June 29, 2007

Show Stoppers

Well, June flew by much too quickly. For the last 2 weeks, Collin and Mary were involved in a Musical Theatre workshop through Mesa Community College. Their performance was last night at the Theatre Outback. They had a great time, and did a good job in their performance. They both had short solos, and sang really well. The whole show was great, and was really funny. The directors do a terrific job!

Collin and Mary also had 4 of their cousins in the workshop, and 2 of their neighborhood friends. Grandpa and Grandma came to the performance as well.


Mary (back center) performs "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun"


Mary (front right) sings her solo in "If We Hold On Together"


Collin (end left) performs "Sara Lee"


Collin (back center) singing "Standing on a Corner"

June 26, 2007

3 Little Fishes

After just a few days of swimming in our new pool, Jack has gained so much confidence! He is swimming all over the place like a little fish. Just a few weeks ago he was begging me not to make him go to swim lessons, and would cling to me with a death grip. Now he jumps in and just swims.... quite well, I must say. He can keep up with the big kids most of the time.
Jack likes to put on his goggles and say, "Mommy, I'm a scuba diver," and then he fetches things from the bottom of the pool, namely these. It cracks me up because he can't seem to remember what they are called.... he usually refers to them as "tortillas" or "mosquitoes." But I know what he's talking about. Mom's know these things.
Jack will surely be delighted with the pool for several more years at least.... probably longer than the pool will last. And Mary too. She has become quite the fish as well. She is perfecting her stroke, learning to do underwater flips, and other tricks. She especially likes to do "Cannon Balls." Collin probably won't be satisfied with it a long as the younger kids, but for now he is thrilled. He thinks it's pretty cool to make a whirl-pool (you can't do that in those big pools with a deep end, so there!), and he keeps asking the other kids if they want to have a chicken fight. But none of them are big enough or strong enough to handle such a challenge. That's just fine with me. Collin definitely likes the "Toypedo" toys too. And he can actually pronounce the word.

(sigh)..... (sigh)..... (sigh).....

I have to admit, I'm a sucker for romantic dramas, but particularly those made by the BBC. Those Brits know how to do suppressed romantic attraction oh so very well. And Jane Austen novels are particularly well-suited for such.

I have watched this series over and over, and I'm as delighted each time as if it were the first. It's quite the ultimate, and my absolute favorite. (sigh) And, of course, the novel is one of my all-time favorite books. (I was a bit disappointed with the recent film version. It just can't compare to the mini-series.)

I also adored "Sense and Sensibility".... the 1995 film is wonderful, but the book is fantastic! Another Jane Austen-put-to-film-favorite of mine is Persuasion. Emma was, of course, delightful, but Mansfield Park was just OK.

But last night I watched this, and I must say Elizabeth Gaskell's novel could give ol' Jane a run for her money in the repressed attraction department. I quite enjoyed it, and heartily recommend it, though I think nothing will ever take the place of "Pride and Prejudice" in my sappy, romantic heart. (sigh)

And as for leading men, no one can hold a candle to Colin Firth. (sigh, sigh, sigh) I think I would watch him in just about anything, but here are a few I can recommend. (I tried to put these in order, but I couldn't.... they are all excellent. However, Pride and Prejudice is definitely #1.) So, go rent one today.

Pride and Prejudice (did I mention I love this?)
The Importance of Being Earnest
Bridget Jones's Diary*
Love Actually*
Nanny McPhee
A Month in the Country

*I can only recommend these if they are the edited versions that I saw.

June 24, 2007

"You too can be young and attractive in less than 4 feet of water"

Don't the people in this photo look like they are having so much fun? We thought so. Then we asked ourselves, "Is it possible we could have that much fun in it?" The answer is "yes!"

Please understand, it gets really hot where we live. I mean stinking hot. Basically, you can't go outside unless it's to go from your air-conditioned house, to your air-conditioned car, to the air-conditioned store, etc. From October to May, my kids play happily outdoors.... so content and getting along so well. Come June, when it's too hot to play outside, they drive each other crazy (and me) with the teasing, fighting, pestering, etc. We go stir crazy staying inside, and there is a limit to the amount of time you can spend hanging out in the nice, cool library or mall without going insane. So, if you want to survive, either your kids watch a lot of TV and DVD's, or you hang out in the pool.

I truly despise public pools. We have nice ones all over the place, with fun water slides and everything. But you have to actually GO there, and hang out there, with the other poor people who don' t have their own swimming pool. Ugh.

My in-laws used to have a large, beautiful pool, which they never used (and they were rarely at home). Since they lived only 2 miles from us, it was perfect... we could go any time without bothering anyone. It was lovely.

Then, they moved.... to a new house, further away, sans pool. Uh oh. Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of kind people who offer to have us over to swim. They say, "You can come swim at our house any time!" I really appreciate it, but in reality, it doesn't happen very often. People who have their own pool hop into it whenever they fancy. Do they really expect us to do the same? I don't think so.

We barely survived last summer with a handful of invitations. I knew I couldn't take another summer like that one. I was feeling desperate to have our own swimming pool, and yet by no means do I want to spend 10's of thousands of dollars and give up half my yard (which we use 9 months out of the year), and redo the landscaping after the construction crew destroys it, for something we will use 3-4 months out of the year.

Then Jay suggested the unthinkable.... the "above-ground pool." I know, I know.... in other parts of the country they are quite common. But not here. I always thought it was weird and kind of "white trash."

But now I'm quite convinced this is the way to go. For $200 (thank you Wal-Mart) we got a 16 foot round pool, with a ladder, pump with filter, leaf/debris skimmer and vacuum, and cover. It was a cinch to set up. We filled it with water, added some chlorine, and we had a blast in it yesterday! My kids are absolutely beside themselves with joy. And I am so relieved.

The best part is, in a couple of months, we can pack it up and put it in the shed, and reclaim our yard for another lovely AZ winter. Perfect.

So, all you poor souls who don't have a swimming pool at your house, you are welcome to come swim in ours anytime. And if that isn't convenient for you, and you have $200 to spare, stop by your local Super Wal-Mart and pick up one of these.

June 21, 2007

Fat Superhero

I just had to post this photo, because it's one of the funniest I have seen in a while. Here is my fat nephew, Super Nicholas.

His mom is pretty super too... but she's not fat.

June 19, 2007

The Police Concert

Well, it was awesome! I expected nothing less. Our seats were exactly what we expected for $15 each.... directly behind the stage, toward the top. But hey, we were just glad to be there. I totally had a goofy grin on my face the whole time, and I couldn't help giggling a lot.

(The view from our seats.... with a not-so-great cellphone camera.)

Sting is absolutely amazing. It sounds totally cliche, but he is truly a very talented musician. Not only are his songs interesting musically, but his lyrics are intelligent and clever. Andy Summers was intense and serious, and played incredibly well. Stewart Copeland just cracked me up... he always had this huge grin on his face. He has so much energy. He looked like he was having a blast. And did I mention that Sting was incredible? I could listen to his voice all day long. The music was even better than on their recordings. They are amazing... no bells and whistles.... just 3 really talented guys making great music.

They started with "Message in a Bottle," and followed with:

Synchronicity II

Walking On the Moon

Voices Inside My Head

When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around

Don't Stand So Close To Me

Driven To Tears

The Bed's Too Big Without You

Truth Hits Everybody

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Wrapped Around Your Finger

De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da

Invisible Sun

Walking in Your Footsteps

Can't Stand Losing You

Roxanne

First encore:

King of Pain

So Lonely

Second encore:

Every Breath You Take

Next to You

A lot of people complained that the performance veered to much from the original, but I thought it was just enough to make it interesting (why would you go to a live concert if you want to hear music played exactly as it is recorded?), but not enough to alienate.

HIGHLIGHTS:
- Singing along with Sting. "Walking on the Moon" and "King of Pain" were especially fun.
- Snagging a FREE on-street parking space directly across the street from the arena. Sweet.
- Sting shouting "Phoenix, Arizona" three times during "So Lonely."
- Copeland running around the stage like a kid.

LOW POINTS:
- Stepping in the beer that the guy next to me spilled.
- The opening act, "FICTIONPLANE." There were terrible. I wondered how such a stinking awful band could have been opening for "The Police" until I learned that Sting's son, Joe Sumner, is the guitarist and singer. They had a couple of songs that were decent, and the last one was totally offensive and disgusting. Most of them were just plain boring. Basically, they were totally unoriginal.

Since we didn't have to pay $20 for parking, Jay decided we should buy a shirt. It's very UNFLATTERING on me, but I still like it.Check out this slide show of the concert. If you look really closely, you can see me. :)

June 18, 2007

Swim Team

Collin isn't a very good athlete, but he keeps trying. I'm proud of him for not giving up. He isn't competitive, so he just does it for fun, and has a good attitude even though he doesn't expect to win. He is on the swim team right now. Last year was his first time ever, and he was probably the worst one on the team.

I'm so pleased with the progress he has made though. This year he did well enough to make the relay team for freestyle. Unfortunately, since he had never participated in a relay before, he didn't quite understand how it works.

He was the 2nd swimmer, so he was up on the block ready to go. When he heard the starting signal for the first swimmer, he thought that was for him, and off he went. He didn't realize what was going on until he was half-way across the pool and almost ran into the first swimmer. So, he had to swim back and get out.

By this time, the first swimmer was completing his lap, and it was Collin's turn. He is used to swimming just one lap in a race. But at this point he had already completed a full lap.... in 2 halves. So, he was obviously a little tired at this point, but he completed his lap.... behind all the other teams. The last 2 swimmers did their best, but they weren't able to make up for the lost time.

Oh well, it was a good experience for Collin, and now he understands how it works.

The amazing this is, that in the end, because of disqualifications, his team took 2nd place. Not bad.

ClearPlay

Jay and I like to watch movies, and we do it a lot.... mostly at home. Even though we have a tiny television and no surround sound. But going to a movie theatre is expensive.... about $20 just for tickets, and another $20 or so for a babysitter! So, until the day when Collin can babysit, most of our dates take place in our living room.

We used to subscribe to Cleanfilms.com. It worked just like Netflix, but the movies were edited for content. It was great to be able to select any movie that sounded interesting without having to worry about ratings or offensive content. But then the movie studios won, and put Cleanfilms and other companies like it out of business. We were really disappointed. We went back to Netflix, carefully avoiding R-rated films, and many PG-13 ones that are nearly as bad.

Then, my techie brother told me about this, available here, and I bought it. It really works! This is even better than edited movies, plus it's already been through the legal channels to make sure it won't have the problems of its forerunners. Hooray for people committed to providing clean entertainment options!

Fathers' Day

Even though I'm a day late, I want to honor three important fathers in my life.

1) My dad, Russell. It is hard to describe what a wonderful father he is. He is kind and wise, supportive and loving, generous and hardworking. He taught me many things, like how to drive a car, budget money, build a house, teach lessons and give talks, respect my elders, and overcome my shyness. He taught me the gospel, to love the scriptures, and to work hard. He gave me many things: my first job, good advice to fill volumes, opportunities to travel the U.S., Canada, and Europe (and infected me with the travel bug), a loving home, and wonderful priesthood blessings. He provided for the spiritual and temporal welfare of a family of 11 children, and has always treated my mother like a queen. He has counseled with me when I have had problems, comforted me when I had my heart broken, and set me straight when I got out of line. By his example, he taught me to love learning, to persevere, to serve, and to be happy. He is also a wonderful grandfather to my children. Thank you Dad. I love you!
2) The father of my children, Jay. I always wanted to marry someone like my dad (even when I didn't realize my desires as such) and I did. Jay is all the things my dad is, and more... he changes diapers. :) Jay is good provider, and a wonderful priesthood leader in our home. He plays with the kids, reads to them, helps them with homework, takes them with him when he runs errands, makes them laugh, and helps them feel special. He also gives them baths and gets them ready for bed. He keeps our yard looking nice, and fixes things around the house. He goes on fathers-and-sons outings even though he hates camping. Unlike my dad, Jay doesn't like to travel, but he does anyway because he knows it is important to me and the kids. He commutes to Phoenix for works because he knows I want to raise our family in the suburbs. He supports me in my church callings, and serves well in his own. He teaches our children to work hard, treat their mother with respect, accept responsibility for their actions, and treat each other kindly. He is patient, but firm. He is fun, but serious. He is intelligent and good. Thank you Jay. I love you!

3) Jay's father, Collin. We named our eldest son after this good man (and my dad for his middle name). Collin worked hard to support his family, and made a lot of sacrifices. He is patient and supportive. He taught Jay how to work hard and how to fix things, and made sure Jay earned his Eagle Scout award. He gives great advice, and stills counsels with Jay about all kinds of things. He loves his family and shows it with affection and service. He shows an interest people and makes everyone feel comfortable around him. I am grateful to him for raising such a wonderful son, and for being a good grandpa. Thank you Collin. I love you!
HAPPY FATHERS' DAY

June 15, 2007

Coolness

I'm not sure that Jay or I have ever been "cool," but I'm quite certain that neither of us are "cool" now. We are getting old, and we aren't exactly hip. Fortunately, as our ability to be "cool" has decreased, so has our desire to be "cool."

It would seem that attending a rock concert would qualify as "cool." My parents never let me go to concerts when I was in high school, so I have only attended 2 in my entire life; I saw Donny Osmond when I was at BYU (I'm not even sure that counts), and Cocteau Twins after I had graduated from college.

On the other hand, Jay went to quite a few concerts in his "younger" days, most of which I would have loved to attend; Sting, R.E.M., OMD, Depeche Mode, Morrissey, The Ramones, Live, Concrete Blonde, The Cure, Weezer, INXS, Luscious Jackson, and Peter Gabriel, to name just a few. He even saved most of the ticket stubs!

However, Jay is a little too young to have attended a Police concert; he was only in 6th grade when they released their last album, Synchronicity, in 1983. (Jay says the closest thing he saw to a Police concert was in elementary school when the music teacher had the class sing "Every Breath You Take" while a few kids played a single chord on acoustic guitars.) I remember buying the album (on cassette tape) for my older brother for Christmas. What a great album. After that, Sting went solo and I became a huge fan.... I still am.

And now The Police have reunited for a world tour, including Phoenix this Monday night. Even though Jay and I both agreed it would be "cool" to go to the concert, we decided it probably wasn't "our thing," nor did we want to spend an insane amount of money for tickets.

But last night, just for kicks, Jay looked on eBay for tickets to the concert. We even bid on a couple of decent seats, but gave up when it topped $150 for the pair. I admit to feeling relieved when we didn't win. Then we noticed 2 tickets for sale with the "Buy it Now" option, for $29 total, and free shipping. The catch? The seats are directly behind the stage.

And then suddenly we said, "What the heck. That's hardly more than it would cost to go to a movie. Let's do it." So, we'll be at US Airways Center on Monday night along with 20,000+ other fans. For that price, we won't feel bad leaving if it's lame (doubtful) or if we feel too "uncool" to be there (probable).

On second thought, these guys are old enough to be our parents. Maybe it's not so "cool" after all.

June 12, 2007

Oak Creek Canyon

We spent last weekend in Oak Creek Canyon, outside Sedona, near Slide Rock. We had planned this trip a while back, but it looked like it had fallen through. At the last minute it worked out, and we went! It was delightful!

My dad and a business partner purchased Don Hoel's Cabins, which they plan to develop into residential lots. In the meantime, it sits empty, just as it was when the original owners sold it. Sadly, most of the cabins will be torn down eventually. But in the meantime, we can enjoy them.... and escape the heat.
We spent some time at beautiful Oak Creek, just a short walk away. The weather was absolutely perfect, though there were a lot more insects than I'm used to.
The kids enjoyed the playground on the property.
Collin and Mary got brave (after a lot of coaxing), and went for a swim in the creek. It was their first experience swimming in a natural body of water. (I don't count the irrigation in grandpa's backyard, or walking on the beach.) This was real swimming! They thought it was pretty freaky at first, but when they got used to it they had a great time. Fortunately, there were no fish nibbling at their toes. It was the wrong time of day for that.

My cousin (who is "Mr. Outdoorsman") and his family went with us. He set up a zip-line for the kids, and they had a blast.
The grounds are beautifully kept by the caretaker.... whose name is Strider! Jay thought that was super cool, and now thinks he has the "uncoolest" name in the world.
We enjoyed eating our meals outside, and the kids had a great time together, riding their bikes, playing ping-pong, volleyball, and walking in the woods. The grown ups enjoyed relaxing, eating, visiting.... and some playing too. My cousin and his wife braved the crowds and took the kids to Slide Rock, which is just a few minutes away. Maybe I will brave it next time.
On Sunday morning we went to church at the Sedona Ward. Let's just say, it was "interesting." We left after lunch on Sunday (reluctantly), and we can't wait to go back.

June 05, 2007

Ouch!

I didn't sleep well last night. It wasn't because I couldn't sleep. On the contrary, I was very tired. I had no trouble falling asleep... I did so many times last night. It's just that I was awoken many times too.

It wasn't because I was sick or uncomfortable. None of my children were sick or frightened or otherwise in need of comfort. I didn't have nightmares, or hear scary noises that kept me awake.
It's because Jay was tossing and turning all night. And that is because he was stung by one of these. (shudder)

Yikes! I hate scorpions!