Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
"I have nothing to look forward to for two weeks."
I plopped down on the couch in despair. It was Sunday evening in early December, and Mark had just informed me that in order to finish his final papers for his master's degree, he'd have to work round the clock until the last day of the semester. In two weeks, we'd drive home for Christmas and I'd be surrounded by family and decorations and everything festive and fun. But until then, I was in our shabby little apartment, taking care of a baby all by myself. We'd lived in Logan, Utah, for only a few months, and I hadn't been successful in making friends or figuring out what to do with myself as a mother. Sometimes our attic apartment felt like a tower prison. I could look down from above and see everyone else coming and going, but I was isolated, with nowhere to go, no one to talk to. And now not even my husband would be around.
"I have nothing to look forward to for two weeks," I thought as I plopped on the couch. In the grand scheme of global tragedies, I knew this wouldn’t even register. But those two weeks stretched before me like a desert wasteland.
At the very moment--my unspoken words still hanging in the air, Mark still walking from the living room back to his computer--I heard a knock on the door.
I heard Mark open the door, then I heard him chuckle. He walked into the room carrying a tiny Christmas tree and a note. Someone was doing the 12 Days of Christmas for us.
The tree was fake. It was small. But it was covered in bows and balls and lights. When I plugged it in, the room filled with a festive glow. Suddenly I did have something to look forward to--every day. Each night we heard a knock and found something perched on our step. One day, a tape of Christmas music, which I listened to nonstop. Another day, mugs and cocoa mix. Nothing was big or expensive, but enough to let me feel the joy of Christmas. Little Roscoe and I organized our days around those little gifts.
From the moment Mark opened the door, we knew who it was. The Aumans. A family that, charmed by the immeasurable cuteness of little Roscoe, had taken us under their wing. A family with a truly Christian commitment to living the gospel and helping others. The Aumans probably knew that we had no family or money or Christmas tree. Maybe they even suspected I was lonely. But they had no way of knowing that the very moment they knocked on our door was my moment of need.
But as I got to know Sister Auman in the coming years, I learned that she is a person who dedicates her life to identifying and filling others’ needs. Once in a Sunday lesson, I heard her explain that she prays each morning that Heavenly Father will let her know who she can help that day.
Elder Bednar says that the “tender mercies of the Lord” are “personal and timely message of comfort and reassurance.” I believe that the Aumans delivered to me, at the very moment I needed it, a message of comfort from my Heavenly Father.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Exhibit A: I finished Christmas shopping for my children, paid all the bills, paid tithing, and filled the gas tank. I never blog about money because it's too depressing and gauche, but I'll tell you that the above is not always the case in our family, and having it taken care of is a huge blessing and relief.
Exhibit B: Our neighbor and friend, a mother of three, died this weekend. On Friday morning she was a normal person sending her kids off to school. Now she's in the cold ground.
So suddenly I see more clearly that everything I don't have is nothing compared with everything I do have.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Logan was thrilled with the opportunity to demonstrate his prowess and responsibility. He said excitedly to Mark, "Do you trust me?" And we thought, "Uhhhh."
So we sat down with Logan to lay down some ground rules, and he chimed in, "You know what my number 1 rule is? HAVE FUN!" And we thought, "Uhhhhh."
I mean fun is great, but fun includes swinging from chandeliers and spooning brown sugar from its container and luging down the stairs.
In the minds of Logan's first-born parents, contenders for Rule Number 1 would be:
- Be safe.
- Follow the rules.
- Be nice.
- Keep an eagle eye on Jesse.
- Don't make a mess.
- Stay out of the kitchen.
So we told Logan all about how this was an opportunity for him to build trust that would lead to greater freedom and responsibility. And how if we came home to happy, unscathed children in a tidy house, then he'd get more such opportunities in the future.
And, man, did that kid deliver.
When we came home, Roscoe and Logan were enjoying a movie together in a very tidy house indeed. They kind of looked like parents enjoying kid-free evening time. The kids were all tucked into their beds. Both boys were pleased with their night's earnings and their own maturity.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Meanwhile I noticed that Mark had replaced my Christmas CD in the kitchen CD player with one of his own making. When finally Roscoe was out the door and the floor was sticky but safe, I sat down in a kitchen chair to listen to long list of songs Mark feels reflect our relationship.
Gray wind scraped the frozen fingers of our willow tree against the kitchen window. Squeals and wails occasionally wafted downstairs. Various people hollered, "Mooomm!" I certainly wasn't personifying Mark's childhood dreams of the ideal wife as I sat in that sticky kitchen in my XXL polka-dot pajamas. But I floated on the island of Mark's love while everything else washed past, insignificant.
There are many things to love about Mark. Many reasons that I love him. But our love is so much more than the sum of its parts. It just is, beyond any why. As Mark says, "I love you because I met you."
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Against our better judgement, it's a high-powered, long-range nerf gun. But it won us huge hugs from Logan, who immediately shot his brother in the eye.
The man himself. Now 11 years old.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
My brother Josh came too.
It was a snowy day.
But he caught this gem of three generations: Earl, Mark, and Roko.
We feel very grateful for the support and love of our friends and family. Congratulations Dr. Mark!
Friday, December 12, 2008
My talented and delightful cousin Annie Poon created this dreamy animation for Coldplay's video contest for their song "Lost." Watch it once. Then watch it a second time for maximum enjoyment.
Then if you're so inclined, go rate it here on YouTube.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I knew Jesse wasn't napping yesterday. I knew he'd trash his room. But I wanted to clean the basement bathroom (I know, dream big) and there's no good way to do that unless Jesse is contained. So when I came upstairs to set him free, I expected a modicum of mess.
What I found was a boy who had taken it upon himself to do something about his stinky diaper. He couldn't remove the diaper (wearing a onesie!), so he helped himself to wet wipes and dabbed them inside the diaper, removing and smearing clumps.... That's all you need to know: removing and smearing.
You can imagine my response. No, not screaming. But an immediate big, bubbly bath for Jess. A wide open window. Liberal use of the carpet cleaner and Lysol. At length, that bedroom carpet was cleaner than it has ever been--and free from 99.9% of household germs. Soon I plopped down on the couch for a breather--tired, perhaps somewhat emotionally scarred, but the proud owner of a very clean room.
So seriously, is this not like the gospel? Tribulation besets us--either because of our own sins, mistakes and immaturity or simply because of our mortal condition. And it sucks. But we gird up and rise to the challenge and grab that shampoo and laundry soap. We clean house, figuratively; we work to achieve a pure heart and clean hands. And then, at some point, we look back and see the progress we've made. How now we're better. And though we would never, ever, have chosen this experience, we realize that we needed it, that without it we wouldn't have done the requisite work and purification.
So maybe Jesse-the-Hellion is a blessing sent from the gods of housekeeping?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I have a habit of making little piles of shoes in the corners of my bedroom like drifted leaves. Apparently, now that my husband lives here, this bothers him. He mentioned it a few times and I ignored him.
Then one day when he left for work, I realized that next to each pile of my shoes was a pair of his shoes.
"Silly man," I thought. "Two can play this game."
When Mark came home from work, every pair of shoes I own was scattered across the room. A pair sat on the mat in front of the bathroom sink; another on the mat in front of the toilet. Two pairs in front of the couch where he sits to take off his shoes after work. A couple outside the bedroom door for good measure.
Frankly, it was a pain to maneuver around them all day. But my only real regret was that I would be on chauffeur duty when Mark arrived home and miss his response.
When I arrived home, the entire kitchen and hallway were covered in shoes. Poor Mark, who for nearly two decades has worn only Chuck Taylors and leather brogues, had to even dig out a strange pair of rubber temple overshoes that hasn't seen the light of day...ever. Levi was thrilled that his usual habit of flinging his own shoes on the floor was now contributing to a grander plan.
After dinner I went to Enrichment, and when I returned, every pair of Mark's shoes was put away. And every pair of mine was not.
And there they still sit.
Mark comes home in 5 hours. I wonder what I'll do.
Since it is his birthday, and since he almost never commands me to "stand down," and since I'm madly in love with him, the shoes are all neatly put away--in the super cool built-in shoe organizer in my closet.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
At one point we finally decided to wrestle screaming Jesse down for an early bedtime. I'm trying to guide Logan through the process of rolling Russian teacakes in powdered sugar, which he is threatening to turn into a sugar blizzard. Levi chooses this moment to blow chunks across the upstairs hallway. If I had been on my own, things wouldn't have been pretty.
As it was, I ignored the puke situation and finished the cookies. Then while Mark scrubbed the carpet, I hog-tied Jesse, got him into jammies, and stuck a washcloth in his bedroom door so he couldn't escape. Then the kids and I (or at least the kids who were neither puking nor screaming) decorated the tree while Mark cleaned the kitchen.
In no time, we sat at a clean table to enjoy wassail and cookies in the light of our pretty tree. And there was enough peace remaining to do our first Sunday's Advent Reading.
I got this list from someone in one of our old wards and we've done it ever since. Keeping Christ in Christmas doesn't have to mean scrimping on the fun stuff like cookies and presents and jingle bells; it just means making sure to talk and think about Christ more often. These are beautiful, short little doses of Christ you can snuggle up and enjoy under the tree each Sunday (or Monday) in December:
First Advent Sunday
John 1:1-5, 12-14
Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7
Second Advent Sunday
1 Nephi 10:4; 11:13-21; 19:8
2 Nephi 25:19
Third Advent Sunday
Helaman 13:4-5; 14:1-6
Fourth Advent Sunday
Luke 1:5-48, 56-64
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Then I ended up with 45 minutes--after Haley was at preschool, Jesse was at a friend's, but before the Primary presidency meeting--when no one but me was home. I grabbed the chance to paint the stairway walls, which were all smudged and ugly. Really, I do can a lot when no one's here.
Then Mark came home at around 2:00. Church employees were all sent home during Elder Wirthlin's funeral. So he got a head-start on our weekend to-do list--which is long since we haven't worked together on any list for weeks and weeks. He worked on tucking in the yard for the winter while I did a solo trip to Target for all sorts of birthday and Christmas goodies. I made two big online orders last week, and now I'm done with everything for Christmas and Haley and Logan's birthdays.
When I got home, Mark and I loaded up for a dinner out to our favorite Indian place. Who knows when was the last time we had a date? On our way home, we picked up a little but pretty and good-smelling Christmas tree, which we set up in the front room while the kids finished their Friday night movie. Once we finally wrestled the kids to bed, we split a Twix bar and watched a Jazz game.
You know, I can cope without Mark. But it is so much nicer to have him around!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The sad, brutal truth is that my second-born gets a lot less attention than my first-born. And El Segundo knows it and is bitterly unhappy about it. I spend so much time helping Roscoe forge new territory with each new age, and then I let Logan trundle along in Roscoe's trough.
(On the other hand, Logan was the baby for 4 1/2 years, longer than any other child, and we adored every move he made the whole time.)
Here's what I feel is never accounted for in studies of how poorly successive children fare. Maybe number 2 got 20-30 minutes less attention from me. But how many minutes of interaction did he get from his siblings? Hours and hours and hours.
So let's do the math: Subtract less meaningful interactions, like watching TV together or parallel play. Let's guess--very conservatively--that leaves 90 minutes of a day of high-quality conversation, playing, problem-solving, and sharing between siblings. And then let's rate the quality of sibling-to-sibling interaction as only 50% of that of parent-to-child interaction. In that scenario, child number 2 gets 15-25 more minutes of quality interaction each day than child number 1.
Maybe I'm deluding myself, but I think older siblings are a great gift to a child.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
Things that didn't get blogged about:
~ The coming out party for the long-awaited first volume of the Joseph Smith Papers, of which Mark is a volume editor. People such as Elder Holland, Elder Jensen, Elder Coleman, Larry Miller, and Sheri Dew were there to pat backs. Mark sat at a table and signed people's copies.
~ Levi saying, "I can't wait for Christmas. You wanna know why? Egg nog. We're not gonna drink water! Just egg nog."
~ How Mark was out of town for a week and how during that time the kids didn't sleep. This always happens. It's the same evil curse that makes them wake up especially early on Saturdays.
~ The first snow.
~ Most of the 200 pictures I took this month.
~ How said Joseph Smith Papers volume sold out its first printing in ten days.
Isn't there some quote about how the contemplated life is the only life worth living? Well, blogging is teaching me that the life contemplated, then shared, is even a bit better.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
On the plus side, the kids can now recite large portions of Kung Fu Panda in unison. On the down side, we ate fast food twice today--which is one-and-a-half times too many.
Some favorite Arizona pics:
Thanks again to Markus and Shanna who are the only people in the world (other than those who gave birth to us) brave and kind enough to host our family.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The teacher assigned another little three-year-old to show Roscoe how to manage the snack cupboard. The boy showed Roscoe how he could serve himself his snack at whatever time he chose, how to get a tray, put his name card on it, and take his snacks to the table. Then how to put it all away when he was through. The whole snack area was cleverly organized to make this possible. I was stunned that children could be taught to handle things so independently. And the teacher didn't even teach him how to do it--another child did!
So here's another piece of the how-do-you-do-it puzzle: Use your parenting energy and creativity to create systems that encourage your children to do their own work and learning. Laundry cubbies, easy-to-open cereal containers, morning routine charts, child-level hooks, reflective listening.
Again, it's not about foisting the work onto the child so the mom can eat bon-bons. It changes the parent into a facilitator and guide, which is not less work but different work. It gives children their own responsibility, which is empowering and fulfilling for them. It helps them expand their abilities and then utilize those abilities more fully.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
markus cuts the turkey
levi and soulmate cousin sammy get excited about dinner
shanna's eight-layer jello
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Security checkpoint over Hoover Dam. Rain, wind, fog. Hours and hours. Junk food. Movies.
Diet Coke. Driving, driving, driving.
We're here at Mark's sister's. With Mark, which is how we plan to keep it. We're happy to be here. Good night.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Buying mounds of simple carbs: pretzels, goldfish, fruit snacks.
Getting a car wash.
Mopping the floor (my prerequisite to pretty much any endeavor).
Stashing diapers under the car seats.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I realized that I hesitate to pray for what I want. Part of it is that I question why I should be the one to receive a certain blessing over someone else. But most of it is that I don’t want to dictate my blessings to the Lord. The real prayer of my heart is simply, “Let thy will for me come to pass.” For example, I would really like my business to be a success. I feel this is a righteous desire that will help me bless my family. But still, I hesitate to ask, “Please help me to get more orders.” What if God has another plan for me? What if there’s another, even better, direction I should go?
And yet, I think it’s not right to give only blanket, “Please help me in the way you want” prayers. I’ve always been intrigued by the Bible Dictionary’s description of prayer as a form of work:
The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.
This reminds me of when Haley is wandering around saying things like, “I like having friends come over” or “I don’t know what’s for dinner,” and I say, “Then ask me!” I’m ready and waiting to give her good things, but I want her to learn to ask for what she needs.
This seems consistent with the counsel Oliver Cowdery received when he was chided because he “took no thought save it was to ask me.” To receive answer to prayer he should first “study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right” (D&C 9:7, 8). Apparently the Lord wants us to ponder and develop specific prayer requests and not just abdicate to him what blessings we need. Of course righteous prayers always include “thy will be done,” but maybe it’s a cop-out to limit our prayers to that.
But if we’re really in tune with the Spirit, our specific requests will not be inconsistent with the Lord’s will, as I fear. The Bible Dictionary says, “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.” Nephi (the one in Helaman) was told, “all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will” (Helaman 10:5). His will and God’s had become one. He could pray for a specific outcome—like replacing war with famine—knowing that it was consistent with God’s will.
I can think of times when I received prompting to know part of God’s plan for me. For example, at certain times we’ve felt quite sure that God wanted us to become foster parents. That knowledge would give me plenty of specific ammunition for prayer: Help us to be prepared for the challenges of foster children. Protect our children from any negative consequences. Guide us to receive the child that we can bless and who will bless us. Help us to meet the child’s needs.
I think what’s bothering me now is that I’m feeling so unsure of God’s will for me. We’ve reached the end of a long, consuming journey to get Mark’s dissertation done, and I’m not sure what our next chapter will be. I feel that God does have some things in mind, lurking around the corner, but I don’t know what they are, so I’m not sure what I should be praying for. Mostly I’m praying to know what I should be doing to prepare to fulfill whatever God asks me to do next.
So what do you pray for? What’s your take on how to pray and how specific your prayers should be?
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Brilliant--in the UK usage and ours. Intense. Energetic. Playful. Less reverent or somber than I expected. Huge. I love the way a good show picks you up and carries you along--the music even takes over your heartbeats.
Chris Martin has a tightly wound core and limbs attached with rubber bands. Gravity pulls less on him than it does on we mortals. He clearly is energized, not at all drained, by the task of entertaining thousands. He wrapped us around his finger and pulled us all together to one heart, one mind, and one voice.
After the last song, the band waved to and applauded the audience. Then they played the first encore on a little platform perched across a few seats in the first balcony. The second encore was huge and bright and loud. The third was like a hymn. (Did you know that these days you wave your illuminated cell phone instead of a lighter? Brilliant!)
Watch for pics from my friend and concert-partner Emily, who looked fantastic and not at all housewifey in the funky black skirt she bought just for the occasion.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Please, Mark. We need you.
The scalliwag himself showing off the newly enlarged hole in his teeth. His teacher keeps a chart of which kids have lost how many teeth, and Levi was becoming jealous that he had only one checkmark next to his name. So he basically ripped that bloody tooth right out one night. But now he has two checkmarks.