Monday, August 31, 2009


This is it. The final day of summer vacation. Of course it goes without saying that we didn’t pick up our middle school schedules until this morning. Anything else would have required a level of forethought and organization to which I only aspire*.

Chief Jo Middle School. Sierra’s all business as we walk up but Michael, well, he’s a bit apprehensive. What if I don’t have all the right supplies on the first day? What if I don’t have time to get to my classes? When’s lunch? Are we even allowed to be here today? Mom? Mom! Aren’t you listening to me???

No, not really.

Because it’s been a long, long summer of middle school talk. The stories! The horrors! But my friend told me it really happened! I’d say there’s no end in sight but I'm hopeful that this is the end in sight. Frankly, I think that if they aren’t both bullied, offered a variety of recreational drugs, and shown porn by week’s end they’ll be a little disappointed.

At the office I asked for their schedules. I got a combination eyebrow raise and look down the nose. “Did you receive a call that they’re ready?” School starts tomorrow; I sure hope I did. Formalities out of the way, I grabbed the sheets and a few maps and held them high above my head, playing Keep Away. Out in the hall I handed them each a schedule and watched as looks of panic rush across their faces. I tried so, so hard not to laugh. A smile did slip through of which I’m still not completely forgiven.

What was so funny? It sure wasn’t Michael’s placement in Pre-Algebra (he took Algebra last year). I was laughing because although he was placed in the Technology class he wanted (that just sounds fake to me; like it could be about ANYTHING), he noticed he was also expected to show up in Home and Family class. Oh that is rich! And Sierra. Dear, sweet Sierra. Just yesterday her father was commenting on the fact that she wasn’t singing in church. That she never sings in church. “I CANNOT sing!” she yelled. Sierra’s got Concert Choir third period.

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

But before we can locate classrooms on the maps, the joke’s on me; I’ve been nabbed by a fellow parent and put on the 8th grade End-of-the-Year Party committee. My kids know me and they don’t even try not to laugh. My middle schoolers have the last laugh today.

*I’m only serious. But no, we would have been much more with it but the final decision to send these two to public school came a little late.
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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tiffany and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Move

All of this packing up and unpacking has me thinking about moving. This is the longest we’ve ever lived in any one place and it’s a little strange not contemplating the next move. Though I do dream a little (a lot) of coastal breezes or at least a big-enough house along the river, I really do like my little house on the corner. We may not be moving soon but some days, like yesterday, I feel like renting a jackhammer and a conveyor belt, grabbing a shovel and digging out more space under our super-massive kitchen addition. All the kids could have their own rooms down there. But I’m no contractor and this is just a flight of fancy (as far as you and the City of Richland know).

Our moves have always gone one of two ways: a) Professionally (where movers arrive, paid for by the new employer, and lovingly pack everything including the garbage) and b) Hopelessly Unprofessionally. Our last move, from rental house to our current digs definitely fell into the latter category.

Hoping to avoid the only downside of professional movers (unpacking boxes of garbage), I carefully sifted through our things and packed up what we could live without for a few months. I scavenged boxes wherever I could and rented a storage unit. I thought I was so on top of things. I guess I was compared to the people selling the house.

This was sort of an unorthodox deal. Tia knew we were looking to move out of the rental and heard the folks living here had purchased some property and would be building a house within the year. I loved it from the outside and being a few doors down from Tia would be awesome! I cold called these folks and asked if the rumors were true.

I think the guy thought I was crazy but he agreed to let us take a look. Before long we had earnest money down and a moving date. It was over five months out but they were calling the shots and didn’t want to move into a temporary location.

I had this smooth as silk vision of our move. I’d done all I could. All except ask our new ward for a little muscle. That would’ve been smart because you see, the owners insisted we get the house sold and handed off the Wednesday before Memorial Day. Remember, they were calling the shots. And locating friends available to help move on Memorial Day weekend? Ha!

So we closed on the Wednesday. I was sooo excited! But guess what? We had no keys. They still lived there. From the street we could see pictures still hanging on the wall.

Thursday comes, still nothing. I’m panicking because I’ve got people from our soon-to-be old ward showing up to help first thing Friday morning before heading out for whatever it is people do on Memorial Day weekend. Friday arrives and they begin to move out. We begin to lose available help.

My parents came to help because this is what they do. They help with a capital “H”. The few people still able to lend a hand began hauling things over and dumping them on the lawn. In retrospect I wish we’d just paid for an extra month’s rent on the house and the unit. It would have allowed for time to clean the house and to stay the heck out of their way.

So anyway, I’m trying to clean and people are hauling things over but despite my best efforts it was still a massive job. Now comes the icing on the cake. My parents worked tirelessly through Sunday then decided at the last minute, after hauling the last load, to drive home to beat the holiday traffic. This was around 10 p.m. and that’s a good 4-5 hour drive. I was already asleep but had I been privy to any of this I’d probably have hidden their keys or thrown a fit or something equally useless. But, as police and hospital records can attest, I did not.

I woke the next morning to a call from a nurse at the hospital in Morton informing me that they’d been in a wreck. Dad fell asleep at the wheel somewhere between Packwood and Morton and they were both pretty banged up. This is where the blessings started rolling in. Friends volunteered to take care of the kids, my Visiting Teachers organized a group of ladies to clean out our rental house, and it just so happened that my brother Tom was about to start a job in Olympia. That may seem like no big deal to most people but the boy is a Harvard-educated business consultant who hasn’t worked anywhere close to home since he graduated from college. He and I were able to get them to their doctor appointments and get them settled and sorted for a few days. Somehow those two convalesced and were fit to attend Tom’s wedding a few weeks later.

This move was the worst but I can’t deny that when things were really BAD, God was really GOOD.
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Saturday, August 29, 2009


This is Domo. Probably, this is how I looked to my family today. I bit off more than I could chew in the amount of time I’d allotted and the result was an exasperated MotherWife. I should always remember the words of my Grandma Girard*: “Times Ten.” Two simple words that sum up almost every project I start. Just figure out how much time you need then multiply it by ten.

You see I had this fabulous idea. The day before yesterday I had a newly minted teenager and it occurred to me that he ought to, whether he liked it or not, have a room of his own. I was going to move Josh out and Michael in. While I was at it, I’d scour everything top to bottom, clean out closets, pull out clothes that no longer fit, exterminate the dust bunnies, organize drawers and get Josh situated with the little boys in the big room (otherwise known as The Master Bedroom We No Longer Have and Now We Sleep In The Den). This would have been an excellent idea in June. Maybe even July. But a few days before school starts? Overly ambitious is an understatement.

Thanks to Styx and Mr. Roboto, we all know “domo arigato” means “thank you very much” (at least we THINK that’s what we’re yelling when we crank it up). So, in the spirit of Thank You Very Much I’m going to start my She’s in The House “Domo Award” for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Chilling Out Tiff. Today’s Domo goes to Mr. She’s in the House, my husband person. Today Michael took the kids and did the big Cash N Carry trip, leaving me in relative peace to work at full speed. He had a lot to do today but put it aside to help me. Cue the thunderous applause!

So I’ve got Michael Jr. moved into his own room. It will be interesting (no it won’t) to see if the kid can keep his own space neat. He’s had this convenient excuse a long time: “It’s not my fault! The boys keep making a mess!” I can’t deny it; they do. But I’m pretty sure they’re not tossing his dirty clothes on the ground and leaving his Nerf guns for me to trip over. Who knows, maybe they are.

It was kind of eye opening for me to go through the big room they all shared and figure out what was Michael’s. I pulled his books out, took down his artwork, gathered his souvenirs, puzzles, and awards and put them all together. It’s all done and looking at it I see that I actually do have a teenager. I wonder if I’ll be any good at this Mom-of-Teenager thing. I hope so; I’ll be getting a new one every few years for awhile. I’d write LOL (no I wouldn’t) but I’m definitely not LOLing.

*Though not my biological grandmother, Marian Girard served in this capacity for most of my young life.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

What Not to Wear

“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” -Henry David Thoreau

It’s Back to School shopping time. Okay, for most people that was a month or so ago but I’m fashionably late. For the little boys, my shopping mostly involves walking out to the garage and finding the bins labeled with their size but that method doesn’t work so well for the oldest two. Sierra’s pretty much taken care of and I’m left to find a few things for Michael Jr. tonight. So much easier than shopping for myself.

When I shop for myself I think about how few nice dresses I see with short sleeves. About why it’s a near impossibility to locate knee-length shorts (they all seem to be crotch-length or capris). About how I can’t find pants I’m not ashamed to wear without waists so low I’m hiking them up every few feet (get a belt, right?).

I’m a mom. I don’t think I’ve made a secret about that. Still though, I don’t think it’s affected how I dress a whole lot. Actually that’s not completely true; I’ve been pregnant or nursing for—quick, let me grab a calculator and an accountant--9 of my 15 married years. Wardrobe adjustments have been necessary. I never was much of a snappy dresser (though I’m not sure what that would amount to anyway) so I guess there’s that. And yes, around the house I may wear pajamas till noon if I’ve got a lot of cleaning to do or laundry to fold but that’s beside the point, right? What is the point anyway? Time to face facts: I am a total Frump.

I’m not a big shopper. There’s just so much I don’t like and what I do like is usually on the spendy side. Add to that the dilemma that I’m built weird. Oddly proportioned. At least according to those who design clothes. I have a short torso and I’ve got nothing in the waist and hip department. In the olden days (the 70’s, 80’s, and even some of the 90’s), it made shopping for jeans such a drag. If something fit around the waist, it was way too long. The perfect length meant my circulation would be cut off if I dare button them. You may remember those awful jeans with 20-inch zippers (I’m making that number up. I just know they were l-o-n-g). They’d cut me off at my ribcage. But they were soooo cool! Everyone had to have them.

Guess jeans, James Jeans, jeans with zippers at the ankle, Lawman Jeans (Hot! Hot on your tail!), acid wash, Jordache, Calvin Klein. Even a brand (Gelato?) with an ice cream cone on the label. I remember shopping for jeans at N & N in Olympia. Nightmare. They looked good on everyone else. In retrospect they looked awful on everyone but it’s always like that. Happy Day when I finally discovered Levi 501’s. Built like a boy, I finally gave up and wore boy jeans.

Sometime around the turn of the century I discovered BoyFit jeans from The Gap. They fit a lot like 501s but had plain pockets and also came in capris and khakis. Yay me, right? They were the best! I had two pairs but eventually wore them out. I tried to replace them but sadly, they were discontinued. I spent the next few years buying them on eBay until I had at least 15 pairs. I may not have had my year supply of wheat and legumes, but by golly I had the jeans.

I haven’t worn them in awhile; they were put away with the fourth pregnancy. I discovered them yesterday and tried on a pair. Ugh. They look like Mom Jeans.
P.S. I mentioned rating the blog the other day but I think it was confusing. This is where you rate it:
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Thursday, August 27, 2009


I remember throwing myself onto one of the beds and flipping on MTV. “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies, tell me lies, tell me, tell me lies . . . “ sang Stevie Nicks. I was just days away from starting my senior year at Yelm High School but here I was in Marietta OH, taking in the ocular disaster that was a room at the Knight’s Inn. I think they’ve moved into this century now but back then it was a different story. Think medieval stereotypes, shields, swords, wood-beamed ceilings. Think purple. Then shudder. I wish I had a photo.

But why am I going on about a hotel room? Probably because it’s what I know. What I remember first hand. There was just so damn much I didn’t.

Twenty two years ago today my cousin Mark Fleming died. It wasn’t a shock; he’d been battling cancer for a few years but shocking still because I knew him. He was just a kid, like me.

Mark was known as “Fling”. It could be because he couldn’t say Fleming as a child, but I don’t know. He was just a few years older than me and we were the oldest of the Arnold grandkids. I imagine I probably saw him often my first year of life. My mom and I lived with her parents on their farm while my dad was in Korea. After Dad came home we moved to Washington. We would return every few years for a visit but you know, we were visitors.

I remember hearing CANCER. Like the Telephone Game, what I heard was not necessarily what was said, but that part was real. He fell off a Homecoming float and a chest x-ray revealed something far worse than a broken rib. Is that what really happened?

There’s a lot I never knew. Did he ever undergo treatments locally? He lived in West Virginia and I don’t know what would have been available in the vicinity. I do know he underwent treatment in Texas (MD Anderson Cancer Center, I believe) and I always, always think of his mom when I see the Ronald McDonald House donation box at the drive-thru window. Though it’s never occurred to me before, I wonder if his treatment was experimental, a Hail Mary, last ditch effort. I once heard “testicular cancer” but never since. If that truly was the origin, I wonder if that kind of family history is something I should be aware of as the mother of four boys. With a little reading I found that it’s more common in young men and 90% of cases present with a painless lump or mass. That sounds dangerously easy to overlook. If it spread to his lungs, it really was over before it began.

But again, I knew so little. What I did know was that Mark was an only child and very loved by his parents. He was their Big Deal and rightly so.

During the summer before my junior year my dad took me back to Ohio for a week or so. It went unsaid to me, but this was a trip to see Mark. I remember trying to mask my shock at his appearance. I knew he’d be bald but what I wasn’t prepared for was his skeletal physique or his smile. He wouldn’t let you be sad. He joked and kidded with me the same as he had during my last visit. Before. I wondered what that was like for him. He had to know why we were there. Did he feel like it was only a matter of time? Was he at peace? Or did it feel like a battle he could win? Or maybe even a battle he had to fight, for the sake of his family who desperately loved him?

“Sometimes you have to look reality in the eye, and deny it.” Garrison Keillor

Eventually the battle was over and we returned a few days before my senior year was due to begin. A stop at the Knight’s Inn and then the funeral home. My grandpa greeted us as we walked in and I gave him a big hug. I was immediately filled with regret; he didn’t reciprocate. I wasn’t raised around my grandparents, only stereotypes. Physical affection wasn’t their way. It wasn’t my parent’s either so I wasn’t scarred for life or anything. Just hoped I hadn’t made him too uncomfortable.

We made our way to my aunt and uncle and Mark. “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies, tell me lies, tell me, tell me lies . . . “ blared from a boom box next to the casket. They had the radio tuned to his favorite station. I finally cried. It was suddenly no longer unreal.

So now I’m grown with sons and my heart seizes at the thought of losing one. I’ve mentioned before that my younger boys are sort of Pokémon obsessed and something I often hear mentioned in their conversations is “battle damage”. I think of the “battle damage” this would inflict on a mother. On me. I have to believe God doesn’t give us more than we can handle but honestly, all I can think is Game Over.

After sitting here writing for awhile, I realize what I didn’t know didn’t matter. Mark, I miss you. I miss the idea of you. I wish I’d known you better. The time I did have with you always involved laughing and for that I will be eternally grateful. The day I introduce you to my family will be sweet indeed.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Thirteen years ago we lived in Cambridge MA on the 24th floor of 60 Wadsworth Street. Just the two of us (cue the Bill Withers song). In a corner, two bedroom apartment with sweeping views of Boston, the Charles River, and points west, it was as good as it gets when it came to M.I.T. family housing. Any M.I.T. housing for that matter. Thanks to being close to my "time of confinement” (exact words of my ob/gyn in her note to housing) and pulling #2 in the housing lottery we found ourselves in one of the sweetest apartments around.

Thirteen years ago yesterday was a Sunday. A lazy Sunday. We had our friends the Durfee’s over for dinner and while we were eating, the phone rang. It was someone at the sleep clinic at Beth Israel Hospital calling to let Michael know they had a cancellation. They’d cancelled his appointment for that evening earlier in the day but at the last minute asked if he could come in anyway.

As an aside, this thrilled me in ways I cannot say. I had been slowly losing my mind with my beloved’s snoring and I had high hopes this new-fangled CPAP machine would solve my problems. Fast forward 13 years and I’d say it did help a whole heck of a lot. Though I still wear ear plugs at night (I NEED them now even when I sleep alone), the sounds emanating from Michael’s side of the bed are sort of Darth Vader as a fighter pilot, white noise.

Michael packed himself a bag and before he left, stopped at our big white board and told me he was leaving a number where he could be reached. I told him not to bother; he’d be home before I was up in the morning. Besides, I told him, I wasn’t due for another month.

Every Sunday night I talk to my parents. That night we talked for awhile and soon after their call, my brother Tom called. I remember laying on the futon talking and watching TV when suddenly I heard something in one of the bedrooms. I stood up to see what it was when Uh-Oh! Tom was treated to the sounds of a serious freak out as I looked to see I’d suffered a pretty serious water breakage. No drip, drip, drip for this girl. He told me to keep cool, get some towels, call Michael. I hung up and carefully walked with the towel at my feet to the white board. There was the number.

The technicians at the sleep clinic woke Michael, pulled the sticky electrodes from his head, and sent him on his way. After a quick stop at a bodega for juice, pads and Pop Tarts we were reunited.

The thing is, I was supposed to have A MONTH! I was in no way prepared aside from the crib with pink bedding we’d purchased from another family in the building. I had no bag packed, no diapers purchased, I even left dirty dishes in the sink from dinner because I was wiped out. I really thought I would be like everyone else I knew. LATE.

After a bumpy Jeep ride back to Boston (Brigham and Women’s Hospital is down the street from Beth Israel) we checked in but nothing much happened until the morning when it was determined that I needed to be induced. I didn’t have an opinion one way or the other; what did I know? I had big plans to do this thing without painkillers but at the time I had no idea what pitocin could do to a person. To me. Things I’m sure God never intended. Not long after the drip began I was begging Michael to take me home. Can’t we just forget this ever happened?

But no, we couldn’t. After an AMAZING epidural I gave birth to Michael Jr. at 4:33 p.m. Weighing in at 5 lb. 12 oz. and just 17 ½ inches long, he was the tiniest baby I’d ever laid eyes on. And beautiful. I’d get weepy just looking at him and it wasn’t the post partum talking either (that would be later watching sappy commercials and worrying constantly that someone would steal him). I was enthralled.

Today my tiniest baby turned 13. He’s not all teenager yet but he’s well on his way. I hope he knows how wanted he was and how loved he is. How much he’s brought to our lives.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Me and My Imagination

We drove through Tumwater yesterday on the way to Summit Lake. The kids spotted a few people panhandling and yelled, “Mom! Hobos!” I hate stuff like that because it forces me into murky waters. I told them the word "hobo" really was a misnomer (“What’s a 'misnomer'?”). What they’d seen could be one of a number of things. Could be people who are hungry with no means to help themselves. Could be people who have drug or alcohol addictions and really can’t hold down jobs. Could be a number of scenarios. They might be homeless, they might not be. But hobos? Probably not. Hobos are, technically speaking, homeless (and often penniless) traveling workers. Very common during the Great Depression. Then there were tramps and bums. Tramps worked only when necessary and bums didn’t work at all. I’d lost their interest in record time so I traded my anthropologist hat for another. Time to play DJ.

Driving through Tumwater we also passed the empty, dilapidated brewery. Windows like empty eyes stared blankly back at me. How long has it stood like this? At the lake, Amanda told me one night while she was walking Yoshi, she spied a man in a long dark coat trying to get into it. My mind wanders and I imagine an entire community of tramps and bums have set up housekeeping in the brewery. Roaring campfires, all earthly belongings contained in bandanas tied to sticks, and every one of them singing “Big Rock Candy Mountain” in the voice of Harry McClintock. Dateline investigative reporter Keith Morrison would swoop in with his camera crew and in his mysterious and annoying manner spin a tale of lies and deception, lost opportunities and respect denied. The tramps and bums would give him my blank stare and continue on with their harmonizing.

P.S. Halloween 1976 was the year of stereotypes; me as a gypsy and Tom as a hobo/tramp/bum.

P.P.S. If you follow my blog on Networked Blogs, would you rate it? I’ll try not to take it personally!
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Girl Can't Help It

I think I would like to live on a lake. I would also like to roll over and pass out right now I’m so tired but this is my journalblog and I’ve promised, promised, promised myself I will make it to the end of the year without skipping days. I have to admit, I’m shocked at my own persistence. I can’t say this is Normal.

My van is big but not big enough; we had to take two cars today. We’d been invited to spend the day at the home of some friends on Summit Lake and it couldn’t have been a nicer day for it. We cranked Journey on the way because Sam loves “Don’t Stop Believin’” and it was a welcome respite from Josh’s constant request for the Chipmunk version of “Boom Boom Pow”. I’m probably a complete freak in this department (as well as assorted others) but there are Journey songs I could hear over and over and never tire. This is one of them.

When we arrived, the first thing Sierra noticed was the pedal boat. Can I go on it can I go on it can I go on it? That kept the kids busy for hours and wore them out nicely. I like worn out kids when the time’s right. Later in the afternoon Amanda took the kids out on one of those 3-seater floaty things you pull behind a boat and some of them loved it. Some (one) dissolved into tears because we didn’t pay proper attention to their hand signals telling us to slow down. It was still pretty darned fun(ny) from my seat on the boat. A very new experience for my kids.

The sun felt good at the time but as I lay here in bed my back feels like it’s on fire. Can you get a sunburn through a thin shirt? I guess that’s a dumb question as I lay here wondering where the aloe vera might be. This Pacific Northwest weather can trick me if I’m not careful. The worst sunburns of my life have taken place on days when it’s just breezy enough to keep me from noticing the no good the sun’s up to.

With a salmon on the grill and lots of other goodies to fill our plates, I sat with the grownups and relaxed. Except for the part where Josh climbed up me and spilled his soda down my shirt and that other part where he and Sam chased each other with ice cream cones around the deck. Also that part where Sierra repeatedly bugged Michael Jr. about becoming a teenager. I’m sure a day with my family was the gift of birth control for Amanda and Fernando; it’s an added value feature we offer and I’m happy to oblige.

And dessert! Fresh blackberry cobbler and not made from those garbage berries either. Delicious! In the immortal words of Journey (or Steve Perry or whoever wrote that song), girl can’t help it, she needs more!

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Do Nothing Day

I’m taking a break from another sedentary pursuit; flipping through years of Taste of Home and Simple & Delicious magazines, looking for recipes ideas. I’m more of an America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated and Gourmet magazine girl but I need some quick-on-the-draw ideas in my arsenal. Fall’s coming and you know, most days don’t allow me hours in the kitchen. As I’ve sifted through these publications I’ve wondered who these skinny gals are in all the pictures, eating all that comfort food? Laughing heartily over a plate of cookies? I just read in Time magazine that exercise isn’t enough to make up for sinful eating. So what gives? I want to see what real people look like after eating this food. Or maybe I don't.

This morning the kids and Grandma and I played a game of Phase 10, or as I call it, The Never-Ending Game of Doom and Sadness. We always think Oh! Let’s play Phase 10! and then we get kids gloating when they phase, kids sulking when they’re skipped, kids freaking out when they’re left with a handful of Wilds and Skips to count. They’re full of Never Again! promises but they can’t seem to help themselves.

During the game I pulled out my phone and looked at Facebook. Ooh! A message with a video! I waited until the game was over to look at it. Oh my. There before my eyes was me. Me from 1970-something (I’m in the stripes not looking at the camera—and no; I have no idea what Lisa and I are doing). I had no clue that anything like this existed—my folks didn’t own a video camera. My mom was pretty surprised too but you know, the whole Facebook thing freaks her out, I think.

Which is fine by me. I’m one of those people who would drop Facebook in a microsecond (sure I would) if my parents joined. It’s not like I say things or post items I’d be embarrassed for them to see (sure I don’t). All I can say is Worlds Collide. I like things just the way they are. But like I said, it freaks Mom out. She used to be my source for information, limited and infrequent as it was, about family, extended family, old friends, older friends, all that. Now I tell her what’s going on. She always stops and stares (usually my territory). “How do you . . . nevermind.”

Last night at dinner Ellen and I were talking about different people we’re in touch with now and after one particular name Mom stopped, stared, and said, “How can you be friends with people you aren’t friends with?” Good grief! How would I know? I just do these things. I don’t actually think about them.

Not completely unrelated* (totally unrelated), down at the garden there were billions of beans to be picked, washed, topped, tailed, cut, blanched, and frozen. My vow to Do Nothing today didn’t go as planned, though honestly, watching Formula One while working on beans can’t really be considered Effort. Where I fell off the Do Nothing wagon was dealing with the kids. They have ten acres to roam (and hundreds more if they were anything like me as a kid—serious trespasser) but they must be in each other’s business at regular intervals and keeping up with their special requests. Can I play on your phone? Can I use your laptop? When I remind them we’re in the country, why not go outside? the requests turn to Can I shoot something? Can I drive the tractor? I would love it if at some point all five could just CHILL.

During this trip to the farm, Sierra has continually lobbied Grandpa to let her drive the riding lawnmower herself. He wasn’t so sure it was a great idea but gave in. Because that is Sierra’s Super Power. Before he handed over the keys, he had this to say:

“Do you know how to clutch it?”
“Have you got emergency flares? The number for AAA?”
“And no beer. I don’t want to see any long necks in the cup holder!”

She answered Yes, No, No, and rolled her eyes. She headed to the barn and so far she hasn’t run over anyone yet.

*Matthew Keith sent me the video. I remember beans growing up in front of his family’s porch and how we’d pull off leaves and stick them like Velcro to our clothes.
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

I ♥ Hyperlinks

It’s 8:15 p.m. and I’m watching Sierra rock Josh (together now, *ahhh!*) while we all watch “Dirty Jobs”. Mike Rowe is busy knocking frozen peesicles off sled dog houses. As far as dirty jobs go, that seems pretty tame. I mean honestly, it’s not like it would even smell bad.

My dear Ellen was coming up from Portland around noon so Mom asked if I’d make crab and corn chowder for lunch. No problemo. No problemo except no creamed corn in the house (who actually eats that anyway? Never mind, I don’t really care). I headed out to buy a few cans and for the first time ever I decided to head into Rainier instead of Yelm. I figured it HAD to be quicker. What are the chances I would arrive in Rainier ten minutes before the start of the Rainier Round Up parade? That I would be trapped in the Rainier Market parking lot? Apparently 100%. And why have I never heard of the Rainier Round Up? I love blue grass and yet these details elude me.

I wasn’t actually trapped, there was an exit around back, but I did have to find my way through back roads I haven’t traveled in decades. Vail Cut-Off to Runyon; like riding a bike I guess. In the mean time Dad was bringing the kids back from a trip to Lacey for back to school haircuts and Slurpees and they hit the parade chaos straightaway. A string of obscenities flew that the kids are still giggling about . . .

It sure was great to have Ellen to hang around with for the day. We ate, drove to Stewarts for her first time (I know, I know, all her years living here and NEVER), picked buckets of green beans with Dad, and ate some more. Her littlest guy, Cooper, palled around with Josh while they were here and they seemed to have a streak of mischief in common! As Ellen and I cleared the dinner dishes and talked with my mom, I began to mentally count kids; I do this all the time. Uh oh. No Josh. No Cooper. I began looking outside and then in and until I finally found them in the mudroom. There they sat on the floor playing with a full watering can and a bottle of icky green dog shampoo. All over the floor. Josh was so happy to finally have a partner in crime! I just wish I knew when/if he was going to get beyond this whole destructo-baby thing because, well, he’s no baby anymore. He’s completely old enough to get what he’s doing is not okay. He knows to sneak off, close doors, deny, deny, deny when he gets into things. I’m pretty sure he’ll be my undoing but don’t tell him that. He’s got enough power as it is . . .

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Bye Bye Beach

This morning after sleeping in, swimming in the hotel pool, and watching cartoons on channels we’re too cheap to pay for at home, we headed back to the beach. There was a tiny worn path between the hotel and the waves, probably a quarter mile long. And it was a deceitful little path! As we walked we could hear the ocean loud and clear but with each rise we crested, there would be nothing but bushes, sand, and grasses meeting our eyes. Until FINALLY.

More playing in the waves, amazing Kodak moments. And then I find later I’ve got my camera set on Not The Right Setting and few if any look good. Still, we made memories, right? We did, we did but sometimes I think my memories ARE pictures. When I remember events of the past I often see the photos in my mind. And have you ever wondered how many photos you’re in, in other people’s homes, who have no idea who you are? You happened to be walking by during a shot at Disneyland. Or anywhere for that matter. I would be surprised to find that anyone thinks about pictures the way I do. Hopeless when I haven’t got the right shot, ecstatic when it all comes together in one 4x6 slick. Whatever, I took plenty yesterday.

So we’re there and I set up my folding chair to watch the kids but every few minutes I found myself hauling it back several feet along with an array of flip flops, wet and sandy shirts, and trowels. Mostly I was walking around taking (bad) photos and at one point I looked to see the waves overtaking our things. I ran to save the things these waves could take (all of which could be replaced for under $20) and as I bend down, *PLOP!*, my iPhone is submerged. And I am very, very sad. Because, well, you know, I ♥ my iPhone.

I plucked it out of the briny shallows and popped it out of its case. Dried it up but knew it was a lost cause. I’d heard way too many *PLOP!* stories. I turned it on and glory be, it worked! I said a quick prayer and let out a long sigh of relief. But then Michael called. And I couldn’t hear a thing. The phone seemed to be working under the impression that my headphones were plugged in. Did I get water in that headphone hole? Yes siree. So now I was stuck with a glorified iTouch. I had to text Michael to make my phone calls. How long could he happily do that? I’ll give you a hint: It’s a negative number.

We left around noon and as we drove out of the hotel parking lot Michael Jr. turned to me (this has been his first trip *ever* riding in the front seat) and said, “Everything is twice as expensive here as it is at home”. A block later I looked across the street at a strip mall and saw a $2 Store. I didn’t know there was any such thing but I guess that proves his point.

The trip home was filled with strange conversations as usual. At one point the kids began discussing mollusks. Michael Jr. told the younger ones that if a snail could reach, they could reproduce with themselves. I stopped and stared, as I often do. He said it with such clinical sterility; nothing hilarious about it to him! Kenny thought that was great and they all discussed what it would be like if, like snails, male and female humans could each get pregnant. I never considered how much double the trouble that would be, but leave it to my kids to sort that out.

On the way home I scanned the gazillions of blackberry bushes I saw for signs of (black) life and sure enough there were plenty ripe. After cleaning out the car (arguably The Worst part of a trip to The Beach) I took off on Mom’s bike to see what I could pick. I found a bunch on 148th along the Pettit’s field and picked and picked. I’d forgotten how lame these berries are. I mean I knew they were nothing like the tiny, delicious wild black raspberries I hunted in the woods last month but honestly, these Himalayans are garbage berries. They are sweet but essentially flavorless. And those monstrous seeds? Grab the floss; you’re gonna need it. I picked several inspite of myself—I figured I could make a little something for the kids—but before I picked enough for anything I found myself face to face with a ginormous spider. That was that. I put it in my bucket and pedaled back home.
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Beach

This morning we got up, packed Grandma’s buckets and trowels, and headed down the road. The first stop was Main Street Cookie Co. in Rainier (they're only open three days a week so we get 'em while we can) and the next was The Beach.

Josh has been talking about going to The Beach since Mindy invited us to go a week or so ago. The kids have all been to rocky shores in and around Puget Sound but the youngest two have never been to the actual ocean. It was great to see the look in their eyes when they first saw the waves crashing. Why don’t we do this every time we visit in the summer? It’s only about 2 hours from my parent’s house.

The beachiness of it all almost undid me right from the start. I followed Mindy to park and quickly realized my van was way heavier than her car. There I was. Stuck. Tires spinning; folks staring. At one point I just stopped trying and stared back. That didn’t seem to be helping much so I tried going a little forward, a little back, a little forward, a little back. Eventually it was a lot forward. And thank goodness. Calling a tow truck would not have made my day.

When I envisioned this little trip I didn’t picture the kids getting soaked. I figured they’d get their pants wet but that’s about it. I mean it was only in the 60’s. I was so wrong. They were just totally drenched! They ran into the waves with such joy; I wish Michael could’ve been here to see it. That and Sam flying the kite he bought him. I keep thinking one day he’ll have a job that isn’t so life-sucking.

I could write a lot more but I'll end now; I still have four boys awake in this hotel room and I notice I’m veering into a completely different topic.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Yelm, Yet Again

There is really no sneaking off to write around here. I’ve tried it twice already and each time someone needed something urgently before I could even open a Word Document. Maybe the third try will be a charm. Whatever that means.

As usual, I had big plans for leaving first thing in the morning but it ended up being second or third. The kids decided to move Josh to the back row, leaving Michael Jr. a seat full of crumbs and Skittles; straight to the car wash vacuum after packing up. Then we remembered Sierra’s friend left her swimsuit; better return that. Josh began clamoring for Black Eyed Peas and Michael’s the only one with them on his iPhone; emergency downloading had to happen. And we were still in Richland.

We took the Vantage route to I-90 and I promised the kids that this time I’d really, no kidding, finally, stop the van next to the sand dunes we always see on Route 243 just before we get to Schawana (essentially a gas station, post office, and orchards). No one believed me but hey, who could blame them?

As we rounded the corner of towering basalt cliffs, there lay the pristine dunes, lined with ripples from the breeze off the Columbia below. I pulled in and the oldest three tore out and up the sandy hill, losing flip flops as they went. Sam and Josh both needed assistance with car seat buckles and couldn’t believe they were being left behind. But not for long. And who knew sand dunes could be so much fun? Okay, probably lots of people, including my kids. We’ll definitely do this on the way back.

Stewart’s Meats was the first stop once we arrived in Yelm. If you’re from these parts it needs no introduction but if not, you my friend, are missing out. This place has been around a million years (76 to be exact) and has the best jerky and pepperoni EVER. I bought two pounds of pepperoni and continued up the road, each child with a two foot rope. I should have taken a picture.

Sierra decided we really needed to watch the special tonight on TV about the Octomom (that so sounds like a super hero but sadly no, just a crazy person). I could only take it up to the point when she and her mother began to argue. Her mother wanted her to acknowledge that what she’d done was, at minimum, irresponsible. The Octobreeder just kept saying, “You can’t go back and ring a bell!” over and over. Isn’t it, “You can’t unring a bell”? Enough. She makes even me, the ultimate suburban breeder, look sane. And for that, I say Thank You Octomom. I just can’t stand extended exposure to your inflated lips and ego.

The evening ended with the Myth Busters swimming through water, light syrup, and heavy syrup in an attempt to prove . . . well, I wasn’t paying attention. They lost me at heavy syrup. Anyway, Mom brought out Dad’s rice/bread pudding (with lemon zest, raisins, and dried cranberries) and I, despite my plan to decline, ended up with two servings. Oh well. No regrets there.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I ♥ My Visiting Teachers

Today is going by way, way too fast. I still have to pack for another trip to Yelm tomorrow, feed everyone, and get us out the door to Michael Jr.’s Boy Scout Court of Honor tonight. Not that I’m complaining or anything. Actually I am, just not about those things. Kenny is laying on the loveseat whining: Sierra is the one making him some macaroni and cheese, not me. Surely she’ll poison him. I think he and his little friend stayed up way too late last night and we, lucky us, are paying for that indiscretion.

This morning one of my Visiting Teachers stopped by. For those of you not in the know, if you’re LDS and a woman (and not a confirmed recluse), you’ve got Visiting Teachers. More likely than not you are one too. The Visiting Teaching program is so cool. If you participate, you’re assigned a partner and usually about three ladies to visit and share a gospel message with (yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition). The partnerships change occasionally as well as the ladies we visit but it’s pretty much always the same. An opportunity to get to know and care about people with whom you might not otherwise interact. And let me tell you, I have some awesome Visiting Teachers. Hope Houck is the Energizer Bunny incarnate; always right there to do whatever needs doing. Always with a smile and lots of ideas, she’s a great friend to have around. Andi Stevens is her companion and she’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever met. She knows how to get to the heart of the matter, how to distill from much what is key to the individual. She’s an amazing guide with an mind-blowing capacity to love.

Hope was feeling under the weather today and Andi came by herself. We began catching up with no children in sight. They were happily doing something downstairs so we could actually hear ourselves speak. Suddenly Josh came running at us, buck naked, dangly bits flying. I guess not technically naked; he was wearing aqua socks. Even better was when he came tearing into the room with a can of Reddi-Whip, spraying it into his mouth. He has a very keen sense of what he can get away with only when we have guests. Look how cute! Ack.

This afternoon I took Sierra shopping so she could use some birthday money and gift cards. Happily, she used it all on school clothes. I was also looking for buckets and shovels for the beach and found none. If I was looking for Halloween paraphernalia I’d have been in luck. I did find The Coolest Gumball Ever (with sour thingys inside even!) so it wasn’t a total loss.
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Monday, August 17, 2009

I Need a Wife

“Mom’s gay! Dad! Dad! Mom’s gay!!”

Well, not exactly. Under my breath I’d mumbled, “I wish I had a wife,” and Kenny took that as a straight-up admission. As far as he was concerned it was finally all out in the open.

But really, what housewife wouldn’t want a wife? Or two even? I would’ve been happy to have an extra me to go enroll the big kids in middle school today and another to do the grocery shopping. One could be putting the laundry away right now while the other was frying up some bacon for BLTs tonight. Doesn’t that sound good?

I could use a few to team up and clean out my garage and organize a yard sale. Maybe some more to turn my backyard into a place I wouldn’t mind visiting occasionally. Oh! And maybe at least one to go get a job! That would be fantastic!

“Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.” - A. H. Weiler

Or for the woman. I tried to explain to Kenny exactly why I said it; no particular proclivity for women involved. He turned to me and said, “Maybe we can just make Dad a girl.” Clearly I’d made no impression whatsoever on the kid so I changed the subject. I guess if I’d said, “I wish I had a clone,” he would have understood and thought it was cool.

Today I bought shelves for the basement to continue with the organizational frenzy and since I don’t have even one wife, I had Michael Jr. put them together. Maybe I don’t really need a wife. Having all these kids could be a reasonable facsimile. Just don’t tell them.
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Sunday

I read the paper today! I learned that ferruginous hawks may become endangered species, the Olympic Peninsula is poised for the next big earth quake, and today is Madonna’s 51st birthday. A Thai elephant received an artificial leg, Washington’s Department of Transportation is looking for volunteers to count bicyclists and walkers (huh?), and Britain is encouraging backyard beekeeping. I guess that wasn’t a total waste of time. Maybe. I don’t know.

I substituted in Kenny’s Primary class today and had a delightful time! We had music time first with Sister Byrd and as she’s new, she asked the children if they remembered her name. She gave them a hint: it’s the name of an animal. One child immediately yelled, “Cantaloupe!” We laughed and realized she was trying to say “Antelope”, which you have to admit would be a sweet last name. And what a fun teacher Sister Byrd is! She let the children take turns standing still while she threw bean bags to them. The colors of the bean bags represented different things, such as Girls Only, Eyes Shut, Extra Loud, Standing, Whispering, Plug Ears, etc. What you catch is how we sing the next song. We must’ve looked hilarious singing a song extra loud, standing, with our eyes shut!

Before class began I snuck a Rice Krispy treat to Tami because we’re going to be Real Friends, not just on Facebook and you know, she leaves the most comments on my blog. My readers are not big commenters (my spell check doesn’t believe that’s a Real Word) so I don’t usually have a clue what they think. Also, I don’t know why some people are “Followers” and some who read it aren’t. Oh yeah, it could be embarrassing or something. I totally get that.

There were only three children today so (sorry parents!) I plied them with Rice Krispy treats for nine. I made those because the sweetest little girl I’ve ever met (I love my daughter but she’s not the sweetest little girl ANYONE has ever met—sweet just isn’t the right word) is in the class and she’s allergic to lots of delicious things, most notably (to me at least) is chocolate. How a person survives and not only survives but smiles as much as she does WITHOUT chocolate is to me, a modern miracle.

The lesson was about how Jesus loves all children and I told them stories about children from places such as Holland, Fiji, and Mexico. We found these places on the map (and had to explain to their blank faces that people call The Netherlands Holland but North Holland and South Holland are just two of twelve provinces in The Netherlands—we just weren’t going to find the word “Holland” on my small placemat map). We discussed how they lived lives that were similar and very different from ours. Then we had to consult my iPhone to find out if Fiji has monkeys. That seemed like a very important inquiry to them. Oh my gosh I love this class!

I made grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, and beans for dinner. The beans were just a package of Bob’s Red Mill 13 Bean Soup Mix cooked up with some seasonings. I thought it was really tasty but several children accused me of cooking jail food. That was a first in the complaint department. I need to figure out a good natural-consequence punishment for giving my food The Heisman. Maybe they need to help cook the next meal. Or no! Maybe they need to eat that same food each meal until they learn to zip it! Actually, that sounds hilarious! Any good Eat-It-Or-Else ideas out there? I remember Fudge having to “Eat it or wear it!” in "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" but that doesn’t seem practical. Again, hilarious, but ick.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Paper

If someone were to ask me, “What does your mom always do?” there would be a very long list of selfless, For-the-Good of-the-Family type stuff that would immediately come to mind. But honestly, what won’t I forget? That she falls asleep reading the paper EVERY night. Not for the night and not for long, but she starts reading and her head starts nodding and . . . Pass Out. She was always the paper reader in the family. She remembers her father reading The Paper every day.

This is what I remember about The Paper: We grew up with the Daily Olympian. At some point in its venerable career, the newspaper began printing a Saturday edition. Bumper stickers were handed out that read, “Wake Up with a Friend Saturday” with the Daily Zero logo. Soon after, we saw one edited with a Sharpie to read, “Wake Up with a Frie d turd". Tom and I thought that was sooo funny.

So anyway, the paper. It must’ve rubbed off because I too am The Paper reader here. At least I was. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t get The Paper and read it, for better or for worse. That is until lately. Somehow, in the last several months, I just haven’t been getting to it. I think I’ll take a little break and sit down with it but I don’t. I used to actually enjoy it. It was something I’d set time aside for because I wanted to. I’m getting older; isn’t this something I should be getting more into instead of less?

“The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” -H. L. Mencken

Where my eyes once scanned The Paper for news of the outside world (Grown Up Stuff), they now scan Facebook and blogs for news of the inside world (not so Grown Up Stuff usually). No wonder newspapers are going out of business (aside from the fact that the whole concept is hopelessly outdated). Who has time to stop and read all that? I mean with Mafia Wars, Vampire Wars, and food fights to wage, fake pets to attend to, entire artificial farms to manage, important quizzes to take, and sparkly games to play, we’re up to our eyeballs with Too Busy. I’ve actually avoided most of those things but even just keeping up with everyone can take as much time as you let it.

So, do I keep getting the paper? Do I make myself read it? Maybe I will. I think today’s is still sitting outside.
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Friday, August 14, 2009

Our 15th

I don’t know if it was the staying up until the wee hours of the morning or just having nothing much I really had to do today but I did almost nothing for the entirety. Unless you include going out to lunch and dinner and a movie and DQ. I did manage to clean the kitchen floors from all the party madness the night before but there was no getting around that. The sugar ants play to win around here.

And what is the occasion for such wanton disregard of my normal routine? It’s our 15th anniversary. Why should I lift a finger (life goes on, you have five kids, the laundry isn’t going to do itself, What’s for Dinner?, the lawn needs mowing)?

So I didn’t. Michael worked on some things and took a break with me (for me, a break within a break) to try pho for the first time. The Facebook consensus seemed to be Yummie Pho in Kennewick so we headed there. We ordered the spring rolls (without warning, studded with large shrimp—all mine!), some sort of pot stickers, and beef and meatball pho. The beef was fine but the meatballs were oh so scary. Seriously disgusting texture. I can’t even describe what I thought of them without being completely vulgar. Aside from that drama (and words such as “tendon”, “tripe”, and “fish ball” sprinkled throughout the menu—almost lost my dinner just writing that) it was pretty tasty. I’d go back and try some other things I saw. But no, I’m not a devoted pho follower at this stage of the game.

Michael took me to Anthony’s for dinner and it was so, so good. The blackened rockfish was delish but the best, of course, is the burnt cream. A bucket of that would be my green mile request. It’s almost better than, well, I’ll just let it suffice to say it’s dreamy.

We are in a date night rut; it’s always dinner and a movie and really, around here, what else is there? Please do not tell me about hiking, kayaking, biking, or anything else that requires effort and sweat. I want to dress up and forget effort and sweat. Is that asking so much? No it isn’t. Anyway, after going back and forth about it, we decided to see “Julie and Julia” instead of “The Time Traveler’s Wife”. That’ll be tomorrow night with Deena. Clearly it’s a chick flick.

Do you know me? Have we met? I have a big mouth. I just say things sometimes. Walking toward the stairs in the theater I asked Michael where he’d like to sit. We sit in the middle a lot but I asked if he’d like to sit in the back and make-out. I mean it is our anniversary. I said it in a conversational tone, no hush to it. The looks on the faces around us were priceless. Poor Michael.

I can hardly believe it’s been 15 years that this man has put up with me. Seems like just yesterday we were exchanging vows at Lake Lawrence Lodge . . .
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sierra's 11!

Sierra opened her door this morning to the life-sized Edward cardboard cut-out her dad bought her as a surprise for her party—The Scream heard round the house! All day the kids took turns placing him around the house, scaring each other. Somehow it worked every time! I kept seeing him out of the corner of my eye throughout the day and it wouldn’t register immediately that it was just a cut-out. I’d sort of see this non-little person and turn to start talking like it was Michael . . . “ Could you grab the . . .”, “Would you . . .” . . .

“MOM! It’s just Edward!” Oh yeah. And do I only speak to Michael to ask him to do stuff? Wife Fail. Edward Fail. I mean really, enough with the broody stares already.

Michael, Dana, and I are kicking back watching “Obsessed” and it’s sort of freaking me out. Ali Larter plays this insanely single-minded temp who won’t let up until she gets the married man she’s after. At least that’s what’s going on 37 minutes into it. He hasn’t given in yet but she’s seeming very Glen Close/Alex Forrest; run bunnies, run!

Dana came over tonight to help the birthday girl and her friends make charm bracelets like Bella had in the books. Isn’t that cool? Before the party started my friend Sinar came over with the cake she and Sierra settled on; again, totally cool friends I have, huh?

Wow! What a night! I don’t think we’ve ever had this many kids running around and I think they had a lot of fun. The girls had a loud and crazy time. In fact it’s still going strong down in the basement but, thank goodness, it’s muffled down there. Good Times.

This movie is still freaking me out! Why won’t Beyoncé, I mean Sharon, believe her husband??? Also, call me ignorant but what’s a Cosmo? I know it’s a drink, but what’s in it? I asked Dana and she said, “Everything that tastes nasty”. Good enough for me.

Uh Oh! Beyoncé means business! Cat Fight! I better put this down and pay attention! Dana's getting gray hairs just watching! "Get out of the house! Get out of the House!"

P.S. Sarah! If you’d get your butt back on Facebook you could see the cool pictures from tonight!!
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yeah, I Tried It

Yes, I tried homeschooling.

When Sierra started 4th grade, it was the first time she began a school year with teachers with whom we were totally unfamiliar. What’s more, it was a totally unfamiliar class configuration: Two teachers and around fifty students.

We were familiar with the other two 4th grade teachers. One was our oldest’s teacher and we definitely wanted to go in a different direction. The other was my neighbor’s son’s teacher and although they grew to like her and her methods, it didn’t feel like a good fit for Sierra. This was the last option so we weren’t disappointed when she was assigned this duo.

The class was actually two classrooms with an accordion curtain between them left open. Student desks were on one side and the teacher’s desks and other work areas were on the other side. When I first saw this massive sea of desks I have to admit I was a little shocked. Still, forward we went.

From the beginning it was a disaster for my girl. She’d only ever been A Pleasure To Have In Class and yet suddenly she was lost and unable to focus. The teachers had nothing positive to say about her. I wasn’t exactly sure what I should do but after speaking to another mom with a son in the same class, I decided to check out the route they were taking: online public school.

It’s essentially homeschooling with a teacher you keep in touch with, send certain assignments off to, things like that. This was the K12 program and I loved the curriculum. Sierra especially enjoyed the Science and History and it was fun learning alongside her. But hey, if it was such a love fest we’d probably still be doing it, right? Probably. I don’t know.

I think a few things soured me on homeschooling. To begin with, we don’t have a dedicated piece of real estate in this house where we could focus on learning, keep school supplies, and shut the door at the end of the day. We had stuff all over the place all the time and it made me insane (insaner?). Next, I was getting so little done aside from this. I had two little boys who needed attention and wanted very much to get into her school things. They ended up watching way too much PBS Kids during that year. Finally, after four years in public school, she had totally lost the ability to look at me as a teacher. She questioned everything I said. That part burned me up because I have been a teacher. I have the education. I have beyond the education.

So anyway we did it for a year then sent her off to the same private school Michael Jr. was attending. She was so much happier there. Still though, I see friends who homeschool well and I’m jealous. They have the time freedom, not being constrained by the public school schedule and they seem to have it all together. They won’t look back and think they didn’t spend enough time with their kids while they were young. Diane and Deena, I’m talking about YOU! You make it look easy and I’m pretty darned sure it’s nothing of the kind.

On Monday I’ll be registering both Michael Jr. and Sierra for 8th and 6th grade at Chief Jo Middle School. We’ve decided that private school is just beyond our means and like I said, homeschooling isn’t going to happen. I wonder how they’ll fare. They’re both pretty strong-willed kids who aren’t easily swayed by peers. Kids who don’t follow the crowd. But it’s middle school, you know? It’s hard not to be a little freaked out.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BTS Already

For a very long time I had a cartoon ripped from the paper and stuck to my fridge. Entitled “The Longest Month”, it was the month of August and instead of 31 days it had a hundred or so. A mother stood at the bottom, spirals for eyes, with kids bickering, standardized curse symbols flying. I am that mom.

Have you seen that commercial? The one where the dad is pushing the cart through the office supply store, singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” in his best caroling voice? I am that dad. Sort of. As usual, I’ve got mixed emotions.

I always look forward to summer and all the fun things my kids and I can do. The beach! Yelm, and Yelm again! And maybe even again! The zoo! The river! Camping! Northwest Trek! Mount Rainier! I’m breaking a sweat just thinking about it.

But hold it right there. There seems to be so much more to do when all the kids are here. The daily chores seem more onerous (probably because I’m trying to get these stubborn goats to help) and I guess I expect myself to accomplish more because my day isn’t chopped up with trips to and from school and activities. I’ve got these kids here all day and in their mind I am Julie McCoy, Anwar Sadat, Rachel Ray, and the Merry Maids lady all rolled into one. The bar is high. I’m sure, somehow or another I created these misconceptions but you know, it is what it is. I’m looking forward to things slowing down.

That’s where I’m kidding myself though. Sure, there will be less people around during the day but after school is busy, busy, busy. There’s always something (and usually many somethings) going on most nights of the week when you’ve got lots of kids. When they were very little I swore we’d not be those people who had soccer practice, scouts, lessons, etc. during the dinner hour but guess what? Yeah, I know.

Instead of whining about how the summer’s going I need to start savoring it. I wish I had the Super Nanny or someone else with an accent to come crack the whip; we could get more done early on with more time to play. Why do my kids listen and obey so much more when NOT THEIR PARENTS are talking? Don’t answer that.

You know I’ll miss them when school starts again. But I’ve tried the homeschooling thing and I wasn’t cut out for it. It was like summer with more books and back talk.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Say What?

Does this look like a good idea to you? I didn’t think so. This is what they call playing, “Rocket Ship”.

Today I’m expecting the Sears Guy, “between 8 a.m. and noon”. Haven’t we all heard THAT one before? I wish there was some invention out there that would let the Sears Guy communicate with me. To let me know I am LAST on his list and might as well make that grocery store run. Hmmm.

My head stopped aching but I’m still feeling ick. Because GUESS WHAT? I fell off the wagon last Monday and that evil Sugar Monkey’s grip is sure. I’ve come to the conclusion that it can no longer be about THIS IS TOO TIGHT and DOES THIS MAKE ME LOOK FAT? Sugary food, processed food, they make me feel rotten. And short tempered. On the morning of my latest FAIL I was thinking to myself how good I felt. My brain felt like a fog was lifting and I felt more awake and happy than I had in a few months. I won’t bore you with the details (though why not? It’s not like you’re here for national news or anything) but I decided there was something I couldn’t pass up and it was downhill from there. So anyway, I can’t keep caring about the number on the scale. It’s got to be about my mental and physical health.

I sat down with Michael Jr. today to go over some things he needs to do to fulfill his Duty to God requirements before he turns fourteen next year. One requirement was to read the 12th Article of Faith and then discuss with us the structure and major functions of our national government. That’s easy says he. So he tells me about the Judicial Branch. And the Legislative Branch. And finally, the Erotic Branch. Yeah, you heard me. The EROTIC Branch.

“Um, do you mean “Executive”?”
“Oh yeah. What's ‘erotic’?

Do Not Ask Me THAT. Submarine claxton going off in my head.

Completely unwilling to field that one on my own, I went to the dictionary, looked it up, and passed it over to him. Eyes-wide as saucers he told me that wasn’t what he meant. Well yeah, I figured.

Guess who just called to tell me I was last on his list? And gave me his number in case I wanted to check in with him? That Sears Guy isn’t half bad.
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Sunday, August 9, 2009

I Haven't Got Time for the Pain

I’m imagining I’m somewhere else. Somewhere I could buy Percocet, or OxyContin, or Vicodin over the counter.

My brain is aching, like it’s in the grip of a vice, and so far the contents of my bathroom mirror aren’t enough to induce a surrender.

Headache Tiff reared her ugly head this morning and we’ve been fighting all day. I want her to go away. I realize it makes me sound like I’ve got a few personalities knocking around in here but we all have off days. When we’re not quite ourselves. But I’m being overly generous with myself. It’s me without the gloves.

I guess this could deteriorate into a passage about how I’m actually a really horrible person who has to struggle every single day to fight the natural man. How I wish I was like those ladies I see at church. So together, so naturally sweet and mild.

True Confession Time. I love prescription pain killers. Don’t get me wrong; I’m really careful with them. I’ve had one-time prescriptions with each birth as well as for things like a miscarriage and gall bladder surgery. I hoard them, making them last until they expire, using them only for this kind of headache. I love how they melt them away. How I sleep dream-free, like a rock.

I took a nap this afternoon in the hopes of waking pain-free. What I woke to was Michael Jr. screaming that the kids were watching a show they shouldn’t watch on Sunday. The boy opened my door, saw me asleep, and proceeded. The vice grip tightens.
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Woo Hoo!!!

This is what’s on my mind so pardon me, cyber-bff’s; here I go:

Oh. My. Gosh. He did it, he did it, HE DID IT!!! Josh finally expressed to me that he needed to use the toilet BEFORE he actually relieved himself! He actually sat on the little plastic thing and ACHIEVED! On both counts! I couldn’t be happier*.

This is my fifth and (blessedly) last child; you’d think I would take this sort of thing in stride but no. Nooooo. Each boy** has been a potty-training struggle in one way or another but this little guy has been the toughest by far. At no point up to now has he shown any willingness whatsoever to quit the diapers. Actually that’s not quite it. He would gladly go naked. He just wouldn’t come near a toilet. He’d relieve himself whenever and wherever he felt the need and would keep right on going. I had no idea how to work with that so I just put him back in diapers. I still can’t believe he actually did it.

I have a lot of sensible friends who told me it was no big deal, he’s a boy, chill out. He’ll do it when he’s ready. You don’t want to give him a complex, right? It’s not like he’s going to graduate with them on! But I’ve got that voice in my head and it says, “You should’ve used cloth diapers,” and “He should’ve been out of diapers a year ago,” and “Ask Berta for that Peach and Cherry Pie recipe”. I am my own worst enemy it seems.

I’m not naïve enough to think he’s trained now; I’ve been through this four times already. But WOW! He made that connection and I’m DONE buying diapers!

*Which is, admittedly, sort of unfortunate.

**Notice I wrote “boy”. Sierra ended the diapers at 22 months with no input from us whatsoever. She just started taking off her diapers, using the toilet, and sneaking her brother’s underwear.
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Friday, August 7, 2009

Crap Summit

Whether you take that to mean a mountain of crap or a meeting about crap, it matters not. It’s all the same story and it never, NEVER changes.

I’ve mentioned the basement a few times here. Just for the record I should say that basements are great. Especially if you live in HELL like I do. It’s always a lot cooler down there and if it’s even a little bit finished you’ve got a place for the kids to hang out (read: Peace and Quiet for Mommy). So I’m not anti-basement or anything. I’m just against dusty piles of stuff. Stuff my kids will have to sort through (or straight away pitch to the curb) when we kick the bucket.

Mostly I clean the basement and it’s just a cursory, surface-level deal. It looks okay. I have to really screw my courage to the sticking place if I’m going further. It’s the desk mostly. Toys I can sort, organize, and pitch. The laundry room I could tame. The several bookshelves crammed with books I think I can handle. Even the billions of DVDs. But the desk scares the daylights out of me.

It’s full (I filled 3 large laundry baskets) of stuff. Some of it is truly important. Some of it belongs elsewhere, some of it probably could be useful if we had even the slightest idea how to locate it should the time of need arise. I think that’s my biggest problem. Where to put things that don’t belong to my realm. I don’t know what they’d be used for in the first place. I have no idea where Michael would want them to be if he actually needed to locate them.

So I ask, beg, cajole Michael to accompany me to the basement to put back what needs putting back, and to help me figure out the rest. But it’s always a fight because a) he’s got bigger fish to fry (this I wouldn’t argue with; he actually does), b) he doesn’t care so much if it’s not neat and organized, c) “It’s NOT all mine!”, and d) crap why is my wife nagging me? Not that he says that word. Never, never. He’s the actual sailor but I’ve got the salty sailor’s mouth to tame.

But I need his help because I don’t have the testicular fortitude to get rid of stuff I don’t think he’ll actually ever reach for. I could make calculated guesses, could gamble and come up the winner 99% of the time but when I'm wrong, I’m really, really WRONG and it usually costs us. And when you’re WRONG about tossing stuff you’re the first one to get accused of being WRONG the next time something goes missing. Whether you actually tossed it or if it’s just hiding under the rest of the crap.

I sound like an ingrate. I’m totally cognizant of the fact that this is all computer paraphernalia and stuff that at one time or another helped me get something accomplished. I didn’t have to know how it helped me or even what it was called. Michael took care of that. I get it. I GET IT. I do. But I just wish I could figure out how to live simply. How to know what really needs to stay, close at hand, and what can take a long walk off a short pier.

By the way, HELL been replaced by an entirely different weather system. It’s a beautiful night. Sweet breeze blowing and crickets chirping. I just had to do my writing outside tonight. I haven’t felt this okay in a few weeks. Can a person be a weather junky? I think I need certain barometric parameters in place in order to be me. That’s sort of scary.
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wishy Washy

Mildew and mold adorned the ceilings and institutional gray tiles were under my feet. Molded plastic seats surrounded me and long fluorescent pendent lights hung high, half working and all cobweb-coated. And this freaky picture was leaning against the wall. This place has always given me the creeps.

Morning found me once again at Yo’s Wishy Washy (self-service laundry, dry cleaning, and drop-off service). A few days ago I noticed my Ultra Downy wasn’t exiting its little compartment and my completed load was sitting in water. More front-loader woes. I’ve had about enough of it. Not that I’m going to do anything about or anything. I’m just saying.

So now I’ve got the inevitable disappointment when I find out the Sears man can’t come till WHEN? What else could he possibly have to do? Okay, there are certainly multiple Sears men and some are probably even women. And I’ll concede they probably have plenty to do. It’s just that a week’s a long wait with seven folks to wash for (though how we are accumulating so many loads is a mystery; the kids will wear their swimsuits 24/7 if I’m not paying attention). I have several offers from well-meaning friends but I just don’t have all day to spend at someone else’s place doing laundry.

What I did have to make time for was a frantic quarter search. The kids took my stash off the piano for a trip to Dairy Queen or the Dollar Store, one of those. I felt like Gollum looking for my precious quarters. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses. No, I’m sure I gave them permission but I didn’t foresee this gaping hole of quarter-need lurking in the not so distant future. I ought to just get several rolls of them next time I’m at the bank. Toss them in a sack and they can serve the dual roles of intruder defense and coin-op insurance.

It’s not all bad though. Laundromat people-watching is always fascinating. Today there was just one man. He was probably in his late 40’s and he sat outside on the picnic table reading a novel, smoking Camel Wides, and playing with his iPhone (with a shattered screen—they still work that way?). When he came in he folded two loads of safety-yellow jackets, sort of like the white ones you see butchers wear. Very curious. And what is a “Camel Wide”? Aside from a cigarette of course. I mean what’s with “Wide”?

Being the curious girl that I am, I googled it and found myself on reading review after review about these cigarettes. Really glowing reviews. Multi-paragraph at times. Folks couldn’t say enough good things about them. I almost wanted to light up right there but well, you know. It was surreal. I’m not going to lie and say I’ve never inhaled; I smoked plenty in college. But I grew up and stopped and never looked back. It’s been years and years (and YEARS) and everything I’ve surrounded myself with (including my kids) has nothing but truly awful things to say about smoking. We see the charred lungs, the nasty teeth, the awful commercial with the person smoking through the hole in their throat. It reminded me of something a friend said the other night. We were discussing how bold our daughters were when they were quite a bit younger. Willing to speak their minds to perfect strangers. She told me her daughter would walk past smokers and say things like, “Don’t they know they’ll get yellow nails? Don’t they know it shortens their lives?” As if it was possible that they didn’t. It’s easy to grin at their naiveté. Reading those reviews made me wonder if maybe people really could be that ignorant. Or they just love it THAT MUCH. I guess I just kept thinking at least one review would say something like: “I really wish I could quit but since I can’t I’ve written out my last will and testament and stocked up on oxygen tanks. I smoke Camel Wides for their smooth, full-bodied , blah, blah, blah . . . “

As much as I complain about the Laundromat, it’s a lifesaver. Where else can I get five overflowing baskets of laundry washed and dried in less than an hour and a half?

P.S. Hi Sarah! I still miss you on Facebook. Brooks says you’ll come back but I'm not holding my breathe . . .
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