Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Musings on language...

I know I am not the first person to comment on this but, please people! Start saying "you're welcome" again! As most of you know, I am a language teacher (Spanish) as well as an erstwhile writer so you will understand my annoyance and some obsession. It drives me nuts that the response to "thank you" these days is nearly always, "No problem". It would seem that saying "thank you" to someone presupposes that the person being thanked is somehow "put out" or bothered by providing the thanker with whatever item or service and requires an implied apology. Not true! Saying "you're welcome" is a gracious way of acknowledging the person's thanks while at the same time expressing that it is a pleasure to provide said item or service.
Also, note to all you 30 and unders... Lose the word "suck". It is tired, overused, coarse and unbecoming. As to an alternative... well, be creative but civil.
So, I am henceforth smugly and pretentiously calling myself "Mr. Grammar Guy". Why? Because Dave Barry already uses "Mr. Language Person".

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Here's how frustrating a little miscommunication can be! Last night Carlie was at our house changing Ellena'a diaper and had run our of wet wipes. She had already asked Rachel to get her a napkin, which she did. Then she asked Rachel for another and Rachel asked, "Wet?" and Carlie repeated the request. Again Rachel said, "Wet?" By now Carlie was tired of Rachel's poor hearing! We all got a good laugh from it.
Since Scott has been on his mission in Oklahoma City (he returns home to Tucson January 10th!)Rachel has been driving the Nissan Pathfinder. some time ago I spelled out "www.duewesttrio.com" in white vinyl letters on its rear window. The License plate also reads, "DUWEST3". So as Rachel was stopped at a light an older woman pulled up beside her, rolled down her window, gave Rachel the "thumbs up" and said, "Yeah, Due West Trio! Great music!". Rachel just smiled.

Monday, December 17, 2007

new hat!

We got Ellena's hat in the mail today from Aunt Tina. As soon as I got it out of the envelope, she wanted to see it. She didn't want me to put it on her since she wasn't done playing with it.
Love love love it Tina!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

it's always time to eat

We are a bit behind on our daily pictures of Ellena. Wendy says she is really busy, so I will post a few. My comments will not be quite as funny, but bear with me.
Whenever anyone eats anything, Ellena thinks it is time for her to eat too. These pictures were taken yesterday morning, showing Daddy and Ellena sharing a blueberry muffin.

Friday, December 7, 2007

We (I) Are (am) The Champion(s)

Today at school we had the Fall Sports Assembly. The student council voted to ask me and Cathy Patterson, the Ag teacher to do "The Singing Bee" for the student body. They chose Beatles songs (heh, heh, heh). Cathy's was "Hard Day's Night" and she did really well, stayed in key, etc. My song was "Can't Buy Me Love". Yeah, I nailed it (one of my kids said he couldn't tell when the song stopped!). Then they did the hand over the head to let the audience cheer volume determine the winner. What can I say? It sounded like a 747 taking off (all modesty aside). They even gave me a "loving cup" trophy. It was fun AND it was Beatles songs!

A Month of Ellena- December 7th (or) Shrouded in RED.

We didn't have the heart to tell her that it wasn't a real molotov cocktail. She was just so adorable trying to land it in a cracked passenger-side window and yelling, "Our ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions!"

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Month of Ellena- Day 6

Trevor has trained her to not respond to any external stimuli until the commercial break.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A month of Ellena- December 5th

A real Angel. EH? EH (pronounced A...get it?!?!)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Month of Ellena, December 4th

Through several rudamentary hand signs and simple phrases, Carlie has been able to communicate to Ellena that her brains will spew forth through her mouth if she does not constantly keep her finger in the cavity next to her front tooth. Poor Ellena's unrealized dream to be a concert pianist will remain just that. She'll be resigned to playing "Little Indian Lance" with her one free hand.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Month of Ellena-December 3rd (or) "The police protected you and there were courts of law. And you didn't need a friend like me."

Bonasera, Bonasera. What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Last night a lady from our apartment complex was having an "Open House" Mary Kay party and invited us to stop by. Her name is Gigi, and she is eastern Indian. After saying less than 20 words to her, she asked me, in her thick Indian accent, where my accent was from. ?? I told her I was from here. About 15 minutes later, she asked me if I really grew up here since I had such a beautiful way of speaking. The way I made my words, she said, was beautiful, and she was convinced I lived somewhere where I would pick up an accent.
Who knew?

And..... cue the music..... we started our own blog! Check us out at: http://tucsonthompsons.blogspot.com/

A Month of Ellena, December 2nd

Day 2- Ellena shows her instinctive ability to retrieve her stored provisions in the winter months. An impressive specimen, indeed.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A month of Ellena. December 1st

Carlie has a bad habit of NEVER TAKING PICTURES of baby Ellena, so in an effort to help her step up her frequency of photographing and posting, I've decided to sponsor "A Month of Ellena", where you can visit for a new picture of Ellena every day this month! Here she is, ringing in the holiday season with a well placed piece of trimming.
Feel free to comment if you have a request for a specific type of picture. I'd like to see her in reindeer antlers. Anyone? Anyone?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Today Ellena had a doctor's appointment where I knew she had to have blood work. I thought it would be a little foot prick, but this was an IV-type blood draw! She was very sad to say the least. She cried as it went in, stopped for a bit, then cried when they took it out. I got to pick her up and snuggle her for a minute, then back down she went for a flu shot. She held very still and looking trustingly at the nurse, then unleashed when her trust was betrayed by another needle. Sweet baby girl. How can you not want to kiss those cheeks? She weighed in at 19 1/2 pounds.
I took this picture a couple days ago when she was having a nap. I believe her foot is tucked under so she can quickly sit up when she's done sleeping. Napping is only a short necessity to her- she has so many other things she needs to get done.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Italy Pictures

We just returned from our 2 week trip to Italy. Click here to view the pictures.

Monday, November 5, 2007

this is halloween

Cute chicks at the Trunk or Treat. This is Regan's smile... really!
The pictures are a bit out of order.. this one is Ellena checking out her loot. Did I have some trouble taking it away from her!!
I had to wait for Trevor to get home so I could take this picture. She was much happier here.
This was when we just barely got home, and she was so hungry. This chick waits for no one!

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Both Sarah and Tina have "tagged" me recently, strange to me since I didn't think you could tag someone that didn't have their own blog page. So, I will post on here, and quickly post pictures of Halloween so many won't feel too obligated to enter into my secret world. Apparently, I am supposed to say 7 things about me. After I read Tina's, she commented that she would be interested in reading mine since she knows everything about me. My challenge the last few days was to come up with ones I don't think she knows. My goal is majority-- she won't know at least 4 of the 7. Let's give it a go!

1. I love cooking, although I don't have really any special skill at it. (unless you count having the brownie recipe memorized since I was 14!) Whenever I start making a good dinner with fresh ingredients, I find myself narrating my own cooking show. I figure if annoying Rachel Ray can have a cooking show, I can do it too!

2. When I put Ellena to sleep, I always sing "Goodnight My Angel" by Billy Joel and "Molly Bloom" from Dad's new CD. As soon as I start with Billy Joel, she immediately lays her head down and relaxes for sleep.

3. I also love Disneyland. I've been there so many times I've lost count. Since Trevor and I have been married, we buy a trading pin each trip we take. We have been about a dozen times in the 3 1/2 years we've been married. Even then, I can honestly say I haven't ridden or seen everything there is to see! There's probably only a few I've missed, but it's interesting to think about.

4. I have an uncanny knack for remembering things, especially song lyrics. After hearing a song a couple of times, I can usually remember all the words. This is especially true for Broadway Musicals. In my mental list, I can think of about 14 shows that I could sing you the entire soundtrack from beginning to end. Dad always said he wished we knew scripture passages as well- I say make it into a musical and I am set!

5. My closet is organized by style and 'colorized'. I had to do this often while working at Dillards, thus, my clothes are the same. I can't help myself and often organize Trevor's in the same way. I don't think he has noticed.

6. I once sang "Sin Wagon" by the Dixie Chicks in a karaoke restaurant/bar. As much as I love singing and preforming, this really scared me- I was so nervous. On stage, you usually can't see the faces of the audience, but all my pals and total strangers were staring at me. Yikes.

7. And finally, I have this obsession with numbers. If I am driving down the street, for example, and see a string of numbers, I start dissecting it. When adding all the numbers, is it divisible by three? If not, what number can I change for it to be? Is it even or odd? What's its lowest divisible number? What are it's lowest prime numbers it can be broken into? Have I ever had that amount of anything?

So, there you have it. I now see after writing this that I have a bit of OCD. Actually, I told Trevor my list earlier today, and while I was cooking dinner, he asked how my show was going. I was temporarily in a commercial break.

Friday, October 26, 2007

angry and beautiful

Ellena got 2 packages in the mail this week. One was from Aunt Wendy- she sent her air freshener Halloween costume. She is one angry yellow tree!
The second was a beautiful quilt from Aunt Marcelle. We look forward to hanging it in her room.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Vacation Proxy

In lieu of going to Disneyland this week, we decided to avoid the fiery inferno and vacation at home instead. On this, the last day of our 'vacation' we got up early and spent some time on Mount Lemon. We stopped at General Hitchcock camping ground and built a little fire and enjoyed the mountain air. Ellena loved it! She was so giggley and happy. If you look closely, you can see her 2 top teeth coming in-- before the bottom ones!
The top picture was taken from Windy Point.
We miss you Grandma and Papa! I am sure Italy has some spectacular views too!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

all the new tricks

I would imagine with anyone's first baby, any new sound or movement must mean their baby is a genius. That's how I feel all the time. I think there must not be any baby in the world that does this many adorable things already. Here are the newest tricks within the last week or so:

1. She has been saying, "Hi Dada" for a while now. When I try to tell her to say "Mama", she always answers, "Dada".

2. We must have oo-ed and ahh-ed too many times after she coughed or sneezed because she will immediately follow up with a smile that seems to say, "Did you see that? It was very adorable." She will sometimes squeeze out a few extra cough noises for a captive audience.

3. Either on my lap or in my arms, she will start bouncing herself up and down. I think she loves the new control she is having over her body. She is still trying to crawl, and can reach or stretch to get what she wants, which is everything.

4. Peek-a-boo. There's not much more to say. She loves to play it, and has learned how to lift her dress up for it. I'm not sure, but this may be problematic in the future. She must not to able to stand the suspense because she goes very quickly.

5. When Dad leaves in the morning, we send him off at the door, and she will patiently wait for her kisses. Most other times, she shies away and won't let you kiss her, but she knows this morning ritual.

6. When I ask her if she wants to sing "Patty-Cake" she starts clapping. She claps through the whole song and will sometimes throw her hands in the air at the end. Even when she is wailing in the backseat on the way home, I'll ask her if she wants to sing, and I hear little pitter-claps while she briefly pauses for a musical number.

7. Lastly, just today she started waving. She will raise one hand and squeeze her fingers in and out of a fist. The best part is the same action is going on with the other hand, just not up in the air.

It is amazing to see how much she learns and absorbs every day. The time she spends on the floor playing with her toys is amazing to watch. She is so meticulous. To me, she looks like she is losing the 'baby' look and really starting to grow up. We love every minute!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

My Guilty Secret

I feel that I must confess something I did last weekend for the first time. I am not proud of it. But confession is a cleansing activity and is the first step to course corrections and efforts to change and improve. It was something I have for many years warned my children not to get involved in. I was talked into it by others (including peers) and I was , well, weak and gave in. Worst of all, I dragged Pat into it.

"It" is... Guitar Hero. While we attended Cort Nielsen's wedding reception Saturday night we ran into Deniese Beam. The kids from our church youth group had been to her house a few times and played. Our Rachel loves the game and talked Pat and me into going to Beam's house to try it out. It is SO FUN! For you uninitiated, it is a video game where you have a miniature plastic guitar with 4 or five colored buttons on the "fretboard" and a toggle-like deal where you "strum". As the colored notes come down the fretboard on the video screen, you have to press the right button and "strum" at the same time. The more notes you hit properly, the more points you accumulate. Pat did very well and I did pretty well too although being a real-life guitar player is no real advantage.

There, I did it. I confessed to a newly-acquired vice. We are seriously considering buying a Wii system when its GH version comes out. And I have always been the one to decry video games as a monumental waste of time. Maybe that was because one had not come out yet that I really liked and could get REALLY good at! Who knows but I do feel better getting this off my chest. Time, prepare to be wasted! Just so you know,I am looking for a good 12 step program. -Dave

Monday, September 24, 2007

keep those babies rollin'

Just an update on Ellena. She is nearing 8 months old, and is trying so hard to start crawling. She gets on all fours and rocks back and forth. She can push herself backwards, but can't quite get the forward motion down. I gave her a sippy cup for the first time last week. She mostly rolled it around in her mouth, until something sweet and yummy came out! She has the right idea, but doesn't quite understand it has to be tilted for it to come out.

Ellena loves to watch her Daddy play guitar. She likes the noise she can make with it.

Here is a picture of Saoirse (pronounced Seer-shuh). She is 4 months older than Ellena. We have her over 3 days a week. They are beginning to really interact and play with each other.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11th remembrance

The following is a poem I wrote one year after the September 11, 2001 attacks.


She crossed the wide Manhattan street
Like every other day
Into the tower's lobby
For another eight hour stay
The elevator opened, she pushed button 7-5
Never dreaming that this day
Would be the last she'd see alive

She heard the roar, she raised her head
And saw the plane right there
She opened up her mouth to scream
But could draw in no air
Her thoughts were filled with family;
Sweet memories gone by
The impact came, but she was surprised
That it did not hurt to die
(c) 2002 - David L. Bertoglio

My intent was in some impossible way to imagine the horror felt by these innocent folks and hoping that death came so fast for at least some that they may not have had time to suffer. Rest in peace.

Friday, September 7, 2007

sorry for the cleavage shot pops. but there's your daughter looking tough (note the matching red grip tape and tires, hot!)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

family photos

Today we took our first official family portrait. Ellena was a doll, but we learned on picture day, she only gets to eat cereal, no veggies. Picture time was cut short by Ellena showing everyone what she had for breakfast. Carrots. Now that's a great picture.
We love our baby girl.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Celebrity Status

Well, I may be 50 years old but I have finally had my 15 minutes of fame! My name was mentioned on the radio show at Mix FM 94.9 this morning. Mrs. Grant (AKA Lisa Zimprich, I have had both of her kids in Kindergarten) told Bobby and Brad that her son Jeremy had lost a tooth. He was so proud because he pulled it himself instead of letting Mrs. Bertoglio pull it at school. You know she is the tooth puller at Lineweaver! How is that for my flash in the pan???

splish splash

The water was the perfect temperature today, so we had a family swim. It took Ellena a bit to get used to the idea, but she immediately hammed it up for the camera.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Birthday Boy

Sister Ivy sent this photo of Scott yesterday. She is making brownies, without nuts, at his request for his birthday treat! I will forward the email of other pictures to everyone.

Monday, August 27, 2007

sounds good to me

"Mom, when I'm big like you and Dad, will I still get to be with you?"
"Seth, when you're an adult, you'll have your own family that you'll live with."
"But Mom! I want to stay with you and Dad!"
"You don't want to grow up and live with your own family?"
"Well, yes...I want to grow up but I want to stay with you and Dad."
"Okay Seth, that sounds good to me."

(Rather than argue, I decided to just agree with him. I'll bring this up when he's a teenager and anxious to move out and be on his own.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007


While I was perusing my pictures on my camera to be ready to print some to send to Scotty, I came across this one. I believe this was taken in the last few weeks before the Illinois Exodus. This was the pre-bedtime story with Papa in his chair bought especially for grandbaby purposes. We love you so Papa.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

just in case you wanted a better view of that combover...

this little darling can get you into a '98 camry for under 5k today!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

months in the making....

Today at the grocery store with Grandma as witness, Ellena was able to suck on her own toes! After months of cousin Jonas observations and daily baby yoga, she was able to accomplish this milestone in her life. That means no more fat jokes Aunt Tina. Ellena weighed in today at 17 lbs. 12 oz. She is in the 50-60th percentile for height and weight, but still the 95th percentile for head size. She loves to smile and laugh at everyone... she must understand it when people say she is so cute. Comb-over included.

Monday, August 20, 2007

disco ball

As my Kindergarteners were doing the Bean Bag Boogie, one of my boys said we really needed a disco ball for our dance!

a tribute to...(you know who you are)

Last night during the bedtime routine, Jon told Maryn it was time to get her teeth brushed. (She hates this.) She proceeded to walk over to the full length mirror we have hanging in our hallway and watch herself cry.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


I have been thinking a lot lately about language acquisition as I have been a first-hand witness over these past several months. It fascinates me that little toddlers learn how to conjugate verbs and create sentences simply by listening to others.Maryn has been speaking in full coherent sentences for quite a few months now, which is both to her advantage and my detriment. She is a feisty little girl who knows what she wants and doesn’t let herself be pushed around by anyone, including her older brother and me. She is also very, very sweet and a true girly-girl. Even before I had Jonas, she loved to wrap her “babies” (any stuffed animal) in “blankets” (any piece of fabric). She has more recently been very vocal about her preference for all things pink, Care Bears, Tinker Bell and wearing her pretty hair bows. Her absolute favorite song is “Twinkle, twinkle little star”. She sings this song to herself all the time when she thinks no one else is listening. When she hears the song played, either by a toy or by someone singing it, she immediately shrieks, “It’s my twinkle star!”

The following are some examples of Maryn’s adorable language.
- In general, she has a very pronounced lisp when she says words with “s” in the end: Sefferths (her brother’s nickname- Seffers), Care Bearsh (which actually ends up sounding like an “sh” sound rather than a “th” sound)
- She never says the “s” sound on words that begin with “sn”: 'nake (snake), 'now (snow), 'poon (spoon), and our favorite: 'nuggle (snuggle)
- She can identify all colors: wed, ornedge, yayo, geen, boo, puple, peenk, wipe (white- I think you can guess all of the others). She also loves to color pictures (I'm pretty sure this is how she learned all her colors).
- Since moving to Champain-Urbana (and even before!), whenever she sees the orange and blue University of Illinois "I" she says, "Oh-noy!" (Illinois).
- She calls her brothers Sefferths (as I mentioned before) and Bebe Donis (baby Jonas)
- She loves singing. Besides “Twinkle Star” she knows: “I Love You” (the Barney song), “The Wise Man and the Foolish Man” (with actions), “ABCs”, “I am a Child of God” among others. During our summer in Tucson, Jon noticed that if you sang the words to “Camptown Races”, at the end of the phrase, she would sing “Do-Da, Do-Da”. So cute. It would sound something like this:Me: Maryn is our favorite girlMaryn: Do-Da, Do-DaMe: She’s the best girl in the worldMaryn: Do-Da, Do-Da day
- Also, you can catch her singing the Star Wars theme song. Star Wars (and Lego Star Wars videogame), as you will read in Jon's recent post, are on at our house a lot lately. Jon is particularly proud of this one.
- If you call her anything: pretty, sweet, little, etc., she says, “I not a pretty (or sweet or little) girl, I "Meh-win".
- She is intrigued by bugs. When she finds one in the house, she tries to smack it with her hand and says “Got you bug!” (meanwhile Seth is running away screaming in terror). She makes no discrepancies between butterflies and fireflies and calls them both “fie-fies”.

I love my beautiful little girl.

p.s. Seth still has his moments too: He and Jon are watching Empire Strikes Back right now. When Luke first arrives in Dagobah, he tells Yoda that he is looking for a great warrior, Seth turned to Jon and said, "Dad, what is a great Oreo?" (Jon helped me with the SW details here.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Theme song for Ellena!

Carlie and Trevor's girl and our granddaughter Ellena is just starting on solid food. Carlie and Ellena were over at the house today and we just started singing about this new stage in her life. So, I sat down and wrote some new words to an old song. Carlie gave it her seal of approval. Here it is:

(with apologies to Madonna)
Lyrics by David L. Bertoglio aka: “Papa”

(Sung to the tune of “Material Girl”)

My mom feeds me milk each morning, I guess that’s OK
But there’s a different kind of food, I just found out today

It is such a new sensation, don’t know what to think
You kind of chew, swirl it ‘round, it’s not something you drink

CHORUS: Now I am living in a solid food world
And I am such a cereal girl
Yes, I am living in a solid food world
And I am just a cereal girl

I can’t wait ‘til my nap’s over ‘cause I know there’ll be
A nice warm bowl of gooey rice meal waiting there for me

Mom can’t spoon it fast enough, my patience running thin
When she pulls the clean spoon out, a full one must go in!


They tell me that there’s more flavors; carrots, peas and beets
But just be careful, if I don’t like it, I’ll spit it on your feet!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

6 months old

I took Ellena today to get her 6 months pictures. We stopped by Dillards first and got this exceptionally cute dress. She was a reluctant smiler at first, but got going when the flashes started coming! She is so proud of herself when she rolls over that is was tricky to get her to stay on her tummy.

not to be outdone...

After I heard that cousin Ellena was sitting up on her own, I thought I should be practicing with Jonas. So I sat him up yesterday and surprise! He can sit up on his own! Of course anytime he reaches for anything, he falls, so we're still in the beginning stages. I also love these pitcures because they show what a smiler he is! Jonas smiles at everyone!

The surprise photographer behind the camera for this picture was Seth (he was very pleased with himself).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

i don't want to eat it.... i just want to taste it

ellena is very ready for the eating stage of her life. she watches us drink, and wants to try it herself. unlike her cousin jonas, she loves her cereal. no matter how much she eats, she will always cry when it's gone. (why is the milk always gone?)

sitting up

Here is the new trick- sitting all by herself! I have to help set her legs to balance her, but she is a champ. She will sit until she sees something she wants, then she face-plants and wiggles and rolls until she gets it. What a bug.
After the 2nd full day of school, I can confidently say I am going to like my small class of 14 children! Even though a few kids may be spinning on the carpet, they are still sitting. A colleague has a little girl who has cried for a solid 2 days! I am blessed!

Funny story today from a former student's dad. Kenzie is in 2nd grade and I have her little sister this year. Mom was telling the girls they were born at St. Joseph's Hospital when they were driving by one day. Kenzie said, "First I lived in your tummy, then the hospital, then our house." Mom said, "You were in my uterus. Do you know what that is?" Kenzie said "Yes! And I know about Jupiter and Saturn too!" Her first grade teacher is so proud!


Monday, August 13, 2007

First Foods

I tried to give Jonas rice cereal for the first time last night (August 12). He didn't seem to like it very much. He would hold it in his mouth for a while and then spit it back at me "raspberry style". I tried again tonight, this time mixing it with applesauce, and he actually swallowed some (big suprise!).


You probably heard on the news about the Perseids meteor shower which took place over the weekend. Since Tucson is a light pollution ordinance controlled town, it is a pretty good place to star-gaze. We had a tough time convincing Rachel to join us since she had to be to work this morning at 5:30! But she came like a good soldier.

So we tossed some beach towels in the Pathfinder and headed east on Speedway a mile or so past Wentworth and pulled over to watch. Trouble is that the meteors were not supposed to be visible until after 10PM (we later found out that after 11 would have been better). We laid the towels out over the hood and all lay down to watch. It was a good while before we saw any action but finally did see a good number of shooting stars. After about 45 minutes Rachel was antsy to get home and Pat kept saying, "Just one more, just one more!"

As we looked into the heavens, the scripture came to me, "...worlds without number have I created".

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I am a vegan who eats meat. My friend brought me some treats yesterday from Trader Joe's that are non-dairy and non-egg, making them vegan. I love them since they are the only treat I can have in this no-milk phase in my life. Even the cherry chunk ice-cream tastes great. Although my taste buds could be tainted for not having real ice-cream in 4 months.

Egg Volcanoes

Seth loves eggs. He especially loves eggs that have a runny yolk. When we first started feeding them to him, I coined the name "egg volcano" to get him excited about the yummy yellow ooze that would come out of the egg when poked.

Since then, we have a ritual for eating them--a song really. Everyone in our family knows it. It's to the tune of "Woody's Roundup" from Toy Story 2:

Egg Volcanoes
Come on and eat some eggs
Egg Volcanoes
They're so good for your legs
Oh well, it's time for egg volcanoes
They're the very best
They're the rootin'-est tootin'-est 'canoes
In the Wild Wild West
Egg Volcanoooes.

It's a cute song. We all love to sing it. We've noticed, actually, that Maryn likes to sing it as well. We'll be driving along in the car and we'll hear her little voice in the back singing "egg bolcanoes..." it's cute.

You should sing it too.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Illinois odyssey

Our journey began last Wednesday morning as we left our house in Tucson a little after 7AM. Tina and Pat were in the minivan and Jon and I were in the big Penske truck towing his Honda Civic. We were in for a 11+ hour drive to Vega, Texas. In New Mexico, I told Jon that I wanted to stop and buy some Albuquerque Turkey jerky. He laughed but I told him not to because it only encouraged me! We had a great time listening to satellite radio as we drove. I was at the wheel and Jon was channel-surfing for good songs.

We got to Vega late and just wanted to get to bed. It rained that night which was a harbinger of future weather. It rained nearly our whole time in Texas which made freeway driving very nerve-wracking. On day 2 we were on the way to Springfield, MO by way of Oklahoma City. We were all very excited to stop for lunch at Toby Keith's "I Love This Bar And Grill" located in the "Bricktown" area of OKC. The food was good and we took lots of pictures (baby Jonas tried to eat his first French fry).

While there we discovered that the Murrah Building Memorial was just a mile away so we decided to go and were glad we did. It is a beautiful place, somber and serene. We came into a guided tour which had just begun and were amazed at the details of that horrendous attack on innocent men, women and children and the wonderful efforts and sacrifices of the rescue workers. While on the OKC freeway, we looked longing and lovingly at the Lawton exit knowing that is where our son Scott is faithfully serving his mission.

It seemed that almost as soon as we crossed the state line from Texas to Oklahoma, the rain stopped and the scenery turned green and lush. We noticed something there we will never see in Tucson, AZ; enormous lawnmowers cutting the grass which naturally grows in the median and along the sides of the road.

One of the challenges of driving such a long truck and trailer is that it is very difficult at times to negotiate turns, especially in close quarters. So when we arrived at the Springfield Comfort Inn (located, no kidding, on Evergreen St. fr all you Simpsons fans), I tried to circle the neighboring hotel to get back on the street but the lot did not go all the way around. I attempted to back up... well, suffice it to say that I sort of jackknifed and bent a piece of metal on the trailer. Not too serious but a lady who had just parked her car nearby and walked into the hotel came running back out when she heard the noise thinking I may have hit her car! So I just put it in drive and pulled out onto a lawn between the buildings and turned there. We had been about 10 hours on the road on day two.

The instructions for the truck said that we should only go 55 top speed. We maintained a pretty consistent speed of 63-64 MPH. But, of course, the van could travel upwards of 75-80 so we thought we would have to play catch-up most of the time but with their stops, we played passing leap-frog most of the time. Once, we had passed the van and soon it came up in the lane to our left. We look over and saw grandma Pat shooting us a fully-clothed "moon" against her passenger side window! As Jon and I laughed about it, I commented that it was a good thing it hadn't been a traditional "mooning" as poor Seth would have been scarred for life. Jon said Seth would not have been the only one scarred for life! I must say that Seth (4), Maryn (2) and baby Jonas did amazingly well on the whole 30 or so hours they were in their car seats. Just stops for potty, diaper changes and nursing. They did have their two-screen DVD movies running most of the time which kept their interest but still... Great kids!

We left Springfield heading toward Illinois and stopped in St. Louis to visit the Arch. In the first place, it is very hard finding a parking place not to mention driving a truck and trailer around streets originally designed for two-way buckboard traffic But we finally did park and hurried over to the arch with its air conditioning and restrooms! It is breathtaking but tickets for the trams which go to the top were not available for over two hours and we just couldn't wait that long. So we toured the very nice museum there and headed back to the vehicles. There and pretty much everywhere we stopped in the Midwest was hot and humid! Of course, this is not news to those familiar with that part of the country but we certainly weren't used to it! On Sunday Tina commented that she had always heard that Arizona was a "dry heat" and that now she understood what that meant!

We stopped for lunch at a unique McDonald's. It was built in an arch over the whole freeway. Pat was a little disconcerted eating while 18-wheelers rumbled under her feet! And to add to the discomfort, No A/C in the place! Ick.

On the last leg of our trip, Jon and I had a terrifying experience. We call it "the flying freeway tire of death". There was an older couple in a pickup towing a fifth-wheel. Now, this trailer had two axles and four tires. All of a sudden, the left rear trailer tire flies off and starts bouncing first onto the median and then into oncoming traffic. It bounced right near a car and mercifully, bounced over it and into the woods. It could have been bad! It did not appear that the driver knew anything was wrong and a car ahead of us rolled his passenger side window down and motioned to the driver of the pickup. Then an 18-wheeler that had seen everything, pulled in front of the pickup, put on its emergency flashers and started slowing. By now we were alongside the truck and I was going to try to box him in with the big rig but he indicated that he knew what had happened and began to pull over. As we passed, I saw the extra weight on the now one tire on the left and thought that he still might have trouble if the hub scraped the ground or the other tire blew... who knows? We were just glad to be in front of the guy and not behind anymore.

We finally arrived in Champaign in the late afternoon. We drove to the kids' new place and the landlady met us there with the keys. They live in a beautiful green, tree-lined neighborhood within sight of the playground of the local elementary school. We looked the place over, kind of wondering where we were going to fit all the stuff the next day. It is a type of a row house, four or five 3-level units in one building built maybe in the 1950's. There is a kind of small common back yard that slopes up to a back fence. At dusk, we saw something there that none of us except Pat had ever seen before... Fireflies! They were so cool! Jon said that it was a good omen! Well, except for later when we tried to turn the truck/trailer around in the cul-de-sac. There was one car in the way which prevented me from making the turn. So we had to back the Honda off the trailer, swing the trailer around, move the truck and reconnect the trailer empty. We then unhooked it in the corner of the Catholic church parking lot across the street where it stayed until Monday when Jon took the rig back.

The next morning, we headed over to the house early and got ready to unload. At 9AM the first ward member, an older brother, arrived to help us unpack. We got a bit worried hoping that someone else would show up! Of course, they did; 10 brothers including two missionaries. These two were a kind of unlikely pair. One was way over 6 feet tall and the other was a short redhead who did not look nearly old enough to be serving a mission! But we were glad for the help! Especially when they did not seem to mind carrying boxes up and down stairs.

After about 1 1/2 hours, all the stuff was inside and we set about putting it away! Pat noticed right away that in order to use the bathroom, you had to either go upstairs to the bedroom level or downstairs to the basement. She suggested to Tina a chamber pot for the main level! The rooms are small, there is no outlet in the upstairs bathroom, the lever in the tub that drains the water and lets it fill up creeps up during your shower and fills the tub, some of the outlets are not three-pronged. Just a few of the minor irritations of an older house. That night Tina's visiting teachers brought over dinner (soft tacos) and pie and ice cream for dessert! Yum!

Their ward is very friendly. Tina was a little disconcerted that everybody already seemed to know her name! Seth did great in Primary, Maryn not so great in Nursery, at least for now. After church and a delicious chicken cacciatore dinner, we drove over to the campus and walked around. It is gorgeous! Lots of green grass, old, established trees and stately buildings with white trimmed and paned windows.

At last, it was time for Jon to drive us to the Indianapolis airport for our flight home. It was a very teary scene for Pat and me. Tina held on till the end and cried a little. The kids really don't understand. I wish we had called the airline because our flight was delayed an hour, which we could have spent with the kids! Before we left, I found myself alone downstairs and I said a quick prayer to this effect: "Heavenly Father, please watch over our kids, especially now that they are so far from home." Then a thought occurred to me, they ARE home. This is their time and their adventure. Before they left we bought webcams so we can stay in visual touch.

Here is a postscript. We sat next to a clean cut young man on the plane from Indy. In conversation we found out that he was a soldier had just ended an 18 day furlough and was headed back to Ft. Riley in Kansas to return to duty in Iraq. He explained that he was stationed in a FOB (forward operations base) pretty much in the middle of the action. He had already lost 4 friends in combat. We expressed our support and admiration for his service. Pat noticed he was a little teary-eyed at one point and was looking at photos of home on his cell phone. She also got emotional thinking we had just left our kids in Illinois but that they would be safe there. She felt a great empathy for the mother of this boy (he was a boy to us). It sort of put our puny-in-comparison "trials" in perspective.