Friday, May 31, 2013

Books I read in May 2013

My apologies to Adam.  These are his least favorite blog posts.  Still, my blog, my posts.  I like my book posts because I have a rare and incurable disease called I Can't Remember Anything I've Read.

May was a good month for reading.  These were some good books:

Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright ***

This was a fourth grade curriculum book.  I enjoyed it.  It's about the adventures of two cousins who discover a hidden place that used to be a lakeside resort community.  Two darling people still live there.  It's a feel-good book that was just the kind of book I loved to read as a child.  It was perhaps too good to be true at times but I don't fault a book for that.  Happy endings are the best kind.

Home Front by Kristin Hannah ****

I love Kristin Hannah and every book I've ever read by her.  This is about a family whose mother is in the National Guard and goes to Iraq.  I cried a lot, even when I was reading it during my hair appointment.  I blamed Jill because she lent me the book.  She said to blame the chemicals at the hair salon.  Everyone passes the blame but it was a terrific book.

The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood ***

This made me want to be a better knitter.  (I can dream.)  It's about a group of people that have all had different tragedies in their lives but they get strength from each other and from the act of knitting.  I want to find a place like they had and gather once a week to knit.  I don't have time for that.  (I can dream.)

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey ****

I loved this book!  It's an homage to Jane Eyre which is one of my all time favorites so how could I not love it?  I was fascinated by how the story was reinterpreted in a different setting (Scotland in the '60s).  There was a variation to the plot which bothered me at first but I think in the end I liked it.  I enjoyed reading about Scotland too.  I have some ancestors from there so that always ups my interest level.

The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum ****

I read this book to Mark.  It's set in Holland during the Nazi occupation.  I loved this book too!  The people were wonderful and the setting was interesting.  I learned a lot about Holland.  I especially loved the mother.  She was heroic and when the father told the sons on the last pages how great the mother was, I cried.  Mark offered to take over but I soldiered on. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dentist visit

I take myself and my older kids to the dentist where my friend Heather works because she is the best dental hygienist in the world (she just is).

I take Mark to a pediatric dentist because I like to take a walk on the cuckoo side every six months.

Yesterday while I was sitting in the waiting room, you know...waiting, a hygienist came out to retrieve another child.  She asked his mom if she had any questions.  The mom said, "No, I guess not, but what exactly are you going to do?"

The hygienist said, "We're going to get him all ready and then give him the sleepy drops and then the dentist will give that tooth a wiggle."

The mom looked slightly confused, "So will he be sleepy afterward?"  (This mom was maybe new to the place where they speak like Lewis Carroll wrote the script.  They should provide a translation.  Sleepy drops = shots.  Wiggle = yank it out.)

"Oh, no," the hygienist assured, "We will give him the happy gas but as soon as we turn that off he'll be just fine.  We can give him some ibuprofen later."

"OK," said that mom, then to her son she said, "Do you want ibuprofen?"

"What is that?" he asked.

"It's like aspirin," the mom said.

The hygienist took over at that point (since she's so clear with her explanations),  "It's in case you have a little...discomfort."

"Will he?" the mom wondered.  Up until now it had all been about sleepiness and happiness and wiggling.

"Well...maybe," the hygienist said.  "There might even be some of the red stuff."

"She means blood," was my telepathic message to the other mother.  I'm not sure she got it.  My telepathy is rusty.

"OK," the mom said doubtfully.  

Mark came out with no cavities (yahoo!) and his hygienist asked me to make sure he didn't eat for a half hour because of the tooth vitamins.

In the van, Mark said, "Why can't I eat?"

"They put fluoride on your teeth and if you eat you will wash it away."

"Oh," he said, "OK."  Then he said enthusiastically, "Now I need to see what I got in my treat bag!"   I'm not sure what he was expecting but he seemed pleased enough by the new toothbrush, floss and sugar free gum.

The pediatric dentist is always fun.  Even though they lecture me (gently, that's how they roll) about flossing.

I know, I know.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A new development

The cat may be in for a wild time.

Yesterday I saw the cat walker.  He has traded in the lightweight fold-able stroller for a heavy duty jogging stroller.

That is all.

What could I possibly add to that?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

We didn't even need to bribe anyone with maple cookies

In preparation for our trip to Canada over the weekend, we bought some maple cookies.  Mark and I made up complicated scenarios where we would need to use them to bribe the border crossing guards.  My favorite was Mark's idea.  He said we could say, "We don't know where our passports are.  Maybe they are (cough, cough) in this box of cookies."

Maple cookies seemed like something the border guards would enjoy.

(It's OK if you don't think we're hilarious.  No one around here thought we were as funny as we did either.)

When the bridge on I-5 collapsed earlier in the week, Emma said, "Maybe we're not meant to go."

We've been trying to go since February but we realized our children had expired passports.  We refused to let something small like a collapsed bridge get in our way now though.

Here's the collapsed bridge, taken from the safety of a detour on a newer adjacent bridge:

I'm not sure the picture does it justice.  Thank goodness no one was too seriously injured or killed when it collapsed.  Scary.

We went to Harrison Hot Springs in B.C.  It's a beautiful idyllic spot on a lake.

Amazingly, Mark didn't get wet at this point:

It sort of denied the laws of physics that he managed to stay dry.

We had dinner at a pizza restaurant.  I kept very close watch on Mark, my little Sasquatch.  I didn't want him to return to his people.

Braeden and Emma have woven a tale for Mark that he's actually a Sasquatch and we traded him for Timmy, their real brother who lives with the Sasquatch, poor hairless kid.

Who knows how these things start.

Staying at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort, we stayed in the old wing of the hotel.  It reminded me of the Mountain View Inn in The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary.  I fully expected a mouse on a motorcycle to come racing down the hall wearing a ping pong ball helmet.

(I dislike mice in general but I make an exception for Ralph.  And yes, it's possible I've read that book many times both as a child and as an adult, aloud to my class of third graders and to my own children.)

In the lobby, I told our children to pose in front of the bear for a picture.  Adam said that was dehumanizing and that he had a name.

I meant this bear though.

I promise Braeden knows how to smile.
Everyone loved swimming and soaking in the hot pools and hot tub, heated by the hot springs.  In the morning when I went into the room where he was sleeping to tell Mark we were going to breakfast soon, he took that to mean time to go swimming.  Adam whistled out our window and we called him back.

I felt slightly voyeuristic when I took this shot from my hotel window:

I kind of have weird kids but I like them.

Grandma Geri was, of course, wonderful to have along.  She brought treats and games and I went to sleep and Adam went to the lobby to work and our children and Grandma Geri had a party into the wee hours.

I had been reading in front of the fire while they swam--I swam a little but I like reading in front of a fire.  They stopped and posed for a picture.  What?  You thought Braeden would smile like normal?  Maybe this is the new normal?

We also went to Hope (which it must be said, is an encouraging thing to do) and walked through some incredible tunnels that are there.  They were built originally for a railroad to cross the mountains and it was an unbelievable engineering feat.  Also it is breathtakingly beautiful.

My eyes are kind of at half mast so in case anyone is wondering, no I haven't suddenly become photogenic.  Here's hoping though.  Hope?  In Hope?  See what I did there?
 It was gorgeous!

the rushing water was dizzying and impressive

Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.

Ernest Hemingway 

That is sound advice.  And I love going on trips with people I love.

Especially when I don't have to forfeit my maple cookies. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

A random collection about my fourth grader

Perhaps whatever afflicts Braeden and makes it impossible for him to pose like a normal child for a camera is contagious and Mark has caught the affliction.

They do sleep in the same room after all.

Mark won't be a fourth grader for much longer but I am enjoying every minute of it.   Every once in awhile I just have to take stock and record some things because I know how fleeting this time is, this time when he's shorter than me and we have our simple daily rituals and sometimes he just randomly tells me that he loves me.

I may shrivel up and die when he goes to school also.

For now I'll just enjoy it.

Awhile ago, Mark had the following math problem:

Alice arrived at 12:50 and the show started at 1:20.  How early is she?

Mark put his pencil down and said, "She should figure it out herself.  She's the one that got into this mess."

He apparently has little sympathy for people in story problems.


Mark has created an analogy for the books he has to read for school.  The ones that are part of the curriculum are "draft books." The ones that he reads because he wants to are "volunteer books."  He sighs deeply when he has to read a draft book.  But, as he explained to me, he reads them because just like when you get drafted, you have to do it.

Whatever gets him through.


He's thinking militarily because we've been learning about World War II.  He has also absorbed interest in history from Braeden.  He loves reading about it.  He insists on reading the World War II book out loud to me instead of the other way around and he has some wild pronunciations that make things even more interesting.  He decided that we should watch one of Braeden's DVDs about D-day.  (It's handy to have a Braeden around who has DVDs about D-day.)

He wanted to watch all 5-6 hours in one sitting and I convinced him that we should pace ourselves and watch a little each day.  (I'm as interested in D-day as the next guy but 5-6 hours?)

We were watching about the Germans building the Atlantic Wall and Mark paused the DVD and said, "Mom, do you think this is interesting?  Because I think this is very interesting."

World War II has crept into his Lego playing:

I told him it reminded me of the beach at Normandy and he said, "Yeah it's sort of a clone trooper D-day."


Mark sings a lot during the day.  Loudly.  I don't really notice until Emma and Braeden come home and they're trying to do homework and he's singing, "Radioactive, radioactive" at the top of his lungs.  They beg me to make him stop.

Yesterday he said, "Mom, do you think the judges would turn their chairs around for me on The Voice?"

"Yes," I said, "If I were a judge, I would definitely choose you."

"No offense, Mom," he said, "But I don't think they'd let my mom be the judge."

Having your mom choose you isn't that valuable I guess, but I still choose Mark.  Every day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Buyer's remorse

Yesterday Braeden passed his driver's test and got his license.

I was a squirming nervous wreck while he was testing, saved only by Marianne calling me at the exact right time and distracting me.

Then, he climbed out of the driver's ed car and looked over at me and mouthed, "I passed."  My heart soared.  Hurray for Braeden and his driver's license!  He was happy so I was happy.

We went to the department of licensing to finish the process.  I texted exuberant messages to my friends, "He passed!"  They all texted back congratulations, because we're all in this together.

Then reality slowly seeped in.

I started thinking about things like insurance rates and getting the kid a car to drive.

Reality is a real buzz kill.

I started thinking about sending him down the road, alone.  Seriously?

I started thinking about him distracted or showing off like a teenage boy.  I started thinking about all sorts of unpleasant things.

Truly, reality is a real buzz kill.

I thought about the fact that Braeden getting his license is just one more--rather large--step towards his independence.  And that's a good thing, right?  Isn't that the point, that I'm supposed to work myself right out of a job?  Haven't I longed in all my driving him places and picking him up places for him to have his own license?

It comes at a cost though (and I'm not talking about the exorbitant licensing fees or the insurance or the car or the gas).  All that time driving Braeden around? That's been good time.  We've talked a lot.  He tells me about his day.  He turns the dial on the radio and I find out about the music he likes.  I'll miss that.

Stephanie texted me that I clearly have buyer's remorse.  I do.

I am quite sure I will get over it though.  Just ask me the first time I don't have to get up and drive for early morning seminary.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Clearing land like a homesteader

On Saturday we did yard work.  It was one of those these-kids-are-really-paying-off sort of days.  Braeden dug out big scary looking stickery bushes and they all three cleared weeds like goats.  (Actually, they want a goat.  Then we'll have Horace the inside goat and an outside goat too, name to be determined.  Emma demanded I consider the option.)

I couldn't believe how much work we got done.  Maybe I felt a little overconfident because when Mark told me he wanted a vegetable garden, I promised we'd make one on Monday.  There's a patch on the top of the hill behind our house that's extremely fertile.  I can tell because of all the waist high grass and buttercup and blackberry bushes that grow there.

I told him we'd clear a spot and make him a garden.

We climbed the hill with gloves and tools and optimism.  We pulled out everything that was easy to pull out.  Then we started digging.  The thing about blackberries is that in addition to being extremely prickly and invasive, they have intertwined woody stems that meet each other underground in twisty impenetrable masses.  Also the big clumps of grass were shovelproof (at least for me).  We did a couple of feet--maybe half of what we were intending.  Mark said, "I say we call it a day and get back to this another time."

This will come as a shock to exactly no one, but I am sort of a wimp so I quickly agreed with him.  I am thinking we need Braeden or Adam or both of them.

Here's what we have so far:

I thought about all the men and women that have cleared land, removed stumps and boulders off of entire farms and I felt a little ashamed of my cowardly self and my lack of agricultural prowess.

Then I got over it and Mark and I went to Target.

We can't all and some of us don't.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Yesterday I was sitting in our van outside our kids' voice teacher's house.  I was watching her son and his friend play on the lawn.  They had toy guns and swords and what looked like a complicated game going on.  Two little girls, black braids bouncing, came down the street.  They gave the boys sideways glances and giggled and then once they were past the boys, they started running.  The boys returned the sideways glances and as soon as the girls with the bouncing black braids had run past, they started wrestling each other to the ground.  And they could because they're little boys and the sun was shining and the grass was a soft place to fall.

Tears were sliding down my face as I watched these children play.  I was listening to the radio and hearing about other children, children the same age who had endured unimaginable things during a tornado that devastated their school, homes and lives.

My heart and thoughts and prayers are with them today.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Audience participation

Saturday Emma and I went bright and early to her solo ensemble competition.  Maybe I should write it solo and ensemble?  Solo/ensemble?  You know what I mean.


In her warm up Emma struggled to hit her high note.  I could tell by the look on her face that she was shaken.  "You can do it!" I told her.  Her choir teacher had her sing a warm up exercise and purposely had her go four notes above the highest part of Emma's song, just so she could see that she could do it.

But I could tell by the look on my girl's stoic face that she was nervous.  Rattled.

During the performance before Emma's, we were sitting behind the mother and grandmother of the girl singing.  Her grandma mouthed every word the girl was singing.  (Adam does that too.  I think it's adorable.  It is OK to think a grown man is adorable?)

I didn't mouth the words along with Emma when it was her turn, but I realized that every muscle in my body was tensed.  My heart was pounding.  When it was time for the highest high note, I was sitting up so straight that I was practically out of my seat.  If I stretched my body as far as it would go, would that help her hit the note?

She hit her note but I know whatever I was going through in my seat was irrelevant to Emma.  But what can you do?

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
Elizabeth Stone

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sunshine in my soul

The weather this May has been fabulous.  I think more sunshine days than not.  You don't know what this means to me and my psyche.  Well, maybe you do.  It means I'm not whining.  I'm not scheming how to possibly get out from under the clouds.

Yesterday evening we met Adam at the choir room at Emma's school for her mock performance in preparation for her solo ensemble on Saturday. 

Afterward I told her choir teacher that she was wonderful and we loved her (because it's true) and she indicated my children and said, "You have a lot to be proud of."  I tried to look humble and gracious but what I was thinking was, don't I know it!

Adam, because he's Adam, suggested that we stay and play a little disc golf at the school.  Then he pulled some disc golf Frisbees out of the Mary Poppins bag that is the trunk of his car.

Both Frisbee and golf are in the realm of impossible for me so disc golf was no different.  (There was limited athletic ability distributed among my siblings and me.  Some of them got plenty but it didn't leave any leftover for me.)

With or without any skill on my part, it was still nice.

Also, we didn't stay too long because we were hungry.

I was in a celebratory mood.  Maybe it was because of the weather or maybe it was because Braeden had taken his AP test and felt pretty good about it.  Maybe I felt like celebrating because I had talked to another mother earlier in the day about the 8th grade celebration at Emma's school.  She was stewing about how to alter her daughter's fancy dress she bought for the occasion.  It is a Big Deal and the girls show up in heels way too high and skirts way too short.  My daughter, bless her heart, doesn't want to go.  She is my favorite daughter ever.  (Because I don't want to go either.  Celebrating the completion of 8th grade in an over the top way seems ridiculous.  Way to get a year older!  Just like everyone else your age, you're going to 9th grade! Yippee.)

So we decided last night for a riverside supper with riparian entertainment (inspired by the fantastic British TV show, Keeping Up Appearances.)

Chuck's Seafood Grotto in Snohomish provided the supper and instagram provided the riparian entertainment.

I don't know what other families do while they're waiting for the food to arrive at restaurants.  We take silly pictures of each other.

It was a perfect dinner in a lovely setting.  The kids gave me a few of their fries which I doused in vinegar.  To me, the french fry is just the vehicle for the vinegar.  Braeden ate the bits I left behind.  He made a terrible face and said, "This tastes like vinegar but I'm so hungry."

I promised him ice cream when we got home.  It was just that kind of a night.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I miss them

For some reason I was glancing through some pictures on the old laptop and happened across these:

As a bonus, Robert is in this picture...I love him too.

I am expounding on something here and Ammon is licking his lips...maybe I'm describing a delicious meal?
Despite their tendency to grow excessive facial hair (except you, Ammon...kudos for that kid) and their tendency to literally (not figuratively) talk over my head, I love those three boys.

My brothers are smart and funny and capable.  They are good men and they make me feel loved and taken care of and sort of short every time I see them.

I just wish I saw them more.

Addendum:  I just realized that I gave a shout out to Robert and not to Melanee, who is shown holding Ammon's hand.  I pointed out Robert in the context of brothers because he's like one too.  How I love my sisters-in-law though!  They are wonderful women and good to my brothers and good for my brothers and how could that not make me grateful and happy?

Ah.  So much love on this blog this morning.  I may get a cavity, I'm so sweet...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Parenting older kids


1) While I was making the requisite fruit smoothies for lunch, Mark heated up leftover BBQ pork and got out everything we needed for sandwiches.  He also loaded the dishwasher while I cleaned the rest of the kitchen. 

2) Braeden needed help formatting his Word document.  I had no clue.  I said, "What you need is Emma."  And it was true.  Emma knew immediately what to do. 

3) Since he could utter words, Braeden has been arguing his position.  Even when it has nothing to do with him, he has an opinion and an argument.  Yesterday I told him my perspective in the debate we were having.  He said, "Yeah, you have a point.  I can see that."

Parenting older kids is not always, or even often, easy.

But sometimes it really is.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Just a typical day

My alarm went off this morning in the middle of a dream I was having where I was a waitress in the Ranch House, a casino that is no longer open, in Wells, NV.  It was "Chinese Night" at the Ranch House though.  All the food was Chinese and all the customers were Chinese and I had to wear roller skates while I was waitressing.

That's just kind of how things have been going.

Yesterday my cell phone wouldn't work.  The data worked but I couldn't call or text.  Then Braeden got home and told me his cell phone wasn't working and I realized that Adam's phone wasn't working either. 

It turned out that our account was somehow hacked.  Someone had purchased three new iphones with our account and they were working instead of our phones.  Adam got it all straightened out but how did that happen?

Stephanie and I took a walk yesterday in the early afternoon.  We live in the Seattle suburbs, we are not swayed by a little rain.  It was not a little rain.  There was thunder and wind and instead of the steady (and I mean steady) drizzle we usually have, the rain was pelting us.  We forged on.  By the time we finished our walk, my jeans were drenched (I had an umbrella and raincoat for the top half of my body) and the sky was blue and the sun was shining.

I took Braeden driving.  We went to the church parking lot so he could practice backing around a corner in a big space without people around.  I got out and stood, representing a car parked next to him.  He said, "Don't stand there.  I don't want to hit you."

I assured him I didn't want him to hit me either.  Then I considered the myriad duties of motherhood that no one can possibly prepare you for.

(Incidentally, Braeden didn't hit me.)

Last night, we decided as a family to try a new exercise program.  It was maybe more dangerous than  pretending to be a car in the empty parking lot.  It almost killed me.  Gavin was over for part of it and he and Mark were laughing and singing through most of it.  At one point, Braeden said, "Now this part is kind of hard."

I thought the entire thing was hard!  Later, I wondered if we would be sore the next day.  Emma said, "It wasn't even that hard, Mom."

Yesterday was a little bizarre.  It was also a really typical day.  Sometimes I look around and think who is in charge here?

Monday, May 13, 2013

A happy Mother's Day

This was not an original idea, but adapted from something I saw online.  I will take credit for the handprints though.  They are either mine or belonging to people I married or gave birth to.

Emma wrote me a poem, Mark built me a castle shaped box with a hinged lid (out of Lego bricks), and Braeden wrote me a card in French (that I couldn't read).

I am a blessed woman.

Mother's Day is a holiday that fills me with gratitude.  I'm grateful for my own wonderful mother.  She is a confident and capable woman and through sheer force of her formidable will, she infused me with confidence and capacity.  (Also, I got to talk to her yesterday which is a rare treat since she's a busy missionary.)

I'm also grateful for the opportunity I have to be a mother.  It is not a bad gig.  It is difficult, there's no doubt about that.  It takes skills I don't possess (or just very minimally possess) but still I am allowed to plow ahead and do my best and try harder next time.

I'm grateful for Adam.  He is my partner in every sense of the word.  I need everything I have and everything he has as well to try to take care of our children.  The responsibility to do my best for these three souls is immense and I'm glad to have an able teammate.

I'm grateful for my children.  They make me think that Heavenly Father must love me to send me them.  Gifts are my love language.  The gift of Braeden and Emma and Mark is the best gift I can imagine.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Another reason to love a daughter

Last night we went to Costco.  I snatched up a box of those huggable hangers.  Adam looked at me like I'd sprouted a new head.  Usually I get wooden hangers from IKEA.  Wooden hangers from IKEA hang in every closet.  I like them.

But sometimes a girl needs a huggable hanger.

"We need these," I told Adam.

He looked doubtful.

"They're good for girl clothes," I said.

He shrugged.

This morning Emma is playing hooky and going to an author signing rather than school.  I went in her room to make sure she was ready. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"Cleaning my room."

(Pardon me while I wrap my mind around that statement.)

She was trying to hang up a shirt with a wide neck on a slick wooden hanger.  "It keeps falling off," she said.

"Ah-ha!" I said, "I bought new hangers!"

She followed me in anticipation, because she's a girl.

I opened the box and presented her with the slim black hanger.

"Wow," she said, full of the appreciation no one else at this address would feel.  She hung the shirt with the wide neck on the hanger and it held perfectly.  "Dang," she said.

"I know," I said.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sickness 101

Sometimes I marvel at people that don't do things.  They don't show up, they don't sign up, they don't say yes.  I wonder how they get away with it.  I wonder why I can't get away with it.

For about a week, I have felt sick.  Sometimes it's been just sort of miserable and I kept going as usual.  Sometimes I've been flat on my back.

I've enjoyed none of it.

I haven't shown up to things that I was supposed to go to.  I wasn't very helpful to someone who called me with an inquiry.  I've been trying to reserve my resources.  I've tried to say no to things I didn't want to do.  (My answers were not accepted.  I tried.)

I've enjoyed none of that either.

I want to be a person who shows up.  I want to be a person who signs up.  I want to say yes.

Sometimes it takes getting sick to help you realize what a blessing it is to be the type of person that people can count on.

At the same time, being sick has helped me see that maybe the people that don't show up, sign up or say yes would really like to be doing more, they just can't.

Also, my self worth is tied to what I do, what I accomplish, lines drawn through items on my to do list.  Adam has been trying to convince me that is not true.  Self worth can't just be tied to tasks completed.  I know, I know.

Who knew sickness could be so informative?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

One last time, then it really is bye bye, Birdie.

This is one of those posts for the benefit of the instant scrapbook that is blogging.

A photo dump of my favorite pictures of Braeden in the musical:

Here's the entire cast...

I have a son incapable of taking a serious picture.  He's a goof.  All the following pictures are proof of his goofiness.

Though to me he'll always be a leading man, he was in the ensemble.

Here he is as a teenager:

Here he is a Shriner:

And my favorite, here he is dancing in "Spanish Rose."

The look on his face made me giggle the entire song.

So I dumped the how can I dump the lyrics to the songs that have been in my head constantly?  I've perhaps had a little overexposure....

Bye Bye, Birdie.


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