Thursday, May 31, 2012


I truly love homeschooling Mark.  I loved teaching his brother and sister too.  (sniff, sniff)  It's not always ideal.   Some days, Mark is "not feeling well" or "sooooo tired" and every single subject is a struggle that pushes my patience to the outer realms of its capacity.  Other days (like lately), my attention is diverted and divided and it's hard to balance it all.  Most of the time it really is pretty great though.  And sometimes it is entertaining.

The most rewarding part of teaching anyone anything is when they get it.  When the lightbulb goes on.  It's a thrill.  Last week, Mark stumbled during math with elapsed time.  It made no sense to him.  We spent several days on it.  We both became really really frustrated.

For example, one question was: if you start driving at 12:30 and arrive at 7:00, how much time has passed?

Mark was convinced it was 7 1/2 hours.  I could not convince him otherwise.  Finally I drew a picture of a stick figure (him) throwing a ball seven feet.  I drew the ball.  I drew the dotted projectile line of the ball.  I marked off seven feet. (It really was spectacular art and I'm sorry you weren't here to see it.)  Then I drew another kid a half foot closer.  I drew his ball and the projectile line.  I said, "This kid said, 'I can throw the ball as far as you can Mark.'"  Mark looked at me, shocked.

"He can not," he declared.  "He only threw it 6 1/2 feet!"

Yes!  Hold that thought!  Then I said, "What if you worked for me starting at noon for $1 an hour.  If you work until 7:00, how much money would you earn?"

He said, "Seven dollars."

"OK," (and now for a little laborers in the vineyard parable from the New Testament--I know, way to liken the scriptures) "What if another guy came along and worked until 7:00 too, but he didn't start until 12:30.  Should he earn the same amount of money?"


"Why not?"

"Because he didn't work as long."

Yes!  He was getting it!  "How long did he work?"

"7 1/2 hours."

Then I went and hit my head against the wall. Repeatedly.

For a few days Mark didn't get it.  Then, he did.  He was asked this question, "If you put muffins in the oven at 6:45 and they need to bake for 18 minutes, when will they be done?"

Mark didn't know.  I pulled out our practice clock and showed him 6:45.  He moved the minute hand to 18 minutes after 7:00.  "No," I said, "It's 18 minutes from when he put them in the oven."

"Wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  So if what you've been telling me is true," Mark said (and yes Mark, it's true) "Then, the distance from the 9 to the 12 is the same as the distance from the 12 to the 3."


"So the muffins were done at 7:03."

And just like that, he got it.  I felt like I'd won a marathon.

Then we moved on to geography.  We are reviewing since it is near the end of the year.  We were just skimming through a review of the oceans and continents.  Easy.  He's known them for years. 

Except he thought Indonesia was a continent.  Indonesia?  I told him it was not.  He insisted it was.  (My kids never think I'm smarter than them.  Never.)  We countered back and forth and he finally gave in.

But he was a little grumpy about it.  "My whole life, Indonesia was a continent and now you're telling me it isn't."

this photo is from last summer but you get the idea

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Love notes

Here is what was on my fridge this morning:

in case you can't read teenage boy scrawl, it reads:  Good luck you handsome son of a gun!
Braeden had some tests today and I guess last night before going to bed, he wanted to prepare for himself an early morning pep talk.  It made me smile.  It strikes me as something my brother Enoch would do.  (He, like Braeden, is also a handsome son of a gun.)

This was also on the fridge:

In case you can't read teenage girl cheekiness, it reads:  Dear House Elf (Dobby),  Could you arrange the fridge?  It's getting out of hand.  Love, Harry Potter's Best friend (wink, wink)  I might give you a sock!

I don't really understand what Harry Pottery's Best friend (wink, wink) means. 

Also, in my defense, the contents of our refrigerator are not that bad.  Yes, I did go to Costco last night and that always creates a packed fridge and yes, a jar of salsa fell on my head and rolled across the floor yesterday (didn't break!).  But still.

It's not THAT bad.  Is it?  Why am I showing you the contents of my fridge?  I don't know.

It's not my fault I have to buy enough milk weekly to feed a small army (there's more in the door as well).  That makes for crowded conditions.

Tonight, I think I'll suggest Emma uses up some of her creative energy in arranging the fridge to her specifications.

If she does a good job, I might give her a sock.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ohhhhhh boy

You know how we have a shiny new ward?  Our bishop asked me to be the primary president.  That means I am responsible for the children 18 months-12 years old.  And I don't know most of them.  Yet.

I have spent time thinking, Really, me?  I have spent time crying (my default modus operandi it seems).  And I have spent time praying.  A lot of that too. 

Here's what I know.

I have felt deep inside that Heavenly Father loves these children, most of whom I don't know.  Yet.  I have felt His love for me as well.  I feel like if I will allow it, I will be guided and helped.

I feel like I will love these children.

Soon.  Very soon.

Friday, May 25, 2012

May I suggest

I am not opposed to artificial sugar.  (Except I chew cinnamon gum to make Stephanie has no aspartame.) Diet Coke is delicious--add a little lime, you've got pure delight.

Artificial fat though?  That's a little suspect.  For example, 99% fat free butter popcorn...wha?  If there's no fat, then what is it?

Seems wrong.

I don't like the full fat kind either though, that super salty bright yellow substance doesn't resemble the butter in my fridge.

I learned that you can microwave popcorn in a plain brown paper lunch sack.  Am I the last person to find out about this? I put 1/4 cup of unpopped kernels in a bag and fold the bag over twice.  Then I microwave it about 3 minutes until I  hear the popping slow down.  (Microwaves are different so whatever time you usually use to pop popcorn should work.)

Then I add a little bit of melted butter and salt if I want or just have plain popcorn which I like too.

Here's a bonus:  this appeals to my frugal side.  At the store, the cheapest microwave popcorn was $2.22 per pound.  Buying the kernels was $.54 per pound.  Adam said it was my way of "sticking it to the man."  Is the man Orville Redenbacher?

Look at me all healthy and frugal...maybe reducing my carbon footprint as well? (Probably not but I wish because we had a Mark related recycling bin snafu last week and our recycling is full and we are throwing everything away-gasp-until it is recycling time again.  You can't imagine how guilty I feel throwing away a soup can.  That's what happens when you live in the Pacific Northwest for any length of time...recycling devotion.)

(I know a better blogger would have included helpful and artsy photos along with this.  1) I am too distracted. 2) my pictures aren't that great anyway. 3) I am taking it for granted that you know what popcorn and a microwave and a brown paper bag look like.)

Now go make some popcorn!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In the meantime

Several years ago when our 10th wedding anniversary was approaching, we wanted to go somewhere on a trip.  Our anniversary is August 4 and we couldn't come up with one place that would be more pleasant than Seattle that time of year.  In an effort to do something that didn't make one bit of sense, we ended up going to St. George, UT and it was hot.

Summer is glorious around here. Summer in Seattle, the days are long and the sun shines and shines.  The sky is uninterrupted brilliant blue, it is never humid and seldom too hot.  Everywhere that isn't blue sky or water is lush green.  It is just wonderful.

But we have to earn it.  (Apparently it takes a lot of gray to get to that blue.)

All over the country, it is getting warm, even hot.  If kids aren't already out of school they will be soon.  Not here.  There's still over a month of school left and while we've had a few days of sunshine lately, we've also had rainy rainy days.

To tide me over until that lovely summer finally arrives, I made a summer to do list yesterday.

(I love a good list.)

I got the idea here.

I got a little input from our can likely guess Mark was the one who wanted to build a Lego town.  Also, we're not anticipating a trip to Egypt.  A King Tut exhibit is coming to Seattle.

I can make it until summer.  I think I can, I think I can.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

If you don't believe me, just ask Beatrix Potter

The other night, I wanted to make Adam some chamomile tea to help him sleep well.  He insisted he doesn't like tea.  I said he would like this tea.  He said he would not.

Finally, in my last ditch effort to convince him, I said, "Don't you remember what Peter Rabbit's mother gave him after he was stuck in Mr. McGregor's garden?  Chamomile tea!"

This could possibly be why people don't come to me for medical advice.  My source of knowledge is children's picture books.  ( I also know all about appendectomies.  I've read Madeline after all.)

Adam ended up letting me make him some tea.  He didn't really like it, but he drank it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In theory and in practice

When I was pregnant with Braeden, most of the other teachers at the school where I taught were mothers of grown children.  They all told me I was, "just adorable" all rounded and pregnant and they'd also tell me, "Well, you're going to get busy."

I knew they were right.  In theory.

Marianne had Clarissa nine months before I had Braeden.  She seemed really busy and changed and harried with motherhood.  So I knew I'd be like that too.  In theory.

Then I had Braeden and my whole world was rocked.  In practice motherhood was really hard and exhausting and I thought those friendly fellow teachers kind of understated how busy I would be.  They didn't mention I wouldn't be able to take a shower.

When I was potty training, I thought it was hard, probably the hardest part of motherhood.  (Wasn't I adorable?)  My mom, who was sending teenage boys loose in the world with driver's licenses told me to wait until they drive, that's the hard part.  I conceded, in theory, maybe that was true.  But that was so far away and how could it be more difficult than all that potty training related laundry and a temperamental toddler bladder?

Last summer, Janet was teaching her teenage sons to drive.  She told me it was stressful.  She told me it was hard.  I believed her.  In theory, it seemed really difficult and scary.

Well I had no idea.


He doesn't like this picture but I'm his mom so I think every picture of him is terribly handsome.

I have been driving with Braeden.  He is careful.  He is obedient and respectful of me.  He listens to my instructions.  It could be so much worse.

But I am terrified.  Just like nothing can prepare you for the initial jolt motherhood is to your lifestyle, nothing can prepare you for the feeling of placing your life in the hands of a kid who can't remember to pick his socks up or to put the milk away.  I can't believe I have two more kids after this one that I have to teach how to drive. 

Now, if you're an experienced mother and you want to tell me, "Wait until they start dating", or "Wait until they leave home" or "Wait until they decide to get married" or "Wait until they have children of their own,"  please don't.  I can't take it and I need some time.  Maybe in about a year, I'll be sufficiently recovered from this experience to be in a place that I can contemplate another.  Even then though, I'll probably only view those things as challenging in theory.

Sometimes I think if we knew the reality, we would have thrown in the towel a long time ago.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chasing Down Fears

Last night, we had a church meeting and our ward was changed.

(If you're not a Mormon, let me explain.  Our congregations are called wards and they are geographic areas.  When our wards become too big, the boundaries are realigned.  This is great news because the more the merrier but it is sad news because we love each other and want to be together.  Sniff.)

Because of where we live, our family knew that change for us was inevitable.  We kind of processed it all week.  Mark must have been off being a whirling dervish while we were processing because it hit him all at once during the meeting.  He started whispering to me urgently.  "What does this mean?"  "Do we still have the same bishop?" "What about all my friends in primary?" "What scout troop am I in?"  His panic was rising but I sort of wanted to listen to the meeting and, you know, find out where our new ward was so I kept shushing him and promising we'd talk later.  I put my arm around him and he was squirming in agitation and said he was going to cry.  I told him it was OK to cry but we would talk later.

He didn't cry, but as soon as the meeting was over, Gavin walked to where we were sitting.  They gave each other an enthusiastic high five which they often do when they see each other at church and as usual, I reminded them, still Sunday, still in the chapel.   They spoke earnestly for awhile, tousled heads together.  They were also both wearing identical blue oxford shirts, untucked.  Sometimes I wonder if Stephanie would mind giving me Gavin because those two are like brothers and I love them together.

Soon they were on the stand, shaking hands with our suddenly former bishop.  He must have pointed them in the direction of our new bishop (someone we don't know) because the next time I looked, they were patiently waiting while he talked to someone else so they could shake hands.  I watched with interest while they introduced themselves.  (Who knows what else they said.)  I saw a smile form on the bishop's face.  I saw him bend over to talk to them with sincerity and full attention.  I've never met our new bishop, but that moment told me everything I need to know about him.  We're going to like him.

I lost track of Mark and Gavin as I milled around, chatting with and hugging some of my former ward members.  We promised each other we'd still see each other.  (I hope we were right.)

I met up with Mark again at the back of the gym.  As we walked out of the building, he told me happily, "I met a new friend from our new ward.  He's nine, like me."

I shouldn't be surprised that Mark, who has a large arsenal of swords (that used to be sticks) would slay his dragons so quickly.

Note to self:  be more like Mark.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May I suggest

I have long been a chapstick/lipgloss kind of girl.  I prefer that to lipstick.  Wearing chapstick always seemed to make my lips chapped (yet I persisted) until I read that some people are allergic to ingredients in lipstick and chapstick and it makes their lips chapped.

I think I'm one of those people. 

(About now Adam, my dad and brothers--my male readership--have stopped reading.)

I became a devotee of Burt's Bees because I like it and whatever it is that I'm allergic to is not in Burt's Bees.

But it doesn't have any SPF.  Which is OK if you live in Seattle and the sun rarely makes a showing.  When we were in Palm Desert in February though (sigh, I wish I were still in Palm Desert), I bought some Baby Lips.  It is a lip balm with SPF and I'm not allergic to it.

And I love it.

I have peppermint flavor and pink lemonade and just like I used to collect Lipsmackers (that made my lips chapped) I am just beginning to gather these little lovelies. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New Policy

I genuinely like the kids in our early morning seminary carpool.  They are good kids and funny and remarkably cheerful for that time of day.

Except now they all have learner's permits and suddenly everyone's a critic.

Adam (not Adam my husband, Adam my neighbor):  Um, you're driving with one hand.

Me:  Oh, sorry. (And I promptly and obediently put my hands at 2:00 and 10:00.)

Hans:  Actually, you're supposed to put them at 4:00 and 8:00.

Braeden:  Yeah, Mom.  2:00 and 10:00 is dangerous with an airbag.

Jared:  Was that a complete stop?

Adam:  No, I don't think it was.

So now we have a new policy in the car when I'm driving.

No talking.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wanted: one dress she doesn't hate

Two irrefutable truths:

1- I love my daughter.

2- Shopping for clothes for her is like being in one of Dante's circles of Hell.  Except less pleasant.

I don't know why.  If I have to shop for anything else, she is the offspring I prefer to shop with.  She is pleasant and patient and good company.  When it's clothes for her, she resembles a cactus except more prickly and certainly more opinionated.

In other words, she hates everything.

Many times I have paid more for something than I'd wanted to or I've bought something I didn't want to buy just to end the misery.  Sometimes, like last Friday,  I've done both.

Adam is more rational and less emotionally exhausted at such times (because he didn't have to go shopping) and he told me to return the dress because it was unacceptable.

He was right so I did.

I told Emma she needed to solve the problem (because she wants a dress for her choir concert).  She thought for a minute.  Then she said, "Why don't you go online and look at stores we could shop at and see if you can find a dress I'd like?"

I said, "Why don't you?"

I handed her my laptop and left the room.

Later, I walked by the laptop and saw a post it note stuck to the screen.  It had an arrow pointing to a dress.

I felt completely triumphant.  She'd found a dress!  I liked it too!

Yesterday we went to the store.  They didn't have it in her size.  The closest store that had it in her size was a mere 59.9 miles away in Tacoma. (Yes, really, I checked on Google maps.)

We decided to order it online.  The only one left is two sizes too big.  Apparently everyone loved the dress, not just us.

This is the point that I officially give up.

Until later today when I promised we would make another attempt.  We'll try the outlet mall.

I do really love my girl, swirly asymmetrical hair and all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Switching the audience

We went to our nephew Kain's lacrosse game on Saturday night.  Since it was a playoff game and a close game, the crowd was very involved.   As tensions and voices from the spectators rose, I marveled at the difference between groups of people at events.

(For example, the woman next to me was chewing on sunflower seeds and then spitting the shells out at my feet.  I normally don't frequent places where things like that happen.  I make a point of that.)

As I heard irate parents yell things like, "Hustle!" and "Don't give up!" and "C'mon, you are BETTER than that!" mixed in with curse words, I thought of the difference between being in an audience at say, a school play or band concert.

What if the audiences switched?

But didn't change behavior?

I imagined an audience suddenly transported from a performing arts center to a stadium.  They'd be sort of dressed up and a lot of them would be carrying bouquets of flowers.  They'd read their programs and politely chat then sit with rapt attention.  They'd be unperturbed if someone fell to the ground in agony after being hurt.  (They'd think they were good actors.) They would sit silently until half time when they would clap dutifully after they were sure everyone was done.  They would stand and clap at the end.

I imagined an audience suddenly transported from a stadium to a performing arts center.  They'd be wearing team colors and a lot of them would be carrying sacks of sunflower seeds and bottles of soda.  They'd banter boisterously with each other and hurl insults at the stage.  Some of them would stand and pace the entire time.  If a line was forgotten they'd yell, "Who's line is it?"and "Help him out!"  They'd encourage the actors to hurt each other and if a musician hit a sour note, they'd call, "You're all right, just rub some dirt on it!"

As the game progressed, and I heard more and more colorful expressions from the crowd, I was entertained picturing them at a concert.  It helped me survive sunflower seeds being spit at my feet.

That and Adam.  He let me lean against his legs on the backless bleachers.  When the opposing parents were furious with the referee for a supposed unfair call, Adam yelled in his very loud Adam voice to the referee, "Good call, Dad!"

He makes me (and everyone else within the sound of his very loud Adam voice) laugh.

(I'm pretty sure if his dad wasn't too busy doing heavenly things in heaven, he was laughing too.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Growing boys

Should I be more concerned that:

1)  Mark and I can trade shoes

we're not planning on doing it, we just can

(You are still nine, right Mark?)


2) Braeden got his permit

Maybe those of you that drive on the roads Braeden will be driving on should also be concerned.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day

You know Hannah, my wonder cousin?  She posted this on facebook:
When you are exasperated by interruptions, try to remember that their very frequency may indicate the value of your life.  Only people who are full of help and strength are burdened by other persons' needs.  The interruptions which we chafe at are the credentials of our indispensability.  The greatest condemnation that anybody could incur--and it is is a danger to guard against--is to be so independent, so unhelpful, that nobody ever interrupts us, and we are left comfortably alone.

Is there a mother that can't take comfort in that statement?

Also, here's this:

I was born a mother.  My calling is not to change diapers or spoon-feed tiny mouths.  My calling is to nurture eternity.  I scrub sinks and scour floors because my home is holy, upon the alter of this temple I have laid all my own ambitions.  I do not stay home to support my husband.  He goes to work to fund our family.

-Reachel Bagley,  found here
 I submitted an essay to a contest.  The topic was Motherhood Is.  This is where I wish I could tell you that I won, but I did not.  It's a losing essay, but it is my losing essay:

Motherhood is…

Motherhood is feeling differently about the world from the moment you know you are pregnant. 

Motherhood is undisguised vulnerability after giving birth and wonder that you could love someone that much.  Motherhood is asking someone not to smoke around your baby (something you would never have done before) and sudden tears when you hear about something terrible happening to someone else’s baby…or some other baby’s mother. It is exhausting nights and arms aching from endlessly bouncing a crying baby.  It is tying chunky shoes on chunky feet and clapping in delight at new feats. 

Motherhood is insisting on vaccinations and dentist visits and chores and combing their hair even when it makes children unhappy.  It is gritting your teeth and willing yourself to be patient while they are learning to read and can’t pronounce a word you just told them how to pronounce a sentence earlier.  Motherhood is careful watching at a playground.  Are they safe?  Are they happy?  Did that fall hurt?

Motherhood is the gradual realization that they aren’t perfect, even though you were so certain they would be.  It is the humbling reminders that you are not at all perfect.  You lose patience, you aren’t consistent enough, and sometimes you forget to order the Happy Meal cheeseburger with no pickles.  It is saying the wrong thing, overreacting, and tuning out during repeated descriptions of the Star Wars plot.

But, motherhood is also being there every day.  It is remembering their favorite color (of the moment) and knowing how to make sandwiches they like. 

It is soothing them when they throw up all over you, bandaging knees and kissing fevered foreheads.  It is anxious wide-awake nights while they sleep and you worry.  It is self-doubt and wondering.  Is that consequence appropriate?  What more can I do?  Are they happy?  Will they turn out all right? 

Motherhood is a heartbreaking loosening when they don’t look for you first thing in the morning, they no longer hold your hand willingly, or fit on your lap.  It is the day you find yourself looking up into their eyes and it takes your breath away.  It is watching them fail and watching them succeed, watching them work hard—or not—and finding you no longer have much say.  It is wondering how on earth you are ever going to survive and then remembering.  They were God’s children before they were yours.  Motherhood is a partnership with Him.  It is knowing that no matter how difficult the way, there is help to be had.  Motherhood is love.

Happy Mother's Day (especially to my beloved mother).   Home is where your mom is.  Part of my heart now resides on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

MSP Testing

Being the youngest means two things in our family.

1) You are your mother's baby.  Even if you are big and don't resemble a baby in the least, you melt your mother's heart, you can talk her into most anything and she still wants to hold your hand in a parking lot.  (I never said it was easy to be the baby in our family.)

2) No one is very concerned about the new experiences in your life.  Been there.  Done that.

Mark has been taking the MSP (state testing).  Last weekend, he said, to no one in particular, "Well, I have something coming up in a few days."

No one responded.  (See number 2.)

Finally, I took the bait.  (See number 1.)  "What do you mean Mark?  Oh, the MSP?"


Braeden and Emma were dismissive.  (See number 2.)  They said, "It's no big deal," and "It will be fun."

(I distinctly remember it being a big deal, at least for me, when Braeden first went away for a day of testing.   It was called the WASL back then.)

Monday night, before bed, Mark said miserably, "I'm so stressed out."

No one (see number 2) except me (see number 1) said anything.  I told him not to worry about the MSP.  We talked some more about it. Adam and I sent the other kids to get ready for bed and tried to reassure Mark.

The next morning, I told Adam that I didn't think it would be as hard to leave Mark at the testing site as it had been the first time I left Braeden.  At that time, I had to fight back silly tears because I was leaving my boy in a new place amongst strangers and that doesn't come naturally to me.  I'm all grown up now though.  I send my older two to school every day.  I said, "I'm sure it will be easier to leave Mark." (See number 2.)

Mark and I drove to the testing site.  Our virtual academy had rented a room in a downtown church.  Mark was thinking about the church I guess and he asked, "Mom, what would happen if I went in a Catholic church?"

I told him I imagined it would be the same as what would happen if a person who was Catholic came to our church.  We'd try to be friendly and welcoming.  We'd be glad they were there.

Mark said, "But what about Catholics and Protestants trying to kill each other?"

(This could stem from recent lessons in history about Queen Elizabeth and King James and the like.)

I told Mark that didn't happen anymore, at least not in Everett, Washington.  I told him we weren't Protestants anyway.  I said, "You know the Kremers are Catholic right?"


"And they're our good friends?"


It seemed like irrelevant information to him.

We arrived at the church and I took Mark inside.  I signed him in.  I met the teacher who would be in charge.  I handed over my boy.  (See number 1.)  I kissed his cheek and said good-bye and good luck and then glanced a peek into his brown eyes.  Mistake.  (See number 1.)  He looked the slightest bit apprehensive.  He looked a little unsure.  He looked like he was trying to be brave.

I quickly turned away and slid my sunglasses on.

Because I had a few tears in my eyes.  (See number 1).

I know, I know.  There's something not right about me.  I will probably have to be sedated when they go to college.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

10,000 hours

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes the point that to become world class successful at something, you need to practice for at least 10,000 hours.

That's a lot of hours.

I thought about motherhood though.  If I only count 8 hours a day (and that's a low count, I think, especially some of those years), on Braeden's last birthday, I had practiced being a mother for 43,800 hours.

It seems like I would be better at it.

I make mistakes, I say the wrong thing, I forget things, I let things slide that I shouldn't, I get too caught up in things that don't matter.

Why aren't I world class successful yet?  (Maybe because the subjects I am practicing motherhood on keep growing and changing?  Imagine if the piano got bigger and more opinionated every day.)

A day last week, Emma was at the orthodontist.  Mark and I went to Central Market.  I decided to buy Emma a treat (she was at the orthodontist after all).  She likes Cascade Ice.  I was perusing the flavors--there were about ten choices.  "What would Emma like?" I asked Mark.  He didn't care.  He wanted gummy worms from the bulk candy bins in the back of the store.  I landed on raspberry lemonade.  I decided that was what Emma would most prefer.

When I picked her up and she showed me that she now has to wear rubber bands stretched between her top and bottom teeth, I decided yes, it was a good day for a treat.

I asked her, "If you were to get a Cascade Ice, what flavor would you want?"

She thought for a minute.  "I think raspberry lemonade."

"That's what I got you!"  I was excited.  Small victories are victories just the same.

When we got to the van and I handed her the drink, she marveled that I had known the kind she would like.  She said, "How did you know this was my favorite?  You're like a ninja."

Well, I have had a lot of practice.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

You can't make this stuff up

I have a very simple email address and as a result, a lot of people--a lot of Thelmas--think it is their email address*.  I get random emails fairly often that I can tell are directed at a different Thelma.  I try to be a helper (and I don't want them mad at that other Thelma--hey, why won't you answer me?!?) so I respond and let them know they have the wrong Thelma.  They usually go on their merry way and find the right person.

Sometimes though, they don't.

I got this email.

Hello my Friend,

This is my email address:

I will write more later when I am at home.

So glad to connect again..
Tell Gerald thanks for signing a book for me..  We all need to pray in tongues.
It's my second language.


Her email was in response to this one:





Apparently Gerald was yelling at poor Vi, because it was in all caps.  Also, these sound like interesting people. 

my response:

You were given the wrong email address.  I am a different Thelma.

Vi sent another email, hoping if she tried again with the exact same address, it would somehow reach the correct person.
I sent you an email and it went to some other Thelma.
Please let me know if you are receiving this one.
I can’t understand how this happen.
I will try again, hope you get it.  I will CC Gerald.

Sorry Vi.  All that hoping didn't help.

my response:

You sent it to the wrong Thelma again.  This is my email address.  You were given the wrong one.

Things slowly started to don on Vi that she was not reaching her intended Thelma.  She refused to accept that she had the wrong email address though.  She sent me this:

I really apologize.  I am using (my email address again) and for some reason you are getting it.
I have talked the Thelma Davis  I am wanting to get in touch with, and they are calling Apple to see what is going on.
Thanks for your patience.

Blessings to you


Cute little Vi.  The reason I'm getting the emails is because you are sending them to my email address.

my response:

I am getting the emails to (my email address) because that is my email address.  Your friend is mistaken if she thinks it is her email address.  I have had this email address for 13 years.  Your friend should give you a different email address to use.

I'm not sure what else I could do for Vi but it apparently worked.  I haven't heard from her since.  I hope she's OK.  I hope she got a hold of that Thelma.

*Braeden thinks this is because every other Thelma in the world is old.  I think that's (maybe true) but rude.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Saturday: sunshine + sagebrush

Part 1:  Win Win Situation

Adam likes to go for a drive.

The destination doesn't matter so much.  He just likes to drive.  I don't.  Call me the product of a task oriented mother.  It feels like an enormous waste of time to just drive.  We have arrived at a solution.  When I am Seattle weary (clouds and gray sky), I will go for a drive.  I will drive as long as I need to go.  To find sunshine.

We took Braeden (and Leif) to the mountains on Saturday for a scout activity at Ensign Ranch.  We left them there and headed east east east.  Towards the sun.  Towards the blue sky.  Towards the...


we inhaled a couple of deep breaths to take with us to my mom and dad in Illinois

We took a little hike and looked at some petrified wood in the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park.  We saw some petrified wood.

And some sagebrush.

(It's possible I am homesick for Nevada.)

Happy Adam.

Happy Thelma.

Part 2:  Splendour in the Grass

...nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower
William Wordsworth

Laying in the grass on the banks of the Columbia River in the sunshine may be one of the best things that's ever happened to me.

I look like I was shot in the back and left there to die...

But I fell asleep and had a wonderful nap with my face in the grass.  (I've been sick--I think I can sleep anywhere.) The trees there were like the ones in my grandma and grandpa Dahl's yard.  I showed Emma how to snap them and see stars inside the twigs.

Of course, everyone wasn't as restful as I was.

I don't know how to explain him.

Part 3: Speaking of Mark

He had one goal.  And it was to hike.  He packed himself a backpack which included food, a change of clothes, a blanket and the tin plate he made at cub scout day camp last summer.  (Which incidentally looked very convincing as a UFO when it was tossed in the air.)

We were being a little too leisurely for him and enjoying the view of the Columbia River.

Mark said, "Have we already hiked?"

Adam said, "No."

"Then what are we doing sitting around here?"

Mark was the enthusiastic leader of the hike.  He tried to bring a water filter but Adam intercepted that idea.  He did bring walkie talkies.  He and Emma would get ahead of us and call back to Adam.  They were "Blue Hawk" and Adam and I were "Red Bear."

The conversation went something like this.

"Here's a spruce, Red Bear.  Over."

"OK, Mark...I mean, Blue Hawk."

"Copy that.  How's mom?  Over."

"Mark, let's save the battery.  Only talk to me if you need me."

"Roger that.  Over."

"Red Bear, we're turning right.  Over."

"Mark, we're trying to have a conversation.  I'm turning the walkie talkie off."

"Copy that.  Over."

Mark keeps things interesting.  It's his role in my life.

That and being the spotter of things on the horizon.

Part 4:  I like teenagers.

Emma makes me happy.

Braeden (and his tall friends) make me happy.  I was happy to reclaim him from his scout activity.

They're actually the same height...Leif is uphill a little.  I'm not sure how Janet and I let them get so big.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May I suggest

For years I had a variety of canisters to house my various baking supplies.  My baking cupboard was very crowded and putting everything back was a little like playing Tetris.  I wonder how much time I spent trying to solve the puzzle of fitting it in.  I am good at making do.  Sometimes to a fault.

A while ago, I found some OXO canisters that were tall and skinny and they've made my life better.

They've made the cupboard positively roomy.

I love the way the lids snap off and on too.  I've never had so much fun.  (OK, maybe I have.)

The canisters, prized by me for their svelte and lofty shape (they're built like my siblings) were just the tiniest bit too tall for my shelves.  They'd work if I sort of shoved them and wrestled with them a little and like I said, I am good at making things work.

Adam is a problem solver though.  After I went to bed (when he seems to do his best work) he placed pennies above the pegs holding the shelves.

That man is a genius.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

On being busy or sick or both

Life has been sort of a whirl lately.  A busy whirl.  There have been good and exciting things happening but sometimes even good and exciting things tire you out.

Then I got sick.

Not life threateningly sick or even too incapacitating, but sick enough to tire me out.

Here's what happened in the interim.

My bedroom which at best always seems to have some clutter or other lurking around, has become frightening.  When I was busy, I didn't have time to deal with it.  When I was sick, I didn't have energy.  It is slowly sucking the joy out of my life.  You can only skirt your way around clutter for so long.

I have dropped several balls. I forgot (twice) to pay Emma's girls' camp registration.  I haven't answered email as timely as I'm accustomed to doing.  I have had colliding schedules because my brain has been foggy.  It is slowly sucking the joy out of my life.  You can only apologize and apply triage to your life for so long.

Here's what I've learned.

I was reminded again of how grateful I am for my health.  What a blessing it is to have energy and strength.

I have had to apply careful priorities.  This is an ongoing requirement and a skill that needs constant honing for me.

I feel tremendous gratitude for patient and kind people who forgive me for messing up (again) and for being messy (again).

I aspire to be the kind of person who gives someone the benefit of the doubt.  Too often I sigh (inwardly or out loud) when I feel like someone is not measuring up.  Here's the thing, though.   You never know when they've been busy.  Or sick.  Or both.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Books I read in April 2012

April must have been busy.  I only read three books.  They were all pretty good ones though:

Joy School by Elizabeth Berg***

I liked this book.  Again, it was sort of sad.  Someday I'll read a thoroughly happy book (I'll probably hate it though).  It was about a girl who was twelve whose mother had died.  She had an older sister that had run off with a boyfriend and she also had just moved to a new town with her dad, who she didn't exactly get along with.  She was lonely and things were hard.  I kept expecting the book to go in different directions (like focus on the sister, or dad, or her mother) but it kind of glanced over everything and included her making new friends and having a big crush on someone.  That sort of disappointed me but then I realized that is a lot more like how life really is.  There's not really a neat and tidy resolution to things and you deal with a lot of different people and issues at once and have to keep moving forward.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin ***

This book was sort of disturbing to me.  It is about Alice Liddell Hargreaves who was the muse for Alice in Wonderland.  The story was fiction but based on facts.  I thought Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) was creeeeeeeeeeepy.  It was a well written book.  I have to be impressed with any writing that makes me cry.  I am less impressed with myself for creating a spectacle of myself by crying at the pool while my kids were swimming.  Sometimes I think I shouldn't read in public but the idea of sitting idly while I could be reading would make me cry anyway.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell ***

I love it when my book club book is on my list of books I want to read anyway.  (I also love it when it's not, because then it's something new.)  I had been wanting to read Outliers because I think Malcolm Gladwell is a fascinating writer.  This book is about success and some of the illusive contributors to success (luck, lots of hours, culture, wealth).  It's very interesting.  Hard work isn't always the key that we Americans want to believe it to be (although sometimes it is).  It made me reassess the way I teach math and feel less embarrassed about the way my kids act sometimes when they're quizzing a doctor/dentist/orthodontist about what exactly is happening and why.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Innocence lost

Last week Mark answered the phone.  I was upstairs with Braeden but I heard Mark hang up the phone and run to the front door.  I heard him lock the door, then click the bolt into place too.

"Mom!" he yelled up the stairs at me, "That was the FBI and they said to lock the door because there is a house broken into every 15 minutes!"

Braeden smiled at me.  He said, "I'll give him about two weeks to get over that."  (Oh the cheekiness of a teenage brother.)

I asked Mark about the phone call.  He repeated the message.  I said, "It was probably someone trying to sell something."

He insisted it was not.  He said, "They said they would give you a free home security system."


I explained how it would probably cost money to get it installed and then you'd have to keep paying for it, for the service.

Like a fish tale, the phone call grew in his little mind.  Soon they had offered free installation and you'd never have to pay for it ever.  He was emphatic that it had been the FBI and he was diligent for the rest of the day about keeping the doors locked.

Adam reiterated what I'd told Mark about the sales ploy.  Braeden and Emma told Mark it was nothing to worry about.  Mark still looked worried.

Late that night, he came downstairs, wrapped in a blanket and looking forlorn.  He said, "I heard a noise in my room and Braeden is asleep?"  (Oh the insensitivity of a teenage brother.)  I showed him all the doors were locked.  I explained that anyone going in his room would have to get past me.  I told him about our safe neighborhood and our neighbors' dogs that would protect us.  (I was grasping at straws; it was late.)

He went to sleep finally but had the dark circles under his eyes of a kid who hadn't slept well the next morning.

I googled "telemarketer FBI house break in" and came up with 1,120,000 search results.  I showed Mark.  I showed him how lots of people had gotten these same phone calls and they were trying to sell something.  I said, "Lots of times people don't tell the truth and they try to scare you when they want you to buy something."

Mark looked thoroughly shocked.

"But why would they do that?"

I know it's important to be savvy enough to be wary of such schemes, but still.  I want to go back a few days.  Back when Mark thought you could trust people more.  Back when his world was a little safer.


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