Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Worst Day Ever

“Mom?” Jesse just called from the other room.


“Sorry Mom, but this might be your worst day ever.”

“It might?” I questioned – somewhat alarmed. “Why might it be my worst day ever?”

“Because we can’t do my school time because I need to work on my vacuum. . . . So, sorry, that’s why it will be your worst day ever. (Pause.) I just mentioned that it would because . . . it would.”

IMG_1012_edited-2 (2)
(Jesse: pre this-weekend’s haircut)

Also, I got a taste of my own medicine yesterday when Penny was singing a little rhyme that went something like this, “Easy Peasy, Jesse smells weezy”; and I  helpfully added, “Or you could just say ‘Jesse is weezy’ – you know because of his asthma.”

Jesse suddenly chimed in with, “Easy Peasy, Mom has eczema!”


Lesson learned, Jesse. Lesson learned.

And now . . . a few pictures of Jesse after the haircut as well as some of the other weekend shenanigans from around these parts:


Friday, August 23, 2013

Sherbet and Plans

Remember when I used to cry my eyes out all the time because Dreyer’s suddenly got too good for Swiss Orange ice cream?

Yah. I remember too. Those were rough times.

But, I’ve moved on. Only, by moving on, I don’t really mean like . . . moving on. I mean, of course, like finding a cheap substitution that will do (kind of like I’ll do if Mike ever leaves me).

Yes, a substitution has been discovered, and now, on many a night, our whole family can happily be found eating generic-brand orange sherbet with . . . are you ready? . . . a nice covering of Hershey’s hard-shell topping (and sometimes the Heath kind when we are feeling adventurous).

So, now that that is settled (I always wonder about double “that”s in a row, but sometimes it is the only word combination that will do) . . . anywho, now that that (the ice cream trouble) is settled -- completing my wholeness in almost every particular of life, I am ready to do . . . to do . . .  to do something.

I don’t know what that something is yet. Perhaps I need to challenge or stretch myself a bit. Although, as I typed “challenge”, it brought to mind physical challenges; and I realized my life isn’t actually all fancy-shmancy “whole” and complete after all. I’m still limping about and unable to run. (And, I often have the sneaking suspicion that I am, as yet, missing a child) so clearly I’m not . . . you know . . . completed. But, I’m complete enough for now. Or, maybe, just incomplete enough for now, to want to do something.

My writing has been boring me lately. I seem to write the same-old same-old sorts of things in the same-old same-old voice. Perhaps I need to try using some writing prompts?

Or . . . I haven’t been taking pictures of my kids every minute like I usually like to do. Part of that might be that I have started working on a slideshow Nativity with all the Primary kids in our ward (to be watched at our ward Christmas party). I have been doing weekly and bi-weekly shoots. Maybe that is zapping my energy? Maybe I just need to try something new to inspire and excite me? (Sorry, my non-Mormon friends, for using mormony lingo. A ward is a congregation. The Primary includes all the kids ages 18 mos – 12 years. We have about 60 of those in our ward.)

Or . . . Now that the kids are in school, maybe I should work on organizing clutter in our home? I like the idea of it. But then, it turns out, it isn’t actually any fun; especially when much of that clutter resides in our dark, cold, and unfinished basement.

Or, also, I was thinking I might do none of those things, and, instead, just keep eating orange sherbet with chocolate.

And, because it feels lonely to post a pictureless post, here is one of the only kind of pictures I’ve been taking lately. One of the pics of my own Daisy for the slideshow:
I know. Christmas is a long way off. But I don’t want getting this done to make the holidays stressful. Besides. It’s warm outside right now. Much easier than having a group of little shepherds and angels wandering about in 20 degree weather like we’ve had in Nov. before.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to School

Just this morning four of my six headed out the door for another “first day of school”.

Three -- back to a place of familiarity. A place that feels known and safe.

One off on a new adventure. A new school. A new system of doing things. Buses, multiple teachers, binders with dividers, gym clothes, a 90-minute earlier departure time, and many many unfamiliar faces.

During the day I sifted through the expected emotions and feelings. My thoughts dwelling particularly on my oldest – the one who must always pave the way through all of the unknowns for us.

I teased him this morning about waking so early. “I told you you’d be ready in less than half an hour,” I laughed (as he sat on the couch – chickens fed, backpack packed, hair smoothed, breakfast eaten, and a good 35 minutes to go before bus pickup).

He smiled, took a deep breath  -- part anticipation, mostly nerves -- and joked back, “Well, physically ready, sure; but I still have to get mentally ready.”

In the end he must have been ready enough. He managed failed bus pick ups, temperamental locker coms, and seven syllabuses all with a resourcefulness and independence that calmed my own nervous frettings.

I like the freedom and carefreeness of summer, but there is a rhythm and routine that settles into place for our family during the school year that feels . . . I don’t know . . . predictable, productive and healthy. We get up and going at a set time. Laundry goes in. Counters get cleaned from breakfast. Morning errands get run. Jesse gets letters reviewed and numbers counted.

But, as I look at my counters -- currently littered with folders, and backpacks; half begun homework assignments, and forms waiting for my signature – I remember that the school year’s reliable rhythm doesn’t come without a price.

Gone are the days, for me, of carefully and thoughtfully going through one little child’s homework folder at the close of each school day. Instead, there are four constant piles of “school work” on the counter and multiple charts and reminders stuck to the fridge (all of this to avoid succumbing to an “out of sight, out of mind” downfall). Every due assignment, late start, field trip and extra-curricular activity is painstakingly recorded on the calendar; older kids are, of necessity, being trusted to keep on top of what they need to do and when they need to do it, while younger ones are guided and prompted and reminded and helped.

Still, busyness notwithstanding, there is some satisfaction, 12 years and six kids into my parenting experience, in knowing that I have gained so much confidence in how we do things around here. I haven’t been around long enough to be sure and certain in everything (why, junior high was a complete unknown until today), but I’ve been around long enough to know where I want our energy spent. I’ve been around long enough to no longer panic if I hear of activities other kids are doing that I haven’t involved my kids in. I’ve been around long enough to know that it is OK if some families do things very differently from how we do them. I’ve been around long enough to know I don’t have to discover every opportunity for my children and that they will, of their own accord, find out about things they are interested in -- early-morning choir, peer-leader groups, etc. -- and ask me to help them join. I’ve even been around long enough to know that six kids doesn’t always mean more stress and busyness than . . . fewer than six.

There are certainly plenty of fish to fry around here. It feels busy, but it also feels whole and good. I like being here.
(A blurry cell-phone pic of everyone on the last night of summer break.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Brown Sugar

It wasn’t a big thing. Just brown sugar. Brown sugar in a Tupperware container.

“Grab a piece of bread,” I’d said to Goldie after we’d finished making caramel corn the other night. “If we put it in with the brown sugar then it won’t . . .”

“I know, mom,” she cheerily interrupted (already on her way to the bread box).

She knew?

She knew about putting a piece of bread in with brown sugar to keep it from getting hard? I’d already taught her that?

Surely I couldn’t have. Why, my own mother only taught it to me not so very long ago.

Only, I was the child then: my mom teaching me in bits and pieces, here and there, how to go about navigating this world. Never say unkind things to others. Read good books. Take responsibility with your education. Learn and live the gospel. . . . Add a slice of bread to your brown sugar to save it from going hard.
(My mom)

Suddenly it hit me. I am the mom now. Me. Things have come full circle. I’ve been given my wings and am supposed to be teaching other little fledglings to fly. Upon this realization there was a moment of panic. What have I been teaching them? Have I been teaching them all the things my mom taught me? Then I looked at Goldie – sticking the bread in with the brown sugar and shutting the lid tight – and thought, “Well, she knows about the brown sugar. Maybe I’ve taught her a few other things as well. Maybe we’re doing all right.”

Also . . .

Sometimes we eat Anders. “Eat you,” he’ll say, holding out his arm. And we’ll gobble him up and call him a yummy cookie or a delicious cake, and he’ll laugh and laugh and demand we eat him again.

That is, of course, when he isn’t too busy doing a little reading at breakfast with his dad:

And, some of the other readers around here. (I love that Abe is reading National Geographic.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Of Truck Lifts and Hubcaps. And Sleepy Children.

Last night, with kids finally all in bed and a bowl of orange sherbet in my hands, I snuggled myself up to Mike and his open laptop. I was unsurprised to find the screen covered in trucks. Not ordinary trucks, mind. Trucks with lifts. Cool trucks. (Or so I’ve been told.)

“Look at this,” Mike said. “Wouldn’t it be cool to do this to our truck?”

“Yes,” I agreed. “So cool.” But my eyebrows raised and I smiled up at him with a shrug that admitted to something different.

I don’t actually see the cool. I don’t fathom the cool. It’s not that I doubt the cool. A truck with a lift. Cool. . . . Right? It’s just  I don’t have the slightest idea what is cool about it.

Still, faithful wife that I am, I rallied my attentions – pretending to an understanding over lifts that were too high, mm-hming over tires that were too big . . . or too small, nodding at trucks that were just right. Knowing full well I could never repeat later, were Mike to test me, which were clearly wrong, which were just right, and which were too much or too little . . . anything.

“Hey,” I said, trying to add something worthwhile to this exchange. “I still don’t really get the deal with tires and rims. What part is what? And what are hubcaps all about?”

After a conversation explaining that the rim and the wheel refer to the same part, the tire is just the rubber, and that hubcaps are meant to cover up boring steel rims (and are totally not hip), Mike ended by saying, “. . . like our van. It just has plain steel wheels.”

“Oh,” I said. Then, with confusion, “So, why doesn’t it have hubcaps?”

“It does.”

“Ohhhh . . .” I replied sheepishly. And, after a pause, I added, “How lame.”

Mike nodded and patted me with a “well-done” sort of smile and said, “Yes. It is lame.”

The End

(Was that too abrupt? Should I have offered some reflections on marriage? Some thoughts on supporting one another’s interests? That would prove tricky. I’m not thinking any of those things. I like marriage. I like Mike. That’s about all I’ve got. You’ll have to do your own reflecting . . . on marriage . . . or, maybe, just on truck lifts. You choose.)

Oh, wait. This is cute. After we had exhausted the trucks and wheels topic (if that is even possible) and Mike had nicely helped me steristrip my fresh and rather bleh looking foot scar, I went up to check on little sleepers and discovered this:
Goldie, fast asleep – headlamp on and a pen still clutched in her hand. Her last written word in her little gratitude journal? “. . . and”. Poor tired little soul.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

We’re All Right

I have been hobbling around lately. Figuratively? To be sure. But, mostly, I meant literally -- foot bandaged up and confined to a ridiculous, black and bulky, Frankenstein shoe.

I had some minor foot surgery near-on two weeks ago. Actually, I have no idea about foot surgeries and their classifications. Perhaps I’m underselling this. Perhaps it was major foot surgery. Or, at least, undeserving of the piddling appellation “minor”. But, much as I adore a big to-do, I don’t really think so. I imagine one isn’t typically given the go-ahead to wander about so soon (hobble mode or no) after any type of major procedure.

Still I’ve spent several days with my foot “on ice and raised above heart level”; followed by limping about, bathing with one foot perched awkwardly on a ledge, and crawling up stairs to stop a crying child in the middle of the night. AND, I nearly fainted clean away while standing in the hall talking to another lady at church. (Which did allow for a bit of a big to-do, but was not the to-do I was after and was more embarrassing than actually physically worrisome.)

Through it all, there has been much of frustration; but . . . there have also been some rather  marvelous developments around here . . . .

My kids have learned to vacuum. And do the dishes. And do laundry. I don’t know why they haven’t learned this sooner. Partly, I suppose, because the idea of showing someone how to do something right (and working out a system for making them actually do it) sometimes feels more exhausting than doing the thing myself. And, partly, because an inefficiently loaded dishwasher troubles me more than I care to admit.

But, necessity is the mother of invention (or of simply forcing you to take care of things you should have taken care of long ago), and now my children are regular vacuuming, laundry-ing, and dish washing fools (bless their hearts).

As we’ve muddled through these last two weeks (husbandless and fatherless for the greater part of the time), I’ve occasionally fretted about how I’m doing as a mother. At one point this summer I read an article about choosing the most important parts of mothering: Let the sink and it’s dirty dishes be. You have children to play games with and read to. A messy house is a sign of children well-loved.

I’ve typically been encouraged by such thinking, “Maybe my windows are in a near constant state of fingerprintedness, well, and so what? I’m raising children.” And, of course, we all do truly love the “Song for a Fifth Child”’s lines of:

. . . quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

But, as I read that article this summer, I felt rather the opposite. “Oh dear heavens!” I fussed – biting my lip and looking nervously about. “My counters are clear. My dishes are done. And, horror of all horrors,” (here I began frantically chewing my fingernails) “the laundry is folded!” I had failed my children. “Surely,” I decided most conclusively, “if they were given any amount of real love and mothering my house would be in disarray. My priorities are in shambles!”

Really I felt that way.

Not long afterwards, I read another article. This one was much the opposite: encouraging order and talking about the importance of using summer’s school-free months to teach our children responsibility: a strong work ethic, the reality of expectations needing to be met, and a sense of duty and purpose. “For crying out loud!” I thought, “I’m danged if I do and danged if I don’t.” (Yes, “danged”, dear reader. “Danged” from your gentle Mormon friend . . . who might be slightly less gentle when she stubs her toe just hard enough.) Anyway, here I was, failing on all counts (this was, of course, before I, of necessity, championed the cause of the second article by teaching my kids to load a dishwasher – breathing deeply and turning a blind eye to the willy nilly fashion in which it was done).

Luckily, I have some type of (likely faulty) wiring in my brain that gradually sifts “heightened sense of worry” to a nice dull, “Eh. We’re all right.” That’s a far cry from seeing inspiration and making good change, but it makes for a lovely emotional survival trick.

“I like to keep things tidy. My kids are certainly suffering a lack of motherly attentions!” Worry! Worry? less worry. . . . “Eh. We’re all right.”

“My house is a little tidy, but mostly still just really messy! If I was on the ball it would be totally clean – kids and all. But look: messy windows! Uncleaned showers! Years of unfiled papers! Numerous Jesse-created makeshift ‘machines’ strewn about the house!” Worry! Worry? less worry. . . . “Eh. We’re probably all right.”

“My kids are being too lazy.” “No, my kids are working too hard.” “I’m not teaching my kids enough responsibility.” “No, wait, I’m expecting too much.” Worry! Worry? less worry. . . . “Eh, We’re doing fine.”

Certainly there is room to be inspired. Certainly it is good to rise up, recognize poor paths and habits, and make necessary changes. It’s what I should be doing more.

I don’t want to portray a lazy, “all is well in zion” attitude.

But . . . sometimes a lazy attitude makes it so you can manage a home and raise six small children . . . not perfectly, but in a way that allows you to feel that life is rather pleasant for all your shortcomings and imperfect homemaking and mothering techniques.

And, sometimes, well, I really think . . . Eh, . . . we’re doing just fine.

The End.

Except for: a gimp-foot two weeks’ worth of cell-phone pics:

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