Apr 27, 2010

Where Is Zach?



I am ashamed to say that my son has been on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for a year and I have done hardly any research on where he is. Whenever I mention to someone that he is on a mission for two years the next question to naturally follow is, "Where is he?" When I reply, "Estonia" most people politely say "wow" but are at a loss as to what to ask next. I totally understand that. Not many of us know much about Estonia.

Well on Monday nights Joe has Math tutoring at the library so I get a glorious hour and a half in the library to do whatever I want. This is like heaven for me. I have a continual list in my head of things I want to look for. Last night while I was browsing I came across a book about Estonia and knew I had to have it. Actually let me clarify...I don't know if there are many books about Estonia all by itself the books I have seen are about Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia all together. They are usually a package deal. And when you talk about them all together you are talking about what is called the Baltic Countries that's why the official name of Zach's mission is the Baltic Mission.

I came right home from the library and started reading my book about the Baltic States at the dinner table while my family was arguing about something. I finished the 132 page book before I went to bed. And now I can not get what I learned off of my mind. The history of the Baltic Countries is so sad.

I guess I better first tell you where Estonia is because that plays a huge part in why it has such a troubled past and present. If you are looking at a map you should look for Russia and then you should look to the left of Russia and find Estonia. Finland is above Estonia and Latvia is below it.

When I was a kid I loved reading about the world, my parents had an amazing National Geographic Atlas. It was huge. It had information on every country. It was colorful. I loved it. In case my parents are wondering where that Atlas is.....I have it. The pages are falling out of it but this book has a ton of memories for me. I brought it out the other day because Tatiana and Natalie were trying to get a long with just one atlas and it was not working out so well. I tried to find Estonia in this atlas and it was not there, I was a little confused, but then I found it...inside Russia. When I was a kid there was no independent and free Estonia. The U.S.S.R was the boss. That has always been the story of the Baltic countries. Other countries were always taking them over. Poland, Germany, Sweden and Denmark and the worst was Russia. Some other country was always telling them what language to speak, what traditions to have and exploiting their land.

The Baltic Countries have a long coastline and level plains and these facts have always made them vulnerable to invasion. Someone was always dividing up their lands or wanting access to the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. Having access to a body of water that did not freeze in the winter was something Ivan the Terrible desperately wanted.

Most of the Baltic countries did not have a country to call their own until 1991. Up until then the people of the Baltic's nearly disappeared, the Soviets...bless their hearts...tried to extinguish their culture in every way.

It made me think about things I have never thought about before:

How it must be to always know you had a job in a state run factory and because little was asked of you you just become used to working passively, doing just enough to get by and then all of a sudden to have to learn how to work with pride and efficency.

To have inherited mile upon mile of polluted land and water from the Soviet Union who took no care of your land while they were in charge. And to now be too poor to fix it.

To finally be able to sing your national anthem, display your flag and speak you native language freely. I totally take it for granted that I can do this in America.

To have to be able to forgive Russia and move on.

The more I read the more involved I became. I felt for these people who have hardly anything. It is so strange to think that on August 23 of 1989, just two months before Zach was born, 2 million people linked hands between the capital of Estonia which is Tallinn and Vilnius, Lithuania in a giant human chain, the linking of hands became a, "dramatic symbol of the Baltic Countries desire for freedom."

Zach was born in October of 1989 and 19 years later he would go on a mission to a country that has only been free of Soviet rule for 16 years. So I guess you know the Mormon church is very young in Estonia. I can not imagine trying to teach these people who have been through so much about God. Their country was free from 1920-1939 but after that they were not allowed religion or any other freedom until they became independent in August of 1991.

As of last week Zach has been on his mission for a year. He is loving every minute of it. I think he misses peanut butter and I try to send it when I can. His winter was long and cold but he never complained about it just mentioned casually that he was wearing his pajamas under his suit:) He said the sun would come up just a little ways in the sky at about 9 in the morning and by 4:00 it would be dark. But from what I hear in Northern Estonia the summer months can bring 19 hours of daylight so he should be able to re-charge :)

Estonia is amazing. Zach is currently in Tallinn the capital of Estonia. If you look on the map Tallin is right on the Gulf of Finland. The country is the same size as New Hampshire and Vermont combined and there are about 1.6 million people living there. I learned that Estonians love to sing and it is a very important part of their culture. The summer months are devoted to song festivals, huge choirs of between 10,000 and 30,000 appear in the capitals of the Baltic Countries.

Thanks for letting me share what I learned about Estonia. It continually amazes me how big the world is and how little I know of what is going on out there.

Apr 25, 2010

Taking My Time.

Where did eleven days go? How could it be that I have not blogged since April 14th? Don't you miss knowing what I am thinking about? I really miss telling you. Believe me, I want you to be my priority but sadly you are not. So now that I have confessed to you where you rank let me get on to telling you what has been occupying my life when I wish I could have been blogging.

Madeline is home from college. She was home from BYU exactly 2 days when she acquired a very wicked eye infection. She is the second Baird child to acquire this cursed eye infection. This eye infection is related to wearing contacts. Before you judge me on my, "educating my children on wearing contacts skills" I must tell you I do not wear contacts or glasses. The thought of sticking a contact in my eye makes me visibly squirm. I have no idea what the rules for wearing contacts are so on the matter of wearing contacts I have pretty much nothing to say to my children who do wear them. But now that two Baird children have had horrible eye infections due to misuse of their contacts I think I am finally qualified to say a few things about wearing them:

#1. Take them out every night....yes, before going to bed.
#2. Change them every couple of weeks.

Surely these two steps can not be as inconvienent as these infections have been. Madeline sat in the dark, in the basement, for two days with a washcloth filled with ice on her eyes. She was so miserable that she did not even text for two days.....yep, it was that bad. I had to lead her like a blind person to the eye doctor....did you know you have to tell people that can not see about the curb when you are leading them? :) So $158.00 later Madeline can open her left eye but not her right one and we are heading back to the eye doctor tomorrow. So putting drops in her eyes every hour, getting her food, feeding her and waking up every 3 hours in the night to get her new ice has taken some time away from blogging.

Eye infection aside I am actually glad she is home. Something happened out in Utah at college...I think aliens abducted her.... she has come home the most pleasant person I have ever met. She is a peacemaker. She does not have her music in her ears 24/7 like she used to. She follows me around and wants to talk? She cleans without being asked. She tells the other kids to, "be nice to her little mama" when they are sassing me.

The other time "take away-er" is my job. Yeah, I know. I did not tell you. It is a small job, but it is perfect for me. It is next door so the commute is heavenly. A couple weeks ago the neighbors were looking for someone to weed, mow and keep up their yard. I do not know what came over me but I offered to do it once they got over the idea of a 41 year old doing their yard work they were so into the idea. They pay me $60.00 a week to spend four hours in their yard. You know how I love yard work. I mean who does not like a job where you can see your work? My kids can walk to my work and tattle about who is hitting who and I can walk home to change my sprinklers and then walk back to work. The neighbors love me and think I am the hardest worker in the land. And I have $60.00 of my very own money every week. It never gets spent on something I want but it is in my hand for a short moment. Four hours adds up and so that is another reason I have not been able to blog.

And now that I have to keep up with the neighbors yard I am in my yard a ton more :) It is April 25th and all of my 8 cubic yards of glorious pine mulch is spread. The peas, potatoes, garlic, onions, spinach and lettuce are all up and growing. My strawberry patch is bigger. Everything is weeded. My raspberry row is longer. Almost all the cover crop I planted in the Fall is out of my garden. Sadly, it has taken all sort of precious blogging time to get to this point.

Disappointment has been taking up my blogging time. On Wednesday we loaded our 15 passenger van with 16 people and headed to New York City for the day. I live for our New York City trips. And this trip we had planned to spend the day in the Museum of Natural History which is located on Central Park West. We got to Greenwich, Connecticut and the radiator in our van decided it did not want to go to New York City. So we had to turn around and stop to fill the radiator with water all the way back home.

So now you are caught up on the last 11 days of my exciting life :) Hopefully, now that spring break is over I can blog more.

Apr 12, 2010

The State of The Union.....ahem.... Yard.

Once a year the president of the United States addresses Congress in the House of Representatives chamber at the United States Capitol. This address is required by the constitution. In the address the president is supposed to report on the condition of the nation, he outlines Congresses priorities for the year and definitely outlines his agenda. I used to watch the State of the Union every year but I confess that in recent years it has been a little painful so I have stopped watching, judge me if you must.

But I really like the idea of the State of the Union. So I thought today I would give you my own state of the union....not about the nation....silly....about things here in The United States of Baird...like all true politicians it is all about me :) The State of the Union address is usually given in January but at our house Spring is always evaluation time so it is the best time to report. And I fancy myself as President of the United States of Baird....so I will give the address. Please save your applause until the end...I hate that part of the State of The Union...all the pauses for the applause.

The first thing I will report on is the condition of the yard. I did a few things differently last Fall and I had to wait all winter to see if they would work or not. You see I checked with my cabinet(aka Google) last October and decided to cover my strawberries with straw...I mean they are STRAWberries after all. But as I took the straw off of the berries this spring I think I have determined that I will not do that again simply because I now have a huge pile of straw to dispose of. So for purely lazy reasons I am ditching the straw idea this Fall and next Spring I will know if it was a good choice or not. Maybe I should tax my people more so that I could hire someone to remove the straw? Now that it is Spring the strawberries are growing like crazy so I am excited to see what sort of a crop I will get from my one year old strawberry patch. I am trying to ignore the fact that I planted them in a low spot in the yard and cross my fingers that it will be okay.

Most of you who listen to talk radio know about my new plan to plant a cover crop :) I will apparently do whatever it takes to have great soil even if my constituents do not agree. I have to say something here that not many politicians ever say..."I was wrong about the cover crop." I am too impatient to wait for the cover crop to be at the perfect moment to rototill it under. About a week ago I asked the Vice President (aka hubby) what would be the absolutely worst thing to happen if we dug the cover crop under at the wrong time and he said the worst case scenario would be lots of winter rye still growing that I would have to weed out. I decided I was okay with that scenario and assigned the VP the job of rototilling the winter rye into the garden. And yes, I am weeding it with much happiness and joy. Aren't I good at putting a spin on my situation?

The state of the raspberries worried me a little since I was not sure about the proper way to prune them. But I am happy to report they all have leaves opening and look happy. I need to use your tax dollars to find the perfect cover for the raspberries because I am a selfish president and I will not be exporting raspberries to the birds. My goal for this year is to plant two more raspberry bushes to bring my total to 10 raspberry bushes. I am sure this goal will make our nation better.

As of Saturday April 10th the peas, garlic, onions and potatoes have been planted in my garden. Since so many of you complained to your Senators last year about how ignorant I seemed to be when I planted, in your opinion, to early I want you to know that this year I waited 2 weeks later to plant them to prove I am a listening sort of president :)

On my agenda for this year is one thing:

#1. To fix the lawn.

Even though he would vehemently (we should all use the word vehemently more isn't it great? ) deny it the previous President of the "gray house" took the topsoil when he left so I thankfully have someone, other than myself, to blame for the condition of the gray house lawn. The Vice President has voiced his dissent about this project but I am, after all, the President so I am pressing forward with the "restoring the lawn project" all on my own. Every year I will purchase a couple yards of topsoil, add it to the yard and replant grass seed. I am determined that my lawn will cause you to take off your shoes and run through it when you see it.

Also, I would still love to have a fence installed to protect my garden from the deer and other wildlife creatures that seem to have no respect for borders. I also plan to plant two more Blueberry bushes with your tax dollars.

The polls show you supported the building of my cold frames and so to help my approval rating go up I need to report that they are doing fabulous. I have radishes, lettuce, cilantro, dill, spinach, and peas all coming up in the warmth and happiness of their micro climate.


Just so you don't question what a great president I am, in closing, I must tell you that our neighbors noticed my mad yard skills and are now employing me for 4 hours a week to work on their yard. So one weed at a time we will restore this nation to its greatness :)

Apr 9, 2010

Are You A Bully?



Are you quarrelsome?


Do you feel the need to badger or intimidate weaker, smaller people?

Are you overbearing?

Overbearing means you are domineering, or rudely arrogant,(thought I would help you out with the definition just in case you were not sure if you are overbearing or not:)

I loved that those "dictionary writing" people used the word rudely in front of arrogant in describing someone who is overbearing I had no idea that there were different kinds of arrogance. Hmmm, can you can be politely arrogant? Wait, I am getting off track.....

So are you any of those things I just listed? You are? Uh oh...did you know that you fit the definition of a bully? Don't worry I still love you because I am pretty sure that if you are a bully and you know it you are going to change that very quickly because really who discovers they are a bully and wants to stay that way? :)

Bullying has been happening since the beginning of time. It almost seems like it is a normal part of life, right? Were you bullied? Did you bully? There was a odd girl in one of my elementary school classes when I was a kid and we all teased her because she picked her eyelashes and ate them. I feel so sad every time I think about poor Janice and how we all chased her around the playground making her squeal. Not a proud moment for me.

I know when you think of bullying you probably simply think of someone beating someone up. But I actually learned today that giving someone the silent treatment, spreading gossip, criticizing someones clothes, and refusing to socialize with someone, are all forms of bullying just in case you thought bullying was just physical.

If you ever happen to be inside a bullies head you would see that they are insecure and they are bullying to make themselves feel better. But that information does not make you feel any better when they have hurt you. Bullies come in every shape and size. Some are popular some are not. Some are rich some are not. Adults can even bully. The adults who do bully are authoritarian, they have a strong need to control or dominate. I know some of these kinds of adults. They have hurt me deeply in their need to deal with their envy and resentment.

I have lots of questions about bullies today because this morning I had to bring Natalie to school late. She has been very sick so I let her sleep in a little today. She did not want to go to school but this is my 7th child and I know all about the, "not wanting to go to school" thing so I, "matter of factly" got her ready and drove her up to the school. It was probably only a coincidence but Natalie's teacher came out of her classroom right when we came around the corner and she headed straight for me. She sent Natalie into the classroom to put her stuff away. She then said to me, "I had a feeling this was going to happen." I was a little confused, what was going to happen? She then told me that, "Natalie had had a bad day yesterday" at school. I still felt like I was missing something. She then used the word bully to describe to me what is causing Natalie to have bad days. All of a sudden, oh so much, became clear to me, all the little pieces from the weeks before....drat... I started crying. Yes, there in the elementary school hallway. I confess I made the teacher cry too. I fear I may have made teachers cry when I was a kid but this was the first time as a grown up that I had made a teacher cry :) I wish I could get the guy repairing my car to cry with me too :)

As I left the school my mind was swimming. How can I help Natalie? I wanted to know why people bully. Is there a right thing and a wrong thing for a parent to say to someone that has been bullied and is in first grade? I would guess that all the other Baird children have been bullied at some point in their public school careers but strangely I do not remember any particular instances? Maybe the Baird kids were the bullies? I do not ever remember being bullied as a kid. I remember being teased about being short. I remember someone thinking changing my last name from Ord to orca was funny. But that was about it.

I did learn in my reading today that bullies eat those of us who are insecure and can't stand up for ourselves for lunch, whoever they can find that lets them have power. Bullies adore power....it makes them feel so great about themselves.

So I am off to read some more about bullies and then figure out what my plan will be to help my Natalie deal with this. Never a dull moment :)

Apr 6, 2010

Cairns.

Okay, don't judge, but I really like rocks. I have a box full of rocks that I have saved for a very long time. And trust me that says something because I do not save things. It started when I was little, as all good habits do :) We were on a beach in Washington State that had tons of rocks that were all shaped like M&M's. I collected several of them and they have been with me ever since. They are perfectly smooth, perfectly shaped like M & M's...did I already mention that? They are so cool. I wish it was appropriate for someone of my age to proudly show them to everyone :)

There are other rocks in my box too. I try to take a rock from significant places I go...yes, go ahead and report me....I dare you. I even have rocks from old boyfriends driveways....did I just say that out loud? Now from that last statement that I let slip I guess you can tell that for me it is never about what kind of rock it is, or how pretty it is, it is all about the memories associated with the rock.

Anytime we talk about my love of rocks the conversation should always naturally lead to cairns. Cairns are my latest fascination. What brought this interest on? Well last Saturday we started off the Baird families 2010 hiking season with a hike to Kent Falls in Connecticut. I have been there before but this time we took a different trail and we came across all these carefully placed piles of rocks. It was very magical and a little eerie to see all of them lined up in this place along the trail. I wanted to know the stories behind them. I wanted to make one. I wanted to know who started it and how long they had been there. At the time I did not know what they were called. But I thought I heard one of our friends use the word cairn. It is a weird word that you do not hear very often so I had to google it and figure out what it meant and more importantly the "why."

A cairn (pronounced "carn" if you are in Ireland, which we aren't, but still useful information) is simply a man made pile of stones. They are found on, "uplands, moorlands, mountaintops or waterways." I was amazed to discover all the purposes cairns can fulfill. In modern times we use them as landmarks but in ancient times cairns were used as "sepulcharal monuments, practical or astronomical purposes." They can be used to commemorate an event that happened in a certain spot. If they are placed at regular intervals they mark a path...like maybe a "buffalo jump" I know how often we all come across "buffalo drive lanes." They can memorialize. They can mark the summit. A cairn can be a loose pile of rocks or it can be a engineering marvel. The ones that we saw on Saturday were definitley not loose, random piles of rock. Everyone was different. All balanced very carefully. Some were tall and some were short. Some were fat and some were skinny. I did not count them but I would guess there were maybe 50 of them. They made you feel like you were someplace really special.

Cairns can be found all over the world. It is a Jewish tradition to place a small stone on a grave when you visit as a token of respect. In old times stones were piled on graves to deter thieves and scavengers and possibly even to keep the dead from rising. In Scotland it is a tradition to carry a rock with you to the top of the mountain and place it there. These day we use cairns to mark trails. Most of them are under a foot high. I was amazed to see the pictures and read about some huge cairns around the world.

I learned that when you pass a cairn you should add a rock to the top and that the rocks should get successively smaller until the top is tiny rocks balanced precariously. So apparently there are some cairn rules :) And you know that makes me happy.

Apr 5, 2010

Teach Me All That I Must Do :)


Do you remember when you learned how to ride a bike? Did you teach yourself? Did you have a brand new bike or an old bike? How old were you? If there were rules for being a mom and one of those rules was, "teach your kids to ride a bike before they are seven" I could never have been a mom. I have no idea why I am so bad at making the bike riding thing happen at this house. But not one of my children has known how to ride a bike before the age of 8. I am not sure what the significance of this is. Maybe it means none of them will be president.


The story begins with Zach, my first born :) We lived in Princeton New Jersey. He was about 6 and I became aware ( as you always do with your first child) that other kids his age were riding bikes. I thought to myself, like there was some massive check off list, "oh my, it must be that time when you teach your kid to ride a bike." So I tried. I really tried. But Zach did not want to fall down. You have to adore falling down to learn to ride a bike. I am not really sure why but he and I just gave up. Don't worry he grew up fine and got a full scholarship to BYU :) But I worried at times that I was going to have a lot of explaining to do when he turned 19 and got a mission call to a location that would require him to ride a bike. But finally when he was 15 he just went out, rode a bike, and that was that. WHEW!


Madeline has no fear and tons of determination so when we lived in Kansas she just decided she was going to ride a bike. So she practiced, practiced and practiced with one foot on the curb and one foot on the street. Once she mastered it, she taught Miriam. That my friends is when I first learned about how useful the sibling thing could be and since then I have cashed in on that knowledge way too many times. It is amazing what I can get them to teach each other for the paltry price of a bag of candy :)

Amanda, is not going to be happy when I confess I don't really know how she learned how to ride a bike. The rumor is that she learned in Indiana and that I personally drove her to the middle school parking lot. But the facts are sketchy. If she was home right now I would ask her, she would take one hour to tell me how it happened and she would be slightly irritated that I did not remember. But i do know that she knows how and surely that counts for something :)


I will never ever forget teaching Joe to ride a bike. It was definitely traumatic.We lived out in the country and had a gravel driveway with a slight hill so I loaded his bike in the car and we went to the church parking lot. It took at least a week of driving to the church parking lot every afternoon. Everytime his bike would not do what he wanted it to he would yell at it and pick it up and throw it. I am sure the old people in the retirement housing next to the church really enjoyed the "joe show." One day I even dropped poor unsuspecting Miriam off at the church parking lot with him. But to my credit I stuck with the incredibly painful proces and Joe can ride a bike.

Tatiana has been wanting to learn how to ride a bike for a year now and all the planets aligned on Saturday, she got Amanda to help her, and within an hour Tatiana was riding a bike. She has the best sense of balance that the Baird family has seen yet. She took one crash into my raspberry bushes but other than that it was a very uneventful process. She went around and around the house about a million times while I worked in the yard.

So there is only one Baird child left that needs to know how to ride a bike and then my work here is done.