Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cancun Jungle Adventure

While we were in Mexico, E's brother was able to set us up on a jungle adventure trip with some clients of his. We zip-lined, rappelled and snorkeled our way through a gorgeously warm summer day, stepping out of all kinds of comfort zones. I for one was about as hesitant as my four-year old when it came to hurtling myself off a tall tower, held up only by a few metal wires, although I'd like to think I cried just a bit less than he did. (He did actually end up enjoying all of the adventures he had, btw; see photo at the end of post for proof.) And I am thrilled that I overcame my fears as well; It was such a fun day.

(Also, I am aware that the jungle isn't actually anywhere near Cancun, but I have no idea where it was, except a couple of hours from the hotel, so please forgive my ignorant labeling.)

(First eight photos courtesy of Hidden World's photographer)
S rappelling into a cave:

Inside the cave (It was so stunning - I am in awe of what nature creates...I wish I had snorkeling photos!):

On the jungle zip line: 


 L rappelling:
 The cave zip line (Note the look of apprehension - that water was approaching mighty fast!):
 Wet suit family photo - the one you always wanted to see....Or not. (The only sad part about this day was that E's father couldn't join us as he came down with a miserable virus that morning.):

Even the buggy ride through the jungle was an adventure in itself. I believe we were all airborne at one point or another on that ride:
Shockingly, both Baby S and her cousin fell asleep during the buggy ride back. They may have been exhausted by a day spent in the sun. Or I may have to revise my absolute-quiet-during-nap-times-strategy.  
Proof that L survived the day with his good mood intact - we didn't traumatize him with too many crazy activities:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home Again

We came back from Mexico late last night and have been busy unpacking suitcases and wrapping Christmas presents, and dealing with our stowaway strep infection that L brought home. Details of our trip will follow. In the meantime, here is a preview:







The ocean was truly that blue. The weather was warm. And my husband is actually that hot. Good thing he at least came home with me, since the weather and ocean couldn't...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I love December. I love the lights, the hymns and songs, the anticipation of Christmas, the stashes of presents in closets and on shelves. I love the focus on Christ and his birth so long ago, how He came to Earth to experience life as we do to help us. I love the baking and preparing for Christmas, strangers wishing you happy holidays, cutting down and decorating the Christmas tree. I love to see the joy in my children's eyes when they see the tree, and the joy I feel when I see them and the tree. This time of year makes me feel happy all the way through my bones.
Yet, there is no other time of year that makes me as nauseatingly homesick as Christmas, either. That's right. At the age of - ahem - 33, I still get homesick for my parents' house.

The first time I spent Christmas away from home was when I worked as a missionary for my church. I had been away from home for ten months by then and while I missed my family some, I wasn't really homesick. I loved what I was doing, I was busy and happy. I was doing great all through December. Right up to the afternoon of Christmas Eve when I was doing dishes in our little kitchen in the apartment I lived in with three other missionaries. It suddenly hit me that approximately 6000 miles away, my family was sitting down at the Christmas dinner table without me. I sobbed into the dishwater for a while and then I tried to shake it off, trying to convince myself that I was having a splendid adventure and experiencing an American Christmas for what might be the only time in my life. (!) I actually did pretty well until we went to this sweet family's house for Christmas Eve Dinner and they had a buffet style meal with crackers and other snacks. It was not what I expected and certainly not what I was used to for Christmas Eve and the absence of my family and our traditions made my heart ache.

In the years since, I have spent only a couple of Christmases with my parents and sister and it is still the time of year that makes me miss them the most. Of course, I have had wonderful holidays with my husband, my children and the people we love here in the US and I adore the traditions we are creating in our little family. Like I said, I love December and I certainly don't spend all my time sobbing into the dishwater. I do think back fondly to the Christmases of my childhood; remembering the smell of goose roasting in the oven, the sweet flavor of rødkål, the smell of pine, our Christmas tree all lit up by beautiful lights and decked out in ornaments as old as I. I remember the tree with beautifully wrapped presents underneath and the excitement of seeing them.
I make my kids dress up, because that's what we did for Christmas Eve and it made it even more special. We open a few presents on Christmas Eve as well as a nod to how it's supposed to be done. Ahem, I mean, done in Denmark... Just like when I was a child, Santa may ring the doorbell as he drops by, and there will be no cheese-and-crackers Christmas Dinners. And hopefully, some day, my kids will think back with only happy memories of their Christmases as well.

Thus, with a nod to the ghost of Christmas past - thank you mom and dad for making Christmas my favorite time of year. Thank you for traditions, for everything you sacrificed so that Lou and I could be spoiled and happy.
And mostly, so very much, thank you for the love you always poured out on us in abundance.







Glædelig Jul!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Tree Cutting. Or: When Saw We Thee a Stranger?

This year for the first time, I seriously considered an artificial tree. I have never really been a believer in those - I mean, how can it be Christmas without a genuine pine? However, pressed with the issues of time, long-term budgeting and a budding notion that maybe it isn't exactly eco-conscious to cut down trees each yea and then toss them after a few weeks, we brought the idea of artifice on the table. And then we took it off again.
Upon deliberation, we couldn't abandon our newly started tradition of cutting down our own tree and thus we set off yesterday afternoon to a Christmas Tree Farm. We had a busy day of rock-climbing classes and a birthday party, so we didn't get to the farm until ten minutes before closing time - which should be a decent amount of time to get out of the car, find the perfect tree, cut it down and head towards the exit. Or at least enough time to get into the farm, find the perfect tree and apologize for keeping the owners there fifteen minutes late.
Unless of course, you get out of your car with all the kids and the saw and then lock your car. With the keys still in the car. Which we did.
It could have been a disaster - the wind was icy, it was getting late and we were a good 30 minutes from home, but it turned out quite great in the end. We asked to borrow someone's cell phone to call AAA and when he didn't have reception, we were immediately offered three other phones to use. Because we had been running late, we didn't bring hats and gloves (except for the littlest monkey, who fortunately had her warm hat on), figuring we'd be in and out quickly. The mother of the teenagers who let us use their phone pulled the hats and gloves off her teenage boys and gave them to our boys. Within ten minutes the owner of the tree farm had come up see if he could get into our car (apparently we aren't the only fools to do this...) and AAA showed up shortly thereafter. As it turns out, our Sienna is fairly secure against theft, but the guy's expertise got us in after a few minutes of lock-jiggling. (Do those guys make some sort of a vow not to steal cars, btw? Or do they actually hire car thieves? They are very good at getting into locked vehicles...)
All that and we got out of there only 25 minutes after closing, with a beautiful tree! We weren't even the last ones to leave. We drove away feeling happy about AAA, thrilled that we were able to cut down our tree, comforted that the Sienna is very hard to break in to, and mostly grateful about the kindness of strangers. Thank you Christmas Tree Farmer for trying to help and not yelling at us about our stupidity. Thank you boys for offering your cell phones. And thank you lady, who we may never meet again, for giving us your children's hats and gloves without hesitating, when you saw they were cold and didn't know how long we'd be in the cold for. Happy Holiday Season!





Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful

I am thankful for many things this year and I may update this tomorrow with a list of some of those, just so I have it to look back at when I am 102.
For now, just these few...(Photos by the very talented Jenn Miettinen)

I am thankful for this little bundle of joy:


I am thankful for this guy here on the left:

And for the craziness that is these two:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Faster Than Her Own Shadow...

I tried to take a few pictures of my littlest monkey and realized this mobility thing is going to make pictures difficult until I can bribe her with candy like the boys she learns to be a perfect model just like her brothers... She would sit still long enough for me to realize I needed to change my settings to get a good shot and then she would try to climb over the side of the chair or throw herself face first off the front of it. Until further notice, I may have to break out sports photography equipment for this to succeed. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's Been A Hard Day's Night...

After several weeks of our vole drama, I was beginning to worry that the voles were a product of my overtired brain, since I was the only one who kept seeing them. What kept me convinced that I was indeed seeing the real deal were the copious amounts of dropping I've been cleaning up. I would hope that any actual delusions would involve less cleaning. Meanwhile calls to several exterminators have gone along the lines of this:

Conversation A 
Us: Hi, I was wondering if you guys can help us out with voles in the house?
Ext: Moles?
Us: No, voles.
Ext: Never heard of them.

Conversation B:

Us: Hi, I was wondering if you guys can help us out with voles in the house?
Ext: Moles?
Us: No, voles.
Ext: Sorry, those are hard to get rid of, so we don't do voles. They don't take the usual mouse bait. Good luck.

Conversation C:

Us: Hi, I was wondering if you guys can help us out with voles in the house?
Ext: Moles?
Us: No, voles.
Ext: You don't have voles, you have mice.
Us: No, we're certain they are not mice. They don't look like mice and the don't take mouse bait.
Ext: Oh. Well, not sure what they are then. Try mouse bait. (!)

And my favorite - we've had this one a few times:

Us: Hi, I was wondering if you guys can help us out with voles in the house?
Ext: Moles?
Us: No, voles.
Ext: They don't come into houses.
Us: Well, they're here, so what can we do?
Ext: Are you sure they are voles?
Us: Yes, we are sure. Very sure. Can you help?
Ext: Sorry, did you say moles or voles?
Us:.............................!

I promise I didn't swear at any of these guys. At least not while on the phone with them. 
...

Well, after many attempts at glue traps (and mouse bait - we tried to prove Google wrong about voles not taking mouse bait, but alas, Google knows better), many sightings and jumping at small noises and an evening of scrambling, squealing (mostly mine), some furniture rearranging (we had to move the dishwasher out) and an escape attempt that nearly succeeded, we are down one vole in the household. And I am, in fact, not delusional. I even have a picture to prove it:


My darling husband drove the vole to a far away location as neither of us could bear to actually kill it - although it may yet die from stress after being chased around by us for a good 45 minutes.
Now we wait to see if the rest of its vole friends show up. that's right. This round goes to Tom, not Jerry.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Piano Recital

S has been asking for piano lessons for over a year, so when a spot opened up with an amazing teacher in our area, we finally said ok. He started in September and the first recital was a couple of weeks ago. Given his recent history of panicked shyness in front of crowds, I was worried he would have an awful time, but he did so well. He was first, went right up, played his song (a duet with his teacher), took a bow and came back to us. I was so proud of him. Unfortunately, I was also woozy from surgery earlier that day, so I completely forgot that my camera has a video function. I did get the chance to record the song at his lesson the following week, though. Phew.



(I should probably also mention that for this recital the students and the teacher all dressed up in their Halloween costumes, lest anyone wonders if the surgery also caused me to think it was ok to send my son to his recital in his PJs...)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Disney Conspiracy, Part II

The day before yesterday I was considering my lunch options in the kitchen when an unidentifiable rodent skittered across my kitchen floor, navigated my glue traps (which I had suffered severe pangs of conscience over) and disappeared. Yesterday, my amazing father-in-law spent a couple of hours closing off what we think was one of the rodent entry points (of course conveniently located under our dishwasher; making access rather difficult. Still, I just spent a good 35 minutes cleaning up mouse/vole droppings from my entire downstairs.
I am left wondering whether the rodent(s) have found their exit route blocked and are running around trying to get out or if these droppings were left between last vacuum and this evening. Since I actually do keep a reasonably clean floor these days, I am putting my money on a rogue rodent loose in the residence. It leaves me with a new found respect for popularly vilified characters like Elmer Fudd and Tom. (From Tom & Jerry).
I think we as a public need to revisit why we perceive rodent hunters as "bad guys." I am beginning to find Tom's mouse hunting methods perfectly acceptable - that mouse had it coming. Would you want it living in your walls, crawling on your tables, eating your cheese? Once again, popular culture is trying to skew our perception of reality - if you are still cheering for the rodents; feel free to have lunch in my kitchen...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hello Gorgeous - and a Danish Lesson

No matter how much I will grumble about my cold toes and frozen nose in a few weeks, there is no way I could live in a world without fall. I love the crispness in the air, the coziness* of darker evenings with warm drinks, the flicker of candles, and of course, the colors.

How could you not love this:





* Coziness is an inadequate word to express what I mean. It is an entirely Danish concept that doesn't translate well and almost needs its own post as an explanation. It is something comfortable and familiar, with no strain or stress to be anything but yourself, to enjoy the moment in its simplicity. The actual word is hygge, difficult to translate and nigh impossible for foreigners to pronounce. It is cuddling under blankets on a cold day, reading books to your children. It is watching Christmas lights sparkle, or candles burn. It is dinner with good friends and laughter (but no worries about whether the meat is too dry or the veggies to crunchy.)
Hygge is the absence of stress, of worry; an oasis in the desert. You wouldn't want to live in the oasis because you would never get through the desert that way, but it sure is wonderful to stop in occasionally on your journey through the sands. The antonym for hygge is uhygge, which translates as horror/ ghastliness/ eeriness/ grimness, etc. It doesn't necessarily mean that the absence of hygge means uhygge; it can also just be the regular every day life, but I think we can all agree that we are in need of a hyggelig (yes, you can even conjugate it - look at that versatility!) fall season with much hygge and no uhygge whatsoever.
And that, my dear readers (both of you) concludes our Danish lesson for the day. Tune in again for more long-winded explanation on a language you will never need to use.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Unhappy Thoughts on a Horrible Subject

First a warning: this is a post on something highly unpleasant and probably not something you want to read today. Or any day. It is in fact not even something I want to write, except for the fact that the thoughts keep bouncing around in my brain and I think forcing them into written form might finally stop the craziness in my head...So here it goes.

Yesterday morning a woman was raped in our neighborhood.
I almost feel like that sentence ought to stand alone for a little while; if it was spoken, it certainly deserved a moment of silence...(And don't say you weren't warned about the subject matter being unpleasant.)

Yesterday morning someone went out for a run, in a safe town, a good neighborhood, on a busy street during commuter hour. And some bastard decided that he would take it upon himself to change this woman's life forever. Right there, in the bushes of someone's front yard, a woman's life was altered in an incomprehensible way.
I don't get it. And I can't quite process it - hence the constant bouncing thoughts that keep me shaken up. It is easier to put unpleasant stories in a box when they are removed from you. When someone gets raped in a big city at 4am in a shady neighborhood, I feel bad and yet somehow I am able to remove the event from my life - why would anyone chose to walk there at 4am anyway? When it happens in foreign countries, it's far away, a different world almost, and my heart aches, but I am not terrified like this.
Less than two miles from our house, in daylight, on a street we frequently walk on, is harder to push away. Which box does that fit in to? So I end up with these questions that have no answers. How could anybody do that to a human being? How does someone recover from something so brutal? How can it be avoided?
That last one brings in a whole new crowd of loud thoughts: Is the house safe enough? Is my running route (so close to hers) safe? Why didn't someone see something and stop it? Why wasn't she able to fight him off? When will they catch the creep - if ever?  And maybe the worst one: What would I do? And there is no real answer, is there? This isn't exactly something you can plan for, like putting your important papers in a fireproof safe or wearing a seat belt in the car. If she couldn't get away, who is to say anyone else could? That I could?
I am scared. And I try to convince myself that this is just like it is with terrorists - we cannot let fear control our lives. So much easier said, than done, that one, though. You see, in the end, bad things do happen to good people.
In an effort to make the panicky thoughts shut up, I've tried writing this out, thinking it through and in the end, the only way I can find any kind of peace in all this is through the scriptures. As I was reading the Book of Mormon, both last night and this morning, somehow the ancient words of people long gone found a way to soothe my soul, to tell me that God knows us and our struggles and He will help us through them. That somehow with His power, we can navigate the evils of the world and still come out ahead. I love this scripture, by a prophet named Jacob, who lived around 550 B.C.:

Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.  (Jacob 3:1)


I like the message that God will console us no matter what we go through. And that justice will be done in the end. No matter what happens here, God won't let the bad guys off the hook. 
Does this help me be less scared? I think so. At least a little. It helps because I feel comforted that God has my back. And that Christ suffered all things - not just our sins, but also our pains and sorrows - so He knows. He is ready to help and comfort and strengthen. 
I think it also helped to write it all down - if anyone is still reading, thanks for the therapy. My apologies if you need therapy now. I did issue a warning.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Conspiracy Theory

There are some conspiracy theories that I cannot - and will never - subscribe to. There are some hat are so ridiculous I will never understand what possesses people who believe in them. Then there are some that could make sense but I am too caught up in raising children and doing laundry to care.
Before I banned all Mel Gibson movies (i.e. before it became public knowledge that he is a nasty piece of work and I drove my husband crazy by refusing to support Gibson's income through watching his movies), I watched "Conspiracy Theory." And it kind of made sense that there are things we as a public are being deceived about to make it easier to run our society/ countries. But I didn't think I would ever be consumed enough to try to "unveil" the truths, that the government/ CIA/ New York City cab drivers are trying to keep from the public.

Until now. I have finally reached a breaking point and I call upon all responsible citizens to unravel the biggest conspiracy of all.  

The Disney Conspiracy.

I've seen the movies. I've been to Disney World. All this time, I never realized how we are being conned and tricked by this massive conglomerate. Oh, I am not speaking of their attempt at convincing all little girls that they need to be rescued by a prince. Or that they need massively expensive "princess-dresses" to be pretty. Or even that getting on a magic carpet with a complete stranger in the middle of the night is a great idea.
No, I am speaking of the rodents that have somehow infiltrated most of Disney's movies and convinced us that they are adorable little creatures. Chip and Dale. Thumper. Ratatouille. Gus-Gus and his croonies. And, of course, Mickey. They sing. They dance.They narrowly escape brutal predators. They teach ice-skating and foraging. They sew and cook. Come on! It is finally  time to stand up to this mob of cuteness and say enough is enough. Or cry uncle. Whichever comes most naturally.

I used to believe in all this sweet fuzziness. Not any longer. Last year, I had dead mice stink up my basement. This summer, chipmunks ate my tomatoes and bulbs. Rabbits ate my flowers. The clincher, however, is the vole(s?) that as recently as this evening shamelessly runs across my lit rooms, probably cackling that it has convinced all exterminators that voles don't actually enter homes. (Or so I have been told by several stumped exterminators.)
Somehow these voles defy all exterminator wisdom, circumvent the steel wool we've plugged holes with, avoid any and all traps and continue to dance across my floors; slowly enough for me to see, but too fast for me to catch.

We've tried traps, screaming, crying, praying, and even calling in reinforcements:
No luck. Not even the cat helped. I've briefly considered that I may just be hallucinating, but I'm fairly certain the creatures are real. Maybe I'll start handing out leaflets to anyone in sight. Because, honestly, I am a few more vole-sightings away from the loony bin.

Are those rodent free, I wonder?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Letters of Malcontent

Dear politicians,
I understand that with elections coming up, you feel the need to barrage me with reasons to vote for you, but even if I could vote, I suspect I would not be inspired by your bitter rants on the radio, your "he-sucks-therefore-I-am-better"-ads on television and the ridiculous amounts of colored fliers with your faces on in my mailbox. The flier I received today was approximately 10x10 on card stock.

Stop wasting our resources and polluting the airwaves. Is there really no better way?!

Sincerely,
A disgusted casualty of political drive-bys.


Dear "Tolerant" People,
I didn't use to care about how you chose to live your lives, but now your outrageously intolerant demands for tolerance have made me care.
I suppose it would be futile to point out that you don't believe in the way I choose to live my life either. That, in fact, you think the choices I am making are misled and even, perhaps, wrong.
Perhaps you could explain to me, why it is acceptable for you to think and even say that I am a fool, that I am small-minded and that I am living a lie, while it is completely unacceptable for me to even insinuate that I don't think your choices will bring you the greatest happiness?

Is it really that crazy to imagine a world where we both agree that we believe the other person to be completely wrong and yet, dare I say it, show tolerance and acceptance towards one another? Not necessarily acceptance of beliefs, but acceptance of human beings?

I don't like your one-way street.

Sincerely,
A disillusioned Believer of True Tolerance.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Rather Blustery Day

A windy storm moved in over our state yesterday and blew around for a good part of today as well. I am normally not crazy about being outdoors when it's windy, but with memories of our recent oppressively humid summer still fresh in my mind, I enjoyed the freshness and the promise of fall in the air.
Since our yard already had thousands of leaves on the ground, we raked for a while this morning. It is a complete exercise in futility at this point, because as soon as we rake one area, the wind blows a new layer of leaves down. To avoid bagging a hundred bags at once in a few weeks, we are trying to keep up, however. At least the leaf-bagging version of Sisyphus comes with the option of leaf pile jumping. And how could you resist such a huge pile of gorgeous, fresh, yellow leaves?!




No, really - who could resist?!


We also went to cheer on S at his soccer game - they won one and lost one, and he made it through the game without any major injuries. There may be a future in La Liga for that one, though - he has the drop to the ground technique down pat. Besides that, he is getting better and better. Is it unmaternal to admit that I was maybe not entirely convinced of his athletic ability before? And that I am pleasantly surprised at his improvement? In any case - I am proud as can be that he keeps trying. (And that he doesn't blame me for the dramatic gene that causes him to drop at the smallest whiff of an injury...yet.)
   

L at a playground by the fields. He was there all of 60 second before he found a girl to chat with. I wonder when I should start locking him up...



Baby S enjoyed the blustery outdoors as well: