Saturday, May 30, 2009


Guess what? About half the stuff I did last night I wasn't supposed to do.
~ Roscoe, referring to the mind-boggling Spanish homework he did last night.

I am overconfident about my spelling test. Sometimes I get sheepish and lavish and foolish confused.
~ Logan, meaning that he confuses those words on his spelling list.

Do you want to be Sidious or Yoda? Okay, Yoda. That makes sense since you're smaller.
~ Roscoe, in all seriousness, to Jesse as they prepare for a light saber duel.

So can I just come home whenever I'm ready as long as it's before midnight?
~ Logan, calling from a friend's house. Apparently this boy needs to be introduced to the concept of curfew.

Careful not to pee on your plate, okay?
~ Roscoe to--who else--Jesse as the family sits down for dinner.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Hero Returns Triumphant

After what seemed like a very, very long week to us, his admirers at home, Mark returned from what for him was a fun week in Illinois. He attended the annual meetings of the Mormon History Association, presented at 1 session, chaired another, and did all the pre- and post-conference tours in Springfield and Nauvoo with his parents. After a long night sleeping through an electrical storm in the Chicago airport, Mark finally made it home yesterday.

At the conference banquet, he received--

* The Gerald E. Jones Dissertation Award for "Zion Rising: Joseph Smith's Early Social and Politial Thought"


* The Christensen Best Documentary Award for The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, volume 1, 1832-1839

So in other words, the two projects Mark recently finished after years of labor and toil have both been vindicated with top honors in his field. Congratulations, babe.

Man, it felt good to us to be reunited yesterday, and we celebrated by sipping some pop and watching a show on hulu in bed. Not too exciting, right? But when the kids woke up this morning to find wine glasses scattered around our room (they were the only glasses that were clean!), they kept tittering to each other about Mom and Dad's "party." Well, I guess it's good for them to feel that Mom and Dad being together is cause for celebration. Frankly, we think it is, too.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Garden

Not too impressive, is it. Our shady backyard leaves almost no room for a garden (unless we were to get rid of the tramp...but really we're in the business of raising children, not plants).
With luck these 12 little plants will provide us with a year's supply of tomato sauce.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


This morning I took my sister Nancy to the airport after a nice, long visit. She was here--sans children!--for an old mission companion's wedding. For four days, we chatted, shopped, watched movies, ate, and chilled. Which was very therapeutic for both of us, I think.

Nancy and I weren't ever all that close when we were growing up. By the time I left for college, she was only 8. But then she grew up, starting having babies right in sync with mine, and now she's one of the best friends I've ever had.

Nancy is my special consultant for any issues relating to child discipline, mood management, fashion, or family relations. Thanks to the miracle of free in-plan cell calls, we can consult even on things like, "What should I put on my netflix queue?" Thanks for a great weekend, Nanc. Come again soon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Yesterday my 10-week-pregnant sister went to an ultrasound and saw…nothing. She has the hormones, the growing uterus, all the other trappings of pregnancy, but no baby. The doctor says there never was one. Her body made some kind of cosmic error. Meanwhile, another sister recently lost a pregnancy. And another one recently announced a long-awaited pregnancy.

All of which reminds me that not only would I do most anything for my children, there were times when I felt I’d do most anything to get them here.
Yesterday afternoon, as Jesse was crawling over my feet, elbowing my ribs, and hampering my every move, I wished for a moment that he were gone. But during those long weeks when the health and safety of little unborn Jesse were uncertain, I felt so fervently that all I really wanted, all I really needed was Jesse’s safe arrival. Forevermore, I thought, any day that contained a healthy Jesse would be a beautiful, miraculous one. And to a large extent, that feeling has stuck. Every day with Jesse is so infinitely better than any day in a world without him.

Here’s to loving the children we have and holding on to awareness of the miracle they are.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Heart in the Right Place, by Carolyn Jourdan

I highly recommend* Heart in the Right Place, a sweet-hearted and down-to-earth memoir by Carolyn Jourdan.**

When her mother has a stroke, Carolyn Jourdan leaves her high-paying, high-profile job in Washington, DC, to substitute as “receptionist, bookkeeper, backup nurse, lab technician, and jack-of-all-trades sidekick” for her father’s medical practice in rural Tennessee. For a few days, she thinks. But her mother’s condition does not resolve quickly, and Carolyn’s stay stretches over weeks, and then months. Her father is the sole medical provider, 365 days a year, for a hilarious assortment of characters, many of whom won’t be able to pay for the care they receive. Carolyn’s accounts*** of her adventures will leave you in shock, in stitches, and in tears.

Finally, Carolyn must choose: Will she abandon her fast, fulfilling, and relatively luxurious urban life and become the unsung receptionist for a shoestring practice? Can she make greater contributions to the world through an influential career or by serving in the trenches?

By the end, Carolyn realizes that the unsexy receptionist job is the truly significant one because it allows her to help people during their crucial moments: when they receive the diagnosis, when their life hangs in the balance, when life slips away and then is brought back. “By intervening in each other’s traumas, we could utterly transform each other’s lives,” she writes. It's the content of the service, not its venue that matters: “God didn’t care how or where we did [good], just as long as we did….There were no extra bonus points for visibility or magnitude.”

To me, this is exactly the challenge and joy of choosing motherhood. In many ways, being a mother means giving up on markers of success--the pay, the notoriety, the perks, the appearance of success—in return for the intangible but real joys of serving in a heart-to-heart, bare knuckles style.

But it’s not just about being there for the big moments of trauma and crisis. Carolyn’s job allowed her to serve people in their moments of drama and trauma only because it first gave her access to the crossroads, to the daily round of comings and goings. Because she was there for the warts and infections and tractor injuries, she was there for the breath-taking, heart-stopping moments as well.

Mothers stand by as kids leave, return, eat, play, work--a hundred million seemingly insignificant things. And the reason we do this is so we’re sure to be there when suddenly an insignificant moment becomes the crucial one. When a frolic in the backyard turns into a broken leg. Or even just when a chitchat over pb&j veers into an important discussion of the child’s fears and questions.

As mothers we provide the service of being there—being the receptionist ready to greet anything from a casual checkup to cardiac arrest. And it’s that fact that we are there that lets us give our children the love and service that no one else can.

* A fast, fun read with plenty of substance. My sister Nancy just bought it to read on the airplane to come visit me later this week.

** Since I posted the book on my Recent Reads list on the sidebar a couple weeks ago, the author has come back and left comments on my blog--twice! So I'm happy to spread some grassroots love for this worthy book. And I'm hoping Carolyn will come back one more time before Book Club meets on Wednesday to discuss this book.

*** With a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor that’s a refreshing counterpoint to the cloying self-absorption of Eat, Pray, Love.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Thursday Evening

Roscoe gets home from school.

Roscoe leaves for his piano lesson.

Roscoe gets home from piano lesson and immediately plunks down at the piano to practice. His kind teacher has printed off music from The Lord of the Rings for him to try.

Logan and Levi get home from school. After-school snacking commences in earnest: nachos, apples, carrots, milk, graham crackers soon cover the kitchen. Once the nachos are gone, the party moves downstairs to rotate between computer and tramp.

After a nice long chat with my Mom as she drives home from work in Dallas, Texas, I've got dinner warm on the stove. Levi and I take bowls for the car and head to soccer practice.

Mark comes home and feeds dinner to the remaining troops.

Mark takes Logan to karate.

Soccer practice is over. Levi and I do an errand. Levi fantasizes that the woman who last week encountered him in the gas station and thought he was so cute she gave him a dollar (no lie!) will be in this store and find his soccer jersey doubly cute and give him two dollars. Turns out, people in the store do find him cute, but it occurs to no one to pay him for it. There is no charge for his awesomeness...or his attractiveness.

Levi and I pick up Logan from karate. His earbuds are in place by the time he gets in the car.

Jesse and I drive Roscoe to karate.

Mark has cleaned the kitchen and read bedtime stories to Haley. He leaves on church business.

Roscoe's karate class is over, but a kind neighbor has volunteered to bring him home for us. Thank you!

Who knows when Mark will come home.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The 50+ Hats of the Qshurst-McGees

The kids and I achieved our goal of making 50 hats.

With contributions from neighborhood friends, I think we're about to hit 70.

To celebrate the hat-makers, we hosted a hat party on Saturday night complete with chips and pop. Congratulations, kids, on doing good service and learning a new skill!


In other news, Logan worked, saved, and is now the proud owner of his very own mp3 player.

He and Jesse like to share tunes.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For Mother's Day

When I became a woman and mother, I learned that there were many things I didn’t have to learn. My Mom did them, and by the time I needed it, I could too. Here are some of the things I learned how to do by osmosis and example from my Mom:

~ sweet-talk a child through the scary parts of a movie ~ knead bread ~ advocate for a child at school ~ organize a Primary sharing time ~ conduct an IEP meeting ~ get to church on time ~ accept a Church calling ~ make do ~ make ends meet ~ have fun with the kids at free parks ~ create a chore chart ~ plaster the walls with inspirational and instructional messages ~ stand up for myself ~ cut through red tape ~ blow on a baby’s feet before sticking them into footie pajamas ~ bite off a baby’s fingernails ~ direct traffic ~ take kids on road trips ~ gather everyone for family prayer
~ choose one TV show to follow ~ handle it ~ make custom draperies ~ decorate fun birthday cakes a conduct Family Home Evening ~ sit on the front row at Church ~ design on a dime ~ be a trouper ~ insist on early bedtime for the kids ~ enjoy having too many kids and not enough money ~ insist on attending kids’ games, concerts, assemblies, and events ~ resist letting my home or myself look totally ravaged by children ~ get through Sacrament meeting without a bag full of treats and games ~ multitask ~
Thanks for your footsteps to follow, Mom.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Early Mother's Day Gift

So gratifying to see that, finally, President Obama has recognized my efforts--not to mention the joy of finally one-upping Angelina Jolie:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Easy Road

I know you're all dying for a potty training update. You recall I started intensive potty training, got nowhere, cleaned up dozens of puppy puddles, got derailed by a stomach flu, spent a day in intensive candy corn surveillance...then I decided to take the easy road.

I bought Jesse a pack of pull-ups and set him free. If he chose to use the potty, great; if not, who cares? When the pull-ups were gone, he put on underpants. And guess what? Most of the time they're dry. We have maybe 1 accident a day. I've always been a bit of an anti-Pull-ups purist, so I'm kind of proud of myself for choosing the easy way out for once.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Two Things


Last week we refinanced our house. Taking advantage of everything that’s wrong with the economy overall, we boosted ourselves into a much more solid financial position than we’ve ever before enjoyed throughout our years of graduate school and babies. There’s a black hole of worry that I’ve tried to ignore for years, that sometimes would wake me up in the night, and now it’s gone. I am so, so grateful.

I can’t help but feel that our great good luck in pulling this off is a blessing, a gift to us from Heavenly Father, telling us that, yes, we should continue to press forward in these burning-it-from-both-ends years (but wait, isn’t that about the only kind of year we’ve ever had?) of big callings and little kids.

Being More Christian

On Saturday, Mark and I had an argument involving 1) dishwasher sludge and 2) the scarcity of tuna fish sandwiches. So as you can see, this was very serious business and the stakes were high.

Neither of us performed admirably and apparently we forgot about our marriage rule of thumb, which is that only one spouse at a time may lose it/get grumpy/behave badly. Usually we stagger our lameness pretty well so there’s one of us to pull the other back.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the next day, I received a copy of the ward newsletter that included a little article by that dashingly handsome new member of our bishopric. He wrote on Paul’s statement that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” and how we must actively seek out those fruits because they don’t just drop off the tree at our feet. (Or that’s what he meant, because of course that strangely literal and methodical bishopric counselor used no such metaphor.) He concluded, “Let’s share more kind words, friendship, service, and love with one another.” Ouch.

Later in the day, little Levi shared his testimony with the Primary. And he talked about his sadness that one of his uncles is getting a divorce and that he knows that families can be together forever if we “work out our problems.” Double ouch.

Then Levi woke up this morning to tell me that he had had a “terrible” dream that our family “was separated and couldn’t be together.” Triple ouch.

So I’m starting today with a firmer commitment to the soft answer and kind word. Something I’m sure my family will appreciate.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Guerrilla Assault: The Dark Underbelly of Jesse's 3rd Birthday

You know the Primary song, “Happy, happy birthday children dear…if I had a wish then it would be, a happy, happy birthday to you from me”? I spent Jesse’s birthday singing to myself a slightly different version: “If I had a wish then it would be, a little less mischief now that you are three.” And as the day progressed it became a mantra, a prayer, a fervent plea sent out into the benevolent universe because, really, if this boy does not at least tone down the shenanigans I may go stark, raving mad.

I thought that as a mother of 3 sons I had a pretty good handle on the mischief of a toddler boy, but this Jesse has topped all his brothers in terms of climbing, mess-making, raiding the fridge, pilfering adults’ belongings, and generating general, unrelenting trouble. He's an agent of chaos, tottering under our feet, quietly, determinedly spreading disaster. Some time ago I made the choice to cease blogging about his disgusting messes, but let me just allude to incidents wherein feces was found 1) on the garage floor, 2) on the driver’s seat of the van, 3) inside the heater vents in his bedroom. Multiple times.
Living with Jesse is starting to feel like living in a prison camp where my captors’ strategy—and it’s a good one, I might add-- is to erode my energy and will with ongoing, purposeless destruction. The result is that I spend my time whirling in a tizzy from one disaster to the next.

Every time an opportunity presents itself, the boy darts out the front door, sneaks into my bathroom to sprinkle makeup across the floor, empties a tube of toothpaste, pours water on my computer, pees on my bed. I’m constantly running into the playroom and shouting, “Who’s seen Jesse?” or “Quick! Go check on Jesse!” and the kids, who are almost as afraid of his exploits as I am, rush away. After a moment of suspenseful silence, we hear “Oh, nooo! Jesseee!” And someone returns to report, “Mooom! Jesse just ripped all the pages out of my math book!” or “Jesse pulled the clothes out of my dresser!” or most frequently, “JESSE’S NAKED!”

In a devious twist to the terrorist plot, the barrage of chaos and destruction continues all through the night. The other night I had just stepped out of the shower and thought I was heading to bed, when I heard a pounding on my bedroom door. In bursts Jesse, at 11:00 pm, brandishing a Nerf gun in each hand. The boy sometimes sneaks out of bed in the wee hours and is found, later, getting milk out of the fridge or raiding treasures from the big boys’ room in the basement.

I sleep on pins and needles, ready to launch into defensive action should I hear the sounds of, say, beeping microwave buttons or the shots of a Nerf gun.