Monday, February 28, 2011

Books I Read in February

Traveling With Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor **

I liked this book a lot.  I love The Secret Life of Bees and it was interesting to read a little bit about how that book came about.  I admired these two women and their relationship and intelligence.  Towards the end of the book though, it did start to wear a little thin.  They both had a lot of dreams that they retold with amazing clarity.  They dreamt a lot about things like Joan of Arc or Greek mythology and then their dreams would guide them in their lives.  Since reading this book, I've been paying more attention to my dreams and trying to internalize the lessons I've learned from them.  I don't remember many of my dreams but:

I dreamt Adam brought me a Diet Coke. (lesson:  I love you Adam!)
I dreamt I was asleep in a pillowcase (?) and there was a cat asleep in the bottom of it.  It was a scary dream.  (lesson:  I don't want a pet)
I dreamt I made my children peanut butter and peach jam sandwiches and put raw onion on them.  (lesson:  there's no end apparently to the ways I can mess up parenting)

29 by Adena Halpern **

This was a light and entertaining read.  It's about a 75 year old woman who makes a birthday wish and becomes 29.  Her best friend Frida was my favorite character.  I loved her!  It was a funny and happy book.

I'm conflicted about the ending though.









Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah***

I loved this book.  It was the kind I had to hurry and finish reading so I could be a productive citizen again and do things like dishes.  It did end a little abruptly but who am I to complain?











Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider****

This book may have changed my life.  It changed the way I thought about my house and organizing it and even my finances (and you can ask anyone, I'm the worst accountant in America).  I even went so far as to break my solemn vow with Amazon and I bought this book.  I want to read it and mark it up and read it again.

I will however, not be making homemade deodorant any time soon.  Or toothpaste.  Or rinsing my hair with vinegar.

Have you ever smelled vinegar?  For fries?  Delightful.  For hair? No.  Sorry Tsh.

 



The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz***

Amazing book!  I learned a lot about Russia (and why I don't want to vacation in Siberia or the Gobi Desert or the Himalayan Mountains).  I was impressed by the incredible drive and spirit of the people and the generosity they encountered from strangers.  I also gained a continuing appreciation for my lot in life.  My security and freedom, bed and bathtub, and Costco.









Books I'm still reading:

The Book of Mormon

Weather of the Pacific Northwest by Cliff Mass (this is slow going though because Adam introduced me to Cliff Mass's blog which gives me my weather fix).

Books I abandoned:


Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman

This is an important book and one I hope to never need.  It is supremely depressing about the minefield that some teenage girls experience.  It wasn't my experience though...I had a relatively wonderful teenage life compared to the examples in this story.  (Big shout out to my parents!!!)

I hope Emma's will be equally uneventful.  But if it's not, I'll keep this book on my shelf.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Cutest Cub Scout in America*

Mark was thrilled to lead the color guard and the Pledge of Allegiance.  I thought, does he KNOW the Pledge of Allegiance?  (Poor homeschooled kid.)  He did.  Osmosis?




I'd sew on patches for that boy, wouldn't you?



*No, I'm not prejudiced.  Why do you ask?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snow Day

Like the child of the Pacific Northwest that he is, Mark was appalled by the weather in The Banks of Plum Creek.  It's about when the Ingalls lived in Minnesota where the summers were hot and the winters were bitterly cold.  Mark said several times, "Why do they live there?  Why would anyone live there?"

We like weather a little more mild.

There are things you can count on around here.  Rain is one of them.  Grey skies are another.  Every once in awhile this strange bright orb is in the sky that makes us all squint like moles and scramble for our sunglasses.

And then sometimes, this weird white substance floats around and school is canceled.  Because we don't drive in this stuff.



I was thrilled that it was a snow day at 6:15 when I climbed back into bed.  I was even more excited by the prospect of the evening activities canceled.  An evening at home!  What a gift!

Then I remembered that snow days have to be made up.  Think of us mid-July when we're still in school.

Then I remembered the wet piles of snow clothes and the red cheeked children wanting hot chocolate when they come inside.

In the balance, I'll take the snow though.  Variety is the spice of life and there's only so much rain that can fall before it dampens all my joy and moss grows in my hair.

Besides, snow is a little bit magical.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Louise Plummer

When I walked into creative writing class at BYU and the teacher told us to call her Louise, I knew instantly that I'd like her.   

When Louise opened her mouth and started charming us with her stories and warm laugh, I knew instantly that I'd love her.  And I did.

I loved the way she wrote.  I loved the stories she told.  I loved the kind way she listened to our writing and the feedback she gave.  I would have marched into battle if she'd asked me to.

If I'd taken all my classes as seriously as I did the three writing classes I took from Louise, I would have been a stellar student.  BYU probably would have retired my student ID number.  They would have named a building after me.  (Or I would have gotten better grades.  I'm sure one of those three things would have happened.)

Because I worked hard in those classes.  When we got an assignment, I'd immediately start to craft my writing in my head while I walked home.  I'd do my writing assignments first and then revisit them several times.

(I didn't buy all the textbooks for some of my other classes because I'd think, "Who am I kidding?  I'm not going to read that.")

I not only loved Louise but I loved my fellow writing classmates.  I wished for the courage to leave the big hair bows and lesson plans of the McKay building and its education majors and permanently take up residence in the JKHB. (Jesse Knight Humanities Building although it's no longer called that.  I'm old.)  As much as I loved teaching, writing made my heart skip.

But like now, it was scary.  So like now, I stayed with education.

Years ago, Louise was a speaker at Women's Conference at BYU.  Marianne and I staked out seats in the Smith Fieldhouse (which is a sacrifice if you consider the stair climbing involved).  I was delighted to listen to Louise then Marianne said, "Let's go talk to her."  I was transformed back into a shy ten year old and Marianne transformed into my big sister (it was an easy jump for her to make).  She dragged me to the stage and I stammered out a "Hi, do you remember me?"

She did.  Because she's Louise.  She asked me if I was still writing.

I said no. And I felt terrible about it.

It was vastly different than my ten year high school reunion when my smarmy drama teacher said, in his overdone way, "Thelma!  Tell me you're still acting."

I actually cared what Louise thought and my smarmy high school drama teacher was...well, smarmy.  (Although Olivia enjoys the story and occasionally inquires whether I'm still acting.)

Marianne (being the big sister) bailed out her suddenly shy ten year old sister and said, "She writes really great emails, every day."  (My sisters have my back.  Always.)

Louise smiled and said that was good and that she understood about Life.  At the time I had young children and little time for much other than emails.

Later my mom said, "Did you tell her that you've sold stories to the Friend magazine?"  No, I hadn't and that seemed kind of pathetic anyway.  I wanted to be a Writer!  But I wasn't.  I was a frantic mother/homeschooler/mediocre housekeeper and that took all of my time.  

But I Remember.  I know what it felt like to bask in Louise's class.  I remember Louise.

I don't even remember how it came up but the other day Adam asked me if Louise had a blog.   I did a google search and voil√†!  I found Louise's blog.  It's delightful.

So I've been thinking more about Lousie.  She told us the kinds of encouraging things that all writing teachers tell their students but I've hung onto them.  I can quote to Adam the accolades she wrote on a few of my papers (and I do from time to time just in case he forgot what she wrote).

Who can account for the kind of influence Louise was in my life?

Maybe that's why I chose education after all.  (I'll tell myself that anyway.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Car Shopping

Saturday we didn't have any basketball games.  An entire day stretched ahead of us to...buy a van.  Finally?  Maybe?

We already know exactly what we want but it's never simple.  If I were a person that enjoyed haggling, I may feel better about the whole car buying process but I'm not and it's a slow form of torture.

A very slow form.

Adam is in the no pun intended driver's seat and he's methodical and unemotional and careful in his shopping.  I'm the exact opposite and so Adam told me not to talk.

He meant it in the nicest possible way and it didn't even offend.  I admire the way he's unswayed by sales ploys.  I admire the way he listens thoroughly and sees through tricks.  I know we'd pay twice as much if I were in charge because I get too impatient and start to feel sorry for salespeople. 

While shopping, I'd hang out for awhile and check out the features of the vans and I picked the color I wanted.  Then I kept my mouth shut.  Then I left.  Mark and I played cards at one dealership while Adam talked the talk. At another dealership, I had been involved with the talking for a little while until it was too mind numbing and tedious.  Our salesman in an effort to win us over(?) was chatting about his son and fishing and how friendly people in the Northwest were.  We. Don't. Care.  How much for the van?  I escaped to sit in our old van where Emma and I played a rousing version of "Pluck the Chicken".  You don't know how to play?  You're missing out.

Then they wanted to take our old van for a spin for value assessment for a trade-in and Emma and I retreated to the customer lounge that featured an enormous TV tuned to an outdoor channel.  Maybe it's The Outdoor Channel.  Who knows.

It was taking forever.

I watched a fat kid clad entirely from head to toe in camouflage shoot and kill his first deer.

I decided my life was hitting a new low.

We finally left and like last time we went van shopping, we didn't come home with a new van but we went and got ice cream cones.

(Which does remove the sting a little bit if I'm being honest.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Steadfast and Unwavering...For A Little While

Friday dawned sunny and bright.  My To Do list was long and my children had the day off from school and my brow was stern.

I created a list for Mark and had Braeden and Emma create their own and then show them to me.

We were going to get our work done before we did anything else.  No exceptions.  None.  Forget it.  Work before play.  I mean it this time.

Then a cute little neighbor boy knocked on the door and wondered if Mark could go out and play.  Did I mention it was sunny and bright?  How often does that happen in February?  I said no.  I held my line.  My stern brow faltered a little though.  It was sunny and bright!

Then there was a phone call.  Dillon needed my handsome older son to don his scout uniform and look handsome while they went together to charm donations out of people for Dillon's Eagle Project.  How could I say no to that?

About that exact moment, Hannah wondered if Emma could go outside and play.  Jill and I had talked the day before about the fact that we welcomed more outside time for our girls.  I think my exact quote was, "Have Hannah come over and get Emma to go exercise with her."

My brow was droopy and less and less stern.

I sent Emma out and told Mark he might as well go too.  (But only for a little while because you need to clean your room Lego man!)

Then Gavin called and invited Mark to go bowling.

Good-bye resolve.

It was so nice knowing you.

I've discovered two truths.

1) The suburbs with their treacherously cute neighbor kids are dangerous.

2) A trade-off for the sad day when my children grow up and leave home is that I'll no longer have to "teach them to work".  I'll happily do it myself (and happily do it to my satisfaction).

But I'll miss them.

And their perilously cute friends.

Friday, February 18, 2011

...And Everything Nice

I love Emma's friends.  They are supremely nice girls.  They are creative and funny and silly and loyal and genuinely enjoyable to be with.

Emma and Freja have been friends for years and years...Hannah since just this summer when they moved across the street.  If I had thought up a wish list for "friends for Emma" and ordered them on Amazon, I couldn't have come up with better girls.

Freja had play practice so it was only Emma and Hannah at the mall for the Big Ear Piercing.  I forgot to take a picture earlier when she had her look of complete panic.  I think it helped to have Hannah there.  Emma is the queen of the dramatic freak out.  When I told her it didn't hurt that much she discounted it.  When Hannah told her she said, "OK."
The ears!



The girls (Freja joined) went with Hannah's parents to paint ceramics (Hannah's birthday was two days previous so we were having a joint celebration) then we joined up at Alfy's for dinner.

There was a balloon guy there creating their hearts' desires.  That cute boy in the front is Hannah's brother Cal.

We had cake.
By the way...we have a lot of extra cake.  Stop by if you want some.  




And sang with enthusiasm:

Did I mention how much I love these girls?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Twelve

When I look into the future, it is so bright it burns my eyes.
Oprah Winfrey

One unusual Sunday, Emma was letting me try my hand at her hair.  (Every once in awhile we check to see if I'm still no good with hair.  Then we see that yes, I'm still no good.  And we give it more time.  Because you never know.)

Emma said, "In 19 days I'll be wearing make-up."

"What?!?"

"I'll be twelve," was her nonchalant reply.

"Have we talked about this?"

Emma didn't know.  I didn't know.  She had just assumed.  I hadn't.

In our Mormon culture, being twelve marks something big for boys.  In my mind it's also big for girls.  (And I'm not talking about make-up.)

It's entering a new age.  A new frontier.  She'll go to Young Women activities and the experiences she has with church activities will deepen.  If her experience is like mine, she'll feel more.  She'll understand more.  She'll feel awkward and not-enough at times.  She may feel like the only one who doesn't get asked to dance and the only one who doesn't know the answer.  I remember being told, in encouraging tones, to "just be yourself."

OK.  I could do that.

But who was I?  What did that mean? 

If I could give my precious girl any birthday gift it would be an infusion of my vision.  I want so much for her to see what I see.  I want her to know of her beauty--inside and out.  I want her to know that she is talented beyond all reason. I want her to know she will experience heart-ache and rejection and she will stumble and fall.  But I also want her to know that she'll get back up.  She'll be stronger and better with every set-back.  I want my girl to see the power of strong and good women.  I want her know that the images blasted at us from the media about what women are--objects, Barbies, trophies--are as wrong as they can be.

I want her to remember who she is.

Because that is pretty wonderful.







Happy Birthday my girl.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ambition

If I was granted one wish it could be to get more sleep.

I could wish for better skills formatting my blog (Adam would appreciate that...yesterday's post with it's wonky fonts tormented him a little.  I predicted it would but I got tired of trying to fix it and gave up).

I could wish for sunny days.

I could wish for world peace, a vacation, or to live next door to my sisters.

But what I would wish for?  I wish I could close my pantry doors.

There's a bag of wheat, a bag of rice, a bag of oats, and a bag of gluten flour all on the floor.  Then, there are various items that get knocked off the shelves from our darling children.  All of this blocks the doors.  I put things back on the shelves.  I smoosh the bags of grain (they're all smooshable).  But it all lasts for maybe 20 seconds and then goes right back to how it was before.

The realization of this dream (for a closed pantry) would take me figuring out a new home for many many things.

I don't want to do that.

I just want to keep wishing.

Do you think it will work?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine Review

It's hard being the only girl. After Emma left for school, I saw this sweet little pile.

She can't spell Marianne, but she's very darling.


I gave up years ago getting my children to make Valentines.  Getting my boys to write their names that many times was easier than childbirth but harder than potty training.  On her own, Emma made Valentines for her cousins far away.  (I'll send them/I'm sorry they'll be so late/we love you anyway.)
 
I really want to know what's inside this one.




In the afternoon Braeden told me he hates Valentines but he was going to make some.  I said, "No one's making you."  But he did anyway.  So that's sort of sweet too.  Mark said, "I'm not making any."  Which was fine too.  It would torture me more than it would torture him.


There was a reward for Emma's girlish charms though.  Adam brought her home a bouquet of white tulips.  It's not all bad being the only girl.

And speaking of girls. Braeden said, "All the cute girls were really dressed up at school for Valentine's Day and all the boys pretended not to notice."


Then he had a distinct gleam in his eye and said, "But we noticed."
 
This alarmed me a little bit.  I'm not sure how I feel about that little gleam in his eye.


The seven course meal was a triumph. I like being married to Adam.

It was also an opportunity to remind our children which fork to use when:


Any time a meal begins with chocolate, it's a good day:



The appetizer (brought by Adam's mom, Geri):


she called these stuffed prunes wrapped in bacon (they were delicious!) "cockroaches" which distressed Mark a little
The soup:

cream of spinach
The salad:

my absolute favorite:  caprese


The palate cleansing sorbet:

sorry...blurry

The entree à la Adam:

Steak Oscar.  Steak and crab meat and asparagus and Bearnaise sauce.  I'd never had it before...I hope I will again.

The dessert:

sea salt brownies with Cynthia's incomparable homemade caramel sauce (she gave me some leftovers from the Valentine's party and I put it to GOOD use).

The cheese course:

aged extra sharp cheddar from Ireland, Cotswald cheese with chives and Biscoff cookies

Tonight I'm going to Relief Society and I have no idea what my family is going to eat.  Perhaps this blog post will comfort them.  See?  Sometimes we eat well.




Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Letters for My Valentines



Dear Mark,

I love the way you kiss me when you're bored (about 20,000 times during church).

I love how you imagine up scenarios that crack you up and make me laugh too. (I'm talking about you, grasshoppers wielding grass swords determined to take the next hill.)

I love your encouraging words when I was afraid my fondant (for chocolate covered cherries) would fail.  "It's OK if it doesn't work Mom.  There's always cheese.  Would cheese cheer you up?"



Dear Emma,

I love how seriously you take your schoolwork and how stoic you are about your backpack that weighs as much as a Volkswagen.

I love the way you play The Can-Can over and over on the piano, transposing it to different keys.  (You can stop now though.  Really, you can can.)

I love how much fun you are to shop with.



Dear Braeden,

I love how excited you were for your first band concert and the way your cheeks puffed out when you played your tuba.

I love that even though I'm not cheerful when I wake you up in the morning, you always are.

I love your sense of humor.



Dear Adam,

I love the way you make everything more fun...you even made up new rules to the card game War so it's less mind numbing when I'm trying to subdue Mark in restaurants.

I love how when I emailed you to ask you to be my date for a Valentine's party you wrote back "Yes, a thousand times yes."  Then there were 1000 yeses.  I love that you know how to make the computer do clever things like that.

I love that you have a meaningful relationship with each one of our children.  (I love that we have children together.)



I love that you are my family.  I love you for your furniture moving and new recipe tasting and the way you forgive my follies.  Even though I'm a pretty good dreamer, my life is better than I ever dreamed it would be.

You're why.


Last night I tried to take a simple picture of my dearly beloveds under the soft and cuddly and enormous blanket I shamelessly stole  got at the insistence of the Williams at the Valentine's party.  


It would make a good picture right?


And simple to take?  Simple?


Sheesh.







Adam's fault

again...he thinks he's so funny

You know what?

Never mind.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Best Mother in the World (Me)



As the only one home during the day now, Mark is the happy recipient of the bulk of my fabulous mothering skills.

Lucky kid.

Because I have skills.

I think I should probably write parenting books.

I'm that good.

Mark wouldn't eat lunch the other day.  He didn't want what we were having.  We bargained.  We negotiated.  We haggled.  Then I put dessert on the line.

Cookies.  (We have some in the freezer, packaged two by two, to be tossed into lunch bags at 6:15 in the morning.)

He saw my cookies and raised me to ice cream too.

Really?

Yes, or he was walking.

I finally caved and said OK.

He made me swear on the River Styx.  (My kids are weird.)

Then he said, "I've already sworn on the River Styx so I won't break the bargain but how big are these cookies anyway?"

I told him and he ate his lunch.

In the afternoon, I felt a powerful urge for brownies so I did what any wise woman would do and I made some.

Of course Mark had one.

He ate half his dinner and said he couldn't finish it because he needed to save room for brownies which Braeden and Emma were inhaling at the time.  (In other words, he didn't like his soup.)

I told him no brownies unless his soup was gone.  GONE.

He said, "Then I won't have room for a brownie.  I'll be too full."

I said, "Soup.  Gone."

He said, "Fine," and left the table.

When Adam talked to Mark about this stalemate he said, "It's OK.  I already had two cookies, ice cream and a brownie today."

Adam didn't say anything.  (He might have possibly raised his eyebrows.)

The next morning Mark wanted chips for breakfast.  (We have some chips in individual packages to be tossed into lunch bags at 6:15 in the morning.)  I told him no.  Absolutely not.

Mark said he wouldn't eat then.

I told him no Wii then.  Mark had some cereal.

I told Adam I was tired of arguing with Mark about food.

Adam reminded me of the previous day and diplomatically pointed out I might perhaps be part of the problem.

I decided to take a half glass full approach.  I pointed out Mark will be an asset at the Honda dealership if we ever have the time to finally go and buy our van.

He can do the bargaining for us.

I'll give him all the brownies he can eat if he gets us a good deal.  (Possibly even chips for breakfast.)



Who do I remind me of?  Oh, I know!  My sisters that don't eat sugar!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Head Over Heels

This has little to do with the post but isn't he cute when he's focused on grammar?

My kids inherited some tall genes from their mother.  Before any of my siblings leave cruel and unsupportive comments about me not being tall, my kids are tallish so I must be a carrier of some height.  Right?

Height sometimes equates with athleticism but unfortunately, they inherited my athleticism as well.  (My lack of athleticism.)

Yesterday Mark and I practiced somersaults.  Somersaults are one of the requirements for Cub Scouts.  Mark can do backward somersaults quite easily but when he tried to go forward, he'd stand on his head.  Then he'd make me laugh.  Then we'd try some more.  Finally I knelt next to him and flipped him along.    Soon enough, he was a proficient little somersaulter.  (I don't consider it a successful blog post unless I make up a word and by the way, Marianne a.k.a. Anonymous, you suggested I get a hobby and I think that will be it...I'll make up words.)  Back to somersaults though, good thing I was never a Cub Scout.   

When I was in first grade, I had to do somersaults.  Mrs. Kessler was our P.E. teacher.  She encouraged us to tuck in our chins when we did somersaults so we wouldn't break our necks.  My number one goal in life is to not hurt myself and that horrified me.  I was doing something where I had to take precautions so I wouldn't break my neck?!?

I couldn't do it.

No somersaults for me.

My dad decided I would do a somersault.  (Now that I think about it, it was a little contrary to the rest of his attitude about my education because when I wanted to miss school, he'd tell me I should stay home and let the other kids catch up.)  For some reason though, somersaults mattered.

My dad had me crouch on the arm of the couch (which is delightfully rhyming).  Then he'd have me attempt to somersault across the couch (he understood that my number one goal in life is to not hurt myself so the couch was a nice soft choice).

I couldn't do it though.  It scared me.

I think my dad started to take it personally.

But it didn't help.  My poor dad.  He finally gave up and hoped for better things from his other children.

Speaking of my dad, occasionally, he calls me and tells me to give Mark a recess.  Sometimes he wants to talk to me about one of my blog posts.

Yesterday he told me I need to write more or I'll never finish my "novel".  (It makes me feel better to put it in quotes like that.)

I said, "Are you afraid I'll die before I finish?"

He said, "I think I will at the rate you're going and I want to read it."

So I've resolved to try to write more. I'll try.

After the somersault disappointment, I think I owe it to my dad.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's Relative


If you ever start feeling like you have the goofiest, craziest, most dysfunctional family in the world, all you have to do is go to a state fair. Because five minutes at the fair, you'll be going, 'you know, we're alright. We are dang near royalty.' 

Jeff Foxworthy
I don't fancy myself to be a great party planner.  Mediocre at best.  Sometimes I think maybe I don't give myself enough credit though.  It depends on who I'm comparing myself to.

I was looking online at party ideas and I came across this idea:

A good idea for a party is for everyone to show up with a wig and then swap wigs by the end of the night.  The host should have some extra wigs on hand for those people who arrive without a wig.

!?
 
1) I don't want to wear a wig to a party.

2) I don't want to go to a party where other people are wearing wigs.

3) I don't want to swap wigs with anyone.

I googled wig parties though and they're a thing.  It's not just one person's crazy idea of a good time.  Have you ever been to a wig party?  Am I missing something?

The site that recommended the wig party also suggested "hiring a castle for formal parties".

I'm thinking maybe the site originated in the U.K.  I don't know of any castles for hire around here.  Unless you count Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

This all led me to start thinking about a party I attended with Adam back in his Yale days.  It was the Christmas party for the students in his graduate program.  The party was held at Mory's.

picture swiped from Wikipedia


I dressed carefully because I felt slightly intimidated by the graduate students at Yale.   They were a whole lot smarter than me and seemed infinitely more sophisticated.  I was from a log house in the middle of the sagebrush and had been dropped in a city where I continually got lost (there were no mountains to help me navigate).  I was barely keeping it together while learning to be a mother far away from anything familiar.  I didn't know if I had it in me to pretend like I was a person that could string intelligible sentences together at a Christmas party.  

We took nearly one-year-old Braeden with us.  In addition to be exceedingly poor, we didn't leave him with babysitters because I was not constitutionally equipped to part with my baby.  (I know, you're shocked, right?)

We went to Mory's and as we walked through the smoke-filled lower level, I willed Braeden not to inhale.  I grew up waitressing in smoke filled casinos and went home smelling like an ash tray but I didn't want my tender boy to breathe any smoke.  Ever.  (I know, I was darling. As Braeden would say now, "I don't know whether to smack you or pat you on the head and tell you it's going to be OK.")

We climbed the creaky stairs and entered a crowded room filled with Adam's classmates.  We sat in a corner.  I think I was the only spouse there.  I know Braeden was the only baby there.   A big table filled the room and people were seated around it.  They were passing around huge urns filled with an unknown alcoholic concoction.  They were all in varying degrees of drunkenness and singing.  They'd apparently run out of Christmas songs and had moved on to Hanukkah songs.  Their cheeks were flushed and eyes were glassy and no one seemed to truly be having very much fun.  There was a forced merriness to it that was kind of sad.

We were seated next to a guy that was in the class ahead of Adam (it was a two year program).  He was also a Mormon, married with children but we didn't really know him because he went to the grown-up family ward instead of the student one like we did.  Was there a token married white male Mormon each year?  Some affirmative action plan we were unaware of?  His wife wasn't there.  He leaned over to us and said, "I should have gone to Relief Society with my wife."

Which made me think, they should have asked his wife and or even me to plan the party.

For all of my inexperience and woefully lacking cosmopolitan-ness, I think I could have planned a better party.

At the very least I would have included chocolate.



Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Difference Between Mothers and Daughters

A few years ago, I got an idea for a story I wanted to write.  On confident days I called it an idea for a novel.  On fraidy-cat days I called it ridiculousandnevermindforgetIsaidanything.

I have a lot more fraidy-cat days than otherwise.

And I've been busy.

So my idea has mostly remained just that...an idea.

With my homeschooling roster depleted, I thought maybe I'd pursue the idea.

Maybe.

When my parents were visiting in January, I told my mom the idea one day while we were driving across the Snohomish Valley.  She said, "I like that Thelma.  You should write it.  That's a great idea!"

So I felt a bubble of confidence.

Maybe I would.

Maybe.

It's scary and uncomfortable because there's this invisible editor that sits on my shoulder while I write that tells me it's all really quite preposterous and I should stop wasting my time.

I decided to take courage and my laptop to my kids' piano lessons.  I'll sit in the car without a book to read, and I'll write.  I'll have no distractions and no way to escape the editor.  She'll just have to deal with it while I write.

Yesterday, Sarah, our inestimably wonderful piano teacher who gives candy to her students, came outside to chat.  (She's also my friend.)  She noticed the laptop and said, "Are you blogging?"  In a bizarre and uncharacteristic burst of confidence, I said, "No.  I'm working on a novel."

As we drove away, I told Emma, "It makes me so nervous to admit I'm writing.  It feels ridiculous.  I don't know what I'm doing."

Emma said a few encouraging, of-course-you-can-Mom things then she asked me what my story was about.

I told her.

She said, "That's it?  That's the whole story?"

"That's it."

"That's kind of lame."



I've heard of a face only a mother could love.  Apparently there's such a thing as a story idea only a mother could love.

I'm still going to write it, by the way.  I'm just not going to tell Emma any more about it.  Or let her have dinner.

(OK, I'm kidding about that one.  Barely.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Now Are We Going to Celebrate Half Anniversaries?



Adam and I took a quick trip to one of my favorite places, Salt Lake City.  I love the mountains there.  I love the memories I have of there (mostly involving my grandma).  I love the history that is there.  I love my history that is there.

I was emotional.

Am I getting more emotional as I get older?  Do I have more water in my head than I used to?  Will I ever run out?

Adam pointed out on Friday that it was our 15 1/2 year anniversary.  Fifteen and-a-half years later, we went back to the beginning.

Will forever with Adam be long enough?


The Salt Lake Temple is the most meaningful place on earth for me.  It is where our family began.  It is where my parents' family began.  It's where my grandparents' families began (both sets).  It's quite a place.  My spirit stills when I turn into the gates of Temple Square.  A powerful hush quiets other cares and the significance of the place brings a sharp focus to my perspective.



I wish I could live there.

Maybe I'd be a better person.

In a delightful turn of events, we got to have dinner with two of my brothers and their dear wives on Friday night.  It took a little phone work to coordinate it.



Then some more.



If you knew Enoch, you'd understand.

I love my brothers.  I love their wives.

I don't love this picture.

me, Melanee, Cormac (really), Ammon, Jennifer and Enoch

Besides the obvious (Why, yes, I am the least photogenic person in America.  Thanks for noticing.), Cormac, who is photogenic, is not pictured.  He's behind my head.  Darn.

Here's a shot of him (snatched from Melanee's blog), for good measure.

I love this guy.


Saturday, and the reason for our trip, we attended the sealing of Adam's cousin Jamie and her husband Tice in the Salt Lake Temple.  Ashton was sealed to them.

 It was a happy occasion.  (I cried.)

Sadly, this is the best picture I got of their family (seriously?!?).  There's Ashton, Jamie and Tice all dressed in white.

Adam has some really nice cousins.  Knowing them is an unexpected* bonus of marrying him.

Adam's cousin Pam, me, Adam, Jamie, her mom Kathy, Adam's cousin Kara and her children and Geri who we happily traveled with.


*Unexpected, kind of like riding in Enoch and Jennifer's Freightliner truck which probably deserves a blog post all its own.



Friday, February 4, 2011

Changey Change Change

I'm still figuring out my new life without this little cherub around:


What?  That's my boy Braeden...OK, it was thirteen years ago.

Mark and I are forging a new way.  I've realized I have less of an impatient clip to my voice since I'm not busier than I can handle.

I kind of like it.

Today Mark said, "You're being really nice to me today."  Of course, that was shortly after I'd bought him a toy and right before I bought him a mint oreo milkshake.

(If you can resist this boy, you're a better woman than I...)


For the first time in years, I no longer have a free built in babysitter so Mark was my amiable side-kick on errands today.  And we went on errands that were more creative in nature than necessary.  When's the last time that happened?

I told him we had to go to only two places and then I'd take him to lunch.  He was starving.  He's always starving though.

We went to Lowe's to look at paint chips for an idea that's percolating in my brain.  We also stopped to look at ride on lawn mowers because Mark can't resist their siren song.  Mark pulled out paint chips one after another.  How about this?  This?  This?  He found a faux finish paint chip.

"This looks like sand paper."

"Is it sand paper Mom?"

"This looks like sand paper."

I was looking at Sea Breeze and Forest 4 and said something like, "Mmmm."

Mark has always been good at demanding attention.  "Mom," he grabbed my arm, "Could I use this like sand paper?  Would it work?"

He had my attention.  I explained the idea of faux finishes and he nodded his comprehension and I replaced all the paint chips he'd pulled out and handed to me.

We got back on the road and he said, "Where now?"

I said, "Library and then Pier 1."

"What?!" Amiable Mark was turning into incredulous Mark.  "You said two places and then lunch."

"I forgot about the library.  I just have to drop these books off.  You don't even have to get out of the van."

Amiable Mark returned.  "That's just like sitting in traffic then," he said happily.

Whatever gets you through, Mark.  Whatever gets you through.

Walking across the street to Pier 1, I set Mark up.  "Now this is a Mom kind of store.  You won't like it but if you're very good, we'll have lunch.  And you have to be very careful.  There are breakable things.  Will you be a good boy?"

"Are there candles there?"

"Yes."

"Cool."

Mark loves good smells and he's absolutely horrified by bad smells.  He must have a sensitive sniffer.

He happily walked into Pier 1 with me and while I browsed around for a birthday gift for Marianne (It's coming right up...in May.  I like to plan ahead, OK?), Mark lifted candles and inhaled the scents.  "Mmmmm," he'd say, "I like this."

About 1/4 of the way through the store, he was done though.  Let's go.  Let's go.  Are you done? faded away when he found the little toy display.

Then I bought him one of these:


It bought me some more time and distracted Mark from picking up dishes and wine glasses to show me.

We had lunch and went grocery shopping.  Mark was pleasant and chatty and convinced me to let him push the cart.  He said as long as he was pushing, I could drink his milkshake. How could I refuse?

So, our new life.

It's different.

It's nice.

I am lonely for my older two children.  I miss them.  I feel a little bewildered still.  But I know this:

Change always comes bearing gifts.
Price Pritchett

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Few Things

I've been known (just a little tiny bit, not so much that you'd even notice really) to complain about the dreary depressing soul-robbing gloomy dismal lovely grey weather around here.

Every once in awhile, on a winter day, the sun will shine!  Glory Glory Hallelujah!  It's the most wonderful thing in my world.

And then I see that my windows are dirty.

Really quite dirty.

And I don't mind the clouds so much.

 *********

What's more American than teenage boys getting together to challenge each other to drink a gallon of milk in an hour?

Their mothers letting them, I guess.

Let Freedom Ring!
I should mention that when the first boy started throwing up, Braeden was wise enough to stop drinking.  He only drank a little over 1/4 of a gallon.  He brought the jug home and put it back in the fridge. (milk is precious to that boy)  I said, "Did you drink out of that jug?"  Ew.  I am squeamish about that sort of thing (plus, how long exactly was it out of the fridge?).  I wrote his name with a Sharpie on the jug.  I don't want to drink germy milk.

*********



When I have not been contemplating my dirty windows or uncivilized son, my mind keeps revisiting Downton Abbey.  Curses on Masterpiece Theater!  They drew us in with the sumptuous costumes and the intriguing characters and beautiful house.  They drew us in with the unequaled Maggie Smith whose Dowager Countess makes me laugh every time she opens her mouth.  They drew us in then left us out in the cold with a cliff hanger ending (and they're not even starting to film the next season until March!  The humanity!) and a lot of questions.

1) How can those sisters be so awful to each other?

2) And that wicked lady's maid, O'Brien?   She's almost a sympathetic character but not.  Quite.  What will happen to her?

3) Will Mr. Bates get whatever trouble he has ironed out?

4) Will Matthew finally get smart and give Mary the boot once and for all?

I could go on. (And Adam and I have.  At length.  We started out talking about Downton Abbey and ended up talking about slavery and Palestinians and Angles and Saxons...)

Oh, but you're not obsessed with it?

Alright then.  I'll stop.  

Carry on.




Wednesday, February 2, 2011

That Which Was My Delight

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.  
~Kahlil Gibran

I didn't cry when Braeden left for school in the morning.

I didn't cry when it was the time we used to go pick Braeden up.

I didn't cry when school with Mark was over and there was no one else to teach.

I didn't cry when Mark and I had lunch and it was too quiet.

I didn't cry when Mark was sprawled on the floor during silent reading time and I was on the couch and Braeden wasn't on the green chair.

But, when Adam called and asked with a voice that told me he Understood, "How are you?" I cried.

I cried and cried.

Because I'm not OK.

I had no idea what I was getting into when Braeden started kindergarten and I bravely called myself a homeschooler.

first day of kindergarten

I was inexperienced enough to feel confident and unconquerable.  Things happened.  Mark was born and I floundered to keep it all together.  We moved a few times.  Emma joined in the school scene.  Then Mark.  We discovered Braeden had a learning disability.  I struggled and gnashed my teeth and sought comfort/free therapy/solace from Adam and my siblings and parents and friends.  It was Hard and wearying but I had a Purpose.  A Grand Purpose that in my mind was worth all the anguish and time and sacrifice.

And now?

What exactly is my Grand Purpose?  

I still have Mark (and it occurs to me that I could really mess him up psychologically by throwing my arms around his ankles and making him promise me he'll never leave me...I won't do it but I'm tempted).  There is still a large portion of my day that's taken by homeschooling but it is vastly less intense.  It feels calm and lovely (much how I always wished homeschool with three had felt) but the irony is, I miss the fierceness of those days because I was smack dab in the middle of my three children.

The best place to be.

I know I'll get used to it.  I am (more or less) accustomed to Emma's absence.  It feels a little different with Braeden though because I never so much taught Emma as tried to stay out of her way as she powered through her education with her perfectionist tendencies that make me marvel.  (She didn't get that from me!)

I'll get used to Braeden's absence.

And I think that's the hardest part of all.


post script:  two happy culminations for my day.  Braeden came home from school cheery and lighthearted.  He told me all about his new classes and new teachers.  All traces of his nervousness are gone.  Adam called me on his way home from work.  He said, "Can I take you out to dinner to celebrate the first day of the rest of your life?"  How can anyone be uncheered by an Adam?  We took the kids with us to celebrate.  Here's to new beginnings.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Books I Read In January

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. 
~Anna Quindlen
 
I read.  A lot.  For about eight years after becoming a mother I didn't read anything besides parenting books and the occasional magazine and I've been catching up ever since.  A half hour of silent reading time in the afternoon is a highly enforced institution around here.  I always have a book with me.  I read in bits and snatches whenever I can.  The problem with my reading is that I never remember what I've read.  I decided to record what I've read.  So then at least I'll know.


Saving CeeCee Honeycutt  by Beth Hoffman*

It was a nice story about strong women and friendship...good topics.  There was something missing though.  Some of the characters didn't seem quite right (not believable) and it was a little saccharin at times.  Still, it made me want to go to Savannah and live in a big old mansion.

The Unexpected Mrs. Polifax by Dorothy Gilman **

Very entertaining novel about a plucky lady who at 64 applied to work as a spy for the CIA.  Love plucky ladies.  Love using the word plucky.

Friends Like These by Sally Koslow**

Book about 4 friends living in New York City.  It was well written and an interesting look at a life very different than mine.  I am pretty sure I wouldn't want to be friends with most of them though.

Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor **

This is the true story of a brain scientist's stroke.  I love my book club because I read books I wouldn't otherwise read.  I am a world champion skimmer and I skimmed a lot of this book...when it was too technical or wordy.  I was fascinated by it though.  It was a positive and interesting book.  I have an irrational fear of having a stroke every time I get a bad head-ache.  (Me + my imagination = drama)  Maybe it was good I read this book for that reason.  Maybe it wasn't.

Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella *

I like some Sophie Kinsella books more than others (I loved Twenties Girl).  This one had not such great language that resulted in a lot of skimming and flinches from yours truly.  I probably should have just stopped reading it.

If You Believe by Kristin Hannah *

I like Kristin Hannah.  This book definitely had some scenes I skipped completely--pages and pages.  Yikes.  It was a good story, just a little (or a lot) more information than I needed.

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee *

The main characters in this story weren't very likable.  What I did find fascinating about this book is that it was set in Hong Kong during and following World War II.  I don't know much of anything about that part of the world so I learned new things.

Currently reading:


The Book of Mormon 

It is the one book I can reread over and over and the book I miss the most when I don't read it.


Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman

The subtitle is "Helping your daughter survive cliques, gossip, boyfriends and other realities of adolescence".  Knowledge is power right?  I hope so because this book...these realities...are a little scary.

Weather of the Pacific Northwest by Cliff Mass

Nothing like curling up with some info about air currents when queen bees and wannabees have you all nervous and shaky inside.


Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

I picked this one up because I loved The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.  I'm not very far but I like it.  Sue and her daughter Ann trade off writing chapters about their travels together.

It makes me want to travel.

I love to rate! 

* = it was OK
** = I liked it
*** = I loved it




On an unrelated note:  the very hardest part of homeschooling for me has been the letting go.  Today Braeden's at school all day.  I didn't sleep.  I tried to have a poker face before he left but that kid knows me.  We just didn't look each other in the eye.  If you come back tomorrow and I'm still blogging, you'll know I survived it.


I'm not making any promises.

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