Friday, February 27, 2009

Constancy

Constancy is the complement of all other human virtues
Giuseppe Mazzini


Yesterday I talked to my sister, Olivia. I told her--at length because it's what I do--how hard my current day was being. She told me her previous day had been hard but her current day was easier. She said, "Tomorrow will be better."

I thought it was sound logic and I believed her. Especially when I woke up and there was NOT snow on my lovely primroses (there had been snow the previous day and I am DONE with snow).

This afternoon Olivia called me. She said, "Well...is today better?"

I said yes.

She said, "Really? Your voice doesn't sound like it's better."

OK. I said. It's not all better.

She said, "Tell me." Because that's what she does.

I told her the sad tale that I'm tired of hearing in my own head.

I don't get enough done. I want to simplify, but have no idea what to cut out. What is non essential? I ask you!

She Mmmmhmmm'ed in all the appropriate places.

She told me she understood.

She told me she felt the same way.

She didn't tell me that I'd been saying the same exact thing for 12 years and she was sick of hearing it.

Because that's not what she does.

Then she told me that I certainly had my act together and she did not (which is completely untrue but nice of her to say anyway).

I told her I felt like I'd been behind since Mark was born (which coincidentally is also when I started home schooling...I see a connection). She said she'd been behind her whole life. She sighed pleasantly and we chatted on.

I felt better.

It's the same old rhyme. There will probably never come a day when I say, "Wow! I'm amazing! I did everything I wanted to do and I did it well!"

It won't happen.

Here's what I realized when I was driving home and the pure white of Mt. Baker against the blue sky was dazzling my socks off: I am after all changing. Even though I perpetually feel out of sync and frazzled. The things that were overwhelming me 10 years ago, would be a piece of cake today. A piece of CAKE!

And that's something.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Today I'm Grateful

I spend plenty of time complaining. I complain about my children, about being busy, about low hanging clouds.

Today I'm grateful though.

I love teaching. When I was a newly minted teacher at American Heritage School in Pleasant Grove, Utah, sometimes I would stop and marvel. They're paying me to do this. (They weren't paying me much.)

I also love words. All kinds of words. I love to write words, read words and paint words on the walls of my house.

I love when my loves collide.

Today I had Mark write a description about a picture he drew. We had read "A Chair for My Mother." He drew a picture of his dream chair.


He used a Star Wars Lego box as inspiration for the words.


Then he painstakingly wrote a description.

In case you can't read "kindergarten",

My chair is blue. I like Star Wars. It is blue because blue is my favorite color. I couldn't fit a clone in the picture.


I was thrilled.

It's indescribably exciting to watch my son who in September didn't even know all the letters and sounds, chew his lip, contemplating the letters to write that make the sounds that form the words he wants to express himself.

And I had a front row seat.

And I love Adam. If he didn't work so very hard to provide our life without me having to also get a job, I would be teaching someone else's children to read and write (which I'd enjoy but not as much as this) and someone else would be teaching my own children.

Thank you Adam.

Thank you for my good life.

Today I'm grateful.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This Morning Spring Called My Name

Maybe it's because I've been reading The Secret Garden to my kids.

Maybe it's because the tulips are still so short.




Or winter has been so long.

I took Mark to Lowe's today. He frisked along beside me like a young colt (I'm not sure if "frisked" is correctly used in that context but if you've ever seen a young colt you know what I mean). Some primroses caught my eye.

Then some more primroses caught my eye.

I decided we couldn't live without them.


Can you blame me?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Remind Me


Things are getting desperate around here.

Emma is playing the piano--enthusiastically.

Braeden's watching MASH. Since he can't hear over the "melodious" strains of the piano, he keeps turning it up and I keep yelling down the stairs to turn it back down.

Speaking of yelling. Mark is talking to no one in particular about nothing in particular with bits of Star Wars mixed in. He has to talk over all the racket to be heard by no one in particular and by everyone. I think that is encouraging Emma to play louder and Braeden to inch the volume up on the TV.

I would make Braeden turn off the TV altogether but then he'd be sitting at my elbow wanting to use the computer, wanting me to entertain him, wanting a snack.

I would make all of them sit down quietly and read something worthwhile.

Except Mark can't read so well.

And that would take energy.

I would escape screaming into the night except I have to correct my kids' school work.

So I'm trying to remember, why did we buy a piano?

Why do I drive my kids to piano lessons every week?

Why do I keep coming up with new ways to torture myself?

Remind me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Update

1- The first day Mark liked his hair.

2- Yesterday Mark said he looked "ugly" and "like a bald headed freak".

3- He locked the bathroom door so he wouldn't have to see his reflection in the mirror.

4- He said the triplets would laugh at him.

5- I asked him what the triplets thought after he played with them in the afternoon.

6- He said, "They said they hated my hair."

7-With or without the hair, he's still my Mark and he still tickles me right down to the ground.

8- Adam told him his hair just needed two weeks.

9- I told him he would always be my handsome boy.

10- Adam pointed out that I used incessant twice in two blog posts in describing Mark.

11- It's still an apt description.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Progress

LeFou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking

A dangerous pastime

I know


Most days this week I’ve woken up with a headache. I’m OK with going to bed with a headache. Waking up with a headache is not fun. I have several directions to point my fingers of blame.

Our family has been sort of knocked sideways by a serious illness in our extended family.

I don’t like being knocked sideways. I want to go back. Back to before.

So I’ve been thinking about adversity in general. I know from adversity in the past that some good does come of it. Usually in the form of me praying more. Studying more. Remembering more.

I’ve been reading The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson. (It’s a good book.) Here’s an excerpt:

“Well, you have to think that maybe this will toughen her up,” Mom offered helpfully, after four-year-old Nathan rammed her with his Big Wheel…

“You mean the idea ‘that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’? I offered as I scooped up my toddler to comfort her. I could see the utility of that way of thinking and of course wondered if I should apply that theory to myself. The problem is, I can’t for the life of me figure out what’s so great about being tough in the first place.

I agree.

What’s so great about being tough?

Why do we have to be “strengthened” by trials?

Which brings me to my other head-ache source. I’ve been busy this week.

Swamped.

Even more than normal.

And I don’t enjoy that. I’m basically a very lazy person at heart. I would love nothing more than to read good books all day interspersed with talking on the phone and writing long emails. At the same time I also pack my day full of too many tasks. Adam’s always telling me to alter my expectations.

But I don’t want to.

A few days ago when I was careening through my day, driving somewhere with one eye on the clock, trying not to be late and one ear on Mark with some incessant story, I drove by a house with a big screen TV that was on. Someone was watching a movie. In the middle of the afternoon.

And I wished it were me.

Why do I always have to be running around at breakneck speed? Why do things have to be hard? Why?

Then I saw an email.

And in the email there was a quote.

By none other than Sheri Dew who I love and adore:

We believe in progression, and progression is by design difficult. Though our knees buckle at times under life's pressures, none of us want to stay just like we are. Embedded within our spirits is the need to become more and more like our Father.


It all started to make sense.

We have trials not to toughen us up. The trials aren’t the thing. It’s the humbling, the turning of our hearts to God. It’s the prayer and seeking that results from the trials. It’s not the knocking down, as my wise husband told me, it’s how we get back up.

And I’m not busy just to make my life miserable. I want to be better. I don’t want to watch a movie in the middle of the afternoon because I want to do Good Things. Important Things. I don’t want to stay just like I am because I want to be better.

I’ll keep trying.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Irony

Today I told Mark he needed a haircut and we were going to see Titi. Titi is the amazing lady that not only cuts Mark's hair well but tolerates his incessant chatter from the moment he hits her chair until he climbs out.

As much as he loves Titi, Mark didn't want to go see her. He wanted a haircut like Braeden and Dad get. With the clippers.

Braeden, who hates the clippers practically fell off his chair. "You WANT to get your hair cut?"

Mark said yes.

I have Braeden whose hair resembles a chia pet when it gets long wishing he could have long hair.

Here's Mark with the gorgeous hair that wants it cut. Short.

We never use the clippers on Mark's hair. It's pretty color and silky curls have prompted me to keep his hair long.

I decided it wasn't about me and I obliged my boy.

Mark said, "I look terrific!"

I'm left wondering two things:

1- Will I be able to get used to his shorn head? I miss those curls.

2- Which one of my brothers does he now most resemble? I can't tell.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Glassy Eyed Menace


Stuffed animals are the great equalizer around here. My kids with their different interests and ages all like stuffed animals and they all have very complex and well developed scenarios involving these stuffed animals. They make movies with them while I'm gone and they have free access to the camera. Ever since Tabor visited and taught Braeden his rope tricks, Braeden and Mark have been making nooses and hanging their stuffed animals over the stair landing. The stuffed animals provide entertainment for Emma in her darkened room at night and are partially responsible for her insomnia. Webkins keep joining the family at alarming rates. Somehow the animals keeps multiplying and multiplying around here under our very noses.

It all came to a head the other day when the children gathered all the stuffed animals for a wedding. There was no floor space available in Emma's bedroom. They had created an "aisle" for the bride to walk up but the rest of the floor was covered with stuffed animals.

Seeing them en masse like that was unsettling and a little nauseating. When did this happen that we got SO many stuffed animals.

I had to do something.

So today I had them bring them all to the family room. We counted the stuffed animals out of my curiosity.

We had 157.

Looking from one brown eyed child to the next I knew that the task ahead of me was going to be next to impossible.

We HAVE to get rid of some, I said. We. Have. To.

There were the favorites from babyhood. The sacred that I knew we could never part with. Braeden's bear Shell, Emma's totemic cat Sally, Mark's Baby Jaguar. Then there were the "family members". There are ways that the stuffed animals are all related and my nutty children alone know the reasons why. Then there were the animals that were also souvenirs, the gifts from family members, the sentimental favorites.

Hopeless.

I finally convinced them to part with 29. 29! I feel like that is an amazing victory.

As Braeden said though as he was lugging 128 stuffed animals back up the stairs, "You may have won zee battle, but you have not won zee war."

I know that only too well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Girl is Ten


Emma makes me glad I have a daughter. We're a lot alike. We have the same brown eyes, we both like to draw and write and read. We both like to sequester ourselves alone in our bedrooms.

We both like a long hot bath.

There are differences too. My hair's curly and hers stubbornly won't hold a curl. I grew up sandwiched between two sisters and she's between two brothers.

Some of the things I love most about Emma are the ways in which she's better than I am. Maybe I feel like I'm compensating for my own flaws by raising a daughter that will make up the difference in the world.

In honor of her ten years, here's a list of ten ways Emma outclasses me:

1- She can swim underwater like a fish.

2-She can crochet (thanks to my mom).

3-Emma can (and has been known to) stand up to bullies.

4-Sickness rarely slows her down.

5- She writes poetry.

6- Emma can get by, cheerfully, on little sleep.

7-Her handwriting (when she tries) is better than mine (when I try).

8- She has a dazzling imagination.

9-Emma remembers lines from movies, quotes and jokes.

10- She doesn't care what people think about her...I wish I could bottle and sell her confidence (or at least borrow a little of it).


Happy Birthday Emma Jayne!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Day Spa



Emma's ten tomorrow.

(Just give me a minute while I wrap my mind around that.)

OK, I'm back.

We celebrated by inviting her nearest and dearest over for a Day Spa extravaganza. Devyn's mom Deeann came to help and Janet too.

If every little girl needs a birthday party, then every mom needs a Janet to come and help.

How convenient that I have one!

We applied facials:




Girl's react differently to having cucumbers placed on their eyes. There was a lot of squealing and screaming (yes, they are really good at being tweens). Some of the girls got completely zoned out but my favorite reaction was by my niece Talia. She chided the girls next to her to be quiet. She said, "I did not pay $50 for this spa to be bothered." Talia also does a hilarious British accent. I try to surround myself with people that make me laugh.

Thank you Talia.


Some of the girls took the meditative spa atmosphere (and theatrics) to extremes.

Next I divided the girls into stations where they could play a game:


Have their nails painted by Janet (or That Girl in the White Shirt as Raelyn called her):


Or do each other's hair in artful ways:



Emma loved every minute of it.

And I loved every minute of it.

What could be more wonderful than a ten year old girl and her silly friends loving each other, loving life and asking for another piece of cake.

Pure joy.

And now I need a day spa...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Another dream...gone

Lately (sporadically) I've been going to the gym in the 7:00 hour. It's a good time to go because my kids are either still asleep or just waking up and aren't likely do to the same amount of damage to the house as they would if I left them later in the day.

Another perk of going then is the friendly little knot of people that are also at the gym at that time of day. They are downright jovial. They call out robust greetings to me and everyone and I try to smile but I'm mostly busy rubbing sleep from my eyes.

The other day I told Adam I wanted us to be like them when we're older and he's retired. There's one couple in particular that I admire. They have a shiny little car with a license plate cover that says, "Happiness is Being a Grandparent." They always look dapper and they are particularly friendly and chatty.

Today I realized that the woman had creases in her pants. She had ironed them. Her exercise pants had been ironed!

Forget it!

Who am I kidding? I'll never be like them. I'm never that friendly and cheerful let alone in the 7:00 hour. I'll never have a shiny little car that stays very shiny for very long. And I'll never ever iron my pants with a neat little crease.

I know my limits.

I came home and consoled myself with a chocolate covered cherry. After my Christmas time apprenticeship with Janet I made some for Valentines Day.



(They do incidentally make you feel better when you've had a blow to your self esteem and dreams.)

Let me know if you need some.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Never Mind, Valentine

I really like Valentines Day. Hearts, chocolate, red. What's not to love?

Emma and Mark and I just spent time toiling over Valentines at the kitchen table. Mark's favorite part of school is penmanship so he happily signed his name to the copious list of cousins I'd compiled for him. Emma made a very ambitious list and started out with a very ambitious confection complete with an original poem, doily and big heart with an arrow through it. She's set her sights lower now that I've told her to wrap it up...she's slapping her name on hearts to beat the band.

Valentines Day. Good times.

Where the snafus occur is with my own beloved Valentine.

On our first Valentines Day as a married couple, I promised him a fancy dinner cooked by me.

Then I had a horrific third-graders-excited-beyond-all-reason day at the school where I taught.

Then I drove through Provo, dodging earnest looking boys and men carrying balloons and flowers.

Then I talked to my sister whose husband was taking her out to dinner.

Then I talked to a friend whose boyfriend was taking her out to dinner.

Why wasn't I being taken out to dinner? (Oh yeah, because I'd told Adam I'd make him dinner.)

Where were my balloons and flowers?

I came home to find my sweet husband studying and I was hopping mad.

Thus started our sad Valentine career.

I'm sorry Adam.

Another year, Adam surprised me with tulips. I was thrilled! Tulips! So much better than cliche roses. I love tulips!

The next year I told Adam, "I hope you give me the same flowers as last year."

He got a look of panic on his face. He couldn't remember what flowers he'd bought me.

He thought maybe it was carnations so I got carnations.

Carnations.

Carnations are not equal to tulips on the flower food chain. The tulips probably don't even associate with the carnations. And I don't blame them.

I'm sorry Adam.

So Adam is a shell shocked Valentine.

This year he said, "Do you want to go out for Valentines day?"

I countered with, "Do you want to go out?"

He said, "I'm asking you aren't I?"

I said, "Are you asking me because you want to or are you asking me because you think I'll pout if you don't?"

Adam said forget it.

I said, "No no ask me again."

I'm sorry Adam.

I recognize that I'm maybe a little unhinged when it comes to Valentines day. I recognize that I usually make Adam's life difficult.

And I really love Adam and want to show him that I really love him.

And am sorry about what a pain I am.

So this year in one of the darling shops in La Conner, I bought him a Valentine.



It was wrapped in cellophane so I didn't read the inside but it looked like the ideal Valentine for my knight in shining armor, my Valentine.

Then tonight I opened it so I could write something clever inside.


It's meant to be from a man to his love.

Forget it. I think I'll go back to being bratty at Valentine's day. I might as well stick with what I know.

I'm sorry Adam.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Altruism

Sometimes I'm just downright benevolent, philanthropic, selfless.

I just love to do things for my fellowmen.

Let me give you an example. Today I purchased something online. I was in a flurry because I was simultaneously having school, making doctor appointments, formulating my Target shopping list and waiting for a phone call.

When will I learn that multi-tasking isn't always the secret to success?

I was excited about my purchase though. I zipped off an email to Adam to tell him what I'd bought.

He called back--soon--and told me I'd bought the wrong thing.

He said, kindly (he's long suffering like that), "You need to read the details. It's all right there."

I got off the phone with him and called customer service. As I was waiting to connect to a live person I thought that there was no way I could not sound dumb in the exchange. When I finally had a human on the line I breathlessly explained my mistake, hoping for compassion and wizardry on the part of customer service to refund my money and cancel the order.

She was also rather kind and long suffering and pointed out to me that I hadn't exactly placed the order. She queried, "Did you see the screen that indicated your purchase was complete? Did you get the confirmation email?"

No and no.

It's like grammar when two negatives make a positive. My carelessness coupled with my carelessness equal no harm done.

And now for the altruism. Didn't I just make your day?

I've made you happy right now because you're thinking, "At least I will never, ever be as brainless as that Thelma."

You're welcome.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Keeping My Public Happy

When you don't have much "public", you have to respond to their demands to keep them happy and loyal.

Even if they're your parents and will likely love you anyway.

Tonight my mom said she had a problem with my blog.

I tried to remember if I'd written anything inflammatory in a moment of weakness.

She said, "It's so...so PINK."

"And your dad doesn't like it either."

OK, OK. I thought it was festive with winsome little birds.

But if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.



Let me know if you have any more constructive criticism.

Picture Time

Turkey Trot:

I forgot, I did have a picture of La Conner. Apparently La Conner has 9 turkeys that roam free. Why not? I was contemplating living in a place with wandering turkeys and Tabor pointed out the guide at the Quilt Museum won't be around forever. Now I have a career goal. Someday I'll work in the Quilt Museum. And amble around with the turkeys after hours.


Roping Lessons:

Tabor taught Braeden how to rope. I volunteered my foot to be roped but I wasn't quite as accommodating to the tutelage when Tabor hit a lamp shade (mostly because it revealed a little puff of dust).

Roping also included tying Braeden up.


Tabor was nice enough to teach Braeden how to tie him up too.


Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle:




rolling down the hill


Beautiful Seattle

The Wheedles on the Needle:





My brother with the gravity defying mustache and his daughter with the gravity defying hair.

Tabor says Baby Olivia looks like Governor Blagojevich without her hair in the pony tails.


A baby that cute? I'm not believing him.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Gift Idea for Vain People

My extraordinary sister-in-law Jennifer gave me this gift:


She formatted and printed all of my blog posts through December 2008 and had them bound in a book for me.

I keep looking at the book in disbelief. So much work on her part. I feel a little guilty that each time I was clicking PUBLISH POST for the sheer pleasure of it, it was creating more work for her.

Thank you Jennifer! From the bottom of my (vain, love-to-see-my-name-in-print) heart!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Visitors

My brother Tabor, his amiable wife Katie and their daughter, Baby Olivia are here visiting. (I've taken no pictures and will try to repent.)

I think Baby Olivia will always be Baby Olivia in my mind...even when she's 25. There are a lot of Olivias in our family (and obviously all beloved since we keep re purposing the name).

There's my great-grandmother who was named Olivia. There's Aunt Olivia (my dad's sister). There's my sister Olivia (The Olivia in my book) and now baby Olivia.

Having Tabor here is completely comfortable. Only my cheeks hurt from laughing so much. Like any good sibling, he knows me. From beginning to end. Well, being 8 years younger some stuff does predate him...like I had to first show him a Lawrence Welk clip on youtube so he could appreciate this little comedic gem.

Yesterday morning we spent our time lounging around and playing with Baby Olivia. She delights our kids. She delights me too. Maybe it's because she reminds me more of my kids at that age (she's one) than any other babies I've been around.

Tabor went out in the woods with Braeden and Mark to check out some of the boy hot spots.

He's an uncle like that.

When Emma pulled out her alarmingly large store of stuffed animals and proceeded to tell us each by name, I said (in a forced meant-to-be-sweet tone), "Emma, maybe no one cares about your stuffed animals' names."

Tabor said, "I'm trying to care."

He's an uncle like that.

So Emma continued,"This is Smoky, this is...."

We went to La Conner to see the sights. (Here's a tip for the reader: Mark in tiny shops full of breakables isn't a recommended enjoyable activity.)

We found the store where Conner, one of our Christmas bears came from. We soon had three swooning children on our hands (or at least two...I'm not sure if Braeden swoons anymore) when they saw the collection of Webkinz. They each quickly located a must have. Mark said, referring to the spotted leopard he was clutching, "He wants me. I didn't find him...he found me."

Against my protestations, Tabor bought them each a stuffed animal.

He's an uncle like that.

He also promised me he'd never buy them anything else for the rest of their lives. I reminded my children of his promise the next shop we entered.

"Don't break anything because Tabor isn't going to buy you anything else..."

I was very disciplined in my shopping until we hit a small book store. (What is it about small book stores that are so alluring? What is it about enormous book stores that are so alluring?) Even though I know full well I could get the books cheaper on Amazon.com, even though I know my book shelves are already full, I weakened and made a few purchases.

One of them was for Baby Olivia so it doesn't count.

On the drive home we stopped at the Outlet Mall. Mostly because my kids don't fit into the tiny togs at The Children's Place and Carter's and Osh Kosh and Baby Olivia does. I was trying to live vicariously.

In one store, the clerk asked me if the sweet baby was mine. I said "No, she's my niece." I don't get to hang out with my nieces in stores so I really liked the sound of it.

After dinner I gave Tabor a big piece of yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It's his favorite.

I'm a sister like that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Spelling


"My spelling is Wobbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.”

A.A. Milne


I have nothing against people that can't spell. In fact some of my favorite people in the world aren't such great spellers.

These favorite people of mine, the non spellers, they know they can't spell and guess what?

They do not create signs advertising their businesses.




Adam said it was the fault of the little shopping center. Look at the example they have when it comes to signage:


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