Monday, August 31, 2009

The Dawn of Love: A Short Assignment

I grabbed a book off the new arrivals shelf as I whizzed through the library, saw the phrase "For the past three years the widower Mr. Malik has been in love with Rose Mbikwa," and thought, "Falling in love. How wonderful!" So I started this short assignment on a stack of sticky notes as I went through the Taco Bell drive-through. Not at all sure why my mind settled on adolescent love. Don't read anything regarding any member of my family into this.

Just two minutes ago, right here in the Nickel-O-Rama arcade, Tyler Reedy had realized the truth: He had been in love with Kristin McCoomb his entire life.

He was standing behind her waiting for his turn at Alien Avenger II: Rise of the Xyrotex. First, he noticed the tip of her ear peeking from under the curtain of her hair. Then he watched her sweep the hair behind that ear, quick as lightning, between rounds of Gamma-Blastors.

In that moment it dawned upon him, in a flash of pink and green alien guts, what Ms. Bernardi the school counselor meant with all that "long-term goals" and "see the end from the beginning" stuff.

He had never noticed it, but it had been growing all those years nonetheless. Like the mutating glob in Goretastic III: Gelatinous to the Core. All through their preschool play dates, through walking side by side down the block to the kindergarten bus, through building a fort out of soggy cardboard boxes the summer after fourth grade, even through the last few years of awkwardly averted gazes whenever their paths crossed.

This, he now knew, was love. And it would be the purpose, meaning, and ultimate goal of the rest of his life.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Work

Now that most kids are in school at least some of the time, I've been working to get caught up on all sorts of things that fell by the wayside during our busy, busy summer. I spent one whole day doing dozens of little computer/phone/budget tasks that had been awaiting me. I've been making granola, airing linens in the sunshine, driving carpools, van shopping, signing kids up for sports. It appears that more I tick off my list, the more items appear on it, like spring branches.

I need to can tomato sauce (my tomato garden is going crazy) and schedule the venue for next summer's McGee reunion (I told myself that once this summer's vacation was over, I'd get right on the next one). Also I've been hatching some plans involving a more codified menu rotation and the need to clean and reorganize every blessed cupboard and closet in this place.

So clearly trying to be productive isn't helping, and perhaps I oughts just quit. But you should see this nice, fresh bed I'm sitting on.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Third First Day of School

To the waitress who called me darlin twice, honey three times, and ma'am only once: My son started high school today.

He did not, however, pose for cute pictures.

Roscoe has made a goal to get in to BYU. Which apparently is quite a feat than these days. So as of today, every class, assignment, and point counts.

The good news is that he can now use all his uber-responsible, oldest-child OCD on something other than critiquing his mother. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Second First Day of School

Little Miss Haley's first day of kindergarten.
I've never had a child better prepared academically...but I did worry about sending her impressionable little soul into the big wide world. I know she was worried too because she wore this trademark stony face.
But of course, she rose to the challenge, as I'm learning this girl nearly always does. She came out happy and chipper, and when I asked her what was hard about the day, she said, "Nothing!"
Haley's first day of school was also Roscoe's last day of summer, so he organized an afternoon trip to the movies. How many kindergarteners get to go out on the town with a fourteen-year-old after school?


Just the lucky ones.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Best Thing about Living in Utah

The summer visitors that flow in and out every August. With no effort on our part, people we love call to say they'll be stopping by for one of the many reasons our peeps find for passing through these parts.

I. Mark and three of his siblings
II. My idol from college whom I still think may be my soulmate


III. The sister-in-law who hasn't come to visit for years

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Roundup

Logan and Levi's first week of school: Fantasitc. One upside to year-round school is that starting a new year is totally nonchalant. Both boys seem to have great teachers. Yay!

Our grand morning schedule involving scripture study at 6:30: Not so great. But that'll change (or else) next week when Roscoe starts early-morning seminary and therefore the rest of us start early-morning life.

My bold new plan involving weekly task lists, clipboards, parental signatures, and money: Currently in stage 3. Stay tuned for full details and pics of our array of clipboards.

Most exciting development of the week: Sometimes when I yell, "Somebody go check on Jesse!" they return to report something like, "Oh, he's just playing in his room/hanging out in the backyard/reading a book." As opposed to something like, "He's pouring milk on the floor/jumping off your dresser/pooping in the laundry basket!" (There are reasons I cling with {unfounded?} hope to these shreds of progress.)

My hot date for tonight: Buying 600 hot dogs and buns for tomorrow's "Stake Extravaganza." Oh the joys of being married to the bishopric.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Today's Therapy

Before: Command central. Each kid has a white cubby for homework handouts, etc. But I never actually sit at the desk. Instead, I use it to stash things like a fifty-pound bag of oatmeal.

After: No more oatmeal, thanks to a tension rod and a yard of fabric. Oh, and thanks to Roscoe, who watched the little kids while I did a therapeutic browse through a cute little fabric boutique. (Kelly: the one at Gardner Village.)

The reverse side. I couldn't decide between these two fabrics--so I got both and made the skirt two-sided.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The First First Day of School

This year we're back to four school schedules: preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, and middle school. It's a bit of a logistical tangle and we end up with someone coming or going every hour or two throughout the day.

Today Logan started sixth grade and Levi started second.

As always, they met up with their trusty and loyal neighborhood buddies for the ride to school.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Preschool Flunk-out?

Thanks for all your kind words regarding Mallory. We are a bit sad, but really this is what we signed up for. I feel optimistic that everything is working out for the best for her and her family.

Today is the last official day of summer for us. We celebrated with a trip to a lakeside beach with three other families from our neighborhood. Kids of all ages played in all different combinations--girls and boys, big kids and little kids--while the Moms swapped info on school teachers and sales on school supplies. This is the real joy of suburbia and we're so blessed to have such great kids around our own.

So Logan and Levi start school on Monday. Then Haley and Roscoe start the next week, and Jesse starts preschool the day after that. Preschool that he may flunk out of.

This week I took Jesse to "Orientation" at the little preschool Haley attended for two years. When she began I really didn't know she'd do. Because of her unhealthy first two years, we had every reason to worry that she'd, at least, have learning disabilities. But she has fluorished and blossomed and is entering kindergarten way ahead of any of her smart brothers.

This preschool teacher's strength is routine and organization. Every move the kids make is regimented. There's a step-by-step process for washing your hands, involving standing in line, washing while counting from 1 to 10, rinsing while counting from 5 to 1, turning off the water with the towel. Haley thrived with the predictability that made it possible for her to do each thing exactly right.

But Jesse...

Before Orientation I planned how I'd describe Jesse to his teacher so that she would understand his independence and rowdiness but love him anyway. I explained how he wrestles other kids not because he's mean but because he's been raised by big boys who think it's hilarious. I thought it was all going pretty well when I concluded, "But really he's so fun and enthusiastic I think you'll just love him," and she responded, "I think I already do."

Then we went into the playroom to retrieve Jesse, who was decked out in full knight's armor from her dress-up box. We told him it was time to put away the toys. He froze. In one dramatic motion, he shrugged all his gear into a heap at his feet--and burst into tears. And screamed. He wouldn't let the teacher console him--not with a pencil or a sticker or a plastic hippo--and finally I carted him out to the van in defeat.

The poor boy has had zero routine this summer. Naps, meals, and bedtime come and go at totally unpredictable intervals. Plus, he gave up his spot as baby of the family for a little intruder who then disappeared with no warning--all with amazing grace and generosity.

What he really needs is a little neighborhood Joy School, but our neighborhood doesn't have enough kids his age to make it work. So we'll try this school--where the teacher asked me if he knows his colors and I said, "Sure, he knows his colors. To him, orange-ish red is 'Lightning McQueen,' dark red is 'Iron Man,' green is 'Hulk'..." And we'll see how he does.

Maybe the organization and routine of the new school year at home will help him get himself more organized, and maybe preschool will be just what he needs. Or maybe not.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Good-bye Mallory

Mallory’s gone. Her caseworker came by today and picked up the last of her stuff.

When I dropped her off at the respite home before our trip, I had the feeling that we’d never see her again. Sure enough, while we were gone the judge took the unusual step of sending her home before her parents had even been officially “assessed.” There are a number of safety measures in place: everyone in the household passed a background check, her caseworker stops by unannounced every day or two, she goes to the doctor for an evaluation once a month, the family must inform the caseworker of everyone’s work schedules and notify him of any changes (so if something happens they’ll know who was around the house at the time).

I think it’ll be fine. I think she’ll be safe. If a problem arose, they’d call us and send her back here, but I don’t believe that will happen.
We feel a little sad and empty. Haley’s alone in “the girls’ room” again. The crib and highchair are empty. Someone is missing. The kids are sad. They keep asking, “Will we ever see her again?” But the answer most likely is no.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What We Saw

We arrived home on Sunday evening after three days of blessedly uneventful driving. In all, we count our trip a raging success. We saw dozens of relatives, museum exhibits, monuments, and more without any lost children, blown tires, or major mishap. The kids were cooperative, engaged, and interested most of the time.

Here's a list of what we saw, as compiled by the kids as we drove. My plan is to add pictures as I have time, so check back if you're interested:

  • cornfields in Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois

  • Rodin's The Thinker

  • Barry Flanagan's Thinker on a Rock and Lichtenstein's House in the National Gallery's sculpure garden

  • a two-horned narwhal skull at the Natural History Museum (hm--sounds suspiciously like Luna Lovegood's two-horned snorcrack or whatever it is)
  • the Wright flyer


  • the cast for the statue of Freedom atop the Capitol

  • a lunch counter from famous civil rights sit-in in Greensboro, NC,
  • a preserved giant squid



  • an anglerfish



  • rubble from the Berlin wall beneath the feet of Ronald Reagan's statue in the Capitol

  • an Easter Island statue


  • sonar tool like the one Uncle Josh uses

  • Amelia Earhart's goggles, jacket, and plane
  • George Washington's breetches

  • a Punch-and-Judy-style puppet show depicting an angry colonist confronting a Red Coat

  • 2 George Washington campaign buttons
  • the Lincoln Memorial
  • the inside of the Washington Monument
  • a Civil War musket

  • the "Pile of Loot" prop created for Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian by copying many of the real Smithsonian artifacts we saw in our travels
  • Dorothy's ruby slippers
  • the Jefferson Memorial
  • the White House
  • the Capitol Dome


  • a Navy band
  • an Apollo shuttle
  • the Hope Diamond

  • Marie Antoinette's earrings
  • a bulletproof jacket

  • Able the space monkey (stuffed)

  • the largest unfractured ball of quartz in the world

  • a Mars rover (the one used on earth for parallel testing, not the one that went to Mars)


  • the subway under the Capitol that Senators and staffers use to get quickly to chambers
  • the hallway where Mr. Smith's office would have been

  • the Gutenberg Bible

  • The Declaration of Independence



  • The Constitution and Bill of Rights


  • a Kimodo Dragon (stuffed)

  • the statue of Brigham Young at the Capitol

  • Marines twirling bayonets

  • da Vinci, El Greco, Warhol, Raphael, Rembrandt, Titian, Vermeer




  • Potomac falls foaming with pollution

  • a 20-pound catfish caught and reeled in by Logan

  • a mammoth fossil

  • the Ice Man

  • astronaut food

  • Viking robot

  • Arlington Cemetery

  • World War II Memorial

  • Vietnam Memorial

  • all but 1 of our Qshurst cousins

  • the kids' Great-Grandma Benac, both Qshurst grandparents, and a couple dozen second cousins and great-aunts and -uncles


  • a two-ton painting depicting two thousand characters from the battle at Gettysburg

  • the green fountain in front of the White House

  • an Amish wagon (crossing a freeway overpass as we whizzed by)
  • The Star Spangled Banner

  • a barn with a cannonball hole from the battle at Gettysburg
  • Abraham Lincoln's top hat

  • Abraham Lincoln's blood (on a cuff worn by an actress who rushed to his aid)

  • a statue of Phil T. Farnsworth

  • the metro
  • the Pentagon

  • the Air Force 9-11 Memorial

  • George Washington's easy chair

  • the Mississippi River

Monday, August 3, 2009

Yes, that is a REAL giant squid

First we were in an Internet-free cabin on the Potomac River. Now we're in a swirl of Benac reunioning and touring WA DC sites and Smithsonian museums til midnight or 1:00, then dragging out of bed early the next morning for more, more, MORE!

The kids are loving everything they see and being great sports about being tourists. I love that we're battling the ennui of hyperrealism in the modern age by showing our kids the real, foundational, actual Washington Monument, ruby slippers, Abraham Lincoln top hat, etc.

Pictures and detail to come!