I Should Have Been a Boy Scout

We got a Dutch oven for our wedding, and naturally, we were too excited to wait for a camping trip to use it. Fortunately, we have a fireplace in our apartment (jealous?), so within a month of being married, we started cooking in our own fireplace.

It. Was. So delicious. Pork ribs and potatoes. Peach cobbler. Pork ribs and more potatoes. Peach and pineapple cobbler. More pork ribs.

Okay, so maybe we don’t really have the variety part down yet, but we’re too poor to buy fancy shmancy meat. But in the meantime, we’re getting really good at making pork ribs and potatoes.

And by “we,” I mean that Ethan is really good at making pork ribs and potatoes. Because for the most part, all this fireplace cooking has been his arena. I mean, I can light a fire – you give me matches, I can light just about anything on fire – but I think Ethan’s got good reason not to trust me with matches. And Ethan is really good at fire-building. And Ethan already knows how to cook in a Dutch oven. Excuses, excuses, and I don’t have to do the cooking.

But this week, I finally put my foot down and told myself I had to learn how to use this thing. I mean, it cooks delicious food. Why would this ever be a bad skill to master? Never, I tell you.

So I told Ethan that I was going to cook dinner in the Dutch oven. “Do you want me to show you how to use it?” he asked.

“Nope.”

“Do you want my help building a fire?”

“Nope.”

“…Do you want any tips on how to build a good fire before you start?” 

“Nope.” I’m stubborn. Ethan is a teacher at heart, and I could see him deliberately biting his tongue. I think he really wanted to share all the cool stuff he knows about fire-building. I also think he wanted to make sure that dinner didn’t end in blackened, inedible barbecue sauce and tears. But I was stubborn, and he was patient; he told me how to oil the oven so it didn’t burn everything, and from that point, he left me to my own devices.

I brought in some firewood and sat in front of the fireplace for a minute, kind of trying to map out a good fire. I thought back to girls’ camp when I was a teenager. And some family camp-outs. And that one month I crashed Cub Scouts, because my dad was a Scoutmaster and I was a tomboy. I put together something like a “log cabin” with a “lean-to” on top of it. (I think that’s what they’re called.) Then I stuffed some crumpled paper underneath and lit it.

And it totally worked! I had a good fire in only one try! Ethan looked impressed, and a little relieved. I put together some barbecue/sweet-and-sour sauce from one of my mom’s recipes, changed the measurements to make it a little thicker, and put some chicken drumsticks in the Dutch oven covered in spicy goodness. Took some coals out of the fire. Tried my best to imitate Ethan when he cooks in the fireplace. Made some rice on the stove in the meantime.

And guess what! I didn’t burn the house down. And I didn’t burn the chicken. And I only filled the living room with smoke twice. And I managed to cook some pretty darn good chicken, first try, no fatalities. I’m so impressed with myself!

Those Cub Scout days must’ve paid off. Either that, or I’ve got a guardian angel watching over my dinner table. Either way, I’m crazy proud of myself. ♦

Book Duel: Dandelion Wine

dandelion wine2

I want you to think back to your childhood. Picture the summertime, when you’re about ten or twelve. Remember the smell of the fresh-cut lawn, the egg you fried on the pavement, the worm-covered sidewalks after the rain, the grape Popsicle you dropped on the sidewalk, the rhubarb pie Grandma made on Sunday.

Now take all those memories , put them all in a bucket, and scatter them like glittering marbles on the floor. Ray Bradbury’s writing is like watching an old man slowly strolling through a sea of these marbles, picking them up one at a time and reliving them, then carefully putting them in a small bag to take home, savor a little longer, and then share with a child who needs them.

Dandelion Wine is, by far, the best book I’ve read this year. And it’s definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you’ve never read Ray Bradbury, repent. Most of his work is science fiction, but even if you’re not all about sci-fi, Dandelion Wine is just a beautifully poetic look at childhood, growing old, and the way life should be lived. ♦

Dandelion wine

A Shaving Mishap

I’m cheap. And when I say cheap, I mean that I have some pretty serious scars on my ankles from back when I insisted that it was worth the shaving cuts to buy one-blade razors, just because they’re cheaper. (I eventually relented and switched to two-blade razors – but only after factoring in how much I was spending on Band-Aids.)

Anyways. Point is, we went to visit my parents over the weekend, and I kind of fell in love with the three-blade disposable razor. With a flexible head! Such luxury. And since it was disposable, and I was pretty sure my mom was just going to throw away said used razor, I brought it home with me. 

And now I’m being punished for my sins. I don’t know if taking a disposable razor from your mom’s house really counts as a sin, but I’ve definitely got some bad karma going on. Because I can’t think of any logical reason that shaving your legs should result in a bleeding gash on your left buttock. I wasn’t shaving anywhere near my butt. I was shaving my shins. Shins, people. I was shaving my shins – and apparently, I must have been dancing or gesturing wildly or something, because next thing I know it, my butt’s bleeding pretty badly.

I assume that anybody would be a little embarrassed asking their spouse to help them bandage their butt. (I hope nobody but myself has personal experience here, but you know, sometimes life sneaks up and does weird things to you.) Trying to explain how the cut got there is only going to make it worse. And then, suddenly, you realize that the only Band-Aids in the house are the awesome, hipster kind with mustaches printed on them.

On any other cut, this would be awesome. But this morning, I cut myself shaving my legs, and ended up with a mustache on my butt. How do these things happen – and how do I get them to stop? ♦

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Life as a Single Duck

It’s spring, and all the ducks are in pairs now. Ethan and I went walking past the duck pond, which was empty. By the sides of the pond, little ducky couples just sat, sleeping. Probably waiting for the hen ducks to lay eggs, or for said eggs to hatch. In the park, there were little spots on the grass where mallards and hens were sleeping, side by side, couple by couple. I’ve heard ducks mate for life. At any rate, they’re adorable. And I don’t mean “cute and fluffy” adorable – but adorable in the same way that old couples holding hands are adorable.

duckcouple

Then Ethan and I noticed something. There were a few mallards just kind of sitting on their own. Or wandering around the park aimlessly. Or floating lazily in the pond. No hens. Just mallards. We realized that there was an uneven number of ducks – about a dozen too many mallards – which means one of two things has to happen: either a couple of these hen ducks go Jersey Shore and forget the whole monogamy thing, or these poor mallards just get used to being lonely this season.

Maybe I’ve spent too much time in single-and-trying-to-get-married wards in a college town, but I instantly felt a little sorry for these ducks. Biologically speaking, the whole point of surviving to adulthood is to propagate the species. And here these guys are, frustrated because there are literally not enough girls to go around. I mean, I’ve heard that excuse from humans before, but now there’s match.com. These ducks may not even know there are other ponds.

We started narrating what we felt the lone mallards were saying to one another. Things like, “Dangit, Rosalee, that guy’s nowhere near as good-looking as I am. You don’t know what you’re missing.”

Or the really creepy, jealous mallard: “Yeah, yeah. No mate this year, whatever. But next year, I’ll be dating Rosalee’s duckling.” Cradle-robber.

Or simply guy talk between single mallards. “Hey, Doug. You watch the game yesterday?”
“Yeah. I got a pretty good seat up at the bleachers. Some kid gave me a hot dog bun.”
“Meh. It’s better on TV. Lucky score with the hot dog bun, though.”
“Yeah. You wanna go do something?”
“Nah. I just figured I’d float in circles a bit.”

Or, you know, maybe I’m just thinking a little too hard about this. Maybe ducks don’t sympathize with the human college experience as much as I think. But they are Botany Pond ducks. I mean, they live on campus. The pond is practically a ducky dorm. And they might not follow the BYU Honor Code (these ducks were stark naked, I tell you!), but they looked pretty bookish to me. I’ll bet they know more than they let on. ♦

 

The Topics of Our Childhood

I’ve decided to start writing a book. The entire contents of this book will be stories about me and my family growing up. Most notably, my (only) brother, who has Down Syndrome and Autism, and who has inherited my father’s destructive sense of humor. And I find myself at a difficult point, where instead of trying to think of funny stories, I’m thinking of whole genres of funny stories.

In most families, there are certain “coming of age” stories that are commonly told. Nearly every family has a broken window story, sleepwalking story, a house-flooding story. But in my case, I’m sitting here thinking, “I could tell about a broken window…” and then I try to decide which broken window. Do I tell about all of them? Because there are over 13 stories here. Do I just tell four or five of the most amusing? Or do I just have a whole chapter devoted to window replacement?

And if I devote the whole chapter to window replacement, do I have to do the same thing for toilet replacement? Or poo stories? Or disappearing pants? Will I ever be able to tell just one story?

If you ask for really warm, fuzzy, sappy, positive growing-up stories, you’ve probably come to the wrong place. It’s not like my childhood wasn’t warm, fuzzy, and positive – it’s just that it was a lot less fuzzy than hilarious, and a little less sappy than creatively destructive. I know at least 50 ways to clog a toilet.

Here are a few of the topics I’ve found that – I’m starting to realize – probably aren’t whole “topics” in other households:

  1. Clogging the toilet with household objects
  2. Clogging the heat vents with household objects
  3. Clogging the garbage disposal with household objects
  4. Clogging the vent exhaust of the dryer with household objects
  5. Household objects, and their effect on the inside of a dryer
  6. Household objects, flung through windows
  7. Clothing items hidden in unusual places
  8. Clothing items that should probably be worn in public
  9. Clothing items thrown from the backseat window of moving vehicles
  10. Clothing items instantly ruined by ripping out tags
  11. Poo, and its many creative uses
  12. Things found stuck to the ceiling
  13. Things not to do to the dog

That’s all I’ve got for now. This alone could get me about 15 chapters+, if I choose to use all the stories that come to mind. I’m sure our family must have some stories about all of us behaving like proper, civilized people – but then, those stories have probably been lost to the ages. Alas. We shall be remembered as a generation of destructive genius. ♦

 

Sneaky, Sneaky Spiders

This morning, as I got out of the shower, I saw a little black dot hanging just above the hand towels. I didn’t have my contacts in, so I had to stare at it a moment to figure out what I was looking at.

Then it slowly descended until it was hidden behind the pink hand towel. Ugh.

“Ethan? … I’m naked and afraid! Will you come kill a spider?”

I peered behind the hand towel to see if it was hiding in the soft fluffiness. Strangely, it wasn’t. It was still just hanging there, hiding. Lets all curled inward, holding still. You can’t see me if I don’t move, it said. I disagreed.

And then it started stretching, one leg at a time – and I got all creeped out and had to leave the room. This spider was about as big as my face.

Well, not really. More like, as big as a quarter – but on a technicality, that makes him as big as George Washington’s face. Point is, it was spindly, black, big, and creepy.

One husband, two shoes and some clever spider-mashing later, it is dead. Good riddance. Happy April Fools day, creeper. Nice try. Flush. ♦

Angels, Vikings, Flags, and Stuff

Today we ate lunch with my mom and brother at the train station. As we walked home around 2pm, we passed by the site of the new Provo Temple, still under construction, and suddenly Ethan remembered they were putting the Angel Moroni on top at 2:30. The “Angel Moroni” statue tops many LDS temples, a symbol of an ancient prophet blowing a fanfare, announcing the gospel to the nations. We sat on the steps of the courthouse building across the street, where over a hundred others huddled and talked. As we watched the crane and construction workers maneuver the statue into place, the crowd started singing “The Spirit of God” and other hymns. I had a sore throat – so I only hummed along – but the whole experience gave me chills. It was beautiful, and when the statue rested safely on top, facing east, a few kindergarten-age kids started clapping and cheering, and everybody joined in. I’m glad we stopped.

I’m also glad we stopped on the way home to see a shop I’ve explored before. I keep trying to get Ethan into this store, and for some reason, we just never make the time. Well, today was that day!

The store is called “Flags and Stuff.” And that’s what they sell. As you go into the store, you walk slap-bang into a display of brass sculpted Viking warriors. And then you navigate your way around a display of dream-catchers and a shelf of Duck Dynasty paraphernalia and find that the entire right-hand section of the store is devoted to international flags.

Like, seriously. Just flags. Name a country. They’ve got it. Cambodia: check. Ghana: check. Chile: check. Pirate: several. And in just about every size out there. Ethan went into Spanish-teacher mode and started rationalizing that, as a future Spanish teacher, all of these things would be useful in his classroom…therefore, he should be able to buy all of them, right? I played “budget good guy” for a while, reminding him that we couldn’t afford all of the flags…

And then I reached the left side of the store. Remember how the right side is all flags?

America. The left side is all America. And not just ‘Murica-style bumper stickers. I mean real, old-fashioned, classy America. As in, I can pick up a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence to put on my wall for 8 bucks. The part of me that wants to be a history teacher went a little crazy. I think the lady who owns the store thought we were funny. We were geeking out all over the place.

Now let’s talk about the owner. Her name is Roseanne. She introduced herself, helped us find stuff, told us all about the shop, told us she’d love to have us help out except she can’t afford to hire anyone right now, and told us about her husband Stan. Stan recently fell down a ladder, broke an ankle and hurt his back, and without insurance (ACA complications), they’re putting things on massive sale to get inventory moving and raise the money to pay for the hospital bills.

Which means two things:
1. Everything in this store is ridiculously cheap. Which makes me want to buy everything in it.
2. Stan and Roseanne are great people, and their store needs more publicity. Which makes me want to drag everyone in there and just freak out all over again.

As we checked out, Roseanne gave us 50% off a book (that was already on sale), just because she couldn’t see charging the full $4 for a book on Chinese history. Then she gave us her business card. And a few postcards with the picture of the Provo Temple we saw earlier in the day. And a free 2014 calendar. We spent $15 total and walked out with two baseball caps, a history book, and a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. (Two dollars, people. Pocket constitution. Two dollars. And if you buy over 50, they’re only a buck apiece. I was so tempted to buy more than 50.)

Pirate flags. Bronze Vikings. Old-timey American souvenirs. Foreign keychains. Greatness. If you’re in Provo, go now. It’s on University Avenue. ♦