Monday, July 28, 2008

The Brute Squad

Here's what I did today:

I cleaned my school room! (Notice the blank shelves awaiting our shipment of school books and the empty bulletin boards...just waiting. I can almost smell the pencil shavings and I'm excited for school to start.)

If I wanted you to be truly impressed I would have taken a "before" picture so you could see the enormous contrast. It was a big cluttered mess. That's why I took pictures. I know it won't last very maybe 10 minutes. I want to remember and savor this moment.

This desktop is truly amazing:

Adam will be thrilled. No more murmuring under his breath while he's trying to maneuver around my to-do lists and papers to correct or scraps of paper where our children have scribbled Webkinz codes and Runescape and Club Penguin usernames and passwords.

It's a beautiful thing.

This morning I wanted to move our futon and vacuum behind it and dust all the futon nooks and crannies. I have been doing the very same thing for years and know how heavy and unwieldy the thing is.

I recruited Braeden and Emma to help me. I told my recruits that if we couldn't move it, we'd call the brute squad. (Adam hadn't left for work yet.) Then I realized that much like Fezzik the giant, Braeden and Emma are the brute squad. They hoisted up the 75 pound mattress and carried it out of the room. Then they helped me lift and carry the wooden frame. I was astounded.

Lately I've spent time wistfully considering how fast my children are growing and lamenting their lightening speed childhood. It certainly has its advantages though. I feel the same spring in my step as the day they could all do up their own seatbelts. Growing up children are not all bad. Especially when they are darn strong.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Best Laid Plans

The other night I made a vegetarian quiche for dinner. Emma was not impressed. She told me that when she’s a mom, she won’t make disgusting food for her children. Braeden, ever my champion, said, “I can’t believe you’re being so mean to Mom.” I told him not to worry. Someday she’d have children of her own and get her due.

Emma insisted, “No, I’ll remember this. I won’t make them things they don’t like.”

We’ll see.

When I was a little girl, there was a family in my ward, the Petersons. They had two daughters, Laura and Lynnette (maybe Lynnette? I can’t remember for sure). I do remember how small and delicate and petite they were. They were the same ages as my oversized brothers. I recall telling Marianne that when I had children, they were going to be little and cute like the Petersons. Not like our enormous brothers.

There’s a whole lot of DNA (from both parents) my children would have had to fight to be petite. It didn’t happen.

Failed plans are discouraging. Sometimes it’s not our fault (like when a child isn’t all that excited about their main Christmas present) and sometimes it is our fault (like when we abandon our repentant-I-will-floss-every-day plan a week after the dentist visit).

I think you have to go ahead and dream though. Go ahead and make plans. Ideals. I’m glad Emma’s picturing a rosy view of her children always liking everything she cooks. Maybe it’s the idealistic view that keeps us going.

Then of course, there are the times when plans DO work out with unwelcome results. My sister has tried doggedly to teach her biracial children to be bilingual. The other day she and her husband Edgar were going to watch an Anne Frank movie. Five-year old Liliana wanted to watch. Olivia told Edgar in Spanish that it wasn’t appropriate for her. Liliana who is at times a reluctant Spanish speaker, understood every word and was only more interested in the movie. Why isn’t it OK for me to watch???

Ah plans…

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Seriously, so blessed!

I happened upon something to entertain me on those long quiet days when I have nothing to do...or in case that doesn't happen, on those hectic harried days when I don't want to do what I am supposed to do. It's a blog, a satirical and funny blog called Seriously, so blessed! written by TAMN (Tiffany/Amber/Megan/Nicole) about her life with her "best most amazing husband ever" JJWT (Jordan/Jason/Wes/Taylor).

You will thank me...and think it's hilarious...and recognize people you know. Just don't recognize me, OK?

Don't miss the anniversary post. Here's a little bit:

Planning my wedding (JJWT always calls it “ours” but whatever) was the third hardest thing I’ve EVER done, after that semester of hair school/college when I took 12 hours…ugh!...and also after I read THREE HUGE BOOKS in one day when I became obsessed with and hardcore addicted to this GORGEOUS fake vampire! Anyways, despite the stress, everything worked out PERFECT and most important, I did good at looking smokin’ hot (in an uplifting way) and way drop dead sexy gorgeous and literally every single person that saw me told me I belonged in a magazine for sure and let’s be honest, they were right!!!
How much do you love me for telling you about this little gem of a blog?

If we don't have a dry swim suit in the house and the breakfast (and lunch) dishes don't get done, you'll know it's because I'm reading this blog that I was seriously, so blessed to find.


We have had no more mice. We will still be residing at this address for now.

Mark is doing his part to deter the mice. Yesterday I sent him to the garage for something and could hear him meowing for all he was worth. What self respecting mouse would hang around when we have such a large cat?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Too Prepared?

Since nothing says fun on a summer afternoon like sweating it out and arguing with your kids in a hot stuffy bedroom, that’s what we’ve been doing. Every summer we deep clean our house (I blame my mom…she taught me to). Today we were working in Braeden and Mark’s room. This mostly means unearthing and sorting 1 million teeny tiny Lego pieces and unearthing and sorting 1 million teeny tiny Bionicle pieces. There are also a certain amount of rocks (Mark’s) and dirty socks (Braeden’s) and headbands and art projects (Emma’s—keep your mess in your own room Emma!). It’s not a fun job by any means.

The cardinal rule for me is that I have to be very stealthy about my garbage bag. Mark saw me trying to covertly throw something in it and he said, in a voice with panic rising, “What’s in the bag Mom? That’s not garbage is it?”

“Oh, no, this is stuff we’re putting somewhere else.” (Which I guess isn’t a lie technically, when you think about it. The garbage is “somewhere else”.) Braeden is wise to my ways and he wanted to look through “the bag”. I’m wiser and wouldn’t let him.

When cleaning, it becomes very clear what doesn’t get played with. It’s completely neat and orderly. I realized today that the Fisher Price Little People collection we have has arrived at this category. Besides the Little People bin corralling every single Little Person with no strays, the buildings were coated with dust. Time to move them out.

One problem we face (besides the fact that my kids inherited my clutterbug gene and don't dust their room very well) is that my kids inherited my sentimental gene. I wasn’t sure I could get rid of the Little People set. I remember hours of playtime. I remember each one of my kids as a toddler parked in front of the house or barn, with legs tucked neatly under them, lost in imagination. They must remember too. Not one of the kids wanted to get rid of the Little People. We weighed our options. We all acknowledged that they weren’t ever played with anymore. We all acknowledged that we had to keep them. Finally, I decided we’d save them for their eventual children. Can you be too prepared?

I was contemplating the pathetic sappy mother that I am that can’t deal with growing children but then I remembered the day Grandma Geri got out the Star Wars toys that were in the attic and had been Adam’s and his brothers’. Adam, Scott and Brian swarmed the box, leaving no room for their sons who the toys were intended for. They all lay on their stomachs on the floor like they were about 6 years old and played with the Star Wars toys.

Someday I will get out the Little People box and it will transport us back to sippy cup days when Barney and goldfish crackers reigned. If only briefly.

I’ll be ready.

So now I’ll make room for books and CDs, YMCA trophies and scout stuff and Bionicles and Legos…always Bionicles and Legos.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

As Sisters in Zion

I am in a book club. I recommend it. I love my book club. I love the women in my book club. For lack of a better description, they are my soul sisters. When you share books and ideas with others your feelings change towards them. At least it has happened for me. They are my friends. One of my book club friends, Suzanne, had her eldest daughter get married yesterday. About a month ago, she called me to see if I could help with the food at the reception. I was thrilled.

When Motel, the poor tailor in Fiddler on the Roof, gets a sewing machine, his mother-in-law, Golde says, “You’re a person!”

After Suzanne asked me to help with Julie’s wedding, I called my sisters to tell them I’d been asked. I said, “I’m a person!” They were fittingly impressed.

So yesterday I gathered in the kitchen of the church with four other women. We cleaned and sliced fruits and vegetables for about an hour and a half. It was sheer pleasure. We chatted about upcoming babies being born, last sons leaving home, daughters on missions with upcoming birthdays, good consignment shops to find maternity clothes. One lady who’s in primary confided that they’d lost Mark a few weeks ago when he’d had a substitute teacher but it all worked out in the end because she’d found him outside climbing a tree. She said, “Maybe I shouldn’t have told you…” How could I not love her for caring enough to hunt my son down, find him in a tree and kindly guide him back to primary?

My meager efforts to cut up a few cantaloupes are nothing compared to the value I get from being around other women. Strong good women that are there for each other. Knowing that I’m part of something is a boon to me with unaccountable value. In all of the different wards I’ve lived in, at every milestone in life that I’ve passed through, there have been these same types of women. When I was in college and my dad had cancer and my sister had just left on her mission and I felt desolate, it was the women in Relief Society, the ones I had known since childhood that bolstered me. There was a small army of women that helped at my wedding receptions (both in my ward and Adam’s) and that threw me marvelous bridal showers. When my babies were born, every time we’ve moved or had illness, it was these same types of women that cared for us and fed us, body and soul.

Marjorie Hinckley said: “Oh, how we need each other. Those of us who are old need you who are young. And, hopefully, you who are young need some of us who are old. It is a sociological fact that women need women. We need deep and satisfying and loyal friendships with each other.”

I wish I had the words to express my gratitude for my sisterhood.

It’s not just the sisterhood though. I am grateful to a Father in Heaven who loves his daughters, gave us each gifts and talents and opportunities to serve and be served.

Sheri Dew said:

From the time we can string three words together, we’re serving. There is
no group of women anywhere who teach more, lead more, or speak more—or are better at it. Right now, hundreds of thousands of us are teaching children, youth, and adults. Hundreds of thousands more are serving in presidencies. I’ve looked, and I can’t find any religion, government, or business where so many women have as much influence as in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Now if we could just get Sheri Dew to come to our book club…

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Operation Rodent: Phase One

I grew up in the Wild West. More often than not, we had bugs in our house. I remember a few times a bird flew in through an open door or window and once we even had a snake. (Incidentally, snakes can climb stairs.) Occasionally we had…gulp…mice. I could handle everything except the mice. I have an unreasonable fear of mice.

This background with wildlife invading my home has mostly served me well. I am the bug slayer around here. I am not in the least bit afraid of bugs. Adam is. He’s like the elephant in cartoons that gets skittish around mice. He’s big and strong but little things that crawl around scare him. I don’t mind. When we lived in a 100-year-old house about 5 years ago, the house was sort of porous I guess because we had a lot of spiders and creepy crawling things. Many mornings I would wake up to find a big heavy book in the middle of the living room floor. Underneath would be a squished spider for me to get rid of. Adam’s modus operandi: fling books at the offending arachnids.

Luckily, luckily, we’ve never had a mouse. I know for a fact we wouldn’t handle it well. When Braeden was a toddler he got a Little People Fisher Price town set for Christmas. We were sitting on the floor admiring it and Adam said, “There’s a mouse in the corner.” I dove instinctively for the couch and Adam stared at me then said, “Here, in the corner of the veterinary clinic, in the Little People town.”


Yesterday the unthinkable happened. I went to the garage, innocently, unsuspecting, to get my gluten flour for making bread. It was in a mylar bag. There were nibble marks in every corner and other…evidence…of mice. To say that I freaked out is an understatement. I scooped up all my lovely gluten flour in a garbage bag and my eyes darted around for any other mice or indication of their presence. I didn’t see any. Then I remembered that on Saturday night, Adam who is the irrigator extraordinaire around here had been watering the grass late and had left the garage open all night. It was a little bit comforting that I had Adam to blame.

When Adam got home, he was appropriately apologetic and comforting to me and promised me that we’d go to Lowe’s and get a mouse deterrent.

So last night found us at Lowe’s, contemplating the display of rodent extermination. It was hard for me to even look. There were lives traps, which I can hardly imagine. How horrible to have a mouse, trapped, staring up at you with bared fangs (it could happen). Then there were conventional traps (no thank you) and covered traps where the mouse is in there but you don’t see it. Still. It’s in there and you have to dispose of it somehow. Worse of all were the glue traps. We’re back to the bared fangs but now, the mouse is stuck to glue. I have absolutely no sympathy or affection for mice by any stretch of the imagination but even I can see how inhumane and terrible that is.

We decided the siren that scares mice away was our best option. (We had one of those in the basement of our old house with lots of spiders…we never saw a mouse.) The biggest perk to the siren is that there are no dead bodies to deal with. There was a package of three small sirens and another package of one big, heavy duty, industrial strength siren. That’s the one we got. We aren’t messing around.

Adam set it up in the garage last night. This morning when we were leaving bright and early for swim team practice, I told Braeden to go outside and open the garage from outside instead of from the door in the house. I had visions of little mice, driven to distraction from the siren all night, standing on their wee haunches right next to the door, ready to bolt inside as soon as the door was open. When I explained all of this (admittedly irrational) rationale to Braeden he looked at me like I was a crazy person but I think he did hesitate a little before he opened the garage. He didn’t want to be attacked by psychotic mice either.

So we’re in phase one of the process to rid ourselves of mice. Hopefully this will work. If we still have mice, we’ll have to do one of the following:

1- Move
2- Go back to Lowe’s for a barbaric trap then have my dad, one of my brothers (are you guys busy?) or maybe a home teacher (?) come and remove the mouse from the trap
3- Abandon the garage altogether…let the food storage, garden tools, camping gear and bikes fend for themselves.

For now, we’re sticking with the siren. Wish us luck.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Apples That Fell Far From the Tree…and Then Rolled Away

Today was the first swim meet for Braeden and Emma. We packed up a sun shade, camp chairs, snacks, water bottles, lemonade, sunscreen, goggles, beach towels and chocolate chip cookies for the team (our turn for treats). Adam and I had a little bit of trepidation about it. While our kids are very comfortable in the water and know how to do all the strokes, this is their first competitive swimming experience and they’re not so fast. We were afraid they’d be discouraged.

Well they weren’t.

First, I should explain that they had team swim suits that were optional to buy. The boys’ suits were tight Speedos. Braeden and I decided they were Speedon’t and opted out. We’re the McCollum Frogs and the suits are green so I picked up bright green swim shorts at Target last night…for the meets. Once we got to the meet, Adam pointed out that they were huge--knee length with lots of baggy fabric. Adam said he’ll catch fish in those shorts.

It got worse, the shorts were also on the loose side. As Braeden swam in his first event, a relay where he was swimming freestyle, he had to pull up his shorts every few strokes. Adam said that Braeden was going to come in 6th and his shorts were going to come in 7th. Adam left right after the race and went to a store to buy some Speedon’t shorts for Braeden for the rest of the events.

Did it bother Braeden when he came in dead last with his shorts falling down? Not in the least. He thought his ballooning shorts were funny and joked about wearing a parachute.

Then there was Emma with her goggles. The adjusting apparatus on the sides kept coming loose and when she’d dive in at the beginning of the race, her goggles would come up and fill with water. This happened in two different races and both times she’d swim blindly and run into the lane lines in a zig zag pattern. Did it bother her when she blindly came in dead last? Not in the least. She was frustrated by her goggles but not willing to let it curb her good time.

Let me contrast this to their mother. When I was in elementary school, the worst day of every school year was usually in the last week of school and was the track and field day. Thank goodness for Carla Dickinson because without her I would have come in last in every race. Every year. To make matters infinitely worse, my cousin Shanon would win every race and climbed on the bus with handfuls of blue ribbons when we went home on those days. Telling myself that I was better at things like spelling and math didn’t help even a little bit. I hated those track and field days with a white-hot hatred.

In 4th grade I “sprained my ankle" and couldn’t compete in the rest of the day’s events.

In 5th and 6th grade my good mother let me stay home from school on those days. She knew it was too humiliating.

On the way home from the swim meet today I asked Braeden if he liked the relays or individual events better. He said individual but added, "In the relays I didn't lose as epically though."

So where did I get these kids with enough self esteem to come in dead last and to keep swimming even though you’re losing your shorts or can’t see and keep running into things? I don’t know.

I told Adam that maybe it was because of all the sarcasm at our house…they don’t take themselves too seriously. Adam, who’s opposed to all of the sarcasm (in theory only because he’s as sarcastic as the rest of us) said he was sure that is not it.

It’s a mystery but they loved their swim meet and I loved that I have such plucky children. I’ll keep washing the beach towels and swimsuits.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Grinch

EveryWho Down in Who-ville Liked fireworks a lot...

But the Grinch,Who lived just north of Who-ville, Did NOT!

The Grinch hated fireworks! The whole fireworks season! Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It could be her head wasn't screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps, that her shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all May have been that her heart was two sizes too small.

I realize that it's sort of un-American but that's me, the Grinch, and I hate fireworks. I'm fine with fireworks from a distance, it's being in the middle of them that I'm not a fan of. And my personal Who-ville turns into a war zone every July 4th. What's really crazy to me, even crazier than the thousands of dollars people explode into the sky every year, is that many of them just can't wait until night fall. Starting in the morning, there are fireworks going off. Really? Does that seem like eating turkey for breakfast on Thanksgiving to anyone else?

It's one more way (like it has to be hot before I want to swim and my hands are always cold) that I'm out of step with the rest of my family. So this year, we came up with a brilliant compromise. We had an enjoyable and delicious barbecue with our beloved Jorgensens (I promise to post Janet's recipe for onion dip when I get it from her...believe me, you'll love me forever) then I carefully threaded my way through the explosions and went home and Adam and the kids stayed to watch the fireworks. I shut all of the windows...the house was filling up with smoke...and watched a movie and tried not to succumb to the fear that my house was going to be blown up with the rest of the world.

It was a good system.

Also, I think there is a value to all of the volatile celebrating. It makes me appreciate in a whole new way that I don't normally live in a war zone. I'm grateful for my peaceful civilized little neighborhood that only once a year turns into a loud and unsettling place.

I'll take it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Date With The Tooth Fairy

Mark lost his first tooth. He’s been wiggling it for days and today, at Braeden’s suggestion, he ate apple slices until it popped out. Mark bled and cheered and carefully inspected the tooth. Then he wanted to share the news.

He called Adam, then both sets of grandparents. Even with his just-lost-a-tooth-grown-up-ness, the concept of leaving a message for Grandma Geri and Grandpa Linn mystified him. He kept saying, “But no one’s talking!” He did get a hold of my parents and I heard him first report on the events then give them each a tutorial on how the tooth fairy works.

Later I talked to Adam (on his walk between his office to his car…as of yesterday, there’s a new law around here that bans talking on a cell phone—except hands free. I’m still not sure how I’ll cope). Adam called it a watershed event, our baby losing his baby tooth. He’s growing up and soon his tiny baby teeth will be replaced by big teeth that need braces.

Mark’s been moving fast his whole life, from the time his newborn arms refused to be confined in a receiving blanket. He crawled full speed into furniture, he runs more than walks, he’s been kicked out of the play area at IKEA (twice) and he’s my only child to get into trouble in primary. Braeden aptly called him a walking talking ball of caffeine.

I’m in no hurry for him to grow up though. I love his little 5 1/2 year old self (the 1/2 thing is really important to Mark). I just kissed him good-night, side stepping an arsenal of swords and light sabers and guns. He throws his grubby arms around me and still fits snugly into my arms. He still needs me to read stories to him because he can’t read yet and he still is comforted by a hug and kiss when he’s sad or hurt. I know too well that these things don’t last.

I need a magic potion that slows down growth. Now.


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