Saturday, February 27, 2010

Snails Gone Wrong


Some time ago, my son received a small "ecosystem" aquarium for his birthday that contained 2 frogs, a bamboo plant (for oxygen), and a small snail (for cleaning). Soon after receiving this gift, it became evident that the snail was MIA. We had never actually seen the snail, so we figured it was a dud. The store replaced it no problem. After 2 days on the job, the new snail was MIA. It became clear to us that the frogs were eating the janitors.

So, our frogs lived without a snail for some time until the walls of the tank became murky with algae. A few days ago I decided it was time to get another snail. My son and I went to a pet store and picked out a snail large enough to resist the attacks of the frogs. He quickly made himself at home and I was pleased to see him moving around taking care of business. My only problem with him, was that he kind of grossed me out. In the morning I had to consciously not look at him, or I instantly lost my appetite (a new trendy diet plan, perhaps?).

(You can see one of the black frogs on the left)

This morning, was a morning not to be forgotten. Not only was the nasty snail residing in the tank, but a present had been left on the lid. Eggs (dry heave). Horrified and disgusted, I immediately ran screaming through our house (I apparently still need work), and remained under the covers of our bed for a few minutes, while I came to terms with the fact that our snail (a she... or a he-she... I'm not sure about snails) had not only made itself at home, but had spent all night laying eggs! This was unacceptable behavior.

Needless to say, my wonderful husband is cleaning the tank today, and the snail will again be MIA when it's all over.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Am Cleaning the World... piece of mulch at a time.
(Apparently, filling your pockets with mulch during recess is really fun. It's even more fun to find it in the dryer).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Let's Say I've Got a Fever. And The Only Prescription is... More Olympics

I love the Olympics. I always have. I don't know what it is. It has nothing to do with the world coming together, and I'm not really a sports fanatic. But, when the Olympics are on, it almost feels like Christmas.
I think it has something to do with watching people performing at their absolute limits, and wondering if I am capable of such performance too.
I was watching the Ski Cross yesterday, and I had actually convinced myself that with a little training, I would be up to snuff to compete in the next 4 years. I could already hear the commentators talking about the stay-at-home mom who had just recently taken up the sport and was contending for gold. And then I came back to planet earth.
So, I guess that's the fun of it all. For two weeks we get to watch in awe, and live vicariously through these amazing athletes. It gives us a chance to dream.
Because, when when it comes down to it, while I'm pretty sure I have what it takes (just humor me, okay?), I'm not willing to make the sacrifices that they do.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Late Valentine's Day Post

"Some things in life we have litte or no control over. These have to be endured. Some disappointments have to be lived with in love and in marriage. These are not things anyone wants in life, but sometimes they come. And when they come, we have to bear them; we have to believe; we have to hope for an end to such sorrows and difficulty; we have to endure until things come right in the end.

"One of the great purposes of true love is to help each other in these times. No one ought to have to face such trials alone. We can endure almost anything if we have someone at our side who truly loves us, who is easing the burden and lightening the load. In this regard... Professor Brent Barlow, told me some years ago about Plimsoll marks.

"As a youth in England, Samuel Plimsoll was fascinated with watching ships load and unload their cargoes. He soon observed that, regardless of the cargo space available, each ship had its maximum capacity. If a ship exceeded its limit, it would likely sink at sea. In 1868 Plimsoll entered Parliament and passed a merchant shipping act that , among other things, called for making calculations of how much a ship could carry. As a result, lines were drawn on the hull of each ship in England. As the cargo was loaded, the freighter would sink lower and lower into the water. When the water level on the side of the ship reached the Plimsoll mark, the ship was considered loaded to capacity, regardless of how much space remained. As a result, British deaths at sea were greatly reduced.

"Like ships, people have differing capacities at different times and even different days in their lives. In our relationships we need to establish our own Plimsoll marks and help identify them in the lives of those we love. Together we need to monitor the load levels and be helpful in shedding or at least readjusting some cargo if we see our sweetheart is sinking. Then, when the ship of love is stabilized, we can evaluate long-term what has to continue, what can be put off until another time, and what can be put off permanently. Friends, sweethearts, and spouses need to be able to monitor each other's stress and recognize the different tides and seasons of life. We owe it to each other to declare some limits and then help jettison some things if emotional health and the strength of loving relationships are at risk. Remember, pure love 'beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,' and helps loved ones do the same."

-Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "How Do I Love Thee?", BYU 1999-2000 Speeches

Friday, February 19, 2010

Design Friday: Harmony

The harmony I speak of has nothing to do with how well the family members in your home get along. Rather, it is the compatibility of elements to create a pleasing whole, achieved through unity and variety. Unity is when all objects in the room unify to establish a master plan (such as a color scheme, furniture style, patterns, etc.). Variety is simply the absence of monotony. Basically, harmony means your room looks pulled together, without being boring.
"Every interior should have goals of identity and oneness, yet be varied enough to be interesting. This design statement, master plan, or set of goals should be set forth in written and graphic form, so that every furnishing item, whether purchased at once or over a period of years, will be selected to complement all other furnishings specified. It is wise and thoughtful planning that sets apart find design from interiors that lack harmony." -Nielson, Karla J., Taylor, David A., "Interiors: An Introduction" No pressure.
Most people do not have the means to redecorate an entire room at once. As I, myself, am in this boat, I can testify that this can be hard because you have more time to change your mind. Therefore, a master plan is critical. If you obtain a vision of what you want your space to look like, when you are out shopping, you can edit the things you purchase by comparing them to your master plan. If you don't know where to even start, find an inspiration piece for the room (or buy one if you don't have one). A neat rug, painting, fabric, etc. can help guide you in the right direction. If you're having trouble even coming up with a master plan, or don't trust yourself, study magazines and copy what you see. You don't have to tell anyone.

This dining room is unified in furniture style, but notice the variety of finishes (table, chairs, console, etc.). Photo from September 2009 "Architectural Digest"

A tight color scheme keeps the room pulled together, while variety is acheived through different textures and patterns. Photo from May 2007 "Architectural Digest"

Two adjoining rooms are unified by sharing common colors. Photo from May 2007 "Architectural Digest"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

But, What if Not?

Lately, I have sincerely understood the value in mothers having as much education as they can receive. For the first 4 to 5 years of life, we are the primary teacher for our children, laying a foundation for their understanding and knowledge. Every day I am asked questions by my son, ranging in topic from American History to Arithmetic to Astronomy. Often, I am required to comprehensively analyze the plot, characters, themes, symbols, and quotations of major animated movies. And while I was expecting the "why" questions, nothing but college could have prepared me for the abstract thinking required by the "But, what if not?" questions that followed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Standing Strong

"I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad- as I am now. Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If I at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?"

"Jane Eyre", by Charlotte Bronte, 1847

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Land of the Free

I find that it is easy to take my peaceful, comfortable life in America for granted. Especially, because it is the only life I've ever known. It is too easy to forget that our life is not the story of everybody's life on this earth. Two encounters have especially struck this home to me:

There is an Albanian family that my family visits and we have slowly been getting to know. During one visit, we were lucky to have someone there that could translate for us. He told us of how this family came to America. To our amazement, it was explained to us that Albania (a Socialist country) at one time held a lottery in which the winners received visas and a plane ticket to America. They won the lottery. My mind could not even comprehend the fact that, in contrast to America where winning the lottery means getting rich, that another country's lottery would mean a plane ticket out.

Over the weekend, I met two individuals who both have Cuban parents. I asked them if they had been able to visit Cuba, to which the answer was "no". They explained that their parents had arrived in America as part of "Operation Pedro Pan" (Peter Pan). Operation Pedro Pan was an effort back in the early 60's, in which Cuban parents sent their children (about 14,000) to America, in order to save them from Castro's new regime- such as youth work camps, indoctrination, and feared seizing of parental rights. Many of the children's parents weren't able to travel immediately to America themselves, due to increasing tensions between Cuba and the USA. Communication between the children and their parents was limited as Cuba censored the mail. Children lived in refugee camps, or were found foster homes.
Can you imagine living in such circumstances, that sending your children (even as young as 5) to another country, alone, would actually seem to be the best option for them? While it is easier now for Cubans to return, many choose not to because they do not want to put money into the communist system. I had never heard of Operation Pedro Pan before, and found these articles from The Miami Herald and CNN interesting.

These stories, and others, make me feel so humbled and grateful to live in a land of freedom, where my family and I live happily and peacefully. I also can't help but feel a sense of duty. When I have been blessed with so much, how can I help those without?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, Abe!

Ever since I toured the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, I have an enormous respect for the man. In fact, if you ever find yourself near Springfield, Missouri, I highly recommend it. When we read history books, I think we get the false idea that Abraham Lincoln was a hero that was beloved by all (except Booth). The museum has two wings, one dedicated to his life before presidency, and the other dedicated to his election, the civil war, and his assassination. The latter, does an especially good job of portraying how controversial he was during election and presidency. What I find admirable, is that even though he was doubted, disputed, and criticized, he remained strong to what was right, accomplishing great things. It also brings the realities of the civil war to life, and really gives you a renewed appreciation for those who fought and sacrificed for the future.
Below is a letter written by Lincoln. As of 1929, it hung on a wall in Oxford University, England as a model of purest English:

Executive Mansion
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864

To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass,

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
A. Lincoln

**Design Friday will be back next week**

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bride as Frankenstein

Spring is just around the corner (in theory), so for all of you who are planning a wedding, know someone planning a wedding, or have ever planned a wedding, here is a Dave Barry column that we thoroughly enjoyed at the time we were planning for our Special Day.

Was your special day RUINED, RUINED, RUINED ins some way?

** I just noticed my previous post. I'm really not going for a wedding theme here.**

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Wedding Reception

I sit and watch her.
My pastel punch and thick-iced cake
(On delicate plate)
Balance awkwardly on my knee.

I think of me 12 years before.

Her smile beams
First on this reception guest,
Then that.
Sometimes blushing,
Sometimes laughing,
Always turning
Eyes of admiration to the handsome groom.

Should I tell her?
Tell her of face-down peanut-butter bread
On new-mopped floor?
Of a two-year-old stretched out
and kicking angrily
In the grocery store
(And everybody watching)?

Can I tell her?
Tell her of the almost-can't-cope days?
The lonely evenings
Waiting for bishopric meeting
To end?

Will I tell her?
Tell her of the terrifying cry
Of croup
Deep in night?
Or the quickened step
Of the home teacher
Summoned to help administer
To a feverish brow?

But neither can I share with her
The thrill of a newborn's nose
Bobbing in my neck;
The pride of seeing a six-year-old
Begin to read.

I cannot tell her
Of a husband's gentle touch
On my hand
As we pass briefly
In the chapel foyer.

Standing, I brush away the crumbs
From my not-so-new dress,
And wave a little
To the bride
Across the room.

-Martha P. Taysom, Ensigh April 2005

Monday, February 8, 2010

Being Happy With Ourselves and Others

"Obviously the Lord has created us with different personalities, as well as differing degrees of energy, interest, health, talent, and opportunity. So long as we are committed to righteousness and living a life of faithful devotion, we should celebrate these divine differences, knowing they are a gift from God. We must not feel so frightened, so threatened and insecure; we must not need to find exact replicas of ourselves in order to feel validated as women of worth. There are many things over which we can be divided, but one thing is needful for our unity—the empathy and compassion of the living Son of God."

-Patricia Holland

Friday, February 5, 2010

Design Friday: Emphasis

Emphasis is my emphasis today. (haha). Emphasis is an enhancement that produces a point of interest or a focal point in a design... the "anchor" for the eye and room. When you walk into a room, there should be a natural focal point for the eye to be drawn to first. Many rooms have natural focal points such as fireplaces or a window. A room can even have a few focal points- to carry the eye's interest around the room- but there is usually a dominant one. If your room does not have a natural focal point, you can create a focal point by painting an accent wall, arranging furniture facing a desired focal point, or showcasing something great.
.The large window and chandelier act as this room's natural focal points (notice how the fireplace goes understated). Photo from April 2009 "Architectural Digest".

This room's focal points are the fireplace and windows. Photo from May 2009 "Architectural Digest".

In a bedroom, the bed wall serves as a natural focal point. Photo from March 2009 "Architectural Digest".

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Personal Trainer

I've come to realize and appreciate my son as a free personal trainer. For example, I was surprised to find that the walks I take with my son (who is usually on a big wheel or scooter) strangely resemble the South Beach Diet's "Interval Walking" schedule:

Warmup: Start with a 3-minute walk at Easy Pace (while we decide which route to take)
Walk for 30 seconds at Moderate Pace (to keep up with my son who is cruising along, or when I am a "bad guy" being chased by a "police man")
Walk for 30 seconds at Easy Pace (while my son investigates pinecones, dead worms, leaves, pets dogs, etc.)
Repeat 12 times.

(We even fit in plenty of stops along the way at Burger King or Taco Bell- aka: utility boxes).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

In honor of one of America's strangest traditions, and for those of you disapointed by Phil's prediction of 6 more weeks of winter, I give you a clip from the movie "Groundhog Day".

Monday, February 1, 2010

All Women Are Not Created Equal

To the Powers that Be:

I come to you as a woman sickened by a great injustice that has been served to women for far too long. I come to you today, because not only do I feel that change is necessary, but I know that it is not impossible. I come to you with an opportunity to simplify the life of women all over the world. I come to you to ask: Would it really be so hard to sell women's pants with measured inseams?

When a woman decides it is finally time to buy a new pair of pants, not only must they schedule potential hours for this feat, but they must also prepare themselves mentally for this arduous task. You see, she knows that once she enters the mall, she will be required to roam from store to store, like a pinball, in search of a pair of pants. Often in tow, are an impatient husband and children who do not have the endurance for such a trip. "But," you protest, "Women come in many different shapes. It is the nature of the beast." I get that. I am delighted that you offer so many different fits of pants. This is truly empowering. But, many clothing manufacturers have been making pants with the mistaken belief that women come in only three heights: petite, regular, or tall. This, is simply not true. Nor is it a dependable system to shop by. For example, a 5'3" petite woman (petite generally defined as 5'3" or under) might find that pants sold in the designated petite section are STILL 3 inches too long. Do you understand how this might be frustrating? Do you understand that there are many heights unaccounted for in between the produced lengths of petite, regular, and tall?

Do you understand that when a woman finally finds a pair of pants that fits their waist, thighs, and rear appropriately, they are then forced to decide whether to a.) roll the bottoms of the pants to avoid walking on them, b.) cut and sew a new hem themselves at home (which we all know will never look right on a pair of jeans), c.) consider wearing stilettos for the rest of their life in order to avoid option "a" and "b", or d.) resign themselves to a life of high waters, and pray that it never goes out of style? (I know you might be tempted to encourage option "c" as a more fashionable way of life in general, but you must believe me when I tell you that it is not practical for the average woman). Do you understand that shopping for pants- challeneged only by bras and swimming suits- is one of the most dreaded tasks for the women of America- and perhaps worldwide?

Not only is shopping for pants a task frustrating, exhausting, and powerful enough to break even the strongest of women, it is also a great injustice to women everywhere. You see, any woman who looks across the dividing aisle of The Gap, Banana Republic, Express (once exclusive to women), Macy's, and any other store in America, will observe that pants are sold in an entirely different way for men. Clothing manufacturers understand that men come in more than 3 heights. Men can enter a store, find the fit they like, and then choose their pants with a magic number. This magic number is the measurement of their inseam- a number that never changes. This number tells men exactly where they can expect their pants to fall. I have observed with amazement as men walk into a store and purchase pants, without EVER having to try them on (or buying a new pair of shoes that allows them to wear said pants).

I understand that their are some brands that offer custom length pants- for a price. To that I say, it is time to stop offering efficiency to women as special treatment. It is time to break the bonds of frustrating shopping experiences and unite us with our brothers by selling us pants with measured inseams. Is this really too much to ask?