Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas is Not Yet Over here

There was supposed to be another blizzard starting right now, but it turned into a rainstorm. It will probably develop into nasty snow overnight. I'm just glad the garbage man made it....

And the mailman. "Santa Clause" hasn't stopped giving yet. I don't know if it's the same anonymous person who provided such a delightful Christmas for my family or another generous soul, but we got a gift card in the mail, for WalMart (just what I needed, actually), for $200! I can hardly believe it. And, to add to the mystery, the package came via regular postal mail, but without a postmark. I have no idea where it came from. I was expecting a gift card from Grandma Jones, but she told us she was sending it--no reason for her to sign it "Santa" and be anonymous....and I doubt she has that much to give since she provides gifts for 6 children, 6 spouses, and 15+ grandchildren.

This on top of the $100 to King Soopers and $50 to JC Penny the ward gave us. And on top of the bishop racing down to Denver to get 2 weeks of food for us before this new storm hit. So now we have fancier food than we usually get, money for things we need, and hope for a job soon.

So who is the mystery person/persons? I have no idea. I keep trying to guess, but I'm a miserable failure at that. All I can do is promise to do the same for someone else some year when I am able. And I have this inkling of an idea that maybe when I know a family that is unemployed, I should be doing like things for them when it's not Christmas. Maybe someday when we're comfortable and can sacrifice $200, I should get the gift card from Wal-mart in July and give it to the bishop to deliver to a family that he knows needs it...

I hope that when I do have enough to share, I WILL share. Being poor can make people miserly, and I hope that doesn't happen. I hope it makes me frugal so I can be generous with my excess some day.

So if any of you happen to know who has helped us so much, tell them Thanks. Big Time.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas For Mommy

Thanks to a couple of sets of Grandparents and a wonderful anonymous, we had a nice Christmas. The kids all got new clothes and jammies that I looked at and said, "Too Big," but that actually fit. Anda put on all of her new clothes at once and wore them as she opened the rest of her presents. Daniel didn't really "get" it except that each package that did get opened was suddenly his favorite--especially the doll that "anonymous" gave to Anda with three little bottles. Dan really wanted one, too. And then a package from Anda's cousin had Another doll--and she very generously gave it and its bottle to Dan. Once Caleb found that he DID get a train for Christmas (from Anda), he could appreciate his other presents, too. So all the kids were happy.

They spent all day sharing their toys, taking turns playing with everyone's everythings happily. We all played six games of Candyland together--that, too, was a success from anonymous. Daniel discovered that painting is great fun. Everyone colored in coloring books, did crafts, ate candy, "went shopping", and generally had fun.

Tim had already informed me that they didn't buy me anything, and I knew it was okay. I only got him lunch meats and swiss cheese--that's all. But then Christmas Eve, as I put presents under the tree, I didn't find a single one for me from anyone. I learned a few years ago that I really DO want something for Christmas--just one package that I don't know what's inside that I didn't buy for myself. So I went to bed sincerely praying that I wouldn't care in the morning, and that I would have a genuinely happy day. Then I had a terrible night--Dan was up every hour or so.

Then I woke up enough before the kids that I got a shower before they got up--how often does a mom get a peaceful shower alone? And it turned out there were two presents under the tree from Anonymous for me--nice things, too. And some for Tim, too.

And then I realized that I got everything a mom REALLY wants for Christmas. Tim and the kids cleaned the house for me. It hadn't even been picked up since my birthday, so it was a disaster, and they got it clean. Even mopped the floors! Then everyone was happy with their presents and felt like they got what they wanted. Tim moved all the big furniture I wanted moved--even the piano. And Tim made breakfast for everyone.

And then I had the one-in-a-million absolutely peaceful day. Nobody fought all day. Nobody got hurt. Nobody cried. Nobody was sick. Nobody was mean. Nobody broke or spilled anything. Nobody demanded my time. Nobody made me get up and do anything. Nobody screamed in the other rooms, or played loud music, or made me watch their TV programs with them. Nobody even made me read to them, which I don't mind. Everyone helped pick up the wrapping paper messes without being asked twice. Everyone was patient as we struggled to open and put together myriad new toys. Everyone SHARED everything--even the crafts they got to do, and the paints, and everything.

Then Tim prayed a good night's sleep for me--and it worked. For the first time in over a year, nobody woke me up all night and nobody slept in my bed. Even Daniel slept all night in his own bed in the other room without waking up once. I actually got to wake up by myself in the morning an hour before anyone else and laze around like I used to before I had kids.

What else could a mom want for Christmas? And it's all stuff that you can't ask for and get. Nobody plans those things. Nobody can just try really hard and make them happen. And nobody can predict them.

So it was a really nice Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Those Darn Jones Kids

Right now the kids are looking up Israel on the globe, and Bethlehem on the map in the Bible. Anda told Caleb the Christmas story, and they stopped just as baby Jesus started looking for a pet store because they determined there were probably no pet stores in Bethlehem. And where is Bethlehem, anyway? Thus the globe.

They've been cute all day.

Dinner conversation, for example. (This is not exact. I can't remember the exact words they said. This is the gist of it. Remember, Caleb and Anda are only 5 and 3):
C: This is perplexing.
A: No. I'm perplexing you.
C: You can't perplex me.
A: You can't perplex me either. Only I can perplex me.
C: You can't perplex yourself. It's not possible.
A: I can't perplex myself? Outside can be perplexing.
C: I can't perplex myself. But I can perplex the Perplexing Pool [a level in a nintendo game].

Other cute stuff:
Daniel is sitting on the floor singing along to the timer beeping as he pushes the buttons. Earlier, he was dancing to the beeping of the timer.

And, on a very sweet and touching note, Caleb wrote Anda a Christmas card on a scrap of newspaper they were using to wrap presents. He taped it to the present she picked out for him to give her at the Dollar Store yesterday. The note said, "Merry Christmas, Anda. I love you as much as God loves me."

Now that's the way it should be.

Food Storage and Emergency Preparedness

Merry Christmas, everyone.

We had a nice church time (Tim sang "O Holy Night" and it was beautiful. Made me cry. We got so many comments afterward that it made us uncomfortable in the same way you feel awkward when someone says, "Congrats" when you get made Primary President.). Then we came home and slept some.

We're still digging out from the blizzard, and most of the merchants in the area are saying they lost several key days of sales. Judging from the stream of cars outside, people are making it up today. Merry Christmas and Happy Sabbath Day to you all, right?

Anyway, we did our shopping last night, calculated for a time when the grocery store would be empty of the crowds. Everyone, suddenly freed from the freeze yesterday, hit the stores to replenish and Christmas shop. And Tim and I were no different. We'd stocked up before the storm because we thought Tim was leaving town, but we had to face two days (Sunday and then Christmas Day) with no restocking possible, so we had to go out and get milk and bread, mostly, and a few other thisses and thats.

Amazingly, there was almost no bread in the store. Only specialty loaves that cost $4.00/loaf, and not even much of that. And who wants peanutbutter on marbled rye? Not my kids. And we can't spend $4.00/loaf anway. The store was mostly or completely out of a few other things (eggnog, chips, sugar, flour, shredded cheese, etc.). This was something that made perfect sense, considering that no ground or air traffic moved for several days through the entire state, but it was a surprise nonetheless.

I stood there looking at the empty bread row and said to the kids, "That's okay. We'll just go home and make bread. It's cheaper anyway."

And then I started thinking about food storage and emergency preparedness. Granted, we don't have a year's supply of anything right now. But we do have a supply--more than a couple weeks usually (now is an unusual time for us, but I still have 20 lbs of flour left). And--the key thing that I realized they talk about but I never focus much on--I know how to make bread.

It seems like everyone in the US, unable to fathom any but the most unusual emergency that would require a year's worth of food on hand, justifies the requirement for a year's supply of food by saying, "You never know when your husband will lose his job." I've heard it a hundred times in Relief Society. Usually paired with, "Besides, obedience has its own reward." The problem with that justification for food storage is that it brings to mind a different sort of food storage requirement. When you are storing in case the world still functions but you don't, you store things like a year's supply of cheerios, and a year's supply of canned chili, and other things that you eat everyday--usually you can come up with a few dollars for what you lack, right? This is the kind of food storage we've usually had. And justifiably. Don't they say, "Store what you eat"? So I always have, say, 30-50 lbs (3 months supply) of frozen hamburger on hand.

But the church ALSO says to have the basics on hand, and to know how to use them.

Why? For our family, today, it is clearly because there are times when the world DOESN'T function, no matter how much we trust our governments to dig us out or fix what's broken. And it's not so distant as the once-in-a-hundred-years New Orleans Disaster or World Trade Center Disaster or ....okay, maybe even in America it hits frequently. And when the world doesn't function, we suddenly need that massive amount of flour and sugar. It really doesn't take much to disrupt the shipping lines--and without shipping, our cities shut down very fast. And then you not only need flour, and yeast, and sugar. You need to know how to make bread and tortillas and you need to have canned stuff (fruits, veggies, protien) around. Because sometimes the stores actually DON'T have it. And then what?

I have a friend who has a year's supply of money on hand. Been useful since her husband lost his job 6 months ago. Wouldn't have helped her get bread this weekend. Fortunately, she has the other food storagey stuff, too.

Luckily for us, we got to the store right after the first truck did--so they were completely overstocked on fresh fruits and veggies, which was a main thing we needed. And they were stocked with milk. But I definitely came away saying, "Wow. I suddenly wish I had just one or two sealed cans of powdered milk on hand." Sure, it doesn't taste good. We'd almost never use it. But, you don't have this stuff for everyday (okay, you have to rotate it). But I understand now why we're instructed to have enough of the basics on hand to keep you alive FIRST, and then worry about the cheerios. Even in America. Lucky for us, this emergency didn't last a year. And it didn't include loss of heat or power (then we would have been in trouble). But having some on hand left us with enough to share, had we needed to.

And we are thinking now about what to do if we did have a loss of heat and power. Already I've said, "Maybe we should have the coleman stove in an accessible place. Maybe we should test it occassionally--have a yearly outdoor barbecue on it to keep it functional and make sure we both know how to use it. Maybe we should make sure we can a can of fuel for it also accessible. Maybe we should think about how would we keep warm in an emergency since we got rid of our (nonfunctional) standalone fireplace."

Oh, and we HAVE been using our food storage to supplement Tim's job when he was teaching choir and also his joblessness now. It's good for that, too. And we do have a lot of the recommended emergency supplies on hand--candles, matches, first aid stuff (and the knowledge and resources necessary to use it), medicines, bleach, diapers in all sizes, warm clothes, consecrated oil, ward list, etc. We have also (wisely, I see now) kept a year's supply of "something to do" for each of us in the house--things to do with and without electricity. That's been nice, since everyone still needed to stay busy, and we couldn't rely on the library to entertain us like we usually do.

And now I'm thinking, "How easy would it be for something to not only foul but also completely disrupt the water supply? Phones? Heat and power?"

Probably not so hard.

Once again, the Lord is right, and I am grateful for the limited amount I obeyed, and anxious to become completely obedient in this thing.

Now if he will just bless us with a job so we can.....

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Blizzard--for real

It's never been so quiet outside our house during the day.

I woke up at about 8:00 am because there were sirens outside that stopped somewhere near the house. When I got up to look and make sure my neighbors were okay, it was just barely snowy. But it was windy. An hour later, Tim got up to drive to the airport to fly to Las Vegas for BYU's bowl game--moosebutter was performing at the tailgate party. He made it six miles to the freeway and about four miles down the freeway before he heard the radio announcer say that flights were being cancelled--so call the airport before you go out there. He pulled off and called--his flight was cancelled. So were all the rest. So he came home--back that same ten miles. Driving the ten miles each way got him home TWO HOURS after he left. To drive 20 miles. WHY?

Because the entire central part of the entire state has been hit with a massive blizzard. A real blizzard--the first I've ever been in. Tim couldn't get another later flight, and then at 2:45 pm they closed the airport entirely--until Thursday night at the earliest. All the freeways are closed, too, from Wyoming to New Mexico, Denver to Kansas and Denver to Nebraska. So we're snowed in.

It's actually been really fun. We ate turkey-broccoli-corn with rivels soup, and the kids and Daddy played outside until they were freezing. We turned on Christmas music, and we're going to make cookies, and Tim is finally getting to watch "Nacho Libre". We did all our shopping last night in anticipation of Tim being gone, so we have everything we need. We kept water warm on the back burner of the stove all day for hot cocoa. It's like a holiday for us--and so nice to have a holiday with all of us here and feeling festive (I don't often feel festive, after all. Holidays usually make me just tired).

There is so much snow we can't really believe it. There was so much in the back yard that the kids sledded down the balcony steps to the yard below--without any bumps like you'd expect from sledding down stairs. The UNDRIFTED snow was up to Tim's knees at six when he went out to shovel the walk--and it's snowing harder now than it was all day. The drifts are so high that we left the garbage can out by the street and Tim stuck a shovel into the drift on the other side of the driveway so we can find the way in and out. Our privacy fence has about 18 inches showing at the top, with a foot of snow balanced on the top of the slats. The two dead cars (which we actually sold last night for $60 for both--but the guy couldn't get a tow truck up here to take them away yet) are totally covered with snow. You can see by the lumps where they are, but not an inch of car is showing--not even on Hector, that tall old Toyota van. Tim had to dig paths out of the house using a large toy bin to scoop the snow away--and now the part he shoveled by the back door is snowed in again. When we open the door, we're met with a foot deep undrifted layer of white stuff.

Now it's just after 9:00 pm, and the places that Tim shoveled earlier have well over a foot of snow on them. Tomorrow he's going to have to climb up on the roofs and shovel them, too. That's the routine when you have a flat roof, I understand. Fortunately, the snow is all powder (I'm sure the people snowed in at the ski resorts think they've died and gone to heaven). It's not as heavy as it could be. But three or four feet of powder is still heavy. We're praying the power doesn't go out and the furnace exaust vents on the roof don't get plugged. Maybe we'll have to shovel the roof tonight....

And the storm just keeps getting worse.

How's this for how bad it is: They even closed the malls at 5:00 pm--five hours early, and just a few days before Christmas.

For us, though, all snug and together in our home, it's been really fun. Just what Caleb told the bishop he wanted for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas decorating

We adopted some other country's tradition of hiding a glass pickle on the tree (whoever finds it gets good luck for the coming year). Anda liked that idea. So she hid a pink stuffed bunny on the tree--the "Christmas Rabbit." That lasted a few days. Today, I looked on the tree and found she had replaced the bunny with a small pot. From the kitchen. WIth a stuffed gingerbread man in it. I didn't even ask what she's thinking. I suspect we are the only family that has decorated their Christmas tree with such utilitarian kitchen items.

Mom and Dad lent us their wheat grinder for a while, and yesterday we discovered that Daniel had found the hole in the top (where you put the wheat) and stuck a lollipop in it. We had to get tweezers to extract it. We did make "homemade flour" though, and the kids really thought it was cool. They ate it plain. Uncooked. By the pinch.

I keep having nightmares that we are on the road full time traveling in one big van with the rest of moosebutter, wandering from the back stage of this theater to the back doors of that university like gypsies. When I wake up, I'm glad to be home, even if two kids managed to pee on my bed last night.

The kids are really funny lately. There are wrapped presents scattered all over the house, unhidden, and nobody has even mentioned them. They don't touch them. They don't shake them. They don't open the creases and peek. They don't even ask about them. Wow.

They did ask about getting the stockings out tonight. I didn't feel like going out in the garage, so Caleb went down to the drawer I keep full of stray socks that I let the kids use for art and craft projects (socks make GREAT teddy bear shirts). He came back up with five long white socks, none of them the same, and pulled out the stamp kit Julie bought him at the dollar store. Then all three kids sat happily at the table stamping red and green designs on each of the socks. Caleb found a permanent marker and wrote one person's name on each sock, and then Anda found push pins and we hung up the stockings. I suppose Mary will forgive us for not using the ones she made for us that we usually use. This year we have REAL socks for our stockings. The kids were so delighted with how they turned out that they dug up the fanciest socks they could find in the drawer and made more stockings -- and labeled them "Julie", "Mary", and "Ben." One for each of the single people, plus Julie for some reason.

They also informed me that if the baby is a girl, we could name it Julie, Mary, Beth, Chas, Lindsey OR Madeline, and if it's a boy, we could name it Ben, or Joe, or Jon, or Ryan or Jared or Daddeline. Then they went down and got stockings for Everyone in the extended family that they forgot. I guess you all have to come here for Christmas.....or maybe we'll mail your stockings to you.

So now it's 2:30 am and Anda and Baby Kitty are racing around the house killing invisible Pikmin monsters while Caleb decorates the additional stockings and Daniel salts the chairs (I don't know HOW he got the salt--I hope he didn't pour it into the wheat grinder). They started killing monsters after the batteries in all three smoke alarms went bad in one day--so occassionally we hear chirping in the house, always coming from a different room, like a wandering monster.

It's nice to be home.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Decorating for Christmas

We finally made the trek out to the garage and dug up the old Christmas tree, which is looking pretty ragged to me. Caleb declared it "Beautiful."

We put 3/4 of it up on a low table against a wall--that way it stays flush against the wall and takes less space. Nobody was going to look at the back anyway. Caleb said, "It's an evergreen." Anda added, "It's a dark green."

We pulled out our lights and found a box that we'd never opened. It had this warning on it: "Handling the wires on this string of lights exposes you to lead, a substance known to the state of California to cause birth defects. Wash hands after exposure." Who knew Christmas lights were deadly?

And then we decorated. I decided I'm not a good decorater of trees. At least, it didn't come out exactly how I envisioned it. For one thing, the silver balls kind of disappear in a green tree with white lights. And then the problem came because Dan decided to have a nap in the middle of the festivities--so I couldn't teach the kids how to decorate in a hands-on kind of way. I guess that's okay. The tree is for the kids, anyway. So now we have invisible silver balls all over, and ratty gold and silver ribbons that the kids literally tossed up onto the tree (the fun way to decorate, they say). There's a band of equally -spaced marshmallow snowmen the kids made with Mary a couple of years ago in a nice even line as high as Anda can reach, and another as high as Caleb can reach (I told them not to put the snowmen where Dan can reach and eat them). I moved a few of the decorations that were touching each other up to the completely naked top of the tree (with the kid's permission) after Dan woke up.

Finally awake, Daniel took one look at the tree and began happily ripping almost-invisible-except-to-him silver balls off the branches and started banging them together and throwing them joyfully around the room. I was instantly glad that I had replaced all the glass balls with plastic last year when I found them for 10 cents a box at the dollar store after Christmas. So now we have a tree that is naked around the bottom (or, at best, sparsely and unevenly decorated), heavily snowmanned around the middle, and sort of evenly decorated around the top. And it's only been up for about 15 minutes.

Caleb declared it "done" and "beautiful."

I guess he's right.

Friday, December 15, 2006

gone and back again

I haven't posted anything in ages because, well, because we were with most of you in person. So there.

It was a nice trip.

The van's suspension wasn't shot, like Wal-Mart said. It was the tires. So Taysom Tires got $257 to fix it, instead of them getting $100. So blah to Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, right after we got home, the plastic/rubber wheel well guard behind one of the rear tires completely fell off and got shredded on the road. So much for that.

Now we're done touring. Tim said so. Next time we come to Utah will probably be for Ben's farewell party. Probably. That's probably good because our van wouldn't last too long on that heavy travel schedule--we put 16,000 miles on the van since we bought it in May. That's a lot. Especially for a car that started with 139,000 miles in the first place.

Job search continues. Tim is looking at applying for a job in New York City as the production manager for a choir there. Also picking up as much contract work as he can in the mean time. We just have to get these last few shows with moosebutter out of the way so he has time for things like eating, sleeping, breathing, and signing applications.

The kids are happy to be home, but having a hard time adjusting to having a big house. Especially Daniel. Any time anyone walks out of the room, he panics--he can't figure out where in the house to look for us. He also hates the mess--he can't walk over it. I am trying to work on that part, but my back is hurting so I can't bend or sit on anything hard. If I do, I can't stand up straight or walk--literally. I stand there and can't move my feet forward or lift them over the junk if I manage to shuffle sideways. So reaching the floor is even harder than it already was. Still, I did the same thing this time as I did last time we were away from home for a while. I came in and immediately could see some things I could do to make the house run smoother--things that involve major moving of furniture. Tim will be able to help me with this next week, but I am impatient. I want to move the guest bed upstairs to give it to Daniel, and move his dresser/shelves thingy downstairs to become the linen closet. Then I want to rearrange the bedrooms so every kid has their own bed that they'll actually sleep in. Then I want to move all the adult books (not that kind of adult books....) and Tim's choral music collection into the library, which will entail moving lots of the shelves from other places in the house into the library to hold those things, which are scattered around house and garage right now, mostly not on shelves and getting ruined. Then I want to get rid of the hide-a-bed (it's so old it's uncomfortable to sit on), except the mattress, of course, and replace it with a couple of rocking chairs in the family room, and maybe one in the library along with the desk that's there so people can use the room comfortably. Lots of work, but it should make the house easier to keep tidy. I might also take the couch out of Tim's office (it usually just holds junk) and put it in the living room, and put the living room couch in the family room (since it's the prettiest couch we own).

By the time I get all of this figured out completely, we'll probably be moving and I'll have to start over.

Anyway, cute kid things:
Daniel found a cassette tape today. He's fairly mechanically inclined usually (he figured out how to use the CD player all by himself yesterday--now he can insert his cd of choice and play it, even setting the volume where he wants it), but he couldn't figure out what the cassette was for, even after I showed him how to put it into the tape player. He finally took it out and turned it round and round and apparently concluded it was a harmonica of some kind--he tried to play it by blowing into it for several minutes.

Writing update:
I got another rejection yesterday, so I sent another query. At some point, I hope someone looks at my stuff and says, "I know JUST who wants this." Someone who read a big chunk rejected it for fear it couldn't stand up to Jasper Fforde's stuff. Unfortunately, only the first book in the series compares to his. The rest take the same concept but apply it to other source material--but an agent couldn't know this from reading 50 pages of Poison Spindle. Oh well. Now that we have food in the house and I've figured out where to put the Christmas tree, I'm ready to start writing again--on both the Western and the first Maggie Book, which is 10,000 words long so far--1/10th done.

So Merry Christmas!, and I'll write more later.

Oh, and thanks to everyone who gave us gifts, especially for the kids. Thanks for the shoes for Anda, too. She LOVES them and the socks. And thanks to the mystery person who gave us Christmas for the kids, whoever it was. A relative, we're sure, but WHO? Everyone denies any involvement.....