Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Link Roundup: Fall Fashion and a Former Bishop

Hello, everyone, and welcome to a very special episode of Friday Link Round Up. I have sailed the Internet this week and found links from some very credible (or not) sources. Today we have some great articles for Fall fashion for men, healthy snacks, and a very sweet, funny, and touching article from our own Ken Craig about his experience as bishop of a congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Men's Fall Fashion Links from Primer Magazine:
Ken Craig after 5 years of service as a bishop.
Designer to Deal: Fall
Boots for Fall
Fall Essentials

The 6 Snacks You Should Eat Everyday

Former Bishop Ken Craig in the Deseret News:
Today in the Bloggernacle

Happy Labor Day weekend, all.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Outfits of Fancy

Did you like my awesome punny title? Thanks.

So, like Patrick, I work in retail. I don't want to name names, but the store I work for rhymes with "Cold Gravy." And like many of you, my kids went back to school this week (cue Hallelujah Chorus). And where school and retail meet is a lovely thing we like to call: back to school clothes.

The last few weeks have been pretty crazy at my store while everyone rushes to get all their school clothes pulled together. And, in theory, I think it is a great idea to stock up on school clothes now - there are some great sales. But I haven't bought a single thing for my kids to wear, other than some jeans for my oldest. I am impressed with those moms and dads who have it together enought to make a big list and get all the clothes for the whole year in one trip. I am never that organized. We pick up bits and pieces as the year goes along.

But there is one thing I kinda don't get. The first day of school outfit. Sure, you made that list and got all those cute new clothes, and sure, you want your kids to look great on the first day, and they might as well wear the new stuff that is unstained. But here is the one problem with that plan: it is still really hot!!

I marvel seeing everyone's facebook updates this week with their kids in shiny new outfits, usually involving a long sleeved shirt and jeans. Because that is all the stores have right now, I know! If someone comes into my store asking for a short sleeved t-shirt or a pair of shorts, I laugh in their face. We haven't had shorts since July. So you do your back to school shopping, you get little Judy and McKay some cute fall outfits, and then, because you want a great picture, they go to school in a turtleneck and mukluks.

I've fallen victim to it too. I've worked in retail since college and would always but a new outfit for the first day of classes. I vividly remember my outfit one year: orange cordurouy pants (man, I still wish I owned those), a denim shirt and a brown merino wool cardigan with suede panels on the front. It was awesome. And I nearly died of heat stroke, because when school starts in Utah it is usually about 96 degrees outside.

We did try to choose the least dirty and least stained shorts and t-shirts for our kids to wear to school today. And I did barely manage to get one picture (seen above).  Even that almost didn't happen because one child made the bus this morning and one missed it. We managed to meet up at the school and snap that beaut.

After taking that photo and helping the kids find their classrooms,  I saw plenty of kids there in long pants, long sleeve tees underneath long sleeve button up shirts, girls in long leggings, and one kid in a leather vest. (If you show up at my store looking for a leather vest, I will laugh in your face. We haven't had leather vests since July!) And I am impressed with their parents for having it so together. And I worry that those kids will be hospitalized by lunchtime.

So happy first week of school to all those parents out there! Go get yourself a big diet coke and kick your feet up. You deserve it. And get your kids some ice water while you are at it. They're going to come home warm this week.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Cave...of Death

It started off harmless enough; for some inexplicable reason, Lindsay and I decided that we were not lazy, loaf-about parents and thought we'd take our two year old and our 3 month old on a two mile hike straight up the side of a mountain...and then go deep within it.  There was no good reason; perhaps only to garner this post.

So here we are, so optimistic and full of promise.  It was Kim at my work that gave us the kid backpack, so really this whole endeavor could be blamed on her...thanks a heap, Kim.  So, again, here we are: 

Starting from the top:  Daisy is the in the blue backpack--I don't know why she smiles like that, I think we must be too agressive when we smile at her so that what she does when someone, in this case a park ranger, yells, "Smile!"  That's me in the orange. Glasses? Check.  Super cool shorts? Check plus! Lindsay is the woman in this photo who thought this would be a sort of linen pant kind of hike and Milo is the baby hiding my gut but not my right boob.

Alright!  You got everyone?! So we decide to hike to Timp Cave. Timpanogos Cave is this cave in a mountain called Timpanogos (Timp-A-No-Gus).  I guess in High School Lindsay would hike it, like in 6 minutes or something and so she thought it would be a great was not.

So, we set off and at first everything was nice and fine and we stopped to read the informational signs along the paved trail up to the cave. Before long Lindsay and I started to exchange looks of panic followed by playing-it-cool laughing, there was no way that we could be this out of shape so soon in the hike, 
"I'm just gonna have a bit of a rest here for a moment."
"Oh yeah? Sure. Okay. Yeah let's just take a little breather."

Literally 4 minutes later.

"I am going to die! I am going to lay down right here and die and I can't wait!"
"I can't hear you, blood is filling my ears and pouring out, I hope I slip in my ear blood and die!"

Literally 1 minute later.

(Sobbing) "I love you so much. You are such a great woman, please take the kids over to that bush and raise them to be as strong as you are.  You can live off my carcass for months, someone will find you."

Well it turns out that people would find us.  Several elderly women, each carrying water bottles as big as our babies would pass us and check in with us to make sure we were okay.  Each one with a witty quip.

"It's a beautiful cave, but those angels of yours will get heavier before it's through!"
"Remember those days, Gladys? Such an adorable family, you look like you're having fun!"
"Coming down will be a breeze, sweetie, don't slip in that ear blood."

Never before in my life has the filthy swearing voice in my head had such imaginative and terrifying things to say than when she was head-screaming at these ladies. (Yes, she.)

So, somehow, by the grace of our Heavenly Creator, we make it to the cave. The best part was they don't allow big stupid torture devices like my new blue backpack into the cave...Daisy was quickly dumped out and I was 30 pounds lighter!  Lindsay, however, had to keep Milo strapped to her...sucker.
So we are inside the cave. Turns out caves, even this one, are dark, cold, and wet. So you know, super worth it! Here's Daisy stopping dead in her tracks as we came upon a Smeagle like creature in a yellow jacket. Turns out is was just some girl.

So the cave is sort of amazing and while some of my pictures came out like this:

Most of them came out like this...

Because it's real dark and even my camera was wondering what I was doing in there.

Here is what "Hiking" in a cave is like.  20 people walking in a single file line with a 90 year old woman telling you that water dripping over millions and millions of years will make an Ice Cream Sundae...but out of rock.

After Lindsay and I have started to regain our composure, which is not until about a quarter way into the cave, the youngest Livingston decides he's done digesting sour milk and stomach acid and expels the toxic waist into his pants.

Here's what "Hiking" in a cave is like. 10 people at the front of the line enjoying the miracles of nature while 10 people at the back of the line eyes are bleeding from the stench they, for some reason, continue to walk single file into.  Here was some of their feedback to Milo's contribution,

"This cave smells like ass."
"Dude, someone up there farted."
"What is that funk and is it ever going to end?!"

Not until you pass the lady with backwards back pack, sir.  It turns out it only takes Milo a few seconds to make is own Ice Cream Sundae...but out of poop.

Lindsay graciously does keep moving farther and farther back, but our 90 year old tour guide keeps waiting for us to catch up, I guess she doesn't like to leave people behind in the cave, and having us all stop and look at some amazing formation. The rest of the group soon caught on that it was probably the adorable dipping bundle strapped to my wife's chest that was causing the stench and gave her plenty of space.

So there we are, in the heart of the really, there is this big staircase that the guide makes all of us sit down at and look back at this big old big rock that they have hooked to a red light and the light shines through the rock and creates a fantastically underwhelming beating heart. Well, Daisy can't quite figure out what's happening but she does know she needs a closer look. So there, right there in the deepest darkest (made even darker so we don't miss the magic of the beating heart) part of the cave, while sitting on steep cement steps, Daisy takes one step into the darkness and falls...onto...her face. Yes. Well, more aptly, her upper lip, as it is the most protruding surface of her face...also her most beautiful.

Well, as it turns out, once you begin the tour of death you can't get off it until the tour is done.  So there we were, if you could have Google Mapped us we would have been 500 feet deep inside a mountain with a screaming/bleeding two year old, a 3 month old whose bum had turned inside out and 16 strangers all with tickets in their pockets they purchased for this experience. It was a nightmare. But luckily we only had twenty more minutes in the cave and a two mile hike straight down before it could be over...but first our 90 year old guide (who kept calling Daisy a boy, "Does he want a band-aid?") had show us all "Rocky", the rock that if you stop and look closely enough resembles a Basset Hound. Curiously, our group did not linger looking at him.

We finally get outside and I strap Daisy back into Kim's blue deathtrap and it becomes clear she wants to go to sleep. Sure she's probably concussed, but at least she's quiet. So, we swap the kids out. Lindsay straps Daisy to her back in the Ergo and I take Milo...who's not quite old enough to hold his head up, so it takes some sweatshirt jamming to get him upright.  But don't let that fool you, that boy was happy as a clam! And smelled like hot car milk.

Daisy did not fare so well...

Now when we talk about the cave, three of the four of us shudder.  It will be a while before we try that type of parenting again.  We are more the, "Look it's raining, here's the Minnie Umbrella go outside and run around!" No really, here are the pictures:

As you can see, the lip is healing nicely and isn't this is what parenting is all about? Trying new things and thinking, "What have I done?! I am never ever trying something new again!"

Next week: a walk without the umbrella...unless it's raining, then we'll stay inside.

Monday, August 27, 2012

It Was the Worst of Times...It Was the Worst of Times

Have you ever woken up from a dream and thought, “Man, I’m glad that was a dream. That would be a horribly painful, post-apocalyptic reality.” Then you realize you weren’t asleep, but in the middle of your junior high English class, and it was only first period?

School is starting, friends, and my son, Garren, begins 8th grade this year. It has caused me to reflect on some of the magnificent anxieties that I think traditionally come with surviving Junior High. In California, where I grew up got taller and older, junior high meant 7th and 8th grade. And you honestly couldn’t pay me enough money to do those two years over. (But you could sure try! Let’s start the bidding!)

I remember feeling like I was treading water in a sea of awkwardness. (Sea of Awkwardness, located just off the coast of Crazy Town.) Nobody seemed emotionally or mentally stable in junior high. It was as if all my classmates were distracted by something else. And it was my observation that it was one of two things: costly fads or raging hormones. Our family didn’t have the money to indulge in fads, and the LDS Church (of which I am a card carrying member) had spoken on the hormone situation, so I spent a great deal of time wondering where I could fit in, and feeling out of place in the interim.

It didn’t help that it was 1983. Do you know what was popular in 1983? (If you guessed “Ken Craig,” you can just guess again.) For the love of muscle t-shirts, it was horrid. Toto’s Rosanna was the Record of the Year, people. RECORD. OF. THE. YEAR. It’s just amazing that we all made it out alive, that’s all I’m saying. No wonder there was the threat of nuclear war in the air. We must have looked so inferior to the Soviets. Anything from the Toto or Little River Band library had to suggest we were weak and ripe for conquering.

In the vein of Mr. Robert Fulghum’s cutesy, banal, new age philosophy book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, (wherein Mr. Fulgham lists such astute musings as Share Everything, Play Fair, Don’t Eat Paste) I would now like to introduce you to my new book, If All I Really Need to Know Was Learned in Junior High, Then We’re All Doomed.

Here are a few of the gems I picked up on whilst treading through that emotional soup bowl that is junior high:
  • Sadly, break dancing is not for everyone.
  • When you change clothes in the locker room after P.E., make conversation. Don’t make conversation about how you are all in your underwear.
  • If you let out a nervous toot during one of your classes, the entire student body will know about it by the next class period. (This did not happen to me directly, but I saw it occur more than once. And I pitied that young man. I pitied him even while I mocked him.)
  • When your history teacher decides to show you Gone With the Wind during class, it will take almost two weeks to view it – longer than the actual Civil War.
  • It is imperative that you watch Miami Vice or lie about doing so.
  • By the time you actually wear down your parents to buy you something that everybody else has, it will no longer be in style. (Parachute Pants, I’m looking in your direction.)
  • No matter how musically gifted you are, your band abilities will be straight up disrespected.
  • The more Swatch Watches you wear at one time, the higher your cool-credibility.
  • It’s never too early to start smoking!
  • At a standard junior high dance, in the contest between the overpowering funk of body odor and the not-to-be-underestimated toxic, non-FDA approved scent of Brute cologne (by Faberge), there are no winners. And the gym should be quarantined.
  • No matter how tranquil you look on the outside, if a pretty girl comes up and asks you to hold her books while she opens her locker, your body will recognize the signs, rev up, and your voice will crack and somehow waver through three different octaves as you simply say, “Sure.” And then somehow your whole body sweats at once, including the area behind your knees.
  • Every single soul who looks overly confident…isn’t.
Somehow Garren seems immune to these things. As if he is in the suburbs, subletting a nice little place just outside of Crazy Town. I like to think I've inspired in him the quiet confidence of who he is and why he is wonderful; that I've provided opportunities for him to lead, befriend, and communicate with his peers. Plus, I really think those break dancing lessons are going to come in handy.

Friday, August 24, 2012

This Will Make You Feel Better About Yourself

Last weekend my wife and kids went to Moab without me. I'm in a play right now and wasn't able to go with them because of that and some other commitments. So, I sent them away as I waved from the driveway, knowing they'd have fun and that I'd be alone.

There's a lot I could have done with my alone time. I could have gone to some movies in a theater, taken a shot at making our crap yard look a little better, hung out in my underwear, visited friends and family in the area, or made the world better. I did not do those things.

Here is a list of what I did do last weekend from 2 p.m. Saturday until 11:30 p.m. Sunday night so you can feel better about yourself or envy me for how much media homework I got done.

  • Did one load of laundry and folded another.
  • Cleaned the kitchen.
  • Did the dishes.
  • Played Mortimer in Hale Center Theater Orem's production of Arsenic and Old Lace.
  • BBQ'd a bison steak.
  • Taught Primary.
  • Walked the dogs.
  • Convicted a shark of murder.
  • Watched the following films or TV shows on the television in my home:
    • The Werewolf of London
    • The Last Man on Earth
    • Season of the Witch
    • Film Noir Collection: Detour
    • 3 episodes of Breaking Bad
    • 2 episodes of Torchwood
    • 1 episode of Alphas
    • 3 episodes of Suits
    • 3 episodes of Falling Skies
    • (That's roughly 12.5 hours worth)
  • Played some FIFA 12, SvZ Def, and Lock n' Roll DX on my iPad
  • Took two naps.
  • Slept for 9 hours on Saturday night.
  • Checked Instagram regularly for photos of my family because I really really missed them.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fat Dora

I've never been one who is too sentimental about the passage of time. I'm not great with babies. I won't be tearing up next week when my boys are back in school. My wife and I joke that we look forward to the day that our kids grow up and move out of the house. We'll finally get it back to ourselves and we will be able to go to movies and go out to eat and not have to vacuum up gold fish crackers every night before we watch our stories.

But my youngest has changed all that. She's funny and charming and a delight to be around. I don't ever want her to grow up because she is too much fun. Today we took her to the store and told her she could pick out a new toy. She immediately went for weird, ball-shaped Dora the Explorer. As soon as she picked it up she said "I'm going to name her Fat Dora." We laughed, the lady at the store laughed and Fat Dora was born. And now all day I've been listening to "where's Fat Dora?" and "I love you, Fat Dora!" and, my personal fave, when she runs up and sticks Fat Dora in your face and yells "FAT DORA!!"

Someday, and I'm afraid it will seem too soon, that cute, little, Fat Dora loving girl will move out of my house and be a grown up. It's makes my heart rate go up just to think about it. Today, my oldest niece moved out of her house to attend college. Pa-chkooooww!! (That was the sound of my mind being blown.) Because she's my first niece, I remember her babyhood vividly. And now she's attending college and nearly an adult. When did that happen?! Wasn't she a baby like a week ago? Topher has a son whi just started high school. And he's this smart, cool, grown-up-seeming young adult who can carry on adult conversations. I swear he was a toddler obsessed with planets last Tuesday (Topher's wife just started crying when she read that sentence.)

More and more, I'm shocked to be one of the adults in the room. Aren't we the young, awesome kids who are going to change the world? When did I become the bald guy with the mortgage who makes dated pop culture references that go over the heads of my co-workers?

There is no escaping it. We're getting older. And my kids are getting older. Someday that little girl who loves Fat Dora will be going off to college. It does make me a little bit sad and a little bit sentimental.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

the results are in!

I know that everybody has been worried about me since I went public about my sleep issues. I appreciate the concern during this difficult time. I never knew there were so many people out there who loved to talk about sleep or brag about their CPAP machines. I now count myself among them. It's fun to brag about sleep issues! It makes people feel bad about getting a good night's sleep. And they should feel bad! Sleeping through the night is just another way of showing off.

I spent the night last week at the Sleep Center. It's like a creepy hotel. It's next to the hospital. You show up and they have all these little bedrooms lined up for people to sleep in. The rooms are tastefully and non-descriptively decorated; there are cross-stitches on the wall and watercolors of ladies wearing sun hats. When I arrived my bed had already been turned down and the lights were low. The room was filled with the soft hum of white noise. It sounds romantic, but it wasn't. Because I was sleeping alone and was eventually wired up with about four thousand devices.

You can see from this picture two things:

1. Several chins
2. Four thousand devices

The nurse took this picture. Had I known it would be such a horrific angle I would have had her retake it. But I didn't want to seem vain or shallow. It's kind of a guy thing. Every picture is "good enough." We are notorious for pretending like we don't care what we look like in pictures.

Anyway, after the nurses basically wired me up like a time bomb they let me read for a little while before bed. They told me to let them know when I was ready for them to turn the light off. How would I do that, I wondered? They told me just to talk and they would come. It was at this point that I realized that there were four cameras trained on me, and that I was essentially wired for sound. When I was ready for lights off I merely said "I'm ready" at a really low volume and my nurse was there in seconds. Isn't that a little spooky? Spooky and exciting? In retrospect I should have asked for more things. "Man, I would love a rice krispie treat." "Golly, I sure wouldn't turn down a head massage."

In the middle of the night all hell broke loose with my snoring and before I knew it this guy was wrestling me into a CPAP device. My arms were flailing around and I was gasping like Bane and I finally ripped it off. I asked him if I could put the device on myself (geez louise!) and he acquiesced. So I strapped myself in and slept most of the rest of the night like a baby. A baby comic book villain.

Yesterday I got a call from the sleep center. The results are in! I have severe sleep apnea. I averaged about 50 "incidents" per hour. So that means that 50 times an hour I wake up or stop breathing. So I never get deep sleep. And that makes me grouchy and irritable when I go see things like The Hunger Games. I will be sleeping with a CPAP for good now, which will make my love life even more entertaining and mysterious. But I wanted to let you know, so you can stop praying for me. And also because I wanted to brag about those 50 incidents per hour. Wow! Top that!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


So you know how I'm a "Part Time Author"  well the other part of the time I am a Husband and Dad and the other part of the time I sleep and the last part of the time I work at Anthropologie in Salt Lake and I have a bit of news for you ladies who love that store...and that's all of you.  So you may or may not know that after 10+ years we are leaving the Gateway Mall and moving to the new and fancy City Creek Mall up the road. You can think what ever you think about the move (and lots of people seem to have a lot to think about it) but I really want to write about the things you may not know.  Here's a list of 10 things I don't think you know.

#1- Anthro hardly ever...ever relocates stores. I think the Salt Lake store is, like one in five ever.

#2- #1 is about all I know about the relocation, as it turns out the people who own the company do not call the Home Managers of the store and bounce relocating ideas off them.  Also, the 18 year old sales girl ringing you up, she doesn't even know as much as I do, and all I know is #1.

#3- I do know that we will put some of our stuff on sale before we move. I know this 'cause I showed up to work today and we had put all of our sale stuff an extra 40% off!  I did not know this yesterday, but today I knew it. So if you find yourself in Salt Lake and love a good Anthro deal, stop in, but it's only in our store, so don't ask me to find you $9.95 jeans in the Charlotte store, cause they aren't moving the Charlotte store.

#4- Just because it's on sale and you are getting a screaming deal doesn't mean you get to treat it poorly.  At one point that dress was $300, and now it's $8.00, still, if you tired it on and you don't like it, pick it up off the floor and put it back on the hanger and thank me for my time...or leave it on a heap in the fitting room, but leave me five bucks on the stool and I'll take care of it.  Yes, it's my job and yes, I'm getting paid and yes, I made the choice to sell women's clothing, but when you hand me a mangle of sale shirts and ask me for a room, I can't help it, I judge you.  What must your closet look like.

#5- Just because it's on sale and your getting a screaming deal doesn't mean you get to treat ME poorly.  Sale brings out the animal in people and some peoples animals are mean ones. Just remember the old adage, "You catch more flies with honey." It was invented for retail.

#6-Please bring me some Honey.  Local hives in a nondescript mason jar and I will be your personal shopper for you entire stay at our store.  We have some great deals and I will guide you through this tremulous process as best I can...for some honey.

#7- Really, there are some great deals!  Today I sold a woman a $300 swimsuit for $12.00 and she walked out the door wearing only it and some Leifdotter heals she got for $15.00...yeah, and she looked great.

#8- Also, we are looking for temps to come help us move the if your looking for some extra cash to spend at your local Anthropologie, now's you chance!  Come get an application and mention this blog post and your app will go to the top of the pile!

#9-Normally I don't post about where I work, but I really do think this is a great deal so I thought I would share it with my friends...which is the both of you. Plus I wanted to tell you be for CJane told you. So grab the kids and a trench coat, pull it over your head and come on down!

#10-I believe all lists should end at ten.

That's all, sorry to be plugging my other job on my other job, but for once most of my life has come together in one space...if only I was married to or raising this blog I would have a moment of perfect oneness.  Hang on...the kids are trapped in the dumbwaiter and my wife needs a screwdriver whether she means the tool or the drink is still undetermined.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Your Life is An Occasion

We occasionally have Movie Night around our house. I kind of like to consider this one of my parenting contributions. Katie has her things; what, with the encouraging morals and values and preparing our children to be valiant, contributing members of society. But when it comes to introducing superheroes, Hobbits, Indiana Jones (with the face melting edited out), or the comical genius of Steve Martin and Martin Short singing “My Little Buttercup"'s best to just leave that in my hands. 

Recently Abbie, my fifteen year old, asked if we could watch Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. I remember when it came out in theaters; which is saying something, because I don’t think it was there for very long. She had already seen it at somebody else’s house while babysitting. She’d even asked if we could watch it on a previous Movie Night, but I dismissed it because we needed to watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs for a third time, instead.

Our lovely Abbie (on the right) and our cute Becca.

Having no real defense for not watching it, and recognizing that she had been patient when I turned my nose up at it the first time, I agreed. I was also interested to see why it was that Abbie loved it so. I was hoping maybe it would tell me something about her.

Now, please recognize that I am not recommending this movie to you. I don’t know your tastes; and this is a quirky movie that is certainly not everyone’s cup of Postum. But I will admit that this movie affected me, though in a way that I won’t suggest would or should affect everybody. But the stars kind of aligned for me, I guess, and it was a perfect storm.

In a nutshell, here is the story. Natalie Portman plays a 23 year-old musical prodigy, and works for Dustin Hoffman, the Mr. Magorium of said Wonder Emporium, which is essentially a magical wonderland. Now, when Natalie was younger, everyone told her she was a musical genius, a brilliant pianist. That she was special. And she believed them. But now she has grown up, and isn’t so sure.

There is no mention of Natalie’s parents, but Mr. Magorium is somewhat of a father figure to her. And she clearly cares for him, as if she were a daughter. So she is shocked the day that Mr. Magorium tells her that he is “leaving this life.” He is not depressed, and this is not about suicide. He has magically lived for more than a hundred years, and it’s simply “time to go.” He is not upset by this. But whoa-nelly, Natalie sure is! And she is not flattered that he wants to leave the store to her. On the contrary, she believes nobody can or should run the store but him; least of all, her. But before he goes, he gives her this wonderful, inspiring speech you can see below in this clip from the movie. He also tells her that she has this something in her. This sparkle. This uniqueness that makes her divine.

But Natalie still doesn’t feel it. 

After Mr. M is gone, there’s a scene where Natalie and Jason Bateman (who plays the no-nonsense accountant that Mr. Magorium hires to figure out what the store is worth) are in the store, after-hours, alone. It’s quiet, and she stands before Jason and asks him, “When you look at me, what do you see?”

“Really pretty eyes?” he guesses.

And she timidly asks back, “Do you see a sparkle?”

He’s confused.

She tries again. “Something reflective of something bigger, trying to get out.”

And that’s when I felt the lump in my throat.

I’m not exactly sure what that was about, but I believe it had something to do with my daughter. Maybe it’s because I could see similarities between Abbie and Natalie’s physical features, so I projected Abbie into that situation. Maybe it was because I thought of how Abbie was probably seeing herself in Natalie. Maybe it’s because I felt I was watching the story of a father, lovingly wanting to instill this confidence in his daughter, of how incredible and lovely and talented and capable and sparkly and delightful she is…and then to no longer be the prominent male figure in her life, because he is not there and she has grown up…and now she stands before this other man, and in complete vulnerability, asks him if he sees greatness in her. If he recognizes a sparkle. Asking him to validate the feelings and truths that were planted there years before.

And then my favorite part, at the end of the movie (spoiler alert), when Natalie has experienced the needed opportunities to prove to herself that she is all that Mr. Magorium promised her she was, and then – then, Jason Bateman sees the sparkle. Once she believed in herself, the sparkle was evident.

This is what the movie left me quietly reflecting on: I hope that despite my flaws and massive imperfections, my children believe me when I tell them there is greatness in them; that they sparkle. I hope they will remember their childhood and youth as a time they marinated in love. I hope that I am providing the opportunities they need to face experiences that require them to look up, rise up, and walk up; and that when they rise to the occasion, they recognize it. And that whomever they decide to spend their life and eternity with will see the sparkle and enhance it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Link Roundup: Sharks Are Like Serial Killers

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another compelling, heart-stopping post in the breakthrough series that is Friday Link Round Up. I have walked around in the Internet this week and found the easiest links from at least three online hotspots. Today we have Legend of Korra t-shirts, the Kahn Academy, a cute but cheesy rap video, the honest trailer for The Hunger Games, and some shockingly true news about sharks, the bane of the sea.

This week I just tried not to die from work stress and opening Arsenic and Old Lace at the Hale Center Theater in Orem so you get what you get. Yay!

Legend of Korra T-Shirts: Gorgeous shirts. This animated series is not just a good kid's show, it's really good television in general so we watch it as a family.

Kahn Academy: Unfortunately, it's not a training camp for Star Trek villains. But, you could learn or help your kids learn some awesome stuff like drawing or HTML or Animation. Looks promising.

Sharks Hunt Like Serial Killers: Enough said.

Daddy Skillz: Can something be cute, annoying, clever, and dumb and the same time? I submit that it can.

Honest Trailer for the Hunger Games: NSFW and NSFK and NSFARIWBH as there is some language and other inappropriate and/or inaccurate observations.

What did you find on the web this week? Was it better than these? I shall ask you, in the words of Patrick Livingston, to "prove it" by posting your awesomeness in the comments.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

We hate sharks AND spiders

If you are visiting out blog because it is Shark Week and you are googling shark pictures (and according to google analytics a lot of you are finding us that way) and came upon Ken's post from a few months ago "The Great White Hype" then we say to you, Welcome! And I hope you found Ken's post both informative and scientifically accurate - Ken is not only a hater of sharks, he is a licensed Marine Biologist and a specialist in true facts about aquatic life.

But I don't want you to think that here at PTA we go out of our way to only hate one type of much-maligned animal. We definitely hate sharks but we also HATE spiders. There are creepy and crawly and have evil intentions. Sure, you may think they help the ecosystem and that without them we would be overrun by other kinds of bugs. To that we say a proud "Bullsugar!" We'd be better off without them and all their creeptastic legs and skeevy eyes.

Did you hear this story in the interwebs lately? A woman in China had been experiencing a particularly itchy ear for about 5 days. Nothing seemed to help, so she finally went to have it checked out at the doctor. He took out that little ear scope thing and peeked inside and saw this:

Yes, my friends. That is a SPIDER inside her EAR!! If you were that doctor, you just soiled yourself for sure. (Here is a link to the real news story.) Evidently it crawled in there while she was sleeping and took up residence for five days. Kinda makes you want to sleep with cotton balls in your ears, doesn't it?

It reminds me of an also creepy experience from my childhood. If you are from Utah, like I am, then you surely know Grandma Sycamore's bread. It is a basic pre-sliced grocery store type bagged bread, but instead of tasting like air and puffiness, like Wonder Bread does, it tastes like joy and light and hope. It is delicious and is clearly blessed by the gods. I grew up in a house with 8 kids, so I think we ate about 2 loaves a day. My mom would buy the bread in bulk and freeze it. And sometimes your siblings were courteous and would get a frozen loaf out to thaw when they finished one off. Usually they were not and left you to defrost your own bread. So you would get a butter knife and wedge it between the slices and try to pry a couple of pieces off to toast or whatever. 

One time I was doing this and as the two pieces of frozen bread popped apart, baked into an air bubble in the bread was a big, dead spider. He'd apparently been kneaded in sometime during the bread making process and spent his last few minutes on earth wondering how he had become trapped in so delicious a prison. I guess it would have been scarier if I had found a living spider in frozen bread (because that is some crazy super-powered spider.) But it was plenty scary, and I imagine I screamed like a girl. Then I put the piece in a Ziploc bag so I could show the rest of the family. 

So when your shark hatred has simmered down, turn that anger to the malevolent, mischievous, evil spider. He's out to get you. And he's coming first for our delicious bread, and then he's coming for your ears. Tonight. While you are sleeping.

You're welcome. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

movie review: pete's dragon

I saw that Pete's Dragon was going to be on TV last week so I recorded it to watch with my kids. When I was a boy I saw Pete's Dragon a bunch of times, but my children have never seen it. For some reason, I remember watching it in the school library during recess and lunch (no friends) and I think at some point I had a vinyl record of the soundtrack. But I thought my kids would like to watch it with me, and I was right! They loved it. I thought it was actually really weird.

Pete's Dragon is the story of young orphan Pete, who has a bad grill and a giant mop of red hair, and who is trying to escape the greedy fat clutches of Shelley Winters and Kenickie from Grease. They bought him or something, and they use him as a slave. There's a big song about it. Pete doesn't look badly mistreated to me, but he could sure use a haircut! (What is it about little boys with long hair that irritates me so much? Especially on TV and movies. Remember Sam from Diffrent Strokes?) The special thing about Pete is that he has a pet dragon named Elliot, who is animated and generally invisible (budget.) There is no explanation given for how Pete found this dragon, or why he follows him around. As a child this didn't bother me, but as an adult I find it alarming. Elliot is like an evil spirit that Pete can't shake. I don't want my kids picking up dragons or even associating with them. Of course my children have parents, orthodontics, and a monthly trip to Craig's Cuts.

The movie takes place in a coastal Maine town called Passamaquoddy, but it's clearly California. It's too hilly and sagebrushy for New England. Do you remember how Little House on the Prairie was set in Kansas and/or Wisconsin, but it always just looked like Santa Clarita? It's like that.

Pete gets adopted by Nora, who is played by Helen Reddy. This is the movie's most problematic casting. Helen Reddy was a big feminist singer in the late 70's. She was Australian, but she does an American accent here and mostly succeeds. But she has an alarmingly pointy face. She has this giant set of lips and a mannish jawline and a sharp nose and I couldn't get over any of it. She's not an attractive lady. I bet in real life she's pretty, but she's not meant for the screen. And she pulls all of these faces and has one or two pretty horrible line readings. You get the idea that they just cast her to sing "Candle on the Water," a big ballad she belts out at the top of a lighthouse, and which you and I know to be the second most fast-forwarded song in all of cinema (second only to "Cheer Up, Charlie" from Willy Wonka.) But she's likable enough and very perky. She does some high kicks in a beer joint and calls the local fishmongers things like "buncha ding dongs."

Nora's father is played by functioning fire hydrant Mickey Rooney, even though Helen Reddy is four feet taller. Mickey plays "drunk" a lot, which means he talks really loud and makes coo-coo eyes at the camera. He also talks to other men in the town two inches from their face, which may read as "drunk" or also as "lonely." Mickey's character is named Lampy, because he runs the lighthouse and everyone should be named after their job. Mickey and Nora find Pete and sing a bunch of songs about how the world is big enough for everyone and then they paint the lighthouse and sing about having a razzle-dazzle day. Pete seems fine with this arrangement; but I think in reality he would be angry and sullen. He's an orphan! He has an imaginary dragon. He got bought and enslaved by Shelley Winters. He ran away. He winds up with an Australian lady with a horse face and the town drunk. I don't get what he's so happy about. But some people are just like that.

I don't want to spoil the ending. But basically Elliot the dragon causes all kinds of mayhem in the town and gets Pete into all kinds of trouble with the local schoolmarm, and there's this big subplot about a fraudulent traveling salesman, and then everything gets resolved because Elliot saves a ship from crashing into a coral reef. The captain of the boat, it turns out, is Nora's boyfriend Paul, who has been missing for months and everyone thought was dead. But turns out he just had really bad amnesia, until Elliot turned his bed over in the night and he cracked his head and suddenly regained his memory (which is always a dependable cure for amnesia.) Everyone is happy in the end except Shelley Winters, who keeps falling into mud. You feel good at the conclusion, and there's some hope that Pete will finally have a new home and maybe a date with a #2 hair clipper. My son Hugh actually teared up at the end, which gave me plenty of opportunities to tease him about showing his emotions. But isn't it interesting to revisit movies you loved as a kid? Because they are always a little more strange, and a little more contrived, than you remember. Do not get me started on The Cat from Outer Space!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"You Gotta Wear Fall To Sell Fall."

The title of this post is the phrase we've been kicking around at my store.  I work retail and you are always ahead one season.  Some parts of this are great, you start to see the spring clothes come in when there is still slush on the ground or see the Christmas ornaments before Halloween (that one's not the greatest.)  The down side is, of course, you are so sick of the season by the time it finally shows up! HOWEVER, while all the seasons bring a fresh point of view, none is as evocative and sense stirring as Fall. 

Beautiful Soup

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo--oop of the e--e--evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?

Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Beau--ootiful Soo-oop!
Soo--oop of the e--e--evening,
Beautiful, beauti--FUL SOUP!

~Lewis Carroll

I have to agree with Lewis Carroll's lilting praise on this one: on a damp autumn night, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a steaming tureen of beautiful soup. When we were younger, my mom would regularly make us grilled cheese sandwiches and cream of tomato soup; this meal remains one of my most basic comfort foods. Since then, Lindsay and I have adapted this formula slightly: vegetarian chili in place of the cream of tomato soup; pepperjack grilled cheese (I guess we just mostly Tex-Mexed the meal). I love soup and sandwich nights.

A couple of years ago, I came home from my fancy store with this book:

It is filled with mouth-watering soups suited to the fresh ingredients available in each of the four seasons. We, of course, are looking forward to  enjoying the book's suggested Fall fare, and, boy, is it delicious! Our favorite so far is a terrific adult spin on my old grilled cheese and tomato soup combo: Fabulous Fall Root Soup and Grilled Gorgonzola and Apple on Sourdough. The recipes are both scrumptious and simple: two words I like very much.

Fabulous Fall Roots SoupMakes 8 servings

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only ( 3 to 4 medium leeks)
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium rutabaga (1 to 1 1/4 pounds), peeled and diced
8 cups chicken stock (we used vegetable stock)
Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups crème fraîche
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Heat butter in a large, heavy pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat. When melted and hot, add leeks, carrots, and rutabaga. Sauté vegetables until softened, for 10 minutes or longer. Add stock and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very tender, for about 30 minutes.

2. Purée the soup in batches in a food processor or blender and return the soup to the pot. Whisk in 3/4 cup of the crème fraîche. Taste soup and season with salt, as neede. (The soup can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat.)

3. To serve, ladle soup into shallow soup bowls. Garnish each serving with a generous dollop of the remaining 1/2 cup
crème fraîche and a sprinkling of parsley.

Grilled Gorgonzola and Apple on Sourdough

Makes 4 servings

1/2 Granny Smith apple, cored but unpeeled, very thinly sliced and tossed in 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
8 crusty sourdough bread slices (3/8- to 1/2-inch thick)
8 ounces creamy blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola, Fourme d'Ambert, or Bleu d'Auvergne, thickly sliced.
4 tablespoons chopped pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more if needed

Layer one slice of cheese on bread; top with pecans. Gently press pecans into cheese. Place apple slices on top of cheese and pecans, then top with second slice of bread. Brush both sides of bread with melted butter and grill until browned on both sides.

So get ready to enjoy some fancy fall comfort food -- and let us know what your favorite soup/sandwich combo is.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Stay Classy, Las Vegas

Say what you will about my hometown of Las Vegas, but if you’re saying that it is a city void of culture, tradition, and virtue, then my friend, allow me to unveil an ardent and irrefutable defense.

Exhibit A: Culture. Is your hometown the host of the Liberace Museum, the Atomic Testing Museum, or a nude Cirque du Soleil show? Mm-hmm, I thought not. No culture, indeed.

Exhibit B: Tradition. Las Vegas has a long-standing tradition of freeway billboards that push the envelope of good taste and public decency; hearkening back to at least 1998, when I moved here, but possibly going back even earlier! My favorite? The new Stoney’s North Forty nightclub billboard I get to see everyday on my way home from work. It reads “A New Place to Sin in the Northwest.” Which is not only classy, but a much-needed establishment, as I polled my neighbors and discovered that most of them had indeed run out of places to sin.

And finally, Exhibit C: Virtue. …yeah, I got nuthin’.

But because Las Vegas is such a family-centered city, for the kids, I present to you the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum. A place to encourage young minds, develop an early interest in science, broaden their horizons, and open their eyes to a world of wonder.

Or a world of snot, gas, and acid reflux. You know, either way. Whatever.

Our local Children’s Museum was recently featuring Grossology: The Impolite Science of The Human Body. All in the good name of science, of course, the museum took the private, unmentionable taboos of bodily functions, and really brought it down to a level the kids could wrap their minds around. And I think I hear your voices joining mine in a hallelujah chorus as we declare, “It’s about time, Las Vegas! Finally, something to infuse vision and hope into our children! The magic of mucus!”

It’s genius, really. An enlightening indoctrination of the noises and smells of the body that will be sure to take the mystery out of it all; with the result being that the kids will never find jokes about tinkle quite as funny as they once were.

…or will they?

Here are five of my seven adorable children, still innocent. Before “culture” gave them the green light to openly maintain casual conversations about boogers and belches.

And may I please introduce you to the game sensation that is sweeping the nation. That's correct - Urine: The Game. Step aside Dance Dance Revolution…there’s a new game in town. And I’m sorry, but if there is a more fascinating/entertaining way to learn about your urethra and where proteins go, then I’d like to see it. I mean, I defy you to find a more enthralling teaching method. Anyone? I didn’t think so.

My heart skipped a beat when I saw my six-year old completely captivated as he received a stirring lecture on the finer points of nasal drip from a talking faucet. Bravo, Mr. Faucet. Bra. Vo. And it was almost emotional for me, seeing my little scientist, Connor, gain a firmer understanding of sphincters, and how to make his gas sound hilarious.

And this message was informative, but didn’t offer any definitive conclusion. “Most cultures consider tooting to be a private thing.” MOST? Most cultures? Which cultures do not consider this to be a private thing? Because I think my sons want to relocate to this highbrow neighborhood.

All I can say is: thank goodness for this sign. It really helped avoid a major embarrassment, and a major disaster.

I don’t recall what distinctive area of the body this climbing wall was supposed to represent, but I have to believe it was disgusting on some level. Are those polyps? I don’t know.

Finally, a shot of my 11-year old in a bubble, and some museum employee, taking a cue from the Grossology exhibit, and picking her nose right there in my otherwise adorable photo.

Still think Vegas is merely a vat of tastelessness in the desert? We accept your apology; now good day.
I said good day, sir!

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Lately, I've become addicted to the Kindle Single. A Kindle single is essentially a short story, or long-form article but in a shiny and new techno friendly package. I'm a sucker for shiny and new. It's pretty much a given that at any restaurant I will order whatever is the weirdest thing on the menu, I always want to buy those limited edition Ben & Jerry's cartons and if there is a new TV show that has strong buzz I feel physical pain until I jump on the bandwagon.

The odd thing is, in their traditional form (ie. in books) I never read short stories. I can't get into them for some reason. Something about knowing that the characters I am reading about will only exist for a small number of pages in that big thick book of stories looses my interest. But when the "book" is my Kindle or my phone, I don't have that same barrier.

So here is my top whatever number I get to list of favorite Kindle singles. And if you don't have a Kindle, no problem. Just get the Kindle app on your smart phone. These singles are short enough that reading on your phone during a couple of lunch breaks is realistic. If you don't have a smart phone, first of all, wow. How do you keep yourself occupied at doctors offices? Or waiting in line? Or stoplights? And secondly, you can read Kindle books on your web browser. Once you buy one, Amazon will tell you how. Please do enjoy:

1. I'm Starved for You by Margaret Atwood. 
I love, love, love, love, love Margaret Atwood. She paints great dystopian futures that are both terrifying and totally believable. In this Single, she imagines a world where people live half their life normally and half in voluntary incarceration. It is mysterious and dystopic and fun.

2. The Sum of my Parts by James Sanford
This is a memoir about a man who, in his late 30s, is diagnosed with testicular cancer. It is touching and funny and entertaining and makes you think about how you react to people around you who have cancer.

3. The New World by Patrick Ness.
There is no point in reading this Single, which is basically a prequel, unless you have read Patrick Ness's brilliant Chaos Walking series (starting with The Knife of Never Letting Go.) They are a little tough to get into - they series tells about a group of interplanetary settlers who are looking for a place to live after Earth is destroyed. They come across a planet that is perfect in every way, except there is a virus on the planet that causes all of the thoughts and emotions of men to be broadcast out loud where anyone can hear them. But they are great tales of loyalty and terrorism and how do you know who and what is evil. Please read them. And then you can read this free single about the settlers arrival on the planet.

4. Shaken, Not Stirred by Tim Gunn
Yes, THAT Tim Gunn. If you haven't read Mr. Gunn's fantastic biography Gunn's Golden Rules you should. It will change the way you look at the world and he is quite a talented and believable writer. This Single is about his dad, who was in the FBI and worked for J. Edgar Hoover and later in life developed Alzheimer's. Poignant and charming.

5. Don't Eat Cat by Jess Walter
I know, I know. Even I'm getting a little sick of the Zombie thing. But this is a funny and well told story about a world where people voluntarily become zombies and zombies work at Starbucks and eat cats. And Jess Walter is a great writer (read his Beautiful Ruins, too.)

6. The Heart of Haiku by Jane Hirshfield
While this biographical essay of Basho, the 16th century Japanese master of the Haiku, can at times be a little dry, it is worth it to read a variety of Basho's work. He was a genius.

7. The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett
If you are a writer, or a wannabe writer, or remotely interested in writing, or an Ann Patchett fan, then this is required reading. Ms. Patchett elegantly describes so many things about writing that I have always instinctively known to be true: that it is a craft and super hard, that the idea is the easy part and that the discipline of writing is like any other discipline. I wish those things weren't true. Why can't I just come up with a great idea for a YA novel and then Stephanie Meyerize it into book deals and movie rights? Because you have to sit down and do the work.

So if you have never read a Single, there are a few choices to get you started. And you could probably buy all of them for less than $20. And, yes, you could just go get a book of short stories from the library and get much the same affect. But you can't read those paper short stories on your shiny iPhone, so what's the point, really?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


One of my favorite games is called "if you HAD to." I'm sure I didn't make it up; people play variations of this game all the time. But I'm particularly obsessed with it. Basically you put give people a series of horrible options and then say they HAVE to pick one. It's all hypothetical. They don't really have to pick anything. But you pretend like they do. It's all fun and games and nobody gets hurt. Unless you count feelings (but who counts feelings?)

One example of this is "if you HAD to choose a blanket." You know those parking lots you see around town with big silkscreened blankets hanging up for sale? I see them everywhere around Orem. I like to drive by with friends or family and tell them that they HAVE to pick one of those blankets to put on their bed. They know they don't have to. It's just a game. But they get uncomfortable anyway, because none of the blankets are remotely classy. None of them will match your bedroom decor (I hope!) and none of them will make you sexier to the opposite gender. These aren't just blankets; they are social statements. So you have to choose carefully, because they are announcing to the world that you love wolves and are happy to snuggle down with them.

In order to more carefully analyze these choices, I snapped a few pictures. Which one of these blankets would you choose? No  - like if you HAD to?

This one has a butterfly motif. What are you, Mariah Carey? This one is horrible. Those butterflies are flying right into the sun! Can you think of anything less romantic? This blanket tells people that you hate nature.

I don't know of you suffer from the Bieber fever or, like me, you got the Cyrus virus, but this blanket is definitely an option! If you are nine years old. Can you imagine if I, as a 40 year old PhD and father of five, went in and bought a Bieber blanket? Total stranger danger. I would not choose this blanket. This blanket tells people that you are a pedophile.

 This is an interesting blanket! Do you like cowboys? Yes? This is your blanket! Do you feel bad for bulls and cows? Yes? You should not buy this blanket. By the way, is it just me or are his chaps all over the place? Pointless! Chaps should fasten and not flop around like that. I feel bad for that cow. His rump looks like an octopus. I would not buy this blanket.

Oh, Marilyn Monroe. She was such a candle in the wind. She was really shy and she took her acting seriously and the only person who really loved her was Joltin' Joe DiMaggio. And then I guess we all turned on her so she turned to barbiturates and clandestine trysts with the Kennedys and then a Mormon guy found her dead in a hotel room. And you want a blanket for that??? No thanks! I mean, I might pick this blanket if I HAD to, but I don't like how her face is all smashed.

That's clearly Tinkerbell, but who's the other fairy? Is it supposed to be Jasmine? She's not a fairy! This blanket sends mixed messages to young girls.

 Oh, man. What is this thing? A bunch of frogs in a "peace" motif? Oh, geez. Please don't put this on your bed. Please, please, please, please don't put this on your bed!!!!

 Do you love dogs? I don't, unless they are in profile. And then I can't get enough! I would almost buy this blanket because three of the dogs are in profile. Perfect! But then someone got the grand idea of having the black lab look straight out at you. It breaks up the composition of the blanket and his yellow eyes are horrible and bloodthirsty. Daddy no like. If I could meet the designer(s) of the blanket I would tell them to keep the three dogs in profile and replace the black lab with a giant bone. Or a really scared cat. We don't need four dogs!!!

Do you hate yourself? Go ahead and put Dora on your bed. She'll scream and shriek at you all night. She'll demand that you say things in Spanish, and then stand there blinking until you do it. Do not invite this demon into your home. You will need to have the bishop over to cleanse it. I bet you dollars to donuts this blanket is haunted!

So. Now that you've seen your options....which blanket would you choose? And why? Remember, you HAVE to choose one.
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