Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Friend in Need . . .

It gives me hope for the future when I see compassion and charity freely given. Hearts have not yet grown cold, and there is so much good in the world. NieNie (Stephanie) and Christian Nielson are recovering from burns sustained in a plane crash, and it has been beautiful to see this story unfold and be passed from one friend's blog to another. I will be following the story, and doing what I can to lift up the hands of those that hang low.

Please feel free to do the same. Life is beautiful, people are good - and will oft times amaze you with their love and compassion. Send prayers, send a post card, send whatever you can, and be the angel heaven counts on to do God's will. Thanks to all my friends who are setting awesome examples.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Chiclets

It wasn't long after Sam was born that I thought to myself, "he looks so familiar to me . . .". After comparing the pics of my three at the same age, I now realize why - they all look pretty much the same, like a box of Chiclets gum. Slight variations, but pretty much the same mold. Okay, "one of these things is not like the other," Baby Kate came over for a playdate, but its one of the most recent pics of Sam. It's pretty easy to see which ones are all a matched set!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Physician, Heal Thyself

I have gotten many compliments over the years on my excellent organizational capabilities, and I LOVE to hear it. Today though, was a crystallizing experience where I approached THE FILING CABINET (TFC), with new eyes.

Initially, TFC was a two drawer operation. Marriage and a couple of years later, it grew to contain 5 drawers and an Index to facilitate information retrieval. A cheap piece of hud that we discovered too late did NOT cantilever, it was still our bastion of information. Important documents like old tax returns, marriage certificates, the only letter I ever received from my brother, how to make a candy corn planter pot(complete with twisted wire and raffia), and a plethora of other "how to's."

It has sat there as a permanent fixture of our home gathering old address lists, holiday ideas and financial secrets that I was afraid I might forget. I could pull up old french tests from the University of Iowa, college acceptance letters, a facsimile of the letter Eisenhower sent to the troops before they stormed the beaches of Normandy - even old themes from Jr. High. Until today.

Here is picture proof of the destruction. It took three trips out to the recycling to get it all up off of the floor. In a five drawer filing cabinet, approximately THREE were full of irrelevant stuff, and the other two will soon be reduced down to ONE once we PDF some stuff that is nice to have, but not necessary to keep on file. Though I have preserved over 10 years of beautifully kept tax files, I only need 3. It gave Abigail some shredding to do while I continued to winnow out file after file.

TFC was placed attractively on the sidewalk, and taken by someone who is probably excited to now have a place for their stuff. For me, I realized that I can't have it all. And that is okay. Within my files was one marked "My Dream House," which was fun to peruse. Some things, I still love, and others I have outgrown. Like the desire for a VHS tape rewinder, for instance, that was in the shape of a piano. Still beautiful in the glossy catalog page next to the piano keys wallpaper border and musical notes wallpaper print. Genius! It seemed so cool at the time, but so expensive that I'd have to only "dream" until I was fabulously wealthy enough to buy such accoutrements for my future home.:D

So dreams change, ideals change, and even furniture changes. We are so thrilled to say goodbye to TFC, and someone is equally thrilled to have it gracing their home. I almost feel like placing a notch in TFC to see if it will freecycle back to my kids some day in their attempt to "get it together," but for now it has been a cathartic experience. Sometimes letting go of the past is the best way to embrace the future. I'm feeling better already!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You're Just Like your Father!

Sometimes I look at my kids and know assuredly that they did NOT get switched at the hospital. Here is baby Sam doing something that is SO like his Father - the "I need one leg out of my covers" thang.

I was raised with the sheets tightly tucked into hospital corners, so never had this tendency. But Matthew does.

He actually complained about my tidy sheet changing habits after we were first married. I'd change the sheets, and he'd come to bed and find the fresh, clean, top sheet tucked in all the way up to the pillows - like you see in every magazine ad or reputable hotel room. So it was funny to me when I walked in to check on the baby and saw that he too needed to let his leg "breathe." Made me laugh - cause I know that Sam is his fathers child!

Monday, August 18, 2008


Last night I glibly wrote to my sister, "A mission is like being in a taffy pulling machine - you get stretched every-which-way, and usually at a constant, high rate of speed. It will help you so much in your later life . . ."

Like today . . . (grrrrrr,) I HATE the smell of pee! But today is the taffy pull of smelling pee! Benjamin took his pee soaked navy "Cars" bottoms, which I told him to toss in the laundry room, and he tossed them in a dryer full of wet, white clothes! Then Abigail turned it on! I have a pee smelling load of white laundry!

Abigail was wearing different pj bottoms, and I should have known that there would be pee soaked undies and jamma bottoms in her room on the floor!

Before putting Benjamin on the bus, I got him into underwear so that he could get used to not just peeing in a pull-up. While writing this post, he leans on the couch and starts peeing on the floor! In FRONT of me! AAAAHHHHH! YOU DON'T JUST PEE ON THE FLOOR CHILD! I have hustled him to the bathroom, made him pee there, and come start wiping up the pee on the carpet. I am utterly SO SICK OF PEE right now, and my child looks at me, the floor, and his cloth with a look that says,

"What mom. It's just pee."

I do believe that in the pre-existence, we got a little check list of "preferred annoyances" and I figured that having kids pee well into their near tweens was much better than, "horribly disfigured" or "turrets" I don't know. I wish I could now see what my alternates were, because I have a sneaking suspicion that my celestial self volunteered. I figure that it must be filling a 3 - 4 credit required course in child rearing and that smelling pee didn't seem like THAT big of a deal in my crystal clean celestial outfit. But now I hate it, I hate it, hate it HATE IT!

We're having a bad pee day.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fresh Pic'd Samlet!

We just got back from Portrait Innovations with Sam's 3 (almost 4)month pics. We did it spur-of-the-moment because we were on that side of town. I grabbed this monkey outfit from the local Carters, and signed up for PI's next available photo shoot. Sam has a bit of acne, and he scratched his face, but I decided not to wait. Sometimes it's just more important to get it done, than to get it done perfectly.

HE WAS SO GOOD! He smiled for about an hour.

He let the photographer take a ton of pics without getting upset, and he laughed when she tickled him or tried to get him to smile. He seemed to be thinking, "I don't know what is so dang funny to you, but okay!"

I love each of the shots, but my favorite is the wicker background. He gives me this look sometimes when he wakes up. A kinda, "Ah yes, I was expecting you. Come into my office please and have a seat . . ." which makes him seem older beyond his years (months) in age. We also love the Alfalfa hair "whoosh!"

We got the portrait package of his chubba chubba legs pulled up, and I simply could resist this one of him giggling. It makes me happy just looking at it.

We are so happy to have this boy in our lives. He is such a darling, laid back, happy kinda kid. He has a great sense of humor, and loves to have people come and coo over him. We had a good time, and I can rest knowing that I'm off the hook for pics for another 2 months. :D

Thursday, August 14, 2008

We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident

... that soon after you get married, there's going to be a conflict over finances. I've been volunteered to set up a booth for the Emergency Preparedness fair on how to "get it together" financially. Simple solution, "spend less than you earn, put 20% of each paycheck into savings," but often complicated to carry out.

What has been your solution? For us, what has made things work is a spreadsheet and automatic billpay. We both do the finances, set up the bills to go out, and things run pretty smoothly. What works for you? I'd love any and all ideas about making it work. So, if any of you have any ideas or websites that have helped you to financially get it together, please share - I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, August 11, 2008

For the person Who Has Everything . . .

In searching for a locket that Santa might deep appropriate for Abigail for Christmas, I ran across this from the MoMA. Framed DNA. You swab whoever's mouth, send off the sample after choosing your colors, and then the send you a framable DNA sample. Good for conversation piece, eh! Or, framed thumbprint! Just make sure that the giftee doesn't have a shady past...


Abigail knows all about Santa apparently. I was asking her what she would like for birthday/Christmas and she surprised us with, "I'd like a duvet!"

"A duvet? - Like mom and dad's feather-filled-blanket-duvet?"

"Yah! Only for MY room."

"Well, hmm. Maybe you could ask Santa for one for Christmas."

"Na ah! Santa doesn't give duvets mom."

"He doesn't?"

"No, duvets don't fit in his Christmas bag - they're too big."

"Well, did you ever think about asking him?"

*exasperated at my obtuseness* "Noo MooOOOom! You don't ask Santa for duvets, he just does toys."

"What about jewelry? I thought you wanted a locket . . ."

"Oh yah, he does jewelry too! I want a locket with your pictures in it!"

"Okay, so he does do jewelry . . . hmm. Does he do appliances, like vacuum cleaners or blenders?"

"No. It's not a toy. Santa brings toys. (pause) . . . Unless thats all you really wanted. *thinks* But WHO WOULD WANT A VACUUM???!! . . . FOR CHRISTMAS!!?? I don't think anyone would want a vacuum for Christmas Mom!"

"Well, you know best. I think you should tell Daddy about Santa's rules so he knows what to ask for . . ."

So, there it is. The official job description of Santa Claus from a true expert. I asked Matthew how someone so small could be so certain, and he said,
"She's at that age where she is very secure in what she knows, even if no one told it to her!"
Magic. Absolute magic.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Searching for a Song

For reasons now obvious to most [Matthew's law firm is dissolving], I am in search of an MP3 playlist of songs that are fun, happy and upbeat. Please let me know what song/s you put on to get to that happy spot. Shania Twain has my top spot right now with, "Up!"

"When everythaaaaaaaaaan is goin' wroong, don't worry, it won't last for loooooong,"

I think that I will either console myself with chocolate or music. One will make me incredbly fat and depressed, the other will help me get the kitchen floor cleaned,

"And up, up, up, can onnnnnly go up from here!"

Feel free to contribute more than one song, prayers and your own schadenfreude if need be. :D Thanks!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

Today is a day of Anniversaries in my family. Mom and Dad celebrate their 40th, and Reagan and Allen celebrate their 5th. To commemorate this happy event, and to satisfy the curious, I'd like to write the TOP 10 things that I have learned from the adorable couple:

1. THE BLITZ: It's a clean up technique that involves these values: many hands make light work, and personal responsibility in a family setting. This was implemented about the time that there were 9 individuals - including a foreign exchange student, an infant, AND an Old English sheep dog - all under one roof. After a meal, when everyone is full, and ready to relax, you put 10 minutes on the clock, and BLITZ. Clean as fast as you can to beat the clock. Someone clears, someone loads the dishwasher, someone wipes off counters, someone sweeps etc. Soon, you have a spotless kitchen, and no one was incredibly put out.

You try to get everything cleaned up after a meal before the time runs out. If someone has decided to "magic off" their name is called as being out of the kitchen, and then there is a RAPID countdown from 10, wherein a body part must be in kitchen boundaries or else the job is all yours. When it is time to work, you had better not be standing still nor the first person to stop! I don't know what scripture it is that says it's a sin to be caught standing around with your hands in your pockets, but my parents live by it!

2. GOT YER BACK: Where possible, my folks will try and help someone else have a good day. When going through a toll, they'll tell the attendant, "This is for my car AND the one behind me, " and pay for the next person to come along - sometimes it was me! Random acts of kindness are not for special occasions, but for every occasion. When my Grandpa was ill, my aunts brought a balloon to the AIDS patient who never had any visitors, -it made him cry, and in the end, my family picked up a new friend.

3. BIRTHDAY RITUALS: I must say that I have THE most awesome family when it comes to birthdays. THEY ARE A BIG DEAL!! You get the cake of your choice, the color of frosting roses of your choice (decorators NEVER put on enough), the dinner of your choice, and before the gifts and ice cream we'll start the "I like the birthday person because . . . and I remember when's."

Each person gets to hear why the members of the table like them and also hear a memory. No false positives either, "You don't look as ugly as you usually do today . . ." is unacceptable. I think this is one of the most profound traditions we have. It is the moment when you hear your family (and anyone else who showed up) express love, gratitude, and often admiration for you. Some people go to their death beds without hearing, "I always loved "x" about you," from their loved ones. I remember many things that my family has said about me over the years. It is the best gift of each birthday.

Finally, singing the candles into the cake. (click on my brother's picture to get a better idea of this . . .) How many visitors have come over, sung "Happy Birthday," and then been shocked that it was only song #1, of about 20! We sing songs from primary, songs we heard on the radio, songs from restaurants, songs from camp, short songs, long songs, military songs, even "16 candles" whether you are 16 or not. It takes a happy moment, and draws it out. It is obnoxious and we love it! People may scoff, but if you have ever been the birthday person, it seems to go all too fast. "This is your birthday song, it is two seconds long!"

4. CHANGING INTERESTS: Like a geological column, you can separate my parents 40 years into eras of their many interests. Though they are, in essentials, still the same person they were when they got married, Mom & Dad gave each other permission to explore, make messes and try something new.

Here are some areas they have delved into: Car restoration, tole painting, The Dead Sea Scrolls, book publishing, fly fishing, how to travel Europe on virtually nothing, gardening (with a specialty in hosta proliferation), fly tying, Education week-apalooza, knitting, photography and THE CIVIL WAR.

*shivers from memories of hearing "Ashokan Farewell" through an entire holiday weekend of Civil War documentaries*

Some people get divorced because of the changes and interests their partner has made over the years, but mom and dad have found a way to make room(and funds) available for each others interests. It has made them both rich. Dad appreciates quilts and mom can name fly patterns right off the cuff.

5. NUMBER ONE FAN: My parents are each other's biggest fans. Mom watched dad's star rise in his career, putting black polish on brown shoes to help him shine, and Dad did the same for mom. He didn't polish her shoes, but he encouraged her in her writing and teaching as her star rose in the academic field. Any dream laid on the table was a possibility, and the only question was what part each person would play to bring it about. One of their dreams, a big family! Some dreams just keep getting better and better. :D

6. NEVER LIE: I'm sure they wouldn't even think of this as a consideration, but my parents don't lie to each other. About anything, for any reason - outside of birthday and Christmas surprises, of course. Nothing is done in a corner, and even if it is an uncomfortable truth, they will tell it. Dad putting the dog in the bathtub with himself, for example, or mom ... doing something equally humiliating, but which I can't think of anything right now.

First rules of living: Be right with God, and be right with your spouse, everything else will take care of itself. Good clean living will get you farther and you'll be happier serving your fellow man, and making church devotion and participation a constant in your life.

It's the attitude I was raised with. It loops in, and through, all the other attributes. Someone needs to be amazing, why not you?

8. THERE IS ALWAYS ROOM FOR MORE: Whether missionaries over for Sunday dinner, or someone who wants to be an "honorary" Nielsen, there is always room in the house, and in our hearts for a good soul. Unexpected pregnancy? Surprise guest? Lonely heart? Awesome, bring it on! We'll just add more water to the soup, and put a couple of kids on the piano bench. We love surprises.

The more the merrier. We treat you like family, and the door is always open. Literally. My parents live in Iowa and don't lock the door. A house sitter once locked the door on her way out, and my folks couldn't get back in because they never carried a house key. Reminds me of this Irish poem:

"Come in the mornin', come in the evenin'
Come when expected, come without warnin'
thousands of kisses you'll find here before you,
and the oftener you come, the more we'll adore you!"

9. TEASE AND BE TEASED: That's the rule. There is no crying in Nielsen get-togethers. You can dish it out, but sometimes it's gonna come back, and be your turn to take it. We don't cry about it, you smile, grin,and bear it the best you can - maybe even wave your "cold dead hands." Humor is highly valued, and a sharp wit is essential to any conversation where two or more Nielsens are gathered. Some have walked away not knowing what happened, just that it happened quickly.

I think every person who ever married into our family was subjected to hours and hours of "ISHTAR," just so they could keep pace up with the movie quotes and jargon the flows freely in our house. I also suggest learning a good impersonation of someone as well as becoming an excellent mimic for newbies. A viewing of "Milo and Otis," and a quick review of all family t-shirts and family quizzes ever made will also help tremendously.

10. SEMPRE FIDELIS: The RB Nielsen's are a crazy bunch, but we are a loyal bunch as well. We have a family flag, motto, cheers, and coat of arms. We know who we are. Though we also see the flaws and vulnerabilities of each member, we will "circle the wagons" and "fix bayonnetts" if someone hurts or tries to harm one of us in any way. There will be tp.

Seriously, it is worse than having a mob hit out on you to be on the outs. More like the Harry Potter "dementors" or the classic "Furies." You don't want to meet one of us in a dark alley. During the last family quiz, for example, we were asked to nominate a family member for a number of things including, "Who you would enlist to help bury a dead body?" Not only were there many contenders, but only one person questioned, "WHAT ONE EARTH WOULD YOU BE DOING WITH A DEAD BODY ANYWAY?!" Yah, that was an in-law, and yes, thankfully, someone DID nominated me - thanks Logs! I got my shovel handy, just in case!!!

There is a love that runs so deep, and so strong, it is truly the envy of most people I know. My dad attracts people searching for balance in their life, and true direction to happiness. They all crave his approval, his advice, and insights. My mom has helped many a soul through one crisis or another, and can speak jive with the best of them. They have been honing their skills for 40 years (do you know what HONE means dad? inside joke), and they could kick anyone's trash at Jeopardy.

It is more likely that you will find this daring duo puttering around together, in some wild adventure or another, trying something new and ignoring their cell phones. Forty years ago, mom did the finances, and dad was the computer guy. Now, they've come full circle and dad is doing the finances and mom is workin' the computer. They are a crossover success, and I'm proud to be one of their kids. Sure love you Mom and Dad - oh, and Reagan and Allen too, who celebrated their fifth anniversary - may you enjoy your path to your 40th as well. :D