Wednesday, December 26, 2007

For Ellen, Merry Christmas

*****There was an apparent lapse in quality control during our ye olde x-mas letter stuff, label and seal-athon. And if Emily Post is dead, which shows how clued into the whole world of etiquette and nice manners I am, she may very well be alive, but if she's dead, she's tuning in her grave whenever I prepare our Christmas cards. I use address labels, both return and addressee. If I didn't, well, those who know me know that there would be no holiday greeting from our household if I had to hand address even a single envelope. So here is our holiday letter and accompanying photo for Ellen and whoever else we missed when many hands were making light work.***

Hanson Family Christmas Letter 2007

For starters, I knew I should have had my hair colored before we left for Disneyland, but my skin looks good, don’t you think?

The girls are all amazing. They continue to thrive and grow lovelier every day. Each child is establishing her own unique personality and relationship with the world.

Ellie, my fifth grader, is still on track to become a leading organizational theorist. She is never happier than when making a list or successfully executing a plan. She starts to hover two inches off the ground whenever she walks into Staples or OfficeMax. So many day planners, what to choose, what to choose. I’m not saying that chaos would descend without her help, but the weeks she was away at Girl Scout camp or being her Grandma’s post by-pass surgery home health aide this summer were a little more challenging for me than not.

YuYu still dances to a different drummer, still my delicate blithe spirit. Her internal life is much richer than most and often much more interesting to her than second grade curriculum, which can sometimes be a problem. She woke me up early one morning to tell me she wished that there were no more wars, that people had enough clean water and that our leaders would make better choices. I asked her what we could do to help make changes. She thought for a second, “be kind and recycle?” That’s a good start, my sweet girl.

Mimi is tiny and perfect and defies definition. She is a goofball and loves being the center of attention. We watched an episode of America’s Top Model filmed in China. The models wore beautiful historic costumes. Mimi shot out of her seat, “I want to be a model,” and started posing and voguing. A few minutes later, when the judges were criticizing the flawless models, she said to no one, “That’s harsh, prob’bly not for me.” She may be goofy, but she has a practical side too.

Nora and Mimi are both in first grade this year. I agonized over the decision to promote Nora or keep her in kindergarten for another year. She is bright, but learns differently, and the years she spent in the orphanage have made a mark. I’m glad I didn’t hold her back, because no one will ever or should ever hold Nora back. She fights to read, she fights to speak clearly, she fights to control her impulses and she is winning the war. She gets a green slip for every day of good behavior at school. We keep them in a clip on the refrigerator. I’m so proud of this little warrior, my Nora: the clip is now too heavy to stay up and we need another clip.

From all the happy Hanson girls and one old crone, we wish you the very best and brightest of holiday seasons.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Apple Ipod White Screen of Death

I stared it down and I kicked it's ass. Yay me. Oh my god. This evening I heard Ellie start crying downstairs and I thought she had really really hurt herself. She is generally the most serene child, sanguine, is the best word to describe her personality. So if she's upset, something is horribly wrong. I met her on the staircase. She was wailing, large snotty sobs, and holding her non-responsive video Ipod in her hands. It appeared dead. She was bereft, she was holding the lifeless carcass of her best friend and was looking at me like I should know how to give it the breath of life.

She worked so hard to earn most of the money to buy this techno marvel. She stayed with Grandma after her by-pass and vascular surgeries for weeks on end last summer. Ellie did everything for Grandma that her self-centered and emotionally immature spouse (yes, my own father and more's the pity) should have been doing for his wife of more than fifty years. Instead, dad sat and leered at her from across the room, angry that she was sick and no one was going to fix him a sandwich because his damn hands have been painted on for the past fifty years. I do not exaggerate and I do not tell a lie. I could go on about his deficiencies, but he is so extreme, everyone thinks I'm making it up, but I'm not, he's a jackass.

So, Grandma made Grandpa feel guilty enough that 10-year-old Ellie was covering all the duties society usually ascribes to the able-bodied spouse, pillow plumping, foot rubbing, keeping her company, helping her out of the goddamned recliner so she could hobble to the bathroom. I'm not kidding, he grunts like he's been asked to cut off a toe if she needs help getting up out of a chair, and that we're all saps to help her because she's manipulating us and how else is she going to get her strength back if we continue to baby her. Oh my, seems like I'm stewing in my own caustic pool of resentment and I digress, back to my victory over microprocessors.

My dad pitched in the extra $150 (no shit, the man is made of money and he actually took Ellie's $100 she had saved from helping YuYu with her homework all last year, bastard, really what's a hundred to him?, oh there I go again, father issues? not many) and they went to Walmart and bought a white video Ipod. She has lovingly loaded it with Zack and Cody and Hannah Montana and she prizes it above all else and all others, even me. I do not want to know how she would answer if she was given one of those ethical dilemna questions: your mother and your Ipod are teetering on a cliff, you can only save one, who would you save? I pretty much know I'd be people paste.

So I calmed her down, explained about one-year warranties, made her blow her nose, calmed her down again, more nose blowing, very dramatic, "but Jordan got a scratch on his and it just quit working, sob sob sob." She was really beside herself, but I got her to understand that we could send it off to get fixed, it might take awhile, "how long?" she almost started crying again, but she would have it back no problem.

But I couldn't go to bed without trying to fix it, how hard could it be, the screen was glowing, it was just frozen. Couldn't be that uncommon and it turns out it's not and the condition has it's own nickname: white screen of death. Good old Google:
"ipod video common problems blank screen." Ta Duh, and the step by step by step fix on a non-Apple support page dedicated to helping hapless middle aged parents in the middle of the night walked me to promised land. I am a hero. I gave it CPR and it lives again.

For a brief moment this evening, she would have picked me to save on the edge of the cliff because she thought her Ipod was irretrievably broken. Tomorrow morning when she sees that I saved her world from falling apart around her ankles and her Ipod is fully functional once again, I go back to being people paste at the bottom of the ravine. Oh a mother's sacrifices. Epic.

Okay, off to be the toothy fairy. YuYu lost two teeth yesterday and today, finally. She is not at all like I was at that age, yanking them out with a good hunk of gum still attached, but just needing to have them gone. And, of course, I didn't start losing teeth until the fourth grade, so I was a little more motivated than most.

I'm high tech and low tech mom tonight.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

See what happens?

When your best friend is a big ol' gay ranch hand? You end up with a six foot tall phallus in your front yard. Can't be helped. Wonder what kind of google hits "big ol' gay ranch hand" and "six foot tall phallus" are going to generate.

I was just going to end it there without explanation, but I don't have that kind of restraint. Here's the rest of the story. My good friend Stew*, the girls' best un-uncle, came by this morning to help with the shoveling, and I don't even have to ask, because I never would, because that's my MO. But my neighbor's boyfriend (I guess, why else was he using her snowblower, don't ask, don't tell, I guess) whipped up the sidewalk and took care of it for us. Hey, I'll take home maintenance help in any way shape or form when its volunteered. Even if its an unfamilar man pushing the snow off my driveway on a cold Saturday morning. No way I'm going to run out and stop that kind of thing.

So, with no actual work left to do, Stew and the girls set about building a snow man. This storm brought much wetter snow than last week, but still not wet enough to roll snowman parts according to the classic snowperson building specs, but you could pile it. So it grew and it grew and it grew and really really looked like am emerging man bit, but by the time I ran back in the house to get the camera, Stew had made it look less pornographic, but you can see why I was teasing him unmercilessly the whole time it was, um, growing.

And you've got to love Stew's hip and happening snow gear. He grew up in rural Utah, yeah, it's not all flash and sizzle like SLC all over the state, helping his family run cattle. So the rancher coveralls aren't just a fab fashion statement, they've seen real agriculture action. Stew isn't a sissy drugstore cowboy. He's just a sissy cowboy. He'll drive all the way to Denver just to hit the gay country bars with big dance floors so he can two step with other like-minded boot scooters. Just wish he could find a man here in town who deserves a catch like Stew so he wouldn't have to build them out of snow.

*Stew traveled with me on both Mimi's and YuYu's adoption trips, insisting on paying his own travel expenses, that's a true blue friend. Not like the guy next to him who'll disappear without a trace or so much as a howdya do ma'am by next week. So that's the scoop on the men in my life, either gay or frozen.

Friday, December 07, 2007

White Knuckler

I'm still a little zingy from it, so if I type this out, then maybe I can start to think about going to sleep. The ad agency that handles the Big O Tire store franchisees in Utah (my brother Garth and now, my evil brother Max (he bought the Kaysville store from Dad and Garth this year) are franchisees) buys out a theater at Christmas for a family movie and gives each franchise holder a bunch of tickets for free admission and all the popcorn you can eat (Ellie just about pees down her leg, that girl just loves, loves, loves the popcorn). Last year we saw Charlotte's Web way way way out in the south end of the valley. I felt like I drove to Provo to get there. When we came out it was snowing and really cold, the roads were pretty damn treacherous and it was a slow slidey slog home but worse for my brother and his family heading a lot farther back north to get home. But we all lived.

So wouldn’t you know, well, you would know because the weather forecasters have been warning us for days about this storm, when we walked out tonight, it was really putting it down with about five inches on the ground already. At least this year, the theater was only halfway to BFE, not the full fare, so I didn't sweat it, we'd be home in a jiffy. I drove slowly and safely heading north on State Street until I could hop on the freeway heading back up the hill and then home: twenty minutes max, even at 25 mph. I’m not a timid driver, I have reasonable confidence of my driving skills in snow storms. I wasn’t even thinking twice about pulling into one of those the seedy motels you pass on State Street way out there past that one mall (don’t you love my precise descriptions? Should have been a damn map maker) to wait out the storm. I just kept plowing forward, wishing I was behind the phalanx of plows that was clearing the westbound lanes of the freeway, but still not sweating it.

But I was concentrating on the car ahead of me just a little too hard and followed it off the exit to Park City heading east on I-80. Doh! We don't live in Park City. Okay, now I'm feeling a wee bit sweaty. I-80 it notoriously bad in snow, crap. And no phalanx of snow plows, or even a pickup truck with plow attachment, had been over this stretch yet. It was ugly and I was gripping the wheel and sitting so far forward in my seat, you could have mistaken me for 14 year old on an out of character joyride in her father’s car (not that I would know what that feesl like). And I couldn’t get off, I just had to keep going. I started to think that the seedy State Street motels were looking a lot better than hanging upside down from the shoulder harnesses in an I-80 borrow pit. I pulled in behind a semi, turned on my flashers and just drove. I do not exaggerate: the semi's tail lights and the rumble stips were the only things keeping me on the road. Yikes.

I didn’t dare take either of the ranch exits I passed to turn around because who knows how deep it would have been on those over passes. But thank the gods that I didn’t end up driving all the way to PC just to turn around. I got brave and pulled off at the East Canyon exit because it was lighted, yay, and isn’t that where the salt dump is for the plows? So I got us turned back in the right direction, with the view out the windshield looking a lot like hyperdrive in the Millennium Falcon. I nearly snapped Ellie’s head off when she wanted to know how much longer it would take to get home right as some horse's ass flew by us in the left lane and threw up so much slush I couldn’t see squat or bupkiss. Nothing like a little adrenalin surge to top off the prickly sweats. So 90 minutes after leaving the theater located not too far south, we pulled into our own driveway. And we all lived.

And the movie we risked life and limb to see for free? The Golden Compass. Two thumbs way up. I never take the kids to PG-13 movies, but a mom at school took her 5th and 1st graders and said it was not scary, no worse than Harry Potter and my little girls love to watch the Harry Potters and, what with the buckets of free popcorn to boot, I thought, oh, why not, they can’t watch Disney dreck all the time (although they really could, my girls loves them some Disney dreck).

So when a couple of Coke’s polar bears were fighting it out to the death (albeit bloodlessly, go figure), a scene that was really too intense for 6 and 7 year old eyes, was playing out only six rows removed from five sets of 6 and 7 year old eyes (my niece and nephew too), I just kept saying in a loud stage whisper, “Whew, isn’t this exciting? Not scary, right? What a good adventure story, I wonder what will happen next, whew. That Lyra is a brave smart girl, whew.” My kids were all very excited about the movie and whined “Oh” when it ended without resolution. They left the theater wanting more. Talk about a successful franchise. Count me in the crowd that can’t wait to see the next one.

And for all the leaders of conservative Christian groups who are worried that the movie will create interest in books that are written by an atheist and, therefore, cause more copies of morally corrupt books to be sold? You were right! Amazon has my order which Santa will put in my Christmas stocking and I can’t wait to start reading the series to the girls. Wow, what a good adventure story, right? Ideas aren’t scary, right? Ideas are exciting, whew.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Teacher gifts with a side of smug

At the risk of sounding sanctimonious and smug, oh who am I kidding, what risk, this does sound sanctimonious, but it's my blog and I'll be smug if I want to and I usually want to. So, she typed smugly, if anyone out there in internet world is casting about for an idea for a well-received teacher gift that won't get stashed in a bottom drawer in the back of the room within seconds after the wrapping comes off, visit this link to Angel Covers and check out the donation cards. Angel Covers is another of those incredible parent initiated charitable foundations that brings comfort to orphans just about everywhere there might be orphans who need comfort. These folks took an inclination to make a difference in the lives of homeless children and have grown the program to Africa, China, Russia, the list goes on: I am truly ruly in awe of the kind of energy and commitment it takes to make these big kind of ripples in the world.
I feel good about giving these cards because I know the Angel Cover folks make the best use of every dollar. I get cards for the kids' classroom teachers and their after care instructors and for my Aunt Fay in Texas who always sends the kids a ship load of dollar store treasures every chance she gets and our friend Lynette who traveled to China with us on Mimi's adoption trip and has such a soft heart for kids and gets teary eyed when she opens her card at our annual Panda Express holiday luncheon where said Mimi knocked a full cup, extra large, of Diet Pepsi in her lap last year. Glad she opened the card after the drenching.
That concludes the self-righteous portion of tonight's programming. Thank you for tuning in.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

first snow

Okay, so I made this, but so what, I guess. You know how it goes, you follow a few links, monkey around, it takes too much time, but you don't want give up because, you think, man, how hard can this be? and it takes too long, but you persevere and this is all you have to show for it, a picture mosaic. What the hell are you going to do with a picture mosaic? put it on the blog, that's one, but what else is there? can't think of two.

But what a great day. It's been forever since we had real snow and a day warm enough to be out to play in it. The bitch about Utah snow is that it's too dry for good snow people construction. Greatest Snow on Earth, who says. Well, I guess the ski industry says, and over a million license plates say, but four little girls who couldn't get the snow to stick together to make a presentable snow man say, meh.

But so you don't have to squint, here are some full size photos of our snow day and my driveway, because that's what's really important, a clean, snow free driveway surface. Just wanted you all to appreciate the craftsmanship.