Sunday, March 17, 2019

LA Escape

Winter trips are a priority in my life. Or at least I've made them such in recent years.  Getting out, getting a break, does so much good for my soul. Fortunately Sean's birthday lands on the most trying part of the winter so we hit two birds with one stone and fled this year to Universal Studios, specifically Harry Potter World, to celebrate.

I have to say, the trip was THE BEST.  We had two fun-filled days and it was such a good time. Our post-trip high lasted a good couple of weeks.  I tried to write down all of the good memories and jokes I could think of (gotta keep a trip log, after all) and will put them here. 

But before I do,  I will first mention that the trip was a surprise for Julian.  Sean and I stealthily packed suitcases and made arrangements without his knowing and it was AWESOME.  We woke up as usual Thursday morning, got ready for the day (got the cats extra ready. Oh, need an extra heaping pan of food? Just because?) and, as a "treat," Sean got to come with us to "take Julian to school."  Just as we drove up I said, "you know what? Let's not go to school. Let's go do something FUN!"  and we drove on by and waved to all the learning-bound suckers.  Julian was utterly flummoxed. It was pure joy to see his stunned expression in the back seat, him wearing his backpack with his lunch bag packed not with lunch but with apples and carrots and cheese for the road trip ahead. YAY!

I wrote down trip highlights super randomly so I'm going to try to organize them into a sort of category as best as I can:


Turns out we kind of love this drive and are getting to know it well.  It's about 11'ish hours long, give or take, we do it all in a day and we can do it and it's not bad.  So three cheers for that. It makes me breathe a sort of sigh of relief knowing the ocean is only a day away.  Highlights of the drive include:

1. Julian's car jokes.  They had me rolling. At one point he said out of the blue, "did it ever occur to you that someone near you might not be wearing clothes?"  Without looking back, Sean yelled, "put your pants back on!" and Julian and I just laugh.  It's just such a funny thing to say. Also, after being in the car for a while, we stopped to get gas. With jelly legs and crooked knees, he and I hobbled our way into the station and he exclaimed, "how do I walk??"  Just busts me up. Seriously, how? My legs don't work anymore.

2. Snow all the way up until the mountain pass past VEGAS.  What?? All roads leading to our destination were closed and we were determined to get there before the sun rose the next day. As I have done before when the fate of our future is unknown, I went into full emergency mode, taking inventory of our possessions which included a ton of food and two huge blankets and we fully planned on pulling over and sleeping in the car, if it came to that, so we'd be ready to go as soon as the road opened.   It's kind of funny and a little bit strange how quickly I can get there.  I hope I never find myself stranded on an island with no adult supervision. Could be disastrous.  Fortunately (I guess) it wasn't long before they re-opened and we could finally get to a place with no snow.

3. Guess what, long car rides are perfect for doing schoolwork. And they really help pass the time. Julian had a storytelling assignment and was selected to tell his story (guess what? It was Millions of Cats) to the whole third grade the following Monday after we got home so the car was perfect practice time.  Also, we're a little behind on our multiplication tables no thanks to frustrating 3rd grade curriculum that doesn't stress teaching it until waaaay late in the game, but that's a story for another day.  But we drilled and drilled and drilled and we covered our 4's, 5's, and 6's.  He also had his first Battle of the Books battle on Monday so we quizzed him on that. On the drive back he didn't watch one show or play one game. It was all math drills, book quizzes, and car games. Fun parents!


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1. Let's talk about Universal Studios.  What a bizarre, hodgepodge land of misfit shows and movies. We saw characters from The Simpsons, Trolls, Beetlejuice (emphasis added for bewilderment) , Hello Kitty, Shrek, and more. At every turn I was more confused than before.  I was doing one continuous shoulder shrug the whole time. Also, let's talk about the main attractions based on super rando movies that nobody cares about.  The Mummy ride?? Waterworld?? Really? This was their main attraction in the whole park. In two days I spent more of my life reading up and talking about freaking Waterworld than I ever wished to.  They had a live performance involving stunt actors, explosions, crazy tricks using planes and jet skis and, of course, lots of water. Super entertaining but still-- why?  In the end, we decided it was just part of its charm.  Also, the Jaws attraction was closed, as well as the Jurassic World, sadly.  So, next time? When we return in seven years?

2.  There was this happy candy store called ItsSugar that Sean and I first visited a million years ago on a trip to Atlantic City. There we found the fanciest, prettiest gummies i've ever seen in my life and they tasted just as good as they looked. They sparkled like jewels and tasted like them as well. Behold!

It's so beautiful. {cry face}
We also bought a box full of Japanese snacks and ate them in our hotel room. Some were great and some were so utterly bizarre, I still don't have to words to describe.  Though, I {heart} all the things Japanese. 


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1. Harry Potter World was magical, of course.  I had been to the one in Florida but Sean and Julian had not and I had to try really hard not to compare, because the one in FL blew me away with the new addition of Diagon Alley.  The one in CA just has Hogwarts castle and Hogsmeade village. And like the other, I was reminded of how desperately I want the magical to be real.  Even though the place is swarming with people, how I experience it is just me, with Sean and Julian having transformed into Ron and Hermione (I'm Harry, obviously) and we're there on just another Hogsmeade weekend.  We appreciated all the little details most of all. The structures of the buildings like the neverending rafters in the Three Broomsticks. Moaning Myrtle moaning to you as you use the toilet.

2. There are only two rides there. One is The Hogwarts ride. I can't remember the name. You walk through the castle with fun things to look at and listen to as you go from class to class (because you're a real wizard and it's a real wizarding school). That was the best part. I wish I could have just done that part of it, said Grandma Jen.  Ride-wise, knowing what was in store for me, I braced myself and kept my eyes closed for almost the entire ride because I would have puked my ever-loving guts ev-ery-where. I kept cracking open an eye only to be like, NOPE. Dang, I hate these screen rides. Give me the old school coasters! Julian hated it too but out of fear, not so much the sickness.  Sean got a little bit sick but was able to tolerate it better and loved it. He couldn't get over all the cool effects that Julian and I were sadly blind to.  So lame.  We never did that one again due to the fear but we peer-pressured Julian to do it again the whole rest of the trip which made for a fun memory in and of itself.  I did succeed to persuade him to ride the Mummy ride which i was told was like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, the best one, and WOW it was crazy, also an inaccurate comparison, for the record. Indiana Jones is a million times better. The ride started fine and calm with creepy mummy things and rooms full of treasure. Like you'd expect. Then, suddenly, they turned out all the lights and jetted us forward a million mph and then again in reverse, all in pitch black. Everyone was screaming just to keep it together. I had to sincerely apologize to Julian after that one which he didn't let me get away with so easily.  Ha ha, geez, Mummy ride.

3. Flight of the Hippogriff is the other ride in HP Land. It takes place in Hagrid's pumpkin patch.  It's a short wild roller coaster, much more Julian's style. We went on it seven times. At the end of it one time, Julian yelled "JAM!" and I thought he said something else and everyone around us laughed at my young swearing kid and I was like, what in the world?? Apparently this is a thing kids say at school. He is still so innocent and doesn't even know what the swears are and I'm trying to keep it that way as long as I can. But it was funny, but I couldn't laugh too hard, which was difficult.

Accidental yet awesome photo. Notice wand in hand.

4. Eating the fun British food at The Three Broomsticks.  We consumed butter beer in four different forms: regular, hot, frozen, and ice cream. Excellent, job well done. We got fish 'n chips, sticky toffee pudding that I want to learn how to make. 

On the second day there we had really exhausted ourselves and I was a little bit out of my mind.  As we were contemplating the menu items, in my delirium I said,

"there's bangers and mash.. shepherds and pie..."  and everyone made fun of me. "Mmm..  shepherds and your pie. My favorite combo. Classic British dish..."  

Seriously though, so incoherent.  (We ordered all of it, by the way, and it was delish and felt very British.)


1. Another moment of Jen delirium was on our second day. 3/4 through our trip, Julian learned we were in the city of Los Angeles and he exclaimed, "what?? we're in Los Angeles? I know about something here! I read a book at school about a big mural painted by Judy Baca."   a) haha that he didn't know where we were and b) we were so glad he knew about it because we put it in our GPS and went there and it was awesome! Officially called The Great Wall of LA:

We thanked Julian for his knowledge and this fantastic tip which he was pretty pleased about and he continued to thank himself for the rest of the day.  "Thanks to me..."   Here's my delirious quote, said upon arrival at the great wall:

JULIAN: Woowww, the wall is so long!

JEN: It is wall! I mean long...

Again, everyone made fun.  "Look how wall that long is!"  It was pretty funny but also kind of embarrassing when words like that just come out, loud and clear, with no excuse to blunder it up.

2. Because we were celebrating Sean's birthday and art in general as we always do, we had to see the Getty Museum he's always wanted to visit and which I would describe as the fanciest, palace museum I've ever been to. It is huge, white and sparkling, and sits on a cliff overlooking the whole city.  A Pontormo show was going on and Julian, the experienced museum-goer, knew just what to do. Get a map of the place and we race to see who can spot each of the featured artworks first.  He and I did that while we left Sean to experience it at his pace and leisure, though I would have liked to linger a bit longer in certain rooms.. It actually felt like it wasn't as much about the art inside but the overall museum experience, which was interesting.

I think we're seeing a pattern here with the cool guy poses.

It also had fantastic gardens and it just felt so good to be in a place with greenery and sun. We all got some sun on our faces and like the grandma that I am, all I really wanted to do was just sit in the sun for like 100 minutes. "No, I'm good here."  For souvenirs, Sean bought a Pontormo art book to add to his collection and Julian and I got a comprehensive history book for adults kids that breaks down all the main events through the ages, something I've seriously been on the lookout for quite some time.  Yes I spotted it and started reading it first and yes, Julian took it from me and asked if we could get it and yes the gap between our ages grows ever smaller.


     Unsolicited picture help.  Yes, we would like a terrible photo. Could you? Thx.
  Also, click here to read up on the Passerby Photographer Phenomenon or PPP.

I could go on and on about all the fun but just for my own records, I'm going to finish my making a list of random things I noted in my book. 


1. The terrible instructions at the Waterworld show. We were standing in a snaking line, in the depths of some serious crowd/territorial mentality, and someone on a speaker said, "it's not a line, people. Fill the spaces. People who get there first get a better seat.  If people in front of you don't seem to understand or aren't listening, just go around them. They'll figure it out."   Sean and I felt this was exactly what NOT to say to a huge pulsing crowd of amusement-park goers.  They really said that. It was weird and got a little crazy.

2. Then, a-midst our crowd mentality of getting a seat ASAP, as we were shoving our way in, we heard a commotion behind us and saw a little girls standing having just puked and her dad was behind her bracing her. Our reaction was so funny/ a little bit sad. As we rushed past we were like, "that kid's throwing up! Good, get ahead of it so we're not held up!"  Like, our reaction was, "get ahead of it!!!" not "oh, sad, poor girl."  No compassion! SEAT.  Anyway, we got a good seat and I bet that girl was ok, so it all worked out.

3. Driving around downtown. Seeing the Hollywood sign. LA is such a weird city. I don't know what the vibe is at all. So sprawling and varied. But with palms and citrus trees, so yay.  I cheered every time I saw an orange or lemon tree.The foliage is so beautiful. I love it so.

4. Playing HP trivia games while standing in line for rides. At one point Sean and I quizzed each other on every spell we could think of which was totally entertaining.

Question: What's the spell to fix broken glasses?  Answer: Epixy.  
Question: What spell do you use to summon something? Answer: Accio
Question: What spell makes it so people around you can't hear you?  Answer: Muffliato.

See? fun. Kind of want to make this into an official game.

Ahhh, this post is so borrriiing.  But I'm too lazy to redo it to be more entertaining. So oh well. Suffice to say, mini winter trips are the best, these two are my favorite traveling buddies and I just want to go on another and another and another, etc.

    Friday, February 22, 2019

    More Winter Poetry

    I have a writing group consisting of 3 tween girls and myself. I love it and I love them. We meet about once a month and talk about stuff. Usually there's a snack involved.  We discuss a writing prompt for them to work on for the next month and then when we meet again we take turns reading what we've written, weather it's the prompt or anything at all.  It's just a chance to share something we've done. I really want to support writing in girls, but mostly, I just want an excuse to hang out with them.  Last time we read Robert Frost's winter walk poem and I assigned them to do the same. Go outside at some point, be in the snow and cold, notice things, and write a poem about it.

    As mentioned, we had a big blizzardy storm a couple of weeks ago and I wrote a poem of my own. I tried to write it in the style of Frost's and it was kind of hard.

    It's called, Snowy Daze.  Just kidding, it doesn't really have a title.

    Pushed a-drift, my eyes are blind
    Snow spray and ice wind most unkind
    Into a washed out winter seascape
    Slippery earth leaves me behind.

    Gale confused goes un-refused
    Each shrub and fragile tree abused
    All who breathe do so at risk
    The snow, from street to street, transfused.

    The whole world narrows like telescope
    All I know is what I hope
    The good faith bestowed on travelers e'er
    Pray paths don't cross on impending slope.

    Adventure screams, chaos careens
    Beckons us in our machines
    Will we respond? Or will we shrink
    Let's wait until plow intervenes.


    One of my girls recited her poem and I was basically shocked at how good it was. I felt like I had to keep my cool because W-O-W.  It was like free form poetry. Free verse? Like something to be read at a poetry slam. It was written in paragraph style and had definite rhythm but it just did what it wanted. It was good. Real good. And I asked if I could publish it and she said yes.  So here it is:

    Wonders Are the World Around
    by Ella H. age 10.

    Winter walk with poem of life.
    Snowflakes falling all around

    slipping, sliding without a
    sound. Me? I'm out back

    taking a walk. While many 
    voices in my head talk
    about the house instead.
    Where's the mittens? Bring

    the sled! I ignore them as
    I think, Maybe the snow

    would like a drink. I run
    inside, get the skates, get
    all tidy, rush! I'm late!
    To the pond of frozen water.
    Where aside I start to
    wander. Wonders  are the
    world around. Just to
    think without a sound.
    Think of time, rush back
    home. Oh, how I forgot
    to comb! Get the tree
    the ornaments too! Christmas
    time, how I love you!


    I snapped a pic and feel it's important to include her actual writing:

    Later when it was just she and i, we talked about it more. She explained parts to me and concerns she had while writing it. She said, "I wanted it to be about movement."  I was like, UHHHH... YEAH.  It is.   It was just crazy.   I was telling Sean about it later and he joked, "you're like, 'would you mind taking a look at my poetry?'"   For real.   Anyway, she has some serious talent and I take immeasurable joy at hearing serious-effort writing by kids. This group is great and I'm still figuring out what it should be exactly but I'd call this meeting a success.

    Poetry is important to me.  I love to read it and I love to write it.  It might be my favorite thing to write, though it is often quite challenging. I told Sean, when writing that winter poem, "it's hard to sit here and write about the outside."  He told me Robert Frost's poem was very simple and just an observation and I said, "yes, but he was out in it. Nature begets poetry. It's different to be out in it, come in, and then write about it."  How can I draw on inspiration from within a past moment?  I mean I assume that's how he wrote it.  Pulling out a leather-bound writing pad with his ink pot and quill. Ok, maybe that's not what he did. Also I don't really know the writing implements of his time. {googling} Whoops, looks like he died in 1963.  You know, 3 years before modern pens were invented-- ha ha.  Anyway.
    To close, we're edging near the end of February and winter's still ok.  It sure feels hecka-long, though. One thing I do love is the view of the snowy mountains near me.  They are stunning and I took a picture while driving a few days ago. I wish I could get a decent pic without all the dumb houses but they're still the star of the photo.   And staring at the mountains staring at me, I felt inspired and wrote another little poem:

    Snowy mountain in its place
    Elusive beauty I cannot chase
    Of all the mountains I embrace
    I love most the winter mountain face.
    I'm pretty sure Ansel Adams took his best photos from his car.

    Tuesday, February 19, 2019

    The Valentines

    Well, Valentine's Day was a few days ago.  A couple of weeks ago Julian told me this year they'd be making and bringing their own boxes/receptacles from home instead of doing it in class.  THIS IS IT, I thought.  IT'S TIME. The chat went like this:

    JULIAN:  So we need to bring our own boxes for Valentine's Day. Do you think we could get that box at Walmart that we saw?

    JEN: WHAT! No! Julian, you have a dad! You have a Sean dad! This is what he is made for!

    And I then told him of all the times Sean has made me some crazy box or package or whatever. The year for my birthday he hid presents around the apartment in crazy shapes like pyramids that he made.  Or the time he made a cardboard carrying case for heart-shaped pizzas when we were attending a valentine's party. I reminded him of his cool dragon mask that he didn't even end up wearing Halloween night (I did, though). And to be quite honest, I have been looking forward to the day when he'd help with Valentine's boxes for a very long time. Pre-Julian time. 

    So Sean and Julian discussed and Julian decided on a cougar.  I came home the Saturday before Valentine's and saw Sean in the midst of the build and I sat next to him and just watched, totally in awe. The way he works the cardboard. I mean, I saw a little bit of the Titanic construction but this is just crazy.  How he strips off pieces, rubbing them back and forth on the edge of the table to make them more bendy. And how he's able to visualize it all. What? How?   It really is a thing to behold.  So here are the pictures I took while I sat and occasionally helped with the glue gun:

    The best was when Julian first saw it take shape. He came in the room, gasped, and exclaimed, "I have a DAD!" for he finally, truly understood the great gift he'd been given.  I laughed, while Sean expressed confusion to such a statement. But Julian got it. He gets it and fully appreciates. The finished cougar:

    He had such a fun day and though we tell him repeatedly not to gloat, sometimes it just is so fun to have the cool thing.  I guess I just need to teach him how to gloat on the inside.  Because I love so much the things Sean chooses to create and I want to show them to the world.

    Moving on, Valentine's Day kind of crept up on me this year. Normally I'm in full-on valentine-making mode a couple weeks in advance but I just couldn't get it together this year.  But I pulled out some ideas and had a valentine-making party with some 10-11 year old gal pals of mine and I shall feature some creations of one in particular.  She was killing me with her heart people. So funny. I had to write down all of the specific titles she gave them.

    This particular girl is the oldest of six kids and I like to adopt her from time to time. She and Julian are pals with a similar sense of humor. We like to take her along when we do things. It gives us a friend and I think it gives her a break from craziness at home.  So this valentine she called, "depressed parent."
    "See, she's drooling a bit. She's got two babies at home."
     This next one was "I'm trying to get the nose dirt."  Her dad told her boogers were basically nose dirt. Like, what kid would make a valentine like this? It's just so funny to me.

    So good.

    Another thing I fully embrace is the galentines, in whatever fashion to whatever degree. I went to dinner with some gal pals and one card I found was so funny to me, I bought 3 of them.  So I will share it here because it's great.

    yaaaay PUNS! Also puns + swears= YAY. I also gave one to my parents because my mom likes to "accidentally" swear. JK Mom, but they loved it.

    It's still a new tradition but I want it to solidify and be the thing we do forever which is a romantic family dinner where we exchange cards and chocolate gifts and declare our undying love for one another.  This year's was great with a delish dinner made by Sean and chocolates galore.  Also, Julian wrote me the cutest message that honestly made me tear up a little.  Good work, small one.  You now understand the power of loving and appreciative words to a mother.   Valentine's week, I had been sweating a little bit trying to figure out what to give the lads and finally came up with some funny pictures and pulled it together in the last minute.

    First is Julian's.  I feel like since I'm taking kitty selfies on the daily anyway, why not turn one into a valentine to give to Julian a keepsake featuring those he loves most:

    Also I found a cool app that does cool things. 

    Next is Sean's.  I had taken a shower one night and and my hair was all fluffy and weird and I was like, maybe if I take an artsy pic and use my new app to make it funny or interesting? It wasn't a great plan. But then I saw it and remembered something funny between the two of us which is that sometimes my hair makes me look like specific people. One is Doc Brown from Back to the Future and the other is Andy Warhol.  I have this wig I wear on occasion-- ok, only on Halloween. But last year I wore it as we were trick-or-treating and friends who were out and about were like, "are you wearing a wig? I thought that was your hair."  And I thought, it's cool to wear a wig that's barely different from your own hair.  And it made me laugh because it's the same wig I wore when I went as Andy Warhol one year.  Anyway, saw the pic, made it black and white, behold, I turned into Andy, and a valentine was born:

    See what I mean?
    Image result for Andy WarholRelated image

    I also wrote some poems for them because that's what I do. Such a fun day. The excitement for valentine's day is so fleeting for a kid but I hope to keep it alive for as long as I can.  I was telling the boys if I were to rank holidays in terms of their "largeness" of the impact they have to the day.. the feeling of the day, I might rank them thus:

    1. Christmas
    2. Halloween?
    3. Thanksgiving/Valentine's tie. 

    And then I couldn't think of any other holidays we celebrate that remotely comes close.  4th of july? Kind of. Everything from May- September is celebrated by eating outside.   Oh, I forgot Easter. I love Easter. I'll have to insert that somewhere.   I was trying to explain to Sean why I love Valentine's Day so much and I said, "I think it's just things I love. Cards + poetry + chocolate + love."  And it's so simple. It's not a big to-do.  So yay for that. 


    Saturday, February 16, 2019

    The Weather Outside

    Weather is one of my favorite pastimes.  Thinking about it, talking about it, incorporating it into every aspect of my life.  It's everywhere.  It's everything. 

    One of my favorite weather hobbies is to scroll through the forecasts on my phone.  I have a handful of favorite places that I like to compare my own weather to.  I recently took some screen shots of my phone to illustrate.  Let us go on a journey together, to experience the different weather of various parts of the world. 

    First, my home. I left out the name of my town even though I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it in my blog already but just in case you were considering stalking me-- DON'T.  But let's just say I live in the northern half of Utah.  

                                  Northern Town, UT's weather looks like this right now:                                                      

    It's been cold, like in the 20's and then teens at night. Right now it's 29 and getting warmer. I believe the high today is listed as 41 which is balmy for this time of year and I'll take it. Plus, our 4,500 feet of elevation makes us almost an actual mile closer to the sun and you can feel it and it's awesome. In the winter in sea-level New York, I was always like, "what is.. 'suhn'?"   Not only did it always lie low, always obstructed, but it felt like merely an image projected onto the sky, not a real, living breathing ball of gas emanating anything whatsoever. Speaking of, naturally I have NY's weather on my app. Let's scroll:

    Midday right now with some freezing rain. Gross.  Even though deserts miss the rain, I do not.  I am really happy for "moisture" as they say around here-- let's just call it precipitation, everyone-- because last year felt like living in a dried up pit full of ash and broken dreams. But rain in the winter is such a bummer.  I'm surprised New York hasn't gotten more snow, actually. My friends keep me updated saying they've received a little here and there, but nothing like the usual unleashing.  It's still early though. Stay tuned. (You know I will)

    If I get to feeling a little bummed out about the winter, I might scroll to Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories, Canada, a location I picked on the map that looked like a place the universe forgot but where people still live. (pop: 20,000) Check it:


    Oh happy day, Thursday soars to zero! This is actually quite mild compared to what it's been the past few weeks. Highs in the -20's + (this is getting confusing). But again-- HIGHS.   I mean what is that even like?? So I feel better after I visit Yellowknife. I'll take my hot sun and above zero temps. 

    In an attempt to lean in to winter, I like to visit Hammerfest, a municipality in Finnmark County (now that's a little confusing) on the tippy top of Norway.  I like this one because it's just snowing all the time and I imagine it being just a winter wonderland in all the best ways. I think to myself, if I'm going to go do winter, I might choose Hammerfest. 


    Sometimes I think about where some family members are living and lovingly feel a little jealous hate for them in Oceanside, CA, where the temperature fluctuates (-- I actually first spelled that with an 'x'! How embarrassing, ha ha) by 10 degrees max. Ok, more like 30 but still. The highs for the year in the 80's and lows in the 50's?  What a dream.



    And of course, I can get a little more embittered and i may spitefully journey to another warm winter spot, like Phoenix, AZ, classically miserable in the summer and suddenly everyone's dream vacay in the winter:

    While living in NY I once visited Phoenix friends in March and it was sooo weird.  I felt like I'd jumped through a time portal, missing a very important part of seasonal progression.  Where did spring go?? Did i actually sleep through winter and miss it??  Still, it's weird but also wonderful.  I need more winter trips in my life. I mean, 71? What? Just, what.

    Next we do a complete flip of seasons, travel through a real life portal to another dimension and land in Sydney, Australia, which is smack dab in the middle of summer. Which is crazy. "Aaah, February.. it's so hot...mate."  is what I imagine locals saying.    

    It's nighttime there right now, of course, and the days are actually quite temperate.  Perhaps it's not reached its peak heat point? Or maybe it's that Sydney's on the coast?  So recently I scoured the country looking for a more outback-y kind of locale for something more extreme to add to my collection. That brought me to Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory of Australia, but more or less in the center:

    Now that's more like it.  Hot beating sun, bone dry and full of scorpions and scary outback animals.  I ask myself, well, Jen? Which would you rather have? your weather now? Or death hot Alice Springs where you'd be fighting off killer spiders and begging for a cloud.

    Speaking of death, I also have included in my weather repertoire Death Valley which I believe is officially the hottest place in the planet.  Well it might be, but not right now.  Looking real good right now, Death Valley.  Again: road trip, anyone?

    Oh, I just did some research (googling) and discovered the title of hottest place actually goes to Al Aziziyah, Libya with a recorded high temp of 136.4 degrees in 1922.  Maybe I should add that spot to my weather collection? I think I might. I've got nothing from Africa.

    And then, finally, at the end of my journey, when I feel like I'll probably not actually visit anywhere temperaturally significant, I console myself by saying, what Jen, you want to go to Tahiti? You don't want to go to Tahiti. Look, it just rains all the time. It's in its rainy season. Gross. Better stay where you are.


    The End.

    Wednesday, February 06, 2019

    Wintriest Winter

    This winter has been the wintriest I think we've experienced since moving to Utah 4.5 years ago (let's pause a second to let that number sink in). We've had some recent snow-on-snow-on-snow business going on and it's a little bit crazy.  New York winters traumatized me in a way I know no other place will.  I was recently at a gathering with friends and as we exited, one friend in particular and i paused to chat some more in some inclement weather.  Another friend remarked on our devotion to friendship as we stood in the rain to converse. The friend I was engaging is from Oregon aka "land of rains all the time" (I think that's on the license plates)  and said this was her favorite kind of weather and she could just live in it all day.  This other friend then asked me, "Jen, were winters just so magical in New York? Did you just love it?"  And the way she said it, so dreamy and full of whimsy and love and hope compelled me to respond harshly-- "Are you KIDDING ME? Winters in NY are a veritable HELL!" and then went on an emotional tirade, as is custom by anyone who's experienced a NY winter:

    "The unavoidable cold itself is soul-destroying. But the snow! Multiple times it snowed over two feet in a single storm. And that's not including the subsequent storms in days after! We were literally marooned and couldn't even leave our apartment! The subways and schedules were utterly demolished, multiplying and compounding everyone's commute. Walking out in it was a nightmare, as the sidewalks were unwalkable, un-strollable, and as it slightly melted, with literal feet-wide dirty slush rivers to hurdle or ford and you had no other option."  Anyway, I'm pretty sure by this point she had already politely sauntered away and gotten into her car but I probably had a few more [paragraphs of] words to say about it.

      Even though this has been the snowiest winter in years--I'll say it one more time--it pales in comparison to a single NY winter. PALES. Alright. So. That said... I am not hating all of this snow(!) This morning we woke up to a real life blizzarding white-out.  Drifts blown high, the wind still gusting with great vigor, streets un-plowed. Some areas of snow 3 feet deep, others not 2 inches.  And as anti-snow as I have been in my life, I actually enjoy snow driving. Though I'll take any kind of excitement, frankly. I grew up maneuvering in snow and I think my experience driving in New York, alone + in NY snow has made me believe I am snow-driving invincible. If I can do that, I can do an-y-thing.  School there was canceled regularly but I knew we would not be so lucky here.

     "Get in the car, Julian, and we'll see what happens!" I gleefully said this morning as we left to brace for the storm to get to school. On the way, treading new paths, we slid a little bit to and a little bit fro. The wind hurling snow darts into our view from every direction. Stupid other drivers not turning on their lights. It was exciting and I thanked the good heavens above for our sturdy large vehicle with high ground clearance {prayer hands}.  As I returned from drop-off I saw another neighbor struggling in vain to shovel out his small car with his son belted inside it.  So, having made the journey successfully and, as usual, feeling like I can CONQUER ANYTHING,  I took his son to school as well.  And then I went to help shovel the neighbor who gave up and pushed the car back into the drive.

    So we've received a lot of snow and shockingly, I don't hate it.  It makes winter and having to endure it actually mean something. I can still go out in it if I want and I have things to occupy and it makes the cozying in factor increase exponentially.  Now, it's still early February and, as I read on a meme recently, "January was a rough year, but we made it,"  but right now I'm ok and this is a thing to be celebrated.  In addition to the snow (I can't believe I'm saying that), I'm going to go ahead and list the reasons why it's ok:

    1. I bought a sun lamp.  Or, I bought Sean a sun lamp that I stole. I set it down next to me in my favorite chair and I force myself to just sit and read with faux-rays beating down on me for at least 30 min and I swear it works like magic.  I walk away cheerier and more bright-eyed and energized.  What a thing. So it's magic or a freakishly strong placebo effect; I don't care. 

    2. My Hunger Games reading has really carried me through. Next I read Ella Enchanted which I thought would be uninteresting fluff and was totally mistaken.  It is the most charming little read I've come across in a long time, which was most welcome as the book I read before HG was What Alice Forgot which i pretty much give half a star to.  Maybe it's that I had to rush to read it in time for the book club but I really get annoyed when I feel forced to read something I'm not enjoying.  What a chore! People liked this book. I did not.  But yay for other books.

    3. Yoga. Yoooogaaahhh.  My yoga classes are saving my life right now.  I love yoga so much and getting out a couple times a week to re-center and re-estabish that good ol' mind/body connection has done wonders for my mental health.  It is pure therapy and I think I've noticed some progress in my strength, range of motion, and flexibility! (Say that last part like it's suddenly a commercial for it, like I'm advertising for yoga) Really though, it's thuh best and I am so grateful.

    4. The hygge is alive and well.  With book-reading, two cats, several pairs of fuzzy socks and blankets and tea to last a lifetime, we are doing well.  We recently conceded to get a Wii (like, the old school one, and I'm betting that's as far as we'll go) and Sean and Julian and I play that regularly.  It's totally fun and makes us feel like we're exercising, which is what people were saying about it 15 years ago. 

    5. As a bonus item, we recently got Julian a punching bag and hung it downstairs. Ha ha ha.  Yup.  Little kid needs some kind of energy release. It is awesome and I'm trying to think of ways to incorporate it more as a way for him to cope with stress.  "Oh, time to punch it out?"  "Better go punch it out."  But he's good at it, punches seriously hard, and I kind of want to rent it out to neighbors or something.

    So happy--dare I say HAPPY-- winter to us all!

    Also, here are two videos for you.  One is Julian using his punching bag with me singing Eye of the Tiger (as one must) and the other is of a duck skating on a frozen pond.  On frozen duck pond. 

    Monday, February 04, 2019

    Daily Interactions

    One of the things I really enjoy about my life is the kinds of conversations I have with those immediately close to me.  I would find it very challenging if I were living with someone who I felt was kind of a dud, conversationally or otherwise.  Fortunately my housemates are very engaging and intelligent and provide entertaining conversations on the daily.  Here are just a few examples of late:

    I was sitting next to Sean observing the names of people on a written program.
    JEN: I think I prefer that spelling of Stuart, vs. Stewart.

    SEAN: *considers* It doesn't have the word "wart" in it...

    JEN: Yes. Or "stew." S-t-u is a just a fun spelling, like any word that ends in "u." 
    SEAN: *nods in agreement*


    This morning I told Julian his sense of humor was coming along nicely and congratulated him as my young protege.  He was telling me a story Sean told me last night about what Julian said when the cat was digging in the pantry.  She does this a lot and we finally had the smarts to move the kitty treats up on a higher shelf out of sight.  Also in the pantry is my beloved candy, Chimes ginger chews.  I have officially made it to Old Lady.  I looove this candy. It satisfies my need for chewy/gummi candy without any of the ill effects of sugar, with added health benefits and deliciousness of ginger. It's a win win win and, once again, I love them.  I am always offering them to people with a wicked inner chuckle because people are usually flummoxed at first and then, after trying, do not usually respond favorably.  I used to hate ginger candy myself, but I kept trying it until one day I crossed over into Old and here we are.  Anyway, I sort of enjoy watching them try it. It's like offering black licorice, knowing most people will hate it and hoping one or two will consent to trying it (but will probably hate it).  p.s. black licorice is no longer the worst for me. It's not the best but it's not the worst, and that's huge.

    Here is a pic of my favorite Chimes, just in case you were curious:

    Aaaanyway, apparently Julian looked over and noticed the kitten had gotten into the pantry again and was attempting to wrestle open a bag of something. Julian exclaimed, "Ha! Joke's on her, she got into the Chimes!"   Which, though I probably gave too much backstory, just made me laugh and feel so proud.  I mean, "joke's on her"?   I'm so pleased at what he's learned so far in his life.  The other day we went snow shoeing and he was throwing out words like "clambering" and, well, again, just so proud.


    Another funny Julianism just killed me.  It was a busy school morning and we were rushing to get things together. He had to bring some items for a school project but I wasn't sure on the specificities so I said, "oh well, i hope it works. If it doesn't, tell your teacher to be more specific."  Julian declared he would, in fact, tell her and i said, "No, don't! You keep telling her things and make me sound like the bad guy."    (for example, he told his teacher: "My mom's mad we don't do more crafts!" I mean i did say that but I wasn't really mad, obviously)   Julian said:

    "I like doing that. I like saying things that make Dad look like the bad guy, too.  Yesterday at Walmart we saw someone holding something that Dad wanted to purchase and I said loudly, 'Just take it out of his hands, like you did with that old lady that one time.'"    Ha ha ha ha ha ha what the hey??  Just dying.  So clever.


    Tonight after dinner I burped SUPER loud.  It was abrupt and appalling and funny. I feigned shock and embarrassment and apologized profusely as if it wasn't intentional in the slightest, which put Julian into a state of utter glee. The interaction went like this:

    JULIAN: Encore! Encore! Bravo!

    JEN: You should say "brava," because I'm a lady.

    SEAN, quietly: Are you though?



    Tuesday, January 29, 2019

    Millions of [pictures of] Cats

    There is a childhood favorite book of mine called Millions of Cats.  It's the weirdest, quirkiest book and I love it. The drawings are black and white and it's about an old man and woman who are lonely so the woman sends her husband to go find them a kittycat. He sets off and naturally comes to a field of, and here's the repeated phrase in the book, "cats here, cats there. Cats and kittens everywhere. Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats!"  And he needs to figure out which one to choose which is of course really difficult. I won't spoil it for you what ends up happening but let's just say it gets weird.

    This has been a commonly repeated phrase of late, what with our addition of second kitty.  The baby puff has been growing and getting used to things and I really wanted to document the progression of her relationship with Big Cat, whom we've dubbed Big Fat due to the acquisition of his winter coat and blubber.  Kitten is curled up on my lap as I type so it's extra appropriate doing this now. In fact, here's a picture of this:

    look at my gumby arm! Or Stretch Armstrong...

    Little Marshmallow has continued to be a cuddly sweetie and has her own quirks. For example: 

    1. We keep kitty treats in the pantry. I often give them out once a day, usually later on. The big cat meows and wants them but doesn't seem to know where they come from.  Kitten? Definitely knows.  She spends several minutes of her day lying on her back reeeeeaching as far as she can under the door for those treats.  Big Cat has never thought of this and still doesn't.  I'm starting to think he's kind of dim? But it's funny to see the Tiny who actually got her paws on a bag once and i found her wrestling around with it, paws wrapped around in an aggressively loving embrace. But she doesn't quit and always has a plan.  

    2.  I'm annoyed I don't have a picture of this but we have a chair downstairs with a blanket over it. It's called the "cat chair" because we allow the cats to use it to scratch.  It's pretty gross and haggard but we can't get rid of it because it folds out into a bed and it's so nice and wide and low to the ground and it's the perfect sick bed, frankly, for when Julian has the pukes. It's also not uncomfortable.  I can sequester or quarantine him away from other furniture and areas of the house and he can easily roll off it and barf as needed. I don't know why I'm sharing this except to reveal that this is apparently an important quality for me.  Every household needs a good sick bed?  Yes, I think this is true.

    I forgot what I was even saying. Ok, so the chair has a blanket over it and her favorite place to nap is UNDER the blanket on the chair. Ha ha! So we have to be extra careful not to sit on it bc there might be a kitty.  So funny to see that little lump though. 

    So let's talk about the two cats.  Currently their relationship is thus:
    • They are much more comfortable with each other.
    • They enjoy each other, though mostly for entertainment and chasing purposes. The bigger cat is like a grumpy teenage brother who will concede to play for a few minutes every day and might even enjoy and appreciate it, in spite of himself.  Often i have to break up fights between them and find him clamped down around the little one's neck or her just pinned underneath the enormous girth of him. The moment I spot them and reprimand, they dart away from each other light lightning, only to reconverge seconds later. 
    • She tries to be affectionate with him which he tolerates for a couple seconds, which is consistent with the rest of us.  He mostly likes his own space, though he does like to chill out near us.
    • I still haven't figured out mealtime stuff since she is too distracted to just eat her food. She'll either quit immediately or eat what he's eating. And he'll always eat whatever she hasn't finished increasing his girth even more by the day. That cat is the fattest.  He got out one night over Christmas and came home seriously injured, apparently having gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd.  He had a wound in his shoulder and was out for days. And, he had a limp for at least a week or two.  So the lack of exercise + extra food is making one fat cat. But the limp has made it so Little can get away sometimes.
    Here are some pictures that need to be documented for posterity. 

    Look- they are twins:

    Kitten just loved our tree. She always wore a thick coat of flocking she'd spread throughout the house which made for fun times for us.  But i couldn't say no to her climbing the tree. Even if i wanted to, i couldn't.

     This photo i took early on when they were still super dicey and suspicious of one another.  So it felt significant at the time. They are always battling for top spot in the cat tree.

    Cat lap

    Cat selfie

    More cat lap, looking quite demure:

    Cat in arms {sob}: 

    She's always curious and tries to start up a chat which he tries to ignore.   I don't see you, I do not see you. 

    Julian loves the kitten because why wouldn't he.

     Almost touching!

    One time either she was there first or I was, but one of us came up to the other and we shared the chair and she loved it so much that she actually seeks it out now whenever someone's there.  She'll come up to you and look at you as if to say, "share the chair?" It's the best.

    More of this please. 

    Their tails are touching(!)
      Here we are on the steps Christmas morn with our stockings.  Also there's a cat in the pic so I thought that was appropriate. Also I'm loving Julian's Christmas pants which he's worn since he was like 4 and he only pulls them out Christmas Eve.

    And a pic of the Christmas morning tree.  By the way, I was right. Julian was right. It is about the presents. We had such a great Christmas this year.  It didn't feel like too much but we each got some great stuff. And since i've been recording what i got for Christmas since I was a youth, I'll record it here. Julian got a new bike, new legos, a Wii (at long last), books and fun games and toys. I got an old timey typewriter (yay!) and a new OVEN(!!!)  I'm a real mom now. The first time I've ever really felt like one. Because I am so frigging excited about that oven. Sean got kitchen gadgets and a new fancy pot which is so fun because i've finally found a gift that makes him giddy as a kid on Christmas morn. He also got an herb garden that sprouts from pods so uses no soil, and uses a sun lamp which is great because the sun exposure in our house isn't great for growing things.  They've sprouted already and are on their way and it's fresh herbs for us!

    Here is Smalls trying to snuggle to no avail.  Big Cat bit on her ear for about a minute before he jumped down and lay on the rug in front of the chair.

    Paw-over-face sleeping kills me. 

    Can anyone tell me where the vents are located in the kitchen? I'm having the hardest time figuring out where they could possibly be. If i just had a clue of some kind. Anything at all.
    look at that chubster.

    I love creating perches and hoping upon hope that the cats will like them.   How about this, Kitty? Anything for you, Kitty. Do you like that, Kitty? Here let me raise the blinds.

    Aaaanyway.  There, got out all the pics. I feel better now.