Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hakuna Matata

Now that the stress of the thesis is (almost) done, it's time to head out on the next adventure. The big adventure of choosing a job or a PhD program is still up in the air, but the immediate future is pretty much looming with adventure. It's looming so much that I can't believe how calm I am at present.

I'm going to Kenya on Thursday.

I'll be there for one month, more or less. I'll work in an orphanage for three weeks and the take a few days to travel by myself, probably a safari. I'll let you know if I meet up with Simba or any of his crew.

I have a travel bug, it's true.

Cim, I'm blaming you for the travel bug and also for making me confident (cocky?) enough to travel by myself. I don't think I could have done this before our Thailand adventure.

I'm not 100% sure how often I'll be able to get to a computer, although you can bet my camera will be going non-stop. I'm planning on emailing my family fairly often and updating my blog will be a little lower on the list of priorities. I'm not sure if I'll be able to upload pictures there or if I'll have to wait until I get back. If anyone's interested in getting email updates from me during the next month, send me a comment or an email and let me know. I hate mass emails, I actually much prefer personalized correspondence to the blog even, but I'm thinking that emails might be the most practical at first at least. I'll see how it goes after that.

Man, when on earth are the nerves going to kick in? I've been so calm about this for so long- I thought that once the thesis defense was past, I'd start getting worked up over going to Sub-Saharan Africa, but I guess not yet. It's just as well. The less time spent worrying, the better, right?

Duck, Duck, Goose

This was a family weekend, and I loved it. Matt, Tricia, Michael and I headed to Idaho Falls to spend time with my mom's family, many of whom live in that general region. Any time I head to Idaho, a few things are assured:
1- There will be lots of good food
2- There will be lots of people
3- There will be lots of entertainment
4- There will be lots of laughter
5- There will be lots of stories told and made
6- No errors or embarrassments in your past are safe from being teased and joked about (which, 98% of the time, doesn't bother me at all. The other 2% of the time, I'm usually already in a bad mood).

The food comes from lots of sources, but our favorite chef is always Uncle Curtis, who had fresh tomato soup, hot bread, and homemade honey butter waiting for us upon our arrival.

The primary form of entertainment this time around was a game called Blokus, which we discovered on our last trip to Idaho (Matt documented this one). We played it many times and were surprised at how strongly we all became emotionally attached to the game.

On our first round, Grandma's napkin holder, which is wicker, and looks like a duck, was sitting on the table. I have no recollection of exactly how it started, but somehow I wound up with the duck and it henceforth became my mascot for the trip.

The next morning, we went to the Idaho Falls Riverwalk with Grandma and walked along a portion of the Snake River. Imagine my delight when we were met by hordes of ducks and geese! Upon closer examination of these live, organic specimens, I concluded that I had made a wise choice of mascot.

Ducks are very endearing birds. I especially like them for the following reasons:
1- Their quacking noises are quite pleasant
2- When they quack a certain way, it sounds like they're laughing, and I then laugh along.
3- Mallards often have tail feathers that curl into nice little curliques
4- They have very flexible necks. Can you imagine sticking your head on your back to sleep?
5- I have to admit it- I'm a sucker for when they shake their little behinds

After walking along half the Riverwalk, we came across a grassy knoll where the ducks and geese hung out. They were apparently used to being fed, because as soon as they saw us coming towards them, they all began marching towards us. If I thought there was any truth to the plot of The Birds, it would probably have been a slightly frightening moment.

However, we were able to peacefully coexist on the grassy knoll with the ducks and geese; they actually all turned and started walking around once they decided we weren't going to feed them. I like ducks, though. Maybe I'll have one someday.

These last pictures document the beauty of the Riverwalk with the Idaho Falls Temple in the background. I think that Matt, Tricia, Michael, and Grandma make a very colorful group. Also, Tricia is trying out her new magical abilities in that last shot. She got quite good at some spells while we were up in Idaho.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Things that made me happy today

After the vista from the mountaintop comes the return to plodding through valleys and up inclines. And there are definitely some steep inclines in the near future. I love climbing them, but boy is it hard and painful.

After being put into a rather sober mood today by some correspondence I received and some advice from Dr. J that I really didn't want to hear, I was at the grocery store, getting food to cook for my family tonight. An employee observed that I was in line with my basket behind two people with carts full of food and offered to open a new checkout counter for me. I thought that was very nice of him.

As he finished scanning and bagging my things, I idly watched the people beyond the checkout counters. There were a few hanging around the Redbox, and several hurrying out of the store with their purchases. Then, two very small boys appeared on the scene, running full tilt straight towards the restrooms. When they were mere feet from the door of their destination, a woman opened it and walked out. The older boy, who couldn't have been more than five, halted as fast as he was able and yelled, "stop! It's the wrong door!" to his little brother, grabbing him by the arm to prevent him from making such a devastating social gaffe. The two boys looked at each other with the expression of those who have narrowly escaped the jaws of a fate worse than death, and as they proceeded to the door of the men's room, they told each other loudly what a narrow escape they'd had just there.

Unfortunately, the guy bagging my groceries didn't see any of this, so he probably had no idea why I suddenly started laughing.

I got to the house and started cooking. Michael greeted me with a hug. That always makes me happy. Hazle, my seventeen-year-old cat, came to greet me when I got out of my car. Hazle's tail was recently severely damaged in a mysterious way; the middle is all scabby and nasty and he couldn't move it for a while. Michael suggested that it got sat on by another cat in a fight. But regardless of the cause of the tail-damage, Hazle seems to be on the mend, which also makes me happy. Sometime I'm going to write a post on that cat and how much he's meant to me over the years, and then everyone will think I'm one of those horribly sappy pet people, which really isn't true. But this cat is special to me, and to many of my siblings (certain other siblings could definitely do without him- such as my brother who made a New Year's Resolution once to like the cat).

At dinner, Michael announced that he wanted to play a game of basketball. We settled for Nine on the Line, a game that Tim taught us that is similar to Pig. It was kind of nippy outside, but once we got into the game, it wasn't so bad.

Also at dinner, Michael burped and Dad laughed for five minutes straight. There's a little more to the story than that; we were all sharing what we had studied in the scriptures recently and Dad asked Michael to share his insights. To which Michael replied "share my insides?" and burped. Whenever Dad laughs that hard, Tim and Michael also start laughing. It reminded me of Sunday dinners at the house. I laughed too, but not as hard. Angi was feeling really sick and I don't even know if she was coherent. Poor girl.

Anyway. All of these things were events that perked me up out of my mullings and musings. I appreciate each one. I'm going to bed now a happier person because of them.

ps- here's something else that makes me happy. This is my dad's handiwork, but Michael is the press agent.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The adventures of an accidental scientist, part VII

Kids, I have arrived. The committee passed my thesis, and I just have to make a few revisions, mostly to get it formatted properly. It was a long, hard road, and although I feel really good about the defense, it surely didn't tell my story, although it told the story of the plants I studied.

About six months ago, I told Dr. J that I wanted to title my defense "A Two-Year Study in Murphy's Law." This was about the time that I originally should have defended my thesis, and I still didn't have any data to work with. This was when I was spending fourteen hour days in the lab regularly working to get my results, and not seeing any results. At all. Everything was failing and nobody knew why.

I've come a long, long way since then. Standing near the end and looking back across the whole experience, I can pick out so very many things that I would have done differently or sooner, or wouldn't have done at all if I could go back and do it again.

I think it's a little bit like how I'll feel at the end of my life, when I'm looking back over the whole experience. I think I'll be pleased with what I accomplished with my time, and I think I'll be able to see how much I've learned and how far I've come and developed, and I think I'll also see a lot of things I'll wish I'd done differently.

There was one pivotal moment in this whole situation that really sticks out to me. Last summer, as I tried harder and harder and continued to fail, I started becoming very depressed. I was stuck and I had no idea how to get out. Then, in the course of a couple of days, with the help of my good friend Cim and a visit to the temple, combined with lots of deep, deep prayer and contemplation, the weight was lifted. The situation itself didn't change at all, but the terrible weight was gone and I was happier than I had been for quite a long time. Also, let me clarify that this contemplation and prayer took place over the course of months, not days. It was just that the experience of the burden lifting took place over a couple of days. It makes me think strongly of the experience that Alma the Elder's people had (notably verses 10-15).

Sometime after that, towards the very end of June, things suddenly and inexplicably started working. And then I wrote the thesis, and now it's defended, and my committee were very complimentary about my grasp of the information and my presentation skills. And they don't hand out compliments like peppermints, either.

Also, a lot more people deserve credit than I was able to acknowledge in the actual defense.
Stu and Troy- for the counseling and blessing they gave me right before I went to Missouri to troubleshoot. It did my soul much good.
My brother Matt for all the other blessings as well as all the encouragement and cheer.
David, whose words of wisdom, written on Sunday, pretty much geared me up for anything:

That's good that your defense got pushed back, so you have a bit more time to prepare. I think however that you should start calling it an attack rather than a defense since you're going to totally show those profs who's boss.

Heh. Thanks, David

All the other grad students who I worked with, especially Taylor, who always made me laugh. Especially the time we got into all the professors' offices and swapped all their family photos. They were trying to re-sort them for weeks. Also, Christian gets a special mention for helping me develop more of an ability to say what I think without mincing words- it was either that, or let him walk all over me. Somehow we ended up being friends, sort of. Also, Jared always managed to surprise me with his niceness. And Leilani bought me lunch on my birthday. And Derrick always tried to startle me by walking up behind me really quietly so the first time I was aware of his presence was when he spoke in my ear. I am pleased that I rarely gave him any visible signs of being startled. We don't want to encourage that kind of behavior.

Then there were the students who did their research when I was still an undergrad. I have been kicking around this lab way too long. Dave and Shawn, who were always hanign together, and always, always made me laugh. Man, oh man, I miss those guys. They were great to have around. And Marc, the death stick, who is now close to done with medical school at Johns Hopkins University. Marc was one of the most energetic people I have ever known. He couldn't even be frustrated without being enthusiastic.

And of course, there was Shanna, the first grad student I ever knew up close and personal. She was the only grad student when I started working in the lab- it was her and meand fourteen guys. She told us often that she had sworn off men until she was thirty. She would also tell the boys in the lab that she was very glad that they were married so they understood her big mood swings. We'll just leave it at that.

I was also glad that the boys in the lab were married, because it meant that I automatically had fourteen big brother figures. Upon one occassion, Nate, who looks like Mr. Clean, told me that he and a guy named Jared were my godfathers. He then assigned Jared the job of providing my dowry.

And all you awesome people who came to my defense even though it was probably kind of boring- what good family and friends you all are! Dad, Matt, Tricia, Laura (who skipped class the be there!), McKay, Josh . . . my roommate Kristel wanted to come, but we thought it might be kind of tricky to bring her whole class of first graders. So she sent treats instead.

I felt so loved when I walked out of the room after my committee grilled me one-on-one and found everyone still waiting for me outside the door. I'm kind of surprised I didn't start crying right then and there.

And now this post is really long and really sappy, so I'll go get to work on the revisions that need to be worked in to my thesis. Thank you, and good night.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Practice makes permenant

I've used certain words and phrases so much lately with my thesis preparation that I suspect I will be saying them in my sleep for weeks. Sometimes when I study a certain topic ad nauseum, especially when there's a lot of pressure involved, especially at night, I have uneasy dreams all night long where the topic I studied hangs silently in the background. It's more like I can't get my mmind to stop processing information than it is like an actual dream, I suppose.

That hasn't actually happened to me yet with my defense. I'm hoping that I will be able to successfully make it through the next three nights without such dreams. I'm also hoping I can avoid the dreams the night before a big event where everything that can go wrong does. On the plus side, these dreams are usually interrupted every hour, on the hour, by waking up and looking at the clock, positive that I overslept, and discovering that it's only 2 AM- then 3 AM- then 4 AM.

In any case, although the dreams haven't set in, I have definitely noticed that at moments when I'm not thinking about anything in particular, a swarm of words will creep into my mind. They're kind of obnoxious and I'll be glad when they've receded a little. They include such gems as:

in-situ hybridization
ribosomal DNA
45S locus counts
nick translation
center of origin
phenotypic plasticity
subsection Cellulata
alveolate seeds
Chenopodium berlandieri subs. zschackei
Incan staple crop

And many more! So fun! Yet I somehow still manage to get some of the words mixed up when practicing my presentation. The worst is that quite often when I mean to say the word "locus," the word that actually comes out of my mouth is "chromosome." This could be a problem if I don't catch myself.

Anyway, there's a little preview- for you unlucky people who aren't coming to my defense, reading that list should give you an idea of what it will be like, except that it will last about 45 minutes. So I guess you can read the list several times for the full effect. Bonus points to anyone who can work them all into a paragraph. Also, spellcheck doesn't like most of those words, either (but then again, it also doesn't like the word "spellcheck . . .").

Goin' out on the town

Date at 6 PM. It is now 5:35. In characteristic Maria style, I'm pretty much ready to go. For some reason, I just hate the thought of making people wait for me, especially dates. It strikes me as incredibly tacky; if the guys goes to the trouble of planning and paying, the least I can do is be on time and look nice.

In non-typical Maria fashion, I've spent the last half hour trying to figure out what an appropriate outfit is. Semi-casual is the general pick, which limits the wardrobe somewhat, since I only have three pairs of pants that I would consider semi-casual. Hmmm. I decided on the brown pants, and then pulled out a few shirts that would potentially go well. Turquoise top is cute but then I notice the stain on the side. How does that always happen to me? I put on the pink top and am pleased with the results but decide it's kind of bold. Where are all my roommates when I need them? It's not often that I really feel like I need a second opinion on my outfit, but for some reason I really feel unsettled right now.

I decide to leave on the pink top unless someone comes home soon and tells me it looks awful. Then I realize that my nice purse is a reddish color. It definitely clashes with the shirt in a big way. I don't normally worry about things like this, either,
but this color clash is definitely not attractive. The pink top goes on my bed and I opt for plain white. According to Angela, this is my best color, anyway.

Wow. That was really more challenging than normal. Probably it didn't help that I can't find two or three of my standby nicer articles of clothing. I wonder how long they've been missing? Since the last move? In that case, I'm probably toast.

*sigh.* Even though the getting ready was challenging tonight, I am feeling good in that I actually know what the evening is going to entail, so I knew what to wear and that I shouldn't eat beforehand. I want to commend all men everywhere who convey these vital pieces of information to their dates before the date takes place.

For example, I went on one last month where the gentleman in question refused to tell me what the plans were beforehand, although he kept reassuring me that he did actually have plans. Heh. I was able to gracefully extract from him the information that we'd be inside in order to be able to dress accordingly (in civilian clothing, as he put it. I then wanted to know if we were doing undercover work). However, brethren, if you ask a young lady on a date for an ambiguous hour such as 7 PM, she has no way of knowing if dinner is in the plans. This means she can either eat beforehand and look like she's turning up her nose at your offerings, or she can not eat and risk starving if dinner is not in the plans. I don't think I've ever actually starved on a date, but I have sometimes opted for the "eat a small snack that can tide me over until later if no eating is part of the evening" plan. Good heavens, is it that hard to let a girl know?

As a female veteran of the dating scene, I strongly encourage men to make sure the girl gets three pieces of information when you ask her out: Make sure she knows it's a date, first off. You may think it's clear from what you're saying, but I can count at least three occasions when I didn't know I was being asked out until after the call was completed. Once, when I thought it was a gathering of old high school friends, I was on the verge of asking the guy if I should invite anyone else before it occurred to me that this might be a paired off situation. Using the word "date" in the conversation will completely eliminate any ambiguity. Kids, by the time you're in college, you're big enough to stop skirting the issue. Yep, you can date. As an addendum, if no money is going to be expended, then this is much less of a big deal in my book. It's when you're going out for ice cream that I need to know if I should bring my wallet or not.

Second, even if you want the actual activity to be a surprise, please let her know what kind of activity it is, just so she knows what to wear. Going hiking in the wrong shoes will definitely ruin the date (although that one has never happened to me, fortunately).

Third, like I mentioned, make it clear whether or not dinner is part of the plans. Obviously you don't have to come right out and say "we won't be eating," but if you are including dinner, let her know!

For some reason, I feel better after having got that off my chest. Also, my roommate Chante came home and told me that my outfit looks fine. Bless you, Chante.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Since I live right by Edwards Stadium, whenever there's an event going on there, I get to hear and watch it proceed, especially anything that takes place in the big parking lot outside my window. Tonight is the Rocky Mountain Invitation Marching Band Competition.

It's making me super nostalgic. I was a huge marching band junkie in high school. I ate it up. I'm not 100% sure why, since I always seemed to be in poor condition during the marching season- one year it was right after I had surgery on both my arms, the next year I was dealing with tendonitis in both wrists and recent surgery on both feet, and the next year, although I did not know it yet, I was in the beginning stages of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Oh, boy. Why did Mr. Lemen even let me on the field? Once I was on, I was hooked. Yep, I was hot and sweaty and miserable and there were times when I couldn't march because it hurt too bad. But it was so much fun somehow!

The American Fork band has their trailer parked right outside my window. They still have their hats with the huge feathers on the top. I think they're supposed to look kind of cavalier, but they always made me giggle. AF has always been a huge, excellent band. We always kind of looked at them with poorly disguised envy because they were massive- sometimes they could stretch almost from one end zone to the other- and their formations were so tight, and their sound was so good. If AF didn't take home top honors, everyone was agog.

Now the drums are starting to practice their cadence. I always loved the quad drums. I think it's because they kind of epitomize the marching band sound. um . . . and now they're blasting soft rock music. That's kind of weird.

One of the funnest parts of marching band was band tour at the end of the season. We all piled on two buses and drove down to Vegas, because Mr. Lemen had connections with the band director there, a world-renowned music clinician, and he would run a clinic for us before the competition. Of course, since only part of the point of a tour is to actually fulfill your stated purpose, in this case compete, we spent a lot of time doing things about as wild and crazy as a bunch of teenagers from Orem, Utah can do. We always took advantage of the outdoor pool, since by then it had usually snowed in Utah. We gawked at the strip and weren't too sad that we couldn't go in the casinos.

One year we went to a little indoor amusement place with a small roller coaster and my friend Aaron, in the process of goofing around, which he was good at, managed to fall twenty-five feet into the pit where the track went. Fortunately, the coaster train wasn't actually moving at that moment, so they were able to stop it and get Aaron out. He claimed to have no memory of falling, and he did have a mild concussion. He also suddenly discovered that he owed a lot of people a lot of money. Funny thing about those concussions.

[Incidentally, as an aside, please do not ever put your phone on a setting where it will beep every five minutes when you get a message. I've been sitting here listening to my roommate's phone and contemplating what I am going to do to it if it keeps beeping like that. Highly annoying.]

One of the most memorable moments of high school marching band was definitely my final performance on the field. It was on our Vegas tour my senior year. This was a competition with a prelim and a final competition. We competed in the prelim and felt pretty good about it. I played the piccolo in the marching band and our marching piccolo was, frankly, a piece of trash. It was so out of tune that I had learned how to automatically rotate i to a certain angle for each note I played to bring it as close to being in tune as possible. It was no mean feat, and it still didn't sound super great, which was too bad, since it was one of the few woodwind instruments that could actually really be heard from the bleachers. Piccolos come in a few varieties and they're generally made of metal, wood, or a hard plastic-y resin. Usually the nicest ones are wood, then metal, then resin. The marching piccolo was definitely resin. And I think it had a couple of chips. It was a durability piccolo, which is why we used it on the field. The school owned another piccolo that I played in the wind symphony. That piccolo was wood and I treated it like it was my baby.

I had no such affections for the marching piccolo. After we completed our show for the prelims, I took it back to the bus. For some reason that I cannot remember at all now, I didn't put the piccolo back in its case. I think I couldn't find it; it was on the bottom of a pile of stuff and so I just tucked the piccolo in my backpack and figured it would be safe enough. Then I changed out of my uniform and went to join my friends.

We ate lunch and watched the other bands compete, which was always half of the fun. It was even funner in Vegas, because we hadn't seen most of those bands before. We generally competed at six or seven invitationals in Utah during the marching season, and we usually saw Provo High and Lone Peak and AF and Payson's bagpipe marching band
perform six or seven times, although there were always a couple of new ones at each invitational. But in Vegas, almost all the shows were new, and we enjoyed gawking at their moves and analyzing their technique and style choice.

The finals were announced, and we were called back. So we piled back to the buses to change back in to our uniforms and warm up. This was when my trouble started.

I put on my funny uniform pants that looked like snowpants because of the built-in jumper. I usually put on the jacket and hat a little later because they were restrictive, so in the jumper pants and a t-shirt, I took off my shoes and reached into my uniform bag to pull out my black socks and shoes. The socks were there. The shoes were not.

I stared into the bag. I emptied it out upside down. I looked in my backpack, on the bus, in the luggage compartments under the bus, in my suitcase just in case I stuck them in there, and up and down all the seats on my bus. No shoes. I looked again. They didn't appear. I was shoeless. I went to tell Mr. Lemen that I had no marching shoes. I couldn't wear my normal shoes; it would have been very tacky since they were the wrong color. Little things like that can really bring down the overall score that a band receives from the judges. Fortunately, I was one of Mr. Lemen's favorite students (because I worked hard and didn't goof off and was never involved in a traumatic inter-band relationship. Plus, I was his flute section leader for two years). Mr. Lemen was always stressed out right before a competition, but he refrained from yelling at me and after thinking for a minute, told me that I would just have to march in my black socks.

I turned to go get my piccolo from the bus, resigned to marching in stocking feet. It was dark by now, but I could see the tall figure of my friend Micah walking towards me. As he got closer, I could see a very . . . odd expression on his face. And he was clearly walking towards me.

Uh, Maria . . ." he started, "you know how you and I were switching seats all day? And you know how you left your backpack on the seat? Um . . . well, it was dark and I sat down, and I didn't know your backpack was there . . . and then I heard a snap . . ." and he held up the two jagged ends of my broken piccolo.

Poor little piccolo. I was so completely startled that I didn't know what to do at first. I just stared at him. I was, of course, grateful that the piccolo was a lower end instrument, but it was still an expensive thing, and without it, i wouldn't be doing much playing that night.

After Micah's profuse apologies slowed down, we hunted down some duct tape somehow. The piccolo had snapped off right at the base of the head joint, and we taped it back to the body. It was pretty wobbly, but it played, albeit even worse than it had played before.

So I marched on to the field in my stocking feet with my duct taped piccolo for my final marching performance.

* * *

Those three stars are to indicate that a little time has passed since I wrote the above. As in an hour or two, not days or weeks. But the pull of the bands was too much tonight so I poked over to the stadium, snuck in past the events staff (it was a free event, but it felt cooler somehow to sneak), and watched the last three schools of the night perform: Skyline, Davis, and American Fork. They were all huge and all amazing. And it was incredible what kinds of memories came back to me just from sitting in those freezing bleachers with the nippy October air slowly lowering my body temperature and listening to the sounds of the hyper, exuberant high school students, the cadence of the drums, and the burst of sound from the bands. So many memories, so many friends.

We've all scattered long since, of course. I know where my favorites are- Rachel, in Taiwan, teaching English; Amanda, in Eagle Mountain, raising two little girls; Steve in Missouri attending medical school (as a note, I probably would never have called Steve one of my favorites in high school. But he changed a lot after his mission. And then he married my roommate. And now they're about to have a baby girl); Melissa, right here in Provo teaching choir at Timpview High; Ivan, in Utah Valley somewhere with a wife and two kids. I guess there are a few who I've lost track of- Humble Heather the only female trumpet player, Richard, the trombonist who was the quintessential band nerd (I'm pretty sure he would have lived in the band room if he could have figured out how), Jenny, who was the flute section leader my first year and a much-needed ally and friend, Megan, the sweet, happy, rather ditzy girl who hung out with Rachel and I, and Amy, who was my best friend for two years and then we just started drifting apart for no apparent reason, although we remained on perfectly good terms. I wonder where they all are now. I hope they are doing well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Coming soon, to a campus near you . . .

Thesis Defense
Physical Mapping of Ribosomal RNA Genes in New World Members of the Genus Chenopodium by Fluorescent in situ Hybridization
Tuesday, October 21
268 WIDB
9:00 AM
General public invited
Refreshments will be served

. . .
Someone pinch me. Is this actually going to happen?

Friday, October 3, 2008

There's no place like home- and no people like family

Does everyone have a funny family, or am I just lucky? Either way, I guess I'm lucky. Here is a short transcript from earlier today. I met up with my dad and Laura for lunch, which we do once a week. Normally Tim comes too, but he had to work. This is one of the perks of having your dad work on campus.

Since this weekend is conference, and there will be priesthood session tomorrow night, I wanted to tell Laura my plan for our girls' night. Here's what ensued:

Me: Lar, guess what we're doing for our girls' night tomorrow!
Laura: We're having a girls' night?
Me: Ummm, yes. We do it every conference weekend during priesthood session. Remember? So guess what we're doing.
Laura: Dancing for Dad!
Me: Nope. He'll be at priesthood session.
Dad: Yeah, it might be kind of distracting if you come dance.

Sometimes I think I should carry around my portable tape recorder so I can get some of the really good conversations transcribed. I forget them so quickly . . .