Friday, December 26, 2008

A Tale of Two Trips

Most of you have already read or heard the tale of trip #1: on Monday we braved snow and ice to go to the airport only to find our flight was canceled. Meanwhile, Jared and Camryn were already in Utah with Grandma and we faced the prospect of our first Christmas without most of our kids.

On Christmas Eve, the snow finally started to melt. We decided to go deliver gifts to our friends. We pulled out of our driveway and into the street... and that was as far as we got. The 15 inches of snow had melted into 8 inches of slush. And while chains can make even very slick snow drive-able, they are no match for slush half as deep as your tires. It was like driving through sand or trying to swim with our car... less than successful, shall we say. So we had a very jolly Christmas Eve spent cleaning the house, doing some laundry, re-packing some bags, addressing Christmas cards and making a simple Paella (which was fabulous, by the way, and remarkably easy and mess-free).

In the midst of our cleaning, we realized that it was a few minutes to midnight and we had to at least try to celebrate Christmas Eve a little bit, so Dave and I stopped and took a break to sing Christmas carols at the piano. Even though we had already taken down our Christmas Tree and decorations before our first trip to the airport, even though two of our three children were in a different state and the prospects of us getting there the next morning were less than certain, suddenly it felt like Christmas. I felt very grateful: grateful that despite being unintentionally separated for the holiday I had a wonderful family that were all safe and well with a warm house and food to eat. I was grateful for a wonderful husband who was willing to spend an entire evening cleaning house with me and helping me finish up Christmas cards. But most of all I was grateful for the birth of a baby in Bethlehem a very long time ago.

Christmas morning we piled our stuff into Dave's car (the one with chains) and I held my breath as we braved the mounds of slush filling the streets of our neighborhood. I exhaled a sigh of relief when we finally made it to the main road. The weather was clear: so far, so good. On the way to the airport we mailed some letters and returned a movie. There were people coming out of the grocery store, holding their Starbucks cups, just like any other day. But the one that perplexed me was the lady who was recycling soda pop cans out front. Who wakes up on Christmas morning and thinks, "Hmmm, this would be an ideal time to go recycle some cans!"?

We allowed plenty of time so the fact that the lines to check luggage looped around half the airport didn't faze me. The plane was even on time. We boarded the plane, got de-iced and pulled away from the gate. And then it started to snow... and snow... harder and harder. A few minutes later we pulled back in to the gate. We had enough snow accumulation that we needed to be de-iced again. We waited for the de-icer. Then we had idled so long that the plane needed to be refueled. By this time it was almost blizzarding. By the time we were ready to go again there was an accumulation of slush on the runway and we needed to either wait for it to melt or wait for them to call back in the snowplows that they had sent home.

We spent 3 hours sitting on our plane at the gate. During this whole ordeal Jackson sat quietly on my lap like a little angel. (Haha, that was a funny joke.) Actually he spent this time dumping the diaper bag, opening a bag of crackers and emptying its entire contents onto the floor and randomly flailing about, ripping magazines and bumping his head. A few minutes after we took off he FINALLY went to sleep.

We finally landed more than 4 hours behind schedule. We drove to Dave's parent's house and it started to snow again hard. We finally made it home... home to Dave's family, to Jared and Camryn. I didn't realize how much I missed Jared and Camryn until I saw them again. After a week of only having a one-year-old they seemed older. We immediately started with our traditional Christmas Eve dinner: a buffet with Susan's famous dinner rolls, cheese, meat, cranberry salad, shrimp dip and chips, vegetables and dip, mandarin oranges, homemade fudge. It was good to finally be home... away from home.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I'll Be Home For Christmas... Unfortunately

True to the title, I will be home, here in the great Northwest, for Christmas. This was not planned. In fact, the entire day Monday ran like a slightly messed up rerun of "Home Alone." Dave and I had tickets to visit his parents in Utah that left on Monday. But on Monday we had 15 inches of snow in our yard and it was still snowing (understand that in a typical winter we get no snow that sticks and our area of our great state does not have de-icing equipment or plows for snow removal).

Dave and I were getting ready to leave with Jackson for the airport when a friend called us to say that the power was off in their house due to the snowstorm and it was getting colder by the minute. They have a newborn baby and soon the temperature inside would be close to what it was outside, so they wanted to know if they could come hang out with us where it was warm. So they came on over, bringing some other friends of ours who also had their power out with them. They had no idea how long the power would be out for, so they brought bags with food, changes of clothes, etc. which soon covered our front rooms (not to mention the piles of our bags that were out for us to take to the airport). Soon we had 11 extra people milling about and I was throwing towels in the washer and trying to figure out where we could put makeshift beds, if necessary (this honestly was not a problem at all except that the thought of having people, even close friends, see my upstairs rooms and kids bathroom at their current state of tidiness was raising my blood pressure slightly).

Despite taking all precautions and leaving 5 hours early for the airport, chains on our car, just before we got there we found out our flight was canceled. This was very disappointing, but not hopeless. We went to the airport anyway to try to harass the people at the ticket counter and see if we could get on something. It turned out that ALL Southwest flights after 2 pm were canceled. Not to be deterred, I stood in line at the ticket counter for every single airline that had flights to Utah. (At this point a man in line with me suggested that maybe I should hitch a ride in the back of a U-Haul with a jazz band.) =] The soonest flight available on any airline was Dec. 27th. To even get on standby on another airline I would have to be a ticket for later in the week, knowing that I had 40 people in front of me already. This was very disappointing but would not have been fatal, except that Jared and Camryn were already in Utah at Grandma's house. I found myself going from counter to counter searching for any way to Utah-- or anywhere even close-- but there were no flights to be had- for any price. (I guess this is one of those few exceptions to my Uncle George's theory that there are few problems in life that cannot be solved -or at least helped- with a good credit card.) Even the highway to Utah was closed.

What do you do in such a predicament? When you realize that after exhausting all possible options to no avail you are going to have to spend Christmas away from two of your three children? You go out to dinner. Dave and I went with Jackson to the nicest sit-down restaurant in the airport to wait it out just on the off chance that they decided to un-cancel our flight. They didn't, but by the time we had both finished our dinner we felt much better about life anyway. We also were happy that we weren't one of the people settling down to sleep in the standby line for the flight leaving the next morning. We drove home via my favorite pastry shop and then tried to figure out our options.

Southwest Airlines helpfully informed us that didn't have any flights available until the 27th. But as it so happens, our friends whose power had gone out (who were still at our house enjoying the warmth) had tickets to go to Utah on Christmas Day that they were not going to use because he had gotten behind in work because of the storm. We were able to call Southwest and finagle them into giving us their spots on the Christmas day flight. This negotiation was actually quite easy compared to calling Jared and trying to negotiate with him to write a letter to Santa asking Santa to come a day later so mom and dad could get presents too. ("But mom!! I've waited so long already that I even told Camryn that Christmas was tomorrow...") But, as it turns out, Santa wrote Jared a letter, telling him that an elf had informed Santa of his mom and dad's predicament, so Santa would come a day late-- just for them.

So cross your fingers for us that the airport isn't snowed in again tomorrow and that we can make it to the airport. We tried to go out to deliver Christmas gifts to some friends today, but after attempting to drive down our street in six inches of slush we decided it was inadvisable- even with chains. So here's hoping that we'll at least get to spend part of Christmas together as a family. And if not, I suppose we can always go out to dinner.

Look for Jared and Camryn in the next Church News

From Dave's Mom:

Hi Family,
Today we invited Allessandra to go with Jared, Camryn, and I to the Church Museum of History and Art. I had heard from a friend that they had fun pioneer Christmas activities for kids at the Museum. When we arrived they were not only celebrating Christmas, but also had special activities to honor the birthday of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Our first activity was to listen to "Lucy Mack Smith" tell the kids about when her son, Joseph, was 7 (Jared's age) and caught cholera. She told them about the infection in his leg that had to be cut out and had a crutch like the one he might have used for 3 years while his leg healed. Then they colored "stained glass windows" like the one depicting the First Vision. While they were coloring a photographer from the Church News walked up to the Museum guide and asked if he could take pictures of the children participating in the activities.

So, Jared, Camryn, and Allessandra sat and listened to Lucy Mack Smith talk while he snapped pictures. He also took pictures of them coloring. He took down their first names, ages, and where they were from. They felt quite important!

Upstairs the kids made some "pioneer" Christmas ornaments: They punched holes in tin stars and made little mangers to hang on the tree. There was also a nativity with lots of costumes for the kids to put on to be a part of the nativity scene. Altogether it was a great afternoon.

Quotable quotes:
Camryn to "Lucy Mack Smith": How old are you?
"Lucy": If I were still alive I'd be over 200 years old.
Cam: " No, how old are you really?"

Allessandra in the car driving home: "After our pictures are in the Church News people will want us to sign autographs! We'll be famous!"

Jared: "Yea, our families will be millionaires!"

A very Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Susan, Mom, Grama Susan

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful...

Right now I'm trying not to be bummed. I'm looking outside my bedroom window at a gorgeous winter wonderland of trees dusted with fresh powdery snow. Which would be lovely... except... the a cappella choir that I co-direct was supposed to sing in a concert at the Grotto tonight, but the concert is canceled. The Grotto is closed because of snow so the concert is off. This is after we already canceled our earlier concert at Zoolights.

This morning our ward choir had a rehearsal for our Christmas program. The rehearsal went great- we have an amazing guest flute player, we are really well-prepared and it will be awesome... except that it might not happen. The prospects are pretty grim, actually. Both of the wards in our town that meet in the morning in are canceled and ours, which meets in the afternoon, might also be canceled- for the second week in a row- if the weather is bad tomorrow. And the snow keeps coming down....

It really is beautiful and I wish I could sit back and enjoy it instead of worrying if all of that work and planning is going to go to waste-- for the second day in a row. I'm 2 for 3 so far with performances getting canceled this weekend. Can it just stop snowing long enough for us to get to church and do the ward choir program? Pretty please?

Snow Days

For those of you who aren't in the Northwest, this past week has had some crazy weather. We have had snow... lots of it- enough that they canceled church last week. Before you get too worried, keep in mind that the real problem is that up here we are wimps when it comes to snow... and unprepared- it doesn't help that there aren't any snowplows, salt or de-icing equipment. So it has all been a bit uncertain and stressful trying to figure out whether events will be on or canceled.

On the other hand, it has been a dream for the kids. School has been canceled for a week. While Dave was driving to work through the snow with chains on his car and I have been trying to decide whether to cancel or hold choir rehearsals, the kids were happily sledding and playing until they were froze, coming in and drinking hot chocolate to thaw, playing until they froze again, ad infinitum. Despite the warnings that snow was coming, I regrettably ignored my urge to buy sleds in my quest to be frugal. So my kids, undeterred, were reduced to mooching off the neighbors or sliding down our neighborhood hill on cardboard or our plastic baby bath. However, they seemed quite fine with this arrangement.

After a harrowing drive to the airport, I put Jared and Camryn on a plane to go visit Grandma Susan on Wednesday, (This was planned before the snow days. Dave, Jackson and I will follow on Monday.) but before they left they had lots of time to play in the snow. Here are some pictures of our snow days.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Grrr... I've been writing this post and trying to finish it for over a week. I'm posting it... FINALLY!
Since October I have been assistant director and a singer in a choir that was organized by one of my old friends from school: a small group of twelve people getting ready to sing a short a cappella Christmas concert at a local Cathedral Christmas festival thingy. Most of us are former singers in a college choir or some other active musical group who have had to move music to the back burner for a while because of other pursuits (like children, families, jobs and otherwise "real life"). So basically the idea is that we are all trying to get our musical fix crammed in between the overwhelming busy-ness of everyday life. We have been rehearsing on an evening for 3 hours every other week, preparing for this Christmas festival and a couple of other minor gigs.

When my friend first called me and invited me to participate I really wasn't sure if I had time for another commitment. Much as I love to sing in choirs, I'm already directing the ward choir and can hardly get my laundry folded within a week of it getting washed, let alone have my brain in place to be second in command for a choir that actually wants to try to do challenging repertoire. But the practicing every other week was the clincher for me- I decided I could handle that small of a time commitment and should at least give it a shot.

And so I did. It has been so great to be singing and directing choir again (much as I love ward choir, it's not exactly the same thing...). I didn't realize how much I missed singing until I had it back again. A few weeks ago we had an amazing rehearsal. We have one piece that my friend is directing that is a lot harder than the others. We really buckled down to work on the difficult passages, fix the tuning issues and lock the piece in to place. It was an intense session, but the result was so worth it: there is something amazing that happens when you get a group of people together, you set aside egos and just work to be completely unified and in tune with the others in the group.

But, two weeks in between rehearsals is a long time... and by the last rehearsal before our first concert things were rough again and I was getting flustered. We had very little time and a lot to cover. It didn't help that I had had a crazy week with different commitments almost every single night as well as rehearsals during the day on some days and I had raced off that night after getting a babysitter with nary a moment to gather my thoughts. We were rehearsing one of my pieces and came to a spot where the singers wanted to know what I wanted: did I want a pause with a breath or to continue straight through. A fair enough question... and as I stood there, in front of everyone, on the spot, I didn't have the faintest idea what the answer to that question was. I was sure that I had an opinion- or would have one if I had time to think about it- but at the moment all I could muster was to stammer, look stupid and say, "Uh, you know what, I really don't have any idea right now."

In retrospect, this wasn't such a very big deal, but at the time I felt mortified. I went home bemoaning the fact that now that I have children I have lost my brain and all of my former professionalism with it. What is it about having children that makes it so impossible to be organized, well-prepared and "together"? At what point did I go from being the uber-professional piano teacher to one who gets stressed out with 2 students? But I digress....

We did get through our rehearsal and even our first two performances. On the first Saturday of December we had our first performance at a festival that displays Nativity scenes. Our first piece is a processional that we sing as we walk in. This went quite smoothly until I realized that in a few bars I was supposed to deftly move out in front to the music stand, conduct the last few bars of the piece and be in place to conduct the choir for the next piece. This in itself was not unsettling except for the fact that the music stand, instead of being a few feet away where it was when we rehearsed, was down in the audience in a row of benches-- not exactly a place to which I could deftly slip out. No matter, I slipped out the back of the group, went down the steps, got into place, laid down my music and lifted my arms to the choir... and for some reason unbeknownst to me (and perhaps to the singers for that matter) at the end of the section they stopped... mid-song. It was just before the ending and maybe they thought I was gesturing for them to stop. So we had an unplanned and uncalled for and um, quite dramatic pause before I was able to bring them in to sing the final lines of the song.

Ignoring that and a few other minor glitches, the performance went quite well. It was actually a relief to get through a full performance and to realize that we didn't completely fall apart if something unexpected happened. There was one piece where one section had a botched entrance and I was afraid we were going to lose it- but to my amazement we held on, pulled it together and finished the song well. Maybe that is what professionalism is all about, right? Taking the funky things that inevitably happen, making the best of them and keeping things going as smoothly as possible.

At least that is what I try to tell myself. But part of me still struggles with feeling like everything I do is half-baked, by the seat of my pants. It's hard to feel professional and "together" when I sit down to work in my office -which I have neatly organized several times- and cannot even find a pen, let alone the floor (which is buried in piles of paper scraps and sundry bits of litter from several uninvited "guest artists"). I like to plan and prepare and feel in control, but too often parenting makes my life feel like a series of reactions to unplanned events and catastrophes. And did I mention interruptions? I can't start a project- let alone finish one- without being interrupted, usually several times. I feel like a can hardly keep a coherent train of thought sometimes amidst all of the environmental noise, chaos and alternate demands for my attention.

So is it any wonder that sometimes I feel less confident in my artistic and professional abilities than I once did? Is it any wonder that despite wanting to teach piano again, the thought of having a piano studio fills me with dread and trepidation?

Part of me says that this is a natural consequence of parenting- that this is just a phase and season in life that requires patience and will eventually pass. But part of me screams in rebellion: "NO!!! I'm really not a slob and I can prove it! I CAN BE ORGANIZED!! I can be neat and tidy! I could get things done, once upon a time..." But part of me secretly wonders, "Maybe I really am I slob. Maybe I'm just using this as an excuse and a cover to protect myself from having to face my own incompetence." Maybe it's too late to be up blogging. Or maybe I'm really just annoyed with my printer and that is making me wax woeful about my life.

(Can I just say that I am really annoyed that I have been trying to print a document for 30 minutes and despite the fact that the printer is plugged in to the computer and the computer shows that the printer has been sent the job the stupid thing won't print! Do you know how many hours of my life have been wasted by malfunctioning or half-functioning computer equipment? And crappy software that is slow and doesn't do what it's supposed to do? Can I just say that I should probably stop complaining and go to bed?) =]

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tag: The Man in My Life


What is your husband’s name? Dave
How long did you date? We met as freshman, but didn't date until my senior year. We dated for 4 months, then were engaged for 3 months.
How old is he? 30
Who eats sweets? Both of us. Dave's faves are See's Hot Hearts (only available at Valentine's Day), homemade caramels and chocolate-covered marzipan.
Who said I love you first? Dave. And I replied, "Um, thanks." (Yeah, awkward moment. To me, saying "I love you" was the equivalent to "I want to marry you," so it took me a little bit longer... maybe even a few extra days.)
Who is taller? Dave, by 11 inches.
Who can sing better? Me, but Dave is a great singer.
Who is smarter? I think that we are equally smart, although we definitely have different areas of expertise.
Who does the laundry? Me.
Who pays the bills? Definitely me. Always.
Who sleeps on the right side of the bed? Me.
Who mows the lawn? A lawn service. (First it was Dave, with me filling in occasionally, then more. When we had two lawns to mow for 5 months is when I hit the wall.)
Who cooks dinner? Me. But Dave often makes breakfast on Sat. or Sunday. He makes the best crepes. Also, he is the steak grilling expert of the family.
Who drives? I usually get him to when we're together.
Who is the first to admit they are wrong? Are either of us ever wrong? =] We are both pretty good at it.
Who kissed who first? Dave kissed me.
Who asked who out first? Dave hunted me down at school to ask me out. Unaware of his plans, I asked him if he wanted to come hang out with my roommate and I that night as we tried to get in free to the symphony. Seriously, we had three activities planned without him having to ask me out once. Yeah, he had it easy...
Who wears the pants? Hmmm, we both do (except for Sundays, when I wear a skirt). We have a give and take relationship but I think we are both good at giving each other autonomy.
Friends who should do this (if you want to): Ranell, Crystal, Tenise, Rebecca

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Random Stuff About Me

I got this as one of those random email forwards, but I was bored and filled it out, so I thought I would post it.


Jobs I Have Had:

1. Babysitter
2. Accompanist for a High School ESL Choir
Receptionist for a Real Estate Office
4. Document Control Clerk (Try to guess what that is...)
5. Accompanist for Voice Lessons
6. Technical Writer at a semiconductor company

7. Accompanist for Vocal Master Class (Music gets put in front of me, I perform with vocalist on the spot.... low stress)
8. Business Process Analyst at a semiconductor company
9. College Sight-singing Instructor
10. College Group Piano Instructor
11. College Non-Major Private Piano Instructor
12. Private Piano Studio Teacher
13. Taking care of 3 kids while trying not to lose my mind


Detroit, MI (for six months as a one year old)


Utah (Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Salt Lake, etc.)
Yellowstone National Park/Jackson Hole, WY
Grand Canyon
California (Disneyland, Yosemite, San Francisco, San Diego, LA, San Simeon, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Point Reyes)
New York, NY
Crater Lake, OR
Boston, MA (including Lexington, Concord, Cambridge, Plymouth, etc.)
Williamsburg, VA
Philadelphia, PA (and Amish Country)
Washington D.C.
Tijuana, Mexico (OK, it was on a trip to San Diego, but it is my only time outside of the U.S. besides a brief stint across the border into Canada as an infant)
Great Smoky Mountains, Cumberland Gap
Hodgenville, KY (birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, of course)
Nauvoo/Carthage, IL
St. Louis, Missouri
Albuquerque, NM
Seattle, WA
Kauai and Oahu, Hawaii

4 OF MY FAVORITE FOODS: (can I choose? I could sooner pick a favorite star in the sky...)

1. Creme Brulee
2. Excellent Cheese (brie, goat cheese, etc.)
3. Really fresh grilled vegetables
4. Avocados


1. Asleep
2. Hawaii
3. Europe

4. New York City

Babies Don't Keep

I know I posted a link to this poem in my last post, but I had only ever heard the last part of it before I looked it up for my post (to quote it correctly). I loved the first part of the poem (it is a pretty accurate description of my house on a typical day), so I wanted to post it in its entirety:

"Song for a Fifth Child" by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
and out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
but I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.