Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Blue Bowls and Banana Bread

Disclaimer: If my posts don't make any sense, it is because my thoughts have also ceased to make any sense.

Josie is hanging out with me tonight. Andrew is working until midnight so I would be otherwise all alone. Mom is working late, Patrick is working late, and Dad is taking a night class (Josie thinks), so she would be otherwise all alone. Instead we're being alone together.

So, we made banana bread. This seems to be something that I make in my house a lot. The reason why is simple. I can't eat bananas fast enough. Really, it's true. I like my bananas before they are fully ripe. They can't be completely green, but if they are all the way yellow I can't stand to eat them. So, I end up freezing a lot of bananas to make into bread. Our freezer is a little bit full, so I figured that I could use up the half dozen bananas that have been accumulating over the winter and turn them into something scrumptious.


First I had to choose a bowl, which was easy. I always use a blue bowl to mix things. I have a big one for making big things, and a small one for mixing small ones. This is a tradition carried over from where I really learned how to cook on my own: Russia.

In Russia, at our "hang out" apartment (aka: head teacher's apartment), we had a blue Tupperware bowl. And a pot. And a lid that didn't fit the pot. And some muffin tins. A can opener that didn't open anything very well at all. 7 plastic plates that matched. 1 glass plate that didn't match anything, and that I later smashed into a billion pieces on a random sidewalk (oops!). Random utensils. Some cups. And that was about it. Perhaps we had a little bit more, as you can see from the picture, but I really am holding the oven door open because it only had one hinge.

My friend, Emily, and I would make all sorts of things in that kitchen. I'm not really sure how because we didn't have a lot to work with and neither one of us had had any experience with gas stoves...Anyway, we used the blue mixing bowl for virtually everything we made. You can see it in the picture. It's on the window sill that served as our one and only cupboard, on the back right-hand side.

When Emily got married, I gave her a blue bowl so that she could still cook. When I got married, she returned the favor and gave me the big blue bowl that Josie is using. And, when we moved to Jordan and left our big blue bowl behind and had nothing in which to mix anything...we went to our nearest Safeway and bought a blue mixing bowl, which I insisted we take home with us (that's our small blue mixing bowl).

*****

After choosing a bowl, I had to choose a recipe to semi-follow, which proved more difficult since I can never remember which recipes I've tried and whether or not I liked them. We finally settled on a recipe and started mixing away. Our recipe didn't call for walnuts, apples, cinnamon, or nutmeg, but we put those ingredients in anyway.

The bread isn't done yet, but Josie tasted the batter. "Ummmm..." she said, "Tastes like bananas." Sarcastically, I replied, "Oh, what a surprise! I wonder why they call it banana bread if it tastes like bananas." To which Josie replied, "You know greasy people? Are they always called Nick?"

I'm trying to teach her Grice's Maxim of Relevance, which is stated rather simply: "Be relevant." Her statement was not relevant. I told her so. "Josie," I said, "I have no idea what you're talking about. That has nothing to do with banana bread."

Apparently, although it had nothing to do with banana bread, it did have something to do with why we call things by certain names, which is kind of what we were talking about, kind of. I guess I brought it up.

"You know," she insisted, although I didn't, "Greasy people. Like...I don't know what to call them, but they're always called Nick."

"I'm going to need a bit more than that. What are "greasy" people?"

She sighed heavily, "I told you! I don't know what to call them. Greasy people. Grecians....greekites...people from Greece."

"Oh," I said, "I don't think they're all named Nick."

"But a lot. In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, all the cousins are named 'Nick' or 'Nicki,' and in lots of other movies, too."

"Sure," I said, "A lot of them are named Nick. I don't know how many, but some are, apparently."

At least that conversation is over. It was a little awkward.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A free vacation...complete with airfare, hotel, and interrogation!

Five months ago, after returning from our Jordan study abroad, I decided to apply for an internship with the NSA - a supposedly two-summer-long internship with a conditional job offer. Sounds great, huh?

After a couple months, I still hadn't heard anything back from them, so I figured I didn't make it. I went on with my life, making plans for the summer. Then we discovered that we'd be having a baby in July. Cool.

Not 3 days after getting the positive pregnancy test result back in November, I got a big white envelope from the NSA, giving me a conditional job offer for the Summer Language Program.

Dilemma!

I wanted the internship, since I need some kind of career pretty soon. I graduate in a year and still don't know what I'm doing with my life. However, my first child was already on its way and would come right in the middle of the internship. We decided to go ahead with the application, just to see what would happen. Nancy and I started researching all our options - finding new national insurance, transferring to Maryland based insurance, finding cheap/free housing in Maryland.

I started by filling out a good 20 pages of background forms, detailing every place I have been and lived for the past 5 years. For normal people this would be easy - for people who don't go on missions and travel to Europe and the Middle East several times. I had to track down the addresses of all my mission apartments in Italy. Luckily I spent several months as an office elder and kept some records of apartment addresses.

I also had to provide 1-2 stateside references for everywhere I've been, plus the names and addresses of every landlord and roommate. The references had to be different for every place, so I had to track down all my old companions' addresses, find our Jordan landlord's address and phone number.

I also had to provide addresses and references for every job I've ever had, plus all that information for my immediate family.

So after countless hours of filling out the long forms, I sent in the forms and waited again. After a month, I figured they rejected me. Maybe I had been to too many places and they decided it'd be too hard to track my past.

A few days later, I got a phone call from the NSA, saying that I had to be in Baltimore from January 21-24 for pre-employment processing. They told me I would have to have a series of interviews, tests, and even a polygraph. It would all be free. Cool! Free airfare from SLC to Baltimore, 3 nights in a $120 room at Holiday Inn with $18.99 to spend on dinner every night at their fancy restaurant. Free lunch at the NSA cafeteria. Cool!

So, on Sunday afternoon I flew out there. It was an adventurous flight. Baltimore and the entire DC area got hit with the biggest snow storm of the winter - half an inch. It delayed every flight at the airport and canceled all the schools on Monday. After landing, we had to sit in the plane for an hour, waiting for any plane to leave any terminal, but the massive amounts of snow stopped everything. After finally getting off the plane, I had to wait for another hour for my suitcase to come through. Not fun. I then got on the free shuttle to the Holiday Inn and checked in.

Check-in was an interesting process. When they called me a few months ago, they told me to call myself by a code name to get the free plane and hotel reservations - I'll call it XYZ for security purposes here. So, I got to the front desk and in a hushed voice told the lady "I'm an XYZ applicant. What do I do?" She smiled and checked me in, giving me a paper that said "Welcome XYZ applicant!" again hiding the fact that I was with the NSA. Later in that paper, though, it gave directions to the NSA compound. Hmm...the XYZ plan failed there.

For the rest of my stay I had to keep claiming my XYZ status. Before ordering food at the restaurant, I had to tell them. Before taking the bus to the NSA, I had to whisper my status. I probably actually didn't have to whisper it - it's just what everyone else was doing. There were about 10-15 others there, all XYZ applicants, sitting by themselves, whispering the top-secret codeword. It was way cool.

On Monday morning, we all got picked up by some official NSA lady, who started giving us detailed directions. We couldn't figure out if she was testing us, since she said "Here are your instructions for the day - you will hear them once and once only. Get on the bus. Get off the bus. Go through the double glass doors. Turn left. Turn right. Turn right. Approach the desk. Receive your clearance and type your Social Security Number. Turn left. Go through the single glass doors. Turn right, left, left, and right, go outside, turn left, go in the double glass doors. Go through the metal detectors. Turn left, right, go through the turnstile, type the last 4 digits of your SS number, turn left, right, enter the room, and report to the secretary at the desk. Go."

I got on the bus, panicked. I couldn't remember all that!

Luckily some of the other XYZ applicants had already been there for a few days, so I followed them.

I started the day by taking some cool tests. First was the Vord test - a fake Turkic language invented by the NSA to measure language aptitude. They gave me two pages of basic vocabulary and syntax and then a 75 question test, including a section where I had to translate a newspaper article from English to Vord. It was actually a really fun test.

After that, I had to take another test with lots of random topics - math, English usage, logic, pattern finding, spelling, and another fake language, this time Latin based.

While not taking tests, I spent my time sitting the in lobby, reading old issues of the Reader's Digest and Time, while watching Fox News on a big screen TV. They wouldn't change it to CNN. I tried. Ugh.

After that day of testing, I walked back up to the hotel, claimed my XYZ status, ate free food, and went to take a nap. It had been a great, fun day of cool tests. Unfortunately the next day would prove to be the opposite.

After getting on the bus and going through the maze of instructions, I took a psychological test. 360 random phrases that I had to either claim as false, somewhat true, mostly true, and true. Actual questions that I remember:

- I daily consider suicide
- I would like the job of a forest ranger
- I hear voices in my head
- I read the crime reports in the newspaper
- I have a mortal fear of earthquakes
- I think of painful ways of killing myself
- I have back pain
- I usually know what’s going on (with my circle of friends)
- People are out to get me
- Other people can read my thoughts
- I like archery and stamp collecting
- I often feel that I can’t get out of bed
- If someone has their possessions stolen from their unlocked car they had it coming.
- I like/enjoy children
- I want to kill myself

There was also a written form - 10 pages of questions about mental disease in my immediate family, my relationships with them, my drug and alcohol use, and a page of incomplete sentences that I had to finish, such as:

Most men_________
I wish my father would_________
My greatest fear is___________
After getting drunk I______

After finishing the test, making up lame answers for the incomplete sentences (Most men like food...), I went back out the lobby to await the dreaded polygraph.

After an hour of anxious waiting, a clean-cut, ex-army dude came out to get me. He took me back to a small room with a desk and a weird chair. The room had a hidden camera and microphones.

He started by going over the background forms I filled out months before, line by line, without having me hooked up to the polygraph machine. He interrogated me about every place I lived, trying to catch inconsistencies in my story. I didn't mention in my forms the two weeks in Irbid when we first got to Jordan, and when I mentioned it with him, he caught me on it. Luckily it was an accidental omission, so he wasn't mad. He was actually really pleasant the whole time, albeit he never cracked a smile. After 3 hours, we finished going through all the forms.

Then came the crazy part.

He turned my chair so it was at a 90 degree angle from his desk, so I couldn't see him - I had to stare at the door. He then hooked me up to the machine, after intricately describing every part of it - two finger sensors on my right hand, a blood pressure thing on my elevated right arm, two springy things wrapped around my chest to measure my breathing, and a sensor that I had to sit on.

We then had to calibrate the test. I had to lie to him. He asked me if it was Sunday that day. I bravely said "No." It was Tuesday. He then asked if it was Monday. Again I said no. Before he asked if it was Tuesday, I started to panic. I knew I had to lie. I was scared to death. He asked and I said no, while literally shaking in my chair. So, I can't lie. Just ask Nancy. I really can't. So, I guess when I'm forced to, I panic.

After calibrating the machine to my obvious lie (and subsequent panic), he started the test, first asking about counter-intelligence things, mixed with identity questions. It was easy.

Him - "Is your first name Andrew?"
Me - "Yes"
Him - "Have you ever had a secret meeting with a foreign national or foreign intelligence officer with the intent of selling classified information?"
Me - "No" (No sweat. How could I even obtain classified information? Duh! Stupid question)

After 30 minutes of that, I was happy. Polygraphs are easy. I wasn't that nervous. Those were irrelevant questions. He then started the second half of the test - identity questions mixed with personal issue questions, like criminal history, drug use, etc.

Here, for some reason, I started to panic. I knew that this was more relevant, so I was worried that I'd actually mess up and make him think that I use drugs or something. Messing up on the espionage questions didn't matter - he wouldn't believe any positive readings because of the irrelevance. This part, however, was relevant.

He started with some identity questions again:

Him - "Is your last name Heiss?"
Me - (uneasily, for fear of messing up) "Yes"
Him "Have you ever committed a felony or serious misdemeanor?
Me - (expecting another identity question) "Umm...no..."

My body started involuntarily tensing up. I could hear the polygraph printer speeding up, printing my accelerated readings. I had messed up! I'm no criminal! My body went out of control!

He kept going with those questions for another 20 minutes. Every time he asked me the felony question, I panicked because I knew I had messed up the first time.

He then unhooked me and looked at the readings very seriously. He asked me "What does the word 'felony' mean to you?" He then left the room to talk to "his supervisor." I was mortified! He though I was a murderer or rapist! Oh no!

Three minutes later, he came back in, rehooked me up, and asked me the same questions, but he repeated the felony question several times. He then unhooked me and said "You are getting positive readings on that question every time I ask you. You have something on your mind. You did something. Did you know that 50% of rapes and 40% of murders are unsolved because nobody confesses? What's on your mind? Tell me now! (calm, monotonous voice rising) Something would only be on your mind if you did something. What did you do!?"

I panicked. I tried telling him that I didn't do anything - I was anticipating the test, expecting an identity question when he asked me the felony one. He didn't believe me. My positive readings were too consistent for that one question. He left the room again to talk with his supervisor.

I was completely distraught. He though I was a murderer and I couldn't defend myself. I was scared to death! He came back in after another 3 minutes and started raising his voice again. He said that liars don't work for the NSA, that I should come clean to get the least amount of punishment, that I could be prosecuted for holding back information that I had already began to disclose. His icy, deathly stare didn't leave my eyes. I couldn't look away for fear of looking like a liar. I felt like making up a crime just so he would stop mentally attacking me. He left again, very frustrated and angry.

He came back and said that we wouldn't need to do any additional testing and that I was done. His demeanor changed completely. He was extremely pleasant as he escorted me back to the lobby.

I walked back up to the hotel, completely psychologically deranged. 4.5 hours of intense interrogation, 30 minutes of real psychological torture. "He thinks I'm a murderer! I'll never get a job! I'm going to jail!" were some of my thoughts. After hours of mulling it over, I figured that it was all a show. He was attacking me to see how I held up. He was the good cop and the bad cop. He chose one point where he knew I messed up and attacked me. Repeatedly.

It wasn't until the next day that my theory was proven. Another XYZ applicant going for the Arabic program, from Orem and going to school at Georgetown, was there with me and had a similar experience. They drilled him on his Middle Eastern travel to Syria and on his mission to Armenia. During his polygraph, he showed a tiny positive result for the drug question, so his interviewer lady attacked him viciously for half an hour. The experience was similar for everyone else I talked to, including this account from another XYZ applicant a few years ago.

On my last day of interviews, I started with a psychiatric evaluation. I met with a psychologist who analyzed my answers to the long test that I took the day before. Apparently it was an NEOAC Five Factor Model of Personality Test. His diagnosis of me was overall pretty positive, although he wasn't happy with my lame sentence completions. He also said that my self esteem was too high and that I was too confident and too happy, since I never answered true to any of the many suicide questions. Oh well. I guess I'm just a happy guy!

My last interview was with the actual Language Program directors, who gave me the bad news. I probably wouldn't be getting the internship. There were only 8 language internships available for all the critical languages and 4 had already been filled from interns from last summer. All 4 were doing Arabic. That leaves 4 spots for Chinese, Korean, Pashto, Urdu, Farsi, Arabic, and Turkish. They probably aren't taking any Arabic interns, so my chances are dead. They did, however, tell me to apply for a full time position instead, since my chances will be a lot better.

After all that, I made my final trek up to the hotel, took the shuttle to the airport, and flew home.

So, even though no job came out of my tortuous vacation, my dilemma has been solved. I won't have to worry about moving to DC for 3 months and try to find insurance or anything like that. We'll be here all summer. Whew!

Plus I discovered that I'm a felon. Who knew! :)

Heather comes to town

Last night my cousin Heather and her husband Ryan stopped over on their "way" to Texas for their belated wedding reception in his home town. Granted, we are an hour away from the airport, but Heather and I haven't seen each other since her wedding back in September, and we're pretty much inseparable, so an hour wasn't too far out of her way.

She got here at 9:00 pm and we all had macaroni and cheese for dinner while we talked. We then talked until almost midnight (with Heather and I doing most of the talking, of course), at which time Ryan suggested they go to bed since they needed to be at the airport at 7:30 the next morning. Andrew heartily agreed since he had to be to school early. We all know that Heather and I would have stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking since I have no where to be today and Heather wasn't driving and could sleep in the car.

You'll all be happy to know that we listened to our husbands and went to be anyway...but not without some difficulty.

Andrew and I, I think, are still in that newly wed stage. This means that we still only have one bed in our house. I borrowed a foam mattress from my mom so that one person could sleep on that and the other could sleep on our couch. However, Ryan and Heather had their own ideas (they are newly weds) and brought their own inflatable (double) air mattress. So, at quarter to midnight, Ryan spread it out and turned their pump on.

At first, it was going great. It sounded like a pop corn popper and was going strong. 3 minutes later it sounded more like a dieing cat than an pop corn popper and the blob on the floor was not turning into a mattress very fast. "Oh, no," Heather said, "I forgot the charger..."

While I was getting them an extra blanket, Ryan started blowing the mattress up manually. I came back in and Heather and I joked about how he and Andrew should have lots of air left since we did all the talking...

But by now it was past midnight, so I told them that our couch cousins are really comfortable. We vouched for them ourselves and told them one of our most dramatic fights as a couple. We really don't have many and most of them are ridiculous.

One night, at around 2 am, Andrew asked for the water bottle, so I handed it to him. Then I thought it would be kind of funny to squeeze it on him while he was drinking, so I did. And it was funny until he (this part he swears is accidental) held the bottle over my head and squeezed it for like 10 seconds.

I was wet and I was mad and I didn't have my glasses on so I couldn't see and it was dark anyway, so it didn't matter. Andrew jumped out of bed an taunted me, "What are you going to do now? You can't see me!" (That is how I know his "accident" was no accident at all).

It was true! I couldn't get him back. I was at a loss.

He kept taunting me (furthering my belief that it wasn't an accident), "Your side of the bed is all wet, too. Now where are you going to sleep?"

Not only was that not a nice thing to say to your soaking wet wife, but it wasn't the smartest thing to say either because it gave that soaking wet, and raving mad wife a brilliant idea.

Quickly, I unscrewed the lid of the water bottle...

"What are you doing?" asked a panicked Andrew.

...and dumped it on his side of the bed.

"Nothing," I replied, "but, uh, where are you going to sleep?"

He sat down on his side of the bed, confused by what I had said because he didn't think that I had gotten him back...and we both started laughing. His side of the bed was drenched.

We really didn't have anywhere to sleep and by now it's well past 2 am, so we went into the living room, pulled all the cushions off of the couch and made ourselves a little bed.

Heather and Ryan got to do the same thing when they slept over. How fun. Actually, they agreed that it was comfy. Plus, they had a little foam mattress that I borrowed from my parents.

Unfortunately, they didn't have much time in the morning. They flew standby from the Salt Lake Airport so they wanted to get there super early in order to make the soonest flight available. That means that they left at 6:30. That is usually the time Andrew and I get up...but we sacrificed some sleep in order to eat breakfast with them and see them off.

And make a huge fool of myself. I seem to have developed a little thing called "pregnancy brain," a fairly normal ailment of pregnant women. That said, I have developed the habit of being way more ditsy than I used to be. I had been wondering to myself where Ryan had served his mission--now, I knew that I already knew this tidbit of information, but I couldn't remember. He spoke Spanish, served outside the country...I kept picking up little hints through the conversations we were having.

Then Heather mentioned that he "picked up this snap thing from Argentina." It's also the same snap my brother and uncle picked up in Brazil and I imagine that you could pick it up other places, too. Anyway, all the pieces of the puzzle suddenly came together.

I'm proud to say that I thought before I spoke, so this wasn't as embarrassing as it could have been: Oh, you served in Argentina? Wow...your companion did, too! That's so cool!

See, Andrew and I had sat with Ryan's mission companion at the wedding lunch. Obviously we had talked about where he went on his mission considering Mr. Companion just got back...and obviously Ryan served in the same mission as his companion. I just didn't put two and two together until two seconds too late.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What is with the mascots?

Approximately 20 days ago, we went to The Mayan to celebrate Matthew's birthday. And, of course, everyone forgot their cameras. I hereby vow to take interesting pictures of things and put them on my blog. Honestly, it's not like it costs me anything to do it. I have a camera, I have a computer, I should just do it...

Lucky for us, this strange bird called Toucie graced the birthday boy with a complimentary picture of said bird posing with Matthew. Toucie is supposedly a toucan and his or her name should then be said "Too-key" to sound like toucan, however, when I read "Toucie" I want to pronounce it as "two-sea" or even better, "two-chia."

So, here's the picture, finally, now that Matthew is almost 8 years and a month old...

I'm not sure what the grimace is on Matthew's face, but I know that I probably would have been afraid of that bird if it put its arm around me and forced me to smile for a picture when I was only eight years old.

"Toucie" was speaking in an awfully high voice and kept using his/her left arm to hold the top part of his/her beak up so that s/he didn't walk into things and could actually look at the people s/he was talking to. It was a pretty scary mascot, but really, as far as mascots go, it wasn't too bad.

It was fairly new and didn't smell funny...the person inside didn't try to force balloons into childrens' hands and try make their parents pay for them. No, this was a fairly good mascot. But do you know where mascots go when they die?

Jordan. They go to Jordan and they look nappy and smell funny and force balloons into childrens' hands and try to force their parents to pay for them.

See, Matthew, there was nothing to worry about. You could have snuggled up to that mascot without a care in the world. Had you been a little Jordanian child, you would have gotten this left-over thing. Now that's scary!

Catalogues

Lately I have been working all day from 8-5 (what a big girl I am). This is great because, since I am part time, it means that I don't have to go into work tomorrow. This is great because for some reason the kids don't have school tomorrow so I won't feel all bitter when I have to go to school and they don't. That doesn't really make sense since I don't even live at home any more so I wouldn't know that they weren't going to school, and I don't even go to school because I'm just working.

Anyway, work has been quite the "exciting" place the last few days. I've been trying to get the 2007 order in, but it is so trying for me because it is so boring. You see, I order boxes and boxes of...boxes.

That is probably the least exciting thing one could order. Seriously.

I don't mind looking through catalogues at all. When I was younger, we used to look through all the flyers that come in the mail over breakfast, deciding what clothes we like, what toys we want, and what we wish we could purchase at the grocery store.

I can still do that. When I look at a clothing catalogue, I can easily decide whether or not I would wear something and whether or not I would want to spend x-amount of money on said article of clothing. Now that my own family is growing, I can make those same decisions about my husband and children, and it's kind of fun.

I still like to look at toy catalogues, even though I don't play with toys very often. It's just interesting to see what is out there.

Looking at furniture can be fun, too. I can pretend that I have a lot of money and am in the process of redecorating my entire house, both of which are not true...but I can choose what furniture I would choose if I happened to currently be in those circumstances.

And I really do look through the flyers from grocery stores and decide what to buy, and then buy it.

But boxes? I mean, there really isn't anything thrilling about finding the best deal on a...box. They do try to make it sound exciting though, here is a tag line for a pamphlet box:

Hinged lid construction protects items from dust, dirt, UV light and air borne pollution. Upright storage design and hinged lid provide easy access and identification of pamphlets, odd sized magazines, periodicals, brochures, etc.

Have you ever read anything more exciting ever? I think not. I mean, this box protects from dust, dirt, UV light and, get this, air borne pollution. It's a great catch, but I think I'll have to go with the exclusive offer: same box, but lined with reinforcing linen tape! Wahoo!

This particular box is "an elegant alternative to standard blue/grey or tan document cases...." Unfortunately we want our collection to match so we're sticking with the blue/grey boxes that are so plain and boring that they aren't really even sure what color they are.

The best thing about this whole process is that when our shipment finally gets here, the boxes will be packed in boxes and we will get to unpack and count them. Taking boxes out of boxes just sounds like something from Dr. Seuss, so maybe it really will be exciting.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A long, long time ago

Nothing terribly new or exciting has happened this past week. That is truthfully why we have not added any other pictures or stories to this blog.

I went to the hospital to get blood drawn today...to do some tests for Rh factor, blood type, HIV, Hepatitis C, etc... I am quite sure that I'll be fairly normal and/or completely fine in all categories, whichever is applicable.

Oddly enough, when we were finished, we walked back out into the...

Correction: Andrew doesn't like needles. At all. So, when I was finished I walked back out into the waiting room to retrieve Andrew who immediately asked me if I cried. I casually answered, "No," patted his arm, and gathered our things to go (I'm reading The Series of Unfortunate Events finally).

As we were walking out of the hospital, we saw Andrew's dad. We were like, "Whoa!" and he was like, "Whoa!" and we were all like, "Whoa!" And then I remembered, Karen (Andrew's mom) had gone in for carpal tunnel surgery that morning, so that would be why Reid was in the waiting room. He was waiting.

So Andrew and I went to go and wait for Karen in her room. Unfortunately, we had to leave before she got there, but it's the thought that counts, right? So, technically we did visit her in the hospital. And, it's not really that I forgot-forgot that she was having surgery. I chalk it all up to pregnancy brain. I forget things all the time. And then remember them right when it is too late.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I just emailed a lady in our ward to tell her that we would not, in fact, be in church this Sunday and therefore would find it quite difficult, if not impossible to play the organ/conduct the music. (I responded to one of her emails yesterday to say that that would be just fine...oops!)

On Sunday, Andrew is flying to Washington, DC (without me), where he will be (without me) for 3 whole days doing things that he can't even really tell me about. This will be our first separation in 200 days, exactly. I'm not quite sure how I will handle it. I suppose I will find out.

Emily has volunteered to come and sleep at our apartment so that I don't have to stay alone. Josie has volunteered to have me come and sleep in David's room so that I don't have to stay alone. I don't like to be alone and apparently people have picked up on that.

I'm not the only one who doesn't like to be alone for extended periods of time. I remember when Abra was newly married that she had me come and spend the night with her while Billy went on a trip to New York. See, she didn't like to be alone either, so it's not like I'm being wimpy or anything. I would just like to point out how long ago that was...

I've been feeling old lately. Folks, I stayed overnight with my sister like 8 years ago, I think. That's older than Deklan, and just as old as Matthew. There are people alive who are as old as I can remember.

And that is about how boring my week has been. Hopefully something terribly exciting happens while Andrew is gone and then he'll feel terrible about ever leaving me for 3 whole days. You can always at least hope, right?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A family that plays together...

Family togetherness can be a very good thing. It can also be a very stressful thing. It can also be a time to spread germs and illness.

Such was the case on Saturday at Matthew's birthday party. As I pointed out (see point number 3), Rosie got sick at the restaurant before the food even came, so we know it had to just be her or the stomach flu.

It was the stomach flu. Believe me!

The rest of her siblings got sick the next day. The boys threw up for about 6 hours, and the twins for about 24. Sabrina even had to be taken to the hospital and put on an IV because she was so dehydrated.

Josie got sick a while after that. David got sick about 12 hours after Josie. And I got sick about 12 hours after him.

So we all shared. Aren't we nice? We couldn't share balloons, but somehow we managed to pass this little trinket around alright.

So I missed work on Tuesday and slept all day since I spent all of Monday night pretty much on the bathroom floor. I couldn't even hold down water.

I also went home early this afternoon to sleep and am feeling much better.

I just hope that Andrew doesn't get sick! He doesn't have the time to until at least Saturday...even then he has to work, so that might not be too good. I'll just keep hoping he doesn't catch it from me.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Back to school

Another vacation has come and gone and I hardly feel like I got the chance to revel in it, although I must admit that Andrew and I were quite lazy and did pull a lot of late nights and consequential sleep-ins over the last few weeks.

It has been nice. However, school started this morning and leaving the house at 7:20 was made ever so much the worse because of our habit of sleeping in until, heaven forbid, 9:00. Oh, well, I suppose we had to get back to the old grinding stone eventually.

Let's see, after opening our own presents and playing around for a little bit, we spent Christmas Day at Andrew's parents' house. It was really fun, unfortunately, Andrew only snapped one picture while we were there. It's a nice picture of Uncle Matt having a little CT (contemplative time).


Please note the Christmas village in the background. It is quite extensive and stretches nearly the whole length of the room and spills onto the fireplace ledge and beyond.

After a yummy lunch of ham and potatoes, we played games. Andrew's family enjoys UNO of any type. For Christmas we got them UNO Spin, which is a new take on the UNO game. It's quite entertaining. Ironically enough, Karen also bought that game for Christmas...so we now have one at our place. It's fun!

On Boxing Day we took Emily ice skating with a group of her friends. They, including Andrew, were all really impressed that I had my own skates. They kept insisting that I was really good. Now, I know this is not quite truth...and I told them so. As Americans have footballs, Canadians have ice skates. It says absolutely nothing of my skating abilities.

However, I must say that I didn't fall over once. Andrew fell 5 times. I caught some on film. It was classic. Unfortunately, a lot of the pictures are blurry. I suppose that's what happens when you take pictures of moving objects while you're moving.

Sadly, we'll have few of these leisurely days this semester...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

That's bull!

On our way up to Salt Lake yesterday, we were talking about family stories. Josie said, "Tell the story about the bull."

We all stopped talking to look at her with puzzled looks on our faces, except for Andrew who eagerly awaited the story about the bull.

David and I were thinking, "What bull story?" while mom was thinking, "What bowl story?"

Josie clarified, "You know, the story where the bull chases two boys down the street..."

After thinking for a few seconds longer, something in my mind clicked. Bull...bully. Oh, that's it.

"Josie," I said, "I think you're thinking of when a bull-y chased Grandpa and one of his brothers down the wooden side walk. There is no story about a bull."

"Oh," Josie says, "Bull...bully...what's the difference?"

Well, it's kind of a big difference! One creates a mental picture of an angry 1-ton animal, snorting steam through his nose and pawing at the ground while he aims his horns. The other is a mental picture of a mean kid tormenting some smaller kids. That's kind of a big difference in my mind!

The story is that when Grandpa was young, he and his brother would be chased home from school everyday by a bully. Since the sidewalks were made of wood back then, you can imagine the racket they made everyday as they tried to outrun the bully.

Great-Grandpa worked nights in the coal mine and slept during the day, so when his boys would come tearing down the sidewalk, it would disturb his sleep. So, one day he said to his boys, "If you come running down that side walk one more time I'm going to take off my belt and whip you!"

The next day the bully once again started terrorizing the boys and they started running for their lives! As they approached their house, they saw Great-Grandpa in the window, slowly removing his belt.

Both boys decided enough was enough. Grandpa turned around and dove at the bully's feet, knocking him over. As soon as the bully was down, Uncle Clyde jumped on him and started pounding him.

Their troubles were over. They could walk home from school calmly, without ever waking Great-Grandpa up (or receiving a whipping).

Do you see how that story would be a little different if it featured an actual bull?

There's no cake, there's no ice cream. Happy Birthday.

I'm behind, I know. I haven't talked about Christmas or New Year's or anything in between. It doesn't really matter since I don't have many pictures to go along with any of it. Andrew and I continue to forget the camera, even though we do intend on bringing it with us when we leave for places. But, as Andrew pointed out, there isn't a whole lot to take pictures of at his parent's house since his siblings just aren't as cute as my nieces and nephews, more specifically, the twins. There is just something about taking a picture of a baby that taking a picture of a 16-year old just doesn't do for the camera.

Well, yesterday we all (we being me, Andrew, mom, Josie, Patrick, David, and Grandma and Grandpa L.) all went to the Mayan in Salt Lake to help celebrate Matthew's 8th birthday. I would like to place an emphasis on the "help celebrate" part. It was the most tiring meal of my life.

The Mayan, for those of you who don't know, is really a pretty cool restaurant. It kind of reminded me of Disney Land, at least the ambiance of it. Their railings were "bamboo" kind of like in the Indiana Jones ride and on the Tarzan tree house. I'm sure they have those same railings elsewhere in Disney Land.

The rest of the building (three stories, I might point out) is decorated in fake trees, colorful parrots (also fake), and big cliffs (made of the Styrofoam/cement combo rocks). The feature attraction of the restaurant are the cliff divers. They are hired to climb up the big "cliffs" (using the stairs so conveniently located right on the cliffs) up to the top and then they do these fantastic dives into the water. It's pretty cool.

The Mayan thus smells a lot like chlorine, but not the "pool smell" of chlorine. No, this has the strange smell of Pirates of the Caribbean or Splash Mountain. I think it might be because the chlorine smell is so infused with the smell of food.

Anyway, the meal was interesting. We chased around the boys and tried to keep the twins happy. I'm sure our waitress (oh, and management, too) was all too happy when we finally got all packed up to go.

A few things that happened:

1) Little Andrew got "lost" in the men's bathroom (he was hiding) so when Big Andrew found him, he ran out of the elevator and a chase throughout the entire building (involving all 3 floors) ensued.
2) When Matthew joined into the cop and robbers game, Big Andrew was then (by either of the two culprits) kicked, bit, smashed in the elevator door and...I will stop there.
3) Rosie got sick and threw up, thankfully in the bathroom. She felt sick before we got there and since we didn't get her food until right before we left (because someone forgot about it), I'm sure it wasn't the food that made her ill.
4) Little Andrew stole Josie's helium balloon and made her cry.
5) Matthew and Little Andrew had a hay day with helium balloons and quickly consumed all the helium in the balloons and spoke funny for a very long time. I think they ate more helium than food that afternoon.
6) Big Andrew took Little Andrew and Matthew to the washroom and there was only one stall (who designed this place, really?) so Little Andrew got in there first. Matthew was mad and started climbing up the urinal to try to get at Little Andrew. Big Andrew was trying to stop Matthew while holding the door shut for Little Andrew. Somehow Matthew got past Big Andrew and the door, pulled Little Andrew off the toilet and started pounding on him. While they are rolling around on the bathroom floor, two teenage boys walk in, step over the boys and do their business. Big Andrew may or may not have pulled some of his hair out and banged his head up against the wall.
7) Olivia and Sabrina both required diaper changes at the same time. Sabrina managed to leak through her diaper, tights, and pants. We dried the pants on the railing, but Kelli just put her tights in a paper towel...which somehow ended up going missing. We think it got thrown away.
8) The twins, true to babyhood, threw rice and french fries all over the place. All over the place.
9) The waitress brought out the birthday cake about 6 or 7 times before we were finally all there. See, sometimes grown ups were gone changing the twins or trying to find AWOL children. Sometimes the children were gone (with supervision) for a closer look at the divers. Sometimes...well, anyway, we finally got the cake and sang happy birthday and it was throughly embarrassing for everyone (not just Matthew).
10) As we were getting ready to go, Little Andrew threw a major temper tantrum causing the tables next to us to scoot away. I think it took us about 20 minutes to get out of the building.

All in all, I think it was a memorable experience. I'm not sure it is one that I would willingly repeat, but it was...an experience.

Perhaps I'm going to be a mean mom, but I would have thrown in the towel a whole lot sooner. One twin was half naked, Rosie was throwing up, and the boys were being hooligans. I would have said, "There's no cake, there's no ice cream. Happy Birthday. Get in the car, we're leaving."

My sister can be a lot more patient than I can.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Resolutions

I've been thinking about how I want to improve myself this year. Sometimes critiquing myself gets a little depressing because I really have a lot of faults, but I've given a lot of thought on some goals that I could have for this coming year.

1) Read the Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith manual for this year.

I'm usually pretty good about personal scripture study but I will admit that I rarely read the lesson in the manual before I go to church. I think that by keeping up with the study guides for both Sunday School and Relief Society I will be able to better participate in class discussions, and will benefit more from my personal study.

2) Do yoga (almost) everyday.

I've already started on this. Andrew got me some great new videos for Christmas--some of them have only 20 minute workouts which is nice because that's about how long Rachel can entertain herself for, if I'm lucky. This will help me become more flexible and will help me release my stress.

3) Finish some of the projects I have sitting on back burners.

Like that Jordan book I've been working on forever. That project just needs to get finished. I have a few other books taking up space on my computer that I need to finish as well.

4) Get on a better daily schedule with Rachel.

I'm hoping that yoga and more dedicated scripture study will help with this. I don't really have the excuse of "I just had a baby..." for my messy house and sleeping in. Rachel and I both need to get up in the morning when Daddy does and that will mean, in turn, that we'll have to go to bed earlier which will make us all healthy, wealthy, and wise.

5) Work on Harman for an hour a day...on average....five days a week.

That shouldn't be too much to ask, and yet I just put it off and put it off and put it off until the week is over and I've done hardly anything. Maybe I need to make myself a star chart.

We'll see how long I can handle those goals for. I also need to figure out how to get my house in order. It's atrocious right now, but that might be the Christmas decorations calling out to me. Our Christmas tree takes up half our living room--I'm sure our house will feel much cleaner once all that's put away!