Friday, September 28, 2007

The Inimitable Logan

Logan shows some muscle working with his dad in the yard.


I've hardly mentioned Logan in this blog, but it's certainly not because he isn't on my mind. Logan does a fabulous job ensuring he stays on one's mind. I don't believe I've ever in my life met a person like Logan. How to describe the scope, the intensity, the improbability of Logan...

A boy whose father christened him "Logan Michael Gazelem Ashurst-McGee" but feels the name just isn't sufficient and insists on "Logan Michael Gazelem Victor Ashurst-McGee."

A boy who is forced to live an inch shorter and step behind an older brother who has already read every fun book, made every cool bionicle.

A boy whose mother craves only peace and harmony despite his vigorous efforts to effect drama and intensity.





Logan demonstrates the ferocity of his play-dough creations.






Logan and Roscoe earned their purple belts in karate last week. Now they're no longer in the beginning class and get to start sparring.









Logan loves:
  • excitement
  • chaos
  • rollercoasters
  • rock and roll (including AC/DC)

  • a funky wardrobe
  • mohawks

  • speed

  • an entourage

  • fame

  • the electric guitar

  • being the leader

  • taking liberalities with the truth

  • risk
  • peanut butter & jelly sandwiches made by his mother

  • originality

  • staying up late

  • going to the clerk's office at church with Dad (rare one-on-one time and possibly an illicit trip to Wendy's)

  • his family

  • karate (though he'll never, ever admit it as his mother is the one who signed him up)

  • bionicles

  • an interesting project

Logan shuns and/or despises:
  • guilt

  • living in his older brother's shadow

  • neatness

  • unfairness

  • being disregarded

  • all things girly

  • early rising

  • work

  • being called on a fib

  • pain, misfortune, or setbacks (they shatter his view of the world as his oyster)
Will the raging river of Logan be confined within the banks of the strait and narrow? Will Logan's mother succeed in providng him sufficient positive energy and absorbing creative outlets? If Roscoe is good will Logan feel he must be bad? Will Logan use his formidable powers to lead the charge for truth, peace, and righteousness? Stay tuned.


An uncommonly benign smile from Logan.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jesse reaches new heights

Note the right hand expertly moving the mouse. The open cell phone at the ready--apparently he was in the middle of a call when this shot was taken. With the left hand, he points to his work on the computer screen.


We have entered a heightened level of security risk.


Jesse succeeded in climbing onto a barstool. From which he accessed my kitchen desk. All manner of restricted items. First, scissors, then Sharpies. I kid you not, he turned on a Norah Jones CD, programmed the cell phone, and started clicking around the computer with the mouse. He felt very fulfilled and self-actualized to be finally doing what everybody else does.

A knife in the dark

Is it just me, or does the cry of your baby in the night hit you like a knife to the stomach. Their cry slices the silence. I go from deep, peaceful sleep to totally awake, heart pounding, gut wrenched. You?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A True & Faythfull Account of the Tryals and Misfortunes of Jenny Lind

This morning as I dressed my dear infant Jesse, on this the first day of fall, my mind pondered upon the virtue and propriety of dressing infants in onesies. As cold weather sets in, methought, well-cared babies wear onesies each day under their clothes. In the course of its idle ramblings upon the many & diverse paths of thought, my mind did alight upon the gem that onsies also prevent said babies from reaching, and thereby removing, their diapers. This I had learned in the course of my years as a mother.

Despite these thoughts, I did not, nay did not, put a onsie on Jesse. And that, dear reader, is where the tragedy of this tale begins.

After church I indulged in a long and unbroken slumber. The fan in the bathroom adjoining my bed chamber provided such a sweet murmur as to drown out the bumps and rumbles of my four older children as they entertained themselves in their playroom below. And yet, alas, that sweet fan did also prevent me from hearing the warning sounds from Jesse’s chamber, as Jesse did not nap, but performed a task very, very different in quality and nature.

I will not violate your tender sensibilities with a description of the scene of base destruction and degradation that did assault my eyes upon entering the chamber. Allow me to present only these two items of fact as established in the public record:

First, infant crib slats must be no more than 2-3/8" apart.

Second, Jesse’s crib is a lovely Jenny Lind, which means that each of its 50 slats is comprised of approximately 27 grooves and bumps.





And that’s all I have to say about that.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Inimitable Logan

I don't believe I've ever in my life met a person like Logan. How to describe the scope, the intensity, the improbability of Logan...


A boy whose father christened him "Logan Michael Gazelem Qshurst-McGee" but feels the name just isn't sufficient and insists on "Logan Michael Gazelem Victor Qshurst-McGee."


A boy who is forced to live an inch shorter and step behind an older brother who has already read every fun book, made every cool bionicle.


A boy whose mother craves only peace and harmony despite his vigorous efforts to effect drama and intensity.


Logan loves:

  • excitement


  • chaos


  • rollercoasters


  • a good story (of his own invention)


  • rock and roll (including AC/DC)


  • speed


  • an entourage


  • fame


  • the electric guitar


  • being the leader


  • taking liberalities with the truth


  • risk
  • peanut butter & jelly sandwiches made by his mother

  • originality


  • staying up late


  • going to the clerk's office at church with Dad (rare one-on-one time and possibly an illicit trip to Wendy's)


  • his family


  • karate (though he'll never, ever admit it as his mother is the one who signed him up)


  • bionicles


  • an interesting project
Logan shuns and/or despises:

  • guilt


  • living in his older brother's shadow


  • neatness


  • unfairness


  • being disregarded


  • all things girly


  • early rising


  • work


  • being called on a fib


  • pain, misfortune, or setbacks (they shatter his view of the world as his oyster)

Will the raging river of Logan be confined within the banks of the strait and narrow? Will Logan's mother succeed in providng him sufficient positive energy and absorbing creative outlets? If Roscoe is good will Logan feel he must be bad? Will Logan use his formidable powers to lead the charge for truth, peace, and righteousness? Stay tuned.

Swinging Bliss

One of my favoritest things in the universe is looking out my kitchen window and seeing the kids flying on the swings. The low branches of our willow tree cover them in dappled green light. Swinging is like a yoga meditation for them--the movement, the tidal rhythm, the sweep, the flow. The little kids will swing for 30 minutes at a time. Levi gets this blissed out expression on his face. When poor little Haley's grand emotions can't be expressed indoors (read: no one wants to listen to her wail), she goes out and swings and weeps and talks to herself. Other times she swings with her eyes squinched shut--for deeper meditation.



Sunday, September 16, 2007

Reading List: "A Thousand Splendid Suns"


Last week my mother-in-law Brenda McGee sent me a package with a scrumptiously soft blanket for Jesse wrapped around a book about strong women. Does my mother-in-law know what makes me tick, or what!

Here are the reasons you must read this book:

1. Literary merit
The number 1 criteria for any book. Beautiful sentences, beautiful scenes. You'll love the characters. You won't want to put it down.

2. Political relevance
I'm a smart girl, I tell myself, but I can't seem to wrap my mind around the middle east. This book, though fiction, helped me get a grip of major events in the last 30 years of Afghanistan.

3. Motivation
Spoiler alert: The book ends with redemption, in terms of the characters, yes, but also a beautiful story of spiritual redemption. You'll put it down feeling enlightened, grateful, motivated, ready to make the world a better place.

Keep this in mind when, in the middle of the book, the characters' troubles start to weigh you down. On Friday night I decided I wouldn't read any further on Saturday--the book was so sad I feared it would cast a pallor over me and make me grumpy with the kids. (It does take some serious positive energy to stay home with 5 kids all day.) Instead I woke up on Saturday morning and read the characters to safety while the kids watched cartoons. Then the rest of the day I was able to see more clearly the blessings of my peaceful country, safe home, plentiful pantry, and loving family.

I now must read the author's other book, which has been on best-seller lists for years. Here's his website:

http://www.khaledhosseini.com/hosseini-books-splendidsuns.html



Some things Jesse might never do were he not the youngest of 5

Jesse's gestation and birth were troubled and dramatic, which adds to the passion of my love for him. His amazing red hair symbolizes to me how rare and precious a treasure he is.

The above is very helpful now that he's grown into a hellion.

Jesse is 17 months old and firmly convinced that he is one of the big kids. He's bound and determined to do whatever they do--or die trying. We struggle mightily to ensure the previous sentence remains only illustrative hyperbole and that he doesn't in reality climb the kitchen chair to the table to the highchair to the half-wall then swandive into the turtle tank...or some such madness.

Here's some documentation of Jesse's quest to integrate into the pack:

He spent an entire happy afternoon wearing Logan's school backpack, walking to the front door, and waving bye-bye. The only trouble came when the weight and bulk of the backpack tipped him over backward.


Here Jesse sits in a chair and reads the scriptures. He opens the book, holds it in front of his face, and solemnly declares, "blah, blah, blah." The kids think it's hilarious.















Here Jesse wears a superhero/Jedi cape while putting away his clean laundry.



And, of course, the joys of communal sibling bathing. Everyone always wants to bathe with the baby.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ode to Roscoe






Roscoe packing his backpack and posing for his first day of school.







This is Roscoe. He's 12. Two weeks ago he started Midvale Middle School as a seventh grader. On Roscoe's second day of school, Mark was in the car with me when we dropped him off on the curb. Before I pulled away, Mark and I watched Roscoe walk up the sidewalk toward the big, brick school. He shrugged his backpack onto his shoulders. He slouched and shoved his hands in his jeans pockets. He shook his shaggy hair to muss it appropriately.

I felt, again, that Roscoe starting junior high was the beginning of the end. Right now Mark and I feel we're in the gravy days of life. We're not getting ready to have a family or looking back on our posterity's childhoods--we're right in the thick of it. These days are the memories we'll all swap for the rest of our lives--when soccer-dodgeball (on the tramp) was our favorite family sport, when chocolate chip cookies were our favorite Sunday activity, when hotdogs on a stick were our favorite dinner, when lightsabers were our favorite weapon. And one day soon, it will end. In 7 more years Roscoe will leave and it seems like after that the central chapter of our lives will be over. After that, someone will always be missing.

But when Roscoe got halfway up the sidewalk toward the school, he stopped. He looked back over his shoulder at his parents staring at him through the windshield. He flashed us a grin that was at once bemusement, enjoyment, and just friendliness. And he waved. Then he walked into the building.
I don't love Roscoe best of all my children, but I did love him first.

Logan co-opts the camera and captures a rare glimpse of mom having a heart-to-heart with Roscoe (at the Thanksgiving Point dinosaur museum.)

Roscoe gives (and receives) loves from his best baby.

Monday, September 10, 2007

In defense of Mother Teresa




Last week's Newsweek included "The Dogmatic Doubter," an article by influential atheist Christopher Hutchins. His other books include God Is Not Great and The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. Hutchins is capitalizing on the terrorism of extreme Muslims to make the case that religion, as a whole is bad. In this article, he uses statements from Mother Teresa regarding her doubts and her quest for the "presence" of Christ in her life to negate her entire religious faith, undermine her life's work, and prove that religious faith, as a whole, is fake.

Here's my letter to the editor of Newsweek:


I am appalled and distressed by Christopher Hitchens’ article “The Dogmatic Doubter.” I see no justification for detailing--especially in disrespectful and
incendiary language--the pains and doubts of a woman who succeeded in providing
nearly unrivaled service to those in need. As an educated, thinking, reasoned
non-Catholic Christian, I maintain that faith is not a “facile cure-all,” that
religious service and devotion are not necessarily “hysterical” efforts.

Hitchens’ criticizes the Catholic church for “exploiting” Mother Teresa
to “recruit the crudulous to a blind faith.” The religious are often criticized
for following blindly. In a seeming Catch-22, Hitchens slanders Mother Teresa
for recognizing her faith’s limits and seeking fuller manifestations of the
divine in her life, evidence that her faith was not blind. In his calculated
campaign to undermine religious faith, Hitchens is the one exploiting Mother
Teresa for an agenda.



Thursday, September 6, 2007

What we most want



On Tuesday, I spent from 7:00 to 9:45 traipsing about delivering everyone to various locations: Roscoe to junior high by 7:50, Mark to the train station immediately thereafter. Logan leaves (on his own!) at 8:20, then I drive Levi to kindergarten at the same school at 8:40. Tuesday was Haley's first day of preschool, so I took Jesse to a friend's house at 9:30 to play while Haley headed to preschool at 9:45. All of which meant that I had TWO HOURS alone before beginning the process in reverse. And this is the plan for every Tuesday and Thursday--TWO HOURS, TWO TIMES a week!

What to do with this glorious surfeit or privacy and leisure? Here are some scenarios I've imagined:

40 minutes yoga
40 minutes working on resumes (my freelance job)
20 minutes housework
20 minutes relaxation

~or~

40 minutes working on my new resume company
20 minutes on family finances
40 minutes wandering the house picking up things and completing unfinished tasks
20 minutes folding laundry while watching TV

~or-

50 minutes for ill-advised trip to Old Navy (why, oh why, do I ever try on those jeans?)
10 minutes sorting and storing kids' clothes bought on clearance
40 minutes working on resumes
10 minutes reading
10 minutes doing nothing at all

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. My first day of independence was relaxing and productive. But the best part of the day came after.

First I blazed (woe to the SLOW-sign-holding construction man on my street) to the elementary school and retrieved Levi from morning kindergarten. He and his friends burst out the door like popcorn the moment the teacher opened it. He scanned the crowd of moms, burst into smile when he saw me, and ran over, with his backpack--nearly as big as he--flapping behind him.

Since Haley's preschool ends the same moment kindergarten does, we blazed back down the road (sorry SLOW man!) and joined the line of Caravans and Odysseys in front of Miss Kathryn's house (we in a Caravan, of course). Haley walked out the front door, as Miss Kathryn had instructed her, but she started down the sidewalk tentatively. Levi slid the van door open, and shouted "Haley!" Haley broke into a run and hopped in the van to our applause. She made it through her first day!

Haley and Levi swapped school tales on the way to Jesse's babysitter (SLOW man again). Haley shared with Levi the second of the two Starburst candies her teacher had given her. We all trooped in to retrieve our blazing red-headed baby, who squeezed my shoulder with all his little might.

When we were all buckled in again, I felt so happy to be back together. SO happy! I do dream and dream and even obsess over ways to steal moments' privacy and get AWAY from those three little ones. I feel like when Professor Quirrel says to Harry, "You don't understand--I'm never alone." (He says this because the spirit of Lord Voldemort, the most evil wizard who has ever lived, was living in the back of Quirrel's skull. I say it for qualitatively, if not quantitively, different reasons.) But after being scattered to the four winds for those two hours, we all felt relieved to be reunited and come home again. Which is where we most want to be.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Why?

Give,
and it shall be given unto you;
good measure,
pressed down,
and shaken together,
and running over,
shall men give into your bosom.

For with the same measure
that ye mete withal
it shall be measured
to you
again.

Luke 6:38

This may be my all-time favorite scripture verse, and here's why:

1. Images
I picture an old-fashioned general store, maybe like Mr. and Mrs. Olsen's from Little House on the Prairie. Someone behind the counter is measuring something good into your bag, and with each scoop, they're pressing it down, shaking it together, giving you so much that it's running over. That's how sometimes I picture the blessings of my life or the blessings I believe Heavenly Father wants to give us.

2. A happy MO
This is how I want to live and how I want everybody around me to live too. Whatever you have to give--patience, attention, compliments, support, happy vibes--give it in good measure. And then I believe it'll come back to you that way too.

3. A more flip view
I have five children, about whom you will hear much. Five--a small number when it comes to, say, dollars, plates, fingers, books. A big number when it comes to people who expect you to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Sometimes I do indeed feel pressed down--with worries, with obligations, or with the sheer physical mass of five children's bodies. And "shaken" just seems to describe my emotional state, my mental focus, and the condition of the objects in my home. Like if a giant grabbed our whole house and shook it, this is what it would look like.