Sunday, January 31, 2010

Plain and Simple

I’ve probably mentioned this before but Facebook is getting way too bossy. I wrote yesterday that I enjoy that about the C25K app but I don’t need it from Facebook. I just looked at my Home Page and to right it says Doug Hunsaker and beneath it: Say hello. Not “Wouldn’t you like to say hello?” or “Have you seen Doug’s profile lately?”. Say hello. I imagine a parent hissing this into a reluctant child’s ear when faced with unknown relatives.

Today was unseasonably warm. Maybe it wasn’t unseasonably warm but just felt like it because we’ve had so much rain. It was warm enough that I let Josh and Sam play for a bit outside despite having colds. Josh is in shorts and moon boots with a snake wrapped around his arm because he picks his clothes and his accessories. He was so pleased to finally get some fresh air. I walked out barefooted to take a photo or two and stepped on not one but two devil stickers. People refer to puncture vine as goatheads here and they’re responsible for innumerable flat tires on our bikes. The green goo helps but those evil pokey things are awful. They stick to shoes and then find their way stuck into the deck and rugs inside. And the PAIN! Get one of those stuck in your heel and everybody will know about it. We haven’t been able to totally root them out of the backyard and I bet if I thought about it for more than a few seconds I could write an entire post about the metaphorical puncture vines in my life. But I’m tired.

Okay, now I’m totally freaked out. I’m sitting in bed writing and something just hit my window. What could it be? Whatever it is, I hope it sees my ADT sign and moves on. Could it be a bat? I know birds fly into window but I’ve never heard of bats doing it. Seems like the sonar would help with that. Or maybe the squirrel pitched a ball from the sycamore tree. Hmm. A teenager walking up Williams?

Today I almost missed Tami and Chadd give their talks in church. I forgot what Sunday it was and we had to decide who was staying home with the two youngest. I wound up being the one to go—I was so happy I didn’t miss it! Tami looked kind of sick sitting there waiting to get up but she did great. She made us laugh and want to bake her brownies. This is a difficult move and one I’m still perfecting. I wish I’d taken notes when she was speaking but in my haste this morning I forgot a notepad. Chadd talked about missionary work and how sometimes we don’t open our mouths because although we know we have something of great value to share, we fear the response won’t be good. He used the example of a firefighter saving a dog from a burning building. The dog, in fear, bit the man but it didn’t stop the rescuer. We have to lose the fear and remember the eternal importance of what we’re sharing. He also told the story of being stuck in traffic and noticing the problem was a ewe that’d climbed a steep, rocky hillside with no clear way to come back down. Chadd wondered what the plan was to rescue her. A cornered animal would likely do something crazy and make the situation worse. Would they have to use a tranquilizer gun? Michael Jr. whispered to me that that’s how he’d like to do missionary work.

*sighs*

There was a lot to think about in these talks. How much do we not say out of fear? And what are we afraid of? Rejection? That we don’t know exactly what to say? That we don’t know enough to answer harsh critics? Probably. But it’s not rocket science. It’s just plain and simple. Jesus is the Christ. The Savior. He atoned for our sins so we could return to live with our Father in Heaven. God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, a boy of just fourteen, in answer to his prayers. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. That’s it. Sure, there are lots of other things you could add to this. More details and, well, more details. But this is it. Not always easy to fit into a conversation I guess.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

C25K and Big Plans

Saturday, oh dear, sweet Saturday.

Out of many, many things I should have/could have done today, precious little was accomplished. Since I don’t really care, I suppose it doesn’t bear mentioning. Slept in, then woke with the decision that today was The Day.

What? What day?

Well dears, awhile back my neighbor lady Berta began mentioning C25K (Couch to 5K) and before I knew it, I was seeing it mentioned regularly on Facebook. My first cousin once removed, Michelle Heath told me about an app for the iPhone created specifically for this program and her rave reviews convinced me to slap down the $2.99. Plus tax. I didn’t know what to think exactly but after Week 1 Day 1, I’m a huge fan. I chose songs from my playlist to run/walk to and started off. What’s Awesome about this thing is that it totally bosses me around. There’s just no thinking involved, plain and simple. A bell rings and tells me to walk and on the screen there's a countdown of minutes and/or seconds remaining. When it’s time to run, a bell rings and tells me to run. Perfect. I once read a book about marathon running for non-runners and the training schedule involved walking and running at different intervals. It sounded good but I could never imagine myself out there with a stopwatch making sure I did it right. If I didn't have an iPhone, I would buy one just to have this app.

But don’t get me wrong; there won’t be any marathons in my future. Just the thought of it hurts.

After all of that Sierra and I headed to church to learn to make aprons. She was a little standoffish about it at first (“I can’t iron!”, “I can’t pin!”, “I can’t sew!”) but she tried her hand at each of those things and did fine. She was so pleased with the finished product that she begged me to take her to Craft Warehouse to buy more material. We left with supplies to make two more plus a grocery sack and a small card purse. As blog as my witness, she will complete these because I’m not doing it. Okay, I’ll probably make the little purse because it’s cute and I picked out the fat quarters to do it. But that’s all. I’m not kidding. I hope. Tonight after the fabric came out of the dryer, she set out to iron each piece and proceeded to burn herself within a few minutes. I cut all the frayed edges and finished the ironing. But that’s all I’m doing. Really!

I say this is all I’m doing because Miss Sierra has Big Plans. She’d like to go to Washington D.C. this summer with her dad for Kenny’s 8 Year Old Trip. The 8 Year Old Trip is just between the 8 year old and Dad but since Kenny’s fine with the company, we’ve agreed that the older two can go if they pay for their tickets. That’s a big deal. She’s asked for a contribution toward it instead of a birthday party and gifts but there’s obviously more she’ll need. Here’s where the Big Plan comes in. She wants to make aprons and grocery sacks to sell on Etsy. I’ve agreed that she can AFTER she makes at least 5 of each to put up. That should help her decide how much she really likes doing this. I don’t want to squelch her entrepreneurial spirit but I also don’t want her to bite off more than I can chew. I mean she can chew. No, I had it right the first time!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pay It Forward and Stuff

I saw this on Desirée’s blog this morning. I don’t know if I was one of the first three commenters because I think she hasn’t moderated the comments yet but I thought it would still be fun to play along:

Pay It Forward

THE RULES:

1. Be one of the first THREE bloggers to leave a comment on this post, which then entitles you to a handmade item from me. (It will be a surprise but I promise to make it something fun)

2. Winners, you must post this challenge on your blog, meaning that you will Pay It Forward, creating a handmade gift for the first THREE bloggers who leave a comment on YOUR post about this giveaway!

3. The gift that you send to your Three Friends can be from any price range and you have 365 days to make/ship your item. This means you should be willing to maintain your blog at least until you receive your gift and have shipped your gifts. And, remember: It’s the Spirit and the Thought That Count!

4. When you receive your gift, please feel free to blog about it! If you are not one of the Top Three Commenter's on this post, you can still play along. Start your own Pay It Forward chain, and encourage your blogging friends to do the same!

I wonder what I’ll make you? Hmm. I’ll have to give it some thought. I suppose it may be a leap to assume I’ll get three bloggers posting to begin with but we shall see.

Have you been couponing? If you have (and you live over here), you probably know that it’s time for the giant Quaker sale at Albertsons. It drives me crazy every time. I get ready to restock the food storage with huge amounts of granola bars, oatmeal, and cereal only to find the stores haven’t ordered enough to keep us lunatics pacified. Nothing irks me more than a wasted trip to the store. Okay, plenty of things irk me more but still. I try to have lots of coupons ready (via eBay—thanks for taking care of that Becky!) so things cost around 50 cents. This morning I drove over around 7 a.m. only to find the promised truckload hadn’t been dealt with yet. Becky texted later to say even when it is, it won’t have what we want. I decided to try Walmart. I know they ad-match but wasn’t sure how they’d feel about my 15 $1 off 2 boxes coupons. I loaded up anyway and strolled past the cranky looking checker, making a beeline for the nervous looking young kid. I figured he wouldn’t give me any trouble. Sure enough, he just went along with whatever I told him. After all that it occurred to me that I should have just asked for a rain check at Albertsons.

Later I had some time between early-release kindergarten and the rest of the elementary school’s early-release (have I mentioned how much running around I do on Fridays? Boo!) so I sat down with Sierra to watch Project Runway and cut out some things I found in Kenny’s backpack. The picture is of one of them but they were all the same shape. There was an information sheet attached to them but I’m smarter than a 3rd grader so I put that aside and spent most of the show trying to figure out how to tape it into a shape. Seriously. I thought I was losing my mind until Sierra took one look and said they’re probably flash cards. Nice try Tiff!

*sighs*

This afternoon was strange. I can’t remember the last Friday I didn’t have several additional kids at my house. Usually it involves mock wars and holes dug in the backyard as well as elaborate Playmobil scenarios in the living room. But today, it was just my five. I could practically hear crickets. After playing with Josh for hours, Sam asked if he could watch something about dinosaurs on his dad’s laptop. I pulled up Netflix and we found a few things. Before I knew it he was going through the list, rating each one according to how much he liked the cover art. I wonder what sorts of movies Netflix will start recommending now?

This evening Michael and I went to a farewell get together for his boss’s boss. At a bar. I don’t find myself in bars often and probably wouldn’t have wound up in one tonight except this is someone Michael actually really likes. He went to M.I.T. as well and at least in the times I’ve spoken to him, he seems to have a very kind heart. I’m glad Michael had him around, at least for awhile. Michael’s always had good things to say about him but when I saw his admin tear up when he hugged her goodbye and then cry when her friend tried to comfort her, I knew he was probably right.

Once the overwhelming smell of pot wafting over from the table next us became more than I could take, we left for dinner at Famous Dave’s. Famous Dave is a liar because our 30 minute wait turned into about an hour. It wasn’t all bad because the food was ultra yummy and since our appetizer didn’t arrive until after our meal, the waitress comped it and our sodas. I’m glad we didn’t pay for those onion strings Michael ordered. They always sound good when I’m hungry but more than one or two and I’m more than done.

What a weird post. But good enough. Goodnight.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Opposite Day

I woke up this morning and something occurred to me. Every day I run around picking up, sweeping, making lists, keeping busy. At the end of each day I’m worn out and tired. Am I really getting so much done each day? Doesn’t seem like it. I decided I need what my friend Deena refers to as a Mental Health day. I didn’t exactly go about it the same way she does but I decided to take the day off from lists and rushing. I decided to chill.

(It didn’t help that soon after this decision I was told to do the same by a woman I asked to stop sending Friend Requests to my child and sending hearts, hugs, angels, etc. to my husband. Shocking. Who tells someone to “chill out” when they say Enough to things like that?)

So anyway, it was a stretch to begin with. The Dell man showed up yesterday to fix my laptop and after finding a stripped screw from the last Dell man’s work, decided it had to be sent off and I needed to be without it for a week or more. This makes me very angry because we paid for this at-home service for a reason. We already have the desktop computer in the basement dismantled and in the process of being fixed. This leaves us with only one laptop between the older kids and I during the day. Homeschooling online got that much more fun. And my poor naked hard drive sits here holding way too many important things and I have visions of Josh getting hold of it and using it as a hockey puck. Or a Frisbee. Or maybe putting it in the toaster. I don’t know. He’s awfully creative.

When I thought of doing things a little differently, “The Opposite” episode of Seinfeld came to mind. Remember that one? George decides that every decision he’s ever made is wrong and that his life is the complete opposite of what it should be. He shares this with Jerry who tells him that if all his decisions are wrong, the opposite must be right. So he decides to order the opposite of his regular lunch and winds up meeting a woman because of it. He decides to be honest about being unemployed and living with his folks and she willingly agrees to go out with him. My life isn’t the opposite of where it should be but I figured I’d give it a try.

I had an errand to run this morning but as soon as I started the van I saw that stupid brake light indicator and remembered that Michael still hadn’t replaced it. When??? I thought for a minute and realized there wouldn’t be time for a few days. Frustrated, I drove to Kennewick, constantly looking the in the rear view mirror, hoping I wouldn’t be spotted. I didn’t need another run in with the law, right? So. Opposite Day. I thought about it and figured that if my first inclination was to mentally whine and complain, the opposite would be to pull out the manual in the glove compartment and look up Brake Light; Replacement. In the parking lot of Barnes and Noble I did just that and immediately was confused by the diagram and several steps of instructions. Darn. I drove home and decided to give it a shot anyway. I asked Sierra to come out and tell me which side was burned out. With Phillips and flathead in hand, I followed the directions. I drove down the street to an auto parts store, bought a set of lights, and replaced the old bulb with a new one. Sierra ran out as I drove past on my way to pick up the kindergarteners. She gave me the thumbs up when I tapped the brakes. Yay me.

In the afternoon I could hear commotion in the backyard. Clearly there was something going down between the kids. My first inclination was to let them sort it out themselves. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Sierra was out there so I figured it was fine. But it’s Opposite Day so I went out to see what the big deal was. Oh. One of Sam’s friends wanted Sierra’s sword that Grandpa made and she wanted to put it away before it was broken or someone was skewered. Howling ensued. Normally my instincts would have been correct; Sierra could handle this. Today, however, was not Normally. What do I see directly beyond our yard (just past the Oddfellow’s parking lot) but a funeral in progress. Mourners in black, military presence, flag-drapped coffin exiting a white hearse. Uh oh. Time to shut this down. Once again, Opposite Day is working.

Later in the afternoon I drove in with the kids after school and noticed Tia driving home at the same time. Normally I would wave, head in and fold some clothes or find some other chore that needs doing. Instead I walked down and talked for awhile. Score #3 for Opposite Day. The laundry can wait till tomorrow.

Finally, I promised the kids McDonald’s for dinner because Michael had a business dinner (“heavy hors d'oeuvres”, actually. Whatever that means) so I ran out to pick up some burgers. Normally I would go through the drive-thru because Obviously, but as I only had the very old Honda that stalls and gasps for air when stopped for any length of time, I decided to walk in. Awesome decision. As I walked up to order, I noticed a man in business attire standing back observing. He was a consult with corporate. Suddenly I was treated like I’d NEVER been treated before at this (or any) McDonald’s. Two people helped me and laughed light-heartedly as I ordered chocolate milks with all 5 meals. I heard someone refer to the guy as an “Insultant” and I whispered that I was sorry; it must be hard being observed like that. One woman smiled and whispered, “It’s kind of horrible”. The two helping me bagged up everything and then put it all in a larger bag. They asked if they could carry it to the car for me. It was so strange! And Awesome.

So, in conclusion, I clearly have horrible instincts!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oh No They Didn't

This morning I found Michael and Sierra gathered around my laptop with looks of horror on their faces. When I came closer they burst out laughing saying, “No way!”

Way.

It began with Sierra doing research on major innovations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She found several she was interested in and one of them was Jell-O. I don’t know how “major” that is but she had fun learning about the person who invented the fruit flavored stuff. She was amazed that this person’s name was Pearl B. Wait AND that Pearl was a man. He was a cough syrup manufacturer in Le Roy, New York with a not so great business. In 1897 he decided to try something new and decided on the food industry. People eat all the time, right? They only take medicine when they’re sick. So anyway, gelatin was a perennial problem for food manufacturers. It’s made from animal bones and it looks and tastes gross. Pearl had the idea of adding fruit syrup to it and violà! there you have it. I wonder if he got that idea from his cough syrup?

As she researched more she came across old t.v. and print ads. Some were just what you’d think; There’s Always Room for Jell-O and Bill Cosby. Others were, shockingly, totally racist. Almost unbelievably racist. From there she found these types of ads for other products. The last one she showed us didn’t elicit any laughs at the absurdity of it. It was an ad for Fairy soap and it featured a little blonde white girl asking a little African-American girl why her mom didn’t wash her in Fairy soap. The kids just got real quiet and said, “Wow” and “That’s so mean”.

This may come out wrong but I’m glad these were still around for my kids to see. I think it’s fabulous that they can see them and recognize how awful they were. They can only imagine how difficult it would have been to see commercials like this long ago had they been Chinese or African-American. And is “African-American” the right term? I have no idea.

Right now I’m reading a book series to Kenny by Gerald W. Johnson. They’re a history of America written for his grandson Peter. I’m enjoying it so far because it’s written precisely for a child Kenny’s age and has a conversational tone to it. When I read, I point to different places on the large map of the United States on the wall and he gets a visual to tie it all together. It’s kind of nice. It’s not without problems though. This book was written in 1959 by a man who was something like 70 years old. The language can be, well, I guess antiquated is a gentle word for it. When he mentions “copper-colored men” and “savages with dark skin” I find myself verbally editing. Last night we ended with this paragraph

“Vast, dark, unknown, the land lay for thousands of years, hardly used at all by men and women, for the few Indians never knew how to use it and never cared to learn. The wolf, the bear, the panther, and the bison flourished and increased faster than people. The land waited for a master who did not come for a long, long time.”

It’s easy to get all hot under the collar reading that. I mean my degree is in Anthropology with an emphasis on Native Americans. I suppose I won’t throw the baby out with the bath water; I imagine if I didn’t edit what I was reading Kenny would find words such as “savage” kind of silly and not a modern take on these people. It’s not much different than the stupid ads they were looking at earlier. It’s good to know that they can see and hear this stuff, at this young age, and know it’s wrong.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Bad

How did this happen? Didn’t I always pay tribute to Dr. Ferber, Patron Saint of Sleepless Parents? Every single one of these kids were Ferberized by the time they were 6 months old. Sleeping on their own. How is it that I find myself sleeping next to a 3 year old half the time?

Because you have to know I am not that woman. I am a firm non-believer in The Family Bed. I mean I know they exist but they are not for me. It’s just not what I signed up for. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to spend my days with my kids, but friends, when 8 p.m. rolls around, I’m done. I’m punching my card.

Sure, there are exceptions. Illness, trips, mayhem, etc. can upset the applecart but generally speaking, a girl needs some down time. When I found Dr. Ferber’s book when Michael Jr. was 5 months old and insisting on getting up several times in the night for no apparent reason, I knew I’d found the answer. It’s not for everyone but all (all but one!) of my kids have slept well, on their own, since they were very small.

Also, how do people do this? Do they have California Kings? Have they abandoned all hope of privacy? Or perhaps they don’t want it? Are they not unabashed bed hogs like me? Because I am such a bed hog.

Now we’ve got this situation and I need to fess up and admit that I caused the whole problem. Josh thinks bed time is play time so if we leave him up in the room with the boys, he makes huge messes and keeps them up. Instead of being a grown up and just sitting outside the door, putting him back into bed each time he gets up for as many days as it takes, I’ve just allowed him to lay in our bed. It’s so darned appealing. He gets right in and falls asleep right away. Some of the time it works out fine; one of us carries him to bed and all’s well that ends well. But not most of the time. Lately.

“Sleep me!” he says and I hug him and remember he’s the last one. I am such a sucker.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Slides

According to the calendar, today is a Day Off/Snow Make-Up Day. Meaning, sadly, that we haven’t had enough snow this year to make up for days lost due to it. A houseful of kids but no real agenda for the day and not much accomplished (aside from a cleaned off desk which I suppose is more than not much). It’s late afternoon and the living room looks like it rained dinosaurs and Mr. Potato Heads. It’s been picked up twice but it’s a rainy day and this is what happens.

Going through the desk today I came across the golf shoe box. The contents of this box have thwarted my family album plans for years. I’ve had my parent’s photos in shoe boxes in chronological order for awhile now but this box, well, this box contains the slides. Most likely, these are far better than anything I have on print. They’re from the time I was around 1 through age 6 or 7, a time when my dad took his photography habit seriously and had a darkroom in the house.

I’m thankful my dad took it seriously because unlike plenty of people I know, I have a ton of childhood photos. I had perhaps even more than other folks with shutterbug parents because my dad left for Korea a month before I was born. My mom took hundreds of photos of me for Dad and when he returned a year later he took over where she left off. Blessings all around. Definitely. But still. Slides?

I know, I know. Slides are the way to go for the professional photographer. You don’t have to rely on a lab tech’s interpretations. What you see is what you shot. The problem lies in organizing these devils decades later. And because I have nothing better to do, no other projects not-so-patiently vying for my attention (typed with thick sarcasm), I decided to pull out the box and figure out what my options were.

I went to Costco’s website and found that I could get them burned onto a DVD. $19.99 for the first 50 then 29 cents apiece after that. I counted 475 of them. Good enough. I filled out the form and at first figured I’d have to just accept them in random order. What else could I do? But no. After a few minutes, the very idea of that felt like nails on a chalkboard. I spend a few hours dividing the ones with dates into piles. Next come the ones without dates. I have no idea how that will go aside from poorly. But it’s better than random order. It’s got to be.

I so wish they would have written on these things. Something. Because clearly the dates on most of them only refer to the month and year they were ordered. I’m hopeful that the subjects will give me some clues.

I decided that this would be a great birthday gift for my dad next month though it may come a little after the fact. Buying things for him is hard. He doesn’t need Stuff so I think this may work. I just wasn’t sure about the little box labeled “Korea”. He doesn’t particularly enjoy talking about that year so I wasn’t sure if I should add those. I called mom to run it by her and she said I may as well. It would be the first time she’d ever laid eyes on them.

I guess that’s the problem with slides. Sharing them, at least back in the day, required the dreaded “Slide Show”. Even now sharing them sort of requires going digital because who wants to gather around your light box or set up a projector? So, I’ve got my work cut out for me. Again!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Iron Wedge

Tami texted this photo to me today of Josh in Primary. According to the kids, a song was attached to each article of clothing and as children came up, they would put something on Josh and everyone sang the song attached. Excellent! I wasn’t sure how Primary would go this morning because there have been tears each week thus far and while we sat in sacrament meeting he said over and over, “I not a Sunbeam!” From the looks of the photo, he’s finally is.

Maybe one less drama but boy it really never seems to end.
*sighs*

There was a point when I thought having lots of boys and just one girl would mean very little of it. Not even close.

This morning Kenny came into our room to tell me Sam threw a velociraptor at him. I’m familiar with the velociraptor in question and it would’ve hurt. I talked to Sam about it and he said, “He’s always mean to me!” With further questioning I learned that Kenny was sitting on the couch minding his own business while Sam thought about something he’d said to him a few days ago. It seems obvious that this isn’t how we should handle things but I’m not five so what do I really know about obvious?

This morning Tara and her husband gave talks about forgiveness. They were particularly good and worth the effort it took to hear them. It seemed that the children were in rare form this morning. Tami said she didn’t notice it and it made me wonder if your hearing is amplified the more children you have. But that doesn’t sound right. It should definitely be the opposite. But anyway, excellent talks. When Tara spoke she read this story:

“Forgotten Wedges”

By Samuel T. Whitman

The ice storm that winter wasn’t generally destructive. True, a few wires came down, and there was a sudden jump in accidents along the highway. Normally, the big walnut tree could easily have borne the weight that formed on its spreading limbs. It was the iron wedge in its heart that caused the damage.

The story of the iron wedge began years ago when the white-haired farmer, who now inhabited the property on which the tree stood, was a lad on his father’s homestead. The sawmill had then only recently been moved from the valley, and the settlers were still finding tools and odd pieces of equipment scattered about.

On this particular day, the lad found a faller’s wedge—wide, flat, and heavy, a foot or more long, and splayed from mighty poundings. A faller’s wedge, used to help fell a tree, is inserted in a cut made by a saw and then struck with a sledgehammer to widen the cut. Because he was already late for dinner, the lad laid the wedge between the limbs of the young walnut tree his father had planted near the front gate. He would take the wedge to the shed right after dinner, or sometime when he was going that way.

He truly meant to, but he never did. The wedge was there between the limbs, a little tight, when he attained his manhood. It was there, now firmly gripped, when he married and took over his father’s farm. It was half grown over on the day the threshing crew ate dinner under the tree. Grown in and healed over, the wedge was still in the tree the winter the ice storm came.

In the chill silence of that wintry night, one of the three major limbs split away from the trunk and crashed to the ground. This so unbalanced the remainder of the top that it, too, split apart and went down. When the storm was over, not a twig of the once-proud tree remained.

Early the next morning, the farmer went out to mourn his loss.

Then, his eyes caught sight of something in the splintered ruin. ‘The wedge,’ he muttered reproachfully. ‘The wedge I found in the south pasture.’ A glance told him why the tree had fallen. Growing, edge-up in the trunk, the wedge had prevented the limb fibers from knitting together as they should.

I think I may have laid a wedge in my own branches not so long ago. Or did someone else lay it there and I just haven’t taken it to the shed? I don’t know exactly. For as long as I can remember I’ve had this philosophy. That when people behave toward you in ways that feel wrong or even in ways that are just contrary to anything you’d consider, cut your losses and accept the situation. Don’t confront profanity. Don’t try to change people. I recently heard a quote from Maya Angelou that put that sentiment much more eloquently:

"The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them."

There are plenty of situations when that makes sense but I suppose the trick is to not leave the wedge in your branches. There are so many horrible ways that wedges are created but I think in my case the wedge was not placed there maliciously. Probably the person didn’t even realize they were putting it there. And yet what they did was so contrary to anything I would have ever considered that every time I think of them I feel the wedge. My eyes narrow and I fume. My “fibers” aren’t knitting together as they should and truly, I’m only hurting myself.

I really need to pull this thing out.

I saw an excellent example of this last night through a little boy drama. Kenny came home late in the evening after spending the night and day with his best friend. At first I didn’t even know where he was but his friend’s mom (and my dear friend) told me he was upset and ran upstairs. Uh oh. I went to talk to him but he was curled up in a ball in bed and would say very little. Double Uh oh because this is his best friend and his mom is one of mine. Man, I hate drama.

We had friends over at the time and while we were visiting, the phone rang. It was his friend. Very upset and wondering if they could be friends again. Kenny immediately said, “Yes” and it’s over. I guess that’s the thing about boys. Unlike the one in the story, they tend to haul the wedge to the shed sooner than the girls. Or is that just a stereotype? I don’t know.

Tara read 3 Nephi 11:29-30 and it brings the whole problem of contention and drama back to this single point: It’s not of God.

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

So. Drama, drama, drama. How to teach my kids to avoid it and how to teach myself the same. One more thing to figure out.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Can't Win for Losing

The man on the ladder in Mr. Malley’s backyard is from Charter and he’s there to give me more channels. Because Michael called yesterday to complain about the fee hike and to inform them we’d be taking our TV needs elsewhere.

Huh?

That’s right. We realized we couldn’t totally give Charter the old heave ho because we need a high speed internet connection, but we could go to Dish for the other stuff, right? Except darned if Dish wasn’t going to cost more for the basic line up. And Charter jacks up the price even higher when you opt for only an internet connection. Once Charter offered to give us Expanded Basic plus a faster internet connection for essentially what we were paying before, we gave up and gave in. So folks, there it is. Now I can watch Psych and Project Runway and Top Chef and a ton of other things I like to watch when I fold clothes. Yay me.

Unfortunately, it also means we have Nickelodeon and Disney. There are a couple of programs I’m happy to let the kids watch (“Phineas and Ferb” for example) but we’ve been just fine with PBS Kids so I’m blocking the rest. I don’t exactly know how but I bet there’s a way I can record the shows I want and still have the channels locked as far as the kids go. Probably. Maybe. I don’t know.

Tonight we had the Anderson’s and the Price’s over for carne asada tacos, etc. Oh man do I love carne asada. And leftovers. I love not having to cook on Sunday.

Amid the mayhem of eleven children doing what eleven children do, the grown folk decided to play Phase 10. First let me say it is much more fun playing with grown-ups; no one cried when I skipped them! But still, I am NOT good at this game. I was still trying to complete the 2nd phase when others were on 5 and 6! The pinnacle of my humiliation was when I triumphantly threw down 10 in a row! “Eat it!” I yelled, only to have David remind me that, well, I was actually supposed to be shooting for 2 sets of 4 . . . . why do I play this game? Michael who never plays this game WON and I was the 6th winner (1st loser). Good thing the best part of the game is harassing each other;)!

So anyway, who’s up for another game night? Anything but Phase 10!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Local Government and Fresh Aloe Breath


“Do you want to go tonight?”

I don’t know. I guess just about any night the answer would be “YES!!!” but to be honest, I didn’t know what Michael was texting about. I had seven pounds of Delicious incarnate in the oven and figured on a quiet evening at home. Not that it’s ever actually quiet but I knew the kids didn’t have any activities going on.

Because I’m prone to massive errors in judgment, I’d forgotten about the Pasco planning commission meeting at 7 p.m. last night and put an indescribably yummy prime rib in the oven hours before. Oops. My attendance wasn’t required or anything but it was mentioned that Michael ought to bring me along. So. Good stuff in the oven and no time to sit down to eat. Talk about super bad planning. I did what I could (read: pick at the delicious crispy bits while I cut up slices for the kids), fed them, and we left. I’m still thinking about that thing. With a little horseradish. Maybe I’ll eat it tonight while the rest have pizza.

So anyway, we got to the meeting just in time. I can’t remember what the first few items of business were but the majority of the time went to discussion of the proposed water park in Pasco. One of the Hale brothers gave a presentation covering the where’s and the why’s of it all, what it will look like, the benefits, the concerns, etc. It sounds like Bahama Bay will be an amazing place; an almost theme-park like atmosphere. A lot of thought has been put into making it family-friendly and very safe for kids as well as being a fun place for older kids to hang out. They want to make it more than just “a place to get wet and prove gravity works” as he put it. Though for the record, I have no problem with either of those things. But still, it sounds amazing.

The audience, all sworn in, was given a chance to come up to the podium and speak their piece for 3 minutes. Some of the speakers were obviously very PRO water park. The man who owns the Sleep Inn right next door was very much enthusiastic about the whole concept. OBVIOUSLY. As was the owner of the Broadmoore Outlets. Because, well, again, OBVIOUSLY. It began to feel like an episode of “Parks and Recreation” as the AARP contingent made itself known. I guess younger folks don’t bother with local government; I don’t know. But wow. The swishing of corduroy pants announced the comings and goings of one fellow in particular who felt he needed to speak twice. He wasn’t necessarily against the plan but had a million and one things he wanted the commission to investigate. Things that, no doubt, they would already look into and that the guys are already on top of. Other folks didn’t want it in their backyard. They figured a water park was a great idea, just not near them. Just move it. That’s all. I imagine they have no concept of how much has gone into just obtaining that particular piece of real estate.

There were folks who wanted sound studies, traffic studies, knowledge of ambient noise levels, enhanced landscaping, conditional variances, and articulated walls. Which made me think of reticulated pythons. The whole noise issue was kind of a joke because there’s not much chance the laughter of kids is going to be louder than the traffic on I-182.

There were others who had concerns that there would be two water parks in the area but my guess is that these were people associated with the other park. Their location will be in the Southridge area of Kennewick and a lot of the folks that were for the water park thought the area could probably support two. Actual studies say otherwise but who knows.

A big concern with the group was the hours of operation. The plan was to close down at 6 p.m. to avoid becoming a hangout for, how shall we put it, an undesirable element of the youth population. The objections were that this is a peak traffic window and additionally, it leaves several hours of daylight that many families could enjoy together after people get home from work. Why not have it open during daylight hours? It’s something to consider.

This thing seemed to go on forever. Everyone seemed to have an opinion and a legal pad full of notes. Was it because a news crew was there or is it always this way? All I know is if I never hear the words “Synergy” or “Staycation” again, it will be too soon.

When we came home I noticed the two-pack of Lever 2000 soap I’d picked up for free (on sale for 88 cents and I had a $1 coupon!) was sitting empty at the bottom of the stairs. That was weird. I went up to the bathroom to look for the bars but no luck. I went down to brag to Michael about how clever I was and then promptly forgot about it. Until this morning.

Thirsty and looking for a drink, I grabbed a Super Big Gulp on the island in the kitchen. I knew Sierra filled it with ice water the day before so I took mouthful and . . . WHAT IN THE WORLD???

I ran around the kitchen like a complete idiot until it dawned on me to spit it out in the sink. What had I just ingested? I searched quickly for something to kill the taste then went back to that cup of Awfulness. I carefully opened the lid and inside, well, mystery solved. There before me were two half-melted bars of Fresh Aloe Level 2000 in a cup full of suds. I got my mouth washed out with soap without even the crime of a dirty word!

Gilly!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Than Vaguely Creeped Out

I don’t speak Pokémon. I mean yeah, I know what a few of them are and I know who Ash, May, and Brock are but that’s about it. We buy the younger boys cards occasionally but more often they buy their own. Honestly, I try to stay out of it as much as I can. I get involved only so far as to tell them to pick them up. They’re forever spread out over their dresser, desks, and stretches of floor. How important can something be to you if you don’t take better care of it than this?

(I totally heard that in my mom’s voice.)

Last night, after months of this and out of the blue, Kenny came downstairs to show me his usually empty Pokémon binder. It was completely full, everything in order. A place for everything and everything in its place. I was impressed.

The truth is, this wasn’t actually out of the blue. Yesterday he went to Pokémon League for the first time. Apparently we are completely geeking out.

Like I said, I don’t know anything about it and he went with a friend and his mom so all I have to go on is his account. He seemed cheerful enough when he walked in the door but there wasn’t time to grill him with pack meeting in a few minutes. Later that night he told Michael that an old guy with a beard gave him three packs of cards.

What what what what what?

Michael Jr. being the kid that he is, freaked out and ran to regale us with tales of potential child abduction and perversion. And admittedly, it sounded awfully sketchy to me. What sort of “old guy” meets up with little kids after school to play Pokémon? And then gives them things? I am decidedly uncool about this.

Feeling more than vaguely creeped out by the whole thing, I spoke to another mom who takes her sons there regularly. She laughed and told me the “old man” is actually in his early twenties or younger. And possibly albino. For whatever that’s worth (not much). She knew his name and said the cards he gave away were promotional packs he would’ve received for free. She said there are what she would call “special needs” people there—people who didn’t quite grow out of this fad at a rate most kids do. I’m still a little weirded out by my 8 year old interacting with people that age but parents are there and Pokémon’s been around long enough that perhaps even some older kids are still into it.

But still. Right?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Joshua 1:9

I was still in my pajamas this morning finishing up some chores when Tia called. She was locked out of her truck and could I please pick her up? I said I’d be right there and then laughed. It’s funny how lame we feel asking for help. Help our friends are anxious to provide. I’d do most anything for her—driving a few miles in my pj’s is nothing. There isn’t anything like having friends you can call in a pinch and you don’t get those friends without being one.

Her van happened to be at Les Schwab so we drove there to get another truck key from her key ring. It was nice having a few minutes to talk. It’s been a week or so but it feels longer. As I dropped her back off at the truck she asked if I’d heard. No, no I hadn’t. It’s awful. Just awful. And Michael just mentioned seeing him a few days ago. I meant to ask him to stop by for an estimate. Not that I planned a bathroom remodel very soon. I just knew he was the guy to do it.

Yes, I’m being vague. I don’t want his name Googled by grieving relatives only to find my ignorant ramblings. But it’s just so darned sad.

A couple of years ago we’d finally had enough with carpeting and 70’s vinyl in our kitchen and picked out some new-fangled flooring. Tia’s husband recommended someone and he did an amazing job. No one can find the seam unless we point it out and even then it’s practically invisible. He showed up over the course of several days (we have a good-sized kitchen) and during that time we talked and he told me about his family and that sort of thing. He was an easy going, friendly guy and we were more than happy to have him come back and do other jobs when we were ready. You may notice I’m using the past tense.

He killed himself last week. Couldn’t have been long after Michael saw him.

Here I go, two days in a row, writing about nothing funny. Nothing people probably want to read. But it’s real. And it sucks. All day in my head I keep thinking (because where else would I be thinking) “Who else?”. Who else do I know, friend or casual acquaintance, who’s on the brink?

We all know people who struggle with depression and it can be hard to know what to say or do. What’s helpful. But I guess today I was thinking more about people who don’t show you that side. Maybe they don’t show anyone. But it’s there. A desperation and inability to see beyond whatever that dark cloud is they’re under. But again, they don’t let it show. It breaks my heart to think of how we can be broken. Of how very careful we really should be with each other.

Tonight at Mutual the young men and women stood and recited Joshua 1:9:

“Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

I wish we all knew that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Poetry

This morning I’ve gone round and round with Michael Jr. He doesn’t get it and apparently my powers of elucidation/per-suasion are weak. He is studying poetry and he wants me to explain to him why it isn’t stupid and a waste of his time.

Admittedly I don’t sit around reading poetry often but the good stuff moves me. The way the sounds and meanings of words come together to provide something close to an experience. Today he read “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, “Sympathy” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; all amazing poems. I guess I’ll just have to sit down with him and discuss them line by line. Not that I’m an expert but I don’t think he’ll get that the Robert Frost poem is about death and suicide. He understood that “Sympathy” was about slavery but maybe he didn’t understand that it’s also more specifically Jim Crow laws and generally speaking struggles we all face. The Longfellow poem is maybe a little less nuanced but powerful nonetheless and exactly the message this young man needs.

I guess what he’s not grasping is the whole concept of metaphors. Not everything is black and white and science and math. And I’m glad of it.

Not long ago I noticed that one of my classmates is now a professor and poet. Jenifer Vernon teaches at the University of Alaska Southeast as a professor of communication. That’s Fabulous! She wrote a book entitled Rock Candy and Garrison Keillor even read her poem “Blackberry Pie” on Writer’s Almanac. Incredible! Her book received a glowing review in the Juneau Empire. The reviewer noted that her “Elegy for Chastity” was the heart of it. A thirteen-page heart to be exact. Chastity. Hmm. It was ringing a bell and then I read that it was about Chastity Batram. No, he must have it wrong. It had to be Chastity Bartram.

Chastity died on July 26, 1998 of a gunshot wound. Gut-shot by her estranged boyfriend. I knew she and her grandparents were my dad’s patients and I knew that her boyfriend was the son of my piano teacher back in the day. At the time, I was staying with my parents waiting for Sierra‘s grand entrance and the completion of our first home. We’d just had our 10 year high school reunion the night before. When my mom told me the news my mind raced trying to place this girl somewhere in my life but there were no matches. Was she in middle school with us? I didn’t see her in our yearbooks. But her name was familiar. The only thing that came to me was the scratch of my piano teacher’s super-fine point pen on my assignment books and her self-aggrandizing “HI-IQ” personalized license plates. I didn’t know her son and I guess I didn’t know Chastity either.

She was remembered by someone who took the time to write it down and that’s powerful. We can all hope for that and most of us would fall short. Poetry gives us an opportunity to make that leap into the mind of another and understand them. Maybe even feel what they’re feeling. It’s connection and it’s powerful. Now how to get that through Michael’s thick skull?

P.S. The reviewer referred to Yelm as “a dirty river Pacific Northwest town”. What’s up with that? Is that poetic? Yelm isn’t even known for the river (Nisqually) that divides it from McKenna and points north. How about the prairie or the incomparable view of Mt. Rainier? I guess that doesn’t quite work when you’re reviewing a poem about a life cut short.

Monday, January 18, 2010

In the Winter a Young Woman's Fancy Lightly Turns to Thoughts of Water Slides and Wave Pools

What an incredibly beautiful day! The sun’s shining and it’s 47 degrees out. It’s January for Pete’s sake! But it’s nice. Really, really nice.

This morning as I stood on the scale (ever watchful that no passersby get an eye-full) I looked out the window to see a white KNDU vehicle park close by. A woman got out and headed over to the tent city across the street, camera in tow.

We live across the street from the north lawn of the Central United Protestant Church and they’re sponsoring a winter camp out to help the Union Gospel Mission buy homeless housing units. It’s a week-long event that started last night and goes through next Sunday. I guess it’s a great idea so long as no one actually thinks their experience is in any way similar to that of an actual homeless person. There’re some pretty sweet looking tents over there and I’m pretty sure no one’s intoxicated, high, or mentally ill (actually I have no idea), surely everyone brought socks and no one need go hungry. No one’s sleeping in appliance boxes but after last night’s weather I bet they’re happy they put up their rain flies. Still, if they’ve got sponsors and money to hand over to help this worthy cause, camp away.

Especially in this weather. I guess 47 degrees sounds cold to some but it was practically balmy today. Warm enough that I took the kids to Howard Amon Park in the afternoon (I’m not great about doing this much—we’ve got an Old School playground a few houses down behind the Episcopal church and usually just walk there). Sam actually asked if we could swim there. Not yet. Soon enough we’ll be swimming and complaining about the relentless desert heat. No getting around it.

Now if we can just make this huge water park in Pasco a reality, maybe I won’t hate the summer so much. It is the devil around here. So hatefully hot. I just want to beg my dad to build another hidden fence-gate like he did for our garden so I can abuse Mr. Malley’s pool regularly. But of course no. Mr. Malley is generous enough with his pool and I’m no fence defiler. Until we get this dream park there’ll still be trips to Moses Lake, Hermiston, and Pendleton and their aquatic centers. Who knows why we’ve never been able to pull off a municipal one here. I’m looking forward to having one because it won’t be far, far, away in the sweltering heat and because Michael’s a member of the team of guys making this a reality, I plan to just live there. No seriously, I’m just barely kidding.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oh What a Night

Oh, Sunday Afternoon Nap, how I love you.

But it’s over and I’ve got plenty of things that need doing before a new week begins. Essays to send Michael and Sierra’s teacher, a chore chart to perfect, meals to plan, grocery trips to organize. And speaking of that, I want to share that I am once again couponing my butt off. Seriously. And if you’re doing the grocery shopping, you should too. I don’t know what’s available for folks outside of the northwest but I’ve been using www.fistfulofcoupons.com and it’s very helpful. The woman who writes the blog adds different deals each day but the main thing to check out on the site are the store lists. If you click “State Shopping Lists” on the green bar across the top it will take you to a page with choices of Washington, Idaho, California, and Utah. Choose your state and you’ll arrive at a page where you choose which stores you want information about. For each store there are lists that tell you what the sales are and where to find coupons for each. For some items there are links to sites with printable coupons and for others it lists the Sunday paper coupon pack it came in (Smart Source, Red Plum, or Proctor & Gamble). I keep each of these three coupon packs in three different page protectors (large envelopes would work fine) and just write the date across the top of them each Sunday and file them away. I only cut out coupons when I know I’m going to use them. It saves a huge amount of time. So anyway, here’s an example of a deal I got last week following the advice on a post from this website:

Albertson’s had Yoplait yogurt on sale for 50 cents per cup and an additional $2 less if you bought 20. This site listed links to print two $1 off coupons when you purchase 8 cups and one 50 cents off coupon when you purchase 6. Albertson’s had three coupon doublers in their Sunday flier (these coupons will double any coupon up to $1). I bought 22 cups which would have been $11. Subtract the $2 for buying 20 to get $9. The coupons were worth $2.50 and the doublers made that $5 for a total of $4. At the register a $2 off your next purchase coupon came out of the Catalina machine. So in the end the total cost (if I don’t forget to use that coupon!) was $2. Not bad. And I didn’t have to actually use my brains, just follow some simple directions, so that helps.

I just saw this menu planning sheet on this site; maybe it will help with the meal planning too. http://www.fistfulofcoupons.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/meals-for-a-month1.pdf

But on to other things. I should report on the festivities last night. The food was delicious, the company was great, and we didn’t win any big ticket items in the drawing. I publicly apologize to Michael for ignoring him while I caught up with Kerrilynn—no excuses but we just don’t see each other anymore. I miss her. Anyway, the people watching was PHENOMENAL. All I can say is WOW. There was a DJ and dancing which, for me who hasn’t had a drink in years, can be daunting. There are staples in situations like these such as “Old Time Rock ‘N Roll”, “The Electric Slide”, “Celebration”, and “U Can’t Touch This”. I can’t dance to these. Additionally, this DJ played “Let’s Get It On” and “Sexual Healing” which, no, I can’t pull off either. Michael convinced me to dance with him to “Unchained Melody”. I know it’s Romantic but it was tough. The dance floor was crowded with folks kissing and touching and I couldn’t focus on Michael enough to not notice. I kept giggling and whispering to him about what I was seeing but I don’t think he was amused. I was not an ideal date. Near the end he pulled me onto the dance floor to dance to “Boom Boom Pow” and that was kind of funny. Funny because everyone looked stupid and because I got to watch the Human Sandwich. There was a guy dancing in a particularly provocative manner with a woman in front of him and a woman behind him. And essentially no space in between. Who were these people? It was hilariously out of place at a work function. So anyway, it was a good night and to top it off I won a very pretty centerpiece.

Time to put this away and get cracking; I just heard Sam say, “Ready set, whoever has wings can jump,” followed by, “Did anyone bring a doctor?” . . .

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tired

With the remains of lunch cleaned up, swept up, and dishwasher running, I’ve snuck off to my room to write just a little. I can see out my window that the first tent’s been erected across the street and I can hear the leaf blower as Grandma, Grandpa, and some of the kids start the second shift of yard clean up. Not exactly my kids’ idea of a good time but this is how my folks roll.

This morning after breakfast I told Michael I was headed out to get a manicure and pedicure (because just like “LOL”, I can’t say “mani-pedi”). He said he’d come with me and he joined me for a pedicure. He wasn’t thrilled when I took this picture but there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. There’s nothing wrong with a man getting his feet looked after. When he starts picking his polish before he sits down, then I’ll have something to say about it! This salon was different too. There were no ridiculous posters on the walls of long, wicked long nails grasping things such as cash and cell phones. The art on the walls only depicted things like sea shells, pebbles, and candles and where nails were featured, they were short with clear polish. And no alters of any sort either. It kind of threw me. Most amazing of all was that aside from one other woman who left shortly after we arrived, we were the only customers. I don’t know if it’s the economy or what but I’ve never seen anything like it.

When we got back I hoped to sneak off for a nap; I’ve got a long night of partying ahead of me and we stayed out till 2 a.m. with David and Deena last night. I’m too old to do things like this without the aid of Red Bull and Red Bull is not my friend. Truly it’s not. But no such luck with the nap. With the gate finished and awesome, my parents were starting the leaf clean up. We’d gone so far as removing them from the grass earlier in the fall but the beds and many places in the backyard were choked with them. Unable to watch that, I slapped on some examination gloves and grabbed a rake. And some kids. I feel guilty when my parents do this but I just get so busy with the In the House stuff that the Outside the House stuff gets roundly ignored in the fall and winter. When spring comes it’s just the opposite; I have to force myself to work inside. The rewards, perceived or otherwise, just aren’t there for me with outdoor work this time of year. Then the parents show up and I notice everything I ought to have been doing. Or at least forcing the kids to do. At least.

So, most of us raked leaves onto tarps and now I’m tired and I’m sporting a fresh blister, and hair full of decomposing bits (Michael’s strategic use of the leaf blower means I’ve got my work cut out for me). And I’m really, really tired. Did I mention that? Why did I stay out so late? Oh yeah. Deena wanted pie and I was having fun. Like Kenny asked me yesterday, “Are you blind of understanding?!” – I believe I am.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Wish I Knew

This morning started off rough; the kids couldn’t log onto K12 for school. I have no idea what the problem was but instead of getting to the bottom of it we just took the day off. What the heck; if you can’t take off a day when Grandma and Grandpa show up, why are you homeschooling?

Mom and Dad showed up mid-morning loaded down with coolers full of deliciousness and everything we needed to repair my garden fence and make a hidden gate. I’ve mentioned it before but there must always be an occupation. A mission. Which is totally fine because there’s no end to the projects required by this old house. She’s a vicious, vicious task master.

I snuck off to shop for a few hours because I was sort of in a bind. Last weekend I ordered something from Spiegel to wear to the dinner tomorrow night and it was just not showing up. I’d gone through my closet a few times and nothing made sense. My body just isn’t a size 4 right now. I wish it was. And it will be. Just not by tomorrow. So anyway, I left to find Something. I started at Macy’s and although it was a pleasant experience, I didn’t find anything I wanted to actually pay money for or, for that matter, be seen in. I was kind of bummed.

I tried a few more places and still, nothing. It didn’t help that I already had an idea in my head of what I was looking for. This is fine when a person has the time to locate a pattern and go custom. Not so much help at the last minute. Finally I headed to Ross.

I LOATHE Ross.

It’s not the merchandise; I’ve found plenty of things there I like. And the hunt for a good deal is fun. I admit it. What I hate so, so much is the way I feel when I’m there. Unlike Macy’s, where I was able to choose a few things and walk in and out of the dressing room with no more interaction than a smile from an associate, Ross makes you work for it. It begins when you walk in the door. There to greet you with a serious nod is a security guard. This isn’t Tiffany’s but clearly they’re ready for a heist. The next thing you notice, if you’re me, is how filthy the place is. And disorganized. The thing is, there are hidden treasures. I once saw a pair of 7 (for All Mankind) jeans there for well under half price. You just never know. So anyway, I stood in line for an opportunity to try on clothes then waited for the attendant to count the hangers to be sure I wasn’t stealing anything. Still I didn’t end up with anything useful.

I was so happy to see that stupid Spiegel package at my front door when I got home. I wasn’t happy to find that the Medium I ordered was Extra Medium. Maybe even XXM. I give up; I’m wearing it anyway. I wasn’t cut out for all this gussying up. If you look at those prom and homecoming pictures on Facebook you’ll see what I mean.

With all of that drama out of the way, I went to help my parents with the fence and gate. It involved posts and cement, Copper-Green (wood preservative) and boards, hammer and nails. Good fun. The only problem is I smell awful now. I didn’t notice at first because we were working outside but soon enough I knew the extent of the problem. Josh and I walked down the street to the bank for change for allowances and when I walked up to the teller she just looked at me.

“That smell is overwhelming.”

I had no idea she was talking about me. And then I smelled my jacket. As my hair swung across my face I caught a whiff from that too. Uh oh. I smelled caustic. And I can still smell it as I sit here, about to go out for the evening. What to do? Life Buoy? Febreze?
But who cares, right?

(Perhaps only the people sitting next to me at the movies tonight . . . )

Tonight we watched the world news with my parents. We’re not in the habit of watching the world news around here and it was an eye opener. I knew about the disaster in Haiti but seeing news coverage was different. Good grief I just want to give away all my stupid clothes and stuff and adopt a whole family. I mean literally. Just let them move right in. It breaks my heart. Just squeezes it to see people using sticks and shovels trying to get to family members. To see quantities of food and water sit undistributed on tarmacs. To hear Pat Robertson blame the people of Haiti. It just blows.

So anyway, I smell bad and I feel bad. What’s a person to do? I mean aside from prayer and sending money to the Red Cross. Really. I wish I knew.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Watch Your Mouth

Here I sit waiting for the kindergarteners, chowing down on a microwave burrito Michael Jr. made for me because I forgot to eat breakfast and no one else in the family will eat them. At Costco the kids were enthusiastic but they’ve all got my name on them now. It’s okay I guess. This is probably the same reason why my mom, one of the youngest of ten kids, says her favorite parts of the chicken are the back and feet. Someone had to eat them. But you know, I’d much prefer the bland burrito.

I won’t bore you with tedious details of the maniacal cleaning blitz I began yesterday afternoon (WHY do I let people wear shoes in my house???) but suffice it to say it’s well underway. Additionally, Michael and I took the Christmas tree down last night. By the time we were finished I thought I could see steam coming out of our ears. We ought to take a clue from my parents and just wrap the thing in visqueen and painters tape and store it upright in the garage. To heck with disassembly and body bag placement.

So, what shall I drone on about this morning? How about contention. Contention, contention, contention. And less than savory language. Lately these have been bothering me. Somehow my kids had allowed some words and phrases to slip into their vocabulary that didn’t belong there. No matter how much I scolded, it just kept happening.

(I never did resort to washing mouths out with soap. I have vivid memories of that when we dared say, “Shut up”.)

I’d finally had enough when I overheard Josh say, “Crap!”. Since we’d started the chore chart and allowance last week, I decided we ought to dock people for, oh, how shall I put it, overly expressive language. Sierra found a jar and labeled it with words I hate to hear most:

Fricken, Random Insult, Gay, Shut up, Crap

I hate these for many reasons and I’m a little embarrassed to say I have kids who talk this way but there it is (“Random Insult” was added to cover a lot of rude territory). Each child’s been assigned a color and when they screw up and say one of these things, a Lego of that color goes in the jar. On Pay Day (Saturday) a quarter for each Lego comes out of their allowances. All that money goes to the kid with the least Legos. I should add that Michael and I are supposed to put in quarters for our offenses. At the moment Michael’s owes $0 and I’m out a few bucks. I’ve got a little problem with “crap” flying out of my mouth. Seriously. But anyway, this is good. Definitely good.

Still there’s some contention, conflict here and there. Next came Sierra’s idea: The Court Bowl. You write the details of your disagreement or quarrel down and wait for Sunday afternoon. When tempers are cooler we can discuss it at Family Council. This part I’m not looking forward to but if it can keep the rest of the week down to a dull roar, I’m game.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No Menu Options to Activate But Still Freaking Out

This morning was Sierra’s big day: Braces are finally on. With a mouthful of hot pink and extreme green, she looks like a teenager already. While I waited for her, my phone rang. It was Michael Jr. telling me that Grandma called.

I’m not entirely sure what an “episode” is but I think I’m about to have one.

They’d like to come this weekend. In two days. And I’m not ready.

When Michael called he mentioned something about an e-mail. I checked my phone and sure enough Dad wrote this morning:

Tiff,

My truck's been loaded and pointed East, is parked on its prayer rug, since before Christmas. January is horrible around here without the sound of kids; I may forget how my gate plans are to work; and the weather is supposed to be OK-Friday cloudy, no more than 6" snow total through Sunday evening.

You have no menu options to activate; we have a cooler. Day 2 dinner includes French Dip, so you can guess what's even better for Friday night. I may not be able to refuse, but neither should I collect turkeys and other big chunks of bargain over any long spans of time. Last week I filleted out 99 cent chicken breasts and made a nice broth with the bones. 12 of them. You can't walk away from Fred Meyer when he's tossing stuff like that away, practically.

So, you can let us know of any conflicts of schedule, etc., and we'd like to try to work that out.

Love, Dad

Do two freezers and a fridge needing attention (as well as a week’s worth of deep cleaning) count as a conflict of schedule? But I’d never do that. How could I say no? Of course I can’t because I want to see them too. But still. New Year’s Resolution #342: Be prepared!

I’ve got my list in front of me and I’m ready to work but I can feel my blood pressure rise when I see my little ones pull out more toys. I wish I could just push a pause button on everyone for a day or two. Do you remember that scene from “Weird Science” when the grandparents show up unexpectedly and Lisa’s “freezes” them and sticks them in the closet because they weren't having a very good time at the party? I need that. Either for the kids or my parents; I’m not particular. But like Chet said, “Do you think they're having a good time catatonic in a closet? Do you have any idea how disrespectful that is?”

I wonder if we have that movie? Hmm. But no. No time for distractions!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Before I Was a Mom

I kept hearing that it’s Way Back Week on Facebook so here’s my Way Back picture. Senior picture 1988.

This morning was our once-a-month M.O.P.s meeting (Mothers of Preschoolers) and we were in for a surprise. When the Baby Booty Basket is passed around most of my friends shake their heads deliberately, left to right. No way. We’re done. We’re done and we’re glad we’re done. This time someone reached for it! Sinar is pregnant!

Some folks already knew; as she said about her husband, “Shawn spilled the bean!” It also sounded like Sinar wasn’t expecting to be expecting. Like maybe she was cool with just one. I know what it’s like to find yourself pregnant and not totally convinced it was what you wanted to be but I think this will be a great thing for her family and I’m excited to have a baby around to knit tiny socks for and to hold and hand back. This is the age and stage I find myself.

Once our meeting began we were handed forms to fill out asking questions about our years before kids. I’m trying to remember the exact questions:

1) What was your job?
2) What kind of car did you drive?
3) College degree?
4) Unusual trips or vacations?
5) Crazy purchases?

It got me thinking back. Way back. What DID I do before I had kids? I went to graduate school up until I became pregnant for the first time. I’ve been a high school English teacher and a nanny. I played roller hockey, stayed up late, slept in, shopped for myself, and had date nights several nights a week.

I drove a red Jeep Wrangler; Michael’s from his life before me. I remember driving across country to go to grad school in Cambridge and how the seats would in no way recline. I think Michael may regret selling it a few years back but he doesn’t talk much about it.

I graduated with a degree in Anthropology in 1992 and started a dual master’s program in Education and Administration at UMass/Boston. I never really did anything with any of that and it weighs on me a little. I guess I wish I’d studied something more practical. I probably wouldn’t have been so flippant about my course of studies if I’d had to pay for the degree myself.

No unusual trips aside from Spain and North Africa while I was in high school. I went backpacking in Colorado with Scott Phillips (remember him from Whitman?) when he returned from his travels abroad but no, that’s not particularly unusual or even interesting. I regret not doing and seeing more while I was young and had the opportunities. There were many trips to New York City (I’ve been to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, 4th of July fireworks in the Meatpacking District, I went dancing with friends at Webster Hall the first week it reopened in 1992 and I’ve even been in Chuck Close’s apartment and saw the breathtaking art that graces his home—my best friend from kindergarten was his nanny) but again, I don’t think New York City counts as Unusual.

And crazy purchases? Regrettably, no.

Today we talked about the importance of keeping a balance between being Mom and being Me. I suppose I have some balance. I go out with my husband and friends and I’ve got my writing time. Still, there’s nothing like the feeling of being responsible for only you. No amount of balance is going to ever give me that kind of freedom. That ship has sailed. Still, the rewards of life with kids are varied and unmatched in any other area of life. They can’t be beat. That being said, there are still days when a girl gets a little nostalgic and dreams of times when she could rollerblade around M.I.T. at night and stay up till all hours watching “Quantum Leap” reruns for the first time. Or get up when she felt like it, play roller hockey in a Cambridge alley and pig out on Burger King $1 Whoppers with her husband without calling a babysitter or gaining a pound.

This afternoon Sam and Josh were watching “Jurassic Park” and discussing who they would be when they grow up. Sam said, “Dr. Grant” and Josh said, “Ana Jones” (Indiana Jones). A few seconds later Sam yelled to me in the kitchen, “Mom! Guess what I’m gonna be when I grow? 40!” So that’s it folks, I’m grown up. And I’m a Mom. I may have wanted to be several other things as well but I think I can safely say none of it would have been more of an adventure than this.

Monday, January 11, 2010

We Don't Talk Much About It

Yesterday in church, with the Sacrament passed and Michael Jr. looking for a seat with us, I scooped up Josh and made room. He sat down and almost immediately had his fingers to his mouth. I pulled his hands away and hissed “Stop it!” but it was no use. No one (outside of those who also suffer from this) can have any concept of how badly his fingers itch. They are cracked, peeling, and scabbed. They break my heart.

Michael has atopic eczema and it’s left his fingers shredded. Itchy, vesicles (little blisters) erupt, he can’t keep from scratching and the result is bandage covered fingers most of the time. We’ve tried a few different ointments his doctor has prescribed but the results haven’t been impressive. It’s sort of sad and frustrating.

The eczema is something we’ve been struggling with since Michael was just a baby. I remember bringing him to the pediatrician in Cambridge, MA and placing him on the exam table. He proceeded to scratch his chest till it bled.

Michael, a usually reserved, private sort of kid, gave me permission to write about him. I was a little surprised because it’s very unlike him. He doesn’t like it when I post photos of him or his artwork on Facebook and just about lost his mind when I posted a video of him playing the piano. The weird part of all of this is that he’s concerned people will make fun of him. *sighs* He really has no idea.

Unfortunately, Michael’s struggles aren’t limited to angry skin. What’s on the outside is tough enough but it’s nothing compared to what’s going on inside. It’s something we don’t talk much about outside these four walls but it weighs heavily on our hearts and minds.

For almost as long as I’ve known my son I’ve known that there was something different about him. He had an immediate, almost pathological dislike of strangers. It was the sort of thing that makes a young mother question what she’s doing. Why was he so fearful? I scolded and I admonished and tried everything I could think of to make him behave. To make him nice. There was just so much I didn’t understand.

Eventually the panic attacks began. At first I thought he was being silly, ridiculous even. Completely exasperating. Then I did some research. Panic attacks are episodes of intense fear and/or discomfort and are accompanied by 4 out of 13 bodily or cognitive symptoms (such as headaches, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, and difficulty sleeping), regularly manifesting with an intense desire to escape, feeling of dread and impending danger. Reading through the 13 symptoms I found that Michael was experiencing every single one of them.

What I’ve read suggests that the attacks aren’t brought on by a fear of a particular thing (a phobia) or caused by a traumatic event. They may begin with one but often there is none to point to. It seems to be hereditary but causes are uncertain. Cognitive therapy is the generally accepted course of action but he isn’t going for it yet. In the mean time he and I are both reading Hope and Help for Your Nerves by Claire Weekes and it seems to work under the same assumptions. Although it’s an old book and employs terms we don’t use much anymore, the information is really helpful. She explains what’s happening, physiologically speaking, and writes about how a person can move through the attacks in such a way as to end the cycle.

So. Why write about this? Lots of reasons I guess but mainly because, like I’ve mentioned a number of times before, this is my journal. Something that will eventually be left behind for my family. Teenagers are tough and it may take a long time for this one to really understand how loved he is and how much we actually do understand. We haven’t had to walk the proverbial mile in his shoes but we get that it’s extremely difficult. He’s done so many things that most folks probably view as completely run of the mill. Things that have been anything but for him. He is terrified of the dark (a textbook symptom) yet he camps with the Scouts. He’s petrified of performing in front of large groups but has performed at piano recitals and spoken in church. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to manage the expectations that he should be like all the other boys. The hard work involved in appearing “normal”. As normal as possible, I guess. I want him to understand that we can get through this; that panic and anxiety aren’t what life is all about. That life’s worth living.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I'm Glad

I woke up late this morning but church isn’t till 11 a.m. so it seemed fine. I woke with an insatiable desire (that’s sort of stupid; it was totally satiable) for an avocado, bacon, and cheddar omelet smothered with pico de gallo so that was the first order of business. Until I saw the sink.

Part of Michael Jr. ‘s requirements for his Family Life merit badge is to make sure we’re having family meetings. I’m pretty sure this will be the first item I bring up: No More Smoothie Messes! These little angels have become obsessed with making smoothies for breakfast (tofu, plain yogurt, milk, frozen fruit, and Splenda) but the finer points of cleaning up after themselves are being overlooked entirely. Entirely. The last thing I scolded them for was leaving a mess in my sink. So this time they hung the utensils over it. Kill me with semantics. I’ve tried to keep my complaining to a minimum about this because a) complaining doesn’t help, b) it’s reasonably healthy, and c) they’re feeding themselves and the younger kids. Except Kenny. Who won’t touch any manner of fruit. When I say touch I mean touch, eat, hold, poke, stare directly at, ANYTHING. He will have NOTHING to do with fruit.

Which is sad. A moment of silence for my poor, silly, nutritionally challenged son.

Anyway, I was about to start washing dishes when Josh ran in begging for a strawberry smoothie. Oh and he wanted to make it. That took about twenty minutes longer than you might think and by then it was a little too late for my fantasy omelet. I forged ahead anyway and it was worth it. It was soooo good.

I said it was worth it but it did make us a few minutes late for church because I didn’t foresee how much time it would take to get the younger boys ready without Michael here. And that few minutes meant the difference between sitting in the very back and what we ended up with: three folding chairs in one row and two in the row behind it. Tami gave me the Tsk! for being late (as seems to be usual) and we took our seats. I soon realized that the seats were actually kind of good. Having the middle three in front of me meant I could see everything they were doing, attempting to do, and stopping each other from doing. All three of the usual suspects were within reach. And they were reached several times.

The not-so-great part of the seat locations was being directly behind the Pages and Bishop and Sister Jacks. I didn’t want the kids bothering them with their squabbles and inability to remember where they were. So distracted did I become that when we were asked for our sustaining vote about something or someone (like I said, I was distracted) I raised my hand after Brother Ostler said, “All opposed?” I don’t think I’ve EVER seen that happen. Probably no one else around me had ever seen it either. Not cool.

Next stop, Primary. Sister Simm called me this morning and asked if I’d substitute in Sam’s class. I said yes because a) that’s what you do, b) Sister Simm is so nice I can’t imagine saying no to anything she’d ask, and c) it wasn’t Josh’s class. After last week’s meltdown I knew I had to unsubscribe to whatever that was; I wouldn’t be going back. It wasn’t in anyone’s best interest. Still, it didn’t go smoothly. Josh wasn’t putting up with the notion of his mom sitting with another class so he burst into tears. But friends, this was someone else’s problem. His teacher took him out, eventually bringing him back to me asleep.

*sighs*

I haven’t had a child so unwilling to go to Primary since Michael Jr. Still, I think it’s going to improve. When he woke up I took him to his class and he had snacks and played. And from what I can tell he didn’t even cry when the cars and trains were put away. That’s progress.

Teaching Sam’s class was hilarious. I had only enough time to print out the lesson at home and read through it quickly; I had nothing prepared. The lesson was about choosing the right and asking “What would Jesus do?” before reacting to difficult situations. I began by telling them a story about a child with a difficult decision to make then asked them each to draw a picture. Anything that had to do with asking that question. I gave each child a chance to tell the story of their picture and friends, let me tell you, I love 5 year olds. It was hilarious. Ellie started by showing us her drawing of a dinosaur and she told us how this dinosaur helped God. Sam was next and he told us his story but added a dinosaur in for good measure. One little girl added a candy store to her story and the next few kids had to add that detail as well as the dinosaurs and helping God. And hugs. Several stories involved giving hugs. Once Josh mellows out I think I might like substituting for this class more often.

Later this afternoon I collected Michael from the airport and it was really good to see him. Good to get back to normal. He’s snoozing in his recliner but he’s here and I’m glad.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I Didn't Eat This

Sierra woke me up this morning to climb Badger but didn’t seemed too surprised when I played the Freezing Rain card and closed my eyes again. The sleeping in didn’t last but a few more minutes; Sam, who’d fallen asleep in our bed last night, woke up soon after. He woke me and said, “Guess what Mom? I woke up in your bed!” I guess he forgot that’s where he started out because he seemed genuinely surprised and seemed to think I should be too.

But no, I’m never surprised to wake up with children in my bed, sore from contorting myself to fit the space they’ve allotted. Not when Daddy’s out of town. It’s funny how they migrate this direction. Even Sierra tried to fall asleep in here reading last night. Of course Michael Jr. is too thirteen and mustached to be involved with this but he was happy to poke fun at them in the morning. As if they cared at all.

Today was the Primary Meet and Greet at church and the kids sat at tables with their new teachers and class, ate pizza, and decorated cookies. Straight away I found I’d been seriously unobservant over the past, well, I don’t know. Apparently the whole system has been changed. It used to be that if you turned oh, say, 8 during the year, you would be in the CTR 8 class. Now it’s how old you are on January 1. This means Kenny is in CTR 8 again. Weren’t the kids just talking about being held back in church? I had to laugh because it must’ve felt like it to some of the kids looking forward to moving up. But anyway, Pizza and Cookies.

Of which I ate NONE.

I so wanted to eat a piece of pizza and all of the cookies. Because they were frosted and delicious and covered with sprinkles and candy after Josh’s decorating job. One is never enough so zero it is.

I may have solved my What to Wear to the Party Next Saturday dilemma. I ordered a top from Spiegel that SHOULD arrive in time. And SHOULD fit. But I’ve gone through this before. I ordered dresses twice before Tom’s wedding and in the end sent both back and wore something boring I already had. I’m not good at The Internet. Not as far as shopping goes. So anyway, there’s always something boring in my closet to fall back on. Actually there might not even be that. But never fear; Michael assures me I’ll be HOT. You’ve got to give him credit; he’s got a great attitude.

I should go; Kenny is requesting more hotdogs. Because I go all out when Michael’s out of town. I wonder why that is? When he’s gone I put great effort into figuring out how little effort I can put into meals. I go out of my way to not go out of my way. 5 for $5 bagged Fresh Express salads at Fred Meyer and some chicken I grilled yesterday = dinner for the older kids and I. Hotdogs for the rest. Not even baby carrots or applesauce so I can pretend it’s healthy. Thank goodness he almost never leaves.

P.S. A shout out to Nina for recommending Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap! I picked some up in the healthy-natural-organicky section of Fred Meyer and love it! The bathrooms smell all pepperminty and I used the lavender-scented variety in the kitchen. Mmmm! I still haven’t figured out what all the tiny-print rantings are about on the bottle but at this point I couldn’t care less.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Rainy Night

Is that rain I hear? I’m too comfortable to get up and look but let’s see . . . hmm. My phone says it’s raining.

And I love a rainy night. Who sang that? Eddie Rabbit, I think. Sometimes I think the usable space in my brain’s been taken up by useless 70’s music trivia.

I’m hiding in my room waiting for the insanity to mellow to a quiet hum; I let the kids stay up and goof off for awhile since it’s Friday night and dad’s out of town. I kind of regret it already. It would be awfully nice to have the living room to myself right now. Feet up and kicking back in Michael’s recliner. Well, soon enough.

Tonight Sierra tended The World’s Cutest Baby for a few hours and by the time he left she had our collection of baby toys strewn across the living room, baby food on her clothes, and a sudden urge to hit the sack. I love that the Ottley’s let her do this. She’s only 11 but I’m here to make sure things go smoothly and I have to say it’s AMAZING birth control. Not that that’s a concern right now but she’s getting firsthand experience with the concept that babies need constant attention. She also enjoys the Getting Paid portion of the evening. Obviously. Tonight she picked up the pile of cash Tami left her and tried to give me half because I helped. It was sort of cute. When I said no she said, “Just take a dollar then! You deserve it!” What I deserve is a hot bath and some QUIET.

Because it’s been a regular Friday and I hate regular Fridays. I know. Hate is a strong word but really, I hate that kindergarten is over at 10:40 a.m. on Fridays. I hate that school is over at 1:15 p.m. Add to that the things that I don’t hate (11:30 a.m. reading in Kenny’s class, for example) and I feel like I spend the better part of the day in the car and at the elementary school. And today was Michael’s day off with no Michael so there’s that.

Where’s Michael?

Well dear hearts, Michael is in Phoenix visiting a friend from college. I guess he’ll be consulting on some projects his friend has going on. The kind of thing I imagine he wishes he could do all the time. Creative use of the Big Brain. It’s something I wish he could be doing all the time.

And actually, he probably could. If I would just green light the Move to Phoenix thing. Which blows. It really does. He would never pressure me and he would never make me feel horrible about it (purposefully) but he and I both know that’s what’s standing in the way. I just can’t say yes to leaving a community I know and love. And my friends. And my kids’ friends. And living within driving distance of parents who aren’t getting any younger. Not for Phoenix. Not for that awful heat. There has got to be a better way. I just haven’t come up with it yet. I hold out hope that perhaps someday soon he can do the consulting for his friend almost completely remotely. A trip a few times a month is nothing but moving isn’t something I can voluntarily pull off right now.

Josh has joined me and he’s playing with my phone. It’s much better than what I caught him doing earlier in the evening. As I sat in Michael’s recliner rocking Gavinn I saw him pick up a baby hammer and attempt to drive a pencil into the couch. I wonder what goes through his head sometimes. Honestly. I know he’s only 3 but he’s got to know I’m going to freak out. Yet he does it still. Or attempts to anyway. Right in front of me.

Well, I should go see if I can salvage the evening. Call Michael. Figure out how to tell Sierra that it’s too cold to climb Badge when she wakes me at the crack of dawn. Read the bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap (what’s with all the weird religious rantings?). Lots to do.