Friday, December 31, 2010

The Seventh Day of Christmas

I'm in the process of giving you twelve days of laughs at my expense.  Generous, aren't I?  Well, I can afford to be this generous, thanks to all the ridiculous situations I've got myself into over the last 34 years.  Carry on!

Today, I'm going to repeat part of a previous post, because the following embarrassing moments are just too good not to share again.   You can read the full post here, if you'd like.

Two Embarrassing Moments: Doctor's Office Edition

#1.  Lily was our most prenatally photographed baby.  Every time we went to see the perinatologist, they took lots and lots of pictures.  When I was pregnant with the other babies, we'd always made a big deal about letting the siblings come along to an appointment, especially if it was an ultrasound.  We were more cautious about that with Lily, considering the circumstances 

Then one week, I decided to take all three siblings along with me; the baby had been moving a lot, I wasn't scheduled to have extra tests at that appointment, and it seemed like a good day to let them tag along.  (Ignorance can be soooo bliss.)  Unfortunately, we ended up waiting in the waiting room for over an hour--first time I'd ever had to wait more than 10 minutes at this particular office.  I hadn't brought toys or snacks, since it was supposed to be a "quick" appointment.  We were finally escorted to the exam room, where we waited an additional 30 minutes.  

If you have children, you can imagine how things were at this point.  The children were all over the place....over the table, under the sink, inside the bathroom, outside the bathroom, around the expensive 3-D ultrasound machine.  The classic, never-to-be-forgotten moment of that appointment was when I realized Justone was staring, completely transfixed, at the back of the bathroom door.  

"Mom, what is this?" he asked in a tone of hushed wonder.  

"This" was the very helpful poster demonstrating how to do a monthly self breast exam.   I somehow found the fortitude to explain what a monthly breast exam was to my six year old son and his equally curious sisters.  

Thus, I became the only woman on the planet whose six year old son reminds her to do her monthly breast exam.

#2.  Superkid was just over a year old when she and Justone and I went to see her gastroenterologist.  We had a long wait, which never bodes well for the rest of the appointment.  When the doctor came in, I had several concerns that I needed him to address about Sariah's g-tube feedings, comfort, etc.  I even had a video for him to watch so that he could see a behavior we were concerned about.  It was going to be a long appointment.

Superkid was cranky and tired.   Justone was cranky and bored.  The doctor and his assistant were very patient.  They tried to address my concerns over the ever-increasing din of attention-seeking children.  

Justone proceeded to become cranky and bored and hungry.  He was showing me that he was ready to leave in every way that a four-year-old can.  I wasn't done talking to the doctor.  So Justone grabbed my shirttail, and tugged it as he walked towards the door, whining, "Mom, let's GO!"  

The shirt I was wearing was one of those vintage-western types, with mother-of-pearl snaps up the front.....which quickly and easily popped undone at the first tug.  All of them.  Every stinkin' one of them.  And, since Justone was walking away--the hem of my shirtail in his hand--my shirt walked away with him.  

AAAAAA!  I'm still blushing!  The two doctors blushed, too, stammered unintelligibly, and quickly excused themselves from the room.  

Was it a coincidence that we soon moved across the country?  I think not!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Newsletter

I was quite proud of this year's Christmas card.  Updated picture, nice scenery in the background, fun design, no Disney characters--a great improvement over last year.  Since it is one of the few times in any given year that I get to put my English degree to good use, I have a big thing about our newsletter.  I spend more time on the dang newsletter than I spend shopping for all of our Christmas gifts combined.  It is a sickness.

Naturally, I feel compelled to share this year's literary accomplishment on my blog.  Partly because I just found a stack of Christmas cards and newsletters that inexplicably did not make it out to the mail.  Here's hoping you got yours....and if you didn't.....well, here's the electronic version.

Best and Worst of 2010
Holland's Family Edition

Best Family Vacation Moments: night fishing off the houseboat with cousins, climbing Mt. Timpanogas, hiking in Logan Canyon with cousins, learning how much our dog loves to travel, discovering St. Louis's City Museum, laughing our heads off at Pickleville Playhouse, building sandcastles at Bear Lake.
Worst Family Vacation Moments: realizing the houseboat was built by Hobbits, discovering the climb to Mt. Timpanogas was a bit more treacherous than Dad remembered, losing Endeavor's shoes at Snowbird, watching tornadoes touch down as our minivan was pelted with hailstones, searching for the cap gun Justone wanted all over the western U.S. then finding it at our local Cracker Barrel.
Best Purchase: Bionic Man picked up a battery operated lawn mower to tide us over when our 36” lawnmower needed repairs. Turns out, the new mower is light enough that Justone and Endeavor can use it, and they became our summertime lawn care specialists. (Funny, Bionic Man hasn't felt much pressure to get the old mower up and running again.)
Worst Purchase: the harmonica Justone bought when he was supposed to be Christmas shopping for his sisters. Enough said.
Best Adjustment: Endeavor, Justone, and Superkid all went to different schools this year. Endeavor is a 6th grader in middle school (yes, you read that right), Justone goes to an accelerated learning program at another school, and Superkid is in first grade at our new local elementary school. Despite all the changes, they have enjoyed their new surroundings, made new friends, and are doing well in school.
Worst Adjustment: Ruth's not quite ready to have the children at school all day, every day. She never knew grocery shopping could be so quick....or so boring.
Best Surprise: Superkid's cardiologist said her “ticker” was working so well, she didn't need to see him again for a whole year!
Worst Surprise: Ruth told the hairstylist she wanted to go “back to her root color” and came home with startlingly dark hair. Much, much darker than she ever remembered having.....after the initial shock wore off, the rest of the family decided they would love her anyway.
Best Days of the Year: Sundays when Dad didn't have meetings.
Worst Day of the Year: Fall Daylight Savings. Ruth changed the clocks before going to bed. Bionic Man got up in the morning, and thought the clocks were still an hour ahead. He was an hour late to his first meeting!
Best Performance(s): Endeavor ran cross-country for her middle school team this year, improving her personal record by more than 6 minutes! Bionic Man set a new personal record at the Indianapolis Half Marathon. Superkid won a huge prize package for perfected attendance in the month of May (the only month she didn't miss any school, ironically). Justone used things he found around the house to make an animated diorama for a school report, all by himself.
Worst Performance: after a summer spent safely hiking in “real “ mountains, Ruth slipped and sprained her elbow while walking with the children along a stream our neighborhood.
Best New Skills: Superkid learned to read, Endeavor is learning to play the violin, Bionic Man is taking guitar lessons, Justone knows how to fix the van door when it gets stuck (a skill Mom really appreciates), Ruth taught herself how to make slipcovers, and Hunter the Dog can roll over on command!
Worst New Skill: see “Worst Purchase”.
Best: having family members and friends all over the country who mean so much to us! We are blessed to have many wonderful people who show us love and set good examples for us in the way they live.
Worst: wishing that time and distance wouldn't prevent us from spending more time with those we love.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of You!
Love from Ruth, The Bionic Man, Endeavor (11), Justone (10 very soon), and Superkid (7)

The Sixth Day of Christmas

Happy Anniversary, to the Bionic Man and I!  As of 1 P.M. today, we've been married for 13 years.  Good for us!

Today's sharing of an embarrassing moment, like yesterday's, will commemorate the fact that 13 years ago, I became a wife.

The New Mr. and Mrs. Bionic Man
The Providence Inn, Providence, Utah

The Bionic Man and I were each in our last year of college when we got married.  Naturally, we enjoyed running into each other on campus while we were dating and engaged.  When possible, we tried to take classes together.  This was difficult--if not impossible--since he was majoring in Engineering and I was majoring in English.  But true love always finds a way....we signed up for a religion class together the semester before our wedding.

Our religion instructor, Brother Clark, took great delight in the fact that several of his students were engaged to be married.  He seemed to enjoy teasing the Bionic Man and I, and one other couple, about our upcoming nuptials.  The semester ended, and I didn't give Brother Clark a second thought, because I was too busy thinking about getting married to think about silly Brother Clark.

Until the morning after my wedding day.
Amazingly, the Bionic Man had been able to avoid all of the typical wedding moments that might cause a few blushes.  We had a gingerbread temple instead of a cake, so there was no cake smashing.  I thought the whole garter business was useless and degrading, so I didn't even put one on, effectively avoiding that humiliating display of....whatever.  (I still think it is an idiotic tradition, can you tell?)  And the Bionic Man was clever enough to hide our getaway vehicle really well, so aside from a little silly string, we had nothing to make us blush with that, either.  Off we went to our suite at a local bed and breakfast, to spend the night before we left to honeymoon in a warmer climate.

Since we had to leave the honeymoon suite early, to get to our next destination, we decided to forego breakfast in bed and went down to the dining room.

And who--who?--who would be the first person I saw upon exiting the bridal suite?

Brother Clark, that's who.

Apparently, he and his wife had just spent the night at the very same bed and breakfast.  And what did he do when he saw the Bionic Man enter the dining room, hand-in-hand?

He stood up, and said in his big, hearty voice, "Well, if it isn't Bionic Man and Ruth!  Aren't you two supposed to be getting married sometime soon?"  He winked at the other diners as he grinned at us.

"Yesterday," the Bionic Man mumbled nervously,  "We got married yesterday."

"What's that?"  Brother Clark asked jovially, putting a hand to his ear.  "Did you say you got married JUST YESTERDAY?"

Every eye in the room was on us now, and the room was full of quiet laughter as we blushed furiously under the scrutiny.

"My goodness!"  Brother Clark exclaimed, grinning wickedly.  "That must mean you are on your honeymoon!"  He pulled out a chair from his table, offering it with a sweeping gesture.  "Please, join us for breakfast!  I'm sure you're hungry."  More winking.

"Um, no thanks!" The Bionic Man quickly replied.  "We'll just sit over here!"  (In the far corner of the room.)

Happy Anniversary, Bionic Man!  It still seems like JUST YESTERDAY.

Like this?  You can find the other embarrassingly funny days of my Christmas here:

I'm linking up this post to The Idea Room.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Big news:  tomorrow will mark the 13th anniversary of the day the Bionic Man and I were married!  How about that?  So, in keeping with my promise to share 12 Days of Embarrassing Moments, it seems only fitting that I should share one from my wedding day, right?

Don't worry, this is a family friendly blog!  This embarrassing moment happened before the ceremony.

Child Bride
I admit, I was a fairly young bride.  I was just three-and-a-half months shy of my 22nd birthday when the Bionic Man and I got married.  In other words, I was 21.

The morning of my wedding day, I went to the neighborhood beauty salon to have my hair styled by Cindy, who had been cutting my hair since I was a little tyke.  Cindy put my hair in rollers and sent me to sit under the hair dryer for a while, as she put curlers in another lady's hair and gave that lady's husband a haircut.  The lady was under the dryer herself, and her husband had plopped down to wait in a nearby chair with the Reader's Digest when Cindy began styling my hair into a wedding-worthy updo.

As the elaborate hairstyle took shape, the older gentleman put down his Reader's Digest and watched Cindy work for a few moments.  Then he smiled congenially and asked, "Well, what are you gettin' all gussied up for, little lady?"

"Ruthie is getting married, today," Cindy answered for me.

"Married!" the man hooted, slapping his Reader's Digest against his knee.  "Married?  Why, you can't be more'n twelve years old!"

I blushed furiously while Cindy reassured her customer that I was old enough to get married.  I was horrified to think that I'd been mistaken for a pre-teen on my wedding day.

Looking back, though, can you blame the guy?  It's just a good thing he didn't have a chance to see my fifteen-year-old groom.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Fourth Day of Christmas

If you are late for the party, I'm sharing some of my most memorable moments of abject humiliation for each of the twelve days following Christmas.  I am subjecting you to this because, um, I'm hoping it will make your days merry and bright?  It's therapeutic to share?  Who knows?

Today's tale of embarrassment takes me back to high school.

I Just Have to Get This Off My Chest

I was a sophomore in high school.  There were two boys at my school that I was crushing on.  One, like me, was a sophomore.  The other was a junior who was on the tennis team.  I planned my route from class to class with them in mind, hoping to get a sighting of at least one of them to tide my teenage heart over until the next class ended.

Looking back, I have to believe that if even 25% more of my teenage brain had been dedicated to more academic pursuits, I could be practicing nuclear law right now.

Anywho, Mrs. Johnson's third period Modern World Civilizations class was ideally situated for Boy Crush Sightings.  The junior had a locker nearby.  The sophomore had his fourth period class just across the hall.  It was my favorite time of day.

One day, we'd just finished a huge test in Modern World Civilizations.  I'd studied for it for days, crammed for it during the early morning hours.  I finished the last of the essay questions just before the ending bell rang, handing over my test to Mrs. Johnson.  My friends and I filed out of the classroom, heaving sighs of relief that we'd been able to get through the exam.

At that time in my life, I tended to speak in superlatives.  A couple of my friends teased me about being their Anne of Green Gables.  Let's just say I was slightly dramatic in my conversation.  (Imagine that.)  So, in my eagerness to express my gratitude at having completed a difficult test, I turned to my group of girlfriends with a flourish, intending to say, "Well, that is a load off my brow!"

Very Anne-esque, eh?  Unfortunately, what actually came out of my mouth, clear as a bell, was,

"Well, that is a load off my bra!"

For some inexplicable reason, my expression of relief was uttered at the exact instant that there was a momentary lull in the normal between-classes hallway noise.  So it wasn't just my friends who heard my odd little mis-spoken exclamation.  I clapped a hand over my mouth, blushing furiously, as my friends eyes widened and they began to giggle.  Whirling around, prepared to make a run for the stairway, I ran smack into BOTH my Junior Crush and my Sophomore Crush.

Yep.  To this day, I still cringe when I think about it. 

Guess what, though?  Later on, my sophomore crush was my senior prom date.  He gave me a wrist corsage. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Third Day of Christmas

Here is another example of my goofy nature to bring you holiday cheer.

A Not-So-Silent Scream

The college careers of my older brother and I overlapped.  Bill wasn't just my big brother, he was one of my best friends.  Sometimes we would meet up on campus and eat lunch together, either just us or with some of our friends.  Bill even showed me one of the best-kept secrets of our campus.

The conference center.
I don't know if it was the mirrored exterior helping it blend into its surroundings, but our fellow students seemed to hardly even know that the conference center existed.  The building was used only for special events and academic/professional conferences, not classes.  So, perhaps most students hadn't had the opportunity to discover this hidden gem right in the center of our campus.

Lucky for me, Bill knew all about it.  Most days, the conferenced center was unlocked but abandoned, providing a very quiet, clean, and comfortable environment in which to study between classes.  Due to the nature of the building, the furniture in its lounge areas was newer and more upscale than anyplace else on campus.  And there was one other perk, besides the quiet and the comfy chairs.

Free food.

When a conference was in session, the lounge areas had tables of snacks, beverages, and even meals available for the attendees between workshops.  So, if you were there anyway quietly studying, no one stopped you from cleaning up after the conference participants left their snacks behind and went back into their workshops.  Bill and I considered cleaning up the leftovers a service that benefited the student employees of Campus Food Services.

One fine day, I was sitting in my favorite corner of the conference center, minding my own business.  A meeting of The Utah Society for Professional Economists was in progress behind closed doors.  A Campus Food Service student employee was quietly refreshing the lemonade and cookies on a nearby table.   Finals were approaching, and I was wading through Shakespeare's Hamlet, looking for hidden motifs.  Alas, the previous night of merriment befell me, and my head didst droop, so heavy were my leaden eyes.

(That's Shakespeare for "I fell asleep.")

Now, there is something about me you need to know if you are going to understand the rest of this story:  I talk in my sleep.  Sometimes I even yell or sing in my sleep;  particularly when I haven't been getting adequate rest, or I'm sleeping in an unfamiliar place.  All it takes is a really vivid dream, and I start talking.

There I was, drooped over a thick volume of Shakespeare, asleep in the conference center, dreaming of Hamlet.  He was chasing me, carrying the horrible skull of Yorick.  The prince of Denmark's eyes were wild and bloodshot, and I ran from him, crying and tripping over the headstones as he reached for me.  I tried to call for help, but I could not make a sound!  Gasping, I stumbled, my hair tangling into the leafless branches of a gnarled tree.  Hamlet's hand was reaching, reaching, and I knew my only hope was to scream for help, so I took a deep breath and
which woke me up.

It must have been a real blood-curdler, because the first thing of which I was conscious was that my throat felt dry and scratchy.  So I turned my head, thinking of the lemonade, towards the food tables, just to see if the Campus Food Services student employee was still there.

She was not.

The members of The Utah Society for Professional Economists were there, instead.  All fifty-two of them.  There they stood, quiet and staring, some with slack jaws or a cookie held frozen in mid-air.  Shocked.  Awed.  Stupefied.

I considered my options, as I surveyed the scene before me.  I had too many books to gather up, preventing the desirable hasty exit.  Trying to explain to Professional Economists that I'd just escaped the murderous grasp of Hamlet didn't seem like it would be the right thing to do, either.  So, I just smiled sweetly at the conference goers and turned in my comfy armchair so that my back was to them.  And continued to read Hamlet.  With my eyelids propped open.

Friends, as The Bard wrote, "The memory be green." 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Second Day of Christmas

I'm celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas with a sleigh ride down memory lane, laughing (and blushing) all the way!

Grammar Star
Several years ago, I was part of a committee that put together a Christmas party for our church congregation's women's group, the Relief Society.  Besides the dinner, the decorations, and a program, our committee decided to make Christmas gifts for each of the women who attended the party.  

One of the committee members came up with a Christmas decor item we could make, which involved a black-line festive image on a background of gold and silver leaf, framed.  Somehow I got roped into re-creating and simplifying the chosen image so that it could be transferred onto the metallic backgrounds.  I was given a deadline to submit the modified image to another committee member, who would then take it and make dozens of copies that would be used in the making of our gifts.

On the day of the deadline, I had completed the black line drawing of Mary and Joseph approaching Bethlehem with a star shining brightly above them.  I was quite proud of it as an artistic achievement, considering it had been a long time since high school art.  

The image was supposed to have a line of text above it, reading, "A star led the way."  After finishing the drawing, I had used my computer to write the text in several different fonts, planning to print out the options in the appropriate size, and give them to my fellow committee member.  I thought she could decide which version of the text she'd like to use.  

There was only one problem.  My printer was experiencing technical difficulties.  I messed around with it for a while, then gave up, realizing my deadline was nigh.  Instead, I used my most artistic hand-writing before running out the door to quickly inscribe the chosen message, "A star led the way".  I delivered the completed drawing, and suggested to the other woman that she should use her computer to print out a computerized version of the text, and paste it on top of my handwritten version before she made copies of the image.

"Oh, absolutely not," she exclaimed at my suggestion.  "This is just exactly what I wanted.  Your handwriting is beautiful!  I'm just leaving it as it is, perfect."

Leaving the image behind, I was oddly uncomfortable.  Something about my just didn't seem right.  I shook it off, rationalizing that since I hadn't been able to get my printer to work, I should just live with it.  

On the night of the party, the gifts were complete.  As I helped decorate, I kept passing the table where the now gold-leafed images awaited their recipients, sparkling in their new frames.  The other committee members oohed and aahed over the lovely gifts we were going to give to our guests.  I just couldn't put my finger on it, but something about those pictures still bothered me.  It had to be the handwriting, I reasoned.  I really would have preferred the more finished look of printed text.

Several days after the party, I was on the phone with a friend who had been there.  She complimented the food, the decor, the program, the music, and then she said, "Everything was just lovely.  Except the gifts.  I just don't know what to do with mine.  I mean, I'm sure someone put a lot of time and effort into making them--not to mention the expense of the gold leafing--but really, how can I put it up in my home when it looks like it was written on by someone who doesn't speak English very well?" 

My eyes, now very large, focused on the small frame sitting on my mantle.  A simple line drawing of Mary and Joseph approaching Bethlehem, a star shining brightly above the walls of the city.  And, written above:

A star lead the way 

Not "led".  "Lead".

No wonder I hadn't been comfortable with the final product.  It wasn't my handwriting, it was my spelling!  My grammar!  My syntax!  My glaring mistreatment of the English language!  

The English major in me died a thousand shamefaced deaths that day.

Now, perhaps this could have served as a momentary dose of humility, which would be nice.  But no, it has become yearly pride smack-down.  Because, guess what?  Apparently not everyone who attended the Relief Society Christmas Party that year noticed my error.  Or cared about it, if they did.  Invariably, sometime after Thanksgiving, that darn gold-leafed picture shows up somewhere.  I walk into someone's home, and it is there.  It gets put in creche displays at our church.  It will be used as a display on a classroom table, when someone gives a lesson before Christmas.  

I cringe each and every time I see it.  

And too this day, if I have to use the words "led" or "lead" in a sentence--particularly if I have to write that sentence--my left eye begins to twitch.

Forget the figgy pudding, thanks to my grammatical faux pas, I get to eat humble pie every Christmas for the rest of my life.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

First Day of Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Did you know that the twelve days of Christmas don't start before Christmas, but after?  They are the twelve days beginning with Christmas Day that lead up to Epiphany (January 5th), or Three Kings' Day.  When we lived in Germany, it was one long celebration.  How fun is that?

For the next twelve days, I thought I'd do something wacky to celebrate, inspired by my big sister, Lynne'.  The other day, when Lynne' and I were talking on the phone, she mentioned that my niece was going to her high school Christmas Dance that evening, with a date.  That reminded me of the time I'd gone to the very same Christmas Dance, and Lynne' and I had a good laugh over it.  Lynne' told me it was thing led to another......and I've now decided to give you twelve days of laughs at my expense.  In other words, I'm going to be sharing some of my all-time favorite (?!?!?) embarrassing moments.  Twelve of them.

Cinderella and Her Teddy Bear Pajamas

Today's story requires a little background information.  My parents lived in one school district, but my father was a high school math and physics teacher in another school district.  After sending me to the schools within the local district through middle school, my parents grew disenchanted with some of the district policies.  They talked me into transferring out of the local school to the high school where my father taught.  Though shy and quiet through the primary grades, the move to a new school forced me out of my shell quite a bit, and I became considerably less shy and quiet.  One may say I even blossomed--academically and socially--in my new environment.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school.  I was busy with student government, show choir, the school musical, and AP classes.  Christmas was approaching, as were the local high school dances.  Despite the fact that I now attended Logan High, I still had friends at Sky View High.  So I wasn't completely shocked when I received an invitation to attend Sky View's Christmas Ball from one of the neighborhood boys.

On the contrary, I viewed it as a personal coup.  This was my big chance: to show former classmates who had known me as a geeky, shy girl with glasses and braces and funny hair the "new me."  The cooler version of me, without the glasses, braces, and funny hair.  It was like my own, personal Cinderella story: nerdy girl shows up at the ball totally transformed, to the astonishment of her [former junior high] peers!

Soon after extending his invitation, my date explained to me that we would all be wearing pajamas to this dance.  Christmas pajamas.  "How fun!" I replied to this information, thinking that this was a creative twist on the traditional Christmas Ball.  Kudos to the student government, for coming up with such a fresh idea!  My mother was so relieved she didn't have to come up with a dress for me, that she volunteered to buy my Christmas jammies.

Now, in the days prior to the Christmas Ball, I am not sure why it didn't occur to me to ask any of the girls in my neighborhood if they had picked out their pajamas for the Christmas Ball.  I guess I was too busy with term papers and practicing my jazz hands for the show choir's Christmas performance.  In fact, I was so busy that not only did I not discuss what I planned to wear with anyone, I let my mom pick out those pajamas without any input from me whatsoever.

They were flannel, with teddy bears wearing Santa hats, holding gifts and candy canes.  Absolutely, unquestionably Christmas pajamas, and since that was the whole theme of the Christmas Ball, I felt it should be embraced.  Right?

The night of the Sky View Christmas Ball arrived.  My date came to the door, full of Christmas spirit and festively wearing his Christmas pajamas.  (A red and white striped flannel nightshirt.)  Off we went, with with two other couples (also wearing their Christmas pajamas), dashing through the snow, laughing all the way.

And I laughed, all right.  Right up until the second course of dinner, which we were eating at my date's home.  I nearly choked upon my bite of chicken cordon bleu when one of the other girls said, "We all look, like, so totally awesome.  Everyone at the dance is just going to, like, die when we walk in wearing pajamas!"

"I know!" her date guffawed.  "People at our school are such dweebs.  They totally don't know how to have, like, a good time.  We're going to be having so much more fun than they are having, in, like, suits and ties and dresses."

The other couple high-fived each other.  "Yeah, baby!  We're doing this!  We're totally going to show them!" they chortled gleefully.

I paled, realizing that we were going to be the only six people at the Sky View Christmas Ball wearing pajamas.  My Cinderella dreams were ashes.  I was wearing teddy bear flannel Christmas pajamas to a semi-formal high school dance.

Fairy Godmother?  Fairy Godmother?  

If it was an entrance I wanted, I certainly got it.  I'm sure everyone at the ball knew that Ruthie was back.  In pajamas.  

I don't think any one can comprehend the magnitude of my mortification unless they have been seventeen.  And thought they were cool.  At least cooler than they were when they were thirteen and wore thick glasses and headgear and a sweatshirt decorated with animals wearing braces and headgear.  If you don't fit that description, you just can't comprehend the utter humiliation.  

I wanted to make my escape well before the stroke of midnight, but that wasn't possible.  My date seemed to be having the time of his life in that candy-cane striped nightshirt.  Luckily, I hadn't won a supporting role in the musical based upon my good looks alone.  I put on a good act.  I danced.  I said hello to all my old classmates.  I acted like I was delighted to  be crashing their dance in my teddy bear pajamas.  But I was less than delighted.  

I think eventually, maybe five or ten years later, I forgave my date.  I'm sure he meant well.  If my vanity had not been so mortally wounded, I probably would have been able to enjoy myself that night.  Instead, it became the stuff of legends, something my great-grandchildren will laugh over: the night Grandma wore pajamas to the ball.

The End

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Holland

From our house to yours....
May you have a very merry Christmas.
May you have the spirit of Christ in your heart and home.
May the new year be full of joy and success.

Details on this year's super easy card:
(Much better than last year, don't you think?)

Photo by: the Bionic Man's sister, *Kris
*FYI, this is what she calls a "snapshot" from our family reunion.
Kris's "real" portraits are truly amazing, like this.
Location:  Beside the Bear Lake Ranch House, Ovid, Idaho
Card design by: ME!  (I used Picnik, my favorite.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Have no Formula for Winning the Race

Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.  ~Walter Elliott

Last week, Superkid and I spent a day visiting with doctors.  Superkid had three specialists that we needed to have follow-up visits with, and somehow I was able to fit all three appointments into the same day.  It was a long day for both of us, shuttling between two downtown clinics at two different hospitals, with a couple of loooong waits in various waiting rooms.  No tests--which was nice--but a long day, nevertheless.  

Our follow-ups were with immunology, neurology, and genetics/metabolism.  Immunology was completely unproductive in that the battery of tests they had done provided no answers to why Superkid gets pneumonia so frequently, but productive in that the tests did show that Superkid has a healthy immune system, so we can cross immunology off the list of specialties that follow her.  The neurologist had some additional tricks up her sleeve to help combat Superkid's migraines, and I feel like we're seeing some improvement with those.  And genetics/metabolism was, like always, a full semester of advanced bio-chemistry fit into a single hour: extremely intense and very educational.

Can I just tell you that I am deeply grateful for Dr. Hainline, our metabolic specialist?  The man is my hero.  He never fails to have answers for problems with Superkid that have troubled me for years.  Dr. Hainline's answers don't always make the problems easier to deal with, but they give me something to hang on to, something to use, and sometimes even something to blame.  I am absolutely certain that one of the greater purposes of our Lily's brief life was to introduce us to Dr. Hainline.  

Case in point:  the immunologist we met with earlier that day was not exactly sensitive or sympathetic.  Also, I'm pretty certain he wasn't big on reading patient charts before walking into exam rooms, either.  His use of the phrases, "We've just wasted $2500 of lab work to prove to you your child is normal" and, "Go home and be thankful your child is healthy," were proof of that.  

After a very different meeting with Dr. Hainline, in which he had answers to all of my concerns, I drove away in my mini-van and cried.  I knew, without a doubt, that had it not been for Lily, who introduced us to Dr. Hainline, that I would be taking Superkid to specialist after specialist, looking for answers, and getting both sympathetic and unsympathetic responses that amounted to, "We don't know."

It overwhelms me.  Not just the recognition of how Lily's time with our family continues to have meaning and impact.  But also the recognition of how much love and sacrifice must have gone into Lily's decision to come to earth in such an imperfect body.

I need to take a deep breath and go get some tissues.  I'll be right back.

Okay.  So, I'm gradually learning more about the implications of metabolic disorders, particularly mitochondrial disease, which is what they suspect Superkid has in a mild form. I'm finding it much more difficult to educate myself about mitochondrial disease than it was to educate myself about congenital heart disease--for one thing, mitochondrial disease is so new and the various ways it presents itself are so different; there is no road map.  I'm also finding it much harder to discuss Superkid's mitochondrial disease with people.  As difficult as it is to discuss the possibility of future heart surgeries with others, at least we know what that future is and what it entails: we've done heart surgery,  so have a lot of other families;  it's very serious, but it is understandable.  I don't know what to say about mitochondrial disease, on the other hand; not only do I barely understand what it is, but I have absolutely no idea what a future with mitochondrial disease holds.  It's taking me much longer to adjust to this diagnosis and learn how to deal with it than it took when we learned about CHD's.  

I guess that is why I started this post with some thoughts on running races.  This is no short sprint I am running, as a mother.  I'm pretty sure it is a marathon and I've already lost a couple of toenails.  Then again, perhaps I'm not the one running this, but the one being pushed, Team Hoyt style.  For I have to admit, I'm not naturally inclined to accomplish the things that I have, thanks to the strength and well-timed nudges of my children.  And when I look at it that way, how can I not be grateful that they are willing to let me accompany them?


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Stuff and Things

This morning, after I'd asked him for the third time to take care of his "stuff" that was in the family room, Justone informed me that one if his teachers does not allow the children in her classroom to use the words "stuff" or "thing".  (Apparently, precision in language is extremely important to her.)  Aloud, I responded with a thoughtful, "Hmmmm," to this information, but inwardly, I had to wonder:

"What kind of lengthy word lists would I have to verbalize if I needed to eliminate the words "stuff" and "things" from my vocabulary?

Some examples:

"Bionic Man, when you come home tonight, we need to talk about some things  which one of us is going to attend the middle school orchestra concert while the other one attends den meeting, whether or not we should sign Justone up for hockey, and figure out if we have finished our Christmas shopping."

"Superkid, I'm about to vacuum in here.  Will you please pick up Hunter's stuff shredded blanket, chew toy, unstuffed Snoopy dog, chewed up yogurt container, chewed up paper cup, chewed up tissue, Snoopy stuffing, and favorite washcloth?"

"Justone, what is this thing wadded up collection of lint that smells strongly of old peanut butter and sweaty gym socks in the back of your closet?"

Obviously, less is more.  All mothers in favor of keeping the words "stuff" and "thing" in their vocabulary, cast your vote now.  And then we can all go do some stuff about another thing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Shopping Tip

Admittedly, you could have put this tip to better use a couple of weeks ago.  Just put it in your file for next year, m'kay?

The Bionic Man and I have perfected the art of Black Friday shopping.  In other words, we don't go shopping on Black Friday.  Instead, we have found a much less stressful means of getting Black Friday deals without the early hours, the crowds, and the occasional fist fight (among other shoppers, not ourselves).  For some of you, this may sound strange, but I freely admit that I do not enjoy shopping.  If I could get away with doing it all online, in my pajamas, I totally would.  So, when the Bionic Man and I figured out a way to not shop on Black Friday but still walk away with the items we wanted for Black Friday prices, we felt like we'd struck gold.

This is how we do it:

1) Approximately a week before Thanksgiving, we contact the stores in our area that we think we'll be shopping at, and get a verbal confirmation of their price-guarantee policy/price-matching policy/returns policy.  We are looking for stores that will do this:  refund the money we've spent on an item if it goes on sale after we purchase it.  There are a number of retail shops that will do this, but you need to check the fine print very carefully if you are going to take advantage of this.  Usually, there is a time limit for doing this: 14 days, 7 days, or 48 hours from the date of purchase are common limits.  We also check on what we have to do to get the additional discount.  Generally speaking, you are required to bring in the receipt during the sale.  I like to get the name of the employee I talked to, when I do this over the phone, just in case.

2) We make a list of those stores, and list the requirements they have for honoring sale prices on previously purchased merchandise.  And we check it twice.  In my area, Target, Old Navy, and Sears have 14 day price matching policies.  

3) We start scoping out the internet.  Leaked info on Black Friday sales is widely available on the internet, even before the official publications of store Black Friday sale ads.  So, we go looking for the ads for the stores that have price matching policies.

4) Once we find ads for the stores we're interested in, we make a list of items that they have that we'd like to buy.  We don't just write down "Legos", either.  If the Black Friday ad says, "430 piece deluxe Lego Creator set", that's what we write down.  It pays to be specific.  It also pays to take note of the times when these items go on sale for Black Friday.  Are they doorbusters, or part of a day long sale?  This is important info.

5) After creating our list, we go shopping for the items that we're looking for....BEFORE Black Friday.  Long before.  Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, is when you'll find the Bionic Man and I out doing our anti-Black Friday shopping.  This is probably the only time we EVER use a credit card, because we generally have to spend 30-50% more on these items than we will when they are on sale.  

6) Then we enjoy Thanksgiving.  And we sleep in on Black Friday.  

7) At about 9 o'clock in the morning, on Black Friday, one of us heads back to the stores where we purchased items, walks up to the quiet, line-free customer service desk, and gets money refunded for all of the items we bought that went on sale.  It takes about 5-10 minutes per store.  (Although Sears took longer this year, they no longer have a dedicated customer service area, so I had to wait in line with everyone else.  Waaa.)


This method has worked extremely well for us for the past 3 years.  Here are a couple of things that we've learned along the way:

- Target is by far the easiest store to work with for price matching; they'll even do it if you bought the item at another Target location.  Wal-mart is by far the worst store to work with for price matching.  I won't go into details, but after last Black Friday, I quit shopping at Wal-mart FOREVER (I'd been looking for a good excuse anyway.)

- Having trouble finding advertised Black Friday items prior to the big day?  Some stores take items off the shelf prior to Black Friday.  Others (like Wal-Mart) have what seem to be the items on their shelves you are looking for pre-Black Friday, but put out slightly different products for the actual sale.  An example: last year Wal-Mart was selling TomTom GPS systems on Black Friday for a crazy low price.  What we discovered was that the items on the shelves before Black Friday had a model number like this: A2009-XS....but the Black Friday doorbuster item was model number A2009-X.  I kid you not, Wal-mart gets these brands to manufacture lower-quality, less expensive items for its Black Friday sale.  Sneaky, eh?

- Knowing that there are usually really fantastic sales on electronics, we tend to save up for those during the year and wait for the Black Friday sales.  Keep in mind that the other really good day for sales is the day after Christmas, so you can try this method then, as well.

Good luck with your holiday shopping!

Monday, December 6, 2010

She's With Me

Recently, my friend Heidi introduced me to Collin Raye's song, "She's With Me".  I've been a long-time Collin Raye fan, but hadn't heard this song.  He wrote the song to share his feelings about his sweet little granddaughter, who is featured in the video, below.  I suggest that if you are going to listen and watch, you do so with a box of tissues.  (If you are following through Reader, click here to watch.)

Of course, I couldn't help but think about our Lily as I watched this.  What a beautiful and poignant illustration of what an honor and blessing it is to be the parent (or grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc.) of an exceptional child.  Though our time on earth with Lily was brief, I am so grateful for the piece of heaven she turned our home into while she was with us.  I'm thankful for the unconditional love that she gave us.  I'm deeply appreciative of the lessons Lily taught us while she was with us, and for the powerful influence her life and her example have had on our family and so many others.

This also calls to mind all of the families who still have their miracle child with them, and continue to struggle every day to meet the needs of those children.  Though frequently rewarding, it is never easy.  Please keep them in your prayers.  If you feel like you can do more than pray, here are some organizations that will accept monetary donations to help children and their families who have special medical needs.  There are many others, but I chose to list the ones that have impacted our family.

Despite the teary-eyed post, I wish you much joy as you prepare for Christmas in the coming weeks.  May your celebration of the birth of our Savior bring you closer to Him and to the ones you love!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Home on the Range

The Bionic Man did a very nice, award-winning husband type of thing right before Thanksgiving.  Two words:

New Stove

Yep, the Bionic Man suggested that we get the stove we've been meaning to get BEFORE I cooked Thanksgiving dinner.  Before I tell you the story of how this came to be, allow me to introduce you to my new friend, Julia.  (Her namesake?  Julia Child, of course!)
Just for the purpose of comparison, let's view a picture of the old stove (nameless, I only name things I like) and bid it a polite farewell:
Technically, there was really nothing wrong with the old stove.  It just never performed like the stove I had in our Connecticut Cottage.  It also didn't match the rest of the appliances in the kitchen.  (Note the white microwave.)  When we moved into our current home, literally every appliance was a different color: white, bisque, black, and stainless steel, to be exact.  The Bionic Man, bless his heart, can't stand inconsistency.  So, along with replacing all the household doorknobs and light fixtures so that they would all be the same type of metallic finish (oil rubbed bronze), he planned to replace the kitchen appliances, too.  Appliances cost more than doorknobs, so we replaced them as they wore out or when we had money saved up.  Appliances do not, unfortuanately, come in oil rubbed bronze (at least, not in our price range), so we have gradually replaced the old kitchen appliances with new, white appliances.  After five years, this stove was all that was left.

We started stove shopping last spring, when we had to replace the broken microwave.  I didn't have a clear direction, other than it had to be white (of course), it had to have a glass top (I don't do coils), and I thought it would be super fun to have two ovens.  

After shopping at our favorite bargain appliance source, the Sears Scratch 'n Dent, I discovered that even scratched and dented glass top stoves with two ovens were going for over $1000.  Then, I had to think to myself, "How often do I need two ovens?"  My answer was, "Maybe twice in the five years since I've lived in this house.  And even then, I found a way around it."  So, the list of requirements was shortened to two requirements: white, glass top.

We had a busy summer, and I really don't bake very much in the summer, anyway, so we kind of forgot about the stove.  Every so often, the Bionic Man or I would take a look at Craigslist, looking for white glass topped stoves.  You see, the microwave and stove we had in our Connecticut Cottage were used.  We found them in the for sale ads of the local paper.  (Connecticut friends, can I hear an AMEN for The Reminder?)  Someone was getting rid of them to make way for a kitchen remodel.  I swear, that sweet convection-capable oven had never even been used, and we got the set for $225.  A steal.  

Well, I'm not sure if he was trying to reward me for the fantastic kitchen transformation I made with the new paint, or if it was the paint fumes themselves, but the Bionic Man woke up three days before Thanksgiving and decided that his wife should have a new stove for Thanksgiving.  He immediately began to go through Craigslist with fine-tooth comb, and called me from work to let me know he was taking me stove shopping that very evening.  

What the Bionic Man had discovered, on Craigslist, was that there was a little mom & pop shop downtown that sold remanufactured appliances.  The word remanufactured doesn't scare me.  My kitchenaid mixer, that I love dearly (his name is Mike) was remanufactured.  I'm down with that.  So, off I went with the Bionic Man to bring home a new (to us) stove for Thanksgiving.  

At first, we had some difficulty finding the address as it was listed on Craigslist.  It wasn't in a part of the city that we were familiar with.  In fact, it was what you might call The Wrong Side of Town.  The very wrong side.  But we didn't let that stop us, if a deal could be found!  After driving around a little, getting a feel for the local flavor, we saw a fading sign that said, "Appliances  Furniture  Mattresses  Water Heaters".  Thinking that must be our destination, we parked the Sienna and marched in.  Inside, we were greeted by a guy who never mentioned his name, but I'm guessing goes by "Meaty."  Meaty grunted when we asked about glass top stoves, and told us they'd all been sold earlier in the day, but he had plenty of stereos, if we were interested in those.  

Uh huh.  We hustled back out to the Sienna.  At this point, I should probably mention that the Bionic Man's father, Duane, had accompanied us on this little adventure.  Welcome to Indiana, Duane!  I'm sure that by this point, he was thinking that his son and daughter-in-law were out of their minds, and who would raise their children?  We drove down the street a little further, with the Bionic Man wondering why they didn't tell him the stove was already gone when he'd called.  Duane asked casually, "Are you sure we went to the right address?"

I replied, "C'mon, how many of these little remanufactured appliance shops can there be around here?"

Apparently, more than the one, because just down the street we saw a sign:  Lady J's Appliance.  Words can't do Lady J's justice.  You have to see a picture.  Not knowing that this adventure was going to be blog-worthy, I hadn't brought my camera with me, so Google Satellite is going to have to do the honors.  (In hindsight, it was probably a blessing I hadn't brought the camera.  I'm not sure if Lady J would have taken kindly to me asking her to pose in front of her store.)  
When I say the Bionic Man and I will do almost anything to get a good deal, I'm not kidding, am I?  We actually got out of the Sienna and went inside Lady J's, in search of a white glass top stove.  Lady J herself, cigarette dangling from her wrinkled, red lips informed us that "uh, yeah, the glass top sold earlier today."  But she did have some real nice stereos, if we were interested in those.  

There was a door off to the side of Lady J's fine establishment with writing on it.  This is exactly what was written, in black permanent marker:

pLEasE kNOCk FirST

Just for future reference, I think it is good practice to be cautious of doors marked this way.  Especially considering the use of quotation marks.  "REST ROOM" as in: it may or may not be a restroom?  this is what we call our restroom, but it has no toilet or sink, only a drain?  this could be a restroom or it could be the entrance to our meth lab?  

Needless to say, I didn't investigate the quoted claims any further, nor did we purchase anything from Lady J's.  The Bionic Man said, after we were safely several blocks away, "I don't think I could bring anything home from that place without sending it away for complete fumigation, first.  How do we know those stoves weren't being used in a meth lab?"  (Or, for that matter, a "Rest Room".)  He considered these possibilities for a moment, with a shudder, then turned to me and said, "How about we go take a look at the Sears Scratch 'n Dent store?"

That was where I met Julia.  White, glass top, five burners, and fully equipped for traditional or convectional baking/roasting, she's even more than I was hoping for.  Admittedly, her price wasn't quite as low as Lady J's remanufactured "stoves", but she was still a bargain with no visible flaws and a price 60% off of retail.  We packed her up, brought her home, plugged her in, and she proceded to bake some of the best pies in the history of my kitchen, not too mention the rolls, ham, and pumpkin bread pudding.

The moral of my story:  it never hurts to shop around for a bargain, but you gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em, if  you know what I mean.  

And a question:  do you think that the Bionic Man took me to Meaty's and Lady J's first on purpose, and only pretended that the trip to the Scratch 'n Dent store was a spur of the moment idea?  I'm beginning to wonder.....I really am.
P.S.  If anyone in the midwest is looking for a black and bisque glass top range in fairly good condition for under $200, email me: triptoholland (at) gmail (dot) com.