Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Socks

These kids love Legos. They have Star Wars Legos, Indiana Jones Legos, my brother’s old Legos, McDonald’s Happy Meal Legos, and many, many run of the mill Legos. They can spend a fair amount of time building and setting up scenes for stop-action movies and really enjoy the little worlds they create.

For his birthday this year, Sierra bought Sam a few small Star Wars Legos sets. He knew this was coming; he’d picked them out of a catalog and lobbied her for them well in advance. After the birthday celebration died down he opened the boxes and set to work recreating the picture on the outside of the box.

The next day Sierra sat down to play with him. She wanted to move things around, rebuild, redesign a bit. Sam was having none of it. The set came with instructions. There was even a picture! She wasn’t putting it together right. There was no gratitude whatsoever for the fact that she’d given him this gift but that’s another subject altogether.

With Legos you can’t go wrong. You don’t have to recreate the scene on the outside of the box to feel like your time playing was time well-spent. You can actually toss the instructions; the box even.

Following instructions is not my strong suit. I have a tendency to build up a head of steam and push through, relying on my own understanding which all too often isn’t much. Case in point: knitting.

I taught myself to knit at a young age but had this idea that I couldn’t actually read patterns. I would see things I wanted to make and do the best I could to recreate the original. Considering I was without real instruction I’d say the results were pretty impressive. But nothing like they could’ve been; they were definitely lacking.

Some years later I became friends with someone who let me know how silly I was. That I was making it all much, much too hard. I could read a pattern. She soon proved herself right and I dove into more and more complicated projects.

One day while shopping at Michael’s, Kenny grabbed an oddly colored skein of yarn and told me I should make socks out of it. Hmm. Really? I mean the color was weird. And socks? I definitely did not knit socks. They just seemed too complicated. Then I remembered an article about knitting socks that I’d seen in a Martha Stewart Living magazine at the doctor’s office. I thought I could probably find the article and give it a try.

And I did. It started out pretty easy; just a tube. I was excited to see the strangely colored variegated yarn knitted into an interesting pattern. Not so bad after all. I could handle this without much pattern reading. But we all know socks aren’t just tubes, are they? It was time to turn the heel.

At this point I had to refer to the directions frequently. I couldn’t rely on my own senses, my own judgment at all. It was a little slow going but soon enough I had a recognizable heel. Eventually I reached the toe and had to learn a technique for creating a seamless finish. Nothing I could have come up with or reproduced without the instructions.

The second sock worked up in less time but I still found myself referring to the instructions regularly. The results were worth the effort and it made me think of my own life. I know there are instructions. I know those instructions are often contrary to what I really feel like doing. But truth be told, when we stop relying on our own understanding and take the time to read God’s word, to seek his instructions, what we can make of our own lives will surpass anything we might have had in mind.
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Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Fought the Law . . . Again

It felt like a good idea at the time. Yesterday the oldest two had plans to spend the afternoon at a pool party at a schoolmate’s house in Kennewick and Kenny really wanted to go too. Before taking him to school I told him it probably wasn’t going to happen; I didn’t think I’d be able to spare the time to hang out by a pool all afternoon. Fridays are early release around here and by school’s end I’d changed my mind. Sitting by a pool was exactly what I needed.

He was happy with his reversal of fortune and talked about swimming while I consulted the map app. on my phone. Okay so far. Trouble started when we drove down Kellogg Street heading toward our destination on 4th Avenue. Road block. Detour.

Okay, I can manage a detour, right? Maybe. I followed it and hit 4th from the other direction. Immediately I came to a “Closed to Thru Traffic” sign. According to my calculations, I needed to go just beyond that to get to my destination. I went around the sign and within seconds was seeing flashing lights in my rearview mirror. My first, na├»ve thought was, “Oh good. I bet he can help me figure out where I’m going.” Man was I wrong.

I rolled down my window and before I could say anything this police officer was reading me the riot act. How dare I pass that sign? “There’s a gas leak! I bet you would have crossed those signs up there!” he said angrily as he pointed toward the road block ahead. The one I took the detour to avoid. “Just as long as you get where you need to go! And then you ask me for directions?? Turn around and get out of my area!”

So there I sat. Numb. Kenny had heard this entire exchange. Not much of an exchange; I’d only attempted, lamely, to say that I took the detour to avoid the other road block. That I just wanted to get to my kids. That I don’t know this area at all. That I thought “Closed to Thru Traffic” meant closed to traffic going all the way through.

I drove away; hot, angry tears filling my eyes.

By the time the party was over, the problem had been solved and the roads were open again. The kids’ teacher brought them home. In the meantime I ruminated. I was so, so angry. I have strong feelings about this. It’s one of my primary weaknesses. In the past I’ve allowed it to eat at me and make me miserable. It’s something that I’m finally trying to control; some days with better success than others.

But was I really angry? Probably not. The reality was that my feelings were hurt and I’d been scared and humiliated. He was the angry one.

There are times in our lives when we cross a line. When, figuratively speaking, there is a ROAD CLOSED sign ahead of us and we make a break for it anyway. Consequently, we’re not surprised when we have to face the music. We don’t like it, certainly, but we’re not surprised. Being on the receiving end of someone’s anger, rage even, when you’ve done nothing wrong is another thing entirely. I have no words for it.

Today it’s over and I think maybe I don’t care anymore. That’s a huge step for me. Besides, it was a pretty hilarious day; how often do you get to act out a scene for a high school spoof of “The Matrix”?
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Friday, May 29, 2009

Matthew Pollick

“You! You don’t even care! Yes I do! O solo mio!”

“Are you married? You should join the F.B. I.”

At 9:05 a.m. each weekday morning a man walks past our house carrying a Dairy Queen cup, conversing animatedly with himself. You never know what the topic will be (or sometimes even is) but without fail, you can set your watch by it. If they’re home and outside at the time, the kids all become silent when they hear him approach. They strain to listen and then smile broadly once he’s passed. They aren’t making fun of him but the things he says never, never fail to crack them up. What amazes them most is that he’s able to sit next to his family in church on Sundays in silence.

We live across the street from the ARC of Tri-Cities (Association for Retarded Citizens—though I don’t think kind-hearted people use the word “retarded” much anymore). We see folks pushing people around in wheel chairs and holding the hands of those able to walk. We hear laughing and joking. Unfortunately we also hear the occasional outbursts that let the kids know things are not quite right. Things that sound scary to them.

Some of us need extra help in this life but there are some basic characteristics we almost all share. The need to be loved. The need to be needed. The need to be understood. In this regard we’re all pretty much the same. Unfortunately it can be all too easy to forget this when confronted with the seeming altogether otherness of people who have intellectual or developmental difficulties.

My longtime neighbor and longer time friend Tia Pollick has a special place in her heart for folks with these challenges. On a regular basis she’s been providing weekend care for a young man with Down Syndrome when his parents have obligations elsewhere. Matthew is a happy guy with a smile for everyone. He tags along with the Pollicks and one can easily see he is loved and belongs when he’s with them. In fact, recently he told them he wanted to change his name to Matthew Pollick. My kids know Matthew and they’re better for the experience.

Last Friday night we all went to Dairy Queen after the piano recital and while he sat enjoying a sundae, he told me he’s moving to Spokane soon. I smiled and told him how exciting it would be to move to the “Big City”, how much fun I was sure he’d have. But I was kind of sad about it. I know he will be missed around these parts.
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sam's Birthday

Today is Sam’s birthday. Sam has been very excited about turning 5 and to celebrate he asked if I would make his class the cupcake recipe from the side of the ice cream cone box. It seemed easy enough: mix up batter, pour in cones. Can do.

What I didn’t figure in was transporting these things. I certainly couldn’t bring them on the cookie sheet I baked them on. I had to think. In a moment of sheer genius I thought of the bulk dried beans I had in the basement. I filled a container with beans and arranged the cones. I had to sort of squeeze them in because there really wasn’t enough room for all of them. Good enough.

As luck would have it, The Reptile Man was scheduled to do his thing at Oasis this morning. Cheap entertainment and a reason to get out of the house. When we arrived I pawned the little ones off on the oldest two so they could get a good view and I found my friend Nina in the back.

I did something today that, well, I just don’t do on weekdays. I wore a dress. It’s not me but I saw it awhile back and hoped it would fit when the weather warmed up. In preparation I’d used some self-tanner because my legs practically glow I’m so Caucasian. I really thought I’d properly exfoliated and all but when I glanced down at my legs while Nina and I talked, I recoiled in horror. I had Oompa Loompa knees! Why do I do these things? Never again. This time I’m serious.

When it was over, the boys and I came home to make Sam’s birthday cake. Red Velvet. Things were going pretty smoothly and I hadn’t yet had a nervous breakdown about the daily chores I was ignoring to pay extra attention to Sam. Sam and I decided to watch some kind of dinosaur documentary and after a few minutes I sensed something was wrong. It was just too peaceful. I got up to find Josh poking the cupcakes . Darn it! I refrosted a few (shh Becky!) and they looked okay. I used to complain about schools and teachers that don’t allow homemade treats but I sort of get it now.

On the way to school Josh played D.J. Josh likes music but he only seems to be able to like one song at a time. Like per week or something. Right now he’s fixated on “Pork and Beans” by Weezer and yells for it every time we get in the car. Every time it ends. He calls it “Happy Song” and it’s a good thing our car trips are pretty short; that song has been my anthem for way too long.

The whole beans-in-a-container-thing was not the greatest idea I’ve ever had. We arrived at school with them flopping all over each other and looking, well actually, pretty darned good as far as preschool tastes go. I just handed them to the teacher with my apologies and washed my hands of the mess. The End.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I Fought the Law . . .

Free at last! Today I wrote the last check to Benton County.

In February of last year, I did something pretty stupid. While driving toward a stop sign, I reached down to quickly grab something I’d dropped. I looked up just in time to slam on the brakes. Unfortunately not in time to avoid hitting the truck in front of me.

I was stunned. I couldn’t believe I’d done it. I sat there waiting for something to happen. And then it did. The driver left the scene. In fact it looked like the truck headed straight for the freeway on ramp. Huh. My first thought was that this was my lucky day. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I knew how to contact the driver because it was a company truck that I hit. I decided I would go pick up the kids and head home. From there I would call Michael; see what he thought. But alas, it didn’t quite go that way. I got home and saw that the damage was only to my license plate. Thank goodness. I figured I must’ve only hit the tow-hitch. My glow of relief didn’t last; before I could call Michael, a police officer arrived.

“You want to tell me what happened?”
“Uh, yeah.”

As it turned out, someone took down my license plate number and called the authorities. I received a large ticket and was summoned to court. For the next month it was all a dark cloud over my head.

I showed up on the appointed day and found myself in a full courtroom. A lot of the people there were caught driving with a suspended license but many were petty thieves and drug users. There was even another mother from the school some of my children were attending. She pled guilty to theft at a local store. I did all I could to avoid eye contact. Perhaps she wouldn’t notice me, noticing her.

To make a long story short, I was advised that I must plead guilty to “hit and run” if I hit the truck and I left the scene. Check and check. Didn’t matter what anyone else did. Nuts. My sentence was reduced to “hit and run of an unattended vehicle” (which saved my skin; it meant I didn’t lose my license for a year) and I had a choice: 1 day in jail or 10 days with an ankle monitor. I chickened out and went for the monitor. That still left me with a huge additional fine to pay plus a trip to the county jail for finger printing. I sat in a waiting area full of men in jumpsuits.

So I guess it’s behind me. My insurance premium didn’t go up and life sort of just went on. But I still think about it. The experience was humbling. I quit reading the police blotter sort of articles in the paper—I didn’t want to see the names of anyone I might know. It made me a much, much less judgmental person. It also made me realize that there’s no point in putting off repentance. When you do wrong and take care of it immediately, the aftermath may very well be a significantly lighter load than you’d otherwise be in for.

Yep, I fought the law and the law won.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pardon the Interruption

I usually write at my desk in our bedroom but right now Michael is in there getting some work done. So I've got my laptop out in the living room with the kids. I'm no good at writing with distractions and tonight I’ve got plenty.

The photo is of Kenny eating “octopus and seaweed” (otherwise known as a hot dog and food colored-Top Ramen). This is as close to seafood as the boy gets. It's not a big deal; I know lots of people avoid it. I married someone who does. But I love it. Love it, love it, love it. Kenny will eat lots of things if properly bribed (as long as they are in no way related to fruit). But really, the things he'd like to eat make for a very short list:

Double Cheeseburgers, plain
Macaroni and Cheese
Top Ramen
anything sugary

Sierra: "Mom! Did you know there's a kind of mammal and the guy makes the milk! But the dictionary definition of milk says it comes from the female! So it's not called milk! Apparently."

If I’d only had two kids I might think I knew what I was doing. Michael and Sierra will eat just about anything.

Michael Jr. “ Sam! I told you not to touch it, yet you disobeyed me!”

Tonight we served up leftovers and I took things out of the fridge and freezer. Michael Jr. had ham and homemade noodles Grandma and Grandpa left. Sierra wanted Grandpa’s seafood gumbo. Josh ate nothing but fruit. He would just as soon not eat than have most things we eat. Sam’s almost as bad. He barely ate a thing.

Sam: “Mommy! I’m sweaty! I’m sweaty! Mom! I’m seriously sweaty. And hungry. Can I have mac and roni and cheese?”

So what makes these guys all so different? As a kid I remember disliking certain foods—peas and salad. Still, you had to eat them. And salad reared its ugly head EVERY night. Thankfully I grew to appreciate it. Will my youngest kids get that chance?

Kenny: “Mom! Mom! I memorized ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’!” (I’ve heard that song being picked out on the piano for days, several times an hour. Yes, dear, I know.)

I don’t want to make a scene at meals. I want it to be pleasant. But I also want the little kids to expand their horizons and try some things. I guess it’s time to consult those child rearing books I hate so much.

Monday, May 25, 2009

My Memorial Day

We live next to a cemetery. It wasn’t a huge selling point when we bought this house (some of the kids have zombie issues) but it’s really not a bad neighbor. Today especially, it’s beautiful to see. Right now there are several large American flags flying and many of the graves have small flags as well. For us it’s a good reminder that this day was not set aside for sales or barbecues (though I’m a huge fan of both).

Last summer my brother and his wife took my parents and I on a trip to England, Germany, and France. As we planned the trip Michael suggested we find the final resting place of my mom’s uncle. Louis Edward Bauerbach, born November 4, 1890, was killed in action on November 1, 1918 in what was probably the single bloodiest battle in American history.

With a little research Michael found that he was laid to rest at Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, east of the village of Romagne-Gesnes, Meuse, France. It didn’t seem so far out of our way going from Baden Baden to Paris so we added it to our itinerary. When the time came we found ourselves without the map to get us from the main route to the cemetery and back. We were grateful Michael was able to direct us over the phone. It took us much longer to get to the cemetery than we’d planned for and it was almost 5 p.m. when we arrived. We weren’t sure what to expect or how we’d ever find the right headstone in the sea of crosses but at least we’d finally found the place.

We drove up to the main building and when we walked inside we were greeted by an American named Scott Desjarins. He offered to take us to Louis’ grave. It seemed a simple offer but it was so much more. We followed him by car to the top of a rise near the chapel, then walked down the rows till we came to the one we were looking for. Scott brought a small bucket with him and pulled out a scrub brush and water to clean the cross. Then he rubbed sand from Utah Beach into the etchings so we could see them in the photos we would take. He spoke quickly in French into a two-way radio and soon “Taps” was being played. It was very moving and incredible to think we were the first members of the family to ever stand in that spot.

When we were done Scott walked us to the chapel where he used a map to help explain how it all played out and why it was such an important battle. How the outcome helped define America as a superpower where once she was only a new kid on the block. The chapel was decorated with stained glass windows portraying American unit insignia. When Louis joined the Meuse-Argonne American Expeditionary Forces on September 9, 1918 he was attached to the Texas-Oklahoma unit. With a T O insignia, they referred to themselves as “Tough Hombres”. On either side of the chapel were walls lined with names of the missing dead. One panel on the west side contained a map of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Inscribed on the remaining panels were the names of the 954 American Missing whose remains were never recovered or identified and included those missing during our expedition to northern Russia during 1918-1919.

This cemetery covers one hundred and thirty acres and holds the largest number of American dead in Europe, a total of 14,246. Most of those buried here gave their lives during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. As we walked, Scott told us how it was a little sad how little attention is paid to this place by American tourists. A good deal of visits are paid by Europeans but it’s often overlooked by us. I admit we really didn’t have high expectations and only planned a trip there by chance. As it turned out, it was the high point of a trip full of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen. It beat everything.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's Not Fair!

This may be one of those entries that’s best passed over. I have a feeling I’m going to be long-winded today. I use my blog as a way of clarifying my thoughts and sorting things out in my mind and right now I have a lot of thoughts about something going on with Sierra. Really though, it’s a pretty universal struggle—certainly nothing to which I’m immune.

Sierra came home from school on Thursday in a really, really bad mood. There were even tears involved. According to her, it just wasn’t fair. She goes to a very small private school and there is a girl who she believes has advantages that she doesn’t. She has a wealthy grandmother who takes her on shopping sprees and gives her whatever she wants. She has parents who let her do whatever she wants. She told Sierra she couldn’t believe she’d never been on a shopping spree and just that day, instead of doing her work, she played games with the older kids. In tears Sierra told me how hard she’d worked, all day, only to see her friend goof off. It wasn’t fair.

How many times do we hear that with kids? IT’S NOT FAIR! So I thought for a minute. I know the “advantages” she’s describing aren’t advantages at all. These kinds of things can easily become crippling. But Sierra’s smart. She knows that being allowed to do whatever you want, when you’re a kid, can lead to stupid behavior. And she knows that shopping sprees, while probably fun, are not the be all and end all of existence. Where she was really stuck was in her anger that this friend got to play while she had to work. That she was getting away with something. I had to help her see that it wasn’t her problem unless she made it hers.

I’ve been reading The Peacegiver by James L. Ferrell and this problem reminded me of his discussion of Jonah. I asked her what she could tell me about it. She looked at me incredulously, then told me about his unwillingness to follow the Lord’s directions and preach to the Ninevites. That he was swallowed by a huge fish and that even though he preached to them after that, he was hoping God would strike them down. What’s that got to do with me? Plenty.

I wanted her to get, first of all, that nothing her friend had done, none of the “privileges” she was enjoying took a thing away from her or in any way made her burden heavier. They weren’t even working on a project together so really, nothing. The second thing I wanted her to get was the most important part. I wanted her to understand that by allowing herself to feel anger toward this person or even the situation she was hurting only herself.

We have this habit, probably most of us, of feeling entitled, deserving. Feeling superior to people who maybe don’t do things the way we think they should. In Jonah 2:8 we read, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy”. All of these feelings of entitlement and superiority are lying vanities. I asked her to remember how the story ended. She didn’t remember that it ends with God asking Jonah this question: “And should not I spare Nineveh?”

Okay, so what? Well, if Jonah answered ‘yes’, it changes everything for him. Us too. Not because we’re suddenly perfect but because we’ve stopped expecting others to be. We start seeing that others need mercy too. The bottom line is that we’re all unworthy and only through God’s mercy do we have a hope of anything but hell. Jonah, and all of us, can become totally new people, free from the grip of sin, if we stop feeling entitled and start feeling grateful. When we stop taking everyone else’s inventory and start taking our own.

I have these thoughts and they’re hard to express clearly to a 10 year old. Hard for me to express at all. In the book Ferrell asks these questions:
1) Are you demanding justice and denying mercy?
2) Are you sitting belligerently under the sticks of your own grudges?

If the answers are yes, we’re forgetting the mercies extended to us; denying them to others. I just want her to know it’s okay for people to be where they are. To have their own struggles, their own circumstance, even if we’d do things differently. It’s okay to just love people where they are. Not just okay but totally mandatory.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Look at Me

I read an article recently about social networking sites and the author’s conclusion was that they are infantilizing us. Our attention spans will become shorter and our focus is more and more on the right here, right now. And ourselves. We’re turning our eyeballs backwards in a epic celebration of naval-gazing. Look at me.

Do you follow my blog? If you’re reading this you probably check it out occasionally. I have a couple official “followers” but my analytics show that around 30 people read it regularly. A huge number have read it once and never come back. I get so few comments it’s hard to tell who’s here. But I think about it. To what end, I’m not sure. I guess there’s something intoxicating in the thought that people are actually interested in what we have to say. In us. I still don’t know who Olin Miller is but this truism is attributed to him: We probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of us if we could know how seldom they do.

I think it’s probably true that our attention spans are altered but I don’t think it’s really such a self-centered endeavor. I won’t deny the fun of sharing bits of my life and self I otherwise never could (at least with such a large audience of friends) but the enjoyment I get out of learning more about these friends is just as substantial.

There are so many friends I lost touch with over the years—friends I thought I’d see, at best, at reunions. Now each day I can see their profiles and laugh. I can quickly say hi without phone or stamp. Shanon, Brooks, and Brett crack me up. Mindy too. Reconnecting with Jeremy,Teri, Angie, Gary, Denice, and Jeff, to name a few, has been very cool and I’m always interested in what’s new with them. Jerry’s love of his family brings a smile to my face and local friends like Tia, Dana, and Sinar keep me up to date. And again, laughing. Hearing from Vicki and Tia bring me back to 1988 just like that. Getting to know my cousins and other members of my extended family has been priceless. I imagine most of us have enjoyed similar experiences. Yes, lots of us post stuff that maybe no one cares much about but to me it’s like passing in the hall on the way to class. A quick smile and a wave. Talk to you later. It’s a connection. It’s something.

Maybe not as much as it should be though; what else explains why I keep getting such low scores on those “How Well Do You Know Me?” quizzes?
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Friday, May 22, 2009


It’s been a nice day. Mom and Dad arrived in the morning but I was wrong about there being no time for projects; Dad got right to work fixing the chop job he and Michael did on the stair area in order to get our mattress in last time they were here (I think I wrote about it in my 2nd post). It looks great but I think Josh will miss having the open space to throw things.

Josh was up to his normal fun and games this morning when he found a blue marker and attempted to draw Boba Fett, no it must've been Jengo, on his bedroom wall. He loves those two so much that he refers to the color green as "Boba" and blue as "Jengo". Part of me wanted to ignore it and let him have his fun but he'd just take it to the rest of the house..

Grandpa treated us to lunch and then bribed the boys and Sierra with a trip to Aunt Franny's and The Octopus' Garden if they'd succumb to haircuts. That's what I call grandparenting.

Tonight we had Michael and Kenny’s piano recital a few doors down at the Episcopal Church and despite Michael’s disinterest, he did very well. He very much did not want to play “Rage Over a Lost Penny” but it was fine. He’s been working really hard on Motzart’s Turkish March after downloading it and has been focusing more on that that the recital pieces. He’s a talented kid but has no interest whatsoever in sharing this. Recitals are nightmares for him. In the photo he’s telling me he doesn’t want to go on stage.

The day ended not-so-nice for Josh. We realized he was sick tonight when he suddenly just layed down on the floor. He wasn’t getting into anything or performing mixed martial arts on anyone. Poor little thing was running a fever. Good thing Grandma’s here to make it all better.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009


Sam has a new designation for all things of which he is uninterested. If he doesn’t want to do it, have it, eat it, watch it, it’s for babies. Baths are for babies, picking up after one’s self is for babies, even eating all of one’s dinner before having dessert is for babies. And now we learn China is for babies.

Michael called yesterday morning and told me about some job openings in China. I’ve always been interested in short term (no more than a year or three) travel if expenses were paid and the salary was nice. This is all just talk; I can’t imagine an offer so good that we’d actually pull up stakes and head in that direction. Sam overheard this and told me in no uncertain terms that he was not moving to China. “China is for babies!”

We could probably use more cultural education around here –at least Sam could. The oldest three know more about different parts of the world and what’s interesting and unique about them than I do. My little xenophobe Sam, on the other hand, has received all of his knowledge about China from “Kung Fu Panda”, “Mulan”, and The Mandarin House menu. But that doesn’t make sense. If that’s all I knew my bags would be packed already.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I walked into a bit of a mess in the laundry room yesterday. I’d made the mistake of leaving a Costco-sized bottle of Clorox 2 on the washing machine and it seems that in all the excitement of the spin cycle, it lost its footing. The plastic cap cracked and a pool of blue ick covered the floor. It was such a pleasant day and it was Josh’s birthday. I told myself I had a duty, in fact an obligation, to do an abrupt about-face and pretend it didn’t happen. I just didn’t feel like dealing with it.

So this morning it was still there. I stood and thought about it for a few minutes and finally decided to use an old binder to scrape it up and paper towels to collect it for the trash bin. It was just so gross. Waiting to clean it up was a stupid idea. A lot of the water content had evaporated and what was left was even thicker than the original. And it took the paint right off the cement floor.

I think I probably spent more time yesterday thinking about what was waiting for me downstairs than it actually took me to clean it up. That’s often the way it is. I have no idea who Olin Miller is but apparently he said, “If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” I think everyone can relate to that.

My parents are coming on Friday to go to the boys’ piano recital, celebrate the May birthdays, and to stay the night on their way to my cousin’s graduation from Gonzaga Prep. On a normal visit they would arrive with the truck (and possibly the trailer) loaded to the gills with anything and everything related to the yard and garden and even coolers full of the meals they plan. They are incredible. This trip is different though. It’s very short; no time for projects. Which is actually a good thing. I’d like to just enjoy them without the frenzy of the to-do list. So I’m busy, busy, busy trying to make sure things look pretty done around here. All the little projects that have fallen victim to my procrastination. But hey, I can only do so much; I‘m only just one girl. What’s that old saying? Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Josh is 3!

Something kept me from sleeping on the trampoline. That sun burn is still giving me grief.

Today the baby is 3. Probably shouldn't still call him that. Josh changed his mind about the Darth Vadar (Happy Man) cake and asked for Yoda. Perfect because I had no idea how I was going to convince the rest of the kids to eat black frosting. Yuck. They probably would have eaten it happily but still, yuck.

Josh and Sam got quite a surprise tonight. Last Christmas they wanted this ridiculously expensive triceratops (and large enough it ought to be paying rent). Santa blew that request off but when the same thing showed up at Wal-Mart a month or so ago at 1/5th the original price, it ended up in our garage waiting for the May birthdays. Josh and Sam opened it tonight and as I type I can hear it making creepy, goat-like sounds. I wonder who will wake me up first with nightmares?

The weather today and this evening has been for me like an intravenous drip of swell. A sweet breeze blowing through the sycamores and my wind chimes ringing from somewhere in the backyard. I cannot get enough.
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Monday, May 18, 2009


It felt so hot today I was sure our little party would all be miserable tonight. Inside wouldn’t have been any better; the heat pump is ancient and throwing another hissy fit. Lucky for us it cooled off. Right now it’s in the 70’s and an amazing breeze is coming through my window. I can’t think of anything that’s going to keep me from sleeping on the trampoline tonight.

We had some great neighbors across the street from us and they moved out this weekend to a home in North Richland. Tonight several of us from the block got together and had a potluck dinner for them at our place. Many of us have talked about doing something like this for as long as we’ve lived here but we never quite got around to it. We all enjoyed ourselves so much we’ll certainly do it again.

At one point Josh pulled one of his trademark moves. I lost track of where he was so I quickly scanned the crowd. Immediately I saw him with the garden hose pointed at Mr. Malley, our next door neighbor. The water was actually in an arc just a foot or so from the back of the poor man’s head. I screamed for Michael and he jumped up and quickly turned off the water, summarily ending his potential reign of terror.

I remember moving in 4 years ago and having people tell me I couldn’t possibly live next door to Mr. Malley. He’s dead. It turns out that this is a widely held misconception in this small town. He sold Malley’s pharmacy several years back to a man who then promptly died. I guess people confuse the two of them. He’s a funny guy and a good neighbor. The sound of his table saw reminds me of home and his wise cracks remind me of my dad. I remember a day when Kenny belched loudly right in front of him and I scolded him, telling him to say, “Excuse me”. He did and Mr. Malley instantly said, “Now do it again!”! Tonight a neighbor from down the block introduced himself to him and he said, “I’d get up, but I’m old!”. I hope I have a good sense of humor when I’m an old lady.

I think this party was a great antidote for some of the modern isolation I’ve been writing about. Spending real face time with the people we normally see just in passing. It’s hard to believe we won’t be seeing Marijke waving as she leaves the house or her kids coming and going. I hope the new neighbors are as cool.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009


Church was as painful as I’d anticipated; my sunburn was throbbing, reminding me what a lame move that was yesterday. I wore a light cashmere sweater thinking it would feel nice on my skin but even that was awful. What’s more, it was white and Michael said he could see my beet red skin through it. I need to quit complaining though. What does it always say in the scriptures? “It came to pass . . .”, not “it came to stay”.

Today our family doctor gave a talk in church. When he stood up to speak I held my breath. But nothing. Josh didn’t recognize Dr. Merkley outside of his office. With seven people in the family we end up being there pretty often and every time we pull up to the 945 building his response is perfectly Pavlovian: “Doctor no hurt me!!”. It’s funny because Dr. Merkley has never hurt him and it’s the nurses who give the injections and draw blood. What’s even more odd is that he asked for a flu shot when Sam had his a week or so ago. And no tears either. I can’t imagine the nurse’s drawer of Saf-T-Pops is that seductive but that was all it took.

I keep thinking one Sunday I’ll enjoy Sacrament meeting. Like the whole thing. I just want to listen to the speakers and absorb what they’re saying. I want to feel the Spirit. But most of the time what I’m doing is just refereeing. Each of the oldest four are perfectly capable of sitting still for the hour but we just haven’t found a good seating arrangement that encourages it. There are always three that want to sit by me and then several combinations of kids that are explosive when put in that kind of proximity for an hour. One that won’t quit looking at the other, or poking, or breathing for that matter. And then it turns into Snackrament meeting because everyone wants Josh’s crackers—items they would never bother with at home. I can’t help but look around and think how well-behaved everyone else’s kids are but again, enough of the belly-aching; this too shall pass. And probably sooner than I’d like.
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday Night

Today was gorgeous! The perfect weather and temperature for getting projects done in the backyard. At one point I lost my mind and decided to put on a bathing suit top instead of a shirt so I could avoid tan lines on my arms. Who was I kidding? I don’t tan and I had no idea where last year’s sunscreen was. So now I’m just hurting. Probably nothing compared to how I’ll be feeling sitting in church tomorrow.

I was able to type up two more months of my grandma’s journal last night. Something I’ve noticed is that although they worked extremely hard, they also had pretty rich social lives. Even the work was social. There was just so much work there wasn’t any other way. Together they washed their clothes, milked their cows, raised their crops, preserved their produce, killed their livestock, filled their silos, and raised their roofs. But even beyond the work aspect, I see they were often visiting family and friends, as well as going to club meetings, dances, parties, and other social events.

I wonder about the isolation of the modern world. The work load, for most of us, is light in comparison with these folks but we end up forfeiting the benefit of relationships forged by serving one another on a daily basis. It’s a lot to give up.

So it’s Saturday night and I’m thinking I should be at a barn dance or church social. Wouldn’t that be fun? Not real sure. But I do think I need more of a social life with grown folk. I go out with my girlfriends every now and then; in fact I missed a message from Dana and Sinar last night. Dana called asking me to meet up with them for drinks and a trip to Wal-Mart. I laughed—only Dana and Sinar could come up with that combination and although I haven’t checked Facebook, I’m certain there was at least one camera involved. They can find a Kodak Moment anywhere! Still though, I’d like to do more things that involve Michael. And that’s where it gets complicated.

I imagine every married couple has to maneuver their way through this kind of thing. Maybe one person enjoys going out and the other doesn’t. Or they both do but haven’t found many couples they’re both compatible with. Or whose children they don’t want to strangle. Or maybe they have so many kids it feels impossible . . . It’s easier not to bother but I admit holding out hope that eventually we’ll get out and do more. Just not right now . . . Oh man where is the aloe vera?!

Friday, May 15, 2009


It’s 7:55 p.m. and I’m just getting in from mowing, weeding, etc. Michael used the weed eater and leaf blower and got some ground ready for planting raspberries and blueberries tomorrow. It feels so good to get the yard work done on Friday. I’m sitting here in my daily dirt knowing full well that if I move on to the next phase of the evening without writing, I’ll never get to it.

Last night I took Kenny and Sam to the “Spring Fling” at school. It was a chance to peruse the book fair wares once again, listen to the marimba band (I don’t know how Mrs. Barnett does it; I can only hear any of those songs once and then it’s Extra-Strength Excedrin time. Especially after “Eye of the Tiger”), and check out the GIANT FOOD creations. I think the boys liked the huge food the best. I know I did. The giant donuts were especially delicious looking. Speaking of donuts, I just found a website (Thanks Nikki!) with the neatest little faux donuts. Too cute:

I’m in the mood to make some really profound pronouncements or to say something so funny I’ll crack Michael up when he reads it but nothing is coming to me. Just my brain whispering, “This is how you spend a Friday night?” and “Shower.” Good night!
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Thursday, May 14, 2009


I have a bad habit of letting things go, domestically speaking, until I can no longer turn a blind eye. The result is me being a crazy person, spending my weekday mornings putting out fires. Yesterday it was the kitchen. To my embarrassment, I’d never taken the screens off the windows by the sink and really scrubbed them. I mean ever, in the four years we’ve lived here. I told Michael I was going to do it and he laughed. “You know the sun’s going to blind you in the morning.” He was right. I guess that build up I scrubbed off was serving a purpose. On the plus side, I now have an excellent view of the cemetery.

Today I spent the morning ripping the living room apart and scrubbing everything. I hate that job and like all jobs around here, I wait until things can’t be ignored. I don’t mean clutter, but dust and ick from life with 5 kids. Josh found so much Easter candy under the couch he wasn’t hungry for lunch. Mother of the Year.

Come to think of it, I don’t hate the cleaning at all. I can really get into a zone and I love to see what I can accomplish. It’s the constant interruptions that make me feel like my brain might implode. “Mom! Momma! Mom!!!” That’s not my name. That’s not my name. That’s not my name . . . Okay, it is, but sometimes I just get burned out hearing it. Plus I have that song stuck in my head.

Today the shouts of “Mom!!!” were mostly coming from Sam. First he had a long list of dinosaurs and he needed to know which were “bad” and which were “good”. He wanted to know why I didn’t name Josh “Poopy”. He wanted to know why Josh was sword fighting with the crawdad. What? Yeah, Josh gave the crawdad a chopstick and it was holding it, looking ready to joust. It’s hard to get much done around here with that kind of entertainment around every corner. It reminded me of the last entry I read in my grandma’s journal:
Friday June 30, 1961
Men took in hay over at Joe’s. Rest of us worked but got nothing special done.

I’ve made it through the first 6 months of my grandmother’s journal and there’s definitely a theme. WORK. What’s especially interesting to me is the order. Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, etc. I couldn’t stick to that sort of schedule (my family would be naked by week’s end) but the idea of sticking to a cleaning schedule sounds like a good way to keep on top of things. It sounds like one Steven Covey’s 10 habits is hiding in there somewhere.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Grandma Huck

I never knew my grandparents well. On both sides really, because from an early age we lived thousands of miles apart. My parents were both born and raised in rural southern Ohio as were their parents and grandparents but a stint in the Army brought my dad to Fort Lewis and he and my mom fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. We took trips back to Ohio but we were visitors and not a part of the regular flow of life there.

On my mom’s side I am one of almost 50 grandchildren so it was pretty easy to get a little overwhelmed on these trips. Hard to remember who was who and sometimes even who belonged to which aunts and uncles. As I grew older I began to make the connections but I still feel like I missed out on something pretty special. The Pacific Northwest is in my blood and I can’t imagine not growing up in that gorgeous, humidity-free, snow-capped mountain corner of the world but there’s a part of me that feels Ohio is home.

Yesterday I received a package in the mail. I’d been looking forward to this for a week or so after hearing from my mom’s oldest sister, my Aunt Marian. In the early 90’s her son Dennis spoke to our grandma about writing down her memories for the next generation and she actually did it. Dennis typed it up and we all received copies of this memoir. To our family it is priceless beyond words. So much has changed from her generation to mine that her memories of her life as well as what she could tell us of her parents’ and grandparents’ lives offer a perspective we’d otherwise never have. In this book of memories Grandma mentioned keeping journals throughout her life but up till now no one had come across any. Uncle Jerry still lives on the farm and recently he came across two of them.

So now I’m spending all the time I can pouring over these books to create a book for our family. The more I read the more I love this woman. She knew what it was all about. That being a righteous woman meant being free of self-righteousness. That prayer, love, and hard work was the answer. God was definitely her steering wheel, not her spare tire.

I didn’t know this amazing women very well but my kids didn’t know her at all. I’m really looking forward to introducing them through her words.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


M.O.P.s sucked today. Okay, it didn’t; it was as fun and informative as ever. At my table some of my favorite people and I talked about the reasons why they’re on Facebook or have a blog (or why not) and one person said she only “friends” family members because she wants to be able to say what’s on her mind without being overly worried about who reads it. “What if I said M.O.P.s sucked today? I don’t want people from M.O.P.s to see that!”—I laughed; M.O.P.s never sucks. I do get the concept of not wanting to offend though. I know people I’m offending right now by using the word “sucks” but I’ll get over it.
I love M.O.P.s. Mothers of Preschoolers has brought some of the neatest people into my life. Most of the time I’m hard pressed to remember what was so funny but we crack each other up and spend most of the 2 hours laughing at/with each other. We’re all in the same boat and we understand each other.

Today was the last day of M.O.P.s until next September and for some of my friends it was their last time with us. Tia is my neighbor so I’ll still see her around but I will really miss the laughs we share at our table. Cracking up over stupid things; making a joke out of everything. Tia is such a fun friend. She’s the one who introduced me to M.O.P.s 6 years ago and I’ll always be grateful for that. She’s got a kind word for everyone, is always ready to lend a hand, and has a crazy good knack for knowing when to show up with Blizzards. Nikki is the most creative person I know. Just read her blog and you’ll see what I mean: She is so funny and definitely so full of whimsy. She lights up a room with her smile and sense of humor and makes us all want to be crafty even if maybe we aren’t. I will miss these friends very much each second Tuesday of the month!

Monday, May 11, 2009


Today I had errands to run. I try to limit this sort of thing to just the grocery store when I have Josh with me but today there was no way around it. Wal-Mart and Costco had to be attempted. When we arrived I looked Josh in the eyes and told him he was going to sit in the cart. There would be no crying, no yelling, and no hitting. I told him I knew he could do it. And he did, for a bit. But then he begged to get down and promised to stay right with me. I am such a sucker. He took off toward the ladies unmentionables department, full speed ahead. Sam, bless his heart, is aggressively wholesome. As we approached the bras I noticed he was covering his eyes as he walked, trying not to trip or lose me. Josh, on the other hand, was punching them yelling, “Boobies! Boobies!”. Sometimes it’s hard to believe these two are related.

I do think Josh may begin to start trusting my judgment a little more. Recently on a trip to the store he was allowed to pick a treat. He grabbed a bag of sour Skittles and yelled, “M&M’s!”. I couldn’t convince him that these were not chocolate and they sure weren’t delicious. Fine by me. The look on his face after that first taste was priceless; I wish I’d had the camera ready. This afternoon something similar happened while I was chopping onions for black bean soup (best recipe ever: Josh grabbed an onion I’d cut in half and said he wanted to eat it. Again, I told him he wouldn’t like it (it wasn’t a Walla Walla Sweet or Hat Trick) but he was welcome to go ahead. He took a few bites then finally admitted it was gross. His sister rescued his poor tongue with a pudding cup.

It’s funny how different each of these kids are. I remember while I was in college reading of a theory that children come to us as empty cupboards—it’s nurture not nature that produces each individual. I’m sure there’s a lot of nurture that goes into it but each of these babies of mine entered this world as very, very unique individuals. Some of them share some similarities but the differences are profound. And I guess that’s part of the fun. To see how they unfold. Right now Kenny is laying on my bed, still feeling sick but eager to tell me more about Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong (and would I please download some of their songs?). Josh is trying to play his dad’s guitar (he’s obsessive about the guitar). Sam fell asleep in an alligator costume before we could get him up to bed. Sierra put herself to bed early as usual, maybe to read “Pride and Prejudice”, maybe to just sleep. And Michael Jr.’s asleep too but not before he practiced his Bach piece for the millionth time today—recital is coming up soon. They each have so many interests and unfolding talents. It’s not all a bed of roses but getting to know these little people is pretty incredible.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Mom

I stayed home from church with Kenny this morning because he had a fever last night. He’s been really tired for the past few days; must’ve been gearing up for this. Before Michael left with the older kids I reminded him not to forget my treat. Every year the mothers at church get a big piece of “Real Fudge” from Two Sisters Candy in Mesa, WA and I always look forward to it. I don’t know what makes it more “real” than any other fudge but it’s tasty and I love that they list “margarine” as an ingredient. It always makes me laugh.

In honor of Mother’s Day I think I'll write something about my mother. My dear mother, who has no idea I have a blog (or maybe even what a blog is). Mom grew up on a large farm outside of Lowell, Ohio, the 8th of 10 children. I think all the hard work, discipline, and order necessary for life on the farm and life with a large family shaped her in huge ways. She is never content to sit and relax (until the very end of the day when she falls asleep reading the paper . . .). When I think of all the work she did on a regular basis growing up I figure life with a husband and two kids with modern conveniences must have seemed pretty underwhelming. She’s worked full-time with my dad for as long as I can remember and was somehow always able to keep a tidy home, a beautiful yard, and dinner on the table. She was a runner since I was a little kid and I was always proud to see her receive ribbons and trophies. She, being the completely unprideful woman that she is, kept them in a paper bag in the back of the hall closet. Mom’s beautiful too. She always took the time to do her hair and make-up and always looked younger than the other moms I knew. She didn't spend a lot of time complaining about things and when aggravated she was more likely to hold her tongue than to lash out. I was a normal kid so of course I appreciated very little of this.

As a kid I remember often thinking I ought to carry a notebook and pencil with me. I needed to jot down all the things I would never, never do when I had kids. I was going to be the most awesome mom. I would understand my kids and they would think I was cool. Fast forward to now. I didn’t need that pencil or notebook; I remember those things and do them with alarming regularity. Probably all good moms do. I understand my kids but like my mom who most certainly did too, I don’t let that get in the way of calling them out when necessary. And as for being cool, well, I am so, so totally uncool. Just ask my kids ;).
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Saturday, May 9, 2009

This Mother's Day

“To stay in character is one of the toughest professional challenges of my career.” I heard someone say this on t.v. the other night and I laughed out loud—I felt like I could have said it myself. My profession is motherhood and there have been plenty of times when I’ve fallen short and reacted like a civilian to the craziness of everyday life with kids. Times when I have to remind myself that one of the goals is to get them up and out without a mandatory lifetime therapy sentence.

Today I mowed the yard and continued with the weeding. I was happy to get out of the house and away from bickering kids for awhile. As I worked I pondered Mother’s Day (specifically the question of why I always wait until the last minute to get something for the mothers in my life). I also considered some of the things I’ve learned being a mom:

1) There is no such thing as fun for the whole family.

2) I always thought it would be fun to be part of a large family. Being the mom of a large family is way different than being a member of a large family!

3) My 12 year old son is considered an adult by the movie theater but a child by the movie industry (though give him a year and they’re more than happy to corrupt him. Dad always said “PG” stands for “Profanity Guaranteed”!).

4) We easily gloss over the stress of sleepless nights, spit-up covered clothes, and mountains of diapers as our kids move to more challenging stages. What’s that old saying? Bad is called good when worse happens.

5) Kids, mine at least, are selectively hard of hearing. They easily miss a request for help and never miss it when I slip up and swear. And they always assume the absurd. Just the other day I was accused of saying the good silverware was in the “cyborg”. SIDEBOARD

On a different day I’d have made a much more pleasant list. I do love being a mom. It was just one of those days. I was short tempered and probably need to apologize. Better get to that before they take back those sweet Mother’s Day gifts . . .
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Friday, May 8, 2009

My Day

This was a pretty good day. A little bit of everything. The oldest two had a day off from school and we all went to the book fair at Jason Lee before Kenny had to be in class. I definitely should have brought the stroller; Josh roamed the library grabbing every book displaying characters with fangs, scales, or fire-breathing capabilities. Despite an arm full of 3 books, he left quite mad at me.

Today I wrote a check for Michael and Sierra’s trip next week to the Seattle International Children’s Festival. It was large enough and the weather was pleasant enough that I decided to take a portion of it out of their hides. We all weeded for the rest of the morning and Michael Jr. made us paninnis for lunch.

I decided to mow the lawn in the afternoon but couldn’t get the mower to start. It was so nice out I couldn’t make myself do housework. I cranked up some Yaz and continued with the weeding. All was well in my world until I realized there was an odd girl standing in my yard, wearing a pink prom dress slipping off one shoulder and rather unconventional eye make-up. She was trying to catch Bobcat. I saw what appeared to be a mother-type person watching her. I was fascinated. She asked me if I wanted to buy a video tape or bath products. She and her mother had grocery sacks full of them. Can’t say that I do. I was definitely a little stunned. I headed into the house and was excited to find a box from ProFlowers on the porch.

Michael took me to see Star Trek early in the evening and it was awesome! It even made me weepy in parts. Would definitely go see it again and for me that’s saying a lot. Afterwards he took me to Lowe’s to buy a plant (for Mother’s Day) and we ended up getting blueberry plants, raspberry bushes, and a nice looking strawberry plant. I hope they survive; it would be so nice to have those in our backyard.

Afterwards we had dinner at P.F. Chang’s. I think I would be happy just eating lots of their appetizers (FRIED GREEN BEANS and CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS!!!!). I still haven’t figured out what the sauce is for. They make a big deal out of mixing it in front of you but tonight was the first time we ever tried it. It was okay I guess. It was just nice being out on a date :).

Okay, here’s the icing on the cake: we came home around 9:30 p.m. to find the kids had all gone to bed on their own, including Josh who has lately been really unhappy about sleeping in his own bed. AMAZING!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What's Cookin'?

“What’s for dinner?” I hate that question. I even hate it when I know the answer. There’s something about the time of day when it’s being asked, too. My kids are not at their best in the late afternoon. To say the least.

I sit down to plan meals and my brain sort of blanks out. I guess I just take no joy in the kind of food my youngest kids prefer and as I won’t cook separate meals for detractors, I try to keep their tastes in mind. I love my Cook’s Illustrated and Gourmet magazines and would happily cook from those every day. When you figure in all the things a family of seven can get up to on a school night, there just isn’t time for that kind of cooking. In the winter months I let myself do more of that but right now, easy and quick is what works.

A few months back Diane Jacks came to our MOPs group and talked to us about cooking once a month. The idea was appealing and reminded me a little of how my parents do it. They would cook in large batches and freeze meal sizes for later use. Mom worked full-time at Dad’s office as long as I can remember but we always sat down to a good meal every night. I can still hear her heels click on the linoleum as she hurried to get things going once she got home. There was almost always something defrosting in the sink and that was how it worked. I don’t think she planned meals more than a day or so out; she just pulled things out of the freezer in the morning and shopped at lunch for what we might need to round out the meal. I’d have to draw the line there—I couldn’t handle the grocery store on a daily basis.

Recently some friends planned a few meals together. They started early, shopping together then cooking. They had a great time and say the meals were pretty tasty. Maybe I should get some friends together for a day of work; it sounds fun and the payoff is big.

I do love my crock pot though. It’s great to have several good crock pot recipes on hand, especially for those days when you know the siren song of McDonald’s will call. I found this easy recipe the other day for pulled pork sandwiches:

3 lb. pork shoulder roast
the juice of one orange
1 bottle of BBQ sauce

Mix the juice and sauce and pour over the roast in the crock pot. Cook on low for 8-9 hours. Shred meat and return to pot. Serve on buns.

That was so easy I let Sam do it and, miracle of miracles, all 5 kids enjoyed it! I need more recipes like that. Better yet, I need to get the kids to do the cooking way more often!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Happy Falker Satherhood!

Last night a few of my friends and I gathered at a local restaurant to celebrate Dana’s birthday and our friend Sinar made a beautiful cake. She puts a lot of time and effort into her creations and I was excited to finally sample one. Delicious! Check out her confections at

And continuing on with the subject of cake, this morning Mindy Martin sent me the link to Cake Wrecks ( and I passed some time at the doctor’s office laughing so hard (and as silently as I could manage) I was tearing up! The site is all about cakes gone horribly wrong and although they were funny I have no idea why they made me laugh that much! I mean my sides were actually hurting! I think there must be something wrong with me. One cake, meant for two expectant father’s in an office was supposed to say “Happy Fatherhood Shawn and Glenn". I’m not sure if the person who took the message was drinking or had really bad handwriting but what they got was “Happy Falker Satherhood”! I guess I have a soft spot for the absurd.

Last year Kenny wanted an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. He knew what flavor he wanted but he didn’t care much about what the design was. When asked what he wanted the cake to say, he replied, “Nothing”. Sometimes you actually get what you ask for.

As I was looking through the photos of those cakes I thought that in spite of how ugly, misspelled, or bizarre they were, they probably still tasted pretty good. I bet there’s a lesson for me in there somewhere; I’m just too tired to think it through.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Sometimes I put in the effort, sometimes I don’t. It’s easier to pull my hair back into a pony tail and forgo the make-up because, let’s be honest, my days consist of hauling kids around, playing, cleaning, laundry, yard work, and cooking. Taking the time to blow out all this hair and apply make-up just isn’t appealing.

I lost 30 pounds (okay, it’s like 20 now . . . ) over the past 6 months and during that time I got into the habit of actually doing something with my hair and wearing make-up. This coupled with the weight loss made for an interesting social experiment for me. I wasn’t invisible anymore. It was nice to feel like maybe, on some level, I still had “it”.

So looks. It’s easy to say they don’t matter when you’ve got them or maybe when you know you never will. Vanity is one of those things, like pride, that we’ve got to be ready to root out if we’re ever going to get real with ourselves. I wonder if the same holds true for the opposite problem? Being overly concerned about physical “flaws”. I guess at some point we all have something we wouldn’t mind changing.

In 5th grade someone called me “Beak” and suddenly I became aware that my nose was not “normal”. In no way Disney-esque. Before that I thought it was pretty cool because I could touch my tongue to it (I know, gross) just like my dad. As I paid more attention to it, the more horrible it grew in my eyes. I wanted a nose job for years but never had enough money (and obviously didn’t want it badly enough to make sure I did). I still think it’s not my ideal but after having a daughter, I just couldn’t go through with it. I mean it works just fine and I’ve come to a place in my life where altering my body in any way aside from diet and exercise doesn’t feel authentic. Just between you and me though, if I didn’t believe my body was a temple I want to keep unmarked, I would have my entire back covered with an elaborate Japanese dragon tattoo. It would go largely unnoticed aside from raised eyebrows at the public pool but yeah, that would be the body alteration for me.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Today I witnessed a miracle. I can’t get over it! I bought a package of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers with the thought that they might get the marker and crayon drawings off the walls in Josh’s room (I know, I know. Unenlightened, soul-crushing mother). It did a good job on the crayon but left faint marks where the marker did the tagging. I wasn’t too disappointed; I could always paint over it. I decided to see how it did on the woodwork in the kitchen and to my utter astonishment, it easily removed Josh’s black Sharpie artistry! I figured that was there for the long haul (meaning until I hauled out my orbital sander and laid waste to it). So anyway, to make a short story long, I’m impressed. I bought several boxes of Albertson’s knock offs and have big plans for the kids . . .

These kids do not like to work. I guess that’s not shocking or anything. I find myself repeating the same annoying thing my mom used to say, “I wish you could just see things that need doing and do them without being told!”. No matter what needs to be done, there’s always some rationale for their exemption. And me, being me, find it way more appealing to do it myself. Can’t keep it up though because I’ll end up raising a bunch of incompetent whiners and we can’t have that.

The kids ask about allowance occasionally but we’ve never quite established a) how much is appropriate and b) what the requirements should be. They have friends who receive hefty allowances for what amounts to nothing more than proof of breathing. As much as I want them to get some experience truly managing money before they head out into the real world, I do think they need to earn it. Maybe I should just capitate them after a certain age but that’s another thought for another day.

I’m trying something with Sam and Sierra right now because they both have requested things I’m unwilling to pay for. Sam wants some sort of Nerf thing and Sierra wants a touch-screen Nikon CoolPix. I’d say neither of them understands the value of a dollar. I made them each a grid, Sam’s with quarters and Sierra’s with dollars, roughly amounting to what they needed. For now the two of them are more than happy do the jobs I ask of them. I'm sure this too shall pass.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Last night while Sam and I were picking up toys in the basement, he held up one I’d purchased at the Louvre museum store last summer. It looks a little like a camera and when you look through the view finder you can click a button and see different works of art. He asked me why I bought him an inappropriate toy. That’s a big word for an almost 5 year old going to speech therapy.

Sam brought the toy to me and showed me the sculpture of Cupid and Psyche by Canova. Hands on boobs and all. I guess it hadn’t occurred to me when I bought it that this was inappropriate—it’s art. I suppose it’s a fine line we walk when we want to teach our children to appreciate art and modesty.

And then there’s the question of inappropriate language and intentions. When they’re little they say things without realizing what they’re doing. I believe in ignoring it—it might go away. Not everyone can do that though. I was at my doctor’s office on Friday morning and there was a little boy enthralled with the fish in a large tank. He kept yelling, “Fishes! Look at the fishes!”. Only “fishes” sounded exactly like the word for a female dog. His mother repeatedly asked him to stop saying that word, becoming more shrill by the minute. It was so hard not to laugh. After awhile he was saying it for the reaction. Josh pronounces his j’s as h’s and his t’s as f’s so that makes things interesting around here. I was weeding in the front yard the other day when he decided to make a game of jumping over a large stick. “Jump! Jump that!”, he kept yelling. As people walked by. Staring at me. It’s also pretty embarrassing when he yells “Truck!” (it happens a lot more often than you might think!). He’s just too young. If I let him know a word is “bad”, I know without a doubt, he’d use it intentionally.

As for that mom at the doctor’s office, she shouldn’t feel too badly. Her kid made a lot of people laugh, at least on the inside. And making me glad it wasn’t my kid? Priceless.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Atlas Shrugged

This morning Sierra and I walked next door to the Odd Fellows hall to check out their rummage sale. Generally speaking, it’s usually a bust but since it’s only a few feet away we look it over. We wandered through, finally deciding on an apron so we wouldn’t leave empty handed. Then something caught my eye. Could it be? No Way! Way. A first edition Atlas Shrugged. $1.

This is an incredible book. The Library of Congress once did a survey asking about books that have changed readers' lives. Atlas Shrugged was only second behind the Bible. And in these times, it’s relevant. Frighteningly relevant.

Our bailouts and accompanying regulations are straight out of Atlas Shrugged. Are you incompetent? Incapable of making demanding and critical business decisions? Step right up! We’ll rescue you. We have politicians responding to crises of their own creation with bigger and uglier programs and regulations which in turn create more problems. And guess how those are dealt with? Our politicians practice compassion by voting for more government programs (Just my opinion but I believe true compassion involves person to person contact. The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky is a great book on the subject.).

So that’s my little rant and I know it’s not unique or universally conceded.

Just this week I was thinking about my brother’s birthday coming up in a few weeks. I usually have something squared away by now but this time I just couldn’t come up with a thing. I can’t believe I found the perfect gift for $1!

Friday, May 1, 2009


We live on a corner. The convergence of residential and commercial. Because there’s a skate park, Dairy Queen, the Columbia River, and lots of shops within walking distance, we get a lot of foot traffic. We have a very shady front lawn and apparently it’s pretty inviting. Often I see teenagers and old Ukranian women sitting on the retaining wall, taking a break. I don’t mind. They aren’t hurting anything.

Most of them anyway. Last night, shortly after the sprinklers were set to go off, there was a knock at the door. I opened the door to a woman pointing to our own version of Old Faithful, spouting amongst my roses. Once again, someone took one of our sprinkler heads. WHY??? I just can’t figure out what that’s about. Is it some sort of trophy? I mean it’s not like they’re pitching them back onto my lawn or anything.

So I’m up this morning at the crack of dawn putting in a new one. I was feeling good despite the reason I was replacing it—I did it myself! But wait. Something doesn’t smell right. I look down and see that I'm stepping in the result of someone walking their dog without common sense, decency, or a proper receptacle. I AM ANGRY!

This is my struggle. No doubt it always will be. How to accept the Lord’s atonement for the lame things other people do. If I hold onto the anger or hold myself above the sprinkler thieves and egomaniacal dog walkers, I know the forgiveness I so desperately need for the lame things I do will pass me by. And what’s life without that? Not happy and certainly not eternal, that’s for sure.