Thursday, November 29, 2007

A great, big Wilhelm scream

Have you ever wondered what your reaction would be if an intruder snuck up behind you while you were preparing dinner and suddenly grabbed you?

Well, I got to find out yesterday when my husband did exactly that.

I was in the kitchen, calmly chopping celery and preparing dinner. Jeremy was on campus, and not due home for a little while still (or so I thought). Miriam was sitting on the counter "helping," as always (which means I was trying very hard not to chop her fingers off as she grabbed at stray celery pieces). She was facing me and I was facing her, with my back to the rest of the house. Meanwhile, the microwave was defrosting some meat and the washer and dryer (right next to the kitchen area) were both going.

Suddenly, someone was grabbing me from behind. I screamed and jumped and almost choked on the piece of celery that was in my mouth. It's a good thing I happened to not be holding the knife at that particular moment. Almost immediately, I realized that it was just Jeremy, but it took me a few minutes to calm down.

In his defense, he said that he thought I had heard him come in (through the backyard, opening the security door, hanging up his bike, etc.). But of course I hadn't, because of all the noise in the kitchen.

Even though that was extremely terrifying, I think it still was not quite as scary as the only other scary prank Jeremy has played on me.

First, you must understand that I hate spiders and have a completely irrational fear of them.

When we were living in a basement in American Fork, we occasionally found spiders in sundry corners of the house. Of course, it was usually Jeremy's job to dispatch them. But one night, he was busy studying and he casually told me that he saw a small spider in the bathroom and he wanted me to take care of it. After quite a bit of protesting from me, I naively headed off to the bathroom, armed with a tissue.


I didn't see the spider, so I asked Jeremy where exactly it was. He told me that it was probably on or under the bathmat. I decided to scare it out by lifting up the bathmat very quickly.

Well, I lifted up the bathmat in one quick motion, and suddenly, there was a huge swarm of spiders scurrying everywhere. I was so scared that I ran screaming out of the bathroom.

After Jeremy calmed me down enough to talk to me, he told me that they were fake spiders, and he had planted them there on purpose to scare me. I went over to look, and sure enough, there were dozens of small plastic spiders lying motionless on the floor. They had only looked like they were moving earlier because I had lifted up the bathmat so quickly.

He's never done anything like that again. What can I say? He learns his lessons well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

At the risk of revealing how lame I can be

In case you didn't know already, they're making a movie of Twilight. Recently, they announced the actress who will be playing Bella. Her name is Kristen Stewart, and based on her performance in the one movie I've seen her in (Speak, an intense but awesome movie that most high-schoolers would benefit from watching), she is perfect for the part. I am about as excited as one can be for something like this (and possibly more excited than I should be).

It is so refreshing when the people who cast movies get something right. They do a good job most of the time, but every once in a while they make an error so egregious, so sensibility-offending that it singlehandedly ruins a movie.

For example, whose idea was it to cast Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes in the new Batman movie? Whoever it is must be on a quest to cast my personal least-favorite actresses in the role (after Katie Holmes in the first one). It also must be a totally different person than the one who was in charge of casting the rest of the movie, because everyone else looks awesome. Who would have thought that Christian Bale could dance in Newsies, give sloppy kisses in Little Women, actually accept a part in a lame dragon movie, and yet somehow portray a very menacing, convincing Batman?

Other bad casting decisions that spring to mind include Jeff Daniels in The Crossing (as George Washington!), Kevin Costner in everything except Field of Dreams (when the role he played actually fit his one acting ability: playing a bland white guy), and Julia Stiles in everything she's ever been in.

What, in your opinion, are the best and worst casting decisions you've noticed?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

You're laughing with me, right?

I just love it when someone makes fun of Mormons in a capable, knowledgeable way:



The way the missionary talks to the lady is spot-on. Somebody involved in that ad campaign was or is a Mormon, and probably a returned missionary, too.

Here's another one I like:


They even got the font on the name tags right (at least, it looks just like the font used in the logo for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Anniversary to us!


Today is our sixth wedding anniversary. We are celebrating by watching a movie (Rescue Dawn) that we picked up at one of those rental kiosks you see in grocery stores. Woohoo!

Other memorable anniversary happenings:

Our first, when we went out for dessert at Cafe Pushkin in Moscow. It's probably still the fanciest restaurant I've ever been to. And the desserts were delicious.

Our second, when Jeremy was out of town at a conference. So romantic.

Our third, when we were in Damascus and went out to eat at a Russian restaurant. That food was fine, but something we'd eaten earlier in the day gave us violent food poisoning. I will never again eat spinach, at least not if it's been cooked by an Arab landlady.

Our fourth, when we put two-month-old Miriam to bed and watched Master and Commander.

Our fifth, which I actually have no memory of. You'd think I'd at least remember, you know, the movie we must have watched.

The good news is that barring any unforeseen disaster, Jeremy will have finished and submitted his comprehensive exams by tomorrow afternoon. This means he will be able to spend time with Miriam and me again. So maybe we'll do something really ambitious and go out to celebrate. Maybe.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm it!

My friend Crystal tagged me for the "seven things" game, except I've also seen it as six. I'm going to modify it to be "five things," and it's going to be "five things that are sensory in nature that drive me CRAZY!" Because it's my blog and I can do what I want. Crystal, if I've not sufficiently fulfilled the nature of your tagging me, please let me know.

(If you're really dying for a random list of things about me, check out this post: Truths.)

Five things that are sensory in nature that drive me CRAZY!

1. I cannot stand touching, or even hearing other people touch, glass cups. It gives me shivers just thinking about it. We have nice glasses that we received as a wedding gift, but I use the cheap Target plastic cups instead. It's getting so bad that the other day I told Jeremy that he was going to have to start unloading his own glass cups from the dishwasher if he continued to insist on using them. Maybe I'll end up like Howard Hughes.

2. The smell of the streets when it rains after not having rained for a long time makes me gag. I know a lot of people love this smell, but I almost puke every time. It's a good thing I grew up in Oregon where "it rains after not having rained for a long time" almost never happened.

3. The sound of opening or closing our plastic accordion door that separated the bathroom area from the rest of our apartment in Damascus freaked me out every time I heard it. It was a sudden, loud, rattling sound that made me think there were machine guns going off outside. Yikes!

4. Sweet potatoes disgust me.

5. I hate, hate, HATE emerging from a movie theater when it is still daytime. Going from a dark, cool environment to the garish, blazing sun is basically a guaranteed headache for me.

I'll tag anyone who reads this, but you have to respond in comment form first. What makes you feel like you're going to be the next Howard Hughes? You can double up on senses if you need to.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Overheard, heard, and read

Overheard: We were at Costco the other day and I was walking down the skincare/haircare aisle. I overheard two ladies debating the merits of two different body washes. One of the ladies was telling the other that one of the body washes had "Jehovah oil." She said it over and over again until finally, her friend corrected her and said, "Um, I think it's jojoba oil." It's too bad, because a body wash infused with Jehovah oil was sounding pretty exotic to me.

Heard: Twice a year, all the Mormons in a given area (called a "stake") meet on a Saturday evening for a special edition of church (and sometimes, volunteers from the congregation run a nursery for the little ones so the parents don't have to fork out babysitting money for something as unglamorous and mundane as a church meeting. Which is very considerate, except that last time, we picked up Miriam after the meeting and the people in charge of the nursery had fed the kids Oreos and juice. Do I even need to tell you that men were in charge?).

Anyway, our meeting was tonight. One of the speakers was called up at the last minute to talk about an experience she had recently had. When she introduced herself over the pulpit, she said "Hi, I'm [so-and-so]. I'm pretty new in town. My family and I moved here from Heaven."

What the?!?!? She suddenly had my full attention. But then she backtracked a little bit and said, "I mean, a little piece of Heaven, called Alpine, Utah."

Jeremy wisecracked (any Tucson-lovers who are easily offended should close their eyes), "And now she's in Hell."

Read: I really try to make sure that Miriam has good books to read, even if some duds do slip through the cracks sometimes. These days, we're reading a book of nursery rhymes illustrated by Mary Engelbreit. The pictures are gorgeous, but the text leaves something to be desired. Check out the last page, specifically the last two lines:

It took me a moment to figure out what was wrong, because at first it just sounded awkward. Then I realized that the question mark should go after, you know, the actual question: Are the children in their beds? Because [statement], it's eight o'clock.

And now it bugs me every single time I read it. I feel like I have to conform the inflection of my voice to the punctuation in the book, and I suffer for it. Oh well. I guess we can't expect perfection in professionally published and supposedly edited children's books.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The one true yogurt drink

It has come to my attention that not everyone in my acquaintance is familiar with these:

Jeremy and I have always called these "yogurt drinks." I don't know what they're intended to be called - Actimel, maybe?

Anyway, yogurt drinks and the Palmers go way back, all the way back to 2002 when we were living in Russia. That's when we discovered drinkable yogurt, as well as its (mildly alcoholic, as we found out later) cousin, kefir. I have nothing against regular yogurt, but there was just something so...Russian about taking along a few bottles of kefir and some bread and cheese on an overnight train ride. So it was only natural that when Actimel yogurt drinks started appearing in the stores in Moscow that we would love those, too.

At first, we could buy a six-pack of Actimel for 45 rubles (about $1.35 back then). Then, as happened many times during our year in Moscow, the stores figured out that they weren't charging enough for a great product and the price went up, first to 60 rubles and eventually to 75. Not such a good deal anymore.

Fortunately, we discovered, of all things, an Actimel outlet store of sorts (really!). And it was located, of all places, just off Red Square. So every once in a while - okay, several times a week - we'd head over there and stock up on bargain-priced yogurt drinks. Why were they bargain-priced? Because they usually expired that day or the next. Thus, it was not uncommon for me to come home from work in the early evening, walk into our apartment, and see tiny yogurt drink bottles strewn all over the kitchen and Jeremy lying on the couch, whining about having drunk so many just to save them before they expired.

These delicious yogurt drinks eventually followed us around the globe, though we had to do without them for a while when we lived in Utah between stints in Russia and Syria.

But in Damascus, they showed up again, although at a prohibitive cost. Only a couple of stores in the city carried them, and I'm sure that the Saudi expats were the only ones who could afford them. I think we mostly just gazed at them wistfully as we passed them by.

Finally, America caught up with the active cultures trend, and our special yogurt drinks arrived in the States at last. The first time I saw them in the refrigerators at Costco, I could hardly keep myself from dancing with joy right there in the aisle.

Now I'm just waiting for all the additional flavors to come: orange (my favorite, but sadly unavailable around here), pomegranate (!), and blackberry/blueberry.

If you haven't tried these yogurt drinks, maybe you should give them a chance. They've never let me down.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The root of all evil

I really, really dislike Wal*Mart. I won't elaborate too much on the subject because I know that a lot of people like it, or at least shop there for low prices, or are indifferent. Just give me a few paragraphs and I'll be done.

I hadn't been there for a couple of years until recently. My sister Teresa, bless her heart, purchased a gift for Miriam's birthday at Wal*Mart but I ended up having to return it. I put off going for as long as possible but finally, I packed up the toy (it was a SeeNSay) and made the trip to our local store.

On the way there, I tried to tell myself that Wal*Mart probably wasn't as bad as I remembered it being, that maybe the intervening years since my last visit had sharpened my dislike for it undeservedly.

I got there and did what I needed to do. And realized that my dislike for that store is as warranted as ever. Sorry, folks. I tried. I will remain an enemy of Wal*Mart until further notice (don't hold your breath).

On the same subject, check out this email I got from my mom. I'll quote the words as they were written by the original sender, a cousin of hers:

We had a going away party yesterday for a lady at our Durham claims office. One of the supervisors called a Wal-Mart and ordered the cake.

He told them to write "Best Wishes Suzanne" and underneath that write "We will miss you".

As the picture shows, it didn't quite turn out right.



This would be hilarious if it weren't, at the same time, extremely unsettling.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Having my tonsils removed at age 26

In case you're wondering what it's like to have your tonsils removed as an adult (and several of you have asked me), here's the scoop.

Day 1. The procedure itself was relatively short. I checked into the hospital's surgery center at about 10.30 and was discharged shortly before 1 o'clock. As far as I can remember, the surgery itself started at 11.30 and I was waking up from the anesthesia (speaking Arabic, according to the attending staff) at 12.30.

Immediately after the surgery, before everything swelled up, I was already glad I had done it. I could tell that my throat was going to feel so much better once it was healed.

The rest of the day was kind of a blur. I was on a half-dose of Vicodin most of the time and just slept and swallowed the hours away. Swallowing was quite the chore. I had to work up the courage to do it each time.

Days 2-4. Swallowing, eating, breathing, and talking were very, very painful, even through Vicodin. In fact, talking was actually impossible for me. The problem wasn't that my voice was gone; it was that the movement of my mouth required to produce speech was excruciating. I think the whole house was covered in sticky notes by this point, filled with all the things I was trying to say out loud but couldn't.

Not only was the inside of my mouth sore, but parts of my jaw and lips were in pain, as well. I could hardly open my mouth to "eat" "food," which is what I would call slurping applesauce from a spoon. I lived on applesauce, apple juice, popsicles, and brown rice for these few days. When this is all over, I think I'll stay away from apple-based products for a while.

Day 5. I ventured out of the house for the first time to a low-key dinner at a friend's house and managed to eat some mashed potatoes. In just a few days, I had lost 5 pounds. In other developments, I was able to open my mouth enough to brush my teeth for the first time since the surgery. The pain was still bad, but it was really starting to feel more like strep throat than post-surgery discomfort.

Days 6-8. I woke up on day 6 feeling much better. The major problem now was not necessarily pain, but tightness all through my throat. Also, for some reason I was constantly yawning, which was very uncomfortable. Fortunately, I was able to expand my diet to include instant breakfast and bananas.

Day 9. I was finally able to talk again more than a week after the surgery. I also decided to try to exercise today, and managed to go for a walk, but it turned out to be too much. That night, I started bleeding. I'll spare you the gory details except to say that after a long night, it stopped, and I woke up in the morning with a trickle of dried blood running down from the corner of my mouth. Jeremy said I looked like a vampire.

Days 10-12. This brings us up to date. In many ways, these last couple of days have been the worst because of the bleeding. I had started to eat a more varied diet but now I'm back to applesauce and popsicles. But I have a feeling that tomorrow will be a good day.

In summary:
Total weight lost: about 10 pounds, some of which I'm sure is just water weight.
Total recovery time: about 12 days; probably a couple more to be 100%.
Days I had help, in the form of my mom: 5. I wish it could have been more.
Number of days I thought I would take Vicodin: 0.
Number of days I actually took Vicodin, even though it was just a half dose: 5.
Percentage of people with tonsillectomies who experience bleeding: 10%, apparently.
Movies watched while convalescent: Evita, Eragon, Cars, Little House on the Prairie, Pride & Prejudice, 3.10 to Yuma (the old version), parts of The Fellowship of the Ring, and Gone With the Wind.
Books read: none. Either my head wasn't clear enough or I was just in too much pain.

And finally, the answer to the question, Was it worth it? DEFINITELY. I am very glad I did it, despite all the pain and suffering.

Any other questions?

I'm also curious how my experience compares with that of someone who had their tonsils removed at a much younger (or older, I guess) age. I've heard it's an easier process for children, but maybe that's just because the children forget (or can't express) how painful it was.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The sign says...

Jeremy had soccer practice at a park the other night, and Miriam and I went with him to play on the playground.

This particular park has three or four soccer fields, and they are encompassed by a paved exercise path. I pushed Miriam in the stroller for a loop in a tentative attempt at exercise since having my tonsils removed. Along the way, there was a large, official sign posted that said this:

E O R M S O P A T H

Obviously, some of the letters were missing. But the spacing of the letters was such that it was difficult to tell exactly where those missing letters were supposed to go. As I walked, I came up with a couple of ideas of what the sign was supposed to say:

KEEP WORMS OFF PATH
THREE FORMS OF PATH
WATER STORMS OVER PATH

Halfway through the loop, we came across another sign that said the same thing. But this time, no letters were missing. The answer to the puzzle? (Highlight below to reveal.)

ICE FORMS ON PATH.

I never would have guessed it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A minor grievance

I've noticed something recently: the wait times on DVDs these days are terrible. By "wait time," I mean those portions of the DVD (usually when you first put it in) that cannot be fast-forwarded or skipped through, or clicked through for the menu. You have to watch them, every time you put in the disc.

They usually consist of a short montage telling us which studio/entertainment group/channel created the disc - sometimes, there are several of these, back to back, for the different companies who all had a hand in the disc's creation. Then, there are a few copyright notices, each with their own screen, often in three different languages. If it's a movie with commentary, then we get the warning that the commentary is pure opinion and does not reflect blah blah blah - again, in three languages. Sometimes, even trailers for upcoming movies are un-skippable, though I think there are fewer of those on newer DVDs. And finally, my favorite: "You Wouldn't Steal A Car."



(To which my mind always responds: "but what if they would steal a car? What then?")

In my experience, the worst offenders on DVD wait time are Bob the Builder, Baby Einstein, and anything from Excel films. The best seems to be VeggieTales (really!).

Don't even get me started on excessively animated menu transitions, which are often so wrongly billed on the DVD case as a "special feature."

And while we're talking about things that should not be called special features, here are a few, taken straight from my copy of The Last of the Mohicans:

- anamorphic widescreen (so I can see the movie)
- interactive menus (so I can select "Play Movie")
- scene selection
- Audio: DTS English (so I can hear the movie)
- Subtitles: English, Spanish

I think we can all agree that the above items should be considered "standard," not "special."

Just so we're all clear on my high personal standards for a DVD. Thanks.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Aw, fer cute...


The other day I was lying with Miriam on the bed, trying (in vain, as it turned out) to get her to take a nap. She was jumping around on the mattress instead of resting and accidentally bonked her head right into my forehead.

The stress and frustration of not being able to get her to sleep, combined with very real pain at the impact, caused a few tears to roll down my cheeks.

Miriam saw that I was crying and her natural, toddler empathy kicked in. She said, "kiss better?" and gave me one. Then it was "a big hug." That helped, of course, but I still had tears on my face. So she took her blankie and awkwardly dabbed my cheeks, saying, "no more tears." Finally, she tossed out one of our favorite lines to use on her, with a twist: "Don't be scared; Meme [Miriam] is here."

I guess I've got nothing to fear. I've got a 2-year-old looking out for me.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

My husband's new favorite movie



(Ha ha, love, just kidding. I wanted to make sure I had your attention!)

I picked this DVD up at the library the other day on a whim, in preparation for the Great TV-Watching Marathon of 2007 (aka, me getting my tonsils removed). I am mildly familiar with the old Michael Landon version of Little House on the Prairie, but extremely familiar with the book series. In fact, I remember the day in fourth grade when I found out that those books were technically fiction. I still haven't gotten over the shock and disillusionment.

This new Disney version is nothing special. The production values are quite good and the acting is above-par. And perhaps the source material is partly at fault, but it seemed like the entire 4-hour drama went something like this:

- Cute prairie girls do cute pioneer things, until
- Something Very Bad or Scary happens, and then
- Girls get sent into the house, often "right now!"
- Pa takes care of it, unless he's in town getting supplies, in which case Ma takes care of it.
- Girls continue to play pioneerily, until
- There is something Very Bad or Scary to talk about, adults only, and then
- Girls get sent into the house to "wash up" or "get supper on" or "do chores."

I actually liked it more than it sounds like I did. But probably not as much as Jeremy.

Because through a Vicodin-induced oversight, I had my mom return the DVD to the library before he was done watching it (I didn't even know he was watching it). On Sunday morning, when I woke up, I found out that late on Saturday night, he had called Blockbuster to see if they had it in stock, gone there, spent time looking for it, swallowed his massive male pride and asked an employee for help (but I heard he said it was his mother-in-law who wanted it), and then spent $4.00 to rent it.

I hope it was worth the trouble, Jeremy. You'll have to let us all know.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

That's the word I'm looking for

I was at Home Depot the other day. Yes, Home Depot (and not Lowe's) because the other store we had to go to shares a (massive, sprawling) parking lot with Home Depot and I wanted to stick it to the man by walking in between errands.

Also, does anyone else call it "Home Despot"?

I was looking for one tiny item; namely, these:

So after spending the better part of 10 minutes tracking down a customer service representative - and when I found one, I found four of them, huddled together. I don't think they should hang out in packs, maybe that's why they're so scarce in the actual store? - I asked where I could find said items.

But I couldn't remember what their actual name was. So I asked where to find "those white plastic things that police use as handcuffs at riots and stuff." After they all had a good laugh at my expense, one of the employees showed me to the right place, and also told me that they're called "zip ties."

Come to think of it, there are quite a few things in life that I either don't know the name for or I do know it, but I've been pronouncing it wrong all my life. Sometimes, these errors are caught by trusted friends before I expose myself to general ridicule. Other times, I'm not so lucky. Recent occurrences include being told that Reuter's is pronounced "Royters," not "Rooters;" that the "t" is silent in both "Colbert" and "Report" (how could I have known that one?!?); and that all this time, the book's title is Far From the Madding Crowd and not Far From the Maddening Crowd.

At least now I know. And knowing is half the battle.

Friday, November 02, 2007

On a dark and stormy night

Two days late, here is the story of one of the scarier things that has happened to me.

It was the summer of 2003. Jeremy and I had been married for a little over a year and a half, and we were living in American Fork, Utah, while he finished up his MA at the BYU. Specifically, we were living in the basement apartment of my great aunt and uncle's house, a beautiful, gigantic (but older) house just south of the Mount Timpanogos Temple.

At that point, in all our 20 months of marriage, Jeremy and I had spent only one night apart - and that had been just a few weeks earlier at a scouting campout. So although I had accompanied him to Middlebury College in Vermont for the first week of the conference he was attending, I had to get back home to start teaching LSAT prep classes. That meant spending a week at home in AF without Jeremy.

I don't consider myself a scaredy cat in the technical sense of the word. I think my main problem is that my imagination is too vivid. And despite my worst fears, the first two nights without Jeremy went by without incident.

The next night, at 4am, I was awakened by someone pounding on our door. Not knocking, pounding. I was terrified, and ran straight upstairs to wake up my aunt and uncle.

My great-uncle had heard it, too, but thought nothing of it (!?!?!). My great-aunt insisted on checking things out. So I hung out inside while my elderly (upper-80s) relatives established a perimeter around the building. When they came back inside, they said there was nothing. They even suggested that it could be someone who knew that Jeremy was out of town and was just playing a prank (his Sunday School class of 10 13-year-olds somehow immediately sprang to mind at that suggestion...).

But we were ready for them - whoever or whatever it was - the next night. I slept upstairs that night, and my aunt and uncle set an alarm to wake up just before 4am. Sure enough, right on cue, someone was downstairs pounding on the door. But by the time we got down there to investigate, there was no sign of anyone.

The third night, my aunt and uncle took it a few steps further. Remember that we are talking about elderly people here, and try to picture this: first, they spread flour around the basement entryway to catch the footprints of whoever it was. Then, my uncle waited hidden, outside, with a baseball bat as a weapon. Finally, my aunt was inside with the phone in her hand, ready to call 9-1-1 (yes, just like on that episode of the Simpsons).

At 4am, someone was banging on the door again. The problem was, my great-uncle was out there and could see that there was no one there!

I think we all would have been even more creeped out except that by chance, my aunt and uncle mentioned the situation to their daughter later that morning. Immediately, she volunteered that the noise was probably related to the new sprinkler system she had just put in at the house. Apparently, she hadn't finessed it as well as she could have and she guessed that some of the pipes were banging and making it sound like someone was banging on the door.

Sure enough, that's what it was. By nightfall, we were all laughing about our "nighttime visitor."

But that doesn't mean I slept downstairs in the basement by myself right away. Nope. I waited until Jeremy got home a few days later. And we've hardly spent a night apart since.

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