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.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Meanwhile, I'm getting confirmation that our strict follow-through with Logan is having the intended effects. Last night he brought home a report card that is much, much better than last year's. Not perfect. Not even his full capacity. But a big improvement. Mark and I had a little confab with Logan on the hallway floor, and it broke my heart to see his pride in his accomplishments. See? It feels good to do your duty.
Today I called his teacher to reschedule our parent-teacher conference, and she told me how much she enjoys Logan. How he's clever and involved and kind and patient. Be still my beating heart! Then she told me how some silliness popped out of Logan's mouth, and she responded, "Logan, I like you." And how he smiled, speechless.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
She says, "God is the source of all positive energy, and prayer is the best way to tap into his power." At some points she prays for 20 hours a day, and in the end, succeeds in forgiving her tormenters so she can build a new life of peace, optimism, and hope.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Last night my Brother Mark asked. And then--because our family is all about constructive criticism—he coached me on improving my answer. According to him, my answer should always begin with this:
Don't think of it as having more children; think of it as creating playmates.
One morning a week, for two hours, everyone is gone to school except Jesse. This is not necessarily my most productive time, however. Jesse is befuddled, and grumpy: "Where is everyone?" Instead of toddling off to join whatever madness the moment brings, he follows me around.
My siblings and I have almost no memories of our mother sitting down to play with us. She did many, many, many great things, and we all felt loved and attended to. But playing was what our siblings were for. We would never have dreamed of asking Mom to build a Lego fort with us. In fact, I remember her sitting down to play Lincoln Logs with Logan—her grandson—and not knowing how they work. This is a woman who had had Lincoln Logs in her home for twenty years.
I'm always a bit annoyed by parents who seem to accept responsibility to meet their child's every need for entertainment and play and emotional regulation. Of course children need lots of supervision and coaching, and of course extreme independence can veer into neglect. But one of the many ways I believe a largish family is healthy for children is that it generally gives children room to learn how to take responsibility for themselves.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
True, Jesse has destroyed a gallon of milk and carton of eggs and many, many other things--but the computer lives on--and so shall Jesse.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
We never do this kind of thing. Partly because it's expensive. Also because it's not our style. I mean, you trade your money for tokens to play games, the games give you tickets, you count the tickets and trade them for cheap toys--Las Vegas has nothin' on these places for sneaky ways to make you forget you're spending money (except this time we weren't spending money).
But this Saturday is also a chance for us to hang with a mob of other foster families. It was the odd family who didn't have someone of a different color or with some disability. We saw a little boy who clearly had some kind of hydrocephaly throwing a knock-down-drag-out tantrum. His dad cheerfully chased him around and redirected him to a lawn area where he could thrash to his heart's content. And no one batted an eyelash. We saw lots of patience, wisdom, humor, and love dished out to children who have seen some of the worst the human family has to offer.
P.S. 15 posts in 15 days--on track for NaBloPoMo.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I spent my teenaged years going to all manner of funky shows in downtown Seattle--The Honeydrippers (with Robert Plant), They Might Be Giants (before anyone ever heard of them), Jane's Addiction, P.I.L. (with Johnny Lydon formerly of the S*x Pistols). Of Depeche Mode. I love the concert vibe. And I haven't been to a show since before Roscoe was born.
So what does it mean that I obtained said tickets from the venue's ticket office when I was there today with Levi and Haley to see Disney on Ice, which tickets we obtained by donating 15 cans of pinto beans? I mean, Disney kitsch? Food storage? Chris Martin would think I'm an alien.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
That image has stuck with me ever since. How much of mothering is really just kissing fists? Responding with love to whatever (testosterone-driven) madness your little hooligans dish out.
Especially today. Earlier today, I wrote:
Little Jesse spends most of his days being a "bad guy," or "a monster," or SpiderMan, or Batman. He makes "shing-shing" sword sounds while he pretends to slash me to ribbons with his finger. Is there anything more silly than a tiny, chubby, orange, spongecake baby stomping his lilly-white feet and roaring, "I'm a giant!"
Then later I came downstairs to find that Jesse had poured a glass of water under and possibly over my laptop. Then as I cried my woes to Mark, he got a new gallon of milk from the fridge and poured it on the floor. Then he slipped in it and was soaked head to toe in milk. Then while I sopped it up, he rolled around the couch, leaving milk stains on the cushions. Then in his bath he poured a bucket of water overboard onto the floor.
And now he's in bed.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
1. Homework time
Doing homework right after school has been challenging for Levi. Starting first grade was stressful for him. He loved it, but he came home depleted. Plus, he has too much homework. The daily routine takes him 15-20 minutes, which in my opinion is too much for a little first grader who just spent 7 hours at school. So for now we've decided to let him take a break and detox after school, then return to his homework after dinner.
Forcing Logan to do homework right after school has been great for him. If he forgets his planner or his supplies, he's grounded for that day. This created many, many fits at the beginning of the year. But it helped him learn the simple rule that homework must be done and that it's easier to do it right than to try and avoid it. (Although he chooses to re-learn this principle through negative consequences every so often.)
He also must scan and copy any worksheet before he begins work on it. This way he can re-do the worksheet if he does a sloppy job the first time. He ended up doing a certain book report 5 times over. But again, message received. (To be repeated later, no doubt.)
However, Logan has been leaving homework at school and then telling me he has none. So the amended rule for him is that he does at least 15 minutes of homework every day. If he brings nothing home, I'll give him some homework of my own devising. This way, he'll learn he might as well work on that report a bit each day rather than leaving it all til the last night.
2. Mom's scripture study time
This has been wonderful. My 2:45 idea was ingenious. I've even set my computer's virus scan to run at 2:35, which bogs everything down and kicks me off the computer. I usually listen to a conference talk online while I fix myself a snack, then go upstairs to read the Book of Mormon. It's such a blessing to have a quiet moment to feel the Holy Ghost and center myself before launching into the rush of the evening.
I'm sure all this bores you to tears, but it shows the real work of motherhood. The real core of motherhood isn't the laundry and chauffering and cooking. It's the constant work and pondering to figure out what next step each child needs to take, and then devising little strategies that will lead them where they need to go.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Once she mounted the last concrete step and exited the stairwell, the corridor stretched before her with unforgiving precision. A trail of fluorescent lights bisected the ceiling like the dotted lines on a midnight road. She shuddered when her first step echoed sharply on the slick linoleum, but she forced herself to continue. She concentrated on neither hastening nor slowing the cadence as she passed curtained windows and closed doors. For the moment, the hallway was empty. Even the hospital PA system was silent. Like a crypt, she thought. Like death.
On the right, Room 215, 217, 219. On the left, 214, 216, 218. So she identified her door, Room 220, before she arrived. It loomed larger as she neared. Her instinct, of course, was to stop. Who would want to enter? Who would want to face what lay inside? But she wouldn’t interrupt what momentum she had. Her footsteps didn’t break rhythm as she approached the door. The hammer strikes continued as she swung the latch, and shouldered the door open.
Sunshine was pouring in the window, and she felt as if opening the door released a tidal wave of light to crash around her. She was blind as she stepped over the threshold. The window was open, and she could hear the faint rush of traffic, wind in branches, voices, birds. The deathly spell of the hallway was broken. Another step forward, blindly, until the shape of the hospital bed emerged faintly, its head against the window. Another step, and she can see the visitors’ chair next to the bed. And in the next step, the shape upon the bed came into focus, and she saw…
Monday, November 10, 2008
"Jesse is safe and healthy."
Sunday, November 9, 2008
- 2 T flour
- 2 T cornmeal
- 1/2 t salt
- 1/4 t pepper
Place breaded sticks on a third plate.
Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot, fry the tofu until golden and crispy on both sides, turning once.Serve with brown rice and salad. The kids like to dip the tofu into ketchup (of course!), but I much prefer this sauce:
Key West Barbecue Sauce
Combine ingredients, bring to boil, then simmer a few minutes:
- 1/2 c ketchup
- 1/3 c honey
- 2 T lime juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, minced finely
- 4 T worcestershire sauce
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
I have a cold that has turned me into a ridiculous cartoon character, snizzling and sneezing and whining.
Tonight the pumpkin turns back into a mouse, or whatever. Mark did another round of harried revisions on his dissertation--doing things like going to work on Tuesday and coming home for a two-hour nap on Wednesday--and is sending it in to his committee this afternoon. So tonight is the end of the cheerful, supportive, long-suffering wife who never complains (to her husband) about his absences. Return the demanding wife! Wha-ha ha ha!
Back on Track
Today is Logan and Levi's last day "off track." Monday they'll go back to school after a three-and-a-half week break. The first week off track, they're grumpy and bored and lounge around tormenting each other. And I'm not real thrilled about their presence either. But then they learn it's more fun to play with your siblings than fight with them, and then follow weeks of jumping in leaf piles, devising new games on the tramp, and board games. So now the prospect of early mornings and homework sounds like too much of a hassle to me.
For the last three nights, I've asked Roscoe or Logan to put the three little kids to bed. (Chalk it up to the oncoming cold.) I know of nothing better than listening to one of your children nurture another. Last night Roscoe told me that for his bedtime story Jesse had chosen the assembly instruction manual for his dresser. (Why is that still floating around?) And Roscoe was delighted that it was so boring that Jesse promptly fell asleep. The night before, I heard Logan singing hymns and Primary songs to Jesse until they both dozed off together. And Levi and Haley have been treated to some very dramatic and enthusiastic story-reading. I'm so grateful my big boys a.) know how to take care of little kids and b.) understand why it's fun to do so. Makes me think again that we'll really need a new baby when Logan's a teenager...
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
But maybe the biggest reason I have a bit of a spring in my step today is the refreshing breeze of optimism and hope I felt wafting through the election celebrations last night. In the last eight years our country has been tarnished. And while McCain's meta-narrative is always about fighting against the enemies surrounding us, Obama’s discourse rests on currents of opportunity, cooperation, positive energy, and hope:
This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is
our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our
kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the
American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are
one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and
doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless
creed that sums up the spirit of a people:
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Me [under my breath]: I really might die before this dissertation is done.
Roscoe: You might...but it's not highly probable.
[Not one to tempt fate, Roscoe begins clearing the lunch dishes and picking bits of Halloween candy wrappers off the floor.]
Act II: Mercy
Later that night, after plowing through two chapters of Mark's dissertation, supervising kids, attempting to impose some order on the house, and finally, discovering that the new vacuum cleaner is broken, I say to myself, "I just can't do it all!" I cannot remember the last time Mark joined us for dinner, this place is a pig sty, the kids are getting no attention.
That moment, the phone rings. It's my lovely sister-in-law Kate asking if she can come over tomorrow to play with the kids while I work. Uh, sure. Oh, and can she bring along our dinner? Uh, yes.
After I hang up the phone, I burst into sobs. I collect myself for a moment to say to Jesse, watching from the tub (where, since he refuses to go to sleep, he sits soaking off the day's chocolate slime), "Silly Mommy!" But then the sobs continue for a while. I'm trying and trying to help Mark and kids, and now someone will help me.
Act III: Denouement
Today someone in fast and testimony meeting mentioned Sister Dalton's General Conference talk about "In the strength of the Lord, I can do all things." I believe that. But in this case, the "strength" the Lord offered me came from someone extending help. "All things," yes--but not all by myself.