Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When kids get sick

It's a conundrum. When do you take the kids to the doctor?
I never solved the puzzle when my children were growing up and I can't help a lot now with our grandchildren.
It's always tough because kids seem to get sick on holidays, weekends and just before you're leaving on a big trip.
It's difficult to decide how sick they are, whether they'll get better on their own and when expensive and time-consuming medical intervention is warranted.
The only real rules seem to be if you wait too long, the doctors scold you for delaying and if you go in too soon, the doctors scoff at your over-zealousness.
It's very frustrating.
I once went about six weeks before I took my baby daughter in to have her arm checked. She'd broken or cracked her shoulder bone when she rolled out of the crib (with a little help from a bigger brother) onto the carpet.
She couldn't tell me what was wrong but she looked at me funny when I'd lift her little arm very high.
Weeks later, the doctor confirmed that she had a small knot on the bone where it had been broken.
"Of course, it could have happened during her birth," he said, trying to console me as I tried to deal with being a completely clueless, heartless mother.
Other times, I'd check in with an ailing, coughing child who seemed destined for the hospital only to be told it was a common cold. I ended up nearly losing a daughter who couldn't stop tossing her cookies. Several times my son's headaches were actually concussions. Another daughter reacted badly to a bee sting and sunlight and scared us silly before we had the sense to get essential help.
It's really a dark art and as I watch my daughters try to decipher the code that defines a serious ear infection or strep throat from a minor stomach flu, I agonize for them and with them.
My grandson's "stomach ache" just turned out to be appendicitis.
My 3-year-old granddaughter isn't getting over what some newby doctor diagnosed as a simple virus two weeks ago.
You'd think I'd be better at diagnosing after 40 years at this but it's actually made it harder. I know it can be silly to run in to the doc for every sniffle but I also know what can happen by waiting too long.
Is 60 too late to apply to medical school?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Many early returns

Marc and I both hate returning stuff to the stores.
It takes forever.
I always feel I'm perceived as trying to get away with something and Marc just hates the hassle. He'd prefer to just forget whatever the problem is and keep things calm.
I don't particularly enjoy it but it bugs me to be overcharged or to get something broken or something I can't use.
So, for the most part, we try to stay out of the return and exchange line.
This year, however, I've been back to switch something out three times already and it's not Christmas official yet.
The first was a Harry Potter DVD I bought back before we owned a Blu-ray outfit and I thought I had bought one that was both regular and Blu-ray.
When I was showing my daughter which one I'd purchased for a good price, I realized the one under the tree all wrapped up didn't have the blue top thingy.
I went home and opened it up. I even showed it to Marc who agreed it was not a Blu-ray copy.
"It'll be fine," he said in that tone that told me he was dismayed.
I headed to the store trying to fit the exchange into a half-hour window I had in my busy day.
The line was five people long at the exchange counter and took several of my precious minutes but I got a gift card and rushed to the back of the store to get the proper DVD.
I came back to the "Speedy Checkout - 20 items or less."
There were five folks ahead of me. Looked good.
But the first lady was really old and REALLY slow. She couldn't work the card reader or write her name on the screen. She also couldn't move very quickly. She took up 10 of my remaining 15 minutes.
The next customer was quick and bought her 10 gingerbread house kits lickety-split.
But the next was a Hispanic lady who apparently counts 20 items differently. I counted 39 and several of those she picked up and refused to hand over to the checker. She'd decided she didn't want those.
Next I bought new glasses but one has a chip in it. It had to go back.
I forgot to bring my $50 gift card for my Honeybaked Ham so we're going to stop and effect a refund and rebuy.
Marc is being dragged along for both of these.
Merry Christmas, dear.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Shopping for free

In today's busy world, there's so much pressure — not the least of which is the pressure to save money or get a deal.
I had a particularly hard day this past week when I had opportunities to save all around me.
First of all, my son gave me a $200 gift card to Robert's where he works. Since Robert's is going out of business, he has these cards to give to friends and family.
I was really glad to be family because I love Robert's and have a whole list of things I like to buy there.
I started planning and on the day I got my card, I could hardly focus on driving properly on the way to the store.
I tossed colored papers and glitter paint and stickers and pages of vinyl lettering into my cart. I raided the art supply aisle picking up canvas boards and frames and brushes.
At the end of my journey I stood in line as the girl rang it all up. I had spent $120. $80 left to go.
I drove over to the store in Orem and grabbed a Melissa & Doug wooden barn, more stickers, some velvet paint kits, more lettering.
It was so much fun but at the end I was happy to have successfully spent my card. I had been feeling pressured to spend it well and before the store shelves were empty.
Next I headed over to Target because I had a $5 off coupon if I spent $50. I usually have no problem spending money at Target either so I took a cart and started off.
I picked up fruit including a pineapple and some strawberries for the family party. I added cans of tomato sauce and liters of Sprite.
Still $30 to go.
I grabbed some packages of raisins and some cake mixes. Now I was almost there.
I added some sugar and flour and oil. I kept adding and adding trying to make sure I didn't come in at $49 and miss my savings.
I tossed in some candy and nuts.
At the checkout stand I was exhausted and happily right where I needed to be.
The total came to $51 something and then the $5 off coupon applied. I was proud of my little self and relieved to be done saving money.
Then came the receipt. But wait, it came along with another coupon, this one for $8 for spending $80 that has to be used before Wednesday.
The checkout lady said, "You're really lucky! Nobody ever gets those!"
Oh, dear!

Friday, December 16, 2011

A spider, a snowflake and 2 violins

Tis the season for grandkid Christmas programs and I love it.
I don't mind squeezing the car into a no-parking zone by the school or driving around in the dark to find the door at the back of the school that's open to the gym where the orchestra is going to play.
I don't even care that the Grinch in the parking lot near the busy school gets to tell me to move it or it'll be towed.
The nicest spider
I don't mind the crowded conditions inside though the tall guys who sit in front of me blocking the view of my favorite spider are annoying.
I just love seeing the enthusiasm, the sweet confidence, the look in their bright, little eyes as they see that I've come to see them sing their songs or read their part or play their instrument.
It's precious.
This year we have Alyson being Charlotte the spider in the 3rd grade version of Charlotte's Web.
It's so funny
It's snowing in England
We have Adell singing all the words to "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and laughing when we come to the part about the seasick crocodile because she knows I think that part is somewhat gross.
We have Jack in England being a snowflake and getting irate because people keep telling him he's beautiful and he's a boy, after all. Only girls are beautiful!
We have Samantha and Emma playing their violins.
A bright star
Samantha is almost 12 and just picked up the instrument a few weeks ago but she can play it. (She's especially good on the circle move!)
We have Emma who is very young to be playing a violin but she has a gig with her teacher at the Joseph Smith Memorial building on Christmas Eve Eve.
It's all good and makes me appreciate being a stay-at-home albiet unemployed grandma at the moment. I have no problem working these shows into my schedule.
And I agree with my friend Robert Kirby who wrote in his recent column that it doesn't really matter what you can see from the cheap seats, it's the view from the stage into the audience that counts.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dumpster diving

It's cold.
It's uncomfortable.
And I always feel like I'm going to fall in.
That's why I've never enjoyed dumpster diving.
So it was only because I like this little old lady in my ward that I agreed to go searching for a newspaper she wanted.
It's not unusual for people to call Marc and me for past issues. People in our neighborhood pretty much know we get a lot of papers and tend to hang onto them for a while.
We often get calls for copies of an obituary or a news story that includes the names of their relatives or friends.
It used to be fairly easy to help people out.
If we didn't have the copy of the issue they wanted, I could go to the morgue at the office and pull one out.
Now it's harder since I work out of my home office and I think the morgue got dropped when The Deseret News moved to the Triad Center.
At least I don't know where it is now.
So I agreed to this search with a bit of trepidation.
I missed recycling day so I was pretty sure the issue she needed was still in the bin.
But I was also pretty sure it was way down deep.
Since it's freezing in our garage, it took me a couple of days to work up my courage but today I put on my warmest robe, my thickest slippers and headed to the garage.
I propped up the lid and started hauling out papers (and drink cups and Kleenex and tin foil and cake mix boxes).
I dug and dug until I got down deep enough to need a chair and a grabber utensil.
I carefully stood on the chair that threatened to close up on me and stirred around.
On and on I searched and leaned until I was nearly standing in the bin. I found all the papers leading back to the right date and then the papers leading up to it.
Finally, you guessed it, I found the one I wanted, right smack on the bottom where I expected it would be.
I called up my friend and told her the good news.
"Thank you!" she said. "I really appreciate it."
"That's OK," I said. "I'll drop it off later. It was no trouble."

Friday, December 9, 2011

Upgrading the old TV

I'll admit if it wasn't for Marc in our household, we would probably still be watching television on a snow-filled 26-inch screen.
I'm very resistant when it comes to upgrading for the technology.
I didn't think I cared when color televisions started to come in high definition and on plasma screens and do the laundry for you. (Just kidding, they don't do the laundry yet but just wait a while.)
But each time we've improved our situation, I've found that it's quite nice.
We can see our shows better.
The TV behaves. When everything went to high definition, we were prepared.
Yesterday, Marc's wishes came true and we bought a flat-screen, LED or LCD or LDS-type TV.
We had to ditch the top of our corner cupboard and redo the landscaping.
The rats nest of cords in back of the cupboard got to go.
And now we have to find a new home for the "old" TV that I thought we loved.
It's too big. It's out of vogue.
And, oh yeah, it won't respond anymore to the remote which actually brought on its demise.
Marc cannot live without a working remote and I'll admit it tells me it's time to move along.
So in a moment of financial madness, we made the leap.
Easy, breezy
We headed to the furniture store and while I sat blissfully in a red velvet lounger, Marc talked shop with the saleman. He loves all the techno babble and me, not so much.
About 45 minutes later we were driving oh-so-carefully away with this lovely 40-inch flat-screen television that gets a prime spot in the family room.
It does have nice features. Theoretically I can surf the Internet and check emails and get work done during the commercials now.
I can see every little hair and imperfection on the actors' faces. How great is that?
And look at this simple little remote that comes with it. I know I'll learn to love it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Singing for my supper

Jordan Todd Brown
First off, to be honest, I'm a fan of the Pickleville Playhouse.
Marc and I have made it a point to see every "Juanito Bandito" show they've produced and recommend them to our friends.
So when I noticed they were doing a Christmas show in Logan (at the Eccles Conference Center until Dec. 23), I volunteered to review it. My editor didn't want to pay me the mileage+ it would take for a print review so I offered my blog as a forum.
T.J. Davis/aka the Bandito was all for it. He even offered to pay for dinner.
So here we go: "12.25, A Merry Musical Comedy" is a lively Christmas show made almost manic by the antics of Jordan Todd Brown as Greechner/Gizmo and Whitney Davis as Zanita/Zoe.
These two are over-the-top funny and virtually unstoppable as they careen along through the story.
T.J. keeps up but just barely as he tries to play the straight man to their crazy talk (He's often just trying to keep from cracking up and the two comics compete for laughs).
Megan Bagley as Elanor/Ellie and Sharli Davis King as Emily/Eve are wonderfully talented supporting cast members.
Whitney Davis
The story is simple as Davis playing the part of Brandon the single father (and Buster the Elf) attempts to reconcile his son's hopes for Christmas with the reality of his slim budget. They're counting on Santa. Davis is worried.
Meanwhile the elves back at the North Pole are looking for Santa who seems to be AWOL and try to salvage Christmas with a fund-raiser telethon.
A grumpy Grinch-like neighbor who doubles as a conniving, greedy elf (Brown) and a wacky drop-by friend (Whitney Davis) make the simplest conversation a hilarious event.
There's so much raw talent on stage it's hard to describe. Let's just say it all works, from the political pundits to the "one-man flash mob" and the curly-toed shoes.
Even the little guys, Carter Davis (T.J. Davis' real-life son) and Bryson Hackler, come across pretty believable.
Everybody can sing well. Everybody can act and everybody is funny.
The result is a happy ending for everyone.
What better scenario can one hope for?

(By the way, the Bandito is coming to Salt Lake in February to the Jeanne Wagner Theatre. See for tickets and details. If you've never seen the Bandito in action, you're missing out.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Girls wrapped in a bubble

Hannah inside a big bubble
I've long been a fan of the Festival of Trees.
I think it's one of most innovative and well-run charity fund-raisers out there.
I'm giving away my age when I say I remember it when it started in the Salt Palace with about 100 trees for a 2-day stint.
It quickly outgrew the space.
Now there are 700 trees plus gingerbread houses, wreaths, doors, small trees, kid's crafts, a boutique, sweets and a running talent show in the South Towne Expo Center for four days.
Trees were generally green or white with lots of lights and pretty ornaments.
Today, there are all colors and kinds including sports trees, a Peanuts comic tree, and Barbie trees (My 3-year-old granddaughter planted her feet squarely and refused to leave this tree. She also refused to share it with any other kids, telling them to beat it when they tried to look at it).
There's a red-neck Christmas tree with packages wrapped in newspaper, an "Up" tree with Kevin the mother bird sticking right out of the middle and balloons standing in for a star.
You name it and somebody's made a beautiful tree out of it.
It's a gorgeous and mesmerizing sight.
But the best part right now is the Kid's Korner.
Someone has come up with a whole variety of inexpensive and easy-to-make crafts for children. They can make star ornaments, fuzzy caterpillar strips, layered sand necklaces and plaster ornaments. They can call one of Santa's elves for just a single ticket.
I have been impressed with the price.
While trees and gingerbread creations are out there selling for thousands of dollars, in the Kid's Korner everything is just a couple of tickets and the tickets are 3/$1.
How great is that when you have kids who want a wand AND a chance to fish for a prize AND a chance to stand inside a giant bubble?
Bless you organizers for staying in touch with the reality, recognizing that almost everyone coming to the Festival is going to bring a child or two who's going to get bored with beauty and creativity.
By having an inexpensive Kid's Korner, you take them out of the aisles, make a little more money and soothe the savaged parents.

Monday, November 28, 2011

True "Breaking Dawn" fans, unite!

Old guys who've never read the books won't get it.
Younger women who don't identify with Bella won't get it.
You've pretty much got to be a serious fan to love the Twilight movies, especially "Breaking Dawn."
If you don't know the history, it's hard to see why Bella is so nervous as she marches down the aisle. It's hard to comprehend what Bella is giving up to marry Edward and why it bugs Jacob who is so upset about getting his wedding invitation that he rushes out to phase into werewolf status, tearing off his shirt along the way (always an audience favorite moment!).
You can't really enjoy the love scenes and the honeymoon unless you're invested in the Edward/Bella story.
Now I know people complain that the movie is too sensual and too bloody and to them, I say, "What did you expect of a vampire honeymoon?"
I think it's unfair to expect a tidy story here.
After all, people, the book is about vampires trying to fit into regular society and a love story for the centuries.
Those of us who devoured the Twilight books are loving the movies, seeing Bella and Edward and characters like Alice come to life.
You're all free to be disinterested if you like but just hush about it.
Follow the example set by my good husband.
He jumped in once the furor began and actually read the books.
He's gone to the movies with my daughters and me and he's behaved himself. (For "Breaking Dawn" he sat alone in the front section  — this 60-year-old gray-haired man —while we three females sat a few rows back. We had to buy his ticket later and couldn't get it with us. He looked really cute explaining to all the women around him that he wasn't a dirty old man who had come alone, he had female companions in the theater.)
He's now entitled to an opinion because he knows the back story. (He is not allowed to snicker in the love scenes.)
But the rest of you, if you haven't paid your dues, don't talk to me about how you didn't like it or it didn't make sense to you. So what if werewolves and vampires don't actually exist and a human and a vampire could never make a flesh-and-stone baby? Who cares that a vampire pregnancy wraps it up in a couple of very hard weeks?
Love conquers all, you know.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

No more pumpkin pie

Years ago, I made my Libby's pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving.
It took a lot of work.
The pies have to bake for two different long periods and there are a lot of ingredients to mix in.
I had used the same recipe — off the can — that I had liked for years so I was very surprised when my husband declined to have a second slice.
Apparently it tasted funny to him which is alarming because he'll normally eat anything without a fuss.
I didn't know until later that the pies tasted wrong.
I had eaten some and found nothing odd.
I'm wondering now if I left out the salt or he hit a big chunk of nutmeg or something that didn't break up into the mix.
He says (helpfully) "Maybe you just got a bad can of pumpkin that year."
I don't think I'll ever know what happened.
The only thing I know for sure is I'm not making any more pumpkin pies.
I pass by the displays now without a twinge of conscience and I've flat out told Marc he can eat other people's pumpkin pies.
My feelings are hurt and since I don't know what I did wrong, I don't really dare try the same thing again.
Is that so immature of me?
Marc thinks I'm overreacting.
But hey, if's broke and you don't know how it got broke, it's pretty hard to fix it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The parenting book I want to see

My expression at the thought
It's been a while since I wrote a "dad-bashing" entry.
Since my 88-year-old father moved into the Legacy Retirement facility in Taylorsville, there's been considerably less daily contact and he's moved from being the topic of the day in my mind to more of an occasional concern.
But Friday, he needed someone to drive him to the Veteran's Administration office to discuss his pension so we were riding along and talking.
"I think I'll write a parenting book," he announced. "I think there are things people need to understand."
I was dumbstruck.
Here was the man I try to forgive daily for ignoring his four children — including me — and he's thinking he did it right? He's thinking he has wisdom to share now?
I had no response for several minutes.
All the missed birthdays and holidays and special events he chose not to note flashed through my brain. I thought about how he cannot name my six children or more than a couple of his great-grandchildren.
I bit back some cryptic comments about comparing important golf dates to less important baptismal dates and christenings.
"The secret is to choose somebody with compatible goals," he added. "You have to agree on what you want for your children.
"I always tried to notice the positive and ignore the negative. That works," he said. "Look at how you all turned out."
I realize there's a backhand compliment in there somewhere but it still made me mad.
"Dad," I said. "You ignored us your whole life! What are you saying?"
He looked at me without any comprehension and went blissfully on, talking about cherishing and love and rewriting history before my eyes.
"You children were always my first priority," he concluded.
My goodness. Where was I this whole time?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trying to break into the Pentagon

There are a few things I miss about being a beat reporter.
While it's nice to be able to stay in my pajamas to do interviews when it's snowing or raining outside, I miss some of the perks.
For instance, when you announce to a source that you're a reporter for a major paper, they sit up and take notice. There's an inborn fear of real reporters.
You sometimes get the runaround but in the end you can usually convince the secretary, the assistant or the vice-president that you need to get through to a live person.
Sometimes the threat of using GRAMA is needed (that's the Government Records Access Management Act that tells sources they have to release information the public has a right to know).
Me interviewing magical kids
Working on my own I find I have a little less clout.
I can wheedle, whine and nag but in the end, people just have to decide to be nice or not based on how their day is going and whether they feel inclined to help me.
Right now, I'm trying to get information out of the Department of Commerce and the Pentagon.
Neither wants to be very forthcoming although the Pentagon people get more points than the Commerce folk.
I call up and ask for Public Affairs and they give me Human Resources which then passes me back to Public Affairs when I ask my questions. I spend a lot of wasted time in the loop.
And I'm not asking for anything big, just a couple of phone numbers for people involved with the recent renovations.
You'd think I was asking for classified stuff.
No one knows the answer to my question or can help or knows anyone who can help.
I've gone round and round for a couple of weeks here.
I'll keep trying because I also know that pestering usually works. People will call me back just to get me to stop leaving messages.
But I miss the good old days when I was scary.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Vocal Point focus

For the past couple of months, Monday night has been Vocal Point night for Marc and me.
Because BYU's a cappella group has been singing and succeeding on NBC's "the sing-off" show, I've been watching and taking notes so I could send up stories about them.
In the beginning, I didn't really take into account how many shows I would have to end up watching.
Not that it's been a bad thing.
I really like watching Vocal Point. They are funny and good at what they do. Their songs are enjoyable and they entertain.
It's the other songs and singers that bug me, especially some of the rapper kind of songs that go on and on.
I've never been a rap fan and usually when the song wanders off, so do I.
(Invariably, the songs I dislike the most brings raves from the judges so what do I know?)
We've sat for two hours now every Family Home Evening night for weeks.
We've become so well acquainted with Vocal Point that when we went to the Watch Party at Jordan Commons last week, we felt like family.
Several members of the group were running around hugging and shaking hands and I almost forgot they wouldn't know me from Adam because I've only talked to them on the phone.
Once I told them my name, they recognized my byline but my face was that of a stranger. They had to struggle to think of something to say to me.
"Thanks for the stories," said McKay Crockett (who looks a lot younger and more vulnerable in real life).
"Yeah, they were good," said Keith Evans.
"We liked them," said another group member who was looking around for somewhere else to be.
I didn't mind.
I'm still a fan. So as they were voted off last night, I had mixed emotions. It'll be nice to get back to our home evening lessons.
I've grown to love Vocal Point and their charm. I think they were somewhat rooked because if they had got to where the audience could vote, I think 14 million Mormons could have heated up the phone lines and sent them over the finish line.
Perhaps some politics came into play?
Here's the KSL link to my final story with video. Enjoy. (

Monday, November 14, 2011

Other things I do

For almost a year now I've been writing some stories — officially they're called project profiles — for the Won-Door Corporation.
In case you didn't know, Won-Door manufactures the kind of sliding accordion doors that divide the cultural hall from the chapel in most LDS buildings.
They also have doors in hospitals, schools, government buildings and malls, all sizes, lengths and varieties. (The Pentagon has 20 in each of its five wedges!) They keep out fire, smoke and people from whatever part or parts of a building that needs to be protected.
A Dura-Sound door in a school
I started out knowing very little about these doors and a year later, know quite a bit more. I've learned terms like Fire-Guard and Sound Barrier and why it matters if a door can be closed manually as well as automatically when the sprinklers and smoke alarms go off.
movie theater door
It's been an interesting ride but not very many people know about it or what I'm doing.
Even my daughter admitted the other day that she had no idea the doors in the churchhouses were the ones I was talking about.
I decided it was time to advertise a bit.
The Won-Door Corporation has an office in Salt Lake and district offices all over the United States. They'll celebrate the company's 50th anniversary next year.
The company has my respect, after working with various district managers over the past 11 months. They seem to have it together.
My pieces appear on their company website but you have to look for them. (I have the URL on my links of favorites on the right-hand side. At the bottom of the page, there's a place called "blog" and that's my stuff.)
If you get a chance, check it out.
I think some of the profiles are pretty interesting and hey, if anyone else out there needs something similar done for their company or product, just ask me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Paying for grades and pictures

Years ago, when my children were just starting into junior high and high school, I decided to motivate them to get good grades.
Foolishly I offered $5 per A on their report cards — not realizing how many As came on each card and how often report cards came out.
Multiply that by six pretty good students and I was facing a national debt-type crisis in my pocketbook.
I couldn't keep up.
I felt bad later when I had to pull back and just offer a hearty "Good job!" instead of cash.
(A similar thing had happened with my oldest son who liked video games. I had told him he could get a new game for each good report and very quickly got into trouble there. He made out like a bandit for a while.)
Even today when my kids have their own kids, they tease me about it but none of them have made the same financial mistake.
It seems I always underestimate what people will do for monetary compensation and the hit on my budget.
(I'm not alone in my faulty promise-making. One year, Ski Utah offered free ski passes to high school kids with 3.5 GPAs and my middle son who never cared about his grades before suddenly hit the books and passed all the tests and earned a ski pass! So did a whole lot of other kids in the state so Ski Utah had to pull back on its offer.)
(I also think the airlines and credit card companies start out with good intentions with their reward programs but quickly pull back when they have to pay up.)
Now, I've started a reward system with my husband that bears the same kind of potential for trouble.
I told Marc he ought to feel like he could buy a new Kindle book each time he took photos for me when I went on stories. He does a good job and takes time out of his busy days to help me, after all.
But that's getting out of hand even though I added, "for published pictures" to the criteria.
I owe him for about five pictures now and I'm getting grumpy when he reminds me about it. It sort of defeats the purpose of having a freebie photographer.
Maybe it needs to be "for really good published pictures that I feel like acknowledging when there's plenty of money in the budget?"

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tootsie Roll Pox Pops

When my second son was a baby he got the chickenpox and he suffered.
There wasn't a half-inch of clear skin on his little bottom. Everywhere you looked there was a red, painful bump made more bothersome by the heat of his diaper.
He was too little to understand "Don't scratch!" and just big enough to know he was miserable. He looked at me with an "Why don't you make it all better?"expression.
Two weeks later, my daughter had them and two weeks after that, my oldest. I figured it was the nature of things and never considered sending everybody to a chickenpox party so they'd get it all at once.
That's why when I read a story about mothers buying lollipops licked by someone with chickenpox and then mailed to people who want their children to catch chickenpox, I was appalled.
It's a really bad idea, an outgrowth of the chickenpox parties of 20 years ago.
It toys with the balance of the universe, risks lives and invites abuse all in the same sentence.
What is someone thinking?
(It's inevitable, I suppose, that people will reckon their kids will get the disease anyway so why not schedule it in on purpose.)
I get that people want to plan their lives and some may even think this way they are protecting their kids from getting chickenpox when they're too big for a children's disease.
I guess there's some logic to protecting those bigger boys who could have serious side effects from chickenpox.
But how about just going for the gold, hoping one's child doesn't catch it or if he or she does, that it's a mild case that leaves some immunity behind?
There are probably folks reading this who think that's kind of what the logic is behind vaccinations: give the injectee a little bit of the disease so his/her system will become capable of fighting off the disease entirely.
Acceptable risk, maybe?
Perhaps. But I can promise you that if I send a grandchild a lollipop, it will be a clean, still-in-the-package sweet with no germs invited along for the ride.
And viruses are not welcome at my parties.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The construction puzzles

These days it's a challenge to drive anywhere in Utah and Salt Lake counties.
You have to be able to negotiate lots of little orange barrels and drive on the side of the road where the stoplights are not.
You need to be ready to slow and stop at a moment's notice and hope-hope-hope the cars behind you do the same.
I don't know how we'll manage in the winter.
It's a maze.
SR-92 is always drifted over and impossible to see in a snowstorm.
You add these jersey barriers on both sides and a couple of unexpected lane changes and it'll be a collision course.
Oh, and guess what? UDOT just informed the people along the route that — surprise — the roadwork won't be done by the end of October. (A real surprise given they sent out their news announcement the first of November!)
Drive this way
It's literally driving most of us crazy as we try to get from here to there.
There's nowhere to go that isn't littered with orange and flag people.
And as soon as you figure one route out, it changes to something else.
The other night I was trying to get home from Orem to my daughter's home in north Lehi.
I took the new 2100 North exit and headed up 300 West to Bull River Road.
Suddenly there was a "Road closed" sign ahead of me but there was nowhere I could see to go.
I thought I would have to turn around in the dark when the road suddenly dropped away.
I was now driving on dirt in what appeared to be an excavated zone. A tiny sign said "Keep Right" so I did and now I was on a narrow curving road that headed east.
My granddaughter was alarmed.
"Grandma!" she said. "They took away the road! It's gone!"
I assured her it wasn't gone — just different — and drove on, not at all sure that I wasn't headed for disaster.
We came out close to her house and arrived safely but I'm thinking she's pretty much right.
The roads as we know them are gone.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Flying away

Jack the kid
Also Jack
It seemed like a good idea.
We want to see our grandson in England in person and the best way to get there is to fly over the pond.
He's four and growing up fast without us and even though Skype is a marvelous thing, virtual hugs aren't quite the same as the real ones.
So we bit the financial bullet and bought airline tickets last night.
Now we're wholly committed even though some of the plan is kind sketchy.
Originally we were going to trade our timeshare week for a week in coastal England.
I figure if I started early enough, we could snag something decent in a part of the United Kingdom that we hadn't already seen.
I threw in our hat. I picked out three places I liked,  registered with the Interval International people, paid the exchange fee and waited.
It's been more than two months now and nothing has come up for exchange.
Because I'm not really very patient and I like to plan ahead, I have begun to feel a little uneasy.
I didn't dare buy our airline tickets because I wasn't sure what week might come through but the prices for the time we want to fly are rising fast and a lot.
Finally, last night, I just jumped off the ledge.
I bought the tickets and I've booked a rental car and I'm starting to mentally pack up. (No matter that I don't know for sure where we'll hang our hats or park our rental car.)
When I called this morning to expand the exchange area and maybe increase the likelihood that we'll still effect an exchange, the lady said, "You know, you might want to have a Plan B in mind. English exchanges are really very rare."
Perhaps I should have been told that in the beginning.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Freaking out little boys

It's funny that things never go exactly the way you would expect with kids.
We were throwing a Spooky Supper Halloween party for our grandsons who live in the area, sort of a turnaround because they weren't included in Grandma's Tea Party for the girls.
We decided to keep it simple and sort of silly rather than gross and scary because frankly, I don't do well with gross and scary.
Connor getting wrapped
Kyle the happy mummy
Besides the ages we were working with range from 6-12. We had a mummy wrap contest, a Horcrux Hunt with edible snakes and Ring-Pops and a spooky story with dried apricot ears and boiled cauliflower brains, nothing too horrid. We wrapped hot dogs in breakstick dough so we could have mummys for dinner.
Instead of a spook alley with chainsaws and dripping blood, we opted for a couple of jokes.
In our living room, we set up a tent and draped it in black cloth. Then we threw in a couple of red plastic bats we have hanging around and hung a warning sign "Danger, Rare Bats!!"
We put out a tunnel for the kids to crawl through and set up a blinking light inside.
Then we put a bunch of toy baby rattles inside a cauldron at the top of a tower built out of big, plastic barrels.
Again, we hung a warning sign that said "Careful, Keep Back, Baby Rattlers!"
We led the kids in one by one and let them tiptoe carefully to the edge of the barrels so they could peek inside. As soon as they lifted the lid, we rattled some pebbles in a can.
Every one of them jumped.
Every one took it seriously.
Some of the bigger ones wouldn't go down the tunnel to see the bats.
One child said he could hear the bats moving around in there and he wasn't taking any chances.
It's a wrap for Scott
He hung back until he could see that some of his cousins went in and came back safely.
It was interesting to me how wholly they believed what grandpa and I said.
If we told them there were live snakes in our barrel, they bought it.
If we said there were rare red bats in our tent, there absolutely were.
In a way, that's flattering and kind of sad that we used that blind trust to trick them, huh?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The magic in making kids laugh

Timothy Riggs is a gifted magician.
He can juggle fire.
He can eat fire and use invisible holes to slip metal rings onto unbroken ropes.
He can divide his assistant with swords and metal sheets and make her disappear only to reappear in entirely new outfits.
He's good with the sleight-of-hand, expert at amazement.
But he's at his best with children.
At the SCERA recently for the annual Trick-or-Treat show, he plucked a few out of the audience to help him on stage.
Ellie helped him gather coins in his bucket from her ears, her nose and all of the kids in the audience (who kept tossing in their imaginary coins despite Timothy's protests and to the delight of all).
He used Tucker as a front man who donned a huge tuxedo coat and tie and added an animated face to Timothy's magical hands as they performed scarf tricks galore.
He made 6-year-old Joseph laugh and laugh as he did rope tricks that he attributed to "dangerous" Joseph.
It was so much fun to watch the kids participate and be amazed.
Even a cynical 11-year-old had to admit it was pretty magical the way Timothy put solid metal hoops together only to "breathe" them apart.
Timothy starts out telling the kids he went to the library to learn magic and the books turned him into a magician.
He mixes enough simple tricks with the ones that can't be figured out that the show works for children and adults.
His Chinese yo-yo tricks are wondrous on their own.
His juggling is fantastic, especially as his assistant adds a stinky toilet bowl cleaner, a plunger and ultimately a heavy bowling ball to his flying props.
"I meant to do that," he declares when a pink ball goes bounding off stage and it's impossible to know whether he's telling the truth or not.
This is a show geared to entertain.
Bless Timothy for shaping his show to include youngsters and bless the SCERA for making it available for only $5 a ticket (that includes free candy at the end).
See more about Timothy Riggs at:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Magic and scary stuff

I'm realizing that the child's brain deals with the magical and the spooky stuff quite differently than we old fogies do.
I was trying out some Halloween on my 6-year-old granddaughter just to see how it played out.
I'm prepping for a Spooky Supper with a half-dozen grandsons on Saturday and I needed a kid's opinion on a couple of Spook Alley moments.
In one dark box I had a bunch of baby rattles and told her there were Baby Rattlers inside that she had to stay away from. I tried to help her understand what rattlesnakes are and how mean baby rattlers could be before she peeked over the top to see these creatures.
I rattled some buttons in a box just as she peeked in.
She was unimpressed.
"That's not scary, grandma!" she said accusingly even though I could tell she was also relieved that nothing jumped or hissed at her.
I told myself it was OK because I don't think she really knows what a rattlesnake is anyway.
I tried the next thing.
I had hidden a couple of baseball bats inside "The Rare Bat Cave" and told her she needed to be quiet so as not to scare the bats away. I had a fake black bat hanging over the doorway so she'd have a picture in her mind of what a real bat looks like.
She crawled inside the tunnel and looked around.
She came back out indignant once more.
"That's not scary, grandma!! she said again. "Do you know about scary?"
I guess not.
I'll have to get busy and try harder before my Halloween party.
Otherwise, the boys I've invited are going to laugh.
Wait, that's the point.

Monday, October 24, 2011

C3PO gets bumped

When Samuel Mirejovsky of Newport Beach, Calif., looked for Legos to use in his model of the Bountiful LDS temple, he had to be creative and imaginative.
He had to trade with collectors all over the world to get the pieces he needed for windows and spires and steps.
He paid a good price in some cases to get pieces that accurately replicate the stonework and design, spending more money than he wanted to admit to his wife and several months putting the model together for his ward's Primary — an impressive 4x4 foot building with more than 13,500 blocks.
For the Angel Moroni he came up with what his 4-year-old son thought was a neat solution.
He used a golden Star Wars robot — C3PO — holding an inverted wineglass for his trumpet.
Here he is:
Mirejovsky admits it may at first appear to be an irreverent solution but gold pieces are rare and C3PO actually makes quite a cute addition to the project.
When I first proposed the story on the Lego temple, I wasn't sure my editors would run with it because sometimes Mormon readers fail to utilize their sense of humor and no one wants to look like they are mocking something so sacred.
It was a nice surprise when they said OK.
I interviewed Mirejovsky on the phone and found him charming and completely loyal to the church and his beliefs.
I laughed when Mirejovsky told me about using C3PO and threw in a paragraph or two about him.
The editors cut out the part and in their defense, I don't really blame them.
C3PO was a good guy in the movies but really no angel.
He's a toy.
Here's the link to the whole story:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Three inches too few

In the paper today there's a piece about Delta Airlines adding three inches to their coach seating.
For a mere $99 upgrade fee, you can now have back the three inches they took away sometime last year.
Isn't that peachy?
It makes it so you can actually push past your fellow passengers on your way to the middle and/or window seat without doing permanent damage.
It puts the tall guys — like my husband — back in the game. It means when you drop something, you can actually bend down to get it without getting your head stuck.
It's just great and certainly big of them.
It's also a bit insulting to think the airlines believe we won't all remember a time when there was actual legroom AND little meals AND free luggage AND perks like blankets and tiny pillows and earphones that made traveling fun that came with the ticket price.
I'm not that old that I don't remember when airlines were vying for our business and working to get us to fly more often.
Now it's painful and uncomfortable.
Besides the security check-ins and privacy invasions on the way to the plane, today traveling by air means going hungry and getting fleeced all along the way.
I recognize the need for airlines to make money.
I know it has to be expensive to keep planes in the air and fueled and maintained.
I recognize the need to recoup the cost of high-priced jet fuel. It's got to be tough to pay pilots.
But it would help if there was some honesty in the hype.
Don't try to tell us they're "giving" us three inches when it was our three inches to lose.
Don't try to sell us on the value of being able to purchase a $7 sandwich that used to come with the flight.
And don't try to tell me they're are doing me a favor by letting me bring on a bag for $50.
The formerly  "friendly skies" are today's perilous horizons, give or take a few inches.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The end is near

We're almost done with our second round of the HCG diet, aren't you glad?
I'm sure everyone is pretty much fed up (pun is intended) with hearing about it.
And we're pretty much done with thinking about it: can't have this, can't have that, how many calories in this, why is there nothing but fish and chicken and lettuce to eat?
We're two days away from normalcy and the good news is, Marc lost his designated 25-30 lbs. and I hit my goal weight with two pounds to spare.
Our clothes fit better (actually some are a bit loose now) and we both like feeling a little lighter.
But it's been tough.
Not the 500 calories-a-day part so much as the three weeks of protein replenishment.
The theory is that after starving the body for 21 days, it's time to shovel in the protein.
You don't want the body to realize it's starving and start to hang onto any fat it can find.
So you go from 500 calories a day to a whopping 2,500 to 3,000 calories.
None of it can come from sugar or starch which means I can't go out and grab a Sweet Tooth Fairy cupcake or even one of those little tiny carrot cake desserts at P.F. Chang's.
We have to eat a LOT of meat and butter.
It really feels wrong.
Marc is happier with it than I am because he's always wanted to eat a lot of food. He likes a second and third helping.
I like less. In fact, the first time through this, I gained weight back because I didn't believe in the theory. I'm trying to have a little more faith this time around.
But, still, while he's having protein burgers at In-N-Out and double down sandwiches at KFC, I'm drinking lots of whole milk, putting butter on my vegetables, whipping cream on my raspberries.
He's loading up with a grin and I'm feeling like a kid again facing a big plate of food I don't want to work through.
I'm realizing nothing much has changed in my 60 years of experience. I still don't want to eat what's good for me. I don't want to be told what to eat and Mom was right. I don't like anything.
Anybody want to slip me a candy bar?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spud-picking weather

I know in Utah the cooler, crisper weather signals the coming of the deer hunt followed shortly thereafter by Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But for us Idahoans — and there are more of us than you think — it's spud-picking weather.
While the rest of the world went crazily on during October, going hunting or on vacation, we country kids were hitching up our Levis and packing our lunches for two weeks of the endless picking of potatoes.
I thought everybody did it.
School let out and every teenager who was healthy asked the local potato farmers for "jobs."
These jobs paid well in our eyes and since everyone was in the fields, it was the socially cool thing to do.
You'd get up before the sun, dress in your oldest, warmest stuff, grab a pair of gloves and pile into someone's pickup.
Once at the field, you grabbed a wire basket and started in on some of the longest rows of vegetables you ever saw.
It wasn't particularly hard work but it was dirty and every once in a while, you knelt on a soft, rotten potato or flushed out a nest of naked baby mice. Ugh.
In between filling and dumping the baskets into gunnie sacks, you broke up the routine by figuring out how much money you were making. It was exciting.
It was up to the individual pickers to total up the bags. I think we got all of 25 or 30 cents per bag for a grand sum of maybe a $100 or so by the end of the two weeks.
I don't know why we did it, really. Looking back now, it looks like slave labor to me but it was the social thing to do and there were often cute guys coming around for the filled sacks.
It was good, honest work that required little or no experience. It was what everybody did at the time.
So even though I still have nights where I'm picking potatoes in my sleep, I don't regret it. I think it's almost a shame that few Utahns know the feeling.
In fact, when the temperature drops and everything around me shouts "Fall!," I still get a bit of a hankering for the good old potato-picking days.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Magic of Timothy

I'm a fan of Timothy Riggs, the magician behind "The Magic of Timothy."
I have been since the last time I saw him at the SCERA and even then, I wondered why a magician of such skill was working in a local venue. At the time, I said he could probably work in Vegas year round.
After my interview with him, I grabbed my husband and a couple of grandkids and chased him down at a place in West Valley known as Hollywood Connections where he puts on free magic shows every Saturday afternoon.
Again, I was amazed and entertained.
Not only does Timothy do a whole variety of tricks including juggling flaming swords, bowling pins and sharp knives, he does so with facial expressions that highlight the magic.
He's funny and he obviously takes a lot of delight in amusing others. He combines magic with comedy and gets a kick out of poking a lot of fun at himself.
He involves the audience. He levitates people. He gets himself into and out of dangerous situations.
He'll be doing a show again at the SCERA on Oct. 26th and the tickets are cheap.
It's worth checking out, believe me.

Friday, October 14, 2011

My review of the new Footloose

Marc and I were invited to the advance screening of "Footloose" and since we got complimentary tickets and a free T-shirt, I feel I should put out a review. (The Deseret News already had two reviewers lined up).  Oh, wait, they've posted it. Here's the link:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Zombies falling down

There was a spooky story in today's paper.
I usually try to avoid gruesome tales while I'm trying to eat my eggs and bacon but this one caught my eye.
I just had to tell Marc about it and it made us both laugh.
Seems a movie company was trying to shoot footage of a bunch of zombies coming for the kill in Toronto for the Resident Evil series. They were on some sort of raised, wheeled platform doing their zombie thing when the platform collapsed.
A bunch of the zombies were dumped off the platform and hurt when they fell through a gap between platforms.
It was hard to tell how badly any one zombie was hurt because they were already bloody and ragged with missing limbs, gory wounds and white-painted faces.
I gather it was quite the task trying to sort out zombie-ness and injury.
Loved these lines: "Rescue workers at first were startled at the seemingly catastrophic scene.
"I could see the look on the first paramedic, saying 'Oh my God,'" Toronto emergency medical services Commander David Ralph said with a laugh.
At last count, there were 12 of the 16 dumped zombies hurt, from cracked ribs to a broken leg to pulled back muscles.
Now, in case anybody out there is related to one of these zombies and thinks I'm being insensitive, I know it's not really funny.
When people get hurt, it usually isn't.
But you gotta admit, in this instance, it's a little bit of a chuckle, don't you think, specially this close to Halloween?