Merry Christmas from Dick and Jane, with pictures

Here’s the Christmas letter we sent out. If we missed you, please send me your address, and we’ll catch you next year.

Our Family 2007

Well, we’re not much closer to Australia this year, but we are in Zion. Utah, that is. The good news is that Tom got his dream job at the LDS Church. The bad news is that everything else is pretty much the same. We have the same frustrations, satisfactions, and sometime-potty-using-three-year-old we always have. And, it’s like Siberia here.

Our recent discoveries include: Spot – how to give slobbery kisses; Susan – going potty is worth a jelly bean; Sally – reading, reading, reading; Jane – Sally will probably be taller than me in about a year; Dick – working at a secret government facility (DPG) is not really that exciting.

And then we ended with a shameless plug humble invitation to see our blogs (Dick’s is www.idratherbewriting.com) for more happenings, pictures, and even the occasional video. We’d love to hear all your news: send us an email or give us a call, or a comment, especially if you live in Utah and want to come over for a yummy dinner.

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Typhoid Mary of Taylorsville

We’ve been lucky in making friends with a family in our apartment complex and church who have two daughters and a lot in common with us (like a love of Indian food and Ikea). Oh, and now we’ve shared our strep with them. I’m pretty sure we’ve violated some friend-hospitality-sickness-quarantine rule of etiquette. After all, we were sick and now they are sick.

But, really, the medical community has failed me. Operating on the 3-5 day incubation period and the you’re-not-contagious-after-24-hours-of-antibiotics rule of thumb, I exposed a three-month-old baby to strep. Man, I feel awful.

When we were in Cairo we had giardia and amoebas. We didn’t get very sick, just had to visit the bathroom a million times a day. Other families we knew were near death with giardia. In this case, at least, we didn’t pass giardia along to any of our friends, despite having a big Thanksgiving shindig at our house.

On the one hand, I guess it’s good that we are pretty healthy or pretty not tied to our beds when we’re sick, but on the other hand, it’s probably a bad thing that we feel like socializing when we should probably still be moaning on the couch. Good thing no one gets chicken pox anymore. We’d probably spread it to the entire city.

Recent kiddie-isms

Sally had a question for me at the dinner table a couple weeks ago. It was: “Mom, are you going to be something when you get a little older? Like when you’re thirty-one or something?” Dick tried to tell her I was a mommy; Sally said, “but she just stays at home all day.” Out of the mouth of babes, I tell you.

Susan used to be overly-honest, by which I mean that she admitted to every wrongdoing, including some I’m not so sure she was responsible for. Recently, though, and unfortunately, she has learned to be more creative with the truth. The other day I asked her who opened the bag of marshmallows, and she said, “Sall–” (remembers Sally is still at school) “Spot did it.”

Spot’s a little more advanced communication-wise than her sisters were at 14 months. She can say almost anything in a special morse-code-type system of grunts. She understands my answering grunts, too. Oh, and we nod our heads and smile. Perfect understanding.

Further proof (as if it were needed) that the 80s were a golden age for music

I have to say that Florida has better beaches than Utah. But Utah has much better radio stations. I’ve been listening to 101.9 The End since it used to be 107.5 The End, which made a lot more sense, since 107.5 is much closer to the end than 101.9. Anyway, it’s kind of embarrassing to admit how populist my taste in most things is, but there you have it.

So imagine my chagrin when one of the deejays was dissing the 80s as a bad time for rock-n-roll. While I do agree that Nirvana and Pearl Jam did good things in the 90s, one can hardly dismiss the contributions of even one-hit-wonder 80s bands. After all, those great 80s high school movies (Some Kind of Wonderful, The Breakfast Club) would hardly be as mesmerizing without their fantastic soundtracks. And Flashdance, which I have rediscovered thanks to Clearplay, has some of the greatest music of all time, except for that obligatory weird song that occurs in every musical-type show that you just have to fast-forward. What is up with that?

As further proof, I offer the original benefit single, Do They Know it’s Christmas? from 1984. The songwriters heard about the famine in Ethiopia (remember: “finish your dinner, there are starving kids in Ethiopia”?) and wanted to raise awareness and money. This was before celebrities realized how easy it was to just adopt from Africa. Could the same song have been written in the 90s or this decade? I think not. For one, it’d have to be more politically correct, something like, Do they know it’s Kwanzaa?

Here’s the video.

What would I do without wikipedia.com, imdb.com, and youtube.com? Probably a lot more around the house. Trivia: Bono didn’t like the line: Tonight thank God it’s them instead of you. In protest, or something, of the sad fact that, however much we might empathize with the poor, we have no desire to switch places, he sang it an octave higher, and thus immortalized it. David Bowie was supposed to sing the first line, and it’s a shame he wasn’t there to record it. Still, overall, I get a bit teary, and I want to dance, all at the same time.

“This is a proud, proud day” (Dumbo), or, I’ve never been so sick with fear

Last Wednesday night our branch president (pastor) called and asked us to speak in church. Dick, smart man that he is, asked me if that was okay BEFORE accepting for the family. He told Sally she would be speaking too, and Sally told me all about it the next morning as we got ready to leave for school. She was very grown-up about her assignment. She only had four days to prepare, she said, and she wanted to make sure one of us could help her write her talk and stand by her as she gave it; she was apprehensive but not afraid or desirous of shirking.

I told her to think about our topic while she was at school and try to come up with an appropriate scripture story. We wrote her talk that afternoon (I confess I did the typing). Then Sally practiced, and practiced, and practiced. I was afraid that now that she can read she wouldn’t try to memorize her talk, and as everyone knows, the absolute worst thing to do when speaking publicly is to read your words. If you’re an emotive reader and/or can intersperse lightning glances at your paper with long stretches of eye contact (what I do) it might be okay, but for a new-ish reader still working on her expression, energy, and enunciation, it would have been death.

But at first memorizing that whole long thing seems impossible. So I promised that she could have her paper on Sunday, as long as she’d keep practicing in the meantime. I showed her how to pick out key words and try giving her talk using just those. That’s maybe a hard concept for a six-year-old. I had her read it out loud over and over. Finally, I had her look at each sentence but look up to say them.

On Sunday morning I had her say it a few times for the video camera. At church we sat on the front row and Dick and I scrambled to make final notes on our talks during the opening hymn. Spot was insane, trying to get on the stand, tripping up the Sacrament passers. Our pews are the most uncomfortable church seats known to man. They are too high, even for a normally-heighted person like myself, and they slant up towards the knee, so the middle of your thigh is bent around the edge as your feet dangle heavily.

During the announcement of speakers, Sally whispered to me that she wanted to go up by herself, no paper. I said ok. Those few seconds it took her to get to the podium, get the microphone adjusted, and begin were the scariest of my entire life. Well, except for that time I thought some guy was following me from the Subway in New York.

Sally did the most fantastic job. Here she is, Miss America:

What I would ask Mitt Romney if I were concerned about his Mormonism

I don’t know why he hasn’t been asked this question, or, if he has, why his answer hasn’t gotten media attention (not that, of course, it has anything to do with his fitness for running the nation, but, if I were hoping to complicate things for him, I’d want to ask). Why hasn’t anyone asked him this? Especially in light of his recent, Founding Fathers-quoting speech on Faith in America?

Mr. Romney: Do you believe that the Founders are now members of your church?

See this talk by President Benson if you don’t know what I’m talking about.