Friday, January 30, 2009

Everyday beauty

The Washington Post published an article about an experiment they did: they got Joshua Bell, one of the best violinists in the world, to play incognito in a subway station. They wanted to see if, without the PR he usually gets for his stage performances, anybody would stop to listen. The result was--hardly anybody stopped to listen.

Oooo, I do love a social experiment.

Sorry, this made me laugh. Is it just me, or does it look like he's on the set of Sesame Street?

I recommend reading the article. Two thoughts came to my mind:

1. Am *I* too busy, too insensitive, to unculutured, too unfeeling that I don't notice beauty around me? Would I have walked right by? DO I walk right by, figuratively, every day?

2. Beauty is recognized as such when it is framed. On a stage in a symphony hall, billed as a world-class violinist, people expect to hear beauty. In a dingy subway station, people expect inconvenience as a busker tries to eke out a few bucks with his classical schtick.

The frame gives the medium significance.

It's the same with art, with nature, with people.

My daughter writes the best books . . . but none are published.

Our citrus tree doesn't look like much . . . but its fruit is juicy and sweet.

My friend Allison is the most gorgeous person I've ever met . . . but she's a wife, mother, and down-to-earth gal.

Put a different frame around any of those and I might say:

My daughter wrote the #1 selling childrens book this year.

Organically-grown, peak of the season oranges and lemons: $10/lb.

My friend Allison, the movie star, the model, the Broadway singer, the former Miss America is on the cover of Vogue.

(She really is gorgeous. I know she doesn't read my blog so I'm pretty sure I won't embarrass her.)

So my resolve this weekend is to find beauty in the ordinary and put my own frame around it.

And get tickets to see that Joshua Bell.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Patience, grasshopper.

I know I said I had something to show you. I do. But I can't seem to go from scan to pdf to uploading to blogger right now. Something about a corrupted file . . . whatever.

It's a picture of ME and I am not corrupt!

Well, I've been tagged several times on facebook to post 25 random things about myself and I haven't done it. Because not only am I NOT corrupt, I am not random.


Like you believe that.

I thought I'd give you five for now, and YOU didn't even ask!

1. I love a good bargain. Wait, let me rephrase. I LOVE A GOOD BARGAIN. Today I bought Bryce a suit, two blazers, 6 pair of dress slacks, and 6 ties, for a grand total of . . . $352.48. My receipt said "You saved $962.12" and I nearly fainted from awesomeness.

2. You wouldn't know it to look at the rest of me, but I have freakishly thin fingers.

3. After coming to accept and even enjoy my infertility, I fear that God will "surprise" me with a biological baby someday.

4. I'm not proud of this, but one time I accidently stole a magnet from a shop at Disneyland, courtesy of a sticky-fingered toddler. I took it home, stuck it on my fridge, and eventually couldn't stand the guilt. I threw it away. I hated to be reminded that I was an accomplice to a mini-Mickey crime.

(Get it, mini . . . Mickey?)

5. I have memorized every ward list for every ward I've ever been in. I can't help it; it just happens. For the strangers, I know each family member's name and what street they live on, including ZIP code. For people I actually know, it's names, addresses, phone numbers, and birthdates. I usually keep this fact to myself because it makes me look like a stalker.

Then end . . . for now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More of the usual

Lately I've felt as emotional as my middle schooler. If you read my last post before I took it down, you know the kind of mood I've been in.

Don't worry, it was just whining about my deficencies when it comes to my calling.

I'm not different today but I've got a grip on life.

Here's what's on my mind today. How is it that very good friends can sometimes, upon reconnecting, find out that they really have nothing in common now?

This has happened a few times now and it leaves me feeling depressed.

I wonder if they feel that way about me? Maybe they think, Oh my gosh, she's married? She has children? She didn't travel / get a PhD / become an activist / get drunk / watch Top Chef last night? Ugh, I thought we were friends.

Who knows.

Tomorrow I promise, promise I will be peppy. I have something cool to show you, so hold on to your hats until the morning.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Freaky Friday

One more political thought on my non-political blog.

If you don't like Obama for his politics, policies, or pajamas, that doesn't make you a racist.

Believe me, if Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or O.J. Simpson had been elected I wouldn't be quoting poetry to mark the occasion.

Movin' on.

The kids have a day off.

Tyce is getting ready for a campout. Mary Rachel has an elaborate scheme to sell lemonade and chocolate-dipped pretzel rods with Sara. The twins got up much too early and are like cats in a bag.

I have to get dressed before I lose control of the household.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts on Obama's Inauguration

As a mother of half-black children, this inauguration is a momentous event. I have never--and would never--vote for a President based on race or gender, but the fact that an African American is being sworn in to that position today--well, it means a lot to me. It means that our entire nation stands behind a man whose honor, integrity, influence, and determination were deemed sufficient to lead the country--and he is black.

Character first, color second.

The President first--a black man second.

I know racism still exists. I know not everyone thinks a "black man" can succeed in this job, and they hope he won't.

But I hope he does.

I am a Republican. I am conservative. I have liberal leanings on very few matters. But I consider myself reasonable and I view change at this time in our country's history imperative. Like I've said before, I don't discuss politics on this blog but I do have opinions and passions.

And I voted for Obama.

If you want to know why, ask me.

As my dad would say about change, we may well jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

But today, I welcome change.

And this poem marks, in the spirit of our new President, change I can believe in.

by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

Monday, January 19, 2009

He Had A Dream

This is a newsletter I wrote for Sesame Workshop, without all the cute sidebar links. (If you want the original, delivered-to-your-inbox version, email me.)

I was constrained by my audience (parents of preschoolers) and writing standards (!) from exclaiming my whole-hearted admiration and respect for Dr. King, but I hope you get the idea of how grateful I am for his work . . . and my family.

You can read his whole I Have A Dream speech here. Absolutely masterful.


In our home, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has a special meaning. My husband Bryce and I are a white couple, and our four children are black. We are a rainbow-hued family, with my red-haired, pale-skinned husband on one side of the arc and our gorgeous raven-haired, chocolate-skinned daughter on the other. The rest of us make up the bands in between, and I happen to think we are beautiful!

Bryce and I work hard to instill a sense of pride in our children about who they are. We have many children's books on Martin Luther King, Jr. and other famous African Americans. Here are a few of our favorites:

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport

Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes

Booker T. Washington: Teacher, Speaker, and Leader by Suzanne Slade

Jackie Robinson: He Led the Way by April Jones Prince

If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks by Faith Ringgold

In addition, our children witnessed the historic election of a president who looks like them, and who has gotten where he is through hard work and determination.

Even though our twins Cameron and Harrison are only 4 years old, I want them to be aware of their rich and wonderful heritage. And, I want them to know that their opportunities are limitless.

As in past years, we will celebrate MLK, Jr. Day by watching the parade downtown. On a deep level, our family is indebted to those who stood up for freedom and equality, and I want my children to understand that while we celebrate through song and dance, change did not come without great sacrifice.


Harrison is very observant and keenly interested in people's appearances. He is quick to point out who is "white" like me or who is "dark" like his older brother and sister. He considers himself "light brown." When I informed him that he and his twin brother Cameron had a babysitter coming later that evening, he asked, "Is she white or dark?" No judgment, just curiosity.

Questions and observations, I've discovered, can turn into teachable moments. One day Cameron asked why his friend Mari ate with chopsticks. It was a great opportunity to explain Mari's Chinese culture. Another time he was curious about why he was not able to understand a little boy at the park. After listening for a moment, I realized the boy was speaking Spanish. I told Cameron he should try saying "Hola" to the boy. He did, and he made a new friend that day.

Another time, we saw a woman in a wheelchair, and the twins asked her why she couldn't walk. At first, I was afraid the woman might be offended, but she was happy to talk to my curious little boys. She told me, "I don't mind at all. I'd rather have people talk to me than just ignore me because of my chair." That day, it struck me that understanding differences does more than teach tolerance -- it teaches inclusion.

A preschool teacher once shared with me a lesson she does with her class. She shows the children one white egg and one brown egg. Then she cracks the first egg into a clear bowl and lets the children see. She repeats with the other egg. In the bowls, the eggs look exactly alike. She explains to the class that people, like eggs, come in different colors, but we're the same on the inside, and that's what counts.


This January 19, we celebrate the life and works of a remarkable man. Without Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s impassioned leadership, this version of my family might not even exist.

We are eternally grateful that it does.

When we adopted each of our children, I began to see the world through different eyes. I moved from a general "people should be appreciated for what's inside" to a very real investment that they would.

Dr. King’s powerful plea became my own:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

When I see how loved and accepted my four children are by their extended family, dear friends, and even strangers, I believe his dream is coming true.

Thank you, thank you, Dr. King.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mary's Jumper

She made this at sewing lessons! How awesome is that?

Here's a close up. Can you see the ladybug buttons? Apparently she wanted to position the ladybugs to look like they were on a collison course. (That's what she told her teacher anyway.)

Sis. Knudson said that Mary is getting pretty good at knowing what to do and how to do it. Maybe I'll end up taking sewing lessons from Miss M. someday.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Celebrity Morph by MyHeritage

MyHeritage: Family trees - Genealogy - Celebrities

Just playing around. This was my closest match--86%. Most of the people I look like are dead.

Entry for the Naughty File

Wood glue on the carpet. Culprit admitted malicious intent, due to anger at perceived exclusion from another activity. Wood glue!

Partly dried. Partly sticky.

I assure you I do not model this behavior.

On the bright side, Bryce put together this daybed we bought off of craigslist. It's a twin by day and a king by night. So now we can have two sets of guests at a time--one in the casita and the other in the playroom . . .

. . . if you can deal with dried glue on the carpet. And stray toys.

Well, it *is* a playroom.

(I tried my best to remove the glue.)

(Is it good enough?)

(Do you have a problem with calcified carpet?)

(Please say no.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dinner conversation

Tyce: Today in Band we played Jeopardy to get us ready for our exam.

Me: Really? That sounds fun.

Tyce: Yeah, there were two teams and this one guy started laughing like crazy.

Me: Why was he laughing?

Tyce: Well we asked him the same question and he said "I don't know," but he kept laughing.

Me: He didn't know why he was laughing?

Tyce: Nope. The teacher said, "That'll be 1000 points from Team B."

Me: Was he on your team?

Tyce: No, I was the scorekeeper. Mrs. Rich said, "Be quiet or we'll take away another 1000 points."

And the kid said, "But I know why I'm laughing now."

And all the other kids whispered, "Shut up!"

And he said, "Okay, but I have to tell you why I was laughing."

And the kids yelled, "SHUT UP!"

And he said, "But I know why I'm laughing now."

And the kids yelled, "STOP TALKING!"

Then someone said, "Okay just tell us and then BE QUIET."

And then finally he said, "The reason I was laughing was . . . well now I can't remember."

And then Mrs. Rich said, "Congratulations Team B, you won. You were supposed to get the least amount of points."

And the kids looked happy and said, "Really?"

And she said, "No."

And then the kid started laughing again.

Me: Oh my goodness.

Tyce: Yeah.

God bless middle school teachers.

Monday, January 12, 2009

It's for my own good

I got a surprise in the mail.

I ordered this book from an Amazon book seller:

But I received this:

The board book even had a receipt that stated:

This item inspected by gevans
East Wind, West Wind
12/1/08 7:20:18

Thank you "gevans", for ensuring that my contribution to the January book club will be limited to my knowledge of the Hundred Acre Woods. Are you trying to comment on my lack of geographical smarts? Cuz I so totally know where China is.


In other news.

You know how banks have that dye on their money bags that release on a robber's hands during a hold-up? Even if the thief gets away, he's easily spotted by the permanent ink.

I think hair stylists have the same thing going on.

I tried to save time and money by coloring my hair myself. I already mentioned that. I used to do it all the time with great results. Ever since I've been going to see Patti, whom I LOVE by the way, I've let her do the job. But I've been busy, blah blah blah, and I took matters into my own hands.

A box of Clairol was my exploding money bag.

My roots are orange. Overprocessed, carrot-colored, unnatural-on-a-brunette orange.

Put a little blonde in there and I'd be a calico human.

No matter where I go, my hair screams, "GUILTY!!! She was too cheap to pay her hairdresser and look what happened! Orange roots!"

I'm torn between trying again with a darker ash color myself, and confessing to Patti and having her solve all my problems (for a not-so-small fee).

Oh, the weighty decisions of the modern woman.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tyce sings

"Guess what I'm doing on Friday," Tyce said at dinner one night.

"What?" we all asked.

"I'm singing the National Anthem at the pep rally. In front of the whole school."


"Mom, don't come, okay? I don't want to be nervous." (Translation: I don't want you to embarrass me.)

"What would I ever do to make you nervous, wittle snookie plum? Here, let me wipe that butter off of your cheek. You want to look your best for when you sing in front of 1000 people."


As the twins and I drove to the junior high, I decided to sing the National Anthem myself. I started, "O-o-o-oh say can you seeeeeee! By the dawn's early light!" By the time I got to "and the rocket's red glare!" I was in the stratosphere of my range and started coughing.

I said a silent prayer for Tyce.


As the junior high kids filed in to the bleachers the band played, the basketball teams practiced their lay-ups and free-throwing, the cheerleaders shook their pom-poms, and the mascot ran around jazzing up the crowd. (Cameron and Harrison thought the brown bear was THE coolest part of the event and couldn't believe when he--the bear!--took his place in the drum line.)

The student body president began the program by saying: "Please rise for the National Anthem, sung by Tyce Jones."

He left his place in the band and went to the microphone. Everyone was silent, except for the 3-foot-tall twins who whisper-shouted, "I can't see him! Where is he?"

Tyce sang a capella. He hit all the notes with strength and confidence. He was pitch-perfect. I couldn't stop smiling at him. He was AWESOME!

(And I'd say that even if I weren't his mom.)

Afterward, a ton of kids said things like, "Good job, Tyce," and "Man, you are brave," and one boy asked for his autograph.

Maybe I should have asked for his autograph too?

He truly has a beautiful voice and I'm so pleased that he is willing to share it with others.

P.S. Props to Quinton Robbins, Tori Foutz, and Hailey Foster for their mad basketball skillz. Go Bears!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mare's 9th Birthday Pics

She and her daddy kicked off the celebration by getting donuts together before school.

I decorated the table and the house while she was at school. The twins "helped" me make the cake.

The boys had a hard time understanding that while they *did* choose these balloons for their sister, they really had no claim upon them.

After school, Mary chilled for a little while before going out to dinner.
We went to the Cheesecake Factory, per her request. She got cheese pizza. And a Sprite.

We came home, where we put aside our better judgement and allowed Tyce to light the candles.
She made a wish.
She loved all of her presents but was particularly thrilled to receive her own Fenton bowl from Mopsie's collection.
She said she had a great birthday.

And now she can look forward to her friend party on Saturday!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Twins' first day of preschool

They started at the local elementary this afternoon! I have full confidence that half a year of preschool here, and then a full year at a "normal" preschool next year will ready the boys for kindergarten. I am so proud of them. They have overcome so much in their short lives, and they continue to delight and surprise me with their progress.

(I'm defining "progress" as recognizing letters, for example, and not figuring out how to pick any lock in our house.)

Cameron was a little nervous to go to school, but Harrison was confident, and their teacher is wonderful, so I knew it would all be okay.

Before preschool, Harrison chose his outfit. Cameron went to the dresser and put on the exact same one!

At the school, the boys enjoyed running and playing. You might notice Harrison had changed his outfit by the time 12:30 rolled around.

Here's where I said goodbye to the newest additions to a very cute class.

And what did I do with my time?

Went to the store for a box of hair color, colored my hair, and nearly shrieked when I looked in the mirror.

Now I know what "overprocessed" means.

Mutual Night

Note to self: Re-read last post. No more caffeine. Seriously.

We had a scripture scavenger hunt last night for Mutual. You know when you come across a great idea, but when you go to implement're not sure how it's really supposed to go? You get it all set up and then you think, hmmm, is this right?

Like, aren't scavenger hunts usually done in teams, like a race? Aren't they exciting and crazy with lots of running and yelling and laughing?

Well, not last night.

We actually resembled a funeral procession as walked in a group to each "clue site." The first one, to get us started, was a scripture that mentioned the office of the Bishop. So the girls correctly surmised that the next clue was in the Bishop's office. (Well, on his door.) The next clue was a scripture about a fountain of water. So we group-marched off to the water fountain.

Wild times!!!!

Fast forward to the last one, in Malachi 4:1 about (not) being burned in an oven. They opened the oven and what to their wondering eyes should appear . . . a plate of cookies. Hallelujah!

So the moral of the story is, the scriptures contain great treasure, and the rewards of scripture study are "sweet."

I have the best Young Women. Even though the activity lacked the pizzazz I'd envisioned, they were funny and chatty and seemed to derive great pleasure from sticking all of the taped clues onto my hoodie.

I had some very, very good conversations with some of the girls after our short-but-sweet activity.

And the cookies were delish.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Stream of Consciousness--Beware.

We have a new system over here at the Jones house.

(Does it always seem that we're coming up with a new system? I think it does.)

If I had been the one to set it up, I'd have called it something gentle and affirming, like Family Living for a Supernally Joyous Celestial Life in this World and in the World to Come.

But this was Bryce's idea, and he doesn't sugar-coat the truth.

It's Hard Core Boot Camp.

You know . . . jumping jacks. Inspections. Sir sandwiches.

(But it's all in good fun.)

The kids have learned to plan out their days (first things first) and to set their alarm clocks. No more mom or dad shaking tired kids out of bed, which should seem obvious, but was not the reality around here.

The first day was great! Yeah!

The second day was not.

But we will get there.

Why do I mention this? Well, I set my alarm clock and got up yesterday. I'm really doing well with this boot camp thing so far. And I think it's always a good thing to report your successes. New year, positive thinking and all that. Go me! Let's go for two in a row!

Well, I finished a deadline this morning, as in 6:30 a.m. Maybe I'm a little wheeeeee! from that caffeine I swore off a few days ago.

(It's not MY fault my deadline came when I was too busy doing other things! Hello, child's birthday? Extenuating circumstances.)

Oh wait, what's that next life lesson I see? Accepting personal responsibility?

Okay, I really have to move on.

What is the deal with pigeons?


Um. Next.

Pressing Question of the Day: Who has the cutest 9-year-old ever? Me! She had a great birthday. Pictures forthcoming. She is so, so, so easy to please and it makes it a pleasure to do nice things for her.

But she is not an angel 24/7. I'm pretty sure you knew that. Who is? (Rhetorical.)

Speaking of angels, I would like to start a Christmas angel collection. Just putting it out there in the universe, like Oprah told me to do when she reviewed the book "The Secret."

I *am* supposed to put stuff out there in the universe, right? Oprah?

(Saturn, I have a secret! I need an ANGEL for my collection, okay? Barbie-sized, flowy-robed, wings optional!)

Moving on.

With the day.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Watch out....

Today is Mary Rachel's 9th Birthday! We just love our beautiful, talented, spirited girl!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ring in the New Year

Welcome 2009!

Last night we went to Chuck E. Cheese for our New Year's Eve par-TAY. This time out I employed a different strategy to Skee-Ball; instead of just bowling down the middle I aimed to the side for those big-ticket 100,000 point targets. Even though I got a fair amount of misses (and therefore low-level 10,000) I also succeeded enough (one time--three in a row!) to make this is my new M.O.

Does an adult really need an M.O. when it comes to Skee-Ball?

Lest you think I spent all my time perfecting my game, rest assured that my main duty was doling out gold coins to six token-hungry kids. Tyce and Mary were overjoyed when both sets of parents agreed that Spencer and Sara Shapiro could come with us. Sara and Mary palled around together while the twins had fun on the rides. Spencer and Tyce mastered a certain game that yielded a high amount of tickets; Mary also played a roulette-type game with the potential for lots of tickets. With wild eyes and a strained, high pitched voice she cried, "I know this is just like gambling but I don't care! I love it!"


Later that night we played Sorry and Connect Four. Then the kids and Bryce stayed up to watch a movie. I was bah-humbug about staying up till midnight and so I went to bed. Ha! If you've seen one midnight, you've seen 'em all I say.


I'm happy for a fresh start to a new year. Are you?

My friend Karen posted a very clever "Not-To-Do" List for 2009. I like the twist in thinking.

So here are some things I will not be doing in 2009.

1. I will not use caffeine as a crutch to get me through the day.

2. I will not say no to playing with or reading to my children.

3. I will not take on more extra activities than I can handle.

4. I will not finish my children's scraps from breakfast and count it as MY breakfast.

5. I will not neglect my scripture study.

6. I will not rush in to save the day when one of my children or the young women don't follow through with an assignment.

7. I will not go the whole year with a messy, disorganized closet.

8. I will not refer to my corner neighbors as "the hillbillies" anymore.

9. I will not wake up before 5:30 a.m.

10. I will not become a dancer at the Folies Bergere.


That's a good start, eh?

What is on YOUR "not-to-do" list this year?


My feelings and experiences regarding adoption.

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