Monday, August 31, 2009

Parental Predicament

Me and son, Jackson at 2 1/2 years old.
Photo by camilynnephotography

My first son was born to me when I was not much more than a child myself. I felt so grown up at twenty, but today after attending my first day back at college in six years, it struck me just how young twenty really is. But ready or not, God sent me this boy and I needed him just as much as he needed me in order for us both to grow up.

When Jackson started sleeping in his own room at around five months, his cooing every morning served as a gentle wake up call. I would stagger out of bed and go into his room, greeting him with a smile and chipper, "Hey you!" as I swooped my baby into my arms. A month went by and our morning ritual proceeded as usual. Cooing. Staggering out of bed. A big smile and a "Hey you!" But I was shocked when my son replied back to me with a loud and clear, "Hey you!" just as if he were a little parakeet. I went to my child rearing books immediately to research when the average baby says their first words and six months wasn't even close. He continued to mimic my "Hey you!" from there on out as his vocabulary grew. I always had felt that my son was special, as most mothers do, but this was something unusual.

As he grew into toddlerhood, many adults commented on how impressive his vocabulary and ability to speak were. I always felt so proud, but inside I knew that I had nothing to do with it. I never spent time teaching him the alphabet, or eloquent words. His gift came prepackaged with his spirit. When he was three I noticed his ability to draw exceptionally well. Soon, he could draw with more detail and accuracy than even I could. Again people marveled, and I wondered how this was possible when I did not go to any special length to train him in the area of art.

When Jackson started school I expected that he would excel. The Glediator and I even wondered about having him tested to skip a grade. But things are not always what we expect them to be. Jackson had a difficult time focusing and even more surprising, fell behind the class in reading. Taking tests proved to be a challenge and my pride over my "genius" son was squashed. We worked on Jackson's challenges and praised his strengths at the same time.

Things seemed to improve for awhile. But his new third grade teachers called me in last week for a special parent/teacher conference. He is having a very difficult time focusing on simple tasks. If a set of three easy instructions are given, he will still be on number one, when the rest of the class is finished, and can't remember what number two is. He sketches dragons during classwork time, can't finish math on a first-grade level, disrupts lessons with a comedy routine, and tends to act like the leader of the pack.

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I think that this behavior might mean that Jackson has a leader's personality. He also has a creative personality and fabulous artistic abilities. He enjoys making people laugh. But after his teachers suggested I take him to get tested for a learning disability, I wonder if I should take this more seriously.

It's too soon to say whether or not this is very serious. He may just be adjusting to the structure of a classroom after such a lazy summer. But as I figure this out, I could use your help. How can I help my son without taking away the beautiful, natural born aspects of his personality? How can I help him behave appropriately in a structured environment? If any of you have been through a similar situation, or have studied childhood development, I am seeking your expertise. If you can recommend a book, a great pediatrician, or any ideas/advice, I welcome all of it. ("Birthathomemom," where are you these days?)

Love for the Ellis Family

Becky and Kelly Ellis - always up to something fun. (Was this picture taken at Pipi's in Puerto Vallarta? I love that place!)

Our dear family friend and neighbor, Becky Ellis passed away early Saturday morning after a long and very brave fight with cancer. We send much love and support to the Ellis family at this time. Becky's husband Kelly, has shown such exemplary faith and the kind of positive outlook that makes me shrink at my often pessimistic tendencies. During this time, he has every excuse to withdraw from the world around and privately grieve his loss, but in his own words, he reaches out and says:

"May you be comforted in your sorrow as we are. We are all connected to Becky in some way. All experience their own loss and need our common comfort. If we can help you, come on by."

What kind of person opens their arms to others when facing such a loss? I am so moved by this sweet man.

Today is Kelly's birthday. Though I'm sure it will be one with mixed emotions, I just want to send a shout out to Kelly to say "Happy Birthday." We love you and your family.

Becky's funeral will be held at the Oak Hills Stake Center (located next to the Provo Temple) this Saturday at 1:00 p.m.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Home Girl Chat Room

My six sisters and I have this thing we call "Home Girl Chat Room" or "HGCR." I know. We make stupid names up for things all the time. Anyway, the purpose of HGCR is to share via email, our favorite new beauty products, recipes, and discoveries of all types (many of which would be too inappropriate for this blog - unless you like talking about colon cleanses.)

I thought I would share a few of mine with you in hopes that in return, you'll share some of yours with me. So check it out:

  • Favorite cheap beauty product: Jergens Firming Natural Glow. I'm an advocate for protecting one's skin from the sun and I find this lotion a great, natural looking alternative to getting a tan. In fact, you won't look like you have a full on tan, but it gives you just enough color.
  • Favorite herbal supplement: Zyflamend. I take it to prevent waking up with a sore, stiff body. It really helps. Am I getting old? Find it at your whole foods store.
  • Favorite eye cream: Lancome Renergie Lift for eyes. I love this stuff.
  • Favorite Skin Care Line: Proactiv. You've heard Jessica Simpson and Vanessa what's-her-face say it over and over again. And now I have a testimony too. If only I got paid to endorse it.
  • Favorite Massage: Seated thirty minute massage (I like Remedez in Orem, UT). It's cheaper and way more effective for my sore shoulder muscles when I'm sitting up.
  • Favorite Indulgence: Maestro's Gelato on Center St. in Provo, UT. And if their gelato wasn't heavenly enough, now they have European pizza that is to DIE for.
Ok, I think I should post more of these later, but that will do for now. Alright. Go knock yourself out and try a few. Don't forget to let me know what you think!

Monday, August 24, 2009


Photo, courtesy of Rose Mason

I just saw on Cjane's Guide to Provo that I will be performing at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival on Friday, Sep. 4th. I'm sure glad I can tune in to what's happening around town through CJane. I'll make sure to be there. Will you join me? Come bring your pillows, blankies, loved ones and little ones to the Scera Shell in Orem, UT. The concert begins at 6:45 p.m. and the storytellers will rock your world at 8:00 p.m. (Do you think Bill Harley will give me his autograph backstage?) I will have my CDs available there as well, ya know, just in case you want Bill Harley to sign those too.

It amazes me that so many locals have never been to this festival. People fly in from around the country to attend! It is honestly so fabulous. Buy tickets here!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Secret

Can I tell you a secret?




The summer


*Photos courtsey of Jenny Winkel.

Tree Street Tuesdays: Meet Becky Ellis

Becky jokes around with me about her hair loss. Humor in the face of frailty = Becky's strength.

Remember that story I told you about the woman riding around the Tree Streets on the back of a big orange chopper? A short recap: My next door neighbor saw Becky Ellis, who has been very sick with cancer, riding on the back of her son's chopper.

What on earth is Becky doing? She's dying! She thought to herself. Then, a switch flipped and her heart corrected her:

No. She's LIVING!

That has always been Becky's style. Having been a dancer her whole life, teaching for decades at BYU, she is more sensitive than most with regards to feeling life in her entire being. She has never had the attitude that cancer would stop her from getting the most out of life, even up until her last breath. And while that last breath has felt very near several times, Becky has rallied and made multiple comebacks. However, after deciding to discontinue her chemo treatments, time is now very precious.

The Glediator and I had the chance to visit with Becky on Sunday. We sat on the edge of her bed, stroking her arms, remeniscing about Gleddy's days as a teenage hoodlam with her son, Jake. She never opened her eyes, but laughed and then cried right along with the big, tough Glediator, expressing how much fun those teenage years were. Really? I thought to myself, having heard all of the wild stories from Jake and Gleddy's high school years.

Then I got thinking about how many of us with teenage boys in our lives really dwell on "how fun they are." Sometimes, in moments of frustration, we just can't see the larger scope of things and how precious each person in our life really is.

I took my boys to the zoo yesterday. In all honesty, I was miserable. The boys were being so bratty and fought the whole time. I felt like a loser parent with no control over my children. Then I felt guilty for not enjoying taking my boys on outings. And if that's not enough, I seriously considered throwing Jackson out of the car window on the drive home. Today, rather than throwing my son out, I'd like to toss those feelings out the window and choose to focus on the few shining moments we did have. Like seeing a baby snow leapord snuggle with his mother, or the boys wanting to pose for pictures with every single statue, and even laughing out loud together when a buffalo laid some cable right before our very eyes.

Thank you for teaching me to see only the good times, Becky. Thank you for teaching me to live.

Becky's Senior portrait. Isn't she a beauty?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tree Street Tuesdays: Meet Courtney Kendrick

Courtney Kendrick with her son, "The Chief" looking out the kitchen window of Retro House.

There's this girl in my neighborhood. I don't think she has any friends and not a whole lot going for her. Poor, poor girl. So I did what any good Mormon girl would do and I reached out. I thought it might make her feel special to be a featured guest on "Tree Street Tuesdays."

If you have any idea who "this girl" is then you would know just how facetious I am being. In fact, if you are reading this blog, I don't doubt it was because my guest, Courtney Kendrick, directed you here through hers a number of times. (Thank you Ceej).

You know her.

You love her.

You can't go on breathing if you don't check her blog every morning.

So I will spare you the introduction, and let you in on a few candid moments we shared over guacamole several weeks back.

Note the trail of chips and guacamole leading straight to The Chief. Apparently he loves avocado.

Let's just be upfront and honest about the fact that I am in love with Courtney Kendrick, as is the rest of the world (who else has 3,599 friends on facebook?). Courtney says and does what we're all thinking, but without fear and with all the colors of the rainbow. From her witty prose to her multi-colored pastel kitchen floor, her style is both dynamic and magnetic.

I asked Courtney if it was ever bothersome that so many people want a piece of her. It's true. There's no beating around the bush regarding this topic. She laughed at my suggestion and expressed her gratitude for her supportive readership. If I might paraphrase her response, she explained, "I think that because I'm so open on my blog, people expect that I am very open and social in person, when, what I love the most is to be alone with my thoughts. I'm afraid that I disappoint people sometimes when they meet me in real life."

Meeting Courtney Kendrick is no disappointment, I assure you. She is just as witty, and just as genuine in real life as she is as CJane on your computer screen. But there is a part of one's artistic and personal self that one must protect. I think it's only fair to honor that part of an artist when so much of their heart is already on public display. One of my very favorite aspects of her writing is just how personal she gets. Some people aren't comfortable with "personal," and she has had her critics. Let me confess that if Courtney stopped sharing her heart so openly, I would lose interest in her writing very quickly.

Aside from her writing, the girl can SING, ladies and gentlemen! I've never loved doing a duet with anyone as much as I have with Courtney. And that is no lie. See for yourself here. If you came to either of the Nie Nie benefit concerts, then you know what I mean. Such a joy. And that is exactly what Courtney's persona emits. One hundred percent natural, pure, organic JOY. So glad to call her my friend and neighbor.

Courtney gives her all to an encore of "Smile" at the Love for Nie benefit at the Covey Center. Feb. 2009.
Photo, courtesy of Haley Warner.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Did You Know?

Photo by Russ Dixon

One thing about me that you might not know is that I am sort of a loner. Being alone is one of my favorite treats. Consequently, only a few people out there know me well enough to know that I:

1.) Am gluten sensitive.
2.) Sleep with my socks pulled over my PJ bottoms and my shirt tucked in. (Sexy visual, I know.)
3.) Used to barrel race horses.
4.) Speak fluent Spanish.
5.) Used to wear head gear.
6.) Have gone bunjee jumping several times.
7.) Love to have my hair played with more than ANYTHING in this world.
8.) Didn't make the high school chamber choir.
9.) Didn't make student government.
10.) Gave the speech at honor's night, but didn't get a scholarship.
11.) Was the homecoming queen.
12.) Tried out for Miss Provo. Not even a runner up.
13.) Signed a record deal.
14.) Left the record company to be an independent.
15.) Don't know what the heck I'm doing in life half the time.
16.) Feel like I could conquer the world if I wanted to the other half.

We all have a polished as well as a quirky side to our personalities. Successes as well as disappointments. These things shape us.

What is something about YOU that I might not know?