Sunday, March 30, 2008

Roko's Name and Blessing

I'm in Shingle Springs, California, with Mark and Kelly and Mom and Dad to celebrate the name and blessing of their baby, Roko. Mark's blessing was like a jewel: short, no fluff, nothing but the precious parts. He blessed Roko that he "will understand that he is part of a long line of righteous men, that he will see himself as part of a chain that extends both into the past and into the future."

What a great blessing that Mark can make that claim, and that he himself added a link to that chain by being worthy to bless this beautiful new baby. We're all ready to band together to nurture Roko in the gospel as he adds to the chain. I feel grateful today for the blessings of the gospel and see clearly how anything we may give up for the gospel is nothing but dust.

Pictures of Roko's blessing day were taken on someone else's camera and copies haven't yet reached me, so here are some other pics of the weekend:

Roko meets me at the airport--with Kelly's help. Kelly takes us to In-N-Out for lunch.
Kelly, Roko, and I stroll through historic downtown Placerville. My favorite was the bellydancer's shop, which is where I would have spent my every penny in high school. Kelly graciously lets me carry Roko. Here we introduce him to the yarn shop, which will be very important in his life. [By the way, Mom says my new, blonder hair is too much. Anyone else care to comment?]
Roko meets Grandma and Grandpa at the airport. Looks like Grandma and Roko will get along swimmingly.
Grandpa unveils the beautiful wooden cradle he has crafted for Roko. Grandma made a little mattress and bedding for it. After posing for this pic, I don't think Roko's little bootie barely touched that cradle--we spent the weekend vying for snuggle turns with him.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

On Boys

I love Jacquelyn Mitchard's column in Wondertime magazine, mostly because she writes from the perspective of having several children (a topic I really must address, but not now). Here's my favorite part from her latest column on being the mother of 5 boys:

"Remove whatever is on the Y chromosome and you just may eliminate most of the crime and most of the comedy on earth, but I'm not sure the latter would be worth the former. I'm heavily invested in that Y. My life without sons would be a haven of peaceful and predictable days and nights. Who wants that?...I love my boys for their pure sense of mayhem."

Jacquelyn's right: It's not PC feminism, but it's true that boys are different and will--bank on it--fashion a gun from a waffle in front of their peace-loving mama and burp the alphabet. Just today Levi came to me to point out that when he had burped over his lunch it made an "L" sound. He just thought I should know. And when I let Jesse out the front door he ran to stomp in a puddle, then ran the other way to crawl through some mud, all in the first 5 seconds. And thanks to Roscoe and Logan, my front room was strewn with two backpacks, 5 piano books, 4 shoes, 3 dirty socks, and approximately 10 slide-on paper claws constructed last night in their room after bedtime.

I do adore the unseemly, slightly grimy, mischevious, uncontained, uncivilized, sometimes unholy world boys live in. I know one day they'll be gone and I'll be able to prune roses or whatever serene activity floats my boat. Til then, pass the mustard and cut the cheese.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My New Best Friend

If my brother Mark is an early adapter, constantly wheedling and berating all those around him to embrace a new technology that will make life better, I'm a SLOW adapter. I was very, very disgruntled by the advent of DVDs and only got a DVD player when my parents broke down and GAVE me one--which is, incidentally, how I got my first digital camera. For years I made do with dial-up with the strategy of getting up to fold a batch of laundry each time a page needed to load. My general procedure for buying a new computer is to get the cheapest one my search can locate.

But now, I am the proud owner of a zippy, sexy champagne-colored laptop that rivals Mark's, courtesy of my business.

Thanks to my techno-bros Mark, Joe, Troy, and Richard for useful advice, all of which I used.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Friday the kids and I--sans Mark--drove to the McGee home in Albuquerque. It was a long day and we arrived mostly unfrazzled due only to the fact that Skip (my father-in-law) met us in Farmington and drove us the last 3 hours.

It's been a long time since we did a family roadtrip and Friday reminded me why we love it so much. There's something about sitting quietly while the road slips under our wheels and the landscape passes slowly by. I contemplated lyrics from Cat Stevens and the Grateful Dead. And we were all together. Family togetherness is something I generally don't need more of, and I often wish to have periods with less of it, but I loved having all the children right around me all day long.

The real clincher was that the kids were all great. Jesse didn't scream the whole day long, which is amazing since he's not a huge fan of carseats. I couldn't take my eyes off the road to help with the innumerable requests for water, dropped binkies, snacks, etc. Roscoe and Logan stepped right in and were patient helpers. Roscoe even cued up the tapes I requested.

After a fun and exhausting weekend with the grandparents and Markus, Shanna, Sammy, and Annie, we head home tomorrow. Let's hope the spirit of happy roadtripping stays with us.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Easter Family Home Evening

I have two huge file drawers full of Family Home Evening lesson packets. Last night we did our annual performance of the folder entitled, "An Easter Miracle," which is one of the top 2 of all the FHEs we've ever had. Why? It teaches both young and older kids, it has superb wow-factor fun, it's firmly grounded in scripture, and it's totally focused on Christ.

And now, for our valued readers, here are the instructions for staging this one-of-a-kind, family-pleasing FHE [drum roll]:

1. Get 12 cheapo plastic Easter eggs. Label them 1-12 with a Sharpie.

2. Follow the instructions here and here to put an Easter-related object into each egg. For example, egg #1 contains a sacrament cup, representing Jesus saying "let this cup pass." Egg #4 contains a chunk of soap representing Pilate washing his hands. Egg #10 contains a pebble representing the stone rolled before the tomb. Altogether, the eggs tell the Easter story from Gethsemane to the resurrection. Putting all the objects together will take a little legwork, but then you'll be able to pull it out each Easter and wow your kids.

3. On Monday evening, get out the Easter baskets. Make the kids wait in one room while you hide the 12 eggs in the other. Explain that they can find the eggs and put them in their baskets, but they may NOT OPEN the eggs.

4. Once everyone has had a ball finding eggs, put all the eggs in one basket. Let the children take turns coming up to open each egg in order and display its contents. As you open each egg, read the correlating scripture verses (provided in the links above).

5. Even though we've done this every year, a hush still falls over the kids when they open egg #12 and find that it's empty: "He is not here: for He is risen."

In that moment of hush, bear your testimony to your children--and that makes the best Family Home Evening of all.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Jesse Meets Roko

Technophile Mark hooked up a webcam of his new Roko, and we've been watching for more than an hour now. I said to the kids during dinner, "It's like Mark and Roko are having dinner with us!" And they observed that it was really more like we were spying on them.

Here's Jesse getting excited about seeing his new cousin:

Logan Spars to Victory

Logan participated in a tournament at his karate school yesterday. He competed in forms and sparring, but he was most excited about the sparring--maybe because of his experiences in our family? All week Mark and I watched for opportunities to sneak in comments about doing-your-best versus winning.

Logan won his first sparring round. The second round was to determine first and second place. It was brutal. Logan worked hard for each hit, and if only 1 of the 3 judges actually saw the contact, it didn't count. He got dressed down by the judge two times for hits that weren't "controlled" enough--meaning too hard or not on target--and poor little Logan, adrenaline coursing, had to listen respectfully and say, "Yes, ma'am," even though he really was doing his best.

In the end, he got second place. I'm glad he got a medal, and I'm also kind of glad he didn't get first. He really did do his best, and I think he feels that that was the greatest award of the day. Oh, and the Happy Meals that followed.

For Mom: Haley's Easter dress

Thanks Mom! Haley was a little flower.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ode to Material Culture

This piece of paper has lived in my recipe binder since we moved here.

Someone at church made it, and someone from Relief Society gave it to me, and we've used it on several occasions. The more I looked at this, the more I loved it. It’s a beautiful representation of the material culture of Mormon wards.

(For those of you who didn't take my advice to take Anthropology 101 in college, material culture is the objects that shape and reflect a culture. Think, who made this, who used it, and why? What does it say about the people who used/made it?)

I love the kitschy title, with the capitalized “Brown Thumb” and three exclamation points. I love that space that preceding the three exclamation points. (By what rule of usage did the author justify putting that in?) I love that the author used the word “Crop” instead of, say, plant. I love that the crop list includes salisfy and horseradish and rutabaga and muskmelon. Who on earth is planting those things, and what on earth are they? I conclude the author is from one of those real Utah farming families on whose land our suburban housing development is built.

But combined with its farm roots, this paper also reveals an author living in the modern world. This person knew how to use not only a photocopy machine and word processor, but tricky tabs and columns. And note the three web sites cited in the bottom corner.

It got me all sentimental for the church dittos of my youth made from someone's fancy typewriter that had an italic font. Remember those? In our ward it was Sister Keyes who had such a typewriter, and every Young Women's event had an invitation or handout made from it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Celebration of Roko's Arrival and Reflections on Childbirth

Roko is here! The long-awaited baby of my brother Mark and his long-awaited wife, Kelly, arrived on Friday night with nary a glitch. He's a perfect baby and Kelly is a childbirth pro. All weekend, the back of my mind dwelled on babies and labor and childbirth and the joy and pain of it all.

My stats:

5 children
4 childbirths
1 miscarriage
1 epidural
4 posterior presentations
1 almost eight pounder; 1 almost nine pounder; 1 almost ten pounder; 1 six pounder (ahhh!)

Notable moments:

~ The nurse who should win some sort of international award for her ability to check a cervix as comfortably and casually as you might reach down to touch my kneecap.

~ The night-shift nurse who brought me a sleeping pill, then sat down to chat for an hour and would have become my best friend if perhaps I hadn't been drugged and had had my glasses on and could ever have seen her face.

~ Watching Mark grow smaller and smaller on the ground as the helicopter rose to take Jesse and me to a bigger hospital.

~ The, again, faceless nurse who hummed "I Am a Child of God" softly next to me when I woke weeping after my D&C.

~ Pleading, "Can anyone help me?" in a particularly tense moment (Logan).

~ Getting a speculum during during a contraction.

~ Running into an old boyfriend on the street on the way to the hospital.

~ The moment of strained silence when Levi emerged blue and quiet.

~ That fabulous, indescribable moment when, in an instant, labor is over and instead I'm holding a warm, sweet baby.

They say women get pregnant twice only because they forget the pain of childbirth. For me anyway, not true. I had nightmarish flashbacks of the pain of my first childbirth for a few weeks thereafter. And every time I've gotten pregnant since, I have moments of panic when it hits me, "I know how this ends and it's not pretty!"

It's not that you forget--it's that in that sublime moment when the last horrendous push produces a beautiful rosebud of a baby it doesn't matter. Whatever pain of carrying and birthing that baby becomes utterly, cosmically inconsequential. I'm really not sure there's anything on heaven or earth better than laying your hands and eyes for the first time on your own perfect, beautiful baby. Welcome to the club, Mark and Kelly.

Angela and Roscoe.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Trench Update

I am very pleased to inform you that both Levi and Logan have done an excellent job rising to the challenges I extended last week. Logan in particular has completed all his responsibilities with no reminders from mom and has been grounded for de sotto voce backtalking only once.

Today when Logan came home from school, fresh-faced and rosy-cheeked from his invigorating ride through the late winter air, I complimented him on his success. He looked truly pleased with himself. Now, this is a boy who often claims that positive consequences don't really exist. The way he sees it, nothing happens until someone makes a bad choice, and then negative consequences are divvied out immediately. So I took this opportunity to point out how good he and I both feel right now. He did his duty before school and spent the day happily anticipating a leisurely afternoon of friends and computer. And when he got home, his mother greeted him not with demands and reminders, but with an open invitation to enjoy his free time.

I said, "This is a positive consequence. It's not a lollipop--but it feels good!" And he agreed.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Fantasies of the Middle Child

Yesterday morning, as always, Levi returned to the parental bed for some snuggle time. Mark and I teasingly asked him why he's the world's biggest snuggle bug. Levi's answer started out sweet and then veered into a somewhat frightening glimpse into the zero-sum mentality of a middle child:

It's because I love my mommy, and I'm the only kid!
I'm the only kid!
[now almost growling] I'm the only kid!

[insert menacing Dracula-style laugh]

And I can sleep in Roscoe and Logan's room,
and play with all the Bionicles!

And all the toys are MINE!

[repeat menacing Dracula laugh]

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Mom's Cancer, by Brian Fies

A couple years ago I learned from Harvey Pekar and American Splendor that graphic novels (comic books) aren't just about superheroes. So when I saw this book at the library (while helping Levi find comics about superheroes), I thought I'd give it a try.

I loved it. Fies tells the true story of his mom's battle with lung cancer, from the time they first suspect a problem to..well, I won't tell you the end of the book. The graphic novel format lets Fies tell the story in unique ways. And I loved the real portrayal of a family working together in a terrible time. For example, this page shows the roles Fies and his two sisters took in the process:

It took only a couple hours to read, was fun, and gave me a deeper understanding of people and families who deal with cancer. Highly recommended.