Monday, January 31, 2011

A Little Control

Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.  
~Les Brown

There are a lot of things I can't control.  Many many.  And that's probably good.  I'm not sure I could handle the responsibility.

In 2011, my one big goal/resolution/fond desire is to gain more control in my house.  (cue scary music)

My house is more or less clean.  It gets dusted and vacuumed regularly.  Legos and socks and books get picked up at frequent intervals.  The dishes get done.  And the laundry.

But there are pockets.  Unnerving pockets.  Places where chaos reigns and frustration has a heyday.

I decided to tackle one room every month.  I also decided to document it here to make me accountable.  Every year I more or less do this same thing but I usually run out of steam/attention span/time and end up cleaning what is really really bothering me and leaving the rest to only slightly bother me. 

I started with my absolutely easiest room for January:  the laundry room.  It's easy because it's small and because I'm mostly the only one who uses it.  Mark goes in every morning to sort the laundry he's transported from the bedrooms, everyone goes in occasionally if they're in search of stray socks and it's where the cleaning supplies are kept.

Here's the before picture.  There's the stray sock basket and there are the cleaning supplies complete with open cupboard doors (where the cleaning supplies belong).  My children are physically incapable of closing things/putting them back.  


Here's the after picture.  It's not much different (why I picked this room first).  I wiped everything off and moved everything to clean the floor, put everything away (for now, until children descend) and organized inside the cupboards a bit.


Let me just savor my success a little.  One of these months, the room will be the kitchen and it will be a much harder fought battle.

Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another.  
~John Dewey

Friday, January 28, 2011

When Did This Happen?

Yesterday morning, Braeden and Liberty were sprawled on the floor, playing chess on an ipad.  Emma and Deseret came along with an ipod playing music.  They too draped themselves on the floor and they all chatted about music.

And I don't understand it.

I don't understand how this:



And this:



Turned into long legged kids (OK maybe I get the long legged part...that's Marianne up there with the endless legs) lounging around listening to music I've never heard before.  They told each other jokes and fell into the comfortable shorthand of kids that have known each other their whole lives.

Lest this turn into a sentimental sob about how they're growing up so fast (sniff!), I must say, I love the ages they are.  They are interesting and entertaining and savvy and they can all tie their own shoes...brilliant children!  I love the ages they are.

I just don't understand how it happened.

And speaking of what I don't understand, they like to play "ninja".  It is a game that sort of mystifies me in its complexities.  They swing around in arcs and swoops and then someone's "out" and then another person is "out" and so on until there's only one person standing.




It looks very intense (like camping).  See what I did there Desi?  Desi told Emma something was intense like camping.  She said, "Get it?  In tents?"

Emma said, "That's funny."

Nothing like a little play on words to delight.

Nothing like a visit from cousins to delight.




P.S.  We missed you Clarissa!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flower Girls

I have a feeling my life would be more complete if I saw my nieces more.  I wish they all could have come to visit.

We assembled what we needed + took a trip to the craft store.

They are clever girls with good manners and creative flair.  (Good job Marianne.)


We made flower clips.


And pony tail holders.


Then we branched out.  Diversified.  Played with fire. (notice the bowl of water...just in case)



Marianne, you really should have come too if you didn't want your girls playing with flammable fabrics and open flames.

The results were lovely though.


Very lovely.




A girl should be two things:  classy and fabulous.
Coco Chanel

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lunch

Emma was home from school for two days because she was sick.  The first day she was docile and miserable.  By lunchtime of the second day she was feeling better.  She came to the table and immediately started stirring things up.  Somehow she's the catalyst with her brothers that makes everything more rambunctious and a lot more silly.

The cacophony rose with a lot of giggling and a lot of sound effects and a lot of enthusiasm.  I tried to figure out what was going on then I remembered it was Emma.



This is how it always used to be when they were all home during the days.  Lunch was a noisy proposition.  Life was a noisy proposition.  They were always so busy amusing each other and themselves that everything seemed to deteriorate into a whole lot of goofiness.

I sat back and listened to them and felt a little melancholy for those days.  It was hectic and stressful and loud and wonderful when they were all three homeschooled.



Mark said, "You know how if everyone in the world threw their problems into the sky, they'd hurry to grab their own back?"

"Yes," I said.  It's a story I like to tell them if they're complaining.

He said, "I wouldn't do that.  I'd throw my problems up in the sky then turn around and run away as fast as I could."

Braeden said, "And then someone's eternal hiccups would hit you and you'd wish you could have your own problems again."



"And you'd have hiccups," Emma added.

And they were off.  Silly silly silly and giddy with each other as the audience for their humor.  I could tell any intelligent life had left the building.  I said, "Put your dishes in the dishwasher when you're done eating," and I escaped the table.

Because as much as I love having those three kids around, there's only so much  I can take at one time.


None of these pictures are from today...but you get the idea.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Good Parenting Will Get You

My beloved brother-in-law and two beloved nieces are coming to the Seattle area for a funeral just to see us.  I think my wimpy beloved sister should come too but it will be a very quick trip and her freakishly long elegant and svelte limbs get cranky when in the car for 12 hours so she doesn't like prolonged road trips.

I have been mentally planning for their visit.  Menu ideas and the like.  There's a thing about my irritatingly virtuous wonderful sister:  their family doesn't eat sugar or white flour.  When I plan a meal, I start with dessert.  We take dessert very seriously around here.

I'm not sure what to make for them.

I asked my children.

Emma said, "Just tell them, 'my house, my rules' and make them eat sugar."

Braeden said, "Tell them they have to eat sugar if they're going to stay here."

I'm so proud of the way I've raised my children to be so tolerant and accommodating.  I love the way they embrace differences in others and are broad-minded like that. 

It really warms my heart.



(Robert said not to clean just because he's coming.  I think Braeden and Emma are very willing to support that idea.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

From Where I Sit

blurry photo courtesy of my personal photographer-on-retainer, Mark...blurry photos are his specialty
Ever since I read this article I've been thinking about it and writing a response to its author in my head.  I found it to be fascinating and extremely well written.  I don't know why it provoked such a response in my inner workings.  Is it because I'm a Mormon?  A mother?  A blogger?  (Though sadly not the same type of blogger.  I have blurry pictures and shoddy grammar, while they have large followings and beautiful posts.)

I have, in fact, written a blog post about it already that I ended up abandoning because it was not quite right.  It's my perception against the author's.  And who's to say my perception is correct?

I haven't read all of the blogs she mentioned, but I've read a few.  I certainly don't see perfect lives.  I see struggles and heartbreak and talent and creativity and moxie.

And I see happiness.

(As a Mormon I've never had the feeling I'd "better be happy." I have been given knowledge on how to become happier.  That seems like a different thing altogether.)

When I read blogs, I don't see women who "arrange flowers all day."  Can someone really imagine that to be true?  I can't for the life of me believe there's a mother alive that arranges flowers all day.

There may be, but I've never met one.

I was surprised to read that the lives of these Mormon mothers, the lives I can relate to enough that they seem normal and conventional, are considered to be blissful.  Maybe it's because I know that these skilled bloggers who are showcasing their talents whether in the form of crafts, brilliant writing, entertaining or flower arranging, are also changing diapers, doing dishes and laundry.

And if they're not in the diaper stage, they're probably in the cub scout/activity days/YM/YW cyclone of activity and that's about as far from blissful as you can get.

Again, that's just me (still reeling from my Wednesday afternoon/evening when all those activities happen around here).

Friday, January 21, 2011

My New Best Friend



In my pocket sized high school, there was one math teacher.  Mr. Swanson.  I loved Mr. Swanson.  He had taught my mother too. (And she and he hadn't exactly made friends...my mom was a smart aleck. Her words, not mine.)

Mr. Swanson was great though.  He taught algebra and geometry and trigonometry and calculus in graceful swoops across the chalkboard (and later dry erase board).  The classes diminished in size as we went (there were three in my calculus class) and they were exhilarating times.  We competed to get the answers done first and helped teach each other and always had Mr. Swanson when we were stumped.  We never had math homework but a lot of quizzes and tests.  We didn't even have math textbooks.  We just had Mr. Swanson.  He was all we needed.

I loved it.

I was enthusiastic to teach Braeden algebra.  Algebra was fun!

Alas.  I, my friends, am no Mr. Swanson.

And I don't understand algebra the way it is presented in the books.  Mr. Swanson's algebra in all it's grace and elegance spoke a different language.

For this reason and several others, Braeden is going to start going to school all day for the second semester, starting in February.

It's a bittersweet thought.  Bitter because all day!  My boy!  Say it isn't so!

Sweet because of algebra.

I have met with Braeden's future algebra teacher.  He seems like a kind, math teacher sort of guy.  He gave me the algebra book they're using so I can make sure Braeden's in the same place as the rest of the class when he joins.

To further complicate things, the textbook seems to be the exact opposite of the one Braeden had been using.  The chapters we've struggled through already (yes, polynomials, I'm looking at you) are in later chapters and in this book they've already learned all about the joys of functions which was the final chapter in Braeden's old book.

So we've been cramming.  (It hasn't been as much fun as you might think.)  It mostly makes my head hurt.  I don't have a teacher's edition so I've been plowing through the assignments myself so I have an answer key.  I've been trying to relearn and translate modern day algebra vernacular into Mr. Swanson language so we can communicate.

Did I mention it makes my head hurt?

I made a lovely discovery.  A reason to keep living.  Glory Glory Hallelujah!

On the back of the course outline given to me by Braeden's future algebra teacher, there was a website students were encouraged to visit.

Maybe there would be help for my hurting head?

Eureka!!!!

Enter Professor Edward Burger, my new best friend!  My favorite person!  The apple of my eye!  There are videos on the website of Professor Edward Burger teaching all the concepts that are making me cross-eyed!  As a bonus, he's quirky just like any good math teacher should be.

Braeden is currently listening to my knight in shining armor, a.k.a. Professor Edward Burger, explain about slope intercepts.

My head hardly hurts at all.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What Is



I walked into my boys' room to change their sheets and I sighed deeply.

It happens a lot.  My boys can't quite close dresser drawers or get their socks into the laundry basket (so close!).




Depressing.

I picked my way through legos and detritus and sighed some more.

At such times I think, "What would I give for perfect Pottery Barn Kids bedrooms, all neat and tidy?"

But closely on the heels of that thought, what would I give up in exchange for pristine bedrooms?  I'd have to give up really complex creations.

this kind of stuff has to be kept together for at least a few days...Mark knows that, I know that


I'd have to give up evidence of long hard study (study that gives me hope for that future day when this kind of focus will be applied to story problems in math...maybe?).



I would have to correct the habit of clandestine reading at night that I officially frown upon but secretly delight in.



I would have a little boy that doesn't sleep in a nest of animals that end up (uncomfortably I would guess for the animals) wedged between the rails of his bed.



I could be discouraged by this room (and I sort of am).

Or I could appreciate it.  Relish the time I have with these boys of mine and their disheveled ways.  Someday the legos will be in boxes, never disturbed.  The drawers will be securely shut and the socks will be elsewhere, wherever they've taken them.  It will be far sooner than I want to contemplate.

I'll be grateful today for messy boys.  I'll be grateful for creativity and a behemoth tuba and a boy who loves to read and socks that are still in my jurisdiction.

I'll (try really hard to) keep a patient note in my voice when I tell them for the hundredth time this week to CLEAN YOUR ROOM.

Because someday, I won't have to tell them.

They'll be gone.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I'm Lucky My Family Doesn't Hate Me

I started looking at my furniture.  I'm anticipating the arrival of my new recliner (still about 8 weeks away--apparently they are delivering it by pack mule...old and decrepit pack mule).  I need to figure out the most sublime spot for everything in my family room when it arrives.

But then I started looking at my living room.

Then my "dining room" which will forever be in quotations because between all the other stuff in there and the small dimensions of the room, I doubt it will ever house a dining table.

I began eying our heavy oak bookcase.  The one I've wanted to put in our bedroom but have been inhibited by the words heavy and oak.  I began eying my children though.  They're getting bigger and stronger.  Maybe?

We could move the bookcase and switch it with some furniture in my room and voila!  A change!  I like change.  Furniture is meant to be moved if you ask me.

I told Braeden my plan (Emma wasn't home yet).  He said, "Oh no."

I said, "We'll wait for Emma."

He said, "Mom.  We can't."  (Sometimes he's so realistic pessimistic.)

I told Emma when she got home and she told me she was going back to school.

"Fine," I relented, "We'll wait for Dad."  (I didn't really want to wait though because sometimes Adam's less enthusiastic about my changes...)

I started shuffling books and then took up the ongoing book debate in my mind where I last left it.  The arranger in me would like to group my books by size or even better, color.  The reader in me would like them grouped by genre.  The mother in me wants the books I want our children to read front and center and accessible.  The practical side of me realizes they need to fit in where they can...which sometimes makes no sense at all.  (And by the way, Amazon?  It's over between us.  I can't. Buy. Any. More. Books.  You will no longer trick me with your 4-for-3 promotions or your if-you-just-spend-a-little-more-you'll-get-free-shipping.  I have no more bookshelf space.  Unless...)

I explained my plan to Adam and he said we would have to wait for the weekend.  The weekend?  That's days away.  He said, "We'll need more help.  We can't do it alone."

I said, "I think we can.  Our kids are big and strong."  I'm constantly waiting for that grocery consumption to pay off.  I said, "You know how I need to change furniture once I get the idea..."

He said, "I understand."

Which is nice of him because I think he'd be perfectly fine if the furniture was bolted down and he never had to move anything again.

Before bed, Adam instructed everyone to get on shoes in case we dropped the bookcase on our feet.  We each grabbed a corner or section and started.  We made it a few feet and I said, "Never mind.  I don't think we can do it."  That thing is heavy.

Mark said, "I'm with Mom."

Adam said, "Come on.  We can do it."

So we did.  (Except Mark.  He remained a not so silent protester and kept telling us we couldn't do it and should give up.  We told him to go away.) We twisted and heaved and strained and pushed and pulled (have I mentioned there's a 180 degree turn and landing in our staircase?) and finally it ended up in place.  But not without fingers getting squashed and Emma getting momentarily pinned (between the bookcase and wall) and the wall getting scuffed.

I would continue with the book debate/shuffle but I can't move my arms anymore.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spying

Did Janet and I become friends first?

Or did our daughters become friends first?

Last week, on a snowy day, Emma and Freja were "doing homework" at Hannah's house.  (Did Hannah's mom, Jill, and I become friends first?  Or did our daughters become friends first?)

When Hannah had to leave, I watched Emma and Freja walk over to our house.  They were meandering and splashing in puddles and endlessly chatting.




 


There is something about a girl and her friends that make me glad I have both.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Hunger Strike

Mark was "too sick" for his basketball game on Saturday.  (I'm sorry Adam.  I know you wish our children felt about basketball like you do.  I don't know what went wrong...some of my siblings love basketball.)

I don't know how sick Mark was.  He seemed completely fine, except he wouldn't eat because his throat hurt.

It was concerning to me.  There's this thing about my children that you should know, they're eaters.  And when they won't eat, I worry.

I poured him a glass of cold juice with a bendy straw and he wouldn't drink it.  He winced when he swallowed.  He lay under a blanket with the Wii remote in hand and every time I walked by I said, "Have a drink," and he ignored me.

At lunchtime I made him a sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk.  He wanted neither.  I insisted he take a bite of the sandwich which he did and then started to cry because it hurt to swallow.

So I told him to at least drink his chocolate milk (which he wouldn't do) and when Adam got home I told him Mark was on a hunger strike.  Adam said, "OK," and didn't seem too worried because he's the dad and he's Adam and not easily excitable.

I decided to try to tempt Mark with a recipe from Emma's American Girl "Treat of the Month" calendar.  She's been hounding me to make this month's treat.

They were so icky sweet I think I got three cavities.


Mark drank a little and offered the rest to anyone who wanted it.  He did, however, stick his face in whipped cream and strike a silly pose.

as you can see, he was only on a hunger strike, not a Lego strike

We left Emma in charge of the boy who had eaten maybe 10 calories all day and took Braeden with us to go van shopping.  (We're in the market since our current van is limping along...and Braeden feels like he needs to be in on things.  He's really good at being an oldest child.)

As a rule, Adam immediately dislikes and mistrusts salespeople so I am usually the one who initially begins the conversation in such situations.  (Later Adam continues the conversation because he's naturally more curious than I am and has a longer attention span...I start fiddling with knobs and he asks questions I never would have thought of.)

The salesman sat us down and started asking us (me) questions.  He said, "So are you interested in leather seats?"

"Yes."

He wrote down 'leather'.

"Heated seats?"

I shrugged.

He wrote down 'heated'.

"Are you interested in safety?" he asked.

I couldn't help it.  I said, "Do you sell cars that aren't safe?"

He didn't really answer and wrote 'safety' on his paper.

Later we sat in the van that was spaceship-like enough to thrill Mark had he been there.  Adam asked if we could try out the bluetooth system so we called Emma and Mark.  Mark answered and his voice rang out over the van's speaker system.  Emma chirped in the background, "Mark broke his hunger strike!"

We said "OK!  Well, good-bye."  And I felt relieved.

(And if he didn't already think so, our salesman realized he was dealing with a slightly odd family.)

We are no closer to making a van purchase. Braeden has been feeding Emma and Mark the details and they've been poring over the brochures we brought home.  Emma said, "I'm keeping an open mind."

Braeden said, "I'm being very objective."

But we all know what they want.  We also know they're not going to be contributing any money...just opinions.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A (Baker's) Dozen Little Things

1. Hearing about Braeden's school day after I pick him up
2. My little watering can with a green frog on it
3. Pistachios
4. Emma's use of phrases like, "Juan Ponce de Leon's childhood is shrouded in mystery," in her paper for school about...you guessed it...Juan Ponce de Leon
5. Library books
6. Mark looks like my brothers when he runs
7. Hulu
8. Girl Scout Cookies (Samoas and Thin Mints)
9. Gloves in the pockets of every jacket I own
10. Parent volunteer basketball coaches
11. When Adam calls me in the middle of the day for no reason
12. Watching Fantastic Mr. Fox with my children
13. Tonight:  fish tacos with some friends (I love obliging when a Girls' Night is in order)

I agree with Samuel Johnson:

Little things mean everything.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What's Needed

Sometimes we need a better camera so we can get pictures of boys when they're in motion.

Hyrum, Adam, Mark, and blurred Gavin

Here's a better one of Gavin:

three good boys


Sometimes you need lessons in your fancy-schmancy camera.  Eric kindly gave my parents a tutorial...Eric, will you do the same for us if/when we ever get a better camera?

here they are, internalizing the lessons from Eric...there's my grandma in the background with her camera

Sometimes I need more time spent with these three men in my life:



Sometimes you need to visit the beach for the first time...made even better if you find seashells:

Hyrum and Mark at Mukilteo Beach



Sometimes I need lessons in cake decorating:

You know how Mark always wants a Lego cake?  Sentimental Braeden wants a "frog cake" like I made for his 2nd birthday.  Sadly my frog cake skills diminish just a little bit every year...my grandma told me that I'm a great cook and everyone has a disaster every once in a while.  (Thanks Grandma...but disaster?)


Sometimes you need a sister to help you read your great-grandma's cursive:


Sometimes you need birthday presents to open:


Sometimes your mother needs a second chance to get it right:

the book Braeden wanted for Christmas but didn't get

Sometimes you need a typing teacher that makes house calls:

you can tell she's taking this seriously...she's set aside her embroidery


Sometimes you need a Grandpa.  You just do:


Sometimes you need a Grandma (or three):

Great-Grandma Jaynes, Grandma Dahl, Braeden and Grandma Geri


Sometimes you need to be goofy with your dad:



Sometimes being flanked by singing eight year old boys is the happiest place to be:

notice the frog's licorice tongue...I know I should be a professional cake decorator, I know

Sometimes you need a kiss:

we were supposed to be lining up for a serious picture and they caught me off guard


Sometimes you just have to smile and soak it all in and count your lucky stars for family and healthy children hitting big milestones and glad times.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Muddled

Good morning.  Is it still morning?  What day is it after all?  This morning I lost my computer and we all looked for it for about 5-10 minutes.  It was in the boys' room on the shelf.  I've been in sort of a haze all day and I'd gone in there to comfort Mark after he'd been crying for an hour after he broke the blinds in the school room and I'd sent him to his bed for his own personal safety.

Why yes, it has been a fabulous morning.  Why do you ask?

In the pre-dawn hours (which is a lot of the morning in January when you're in the Pacific Northwest), we bid a fond farewell to our guests.  We had a lovely time with them.  It was sad to let them go.  I'll have to tell you more about it/ post some pictures assuming there are any good ones.

First though. 

I've been thinking about it anyway and then heard something today that made me think about it all the more.

It has to do with wedding cakes.  Kind of.


One year at BYU Women's Conference (which rivals Disneyland as the Happiest Place on Earth), I heard something that I've remembered ever since.  I don't know the topic of the session...kindness?  charity?...but the speaker said that instead of being impatient and frustrated by a slow driver in front of us, we should consider that maybe, just maybe, they are transporting a wedding cake.  They need to drive slowly and carefully so it won't be damaged.

Can anyone fault a person for extreme care and slow driving when they're transporting a wedding cake?  I can't.

But I do tend to get irritated when someone is going slow in front of me...especially when I'm late.  If I remember about the wedding cake possibility, I smile a little.

Like a lot of things about me, this is one flaw that needs constant correction.  I tend to judge.  I tend to be hasty in my censure of others.  Sometimes I see others as forgetful or irresponsible or downright flaky.

(Of course, when I am forgetful or irresponsible or downright flaky I have a very good reason.)

We judge others by their behavior.  We judge ourselves by our intentions.
Ian Percy

As I get older (and possibly wiser?) I am beginning to understand more.  I realize that when I am aware of a person's circumstances, I am much kinder to them in my thoughts.  I feel compassion for their follies and don't mind at all if they need me to pick up some slack.

I also realize that someone who might be bugging me with their ineffectiveness may be going through a personal tragedy that I have no idea about.  Maybe they're suffering.  Maybe they're sad.  Maybe they're worried/heartbroken/betrayed.

Maybe I should treat everyone with the same kindness and compassion that I try to treat those I love and understand.

Because there's one thing I know and that is... I don't really know what anyone is going through.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

14

Fourteen years ago today I started to:

sleep less
worry more
work harder
laugh more
do more laundry (the socks have since gotten a lot bigger)
figure out what's for dinner (it was easier to decide back then...milk?)

and my world became more:

scary
messy
loud
busy
real...


...and a whole lot happier.

he was moving + lame camera = blurry picture




Happy Birthday Braeden.  Your mother loves you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Abundance

cousin Hyrum and Mark


Saturday Mark was baptized.  It was one of the most anticipated events of his life.  He's younger than all of his classmates and with each of their baptisms, he'd countdown how much longer until his.  The day finally arrived.

Happily, my parents, grandma and nephew Hyrum have come to visit.  It was a joyful whirl of a weekend and Saturday was one of those days to remember.  I'll want to savor the memory of Mark's smile, of the room crowded with dear friends and family members, of the love I felt swirling around Mark from everyone there.

It was a day of abundance.  A memory to hold onto.

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