town.  Other than the cemetery and our maybe half a mile of greenbelt along an irrigation canal, there wasn’t much to see, but the kids were undaunted. The kids read the ‘Historical” plaques at the tiny Kuna City Visitor’s Center, and magically discovered the history in everything they found.20160125_155938


“Ooh, look!  A historic, abandoned Nerf dart!”


“There’s a historic restroom!”


“A historic volleyball court!”


And finally, the highlight of the trip,  a trip to the “historic” fast food joint, Arctic Circle, for ice cream.


What a month!

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Today’s prompt:


What do you want to be known for? Maybe you want to change the world. Maybe you just want to make the best cupcakes known to man. Go all in and give us the deep life-long goal, or share a smaller mission.

I suppose I will sound absolutely shallow for saying this, but I don’t really want to be known for anything more than loving my family, making people laugh, and encouraging others to be open to new ideas, experiences, and insights.  I’m not on a crusade to save the world, just to make it laugh.

Dam store


This prompt got me thinking about funerals, which is maybe macabre for someone so, ahem, young, as I. But, I’ve decided that when I die, I don’t want a chapel funeral, with a life sketch and eulogy. I want folks to throw a party, remember the good times, and that I never took anything very seriously. No melancholy strains of Nearer My God to Thee or lilting Each Life That Touches Ours for Good, no dark colors and somber faces—no, no---I want a mariachi band, or a big New Orleans style brass band, playing the good, danceable stuff. 

Metalachi 2

Ooh, or maybe we could get these guys:The world’s first and only Heavy Metal Mariachi band—based out of Los Angeles, California!

I hope folks wear bright colors and comfy shoes. I hope they serve pizza and nachos and have a belching contest. I want someone to set up a karaoke machine so everyone can sing really bad renditions of Broadway showtunes and Elvis impersonations . I hope the beat is strong, the music loud, and someone decides to bust out their best samba. 

Cuban Pete

If there MUST be something said of me, I hope it’s done in Dr. Seuss type rhyme, or a clever parody of Poe’s The Raven. If there’s a viewing, I hope someone lovingly places a pirate hat on my head or a red foam clown nose on my face before the casket is closed for good. Cover my casket in striped ribbons in clashing colors, and plastic flamingos. And as they’re hauling me out to the hearse, I hope the Muppets’ song Mahna Mahna is playing as I’m carried out. Or maybe Jump In The Line by Harry Belafonte.

flaminos flaminos flaminos flaminos

crepe paper

Actually, maybe I better stick with the standard solemn affair—I’d hate to miss such a party!

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.

Friday, January 29, 2016

On writing

Today’s prompt:

Write On

Why do you write? What have you learned by facing the page? Did anything surprise you about your reflections this past month?

This Think Kit blog challenge has been exactly that—a challenge! I have loved doing it, even if I haven’t managed to post every single day---I wanted a kickstart to regular blogging and I definitely got that!

Why do I write? I write because I think better on paper…er, the computer. Writing helps me sort out what’s in my head.  I also write because I like to tell stories and entertain people. I like to build bridges and help others make connections between events, people, and other things that they may not have considered before.

The Think Kit prompts are decidedly personal and I’ve struggled with a few of them, not for lack of anything to say, but in how to say it.  I’ve worried a few times if I sound crazy or flippant or both.  Some of the prompts have touched on subjects I don’t really want to think about, because they are boring or uncomfortable, or I just thought they were too silly or mundane to bother with. 

That said, the Think Kit blog post challenge has been a lot of fun. I realized that with a little discipline, I can crank out some half decent posts.  With more discipline, maybe I’ll manage some truly fine ones.  The blog challenge has gotten the creative juices flowing and shown me that in order to write what and how I want, I need to make writing a priority and treat it like a job. Now I just need to set my hours and my deadlines!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Today’s prompt: 


Write a mantra for the year ahead - how you'll approach it, what you wish it to be. How'd you arrive at the mantra

Last November, I attended a talk by a motivational speaker. He was a bit too earnest and “rah-rah” for my taste, but he suggested we choose a word that would be our mantra—our guide for the coming new year.  He had us write down seven or eight words that came to mind about how we wanted to be in the new year and then had us narrow it down to one…and then we were asked to share what we’d chosen.  I found the activity kind of exciting, but also kind of hokey, and sat mutely off to one side while others volunteered their words, such as:






And I’m in the corner thinking:






*If you are baffled by the words I was thinking, get thee to the library, check out, and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, post haste!

 I’m sure I wrote down seven or eight real motivational words, but I don’t remember what they are.

I don’t know if mantras will ever really be my thing, but there are a few “catchphrases” that I find myself using quite a lot:

When something is lost (and I don’t need it right this second): “It’ll turn up.” 

In triumph:‘”Wuh-BAYUM!”

When something unexpectedly goes my way: “Well, hot dayum and hallelujah!”

When directing the children in their chores: “Put the thing in the thing, next to that other thing! Come, on, you know what I mean!”

At bedtime: “Don’t come down here unless you’re bleeding or on fire!”

In response to the question ‘What’s for dinner?’: “I dunno. I haven’t thought that far.”

When the kids ask me what we’re going to do for the day: “The same thing we do every other day—try to take over the world.”

My oldest kids just showed up and read this post over my shoulder. I hate that. But, they are nodding and now mimicking my triumph yell.  Get your own war-cry, kids, I’m trademarking mine!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

On navigating culture clash

Today’s prompt:

It's Customary

It's a small world after all! What custom from another culture do you wish you could transplant into your own? Maybe you want siestas (Hola, Spain!) or Hygge from Denmark. Or maybe you want to create a new custom altogether?

By the time I met my husband, Julio, who was born and raised in Guatemala, he was pretty “Americanized.” He had spent a year in high school as an exchange student in Utah, and then later served a two year mission for the Mormon Church in San Bernardino, California.  He spoke English (with only the tiniest trace of an accent) and was comfortable navigating US culture and maneuvering through our various systems (school, government, etc.) In fact, when I first met him, I assumed he was from New York or something—somewhere distant from me (born and raised in the western States) but not foreign.

Still, he carried vestiges of his home culture, which took me some getting used to.  First, was the fact that he greeted EVERY female friend he met with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, calling them “mi amor” (my love.) I was scandalized by this behavior. I was raised to believe that any kind of kissing was reserved for romantic partners, and that terms of endearment were for sweethearts. (It didn’t help that “mi amor” just sounded so sexy rolling off his lips, no matter to whom he said it.  I was a jealous young thing, what can I say?)

julio and cousins

Julio and his stunningly beautiful aunt and cousins.

I didn’t know anyone else who kissed friends, female coworkers, older women, and young girls to say hello, even though I had friends from various cultural backgrounds and countries. (Turns out, lots of my friends did this, amongst their own people and folks from cultures that shared similar greeting customs, but they remained hands-and-lips-off the Americans.) It took me a long time to understand that a hug and a kiss in greeting didn’t imply romantic or sexual interest, and that calling someone “my love” in Spanish is the equivalent of the English “honey” or “hon,” (as in “What can I get you, hon?”) Now, however, greeting-hugs and kisses and endearments are among my favorite customs in Guatemalan culture. 

julio and rocio

Julio (center) leading his niece to her grandfather, at her Quinceanera.

Another thing that I struggled with was the circuitous communication style my husband displayed. Guatemalans are not a direct people. They will never plainly ask for anything, but hint and drop clues, expecting you to read between the lines and respond accordingly.  I am really, really bad at this kind of communication. My husband tells me that early in our relationship, he would “test” me on certain things by placing, what seemed to me, random things and offhand comments for me to decipher.  I didn’t know this, having no cultural context for this kind of communication---and I often found him baffling.


Our engagement photo. We were just babies!

After one particularly exasperating evening with him, he expressed his disappointment that I hadn’t responded how he was hoping and then he pointed out all the times he had left clues and dropped hints hoping I would “get” the message he was trying to send. He admitted he had been testing me and was disappointed that I wasn’t getting it. I don’t remember what the issue was, but my ineptitude was so much that he finally had to spell things out for me, one bald-faced letter at a time. It must have been excruciating for him to be so direct, but I was just upset that he was pussy-footing around the issue.  I probably yelled something about being a jerk and playing mind games, not realizing that making things plain was not part of his cultural skill set.

This experience led to an uncomfortable, if ultimately enlightening, discussion about our needs and wants and hopes, and also our communication styles.  Over the years, we’ve realized that his indirect approach to communication, and my “line drive down the center” approach are part culture, part personality, and that before we get all bent out of shape, it behooves us both to check ourselves against each other’s communication styles, and adjust accordingly!

us now

This is us now. How did we get this old?

Certainly any couple will have to deal with each others’ idosyncracies, but those are compounded when coming from different cultures. Fortunately, my husband is patient, I have learned that there is more to navigating the world than ploughing straight through, and we are both inclined to find humor in just about everything, so we’ve managed to bumble triumphantly through the inevitable culture clashes. 

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Wonder and mystery

Today’s prompt:

Media Frenzy

Nervous at Airports? Created your first protest sign? Taken on a different perspective? How has what you've seen in the news changed you this year?

I am at a bit of a loss for this prompt, but it got me thinking about my media usage.  Facebook and Pinterest get a lot of flak for being worthless time sucks, but they have both expanded my world. Through Facebook and Pinterest, I have found artists, writers, bloggers, lesson plans, social and political activists, new music, project ideas, and new perspectives. 

I have come to think of the internet as an incredible tool to daily expand my horizons, and show my children the world in ways that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise.  Sure, we do a lot of traveling and we read a lot (a LOT) of books, but the internet has given us instant access to an unbelievable amount of knowledge, ideas, and perspectives. It is amazing!


“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” –Anais Nin

Friday, January 22, 2016

Where ya goin’?

Today’s prompt:

It's All About the Journey

Where did you travel this year? Did it move or change you?

I’ve traveled a few places in the last year, but when I saw this prompt, my first thought wasn’t of the visits to Utah for weddings, or Eastern Idaho for funerals, or even California and Oregon for vacations.  I thought more about my journey as a person.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I’m noticing that I really don’t care about a lot of the stuff that used to keep me up at nights:

  • Having the perfect house
  • Having perfect children who conform to cultural and social expectations
  • Having the perfect body
  • being the perfect wife/mother/friend/daughter/sibling

Some might say I’ve “given up” or “let myself go” or am even “irresponsible” regarding these things, but the truth is---I have come to accept my limitations and lack of interest in much of what it entails to strive for all this perfection.  I’ve become a whole lot more accepting and open to what IS and and I’m much more forgiving of myself for my failures. This acceptance has freed me to explore and do life on my own terms, with some pretty impressive (to me) results. I have figured out my talents and genunine interests, my aesthetic (anything that makes me laugh), my priorities, and my purpose. It’s not that I have EVERYTHING figured out, but I know who I am and I know where I’m headed.

I have a twenty-something friend on Facebook whose posts are rife with all the insecurities and anxieties particular to someone who is still trying to figure out who she is and what her place and role in the world is.  Part of me wants to reach out and put my arms around her and lovingly tell her to get over herself.  A lot of the the things she’s frettting over won’t matter in ten or fifteen years and she’ll have wasted a lot of time agonizing over them, rather than truly experiencing life and doing good.  At her age and a decade on, I was just like her…so I speak from experience.  Of course, I don’t reach out and tell lher to let go of the crazy, because I’m sure, that had someone done that to me, I wouldn’t have listened. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t listen, either.  Unfortunately, it seems that stewing in self loathing and insecurity over all the perceived imperfections in life is just part of growing up.

In the meantime, my favorite quote and mantra has become this saccharine-free quote from comedienne Sarah Silverman:


Now, I would never presume to compare myself and my work to the awesomeness that was Mother Teresa, but I love the sentiment.  The woman had work to do---there was no time to worry over keeping up appearances when there were real needs to deal with and real people to love.

Now, I like to look nice, and I like my things to look nice.  I like my kids to behave and I like to think that I’m doing a good job with all of that, but I’ve long since given up trying to look nice, be nice, have nice for the sake of the approval and acceptance of others.  A lot of what I do now, in fact, DOESN’T look nice, because frankly, creation is messy. Work is messy.  Forgiveness is messy. Repentence is messy.  Life is messy.  But it’s all beautiful and worthwhile if you learn from it and do good with it.