Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day in the Life

Who do you think left me this casecade of drawers next to my bed? A coded message?

This is what I found when I opened the door to unload the dishwasher: a Lego guy, a chess piece, a jar lid. Another message?

Levi unloaded this arsenal from his pockets. Even the little plastic knives from Haley's kitchen set were commandeered.

Then Levi loaded it all back into his pockets and demonstrated his technique.

Logan's scooter ride home from school yielded this nice little bite out of his front tooth--his permanent front tooth. Fortunately the dentist says the roots are fine and he'll fill it tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bein' a Cub Scout

I take Levi to a tee-ball game, with Haley and Jesse in tow. Jesse runs into the field at least 10 times.

Mark comes home from work. He and Logan apply the finishing touches to Logan's pinewood derby car. After coming in last in every heat last year, Logan has high hopes this time.

Levi's game concludes. We order a bag full of burgers on our way home.

The little kids have eaten their burgers still buckled in the car. We pick up Roscoe, Logan, and Mark and head to the church.

The pinewood derby begins. Each boy races his car two times in each of four lanes.

They huddle at the end of the track to watch their cars' performance.

The tension, the hope, the worry, the anxiety, the fear fill the room.

Logan's career in Cub Scouts pinewood derbies is over. He came in second place in many heats and, in the end, came in 7th of 12 cars. A definite improvement--but not the triumph he was hoping for.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Levi: Mom, where's that broken keyboard? [So he can pretend to type while I try to accomplish actual work on the computer.]

Mom: I don't know.

Levi: Where is it?

Mom: I don't know where it is.

Levi: Where's that broken keyboard?

Mom [looking deeply into Levi's eyes]: If I knew, I would tell you.


Levi: Do you know where it is?

Mom: No.

Levi exits stage right.

Friday, April 25, 2008


There's a spool in my heart winding tighter and tighter.

Without my noticing, it sometimes winds too tight and my soft answers get pulled into harsh ones.

Tonight I had an hour of peace and solitude. I had spent time with each child on science projects, Cub Scout requirements, board games, campout prep, and loving mentoring. The kitchen floor was mopped (largely thanks to my visiting mother-in-law), the kids were tucked in bed.

I sat in a quiet room and felt my tension unspool.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Jesse Turns Two

My brother Mark says he can't wait for his baby to grow up and grow through the stages of his life. But I'm full of mourning, even as I help usher each child into their next phase.

(Jesse swapped his birthday hat with its annoying elastic for this much comfier one.)

I love today's two-year-old Jesse. But I really loved one-year-old Jesse, and baby Jesse, and they are now gone, never to return.

And when two-year-old Jesse is gone, I'll miss him, too.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Before and After

A couple years ago I looked out my kitchen window just in time to watch Roscoe fall from a tree branch to the ground below. I ran outside, and there Roscoe lay, not moving. When I got close enough I could hear him whispering hoarsely, “My back, my back…”

Within a few minutes he had gotten up and was fine, but in that moment, looking down on his motionless body, I thought, “This is it,” the moment that would forever separate the before, when Roscoe has healthy and whole and life was fine, and the after, when it wasn’t.

Here’s a short assignment on the topic of before and after, the moment when something happens or news arrives and life jumps the tracks and becomes forevermore different. Imagine you’ve just gotten a letter bearing major news.

Bad News

She raised her eyes from the paper and looked across the familiar scene. Her yard, her neighborhood, all the same old places. But now a gray mist covered it all, giving everything a strange and unfamiliar pallor. It looked like the same place, other people still inhibited that place, but she did not. Each breath seemed shallow and insufficient, like the air of this new gray world would barely sustain life. Her shoulders hunched under her sudden burden. She was in new territory, and now she must learn to live in it.

Good News

The slip of paper fell from her hand and her eyes raised to the sky. The oppressive weight had been lifted and her lungs filled much fuller than before, with the air that was more pure and clean than before, flowing like a drink of cool water. She looked across the yard, across the green grass and treetops, sparkling with vibrant clarity. A veil of gray had suddenly disappeared and without it she saw more brightly, moved more surely. The way forward was clear.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Levi's Dreams Come True

After his first tee-ball game of the season got SNOWED out, Levi made his debut today. He has been so excited to begin what he believes will be a career of sports stardom.

Here he almost makes it to first base, then continues to second:

Here he makes it to third, watches the batter intently, then brings it home. Edgy camerawork by Logan.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jesse and Guys

One week before his second birthday, words Jesse says:

guy ~ bye-bye ~ hi ~ help! ~ bottle ~ more ~ my ~ mom ~ ball ~ duck ~ shoe ~ go ~ no ~ uh-oh ~ wow ~ thank you

The pretty firm benchmark is that toddlers should say at least 50 words before their second birthday. Our brilliant and wonderful Jesse will clearly fail to make the grade in that regard.

Although he does not speak (note I didn't say he cannot because it really seems he's choosing to hold out on us), he spends much of his day 1) making guys talk to each other or 2) reading books, both of which are, developmentally speaking, very mature for his age. Here he is in one of his favorite passtimes: engaging two guys in a macho tete-a-tete. (Sorry about the huge background noise from my camera.)

My two oldest boys sometimes seem to be moron-savants--certifiably brilliant but unwilling to, say, carry on a logical conversation or complete a homework assignment or spell the word the correctly. There are weird gaps in their abilities that flummox even educational pros. Will Jesse follow in their footsteps?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Winds of Change

I can't shake the feeling that winds of change are a-blowing for our family. The last time I felt this way we got a foster daugher, I became the Relief Society president, Mark's employer dissolved, I had a miscarriage, we moved, we got a new foster daughter... So, no, I'm not worried.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Do you dare enter Logan's Lair?

The intrepid Logan has launched his own blog, Logan's-Lair. You're all invited to come learn more about the inner workings of the mind of Logan. I know I'll be reading with great interest.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Daring young mom on the flying trapeze

Talk about the circus! My life as a mother is a balancing act in more ways than one. Keeping each child moving forward on the right track. Focusing on one while, whoops!, another lags, rushing to his aid, then scrambling to support the next before she falters. Doling out huge quantities of love tempered with correction, or should it be correction tempered with love? Figuring out when to legislate improvement and when to just let it slide.

Roscoe. Oh the hair! The hair! Renegotiating--again--the line between quirky and unacceptable. Every odd year of school is terrible for him (he's in 7th grade), so by comparison this year has been awesome and I'm hoping for even better next year. Mark has discovered that Roscoe does his own personal scripture study before anyone else wakes up in the morning. My mother heart melts.

Logan. Needs more love. Makes a lot of bad choices. Torments his mother mercilessly, thereby draining needlessly her reserves of fun and affection. The imp! But when he chooses, can mobilize the kids with energy and fun.

Levi. Crack-a-lackin'. Lives in a world where Jack Sparrow, Spiderman, and Anakin are more real than I am. His mommy bought him a new bat, ball, pants, socks, and tee ball stand so he can practice for his first game next Tuesday.

Haley. On the cusp of more growth. One day she acts like she did 18 months ago, lurking in corners watching the action but never initiating it herself, wailing like a banshee over imaginary boo-boos. The next day she's confident and strong and handles herself among all these boys very nicely, thank you very much.

Jesse. Says guy, hat, thank you, milk, help, binkie--and that's about it. And yet he spends all day making his "guys" talk to each other in macho-sounding grunts. And then he sits and reads books, staring intently at each page from left to right. Speak, child!

Monday, April 7, 2008

What My Kids Will Remember

My kids have the charming ability to remember most clearly the worst of their mom. They claim I always yell, always criticize, and never make anything good for dinner.

Our little Roscoe spent his first two years in nearly unbroken peace and serenity. He liked things consistent and calm, and since he was the firstborn, that's what he got. Once when he was about 2, we were all driving in the car. For some reason I was annoyed Mark and snapped, "Oh, just stop it!" (Sorry, Mark!) For the rest of the trip Roscoe sat in the backseat parroting, "Just stop it! Just stop it!" My momentary lapse definitely stuck in his memory more than the dozens of kind words I said that night.

My mother was a paragon of having-her-stuff-together when I was growing up--no schlepping around in faded yoga pants for her! Yet I remember vividly her pre-church, Sunday morning outfit: Black stockings with peep-toe blue slippers; black slip peeking out from the hem of her bathrobe; wild frizzy hair in a mid-point between shower and coif; raccoon eyes from yesterday's mascara. Like I say, for 99.5% of my childhood she was perfectly made-up--which is perhaps why her Sunday-morning get-up sticks in my memory.

(For the record, this was her clever strategy for getting 6 kids to church on time: Mom gets up, showers, and dresses with everything except dress and shoes. She would wear the slippers and robe while she got our breakfast, got little ones dressed, and did her own hair and makeup. Then at the last second she'd switch the robe for her dress and walk out the door looking like a million bucks--and with no kid snot or breakfast on her dress.)

So in the spirit of remembering the unflattering outliers of maternal behavior, here's what my children will really remember:

* Mom's white garment tails bunching above her back waistband.
* Mom shrieking, "Get your shoes on and get in the CAR!"
* Mom holding up a palm and saying coldly, "I"ll look forward to seeing you in the morning."
* Mom stumbling downstairs in the morning in her XXL pink polka-dot pajamas.
* Mom wailing from behind the bathroom door, "Can't you just let me go to the bathroom in peace? It only takes me two minutes!"
* Mom shooting icy glares of death at the 200th person who comes in the kitchen, looks at all the food in plain view on the counters, and asks, "What's for dinner?"

On the other hand, I think my children totally fail to recognize my comic genius. My mother would never have done the following:

* Fall to the ground writhing and moaning when Levi announced that someone in his kindergarten class doesn't like Krispy Kreme donuts.
* Stand outside Logan's bedroom door so that when he opened it, he found his mother dancing wildly, High School Musical style, to the music he was playing inside. He shrieked and slammed the door shut, but when he opened it again a minute later, there I was shakin' it like Sharpay.
* Tell Logan, "If you're gonna rock, it's gotta be loud," while turning up the amp on his electric guitar.
* Burst into comically overwrought (almost) fake tears when someone spills milk on the floor--again.
* Give rock history lessons in the van.
* Finally, when the 201st person asks "What's for dinner?" respond, "A knuckle sandwich and a side of Hawaiian punch."

It's a fine line: Sometimes we could definitely use some more June Cleaver decorum around here, and I need to remember that my kids aren't responsible to ensure my needs are met. On the other hand, I want them to see that I'm an actual person who deserves some consideration while I dole out the solutions to their needs.

Friday, April 4, 2008

General Conference for Kids

Someone just forwarded this awesome packet of General Conference activities for kids. It looks like a true gem.

I also found this fun idea:

This past Monday night at FHE we taught our kids the story of King Benjamin and
focused on the tents all the families brought and how they faced their doors to
the temple. We then decided that we would set up our tent in our house and let
everyone come inside and watch General Conference out the door. We talked about
making our tent a temple and what it meant when we entered the temple. To help
us out, our 6 year old made steeples for our tent with an angel Moroni on the
top. They will take off their shoes before entering our sacred temple. I am very
hopeful that this will help them understand the sacredness and importance of

We always do cutting and coloring stations for the little kids. They slice old copies of the Friend magazine to shreds and try to identify each speaker on the General Authority chart from the last Ensign conference edition. The big kids are allowed to doodle or play with a bionicle or something, but they have to stay in the room. I think this time we'll let the kids hang out in the tent.

Another trick: We always send them out for a frantic jump session on the tramp during the intermediary song--and we don't call them back in as soon as it's over.

Spring Is Here

Our elementary school has an annual author's night. The kids work for weeks to write and illustrate their hard-bound books, then read them on little stages scattered throughout the school. Levi conquered the butterflies in his stomach to read his masterpiece, "Spring Is Here."

Here's the title page, which reads, "Levi. I am 5. I like playing on my playhouse." The illustration is his playhouse, complete with knotted black rope, ladder, and leafy tree.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool's Day

Actual April Fool's Day jokes overheard at the Qshurst-McGee household:

~ Mom, there's an ax in your head.
~ Mom, there's a sword in your back.
~ Mom, there's an ax in your face. [and other variations]
~ Guess who's coming to dinner? Peter Parker and Mary Jane!
~ Guess who's coming to dinner? Mr. Incredible.
~ Guess what's for dinner tonight--Brains!
~ Oh no! The mouse is loose!
~ Mom, can I have a drink of milk? April Fool's! Just kidding--can I have a drink of milk?

But the winner of the day was me. I told the kids we were having ice cream for dessert, but really I served them instant mashed potatoes with strawberry sauce.

Roscoe was first to notice my deception.

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Then the other kids erupted in outroar. Haley made this grossed-out little face, but then as everyone else rushed to dramatically toss their cups into the sink and demand real ice cream, she quietly ate up every bit of strawberry sauce--never mind the mashed potatoes.