Monday, November 30, 2009

NaBloPoMo Roundup (2009)

Is it too self-referential if I do my NaBloPoMo Roundup today, as part of NaBloPoMo? I hope not.

NaBloPoMo was a little bit harder for me this year than last year, but I didn't end up having to scrape the bottom of the blog-topic barrell like I thought I might. The way I know this is because I didn't write a post about laundry. I had the laundry post on the back burner all month long, knowing I could break it out at any time if I got in a NaBloPoMo pinch. That never happened, but I came close a few times. Seriously, laundry. I might still write that post someday. And then we can all agree that life is boring sometimes, including yours, if you take the time to read my blog post about laundry.

A chance for a new life, bypassed

I had the chance to become the mistress of a trucker today, but I let it pass me by.

We were driving from DC to Ithaca (it ended up taking us a smooth 6.5 hours). After a few hours, we picked up some food at a Pizza Hut embedded in a Pilot truck stop somewhere near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Classy, I know, but it was our one pit stop so we were stuck with what was available. When we were about to get in the car to leave, I noticed that the sandwich we bought had a time stamp on it, directing us to "request a new product if received after 10:36 AM," which I was pretty sure it was.

All of this is the long way of telling you that I walked back into the truck stop by myself and had to ask someone standing in line in front of me what time it was. The person who I happened to ask, happened to be a trucker. And he took my casual query about the time to be an invitation to a conversation.

He was from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the time zone is different there, and he was headed to Boston, blah blah blah. I put on my polite smile until I could break away to pick up my sandwich, because our conversation had at least established that it was, in fact, past 10:36 AM, the time difference in Chattanooga notwithstanding. As I was waiting for the sandwich at a separate counter, the trucker walked past me out the door but then turned around and asked me if I wanted to go to Boston with him.

Honestly, I thought he was joking, so I just kind of laughed and avoided making any further eye contact. Then he repeated the offer in a more persuasive tone and said, "are you sure?" At that point I looked right at him and said "uuhhhh, no." He replied, "well, you have a nice smile," and then left.

When I got back out to the car and was reunited with my husband and two kids, I told Jeremy how I almost left him for a trucker at a pit stop in Gettysburg, PA. It took a lot of deliberating, but I think I'll stay with Jeremy for at least another eight years. As long as he tells me I have a nice smile a little more often.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Movie Review: New Moon

If I had to write a movie review of New Moon in one word, it would be:


I haven't seen so much angst packed into two hours since high school. As in, real life, when I was in high school. In fact, I'm kind of sad I couldn't watch New Moon as a 16-year-old girl because I think I would have LOVED it. It was just so angsty. Everyone was sad and mopey and dramatic and beautiful and breaking up and having misunderstandings and almost kissing. ANGST.

Besides the angst, here are my other impressions of the movie:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback Friday: Thanksgiving memories

My friend did a post a few weeks ago about her Thanksgiving experiences in China and it reminded me of our weird Thanksgivings in foreign countries. We've actually only celebrated two Thanksgivings abroad and neither of them were particularly zany, but I thought I'd dredge up some memories for you anyway for Flashback Friday.

In Russia, we got together with a few other American expats at someone's apartment. It was one of those things where we all did our best to re-create a family favorite with the ingredients available, and some of us had more success than others. Jeremy and I brought that dessert that has so many different names, the dumbest of which is The Next Best Thing to Robert Redford. I think we only had to make a few substitutions in the ingredients. The main problem was that we didn't have an electric mixer to whip up the cream, and Cool Whip in Russia was obviously not an option. I don't think we had powdered sugar either. We did score some Jell-O pudding mix at the commissary, so that was nice.

The final product might not have been as fluffy or light as usual, but it was sweet and chocolatey and creamy and I think it tasted pretty good. Thanksgiving success.

My memories from Syria are a little fuzzier because Jeremy and I were just barely recovering from some pretty terrible spinach-inflicted food poisoning. I do remember that the senior couple volunteers made some major ingredient coups and had prepared a pretty good spread of American food for the members of the branch and our friends. My favorite was that they had actually made stuffing, albeit with a different kind of bread and a vegetable that was not celery but was the closest thing the street vendors could rustle up for them. I'm still not sure what it was, but it all tasted so good.

Strangely, I don't remember either gathering having turkey.

I'm glad we made an effort to celebrate even though it was awkward and difficult at times. Because it was also delicious, and that made it all worth it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Thanksgiving post

Let's face it, I'd rather be doing other things than write this post, and you'd rather be doing other things than read it. So I'll be brief.

The big thing I'm excited about at Thanksgiving this year is that I'm in charge of the stuffing, so I get to make it the way I want it. Stuffing is probably my favorite food, so I'm particular about it. I think everyone is particular about it, actually, so you can see how it can turn into a clash of family traditions. The way I was raised, if you put cranberries, sausage, a corn-based product, raisins, or any other abomination in your stuffing, or if it came out of a box, you're doing it wrong. YES, I realize I probably just offended 75% of you.

The only things that belong in stuffing are bread, celery, onions, poultry seasoning, and butter. Also, don't ruin it by actually stuffing it in the turkey.

Who's with me?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Boston to DC

We left Boston yesterday, headed for DC. For some reason, we had it in our minds that the trip would take 6 hours. It took about 12. Here's how.

First of all, I don't know where the 6-hour figure came from, but it wasn't correct to begin with. It's more like an 8-hour drive, so there was that.

Then there was the fact that we forgot that kids make everything take seven times as long than it would for two adults by themselves. Seriously, SEVEN TIMES AS LONG. Packing. Walking down to the car. Getting in the car. Programming Nigel the GPS (because you have to narrate everything you do to the 4-year-old in the backseat). Eating. Putting on mittens. You name it - it takes longer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This hotel is too good for me

It has come to my attention that I am not classy enough to stay in nice hotels. Courtesy of Cornell, for the sake of Jeremy's conference, we are staying in the Marriott in downtown Boston. You can imagine how much it costs.   It's not just the per-night charges, either. Everything costs extra money at nice hotels.

It's strange, because you'd think paying an arm and a leg each night would entitle you to, you know, a donut and some milk for breakfast, on the house. Or wireless internet. Or a parking spot, for heaven's sake. But no. Those things cost extra. I found myself cracking open the room service menu our first day here just to see how much it would cost for the convenience of having breakfast at the hotel. It quickly became apparent that just by checking the prices, I had already proved I couldn't afford it. Someone who can spend $25 on toast, jam, and juice doesn't need to check the price list. They just do it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Impressions of Boston and a missed opportunity

We've been in Boston for three days now, so I think I'm fully qualified to make sweeping generalizations about the city and its inhabitants.

1. Its roads are very curvy and nonsensical. Even Nigel the GPS gets confused sometimes. The worst part is that it's one of those cities where if you make even ONE wrong turn, your ETA jumps back about 12 minutes.

2. We have the ghettoest stroller in existence, apparently. Everyone else walking around town with their offspring has cute European-ish baby buggies. Almost they persuadeth me to buy an $800 stroller (but not quite).

This is your life, blog style

You know that kind of friend who you can go without seeing for years, and then when you do see each other again, it's like you can pick up right where you left off?

I love that kind of friend. And fortunately, that kind of friend is a lot more common now that so many people have blogs. Because "where we left off" now means "you know, last Tuesday when I read your blog." I love it. And I love that it doesn't have that stalker-y feel so much anymore like it used to a couple of years ago.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The world outside of Ithaca

We're in Boston today. Jeremy and I spent our 8th anniversary on a six-hour road trip and then spent the night in fabulous hotel accommodations...crammed into one room with our two kids.

Nevertheless, I do love me a good road trip. We only stopped twice, but we struck out both times. The first time, I really, really had to go to the bathroom and of course I realized the urgency of the situation only after we passed half a dozen brightly lit, conveniently located travel plazas. No, I had to choose the next exit, the one where we had to drive three miles from the freeway on winding, fast-darkening country roads to use the gross bathroom at some grimy gas station.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flashback Friday: When Bridget & Jeremy got married

Jeremy and I were married on November 20, 2001, which makes today our eighth anniversary. Here are some random, non-sentimental memories for you.

It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We both took a week off of school and work to fly up to Portland and get married here (The Portland Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints):

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Movie Review: Lars and the Real Girl

I am so excited to write this blog post. I've been looking forward to it since last Friday, when Jeremy and I watched the first half of Lars and the Real Girl. The Netflix DVD stopped working at that point and it was like torture to wait until Tuesday to receive the replacement disc. I almost jumped the gun and wrote a review of the movie anyway, on the basis of having seen the first half only. But then I decided that since there were so many ways that this particular movie could go horribly wrong, I'd better wait until I'd seen the whole thing before I recommended it.

Thankfully, my suspicions that the movie would turn out to be awesome were correct.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Two good deals

1. A couple of weeks ago, I heard about the one-day Oprah deal where if you mentioned the right coupon code, Payless Shoe Source would give you 50% off your entire purchase, no exceptions. So Miriam and I went to Payless, bought five pairs of shoes, and paid $30 total. I later returned one pair which brought the steal of a deal down to four pairs for $27, but still. These cute little shoes for Magdalena didn't cost me $19.99. They were on sale for $7, so I paid $3.50. I was, and am, pretty excited about that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

11 books that made me cry

My friend Anna is sick and requested that I recommend a good book, or tell a sad story for her. Instead, I'm going to recommend some good, sad books. Now, I may cry in stressful situations when I'm tired, or pregnant, or recently had a baby, but it's not easy to make me cry for a movie or a book. So these books are exceptional: they all made me cry.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Michael Jackson nostalgia

I realize this post is about four months late, but I'm going to go ahead and write it anyway.

Jeremy outed me in the comments of a previous post as listening to Michael Jackson. It's true. I have been listening to Michael Jackson a lot lately, including "Stranger in Moscow." Because the man has some dang good music.

To anyone who didn't actually live through it all, it's difficult to explain the extent and voraciousness of Michael Jackson's cool factor back in the day, for example, the entire decade of the 1980s and a few years of the 1990s, too. I think I can say without exaggeration that he was the. coolest. person. on. the. planet.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sabbath musings

Magdalena is officially at the age where I have to suppress a tired shudder before gathering my courage and entering the church building with her. Mormon kids don't go into the nursery class until they are 18 months old, so we're still a long three months out from any kind of relief.

Once we're inside the church building, Magdalena turns into a little hellian. She wiggles, she squawks, she scatters her snacks all over the seats and floor, she escapes from the pew and makes a break for the front of the chapel, or the back.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Magdalena the guinea pig

Since I'm a linguist, it was pretty much a dream come true when a woman approached me at the farmer's market and asked if I would volunteer my kids to be subjects in Cornell's Baby Lab research. During my time in the BYU linguistics department, I was brought up on stories of famous studies like the Wug Test.

The research they had Magdalena participate in a few days ago was similar. I took her into a room and put on some huge headphones that blocked out the researcher's voice so I couldn't hear her and pass on unintentional cues to Magdalena. At the time, all I could see was that they were presenting her with a variety of objects and asking her to put certain ones in the basket.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flashback Friday: Reflections on kindness in Moscow

Perhaps you've heard: Russia is bleak. People are mean to each other, a lot of the time. The weather is often brutally cold and dark. There are a lot of poor people there, both scraping by in small apartments or living right there on the street. Begging is something that goes on everywhere, all the time, including on the metro. For a beggar, the metro provides a captive audience that constantly refreshes itself, for a space of time just long enough to make a plea for money.

The walk to my work (top) and to the Embassy (bottom). Both very bleak.

When we lived in Moscow, it was tempting at times to get caught up in the habit of criticizing anything and everything. There was a lot to complain about. We had a lot of negative experiences there, whether it was with reckless drivers, discrimination against fellow foreigners, or the service-with-a-snarl lady at the checkout counter. (Being accused of attempting to murder my husband also comes to mind.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tamiflu, Swine Flu, and YOU (well, me)

I was going to do a post about all the quirky terms in my Google search history. Then I came across this one:

"Tamiflu baby cries all day"

and decided it deserved its own post.

(Actually, the first search term listed is "babt tamiflu cries all day," which is the kind of typo you make when you're holding your baby and she's been crying all day.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Video potpourri

I've been wanting to post a few videos I've enjoyed lately.

1. I didn't get a lot of sleep last week and one afternoon I ended up watching a lot of YouTube videos with the girls on my lap. This one made me laugh until I cried (see "lack of sleep," above).

2. My dad told me about this one. Watch out - it's addictive. It's just a creative wedding aisle dance from some normal couple. I watched it the first time and thought, "that was cute, but whatever." Then I watched it again. And again. And again.

3. Then I saw the spinoff "The Office" did a few weeks ago. Hilarious and fun to watch for a whole different reason.

4. Did you see the highlights of that ultra-violent BYU women's soccer game last week? As Jeremy pointed out when he watched it, it's not like BYU was totally without fault. But come on.

5. This one is classic.

6. My brother Steven posted this on his blog. I watched it about a million times and laughed every single time.

I just had to take a screenshot of the moment that almost made me pee my pants. What is even going on here?!?

What videos have you been watching lately?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's actually called Summer SAD

Remember when I joked about having Reverse Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder? Well, first of all, I wasn't really joking, and second of all, it turns out there really is such a thing. I found that out when a stranger left a comment on that post a few months after I wrote it, telling me so.

I was simultaneously relieved and alarmed by this knowledge. It was all well and good to make light of the fact that I felt wilted and desiccated during the spring and summer months in Tucson. But it was unnerving to realize that not only is there a name for what I was experiencing, there are other people who have the same problem. I mean, enough people casually or emphatically agreed with me in the comments section of that post, but in the real world there is a website and a support group and a New York Times article and everything.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Awkward Palmer family photos

Before I ever knew about Awkward Family Photos, my friend Britney did a post on all the photo duds she had to cast aside when going through pictures of her kids. You know, the ones that are unfocused, or where your kid looks terrible, or no one is looking at the camera, or all of the above. I sifted through the last few months of Palmer family photos and found some winners. And by winners, I mean losers.

This one seems innocuous at first, and it's fine, really, except that my sister-in-law and I ended up in no-man's-land as far as rows are concerned. Check us out - we're squatting behind the seated people and in front of the standing people, and we're the only ones doing so. We're short, but we're not THAT short.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The real American hero

The upside of not seeing movies in the theater, pretty much ever, is that there are always lots of good DVD rental choices out there. I'm not saying GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra is one of those good choices, at least not in the normal sense of the word, but Jeremy and I did end up watching it last night.

Another DVD-over-movie-theater bonus is that when I'm watching a movie like GI Joe with Jeremy, we can pause the movie while we wipe away tears of laughter at all the unintentionally funny parts, or point out the ridiculous plot points, or take a moment to predict what happens next. It's great fun. And GI Joe is the best bad movie I've seen since Van Helsing back in 2004.

Let me explain what I mean.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Disaster averted

I want you to imagine, as I did, all the things that could go wrong with the following scenario, which took place on Thursday:

I needed to have my blood drawn at the local laboratory in preparation for a doctor appointment next week. I had been fasting for 12 hours as instructed. I also had my kids with me. And I had to walk to the lab, with the kids. And it was cold outside. And both girls had been sick in previous days so they were a bit stir-crazy from being cooped up inside, and were liable to spontaneously implode into mischief upon going out in public.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Flashback Friday: Adventures in paying a phone bill in Syria

There was this one time in Damascus when Jeremy and I had dinner at the phone bill lady's house in Damascus. Does that even happen anywhere else besides Syria? It seemed so normal at the time, but kind of weird in retrospect.

We would see her maybe once every two months when we went into the phone office to pay our bill. Out of all the ladies who worked in the office, she was always the most helpful. The first time we went to pay our bill, we had no idea where to go, what line to stand in, what procedure to follow, etc. I think all the other workers just didn’t feel like dealing with some dumb foreigners at that moment (it could get very hectic in the office since, in a stroke of organizational genius, all the bills in a particular area fell due at the same time). She was very patient and showed us the ropes. Jeremy and I remained dumb foreigners in many respects, but at least we figured out how to pay our phone bill, thanks to her.

You see, the phone-bill-paying system they had going in Syria was quite interesting (you can see from the above picture what kind of infrastructure we were dealing with).

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Expectations vs. reality

All told, it took Jeremy about six years to earn his postgraduate degrees. It was a long and winding road, and at times, the only thing keeping us going was the thought of what life would be like once he had a real job. It was our way of focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel, I suppose.

There were actually lots of little lights at the end of the tunnel, but they fell into basically two categories: when Jeremy has a real job, we will have a lot more money, and a lot more time. So how is that all working out for us?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A child's prayer

I don't mean to blog about Miriam two times in a row, but I just can't resist, not today.

I think most parents would agree that the time their kids spend away from them is like a little black box. Even though it is refreshing to be away from them once in a while, after the fact I find myself almost rabid with curiosity: what did they act like while I was gone? Was it the same way they act when I'm there? What funny things did they say and do? In other words, what is my child like when I'm not there to coach and guide her?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Miriam loves preschool, and so do I

Shortly after we found out we'd be moving to Ithaca, I set about finding a preschool for Miriam to attend once we got there (here). Since I was doing all my research online, I knew I wouldn't be getting a perfect sampling of preschools, just the ones with an internet presence. But it would have to be good enough since we weren't going to be in Ithaca until late summer, by which time I was sure all the good preschool spots would be filled.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Return of the fast

For the uninitiated, let me explain the concept of fasting from food and drink, as the Mormons do it. The first Sunday of every month is designated Fast Sunday. Members of the congregation abstain from food and drink for two meals, and donate the money we would have spent on food to charity. During this time of fasting, we also try to focus more on prayer, so that we're not just going hungry.

The other special aspect of Fast Sunday is that part of the church meeting is set aside for members to volunteer to come to the pulpit and bear testimony of Jesus Christ. If you are ever thinking of visiting a Mormon church meeting, I would find myself torn between recommending you seek out a Fast Sunday to do so, and begging you to steer clear of the chapel on that day, of all days. On the one hand, some of the most heartfelt and sincere testimonies I've ever heard have taken place on Fast Sunday. On the other hand, there are weird people in every religion and Fast Sunday tends to bring the Mormon weirdos out of the woodwork (and up to the pulpit). Let's just leave it at that.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

I should have seen this coming

As I went about getting ready for church this morning, I was a little concerned about the state of NaBloPoMo, even on this very first day. I just didn't have anything to post about.

National Blog Posting Month 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 is here, starting tomorrow. One post a day, every day, for 30 days. Remember how fun last year was?

Who's with me?

(Last year it was Kristen, Chris, Nancy, and Anna. Kristen and Amber did it last month.)

Lisa Lou*
A bunch of relatives of a friend whose blog addresses I don't have*

(Asterisk denotes people I've never met, just so you know this isn't some sort of private club.)
(Please let me know if you're doing it and want your name/blog added here.)
(Steven, Suzanne, and Craig all started a blog just to get in on NaBloPoMo. Awesome!)


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