Thursday, February 26, 2009

My New Goal

My brother Mark just sent me this picture from last summer. I had never seen it before. I love it. This picture is my new goal in life. Don't I look relaxed and happy? (I'm at my Mom's house--I'm sure that's part of it.) I'm in my jammies, and so are half the kids--I guess we all just rolled out of bed. I'm giving little snuggles to half of them. And I don't look at all like, "Stop talking to me and get your chores done and why are you making that mess?"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Things Jesse Does

Fashion guns from Legos

Study the Scriptures

He needs two colors of highlighter for his notations. He says the scripures say, "God Jesus Book of Mormon," which about sums it up.

Deploy his Buzz Lightyear Wings

He keeps saying, "I come in peace!" But, no, he doesn't.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Life Blood

Last Week

Monday: Family Home Evening
Tuesday: Scouts
Wednesday: Relief Society Book Group
Thursday: Draper Temple Open House
Friday: Stake Blood Drive
Saturday: Ward Dinner Groups
Sunday: Primary presidency meeting, bishopric meeting, sacrament meeting, 2 hours of Primary, seminary registration meeting, Priesthood Preview

This Week

Monday: Family Home Evening
Tuesday: Scouts
Wednesday: Bishopric assignment
Thursday: Ward Council, home teaching
Friday: a break?

Today was my first Sunday sitting on the pew alone as a bishopric widow. All morning while Mark was at his meetings, I rushed around to get to my own meetings and make treats for the Priesthood Preview I'm running later tonight. I got my kids to church and through sacrament meeting, then left them to stage the room for Primary for 55 other children. We've had church responsibilities and activities every day for as long as we can remember.

This church is literally sucking the life blood out of me (see, above, what I did on Friday). And, yes, I'm tired. But I also feel an exhilaration of peace. Mark's dad told us recently that his approach to life is to "avoid obstacles." What a wise philosophy, I thought. But ours is really more to steer right into obstacles. We don't have many problems that we didn't sign up for. I guess I prefer the problems that come from overreaching to those that come otherwise.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sad but True, or Enough Already!

One of my biggest pet peeves is when Moms complain about their kids being out of school. We should love having them home--isn't that why we had kids? Out-of-school means plenty of time to play with each other, for trips to the library and recreational cookie-making and long kitchen chats. And most of the time I feel that way. But...

Logan and Levi have been out of school for more than 3 weeks and I could really use a bit of solitude. It's a definite disadvantage to be an introverted mother. I'm feeling sort of Professor Quirrel ("I'm never alone!"). They're on year-round school, and this is the break I like least of all. It's the longest and it's in the middle of winter so they can't even go outside. It has been fun to have them around, but when only a few little kids are home, I can arrange little pockets of uninterrupted privacy--I make Haley have quiet time in her room and, with luck, get Jesse to take a nap.

Right now the kids are operating in overlapping waves of demands and chatter. They follow me around, right up to the bathroom door. They hang off my mouse arm. If one of them leaves my side for a moment to go do something of their own, within a few minutes they come right back to tell me everything they did while they were gone! Right now Levi has arrayed six Bionicle creations that he is telling me about in great detail. And he wants my opinions and commentary in return. Like I have an opinion of which guy is the king!

Today is Wednesday, and with luck, next Wednesday there will be 2 hours when there's no one here but me.


Update: I went to book club last night and man did it feel good to get the heck out of here. By the time I got back, Mark had done the dishes and put the kids to bed. This morning I indulged in a naughty off-track trick: After Mark and Roscoe left, I turned on pbskids and went back to bed. Now we're planning an outing to the library. I think we'll make it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Other Shoe

So now I can tell you the other part of our dramatic day last Tuesday. That night Mark was called to be a counselor in the bishopric. The call itself was a beautiful experience, and the stake presidency member who talked to us told Mark how his life of taking care of his family, keeping the commandments, and filling his callings is his testimony and that the Lord sees his efforts and loves him. Mark's parents came to town this weekend so Mark's dad could ordain him a high priest. It was great to have them here.

We've really enjoyed the last two months of post-dissertation respite. And things won't be anywhere near as bad as they were. We think Mark will generally be gone only Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays--and he'll still eat dinner with us on those days. I really feel strongly that callings are a blessing for men. Men often have fewer opportunities to give service than women do (I myself have opportunities for service from son up to son down). I always feel very blessed by Mark's callings.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

To Button or not to Button?

Yes, Button.

I read the book The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and found it entrancing but confusing and disturbing. So I had mixed feelings about seeing the movie, which has gotten somewhat mixed reviews. Finally Mark and I saw it last night and give it two thumbs up. We were blown away by the physical effects and the acting. Brad Pitt really does look and act and seem in every way like a little boy Brad Pitt in an old man's body. The plot is a bit long and winding, so just sit back and relax. It's sad, in a poignant way, but a very beautiful study of enduring love and how, in life, nothing lasts. It'll leave you thinking, and feeling grateful for your life and loves.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Vanilla and the Lean, Mean Righteous Machine

I spoke with our foster care worker two times yesterday, and they all seem to think we'll end up with a little eighteen-month-old in a couple weeks. (Although they also thought we'd get her last week, so don't hold your breath.)

The worker said, "Well, we saw her in court...and she's not Caucasian!" As if this comes as a shock? "She's African-American--I just thought you should know."

Well, it is nice to know.

She has an unusual name that in Haley and Jesse's mouths comes out as "Vanilla." Mark is horrified at the prospect of a white family with a black daughter called "Vanilla." I kinda like it.

The worker also reported that Vanilla was running around the room during the last court hearing and has "plenty of energy." As the mother of several "energetic" children, I happen to know what that euphemism really means. Oh, dear.

The implications of adding a little toddler to the family are starting to sink in. Like wrestling two squirmies into car seats. Like I can't carry Jesse and Vanilla. Like we need another chair at the table. Like the inevitable uptick in chaos. She's a year younger than Jesse. Why are our kids getting closer and closer together when normal families do it the other way round?

Last night Roscoe said something funny, and then said, "If you write that in your blog I will run away and stay away for a long time…and then come back."

I said, "So what if I write that you just said that?"

Roscoe: "Then I'll stay away even longer."

Actually, Roscoe’s not ready to run away at all. The prospect of becoming a teenager doing all the things you do to become an adult is stressing him out. So instead of running away, he went with me to a big pow-wow with the academic counselor at school about his high school schedule. There are a million awesome programs where he can learn a lot and practically finish college by the time he graduates from high school--but how stressed out a teenager do we really want to have?

In 5 years, ready or not, Roscoe will have finished high school and, almost certainly, our family will be complete. It feels like these years are the power segment of our yoga routine--the time when you hit it hard and man does it burn but you push on through. We’ve got to be a lean, mean righteous machine, meeting the needs of little kids, big teenagers, and everyone in between and cranking out righteous and happy young adults. We are smack dab in the middle of it all.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fa-reakin' Out

It's one o'clock on Tuesday and I've just settled down to work on resumes when the phone rings. I think of asking one of the boys to get it, but they've just settled down for their daily dose of Lego StarWars on the computer. So I answer the phone.

"Hi, this is Kirsten, I'm a Resource Family Consultant." I can't hear very well through the sound of dueling light sabers, but I hear enough to realize, "This is it!" The call!

An eighteen-month-old girl may be coming into foster care this afternoon. There's a court hearing at 4:00, and the outcome will determine (among many other things) if our family will have a new member for dinner.

I spend several minutes jumping up and down in my room. I'm surprised how excited I am. An eighteen-month-old! A girl! Just what we need!!!!!

I announce the news to the Lego StarWars crowd and get a bored, "Huhh." Very unsatisfying.

What should I do? Nothing. If she comes, we'll need to get the crib out of the attic and shuffle bedrooms and cancel tonight's Primary meeting and acquire an additional carseat--but there's no sense in doing it now. I can't even tell Mark to come home early--by the time we hear the outcome of court, he'll be on his way.

The afternoon ticks by slowly, minute by minute. I accomplish nothing. I can't focus, and I can't decide what to do with myself. In the end, I clean my shower--because, really, what situation isn't improved by a clean bathroom?--and kill some time watching Jon Stewart.

Finally at 6:00 they're out of court. The judge didn't take the girl into custody, and my heart sinks. I feel I've lost my baby--even though that's ridiculous since I know nothing about her and since I should be rooting for Mom to get her act together.

There's another hearing in two weeks and it's still a possibility that this girl will come to our family. I'm surprised at how sad I feel, how possessive, how concerned about this girl's next two weeks.

Are my feelings premonitions? Am I psycho? Will this girl one day be my daughter? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Valentine Family Home Evening

Last night we had a fun Family Home Evening to celebrate our Valentines. Mark and I invited each kid, one at a time, to come sit on the stool of honor in front of everyone. One of us gave the kid a back rub while the other talked about what we love about that kid. Then Mark and I switched places.

We talked about how we felt when they were born, what we loved about them as a baby, and what we love about them now. It gave us the opportunity to tell each of them that they were meant to be in our family. I think the kids got a glimpse of the depth of our feelings for them.

Levi and Logan ate it up with great gusto. Haley felt a bit nervous. Roscoe refused to let us touch him and acted like the whole thing was exquisitely painful. Jesse refused to be seated at all.

Then we ate Little Debbie heart cakes, which are probably 100% trans fats.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tallagsen Lane

Another post inspired by Little Heathens. Fam, any corrections?

I lived in a dozen houses growing up, but when I think of my childhood, what first comes to mind is often our house on Tallagsen Lane, in Poulsbo, Washington. Here’s how you get to our house from Poulsbo’s quaint, little downtown with its souvenir Viking hats and tourist-trap bakery: Go up the steep hill away from the water. Pass either the high school and elementary school or our church, depending on which way you go. Then travel back down a steep hill. On either side will be thick green woods. My image of these woods looks to me today a bit dark and perhaps menacing. But I don’t think we ever saw them that way at the time.

When the road curves sharply to your left, turn right onto a dirt road. Follow the road past an old farm house, with a few horses out to pasture. Pass the house of some Seattle yuppies. Pass a large open meadow. Then the road will begin to climb, and the woods will close in thick on both sides. In fact, if you were to stand in the middle of the road and look straight up, you’d see only small patches of cloudy blue sky.

Within a few hundred yards, you’ll come to a small clearing. There you can see the sky, though the sun is positioned to shine on this little spot only a few hours a day and, statistically speaking, those hours are likely to be overcast. And in that clearing is our house. I remember it as big and rambling, though it probably wasn’t. Brown and green, just like the woods around it. A narrow band of lawn encircles it, and my mother has planted flowers in the window box, hoping there will be enough sun to nourish them.

We lived in that house from when I was in fifth grade and until I started high school, but we never owned the house. Our arrival occurred at the nadir of my parents’ financial lives and marked the beginning a new career path for my father.

The house sat on X acres of wild forest. If you hopped the fence along our back yard, you were on Indian Reservation--miles of more forest. This was ideal for my dad, who is the just the kind of person to love walking out one’s door and through empty forests. It was also ideal for my brothers. I don’t know all the things they did in the woods. But even for me—the unadventurous, overresponsible bookworm—the forest was enchanting.

We kids set up house in one spot where a few fallen trees intersected. Thick moss grew three or four inches deep on the trees’ bark. We pulled it off in big, thick slabs and used it for carpeting and bedding in our house. Just where the forest met the meadow down the road was a dilapidated old barn. Rotting lumber had fallen from the walls and roof and littered the floor, so striped light always filtered in. Our parents told us not the play there, so we did so much less than we would have otherwise. The meadow was a source of long grass and dandelions.

Our town was covered with blackberry bushes. They grew in huge, mounding jumbles along every roadside and pathway and scattered throughout our forest. We picked them, and Mom made them into jelly. I can remember the taste of a big, overripe blackberry warmed by the sun, and the taste of a small, tight blackberry. Blackberries must have been a treat when we first arrived, but now I can only remember feeling towards them the way you might feel about oatmeal every day for breakfast: ready for a change. To this day, I cannot appreciate a good blackberry jelly.

We never grew out of appreciating huckleberries. Huckleberries grew throughout our property too, but the bushes were more thinly spread and bore fewer berries. And the berries were so small! The little raspberry-colored berries were smaller than peas and had wonderful tartness. We never once had enough to make jelly. Occasionally, we were sent out to find enough to put in muffins. But you could pop half a dozen huckleberries in your mouth at once, so filling a little bucket was a challenge. Those huckleberry muffins, when we managed to get them, were delicious.

The inlets of water that zig-zag in and out of the shoreline around Puget Sound, give the area a very moderate climate. It never gets very hot and it never gets very cold. Our house had neither central heating nor central air conditioning. I believe few houses did. So we heated the house with a wood burning stove. I supposed other people bought cords of cut wood. But my dad and brothers made ours. Dad would cut down a tree from our property and chop it into lengths. The boys were constantly splitting and hauling.

One Thanksgiving, a storm had knocked out the power. We ended up cooking our Thanksgiving turkey over that wood-burning stove and declaring it the most delicious turkey we had ever had. In retrospect, my parents deserve kudos for never cracking to let on to us kids for a moment that a Thanksgiving without power was at all an inconvenience. They made those days in the dim sunlight feel like an adventure.

One of our favorite forms of entertainment was watching raccoons. My parents would put bowls of our table scraps out on the back porch after dinner. When the sun set, we turned on the outside porch light and turned off the inside lights and sat to wait for the raccoons to arrive. When they did, we’d watch their deft little hands and funny little faces, unseen from inside the dark house.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


As on most weekday mornings, I wake slowly to the sounds of Mark's morning routine. I hear him shaving, I hear Levi talking to him. But I don't open my eyes until I hear Jesse softly calling my name. When I open my eyes, he's standing on the floor next to my bed, and his little face is inches from mine.

Jesse clambers up and takes my warm spot in the bed. A moment later, Levi climbs in on the other side and spoons himself up against me.

Later, when I return to my room after breakfast, Logan is snuggled deep under my covers.

Haley (seeing the toys she left on her bedroom floor yesterday): I forgot to clean up from my private time!

Levi: Mm-hm--that's why I'm disappointed.

I push a grocery cart containing two children and 200 pounds of food while two other children hang off its edges like it's a life boat.

Levi: I'm glad George Lucas made Indiana Jones.... Or else I would be dead.

Levi [holding his thumb and pinkie up to his head like a telephone]: 9-1-1? A girl is making fun of me!

(After Levi did a macho little song and dance of "I'm the awesomest" and I said, "Well, you're the silliest." )

I sneak into Roscoe and Logan's room--where I rarely set foot--and snoop around a bit. I see drawings of strange creatures they have taped onto their walls. I see Roscoe's tidy rows of books. I see that Roscoe has a hard-bound journal--where did he get it?--that he sometimes writes in for days at a time. I see an empty M&Ms package.

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's official

One month ago I held a slim advantage over Roscoe.

No longer.

I already lost the ability to beat him in an arm wrestle. I tell him now he must obey me only because he loves me.