Monthly Archives: June 2015

Back When I Was Queen

Long ago, in a land far away, I was once a queen.


I come from a long line of queens, actually. My mother was a rodeo queen and Miss Malibu (don’t you just love the sound of that? Miss Malibuuuuu) and my aunt was BYU’s Homecoming Queen. My other aunts and sisters were all royalty of one sort or another, and my nieces are carrying on the tradition. My claim to fame was that I was Miss Ricks College.

Wait. You’ve never heard of Ricks College?

That is because they changed their name. Now it is BYU-Idaho. It is a lot bigger, and more glorious. And they don’t do pageants.

But that is okay, because I was also Idaho’s Jr. Miss.

Oh . . . you’ve never heard of that either?

That is because they don’t call it Jr. Miss anymore. It is “Distinguished Young Woman.”

Yes, it is sad to say, but although I was royal for two moments in my life it doesn’t even matter since both titles are now obsolete.  Not even my kids are impressed. In fact, they know very little about how amazing I used to be. Here is a recent example.

Me: (Singing Maria from West Side Story in the kitchen) Maria, I just met a girl named Maria…

Dan: Mom, please stop singing.

Me: Why not? Don’t you like this song?

Dan: I don’t like your voice.

Me: Oh. Am I a bad singer?

Dan: Yes.

Me: Danny, did you know that I am actually a very good singer? And that I used to sing in front of thousands of people? And when I was finished they would clap?

Dan: (with doubtful expression) Really?

Me: And people gave me awards!

Dan: (even more doubtful expression) Are you sure?

Me: Yes! Okay. What if I sang something else?

Dan: Please. No more Maria music.

Me: What would you like me to sing?

Dan: Radioactive.

Me: I’m wakin’ up to ash and dust, wipe my brow and sweat my rust . . . 

Dan: (plugging his ears in agony)

Me: Am I embarrassing you?

Dan: Yes. Maybe you should whistle instead.

Me: Okay. (whistling) Is that better?

Dan: MUCH.

So since my talents go unappreciated and my crown is in a box, I’ve decided to auction off my crown at my upcoming family reunion (it is a family auction to raise money for future family reunions).

Still, when I take it out of the box, I remember those big, shining moments on stage, singing into the hot lights, making my parents proud. Especially my dad.  When I became Homecoming Queen my dad bought a new suit just so he could walk me out on to the football field.

It drove my mom crazy when she and my father would watch me perform because my dad did not watch me, instead he turned around in his seat with a big smile on his face, preferring to watch the people behind him, while they watched me.

But times have changed. I found this illustration in a magazine when my girls were babies and it has hung in my kitchen ever since.


I love it because my children are my crown now.

And now, as my children get older and more proficient in their own talents,  it is me that is turning around in my seat, watching the audience watch my kids.

When I was a teenager my heart would beat like a hammer before performances. But now, as I watch my children perform my heart doesn’t just beat. It leaps out of my chest. It swells. It is painful and glorious at the same time.

I much prefer watching now.

I guess I could wear my crown when I do dishes or vacuum. Maybe I should wear it when I drive The Great Van of Happiness. I could wave at other drivers. Howdy, folks.

They say that every girl is a princess, so it stands to reason that every woman must be a queen. So how come no one ever says that?

Well I’m saying it. We are all queens. Queens of our homes. Queens to our husbands. Queens of our families. Queens of our lives.

So maybe at the auction I might just buy my crown back.

You’ll know if you drive up next to me and see me waving at you from my van.


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The Great Van of Happiness

Do your kids fight? Yeah, I know. Mine don’t either. Especially in the car.

I calculated how much time I’ve spent in the van this last year just picking the kids up from two different schools (an hour wait time between schools) and taking them to their lessons. I’m not good with numbers, but I think the total was in the millions.

We spend a lot of time in that box.

My kids are good kids. They love each other. They help each other. They do secret acts of kindness for each other. But when it is time to get in the van they turn into flesh-eating piranhas. It is as if some seats in the van are made of solid gold and other seats are barbed wire. The back seat, especially. You would think by listening to the cries of distress and agony as they make their way to the back that they are on their way to the electric chair.   And my children, none of them being shrinking violets, will defend their right to sit in their desired seat with volcanic passion.

So yes, I admit it. We are car fighters. Thank you in advance for all the advice you are going to give me in response to this post. I welcome it with open arms. But I want to assure you that trying to stop the fighting is a short road to insanity.

Imagine being strapped into a box for an unknown amount of time with nothing to do and no power to escape. Meanwhile the person next to you is poking you in the eye or yelling in your ear or trying to steal your food.  I think in the adult world we would call this “a hostage situation.”  It should be no surprise that children don’t like it, either.

We have moments of happiness. We do. I think there was a time a couple weeks ago that we laughed.

Seriously, though, most of the time the kids find plenty to do. We listen to books on cd, we sing with granola bar microphones, and we play quiz games. I bring snacks, they draw, they write stories, and there is always a lot of reading going on (for those who can).

But the fighting escalates whenever they get in or get out of the van. And who can blame them? Because of the baby’s car seat they are left with one door to squeeze through. (Except for the Golden Child who gets to avoid all the commotion by nabbing the front seat.)

After weeks of the same, predictable fighting, I desperately wanted to turn our van time into something more positive. So I did what any mother who has problems would do: I made a chart. The idea was that the children would rotate seats every week.  The chart was beautiful and simple, and in a burst of optimism I decided to call the chart “The Great Van of Happiness.”

We’ve used The Great Van of Happiness for about a year now with mixed results. Here is my brief report.

It doesn’t matter if the chart says this: IMG_6715 Or this: IMG_6716

The children always feel like this:

But we still use it because it is the best thing we’ve got.

It is flawed, because everyone has to rotate to the back seat but not everyone gets to rotate to the very front “favorite child” seat because some are too young.

Fireworks also come out when people forget to check the Great Van of Happiness chart before they sit in their seats and then there is a great bottleneck of kids in the doorway of the van, some sitting, some half-standing and all of them snapping at each other.

“Well what does the Great Van of Happiness say?”

“I don’t know. You check it!”

“No, you check it!”

I’ll check it,” says Danny who is holding my iphone. “Siri, what does the Great Van of Happiness say?”

Siri answered back with what she found on the web for “What does the Gravy Van of Happy Nests say.”

But there is hope.

Once a week we pick up a little neighbor friend from middle school and bring her home.  I try to reserve shotgun for her, not only because she is our guest, but also to give her some distance from the rest of the wolves, that her life might be spared. (She is an only child.) Sometimes, when she is sitting next to me and the battle is raging behind us she asks me in a very grown-up tone if I am going to do anything about it. Being that she is an outsider, I am always interested in any input.

“Well, do you have any good ideas?” I ask her, very sincerely.

She didn’t at first. Every now and then she would glance in the back as if she were observing from the other side of a mirror in an insane asylum and giving me the play-by-play. “Did you know that ____ is undoing his seat belt? Did you know that _____ is biting ______? Did you know that _____ just threw ______’s ______ out the window?”

Towards the end of the year our little friend had had enough. Driving home, amid the normal and terrible sounds of choking, whining and attempted strangulation she asked, “Miss Chelsea (because that is how we address people here in the South), do you mind if I read?”

“Of course not. You don’t need to ask.” After all, when they are not torturing each other that is what Dyrengs do best. (Those over five years old, anyway.) I was assuming she was just going to read to herself. But she had no intention of doing that.  She opened up a book and cleared her throat.

“Chapter One,” she announced loudly.

Everyone went quiet.  You could have heard a Cheerio drop. It was as if someone had suddenly stuffed peanut butter in everyone’s mouth. And miraculously everyone stayed quiet the entire way home. Peace. Tranquility. Hope for the future. Once we arrived home I tried to refrain from kissing her little red head.

When we picked her up the next week she again read to everyone, plunging the van into another deep, meditative silence. The book was not particularly interesting (in fact it was a book on how to play video games, something that seems very odd to me) but there was something about the loud, constant cadence of her voice that mesmerized everyone. I had to keep checking everyone in my rear view mirror to make sure they weren’t in comas.

Who knew that adding a sixth child to the mix would calm things down? Unfortunately school is now finished, and the Great Van of Happiness will have to do with out our neighbor until next year. Or perhaps her mother will let us adopt her for the summer. Or I could pay her.

In the meantime there is not much I can do except keep reminding my kids that they are all important no matter what seat they have to sit in, and that no one in the Great Van of Happiness is mouse droppings. Sometimes we just have to bloom where we are planted. Even if it is in the very back seat.


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Holding to the Blog

This post is for all of you that love to read LDS blogs, or that are fascinated by LDS blogs, or that are secretly disturbed by LDS blogs.

When I was in college I took a Spanish intensive course. Part of this involved living in the Foreign Language House, an apartment complex devoted to helping students get a taste of language immersion.  While in the apartment we would eat, socialize and interact completely in Spanish. When we left the apartment, say, to go grocery shopping or to work, we could speak English, but as soon as we entered our apartment we were back to Spanish.

A native Spanish speaker lived with us, to help us keep the rules.  As long as she was around we ate, talked, sang, read and prayed in Spanish. It was intense. Every day I could literally feel my brain expanding, and it hurt.

Our native speaker was kind and encouraging. And when she wasn’t at home we did our best to always speak Spanish. But sometimes, in her absence, we would slip back into our Spanglish, or, even worse, we would start creating a whole new language altogether.

Por favor, pass-a-me el salto. Gracias.

It was faster to speak that way, especially when we became better friends and had more we wanted to say to each other. Often we tolerated each other’s mistakes without correcting each other because we knew what our roommate meant to say. Plus, it was hilarious, and our feeble attempts at fluency would often leave us rolling on the carpeta (real word: alfombra).

But then the native speaker would return home, and we dutifully went back to speaking proper,





Now, back to LDS blogs (and blogs in general).

There are a lot of great blogs out there. They are interesting, colorful, easy-to-absorb, witty and intimidating. And they are written by people. People who have opinions and flaws and who are still in the process of building their testimonies (a process which lasts forever).

So sometimes they post or write things that make us feel uncomfortable and we think, “This person is a Mormon. Why are they writing/posting/sharing this or that? Oh my heck. The church must not be true.”

And then we lay awake at night, thinking about it.

Okay, well maybe you don’t. But sometimes I do.*

And that is when I have to remind myself about this prophet who had a dream. He dreamed about a misty land with an iron rod running along the landscape towards a magnificent tree that bore fruit that, when eaten, brought unspeakable joy. He knew that if he held on to that rod as he walked everything was going to be okay and it would lead him to the tree, and that it would bring great happiness to him and his family.

In the interpretation, the tree is the love of God, or more specifically, Christ. The fruit is the atonement. The rod that helps us get there is the word of God, or, in other words, the scriptures and the prophets. The rod is like the native Spanish speaker. All of the other stuff we read–facebook posts, videos, blog articles–these are people who are trying to learn Spanish. They are working through it. Sometimes they get it right. Sometimes they get it wrong. Sometimes they are just speaking craziness and are making up their own languages and calling it Spanish.

I just wanted to remind myself (and anyone else who might be listening) that it is easy to get confused, and that when we want to know the real truth the best place to look is in the scriptures. It is not as easy, it doesn’t have as many pictures and it is not as witty, and sometimes studying it makes your brain hurt. But that is just because it is expanding.

Some things are True. Everything else is just someone’s opinion.

Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. D&C 19:23

* Let me clarify. I do not doubt my testimony, the truthfulness of the gospel or the church, but it troubles me deeply when I read things written by members who seem to be actively spreading doubt rather than building faith.



Filed under Strange Mormon Customs