Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Things I did while in New York

Yep, I do. I loved the grimy sidewalks and curry-musk smell and bathroom tile subways and polyglottal throngs. I especially love my long-striding cousin and guide Mary...

...and the fact that Kate and Alberto had moved to town just in time to party with us.Why did no one ever take a picture of Annie, Kah-Leong, or Ram?

I did some obligatory tourist stops, like Times Square...
...the Empire State Building...

...and the LDS temple.

But my favorites were when we ventured a bit off the beaten track. We heard Billy Collins, the former Poet Laureate. We saw The Liar Show in a dark basement. I ate the stomach of an unidentified animal at dim sum in Chinatown.

Maybe my favorite thing was the Visible Storage area at the Met. Rows upon rows of museum storage, much of it unlabelled, in an intriguing jumble.

The cases of sculptures looked like a party gone wrong--everyone huddled together but no one making eye contact.
This one stood out from the other serene faces.
The disdain! The disbelief!
We typed the item number into a computer and found that's it's Cain at the moment of his discovery and punishment. I've seen that expression before!
On Saturday we listened to Natalie Merchant in the park. She's a kook who kept getting distracted by passing cruiseliners and birds and critiquing her band. I couldn't help but think of Mark during her last song:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Things I will not do while in New York

Deal with the excrement of any other human being.

Wear snot on my sleeve.

Do laundry.

Say "Please obey" or "That was a bad choice and now you will have a sad consequence" or "Please go wash your hands."

Listen to people scream, "Mooomm!"

Look at my computer.

Watch fingers wiggle under the bathroom door while I pee.

Cut someone else's food.

Snuggle with children.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Because a tree that falls in a forest where no one hears it may make a sound but doesn't feel very proud of itself

Several days into my campaign to reorganize all drawers, cupboards, and closets in the house, Mark said thoughtfully, "It's like you're on this campaign to reorganize everything in the house." Thank you for noticing, dear.

Awards for Most Improved (thus far) go to the pantry and the linen closet.

I've also done several batches of salsa and tomatoes.

So now that my work is done, may I please be dismissed? (Packing for nyc trip tomorrow!)

Monday, September 21, 2009


Snakes snake away. And worms worm away.
~ Jesse, on animal mobility

Can you decipher this addition to my grocery list? (*answer below)

Levi's organizational strategy for his soccer gear. It looks like a flower bouquet gone wrong.

Someday I won't have warm lumps in my bed, or snowdrifts of Legos, or sweaty boys dangling from every surface. And won't those be rather dull days?


Friday, September 18, 2009

Five-way Roundup

Roscoe is going to a party tonight. Til eleven. Which means Mark and I have no babysitter. The nerve!

Logan signed up for Black Belt Club at karate. Which means more money (which he pays half of), an extra class a week, weapons training, and a three-year commitment. But it also means Logan is pulled more firmly into a social environment where people say things like, "Yes, ma'am!" and "Respect and discipline!"

Levi started a new season of soccer this week. This is what he did in the first game: He played goalie for the first half and didn't allow any goals. Then in the second half he made the game's only goal. So basically he won the entire game. It was so awesome! Seriously, this boy is a stud. On the way home, he said, "My coach told me I was totally the best player he's ever seen." And I said, "He really said that?" And Levi said, "No, but that's what he meant." And I couldn't really argue.

Haley loves kindergarten and ries her bike to school in the morning with the big kids. She's really just a doll all the time.

Jesse hasn't been quite such a demon for the last few days. Also he hasn't peed on the floor much. Actually, I never see him pee at all. I'm suspecting some sort of foul play involving the sandbox. We're in a sort of don't-ask/don't-tell standoff.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good News and Bad News

The Good News

After slaving for the last two weeks--at some points literally around the clock--Mark finished a big project at work and has received big kudos both for its scholarly excellence and his mad work ethic. Which means he's been coming home in the evening.

Last night our family agenda included an IEP meeting, soccer practice, Boy Scout Court of Honor, and karate. Which on my own would have been a grit-your-teeth marathon. Instead we had a nice family dinner. Some people went here, some went there, we all met up in the middle, then divided again. Mark and I got the little kids to bed and cleaned the kitchen together and even made some progress on re-organizing ward callings and watched a few minutes of Jay before getting to bed on time. It was bliss. Seriously, folks, I'm not asking for a lot here. Just a two-parent family.

The Bad News

Oh my little Jesse. Heaven knows I love him. His two-year stint as a capricious but good-natured hooligan has now transitioned into a career as a determined, unshakable rebel. He is stridently refusing to do anything that appears to be what he has been asked to do. And he is so sad about it all. Oh, the tears! The fits! The angry destruction of property! He's having some kind of mid-life crisis. Like he's suddenly realized that there's going to be a level of responsiblity and accountability in this life and he doesn't like that idea at all.

Anyway, we're just holding the course. Consequences--good and bad--established and enforced. Patiently. Repeatedly. Increases of love given at every lull. I'm hoping this is a phase that will precede a big leap in maturity and cooperation. Okay?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Taking the Plunge

Actually, I took two plunges. First I bought this:

It is perhaps the most uncool vehicle in the universe. Seriously. Because anything uglier would flip around to the funky underside where square is hip. But it's exactly what we need. Thanks to Joe for making it happen. Also awesome: we didn't have to take out a loan to buy it.

Second plunge: Despite the accounts now empty to pay for said van, I scraped the bottom of the barrel and bought myself plane tickets for a long weekend in New York City. This is Mark's thanks-for-running-my-household-while-I-wrote-my-dissertation present to me. I'm going to spend four days with my wonderful city cousins Mary and Annie.

There's something interesting to be said about this juxtaposition of the brutally practical van and the purely indulgent trip, but I'm having a hard time putting a finger on it. I guess I'm feeling that I like where my money is going. This van opens the door for us to welcome our sixth (and probably final) child. And the trip is an antidote for the times I feel like Cinderella, sending everyone else off to the ball while I toil at home. So much of what I do for fun is really enjoying someone else's idea of fun--like hiking with Mark or swimming with the kids. This trip will feed my flame with just exactly what I think is fun.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"It's like this Kabbalah crap doesn't even work!"

In one of our favorite moments in the Ocean 11/12/13 movies, the spoiled and clueless movie star bemoans his dysfunctional love life and trashed hotel room. In a tantrum, he throws his beads to the floor: "It's like this Kabbalah crap doesn't even work!"

Well, I haven't tried Kabblah, but sometimes I feel like that.
In other, brighter news: I've been thinking about our sincere friend Tyler Reedy and hatching some plans for him. I love writing moments, paragraphs, short assignments--but I've never put together a beginning, middle, and end to make a real story.

I think Tyler will experiment with some grand gestures to show his love for Kristin McCoomb but will end up finding a moment to do something nondescript, something perhaps that puts him in an awkward position, in order to help her in a moment of need.

What do you think Tyler will do?

Friday, September 4, 2009


Remember last fall's new programs? And then and our summer lists? Well, our summer lists were a big hit. Creating the lists each week required me to sit down on Sunday night and think through our week. That way, I could add things like "Be ready for karate at 5:50" for Logan on Wednesday and "Meet with the bishop after Scouts" for Roscoe on Tuesday. I gave each child "Help Mom" minutes every day, and then tried to use that time to work with them for a teaching/bonding moment. It definitely gave us some structure and made the kids more independent contributors to the household.
Well, they were such a success, we decided to up the ante. I considered magnet boards and pin boards, but finally settled on clipboards and hooks.
Now the deal is that you must bring your clipboard to Mom or Dad each night to review your work. If you've completed everything in an acceptable manner, you get a signature. If at the end of the week you have six or more signatures, you get a bonus on your allowance.
(We've always done chore charts to tidy things up each evening. The lists now replace the chore charts with the bonus that unless you have something like "set table" or "dinner dishes" you can finish all your jobs first thing in the morning if you want.)
The idea is that we check in with the kids each night to coach and assess, but we do not nag or remind during the day. Their responsibilities are spelled out clearly. They choose if they'll comply and earn the positive consequences.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Fourth (and last!) First Day of School

This morning, with some trepidation, I sent Jesse off to his first day of preschool. The boy who's been watching other kids truck to preschool since he was born finally got his day.

I succeeded in getting him dressed, pottied, and coiffed with no tantrums. Then I took him out onto the front porch to pose for some cute first-day-of-school photos. "Stand on the mat, look at Mom, and say 'Happy preschool!'" I instructed.

Never happened. "Maybe he's still just too much of a baby for preschool," I thought.

My thought bubble hadn't yet popped when he grabbed a helmet and scooter out of the garage and took off with the big kids.

Seriously, he was down the block and around the corner at the neighbors' before I caught up with him. And man was he disgruntled when I informed him that, no, he wasn't riding to school with The Group.
Sheesh! I'm aiming for something between baby and big-kid here.
Maybe acting like a three-year-old?