Travis Stratford. A Birthday Quiz.

No one loves a birthday more than Travis. Not because of the presents... oh no. Although we did manage to surprise him this year with a few things. New towels and about 5 umbrellas (he's a big umbrella loser), and my mom got him a keypad for our garage door opener which will be very helpful since he refuses to carry a house key. No, Travis isn't in it for the gifts. He loves the attention. His grandma always had everyone go around and say something they like about the birthday boy or girl, and this is a tradition Travis has kept going strong on Dec. 27th, each and every year. Our friends now know what is expected of them, and they come over prepared to heap praise on Travis and try not to repeat anything that was said in years' past.

This year, the ante was upped by none other than Erin Wright, who delivered not one but THREE Travis haiku poems. I wish I had her reading them on camera... it was hilarious. First she gave us a bit of information about haiku poems. Of course we all know they should contain 17 syllables, but she also told us that they should mention the weather and have an abrupt ending. So she would read one, wait for the laughter to die down, and then pause and say, "I'll read it again." They all really did need a few readings so you could get the full meaning. Here is my favorite:

A Ride to the Train
I'm late, driving
Max singing hard behind me
look! there's Travis

Oh yes, it was awesome. I think next year we can expect our friends to walk in with powerpoint presentations and all kinds of stuff to proclaim their love for Travis. And he deserves it all!

In honor of his special day, I thought I'd do a Travis quiz. This way, you can test your knowledge of the man we sometimes call Trav-Ass. When we think we're being funny.

1. Trav's hair color is:

a. brown

b. blonde

answer-b. Regardless of the color it may appear in these photos, everyone knows that deep down, where it counts, Travis is a blonde.

2. Trav's favorite movie is:

a. First Knight

b. Twilight

c. Star Wars

answer-c. Please. Of course it's Star Wars. We have a Religious Only movie policy on Sundays, and this includes Star Wars. One afternoon Travis spent about an hour explaining the parallels between Star Wars and the gospel.

3. Travis's favorite food is:

a. candy

b. chocolate cupcakes

c. mac n cheese

answer-a. Candy, candy, and more candy.

4. Travis is addicted to:

a. candy

b. caffeine

c. Chinese massages

answer-c. He can't resist getting at least 1 Chinese massage per week.

5. Travis loves New York City, but if he could live anywhere else (and be an undercover agent for the CIA), he would live in:

a. Boulder, CO

b. anywhere in Sweden

c. Lake Arrowhead, CA

answer-b. You've never met anyone as devoted to Sweden. Except maybe Pippi Longstocking.

6. Travis has which of the following on his bedside table:

a. the Book of Mormon

b. biography of Ingemar Bergman

c. a box of kleenex

d. some chapstick

answer-none! Trick question. If you know anything at all about Travis, he's a minimalist to the core. He doesn't have ANYTHING on his bedside table... in fact, he doesn't even have one. But this doesn't stop him from asking me to fish out my chapstick from my bedside table so he can use it.

7. Travis just discovered he has a hidden talent for:

a. spelunking

b. playing the guitar in Rock Band 2

c. ballroom dance

answer-b. He rocks! We've been having so much fun with Rock Band, we're considering becoming the next Osmonds. Wish us luck.

8. Travis spent his birthday this year:

a. eating pomegranate with Scout

b. installing dimmers on our light switches

c. playing the Wii

d. taking down the Christmas tree, and painstakingly removing each and every pine needle from the living room

e. diagnosing himself with a sinus infection

answer-all of the above. He was a busy guy yesterday! Although he was able to successfully install the dimmer in Scout's room, we now don't have any light in the dining room and our bedroom. Luckily we have an electrician coming next week.

9. Travis is an excellent athlete. The one sport he's not good at is:

a. skating

b. snowboarding

c. volleyball

d. mountain bike riding

e. motorcross

f. baseball

g. bowling

h. long distance running

i. kickboxing

answer-h. Although really, he could be a great runner if he'd train. Really, there's no sport he can't do.

10. Travis is a closet:

a. grammar nazi

b. cross-dresser

c. thespian

answer-a. Thank goodness!

Hope you did well on your quiz, and maybe you learned something new about him. Like, maybe if you've met him in the last 12 years you didn't know he was blonde! If you were unable to tell Travis something you like about him, leave a comment here. He'll love it!

Movie Review 2

Don't worry... this one will be a lot shorter.

I should have been typing up a post for Trav's birthday on Friday night, but instead I was watching this movie. (Or should I say, I was fast forwarding this movie?)

It started out all right, but as soon as the main girl left for Scotland it was pretty obvious what was going to happen. I mean, we all saw season 2 of friends, right? This was exactly the same thing, except the location was Scotland instead of England. And Friends was a whole lot funnier.

Overall, a total, complete, utter waste of time. I was really hoping for something like Enchanted. I think Patrick Dempsey may want to fire his agent.


Ward Choir Xmas Program: the rest of the story

Twas the Sunday before Christmas and with the sound of the alarm, I awoke to a beautiful clear Sunday morn. Granted it was -10 degrees and the last thing I wanted to do was get out of my fleece sheets;But alas, it was the annual ward Christmas Program and I was due at the church in 28 minutes. I hastily schlepped from my fleeced cocoon, threw on some clothes, washed my hair [it had been a few days] and decided that indeed today would be a mascara day. I grabbed...

  • the two Cupcake Christmas trees for my visiting teachees
  • all of the props for learning the monthly primary song
  • the 15 extra large chocolate chip cookies i'd made for the senior primary
  • the music the senior primary was singing and
  • the kitchen sink

I raced out the door only to be welcomed by a blast of cold air and wind. Truth be told, I'm no big or even remotely small fan of winter.

I arrived at the church at 8:37 am for the 8:30 am choir rehearsal, sacrament starts at 9 am. One fourth of the choir members were seated and keep in mind that there had been no Saturday dress rehearsal. Our new choir director is the first I've had that recognizes that LDS ward choirs aren't cut out for Handel's Messiah or heavy 4 part Great Musical Works. We sing simple straightforward songs [the 3 S's] and practice is never more than 35 minutes. Yep, I love this guy. Anyway, we "talked" through the program which we had never actually ran through and then the prelude began. I was a little nervous especially since he had asked that the senior primary sing a song which we practiced last week for exactly 4 minutes and that was it.

As the congregation began the final verse of the opening hymn, suddenly the organ accompaniment changed drastically and a very high voice heavily laced with vibrato could be heard singing some sort of descant [emphasis on the some and the sort]. The congregation looked shocked and so did the choir director. The 'soloist', also a member of the choir who will remain nameless, had gotten to church late and unbeknown st to anyone, had been asked by the organist to sing said solo. Liz Strong's husband had to hold a book up to cover his face as he cried with tears of laughter. The conducting member of the bishopric started giving announcements. He asked two members of the ward to stand, one of which was his wife. She didn't immediately stand and he said "hmm, not here yet". He then noticed her standing and amended with "oh, she threw me off by not sitting on the regular family bench. I haven't recognized her since she started straightening her hair". She looked like the cat that swallowed the 4 calling canaries. It was hilarious.

When it was time for the program to begin, all the choir members [8 of which hadn't been to choir in weeks] filed to the choir seats and the antics began. Things surprisingly went pretty smoothly. I asked the senior primary to come forward and they miraculously sang the song with music in hand. Later in primary one of the boys who hadn't been here last week said "were we supposed to know that song?". Half way through the program during one of the speaking parts I noticed that a member of the ward who is handicapped and in a wheelchair had wheeled herself up to the front and was apparently participating in the choir. She had NEVER been to a practice but what the heck, the more the merrier.

All in all it was yet another testimony that the church is both true and very forgiving.


Movie Review

You know things are bad when the only full length movie you've seen in a month (not counting TWILIGHT... sigh) is Dora Saves the Snow Princess. I've watched it a couple of times while doing Tae Bo (yes, I'm super-talented). And I'd like to review it, since I have a good knowledge of Dora's body of work.

Overall, the music is a big disappointment. There's only one catchy tune in the whole show, which might be an accomplishment if I weren't so familiar with Dora's Pirate Adventure. Now THAT'S good a good musical. I could sing you any of the songs right now. "Isa turn the wheel? Turn the wheel Isa!" How about those silly songs they sing with the bridge? Awesome. Why not hire a decent songwriter to work with them. If we adults have to listen to this stuff day in and day out, why not make it palatable?

Another problem I have is that the actor playing Boots has been changed. Oz can't hear anything (tubes going in on the 30th), but everyone else in the family has noticed. If they're going to get a new Boots, why not go in a totally different direction? They kid they're using now KIND OF sounds like Boots, except his voice is fuzzy and he can't sing well. He must have been playing Backpack, too, because that voice is sub-par as well. Such a disappointment. I feel as robbed as I did when the voice of Barney changed. Or when Steve left Blue's Clues and we had to endure that Joe yahoo. What's with these people? Can't anyone make a commitment to a show anymore?

It's obvious to me that more than just Boots' voice has changed. His whole personality has gone downhill. [Spoiler ahead] At one point, Dora switches places with the Snow Princess, and so at the end of the show she's wearing a fancy-pants dress. Boots looks over at her, sadly, and says, "I wish I was wearing fancy clothes like YOU are, Dora" and the Snow Fairy works his magic and gives Dora and Boots both clothing upgrades. Um, excuse me? Since when does Boots even wear clothes? Or want fancy clothes, for that matter. Do we really want to encourage babies and toddlers to worry about what they're wearing? Mark my words, this new Boots is going to be the downfall of Dora and the rest of the gang. Next thing you know, Benny the bull is going to be prancing around in Prada. I can't wait for my son to tell me (if he ever learns to talk) that he can't be caught dead in anything from Old Navy. 

On the note of fancy wear, Dora looks totally wonky in both ball gowns. If you're going to draw a character with a head the size of Texas, you can't give her a thin body when she's in formal wear. It just doesn't work. Can't the animators see that her thin body would snap like a stick if it was really supporting that massive noggin? I miss the old Dora, with her belly sticking out of her pink shirt. Perhaps she was a tad immodest, but at least her chubby stomach matched her head size.

My last problem with this show is that after Dora and Boots get their new outfits, the Snow Princess awards everyone with medals. First of all, how did she get these medals? She's been stuck in a tower for the entire episode. Are we supposed to believe they were just laying around somewhere? Secondly, I'm not saying Dora and Boots and the Snow Fairy didn't deserve some recognition for all their hard work, but since when does Dora get ANYTHING for helping people? She's always been satisfied to just have them say thank you and be happy. The Snow princess is setting her up for disappointment from here on out. Then, after she gives Dora the medal, the Snow Princess gives her the crystal she was wearing around her neck. So what, now Dora is going to be the new Snow Princess? She doesn't have the time. Is she supposed to give up her exploring adventures to stay in the snowy forrest? And is she supposed to wear that crystal around her neck WITH the medal? Come on. She's going to look like Michael Phelps.

So there you go. I would NOT recommend this particular Dora DVD, even though my son has watched it every day (sometimes twice a day) for the past week. If you want to get a good Dora adventure, my first choice would be Dora Saves the Mermaids. Now that's a show I can get behind... they clean up the ocean and even teach a mean octopus to recycle. Plus you can sing that clean up song over and over, and your 6 and 8 year old might even join in and start cleaning with you. And nothing beats the joy of Superbabies, the all time best episode of Dora. You'll find yourself humming the tune all over town.

Snow day?

This morning, at 6.30 am, we got an automated call from the school that it was a snow day. I promptly went back to sleep, as did Travis, but S could not. She was so thrilled. At 8 am I came downstairs to get oz a bottle, and took a look outside. The above picture is what I saw. Yep, the same skiff of snow we've had on the lawn for the past 3 days.

Just in case it was a funky lake effect snow, I checked the backyard to make sure there wasn't a half foot of snow out there. Here is what I saw:
Which brings me to the theme of this post: New Yorkers are wussy. Maybe not about certain things, like extreme discomfort on public transportation, or braving massive crowds when shopping, but when it comes to snow, these people are as soft-core as it comes.

They essentially had canceled school yesterday; this morning's phone call was simply a formality. The first indication I got was an email I received from a woman at the district office. I had written her a note telling her I'd bring the deed to our house and a utility bill (things they've been asking for since August, but I haven't had the time to do) on Friday morning after dropping off the big kids at school. Her reply was to bring it in after the break, since she knew it was a busy time of year and there was a storm coming. I should have known then.

When I picked up the kids, their teachers were sending them home with their holiday gifts for the parents, and both kids had holiday parties today instead of Friday. Those poor class moms. If they are anything like me, they were probably planning on running around Thursday to get everything they needed for the parties, and then the teachers called and said the parties had to be on Thursday because of the STORM. I bet there was some serious scrambling around yesterday. Once again, very grateful I am not a class mom this year.

Since I had now 2 clues that school would be off, I decided we better go to the grocery store to get butter so we could make sugar cookies on Friday. The A+P was out of control. I recalled similar situations in Brooklyn, where a big storm was promised and all the bread and milk would be gone from the shelves. It was chaos in the store, heightened by the fact that my kids discovered that our grocery store had mini-carts. So in my cart I had oz, who likes to reach behind him and grab stuff out of the cart to throw to the ground, and behind me I had S + C, each pushing their own mini-cart, fighting over who got to put what in their carts. S was the one right behind me, and pushed her cart into me so many times I'm convinced I have a slew of bruises along both calves. Needless to say, the other grumpy shoppers were not entertained my by entourage. Neither was I.

In other weather-related news, the repairmen from our oil company showed up this morning at 8.11 to install our "aqua booster" and clean our coil. They have promised me that the lukewarm showers will come to an end, for the bargain price of 2000 dollars. Believe me, I'd pay double that to have taken my last cold shower. I had passed out with the kids last night, and darling Travis had cleaned the kitchen and turned the heat down, like we always do, to 60 degrees. I turn it up first thing in the morning to a balmy 66. Since the repair guy showed up about 9 minutes after I had switched it on, we didn't get to warm up the house at all before they shut off the boiler. So right now, in the dining room (by far the warmest room in the house, and where the thermostat lives) it's 60 degrees. When I went upstairs to get yet another layer (I'm adding a lined flannel shirt to my other 3 shirts), Travis was holed up in the bed, wearing a hat with his sweatshirt hood pulled up OVER it. I guarantee he's got his Ugg boots on under the covers as well. He decided to work from home today because of the storm. 

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.


The KBVN Office: Season 1 Episode 1

I have a client who lives in the UK. He is an only child, in his early 30's and EXTREMELY wealthy [not b/c of anything he has done]. He is a notorious procrastinator which this year meant getting me his final information late Friday [I've been hounding him for it since August], finishing the return and giving it to the partner who took it home to review Saturday, she dropped it at the office Saturday night and I came in Sunday after church to make the changes and email to him to sign and postmark by 5pm UK time. Disaster averted until Monday at 4pm US time I get a call from said client:

Client: "It's 10pm UK time, I am walking the streets of London, it is cold and I can't find anyone who can postmark this tax return today. What if I send it tomorrow?"

Me: "Hmmm, looks like an $11,000 late filing penalty"

Client: "Can I fax you the signature pages and you mail the tax returns from there?"

Me: "Sure except wait, our fax machine is down"

Client: "You have got to be kidding me. You have no idea how many hoops I have jumped through today for these returns. This can't even be a coincidence.:

Me: "Can you scan and email me the signature pages?"

Client: "Okay I'll go to my office and do that:

This got me thinking about other joys of my job. Below are just a few subject lines of inter office emails:




  • Gift Basket goodies in the kitchen!! yum yum!

  • We just found out that the front elevator will be down all day for a part replacement.

  • AGGHH Clients are instructed to call us and we'll come down to get them.


  • elevator is now working.....


  • fax is working (maybe) now....


  • okay to print to the Xerox- WORKROOM !!! THANKS FOR EVERYONE'S PATIENCE


  • There is a client just relaxing in the lobby area, I think he may be a while :) Just a little heads up to everyone to behave!

  • The client has left, everyone- you can be normal again

  • Heat in the office…apparently there was a pump in the heating system that went out and they should have it fixed by later today! Hooray!

  • Well, the exact time is up in the air, but I was told around mid afternoon?? Hopefully that means earlier than 5…

  • Don't use the toilets!!! Water has been turned off in entire building!

  • Toilets are working!!!!!!!!!!

  • Did anyone request an automatic call back from "Log Me In" this morning???

  • Barack Obama's Comprehensive Tax Plan attached

  • Unexplained visitors on our decks

  • Anyone have two AA batteries?

Anyone??? Anyone????


Parent Teacher conference

I teared up during my conference with Scout's teacher yesterday. Seriously. I nearly cried with joy. Not since Kindergarten has she had a teacher that "got" her... all the wonderful, marvelous, fun, crazy, exuberant things that make my daughter special. This one does. As she sat there gushing about how much joy Scout brings with her to school every day, I felt my eyes burning. And then when she read to me excerpts from Scout's writing journal, I could barely contain myself. Her verbal prowess at such a young age is incredible. She was using alliteration, simile, all kinds of figurative language... and when we got home and she read me some entries herself, she KNEW what she was doing. It was intentional. She even knew what the techniques were called.

She has truly blossomed this year. She loves to read, and every night whines when I tell her to turn off the lights and go to sleep (she really lucks out a couple nights per week when I accidentally fall asleep with Calder and she can read as late as she wants). Her math skills are improving, and her attitude is outstanding. And to discover this new talent of hers, and ability to express herself and entertain people with what she's created, was a very unexpected thing. I kept thinking all during the conference how glad I was that we moved, drama-filled though it was, so she could have this teacher and be in a school where she can flourish. And at the end of the conference her teacher said to me, "I'm so glad you moved here so I could teach Scout!" 

It was such a nice treat to go and meet with her. And now, back to the Ward Christmas party. 


Room for Rent????

It is 12 am on a Monday night and I can't stop thinking about those 10 inches of snow piled up on my deck and steps. I have two options, dawn my blunnies, pull on my coat, leave my cozy coup and shovel now in the dark or wake up earlier and do it before work. For those of you who know me, I have one option; I pull on my boots.

Now let me make something clear, I LOVE LIVING alone but as I am shoveling the snow I started to think about some of the drawbacks to living alone. Here are just a few:
  1. The VCR stops working for some reason. I look at myself and say "where did you put that user's manual?" I look at myself and say, "I'm not sure but I am positive I kept it".
  2. During a particularly witty episode of the Office I look around to share my moment of mirth with…. the picture of the family at Sara's wedding sitting on the piano. Everyone is smiling so I'm sure they think it is funny too.
  3. Suddenly I can no longer connect to the internet. I call the Comcast people and they determine the modem isn't operable but luckily they can send someone out first thing in the morning.
    - Me: "Excellent what time?"
    - Comcast: "Sometime between 8am and 12".
    - Me: "great I'll just leave the door unlocked".
    - Comcast: "No, someone needs to be there".
    Perfect, except the fact that I have a fulltime job.
  4. The alarm goes off Sunday morning alerting me to the fact that I need to get to church and lead the primary kids in song. I turn off the alarm and open my eyes FIVE HOURS later.
  5. I hate the useless fan and light mounted above my stove. Feeling Maytagmanish, I unscrew the screws fastening it to the cupboards above and jimmy it out of its spot. Blast, there is a chord attaching it that goes into the wall. I yank the chord and drywall begins to crumble down so I grab the scissors and attempt to cut the wires. Looks like I need wire cutters [as if!], so I turn to my trusty Cutco knife. The sawing begins and suddenly there is a spark and a shock through my hand and all the lights go out.

    Yep, sometimes living alone isn't all that it is cracked up to be which is why I am so glad that I don't!!!

    Before heading out to shovel tonight my phone rang and it was my mom."I just wanted to make sure you got home okay. I can't go to bed until I know you are safe."

    I called dad Sunday night and asked if he was available for a date with the Comcast guy the next day. Without hesitation he was willing to sequester 4 hours of his day to help me out.

    Tuesday after a full day at the temple mom drops by with 3 freshly baked chocolate chip cookies she gets from the Temple - "sweet, now I don't have to cook dinner"

    Thursday while at work I talk to dad who asks if I shoveled before work [snow again Weds night]. "Nope, I had to be here for staff meeting so I'll do it when I get home". The steps and deck are clear when I return home.

    Thanks mom and dad. You are the best "remote roommates" a daughter could have. I LOVE YOU.


Picture perfect...almost

All 10 grand kids on Dave's side were together. It was a Christmas parade. There was a firetruck. What a moment to capture. But wait...Brig is strapped to his mom via the baby bjorn. No matter, "Carrie - go ahead and get in the grand kid picture."

So here I am. Trying to hide behind Brig which is difficult seeing as he is about 20 times smaller than me. And then there is the unfortunate bright yellow coat which I happen to be wearing, and is impossible to miss.

I have a feeling I'm going to regret this picture for years. I can just see it framed, hanging over my in-laws mantel.


Thanksgiving clean up

I really dropped the ball on my final two thankful posts. I had blogged about being thankful for basically every member of my family except for the lewisgirls (including Dave... and Brig) and Travis. I was going to save them for the day before Thanksgiving and the day of, but as it turned out... I was shopping like a madwoman (Stew Leonards! Costco! A+P! Stop N Shop!) to get all the supplies I needed for the the next day, which I spent cooking and cleaning like crazy. So, it left little time for blogging or, to be totally honest, to be thankful. Good thing I had the rest of the month to focus on what I was thankful for. I'll save my rant on Thanksgiving food for another day.

So yes, I'm beyond thankful for Carrie and Dave. Here they are about 3 days before Brig's birth, when they came along with Nana and the kiddos and I to the world famous restaurant, Casa Bontia. As I went through my iPhoto library looking for pictures, it became obvious to me that I really lagged on the blogging this summer and have many posts to make up for, one of which will focus on Casa Bonita. But suffice it to say that Carrie was a REAL trooper to come here with us, since it's not known for the food. The sopapillas were worth the trip though. In this photo progression see how she starts to laugh and loses it along the way. I think we were laughing because I could tell by the view finder that for some reason, in all these pictures she looks like she has no teeth. No idea why. So I kept trying to get one where her teeth were showing, but it wasn't working... and we were laughing too hard by the end to even try any more.

At least you can tell that Dave has teeth. And Scout.

I am so very, very thankful for Carrie and Dave. They are so much fun to be around, and we've shared many an excellent meal where their company and conversation far surpassed the food (the above photos do NOT depict such a meal, sadly. We usually don't document our meals because we're too busy eating, and spending Kathleen and Gordon's money, to take pictures). Both of them always make me laugh, and point out (in a non-offensive way) when I'm being ridiculous. Which practically never happens. If I had one wish it would be to move studioCase to Colorado, so I could live by them (and all the other peeps I love) and hang out all the time. They are the best. But then if you're reading this you probably already know that.
And then there's Yaya, the best aunt and big (older?) sister in the world. She loves us all so much, and showers us with treats and presents and kindness. Plus she has a wicked sense of humor and is always up for going on my many adventures. To the mall. To Target. To Denver. To hike with two kids who really don't want to hike, with one who has a broken foot and is in fact sporting a black cast, while I'm carrying a baby the size of Jabba the Hut in a backpack on my back. She's the best companion; always willing to help out and keep the good conversation going. She's also the world's best question asker, although Nana likes to give her a run for her money.
Here's a picture of Yaya when she drove the little train on the Pearl Street mall. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have volunteered to drive the train if the kids and I weren't in town visiting, but she was the belle of the ball. People were talking to her and flagging her down; it was like being driven by a celebrity. Luckily her fans couldn't see how totally sweaty she was from the heat coming off the engine. Yaya, we love you!!!
And finally. I think I've already posted this picture of Travis, but since he's the family photographer we don't have many of him. I don't even know how to put into words how thankful I am for Travis. Without him, my life would be incredibly different... and I like things just as they are. He works himself nearly to death to provide a wonderful life for his children and me, and provides endless love and support (and entertainment) at the same time. He's not the best at throwing away his candy wrappers, but it's a small price to pay for getting to spend my life with him. I love you Travis. I love you up to the sky.

Enough of that. Let's start talking about Christmas now!!!


What lies underneath

What you can't see is Grampa, Leslie, Omah and Opah who are also in the hot tub but submerged under water holding their breath for the picture. We had to get the next door neighbor to leave his bounteous Thanksgiving table to come and take the picture. He only charged us $5 and we threw in a pack of fun fruits just for his trouble.

It is so sad that none of Rand's kids resemble him!!!

p.s. I can't quite recall where Brig was???

Thanksgiving in the mountains

How many people can your family fit in a hot tub?