Sunday, November 29, 2009


I think this is the third time we've forayed down to Moab the day after Thanksgiving for some fresh air, red rock, and exercise as a counterpoint to the gluttony of Turkey Day.
We hiked Delicate Arch on Friday afternoon...

...camped on Friday night...

(notice anything unusual about Roscoe?)

...and spent Saturday pretending our van was a four-wheeler...

...which got us to some pretty amazing vistas.

Can you find Mark in this picture?

Friday, November 27, 2009


I think we had one of our most delightful Thanksgivings ever. First feat: We convinced my brother Mark and Mark's brother Ken and their families to join us. Second feat: Our dinner was delicious. The turkey turned out divine and, as I mentioned, there was plenty of pie.

We did a neighborhood scavenger hunt with Butterfingers for the winnners (which was everyone who cared to eat a Butterfinger).

We had naps and board games and football.

On a sudden whim, the ladies up and whisked ourselves out the door to see New Moon, which earned six thumbs up. All day I just felt grateful to be living this life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


When Jesse was sick earlier this month, he behaved like this:

Since he's been feeling better, he's resumed his usual flair for outfits that make him buff, awesome, or like a superhero. This generally requires boots, capes, hats, belts, and tidy-whiteys.

At one point I managed to get him dressed long enough for a preschool field trip to the fire station:

Monday, November 23, 2009


Today I brought home 4 dozen eggs, a quart of whipping cream, fixins for a dozen pies, and the biggest turkey I could find.

Times have been aplenty when we've skimped on groceries, made due with the undesirables at the back of the pantry, or skipped a week's shopping altogether. So I still feel joy and gratitude every time I go to the store and fill the van with everything our family needs.

A full fridge? Reason to give thanks indeed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bad News Travels Fast in Suburbia

Yesterday, right when I was expecting Logan and Levi to burst in the door from school, I heard an emphatic knock on the door. It was one of the boys' friends reporting that Levi had crashed on his scooter and that a tooth had gone all the way through his front lip.

Jesse and I loaded into the van, and the friend volunteered to come along. As we wove through our neighborhood, we saw another friend, who flagged us down to report on Levi's exact location: at the end of the black path where it meets the sidewalk.

On the next street, we saw another neighborhood kid who gestured sadly at his bottom lip and shook his head as we passed. (And that was when I composed the title to this blog post.)

Exactly at the designated spot, there was bloody-faced Levi, perched on a fence post. Logan was standing guard next to him. Levi already had two band-aids on his chin. I was amazed to learn that Logan and his fellow-Blazer buddy had made First Aid kits at Scouts and now carried them in their backpacks. Levi had been pretty well patched up and even offered antibiotic ointment.

The good news is that Levi's lip was scratched up on the outside but intact on the inside. No trip to the urgent care was required. Major kudos to the scooter pack, who handled the situation with as much skill and wisdom as anyone could desire.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


All day this has been in my bed:

It's actually kind of pleasant to have a hot toasted oat awaiting snuggles.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blackbird with no teeth

Today the kids went back to school after three weeks off track. As per usual, they drove me crazy for a while, then we all decided we'd be happy to just stay home forever. Except for the acute lack of "getting things done" going on over here. Lots of relationship management, conflict negotiation, cooperation training, etc. But my to-do list is on critical backlog.

So today when I sent three kids riding off to school like leaves in the cold, fall breeze, I turned to launch into a day of peace and productivity. Also, Jesse asked for lots of extra Mom time, which I think he suffers for when everyone else is home.

My turning over of new leaves was not unlike Haley's transformation last week:
She is missing four teeth right across the front of her mouth. The dentist pulled them out. Actually they've been missing for years. When she came to us almost four years ago, she had four ugly, fake teeth in her little baby mouth. I have always hated them. They're cheapo, with just a dab of white on the front. And they represent things I don't like to think about. Like how this girl could possibly have rotted out four of her teeth while still a baby.

The dentist always said they'd fall out like regular baby teeth, but then they started getting yucky and abscessed and so finally out they came. Pretty real teeth will grow in.

And yet another of the burdens of Haley's past is sloughed away.

She can hardly talk with no teeth to hold her tongue in her mouth. It's pretty adorable. Last night when we were all engaged in an hours-long game of FBI Agent, Haley was "Agent Toothless."

Jesse was Agent Naked. Levi was Deputy Director of Intelligence Operations, Central District. Logan was--guess?--Director of Intelligence Operations, Central Distract. And I was the Executive Director.

I was almost convicted of treason when the kids fingerprinted me and then found my prints on the enemies' computer mouse. I saved my skin by demonstrating that the usb stick implanted in the bottom of the mouse was really my secret recording device.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Slices of Fall

Jesse in retro Davy Crockett hat + black superhero cape + footie pajamas.

Another superhero getup. He's twisted into the straps of some fabric water bottle carriers. And his underpants are on backwards.

Haley in leaves.

Levi in leaves.

The squirrels eating the last of their Halloween candy.

Logan in flight.

Roscoe and an inventive piano practice strategy. This is actually probably an awesome exercise in spatial relations and right brain-left brain synergy. He's got his left hand playing the right hand's part; and his pinkie is playing what the thumb should play.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Precision Commands

Part of my foster care training blitz the other week was a class on children with autism spectrum disorders. The teacher was a staffer from an intensive school for autistic children who claimed that autistic children can be taught to do most everything other children can do, but while normal children may learn a task automatically--like how to sit in a chair and listen to a teacher--autistic children need to have that task broken down into perhaps a hundred steps--feet on the floor, hands calm, voice quiet.

Foster parenting training has been a great blessing for Mark and me. We have never had children with autism, but learning the extreme tactics used to teach those kids gives us great ammunition for ours. And the same has been true for what we've learned about parenting kids with attachment disorders, fetal alcohol syndrome, abuse and trauma, etc.

So here's an obedience tactic I picked up from the autism class that we're using to good effect. When you want to issue an instruction, follow this exact procedure:

1. Make a "please" request.
Jesse, please shut the door.

2. Wait 5-10 seconds.
If the child complies, dole out enthusiastic praise and reinforcement. If not, move on to step 3.

3. Make a "you need to" statement.
Jesse, you need to shut the door now.

4. Wait 5-10 seconds.
If the child complies, dole out enthusiastic praise and reinforcement. If not, move on to step 5.

5. Apply a consequence.

Looks unimpressively simple, doesn't it? But it's been very effective for us. We're doing some pretty major obedience training (and power struggles) with Jesse, but still we hardly ever get to step 5.

I think the genius is partly that stating every instruction with a "please" request trains children to respond. It's like a Pavlovian signal to turn on "obey" mode. Also, waiting those several seconds shows kids that this instruction is for real. Sometimes Jesse will immediately say "no," but then obey while I stand silently counting to five.

And to be frank, partly this is training for me. It makes me think about commands before I issue them. Instead of blazing through a room shouting instructions haphazardly, I have to slow down and follow the procedure. If it's not worth enforcing, I shouldn't say it.

So try it for one day, then come back and tell me how it went. I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

If this were Mark's blog...

In response to an email from his mom asking everyone to "count their many blessings," Mark wrote this:

Jesus Christ and the Atonement,
repentance and forgiveness,
the gospel and the church,
the wife and kids,
mom and dad,
brothers and sisters,
family and friends,
my employment and my work,
a little piece of land,
our warm and dry home,
food and clothing,
cars and bikes,
mountains and hills,
great rivers and small streams,
American and Mormon history,
Joseph Smith's papers and the Joseph Smith Papers Project,
dinner and a movie,
Rock and roll,
Mountain Dew and Cocoa Puffs

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

High Window

This day is rolling along slow and peaceful. It's sunny and warm, and you can almost smell the golden leaves piling up all around the house. Some friends came to play this morning, different friends are here now. But the kids and I are staying put.

Right now the kids and their favorite neighbors are out on the tramp. They're concocting different games, all somewhat dangerous or violent, and then conferring hotly on the rules. Jesse is across the yard, draped belly-down over a swing and trailing his fingers in the dirt.

I'm upstairs puttering around with the never-ending laundry situation, occasionally looking down on them from my high window. They don't know I'm watching. They're all beautiful to me, and precious. Just because. Even when they're fighting, a little obnoxious, a little stinky. I love them just because they are here. Their little souls shine brighter than the sunlight.

I think that's a little how Heavenly Father sees us.

Monday, November 2, 2009


After slogging through a head cold all last week, I woke up this morning without a voice. The best I can do is a milky-water whisper that has almost no volume. People on the phone can't understand me at all. The kids keep looking at me quizzically and saying, "What?!"

I've always known I talk too much and too loud to my kids. I'm always hollering things like, "Get your shoes on! Get in the car! Everyone in the CAR! Hey, why aren't you in the car yet? Where are your SHOES?"

So today, by force, I walk downstairs and softly intone, "Everyone get in the car, please." And that's it. I don't say anything else, because I can't.

And guess what? After a few minutes--those minutes when normally I'd be hollering--they're all in the car.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Things happening while I was too busy to blog

~ A visit from my Dad. My Daddy loves me no matter what, which makes him pretty awesome to have around.

~ My completion of 10 hours of foster care training in one week. Nevertheless, as of today, our license is expired while our background check gets processed. Apparently it takes a few weeks to determine that we haven't committed a felony since they did our background check twelve months ago.

~ Mark and my outing to a grown-up Halloween party. We dressed up, which I don't believe we've done since Disco Night at Classic Skate back in our BYU days.

~ My 38th birthday, which was lovely. The kids went out of their way to be sweet and solicitous all day.

~ Trick or Treating. This year we had almost zero costume drama. Jesse really got into the spirit, but Roscoe opted out.

Levi, if you can't tell, was Frodo Baggins the Hobbit. He was entrusted with my engagement ring, and he carried it safely through his journeys.

Other tidbits from our week: