Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hello there friend,

How are you? 
I'll bet you are busy. 
Have you finished your shopping?

Nah, I'm in big trouble over here. And now it's too late to shop online, so I'm going to have to go into a real store.

The rain? No, I love it. Keep it coming.

Yeah. I think Joey's got a sinus infection. We are going to the doctor this afternoon. We will probably pick up something new and frightful while we are there. 

What? Don't judge me for not taking him yesterday. I was at Anthropologie with my Mom and Sister. It was cold and wet. It felt a little like we were in New York. But then, we didn't go to Bendel's afterward, or get tea at the Four Seasons. But we did make Mom sit in the backseat with the shopping bags, like we were in a cab. So that was nice.

Oh yeah? You saw me over on Kari's blog? And our pies? We had a pumpkin pie throwdown and Kari won, because her's wasn't a fiasco. They both tasted good, though. I just need to roll my crust thicker, and remember that I cannot fill the food processor with hot liquids and turn it on high.

Well, I wish I could take you to the QT and buy you hot chocolate today. Because you are a kind, attractive, talented and smart lady. We would fill our cups halfway with cocoa, leaving lots of room for whipped cream. I would get three shots of hazelnut. You'd take yours with a little powdered creamer. 

But sadly,  I can't. I need to go bathe my baby, because he smells like boogers.

I hope you have a really nice day, though.
You deserve it.



Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Basis Schools

So I took a gander at my blog stats the other day, and I noticed that many people came here looking for Basis Chandler. This might be because in that post, I actually had information to share, and put important, googlable words in the post title, instead of my usual inside jokes with myself, and my whiny nonsensical wanderings, talking about tasty food and the resulting tight trousers. I'm not planning to change anything. I have a responsibility to my loyal readership (in the double digits daily, thank you all for coming!) to stay true to my self-involved self.

But still, sometimes I could say something. I'm sure you won't mind.

I read this article about Basis Schools published online yesterday. In it, Global Search for Education blogger C.M. Rubin interviews Basis founder Michael Block.

Two of my kids started attending Basis Chandler in August. I knew it was opening, and that the other Basis schools have long waiting lists, so I thought, if we want to try it, here's our shot. I talked to the kids, read them some articles, told them there would be homework and stiff competition. Jane was in at lockers for 5th graders. Ross was worried it would cut into his Mythbusters and SuperScribblenauts time.

So here we are, 4 months along.

What do we like?

You know, this is surprising, but the thing I am most impressed with is that Basis has given my kids responsibility for their own education, and my kids have taken it! With so many classes and teachers, I knew I wouldn't be able to remind them to take their math homework to school, study for the big test, or bug them about the paper due on Monday. I can look in their planners (required to be detailed and up-to-date, and checked at school) to see what is going on, but the kids are in charge. They are still learning to organize themselves and their time, but I am amazed at how well they are doing.

I like that they have awards assemblies at each grading period, giving awards to kids with average grades above 90%, another award to kids in the top 15% of their classes, and another award to the top 5% of the class. In the first grading period, Ross and Jane both got star balloons for being in the '90s club', and in the second, Ross barely made the cut off for the top 15% with an average of 96% (competition is stiff!), but Jane let her Latin grade slip, so she came home balloonless and bereft this time. (She is a smart girl, I'm not worried).

I like that my fair-skinned children are a minority. I grew up attending magnet schools in Los Angeles, and I think making friends from different cultures is a great education in itself.

I like that the teachers are hired based on subject expertise, and not on whether they have teaching credentials. (I spent 2 years in elementary education classes, and I sort of think that teaching teachers to teach is a waste of time.) Ross' physics teacher was an engineer at Intel for 20 years.

I like the curriculum. These people are not messing around with the math and science. For example, Ross is taking chemistry, biology and physics, plus pre-algebra, English,  history, rhetoric, art, and his favorite class (although he talks too much and ends up washing desks after school), Spanish. Jane takes two years of Latin before she chooses her language in 7th grade (Spanish, French, or Mandarin).

I like the amount of homework. Both kids average less than an hour a day, and they do it without being prompted by me. I find this flabbergasting. And wonderful.

What don't we like?

I don't like that school is twenty minutes away. I get lots of help with driving (thanks Jake and April!), but twice a day is about all we can do, so the kids haven't really been able to join any after school activities yet. Ross was interested in fencing and ping pong, Jane in musical theater. Maybe if we can find two clubs on the same day?

I don't like that they don't go to school with the neighborhood and Church kids. And I know our neighborhood schools are good, so it makes me wonder if I'm nuts to be driving so far. Our neighborhood high school is one of the best in the state. I figure, at that point they are welcome switch if they want! But in the meantime, Jane's best school friend lives in Ahwatukee, which makes getting together outside school a rough business.

I don't like that they don't have Seminary. They will have to attend an A hour program at a different school, but there are very few LDS kids at Basis, so I suppose it makes sense.

Mostly, though, I'm thrilled with Basis so far.

Now, if only they would build one on my block!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Going to my happy place: a post about gelato

Reasons one might need to go to her happy place:

1. She is getting a pap smear
2. Her kids are being super horrible, and she needs something to do while she locks herself in the bathroom and hides from them, but she has forgotten her iPad.
3. She has been dilated 9.5 centimeters for like 45 minutes and she forgot to get an epidural.
4. Sacrament meeting has run too long.

My happy place used to be a cabana chair on the beach at the Ritz Cancun, a book in one hand, a Coca Lite in the other, and nice waiters bringing me $20 bowls of guacamole all the day long. (That's where I was during the aforementioned natural labor*).

But now I've got a new happy place. And thanks to Jake, and his surreptitious photo-taking, I can share it with you:

An intimate moment in Venice between me and my panna cotta gelato.

I don't know exactly what panna cotta gelato is, but it includes caramel, and Venice knows how to do it right. Orvieto doesn't.

The deliciousness of Italian gelato cannot be overstated. It is so good, we ate it three times a day. At least.

We got the best gelato in Venice at La Boutique del Gelato (next to the Hotel Bruno, and somewhere in the maze between St. Mark's Square and the Rialto Bridge). I mean, I can't be certain it was the best in Venice, because we only tried like 15 others. (There is an unconfirmed rumor that Jen may have had 9 scoops of gelato, from three different vendors, plus some hot chocolate, all in one 40 minutes period. The stuff of legends). But best or not, it was remarkably good. It was rough, because maps and GPS were almost useless in Venice, and our legs grew very tired, but we managed to find it three different times. I'd recommend the coconut, the pistachio, and a double scoop of nocciola (hazelnut) with chocolate. The best was the grapefruit sorbet. I can't explain to you why it was the best. But it was so good I might have cried a little.

Honorable mention in the sorbet competition goes to the strawberry at Gelateria Carroze, in Florence, right on the Arno, between the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi. You probly won't hate the coconut, either.

And the Tartufo gelato at Tre Scalini in Rome's Piazza Navona was nice, too, in case you were thinking Rome's gelato can't measure up.

Where is your happy place? 
Is there ice cream or guacamole there? 

* To clarify: I did not actually give birth on the cabana chair in Cancun. Was only there in my mind.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I hate my big, fake Christmas tree, Sting sings country, we drink half and half, I reminisce about my cross-dressing days, and our elf is MIA

So, it's that time of year again. The time when I drag my big, fake Christmas tree out, set it up, growl and yell like a toddler when half the lights don't work, then spend $50 and 5 hours buying and applying new lights over the top of the old ones. It is also the time of year when I eat pie three times a day, and when the children whine that we've run out of milk, instead of going to the store, I announce "let them drink cream!" in a nasally accent, as if I were on a balcony at Versailles, instead of under my duvet reading In the Garden of Beasts.

Then the kids whine that all the cream is whipped, in aerosol cans, and gone, since I needed it for all the pie. So then we drink half and half. It is very tasty with Rice Krispies.

I know I should just get a real tree, but that requires strapping things to cars, which is stressful, because I'm always sure whatever is bungeed on is sure to fall off in the street (I am told this is an irrational fear, sort of like my fear of swimming with fish, except that, well, stuff DOES fall off cars, and who knows what that fish is planning? He looks fishy to me) and also because a real tree means EVEN MORE lights to apply (at least in theory). So anyhow, for the past 7 years, I've used the fake one, whilst cursing it. Annually. Here I am kvetching in 2007 about the horrors of 2006.

But Thanksgiving was good. Our friends from Utah came bearing about 15 pounds of chocolate, and we went to a Sting concert. Who knew he had like 3 albums I'd never heard, including at least one that is entirely COUNTRY? Do you know how weird country sounds in a British accent? But he looked and sounded great, and if all the songs had been as fantastic as his acoustic Message in a Bottle encore, I might not have nodded off in the middle, somewhere around a song about a western movie crossed with an old Broadway musical. I think Sting is a little out of touch, just sitting over in his castle next to Stonehenge, making all sorts of love and writing songs about barley and foxes. Sometimes it works (the barley, the sex- I'll have to take his word for it), sometimes it doesn't (the foxes weren't my favorite). Either way, he's still hot and rich, so what's it to him? We also watched a movie called Stardust (a little every night, since I kept falling asleep because I am either old or still jet-lagged), which was very good, and we ate Thanksgiving, where I ate so much I almost threw up, but did not (which means I consumed the perfect amount of Thanksgiving), and we went to SAS fabrics (where I became overstimulated sifting though a vat of old patches, but luckily Kari had some hard candies in her purse she keeps for her toddler, and I was ok again after I sat on the floor for a minute while she examined the rickrack), and got doughnuts on the way home (just found an apple fritter I hid from the kids, but it isn't good anymore, dangit. I hate when my food hoarding backfires), then met more friends (actually, relatives) for dinner at Joe's Farm Grill, and afterward we all retired to our living room, where we drank Martinellis from silver flutes, played some Peter Breinholt on the guitars, and talked about how when we all lived at the Riv over to the BYU, we used to dress like men, but also how I dressed the most like a man of everybody. (Even the men? This wasn't clear).

So now I've got to do something about our elf, who is not on the shelf, but is MIA. He didn't show up after Thanksgiving dinner, like he's supposed to, and the children are starting to riot.

So do you loathe Christmas lights as much as I do? Did you know about Sting's country songs? Did you wear men's clothes in the 90's? If you have an extra elf, can you send him here? Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rome wasn't blogged in a day

So, at long last I have accumulated everyone's iphone photos of our trip, and now I shall publish them on the internets, even though in many of them I am wearing very tight, very unflattering pants.

On October 3, we took the overnight British Airways flight from Phoenix to London. This was difficult for me, because although I really like British Airways and the stewardess' retro hats and how they offer you biscuits (that are really just cookies) with their lovely accents, and even how they sometimes serve weird airline curry that stinks everything up for hours, we only had one hour in London. No time for a West End show. No time for even a Cadbury chocolate bar from the Marks & Spencer, or a browse around the Harrod's in the airport, since we were running at top speed for like 4 miles between concourses. And then, to salt the wound, London was sunny and 70, which never happens. But whatever.

So, you probably want to hear about Italy, but first I need to tell you about a miracle. My eyes had been bugging me all night, but about an hour from our destination I decided: INFECTION. So then my Mom produced from her carry-on bag a bottle of prescription antibiotic eye drops. Right there, high above the French Alps! A miracle, I tell you. So then, I didn't have to go see a Roman doctor, or have to look like a 1950s librarian in all my Italy photos (my glasses are horn-rimmed, you'll thank me later). I literally wept with joy (although eyes were also perhaps already moist with infectious ooze).

Bacteria thwarted, we arrived at the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel. Trastevere is supposed to be gritty and full of real Romans. But the Donna Camilla is also nearby the American John Cabot University, so it is also full of Valley girl accents and even a has place called T-Bone Station that serves (edible but not great) nachos. (I won't tell you how I know this.) Lots of restaurants and enotecas, gelaterias, pizza-by-the-slice type places (I really liked the potato and rosemary pizza).

Via Garibaldi, perhaps 9 p.m. By midnight, when we'd come back from our Rick Steves night walking, the whole street would be full of people, standing outside the restaurants and drinking.

Jake, in the gelato place just outside the hotel. Coconut? Or pistachio?

Some photos I 'borrowed' of the hotel:

Breakfast garden

That's me on the rooftop terrace. This place was built as a convent in the 1640s, and became a hotel two years ago. There are still a few elderly nuns living in one of the wings, who wander around the garden during breakfast, and pray in their impressive chapel just off the lobby entrance. I would have felt bad for taking over their place, but they've got bigger things to worry about, what with rationalizing that vow of poverty with living in a 4 star hotel.

The view from our room:

Anyhow, Rome.
I liked it.

On day two, we hustled over to ground zero: the Forum/Coliseum/Palatine Hill complex. We toured Mamertine Prison (where Peter and maybe Paul were perhaps incarcerated. There is no historical record of them being there written before the 5th century, but pilgrims had already been showing up, and this was the only prison in Rome for a very long time.) They had a super creepy English audio guide that had a lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous voice saying cryptic things about water and tables. Then they made us stand in the dark, before having us watch a weird, equally enigmatic video. Only later, between the Bible and Rick Steves, was I able to figure out what went on there (or didn't).
At Mamertine Prison. Sister Noel and Sister Beeson

Then, we ate some super tasty paninis from a street cart, didn't get food poisoning, then met our tour guide at this little cafe with a great view. Jake is chatting up a waiter.

So here we are in the forum (ancient marketplace turned political and religious center of Rome). I included this photo because my arm looks skinny.

A view of the forum from Palatine Hill. This is where all the ancient Italian movers and shakers lived. They worked down in the Forum. The Curia (Senate house) is the tall building at the top left of the photo. The Vestal Virgins lived in the bottom right. Maybe.

I smell a holiday card

So I pretty much loved ancient Rome. It was really hard at first to comprehend how OLD this stuff is. Some of the temples are from the 8th century before Christ. (Although none of the really ancient ones are original, except for the foundations, but have been spruced up or rebuilt, then knocked down again, the new ones only like 2000 years old. Mussolini righted some pillars on the Temple of Vesta. He also built a horrid thoroughfare right down the middle of the Forum, but I think Rome got her (his? Since Rome is probably named for Romulus (Remus' brother) comeuppance with the whole shooting, hanging from a meat hook, stoning thing they did to him in 1945 in near Milan).  800 B.C. That's 1800 years older than Westminster Abbey! 1600 years older than the oldest Pueblo Villages found here in Arizona. 2400 years older than the oldest remaining early American buildings. (Don't look too closely at my maths.)

Tired and hungry, we headed back to Trastevere to change and eat before heading back into town. Jen was hoping to see something that wasn't ruined. She was in luck.
Spanish Steps

Trevi fountain.

Day three began with the Pantheon, built 126 A.D. I'm not sure I've even seen anything in my life cooler than the Pantheon. It was like all the stuff in the Forum, only not sacked by barbarians and looted by medieval Romans.

We met our guide, Jeb, and headed over to the Vatican. Those Catholics have collected and stolen some really great stuff over the past two thousand years.

This huge head, for instance.

The Sistine Chapel didn't do much for me. I wrote that small cuz it's pretty embarrassing. Sure, I appreciate that painting thousands of naked people, contorting and cavorting every which way, all in the throes of something (passion, sin, greed, pain, religious ecstasy, damnation, covetousness) is a tough project, and that until Mike and all his Renaissance posse dug up and copied the Roman copies of the Greek statues, nobody could do that stuff. Maybe I'm a closet pagan, but I found the Pantheon more impressive. 

St. Peter's Basilica was something to see. It was like if you could take another cathedral, say, Notre Dame, and inflate it to like twice or three times the size. It was HUGE. It isn't crammed with graves like Westminster, (only saints or popes on their way to sainthood are in the church, the rest go in the crypt) so it looks cleaner, more beautiful, but maybe not as interesting, nook-and-cranny-wise.

So I think I'm getting pretty tired, because I just wrote "nook-and-cranny-wise," and I am planning to leave it as is, and hit publish. So I should probably quit for today. 

Next stop: more ruins! Pompeii. And the pizza right across the street from the Eat, Pray, Love pizza. (Very tasty, and no line.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Does my baby look like James Bond?

So every time I think of something super important I want to put on my blog, like how the family in the pew behind us at Church said Joey looks like a baby Daniel Craig:

(I'm dying to know what you think),
or how it is only 80 degrees outside, or how I washed down my family room walls this morning because they were covered in kid slime (was mostly dirt, but also snot and food), I think, I should write that down, but first, I should put up some pictures of Italy, so everyone doesn't think I made it all up and really went to Las Vegas to get plastic surgery (I hear that's a thing).  But really, I don't like messing with pictures (ones not already on my computer or the internet). 

Instead, I'd like to tell you how I saw the movie Anonymous last night, and liked it in spite of poorish reviews, because c'mon, of COURSE I'm going to like it. They had me at everybody being upholstered in brocade. Plus, it starred Spike from Notting Hill. Only I didn't recognize him without his goggles, and with his pants. But Jake did. He says he'd know Spike anywhere.

 And Spike was married to Emily, Ross Geller's British second wife, who is still as uptight as ever.  I should warn you that the whole thing is completely fabricated. It has no basis in actual history except that Queen Elizabeth had red hair, liked plays, and had a hard time keeping her throne away from her sister Mary and the rest of the Scottish Tudors. Also, since I'm warning you,  I should tell you that I was digging in my bag of Halloween candy, trying to tell mini Baby Ruths from mini Milky Way Darks with only the light from my phone, so I can't be sure, but I think William Shakespeare's hiney was in the movie. It might have been hairy.

Have you seen the movie? 
Did you like it better than Footloose 2.0 (that was last week's movie)? 
Do you think Joey looks like James Bond?

Monday, October 17, 2011

But it's nearly lunch time in Rome


I thought I was really beating back this whole jet lag thing (been home more than 24 hours now), but then I decided to take a quick Sunday afternoon power nap. So now I'm up, quite refreshed.

Ready to start my Monday.

It is 3 a.m.

I'm not really sure how Jake kept the kids quiet all evening, but it appears he did.

When I first awoke, I tried to catch up on two weeks worth of what my friends did on Facebook, hoping it would make me sleepy (didn't, you all are very interesting), checking my email to make sure tomorrow isn't picture day (it isn't), finishing a book (The Language of Flowers, quite good), started a new one (super weird, became bored), went to the toilet, then finally tip-toed down the dark hallway, praying my bare foot didn't find an unsuspecting scorpion (already had a near miss in the master bathroom last night), and booted up the old Mac. I'm also pretty hungry. I might need a snack.

Italy was really super great. We saw all kinds of stuff: big stuff, old stuff, Churchy stuff, naked stuff, tasty stuff: even most of the small museums I had on my secret nerdy-history-major-itinerary.  It was pretty easy. I'd just be like: Oh, what luck! We just happen to be staying three doors down from this restored medieval house (that I've been checking out on the internet for like three months). We should stop in on our way to lunch. We visited the Forum/Palatine Hill/Coliseum/Mamertine Prison, Vatican/Sistine Chapel/St. Peter's, Pompeii, pizza in Naples; Doge's Palace, shopping at Rialto, Ca' Rezzonico, Jewish Ghetto in Venice (I might have accidentally slept in and missed St. Mark's); Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Davanzati (the restored medieval home), Pitti Palace, Medici Crypts, Duomo, Accademia to see David in Florence; wandered around Umbrian hill town (Orvieto); headed back to Rome to tour Christian Catacombs and Capucchin Crypt.  There were too many Churches, pizzas, and ice cream to name individually.

But it is funny. It turns out that when you give birth to five children, and then leave them to go to a different continent, you begin to miss them. This process takes 9 days, if you are having a really good time. Less, if it is raining or you are a better mother than I am.

On the 10th day, Jake texted me a photo of Joey, sitting in his high chair wearing only his diaper, lovingly clutching his new Italian Fiat police car to his chest (remember, Jake left from Venice, while I went on to Florence. He had a class to teach and a business to run). Joe's rheumy, unblinking blue eyes (it was a photograph, you'll remember) told me that he had come to terms with his abandonment, had been through all the levels of grief, and knew that lots of motherless children go on to lead productive lives. It seemed like, had his limited vocabulary allowed,  he might have started singing Annie songs.  Tomorrow, Maybe, or It's a Hard Knock Life, but probably not the one one from the movie where Miss Hannigan comes on to Daddy Warbucks. That one doesn't seem appropriate for 18-month-olds. So then I started crying right in front of the leather goods salesman I was dickering with in the covered market on the Via Porta Rossa.

I showed the leather guy the photo, to explain my tears. He nodded in empathy. But when my Mom mentioned that I had four other kids, back at the ranch, the guy checked to make sure there wasn't language confusion, then proceeded to look at me in the same way I look at Michelle Duggar. It didn't help that my mom motioned to my sister's midsection and smiled: number eight!

Which leads me to the first in the series I will call: "weird stuff I noticed in Italy, which may or may not be true, because I was only there 12 days, only talked to a few people, and only speak Italian gelato flavors." (I also know the important universal sign language for  "waffle cone, large.")

So the first weird thing is that people are flabbergasted by big families. Like they've never seen or heard of one. I mean, fine. This is Europe. These are cities. I get it. But also, aren't these people Catholic? Or lapsed Catholics? Or related to some Catholics? Cuz I went in about 40 Churches, on like every corner like 7-11s, and all of them were Catholic (except for the three synagogues we visited in Venice.) I fully expect to be a freak in England, France and the Netherlands, but
not Italy.  I was so confused, I just googled it. Turns our I was right. Italy's birth rate in 1994 was the second lowest in the Western World, at 1.23 children per woman. Apparently the government is worried there won't be enough young workers to support the aging population in just a few years, and is paying cash bonuses to mothers. And the Pope? He isn't thrilled, either.

Well, enough of that.

So, in my determination to pack light, I brought only a carry-on sized backpack and a small purse (large enough only for lip balm, sunglasses, Rick Steves, and a few euros). We did laundry once. The only thing I regret leaving home? My real camera. I'm not much of a photographer, but still. I wanted it from day 1. The iphone camera just didn't cut it. (Also, I wish I'd brought a  jacket with long sleeves. At night, in Venice, my forearms grew chilled.)

Speaking of Rick Steves. He was in Italy with us, and we almost saw him, but didn't. He was in the Piazza Navona, at midnight, only a little bit drunk and filming stuff, either the same night or the night before we were. So we ate the tartufo gelato he recommended at Tre Scalini, approximately 22:00, then headed off toward the Pantheon on his Night Walk Across Rome, like the good Rickites we are. Unfortunately, this put us at the Spanish Steps at midnight, listening to some Italian kid playing acoustic 90s hits on his guitar (very well, I might add), holding hands, kissing, and chatting about the house where Keats died. Little did we know that meanwhile, Rick had got his buzz on and was out on the town with his cell phone video camera, back over by the ice cream and the Four Rivers Fountain (full of marble men with surprisingly muscular buttocks).

So anyhow, maybe sometime when it is light outside and I don't have to risk being stung by creepy lobster insects to get back to my room, I will get the (low-quality) photos off my phone and share a few with you.

Now I will maybe go make my kids some waffles. Since I'm up. I will try not to think about the salami and cheese panini (just off the Piazza Signorina) and fresh strawberry sorbet (from that spot next to the Ponte Vecchio) that somebody is eating for lunch, nine hours ahead but right this minute.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Training for Italian Marathon, Anne Taylor the pants genius, slip and fall, giving up on the Twelve Caesars, shoes and a neck pillow

So when I got off my treadmill the other night, I announced to Jake: three and a half miles tonight! I am going to be ready for the Italian Marathon. (The Italian marathon includes walking from an enormous Church full of famous dead people and Renaissance art to a pizza place to a museum full of marble nekkid people, to a gelateria, to a big pile of rocks that used to be something really important to a some fellas named Caesar, then taking a taxi to dinner. My apologies to the real Italian marathon, if there is one, and its actual athletes).
So Jake said: great, now get up and do it again at 3 a.m., and it will feel just like Venice.

I'm sure midnight treadmill riding in Phoenix is nothing like Venice. In Venice I plan to ride around in boats while I eat my pizza and ice cream, reclining lazily on crushed velvet cushions. I don't know if there are really any velvet cushions; maybe I've watched too many movies about the 19th Century Grand Tour. Now that I think about it, there might not be any parasols around, either. The good news: I won't have to get my lady's maid to loosen my stays after the pizza and gelato binge. I've bought myself some large and stretchy pants! (Anne Taylor Loft has got a size 12 that will accommodate a slim sumo wrestler. Are even bigger than Banana Republic.) 

Moral of this paragraph: You can learn a lot from your Baedeker's,

 but you can also learn a lot from Nacho.

So, about a month ago I sprained my ankle. 

I was skiing in Switzerland. Totally not embarrassing.

Or, maybe I slipped in the shower, old lady style. As I lay there on the shower floor (shower is weird design that is huge like football locker room, so there is plenty of room for sprawling) and stared up at the etched glass windows with the desert scenes which I hate, but do not include howling coyotes or kachinas, which I could not tolerate, I thought, it has really happened! I've fallen and I can't get up! And I'm soggy, and naked, and already bruising in so many odd and painful places! But after a cursory inspection, I found both my hips still firmly in their sockets, and my head not cracked open.

A silver lining, indeed.

Anyway, so I've been babying the ankle and wearing flat shoes to Church (a real hardship), and when I got on the treadmill the other night, I was afraid I'd mince along for like 15 minutes, then fling myself on to the nearby bed, apply ice and pant for 30 minutes more. But I didn't. Is good news.

Okay, so my Italy reading list might be a little ambitious. I started reading the Lives of the Caesars with Tiberius. I don't think it is the beginning, but he did have to divorce his pregnant wife, who he liked, and marry Augustus' daughter, who was a real tramp, and maybe a shrew. So that was sad and interesting. But I'm not sure I'm really getting the big picture. Might need to read faster, and skim all the parts where they fight the Germanic tribes or murder fellow Senate members.

I also read a Rick Steves' Europe 101: History and Art for the Traveler book I found at D.I. It is from 1985, so it is probly a first edition and worth like ten grand. So it's old, but filled with timeless jokes like this one, about the dawning of the Renaissance, and the labor shortages created by the plague: "Serf's up!"

So hotels are reserved, train tickets bought, and even booked us our own guides at the Vatican and Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Hill. One nice thing about traveling with seven people is getting your own guide is nearly economical. I made us reservations to see the Uffizi and David in Florence. I've got my eye on a social history walking tour about medieval Florentines. But my Dad's got his eye on another about banking and the Medicis, so there might be a walking tour standoff. (I foresee this will end with me and my Dad going to see the bankers, and everyone else going shopping.)

I bought a suitcase and some packing cubes. I know Inkmom recommended the MLC Patagonia, but this one spoke to me (with its cheap price tag). It is the Ebags Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible. I bought black, to be practical, even though I really wanted green.

And finally, my friend and travel guru, Kari, who goes all over the world, but never blogs about it, told me that my Joseph Seibel walking shoes (black, but with some tasteful velcro) would not be acceptable in Italy. That Italian women wear stilettos to the toilet in the middle of the night (she might not have said this), so I was going to have to step it up. So I got these, and Kari approved them:
Cole Haan Air Penny Tantivy Driver. There's Nike Air in there!

So anyhow, one Lewis 'n Clark brand original neck pillow (was famous neck pillow they took with them to explore and map the American West), and a few free Italian phrase apps for my ipad (My kids keep yelling things at me in Italian, and they all sound like come-ons, so they must be doing it right), and that's it. I'm ready.

Except for my house.
And my laundry.

I should go do that.
Instead of blogging.

Any last words of advice?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Reading list for Italy?

I just made my first Listmania list. I don't think I'm going to get through it before I leave for Italy. (Especially if I start with The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in six volumes.) You have anything I should add? Or detract?

(This is what I do instead of booking hotel rooms. )

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's not a dry heat. But that's okay because I'm leaving.

Last Friday I was out in the heat, doing stuff, as I do. It was a hot heat. A wet heat. The van's brand new air conditioning couldn't make any headway, it was nearly powerless against the brick wall of steam. I was sweating so hard my wet hair was stuck to my wet neck and a moderate stench of mildew was coming off my sopping wet t-shirt (not the sexy sort of wet t-shirt), or perhaps my underwear (do not leave clean clothes in a front loading washer for even an hour in this weather, or you will regret it). I felt defeated. I kept fantasizing about San Diego, and cursing all the people who live there and drive up real estate prices. And I thought, I can't do this for another two months. I will do something criminally insane, and then they will send me to a nice, air conditioned asylum where I can spend the remainder of my days in a Land's End maillot and a microfiber straight jacket. Which doesn't sound bad, except that my children don't brush their teeth enough even when they aren't motherless. The dental and asylum bills will bankrupt us.

So, Friday turned out to be some sort of record: 117 degrees plus all kinds of monsoon humidity. And I felt better, because it validated my concern that people can't and shouldn't live in this kind of heat. Because normally, it is only like 110 with humidity. And if it is 117, it is usually dry.

So maybe I can make it to Halloween. If temperatures return to their normal ranges.

Or maybe, if I take a couple weeks off and go to Italy.

I hear the weather in Italy is a lot like San Diego. Only in Italy, I'm told, they have way better architecture, ancient Roman stuff, pizza, frescoes, huge statues of naked people, and ice cream. At least, that's what I heard from watching my Rick Steves Travels in Europe Italy DVD like 100 times.

I spent most of yesterday on the internet trying to decide if I want to buy Rick's backpack and silk money belt for my trip. Rick says polyester money belts can get very sweaty. And you can imagine, sweaty is the last thing I want to be on my Italian vacation. 

Yes, I understand that I sound a little nerdy and a little Rick Steves stalkery. But I swear, it was my sister Jen who googled him yesterday and found out he's divorced his wife and found himself a young Asian girlfriend.

Have you been to Italy? Watched a lot of the Travel Channel? Read A Room With a View? (Or seen the old A Room With a View film, which included a young Bellatrix Lestrange and Minerva McGonagall, and all sorts of surprising dangly bits? Or even the 2006 version, in which Wormtail puts on a good show, but not nearly as good a show as all the 1985 dangly bits, if you know what I mean?) I need your help. Got ideas for what to see and eat and where to sleep in Rome, Venice, Pompeii, or Florence? None of us (except sister Jen) has ever been, so we'll need to be pretty touristy, but also, I will feel a failure if I bring less than ten pounds of pasta and gelato home in my haunches, so we will need to make time for that, too.

Bon voyage to me!
(What? Maybe I need to stop looking at suitcases and start looking at Rosetta Stone Italian?)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thinking about (other people) having babies. Also thinking about pie.

I just spent 3.5 hours cleaning my car. I don't normally do this sort of thing, especially when it is 112 degrees outside. Okay, fine, I do it when I am 9 months pregnant. I make the other patrons at the self service vacuum area of the Dolphin Car Wash very uncomfortable as they watch me grunt and wedge myself into the back seat, but I feel DRIVEN to clean.

I am not 9 months pregnant right now.
As far as I know.
Although, it would be pretty great if I were, and had no idea, like those ladies on I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant, because hey, I get a baby without nine months of bleeding eyeballs. But honestly, I can't imagine a world in which I didn't know I was pregnant (since I can usually start barfing even before the early pregnancy tests come back positive), and I suspect all those ladies are totally faking it to get on TV.

I'm thinking about babies today because Jake's little sister is in labor with her first baby. And also because my little sister is pregnant with her eighth. EIGHT! (Her fifth pregnancy, she got three kids for free when she got remarried a year ago. Which is cheating, I hope she knows.) And she is so super sick, that looking at her gives me anxiety attacks.

Ross and Jane started school at BASIS Chandler. I like to grill them daily about how everything went. I grill Sam and Tom, too, but Tom refuses to give up any information, even under high pressure interrogation, except that the school day is MUCH too long, and that once he went to P.E., and there was a Frisbee involved. Then he clammed up and looked embarrassed that he'd said too much. Sam just tells me he didn't get into any trouble. Which is probably a lie.

So on the first day, Ross and Jane met some new kids. But, Ross announced, something weird happened. Kids kept coming up to me and saying, Hello! I'm so-and-so. It's nice to meet you. Then, the kid would put out his hand, and want me to shake it! It happened three times. But one kid, Winston, is from India. I think they do things different there. 

Jane said, Yeah. That happened to me, too. Shaking hands! Super weird.

I asked Ross if he feels like the work is too hard. He told me:  
Well, I think I'm ahead in some subjects, like English and Spanish. But I think I'm behind in science and math. Like, at lunch time, Winston asked George if he knew the sorts of Cretaceous dinosaur birds indigenous to Central America (or something like that. I can't be expected to remember this sort of question). And then, George told Winston he was really sorry, but he was only familiar with the South American varieties.

At lunch one day, Jane was eating Keira's lunch because she'd left her PB&J in Jake's truck. Luckily Keira had the largest and best lunch in the world.  

She had an extra Capri Sun, and cherries, and even a tiny pie from England!  

Oh? I asked. (The only thing more exciting than a pastry is a British pastry.) Tell me more. Where did she get it?

In England. They just got back this week. But you know what's funny? Divia was sitting with us, and she didn't know what pie was. She's never heard of it, or eaten it. She's from here, but her parents are from Pakistan. She also didn't know what blueberries or bobby pins were, and she has to buy all her meat from a special store.

Are your kids coming home with any good school stories, or do they refuse to talk? .Do you think I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant is for real? Are there other 'reality' shows you feel are suspect?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Retrenchment. Again. Plus, my kids went to school and I spent the day on iTunes.

Ok, so I went to step class this morning and it was super hard. I haven't been all summer because I've too been busy eating and not moving and gaining ten pounds. About 45 minutes in, right after the 'party track' (is masochistic misnomer), a friend from like 15 years ago says hello, and instead of thinking: is so good to see you! I was thinking: you couldn't have let me know you were right behind me? Had I known, I would have tried harder not to flop around and wheeze like an asthmatic AARP member. And maybe I wouldn't have have lain on my belly while the rest of you were doing that yoga thing.

I'm not proud of myself.

Last week, I started a post about how I don't care a wink about my ill-fitting pants (you'll recall I went to California and ate VG Donuts and Hula Pie and Mr. Frosty dipped cones). I wrote all about the medium-sized purple muumuu I bought myself at Target for my birthday. (Muumuus run large. Is smart thinking by muumuu makers.). And then I prattled on about how muumuus are the best because they keep people wondering: what's going on under there? Is she a lingerie model? Is she great with child? No one can tell, and guess what? It is none of their business how many apple fritters I'm smuggling around in my lovely lady lumps! I got the wearable-pup-tent idea from my sister, who already had the same dress. So since we both wore it almost every day of our vacation, sometimes we went places with all of our combined 12 children, looking like some sort of matchy-matchy Polynesian sister wives.

Anyhow, like I said, that was last week. From the black night of unhealthy (but delicious) denial has dawned a new era of self-denial. Retrenchment. Which started today. And I'm only telling you so I can't wriggle out of it. So now I'm sitting here eating raw carrots with no ranch dressing, still wearing my stinky yoga pants. You can leave your condolences in the comments.

But just because I can't eat anything good doesn't mean I can't buy myself stuff on iTunes, right?

The Decemberists most recent album, The King is Dead, might actually be better than doughnuts.  This record sounds like Mary from Peter, Paul, and Mary married Michael Stipe and had lots of bearded children, who then died and formed a choir of hipster angels. (Except for This is Why we Fight, which sounds like the Cranberries.) Listening to them makes me want to get the old band back together (the band being me and my sister, my sister mostly against her will), to sing my original, four-chord dirges, inspired by boys who didn't know I liked them and British Royals of the middle ages. Take a gander at my playlist over right, if you like folk music. (Or Weird Al. Because I bought his album, Alpocalypse, too.)

What else should I buy on iTunes? 
What did you do with your first day of school? 
What's your favorite doughnut?
(I like buttermilk old-fashioned with chocolate ganache.) 

Friday, August 05, 2011

The old 'dead raccoon in my irrigation pipe' metaphor

Before we start, I would like to point out that in this metaphor, the part of the irrigation pipe will not be played by any section of my lower intestine.

See, it has been nearly a month and half since I've been here. And it isn't for lack of stuff to say. It just got busy, and then we left town, and while we were out of town, I wanted to tell you about doughnuts and fireworks and how I've got a crush on Utah, but I couldn't because then some of you who are sketchy might break into my house and steal my 7 year old Apple computer, or my Tivo that only holds 15 hours of shows, which is barely enough to keep me in House Hunters International and Good Eats.

But now that I'm back, I can't seem to get going again. And it is hard to explain, unless I tell you about the dead raccoon.

See, my friend who lives around the corner, but also out in the country, where everybody has two acres, a goat, and some chickens, went out to water her lawn. Now where I'm from (Los Angeles), and where I live now (around the corner from her and 50 years in the future), we just set our magic boxes and the sprinklers turn on automatically, but she's got some sort of grandfathered-in water rights from like a hundred years ago when her grandfather probably kicked some peace-loving Pima Indian off his land (the Apaches didn't want it, or they would have taken it), and that Pima took it from some long ago (yet mysteriously) vanished Hohokam fella.

What it comes down to is lots of cheap water in the desert, if you're lucky. But you've got to take your turn, even if it is in the middle of the night, or the whole street floods. And then, maybe you go to jail. But probably not, because that's what I thought when I first saw the flooded yards: someone is going to prison! But no one does. In LA, we were more careful with water, and sometimes we weren't even allowed to flush our dirty toilets . If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down.

Anyhow, my friend and her husband are out in the backyard at 3:47 a.m., or whenever, and they flip the switch, or turn the faucet, or whatever happens (I'm a city girl, remember), and something goes wrong. Water is coming out, but only a little, and at very high pressure. They get a flashlight and peer into the pipe. Inside is a dead raccoon. He is stiff and wedged sideways across the opening in such a way that he is blocking the flow of water. They try to pry him out but he doesn't budge. Finally her husband gets inside, and grabs the raccoon with both arms and yanks him free. The dammed (not damned) up water shoots out and soaks his red velvet lounging coat and matching slippers, (I wasn't there. But this is how it goes in my head) and he and the raccoon land on the grass in a big soggy pile.

So anyhow, I am hoping that this post about an actual dead raccoon will be my figurative dead raccoon, and now that he's out of my pipes (remember, this has nothing to do with my bowel regularity), pulled from my brain and onto the internets (however stinking, wet, and possibly rabid he might be), the flow of writing to follow will be free and clear and rapid (and probably include some truly original photos of my children clutching shovels and torturing sand crabs on the beach, that don't look anything like the ones of your children at the beach, or the ones you've recently seen on every other blog in the whole world. Here's a little something to wet your whistle:

July 24, 2011. Salt Lake Temple. Happy Pioneer Day!

So, see you soon! I've missed you all!

p.s. I just had my son Ross preview this, and he just said Mom, that's weird. But I like the part about the lounging coat.

Friday, June 24, 2011

If only I had a barn to raise them in.

Sometimes raising boys is a great pleasure.

Like when little Sam had an imaginary hermaphroditic friend. Kaner got his/her own ornament on the Christmas tree in back in '06.

But then, sometimes it's not as much fun.

Like last week, when I found my five-year-old son using my favorite houseplant as a toilet.
I'm not sure if its now imminent demise can be attributed to the urine, or to the sunscreen he sprayed on it the week before, but either way: 

go toward the light, little umbrella plant. I hate to see you suffer so.

I do believe that hearing stories of your children's uncivilized, destructive, immoral, sacrilegious, and possibly feral or felonious behaviors will comfort me at this time.

Please share.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Of Burgers and Bras

Last night I ate a Kobe burger with sauteed wild mushrooms and Maytag Blue cheese, double truffle fries, and a bananas foster shake for dessert. Zinburger is over at the Biltmore, so you might think it is a long drive for a hamburger. But I used to drive to Las Vegas from Provo just for a Double Double Animal Style, so it doesn't seem like such a sacrifice to me. Plus, it was very delicious, and very near Last Chance (that's where all the stuff from Nordstrom Rack goes to die), and after you spend five times what you normally would on a Big Mac, you might be able to spend a few pleasant minutes sifting through a giant bin of cheap Wacoal bras, purchasing three for less cash than one fancy-pants Japanese-cow burger. And then, when you get home, you might discover, to your pleasure, that two of them even fit. 

My dear hermanita Jen, I am going to need like 6 more Fox Concept Restaurants gift cards like the one you gave me for Christmas.  We want to go to The Arrogant Butcher (New Orleans), North (Italian), Olive & Ivy (high-heeled lunching lady, goat cheese, free range chicken type food), and the Mexican place at the Borgata. Plus, I'm going to need a couple more Zinburgers. Thanks in advance.


What are you eating lately? Should I be eating it, too?

Monday, June 06, 2011

Breaking every rule of good blogging

A post, so long it could be a novella, about nothing in particular, but including videos of babies (boring to everyone but the baby's mother), bragging on my oldest child's academic prowess, many extra words and sentences that are mostly in here because I can't edit anything, birthday party photos, and yet another video, this time low quality concert footage of a band that was hip 20 years ago, a bit of misused latin, inserted mostly for the sake of pretention, and finally, a link to swimsuit photos of a mother of five.

Summer vacation. Past eight a.m., and the only person awake is in her robe, blogging and eating tortilla chips (and the salsa she made from her very own roma tomatoes, so is very healthy breakfast. Perhaps even a Wheaties-style breakfast of champions? Should quick email Bruce Jenner to ask, perhaps, but do not want to bother him as he is probably pretty busy cuz the last time I saw him he was holding a live chicken on reality TV and fighting with some Kardashians).

Well, the last few weeks of school got real crazy, I ain't gonna lie. I even started to write about it, but then gave up because I got into a dither about something else. It went like this:

End of school stuff is stressful. I am not good at remembering and coordinating stuff. Is the reason I carried all my books around in my backpack through all of seventh grade, and never used my locker. (The other reason is I was super nerdy.) Is also one of the reasons I changed my major in college from Elementary Education to History. In history classes you've got like three tests and a paper, no hoops to jump through, no meeting three times a day in small groups to discuss the best way to make bulletin board borders, no learning how to call an all-female square dance. (Other reasons I switched my major included not being a very a good teacher and finding out the holiday-themed light-up earrings irritated my lobes.)

So anyway, my May calendar is full, and full in like a 6 point font full, which is like, super full. It takes two parents to get everywhere the five kids need to be, and sometimes one kid is supposed to be in like three places at once (mostly Jane. She's a joiner.) Last Thursday evening, for example, was Jane's ELP invention and balloon popper exhibition, my brother Ryan's Special Needs Institute talent show (literally one of the highlights of the year), and then book club (we read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen). I got home at 1:30 a.m., and was in my step class at 8:30 a.m. (because remember my vow to get bigger pants or a smaller rear? Well, I've opted for both. My rear IS too big, but perhaps my pants are also just unreasonably small?) And I know some of you, with houses full of teenagers, are laughing at me, and you're thinking:  just wait, it gets worse. Pretty soon the only way to do it all is to let your 12-year-old start driving carpool. And for heck's sake, lady, take off those 4-inch white suede platform sandals go to Target and get yourself some stretchy jeans! No wonder you can't get anything done. What exactly are you trying to prove?

So anyhow, I am looking forward to summer. Which starts next Thursday! Which is when we (me and Jake and my new bigger shorts) get back from going to visit Kari and Bono in Utah!
So that was May. Tommy turned five, which is a big one, so there was a countdown for like three weeks and then we had a swimming party on the one day in the recorded history of May in Gilbert when it has ever rained, at least since white men started keeping records; but I bet if you check the Hohokam petroglyphs, it will tell you the same thing: you should always be safe having a May swim party in Phoenix. But kids don't really care, so that's good.

Joey learned to walk. And dance.

And we went to the ward campout, which included an Eagle project where we cleaned up the graveyard for the workers who died building Roosevelt Dam (1905-1911). I was too scared to get a picture of the rattlesnake.

School ended and Ross got loads of awards at his 6th grade promotion ceremony (Jake and I were both underachievers, so we aren't used to fancy wooden plaques, crystal apples and the like, and were quite thrilled).

And we went to Utah and loved the concert and our friends and their lovely new house,

and I wore my Doctor Martins that I bought on Carnaby Street in 1994, because they seemed Rock n' Roll, even though I wondered if Bono would approve of my politics,

and I've given up worrying about my rear again (maybe I could muster more excitement for change if my butt was in the front, and I actually had to look at it every day?),

And then we headed to Payson, which was near the boy scout camp where Ross was in situ and Jake was teaching wilderness survival but ironically came down off the rim to stay with us at night in the air conditioning and spent his evenings with me watching Top Gear on BBC and a show called My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding which is super duper disturbing but I couldn't stop watching. I mean, 6-year-olds with spray tans? A pink light-up wedding dress with 21 layers of tulle, animatronic butterflies, and someone to walk behind her with a fire extinguisher in case her electrical goes haywire and she starts on fire? You should set your Tivo, if you have a high tolerance for tacky.

We came back just in time to make it to the free Gin Blossoms concert at Kierland Commons, where we sat in the front row and blocked a bunch of little girls. Jane came along, and she knew almost all the songs, even the ones from the new album, No Chocolate Cake, which Jake must be playing for her, because I'm more of a New Miserable Experience purist, even after all these years. And I have no idea who that woman in the video is. The one singing super off-key. You think she sounds just like me? I have no idea what you are talking about.

And now it is 9:30, and all the kids are up, except the baby, who sleeps in only when I'm up early, and Jane, who I couldn't find. But then I remembered she slept over at her cousins' house down the road, and I smiled. Because what says "I've got a laissez faire summer attitude" like forgetting where you put your children?

Oh! And I got an email a couple of weeks ago from a fellow blogger asking me to send her a list of my summer plans along with a photo. I wrote something up and hit send. Immediately, I was filled with remorse: Kelly, did you just send a picture of yourself in a bathing suit for someone to publish on the internets? And I had. I really had. And now it is published, at The Barrel of Blogs, along with some other, fully clothed bloggers with their summer goals. You can find my centerfold on pages 13 and 14.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Women's Conference, a sort of poem mostly concerning my intestinal maladies, plus some pictures of food and cousins and large fowl.

As it turns out,
when you eat like a 6 course meal over three hours,
including most of your college roommate Kari's vegetable Napoleon plus your own lobster bisque,  and three desserts,
then follow that up the next day with a pastrami burger and shakes (two) (only one good),
oh, and that mint brownie,
and that other mint brownie,
it is possible you might feel unwell,
especially if all your pants were too tight when you left your warm home in the desert,
where you can wear knit dresses all the day long,
and you fly to Utah where you are forced to wear pants because it is snowing outside.

You had your yoga pants along,
and you stared at them for awhile,
thinking how you'd like to wear them to the Marriott Center,
(Elder Bednar would have understood, I'm sure),
but then you'd have had to wear flip flops,
and since you were walking,
in forty degrees,
you decided to suffer your angry belly in Justin Timberlake's misogynistic straight-jacket-of-a-jean over possible frostbite.

And then if you go to a concert where somebody's granny kisses David Osmond on the mouth
It's okay! she says into the mike, I've been a widow for 26 years!
(It was not okay. It was super weird),
and then somebody (Kirby Heyborne) writes a song about Sheri Dew that made you snort aloud with mirth and pure joy,
you might forget about your discomforts,
if only for a moment.

Did I actually attend class, or did I spend all my time in line at the creamery sniffing warm waffle cones, and trying to buy a t-shirt in the bookstore that didn't include the word "Jimmer"?
Some of my favorites were
Virginia H. Pearce "By Small and Simple Things,"
Dennis and Joyce Ashton "In the Quiet Heart is Hidden",
Julie Beck,
Susan Easton Black "A Small Beginning in a Grove of Trees,"
Gaye Strathearn and Cecilia Peek "Believe in Christ."
We also weaseled our way into the Carl Bloch exhibit at the museum, and checked out the Dorothea Lange stuff downstairs while we were at it.

What's that? Did I take any photos of my great good time over to the BYU?
But did I take like a hundred of food, forks, and amorous peacocks.

Pea hens. Apparently there is a chicken/peacock half breed running around the place, but I didn't spot it.

When you start with four forks, you know your gonna have to pace yourself
Mom, Jen

Traci (known her since her diaper days in L.A., I even babysat her on occasion), Kari (college roommate, concert date, willing to drive thru Arby's in hurricane-style monsoon to get apple turnovers, and then when they were delicious, drive thru again 5 minutes later), Cousin Becky (only girl in family who is taller than I am), Jen (wearing fashion forward Sherlock Holmes style cape-let), Mom (thanks for dinner, and making us all laugh so loud we should have been thrown out), me, Cousin Lauri (why do you still look 16? You have a married daughter. Is a mystery).

Ah, Utah! 
I love thee. 
I shall be back soon 
(this month, actually, to see Kari and Bono and his healed back), 
and I shall be ready this time
with either 
a smaller butt 
or bigger pants.