Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saying Yes To Something Better


You’ll all be really impressed to hear that I ironed clothes for all five males in this household BEFORE the weekend. In a shocking display of forethoughtedness (thanks, I made it up myself) I got it all done ahead of time. And we even arrived at church early enough for soft seats but there’s always a but, right? But…we don’t fit in those side pews. None of these kids wants to sit that close to each other. And we didn’t notice Josh had a huge pink stain on his shirt from a last minute swig of pomegranate Crystal Light. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t notice. I’m not entirely sure I would have brought him.

So anyway. Tonight our ward had a fireside about provident living. I came expecting to hear an older person talk about food storage and staying out of debt but it was a little different than that. Robert Perkes is only 32 and his talk was more about having gratitude. What’s that got to do with provident living? And what’s “provident living” anyway? A lot of you already know what it is but for some it’s not a familiar phrase. According to Elder Robert D. Hales

“ . . .joyfully living within our means, being content with what we have, avoiding excessive debt, and diligently saving and preparing for rainy-day emergencies. When we live providently, we can provide for ourselves and our families and also follow the Savior’s example to serve and bless others.”

General Conference April 2009

This is important stuff but how to do it joyfully? How to say no to that stuff you really want? By not saying no to it but saying yes to something entirely different. Brother Perkes used himself as an example. He’s recently lost a whole lot of weight after a friend expressed sincere concern. He happened to be playing basketball with a man of about the same age and weight when he collapsed and died from a massive heart attack. This phone call was the jolt Brother Perkes needed to change things but he said the trick wasn’t saying no to those chocolate-covered peanut clusters he loves. It was saying yes to seeing his boys graduate from high school. Saying yes to playing with his grandkids. The trick was taking the long view and really, that’s what provident living is all about. Being the ant, not the grasshopper.

He used another example he said he’d used at Standards Night a few years ago. He held up a delicious chocolate frosted cupcake and a $100 bill. He told the audience to close their eyes, choose which they’d prefer to have, and point in that direction. Of course everyone pointed to the $100 bill. Next he gave his two year old the choice. The two year old went straight for the chocolate cupcake because OBVIOUSLY. The point is that a two year old is not going to think five minutes into the future. A two year old goes for what feels good right now.

So where does the gratitude fit in? We’ve got to be grateful for what we actually have. If we can pull that off, there won’t be so much longing for more, bigger, and better. And the key? Not comparing. Brother Perkes mentioned a platitude similar to “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet,” and that’s all wrong. We need to be straight-up grateful. Grateful for what we have because of what it is, not just because it’s more than someone else has.

And gratitude has some benefits that maybe some of us weren’t aware of. He mentioned a study (Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life) that was conducted a few years ago. Three groups of people were asked to sit down each evening and write down 5 things. One group listed what they were grateful for that day, another listed hassles, and the final group listed neutral life events or social comparisons. What the researchers found was that during this time the group writing down things they were grateful for exercised more regularly, experienced fewer physical symptoms, and were more optimistic. They found they were more likely to have made progress toward personal goals, and there were higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy. It’s a long boring study but the results are pretty incredible.

It made me think about what I wrote the other night. About the fact that God doesn’t need us to love Him. That it’s for our benefit. Brother Perkes talked about praying at night and how he used to wonder why God needed him to say thanks for everything. Why did He need the ego stroking? Well, clearly, he doesn’t need it. We’re taught to get on our knees and thank God for everything because we benefit. It makes us better, happier people. God thinks of everything, doesn’t He?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A 12 Year Old Trip a Year Overdue

I had to take the Swatch off Josh tonight before he jumped into the bath. He’s been wearing the silly thing since I sat in bed typing last night. Last night I posted that he’d climbed up on the bed and began digging through my jewelry box on the dresser next to the bed. He found one of my Swatches, slid it up his arm, said, "This isn't cool or awesome," and walked off with it. Tonight I got him to admit that it was both Cool and Awesome but he rolled his eyes when he said it. I didn’t know three year olds could do that but he’s got four older siblings making sure he doesn’t miss a thing.

It’s been a really long day. Michael Jr. and I were up at 4:45 a.m. so we could hit the road by 5:15 a.m.

I should probably back up a little. A few years ago I told the kids that when they turned 12 they could do a trip with me like they do with their dad when they’re eight. The trip would be shorter and within the Pacific Northwest but that still gave them some latitude. Michael’s 13 and it never quite happened. This year he asked if he could go skiing.

I have very fond memories of skiing while I was in middle school and high school. Especially in high school it was fun when I was old enough to go with just my friends. But that was years ago. I haven’t hit the slopes since 1988. Could I teach Michael Jr.? It sounded time consuming, expensive, and likely to erupt into World War III. In short, it didn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.

I decided to ask Danae what she thought. She’s a ski instructor at White Pass and she told me about the EZ 123 program. For $119 we could get 3 ski rentals, 3 lessons, and 3 lift tickets for three days during the season. That’s perfect! I never had lessons so I had no idea how that works but if someone else could be responsible for showing him the ropes (literally) I was more than happy to sign on.

I wasn’t so sure this would be a great day to head up. It was supposed to be rainy and it was also the White Pass Winter Carnival weekend. Sounded crowded. Still, there aren’t so many weekends left in the season so we planned on it anyway. To get there by 7:45 a.m. and beat the rental shop rush, we left at the crack of dawn.

With Spudnuts and hot chocolates in hand (thanks Michael!) we headed out in the fog. When we were able to drive to higher elevations I could see the moon. I’d never seen it so huge and so beautiful. As we drove we listened to the radio and it was kind of interesting because I usually have a car full of kids on road trips and although I quiz them about the music, I don’t think they make out the words very clearly because they’re kids and they’re loud. This time it was just Michael Jr. and I and his responses to the songs were funny. When Air Supply came on singing “All Out of Love”, I didn’t change the station because it always cracks me up and makes me think of Vicki and Nav. Anything Air Supply reminds me of them and our college years. Anyway, Michael Jr. asked if he was hearing two dudes sing this song. Why yes, those are two guys. He thought they were singing to each other. *sighs* Later the song “Into the Night” by Benny Mardones came on and Michael hears:

“She's just sixteen years old

Leave her alone, they say,

Separated by fools

Who don't know what love is yet.”

“That guy has problems.” Sure enough, I know lyrics from a zillion songs and sing them out loud when I hear them but honestly, I rarely really think about the words much unless I feel like I can relate to them on some level. Not so much with this song. That guy really did have problems!

Well anyway, we made it up the mountain with time to spare and it was beautiful! No rain, only a few snowflakes before the sun really burst through. And the castle! There was a beautiful ice castle sitting behind the lodge, built for the Winter Carnival. By 8 a.m. we found ourselves at the head of a very long line at the rental shop. We filled out some paper work, got the equipment, went out to pay for the package, and then waited. The earliest lesson was at 10 a.m. and he left me in the lodge to head out. I was sort of proud that he was willing go over without me. He’s 13 but you know, it’s new stuff.

I should have brought some yarn and needles to knit a hat or something. I had way more time to kill than I’d figured on. He really didn’t need me at all. He took the lesson, came in for lunch, and then went back out to practice a little more before we left. We’ll probably stay longer next time but this was enough for today.

What a great day! He had a lot of fun and can’t wait to go again next weekend. And remember, I didn’t have to teach him! Now I'm wondering if it's like riding a bike? Should I give it a go before the season ends?

P.S. I made the mistake of looking up “Bakeries in Yakima” on my phone while I was waiting in the lodge this morning and found Essensia Artisan Bakery. We obviously had to stop by. I wish we’d had time to call Erika to come indulge with us! Had to get back before Costco closed but I tell you what, next time I’ll be back early enough for their almond croissants!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Finally, She Gets It

This morning I got up early to make some bacon for Michael before he left for work but since I still wasn’t feeling great and it was still very early when he left, I crawled back into bed and passed out for awhile. I woke up to the sound of someone digging through the drawers in the console table. Michael Jr.’s been searching high and low for an old Cabela’s Big Game Hunter game for his Gameboy and I’m sort of tired of hearing about it. I have no idea where it is if it’s not in his room. I’ve cleaned out those drawers and I know for a fact it’s not in there. I yelled, “You better not be making a mess!” to which he responded, “Nothing!”. Huh? At the end of the day he still hasn’t found it and is convinced it must be in the top drawer of the sideboard. Probably because it’s suddenly stuck shut and no one’s been able to open it. It’s a last resort to him though I can pretty much guarantee he’s never put it in there.

After I got the kids off to school I ran over to Fred Meyer to hit the 70% off clearance sale. I look forward to these sales all year. I’m not a huge shopper but this I love. I was so wrapped up in trying things on and talking to Deena that I made it to pick up Sam with only a minute to spare. When we came home Sam told Sierra and I that when he grows up he’s going to end racism.

Me: “Did your teacher read you a book about it?”

Sam: “No. The librarian did.”

Me: “Ah. So how’re you going to do that?”

Sam: “Tell people to stop saying ‘racism’.”

Sounds like a plan.

It’s been raining on and off all day. Where did all that sun go? Michael took Sierra to the annual Father-Daughter Dance tonight and I couldn’t even take any outdoor photos. The rain reminded me of Teresa’s blog post yesterday. She posted a picture of a beautiful rainbow and wrote about God’s promise it represented: That He would never again destroy the earth (and every living thing on it) with a flood. She took that further and wrote that she used to see it as a promise that God would never let life become more than she could handle. To, in a sense, drown her.

I really liked that. It’s a beautiful metaphor but she ended on what was for me a sort of sad note. That she isn’t so sure what she believes as far as God goes. I know that isn’t uncommon and I’ve been there too.

I remember a time when I was much younger. I wanted to believe in God. I felt that the physical world alone was proof. I wanted to have faith but there was a fundamental stumbling point for me. I couldn’t get past it. I couldn’t understand why God needed me to worship Him. And why would I want to worship an egotistical tyrant? I would think about those whom I respect and love the most on earth and that sounded nothing like them. How could I reconcile this version of God with the God who is perfection and compassion and love and who’s supposed to love me? I couldn’t do it.

Eventually I came to have faith in God anyway. I sought and He was found. I asked and He answered. I still hadn’t reconciled the dichotomy in my mind but just chalked it up to You Don’t Have To Understand Everything. And the truth was, I sure didn’t.

What I’ve learned over time is that God doesn’t ask us to love Him because he’s vain. This is for us. Because He loves us. I read this quotation by Dieter F. Uchtdor not so long ago and it sums this up perfectly:

“God does not need us to love Him. But oh, how we need to love God! For what we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think and do. What we think and do determines who we are and who we will become.”

It finally made real sense to me. I finally got it. But to answer your question Teresa, I have no idea where the leprechauns fit it;).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

She's Creating a Crisis. On Purpose.

I woke up this morning feeling like garbage. Weak, sore throat, coughing. I couldn’t make myself run so I just laid there for awhile. It felt good to rest but a slug of Nyquil would have felt even better. Unfortunately, completely checking out isn’t part of the program when you’re the Mom and Dad’s at work. Ah well.

I did check out a little. I wandered out of bed and ended up on the couch within a few minutes. Sierra offered to make eggs and smoothies for some of the boys and cereal for Kenny. She made his lunch too so really all I had to do was hold down the couch and watch an episode of “Project Runway” from last season when we had the dreaded Basic Cable. I’ve been pressured to hurry up and watch these because I’m holding up the queue. It was amazing to see everything happen without any real participation from me.

No mention of dogs today. Which is fabulous. I need more time to figure out what we need to do. I love the idea of rescuing an animal from the Humane Society but I also love the idea of getting some sort of poodle mix (preferably Labradoodle). They’re expensive but not having dog hair all over my house would be beyond great, right? I’ve read that’s it’s not 100% certain with these mixes that they’ll get the poodle hair but hope springs eternal.

Today I tackled the multiple loads of laundry that piled up over the course of a few days because it needed to be done and because I could sit on the floor in the basement and watch TV doing it. Very little energy needed which was perfect because very little was all I had. As I sat and folded I starting thinking about why it feels like I’ve been under a very black cloud for the past few days. Nothing’s really any different. There’s no additional futility in my life. But I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that I’ll never have enough time to do all the things I need to do. The things other people have legitimate reasons to expect of me. The things I expect of myself. Completely serious, non-trivial business. Usually I can shrug it off and keep plugging along but not so much lately. Then it hit me. I’ve been asked to take on a good-sized responsibility in the near future. I said yes without a moment’s hesitation because I implicitly trust the people who prayed their way to my name. I have complete faith that if Heavenly Father wants me to do this than it’s actually possible. I guess I’ll discover what needs to go by the wayside. Maybe this blog? Who knows. But anyway, I think I’m digressing. Or maybe I’m not. Remember, I’m ill. My eyes are burning and I should really go to sleep. Okay, now I’m digressing. The point is that it finally occurred to me that Satan will give you cause to doubt and horriblize when you pose a threat. I’ve just got to be stronger. Gird up my loins and all that.

Last night I was feeling rotten about Michael Jr.’s Scout progress and wishing he’d put more into it. That his dad would. That I had more time to do it myself. After my laundry folding revelation I pulled out a notebook I’ve kept of merit badge worksheets and various blue cards and asked him to look over it. He discovered he’s very close to receiving a few of them. He printed out a worksheet for the Snow Sports badge and it looks like we could get a lot done on that over the next couple of weekends. I guess he just needs me to kick him in the rear a little. To cheerlead a little. I can be that Scout Mom. It will be hard but honestly, is that supposed to stop me? I mean it does, but I have to stop letting it.

While I was deeply immersed in clean clothes and Dr. Phil, I heard something that gave me pause. Dr. Phil was talking to parents of drug-addicted kids who were completely enabling them. He told them that they had to make life uncomfortable for these kids. That they needed to create a crisis for them. He was talking about giving them the option of moving out or going to rehab instead of allowing them to live in comfort at home while they pursue their destructive lifestyle. He was talking about cutting them off. As I listened I thought it made perfect sense for far less serious offenses as well.

I was turning this over in my brain while I made dinner.* Sam and Josh had overturned a big bin of Playmobil toys in the middle of the living room and it was almost time to sit down to dinner. I’d asked them to pick them up a little earlier but it didn’t happen. I decided to create a crisis. I told them that if the toys weren’t picked up by the time we sat down, they’d be heading up for a bath and then straight to bed after dinner.

Dinner came and the toys didn’t budge. Oh well. Crisis time. They didn’t seem fazed until after the bath when they realized I wasn’t allowing them to come back downstairs. We put them both to bed, read a story, and said goodnight. Josh cried his eyes out but bless his heart, he stayed in that bed and fell asleep.

Creating a Crisis is Fabulous. I know people would usually just refer to it as Consequences but I like the sound of this way better.

*Okay, 100% family approval of the chicken-fried steaks we bought at Cash N Carry last week. They’re in no way healthy but add some mashed potatoes, corn, and green beans and everyone was satisfied.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Wish I Bled Blue and Gold

The day started out on the rough side. I called the Humane Society in Yakima to get more information about the dog Sierra was hoping to adopt only to find that she’d been given a home a few hours after we left. Which is good, right? Of course but Sierra took it pretty hard. I hate it when I can't make it all better. I know that's not always my job but still.

Tonight was the Blue and Gold Banquet at church. For those unfamiliar with Scouting, it’s an annual celebration of Scouting Anniversary Week, sort of a birthday party for the program. The boys do a few presentations about what they’ve done and they receive ranks, badges, and other awards. I’m not sure if it’s universal but I think most have a cake decorating contest for the Cub Scouts and our Boy Scout families brought a main dish to share. We’ve got a Cub Scout and Boy Scout so I had a few things to take care of today.

Marsha told me it isn’t this way in her ward but in ours, the deal is that the dads are supposed to make the cakes and decorate them with their Cub Scout. Possibly, we could pull this off if it were a weekend. Not that I need more obligations to fill up my Saturdays but this would be the only day Michael could do it. So anyway, I made the cake. It was lame and sort of ridiculous but I didn’t care even a tiny bit because our Cub Scout had no interest in coming up with a design. Good enough. I made the lemon cake Kellie posted the other day:

Lemon Cake

1 package yellow cake mix

1 (3.4 ounce) package instant lemon pudding mix

1 3/4 cups water

3 egg whites

3/4 cup nonfat milk

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

1 (1 ounce) package instant sugar-free vanilla pudding mix

1 (8 ounce) container frozen light whipped topping, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a 10x15 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, mix together cake mix and pudding mix. Pour in water and egg whites. Beat on low speed for 1 minute. Increase speed to high and beat for 4 minutes. Pour batter into prepared 10x15 inch pan.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

4. In a large bowl, combine milk, lemon extract and vanilla pudding mix. Beat on low for 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping. Spread over cooled cake. Store cake in refrigerator.

I wasn’t listening carefully when Sierra read the ingredient list to me during that painful shopping trip the other day so I bought lemon cake mix instead of yellow. It was pretty good but I suppose it would be a little less lemony with the yellow cake. Anyway.

In the ongoing spirit of This Is My Journal, I guess I should just come out and fess up that I hate evenings like this. I hate them because I see how much time and effort people have put in just to have my younger ones spill water on the paper table clothes and destroy Styrofoam cups in seconds. The section of table wherever we sit inevitably looks like the bottom of a hamster cage. Next, unless you have a real order fanatic in charge, you wind up with chaos as everyone is welcome to rush the food tables at the same time. In another ward I remember something far worse but it only happened once: the dessert tables and the main dish tables were opened at once and the children had most of the sweet stuff taken care of before the adults were done with dinner. But honestly, who cares that much? Mostly we just eat what we brought and are fully amenable to a trip through the McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home.

Tonight I brought something I found on the Taste of Home website yesterday. I chose it because I had all but one ingredient already:

Artichoke Chicken Lasagna

2/3 cup butter, divided

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon pepper

3 cups milk

1-3/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips and halved

2 cans (14 ounces each) water-packed artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and quartered

1 teaspoon dried thyme

9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, melt 1/3 cup butter. Stir in the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, nutmeg and pepper until smooth. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

In large a skillet, cook chicken in remaining butter until no longer pink. Stir in the artichokes, thyme and remaining salt; heat through.

In a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish, layer about 1/3 cup white sauce, three noodles, 1/2 cup sauce, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and about 3 cups chicken mixture. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles, sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Yield: 12 servings.

I didn’t feel like buying regular lasagna noodles when I had five boxes of the oven-ready variety my mom bought at Fred’s in Yelm for 50 cents a piece. I didn’t figure it would make a huge difference and guess what? It didn’t. I would definitely make this again because it was easy and tasty.

Back to the banquet. Like I was saying, people put a lot of time and effort into this. The boys and leaders got up and attempted to talk but the sounds of children was deafening. My two youngest were as much a part of it as anyone’s. There was a bitter dispute over a helium balloon and Sam wanted very much to go and play with the other children. These things just aren’t ever as fun for me as I think they should be. I have a funny feeling that it’s all mental. That I need an attitude adjustment.

I also hate these things because I am completely unfamiliar with Scouting. I want to love it. I want to want to know all about it. I want to be that mom who manages her boys straight through to their Eagle. I simply feel overwhelmed and this is just one more (albeit a very important One More) thing I have to figure out. I think because Scouting is part of what we do at church and not something we’ve gone out of our way to seek out and participate in, it just feels like one more obligation vying for my time. Not something we’ve chosen specifically to participate in but one more thing under that umbrella of "Obviously". I have a son who wants me to tell him exactly what to do and would like me to carry the bulk of the responsibility for this. To me this seems counter-intuitive. But you know what? What I really, really wish is that my husband had scouting experience and could lead our son along with enthusiasm that comes from having lived the program. But Michael’s as clueless as I am and probably twice as busy. We both just completely lose at this.

So I’m feeling lame tonight which is obviously totally unproductive. It just makes me unhappy, tired, and overall not Miss Congeniality. I need a plan, like I do for the running I’m doing. Every day my app tells me what’s next. Looking ahead to next week and seeing a 20 minute run may shake my resolve a little but it’s still a plan. I am such a visual person; I think I need a chart. And one for the Duty to God program. And the Faith in God program for Kenny and Sierra. And another for keeping my house clean. And meals planned. I need a wife. That’s all.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

She Isn't Sure

This morning Michael Jr., Sierra, Josh, and I drove to Yakima for an outing with the older kids’ teacher and other parents and students from WAVA (Washington Virtual Academy). We met at the Central Washington Humane Society and walked dogs in the park next to it. It was cool to finally meet their teacher, putting a face to the name. I wasn’t so sure about the whole dog thing.

I wasn’t sure because I was worried Sierra would fall in love with a pathetic dog. We’ve avoided getting a dog for a long time and for good reason. Back in 2000 when we moved to Salem, NH we bought a dog within a couple weeks of buying our house. We figured we had a half acre, fenced lot so why not? We did a little research (not nearly enough) and decided we wanted a rat terrier. There was a litter of Decker Giants in Maine ready for new homes so we took a drive and came home with Skipper. Unfortunately Michael’s entire department was let go at the internet company he was working at and after just six weeks in this home we had to pack up and leave.

We were blessed to have another job offer right away and I was happy to move back to Washington. Still, we’d lost a lot of money selling the house so quickly and we decided to move into apartment till we were more familiar with the Tri-Cities. Apartment life wasn’t ideal for a dog like Skipper and my parents offered to have him stay at the farm until we found more permanent digs.

We moved into a rented duplex a few months later but by then Dad wasn’t so keen on letting the dog go. It was clear that Skipper loved life on the farm with Dad and his two chocolate labs and it was also painfully clear that Dad loved Skipper. So anyway, my dad bought me a freezer and we called it even.

The truth is, it was beyond even. We had no business buying such a high strung dog as a terrier. Any sort of terrier. We just weren’t up for it. To see him go to a great home and to be able to visit him was perfect. To this day, this spoiled dog spends his evenings curled up on Dad’s lap with a crocheted blanket over him because as Dad says, “He’s thin-skinned”. He’s a pain in the butt with his car chasing (only cars that come onto the property; he doesn’t cross cattle guards) and Stranger Danger behavior but he’s very loved.

So anyway, I’m petrified that we’d make another huge mistake if we brought home another dog. I mean really, would the kids take care of one? They always say they will but come on. The bottom line for me is that I cannot add more to my plate.

Back to the Humane Society. We all walked in and the smell hit us. It was the worst smelling place I’ve ever been aside from maybe the elevator in the Park Street Station in Boston. Josh held his nose the whole time. For multiple reasons, God bless the folks who work there. It would certainly take a sturdy sort of person.

We turned in our driver’s licenses in exchange for dogs to walk and met outside to stroll through the park. Sierra was given a small, grey, Benji-looking sort of dog who refused to walk more than a few feet at a time. At this point she would turn to chew on the choke chain then stand up against Sierra’s legs, begging to be held. Sierra held her most of the time and, of course, fell instantly in love.

*sighs*

When Michael came home tonight she presented him with an old oatmeal box filled with money. $95 to be exact. This is the price to adopt a shelter dog and when you consider that it includes the spay or neuter surgery, first set of vaccinations, initial deworming, and microchip implant, it’s not a bad. Still, it’s a huge responsibility. Not real sure how to proceed but we did take a page out of my friend Diane Upton’s book and asked Sierra to write an essay on why she thinks she’s ready for this responsibility. If I remember correctly, Diane’s daughter wrote a very long paper to convince her dad and I think when Sierra’s essay is notarized and signed in blood I might be convinced. Maybe. I don’t know.

Monday, February 22, 2010

She Probably Won't Try This Again

This afternoon it occurred to me that I had a few things to pick up at Winco before dinner. With hubris unfeigned, I told Josh, Sam, and a friend of Sam’s to get in the car.

Sam: “Are we going to Donut Land Jr.?”

Me: “What is Donut Land Jr.?”

Sam: “Winco.”

Me: “Yes, yes we are.”

I mentioned hubris. It’s been a really long time since I brought children to the grocery store. Child, yes. Child I can strap into a seat, to be exact. But once I had the option of going alone, I never looked back. Back in the day when I had to bring 3 or 4 kids grocery shopping, I had things under control. For the sake of my sanity, I had to. I guess I just assumed I still had it, you know? That my kids would just fall back into line.

After parking we immediately came upon a friendly face: Tia! We ran into her periodically throughout the store as I tried my best to corral the little buggers. The running! And chasing around the cart! Random items flung into the cart! Okay, not so random; they all involved chocolate and/or high levels of preservatives. We were the sort of people that cause people like my friend Deena to bring their iPods to the grocery store and crank up the tunes.

At one point I thought we were done but as Kenny would say, “after much discoveration,” I remembered we had a cake to bake for the Blue & Gold Banquet Wednesday night. Kellie posted a lemon cake recipe a few days ago so I took out my phone to find it. For reasons I still haven’t unearthed, Facebook had me logged off again and wouldn’t come back on line. While I was sorting this out and calling Sierra to ask her to look it up on my computer, the boys were doing their own thing. I turned to find Josh with a stack of red and white funnels blowing on the top one like a horn. How many children’s mouths or grown folks’ hands have been on that thing? *shivers* After a stern warning he stacked them back up and Sam and his friend congratulated him on creating a nice A-B-B-A pattern. I’m sure Ms. Thompson would be proud.

Being the eternal sucker, I bought them each a donut anyway and headed to the checkout. We found a cashier just waiting for us and I think I can safely say that’s never happened to me at Winco. After ringing us up I looked at the boys to see them staring at the floor. Somehow almost half of the chocolate frosting from Sam’s donut was on the floor in feces-like heaps. They looked confused and I was embarrassed (more embarrassed) so I grabbed a plastic grocery sack and started making the mess even worse. The cashier was nice enough to give me a roll of paper towels when he saw my lame efforts and it makes me wonder why I never have baby wipes when I really need them.

So anyway, lesson learned. I either start bringing them to the store and lay down the law or go back to the more enjoyable shopping trips I’m used to. I think you know my answer.

On a completely different subject, the new TV arrived to replace the old humming one. No more jumping up and down to make it sound right. Also, it’s magnificent, at least by our previous 27” standards. Unfortunately, it’s after 9:00 p.m., Michael is tired, and all four of the bolts for the wall mount apparatus have sheered. How does that even happen? The living room is full of things the children shouldn’t be messing with so we’ve got to find a way to deal with this tonight. Right now all I can do is stay out of the way.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

She's Done Combing Through Knots

These are photos of Sierra before the haircut yesterday and after. The after isn't a great shot of the hair but I can’t believe the difference.

It was a last minute suggestion. I sat combing her hair earlier in the day and as she yelled through most of it, I asked her if she’d like to get it cut. Please.

She wasn’t sure; she sort of liked the idea of long hair. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t have normal hair. Even I never had hair this evil and I have some thick, crazy, horse hair. Her hair was so awful that despite using good shampoo and conditioner, I would still have to be the one to sit for fifteen minutes a day carefully combing through cotton candy-like knots at one side of the back of her head. It was the strangest thing. And no 11 ½ year old wants their mom doing that to begin with. Definitely a bone of contention between us.

So anyway, did she want it cut? She guessed it would okay. With that we walked down the street to Atarah for a $6.99 special. She told one of the ladies what she wanted and this wise young woman thinned her hair as well. It was kind of funny to me that when we left she told me she was concerned that Sierra might not have much of a social life as she’s homeschooled. Sierra told her we go to church and it turns out she grew up in the same ward. I wouldn’t have guessed with the two-toned hair, piercings, tatoos, and sleeveless shirt but hey, you never know. She did a great job on Sierra’s hair and when she woke up this morning and she could actually comb it herself. I’ll have to help her a bit if she chooses to straighten it but not dealing with knots? Priceless.

Sierra had extra time this morning and helped me get the boys ready for church. While we were dressing Josh the phone rang. That is NEVER a good sign on a Sunday morning. Sierra ran to get it as her dad yelled, “Don’t Answer It!”—too late. It’s for Mom.

Josh’s teacher wasn’t feeling well; could I help in his class? *sighs* Sure. I get it. People need help. The problem is that next week when things are back to normal, guess who won’t want to go to class without Mom? And we were just getting into the swing of Primary with him. Oh well.

Instead of a seat of his own, Josh was on me during Junior Primary. It could have been worse; in an unprecedented display of deliciousness, on her last day in the ward Sister Byrd brought cookies and the Primary presidency brought Rice Krispy treats. I shouldn’t have actually had any but how could I say no to that cute little guy shoving them in my face? Like I even tried.

April and another mom also helped Lou Rae in class today. It was a good thing too; there are so many of these three year olds! On top of that, Angela Stevens is now a Sunbeam (what we call our 3 year old class) and it helped to have one person sit by her wheel chair, stroke her hair, things like that. It was only her second week and it was interesting to see the children’s response to her. They smiled at her and carefully touched her. I’m not sure they get that she’s one of them but they will soon enough. I think it was upsetting for her when they got a little loud but other than that she did fine. Sitting by her today made up for the aggravation next week will be when Josh thinks I belong in Primary too. But who knows? Chances are someone will call me next Sunday morning anyway.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

She's in a "G" House

I live in an old house. It even has a name. Actually there are eight other houses in Richland with the same name but as far as this town goes, that makes it pretty unique. My house is a “G” House, as is The Garrity’s, The Hopkins’, The Makinson’s, and Leah Baird’s houses on our block. There are three others in town but I don’t know where they are.

I was talking to Teresa a little bit about this during her visit and she had lots of questions I probably didn’t answer very well. It seemed like an interesting topic (to me) so for those of you who live elsewhere, here’s a very abbreviated history of these Alphabet Houses in my town:

On August 6, 1945, President Truman made the announcement that the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. At the same time it was revealed what a group of wartime employees in Eastern Washington had been producing at a secret plant in the desert. At the Hanford Engineer Works (part of the Manhattan Project), weapons-grade plutonium would fuel the war-ending bomb that fell on Nagasaki.

Go back a few years to the start of World War II. The U.S. Army purchased 640 square miles, displacing some residents to provide housing for workers at the nearby nuclear facility. The town became classified as a “Closed City” and entrance was restricted to residents and those approved by the US Army. Outgoing mail was post marked “Seattle” to obscure the location.

Homes were needed for the families of the married men who worked in the area and Albin Pherson, an architect from Spokane, was hired to plan the entire community of Richland. He pulled this off in less than 90 days and the first house (a “B” House) was completed on April 28, 1943. Most letters of the alphabet are represented in these houses. Our first home in Richland was an “A” House; a two-story duplex of which 408 were built. Tia and Dean own one of 520 “B” Houses which are one-story duplexes. If you live in central Richland, chances are people you meet have asked you what letter your house is. It’s an instant bond.

Anyway, General Electric took over the government contract from DuPont after the war and work continued in The Area. Residents of the rented letter homes were given the option to buy them from the government and eventually Richland became incorporated as a “First Class City”. Also of note, in 1948 Barlow Ghirardo and Jerry Bell bought our local Spudnut Shop franchise and 100 sacks of Spudnut flour for $50.

Most importantly, despite a fresh dozen sitting in my kitchen this morning, not one passed my lips.

Friday, February 19, 2010

She Needs to Stop Thinking About Spudnuts and Fancy Cheese

I woke up later than I should have this morning. Late enough that I knew I had to forgo the running if I was going to get everyone out the door in time for Morning with Mom at school. Once a year there’re donuts for the moms and kids in the gym before school starts and it’s not to be missed (there’s a Donuts with Dad day too). Actually, I wouldn’t mind missing it because they aren’t Spudnuts or anything but the kids have fun and I get to spend a few minutes talking with my friends. It’s called Morning with Mom but my boys use it as an opportunity to meet up with their gangs of friends and act like a bunch of goofs, as usual. It’s great. My favorite part this morning was watching Sam’s face as a cute little girl walked by him and his best friend. She said, “Hi Sam!” and smiled at him. He turned bright red as she turned to her friend and said, “I chase him at recess”. I’m not entirely sure why his response was to whisper, “Child Abductor!” to his friend but it’s Sam and I’ve learned not to bother questioning what comes out of his mouth.

But where was I? Oh yeah, I wasn’t going to run. Michael told me I was going to run (something like he told me I was going to blog tonight when I said I was just too tired—he’s definitely the motivator I need!) so I did it anyway. He got the kids ready for school and I just had to Just Do It and shower. I’m just doing it alright but I made the mistake of looking ahead two weeks to week #5 of this C25K thing. Big mistake.

This thing has gone along pretty predictably. An increase in the running each week but each day of the week has been the same. Then comes week #5. I’m expected to go from running a max of 8 minutes (with short intervals of walking) at a time to 25 minutes. Straight. I know that sounds like I’m being a baby to all of you runners out there (because I am, obviously) but my calves are seizing at just the thought of it. I do not know how this is going to work out.

After the Morning with Mom, I met Tia for a walk. Not much of one; we ended up at The Spudnut Shop. I love The Spudnut Shop. The donuts are the best ever but the atmosphere is great too. There’s always something going on. This morning there was some hubbub because someone took someone else’s donut order sitting on the ledge as you walk in. You just don’t take people’s Spudnuts, you know? Maybe the grocery store variety from Morning with Mom but not Spudnuts. It’s just not right. Anyway, Tia and I had our weekly Meeting of the Minds until she reminded me that I actually had a kindergartener to go pick up. How could I forget that? I blame the Spudnuts.

(If you’re not a local, the gal in the photo with Sarah Palin is Val Driver, the owner of The Spudnut Shop.)

I wrote earlier about hot lunches and the mystery of how the kids eat the half oranges. Today I had lunch with Kenny and asked the kids. They showed me how they squeeze them and pulverize them with their sporks. Juicy, sticky, mess. Just as I thought. I wonder why they don’t cut the oranges into 1/6ths or 1/8ths and serve them that way? It would take more time to cut them but it would waste less food and plus there’s the additional bonus of being able to put them in your mouth for an orange grin.

This afternoon Michael Jr. left for the Klondike Derby with the Scouts. Finally. It’s almost all he’s talked about for weeks. The boy loves camping and I can understand that. But SNOW camping? I can’t wrap my head around it. The idea of sleeping in a snow cave just doesn’t do it for me. What does make me very pleased it that he packed up himself. Didn’t bug me for any help at all aside from asking me to borrow some ski goggles for him. I live for those little signs that he’s growing up. Now to change the subject entirely because if I keep thinking about my kid sleeping in the snow, I may not get to sleep tonight.

Tonight we went to dinner with David and Deena to celebrate David’s birthday and guess what? No, not chicken butt. We didn’t even sing to him! Or have cake! Not even a sombrero slapped on his head and a round of “Happy Birthday” in Spanish by the waitstaff. How did he avoid that? Probably because we were at Casa Mia but still. We didn’t even have dessert which is almost shocking. We did enjoy a delightful Stilton with mango and ginger. Cheese Louise is definitely my new favorite place around here. Aside from The Spudnut Shop of course!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

She's in the Basement

I’m still excavating, digging my way through the mess I’ve made of the basement. I keep telling myself you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet, right? Or cupcakes. Sweet, sweet cupcakes. I’ve got cakes and cookies on my mind now and certainly will for a few more days but that’s another hardship for another time.

I plowed through the books I’d stacked up on the couch and found plenty I’m willing to part with. I hope what’s left will fit the bookshelves but I sort of doubt it. It’s not so bad though; I enjoy finding books I might like to read again. The book pictured is a dictionary I got for Christmas from my parents in 1987. You can imagine how pleased I was with that, being a fairly normal 18 year old. I love the inscription: “Good luck to you with your future education, use this book to the fullest extent.” Mom didn’t even sign her name which is pretty strange. My parents are BIG on writing inside of books they're given and if I ever accidently (on purpose) “forget” to do this I get the book handed back to me for an inscription. I can’t say I used that book to the “fullest extent” unless you take into consideration all the drawing I did on the outside of it. For some reason I drew a picture of the watch John and Julie gave me for graduation, random fruit, and a particular boy’s name. Do people even use dictionaries anymore? I also found several grammar and style guides and clearly I didn’t use those to fullest extent; while I was sorting I found my thesis and for the first time noticed a glaring error on the title page. Lame.

I flipped through it but forced myself to put it back on a shelf instead of sitting down and reading. Maybe I’ll write about it here some day. I guess it might be a little boring but I enjoyed the research. It was a comparison of the Menominee of Wisconsin and the Klamath of Oregon and how each tribe coped with the loss of tribal status. I used to find all of this sort of thing endlessly fascinating but for the life of me I have no clue what made me think it was a wise choice educationally speaking as far as getting a job went. It’s not like I was interested in teaching it or working for the Department of the Interior or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Still, Dad said these years were for their own sake. Wasn’t that the truth.

Despite having most of my Anthro classes with the most closed-off professor I’ve ever encountered (probably the only Whitman professor who with a Questions Only After The Lecture policy), I loved this stuff.

This afternoon while I waited after school I had the radio on and I heard something that brought back memories of an Anthro class I took—probably Kinship 101. Apparently there’s this Maryland delegate who feels it’s time for his state to put an end to marriages between first cousins. That is unless both parties are over 65 and/or one of them is infertile.

Henry Heller (D) wants to bring Maryland "into the enlightened world of other states such as West Virginia and Arkansas'' where these unions are already prohibited. I guess this guy is a retired special ed administrator and he’s quoted as saying that when first cousins marry they’re “playing genetic roulette” because of the increased odds of having a child with birth defects. I thought about that for a minute and wondered if it was his background in special education that was coloring his thinking. Because honestly, there’s really not much to his argument.

Right now we’ve got about half of the states prohibiting marriage between first cousins but the truth is, there’s little reason for it. The feelings against it aren’t strong in other parts of the world and probably because it was practiced by the elite and it played a role in keeping family fortunes intact. On the other hand, in America it’s seen as something that hillbillies do.
I’m not sure where the idea came from that first cousin marriage would lead to rampant birth defects (“Deliverance”?) but it’s something a huge portion of the population “knows” to be true despite evidence to the contrary. The truth is, when first cousins marry and have children, there’s a 2 to 3 percent greater risk of birth defect then the general population. That would increase if you’re talking about folks with pathological recessive genes but honestly, if the people involved have a fairly clean gene pool, the risks are low.

I’ve heard it sited that past high incidences of hemophilia in European royal families was an example of why this is such a bad idea but according to anthropologist Martin Ottenheimer, this wouldn’t be a classic case of inbreeding. Hemophilia is an X-chromosome-related characteristic so it’s passed on only through the female line. It didn’t much matter who the royal mothers married, cousins or someone else entirely.

I know I mention that I digress. A lot. But seriously friends, this is one for the record books. How did I go from cleaning out the basement to advocating first cousin marriage? Not that I do, mind you. I just think it’s kind of interesting how many things we Know. And how much we totally don’t.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

If You Give Tiff Expanded Basic

It’s so quiet! I mean I can hear “Dinosaur Train” and Josh keeps asking, “Is that funny?” but other than that, nothing. No Michael and Sierra. No bickering, no requests, no “What’s for lunch?”, and I’m not nagging them to get back to work. I forgot how relaxing mornings could be.

Last night Teresa asked if the older two would be interested in coming along with her and Lenora to the Whitman Mission this morning. They’d been asking to go for a while so they all headed out this morning. And did I mention it’s quiet?

For awhile I sat and folded several loads of laundry while watching “Hoarders”. It was interesting to watch as I sat in my tidy living room. I could see my sink had no dishes in it and the counters, bar, and table were clear. The basement looks like an episode from this show but hey, I don’t have to look at it if I play my cards right (read: ignore, ignore, ignore).

Actually, despite the mess it's in, I haven't been ignoring it. Maybe paying too much attention is closer to the mark. I wrote about the basement awhile back, maybe during the summer or something. It drives me nuts because the kids spend a good deal of unsupervised time down there (what else is a basement for?) and they all blame each other for the chaos that ensues. Except Josh. He just admits it and adds, “But I can’t pick up!”—we’ll be fixing that.

Recently, with the advent of expanded cable in the household, I’ve been watching a lot of “Clean House” episodes as I fold clothes. A little “Clean Sweep” too but you know, there’s no one like Niecy Nash. Anyway, it got me thinking about the basement and what I could do to make it more of what it needs to be. It’s longish and it would be nice if half could be an area for study and work while the other half could be an area for the toys, TV, etc. I had a vision but how to accomplish it?

First I meant to move the existing desk and computer farther into the new Work Area. Almost immediately Michael gently invited me to think differently about that. I didn’t take it very well but went back to the drawing board. The next step was moving a bunch of kid things from the Work Area so we could bring a large IKEA desk down from the boys’ room. It was taking up a lot of space and was only used to house action figures and such. The kids and I took it apart and Michael helped us haul it down. This was actually a lot easier than I’d imagined but of course the things I thought would be simple are still works in progress.

My big ideas are known for their domino effect-like repercussions and this one was no different than any others. Kenny is a great cleaner and organizer and when we took the desk out of the room, the wheels started turning. I was excited about the extra room they’d have but he had different ideas. He lobbied Sam to help him convince us to separate their bunk beds. But WHY? This request turned into more than an hour (probably way more) of separating the beds, making room for the top bunk, and figuring out where everything else was going to go. It was like one of those puzzles with the numbers on squares. Move this to get this over here. No, if we do that than this other thing won’t fit. Wait. We can’t cover that outlet. Or that vent. But the ceiling’s only so high by the window. Crud. Or maybe it’s more like that book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. You start out doing one thing but each thing leads to another, often totally unforeseen other thing. Something like If You Give Tiff Expanded Basic Cable. Anyway, suffice it to say I’ve made my husband crazy but I’m pretty sure we’ve tackled everything I need help with. Famous last words.

At this point I’ve pulled books off three large bookshelves and Michael’s detached them from the wall and moved them. It was all a much bigger job than I’d anticipated but that’s a theme I rarely venture far from. So now the Play Area is piled high with the books I’ve removed from the shelves and all the toys. Like I said, it’s as bad as an episode of “Hoarders”. Who needs all this? The next job is to sort through the books and see what goes where and what we can do without. That’s a tough one because I’m not attached to stuff. Aside from photos albums and things like that, I don’t feel like I need to keep so many books, games, toys, and mementos. There are several other folks around here who feel a bit differently about the matter.

But it’s spring, right? Okay, it’s not but it feels that way. I just saw our first crocus out front this morning. As far as I’m concerned, it’s officially time for some pitching, sorting, and cleaning.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bread Pudding is My Kryptonite

I’m devoted. That’s all. How else to explain the fact that I’m writing right now?

Teresa and Lenora headed over the mountains today to pay a visit to the Whitman Mission during their Mid-Winter Break (why don’t we have one?) and along the way they’ve been delivering Girl Scout Cookies. I’m actually not full of those right now. In fact I’ve only had one –a new kind with cranberries. Why do they keep making new, delicious varieties to tempt me? Peanut Butter Patties (Tagalongs—where’d they get that name?) were always more than enough. I don’t know how Teresa survives a garage full of these things aside from perhaps super-human will power.

After they arrived we decided to go to Famous Dave’s for dinner because they’d never been and barbecue sounded good. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I love it above most other food and when I am older and in need of a hobby (because I don’t already have too many interests), I will learn to smoke and barbecue brisket to perfection. I love it so bad, as Josh would say.

Teresa and I talked while they girls played Eye Spy. It was interesting to share what we remembered about being Camp Cispus counselors, for example. She remembered a particular song we sang while I remember being shot in the forehead by a ricocheting BB during the gun safety class. We talked about our birth stories and memories of growing up in Yelm. Here’s one for you Dianna: Teresa has very fond memories of gathering up her pennies for trips to Stiebrs Farms with her grandma so she could buy Swedish Fish candies.

Sierra and I shared the bread pudding and I blame that for my current state. We drove back to Richland, made a few cookie deliveries (thanks Camilla and Kristen!), made plans for tomorrow, and I promptly said goodnight. I was completely undone. I really had to go to sleep. Blog or no blog. The food induced coma lasted for an hour or so (I’d argue that I’m still in it) but Michael woke me and brought me his laptop.

I’m devoted. Or he is. Something like that. Either way, that bread pudding must be eradicated. I need to make a vow of bread pudding-chastity or something. It’s just plain evil!