Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Excellent talk on creativity/education

My friend Annie posted this on her blog. Everything he says rings true to me and I think he presents very valuable ideas. It's about 20 minutes long and worth the time.

But before I post it, I've always thought I would love to be involved with my kids in some kind of charter school or something that only taught the creative and active parts of education, and especially the parts that benefit from a group. I would love to homeschool my kids in math, science, languages, social studies, etc., and then take them to school for choir, orchestra, band, football, drama, etc. And if there were enough kids involved, then maybe this school's sports teams could play against the other area schools.

I don't know enough about how the system works to know if it's a feasible idea, especially within the timeframe it would benefit my kid(s). But I think it would be so wonderful. Thoughts?

Okay... watch this! Especially if you're interested in children's potential. :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The way the West Side does it

Here in Utah, there seems to be an attitude that living east of I-15 is most acceptable. The closer you are to the mountains, the higher your actual personal worth. The west is crime-ridden and downtrodden while the east is rich and cultured.

(Speaking of such attitudes, it seems like there are a lot them here in Utah. Bad attitudes from both sides of the east/west issue, the Mormon/not-Mormon issue, the Ogden issue, etc. But I think I would be blissfully unaware of all of these attitudes if I would just stay off the stupid KSL message boards. Or if my husband would stop talking to his co-worker, Adam*.)

But as much as we like to dismiss such attitudes, we couldn't deny that there was something fishy happening on the west side when we witnessed the following:

One night as we were house hunting, we were kinda out in the country when we saw two cars pull over to the side of the road. Far from curious eyes (or so they thought) the drivers stepped out of their cars. Both well-kept women. Probably Mormons. One carried a pizza box while the other carried a Krispy Kreme box. They met in the middle, quickly made the swap with little or no words, and both left the scene as quickly as they had come.

To the unsuspecting witness, it looked as though they traded pizza for doughnuts. But why would they meet that way just to exchange delicious junk food? WHY?!

I have some theories.

Perhaps the pizza box was filled with cash and the doughnut box carried black market Young Women medallions. I could use one of those.

Perhaps they were swapping secret family recipes. You know... the ones that are really supposed to stay secret.

Maybe one of them is running an illegal coupon-clipping ring.

Whatever it was, I bet they got away with it.

We did end up buying a house on the west side. So far we feel completely safe and happy in our surroundings. But we are keeping our eyes wide open, and you can bet we won't be quiet about it next time we see a suspicious swap. We don't want that kind of thing in our neighborhood.

*Name changed for my husband's protection.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Perfect Christmas

I have been thinking a lot lately about how great Christmas was as a kid.

I think my parents handled Christmas just right. We always had a beautiful Christmas tree and a lovely Nativity set on the piano. We'd had that set as long as I could remember and it was a beautiful reminder of why we were celebrating. I always looked forward to unpacking it and setting it up just the way it had been set up the year before and the year before that.

But what I'm really thankful for now is that I never learned from my parents that Christmas was "the busiest time of the year." I'm sure that behind the scenes there was some stress about getting everything together for four kids every year, but as far as we could tell, Christmas was always a peaceful, happy time.

My parents didn't send Christmas cards every year. We didn't always make gingerbread houses. But we DID always use our special Christmas placemats! Last year my little brother dug those placemats out. I think we had kinda forgotten about them (but not my brother, because he remembers EVERYthing). But as soon as they were out, we were so excited! We put each one where it went when we were kids. Each of us (including my parents) had our own Christmas placemat. Mine was the gingerbread house. My sister's was the teddy bear. My older brother had the candy canes and my younger brother had Santa Claus. My mom's placemat was a Christmas wreath and my dad's was toy soldiers. Of course! The memories of how excited we were to use the special placemats came rushing back.

But it was such a simple joy. It didn't take a lot of money or preparation. It was just a simple tradition that we loved.

My family has some other special Christmas traditions. Every year we play Christmas carols on the homemade chimes. It started at my grandparents' house, and now my parents have carried on the tradition and I even have my own set of chimes now. Along with this tradition is the tradition for the older kids to complain that we have to play the chimes (even though I know they love it). Those older kids are now in their late 20s and 30s. They still complain. And then they still sit down with a chime and a butterknife and play their part at Grandma's house.

And who could forget about Christmas pajamas?

One very special and simple tradition we have is singing our favorite Christmas songs together on Christmas Eve. Sometimes with the piano, sometimes without. It's wonderful either way. We take out the hymnbook and sing through our favorite songs about Christ's birth. Christmas doesn't get better than this.

My parents didn't throw or even attend fancy Christmas parties. Sometimes we had Christmas lights on the house, and sometimes we didn't.

But by not worrying too much about making everything perfect, that's exactly what they did. Christmas was a special, peaceful time. Perfect.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bona fide

My cousin was married in October and they had an amazing photographer. The photographer just posted their pictures to her photography blog (Thanks for the heads up, Melissa), and they are incredible. Take a look... I think you'll agree they are one of the most beautiful couples in history.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I always told my husband that if we ever had a Boston terrier I would want to name him Greetings... because they look like little aliens.

But when our son shouted out "Panda Bear!" when he saw the puppy, we decided to go with that instead.

So, Greetings from Panda Bear (Panda for short).

Panda is 8 weeks old and we got him from a family who took him in Thanksgiving night. So they gave him four days before deciding they weren't ready for a puppy. He's actually a good puppy, but they have 4 kids including a 7-month-old, and they weren't planning to get a puppy anyway. It was a spur of the moment thing for them and he is kinda spazzy, so they decided to find a new home for him.

Enter me!

I saw an online classified ad while my husband was returning the boxer who didn't work out. Short story shorter, we went to see him the next night and brought him home.

I've wanted a Boston terrier for a long time, so I am so excited. But as puppies are, he's a handful. He's got energy like I've only seen in one other place:

That's our other dog, Ruby. She's a boxer. Boxers are very athletic and energetic, but our dog makes other boxer owners' jaws drop with her feats of athleticism and misbehavior.

So I've got my hands full, to say the least. But it's not that bad, and we expect some craziness while Panda is a puppy. Right now it's chaos for about 20 minutes at a time and then quiet for a couple hours while Panda sleeps. And then they repeat the routine.

We learned our lesson with Ruby's puppyhood (she's almost 6 years old), and we will be much better with training Panda to be a good, well-adjusted dog. Don't tell the Dog Whisperer I said this, but I think Ruby is a lost cause at this point. She's very sweet and calm most of the day, but when she's around other people she's nuts. She'll calm down after about 15 minutes, but she usually doesn't get that long to prove herself.

All the craziness aside, we're really happy with Panda. I feel like we have a big animal family again. He's a very sweet puppy and my son really loves him. Even though he reminds me of:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My own perfection

My mom says I'll probably still have big thighs in Heaven because they're not an "imperfection."


Monday, December 1, 2008

Missing Beanie

In June 2003 my husband and I happened upon a family giving away kittens in a Wal-Mart parking lot. For free!

We're suckers for animals and for good deals, so you can guess what happened next.

My husband had always wanted a gray kitty, and before our eyes was a beautiful one. It didn't take too much discussion.

We took Joey home to meet his new housemates: Mimi, our grumpy old cat who wanted nothing to do with him, and Ruby and Beanie, our two big, rambunctious boxers.

Joey was a perfect fit and loved playing with the dogs, even when they got rough.

Joey and Beanie had a very special connection. She treated him like he was her puppy, and he treated her like his mama. She would bathe him and even let him try to nurse. They really loved each other.

For three years Joey and Beanie were two peas in a pod. I'd never seen a dog and cat who loved each other so much.

But there was a little problem. Beanie had a scary aggressive tendency. She gave no warning, and when she would attack, it was awful. I don't want to get into all the sad details here, but when I was pregnant we decided we couldn't keep her anymore after a particularly scary episode.

We talked to two vets about her behavior and they both told us she had probably inherited this characteristic and that it wasn't something that could be trained out of her. And even if we did our best with training, we could never be sure she wouldn't act on that instinct.

It was one of the hardest, saddest decisions we ever made. It's 2 1/2 years later and it still makes me weep to think about her. Looking for pictures today makes me miss her so much. She was an incredibly sweet and gentle dog 99% of the time. She was so affectionate, loyal, obedient... a perfect dog in almost every way. But it was that scary 1% of the time that we could not ignore and we had to make a very hard decision for the welfare of our child.

We cried for days, wondering if we had really made the right decision, knowing we couldn't change it. We missed her so much and wondered how long the sadness would last. We couldn't even talk about her. We put her collar high on a shelf in the garage. We wanted to save it, but couldn't bear to see it.

Ruby wondered where her pal had gone. She spent days at the bottom of the stairs waiting for Beanie to tromp down them and wrestle with her. I can only imagine how lonely Joey felt without his Beanie.

That was in 2006. It's almost 2009 and we have been considering getting another dog. Our son loves animals and Ruby doesn't like to play with him, so we wanted to find a dog that would be good buddies with our son and with Ruby.

We found Tyson, a boxer, through an online classified ad. He was 3 years old and needed a new home. We decided to take him in.

Imagine Joey's surprise. In walked a reverse brindle boxer who looked remarkably like Beanie. Joey was cautious, but not afraid. He inched closer and closer until he was rubbing faces with Tyson, within a minute of Tyson's first step into our home. We think Joey must have thought Tyson WAS Beanie.

Unfortunately, Tyson had not grown up with cats. His only exposure to cats turned out badly, as the cats fought with him and scratched him up.

Tyson wanted to kill Joey.

So Tyson went back to his old family, and Joey has to be the most confused cat in the world right now.

It's been a long time since I have written anything about Beanie. It's still hard-- heartbreaking-- to think about her. She was one of the family and she's gone. We hope we see her in Heaven someday and that she will understand our decision and love us again.