Sunday, March 24, 2013

Say what?

My girls have this problem. They mishear and mis-say things.
Some people reading this may not actually believe me. They are, after all, clever girls who have a great vocabulary and are pretty darn smart for their ages.
Which sometimes makes it funnier.
Allow me to present a comedy of errors...a comedy that will henceforth be known as "Say what?!"
Starring the amazing and talented Maryn and Ashlyn.

Scene 1:
The Camerons are attending the ward spring social, a breakfast somewhat early on a Saturday morning. Fade in. Mother is carrying on a simple adult conversation with other adults, their neighbors.

Mother (to neighbor): Why don't you plan on joining us for dinner. I'm making chicken and dumplings.

Ashlyn: What!?!? You're making chicken and DUCKLINGS?

Scene 2:
In the hallway after the social, Mother and Maryn are talking informally.

Mother: Maryn, can you think of anything we could do this afternoon when we have all those little girls over to play? Something to keep them busy?

Maryn: I think they'll kind of keep themselves busy.

Mother: We could make cookies I guess.

Ashlyn (who has just now entered in on the conversation because she was walking past): Why are you making TURKEYS?

(I dunno. Maybe to go with the chicken and ducklings?)

Scene 3:
A short time ago, the morning after Marcus has come for an evening visit wherein he enjoyed some tom-foolery with the children.

Paul: That was a great conversation last night. My favorite part was when Marcus (Ashlyn enters the room here) said that McDonald's causes cancer.

Ashlyn: What?! Marcus causes cancer?!

Scene 4:
Mother and Maryn are chatting in the car. Actually, Maryn is chatting somewhat incessantly and mother is both pretending to listen intently and trying to sort it out the gist of what is being said.

Maryn: (Cue talking without breathing)... So we were talking about some stuff on science and we read this part about cannibal mice and carnival mice... (keeps talking without breathing)

Mother: (Interrupting) Wait...what? Carnival mice?

Maryn; (Pausing to breath) Oh. Actually, I think I meant carnivore, not carnival.

Scene 5:
The house is filled with guests for dinner. One of the guests approaches mother and asks if they might be able to use the restroom. Mother genially points the way.

Mother: I really hope it clean enough...

Maryn: Don't worry. I'm pretty sure its edible...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Walking with a tassel on...

I don't do this very often...but I want to brag a little about myself.
Shortly after Dave died, I decided I needed to create a life for me and for my kids looking into our future with me as the only provider. So I decided to go back to school. I had completed 39.5 hours of credit before I got married. Choosing what I wanted to learn about was a process, as was determining where I would attend since I was definitely limited by location. After trying BYU long distance learning options, and finding out I was 1/2 credit shy of qualifying for the program, I chose University of Phoenix and majored in Psychology. After finishing that degree, I decided to continue with a Masters degree as well. It was a good choice. But it has been nearly 7 years of continuous work to get there.

And I did it! I did it while working and raising kids and still maintained a 3.5 GPA.

Here it is...the $60,000 piece of paper.

So my sweet, sweet Grandma Downs decided she was also proud of me, and that something like that is worth celebrating. And she put together a little party for me. So many people I love and am grateful to have in my life were there. All my aunts who live here and their families. My dad's brother and his wife. Grandparents. Siblings. Friends I've known for 24 years, and friends I've known for only a few months. Cousins and first cousins once removed. Dave's parents and his brother and some of his family. It was amazing. And I felt very, very loved. And a little embarrassed at the attention. But mostly loved.

My grandmother borrowed Garrett's graduation cap and tassel and had everyone sing Pomp and Circumstance while I walked across the room. So I did get to "walk" even though my alma mater is in Minnesota.

My wonderful sister in law Mandy made this neat little "card" and everyone signed it. 
It was really wonderful.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


So I think I'm about due for a catch-up blog. Now's as good a time as any.

My big news? I got my Master's Degree!! Woo-hoo! I am very proud of myself to be sure, and my stress level has definitely tapered off to be replaced by new stresses I'm sure. I still like my job most days, but have admittedly been struggling a little lately in that arena. Trying to figure out why that could be. There are a few possibilities; one is money concerns that come with the looming fact that my son will be leaving on a mission in about a year and half. Another possibility is a change in the culture of my workplace. Anyway, I do like what I do and like the people I work with. So for now, we carry on as we are. Right now too, I have some great volunteers and interns. I am very proud of what that program has become using volunteers and am constantly seeking for new ways to strengthen and expand it. 

My days are filled with work. Then I gear myself up to come home and be mother. I also have a church calling and teach one piano lesson a week. I don't really have any hobbies but I do get the chance to spend time with people I care about and enjoy, and that's definitely a favorite pastime. Last night, for example, I went with Marcus to watch the National Ballroom Amateur competitions at BYU. So fun! I think he thought his commentary would annoy me, but I actually found it helpful. I got to watch one of my interns, Alex, dance. The night before we jumped in the car as a family and went to our friends the Thomases. We had dinner and played Rummy and talked.

I enjoyed a girl's night out a few weeks ago with the women who love my brothers, Mandy and Melissa. We went to Iggy's for dinner and a movie (Safe Haven) and really enjoyed their company. Last weekend I also had some ladies from the ward over and we played games and talked. Lots of fun. I am very blessed to have so many people who care about me and who I can enjoy their company.

Another thing in my life right now as well has been offering support to a neighbor who recently had the father of her four children pass away in a snowmobiling accident. They had been separated for some time, but the divorce had only been final for 2 days when he died. The most difficult thing of course was telling her children, who are very similar ages as mine were when their dad passed away. I was outside her bedroom door when she told them, and I can still hear their sobs as the realization hit them. Heart wrenching. In some ways its also been difficult for me, reliving some very emotionally draining moments. But I think there has definitely been a purpose in where I live. I am so grateful for the chance to hopefully make her path easier by having been there before. And now, its a bond we share. 

Paul is awesome. I know I'm his mother, and that makes me biased, but I also think I'm the first one to point out his flaws which drive me nuts. For better or for worse, our situation has made him take on some responsibilities sooner than intended. But in some ways it has been to his advantage  He babysat some little ones in our ward the other day at our house, and he was brilliant. He was engaging with the little girl, Sadie,  (who is 4), held the baby and meticulously got the little kids pancakes and eggs for dinner and settled them at the table. Sadie told me she liked Paul because he called her "beetle" and "stinkbug" and she thought that was funny. 

He seems to be enjoying school well enough, His grades are decent. He was a peer tutor last semester where he was assigned a special needs student to accompany and support during one period of the day. Not surprisingly, he was very good at it. He also did some testing to see if he still qualified for an IEP. He no longer needed services AND his writing score was the highest the psychologist had ever seen. He's mostly obedient and way more even tempered than I am, which is good since he is taller than I am and outweighs me. There is literally no way I can force him to do anything. 

I hope and pray we survive each other. This is a difficult age to be and a difficult age to manage. Her moods are unpredictable. There are times that even as a woman I have no idea where all the spastic emotion is coming from. I also know it won't last forever. Which is consolation.

The upside? She is an amazing young woman. She was just made Beehive president and moved into the advanced orchestra placing 3rd chair cello. I can't even express to you what a awesome accomplishment this is. She also had a perfect GPA last term, and has risen to the challenge of gym class. She's really trying to change her habits and I think its really working for her. She is also immensely helpful and capable and does a great job of keeping things together for me when I can't be there. She happens to also be great with little kids and babies and is a sought after babysitter in our ward. 

So Conner is kind of funny in the way that unless he's not medicated and all up in my grill, he pretty much flies under the radar. We hit a difficult streak for about a week when the impulsive side of things seemed to get out of control (He punched his sister in the face and got in 2 fights at school). But we did some talking and evaluating, some therapy and some med adjustments and he seems to be fine. He is actually our moral center since the world is still pretty black and white for him. He gets very upset when I swear. And he doesn't like it when people hurt one another. He is also remarkably self aware I think. Sometimes when he gets upset, he knows that what he needs is to be left alone and find a way to calm down. I should probably listen to him more often. I think it would save a lot of grief actually in the handling Conner arena. He likes to play Yu-Gi-Oh with his brother and video games of all kinds.

Ashlyn is very Ashlyn-like. She's pretty clever and cute, and that works both in her favor and against it. She is my biggest challenge right now, but I love hearing things like the following story from her teacher. During conferences, her teacher was very complimentary. She said Ashlyn was doing well and was reading above grade level. Then she asked me if Ashlyn has said anything about her situation at school. I got a little nervous and answered no. And then timidly asked if there was something I needed to know. Mrs. Van Zant shared that there was a little boy in their class, Sam, who has Asberger's. He was high functioning, but socially could be a bit of a challenge. She shared that she was very careful who she put him next to because it could get difficult to manage kind of quickly. Apparently Sam had been next to Ashlyn for some time. "She's so good with him, and patient," she gushed. I was so proud of her. And I went home right away and told her so. I was pleased she was doing well in school, but I was thrilled that she was such a good person, and treating someone who needed her kindness in such a kind way.

Another piece of that conversation is that I told her teacher that what I really hoped for my children was for them to grow up to be good people. And that I hoped I was doing a good job, that I worry sometimes since I am alone.She quickly reassured me. "I couldn't agree more about the good people thing. And you have great kids. You doing your job makes me doing mine a lot easier."

Score. :)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Grandparent's Night

I love my grandparents.
 It’s true.
 And I’m not just saying that because my grandmothers read my blog. 
Even at the ripe old age of "closer-to-40-than-30", I am pretty privileged to have 3 grandparents still with me. I love all of them, and carry with me a profound amount of admiration and respect for who they are and what their lives have been. But this particular post is about my mom’s parents; my Grandma and Grandpa Downs.
So I decided a few weeks ago to call and ask my grandparents if we could share a Monday night meal with them. I wanted to take them out. Happily, when I called, my Grandma said yes. Then she offered to take care of a little lesson for Family Home Evening.
We met them at Golden Corral about 5 in the evening. It was perfect. There weren't too many people and we got to sit in a room all by ourselves so my grandpa could enjoy less noise pollution.

There was one funny thing that happened at the restaurant; we were standing in the buffet line, glancing over the offerings when Paul asks me “Where’s the steak?” I respond (typically) “I don’t know. You should ask. What do I look like, your mother?” Paul retorts, “Yeah. Unfortunately.” At this point, a strange woman standing next to me chimes in unexpectedly. “Wow. I’d make him sleep on the couch for that one!” I smile and reply, “Well, maybe. Except he really IS my son.” She pauses,processing for a moment,  and then stammers, “Oh, I thought he was your…you look really young.”

Ummm...yeah. That’s not awkward.

Anyway, we enjoyed the meal and the company immensely. The kids thought I was awesome since it was all you could eat, and everyone was happy because they got exactly what they wanted and plenty of it.
My favorite part though was when my grandpa (who rarely says anything anymore…he mostly just watches things happen and tells people to be quiet) catches my eyes and said “You have a beautiful family Chiara. All of you. You’re just wonderful.”
Best. Compliment. Ever.
We finished up and headed out the door to head back at my grandparent’s home. We gathered in the family room and my grandma presented a wonderful and thoughtful lesson on service. She even prepared little hands with situations typed out on them where an example was given on how people could serve one another. Each child had one to read. We closed with a few songs. For anyone who doesn't know, my grandparents are trained singers. Singing with them is an awesome experience.  And then we said goodbye.  I watched my grandparents tenderly embrace and kiss each of my children, and the “I love you” they genuinely lavished on each one felt almost like a blessing. The warm fuzzies I had been experiencing all night turned into a teary mist as I also kissed and hugged my grandparents and returned the blessing.

Seriously, a night I’m not sure I could have made more amazing if I had tried to. 

Monday, March 4, 2013


A few times a month I take a turn delivering meals to seniors for lunch. Our office has a route, and I share the privilege of visiting with 13 lovely people every other Friday with a coworker. 
I have to confess that usually I am in a hurry. I try to be quick and efficient in carrying out my assignment while be still being warm and friendly. Most of the times I am in and out in 20 minutes or so.

Last Friday was no exception. I hustled through the first part of my list; pleasant but concise in carrying out my designated duties.
And then I reached the next to last stop on my list. Lynda. We had always exchanged brief pleasantries when I came, and one time she had shown me pictures of her family. Today however, as I placed her meal on the counter, I took particular notice of a piano sitting in the middle of her apartment and felt moved to ask her more about it.

“Do you play?” I asked.
“Sometimes,” she responded. “Not as much as I used to.”
“Do you mind if I do?”
“No. Go right ahead!”
I sat down on the bench and opened the lid. I chose a pretty and familiar song, “Fur Elise”. She sat in a comfy chair behind me and laid back with a smile.
“Ah,” she sighed. “You have exactly 20 minutes to stop that.”
I smiled as well. Something pushed me to ask another question.
“Do you sing?” I queried again. “Maybe you’d like to sing some hymns?”
“I do sing!”
“What part?”
“Well, if you pick your favorite hymn, I’ll play and sing soprano. And you can harmonize.”
We sang several together…”All Creatures of Our God and Kind”, “Our Savior’s Love” and some others I can’t recall, but all with great alto lines. I can appreciate that.
 We ended with “Where Can I Turn for Peace”.
“This song is kind of a life story for me.” She said.
We started. I was enjoying it as much as she was…singing with someone. Harmonizing. Making music. As we finished the final verse, her voice trailed off. I finished the last notes on my own “Constant He is, and kind. Love without end.”
I turned toward her after I lifted my hands from the keys. Her eyes were closed and tears were streaming down her face.
“Thank you.” She whispered. “I needed that today.”
We talked for a bit longer… about discouragement, about peace, about waiting, about accepting.
And then I said my goodbyes and hugged her as I walked out the door.
I am so grateful that I listened well enough to hear the spirit tell me stop and linger a little longer with her.
 I needed that today too.


  • While running errands in Provo, Ashlyn and I stopped by my office to grab a few things I needed. As I set the alarm and hurried her out of the building she asked "Why do we have to go so fast?" I replied "We have to get through the second door in 30 seconds before the alarm turns on. If we don't, the alarm will go off." Ashlyn; "And then what would happen? Would your boss have to come down and fix it?" Me:"Yeah. And I'd be in BIG trouble." Ashlyn: "Oh." She pauses thoughtfully. "So what would he do? Give you extra chores?" :)
  • Me: "Ashlyn, why did you change your pants?"
    Ashlyn: "Because my skinny jeans were making my butt hurt."
  • Last night in the car Maryn was whining, and complaining, about something...again...perpetually. It wasn't long until I heard myself speaking these words out loud to her; "Dear Maryn. Please stop it. Love, Mom." Maryn promptly replies "Dear Mom. There's nothing you can do about it. I'm twelve and hormonal. Love, Maryn."
  • I was dishing Ashlyn out some soup into a dish he had retrieved herself. As I scooped she informed me she had grabbed the bowl from the cabinet beneath where she had been sitting on the counter...using her toes. I both impressed at her dexterity and grossed out at the same time.
  • Paul points this out at the restaurant we stopped at. "Look. That's what I'm going to do when I grow up." Maryn: " I think I'm going to throw up." Paul: "Ah come on. You know you think their good looking." Maryn: "No! They're hair is long and their chests are hairy. Gross." Paul: "Sure. But at least their not picky." My kids crack me up.

Feeling Good

So my kids are a little rough on electronics. As a result, I have been without a home computer for quite some time. And it has been terrible.

Why? Because I have 2 ways to decrease and manage stress in my life; music (piano specifically) and writing. I currently do not have a piano, so that's not an option. And without a computer, I also had that outlet taken from me.

I have been less then happy. But now, I have a computer again. And I already feel more relaxed just thinking of the possibilities. I can write again! I can push my thoughts and feelings and struggles and triumphs out into the great oblivion and out of my own head which is the mental equivalent of decluttering. 

And so, thus will begin a series of backstories and long past moments that simply need to be shared somewhere. Enjoy. I know I will.