Monday, September 30, 2013

Day one: 31 stories



I am linking up like last year to do 31 posts on a topic.  This year, my topic is 31 stories.  They will be family stories, written by me mostly but a few guest appearances as well.  They're for my kids who like to read my blog and they're for me because my blog seems like a pretty good permanent storage solution.  As long as the internet survives, it'll be here.

I hope you like them too.

I will begin with a story that is one of my earliest memories.  I was four.

This is us on Easter morning.  I am the one in yellow.
My mom was pregnant with my brother Enoch so there were just the three girls--my older sister Marianne, my younger sister Olivia and me.  My dad had rebuilt a wagon for a parade in Wells, the nearest town to our rural Nevada home.  My dad was the Young Men's president at church and was going to give the teenagers a ride on the new wagon in the parade. (So it was summer, a few months after the above picture was taken.)  He wasn't sure if his team of draft horses, Betty and Billy, were ready to pull a wagon in town with all the noise so we went for a trial run.

My parents sat on the seat with one-year-old Olivia between them.  Marianne and I were in the back of the wagon.  I think we were probably mostly standing up, hanging onto the seat for balance.  Everything was going along fine until we were on our way back home.  We met our uncle Demar heading the other direction.  He was driving a truck with a rumbling diesel engine.  He stopped the truck and visited with us for a few minutes.  When he was ready to drive on, he started his truck and that spooked Betty and Billy.  They started running.

Fast.

One of my parents pushed Olivia on the floor and my dad reached around and shoved us to the floor of the wagon.  The reins cut through my dad's hands as he tried to stop the horses.

They were not stopping.

Finally, my dad climbed out on the tongue of the wagon and was able to get the horses stopped.  From the distance of time and after becoming a mother, I realize how scared my parents must have been with their little family careening down the road behind runaway horses.  I should have been scared too but I don't remember that.

I remembering thinking that we were fine.

My dad was there.

Here are Billy and Betty (and my dad)--a few years later--at a pulling contest at the county fair.  They were good strong horses.  They didn't mean to try to kill us...


Books I read in September 2013

This is one of those busy months when I didn't read much.  Also the book I am currently reading is a slow one to plow through so that is part of the trouble.  I read some pretty good books this month though:



Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland***

This book was historical fiction about a woman named Clara (who was a real person) that worked for Louis Comfort Tiffany.  She was a designer and glass cutter and it was a fascinating look at turn of the century New York City when women were part of things but not really.  I admittedly skimmed a little of the specifics about the glass cutting--because it got a little too specific--but I also learned a lot and feel a new appreciation for Tiffany lamps.



A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama***

Set in communist China in the 50s, this book was about a family whose father, Sheng, had been taken away for reeducation.  The family consisted of the mother, the little boy and Sheng's father.  They loved each other and struggled together but then encountered trouble too.  It was a good book and I really enjoyed the characters.  I would have been happier with a different ending.  I don't care if it's realistic, I just want everything tied up neatly in the end...

this is the cover of the book I read as a child
 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell ****

I read this book to Mark.  Everyone's read this book (except it turns out Adam has not) so you know it is wonderful.  I love everything about it.  I love that it's based on a true story.  I love how strong and innovative she is.  Good good book.  If you're like Adam and have not read it, go READ IT!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sing a song of seasons

Earlier this week, I had a dream about decorating my house for fall.  I wanted to decorate it (so much so that I dreamt about it) and it was buried in the deep, columned list of things to do.  I don't know about you, but things are pretty busy around here. 

I really and truly enjoy decorating for seasons.  The very process makes me happy.  It's not a Have To though so that's why it kept getting kicked to the bottom of the list.  Finally, I decided it sort of was a Have To.  Here's why.  It gives me pause.  It reminds me of beauty.  It reminds me of the passing seasons.  This weekend is oh so busy.  You too?  It might be easy for me to forget all about the beauty that is everywhere if I keep my nose too much to the grindstone. 

Autumn Fires
by Robert Louis Stevenson (from A Child's Garden of Verses, 1885)

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The gray smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

So here's my autumnal still life, my singing of seasons:


And then here's my song, the redheaded fashionista who wears ensembles like that to school and cuddles metal goats:

Someone should get that poor child a real pet...he just can't keep it here.

Life is busy, but it's also really good.  Bring it on, weekend.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Glad I'm a girl

When I found out about the scout campout that is brewing in October for Mark and his little scout troop, I had the same thought I always do at such times, "I'm so glad I'm a girl."

I am 99% sure that it will be raining.  I am 100% sure that it will be cold.

Even besides the whole not-having-to-go-camping-with-the-scouts-in-the-rain thing, I'm glad I'm a girl.  The number one reason is the support structure that women build for themselves.  It makes all the difference for me.

There have been more times than I could ever count that my friends have saved the day.  I tell them.  They listen.  They don't pass judgement.  They don't try to solve anything.  They just listen.

But if I say, "What do I do?" they offer opinions.

When I say, "Did I do the right thing?" they pass judgement.  (Always in my favor.)

It's really pretty wonderful.

Yesterday one of my sisters called me worried about something.  This happens a lot. We call or text with small victories or crises.  It's what we do.

I told her why she shouldn't be worried.

She said, "You are saying all the right things but I'm still a little worried."

I think she felt better though.  Sometimes it's not what is or isn't said. 

It is not so much our friends' help that helps us as the confident knowledge that they will help us.
Epicurus

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How I know Mark loves school

Adam and Mark bought a new pocketknife.  (Adam paid, Mark cajoled it into happening.)  There is not a stick of wood in a three mile radius that is safe because it turns out Mark loves to carve.

Here are some of the things he's been working on.  They're all weapons of one sort or another.  The rectangular stick in the middle?  One of the slats freed from Braeden's bed so he can straighten his legs.  So if needed, Mark can indeed turn our furniture into weaponry.  Good to know.  (Although I'm not sure how effective the slat-with-the-varnish-shaved-off would be in battle.)

This picture doesn't show the recent addition of a scatter of wood shavings.  Last night Adam said it looked like we have a beaver in the backyard.

I called him in from his workshop for school.  He sat down to do his handwriting and pulled the knife out of his pocket to set on the desk.  I picked it up and said, "You can get suspended for having a knife at school."

He brightened, "Really?  Great!  Can I have it back then?"

Come on, Mark.  Tell me how you really feel.  Do you enjoy school?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The awesome that is Emma

One of my favorite things about Emma are the notes she writes.  I find them diverse places and they delight me.  She always acts a little surprised when I comment to her about the notes...like she didn't write them for any intended audience.

For example, Emma found one of the protective papers that comes in the greeting cards I send for my nieces' and nephews' birthdays (when I remember...I have a lot of nieces and nephews).  She altered the paper and it cracks me up every time I see it:

 

Emma thinks it's weird that I still have this paper but I think she's weird that she even wrote it so we're even.

Plus it makes me laugh.

Mark read Call it Courage for school. The cover looks like this:


Because Mark is one of my children and therefore unable to not leave things lying around,  Emma came across the book and attached a sticky note to it.  On the sticky note she wrote:
You know, sometimes people are all like, "Yo Mafatu, what makes you so buff and legit?  Is it your dog?  Your spear? Your mad skills?"  And I'm like, "Well people say a lot of stuff, they call it a whole lot of things, but me? I call it COURAGE."
Braeden showed it to me and we both laughed.

Emma said, "It's not that funny."

The fact that Emma is mystified that we think her random little cleverness-es are funny is maybe my favorite part.  Sorry to brag, but she is awesome.  And she's my daughter.  I sort of won the lottery here.  


Monday, September 23, 2013

REALLY good for the soul

Last weekend my writing group had our first ever writing conference.  

It was at the beach house of one of our members.  We decided we have to do it again.  Annually, bi-annually, quarterly, weekly?  We're not sure what we can get away with.  It was fabulous though.

Fabulous.

This is 2/3 of the group:

JoLyn, me, Heather and Frances.  Heidi was taking the picture and Maryanne had taken a short break from the conference to take care of her sick daughter.
I recommend groups.  Particularly groups of women.  It doesn't have to be a writing group, but whenever you get a group together of like-minded women that are united in a cause, it turns out to be something special.

(And there's usually a lot of good food to eat.)

We met Friday night.

We had dinner and visited and enjoyed the view.



Late that night, the wimpiest member of the group (me) drove home to sleep in her own little bed.  The rest of them stayed up until the wee hours and were surprisingly chipper and pleasant when I joined them for breakfast the next morning.  I promise if I'd stayed up until 2:00 a.m. I would not have been chipper or pleasant.

Each of the six of us presented an hour long session on some aspect of writing.   

And there was a whole lot more visiting and eating and...visiting.  We're all mothers so of course we talked about children.  We talked a little about husbands.  (JoLyn and I discussed, while we were cleaning up the kitchen together after lunch, that if she died, she'd want her husband to get remarried because she would want him happy and not lonely.  I confessed if I died first, I'd already promised Adam that I would haunt him if he remarried.  The moral to this story is that JoLyn is a very nice person.  And maybe I could be nicer.)

Mostly, we talked about writing.  We've known each other for years.  We're in bookclubs together and we've served in church together and we have all the sameness of motherhood but there is a certain bonding that takes place when we talk about writing.  There's this vulnerability to all of us.  We admit how scary and hard it is.  We admit our small tender dreams that you can't admit to just anyone without fear of derision and doubtfulness.

The classes that were taught were inspiring and helpful.  Several of us gave writing assignments to each other and I was again astounded by the talent in the room.  What is going on in the brains of these women that can produce such brilliant writing?  We laughed a lot and applauded each other and the wimpiest member of the group (me) was even brought to tears once by Heidi's writing.

We were together all day Saturday.  We feasted on delicious food and each others' writing and on the decadent knowledge that our wonderful husbands and/or children were ably taking care of the homefront.

Lunch on the deck:


The last day of summer did not disappoint:



Failed attempt at a selfie:


My arms just aren't even close to long enough.

I wish I had the words to express the way I felt Saturday night when it was all over.  I felt renewed and inspired and grateful.  I'm profoundly grateful for the opportunity I have to know these women and benefit from their friendship and writing help.  We talked about how we need each other.  Our group is a safe place where we can share what we've written but we're also pretty honest with each other and we let each other know when we need to rework something we've written.

Before we left, we signed the guestbook at the beach house.  Someone quipped that someday when we were all famous writers, that page of the guestbook would be valuable.  I jokingly said, "People will say, 'I can't believe the six of them knew each other!'"

Even if becoming famous writers doesn't pan out (which would be unfortunate because we all want beach houses), I still think it's pretty incredible that the six of us have each other.

Lucky us.

 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pausing to appreciate

A few days ago I had a sore throat and no energy.  Then yesterday, I felt a lot better.  I zipped around cleaning bathrooms and baking bread and folding laundry and I was grateful for my health.  It's nice to have reminders of good stuff.

We've had a few (misplaced!  It's supposed to be sunny in September around here and the sky has been malfunctioning) rainy days and I know more are to come.  Yesterday the sun shone.

I love me a little sunshine.  Here's a poem by Valerie Worth that Mark and I read in school.

sun

The sun
Is a leaping fire
Too hot
To go near,

But it will still
Lie down
In warm yellow squares
On the floor

Like a flat
Quilt, where
The cat can curl
And purr.

I love the red star that hangs in my window.  Janet gave it to me and it glows on the floor when the sun hits it.

I liked the poem because I love squares of sunshine on the floor.  We don't have a cat but maybe Horace can enjoy the sun.

My two older busy kids are seldom here.  It makes me appreciate Mark all the more.  I was entering my grocery list on my phone.  He sat across the table from me and made faces.  He said he was having a staring contest with my camera.




He's a little strange but to me it is the perfect amount of strange.

I love my days with him.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Different tactics...same result

Braeden is tenacious.  He argues and cajoles and wears you down until you give in.  (Heaven help us because in his English class he is learning more about arguing and using rhetoric to his advantage.  Heaven help us.)

Mark is tenacious.  He ignores you when you say no and goes along like he either didn't hear you or he's convinced you don't mean it.

How did this happen?  I feel like I'm in a losing battle.

Awhile ago we were at Target.  Mark saw a display about a media trade in program.  They offered "as much as $30" for a video game.  He quickly found what he would spend the $30 on in the store--the obvious first step--then he went through the catalog in his mind of video games we own.  He decided to trade in Just Dance.

I bought Just Dance several years ago for a Christmas present.  I thought they'd like it.  No one did.  I don't think Just Dance ever got a fair shake though because it was one of the Christmases that everyone was throwing up and everyone was in more of a Just Lay Here and Try Not to Die mood than a Just Dance mood.

So Mark was convinced Target would give him $30 for our unwanted Just Dance game.  He told me you could also go online to trade in.  So I went online when we got home.  I looked up Just Dance.  They didn't want it.  I told Mark.  Do you think he believed me?

No, he did not.

Because what do I know?

It had been enough time that I'd forgotten all about the Just Dance trade in.  Mark had not.  He kept asking me when the next trip to Target was going to be.  I like Target as much as the next girl and I did need to go so on Tuesday, before Mark's piano lesson, we went to Target.  I didn't know why Mark was so interested in going to Target until I noticed as we walked in the store that he was carrying Just Dance.

"They don't want it," I told him, "I looked it up online and they don't want it."

"We'll see," Mark said.  "I can ask, can't I?"

"Yes," I conceded.  I went to customer service to make a return and Mark headed back to the electronics area to get $30 for Just Dance.

When I was done, I joined him and he still had it in his hand.  "They didn't want it?" I asked.

"No," he said, "I asked a lady and she said something but I didn't understand."

"Fine," I said, I had been determined to not get sucked into this endeavor but...I said, "I'll ask someone."

A guy told me that the media trade in person would be there at noon.  It was 11:35.

"Perfect," Mark said, "we can wait."

"Really?" I said.

"Yes," Mark said then he led me down an aisle and showed me what he was going to spend his $30 on.

"They're not going to give you $30," I said, "It's an old game.  They don't want it."

"Well," he said, undeterred, "If they give me $25, I will get this instead."

"They don't want the game," I said.

It didn't matter.  Mark said, "Don't you have other shopping?  Let's get everything else done and then it will be noon."

So we did.

At 11:55, shopping done, we were at the ready at the electronics counter.  I knew that the only way Mark would give up would be to hear from them that they didn't want the game.

We found the media trade-in guy.  He looked over the game.  He looked at the disc.  "It's not scratched," he remarked.

(No scratches happen when nobody liked the game in the first place.)

He looked the game up on his computer. "Hmmm, I can't find it here," he said.

Mark appeared unconvinced.

"Umm.  Maybe I'll call someone and see if we take this game," he said.

He got off the phone and Mark was looking at him expectantly.  "We don't take this game," the man said, "It's a really old version.  I'm sorry."

Mark's shoulders slumped but I was a Very Nice Mother and didn't utter an I told you so.

"You could try Game Stop," the man said, "It's close by."

Mark brightened.  "Thank you," he said, taking his game back.

I sort of felt like kicking the media trade-in guy in the shins.

"Let's go to Game Stop," Mark said.

"I'm hungry," I said, "Let's have lunch and then we have your piano lesson."

"If we eat fast," Mark said, "We can go to Game Stop."

I relented because there was not going to be any peace.  I could tell.  We shared a $5 footlong at Subway and Mark made sure we didn't linger over it any longer than necessary.  Then we walked down along the storefronts to Game Stop.  Mark chattered away about all of the games he was going to get in exchange for Just Dance.

"We don't have time," I cautioned.  "It's time for your piano lesson soon.  You can trade it in for store credit."

Mark marched up to the counter and handed over his game.  The Game Stop guy opened it. "It's not scratched," he said.

Well, no.  It wouldn't be.  It had seen more action that afternoon than it's whole previous life combined.

"I'll give you $3," the Game Stop guy said.

"OK," Mark said enthusiastically.

He walked out of the store with a gift card to Game Stop worth $3.

I told Adam the story.  "The good news," I said, "Is that the gift card takes up less space than the game nobody ever played."

Adam agreed with me.

It's important to see a silver lining.  Like I'm hoping tenacity is a trait that will help my sons to do more than just wear their mother down until she begs for mercy.

In case you're curious about Emma's tenacity, here she is showing her brothers what she did at practice last night.  Wall sits with someone sitting on her legs.


Braeden said, "Now let me try sitting on your legs."

Emma (wisely) said, "No, that would kill me."

Tenacity coupled with wisdom.  Emma for the win.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Slight disparity

Here's what I want:

routine

peace

predictability

time

sitting companionably and catching up

meals as a family

quiet evenings at home

days when I have nowhere to go

Here's what I have:

teenagers

(I do like my teenagers.  They aren't for sale.  I'm just...tired.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Nevada parties

Last weekend we missed out on some parties in Nevada.

Carolina got baptized:

Carolina, Marianne and Robert--Carolina is wearing the dress Marianne wore for her baptism.  My mom sewed it.  I'm pretty sure Desi did the hair.  Desi is the only person who shares my DNA who is good at hair.
We also missed out on celebrating Marcos's birthday:

How cute is that kid?  I adore this picture.

I love seeing my parents surrounded by grandchildren:

thank you Olivia for posting these pictures so I could nab them...

I love every single one of those kids so much.  I really appreciate my siblings having such wonderful children.  Not all the grandchildren are pictured here.  These are only Marianne's (minus Clarissa), Olivia's and Enoch's.

Good job Marianne, Olivia and Enoch.

We had our own little Nevada party here.  It was sort of a send off for Hans who leaves for his mission to Nevada in a few weeks.  We had the Jorgensens over which is always a good time.

Before, Emma and I set a Nevada themed table.


silver candlesticks for the silver state

I made a Nevada shaped cake (sort of Nevada shaped).  Like most cakes I make, the idea looked better in my head before the cake was made.


It was sort of a lumpy elongated Navada but it was chocolate so that is something of a consolation.

As is often the case, I didn't take any pictures of the actual festivities because it did not occur to me.  We were having a good time.  We had dinner (beef--that's Nevada food) and played a Nevada trivia game and Adam created a game called "Nevada or Not Nevada."  He showed pictures (he'd found on google earth) and we had to guess if they were Nevada.  Some of the pictures were from Botswana or Peru or other desert climes.

Of course we also sang the Nevada state song.

Because why wouldn't we?

My favorite part of the evening was when Emma and Freja had slipped away to do Emma and Freja type things--they sing and play the piano and read each other stories they've written and draw pictures, Braeden and Leif had gone to a party, and Mark was entertaining Britta and Inge.  The adults--including Hans--lounged around and had a great talk.  We talked about missions and challenges and discouragement and perspective.

It is hard to top an evening spent with comfortable like-minded friends.

After they left, Mark said, "Janet is my hero!"  I asked him why and he said, "I'm exhausted playing with those girls and Janet does it every day!"

I had to laugh.  He was one exhausting preschooler himself.

But Janet's my hero too.  For a lot of reasons.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Friday night lights

picture stolen from facebook
When I told my sisters we were going to the football game on Friday night, they both had the same mystified response, "Why?"

"Because I want to," I said.  It was the Big Game.  There are two schools in our district and they were playing each other...at the football stadium they share.  Whoever wins gets to be the home team the following year.  GPHS got to be home but there were just as many Snohomish fans in the crowd.  It was hard to find a seat.

Our school colors are blue and white and Snohomish is red so it was a sea of America.  When the ROTC presented the colors, so close to September 11, and the band played the Star Spangled banner and I was surrounded by happy, healthy and safe American teenagers I maybe got a little teary.

I love this place.

Adam and I left minutes after he got home from work and got to the game at least 20 minutes early but we still had to sit in the student section because there were no grownup seats left.

Which was kind of the pits.

Nothing against those kids...well, something against those kids.  One boy, on my right, kept yelling at the Snohomish crowd, which was on my left.  The problem was, he'd turn to face them and ended up spraying me with his excited saliva in the process.  Finally Adam, who is always my knight in shining armor, leaned over me and told the boy he was not being very sportsmanlike and he was spitting in my face and he needed to face forward and cheer for his own team.

Much better.

I wore my Glacier Peak Grizzlies t-shirt.  Braeden said I looked like a Mama Grizzly. Sometimes I am a Mama Grizzly.  Especially if someone mistreats one of my cubs.  Then I end up feeling embarrassed about my crazy reaction.

(It's hard to be a Mama Grizzly.)

I do have the shirt though.

I think I look like Marianne in this picture.  A sort of blurry Marianne.

Happily (for everyone) Mark found Gavin almost immediately so Mark was happy and I didn't have to buy his happiness at the concession stand.



Mark and Gavin drifted in and out of the game, spending a lot of time behind the stadium with hundreds of other kids about their same age.  It was a tween convention back there.

As for Braeden and Emma, they went to the game earlier than us and sat with their own people.  Luckily I had an easy time spotting my tall curly headed boy so I knew he was alive and well.  Emma was harder to spot.  She had the phone though so I could text her helpful hints as to how to reconnect with Braeden after the game was over.

And speaking of the game, Glacier Peak won!

It really wasn't so much about the game though.  Adam heard an interview on the radio with the two opposing coaches before the game.  At the end of the interview, the interviewer asked the two coaches who was going to win the game.  The Snohomish coach said, "Snohomish!"

The Glacier Peak coach said, "The community.  There's going to be great football."

The Snohomish coach said, "Yeah, that's what I meant.  The community will win."

They were right.  The community won.  It was a fun evening, festive and happy.  We celebrated America and good old-fashioned competition and the talents of some of children in the community--the football players, the cheerleaders, the marching band.

And also, the kid stopped yelling/spitting in my face.

That was a win for the community.



At the game we saw a few couples that are longtime friends of Adam's parents.  It made me wish Adam's dad was still here.  He left us 4 years ago today.  We miss him and think about him often.  When I think about him I'm a jumble of sadness and hope and gratitude.  We will see him again.  I know that and that makes all the difference.





 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Lessons, piano and otherwise

My mom doggedly taught me piano lessons while I was growing up.  I hated every minute of it.  I didn't practice like I should have.  I dreaded my lessons (because I hadn't practiced).  My mom promised me I'd regret not practicing.  She was right.

In the past few years, I've taken up practicing again.  I'm not all that good at playing the piano, but I do enjoy it more than I used to.

My kids have all three taken piano lessons.  Emma is the only one that will sit down and play when it's not designated practice time but they all have enjoyed it for the most part.  Mark's been taking lessons for a few years and lately hasn't seemed to be progressing very quickly.  He can play by ear--so can I--and it's something of a curse when you don't have self discipline.  As long as he knows how a song is supposed to sound, he can play it without reading the music.  The curse part is that you can only progress so far with that method.

I talked to his ever-patient teacher, who also happens to be my friend Sarah.  She suggested that if I sat with him and listened to him practice (and made sure he was practicing what he was supposed to be), it would help.

I haven't ever wanted to do that.  I didn't want the piano to become a power struggle.  In other words, I didn't want them to feel about it like I did when I was growing up.

But Mark's not making much progress.

So I sat next to him.  He played.  I counted out loud for him.  I corrected him when he played the wrong notes.  I said, "Now play it again."  "No, that's not the right note."  "You're not counting that correctly."

I thought, I remember this. I sound like my mom.  I bet Mark hates this.

As if on cue, Mark snuggled himself into me there on the piano bench.  "Thank you for doing this with me," he said.

So here's what I learned:  Mark is a much nicer kid than I was.

I didn't appreciate my mom enough.  I know for a fact that she had more to do than teach me piano lessons.

Don't you hate it when you realize you are a jerk?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Educating Mark

I blame Braeden.

He said it's not his fault because he doesn't share Mark's skewed opinions but I still blame Braeden.  Mark has been marinating in a stew of Braeden's strongly held opinions and arguments all his life.  And that tendency to make an argument is seeping in.

A few days ago, Mark was despondent about his grammar.  It was just so MUCH.  He got exactly no sympathy from his mother.  I told him every other 5th grader in America was sitting at a desk doing similar schoolwork.  "It's what you do," I said, "get used to it."  I said that on my way down the stairs to pull my bread out of the oven.  (Most 5th graders' teachers aren't leaving the classroom to tend to their bread, but still.  The other 5th graders are doing grammar. Or they should be.)

Mark was in a snit though.  He doesn't easily let go of perceived wrongs.  At lunch he said, "I think that school is against my constitutional rights."

"I don't think so," I said.

"Can I finish my argument?" he asked.  (See, that's Braeden's influence, right there.)
           
"OK."

He went on to outline (in detail) how school was depriving him of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

When he was quite finished, I asked him if I could present my argument.  He said yes.  I said, "First I have a question. What would you say to someone who needed a life saving vaccination but was afraid the needle would hurt?"

He gave me a look of miserable recognition.  He knew where I was going with that one.

Then I asked him specific questions about his life, liberty and pursuit of happiness and asked him if any of those would be possible without his dad's job.

"No," he said.

"And would Dad have his job without an education?"

"No," he said, defeated.

I didn't point out that because of my education, I'm able to provide his education.

(Somehow I don't think he was in the mood to appreciate that fact.)

Every day homeschooling is this warm and friendly and loving time we spend together.  Or not.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My soap box

A casualty of a little thing called Braeden's school plays has kept me from attending Women's Conference the past two years.  This, of course, is a tragedy but I can't miss Braeden's plays either.  That would be a bigger tragedy.

So Olivia buys me the book from the previous year so I can read the talks.  (I can't however traipse around BYU campus with my mom and sisters or eat mint brownies.)

Which is a tragedy.

I read a talk by Mary N. Cook yesterday that resonated.  As a woman and as a mother of a daughter, it's something I think about anyway:  the media messages women get.

They're pretty much rotten.

The following italicized quotes are all quoted from Mary Cook's talk (the rest of it are my thoughts).

"In too many cases too much is being done to the human body to meet...a fictional (to say nothing of superficial) standard."
Jeffrey R. Holland

Comparing ourselves to what we see in advertisements and magazines, where everything is airbrushed and photoshopped, is kind of like comparing ourselves to a Barbie doll or an illustration of a Disney princess.  Just fiction.

Yet there are all those glossy images...

Besides being fictional, it is also the sexualization of women (which I can't stand).

"Sexualization occurs when someone's sense of their own value is based solely on sex appeal or that individual is held to narrow standards of attractiveness...[it] has been going on for decades, largely unnoticed, the elevator music of American life."
Lois Collins and Sara Lenz

"As a society, we know more about women who look good than we know about women who do good...The most celebrated women today are famous primarily for being thin and pretty, while women who are actually changing the world remain comparatively invisible.
Audrey Barshich, author of All Made Up

I am not saying we shouldn't care about how we look.  When I google it, this quote is attributed to either President David O. McKay or President Spencer W. Kimball.  I don't know which is correct but my mom taught it to me.  "Even a barn looks better painted."

I don't think women, or anyone, should just let their appearance go because of their pursuit of other, more worthy goals.  When you look good, you feel good.  It just bothers me that what is "good" is prescribed by people wanting to sell something and is often faked anyway.

I could just continue to decry all of that, but what I love are the real solutions by real and wise people.

"As women of virtue, we must become visible.  We must drown out the elevator music, trumpeting that which is virtuous, lovely, and of good report...To change the world, specifically the homes and communities in which we live, we must remember who we truly are and help those we love know who they truly are."
Mary N. Cook

So here is a good report to trumpet:  I have loved lately watching my strong and beautiful daughter work hard.  She is swimming and exercising more than she ever has in her life.  (More than I ever have in my life.)  She is exhausted, but she is proud of what she can do and I am proud of her.  She is not exercising to reach a goal to become impossibly thin.  (In fact, her coach cautioned us that the girls are not to lose weight.  "They are working hard," he said, "They need to eat...a lot.") She is exercising because she's on the swim team and she loves being on the swim team. 

And she comes home happy and hungry and beautiful.

The other night she was telling Braeden about the 30 pushups they had to do at practice because some girls were late for practice.  Braeden said, "Real pushups?  Or girl pushups?"

"Real," she said.

He must have looked skeptical because she dropped down and quick showed him what she meant.  Let's just say Braeden was impressed.

She's one strong lady.  I love what her body can do.  I will guard that girl against negative and false images as best as I can.

I want her to know who she is.  She is funny and good and determined and independent and strong and smart and beautiful and creative and imaginative and destined for greatness.

I want her to know that won't be found in a glossy magazine.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Something we can count on

When we have sampled much and have wandered far and have seen how fleeting and sometimes superficial a lot of the world is, our gratitude grows for the privilege of being part of something we can count on—home and family and the loyalty of loved ones. We come to know what it means to be bound together by duty, by respect, by belonging. We learn that nothing can fully take the place of the blessed relationship of family life. 
- Thomas S. Monson

I saw that quote on Facebook.   I love when people post uplifting things on Facebook.  I love President Monson too.

And I love the concept of families.

I love how Adam understands me and is OK with whatever kind of crazy I turn out to be.  I love the enrichment my children add to my life.  I love that Braeden and Emma are thrilled to both be in high school together.  I told Braeden that Emma was lucky to have him as a new freshman starting out at a huge new school.  He said, "Are you kidding?  I'm lucky to have her!  I've been waiting for this day."  They have good friends but good friends (sadly) come and go with geographic and life changes but siblings stay.

I love how Mark wants a million kisses every day.  

I love my family I grew up in too.  We decided we can't go to Nevada next weekend like we were planning.  Too much life going on around here.  I am sad.  Some of my family members totally understand and say they'd do the same thing in my place.  Some don't and are downright argumentative.  Both reactions make me feel really loved.

I have seen first hand the way siblings rally around each other in times of trouble and that is a blessing.  To everyone involved.  (I've been on the receiving end of the help too.)

I love the family Adam grew up in.  They tolerate the ways I'm different than them and they hold each other up as well.  I love to see my children interacting with their grandma and aunts and uncles in real ways.

Families are where it's at.  They are indeed a privilege. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sprucing up

I haven't traded summer for autumn around here--yet--but I have been making a few changes.  A few facelifts.

Last week Adam came home to this:


He wondered why I would do this the week school started.  (He had been present in the moments when my panic was reaching fever pitch.)  I just shrugged at him--because that's enough of an explanation for him.  He gets me.   I think though that I pulled out my paintbrushes because I was feeling unsettled otherwise.  It's nice to have something creative to do in times of anxiety.

As Enoch helpfully pointed out, I'm not good at before and after pictures.  There's nothing in my personality that would make me good at before and after pictures.  Here's my feeble attempt though.

My table (a few summers ago, when I had a different rug...and I still had that calendar.  I miss that calendar.):


Here's how it looks now:


It looks white but it's not.  It's the blue gray color of the living room.  I had extra paint.

Here's a desk in our school room.



 We had three and I took two of them down.  With one of the desks, I made this:


Mark and Gavin advised me in distressing the wood.  I used moss in my backyard.  If you have moss in your backyard and want to distress something, it works.

Here's the end table:


Here's after. (I know, Enoch.  I know.)

I put actual antiquing glaze on the table rather than moss...
I also got a new pillow:

it seemed encouraging somehow when you live in Seattle...
And then, probably my favorite switch of all, even Pinkie Pie got a facelift:



Simple changes making me happy...

Friday, September 6, 2013

Now and later

Just planning the menu for the week is a challenge.  So many colliding schedules.  So many evenings when I won't be home at the right time to make dinner and no one will be home at the right time to eat.  I wonder how we will do it.  I look at the cluttered calendar and I wonder how it would be if it were empty.  How would it be if we didn't have 25 places to be at once? (give or take)  How would it be?

Then I remember.

I know how it would be.  I remember long days watching the clock for the time Adam would be home.  I wanted someone to talk to.  I wanted relief from whining and neediness and diapers.  There were hours and hours with nothing scheduled.  There were plenty of things I loved about that time but I don't want to go back there.  If I went back to then, back to my toddlers and babies, I wouldn't have my now.  I don't want to be without their good company, their humor, their imagination and cleverness.  I don't want to go back to watching the clock.  I prefer being in the midst of something and getting a call or text from Adam that he is coming home.  I still think hurray but I also think, wow, already?  Because my days fly by.

I look back on then and I prefer now.

So I wonder, in the future, will I look back on now and remember the good stuff but think, "I don't want to go back to then, because now is so great."

Maybe I need to stop looking back to the sweet and simple (though sometimes lonely) days and stop feeling like I'm on a fast moving my-kids-are-growing-up-and-I-can't-stop-them train.  Too often I long for the past and dread the future.

Instead I should just be enjoying because the now is pretty great.

And I think later, the now will be pretty great too.  Hopefully someday I'll have a son-in-law and two daughters-in-law to love.  With any luck at all, I'll have grandchildren.  Maybe I will still look back on the different stages of life with fondness, but I won't want to trade my life either.

So this is all my way of telling myself to buck up, buttercup.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Back to Mark

first day of fifth grade

During the summer my attention is divided among my children and Mark's attention is divided among his neighborhood friends.  When I run errands, I go alone and leave children home.

Yesterday, with everyone gone except Mark, it was back to Mark and mom time.

And I'm glad.  I missed my weird little sidekick.  (And by weird I mean equal parts awesome, entertaining and...weird.) He talks constantly and has wild ideas about everything.  He doesn't like school except when we read together.  He calls it snuggle time and makes sure the blankets are covering us evenly.

snuggle school...I recommend it
Since we don't have to go over any classroom rules or learn where things like the bathroom are located, we dive right into school work.  (As a bonus there is nothing for me to sign...that comes from the sheaves of papers the older kids bring home.)


Mark convinced me we should go out to lunch.  (It took him about ten seconds of convincing.)

It's nice to drown back-to-school-blues in guacamole.


After lunch we ran a few errands.  One stop was Bath and Body Works for fall scented wallflower inserts.  Mark is invaluable at such times because he has a good nose.  I gave him charge to find me some good scents and he didn't disappoint.  While I was paying, the man ringing up my order asked Mark if he'd seen the display of scents for men.  Mark pulled himself up straight and said, "No" with great interest.  The guy walked Mark over to a display and Mark tried a few out.  When Mark found one he liked, the man sprayed it all over Mark.  Mark is sold.  He wants me to use the coupon I got to go back and get him "Paris" which apparently is the good stuff.

Is it wrong for me to want my baby to smell like baby powder?

I took pictures of Adam going back to work too--after about a twelve hour absence.  Where does the time go?  It doesn't seem that long ago that he was... just coming home from work.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sad sigh

I asked them why they were making the signs for P and G.  They said, "It's GP."  As in their high school GPHS.  Oh.
If I'm posting early today, it's because I was up early.  Too early.  My mind was spinning.  Last night, Adam told me I've been "surprisingly calm."  This morning I'm feeling calm-ish.  But also I feel the bittersweet melancholy that is parenting.  My big kids have gone.  They were excited and buoyant and I am excited for them.  Their bright personalities and hopes and dreams light up the day.



Emma has to lug her swim stuff around all day.  Tomorrow she'll have to carry her big backpack too.  Good thing she's strong.

And they're gone.

Emma was yelling good-bye out the window and Braeden gave a little honk of the horn and I called out drive carefully all at the same time.
Sigh.


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