Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Not Good

I’ve always been a good girl. Mine is a borderline pathological drive to be good. A good helper as a child. A good student. A chaste and obedient teenager. I keep commandments and help others and give away money. I exercise and read and listen to npr. I volunteer and conserve resources and obey the laws. I don’t be good to be seen as being good—at least no more than the average bear. But I’m realizing that being good is an engrained part of my self-identity.

So I guess that’s why I’m a bit discombobulated to find that in today’s world, I’m not good. Apparently, for many, many people, the fact that I belong to a church (and let’s be real: I don’t just belong, I’m a committed, day-in-day-out leader of that church) that opposes gay marriage, I am by definition ethically flawed, narrow-minded, and unkind. Not good.

And, help me here, but--given that traditional religions are so ruthlessly maligned for passing judgment, and given that our culture so vehemently promotes inclusion and acceptance of minority worldviews and lifestyles--isn’t that kind of sweeping dismissal somehow ironic?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jesse's Happy Birthday

I'm now going to geek out for a moment on birthday banality. Yes, it's the boring worst of Mommy blogging, but it's my baby and for a whole day he got just what he wanted in the biggest doses we could manage. We celebrated the joy of Jesse's existence by celebrating the things Jesse loves.
We started with a bath.

Then promptly covered ourselves in cake batter.

Jesse chose hot-bogs for dinner. (No, that's not a typo.)

Jesse fell in love with Mr. Potato Head...

...but only until he unwrapped his airplane, which is now his BFF. (Thank you, Fischer-Price for succeeding, once again, in providing a child with exactly what his heart desires.)

In Toy Story 2, Andy and Woody discuss "Cowboy Camp." You never actually see Cowboy Camp, but apparently Woody is excited about it. So for weeks Jesse has asked me to please take him to Cowboy Camp. And when a cute little redhead in a cowboy hat asks for Cowboy Camp, I say yes! So thanks to the generosity of my cousin Spence, Jesse went to Cowboy Camp.
Here Jesse meets Dutch (we Toy Story fans choose to call her Bullseye).

Jesse sits on a horse for the first time.

Anyone need a close-up of that happy face? Yes, we do. In the next moment, Jesse flapped that hat in the air and shouted, "Ride like the wind, Bullseye!"

Not sure that they actually rode like the wind, but Jesse holds his saddle pretty well, I'd say.

That night, he carefully tucked his airplane under his cowboy covers and dreamed of horses, cupcakes, and hot-bogs.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Roundup

Hi, I'm back. Seriously, there was no time to blog this week. Too many resumes to write. Too many kids home from school. Way too many places for people to be. Orchestrating a logistically tangled Primary activity involving 25 kids rotating from classroom to classroom in simulation of the entire Plan of Salvation. I don't think we've finished a hat all week. But man oh man do I have some kee-oot pictures of Jesse's birthday trip to "Cowboy Camp." Stay tuned.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunday Debauchery

What I see on a Sunday evening when too many people do too much lounging but no chores.




Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction

Today, in a major breach of routine, I left the house at 11:20 for about 40 minutes. A few weeks ago, I went to the Driver’s License division to renew my license. Last week I received a form letter that my examiner had failed to get my signature on a form, so I had to return to the office. So today I drove across town. I took my form into the office. I stood in a short line. I waited while the attendant located another form in a huge metal file cabinet. I signed where indicated. I drove home.

And as I drove home, I thought about how this was one of those storybook random events—like when the apple rolls into the street in Stranger Than Fiction or the woman answers the phone in Benjamin Button. How if that examiner hadn’t been distracted by a passing butterfly, or if I hadn’t received the letter, or if I had missed a green light, or if Roscoe hadn’t been home from school to watch the little kids, then I wouldn’t be driving down this road at this moment. And who knows what chain of events would be begun or avoided because—due to butterflies or traffic lights or sticky file drawers—I was here in this moment.

When I got home, I noticed that Roscoe had jotted “Susan” on the chalkboard. A phone message. From who? The Susan in our ward? Some other Susan? And of course in the back of my mind was the question I have about all phone calls these days. Was it someone from DCFS wanting to bring me my new daughter?

Roscoe was unclear on the details, but reported that “Susan” had said she would call my cell phone. But my cell showed no calls. Later, I discover a missed call on my cell. Investigation revealed it to be a DCFS number. But no Susan could be located at that number. Even later, I discovered a voice message. How had I missed it? So I returned the call to Susannah—a DCFS worker I know—and, yes, she had been calling to bring us a little girl.

But for reasons unexplained, the placement was “emergency” and when she couldn’t reach me, she took the girl to someone else.

If I hadn’t been driving down that gray road at that moment, I would be holding a new daughter right now.

I’m in disbelief. I’m always home! I always answer (or at least screen) calls! I can’t believe I missed it! I can’t believe I didn’t see the cell call! I can’t believe I spent two hours bathing Jesse and making quesadillas and reading emails as the minutes ticked by and my daughter was taken to someone else. I can't believe that today was the day, and now it isn't.

Maybe that girl wasn’t the right fit for our family. Maybe it’s all better for her to have ended up where she is. Maybe that absent-minded examiner and twitchy cell phone were tender mercies of the Lord answering my prayers to direct our family to the daughter we can love and care for best.

Or maybe it’s just one of those cruel twists of fate so common to mortal life—where a beat of a butterfly’s wing creates a tsunami half a world away.

Monday, April 13, 2009

30 Seconds

The maximum amount of time (I counted) Logan can concentrate on homework without pausing to:

~ Share his thoughts on whether Bilbo Baggins was evil to covet the Ring or whether he was merely overcome by the Ring's power.

~ Quiz me on his spelling words and express doubt that I really know how to spell them.

~ Wonder why the recess aide objected to his attempt to start a recess poker ring. (Okay, okay, he says he only wanted to play Solitaire.)

~ Pose for a picture.
At least he knows how to look studious.

Then he excused himself to regale Roscoe with several verses of this song: "If you're climbing up a ladder and you feel something splatter...DIARRHEA."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

Los cinco, all dressed up for church. Logan is looking study, not grumpy, by the way, a la his Uncle Mark.
Haley in her pretty new Easter dress from Grandma.
Mark was impressed with the mountain o' pb&Js I made after church. I was more impressed with the ham feast I made later that afternoon.
The hunt.
Post-hunt.

This year we especially enjoyed finding opportunities to teach the kids more about Jesus Christ and the Atonement. We are very grateful for Christ's example, sacrifice, and love. Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Weekend Roundup

Potty training is....blek. I spent one entire morning with my eyes fixed on the tip of Jesse's little candy corn penis waiting for drops to emerge. Seriously. An. Entire. Morning. When drops emerged I whisked him to potty and whispered, "Here it comes! Here it comes!" So now Jess can pee on demand, which is a big step in the right direction. Haven't yet mastered the concept of walking to potty when pee is imminent. Many puppy puddles. It's getting me down.

The child laborers at the Qshurst-McGee sweatshop have now produced 20 hats. And the more recent ones are much better workmanship. We forayed to Wal-Mart and each kid got to pick two skeins of yarn. Levi keeps loading looms with the most unlikely color combinations that end up becoming happy hats.

As another spring break project, Roscoe and Logan each chose, planned, and made a family dinner. Oh my do they need practice! Despite my careful oversight, Logan's coffeecake was some sort of unleavened flan and Roscoe dumped about a half cup of olive oil into his frying pan. They both felt that making their simple dinners was a huge labor. So maybe I'll be getting a bit more appreciation around here now.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Finally, I confess

Less than 30 minutes after coming home from school and hearing the fun agenda his mom has planned for the long spring break weekend, a certain young man in my household was holding his cheek, smarting from the slap his mother had delivered across his nasty, back-talking little mouth. * sigh*

(No, I don’t usually hit my children. Yes, I reserve the right, on rare and egregious occasions, to slap the mouths of big boys who are spewing rude backtalk. Yes, I should probably reconsider.)

This is the child who is the proud recipient of our Daring and Radical Discipline Program, to which I have alluded. For almost 2 months now, he has had all privileges revoked. No computer, TV, or friends. And this is a boy who craves action, attention, and sociality like the rest of us crave air to breathe.

Twice a week he has conferences with his parents, in which we outline the basic responsibilities he must consistently fulfill before he receives privileges again. The list started with “kindergarten responsibilities” like dressing, showering, and brushing his teeth each morning. Because, yes, these were things this young man needed to be nagged about every day. Then we gradually added more age-appropriate items like, “Build up your younger siblings” and “Do your homework” and "No microrebellion."

The idea is that children of his age need to transition from obeying their parents toward being independently responsible and ethical. So once a responsibility goes on his list, Mark or I never mention it again. No nagging, no reminders. Because if we remind, then this child thinks, “Whew! I don’t have to remember that. If they really want me to do it, they’ll tell me—10 times.” Now his responsibilities are his alone. As soon as he learns to manage his responsibilities independently (at an age-appropriate level), he can have privileges. (We are giving lots of encouragement and coaching in our conferences, but we don’t nag and lecture otherwise.)

I don’t recommend this type of thing for normal use and I’m sure many of you (notably, those of you whose kids are all little) will think this is insane. It's not really my style at all--I much prefer catching the good, building the relationship, etc. But this is a kid who needed some serious intervention. Who has done some major lying, cheating, and flaking and who works the system to his advantage with amazing skill and persistence. When he was getting ready to turn 8 and be baptized, we made a major spiritual and discipline push with him. Now, 4 years later, we have the same concerns, the same issues. And translate those same issues to their manifestation 4 years from now, when he’s getting ready to turn 16—and that’s just not okay.

When I finally decided I needed to foment a productive crisis, tough love style, I worried and fretted and prayed for a couple weeks. And then one day, “like the dews from heaven,” this plan came into my mind. A plan that lets him take responsibility for either choosing the right or accepting negative consequences.

So far, he gets ready for school in the morning with no reminders, and that’s a relief. Because now my daily allotment of patience for this guy isn’t depleted before 8:30 a.m. But the other items on his list—not so much. He’s kind of hunkered down just waiting for everything to blow over—even though we keep telling him that this will only end when he makes the necessary changes. He’s going off track (out of school for 3 weeks) next week and he has a goal to have his privileges back by then. Which means he’ll probably get serious about them the night before. And then when he discovers he’ll have to be good for more than 12 hours straight, he’ll get discouraged. And probably mad. And then, I hope, he’ll have a change of heart.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring through and through

"Green shoots."

"Crocuses in the lawn."

"Sprouts of green."

These are actual phrases I've heard npr commentators and Ben Bernacke himself use to describe favorable signs in the economy. Don't you love it? Spring thaws the ground, warms the buds, grows the economy, reminds us of the Savior, gives us hope for better days.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hats

We just had one of our best General Conference weekends ever. The kids--for the most part--sat quietly on the couch listening to conference--for all four sessions. And it's all because of hats.

A family in our ward runs Tiny Tim's Foundation for Kids. They make, gather, and deliver tons of food, blankets, medical equipment, and other supplies to some amazingly impoverished areas in Mexico. They've built schools, hospitals, a physical therapy center, and a senior citizens' center.
Turns out they have a real need for those little hats you make on circular looms, which I decided is the perfect project for our family. Haley and I went to Roberts and bought the supplies. I sat the kids down and told them about the families living in pallet-and-cardboard shacks through cold winters. And about newborns wrapped in newspaper. (Not an exaggeration.)
The kids set a goal to make 50 hats.
So all through conference we knit away. Even Haley and Levi can do it with some supervision, and Roscoe and Logan are whizzes. The kids were driven to keep going and going. In the last 36 hours, we've finished 10 hats and a new hat is in progress on each of our four looms.

We have so much to be grateful for, and I'm so happy we've found a project that the kids can be involved in and that will make a real difference.

So the supplies are cheap, the process is simple, and kids can do it. Anyone want to join in with us?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Identification please?

Forever this blog has needed a little profile, a little who-am-I-and-what-is-this-about blurb. I love everyone else's but can't come up with my own. I'm sure it's because I am such an esoteric and expansive personality that I can't be encompassed by a caption. (*smirk*) So finally I turn to you for help. What should I say?

  • Prone to overscheduling and mood swings. (This one is stolen from my friend Brenda but I think she'll share.)
  • Utah Mormon Mommy and Primary &%*@#ing President. (This is Mark's suggestion. Uh, thanks, babe.)
  • Feminist Mormon houswife and future author of the Great American Novel.
  • Mother of 5, wife of 1. (Another submission from Mark. He also proffered another suggestion that I won't be able to share in this public forum.)
  • Bibliophilic mother of 5 trading the bloom of youth for a full life. (This one is my favorite so far.)