Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dad


Every November we celebrate my dad’s birthday, and also mark the anniversary of his passing. This year was the ten year mark.



I rarely mention my dad in conversation, or on this blog, simply because it overwhelms me to describe to people who never knew him, exactly what they are missing. I just have no idea where to begin.

After ten years I still have no idea where to begin, but I’m finally willing to make an attempt. Here are ten things about my dad I would love for people to know.

10  My sophomore year in high school, an upperclassman passed me in the hall and said, “Hey Foutz! Tell your dad what’s up!” I didn’t know who he was, but later made the connection that he bagged Dad’s groceries at Safeway. It seems that during the time it took to load up his cereal and eggs, the two had become fast friends. That was very typical of Dad. He never met a stranger.

9  He was also the most popular kid on our street. When Dad’s car would pull into the driveway after work, it would be surrounded by bikes and scooters before he could even turn off the engine. He always made time to shoot baskets or pump up bike tires before coming in for dinner. It was not uncommon to answer the doorbell to a porchful of kids, asking if Jim could come out and play, or if he was available to attend their birthday party.  

8  Dad played guitar very well. From my earliest memories until I left home for college, he would sit at the foot of my bed whenever he had a free evening, and take requests.  Always at the top of my list were Puff the Magic Dragon, and Harry Chapin’s Cats in the Cradle. 

7  Dad learned Portuguese as a missionary in Brazil in the 60s, and thought that qualified him to strike up a conversation in Spanish with every Mexican we encountered. When he received high council assignments to speak in the Spanish branch, he refused to use an interpreter, but insisted on delivering the talks himself. I remember once he quoted a list by President Kimball of appropriate Sabbath day activities. When he got to “take a nap,” he paused, looked up and said “Gracias Presidente Kimball. Me gusta.”

6  Dad liked to say that his role in the family was to “drive and pay.”  He could spend an entire Saturday escorting my mom, sisters, and I on a shopping frenzy without uttering a single complaint. When asked if he was bored, or had any preferences, he would say, “Oh, don’t worry about me. I just drive and pay.”

5  His ability to retain knowledge was unmatched. In college, my coworkers and I invented a game.  We would go through the dictionary in search of the most obscure word we could find. When it was selected, I would call him, with everyone watching, and ask him to define it. If he could, I won. I was undefeated. 

4  Dad was a dentist, and I spent my summers growing up “working” in his office. From the front desk, I could observe changes in the demeanor of patients from the time they entered, to the time they left. No matter how nervous an adult was when they checked in, or how loudly a child was screaming, almost everyone came out laughing.  I was constantly coming up with excuses to wander into the operatory while he was working, because nothing made me prouder than being introduced to people as his daughter.

3  Dad was a talented athlete, and jumped at any chance to play. When the doorbell rang, he would say, “I bet it’s 19 guys looking for one more guy to start a softball game.” When my brother Jeff was in his 20s and joined a city league, Dad attended loyally. Once, when the team was short a player, Jeff suggested that his dad fill in. I’m sure there were serious reservations about a man in his fifties making any kind of contribution, but they had a need, and Dad just happened to have his mitt in the car. Not only did he surprise them with his abilities, but he became a permanent member of the lineup. One of the players later told us that they could be down 10 runs in 9th inning, and Dad would call out to his teammates, “Alright boys. We got ‘em just where we want ‘em!”

2  The saying goes that the best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother. There was no question how Dad felt about Mom. Every free moment was spent with her, taking her on errands, to movies, or cleaning up the kitchen as she whisked around preparing dinner. When Mom got fixed up and walked into a room, Dad would whistle so loudly we were certain the neighbors could hear. It was flattering at home, but a little embarrassing when we were out in public.  Especially when we were at Church. He wrote poems and hid them in the freezer for her to find, and showered her with praise in front of his kids. “Isn’t Mom the best cook?” “Doesn’t she make the house look so beautiful?” “Isn’t Susan a good-looking broad?”

1  I don’t have a single memory of my dad loosing his temper. Not one single memory. No matter how long his days at work, or how late into the night he was serving at Church, every time he walked through the door at the end of the day he would put down his briefcase, lay aside his troubles, and say the same thing. “It’s good to be home.”

Ten years ago, when he was suddenly gone, my family took great comfort in imagining him walking through the doors of heaven, setting aside the cares of the world, and declaring, "It's good to be home."

It wouldn't be heaven unless he was there.




Monday, October 29, 2012

Frankenstorm


We are all home today, bunkering down for the hurricane. School has been canceled, and Jack gets to stay in as well, as all “nonessential federal employees” have been ordered out of DC. Thank goodness economists are considered nonessential! (says the nation 16 trillion dollars in debt)

We've set up a tent in the front room for the kids to play and sleep in, as it’s the only area of our house not surrounded by gigantic old trees that tend to fall over in storms and kill your babies. I'm confident we'll be safe here, and comforted by the fact that we're stocked up on gas, water and Halloween candy.

So, before the pounding tonight that will likely knock out our power, I thought I would dip into the supply of mini Snickers, and upload our Halloween pictures from the weekend.

My babies do love Halloween. So much, that they grow fangs in October.

Cal, 2009



Eddie, 2012


Jolie does not have fangs, but at the rate she's dropping teeth it's only a matter of time. She wanted to dress as a popstar with purple hair. 




Leah, a doctor. With purple hair. 



If I had a crystal ball that could see into their futures, I think it would tell me they got their careers switched. And I mean that in the most encouraging way.

And finally, the boys




Throw up the bat signal! Someone just ran off with my heart!

They've been living in those costumes for about a week now. The customers at Costco have never felt so safe. 



Though they are most in their element when cruising the Batmobile. Thank you Chrissy Warner for the car!

(before)


And thank you Aunt Jane for the idea, and Kerry Reeves for showing us how it's done (It takes a village to raise superheroes!)

And speaking of superheroes, Jack carved our pumpkins into the shapes two of our favorites. 



Happy Halloween! Keep safe east coast friends! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

GrandmaMall


My parents have 17 grandchildren, aged 14 to 8 months, and when everyone gets together, the house always stays clean. 

Toys are put away. Beds made. Floors vacuumed, garbage emptied, furniture dusted, and there is never, ever, a dirty dish in the sink. (If you’re holding your breath for a confession of sarcasm, grab an oxygen mask my friends! I am being completely serious.)

Is there hired help involved, you wonder? (Don't be silly! I don't even help. The kids do all the work.) Well then, are the children behaving under duress? Are these gatherings held in a home, or a penitentiary??

I can assure you that everyone acts under their own volition, and that the time spent together is heavenly - There is laughter and Legos, dress up, dance parties and marshmallow roasting.  But in between, there is also a lot of pitching in, picking up, and putting away.

The secret to the success, is GrandmaMall.  

A couple years ago, my mom started collecting treasures for the grandkids wherever a good deal was to be found - the Target dollar bins, holiday clearance sales, etc. When the kids came to visit, she would set up the finds at her kitchen table as "Grandma's Store," where the items could be purchased using tickets earned by being helpful and pitching in around the house.


                                   

The idea was a success, and a new tradition born. Every year the inventory expanded until this year Grandma's Store finally closed its doors, giving way to the launch of GRANDMAMALL.  




Jack says that next year he is hoping for the launch of Grandma Mills. And by 2014, GrandmaMallofAmerica.




To call the venture a success would be an understatement. It was capitalist greed at its finest. The kids were constantly asking what they could do to help. Once the toys were all put away, beds made and every surface of the house had been dusted and sanitized, we had to start getting creative (Who knew cereal could be alphabetized?) Once or twice I may have been caught offering tickets to the first kid who would surrender their Skittles, or fetch me a Dr. Pepper.



After three days of initial earning and saving, it was time for the Grand Opening.



Don't let those adorable smiles fool you. It was like Black Friday out there.

To ensure inventory control, Jack & Eddie were enlisted as mall cops. It was the fourth time in my life I kicked myself for never purchasing a Segway.



Finally, at 9:00am, all the scrubbing and sweeping finally paid off. 

The doors opened, the crowds entered, and dreams came true.













On the last day of our visit, amid the tearful goodbyes, Grandma Susan cheered everyone up by offering a clearance sale,




where all remaining inventory could be purchased at the rock bottom price of a hug and a kiss.

Customer service had better prepare itself. I have a feeling that as the years go by, every little shopper is going to find their way back to Grandma Susan's, with all the love they've collected over the years, and they're going to want to return it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Essential Eddie


Our Eddie Jack is six months old.

To commemorate, here are six things you should know about him.

(1) He is lucky to have lived this long


Because I am constantly tempted to eat him alive


(2) His arms never stop moving 


When I showed my mom this picture, she asked if he's ever become airborne


(3) He earns his keep


I left the broom out one morning, and while I was busy with the other kids he grabbed it from his Johnny Jumper and got to work.



Honestly, I don't know what was more amusing - The sight of him cleaning, or of the other three collapsing in giggles when we walked in and discovered him.



(4) He's tight with his cousin Mack 


Here they are at their first slumber party



Grandma Susan's moniker: Fannie Mae & Eddie Mack


(5) He's in a hurry to grow up


He refuses to lie down in his bouncy seat (like a baby), but rather insists on sitting up (like a man)


So I dress him in a lot of infantile yellow jammies. Just to keep him in his place.


(6) Last but not least

He can do this.

(video)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Great to be Eight



Sometime over the last 8 years, when Jack I weren’t looking, this little munchkin


Became accountable for her actions.


So we loaded up our covered wagon, then boarded a Southwest flight for Utah, where she could be baptized with her beloved cousin Julia.


They are two peas in a pod, that Jolie & Julia, and have been planning a joint baptism since they were babies. Here they are in 2004, discussing the details.


It was a beautiful, simple day, filled with family, love, the Spirit, and good food, which I happen to consider the four elements of a happy life.

Comic relief was provided by Cal, who could not have been more excited if we were at the Super Bowl, and interrupted the silence with a rally for his boy cousins to check out the sins being washed away. There were also a few tears, as the Bishop bore a heartfelt testimony that family members from beyond the veil were in attendance.

My favorite moment of the day was this one, which I captured on my phone just after she came out of the water



For that brief moment, she was my newborn again. Fresh, clean, perfect. Taking her very first steps into the next phase of life. It broke my heart a little to know that these steps would be bigger than the last, and that they would carry her further away from her dependence on Mom and Dad.

We love you Jojo, and are so proud of your decision to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized.  The last 8 years have brought us so many moments of joy. But today, I dare say, topped them all.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Pay

This is Second Lieutenant Phil Dana




In 1944, on his 17th mission over Germany, the B-24 bomber he was piloting was shot down. After losing two engines and then fuel, the plane crash landed in England.  Phil's last act was to shut down electrical operations, thus preventing the bomber from explosion, and saving the lives of four of his comrades. 

Phil himself did not survive.  He was 26. 

These,



are Phil's great-great nieces and nephews, in 2012, in Northern Virginia.

They are too young to appreiate the impact of Phil's sacrifice, or the sacrifices of so many like him, but they do understand that he's our hero, and that it's our duty to honor him.

Today, honoring him meant flagging down cars in the blistering heat, and selling lemonade to benefit Wounded Warriors Project.


We really did witness the best of America today, seeing so many people stop to speak with our kids, contribute way more than the cost of a chocolate chip cookie, and wish one another a happy Memorial Day.  

When the last cupcake was gone, and the ice (not to mention the kids) had melted in the heat, we totaled the donations.

Thanks to the efforts of our dear friends the Smoots, and the big hearts and open wallets of neighbors, friends and complete strangers, the kids raised






(drumroll please....)




(..............)




$579.75



(!)


every penny of which will benefit injured service men and women.


Grateful today to be a mother, a great niece, and an American.

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