Friday, February 29, 2008

Day Off

Illustration by Mary Engelbreit

I asked Chloe (6) why she didn't have to go to school today. "Well," she said, "it's the 29th of February, and usually that's not even a day."

Makes sense to me!

Outside Looking In

My Little Girls 1982

The grass looks pretty green over there!

Walking past Temple Square years ago, we spotted a bride. Like a princess with an entourage, she floated down the steps, paparazzi in tow, enchanting her prince and subjects with beauty and grace. My little girls were mesmerized. "Happily ever after" was happening before their very eyes.

By and by my little girls grew up. They went to the ball and found true love. Each of them has a castle of her own now, but I'm sure they all feel a little like Cinderella before her fairy godmother showed up. The young brides have become housewives and moms, with piles of laundry and stacks of dishes. Peeking though the gate at a dream come true didn't tell the whole story. Life looks different from the inside.

I've peered over a few fences in my time. Usually everything looks neat and tidy. It's easy to envy the neighbors when I just see green grass. I've learned, however, that there are weeds in every one's garden, some crabgrass, and a lot of rocks. The hard work of planting, watering and waiting for growth isn't so noticeable from the outside looking in.

There are different types of people on the other side of the fence. Ms. Doom whines to everyone about the dire condition of her soil, (as if hers is unique, somehow.) Mr. Gloom gets sympathy and pity by pointing out the pile of fertilizer that was dumped in his driveway. Mrs. Sunshine across the street often doesn't get credit for all the fertilizer she's shoveled, because she is busy smelling the flowers.

When I'm outside looking in at what seems to be a fairy tale, I try to remember that it probably is. Things aren't usually as good, or as bad, as they seem. I don't have a lawn anymore, and I never had much of a garden, but I know that grass is always greener from the other side of the fence. I just need to stand over there once in a while to get a better view of mine.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Track! What Track?

Train Tracks 1977

Josh adored trains. We lived close to some railroad tracks and a train chugged past every night at 5 pm, and again at midnight. His nose was smashed against the window pane at the first whistle each evening. Often, when we'd return late after a movie, we'd see two blue eyes sparkling between his white bedroom curtains, waiting for the train.

"Bump to the train tracks!" he'd beg whenever we were in the car. Dee drove across and always backed over them too, so we could get a double dose of the delight provided by the tires jostling over the rails. Saturdays we drove around in search of lights flashing at a train crossing, hoping to count the cars between the engine and the caboose.

I remember one day as we were driving along Dee and I were discussing getting a puppy. I said, "When we train it, we could..." Three-year-old Josh interrupted with an excited "Train! What train?" I laughed and remarked, "Josh, you have a one-track mind!" Whereupon he squealed, "Track! What track?"

I've got a one-track mind, too. We're planning a trip to Austria right now, and we'll be riding a few trains. I'm so excited! It's hard to concentrate on anything else. The maps are out, the books are open, the new shoes are broken in...we don't leave for two weeks, but I'm already in training, hoisting my suitcase over my head ten times a day. It's fun to know there's a switch up ahead, and we'll be going in a new direction for a while.

What track are you on right now?

(Thanks to Annie for featuring me today on Letters to a Parent.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Inspiring Talent

Anna and Brad, York 2006

Regular people have incredible talent.

Sher told me about a photography project called Reflections of Christ. The actual exhibit is in Arizona and sounds amazing. (If you want to read an eyewitness account, link to Heidi's Blog on Sher's sidebar.)

A photographer in Arizona is creating photographs depicting the life of Christ. Click this link
to MabryStudios and scroll down a few entries to the post called Where I've Been. Then click on the arrow for a short video about he recreated the angels announcing the birth of Jesus. The final product is stunning.

This YouTube site has details about how the photographer portrayed Jesus walking on the water, the betrayal by Judas, and other events.

I'm continually astounded by the creativity of others. This project is especially inspiring.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


When little girls don't have big brothers they are wimps.
Anyway, I was.

One second-grade day I was walking home from school, splashing through the slush. We'd had a late April snowstorm that morning and it was already melting. I imagined that the snow on the sidewalk was ice cream, and with a slosh of my boot it became a root beer float.

Suddenly the big boys appeared.

Snowballs were flying in my direction and I started bawling. What 4th grade boy doesn't enjoy chasing a cry-baby? They threatened to wash my face. I was terrified!

I ran down the street, slipping in the mud, sliding on the wet grass in panic. Finally I pushed through my front door while snowballs bombarded the porch.

I immediately heard shattering glass, and then a scream from my mom's bedroom. A misguided snowball had hit her window and shiny splinters covered the surface of the baby's bassinet. Although the dresser had hundreds of minuscule shards of glass embedded in the oak, my two-week old sister slept through it all without a whimper.

I'd never seen my mother so mad! She flew outside and let those big boys have it. No wimpiness in her! She called their parents and they had to mow our lawn all summer to pay for the window.

I wasn't bothered by them again. Which was a shame. In high school they weren't nearly as scary. I wouldn't have minded them chasing me then!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Child's Play

"Oma, did you have any toys when you were little?"

Yes, they had invented toys! When I was six I got a Tiny Tears Doll. She could drink a bottle, wet her pants, open and close her eyes, and she cried real tears.
Her name was Peggy.

I collected Madame Alexander Storybook Dolls.
I had Heidi, Dorothy, Snow White and Scarlet O'Hara,
plus others in costumes from Wales, Holland, Scotland, Ireland and France.
My Grama B. crocheted little clothes for them so I dressed them in pajamas, a blue ice skating dress, a yellow coat and hat, and a variety of pretty outfits.

For Christmas when I was eight I got a Madame Alexander Bride Doll with a pink steamer trunk. I named her Peggy, too. We both got matching clothes made by my mom, including gray poodle skirts with coordinating vests. The poodles were made with pink pom-poms.

I idolized Annie Oakley so my mom created a designer cowgirl outfit in blue denim with white fringe. I had a hat that hung around my neck, white cowboy boots, and a white holster with two cap guns. She couldn't provide me with blond braids.

Mom also made me a hula girl skirt, sewn on the machine out of green crepe paper which she shredded to look like grass. It had a bikini top, and she made leis from crepe paper flowers for my ankles, wrists, head and neck. I loved putting on plays under the carport with my friends. We sold tickets to our parents and performed on the redwood picnic table.

Another costume was an Indian Princess dress, with lots of fringe, and mom embellished the skirt with turquoise beads. She used real feathers to make me a headband! I, of course, had no appreciation for her skills at the time. (I actually hated standing still for the fittings.)

For my 4th grade May Day festival she made me a peasant blouse that sat down on my shoulders in a very sexy way. The full, gathered skirt was made of a flowered fabric and had lots of colorful, layered petticoats underneath. She embroidered flowers on the blouse to match the pattern on the skirt and I wore long streamers attached to a headband, that floated around when I danced.

My grandpa won a giant pink teddy bear for me at the Liberty Park shooting gallery. The bear felt like he was stuffed with sawdust, mixed with shredded newspaper. He made a rustling sound when he was hugged. I imaginatively named him Pinkie. In spite of his name and color, he was definitely a boy. I used to kiss him.

I was very skilled with roller skates that hooked onto my shoes. I got them when I was eight
and wore the key around my neck on a shoelace. The skates could grow with my feet when the screw underneath was loosened.

Nurse Nancy was one of my favorite books. My mom made me an outfit just like hers, with a navy blue cape lined with red. I had a sign on my bedroom door which read
Nurse Marty and Doctor Joey.
(I met Joey in a motel swimming pool in Los Angeles when I was seven. He was an older man of ten. We had a one-day stand. He was my boyfriend for years after that.)

I had my own supply of band aids in my room, and a dishtowel which I knew how to fold into a sling. Luckily my younger siblings enjoyed being patients.

I didn't get a two-wheeler until I was ten. It looked just like this, with a basket on the front, and a bell on the handlebars. There was also a buzzer on the girl-type bar. The low bar was designed so it would be easier to wear dresses, (which I had to wear to school everyday.)

The metal platform on the back had a strap so I could clip my books to it. The wheels were pretty fat, and I endured some teasing. I've never learned to ride a bike with hand brakes, or gears, and I never learned to stop when I rode a boys bike. I couldn't reach to drag my feet with the boys bar in the way, so I just tipped over.

There were only three channels on our TV, and only a couple of kids programs a day. They hadn't invented VCRs or DVDs so there wasn't much to watch. Mickey Mouse Club was on at 5:00 and that was my favorite. I still remember most of the Mouseketeers names.

My mother made my play dough from cornstarch and salt. My dad's shirts came back from the laundry folded with a cardboard picture inside that I could color, and my grandmas had Chinese Checkers and Pick-Up Sticks. There were no voices or musical tones emerging from toys to annoy the adults. I think we learned to do that on our own. It seemed like child's play!

Friday, February 22, 2008


Look, sitting at my computer...
It's a whiz, it's a genius,
Wow! It's SuperPete!

I mentioned that my computer screen was too bright. He told me about properties, and settings, and personal preferences, and then said he'd come over and show me. What a good son.

He arrived with a sack full of stuff, sat down at my desk and gave my little mini mac a complete overhaul. He somehow injected additional oomph--I've got updated iPhoto, new email options, automatic backup--my computer is now faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Finally he showed me the little button sitting right on the front of my monitor that allows me to dim my screen. Duh. I felt like Lois Lane.

Pete's rescued me before, and I'm sure he'll rescue me again. He may look mild-mannered, but this guy is Superman!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

SOS: I Need YOUR Help!

Illustrated by Stephen Gammell

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit another city."
--George Burns

My mom was one of seven kids, eventually producing 23 grandkids altogether. Most of us lived within a few miles of our grandparents. There were huge Sunday afternoon gatherings on Grama's lawn, complete with games of Red Rover, Freeze Tag and No Bears Are Out Tonight. Easter Egg hunts, sleepovers, and Christmas Eve pageants were traditions that included zillions of cousins plus aunts and uncles, who tossed me in the air, and magically pulled quarters from behind my ear.

The tradition of walking to Grama's house didn't get passed down to my family. With kids and grandkids flung far across the country, it's not often that we can all get together.

Last summer one of our out-of-town families came to visit, and half of our clan had a pizza party at their hotel/condo. There were 12 adults and 11 energetic kids under 9. While our enthusiastic kids caught up with each other, and our excited grandkids ran wildly (trying to catch up with each other,) Dee and I sat dazed, each of us bouncing a fussy newborn baby. It was loud and chaotic, and wonderful, and Dee said, "Just think, if they all lived here, we could do this every Sunday!" They don't, so we have to stay connected in other ways.

Since many of you are part of far-flung families, or have observed some, I really want your help. I'm speaking at the BYU Women's Conference in May. My topic is on strengthening family ties using blogs, email, web-sites, etc. If you have a suggestion that I can incorporate, or an idea that would spark other ideas, PLEASE COMMENT! Lurkers, that means you, too!

You don't have to have a blog to leave a comment. It's fine if you want to remain anonymous. If I use your idea, I will give you credit, unless you say not to. Example: "Jane Jones from Timbuktu exchanges knock-knock jokes with her grandkids via email." "Kathy Jones found her long-lost cousin Jane Jones accidentally by linking to her blog." "A friend suggested collecting family recipes and posting them on a family web-site."

In case you haven't got a topic for your own post today, or any day, you could write a response on your site and give me the link. (Two birds with one stone!) Take this opportunity to advertise your blog!

Do you know of another blog that has helped strengthen family ties? I'd love to check it out. If you know of a particular post that applies, please tell me where it is so I can find it.

Recently I heard a woman say to her cousin, "We ought to have a giant week-long reunion." The cousin replied, "Let's not, and say we did." While a big sleepover sounds fun, I'm hoping for ideas on how to plan reunions in cyberspace.

*Another SOS: I used to read a blog by a woman in England who was writing her life story on her site. I have forgotten how to find her. If anybody knows who I'm talking about, please send me her URL. She was a nurse during World War II, and she later became a model...does this sound familiar to any of you?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Icing on the Cake

One day about 25 years ago I made a 3-layer red velvet cake for my son Josh's 10th birthday. It was a beauty, and I tucked it away under the cake keeper until the grandparents and other guests arrived. While the crowd was tuning up to sing "Happy Birthday" I whisked off the cover and there was a bare naked cake. Josh had gotten to it first, and licked off all the frosting!

Grandkids are the icing on the cake. Kids were the eggs, flour, and crisco: necessary ingredients, measured, mixed, (and occasionally beaten.) Their teenage years were the oven. We all got burned a couple of times, and although there were moments they could have caved in, they rose to the occasion. Luckily, the frosting has covered up the little cracks and imperfections of each layer.

The cake and frosting are best together, but when I need a real boost of sweetness, I go for the frosting by itself. Josh taught me that.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Movie Night

Some movies take me back. It's not that I just remember the plot, but I can remember who I saw it with, what I was wearing...the actual experience of watching it. Five movie experiences that stick in my mind are:
  1. The Graduate. The music, the whole feel is so '60's! I wore my tweed sleeveless reversible dress, with the matching coat.
  2. Gone With the Wind. Before the advent of VCR's we just waited for old movies to reappear in the theaters. I had to wait about 4 years after I read the book before this one came back around in 1967. My mom had described it in detail and there was a notice in the paper two months before it opened, so I was excited beyond belief. Sher drove her VW and actually flipped a U-ie on Main Street in a snowstorm when we saw a parking spot. We burst out crying in anticipation when the music started, much to the dismay of the viewers around us. I was sobbing out loud when Scarlet vowed, "I'll never be hungry again!" (I had a poster of Rhett Butler in our college dorm, and after I was married I hung it in my bathroom for lots of years. Yikes!)
  3. West Side Story (I went with a group of 12 and 13-year-old girls and we all bawled loudly during the scene after Tony got shot. Talk about hormonal! It was on a Saturday afternoon at the Southeast Theater in Sugarhouse.)
  4. The Young Philadelphians (I watched this on TV with my mom when I was 18. We both had the Hong Kong flu, but we stayed up until 2:am to see it. My mom loved Paul Newman and I could see why in this movie.)
  5. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (the music, Clint's poncho, stubble and dangling cigarette...c'mon, what's ugly about that? He didn't even have lines! He made my day!)
We watched The Way We Were last night. Was Robert Redford ever cuter? It's a movie that always makes me reflective about the McCarthy Era. I love it when a movie depicts a certain time in history, and pricks my mind, so I want to find out more about it. Five other great movies that do that are:
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird
  2. Remains of the Day
  3. All the President's Men
  4. Good Morning, Viet Nam
  5. The Great Escape
My friend at Sher-endipity posted a great story today about her experiences in 1969, and how she felt about the Viet Nam war. It's an interesting reminder of The Way We Were.

Was there a certain time or experience that opened your eyes to the world, and made you think in a bigger way? Has a movie or book given you insight?

In the category of movies I could watch over and over again:
  1. The Verdict
  2. 84 Charing Cross Road
  3. A Few Good Men
  4. Rebecca
  5. Dead Poet Society
What are your recommendations for movie night?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

Oma Day

My new Oma Kit has clothesline string, clothespins, and some fabric cut in the shape of little clothes. That was our first activity. Then we got out the felt paper doll kit. That lasted a little while, and as I put those away, Lucy asked, "What's our next activity?"

I said, "You can play with your blocks, and I think I'll go to the bathroom."

Chelsea (almost 3) followed me in, and said, "This will be a great activity!"

Lucy (4): Once I was really rude to Chelsea so my Dad had to put my Island Barbie, and my Hello Kitty Radio and my Annabelle Doll on top of the fridge.

Oma: Why? What did you do to Chelsea?

Lucy: I don't remember.

Oma: Did it teach you to be nice to Chelsea?

Lucy: Not very much. Well, maybe it taught me a little bit.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Valentine

Ich bin dein,
Du bist mein.
Das müss du gewiss sein.
Du bist beschlossen im meinem Herzen,
Verloren ist das Schlüssellein.
Drinnen müss du immer sein.

(Jemand verstehen?)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hawley and Adelila Bagley

A letter to Adelila from Hawley, sent in 1919.

I just read a love letter from my grandpa, Hawley, to my grandma, Adelila, written a year before they were engaged.

Valentine's Day, 1918.

My Loving Sweetheart and Little Pet:

I get so used to receiving notes from you everyday, that I was lost when one failed to arrive this morning. Lover, I can't help missing them, but pet, it's now only a little over a week until we will be together again.

Darling, I don't know how I'll act to see you once more. I never supposed a man could miss anyone on earth like I have missed you. Do you get tired of me writing nothing but this same old stuff every time? Lover, I'm afraid you might sometimes, but there is nothing here to write about.

With a whole heart full of love, kisses, and a big squeeze,
I am always your only,

Adelila was 20 years old and teaching school in Lava Hot Springs. She said, "I taught the first through the fourth grades for $60 a month. My sweetheart, Hawley, started law school at the U of U in Salt Lake City, in 1917." He was just 17.

Hawley wrote beautiful love letters during that time, which Adelila saved throughout her life. On the envelopes she wrote the date and a comment whenever she re-read them. After 52 years of marriage Hawley died, February 1, 1973. The envelope for this letter had the inscription:

"Brought me comfort February 13, 1973"

This is what they looked like when I knew them.

Isn't it fun to know that old valentines were once young, and young valentines will someday be old? I love it!

(Little Pet?? Dee and I call each other Dear. What are your sweetheart names?)

Monday, February 11, 2008




Sometimes we just want fluff. We'll save substance for another day.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Just a Kid

I was a young mother, and Amy was about three when she asked, "Did you learn to be a mom in college?"

"No," I said. "I'm just learning it now."

"Well, don't worry about it. You're still young."

Friday, February 8, 2008

Quote on Being a Mom from Julie Beck

The Grandmas Are Coming

I've been out stalking the Grandma Blogs.

Making memories more memorable is one of my major roles as Oma. Luckily, the Baby Boomers are arriving on the grandmother scene faster than whiskers on my chin. Click on the links here for some creative new ideas to entertain and teach any variety of kid: regular, grand or great!

Nina has a post on creating custom Bingo cards. I'm already planning a new Oma Kit with Bingo, wordsearches (using family lore,) and crossword puzzles (the questions will be about the kid's interests, and the answers will be their names.)

Sally, who is also called Oma, mentioned that lots of people don't know vital facts about their grandparents, such as their grandmother's maiden name. This has inspired me to make up a little song set to a familiar tune, with a few basics about Opa and Oma. (Remember how Grandma Kizzie taught her genealogy to Alex Haley? She repeated the stories over and over, and made him recite his family line. That's how he had the info to search for his Roots.)

Here are some suggestions on how to help kids understand basic math concepts, and Children's Book Bag has some fun book reviews.

Nana expresses her feelings about being a grandmother in words and photos, and Nourishing Relationships has insights about, well, nourishing relationships.

With all these great suggestions, I'm ready to roll down my stockings, put on my apron and visit a few grandkids!

Have you got some new sites you'd recommend?