Bono and a Christmas Miracle (a bedtime story)

Several weeks ago Dave and I went up to Whittier Area Community Church to watch a video of an interview with Bono that they were showing. Their goal in showing it was to raise awareness of the AIDS crisis in Africa, and to fundraise for a cause they'd decided to support, which was to build a hospital in Malawi for children infected with the AIDS virus. The church had pledged to give $160,000 toward this cause.

The interview with Bono was really interesting. I've been a U2 fan for as long as I can remember, and I always liked that Bono was a believer, although I've never really had a very clear idea of what, exactly, his theology is. After watching the video, there is no more doubt in my mind. He basically preached the gospel right down the line and talked a lot about faith and its importance. It was cool to hear him professing Christ in no uncertain terms, because it's so rare that you see someone with real, practiced Christian beliefs in such a public and popular position. He has such an influence on pop culture and it's exciting to see him use it for something that's truly good.

I also loved hearing him talk about what's going on in Africa and why he's so passionate about the plight of those affected there by AIDS. There is so much violence and ignorance involved, and most of the victims are innocent: women who are raped, babies who are born with the virus. He spoke at length about how these are the people that Jesus is talking about when he talks about "the least of these," and how we are commanded to help them. He seemed to have his facts all straight and wasn't just another famous person championing a cause because it will boost their popularity. He really knew what he was talking about.

One thing that Bono said that I really liked was that Christians and the church need to get behind this cause regardless of the political aspect. That's something that I've thought about a lot lately, how we, as Christians, sometimes turn our backs on something that's right simply because it's high on the liberal agenda. We need to take care of our earth, to help the poor, to feed the hungry, because those are the right things to do. I'm preaching to myself, here, because I forget that the bottom line of these actions is not the liberal agenda, the bottom line is grace and compassion and love.

When we talked to the pastor of the church after the video was shown, he didn't seem very confident that the money they'd pledged would come in. He said they were praying for a Christmas miracle. They got their miracle in a big way. Instead of raising $160,000, they raised $518,702.88.


Merry Christmas!

It's been such a busy two days for us, I feel like this is the first time I've gotten to sit down since early yesterday morning. But it's been so much fun. I will have to write all about it tomorrow, because right now I'm so tired I'm about to fall over. So I'm headed for a hot chocolate-scented bubble bath (thanks Nathan!) with a new book (thanks Mom!) and a diet Coke (thanks....myself!).

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!


One down, four to go...

I finished my first book for the winter reading challenge! My first choice was Like Water for Chocolate, and I liked it. I love chicano/mystical realism lit, so it fit the bill. Unfortunately, I've read a lot by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and he's the absolute best in that genre (in my opinion, anyway), so the rest kind of pale by comparison. But it was a fun read, and now I have to move on to another of my picks, all of which are more serious and harder to slog through.

I know it seems kind of funny that I've only managed one book in the month since I started this. But I got sidetracked. It was my mom's fault! I saw, in early November, that she'd borrowed the last Mitford book from someone. I haven't read that one, and I intended to steal it from her, read it in a couple days, and return it before she noticed it was gone. But in order to read that one, I had to read the first six books again because it had been a long time and I didn't remember them well. So I read all six of them, and then decided not to borrow the book after all, since I'm hoping Santa will bring me my very own copy.

So then I was all ready to move on to my challenge books, starting with Looking Backward. And I read the first few pages, but it got so political so fast that I was disgusted and put it down. And then my fingers accidentally brushed against a copy of Animal Dreams, and then I accidentally picked it up and read the first page, and then I accidentally read the whole book again. That whetted my appetite for a good down-home read, and I picked up both Standing in the Rainbow and The Bean Trees, and am currently devouring them both at a more or less equal rate. So, overall, in the last month I've read eight and a half books, but only one of them was one I'd never read before. Which forces me to admit that I'm failing the winter reading challenge. But I will keep on trying. Though I'm strongly inclined to replace Looking Backward with The Kiterunner.

I have this whole set of thoughts concerning Looking Backward and why I can't get into it. The idea (a book written in 1888 and narrated by a man who's been catapulted into the year 2000 and is looking back over more than a hundred years and talking about the changes) is really intriguing. But the whole thing seems so silly because a guy writing in the late 1800s couldn't possibly imagine the changes that the 20th century would bring about. Anything that he could have dreamt up would be child's play compared to what actually happened. Maybe I'm predicting the book incorrectly, and it's not the author's fault that he had no way of forseeing world-wide wars, the internet, and AIDS, but in this case the truth was so much stanger than fiction could be, and I no longer have a lot of interest in this book. Anyone read it? Am I totally off? Or should I just shut up already and go read the stupid book?

Double the pleasure, triple the fun

Josiah David (left) and Sophia Grace (right) were born to Brian and Ashlee yesterday evening in Phoenix. They are both healthy and doing well - I got to hear one of them crying on the phone! Aren't they cute? He is my first nephew, she is my eighth niece. You can read more details about them and see more pictures here. Welcome to the world, kiddos!


Christmastime is here...

And in honor of that, and because I still can't bring myself to put forth the effort to write something original, here is a meme that Christi sent me. Enjoy, rip off, and post on your own blog so that we can all find out some stuff about each other.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot Chocolate.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa doesn't do jack around our house....mommy and daddy wrap them and put them under the tree.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Colored lights for both. It's tradition! A couple years ago my dad bought some white icicle lights for their house, and my mom and I wouldn't let him put them up (even though I don't live there anymore). We finally compromised and he put up both sets. :)

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
When I think of it....

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Usually about the 1st of December. This year we started late.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Gotta go with the turkey.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
I've always loved the Christmas Eve service at my church. It's at 11:00, so when we were little it meant that we were up REALLY late, and by the time we got home it was after midnight, and I thought it was so fun to wish everyone a Merry Christmas before we went to bed.

8. When did you find out about Santa?
I never believed. But I loved Christi's answer on this one, which was "Find out what?"

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
I never used to, but now our little family does all of our gifts on Christmas Eve since we're with both our families all day on Christmas.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Different every year. This year it's pretty simple, just lights and a few vintage looking ornaments, because I finally found frosted pinecones!

11. Snow! Love it or dread it?
Love it, but that's probably only because we don't get any here, so it's a treat when I get to play in some.

12. Can you ice skate?

13. Do you remember your favorite childhood gift?
I had lots. Cabbage Patch Kids, clothes, a bike...but the best one, I think, was the two 5-subject spiral notebooks my parents got me the year I was 12, because one of them became my first journal, and started me on a 14 year habit of journaling that benefitted me greatly.

14. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Pumpkin pie.

15. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
When we were little we'd get up super early and go get our stockings, then take them in on my parents' bed and open them. I'm planning to keep this going with Judah this year.

16. What tops your tree?
Nothing at the moment. I'm looking for a cool star to use.

17. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?
Giving. Don't I sound so unselfish? But I love receiving too.

18. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
My favorite carol to sing is O Little Town of Bethlehem. Or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but only if it's Christi and me singing it, and no one's listening. And I have a horrible, irreverent weakness for Cartman's version of O Holy Night. Oh, and I love The Holly and the Ivy, and Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella as performed by Manheim Steamroller.

19. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Yum, but one a year is about all I can take.


Music from a vanished civilization

The other day I was digging around my music collection and found a copy of Dido's second album. I'd never actually listened to it, and it's pretty good.

I bought the album in the summer of 2004 on Phi Phi Don island in Thailand. Six months later, almost to the day, the island was under water, part of what got completely destroyed by the tsunami. The CD stand where I bought the album is no longer there, and the guy that sold it to me is, most likely, dead. His music stand was right on the beach. It's a sobering thought, and I don't think I'll ever be able to listen to that particular album without feeling sad about what happened.


Yay! A meme!

Just last night I was thinking, "Man, I hope someone posts a meme soon, because this blog really needs some beefing up and I just don't have anything to say at the moment." And then, lo and behold, Barbara saved the day! With a word association meme. I can't promise that these will be the first things that come to my mind, because generally if I try that it looks something like this: Food: construction site. And while I can see the association there (because isn't that all CalTrans does? Lean on their shovels eating Subway sandwiches?) it's not really representative of what I think of food. But the things I put will be CLOSE to what came to mind first. Here we go.

1. Yourself: procrastinating (because I'm not putting up Christmas decorations like I should be)
2. Your spouse: love
3. Your hair: looking okay at the moment
4. Your mother: best girl friend
5. Your father: smile
6. Your favorite item: bathtub
7. Your dream last night: can't remember
8. Your favorite drink: diet coke
9. Your dream car: Nash Metropolitan (with a teardrop trailer would be sweet!)
10. The room you are in: my living room
11. Your ex: in Pakistan
12. Your fear: rejection
13. What you want to be in 10 years: a better person
14. Who you hung out with last night: Nathan and Judah
15. What you’re not: a work-ahead-of-schedule type
16. Muffins: corn (from Mo's)
17: One of your wish list items: a new black wool coat
18: Time: enemy
19. The last thing you did: gave Judah a bottle
20. What you are wearing: my favorite jeans, pink tank top, pink sweater
21. Your favorite weather: the half-clear after a storm
22. Your favorite book: Animal Dreams (at the moment)
23. The last thing you ate: cake
24. Your life: comfortable
25. Your mood: hopeful
26. Your best friend: generous
27. What you’re thinking about right now: how the new melter I just put in is giving me a sinus headache (but it smells really good)
28. Your car: which one? Mine? The Mustang? Powerful.
29. What you are doing at the moment: killing time
30. Your summer: just long enough
31. Your relationship status: stable and happy
32. What is on your TV: a show about trains sitting on the bottom of the ocean (no, really)
33. What is the weather like: windy and sunny
34. When was the last time you laughed: after lunch when Judah was jumping up and down and making pig noises


Pale blue

Not deep, dark, murky blue, but just a little blue. That's how I'm feeling at the moment. We're in the process of looking for a new place to live. We need a bigger place, as our family will hopefully be expanding at SOME point (no one freak out on me here, this is definitely NOT an announcement). But we're looking to the future, and I'd rather not move pregnant again, especially not eight months pregnant like last time. So we're looking for a three bedroom, ideally on one floor, somewhere in Brea or Fullerton or Placentia. Something like that. We'd like a house or a duplex. We've found a couple of places so far that fit the bill, one in Orange and one in La Habra, both for reasonably good prices. The rent on the one in Orange is $1700/month, which is only slightly more than we're paying right now for our two bedroom townhome. It's nice. But it's a rental. And that's what has me feeling down.

My parents bought their first home, which they're still living in, when they were in their mid-twenties, for the outrageous amount of $25,000. My brothers are both homeowners in Orange County, having reached the home-buying stage before the market went through the roof. Nathan and I hit the home-buying stage a couple of years ago, when things were already completely out of control. And now it feels like we're stuck. We've never wanted to go the condo route, preferring to buy a house that we could potentially stay in for a long time. But we've realized that at this point we'll probably have to start with a condo, if we ever reach the place where we can afford to buy anything at all. We looked around at places to buy about a year ago, and what we found is that if you're looking for a three bedroom condo in any kind of a decent area, you're going to shell out a cool half million, at least. And that seems impossible to us. I talked to a realtor a while back and he told me that you can expect to pay about $650/month for every $100,000 you borrow on a home loan. That would mean making a payment of over $3,000 every month. Which we can't do. There has to be some other way. People are still buying homes around here. How are they doing it?

When I was growing up, all of my friends lived in houses. I didn't know anyone over the age of 30 who lived in an apartment. And it's hard for me to realize that the norm is changing. We grew up in a time when people could buy houses. I always thought that by the time I had kids, I'd own a house too. But that's not really the norm anymore. Our complex is crammed full of kids. And their parents are doctors, lawyers, business owners, tech guys. It's not like we're low income.

I'm trying to look on the bright side, and most days it's very bright. Even though we can't afford to buy, we can afford to live in a really nice complex, with great features (crown molding! walls that aren't standard-issue apartment white!), in Yorba Linda, for pete's sake. We have some friends that own their own homes, and our apartment is bigger than their places. So I guess for right now I'd rather have more room than a deed. But still, I sometimes feel like we're running uphill, and sliding down faster than we can gain ground. Especially when we realize that we could pack up and move to Montana and buy a mansion on 50 acres for less than what Nathan makes in a year. It's tempting sometimes. It really is.


And now back to your regularly scheduled griping

My thankful, optimistic, philanthropic attitude lasted exactly four and a half days.

Remember how I said that I was thankful we are still renting? It has its upsides. But then. Then there are the community laundry rooms. Twelve washing machines, 240 people. At least. And don't we all know, that in community laundry rooms, posession is 100% of the law? If there's laundry in the machine, you don't touch it. Even if it's been sitting there for three days. No matter how mad it makes you. I respect the law, and I expect everyone else to. Unless there's a posted rule about how if it's been there for a certain amount of time, anyone can move it. I'm all for this rule, but it doesn't exist in our laundry rooms.

So I went down there today to move over my two loads of laundry. I was maybe 15 minutes late. I checked my washers, and they were full of someone else's stuff. My soaking wet laundry was sitting on top of two dryers, and not even two empty dryers. It made me furious. I kicked some things. Bad Kristy came out, and I contemplated opening the tops of my two erst-while washing machines so that they'd stop washing and the person who committed the crime would return to find their laundry not even halfway done. But my better self returned, and I left it alone, and waited for the girl to come back when her laundry was done. I asked her why she'd done it, she defended herself with the clever line, "Well, this is a public laundry room." Yeah.

I guess "public" means you check common courtesy at the door. Even in Yorba Linda.


Learning to be thankful

I've been thinking about writing this post all day, trying to pull together the things I'm thankful for. And I started getting a little depressed. It seems like everyone has big exciting things to be thankful for this year. Bri and Ash will have two new babies any minute now. Barbara is moving to South Africa to have new adventures. Aimee and Andrew bought a great new condo. But there doesn't seem to be anything like that for us this year. Judah is following all the usual patterns for babies, growing up slowly and steadily. We're not planning any trips. We're in the same apartment we were last year, with no prospects of buying anywhere in the future. So my list of things to be thankful for was looking like the usual: family, friends, good food and fun. Our life is extremely routine and normal right now.

But then I started really thinking about it. And all of those things, the family, the baby, the apartment, our friends are all huge blessings, when I think of people who don't have all those things. And not even people in third world countries. People here, in Orange County. How many people do we know that are at odds with their families, or are struggling to have babies, or can't make ends meet, or feel like they don't fit in, or feel like life is caving in on them? Hundreds. THANK GOD we have our families, our wonderful, crazy, chaotic families that love us without end. And our sweet baby, who is so bright and cheerful and keeps us laughing with the things he's learning to say (like "coffee" and "punkin pie"). And we have a place to live, and food to eat, and shoes to wear, and relatively clean air to breathe, and furniture to sit on, and money to buy Diet Coke with Splenda and Starbucks caramel mochas so that we don't go through caffeine withdrawal, and books to read, and a great church family, and the luxury of enough clothes to spend a ridiculous amount of time each day figuring out what to wear.

Patrick Henry Reardon said, "Suppose for a moment that God began taking from us the many things for which we have failed to give thanks. Which of our limbs and faculties would be left? Would I still have my hands and my mind? And what about loved ones? If God were to take from me all those persons and things for which I have not given thanks, who or what would be left of me?" So this year, I'm thankful for the way things have stayed mostly the same in my life. Because things are good. I'm thankful that I'm still married to and in love with the most wonderful man in the world. I'm thankful that I still have my same old friends (and some new ones). I'm thankful that we still have our big families mostly nearby and that we still all love each other unbearably. I'm thankful that we still live in a comfortable, spacious apartment. I'm even thankful that we're still renting, because when something breaks we get to dial the magic number and the elves come and fix the problem while we're out. I'm thankful for all of God's continued blessings to me and my family.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!


New love

Thomas, being the great source that he is on what's going on in music, told me about Angels and Airwaves months and months ago. I, being the stressed out mother that I am, felt that I didn't have time to explore any new music. I should have listened. I heard the single on the radio, of course, it being one of the few songs that KROQ consents to play even though the band doesn't have the words "Pepper" or "Killers" anywhere in their name, but I wasn't really paying attention except to think, yeah, it's a pretty good song. Then this morning I stumbled across an old Blink 182 song on my iTunes list and remembered about Angels and Airwaves and how they were pretty good, I seemed to remember. So I headed over to their website and checked out the video for The Adventure (which you should check out too, here). And fell in love.

What I can't understand is how Blink 182, a band that used to make me routinely want to rip the radio out of the dashboard of my car and hurl it into oncoming traffic, became something as incredible as Angels and Airwaves. It's like Tom Delonge woke up one day and went, "I think today I'll begin to actually be a musician." And then created this, a group with an epic sound that would fill up a stadium in a way that would recall the glory days of U2. But there's something a little darker about them, too, a little bit of Cure mixed in there that makes me love them that much more. Tom Delonge still sounds like a bit of a snot-nosed punk-whiner, but somehow it works better than it used to.

This morning KROQ announced that Angels and Airwaves will be performing the second night of Acoustic Christmas. And that's enough to make me want to go, even though I swore I'd never go to another KROQ festival, even though I'd rather be stuck in an elevator with Britney Spears for ten hours than endure a Gnarls Barkley set. I'd do it to see them live. I think it'll be that good.


Barbara made me do it

Barbara posted on her blog about the Winter Reading Challenge, so I thought I'd take it up and see if I could do it. Heaven knows there are enough books on my shelves that I've bought and never read, so this will be good incentive to read some of them. Here are my five books, in no particular order:

1. Looking Backward: 2000-1887 - Edward Bellamy. Dr. Wilshire mentioned this book in one of my history classes, and I was fascinated with the idea. I bought the book, and it's been lying around for probably close to 10 years now.
2. The Man Who Was Thursday - G. K. Chesterton. I think I bought this book because I liked the title. We'll see if it lives up to it.
3. Far from the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy. A book that I've always felt like I should read.
4. Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel. NO, I've never read it. Yes, I KNOW you can't believe it.
5. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley. Heard it's good. One of those books that you should be able to say you've read, much like Animal Farm. Which I also haven't read.

So there they are. I tried to make myself throw in Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, but I just can't bring myself to choke down Russian lit in the winter. But I did put things on my list that are more than fluff. Because fluff is mostly what I've been reading lately. I do most of my reading between 10:00 and midnight, and by that time I'm lazy and feel like I can't handle anything that requires a lot of thought. But I need to get back in the habit, so here I go. I'm starting with Looking Backward. But I'm pretty sure I'll be dovetailing in a whole lot of Jan Caron and the Mitford books at the same time, because they're light and fun and comforting. Nobody in Mitford ever tries to overthrow the government and start a new world order.


Raising a frat boy

Judah's over at the coffee table. He found a penny on the floor and is now bouncing it off the table, undoubtedly practicing his quarters technique. I suspect this because I think Nathan is teaching him things. Last week Nathan dubbed Judah's room the home of the He-Man Woman Haters' Club. He had shut himself in there and when Judah opened the door to come in I heard Nathan say, "Hey Buddy, come on in. Have a stogy."

Our next kid better be a girl.


Counting away

It's November. I'm not sure what the date is, but I know it's November. And that means it should be at least a little, tiny bit cool here. But no. Today it was 90 degrees by 11:00, and then it got hotter. I'm feeling a little cheated. But there were a lot of good things today, so I'm counting my blessings. Here are the little things that made me smile today.

I was listening to Kevin and Bean this morning (in and of itself a good thing) when they took a break from their relentless schedule of All Red Hot Chili Peppers All The Time to play the new U2 single Window in the Sky. It was so awesome, so classic U2, and it made me so happy. And I count myself lucky to have heard it before KROQ pulled it from the playlist hours later. It seems they'd jumped the gun again and played it before they were legally allowed to. I should've known it was too good to be true, but I'm glad I heard it once.

Judah tried to enlist today. In the Army. I'm smiling because he was rejected. He didn't have any ID on him to prove he was 18. But he did try. He ran right up to the Army table at Biola and made friends with the soldiers, who gave him a sticker and a bracelet and told him to call them in 16 years.

I'm insured! You have no idea how much this excites me. For a full year I was un-insurable (is that a word?) because I dared to treat my post-partum depression and get healed. But when I got home from lunch there was a message from our insurance agent saying I'd been approved! So happy. Now I can contract that new trendy disease I've been wanting to check out.

Barbara posted pictures on her blog today of us at the Hollywood Bowl years ago. I can't actually see the pictures for some reason, but I know exactly which ones they are. And they bring back SO MANY good memories. I could write pages and pages about our Hollywood Bowl adventures over the years. Written into the contract of our friendship is a clause that says we have to go there together at least once every summer. And there must always be green olives.

I made a friendship bracelet today. I haven't made one since I was 14, and it was awesome. There's something about the repetitiveness of tying endless knots that calms the brain.

The second disc of The Thorn Birds was in my mailbox today. Yes, Mom, I know it's a horrible story about people who have turned their backs on God, but it's still good drama. Good 80s drama, that is.

And finally: tonight at 7-11 I found the new Hershey's bar that's the extra dark chocolate, 65% cacao. Pure heaven.


The longest five minutes of my life

Today my church hosted a mommy and me Harvest Party for the moms that are part of the MOPS program. Of course Judah and I went - I had bought him the cutest skeleton costume. I hate the big deal that Halloween has become, but I love that there's one day a year that kids can dress up and be whatever they want to be. Or in this case, whatever I want Judah to be. He looked so cute! The program was fun. We were all together in the church nursery with the kids playing and running around and the moms chatting. Our leader explained the craft for the morning and we all moved off for our tables.

The craft involved making leaf and fruit prints on canvas, along with words and whatever else we wanted to make a Thanksgiving door hanger. Since Judah's so little, I didn't involve him in the leaf-printing part, knowing that he'd just make a huge mess all over both of us and anyone sitting near us. But then I wanted to put his hand prints on my canvas. So I got up to go get him. And he wasn't there.

I checked the room down the hall. Not there. I asked the other moms if they'd seen him. No one had. I looked toward the end of the hall, and there was the door, standing wide open to the outside, to the courtyard which is only a hundred feet or so from a busy boulevard.

Panic. I never knew what it felt like until right then. I got dizzy, and I couldn't breathe right, and I was fighting to hold it together so I could look for Judah. By that time our children's director was looking too, and within a couple minutes the church office staff was searching for him. I've never known such terror or helplessness, knowing he could be anywhere: inside one of the other buildings, crossing the boulevard on his own - a tiny black figure in the path of huge trucks, falling off one of the balconies, riding to Barstow in the back of a crazy person's car. He moves fast. How would I ever find him with so many places for him to be? And the worst part was knowing it was all my fault, that I'd been in the room and not paying attention to him. I realized then exactly how much this tiny person means to me, how if anything happened to him I would want to stop living because the pain would be unbearable.

I searched the courtyard, the front of the church, the back parking lot, the inside stairwell, the street. I tried calling him, but my voice was so unsteady that I stopped, not wanting to scare him if he could hear me. Just as I was beginning to wonder who I should call first (Nathan or the police?), my friend Shayleen yelled at me from the front of the nursery that they'd found him. He'd managed to open the door between the nursery and the play yard, and then gotten stuck out there. Fortunately, the play yard is completely enclosed, so he was relatively safe. I managed not to break down completely (just broke down a little) and went to get Judah. He had big tears in his eyes. He was only missing for about five minutes, I think. But it felt like a hundred million years.


I would've gone for "longest time spent in a luxury hotel"

We spent some time camping with our Sunday School class this weekend. It was such a blast. We had a really good time hanging out in camp, walking down to the beach, and playing games. Last night, when we were sitting around the fire, we started coming up with questions for all of us to answer. One of the stranger ones was, Would you rather kick a dog or make a baby cry? There's no good answer to that. And then someone asked, If you could hold any record in the Guinness Book of World Records, what would it be? Everyone started throwing out answers, like, longest fingernails, man with the most money, woman with the smallest waist.
Nathan's answer? Fattest twin on a motorcycle.



It seems like everyone's in kind of a blogging slump recently. I know I am... I haven't felt at all inspired to write. But I wanted to put something up to prove my continuing existence, so here are some random updates on things going on around here.

It's been an okay day. I participated in a little retail therapy this morning, and that was nice. Got myself some shirts (by the way, since when is a size 8 considered large?) and Judah some cute new go-get-ems (shoes). And talked to Ashlee at the same time, who had some good news: their insurance nightmare (never EVER, under any circumstances, move to Arizona while you're pregnant) may be clearing up. Yay!

We're going camping yet again this weekend. This time to Point Mugu with our Sunday School class, which is cool because it's close enough to come home quickly if things get bad. But Judah did great in Pismo a month ago, so it should be just fine. And there will be lots of other kids there for him to play with.

Lately we've been enjoying many battles of the ongoing Judah/Payasa war. Judah has grown to the point where he and the cat are equal strength, and once in a while he's able to catch her by the tail, and then there's a battle. It's always interesting to see which one is going to pull the other one over. Payasa whines (in frustration, not pain) and Judah laughs, and eventually she gets away and turns around and takes a swipe at him (no claws, so this part's always funny too). The cat loves it, the proof of that being that she never ever runs away from him. She enjoys the attention, I think.

Judah now has something over 50 words to his vocabulary. Some of them are very clear: "Stuck!" is his new favorite. And some of them aren't: only a few people get it when he tries to say "Where'd it go?" And then there's the word "apples," which you might think would be the red shiny fruit traditionally found on teachers' desks. But no. It can be used for any object at all: fish, bubbles, light switches, whatever.

That's the news for now. I'll try to have something more interesting for next time, or at least more focused.


A Jonah day

As Anne would have called it. Yesterday I had an angry day. Everything just kept going wrong and wronger until I wound up being mad at everyone and everything, myself most of all. Judah woke up too early yesterday morning. First strike. At nine we left to go for our usual 2 mile Wednesday walk with Aimee and Caleb. For some reason, Judah decided to whine through most of the walk, something he never does. He usually loves walking. In the car after the walk he kept on whining, and I finally turned around and yelled at him, which made him cry harder and made me feel like the worst mother in the world. Talk about guilt. Lunch went okay and Judah actually took a decent nap, but then my usual Wednesday babysitting got messed up and I thought I wasn't going to be able to get to choir on time. It worked out, but then my dinner plans cancelled, leaving me on my own. No big deal, but I felt a little lonely. So I stopped to get some Chinese food, and decided to take it to La Mirada Regional to eat, which I thought would make me feel better. But on the way some idiot girl made a left turn right in front of me, which forced me to slam on my breaks, which sent my Chinese food flying to the floor, where it landed upside down. Of course. At the park I walked to my favorite spot, where I was once again confronted with the ugly, bulldozed blank space where the swings used to be. The grass was wet, so I couldn't sit on it to eat. When I got to choir (late) we spent most of the time working on songs I hate. I totally should have skipped it. And to top it all off, the Impala's CD player refused to play the CD I'd just made, the one that might've made it all better.

So there's an end to my whining. Today's been a much better day. Nathan let me sleep in, and then we went to Ruby's for lunch and the weather is gorgeous. And I'm going to burn the CD again. Here it is, the perfect soundtrack for an autumn sunset.

Ride - The Cary Brothers
Wild Horses - The Sundays
Some Girls are Bigger than Others - The Smiths
Perfect - Smashing Pumpkins
The Ghost in You - Siouxsie and the Banshees
Forever - Siouxsie and the Banshees
King's Cross - Pet Shop Boys
I Want to Wake Up - Pet Shop Boys
In the Morning, Before Work - Owen
Slide - The Ocean Blue
Ruined in a Day - New Order
Over - Ivy
Back in Our Town - Ivy
Mouth the Mouth - The Glove
Cry - The Sundays
When We Recovered - Toad the Wet Sprocket


No street cred whatsoever

You got 1 out of 10 correct on your first attempt.
Poser alert! Better fill up your Netflix queue with recommended selections from their independent section and beg your local record shop clerk to clue you in on need-to-know bands and albums.

I just failed the Indie Scene quiz on CNN. I'm totally horrified. But not really. I failed because I refused to agree that The Clash is the only band that ever mattered, and because my ideal vacation doesn't involve being at the South by Southwest Festival, though that would be cool.

I'm so sick of the idea of "indie street cred." Because it seems like the only people who talk about it are teenagers who happen to like Death Cab for Cutie (hardly indie, I might point out) and snobby 20-somethings who drop the names of obscure bands not to rave about their love for them, but to make other people feel stupid and uncool. Here's the statement I hate: "I was listening to The Pork Chops the other day and....oh, you've never heard them? Oh." Here's the one I love: "Hey, check out this great band I heard. They're called The Pork Chops. Here's their latest. Where's your CD player?" Love the music because you love it. Share it with your friends. Don't love it because you think it makes you unusual and cool. I read this on someone's blog: "I'm listening to the new Maroon 5 (yeah, I just totally blew my indie street cred)." Who cares? What's wrong with liking Maroon 5?

At the risk of sounding like Dave Eggers (yes Barbara, I know you're going to jump on this), what it comes down to is this: Most bands were indie AT SOME POINT. And they were either good or bad at that point. And then they signed on to a major label. Does that make them no longer good? Do people with true indie street cred stop liking a certain band as soon as they sign? Because that's ridiculous. It's not selling out unless you start writing to please the label. Being a slave to the "indie street cred" identity is just as bad as being a slave to pop culture, isn't it?

I guess CNN was right. Because I love Ashlee Simpson's "Pieces of Me." And that totally RUINS my street cred. Even though I love Owen's "The Ghost of What Should've Been" more.


Worst song ever?

I was reminded today that some magazine or other (or some group, we'll call them "they") decided, back in 2004, that Starship's "We Built This City" is the worst rock song ever. Huh? Yes, I admit that the song bugs me. But honestly, can't you think of dozens, if not hundreds, of songs that are worse than that? Right off the top of my head, what about: Britney Spears "Oops I Did it Again" (or anything else she's ever sung), Hanson's "Mmmm Bop," Crash Test Dummies' "Mmm Mmm Mmm," Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You," Amy Grant's "Baby Baby," the Spin Doctors' "Two Princes," or Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On?" Horrible songs, all of them, and almost impossible to get out of my head.

So, do you guys agree with their choice? What would you say is the worst song ever?


Eleven times a bridesmaid....

....only once a bride. Okay, I've only been a bridesmaid eight times. Here's the current score card regarding weddings:

1. Toni Lynn and ??? Toni is my cousin, and I can't remember her first husband's name. I was flower girl, in a white dress with a purple satin sash that I adored.

2. Jolene and Bryce. I was 8 or 9, and passed out programs along with my friend Gretchen. We wore cream colored dresses with teal sashes (it was the mid-80s, so of course the wedding was "peach and teal"). The dresses flared out wonderfully when we spun. Gretchen is now in my MOPS group with me. We STILL talk about those dresses.

3. Becky and Dave. My first experience as a bridesmaid! I was 17. Horrible teal dresses with wide white satin ribbon straps and a huge bow on the back. All of us bridesmaids had the exact same shoes and hairstyle.

4. Arla and Steve. Beautiful midnight blue velvet sheath dress, made by Arla's mom. I felt so grown up and sophisticated. I was 18. We (the bridal party, minus Steve and Arla) all went to Denny's in Sierra Vista after the reception.

5. Jenna and John. Tea length forest green dresses that we had made for us. I was 20, and Jenna was the first of my friends to get married. Nathan was a groomsman in the wedding, and mad because I had brought another boy as a date.

6. Miriam and Martin. Spring green floor length dress that I loved to death. Jenna and I drove up to the wedding city together on my 22nd birthday. Miriam was the most nervous bride I've ever seen. But partly that was Konrad's fault for telling her (minutes before the ceremony) that Martin was still hung over from the night before...

7. Amy and Kris. Another wedding, another green dress. Very pretty, very comfortable. Too bad the mint green clashed with my fiery red hair. The pictures look awful.

8. Joy and Brian. Finally, a bridesmaid outfit I'll actually wear again! Blue jeans and a white button up shirt, brown boots. Joy's the only bride I've ever seen wear a denim wedding dress. And it was the only reception I've ever been to where there was a mechanical bull involved.

9. Jen and Matt. Otherwise known as THE WEDDING WHERE I WORE PINK. And I didn't once complain about it.

10. Christi and Dean. My first Greek wedding! Our dresses were beautiful: navy blue, floor length with a tiny train. And since I was the matron of honor, I got to carry Christi's train while she and Dean walked three times around the alter. It was so cool.

11. Stacy and Ronnie. I don't know these people. I have never known them. I was there to observe the wedding coordinator (more on that later), and after the grandparents had been seated she realized that she'd forgotten to light the large candelabras on the stage. So she sent me in with the lighter, and TA-DA!! My eleventh wedding. I became the official candle lighter. And I didn't even have to buy a special outfit!


Camping, take two

We got back yesterday afternoon from the Cowell Family annual camping trip to Pismo Beach. Our group was a little smaller than usual this year, John and Jenna and Rachel and Naomi having decided not to go, but it was a fun group. Ken and Elly slept in their motor home, and the rest of us built ourselves a little Hooverville of tents and roughed it, Bri and Ash and Eszter in their huge tent (the Taj Mahal), us in our slightly less huge tent (the Hermitage), Heather in the Armadillo tent, and Jeff in the unnamed but much loved little tent that Nathan and I abandoned when Judah came along.

It was a very fun weekend. The weather in Pismo was almost perfect, not too cold but not hot, just a little hazier than we would have liked. We spent lots of time sitting around the camp fire, walking down to play on the beach, and eating really good food. Two mornings we had sugar-coma-inducing, perfectly-cream-cheese-frosted, unbelievably delicious Old West cinnamon rolls. On Thursday night Nathan, Judah, Ken, Elly and I went to town for dinner, discovering Mo's, home of the best shredded pork sandwich I've ever had, and corn muffins to die for. And, of course, Nathan and I had to sneak in for the (second) best chowder on earth in toasted bread bowls at Splash Cafe.

On Saturday afternoon most of us (except for Brian, to whom we are eternally grateful for babysitting Judah) went to the melodrama in Oceano for a pretty funny performance of "Drac in the Saddle Again" and a vaudeville review. So much fun! It's one of our favorite parts of the trip every year.

Other than that, we just hung around camp a lot, chasing the kids, playing dominoes, making s'mores. Judah did alright at night, waking up a few times the first night, and doing better the other two nights. Naps got thrown out completely. We have another camping trip (Oi!) coming up at the end of this month, this one with a few other couples from our Sunday School group. There are other small children involved, so it should be fun.

A few quotes stick out from this weekend. One from Eszter: "I can't get the ball. You get it, grown ups!" and one from Jeff: "If that was my dog I'd name it Casserole" and one from Elly after I commented that I wished the sun would come out: "Yeah, and get the fog out of here!" Say it out loud. It'll be funny.


No love for the Cocteau Twins

None of you liked them? And even if you didn't like them, none of you hated them enough to even comment and tell me I have horrible taste in music? Hey, wait a minute. None of you even listened. Did you!?! I know you guys. Too impatient to wait for the Quicktime download, huh? Here's an idea. While you wait, you can play a couple rounds of Minesweeper. That's what I do.

In other news, I went to Starbucks by myself last night for a little downtime. When I ordered my drink I actually gave my real name (I know, I know) and the guy asked, "Is that with a K or a C?" I told him K, totally surprised since no one ever bothers to ask at all. I glanced at the cup after he wrote my name on it and as he was passing it to the girl making drinks and in that second I saw that he'd ended my name in a y. Now I was completely amazed. It would be a Starbucks first, them spelling my name right. I happily took my cup when my correctly-spelled name was called and wandered over to a table. When I set my cup down the name was facing me and I finally saw what the guy had actually written. Krysty. Are you serious? Do they train them to do stuff like that? Because that? That took some effort.


The autumn music lineup

It's finally autumn! After a torturously hot summer. The weather is finally changing a little bit: I wore a long sleeved shirt today, and I've actually had to sleep under the comforter the past few nights. So, with the slightly cooler weather and hazy sunshine comes a new listening lineup. Fall, for me, is the time for groups like Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Sundays, Duncan Sheik, Kate Bush, Ivy, and Dido. But by far my favorite fall group is the Cocteau Twins. Elizabeth Fraser has the most incredible voice I've ever heard, so clear and ethereal and totally unbelievable. I fell in love with this group in high school, and have loved them ever since, but really only at this time of year. I think what I love most about them is that it's all about the sound, and about different moods that can be created with the sound alone, because Elizabeth Fraser, though technically the lead singer, has absolutely no regard for actual words most of the time. For a long time I couldn't tell if she was singing in English or French, and then I discovered that she's usually not singing words at all, it's all just tones. I love that. It frees me up to listen to the music without getting wrapped up in the lyrics. My favorite song of theirs is Carolyn's Fingers from Blue Bell Knoll. Listen to it here by clicking on the link for the video. Happy listening!


Avast, ye Scurvy Dogs!

It be Talk Like a Pirate Day again! To be honoring this day, I do be postin' these here jokes. Laugh or walk the plank, land lubbers! And do be rememberin': dead men tell no tales.

Who's a pirate's favorite golfer?
TiGARRR! Why? Because he is always under pARRR!!

What is a pirate's favorite type of fish?
The Carrrrrrp!

What was the Scottish pirate's favorite folk song?
Whiskey in the Jarrr!!!

What do they teach pirates in school?
The 3 arrrrrgggggghhhhhsss!

What is the best school for pirates to go to?
Harrrrrrrvard! (That's on the east coast, Barrrbarrrra!)

Who will pirates in California vote for in the race for governor?

If some pirates are ARRrtists and the second choice is ARRrchitecture.Where do drop-out pirates work?
ARRrbys's !!!

Who is a pirate's favorite Beatle?

Censoring my life

This morning began the MOPS program at my church. One of the things they had us do was to fill out a "get to know you" sheet about ourselves. It asked questions like what are your hobbies and what is your favorite snack, and then it asked the questions I hate. I have a love/hate relationship with "favorites" questions. I like doing them, but inevitably they ask what your favorite book is, and what your favorite movie is. I just can't answer those questions. There are too many variables. What genre? Is it rainy outside? Have I had a bad day or a good day? Do I feel like laughing or crying? Is it summer or winter? Some days my favorite movie is Gone With the Wind, other days it's Romy and Michele's Highschool Reunion. In general it's Singin' in the Rain or Bend it Like Beckham. And the question about the book? Don't even get me started. Who are these people who can list one book that is their favorite of all time, ever? I don't understand.

And then there's the part where I have to think about who's going to be looking at my answers. And I have to throw out some of my favorites. Today I wanted to put Love, Actually as one of my favorite movies. But it's got some really bad scenes that the people running MOPS would probably be horrified by. Same with Almost Famous. And for the books....I actually risked it and put The Time Traveler's Wife as one of mine, because probably none of them has ever read it, and they wouldn't bother to wade through it. Same story with Love in the Time of Cholera.

All of this brings me to another issue altogether. I've always struggled with what it's okay to read and what it's not. Barbara and I have dissected this topic before, and the only thing we've come up with is that it depends on the person and what they can handle and what makes them stumble. Christians, in my opinion, are notorious for throwing the baby out with the bath water, disregarding a whole book and its lessons because of a few bad things. Catcher in the Rye? Grapes of Wrath? Awesome books with important things to be learned, and yet at times they've been thrown out (they're both back in now, from what I hear). I also have huge problems with the Christian community's rejection of the Harry Potter series, because they don't reject the Narnia or Rings stories. Why? Because Lewis and Tolkien were Christians, and Rowling is not. And that's about the only difference. I tend to be open to reading just about anything, and haven't found much that's personally offensive to me (aside from the obvious trashy romances and so on). I've only ever refused to deal with two books: The Bluest Eye (too much gratuitous vulgarity) and The DaVinci Code (the whole idea just makes me uncomfortable). Other than that.... But does that make it okay? Admittedly, I read a lot that most Christians wouldn't approve of. But are they right? Or am I? Or is it really just a personal thing? Conversely, I think there are things that are wrong even though parts of the Christian community approve. The above Morrison book was assigned by a prof at Biola that I very much love and respect. I still think it's a useless book. But who's right? Was it just okay for him and not me? I try to base my judgment on whether the book has anything of value to teach. And that book definitely did, but, to my way of thinking, there was just too much trash to wade through to get to it.

What do you guys think? Is everything permissible? Or are there works of literature that are really wrong to read?


Judah kickin' it with Tiny E in Phoenix

Here is a picture of Judah and Eszter doing the only thing you can even think of doing in Phoenix when it's 110 outside: relax and grab something cool to drink. Preferably from the QT. Thanks for the picture, Bri and Ash!


I knew it!

You Belong in London
You belong in London, but you belong in many cities... Hong Kong, San Francisco, Sidney. You fit in almost anywhere.And London is diverse and international enough to satisfy many of your tastes. From curry to Shakespeare, London (almost) has it all!
What European City Do You Belong In?


Strangely prescient

Tonight I wrote a very long and very important email. I struggled with it for well over an hour. I proofed it. Nathan proofed it. I hit send. And then bubbs ate it for a late night snack. Fourthmeal, I suppose. It's gone. Irretrievable.

Just like the dryer sheet!

I told you the dryer sheet would predict my day. Once I realized that losing the email was the perfect close to a day that started with losing a dryer sheet I didn't feel so bad. Everything feels so nice and circular, like there's a predictable pattern in the universe. A roundness. I might even be able to sleep tonight.

Who is Daniel Cook and why is he being groomed to take over the world?

This morning I schlepped all our laundry down to the laundry room along with the detergent, the quarters, and the dryer sheets. I promptly dropped one of the dryer sheets behind the dryer. It's irretrievable. I suppose it's indicative of the kind of day I'm going to have.

At five o'clock this morning I gave up on trying to sleep. So I laid there in bed, watching the ceiling fan, listening to the trains, taking note that the sprinklers come on at 5:30. For those of you that know me, you know that if I'm awake there's a song stuck in my head. At 5:00 it was a really irritating worship song that, more often than not, when sung in church sounds like it's being sung by the mice from Babe. So I tried to drive it out. Generally when I'm trying to get rid of a song the one that comes to mind to replace it is "The Ghost in You" by the Psychedelic Furs. But I'm tired of that one, so I tried for another. Unfortunately, what came up was the theme song of the Disney short program about Daniel Cook. His theme song is so annoying, and his program makes me uncomfortable in that swimming in a dark pool kind of a way. I know it's harmless, but it feels like there's some hidden evil there anyway. Daniel Cook is a 7-year-old who gets to learn all these cool professions. Innocent, right? But he never smiles, and when he laughs it sounds like Mr. Hyde, and he uses words that sound freakishly large coming from one so young. And then there's his theme song. I find myself humming it at odd times, and I can only assume that Daniel Cook is using it to mind-control us, and that eventually he'll take off the costume, reveal that he's really an ancient man who probably looks a lot like John Kerry (i.e. the grim reaper), and force us all into menial labor to build his evil empire.

My brain finally settled on "Skin and Bones" by Owen. When I fell asleep around 6:15 I dreamt of square lemons.


The cookie mystery revealed

So I tried my half batch of cookies this morning, when my spirits had recovered from last night. I was really down. You have to understand: I was somewhat famous at my old job for these very cookies with this very recipe, and I thought I had lost my touch, which is very sad. So I very carefully measured all my ingredients, kept the cookie sheets cool, and used my graduated measuring cups instead of my glass measures (even though I've checked and the difference is minimal). The half recipe called for 2 1/4 cups flour, and I added until the consistency was right, which ended up being 2 7/8 cups. Crazy. I baked two batches in my oven. And the same thing happened! Completely frustrated, I packed up the rest of it and went to my parents'. And guess what? It's TOTALLY my oven that's the problem! The ones I baked in my mom's oven are perfect and delicious, though they exhibit signs of having too much flour. Not surprising. So, I'm somewhat relieved, because I know now that it's not me and I haven't gone mad (not for that reason, anyway). But now I have to figure out exactly what's wrong with my oven and how far off the temperature is from what it's supposed to be. Grrr.


Help me, Betty Crocker! Or any of you bakers out there.

I am in the depths of despair. I'm so utterly disappointed and frustrated that I'm going to bed without doing the dishes or washing Judah's bottles for tomorrow, things that get done every night no matter what else does or doesn't get done.

On Saturday a few of us are going to the Hollywood Bowl. My plan was to make chocolate chip cookies to take with. I tried making them last week, and the cookies came out super flat and spread out. I thought it was because my shortening and baking powder were really old, so I threw them out and bought new stuff. So I tried it again tonight. The same thing happened! This is a recipe that my family's been using literally for decades, and always before it's produced lovely, soft, fat cookies. I don't know what to do! Is it my oven? It's perfect on everything else I make. What's my problem? Help me, Internet!

Maybe I'll go to my parents' tomorrow and try it there....


Quote of the day (I guess that would be yesterday, at this point)

"My feet are all pruny from wearing wet socks."
~Morgan, age 6, in the midst of a conversation about something totally unrelated


Q: But WHY does she have a bag of frozen vegetables on her head?

A: Because she stood up and slammed her head into the open door of the freezer, and her loving husband provided the vegetables to cover the lump.

It's a long story. And it has nothing to do with this post.

So, we spent the weekend in Phoenix. Not quite the surface of the sun, but really really close. And not because we're crazy, but because we really love Brian and Ashlee and Eszter. And the twins! We drove out Friday night, spent yesterday working and shopping and eating a lot of junk food (Ashlee, I broke down and told Nathan about the you-know-what) and laughing at the kids playing together. This morning we went to church at Laveen Baptist Church, which is small but lively, then left to drive home again. A short visit, but lots of fun, and so good to see Bri and Ash getting all settled in their new digs.

What we liked about Phoenix: the QT (an awesome mini-mart where you can get 8 flavors of slurpee, 4 or more different flavors of smoothies, flavored coffees on tap, and tons of different soft drinks with flavoring options) and the housing prices (large houses in the mid-200k range).

What we didn't like so much about Phoenix: the HEAT! 108 when we left today. And the rock front lawns. Oh, and the vultures. It's just creepy to see them hanging around.


I'm the girl with her hand in front of her face

No, not really. But that's where I stood when we saw Toad the Wet Sprocket the other night. Nathan got me tickets for my birthday back in June, and the concert was on Saturday. It was at The Galaxy in Santa Ana, a little tiny venue that holds (I think) less than a thousand people. We got there a couple hours early, since it was general admission, and easily found space in front of the stage, then stood there for a long time until Matt Nathanson came on to play a few songs. I've heard him on Pandora and liked him.

Toad came on at about 9:30 and they were all that I expected. Glen Phillips is ageless, he still looks as young as he always did. He performed barefoot. They played all their popular songs (All I Want, Walk on the Ocean, Brother, etc.) and some lesser known things like Windmills and Crowing and Stupid. Their set lasted just about an hour and a half, which was perfect. They ended with one of my favorite Toad songs ever, I Will Not Take These Things for Granted.

All in all, it was a great show. I've never been to a show where I was close enough to the stage to use it as a table. We were only a few feet from the band, and at that point it gets kind of weird, because they kept looking at us all in the front row and I started getting paranoid. Did they notice that I didn't sing along to that last song? Were they offended that I didn't know all the words? So weird.


Beginning the eating of the brain at a very young age

This morning Judah and I are watching Sesame Street. I haven't watched it in a really long time, and I'm shocked and dismayed at how Elmo has become the star. When I was little it was Big Bird and Oscar. You know, puppets that actually know how to construct a proper sentence. And talk about themselves in first person. Also, Elmo is not particularly concerned about getting his facts straight when he's "teaching" things. This morning we learned that:

*Back in caveperson times, cavepeople wore caveperson clothes (No way! Kind of like how people now wear people clothes!)
*In the Middle Ages everyone wore metal clothes and they were called knights in shining armor (Wow! I was pretty sure Disney invented that particular phrase...)
*And, in Scotland they used to wear skirts called kilts, and THEY STILL DO! (Which is weird, because I don't think I saw a single one when I was there...)

But by far the scariest thing on today's show was when Elmo was learning about Roman times, and he donned a toga and started yelling "Toga! Toga! Toga!" like some demented frat boy in a bad 80s movie. Oh, man. Mr. Rogers' Land of Make-Believe looks WAY less like a drug-induced nightmare after you watch Elmo for a while.


So THAT'S where they get the money for new roads

Apparently, our Explorer has evolved. Yes, it has developed free will and can now go driving wherever it wants, whenever it wants, with our without our permission or knowledge. How it developed these skills is beyond me, but I have proof positive that it happens.

Today I got a traffic violation in the mail from the nice people who work in the toll roads violation department. It seems that our Explorer was seen roaming the toll roads (the 241 to be exact) on the night of July 31 at 10:09. Without permission from the people at FasTrak. The Explorer should have paid four dollars for the privilege of driving on the 241, but I guess it was out of change, because it didn't pay. So now it owes $51.50. And you can be sure that that money is coming out of the Explorer's allowance, and that the Explorer (affectionately known as Dora) is officially grounded for two weeks.

Because what was the Explorer doing driving around on the 241 while our whole family WAS IN MAMMOTH!?! That's it. Dora's getting a new pair of boots. The bad kind. She just can't be trusted anymore.

Bono knows

"With a mouth full of teeth you ate all your friends
And you broke every heart
Thinking every heart mends"

Does everyone know someone like this? Or am I just lucky?


Vacation abbreviated

We're home. Four days early. Of the last 39 hours, I have slept exactly 2 of them. I don't think I've done that since the summer after college.

Yes Clint, Mammoth is totally beautiful. I love the weather, the cool mornings and warm afternoons, the clear skies, the extremes of light and shadow, the incredibly clean smell of the air. I've been there many times in the summer, and it's always gorgeous. This time was no exception.

We drove up Saturday and set up our tent trailer, which is no easy feat with a screaming baby clinging to one leg. And how is it that Judah couldn't care less about what I'm doing until I actually try to accomplish something, and then he becomes frantic and needs to be picked up NOW!? So we got set up enough to cook some dinner and go to bed, and Judah did fine that night. The next day we spent going to "church" with the rest of our group in an outdoor amphitheater, stocking up on more supplies, and taking a gondola ride up to the top of the mountain with my parents. The view was amazing.

My parents offered to keep Judah overnight Sunday, since they were staying in a condo in town. So Nathan and I went back to camp and to an evening meeting, then early to bed so we could get up early for a hike. We left our campground at Pumice Flats around nine and hiked down to Rainbow Falls. It was nice, really quiet since we went before most of the other tourists. We hiked to the bottom and got drenched by the spray, then walked back to the Red's Meadow resort for drinks and pie at the Mule House Cafe. Later on Nathan went fly fishing for a while and I followed along with my camera.

And then it all went horribly wrong. We drove up into town to have dinner with my parents and Judah, then all went back down to camp for the evening meeting. Nathan and I went to put Judah to bed around 8:30, and he didn't like the idea at all. He cried for about 45 minutes before finally quieting down. Nathan and I went to bed around 11:30 and I woke up at 1:30, and I haven't really slept since. Judah woke up at 2:00, then was awake on and off for the next two hours, then woke up for good at 4:00. We did all we could to keep him quiet, and at 6:30 we decided we were cutting our trip short. Adding to the frustration was the misery of below freezing temps where we were camping, and the cold Nathan managed to develop sometime in the night. We packed up all our stuff and took down the trailer in record time and were on the road by 9:15. We met my parents in Mammoth for breakfast at The Stove, then headed home. And here we are.

Judah is upstairs sleeping peacefully. He's exhausted. Nathan and I are both pretty down about the whole fiasco. I should be able to laugh about it, but we were really looking forward to this being a fun time and a nice vacation. Instead it was mostly just stressful and tiring. I guess camping is one of the things we'll have to mostly put off until we're done having kids and they're done being babies....


324 miles

We're off to Mammoth tomorrow for a week of camping... In a tent trailer... With a 16-month-old baby. Wish us luck!


The REAL shining city on the hill

I spent part of last week in San Francisco with my brother, Dave. He had to go to some seminar for work and wanted company for the drive up and back, so I happily accepted the invitation. I love to travel just about anywhere, and I've never stayed in San Francisco.

The drive up was boring and uneventful, just a lot of nothing. Dave's GPS basically gave us two instructions: 1. Find the 5 and 2. Drive north until you're comatose. Which we did. I caught Dave banging on the steering wheel trying to stay awake. He thinks I don't know that's why he was doing it, but I do. It's the same thing I used to do driving home from wherever at two in the morning.

We hit the city around dinner time and went to Fisherman's Wharf for chowda at Boudin's. So good! They claim to have the original bread bowl, but so does every other seafood place around there. We hung out on Pier 39 for a while, then drove to our hotel: the Sir Francis Drake Hotel on Union Square. Gorgeous hotel, but the room Dave reserved was the smallest hotel room I've ever seen. We tried to upgrade, but the snooty concierge told us they were all booked up. So I slept on the floor the first night, then traded for the bed the second.

On Thursday I was on my own for most of the day and got to explore the Union Square part of the city a little. It was so much fun! I loved everything about it: the weather, the shops, the people most of all. Everyone seemed so friendly and relaxed, and I felt like the people that worked in Starbucks and Borders were already my friends. So different from around here, where it tends to be a struggle to get a smile out of people. I sat in Union Square for a long time that afternoon writing, listening to the Thicker than Water soundtrack (it just seemed to fit) and watching people check out the art show. Later I met Dave near the financial district and we walked all over the place, looking at the buildings and the shops. The architecture there is amazing and beautiful. It's like they rebuilt the whole place in 1907 and haven't touched it since.

That night Barbara came into the city and we went to dinner at Brindisi in Belden Place. I loved eating outdoors in the alley, sitting so close to the people next to us that we could've (and almost did) eat off of each other's plates. It was great to see Barbara and talk about what's been going on and what's coming up and what our latest music finds are. After dinner we walked down to the Virgin Megastore to stock up. I was looking for an Owen album I'm having trouble finding, and Barbara was looking for various things that she got talked out of. I wound up with an American Football album, and Barbara got a Cure and a couple of U2s. Dave joined us at the store and we walked Barbara back to the BART station, and then Dave and I hopped on a cable car (free public transportation day!) at the end of Powell Street and rode it all the way to Fisherman's Wharf and back, standing on the running board of course.

We left Friday morning, stopping in Monterey for more chowder. It was such a fun trip, and San Francisco (what I saw of it) is a wonderful city. I'm sad that I only really got to spend a day there. But I'll definitely be back....


In my former life, I was a crazy trash-digger

Last night there was a going away party for Brian and Ashlee. And I don't want to talk about it. One of the guests was Ashlee's best friend Chara. She was wearing jeans that were all torn up and were so cute, and I began to get all nostalgic for my favorite pair of jeans.

When I was about 15 my parents' neighbors divorced. She (we'll call her D) left him, so he was understandably bitter and gathered up all her things and piled them up on the curb for the trash collectors. A friend and I, having no pride whatsoever, went digging through the pile, because there were clothes in there! Used ones! Already broken in! And we were in our thrift store stage anyway. I found and claimed a perfect pair of Levi's that D had left. They were in great shape. They were beautiful, much like the pants in the traveling pants books. Worn enough to be comfortable, but still in one piece. I wore them off and on in high school, and then the knees ripped out, which made them perfect for when I went off to college. They were the best jeans ever. I wore them when I wasn't feeling good, and when it was raining. Chicken soup for the legs. I wore them to night classes with my favorite olive green sweater and my beat-up fake Converse. I wore them until they ripped out halfway up the thigh sometime during my junior year of college, and then I cut them off into daisy dukes and wore them all through my senior year. And then sometime after I graduated they ripped just below the back pocket and became totally indecent, even for wearing to the beach. I hung onto them even for a while after that, because I couldn't bear to give them up.

Finally, one very sad day, I tried them on one last time (they still fit perfectly) and then took them off, folded them once, and dropped them into the trash. They wound up out on the curb for the trash collectors to take. And when I get to heaven I'm asking for them back. But all in one piece, so I can wear them out all over again.


Stepping out from behind the Orange Curtain

Last week Dave called me up and said one of his clients had given him tickets to a movie in downtown LA. He and Becky couldn't go, so he wondered if Nathan and I wanted them. Of course I said yes, not even caring what the movie was, because it was showing in one of the old movie palaces on Broadway. I didn't really know what that meant, but I love LA history, so I jumped at the chance to visit a historical place. So Nathan and I headed over, getting there a little before 7. We got off the 101 at Spring Street, and the first thing we saw was a homeless person's tent on the sidewalk. Not too unusual, but the tent had graffiti on it. I guess the graffiti artists are really getting desperate for wall space in the city. After getting lost looking for the correct parking structure, we parked in Pershing Square and walked down 6th Street to Broadway, and into a part of town I'd never been to. It's the heart of the jewelry district, and it's a crazy mix of beautiful old buildings and ratty little shops selling gaudy jewelry and cheap clothes. And there were TONS of people walking around.

The movie was Rebel Without a Cause, which I had seen, but not since about 10th grade. It was a fitting movie, because when Nathan was in 8th grade a teacher reprimanded him for something in class, and Nathan talked back, and the teacher said, "Nathan, you're a rebel without a cause." Which is, of course, about the coolest label you can give a 13 year old boy. The teacher meant to bring Nathan down a little, but ended up totally boosting his status. Anyway, after using a serendipitous red light to cut into the enormous line, we were ushered into The Los Angeles Theater. It was built in 1931 at some outrageous cost, and then finally shut down in 1994. It's kind of fallen into disrepair, but it's still really cool, and they're working on restoring it. It looked pretty much like the picture above (minus the video games and the metal detectors on the stairs). Really gorgeous and huge, with two balconies and, in the basement, what used to be a playroom with a carousel for children, and the restrooms, which are works of art in themselves. It was interesting to see it all. I wish I'd been around back when going to the movies was a glamorous event and the area was upscale and beautiful instead of rundown and sad. We had a good time, and the movie was great, much better than I remembered. I don't think I really understood it when I was 15.

My parents came over to watch Judah that night, and before we left my mom was looking at the brochure Dave had given us about the show. It included recommendations of places to eat in the area, and my mom got all excited because it listed Clifton's Cafeteria. It's been around since the early 30s, and she said my grandpa used to take her there to eat when she was a little girl. She was glad to see it was still around, and urged us to eat there if we had time. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

So this morning I went to my parents' house with Judah to hang out, because we had nothing to do. My mom has the summer off, and my dad, being semi-retired, has Fridays off. We were sitting around trying to come up with something to do. I suggested Ruby's in Newport, but that got nixed because it was too far. A while later my mom suggested Clifton's for lunch, and that got the green light. Suddenly, LA was closer than Newport! Amazing. So we loaded up in my car, since I was confident that I remembered how to get there. And I did. Seeing the tent with its graffiti was proof of that. We parked and walked a few blocks, and located Clifton's, which is so trashy looking from the outside. Inside, it's absolute kitsch paradise.

It's designed to look like the coastal redwoods near Santa Cruz, complete with fake trees, fake bears, and a real (though man-made) waterfall. It has walls lined with those 1950s era landscape photos that are mounted on light boxes, and a prayer chapel on the second level with a neon cross on the roof. I loved it. The food really is cafeteria stlye. You grab a sticky plastic tray and move it along a metal countertop, grabbing anything that appeals to you. It felt like going back in time, with all the vegetable choices and jello salads and macaroni and cheese and fake mashed potatoes and gravy. I think the only update they've made since 1935 is the soft drink machine and the many flavors of Horchata they offer.

After much deliberation, we chose our food (between us we had chicken, ham, an enchilada, mashed potatoes, rice, corn, peach pie, and tapioca pudding) and took it up to the second floor, where we could look out over the whole place. It's huge. The largest public cafeteria in the world, in fact. We gave ourselves a tour after we ate, then wandered back out onto the crowded streets, Judah walking next to my dad, holding his hand. Cutest thing I saw all day.

It's been a fun impromptu history week. I've loved the trips down memory lane, even if the memories mostly belong to other people.


So pretty.....when you're not stuck inside it

So, have you guys checked out The Hub yet? No, unfortunately, I'm not talking about the long gone (RIP, Hub) cafe in downtown Fullerton with the Vespa hanging upside down from the ceiling and Timber playing in the courtyard. I'm talking about Biola's new online alumni network. I saw the ad for it in the latest Connections, and I thought, Hey! What a good idea! I thought I'd go, sign up, and look up a few old friends. So I went, but no one I looked for was there yet. So I spent a while looking around the site, and after a few minutes I got a really weird feeling. Took me a second to figure out what it was, and I finally realized: I felt trapped. The Hub is bubbs revisited. A little more grown up, a little more up to date, but the same idea. And the same people. And the same attitude. And the same bubble. I felt like I was standing in a too-small room. Maybe it's because when I graduated I traded bubbs for the internet, soapboxes for blogs. And the world just seems bigger now. Not that bubbs and the hub are bad ideas. I think they're really great at what they're intended for. The Hub will be great for tracking down people we've lost touch with. But it's kind of like when I go to Biola to meet my mom for lunch. The people walking around are all the same people with different names, and I don't really know any of them anymore. You can't go back.


Way back in 1994

Things have been pretty quiet around here lately, and there's not a lot to write about, so I went out and found a music meme that I hadn't seen before. Maybe you have. What you do is you go to Music Outfitters and type the year you graduated high school into the search box. Then choose the result that gives you the top 100 singles from the year you graduated and copy the list. On your blog, go through and pick out the ones you liked or didn't like. I'm doing the ones I liked in blue, the ones I hated in red, and the ones I was indifferent to or don't remember in black. To make it more fun, you have to designate according to how you felt about the song back then, not how you feel about it now. Kind of fun, this one caused a lot of groans, mostly because I remember driving around blasting some of the lamer songs. But really what this meme did for me is make me wonder, Where was I in 1994? Because there's a LOT on this list that I don't remember at all. Maybe it's better that way...

1. The Sign, Ace Of Base
2. I Swear, All-4-One
3. I'll Make Love To You, Boyz II Men
4. The Power Of Love, Celine Dion
5. Hero, Mariah Carey
6. Stay (I Missed You), Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories
7. Breathe Again, Toni Braxton
8. All For Love, Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting
9. All That She Wants, Ace Of Base
10. Don't Turn Around, Ace Of Base
11. Bump N' Grind, R. Kelly
12. Again, Janet Jackson
13. I'll Remember, Madonna
14. Whatta Man, Salt-N-Pepa
15. Wild Night, John Mellencamp and Me'shell Ndegeocello
16. Without You / Never Forget You, Mariah Carey
17. You Mean The World To Me, Toni Braxton
18. Can You Feel The Love Tonight, Elton John
19. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, Prince Symbol (The Artist Formerly Known as Prince)
20. Fantastic Voyage, Coolio
21. Baby I Love Your Way, Big Mountain
22. Regulate, Warren G and Nate Dogg
23. If You Go, Jon Secada
24. Back and Forth, Aaliyah
25. Now And Forever, Richard Marx
26. When Can I See You, Babyface
27. Please Forgive Me, Bryan Adams
28. So Much In Love, All-4-One
29. Shoop, Salt-N-Pepa
30. Any Time, Any Place / And On And On, Janet Jackson
31. Shine, Collective Soul
32. Said I Loved You...But I Lied, Michael Bolton
33. Return To Innocence, Enigma
34. All I Wanna Do, Sheryl Crow
35. Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, Crash Test Dummies
36. Can We Talk, Tevin Campbell
37. Funkdafied, Da Brat
38. I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That), Meat Loaf
39. Gangsta Lean, Drs
40. Because The Night, 10,000 Maniacs
41. Cantaloop, US3
42. Whoomp! (There It Is), Tag Team
43. Come To My Window, Melissa Etheridge
44. Stroke You Up, Changing Faces
45. I'm Ready, Tevin Campbell
46. 100% Pure Love, Crystal Waters
47. Anytime You Need A Friend, Mariah Carey
48. Because Of Love, Janet Jackson
49. Linger, Cranberries
50. Loser, Beck
51. Found Out About You, Gin Blossoms
52. Gin And Juice, Snoop Doggy Dogg
53. Never Lie, Immature
54. Streets Of Philadelphia, Bruce Springsteen
55. Getto Jam, Domino
56. Endless Love, Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey
57. I Miss You w/ Aaron Hall
58. Understanding, Xscape
59. This D.J., Warren G
60. Cry For You, Jodeci
61. Keep Ya Head Up, 2Pac
62. Who Am I (What's My Name?), Snoop Doggy Dogg
63. Another Night, Real McCoy
64. Your Body's Callin', R. Kelly
65. Tootsee Roll, 69 Boyz
66. I Can See Clearly Now, Jimmy Cliff
67. Never Keeping Secrets, Babyface
68. Crazy, Aerosmith
70. At Your Best (You Are Love), Aaliyah
71. Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through, Meat Loaf
72 Amazing, Aerosmith
73. Always, Erasure
74. Groove Thang, Zhane
75. Dreams, Gabrielle
76. Mr. Vain, Culture Beat
77. Mary Jane's Last Dance, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
78. Anything, SWV
79. Beautiful In My Eyes, Joshua Kadison
80. Stay, Eternal
81. Flava In Ya Ear, Craig Mack
82. U.N.I.T.Y., Queen Latifah
83. Prayer For The Dying, Seal
84. Secret, Madonna
85. Here Comes The Hotstepper, Ini Kamoze
86. Everyday, Phil Collins
87. Don't Take The Girl, Tim McGraw
88. Got Me Waiting, Heavy D and The Boyz
89. December 1963 (Oh, What A Night), Four Seasons
90. Indian Outlaw, Tim McGraw
91. Always, Bon Jovi
92. I'm The Only One, Melissa Etheridge
93. Back In The Day, Ahmad
94. Love Sneakin' Up On You, Bonnie Raitt
95. I'll Take You There, General Public
96. Always In My Heart, Tevin Campbell
97. What Is Love, Haddaway
98. And Our Feelings, Babyface
99. Bop Gun (One Nation), Ice Cube
100. I Wanna Be Down, Brandy