Wednesday, August 31, 2011


On Sunday, languishing on the deck in my mother-in-law's backyard, Emma, her cousin Talia and Adam's sister Megan and I were chatting about books we've read, books we want to read, books we recommend to each other.

Talia told me about a book call The Duff:  Designated Ugly Fat Friend.

I think it's mean to have a designated ugly fat friend.  I do.

But I have come to accept that maybe I am the TMF for some of my friends:  The Messy Friend.

Without any foresight in what I was setting myself up for, I was at Jill's house, looking at paint chips and suggested we walk across the street to my house to see the paint in my boys' room that may work for one of her boys.

Jill's house is spotless.  Her children's rooms are spotless.  I don't know how she does it.  It seems like some sort of anomaly.  Something rare and unrepeatable.  Except for Janet's house is the same way.  Every time I used to visit my friend Mindy, her house was the same.

We walked over to my house.  It's sort of messy.  Always.  I have twin desires:  I want a spotless house and I want to read and write and conjure up ideas.  Guess which desire mostly wins?

I wouldn't say we're slovenly.  (Jill and Janet and Mindy might disagree.) We are mostly swept and dusted and the like but there's always an undercurrent of stuff.  Clutter.

Always there are books, notebooks, pencils, light sabers.

The throw pillows get....thrown.  It's a losing battle.  But I can't blame anyone for the book.  It's mine.

But, I comfort myself.  If I'm the TMF, if I can make my friends feel good about themselves, then that's something.

Because I really love do my friends.  (Even though they're unreasonably tidy.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Still Don't Have That Letter

This week, our last full week of summer, complete with no swimming or lifeguarding or scout camp, we are enjoying our time together.

Yesterday I considered going to the @oo, the $oo, the > know, the place with the animals.  (Remember the tragic Diet Coke Incident of 2011?  Still can't use That Key...looking for an alternative.)

I decided that in view of my desperate need for IKEA cutting boards (the heart wants what the heart wants), I should go to IKEA.  I didn't think that my boys, who shun anything related to shopping would want to come with me, but they did!

I felt so proud of myself as a mother.  I must be doing something right if 1) my children want to spend the day with me at IKEA...because you have to make a day of it and 2) I had influenced them to have tastes that aligned with mine and loved IKEA.

Then Braeden said, "I'm just going for the meatballs."

Mark said he was too.


We spent a convivial drive to the mecca of flat boxes labeled with Swedish words.  Actually all three kids read.  I might as well have been alone.

Our first stop was lunch and meatballs they were fed.  And lignonberries.  Then I checked Mark into Smallland which still makes me the tiniest bit nervous because years ago he was kicked out of there with certain regularity.  He is much better mannered these days.  He doesn't get kicked out.  I'll take it.

I let Braeden and Emma wander while I did the same.  I met up with them around various corners but then they'd melt away again leaving me to ponder and savor Liatorp, Hemnes, Expedit....

We finally met up, made our purchases and retrieved Mark.  The promise of meatballs was long past and the natives were restless.  We went to a nearby movie theater and caught the 3:30 showing of Kung Fu Panda 2.  None of us were really that interested in it.  They all wanted to go to a "new" theater that had "new" movies playing.  It was $3 per ticket though and had the added appeal of me knowing where the movie theater was.

So we went.

It wasn't thrilling.  I checked my phone a few times to see if I had any texts to distract me or to see what time it was.  The kids liked it though.

Next we met Adam for dinner at University Village.  We had a few minutes before he arrived so the boys happily stayed in the van and read their books (no, Mark hasn't developed a sudden thirst for reading...his book was Calvin and Hobbes) and Emma and I ventured into some stores.

We went into Anthropologie which is a feast for the eyes but mostly everything's ridiculously priced.  $6 for a single note card.

I'll send an email instead.

It was a pretty great note card though as folded pieces of cardstock with a design on the front go.

We also went into Pottery Barn kids which I love.  When I go there I long to be a 5 year old girl and have a pink and green room with a confection of a bedside lamp and a butterfly wall hanging but in reality I'm drawn more to the boys' side of things where I like all the blue and red.  I hardly ever buy anything but I love walking around and looking.

We met Adam and had dinner at Johnny Rockets.  We sat at the counter.  I snapped a few pictures while we waited for dinner to arrive.

It is nice to have my children old enough that they can quickly and easily pose for a picture on request.

Cooperation is the key to these really stunning photographs.  They're such willing and pliable subjects...

Adam and I were much better at looking in the same direction at the same time.  (If only our children could be as talented as we are...)

It was a lovely and pleasant day altogether.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Sad Tale

First I spilled Diet Coke on my laptop.

Then Mark told me he hoped I'd learned my lesson.

Then I speedy quick texted Adam an SOS message with a plea for him to call me and give me triage instructions for my laptop.

Then Jill called me and told me that she didn't know anything about Diet Coke on laptops.

(Because I had accidentally texted her instead of Adam.)

I think it could be classified as a double call for help.  I needed computer help/I needed help for my addled brain that doesn't know who I'm texting.  Unfortunately, that's not the first time that's happened.

Then I texted Adam but because he was busy/in meetings/ earning money to bring home the bacon, I didn't hear back from him for awhile.

Then my letter "d" started typing all by itself.  Had the caffeine had that kind of impact on the letter "d"?  The caffeine finally wore off and no more frenetic "d" typing.

Then the last letter in the alphabet wouldn't work.  I'd type it but it...doesn't work.  What to do?

(Except stop drinking Diet Coke by my laptop?)

Friday, August 26, 2011


I'm thinking about gifts for my children for Christmas.  (I saw Christmas decorations in Costco so don't judge me.)  I want to get them unexpected things they didn't request but will knock their socks off.  Will that work?

I have decided that I am done with the curtains in my family room.  They're perfectly fine, I just want something else instead.  And I don't know what I want instead.  I should only buy disposable furnishings because I have a short attention span.  Are there disposable furnishings?

I may move all my living room furniture into my family room and all of my family room furniture into my living room.

Because I like to (have my children) move furniture.

I am considering putting knobs on my kitchen cabinets.  I have been considering it for 7 years.  Then I remember maple is hard to drill through.  Then I think maybe I like my cabinets smooth and sleek anyway.  Then I think maybe I should put knobs on my kitchen cabinets.

I'm trying to decide how to soak up the last bits of summer in the remaining week and a half (sniff) we have before school starts.  (I used to enjoy starting school until my kids went to public school.  Public school:  what a downer.)  Slovenly staying up late movie marathons?  Adventures?  Finishing projects? Moving furniture?

Imagine how much furniture we could move in a week and a half...

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Lucky for Mark, cub scout day camp isn't over yet.  He loves it.  Loves it.

Lucky for me, my gig for cub scout day camp IS over.

Today I will get caught up on all the things around our house that have been neglected (laundry, cleaning, laundry, did I mention laundry?).

Or maybe I will sit on the couch and stare into space and try to bounce back from teaching 200 cub scouts how to fold an American flag, how to conduct a flag ceremony, what the words in the Pledge of Allegiance mean (allegiance: to be true), and what important days the U.S. flag is flown. 

Don't think 200 cub scouts weren't fascinated by all of this information.  Compared to shooting arrows and fishing and hammering, my citizenship class was a thrilling camp favorite.

That's what I'll be telling myself while I sit on the couch and stare into space.

Recovery might take some time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Life With Adam

There was a day last week that I told Adam I wanted to go somewhere pretty.  "Pretty?" he asked.  I told him I was thinking a stroll along the river or the waterfront.  If there's one thing we've got around here, it's pretty.

After dinner we set out.  There are some things about Adam:  when I order up something, he delivers; he is spontaneous and open for pretty much anything; also, sometimes he attracts magic.

We were driving across the valley and hot air balloons ascended into the sky before our eyes.  Hot air balloons are not an uncommon sight, we often see them across the valley out our front door, but there was something about the quality of light, the unexpected appearance of something so graceful and wonderful.  It was a little bit spellbinding.  We abandoned riparian pursuits and instead followed the balloon.

We drove along a beautiful road, surrounded by trees and fields and a whole lot of pretty.

zipping by the scenery

 I exclaimed, "I have never been on this road!"

Adam assured me I had.

I assured him I would remember if I had been on the road.

He assured me I had been on that road.

Then we passed Craven Farm which we've been to several times.


When we ran out of road, we turned around and went home.  Satisfied.

This week, Adam had a new idea.  He took us to downtown Everett to play the piano.

Like I said, Magic.

It was an event called Street Tunes in Everett.  Scattered throughout downtown were pianos that artists had painted.  That night, they were covered in plastic.  Oh, didn't you hear?  We get a little rain here. 

Emma played a little Fur Elise sans the wonky notes with keys that didn't work.

We went to the next piano but it was padlocked.  So I got distracted by a store window display.
That sort of looks like my bike...maybe I need that coat...
 We got back on track down the street a ways and found another piano.  I played the one and only song I have memorized, "The Entertainer." 

Mark took a turn (complete with sucker in mouth).

Braeden played "The Piano Man."

 And I got distracted again by the beautiful surroundings.

Adam finds magic.  Or magic finds Adam.  Either way.  I'm glad.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Not for the Faint of Heart

This week we're involved with cub scout day camp.  I debated about whether or not to blog about it.  Kind of the whole, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" thing.

But then there's Mark, who's pretty exuberant.  He was sort of in heaven all day long.  Archery!  Fishing!  Cooking! (and by cooking I mean eating)  I asked him how he liked Citizenship and he said, "It was great."

I am not fooling myself.  He said that because the teacher of citizenship was the one who may or may not take his starving little post-camp self through a drive-thru.  (Is it just me or do we do that a lot?)

There were a few things that got me through the day besides the smile on Mark's face.  There was the "Day Camp" song Janet sent the night before camp started to get me "pumped up," seeing my friend JoLyn, being visited by other cub scout leader friends during lunchtime (commiserating), and this boy:

Blurry taken-from-a-distance-with-my-phone sort of picture...they asked the Boy Scouts to lead the opening flag ceremony.

Braeden was my helper in Citizenship.  He is cheeky, sarcastic, always hungry, opinionated and bossy.  In other words, he's 14.  He was also my superstar knight in shining armor.  He made me laugh a lot, fetched things I needed, carried heavy loads, helped kids fold flags, supplied interesting trivia and told jokes to cub scouts on command when I needed him to.

He's one of my favorite people in the world.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Try in Triathlon

Emma and Hannah:  coincidentally dressed identically.
At the beginning of summer, Emma and her friend Hannah struck a deal.  If Hannah would be in swim team, Emma would do the triathlon with Hannah.

Saturday was the triathlon.

Braeden and Emma both participated.  They didn't exactly prepare for it, besides swim team, but they're young.

They swam:


And ran:

Braeden's age group went first.  As is often the case with us and our first-born, we didn't really know what we were doing.  We didn't help him transition from pool to bike to running like the other parents.  As is often the case with us and our first-born, he survived our mistakes and inexperience.

Since we learned our lesson (+ Jill caught us up to the speed), we were there ready when Emma got out of the pool.  Adam dried her hair a little and I put her socks on her wet feet (tricky!).  We slipped her shoes on and a t-shirt over her swim suit and strapped her bicycle helmet on and she was off!  Emma said it felt like we were her pit crew and that seems a little appropriate.  Sometimes parenting feels like being a member of a pit crew.

When I took Emma's helmet from her and she started the run, she told me she was going to die.  I told her she wouldn't.

And she didn't!

Emma didn't place high enough for a ribbon but they gave her a sticker with her time and place.  She (naturally) put it on her forehead.  I blame myself.  I used to stick banana stickers on her when she was a toddler.

I was exceptionally proud of my children and their great effort.  It is thrilling to do really hard things.  It is thrilling to watch people you love do really hard things and triumph.

The athletes we rooted for:  Gavin, Calvin, Hannah and Emma....Braeden had taken off on a bike ride.

Afterward we went to a celebratory lunch at The Blazing Onion.  We had a lot to celebrate:  a glorious sunny day, great friends, sturdy healthy children, and the new Coca-Cola machine at The Blazing Onion that is fan-cy.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Small Reminders

Mark at Skinny Dip of summer's best pleasures.

There were several days this week that were back to back catapulting from activity to activity.  I am, at heart, a homebody, attached to routine and rejuvenated by solitude.

But then I had children and the children keep getting bigger and busier and need rides more places.

One day that had been particularly fraught with here, there and everywhere, I was driving Braeden and Mark home early from a youth boating/tubing activity.  Neither of them wanted to leave the lake and willingly shared their displeasure with me.  Both of them were very near starving to death (apparently).  We were rushing to get Braeden to the pool for his shift.  Mark wanted to tell a long story and Braeden told him he didn't want to listen. Mark said, "Well, I'll tell Mom."

So I listened.

Kind of.

It was all pretty typical.

We slid through a drive-thru so the boys didn't succumb to their starvation.  I remembered to ask for no pickles for Mark's cheeseburger.  I tapped the steering wheel impatiently at the traffic.  We got to the pool one minute late.  Braeden popped the rest of his burger in his mouth and mumbled a muffled good-bye and jogged across the parking lot.  I think I may have sighed deeply...from relief or tiredness or just because.

From the back seat Mark said, "Mom?"

My "What?" was likely impatient.

"This is what I would say to you."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

He said, "This song.  This is what I would say to you."

The song that was playing on the radio was that one by Bruno Mars, "You're Amazing Just the Way You Are."

How sweet is that?  All of the sudden, I felt like it was all worth it.  I felt like maybe in addition to providing (pickle free) cheeseburgers to hungry boys and getting them places (nearly) on time, I could leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Because in this world, there's a red head that thinks I'm amazing.  Just the way I am.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Yesterday my favorite 'tween was halfway between twelve and thirteen.  We celebrate half birthdays (sometimes, like yesterday, not very extravagantly, but we celebrate them).  I took Emma shopping and to lunch.

And I mused about her being between.

She's between gift categories.  She's too old for toys.  She no longer has interest in stuffed animals, Polly Pockets, ponies.  She never really liked dolls all that much.  She's past dress up clothes.

She's not really at the age yet where she covets clothes.  She wouldn't refuse clothes if someone offered them but she's more or less ambivalent to them.


We're also usually somewhere between the two extremes of not being able to address each other civilly and being mother daughter soul mates.

My goodness that girl has attitude sometimes. She can be argumentative and sassy.  Downright mean. According to my friends with twelve year old daughters, it's the age.  Here's hoping. 

But then the other times, she's angelic.  She can be helpful, unselfish, very funny, kind.  She doesn't get embarrassed when I sing loudly along to the radio.  She's sings loudly with me because we love the same songs.

We veer in alarm from any clothing covered in fur when we're shopping together.

She patiently endures my Pottery Barn perusing and I endure her Claire's stop.

Yesterday we visited the brand new American Girl store.  A few years ago, it would have sent Emma over the moon to go there.  We walked in and she seemed a little uncomfortable.  "It's for little girls," she said softly, sadly.  We walked around and she admired all the amazing detail given to the dolls, the historical characters whose books she's read.  There was a day when she would have begged for the entire store.

Yesterday she said, "Let's go."

It's not easy being between.  Little girl days, while comfortable and appealing, no longer fit.  Older stuff is a little scary.

I think we both felt a little melancholy that the American Girl store didn't hold the magic it would have a few years ago.

I felt a new resolve walking beside my girl, promising to take her anywhere for lunch she wanted to go.  Between is hard.  So I'll be patient.  I'll endure the occasional scorn she hands out.  I'll continue to remind and correct and teach.

But I'll try to be gentle.

Because between is hard.

Adam and Braeden bought the pie.  As mentioned, we were none too extravagant.  Braeden was going for a laugh because according to the comedian Jim Gaffigan, "Pie can’t compete with cake. Put candles in a cake, it’s a birthday cake. Put candles in a pie, and somebody’s drunk in the kitchen."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

From There to Here

Once upon a time there were two (impossibly young looking) parents with a little bald headed boy. (Well, the boy was little, his head was rather big.)

They thought he was the cutest boy to ever grace the planet.  (They may have been right.)

They took him to the beach, even in the winter.

They let him take lots and lots of baths because he loved water.

They taught him to brush his teeth.

They taught him how to pilfer for food.

One day, which didn't seem that long after the above pictures, the boy (who was no longer bald and had grown into his large cranium), lay his arm around his mother's shoulders.  He said, "So you'll drive me to work in 20 minutes?"  (It's a volunteer lifeguard/swim instructor in training job...he loves to call it 'work'.)

The mother said yes and the boy planted a kiss on her forehead.  She was bending her head, reading something, but still.  He bent down to kiss her forehead.

She used to hold him tight at the beach. 

 And now he does things like this at the beach.

I'm not sure how we got from there to here.

From there...

 To here...

Could someone please slow this down a little?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fickle, Fickle

Every late May/early June when my friends and family around the country are getting out of school and we still have weeks to go, I feel sorry for myself.

Whose idea was late June for getting out of school?

What's wrong with this place anyway?

Every mid-August when my friends and family around the country are starting school and we still have weeks of summer to go, I feel happy.

I love starting school in September!

What a fabulous place to call home!

Such mood swings.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Good Behavior Bad Behavior

Saturday afternoon I went with my mother-in-law, Geri, to see The Help.

Before the movie, Geri called my cell phone to connect with me.  Adam answered my phone because I was giving him and Mark a ride to the theater and they were going to ride their bikes to Geri's.  Geri assumed Adam was going to the movie too.  When I met up with her, she'd purchased Adam and me a ticket. (good behavior)

I explained that Adam wasn't going to the movie after all.  Geri asked the long line of people if anyone was going to see The Help.  A woman replied she was.  Geri asked if she wanted to buy the extra ticket.  The woman said she didn't have any cash.

Geri said, "Here.  Just take the ticket.  Enjoy the movie." (good behavior)

The shocked woman practically fell over with thank yous. (also good behavior)

We walked into the crowded theater.  Almost all women.  There were empty seats here and there but none together.  We asked two women with an empty seat on either side of them if the seats were taken.  They looked unpleasant (because their purses were in the seats) and grudgingly said no.  We asked them if they would mind shifting one way or the other.  One of them said, icily, "No.  We've been here for 45 minutes."  (bad behavior)

Perhaps that meant her rather ample backside was melded to the seat after that period of time and moving over one seat would be therefore, impossible.

We found two other women in a similar situation.  We asked them if the seats were taken.  They said no.  They offered to slide over so we could sit together.  (good behavior)

We watched the movie.  I loved the book.  I loved the movie.  There were some very kind and decent people in generous and unselfish, they made me cry a little. (good behavior)

There were other people in the movie.  Rotten people.  They were racist and cruel and also made me cry a little. (bad behavior)

Later, when we were home, some neighbor boys descended on the house.  I was making dinner and when one of the boys burst in the door, I told him he needed to stay outside because they were all going to be playing outside.  (Sometimes a woman just needs a quiet-ish house.)

This particular boy is perhaps the most persistent and persevering person alive.  Do the Kirby vacuum people know about him?  They may want to hire him.  He rarely takes no for an answer on the occasion that Mark has to tackle the jumble that is his bedroom and can't play.  If Braeden or Emma answer the door, he insists they come and get me to validate that no, Mark can't play.  Then he'll argue with me awhile until I close the door in his face.

So when I told him he needed to stay outside to play, he said, "Mark's dad said I could come inside."  (Adam was outside putting bikes away.)

I doubted this was the case but to borrow a Finnish idiom, I say where the cupboard stands, so I was overruling Adam.

"You need to stay outside tonight," I said.

He argued a bit but finally complied.

Adam and I were eating our dinner (the older kids had eaten and we saved some for Mark...see above, sometimes a woman needs a quiet-ish house) when the little boy burst in again.  He said, "Can you tell me where your bathroom is?  I really need to go."

I said, "Then you need to go to your house, (he lives across the street) and don't come into our house without knocking."  (I know, bad behavior.)

Adam said, "That was really unkind."

I started to make excuses because of the parasitic nature of the kid but Adam reminded me I'm an adult and need to be kind.


I apologized to the little boy. (good behavior...I know, I probably shouldn't feel compelled to mention it but I don't want to give you the idea that I'm always villainous.)

Later he came up to the window and waved goofily at me.  I waved back.  But then I told Adam, "I still don't really like that kid all that much." (bad behavior)

Adam told me that I better hope Saint Peter doesn't look exactly like that kid when I get to the Pearly Gates.

He'll say, "So you want to get in, huh?"

I may be in trouble.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Old School

A long time ago (16 years), in a land far away (OK, here, in Seattle), Adam bought our green Saturn. 

It was the first new car I'd ever driven.  It was shiny and fancy and I loved it.  Adam tried to teach me how to drive a stick shift but our tender young marriage couldn't handle that so his sixteen year old sister, Megan, taught me instead.

It went much better.

The green Saturn was our chariot and took us everywhere we needed to go.  We took it on many road trips and grocery store trips and everything else kind of trips as well.  We drove our babies around in car seats.  We blared an Enya tape loud to subdue Braeden when he wailed.

That little baldy in the driver's seat?  Braeden.

I tell Adam (often) to get a new car already but I will be a little heartbroken when he actually does.  Because that car has been through a lot with us.

Yesterday we went to Lake Sammamish, hosted by the gracious (and graceful) Stephanie.  It was an actual for real and true sunny day.  I wish I had photographic evidence to show you (since the sky is gray again today) but I was too dazzled and stunned by the sun that I did nothing but languish.  I had to get Braeden home to his volunteer lifeguard shift so I texted Adam to come and get me (since I had ridden with Jill and didn't want to disrupt her sun-soaking reverie).  I didn't want to inconvenience anyone and sort of ended up inconveniencing everyone but what can you do?

(Besides the pool had to close due to a maintenance problem but I won't go into all that.)

Because I'm writing about the Saturn, remember?

We piled our family in, gangly children and all.

It was maybe a tight fit.

Adam, that dear man, stopped to get me a diet coke at McDonald's and got the kids apple pies.  They thought he was a dear man too.

The kids smelled like kids who had been swimming in a lake all day.  There was a lot of shifting and jockeying for position and knees to the back from long legged children.

But it was really sort of nice to all be there cozy, together.

I thought, this car isn't so bad (remind me of that next time Adam takes the van to scout camp and leaves me his decrepit jalopy).

But really, the reason the car isn't so bad, is because this handsome man was behind the wheel.

With him by my side, we can keep that car for another 16 years.  (Not really, Adam, I'm exaggerating for effect.)

"I would rather have a crust and a tent with you
than be queen of all the world."
		--Isabel Burton to her husband Richard Burton, the 19th century explorer

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Best Joke I Know

What did zero say to eight?

Nice belt.

I didn't say it was the best joke I'd ever heard.

It's just the best one I know (can remember).

Also, the only joke I can remember.  (Unless you count "Orange you glad I didn't say banana?"  and I don't count that.) I have vague ideas of other jokes and I ruin them when I tell them because I can't get the whole punchline/telling the joke in order thing down.

What can I say?  I'm a lot of fun at parties.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You Never Know

I am sitting in a sweatshirt on August 10.  By now I shouldn't be expecting summer.  I know.  I should have let that expectation die but I can't help it.

I just want a little summer.

A little heat.

Warm toes.

There are things like this frigid summer we're having that are unanticipated.

And then there's Braeden, writing.

It's downright astounding.

Because he has never wanted to write.  He hated it in fact.  It was incredibly hard for him.  For his school assignments he'd write the bare minimum that he could get away with.  He'd abbreviate.  He'd misspell everything.

Then he learned to type.

The ideas that simmer in his mind and have simmered there for years are coming up to the surface.  He's zipping through his other work so he can write his story.  He asks me to read it from time to time.

And that makes me happier than you would believe.

Even if my feet are seriously freezing cold.  (I should put on socks but it. Is. August.)

P.S.  Mindy, Adam and I already decided a trip to St. Louis was a must on our trip to Nauvoo! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Big News

Last night my parents opened their letter calling them to be missionaries in Nauvoo, Illinois.

They will work as visitor center missionaries, perhaps dressing in historical costumes since it is a place where people go to learn about the history of our church.  My mom will have to figure out how to dress that way.  My dad...won't.

He already does.

He's also hoping to be able to drive teams of horses.  He may decide to never go home.

I am thrilled for them.  I know they'll be wonderful.  I know our family will be blessed by hearing their experiences. 

And I am looking forward to going to Nauvoo to visit them.

Monday, August 8, 2011

United We Stand

Saturday I talked with Marianne on the phone.  She'd been gone all week with youth from her ward.  They reenacted a trek like the pioneers that crossed the plains to Utah.  Even more significantly, they did their trek in Wyoming, where so many struggled and many died and heroic efforts saved others.

They pushed handcarts and camped and heard inspiring stories of courage and faith.  As she told me about some of her tender experiences, we both cried.

She told me how hard it had been, but how worth the effort.

We also talked about the phenomena that happens ever summer.  Mothers and fathers leave their families and work and responsibilities.  They undertake physical challenges and miserable sleeping conditions and so-so food.  They spend time with teenagers.  They bond with them and teach them and learn from them.  (They may sometimes argue with them, they are teenagers after all.)  They have spectacular experiences that become the stuff of legends. 

Having sent my children off into their care, I am grateful.

Emma returned from Girls' Camp on a happy cloud.  She chattered on and on about how wonderful it was.  She loved the leaders.  She loved the silly songs, the crafts, the water fight, the ropes course, the swimming.  She loved the Youth Camp Leaders (the oldest girls).  She felt stirrings in her soul.  She said, "You know how I'm not a crier, Mom?  Well, in the testimony meeting, I cried."

Braeden is a veteran of going away for a week of camping.  I expend little effort in getting him ready or getting him unpacked.  He's got it down to a science.  (I do however notice the dramatic drop in milk consumption while he's gone and the dramatic jump in dirty laundry when he returns.)  He is building a stockpile of adventures that has enriched his life.  He's hiked hard mountains and slept in adverse conditions.  He's become stronger with every week spent away from his soft bed in a climate controlled room.

And I am indebted to others for these experiences my children have had.  If their leaders didn't use vacation time from work and favors from friends to watch their children, they wouldn't have happened.

Then I think about the ones left behind at home.  I'm grateful to them too.  I'm grateful to little ones who miss their parents for a week.  I'm grateful for spouses and grandparents and friends who pick up the slack in the absence.

It's one big united effort but when these kids come home, tired and dirty from a week that has taught them and stretched them and strengthened their knowledge in a Heavenly Father that loves them, I wonder if there's any greater cause we could unite for. 

Here are some pictures from the past week Adam spent with Braeden.  I have decided to ignore the heights they jumped from and the bikini clad girl that makes a cameo appearance in one of the videos (there was a pack of girls that followed the boys around...grrrr).

Friday, August 5, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Me

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary.  I spent it with Mark and his friend, Gavin.  Stephanie, my friend and Gavin's mom, is at Girls' Camp with my girl, Emma, so that's why I've had Gavin.  (Are you following all of this?  Because there will be a quiz later.)

Adam spent the day on Orcas Island with seven of his favorite 14 year olds, at scout camp.

And we weren't together for our anniversary.

Which was sort of sad but I love that I'm married to a man that goes with our son to scout camp.  (I'm glad I don't have to go to scout camp...I had the better end of the deal with Mark and Gavin.)

My two young mates and I went to the zoo.  There are a lot of places I wouldn't want to take Mark and Gavin.  The symphony, a glass and china shop, or really any retail experience in general all come to mind.  They're typical boys like that.

But I think Mark and Gavin were made for the zoo.

They have energy and curiosity to spare and besides that they were very amiable.  (Helped along by a mix your own Icee.)

First, I laid down the law.  "I have two rules," I told them as we were crossing the parking lot to the zoo entrance.  They eyed me with long suffering faces.  I said, "You have to stay with me and you can't frighten any small children or animals."

"That's it?" Mark asked, "That's all the rules?"


"So we can do anything else?" Gavin asked.


"We can build a rocket and blast into space?"


We pored over the map and charted our course.  I made sure we hit everyone's wish list and then I was delighted by how sweet Mark and Gavin were to each other.  You don't instantly think sweet when you think of Mark and Gavin but when they're not yelling at each they are incredibly kind to each other.  Gavin's favorite animal is a penguin and Mark insisted we see the penguins first.

They loved the penguins.  And I kind of think the penguins loved them right back.

Gavin's summer bleached hair and Mark's red hair reminded me of cinnamon and sugar.  I guess I was the toast.

Mark was desperate to go to Zoomazium, an indoor place where you can run and jump and climb, and Gavin said we had to do that before we went to BugWorld.  "And," he added, "If we don't make it to BugWorld, that's OK."

Every single time I turned around they were by my side.  They were obedient and mannerly and all around pleasant.

(It was just the teeniest bit shocking.)

Also, they both have philanthropic tendencies.  They were highly affected by all they read about conservation and plied me for change every time they saw a slot for a donation to help save the animals, no matter what animals needed saving.

I love how concerned they both look.

Later in the day, kind Jill took them swimming while I had a meeting for Cub Scout Day Camp.  (I would tell you about it but you wouldn't believe me...let's just say that in the event someone happens to die at camp, I know what to do.  And that is contact the camp coordinator.)

After swimming, we came home and I was done for.  A long tiring day.

On my doorstep there was a gift from Janet.  Dear Janet.  She knew it was my anniversary and that I was missing my husband and she went to my favorite bakery and picked up my favorite desserts (plural).

Mark was immediately curious.

I told him it was because it was my anniversary.

He looked troubled, then his lower lip got wobbly.  He burst into tears and wrapped his arms around my waist and buried his still wet from swimming head into my side.

"I didn't know," he sobbed, "I didn't get you a present."

I asked him if he knew what an anniversary was.

He said, "Not really."

I told him it wasn't usually a gift giving occasion but Janet knew Dad was gone and so she gave me a present.  Mark was still mournful.  "And Braeden's gone too...and Emma...on your anniversary."

I promised him it was OK because I had him.

And that is true.

(And the chocolate cake from L'Artisan helped a bit too.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Books I Read in July...sort of

I think my brain is turning into a black hole.  Should I be concerned about that?

I know I read a couple of books in July that I can't remember.  Absolutely can not remember.  They were library books.  I returned them when I was done.  I think I liked them?

This is why I record here what I've read.  Because I can't remember.

I don't know what to do when I can't remember a book I finished a few weeks ago.  Start hiring an in house nurse so I don't forget to turn off the stove?

Here's what I do remember reading.

And maybe it pushed everything else out of my brain:

The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

It gave me a lot to think about.  I completely recommend it.  If for no other reason, you'll pat yourself on the back for your lack of cruelty towards your own children.

Also, though, if you're like me, it will cause you to make an assessment of yourself.  And self assessments are usually good unless you realize that your brain has become a black hole (see above).

We discussed this book at book club this week so I've been thinking about it all the more.  And I've been thinking about mothering too.  Which occupies about 90% of my thoughts anyway which may explain (but also makes me nervous) why my brain has become a black hole (see above).

Here's what I think:

We all want the same thing:  happy, responsible, self disciplined, productive children.  There are loads of ways to go about achieving that goal.  And I am not completely convinced one way is superior to the next.  When you consider the varying personalities of parents and children and add free agency into the mix that the children possess, it's hard to see a no fail method that works for everyone.

I went away from my book club feeling just a little bit sad.

Many of the women, who are good good women, good mothers with good children, commented that they wished they were different.  They wished they'd done more.

I strongly believe they did their best.  They are doing their best.  I think most of us are.  It's important to look for ways to improve.  It's important to seek inspiration through prayer.  It's important to examine ourselves and what's working and what's not.

Then I think it's important to hold our heads up and keep going.  Keep trying.  Keep parenting the best we can.

And be grateful for the learning experience of a lifetime.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What I Cleaned in July

I am kind of getting tired of 1) cleaning and 2) writing about it.  But still I persist.

In July I cleaned the boys' room.  Nothing too exciting.  It always is an interesting look into their lives and personalities when we delve deep though.

Braeden is maybe my most sentimental child.  He saves a lot of things that are meaningful to him.  The wonderful thing about him though is that he's getting old enough to discern what is meaningful and is willing to let things go.  Letting go of things is an integral part of cleaning.  Vital.

What Braeden lacks is a good sense of how to organize his treasures, most of which are papers...he loves to draw maps of imaginary lands.

(I don't quite get it.)

I handed him file folders and he acted like I'd handed him the world.  He said, "Thanks SO MUCH," and "This is PERFECT."  He was happy with his neat magazine box full of files.

And so was I.

Mark is less sentimental but perhaps more of a hoarder.  He hoards Lego instructions and boxes.  He has stacks and stacks of instructions...each more valuable to him than the last.  Our Legos are a jumble and not kept in a way where you have all the original pieces together with the original directions...I shun such blocks to creativity.  Mark truly uses the instructions though.  He pores over them.  He learns about construction.  They give him ideas.  He discovers how to make things more stable.

(I don't quite get it.)

And then there's the boxes.  He insists that he needs the boxes.  They include pictures of Lego sets Mark doesn't have.  He studies the pictures and then tries to recreate them.  It seems he would much rather create something based on a picture than the mere directions.  So I cut the boxes, carefully saving the flat pieces in a stack.  I put one size of direction booklets in a box and the rest in a magazine box and he was happy.

And so was I.

My boys aren't going to have a constantly neat and tidy room.  They aren't.  And I'm OK with that.  Because the trade-off is enterprising boys, flexing their imagination and creativity.

And that isn't always neat and tidy.

Speaking of my boys, here are some videos shot from Adam's phone of them bowling (assuming I can make it work).   They make me laugh.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


When we can, we like to be in Wells for the week of the Missoula Children's Theatre.  It is a fabulous opportunity for our children to audition for a play then, along with their cousins, practice lines and songs and dances all week, then perform on Saturday.  It is always something of a miracle that it comes together in one short week.

Every afternoon when we pick up the kids from practice they are ebullient with the sheer joy of it all.  They sing the songs together and practice lines in the car and speak admiringly of the directors...who really are admirable.  (Olivia invited the directors to her party.  If they thought we were a strange family after hanging out with our children all week, their suspicions were confirmed.)

This year the play was Pinocchio.

Marianne's daughter, Deseret, played Pinocchio.

They often don't cast the role of Stromboli but instead have one of the directors play the part.  This week, they had Clarissa.  So they cast Stromboli.

She made a very good Italian accented evil puppeteer.

Braeden played Candlewick, Pinocchio's wayward friend and Emma was the Blue Fairy.

Candlewick had a "crew" and Hyrum, 2nd from right, was part of the crew.

Mark was a "Pleasure Isle Kid".  A really cute one.

Liberty played the part of an urchin.  Are urchins that sweet?

Liliana was the exotic looking puppet, Harlequin. 

Lili's the one on the left.
Ruben and Morgan were adorable Toy Soldiers:

the two on the left
And Carolina was a Baby Doll:

Between the afternoon and evening performances, we had about an hour to feed the children before they had to get back.  We commandeered several tables at The 4-Way, one of the only restaurants in town.

That's Baby Ammon in the front.  He should have been in the play.  Did they need a cherub?
The time came and passed that the children needed to be back and we were not done eating.

Then we realized that of the cast of 37, we had almost a third with us.

We figured they'd wait a few minutes.

I loved watching the young thespians chatter about the afternoon performance and ride their adrenaline all day long.

The cat faced girl is a friend, Naomi, also in the play...also a delight.
All in all, it was a wonderful time.  I loved seeing all the children rise to the occasion, work hard, laugh a lot and build up a store of inside jokes.  Is there anything better than inside jokes among cousins?

It's unrelated, but when looking through these pictures I saw this one Adam took at dinner.  For my readers that know my dad, here he is, sans 'stache.  I know...a little shocking.


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