Tuesday, March 31, 2009

bright and dark

I thought my new sunny decorating desires wanted new furniture, too--lighter furniture. But today's Oh Joy post gives my cherry furniture bright hopes :).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

orla kiely for me!

One time, 10 years ago, I won $500 for trying Zion Bank's new online banking system (very novel then).

Blogland has lots of delicious giveaways. That I enter and don't win...BUT!

A couple of months ago, I won a Design Mom contest, from allaboutcute.com. It was very very exciting to be skimming along and see

2) vfg, who said, "someday I'll win...for being here when there was a mere 100 commenters..."
You won the $150 gift certificate!

With the new baby and coupon codes that didn't work and other complications, my selection got delayed, but the sweet owner and I finally connected and for the delay she upgraded me and TA DA! this great new bag finally came on an outing with me today. I just noticed the color palette is really close to the sunny colors I loved in the cotton print from a couple of posts ago. And saw yesterday that it goes right along with some of the palette's in Pantone's 2010 color predictions. What a trend matcher I am...



"The need for healthier and more artisanal foods has grown from traditional farmers’ markets to greenmarkets. Found on country roads or urban lots, these visually appealing and tastetempting sites invite us to stop and sample a broader and more diverse selection of goods and goodies. From Tomato Puree and Beaujolais with the tang of Super Lemon or bite of Apple Green, to the more exotic flavors of Dijon, Paprika and Chutney, Greenmarket contains representational hues that entice and appeal to both the eyes and the taste buds."



"Inspired primarily by the continent of Africa with its vastness and complexities, Gatherings brings together a compilation of colors that demonstrate the uniqueness of the region. Artifacts and handicrafts reflect a creative boldness that is expressed in a panoply of appropriately named colors: Cypress green, Smoke Blue, Sand and Oasis mixed with the magic of Twilight Mauve, the piquancy of Lemon Curry and the heated glimmer of Copper Coin."



"Purveyor and source of light, the mysterious Galaxy is well reflected in a palette that truly illustrates the harmony of hue found in the nocturnal sky. Mirroring the colors of the earth, the greens, called Greener Pastures and Peridot, are powerfully contrasted against the deepest extraterrestrial blues, silver and stormy violets. Brilliant sprays of turquoise and a radiating orchid tone enhance the atmosphere, while Rich Gold embodies the energy and splendor of the epicenter of it all – the sun."

beauty advice

This is how I like to work it.

*Feel frumpy, 4 months into new-again-momhood, and decide that a new haircut will probably change everything.
*Reflect that the haircuts you got just pre-and just-post partum with your other children were unhappy disasters.
*Decide to get one anyway.
*"Do it right": ask pretty friend who cuts her hair, and make an appointment with her stylist.
*Panic a little when she can see you the next afternoon.
*Cut-and-paste good-hair celebrity photos off the internet into an unbalanced collage in Word that you then print out in black and white. Add a couple of NOT THIS photos on the back.
*Hand it to the woman with the scissors with a laugh, saying, "I know I'm not going to magically look like a celebrity, but this is what I'm going for."
*Secretly hope that this sort of magic is exactly what will happen.
*Feel sort of sick on the way home, but like how your hair smells.
*Thoughtfully stare into the mirror while you brush your hair before its wash a couple of days later.
*Go after that $40 haircut with the scissors that came free with your husband's clippers.
*Panic and step into the shower after depositing some alarmingly large hair chunks in the trash on top of the baby's diapers.
*Shake your head at yourself while you wash.
*But grab the scissors again when you get out....because you left some uneven parts.

This is going to end badly.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Right now, our living room is black and red and white and dark woods and very nice for our Victorian house. But I'm thinking bright and sunny for my new little cottage.

MoMo's Wonderland collection for Moda fabrics is my favorite so far. Plus, this fabric (my favorite of the favorite bunch) is called "tweedle dum".I also like this couch, an affordable mid-century modern, that got a lot of blog buzz last year. From Macy's. The reviews say comfortable, stylish, pillows tend to flatten. Nathan thinks leather is always the best option. I think leather is too slippery and that it is not warm and sunny.

More pysanky

I've wanted to do a black-and-white pysanka for my dad for years. I'm sure I'm not following the tradition exactly right, but I chose the symbols that most represented what he stood for and this was the result. Black is not necessarily the death color in pysanky symbolism, but (wiki source) represents constancy or eternity, the center of the Earth, the darkest time before dawn. I like the idea of doing a new one every year. Since his birthday is near Easter, the fusion seems right. That can be an awful lot of eggs, but I can just mail them off to different people who loved him. Hooray for huge Mormon families! The candidate list will last more than my lifetime.(Hey, Natalie, check out this, from Gucci's fall 2008 line)

we are hard core crafty

This weekend was made awesome by two visits to the emergency room in 24 hours. We're thinking we should be able to contest the second copay, because they sent us home, you know? And we already paid them their $50 that day! (though I recognize how super-blessed we are to have insurance that covers everything else)

Marian woke me up Friday (4 am) with a croupy, strangle-y cough and a bit of wheezing. When we pulled the pulse oximeter out from under the bed, her O2 sats were down, so, since we're still oh-so-careful post-transplant folks and worried about those lungs, we were off to Hershey Medical Center.

In the 4 hours we waited there, the wheezing was gone, her chest x-rays looked fine (except one fellow told us her heart was on the right side. Yup, it was a remarkable story of "here-we-came-in-for-a-cough but, actually, it-was-a-miracle, because we found out she had heart-flight-itis"...but then her attending showed her the x-ray was backwards. I was dubious.
Marian and I are the very prepared sort, so we had crafts to do. She packed her own bag, and it was fun to see what she chose: some model magic, a stack of tissue paper circles, a little blank book, colored pencils...I got the crocheted eggs idea from resurrection fern, my muse for all things nature crochet. I love how the pink egg is perfectly zigged. Just the ordinary peaches and cream cotton yarn. These are chicky stones, drawn by Marian, but I think Easter baskets will get other crochet-hidden treats this year, too.
Nathan won't play crafts with us, but he is awfully creative and if he had it all to do over again, would probably be an architect. Our new house is cutie, but the best neighborhood in our little borough doesn't match the modern aesthetic he covets. He's compensating by drawing the most-awesome playhouse plans. You're going to be impressed.Reuben had some fun with his sissy (who looks sick, doesn't she?).Mostly, the Goat Boys were bored, so they walked around a lot like this and made everyone without a cute baby jealous:And, hey, what a good chance to use an ER guerney sheet as a photo backdrop. Matches those eyes...Then the 104'F fever came around midnight, so Nathan took Marian back for some IV antibiotics. I stayed home this time because I was needed here:PS our friends: all is well. No more fever. Marian's just trying to catch up her sleep now. Nathan napped for an hour, then drove to Philly because it's the first race of the season!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


This story (did you know MSNBC has a "Wonderful World" category? On the sidebar!) is way off my usual topic list, but so extremely awesome to me this morning that I must share the link:


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

those eyes!

A favorite poem around these parts, a Valerie original and infinitely adaptable. It is absolutely guaranteed to produce giggles, even amid tears, if offered in just the right tone:

Reuben! Where did you get those eyes?
Did you go to the eye store and pick out those eyes?
Did you say, "I want them round, I want them blue, and just the right size!"?
Is that where you got those eyes?


I dangled this e-mail as bait last week, and it must have been convincing: pysanky night was full last night (2 of the resulting eggs--the one on the left mine, the other a friend's--are pictured above), and three more friends will show up tonight for a little beeswax, flame, egg, and dye joy. The basic technique is wax resist with layered dyes.

Hello, friends. I've spoken to most of you about this bit of Easter goodness planned at my house next week, but did add a couple of people I thought might be interested whom I haven't seen to chat since I decided...

this: a Nashville friend introduced me to the idea that pysanky, though super-fancy, can be attempted by amateurs. A group of us tried it and found that pysanky technique can also be applied in less fancy ways (a favorite here: http://www.marthastewart.com/article/bewitching-halloween-eggs ). I bought kistkas and dyes and have made it an Easter tradition. Except haven't quite pulled it together to do in Shippensburg....UNTIL NOW.

I've purchased all of the supplies and am happy to share you don't have to spend your month's allowance at Yevshan (but do click the link to see some pysanky examples).

Bring yourself on Tuesday, March 24th, or Wednesday, March 25th, and go home with a beautiful, fancy-schmancy egg you dyed yourself using melted beeswax resist and cute tiny funnels and layers of intense dyes. That you had a lot of fun doing. Not a crafternoon, because it isn't kid friendly: open flames & such. Not that that has stopped a couple of friends from (very briefly) lighting tissues. Quickly stamped out!

I have 6 kistkas & 6 places at my table. Since I'm dying to dye myself, that means I can have 5 visitors each night. 7 pm until ? (so late arrivals are fine). If you're able to make it, reply all so we can all keep track of what's available.

It's the crafting opportunity of the Shippensburg spring. Don't miss it.


The kistkas, 3 traditional & 3 machined
More supplies, following my "child of a child of a child of the depression" life rule. Rubber bands are perfect line guides; my favorites are broccoli bands (save everything! recognize the juice lid?).Practicing...
(see Marian's spelling sentences? I raided the recycling.)Dyes. 17 good colors in recycled jars.I made a drying rack from styrofoam (Marian gets one of her medications mail-order, so cardboard coolers make their way to our home monthly) and finish nails...Martha recommended straight pins, but they weren't strong enough.Hooray for crafty friends!Two traditional eggs I did for the girls a few years ago. The traditional colors and figures all are symbolic, and I especially chose the designs for my sweetuns.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

for all the dignity, love, and suffering

Today is my dad's birthday. I so love this photo of him, so young and healthy and handsome, admiring his first two grandbabies (my Audrey is the tiny two-week-old on the left). That smile! The faded blue jeans! Ah, I was so excited to have such a young, fun grandpa for my kids.

But, since life has never pretended to be fair, he died 5 years ago this summer. An inoperable brain tumor. My mom asked us (his 7 kids) to write memories to share with each other, and I've had such a hard time with mine. I finally pushed out my 10 pages in 2 days last week. It's probably only for those of you who knew Greg Frandsen (10 pages!), but in honor of his 58th:

I think about this assignment every day, but have had a hard time coming up with an overarching narrative that would be appropriate to its scope. When Daddy died, one of the things that I chose to keep was his travel shaving kit, an battered old brown leather zipper bag with white topstitching. It was his grandfather’s, one of the things Daddy chose to keep after he (Burgess Lyman Frandsen) died when I was six. It hadn’t been used for some time (not much travel going on at the end of his life), but hadn’t been fully cleaned out, and I like to get it out every few months and look through what was in it. Because I took the contents, too, all things I remember seeing there when I pulled it out to borrow his tweezers or nail clippers. The list:
• A blue plastic bottle, 3.5 oz., of aqua Velva Ice Sport Aftershave. About ¼” left (Dad usually used Mennen, so it doesn’t smell like him, but this was handily travel-sized).
• A navy blue plastic disposable razor. He’d try other kinds on occasion (hated electric shavers), but always returned to the disposables. When they were too dull for his face, he’d store them in the hidden part of the shelves behind the master bathroom mirror for my mom to use on her legs.
• 2” x 1 ½” Bayer plastic case. Contains one aspirin and 12 Claritin tablets. Dad was so happy when Claritin came along.
• An empty, clear round “pocket pill caddy.” He had to take so much more medicine during his cancer days than he ever wanted.
• A blue “pocket pill caddy.” 4 more Claritin tablets.
• A foil bubble packet with 2 blue Allerest tablets.
• 2 black ballpoint (Bic) pens: one Marriott, one Sheraton Denver West. Dad travelled a lot for work, and always took the motel freebies. We had a whole deep bathroom drawer full of little shampoos and tiny soaps I loved to take and play with. “You pay for them whether you take them or not.”
• A white plastic toothbrush protector (without toothbrush)
• A little 4” toothbrush-in-a-tube, with a bitty (0.5g Pepsodent tube). He loved these, gleaned in foreign hotels.
• 1 Revlon nail clipper
• 1 bottle of Kanka. Dad always had trouble with canker sores, especially after an accidental brush with walnuts.
• Scissor-style tweezers. Daddy was always very carefully groomed, despite scorning vanity and too much bathroom mirror time (ah, the hour-and-a-half hair I had in the 80s!).
• 1 safety pin. 1 ¼”. Silver.
• 2 pair earplugs: yellow cylinders & orange bullets. Always such a light sleeper, he couldn’t sleep unless everyone else in the house was in bed and asleep. So our curfews were what you’d expect, and our bedtime strict.
• 1 red plastic sewing kit from the Bali Hi Motel in Richland, Washington.
• 1 small vial of consecrated olive oil. Nathan borrows it when he gives blessings. I grumpily begrudge him access, and don’t tell him where I keep it. Unless the blessing is for our children.
• I also keep three polyester ties in the case that I remember Dad wearing: one a 70s striped wide glory, and two bought from the street vendors in Washington, D.C. that he loved to frequent for their great deals.
That list of objects conjures up a familiar man for me. I think my memories must come out listed, too: a list that will help conjure the man for my own children. My heart physically aches whenever I remember that they don’t know him. Often, I am still surprised I cannot call.
My adoration: In 1st grade, my puzzled teacher asked my parents at Parent-Teacher Conferences if I had changed my name. I determinedly wrote on the top right corner of each page of schoolwork: “Valerie Grega Frandsen.” Dad and I spent a lot of our last 5 years together apologizing. Dad: “I know I made a lot of mistakes raising you in the early days. You didn’t come with an instruction manual! But Donna and I did our best and we just loved you so much.” Me: “I didn’t realize how hard this was. I understand you a lot better now.” Repeat. We loved each other very much, Greg and Grega.
I often thought Dad was kind of sad that I wasn’t a boy because he loved scouting and those male-only things so much, and was so excited when darling Devn came along. I wrote this fairly bad poem about it when I was on my mission (I had a poet companion, forgive me!), and coming to terms with our relationship and all that. I’m embarrassed by it, but I will include it because of his response:
When I was a little girl,
I think Daddy wanted a son—
A scout.
But I demanded dolls
And had more a penchant for flowers
Than hammers and knots—manly things.

As I grew older (years? Seconds?)
He learned to love blonde curls
And lace
Because he was loved back
By a miniature him, feminized.

Nature or nurture, this daughter is her daddy.
Ups and downs? We rollercoasted.
“Time heals all wounds” is cliché, but
Love heals
And so does distance
And especially missions
So—four sons later—I think Daddy doesn’t regret his daughters.

His reply was, to my delighted surprise, also a poem. And rather better written than my own:
My greatest dream was to marry and have cute kids
With threats of Soviet invasion and civil defense
Perhaps, no
But precious time was granted
First a lovely bride, then expecting
For some reason, Heavenly Father said, “Wait.”

A few months seemed like for ever
Then the glorious moment, leaving church
A daughter
That moment cannot be equaled, dream fulfilled
Never more blessed, never richer
My own, my baby girl, my treasure

A little blonde girl captures heart and soul
Kisses and cuddles and laughs
Daddy’s girl
Joy; tight, tight hugs around the neck
Felt bad for those with boys
Pig tails out of ball cap is so much better

My world now revolved around her
To teach, to nurture, to rock-a-bye
My little princess
So much the same, it’s worrisome
Yet, the finest form of flattery
The strength of character, the moist eye

Oh, hope of hopes: please, another little girl
For Vali from Dad
April 1996

Bad words: When I lived at home, Daddy was scrupulous about language. Frandsens shall not swear. This insistence even extended to the scriptures. When we read in family scripture study, the devil was “thrust down to heck” and the wicked risked “darnation to their souls”. Also, Balaam spoke to a donkey. Not an ass. Always. I hated this when I was a teenager, and would shock the youngers by plowing through with what was printed on the page. Shocking! I love the story now: the lesson was taught and I am a life-long non-curser.
*(admission) I’m afraid I got my over-usage of “Crap!” from him, a word he was often working at removing from his language. After my freshman year of college, I liked to say that everything “sucked,” and he shared this story with me: when he was working with the young men in Kennewick, he was called in for an interview with Bishop DeFord, who admonished him about his language. This surprised him because he thought he was really careful. He reflected that he did say “crap” and “suck” a lot, and decided that he didn’t want to speak that way anymore. I’m grateful for his approach with this. I can still see the look on his face as he reenacted his confusion and the subsequent recognition and resolve. I really appreciate that he was willing in this teaching moment to share my weakness, and wasn’t condemning in our discussion. I remember he said the language just wasn’t very refined or creative, and not reflective of whom he wanted to project, or be. I still feel this way about coarse language, even if I am still working on the “crap!” habit: certain words can get so dull in their overuse. Certainly they lose their intended impact.
Handmade: Daddy took great pride in the carefully handcrafted gifts that came out of “Santa’s workshop”. Between the examples from him and Momma, all of us accept the truth that a handmade gift is always the best sort. I didn’t realize until I was typing this that no one else got handmade gifts-- only his children. He put a lot of effort into our home, but the workshop really was Santa’s. Santa’s workshop was also open to children to make gifts for each other (I can see my necklace “V” with Jeffrey’s kindergarten photo and handwriting: “Jeff loves Val”—you may not remember, bud, but we were crazy tight once upon a time…). I remember Daddy teaching me to sand, bringing out perfect one-quarter sheets of sandpaper that were increasingly fine: 100, 150, 200, 400, 600, and finally steel wool. Then he carefully unfolded a piece of tack cloth from a neat little aluminum foil packet he had made to protect it and showed me how to wipe away every bit of sawdust before staining (good wood should never be painted…and I still cannot!). I thought for years that tack cloth must be exceedingly expensive to be cared for so well. I’m ashamed now how much I thought Dad & Mom’s major motivation in all practices was being as cheap as possible. How surprised I was to go grocery shopping for the first time and realize how much more $ apples (my lunch staple) were than mini candy bars (envied in the lunches of my friends). Daddy was always super-frugal, but I catch now (and embrace) that not wasting is much more a lesson in reverence than a lesson in thrift. But, yes, it was always that, too.
Building: Daddy was a carpenter in Kennewick. The first big building project was our playhouse, cunningly built into the right-front corner of the backyard fence. I remember watching Dad draw plans. The base was much like the playhouse in the Idaho Falls yard, though with 2 sides against the fence rather than one against the house. The same kitchen set was inside it, along with (maybe a different?) big cable spool for the table. The side near the door had a small window, a ladder going to the roof, and a Dutch door; the side near the garden had a big window that opened over our sandbox. The sandbox was a giant tractor tire that I remember going with Dad to pick up from a friend-of-a-friend’s farm. City girl, I was agape at the size of the thing; my very-small-me memory is looking up at least 10 feet to the upper rim of the tractor’s wheel… On top of the lower level’s flat roof was a quarter-sized room, boasting a little peaked roof that was made out of that wavy pale green fiberglass used for greenhouses. I still think of it as a hot little place, though that could easily be my imagination, so impressed was I that our roof was like real greenhouses. It seemed so exotic. In the front yard, a big apricot tree stood in front of the hidden playhouse, and from the street the little top room looked like a tree house. We would jump from the roof into the front yard regularly, learning to bend our knees on impact, though Jeff DeCoursey (Devn’s best friend, and little brother of my best friend, Tanya) didn’t learn the lesson, and broke his leg on one day’s jump. Dad talked for awhile about cutting a hole in the roof for a fireman’s pole to get from the little room to the ground floor quickly, but it never materialized. “For obvious reasons!” thinks my boring mama voice now…
Daddy also built a new addition on the front of the house with the help of friends. He rented a backhoe and dug the basement, poured the concrete (I thought those concrete reinforcement bars with their plastic arrow tips sticking out would make great lawn Jarts, and was disappointed I didn’t get to play with them more), framed, roofed, sheetrocked (I loved the long rolls of paper tape), textured (also fascinating), painted…. Most memorable about the new addition was that Mom and Dad let us put on our swimsuits and play like crazy kids in the mud. It was so silkily indulgent. I loved it. Thinking of my own daughter, about the same age, I am touched by the new front left bedroom that was mine. I loved staring at the pathways made by the twisting, pink flowered vines on the wallpaper we chose together, and being amazed at how perfectly they matched the flowers in the pink stripes on the bottom section of wallpaper. And how those matched the skirt of my Holly Hobbie bedspread. And canopy. I was often overwhelmed with the injustice of being the oldest (always responsible for everything, so much babysitting to be done, such high expectations) of such a horde of kids, and I can see now that Daddy saw it, too, and gave me my own little corner—though really quite a large room!—to be a princess in. I don’t think that now I would think it practical to buy Audrey her own white bedroom set or matching white lace bedspread and canopy and curtains. I remember Mom telling me something like, “I said, ‘Let’s just get the bedspread’, but your Dad said, ‘No, let’s get her the whole set.’” I really cherish that white bedspread now, in memory, with my own oldest daughter whose needs are often neglected for the more vocal younger siblings. It’s a reminder that he saw me. I really was his princess girl.
Out of the house: I’m always transfixed when I see the people I love from a hidden corner, going about their business that doesn’t concern me. I like the feeling: he/she is mine, and they’re fantastic. I love to watch Nathan talking and shaking hands with ward members at a distance, overhear him talking with a colleague before he senses my approach, or spot him from an upstairs window, crossing the street on his way home from work. I love to peek into the girls’ classrooms and see them writing and reading and listening: going about their kid business that I know so little about, but is a huge part of their life.
Of course, I went through the my-parents-are-so-embarrassing stages, but I loved seeing Daddy not being a dad, and really cherished getting to know him as an adult, when he emphasized that we were peers now. It was most common to catch him in his church callings: leading cheers as Cubmaster, mentoring the Scouts in Kennewick, visiting with ward members, speaking in another ward as that month’s high council visitor, working the elephant ear booth at the Benton County Fair. I have snapshot memories of all of those, seeing my dad as a man.
I feel especially lucky to have worked with him for 3 summers at the INEL site. My coworkers started out a bit suspicious of me, the boss’ little girl wrangling a summer job (He was unsuccessful at this initially, but finally it worked to offer summer jobs to the four local winners that year of the corporate Westinghouse scholarships). I still feel very proud that I was a good and serious enough worker that I changed their minds, and my most cherished compliment came from an engineer, a rather private woman who carefully phrased one afternoon: “I understand and appreciate your father better after seeing and working with his daughter.” I often heard Daddy complaining, sort of in wonder at the audacity, that people who wasted time at work were stealing, and I took his belief as an important lesson.
I loved “crossing the fence” (dad meeting me to take me through security) to have lunch with him on Thursdays when he visited the site that first summer when I worked outside the perimeter without a full security clearance; catching sight of his back, walking purposefully to speak with a colleague, when I was doing a job during my labor pool summer; or overhearing references to him and his high expectations when I worked as an office intern. Little Miss Frandsen working there remained “interesting” to those who knew us both. I received one classic question from an engineer at the end of our second summer together: “I have to know: does he straighten it now or did he perm it then?” (Dad fell victim to a little sister in beauty school during the 70s, and, uncharacteristically vain, once permed he was afraid to stop. He finally set a “on my 40th birthday” deadline to go back to his straight hair, and did so without comment. I have that hair, also no longer permed: the same dark blonde color, the same growth pattern straight forward on top, the same definite side part, the same finer-textured hair at the temples. So does Audrey). I also heard their concern, when the news came that Lockheed Martin won the site contract, after Daddy had devoted his life for a year to GemTec, the company-that-never-was: “How is your dad feeling?”
Dad was great at those special tasks, like working on safety or contract award applications, and had several such projects. The most infamous to us was the Malcolm Baldridge Award. Whereas much of the GemTec work was done from an office he rented a couple of blocks from our house, he worked on the Malcolm Baldridge application primarily in Pittsburg, a real challenge to my mom with her house full of kids. We were so sad for him when Westinghouse surprisingly didn’t win. The next year I was waiting for a friend in his dorm lobby, leafing through a Newsweek, and came on an exposé article that explained the award committee had recommended Westinghouse for the award, but was politically overridden, pressured not to give it to a nuclear company. I rushed home and called my daddy in a rage, so indignant (and supposing that I was bringing news). “Yes, “ he said sadly, “That’s how it is sometimes, Vali. Read the Wall Street Journal article. I was quoted in that one.” I went and found it at the BYU library. I still believe in the great potential of nuclear power (though of course I would be more comfortable if my hardworking and eternally competent father was still leading the effort to coordinate the national efforts at safe waste reprocessing and storage). He could help people working with him see his vision (that confidence!), and they really cared about him. I often giggle to myself about how gregarious Greg was, and my husband Nathan comes back from frustrating Scouting trips with, “I wish I had your dad’s talent for…”. During his last working days, trying to transition his successor into the work he’d been doing so it wouldn’t be abandoned (though much of it did fall victim to the changing of administrations & policies), Dad was showing him around Washington, going to different meetings. The man was surprised to see all of the important people who gave Greg Frandsen great bearhugs. This phrase from Alexander Mc Call Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the main character’s response to the death of her father, made the whole book beautiful to me: “Mma Ramotswe fell on his chest and wept for all the dignity, love, and suffering that died with him.”
Improvement: Daddy was supremely confident (remember the “I’m a rainbow red”?), but also willing to see his faults, which he worked determinedly at. When I hear that Sunday School manual staple about President Heber J. Grant and his tireless efforts to improve his weaknesses into skills (pitching, handwriting, singing), I think of Dad. He had the neatest, most careful (always in green) handwriting. He was a faithful choir member until he got to the point where he had some solos in church. He was not a natural speller, but I remember him deliberately practicing words he had trouble with. Even when I was in college, he started carrying around 10 little vocabulary cards a week in his pocket, consciously working them into daily use. I remember him asking one child, “Are you prevaricating?!” Poor kid stared back in confusion, but I knew what one of his little cards were that week. I have that box of vocabulary cards now, pretty much untouched since I used them to study for the GRE before my mission (which I rocked, thank you very much! Taciturn, one of my newly-in-1995 acquired words, really was on the test). The graphics are delightfully 60s, with “Bonnie Jo Anderson” written on it in blue permanent marker. Sorry, Auntie Bonn. You can’t have it back.
Play: I remember a lot of silly play with Daddy, especially when we lived in Washington. We were so excited when he came home from work (I remember with some chagrin that I was the sort of little girl who would sit on his foot, limbs wrapped around his calves, and make him drag me out the door, thinking I might stop him from leaving. Giggling like crazy with my cleverness), and so was he. The briefcase would get set by the door, maybe the suit coat taken off (when did he start to need a suit at work? Was it always?), and then we’d be tumbling on the floor. I remember a lot of rough and tumble on the dark brown shag carpet (my, how raisins would get lost in that thatch!). He would teach us his wrestling moves from high school (I thought I could do a mean half-Nelson, and we’d practice it regularly). I was convinced I could pin him (“One, Two, Three…down!”), which was something because I concurrently knew he was the strongest man in the world. In my little girl memories, his biceps were ginormous. In my big girl memories, I’m still pretty impressed, especially since Daddy was a skinny thing who didn’t subscribe to the sort of exercise that is devoted to building those biceps. I think he thought “working out” was narcissistic, but was always in marvelous (hike forever, never out of energy) shape just from the work of his carefully chosen every day activities. Another way we would admire his muscles was with this oft-repeated little exchange. Out of context, it kind of sounds like we were regularly beaten, but it was all about hero-worship, not about poundings.
Dad: (flexes bicep & makes a fist with his right hand) “Do you know what this is?”
Chorus of adoring children: “A knuckle sandwich!”
Dad: (fists his left hand) “And do you know what this is?”
Us: “That’s so bad we don’t even want to think about it.”
I thought this was a very very clever exchange, almost as good as this one I learned from him and still use (and my husband finds exceedingly annoying):
Me: (rubbing forefinger of one hand over the adjoining thumb) “Do you know what this is?”
Unsuspecting other (a whiner): “No, what?”
Clever me: “The tiniest violin in the world, playing ‘My Heart Bleeds for You.’”
Our after-work floor play also involved us giving him back rubs after we were all worn out. I remember thinking that a proper backrub would start with scratching, move to hard knuckle rubs, and finish with that two-hands-rubbing-together-and-chopping motion along the sides of the spine. I thought I was really awesome at backrubs, though I am now quite certain that they, like my own girls’, lasted approximately 30 seconds. BECAUSE…we needed a lot of time left for Art Forms. Which, yes, must be said in italics: Art Forms! Lying on his back, Daddy would lift us into the air by our hips, and our task would be to arch our chests and lift our legs and strike the most artistic sculpture pose we could. And for the first time, typing this, I’m reflecting that there are very few great works of sculpture in which the human form is spread like Superman. See the man’s charm? We were convinced of our great artistic forms. “Art forms”?” What does that even mean??? Inspired by great Italian sculptors or not, now I have forced my bicepted husband to adopt the tradition, and our kids love them, too, and I know I’m not the only child to pass on the Art Form! goodness to the next generation.
Dad was patient with our teasing, and adept in the art of letting an unsuspecting child win in games (until the infamous everyone-against-Valerie Monopoly sessions). I loved to think I was “getting one over” on him. One personal mission that must have gotten exceedingly annoying was my attempt to get him to eat peanut butter, which he loathed. I thought it was hilarious to try to trick him into eating it. I thought I was oh-so-clever to, for instance, fill one of our home-grown apricots with peanut butter, because it was the same color as the pit. I loved to pick perfect fruit for him, then carefully wash and proudly present them to Daddy, talking with friends or going about his other business. How very sneaky I was to pb-ify one, though he must have been immediately suspicious as I admonished him “don’t take the pit out of this one” and hopped from foot to foot, giggling. He pretended to be so surprised and stern about his “discovery” of the sticky pb pit. The one time I really did successfully trick him was when I smeared my little lips with peanut butter, then ran to him and smooched him on the mouth. Then I tried it again 7 minutes later, such a good trick it was…
Gardening: Dad was really proud of his yard, and precise in his landscaping. I remember Mom & Dad plotting out the garden every year on a pad of graph paper, and all of the work that went into creating and deciding on the shape of the decorative plantings in the front yard. It’s crazy to me now that we’ve lived in our “new house” long enough that the huge trees in the front yard originated with us. We had a flowering plum in Kennewick, too, and I remember Daddy taking pictures of Mom, his beautiful wife, in front of it when it was in bloom. He was so proud of them both; look for the photos in our albums. She looks self-conscious but very pleased. Of course, we planted because “The Prophet Said to Plant a Garden” and to teach the kids hard work. But he always worked with us. I especially remember picking picking picking raspberries. Our patch in the Kennewick house was along the right fence (if you were facing the house from the backyard), near the playhouse, and it was so hard to reach the berries up in against the fence. I think Dad did a lot of picking in his softball uniform, after summer games in July. Those long arms were so much better than mine at reaching, though I did have a wriggly little body that could sneak in after “the good ones.” Daddy always made us feel so proud for things like that.
Conscious parenting: With kids of my own, it really impresses me what a conscious parent Dad was. He had a job to do, parenting, and I think always saw it in that light, of making me into the very best person I could be while I lived in his home. Then I was my own person. I remember I was really angry with him during my first couple of years of college, when my strict, high-expectations dad would say things like, “I hope you’re not getting all A’s. You need to make sure you’re spending time in other areas, too. Have some fun.” What?? I thought those were the-only-acceptable kind. But when I left home, Mom and Dad really gave me credit for growing up. And even when I knew Daddy questioned my decisions or attitudes, he was very carefully deferential. It was my life now.
Dad loved golf, but explained to me that he had decided that to be the kind of father he wanted to be, he knew he would have to give up some of his hobbies: “I could go golfing with the Executive Board on Fridays, and it would probably be good for my career, but I knew I wanted to spend that time with my family.” Others he continued, but included us in. A kid always came on errands with him, and someone, however small, always was holding the hammer when he worked on projects around the house or yard. I thought it was slave labor, but now know how much more work it is to include children in tasks. Dad was the Jack-of-all-trades sort of athletic, and in the days of big church sports, the softball season was especially huge. For a couple of years, the Kennewick 1st ward was a powerhouse, and we loved getting sunburned at softball tournaments. I remember their red-and-white (full!) uniforms and going out to A&W root beer floats after weeknight practices. Frosty mugs! I think Dad played 2nd or 3rd base or left field, usually, and was a reliable hitter. I remember our pitcher was Brother Reeder, who had one shriveled arm and awesome frizzy gray hair around a bald top. He could nail a pitch with his mitt dangling on his useless limb, then quick-as-lightning switch the mitt to his good hand and catch a pop fly. The other teams always underestimated him—to their detriment!
Dad believed firmly in supporting his children in our “events”, and he and Mom came with absolute religiosity. One or both were present at every home cross-country or track meet, and many of the “away” ones, Dad running along from point to point on the course so he could yell encouragement more than once, holding his suit coat on one arm because he had just snuck out of a meeting. He even came to all of the basketball games that I didn’t play (glorious pine-rider that I was), and cheered like mad when I occasionally did and once even made a basket … Still proud! They were the only parents at many debate tournaments. I, of course, didn’t realize how much of a kid and job-juggling effort that took. Or how much else they had to do that they would probably enjoy more, if it wasn’t so important to them to show their love through their support.
Dad entered parenthood with a clear idea of what kind of father he wanted to be. He wanted to be involved in his children’s lives, and he wanted us to always know he loved us. It was an extremely important moment for him when his own father, raised in a more taciturn generation in a family of taciturn men, told him “Greg, I love you.” I was in college. He always knew Grandpa loved him, of course, but he thought it was important to hear. The words “I love you” were household dailies for us. I’ve never had to question that my dad loved me. As I took a break from this writing to go feed and snuggle my youngest manchild, that delicious and sensuous little creature, I realized that I’m just starting to understand how much.

(Daddy/daughter in December 1996; don't we look alike?)

Monday, March 23, 2009

runs in the family

Just to show that the big man in the house is crafty too:

(1) he sports fancy craft cycling duds.

(2) he can hang a homemade calendar with tools from the workshop: safety pins (he has a huge collection from all of the bike races; they pass them out by the handful to pin numbers to jerseys). The holes? Drilled. Such a bother to sort through my stuff.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Last call for superstar tees

I'm making one last superstar tee order, going out Monday, a special edition that will include a "still shining in 2009" in Marian's 7 year old handwriting :)

Details here, but the short is: $6, $2 shipping, arrival mid-April. Any color you want.

Five Little Speckled Frogs

Five little speckled frogs,
Sittin' on a hollow log
Eating some most delicious bugs
(yum! yum!)
One jumped into the pool
Where it was nice and cool
Now there are four little speckled frogs!

Man, I still love that one.

I found 3 more fingerplays, and birthday boy Jackson gets to play them with his new fingerplay glove. Or watch his sister and brother do it until he stops putting everything in his mouth.

There are more...
The set I made for Marian a few years ago:
Chenille glove: Target
Wool-blend felt: Joann's
Way too many hours: me

Count-down fingerplays are most common (pull the little characters off one by one), but you can find some count-up rhymes (put them back on), too:

There was one little duck, swimming in the sea
He was very lonely,
So he swam far away, over the sea,
And found another duck to

I sewed the hook velcro to the glove, and used the soft fuzzy on all of the pieces. I can then fold the glove into a fist and store them all together without having to worry about velcro shredding of soft parts. I figured that was a softer choice for little fingers. I put a large piece of velcro on the palm to use for scenery (log, pond, grass). There's also a crocodile (Five little monkeys, swinging in a tree. Teasing Mr. Crocodile: "Can't catch me!") and a mama duck (...when the mother duck says, "Quack, quack, quack!" Four little ducks come waddling back). I'm working on variations with that one where the dad duck doesn't have more authority than the mom duck (But when the DADDY duck says...), but none are quite catchy enough yet. Suggestions?


I'm a bit behind on chronicling my recent hedgehog acquisitions. The first was knit for me by a friend, Holly (she of the baby hat fame) just because for some reason she is totally awesome to me. Sitting on the first book my sister Camie made for me and a bunch of pages that may someday be Reuben's baby book (keeping records elsewhere for eventual transfer).

Speaking of Camie and Reuben, my birthday gift from her was this hedgehog hat for the wee bairn. Guess who loves it? Everyone who sees it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

what if

I'm just finishing An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, by Elizabeth McCracken. It's a memoir, mostly about her first child, stillborn. Her writing is clear and lovely, and I value the grief in it, still looking for understanding in my own. She writes of her second child, still a baby, whose "job is to be Gus. In this he more than pulls his weight":

He has cured me, mostly, of blame and what might have been, all of that fairy-tale bargaining: what would you do differently and what if. I know my fairy tales. Those bargains are disastrous: you ask for what you want, and then your words get twisted. Terrible things happen. it's never so easy as a wish...generally my door is barred to all bargaining apparitions.

brown paper packages

I really, really love this:
(from this blog, copying her friend, all of which I found on whip up, whom we especially like because they carried Marian's miniature snowglobe tutorial last year)

She actually mails with them. I was thinking I'd just like it for wrapping gifts. You could do fancy stitches & stamps & such, but I just love the above. Though maybe I'd use green or purple thread. Smartie people--so simple, but so why-didn't-I-think-of-that?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

more Philadelphia green

Marian and I treated ourselves to visits to Anthropologie and Art Star after her doctor appointment yesterday. Finding green there was much more fun (see that ribbon tied to Marian's ankle? Only because it slipped off her knee...she's engrossed in a dreams fortune-telling book, by the way. It was the treat choice, until I explained the possibilities of Art Star, our next visit, where she chose a cute set of illustrated recipe cards. Her first favorite recipe? Pumpkin pancakes, which almost count as eating vegetables).
I went to Anthropologie because I hear it mentioned so often, as in "Anthropologie! The beautiful store that takes all my money!" The Philadelphia Anthro was indeed extraordinarily beautiful, housed in a historic building and incorporating the original stained glass (just see that dome!) and spiral staircases. No green purchases for me. I did try on one blouse, but determined that I need to do a little more post-baby body work before I go clothes shopping again... What I wanted most was that typewriter--not for sale.The try-on did enable me to take today's gratuitous baby photograph, when we diapered on the floor of the changing room. Three people thought he was a girl yesterday in his neutral green, because he is so beautiful. In a very manly way, though, methinks.

green for Maewyn Succat

We know fancy things like St. Patrick's real name because we watch Veggie Tales.

Marian and I trekked to Philadelphia yesterday for a quick transplant follow-up visit (beautiful blood counts). The leave-at-6-am (it drives Nathan crazy that I don't type out my numbers when I write, but that seems too boring to contemplate seriously) day didn't allow for green pancakes and other fun celebratory gimmicks (though I did put a few drops of food coloring in the milk, which was awesome because green is not really a good look for milk), so I satisfied myself with taking pictures of green things at and around the hospital. Mostly at stop lights, of which there are manymanymany in Philly, too few of which were green.