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Chapter 2: The Boy Who Fell Asleep For 100 Years (more or less)

Once upon a time there was a king and queen who desperately wanted a child. After years of fertility spells by fairies and genetic testing by warlocks, the couple were finally approached by a rat, claiming to be a magical witch, who gave the queen a bubbly drink in exchange for a promise that if the baby was a girl the queen must surrender her child to the rat, but if it was a boy the queen could keep it. The queen was desperate, so she did as the rat said. Nine months later the queen had a baby boy, and the rat was never seen in that land again.

Their named their son Quinn, and planned to invite the 12 good fairies in the land to celebrate. At the last minute the king and queen decided they’d better invite Agatha, the evil 13th fairy as well, lest she be offended and put a curse on them. “If we make sure she has the best of everything at the celebration, and treat her with every kindness we can, she will have no need to become offended,” said the gracious and naïve queen.

When the fairies arrived they all ate off silver plates, except for Agatha who was given a gold one. The fairies drank from glass goblets, but Agatha’s was crystal. For every course, Agatha was served first, and for dessert she was given the largest piece of cake; the one with the most frosting and the sugar rosebud.

The other fairies pronounced wonderful gifts on the baby boy like bravery and charm, honesty and an extensive vocabulary. But when Agatha’s turn came, she gazed at the child with a frown and, waving her wand, proclaimed, “I bless you with a wheat allergy. If you ever eat anything made with wheat you will die.”

Everyone gasped.

“How could you?!” cried the king and queen. “We treated you better than any of our other guests!”

The fairy lifted her nose and sniffed. “The cake was too dry.”

Which just proves that no matter how well you treat someone, some people will always find some way to be offended.

The king and queen despaired. How could they keep their son from eating wheat? The staple crop of their kingdom?

But there was still one fairy left. “I cannot change Agatha’s curse,” she said earnestly, “but I can add a loophole.”

She waved her wand and stated that instead of dying, the boy would only get a very bad stomachache if he ate wheat. “However,” she added, “if he eats cake the consequences will be more serious. He will not die, but he will fall into a coma for 100 years and will only awake with love’s first kiss.”

This was not comforting to the king and queen, especially since the queen was very fond of cake, dry, moist, or otherwise. But they had no choice. The king sent out a decree, banishing all wheat from the land and making all the farmers sign a pledge to only grow corn, oats, and barely. Consequently, everyone in the kingdom became a lot healthier and had fewer digestive problems as they grew accustomed to their new gluten-free lifestyle.

Quinn grew up to be everything that the fairies had promised; brave, charming, verbose, etc., but he was never told about the evil fairy’s curse.

That is why, on his 16th birthday, his curiosity was piqued when an intriguing aroma drifted through the castle corridors. He followed the smell until he at last arrived at the very tippy-top castle turret. When he opened the door, he found an old woman removing something from an oven.

“Salutations, old woman,” said Quinn. “I followed an exquisite aroma circulating through the castle and have arrived at this vacant, isolated tower. Pray, tell me what are you concocting in yonder oven?”

The old woman turned and smiled sweetly. “Why young prince, have you not ever seen cupcakes before?”

“Cup-cakes?” Quinn mentally added the new word to his vocabulary.

“Yes, my son. And they taste even better than they smell.”

“For what purpose did you make them?”

“For your birthday, of course. That is what cake is for, Your Highness. It is an ancient custom.”

“Your graciousness is unexpected but very welcome. May I partake of one?”

“Certainly. But first we must add the icing and the sprinkles. Would you like to help?”

“I can’t imagine a more pleasurable pastime.” The prince helped the old woman decorate the cupcakes with blue frosting and rainbow sprinkles.

“May I eat one now?” he asked when they finished.

The old woman smiled sweetly. “Almost. There’s one more thing we must do.”

She took out a candle—

“How delightful! What a diminutive candle!” exclaimed Quinn.

—and placed it in the cupcake. Then she struck a match and lit the candle.

Quinn looked uncertain. “Am I to eat it while it is ablaze?”

“First you make a wish, dear, and you blow out the candle. Then you eat it.”

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Naomi Dyreng

Quinn brightened. “A wish? Is this another ancient birthday custom? How you astonish me with your delightful revelations!”

“Yes, dear. A birthday wish. Birthday wishes are magical, and they always come true.” The old woman didn’t actually believe that birthday wishes come true, as she considered it pretend magic, imagined up by simpletons and peasants, but she said it anyway to keep the prince engaged.

“Hmm . . . Then I must be very thoughtful about my wishful intentions.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Especially as the desires of my heart are infinite.”

“Of course, ah, but you must think quickly before the candle goes out.”

The prince began pacing. “But choosing only one wish is a task of titanic proportions, as it must be absolutely infallible of unexpected repercussions. After all, I am a prince, and a prince must not wish for something that in the end might be his undoing.”

“You are correct, but in this case sooner is better than later.”

“A wish! Egads, woman! An opportunity like this may only occur once in 100 years!”

“Truer than you know,” grumbled the woman, “but if you could hurry, I would appreciate it, as I am a busy fairy and I haven’t got all day.”

“Did you say fairy?”

“Did I? I meant old hag.”

“Quite true . . . but remember, old hag, many a foul decision was made in haste. Perhaps I should make a list of possible wishes in order to determine the most superior, and which is most likely to provide the brightest possible future. Might you possess a parchment and a quill?”

“Perhaps I should have given you the gift of decisiveness instead of a curse,” the woman muttered.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing dear, MAKE YOUR WISH!”

“Very well. I’ve made it,” his said, his face aglow. “I am satisfied that it will provide the most positive outcome for my eternal happiness. Would you like to know what I wished for?”

“No, I don’t. Now blow out the candle.”

Quinn blew out the candle and felt quite satisfied.

“Well done. Now you may try the cake.”

“At this very instant? May I take a moment to savor its appearance? It is such a glorious and delicate confection, and once it is consumed it will be but a memory.”

“Look, child, I have eleven more—just EAT THE BLOOMING CAKE!”

Quinn, taken aback by the woman’s sudden impatience, did not wish to offend. He raised the cupcake to his lips and sunk his teeth into the perfectly moist cake.

The woman watched him closely as he chewed and swallowed. “. . . And?” she asked. “What do you think?”

The prince’s face was rapturous. For the first time in his life he struggled to find the precise words to describe his delight. “It is—it is—”

And then he collapsed.

The old woman cackled and changed herself into her true fairy form. “So much for you, silly, stupid prince!” and she flew out the window, without bothering to check Quinn’s pulse.

****

When the prince was found, comatose, with a half-eaten cupcake in his hand, it was clear to everyone what had transpired. His body was brought down to the courtyard where he was placed on a platform in a beautiful silken bed, littered with rose petals. He looked so lovely, with his face so relaxed and tragically handsome, that his parents planned to have him on display for the next 100 years as a warning to anyone who was tempted to invite undesirable guests to family celebrations.

All day people from around the kingdom filed past the bed to gaze on the unfortunate prince and weep. As the sun began to sink behind the castle towers, a young woman named Penelope came to see the sleeping prince. The rose colored glow of the setting sun lit his sleeping face so divinely, and his full, youthful lips looked so pitiful and tempting, that she could not control herself and she felt pulled by a magical force up, past the guards and to the bed of the prince where she leaned over and gently kissed him.

“Mmmm . . . frosting!” she said, and she kissed him again.

Quinn’s eyes fluttered open. “Exquisite!”

“Why, thank you,” said the girl.

“I was actually describing the delicious morsel of cupcake I experienced before my world turned to blackness, but after some reflection I must admit that your kisses were far superior.”

The maiden blushed.

“Please tell me, is it still my birthday?”

“Why, yes,” said Penelope.

Quinn sat up and took her hand. “Then my wish came true!”

“And what did you wish for, dear prince?”

“I wished to have my first kiss before the sun set on my 16th birthday. And you made my wish a reality!”

“And released you from the curse!” she added.

“What curse?” asked the prince.

The king and queen were so happy and relieved that their son didn’t have to sleep for 100 years. So much so, they decided to have a splendid birthday party that very night . . . complete with a very large and delicious cake.

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A Little Child Shall Lead Them

A friend found this blog post and shared it with me. It captures so much of my heart as I treasure my newborn during these uncertain times of looming illness. What a gift is a baby. They are the embodiment of hope, resilience, and great things yet to be.

The Philosophy of Motherhood

“A century ago, men were following, with bated breath, the march of Napoleon, and waiting with feverish impatience for the latest news of the wars. And all the while, in their own homes, babies were being born. But who could think about babies? Everybody was thinking about battles.

Master Baby, Sir William Orchardson

“In one year, lying midway between Trafalgar and Waterloo, there stole into the world a host of heroes! During that one year, 1809, Gladstone was born at Liverpool; Alfred Tennyson was born at the Somersby rectory, and Oliver Wendell Holmes made his first appearance at Massachusetts. On the very self-same day of that self same year Charles Darwin made his debut at Shrewsbury, and Abraham Lincoln drew his first breath at Old Kentucky. Music was enriched by the advent of Frederic Chopin at Warsaw, and of Felix Mendelssohn at Hamburg, Samuel Morley, Edwin Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Barrett Browning…

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Boys Will Be Boys

This controversial phrase has created much ire in the past decade, but would you believe that women have been talking about these four words for much, much longer? I found this passage in a book, written a hundred and fifty years ago:

Very likely some Mrs. Grundy will observe, “I don’t believe it; boys will be boys, young men must sow their wild oats, and women must not expect miracles.” I dare say you don’t, Mrs. Grundy, but it’s true nevertheless. Women work a good many miracles, and I have a persuasion that they may perform even that of raising the standard of manhood by refusing to echo such sayings. Let the boys be boys, the longer the better, and let the young men sow their wild oats if they must; but mothers, sisters, and friends may help to make the crop a small one, and keep many tares from spoiling the harvest, by believing, and showing that they believe, in the possibility of loyalty to the virtues which make men manliest in good women’ts eyes. If it is a feminine delusion, leave us to enjoy it while we may, for without it half the beauty and the romance of life is lost, and sorrowful forebodings would embitter all our hopes of the brave, tender-hearted little lads, who still love their mothers better than themselves, and are not ashamed to own it. 

What impressed me most about this was the tone the author uses to reprove the doubting “Mrs. Grundy.” The author gently insists that boys can be made better, if their female influencers believe and show they believe in them, and that the hope that young boys can indeed grow up to be fine men is not a misguided one.

It is statements like this, that display kind resolution in the face of a naysayer, that demonstrate to me that only the gentle side of women has the most influence to bring out the gentle side in men. There is power in femininity.

The passage above was taken from Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott.

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The Best Motel in Jackson Hole

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If you travel to Jackson Hole, and you need a comfortable place to stay the night, look for a mountain that resembles a Native American chief, laying on his back with his arms folded across his chest. Now turn 180 degrees. You will be facing my family’s motel, located 1 mile north of Jackson Hole.

When I was 11 years old the Flat Creek Motel was built just down the hill from my house. I remember walking through one of the framed units with my dad. We leased the motel for a couple decades, but about 6 years ago the motel returned to our hands, and is now owned by my mom, my siblings and me.

The motel is rustic but comfortable, and every room has a view. (Besides having a spectacular perspective of Sleeping Indian and Snow King, it is also faces the largest elk refuge in the world).  My nieces and nephews change the sheets, clean the rooms, make promotional videos and run the desk. My brother works the web cams. My sister-in-law decorated the lobby. My other brother is one of our certified fuel tank operators, my sister does the bookkeeping and marketing. Another sister (and more nieces and nephews) writes blog posts. My brother-in-law manages the finances. My stepfather fixes electrical problems. Another sister does the flowers . . . This is all just a smidgen of the things my siblings do to make this motel a comfortable place to kick off your boots rest your head.

I don’t get to help out very much with the motel because I am the black sheep who moved to the East Coast, but I did create the logo and I print the business cards. (You can see the logo on Instagram @flatcreekinn.)

This summer we brought our kids out West to experience the motel for themselves.

I entered the lobby and was greeted warmly by a handsome young man . . .

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. . . who happens to be my nephew. In the lobby there are photos of my dad, back when the property was a firework stand and gas station. There is also a jack-a-lope mounted on the wall. (Very rare.)

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And check out the sweet, retro keys he gave me for my room. No flimsy credit card keys at this motel.

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Our room was clean and warm. Our towels were folded into trumpeter swans. Our kitchenette was stocked with utensils and dishware, as well as a toaster, knives and whatever else we would need. (I’ve stayed in Airbnbs that were not as well equipped.) At 10 pm we realized we’d forgotten to get picnic supplies for our excursions the next day, but it was no problem because we found everything we needed at the motel’s convenience store. How cool is that?

I had the best night sleep I’ve had in a long time. Maybe it was because of the ultra-comfortable mattress I slept on. Or perhaps it was because I spent the whole day paddling a canoe in a glacier-fed, emerald-green lake at the foot of the Tetons.

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Don’t hate me.

The next night I had an even better night sleep. Was it that fabulous mattress again? Was it listening to the sandhill crane out in the elk refuge? Or was it because we’d spent the day in Yellowstone checking out the bison and geysers?

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Who knows? All I know is that I was sad to leave, and that I will definitely be back.

Thanks, Flat Creek Inn. #flatcreekinn #thatswy

To book your dream vacation to the Tetons click here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Love Notes, Fried in Butter

Last night, after all the kids had gone to bed, my husband made me the most exquisite fried egg.

He made one for me and one for him, and each was fried in butter in its own little single-egg pan. We sat down together to eat them, and when I put it in my mouth it melted on my tongue . . .so salty and velvety and warm … It was like eating a bit of a sunbeam, and it tasted so luxuriously superior to the fried eggs I make for myself (which require a lot more chewing).

When Scott makes an egg like this I know that he loves me.

Next story.

Scott and I go out every week. Every. Week.  Why? Because dating is cheaper than therapy. And a few weeks ago we invited my friend and her husband to come with us.  We all sat in a booth, and my friend’s husband sat on the inside of the booth, while my friend sat at the edge. Halfway through dinner my friend stopped the waitress and asked, “Excuse me, can you fill up my husband’s Coke? It is over there in the corner of the table, and I don’t think you saw it last time you came around.”

Wow, I thought. If my husband’s Coke went dry I wouldn’t have even noticed (or cared), but this observant wife was making sure her husband was getting his refills.

I bet he adores her.

One more story . . .

Another friend of mine was cutting her husband’s hair. He was preparing for a series of important interviews that will change the course of their lives, and they both wanted him to look his best. As she was snipping away she was telling him about a book that she was reading for book club (The Night Circus, if you must know). She became so engrossed in telling him that suddenly she sheared off a section of hair that was meant to be preserved. I can imagine that the expression on her husband’s face, when he saw himself in the mirror, was that of a volcano on the verge of an eruption (well, a partially deforested volcano). She braced herself for his censure . . . but it never came. Later she told him that she will always remember his restraint in not saying a sharp word, for the words he might have said would have lasted much longer than his unfortunate hair cut.

Is there a greater love than this? Well, yes.

And no.

I have found, in close to twenty years of marriage, that “I love you” doesn’t always come in three words. “I love you” can be manifested through every action of our mundane lives. By caring for the ones we love with generous attention and loving awareness, we are dropping “love notes” all the time. It doesn’t have to be big or showy or expensive. It is as simple as an exquisitely cooked egg, a Coke refill, or a word of deserved criticism that is never uttered. And when love is spoken in this context it becomes living poetry that marks the difference between roommates and soulmates.

What’s the earth

With all its art, verse, music, worth –

Compared with love, found, gained, and kept?

–Robert Browning

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Teaching Kids about Trump, Canada, and the End of the World

So we just finished with an election which proved to be very historic but not for the reason everyone had originally supposed. You know the details.

My husband and I (dyed-in-the-wool Republicans but not Trump fans) were stunned when we started to see what was happening on the screen as Donald Trump’s numbers went up. As our reactions became more and more flabbergasted, so did the panic level in my kids. And why were they panicking? Because we had been telling them all along that if Donald Trump won it would basically mean the End of the World. But that had been just a joke, because someone as brash as Donald Trump would never win!

But now he was winning, and each time a new red state popped up on the screen my son went to his knees saying, “Hurry, Jesus!”

When we discovered in the morning that it was really, truly so–that Trump really was going to be the new president–we had to regroup. Instead of making jokes about bunkers and moving to Canada we told our kids what we should have been teaching them all along. Specifically, that

  1. There are three branches of the government. The president is only one branch.
  2. There are checks and balances.
  3. A president can’t even be the president for more than 8 years…and if he does a really lousy job he’ll only be president for half of that time, and if he breaks the law than he will be president for even less time than that. It is called impeachment.
  4. America has survived many presidents. Some of them were not so great. Some of them turned out better than expected.
  5. The president should be treated with respect, no matter who he or she is.
  6. The president does not have as much power to make a difference in your world as you do.

When a very young child falls and scrapes their knee they will first look for the reaction in their parent’s face. What they want to know is “Should I cry?” If the parent is fearful the child will react with tears. If the parent is encouraging, the child will stand up, give a shaky laugh, and move on.

After school my kids came home and one of my daughters said, “I’m glad Hillary Clinton didn’t win. Because now I can become the first female president!”

I was proud of her. But there are a zillion other ways she can make an impact on the world that are more powerful than being the President of the United States.

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She That Hath Nose To Smell

Authors Note: I wrote this post a year ago but I never posted it.  With all the wonderful smells of autumn coming back to me I remembered the great deficit I had last fall. This is about how, for a few months, I completely lost my sense of smell. Or, if you are familiar with my writing, it could be about something else. cropped-vitamin-c-nicole2.jpg

I didn’t notice anything was amiss until I made the teriyaki chicken.

I got my recipe from a native Hawaiian who introduced me to The World’s Most Wonderful Ingredient: fresh ginger. Fresh ginger is amazing. It is like a lemon dressed in a kimono. Fresh and exotic and mysterious. Whenever I cut up ginger I like to take a chunk and find the nearest child and give them a whiff.  I can tell by the way they close their eyes that for a brief moment they’ve been transported to the East Indies.

But on this particular day, when I held the ginger up to my nose, I smelled nothing. Weird. Must be a bad ginger.

My teriyaki chicken recipe also calls for fresh garlic. I’m pretty sure you all know what that smells like. . . like a lemon wrapped in three or four decaying animal hides. I took several cloves, smashed them under the broad side of my knife and chopped it up. (I don’t take chunks of garlic around to my children and hold it under their noses because I want them to trust me.) But, out of curiosity I smelled my fingers. Nothing.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is garlic.

I smelled it again. Nothing.

Maybe . . . bad garlic?

Mystified, I tossed it into the teriyaki sauce anyway–along with the odorless ginger–and poured the mixture on the chicken, put it in the oven, and set the time. Forty-five minutes later my daughter comes into the house from cross-country practice and exclaims, “What is that wonderful smell?!”

“I don’t know,” I said. “What is it?”

“It smells like . . . teriyaki chicken!”

It was then that I first realized something was wrong with my nose. It is true that for part of September and October I had been sick, but I didn’t think I was that stuffed up.  Now it dawned on me that I couldn’t smell anything, and I hadn’t for a very long time. I couldn’t smell if the rag at the sink is too old or not. I couldn’t smell the pizza my friend brought into the house. I  couldn’t smell the candle at the party I went to. And worst of all, I couldn’t smell any of the fall, Octobery smells I love, including pumpkin bread or apple pie.

As the days went by and my sense of smell did not return I realized I had lost one of my most trusted tools. How would I tell if the meat in the fridge had gone bad? How would I know if my bread was done? Or burning?

When we carved out pumpkins I made special efforts to clean and dry the pumpkins seeds, and then put them in the oven. After a while I checked on them and they were burnt to a crisp. I hadn’t even noticed.

In the past I prided myself in my sense of smell. I could be upstairs and know what kind of cereal my child was pouring down in the kitchen. I could smell honeysuckle from 50 yards away. When I was pregnant I had an even more powerful sniffer. I could walk into the house and tell wether or not my husband was wearing his retainer. I was that good.

And now that tool was gone. I could smell absolutely nothing. You would be surprised how often a mother needs her nose. Ninety percent of the tasks I do during the day involve the eradication of bad smells of one kind or another. Now what was I to do?

After weeks of not being able to smell anything it starts to wear on your mind. You start to think things like, Perhaps all those smells I had once smelled were just figments of my imagination and I’ve never really smelled anything at all? Or perhaps odors don’t exist? Or perhaps everyone else who can smell things is crazy and I am the only one who really understands that there were no smells, there has never been smells and there will never be smells!

Think deeply about that for a moment.

This is definitely a sense which I took for granted. And the biggest loser was my youngest son.

One Sunday I sat with my two-year-old on my lap all during church. Afterwards I dropped him off in nursery and then skipped (inwardly, at least) to class, only to have the door open and long arms hand me my son with the message that he needed a diaper change. Immediately. When I went to change him I discovered that he had LONG been in need of a diaper change.

This happened two more times over the next few days, simply because I could not smell that he needed a change until the damage was done and a rash had appeared.

I realized that, at least for the present time, I would have to rely on the noses of others to help me smell. I had my daughters smell the dish rag to see if it needed to be washed. I had to have my kids and husband let me know when my two-year-old needed to be changed (because he wasn’t going to tell me.) Other things I had to be more vigilant about like making sure my 5-year-old son got a bath every three days. At least.

There might be some of you out there that may have lost a “sense” that you relied on in the past.  If so, don’t fret. Just because you can’t smell it anymore, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because you are surrounded by people who can smell and you can’t, doesn’t mean you are crazy . . . or that they are. It is just temporary. No need to do anything drastic. Sooner or later your sense will come back to you and you will smell it all again: the good smells, the iffy smells and the smells who need to be sent to the tub.

Two days ago I smelled pumpkin cookies . . . and the chili at our ward party . . . and my son’s dirty diaper. And it made me grateful that most lapses in judgement, peace of mind, or faith don’t always last for very long if we are willing to hold out. One must recognize when one is in an abnormal state and be patient for things to settle back in place. And when it does you will be wiser, more grateful, and more aware than ever of whatever it was that you lost.

For what it is worth.

 

But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.  Matthew 13:16-17

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