Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Morning

I'm slooowly waking up from some sort of sickness that kept me totally drained, sitting in bed day after day. Good thing we got a wii for Christmas and the kids have been happily swatting virtual bowling/base/tennis balls.

Wanna see one of the sweetest, coolest, most adorable gifts, ever? This is from my talented bro and SIL Mark and Kelly.

It's our family!
Complete with Mark's gray sideburns...

...Roscoe's black t-shirt...

...and Jesse's superhero cape (and undies!).

We're meant to use it as a geocache travel bug, but I don't believe we'll be able to let this little gem go.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nothing left but Christmas

Things we've been focusing on other than Christmas:


Last weekend, Mark and I celebrated our seventeenth wedding anniversary. Which means that in a few months, I'll have been married to Mark longer than I lived with my parents. On occasion we look around and think, "Good heavens, what have we done?" but more often we look around and think, "Good heavens, look what we've done!" We're pretty proud of the marriage and family we've built.

I remember a BYU professor talking about the joys of older love, of the intimacy and connection and joy that come through years of work, love, cooperation, and family-building. Now I think I know more what he means.

Mark--through a combination of his sweetness and my coaching--gave me this lovely etsy necklace:

It says, "yo te amo."

Also last weekend, my mother came to visit. She dutifully and joyfully gave attention to each of the kids. And they, of course, slurped it all up.


Logan was ordained a deacon on Sunday. As a Mormon, now that he's twelve he crosses into manhood--or at least manhood training. He showed a lot of dignity and respect. We are very pleased with the young man he's becoming.

The three birthdays, the anniversary, the visit from mommy--all were fun. But now there's nothing on the calendar between me and Christmas! We're snuggling in for a week of relaxation, snow, and cookies.

And one more tidbit: Jesse snuggled into a cozy flannel blanket, cuddling his teddy bear--with his finger on the trigger.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Logan Enters the Doughnut Hole

This week Logan turned 12, an age he feels is quite momentous. He feels excited and a bit anxious about stepping into his teenaged years. It's prompting a bit of self-reflection and a desire to step up to the plate. I think Logan is feeling ready to put childish things behind him and become a more mature young man.

I remember living in the adolescent doughtnut hole of life--not an adult, certainly not a child, and it all seemed bogglingly complicated. But it's also such an exciting time. Mark and I are loving watching Roscoe and Logan grow into fuller, more mature, more interesting versions of themselves.

Logan enters his teenaged years well-equipped with a healthy body, a strong mind, a bright spirit, and a childhood full of love and limits. We love you, Logan. We're here to guide you and cheer you on through these middle years. We can't wait to see all the places you'll go.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Of Wells and Devotions

After my little meltdown last week, I did some hard thinking and set a new goal for myself.

I'm living the worst of both worlds when I'm running like crazy going through all the motions of being a Saint--taking care of children, putting in time on my Church calling, showing up for stuff--but shortchanging myself on the parts of the religious life that actually make the religious life worthwhile. I mean, if it were just about spending ten hours doing church on Sundays, then it would be a fool's enterprise, right? All that stuff--the tithing and activities and programs--is only there as the structure around which people can build deep wells of spirituality. Except sometimes I'm so busy on the structure that my well runs dry. [Mixed metaphor alert: Can you build a deep well around a structure? I think not.]
So on Haley's birthday, I set a goal to read the Book of Mormon in its entirety by Jesse's birthday, which is on April 23. That comes out to about two chapters a day. My plan is to read three a day, which leaves me plenty of leeway.

Whenever I recommit to my daily devotions of prayer and scripture study, I am always quickly and richly rewarded. I am a believer for the plain, simple fact that these things work for me on an empirical level. The peace, the strength, the palpable sense of guidance--they all emerge, as promised, whenever I do my part to open the conduit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Knock on Wood

Jesse was a delightful and relatively calm baby and a highly destructive toddler. And I'm sad to say he's been a horrendous--if charming--preschooler.

A couple months ago I seriously almost threw in the towel with this whole parenting-Jesse business. I moaned to my mother and sister, "If I could think of just one thing I have successfully taught him." Because at the time, my record was zilch. No progress on potty training, obedience, sleeping, dressing--anything, really. And I was so tired, so frazzled, so disappointed.

I have spared you from the EIGHT MONTHS of potty training frustration, in which Jesse certainly could but under no circumstances would. I haven't told you about the ever more creative ways Jesse has not used the toilet. And the uncounted nights he's screamed through the wee hours--and the big ones, too. Actually, the screaming has often been just 'round the clock.

Anyway, all this is to say that--knock on wood--progress is being made.
  • Jesse often goes through a day making just average, preschooler-grade messes as opposed to irreparable, expensive, or exotic ones.

  • Jesse uses the toilet! On his own! All the time!

  • When it's time to go somewhere, Jesse walks outside, gets in the van, and buckles himself! As opposed to screaming like a demon and forcing Mom to wrestle him like a greased pig. (This is due to the M&Ms I distribute one at a time for each incidence of compliance.)

  • Jesse often obeys an instruction!

  • And when he doesn't, he walks to the time-out spot and sits there until the timer rings!

  • Jesse goes to bed when told! And stays there! All night long!

  • If Jesse gets up in the night, it's to do something like use the toilet instead of, say, scream at his mother for three hours!
We are certainly not out of the woods. Jesse's tyrannical irrationalism could certainly stand to be tamped down. A lot. The tantrums, though less frequent, are a frightening hurricane-grade. Sometimes Mark and I just stand by and watch while it looks like Jesse is exorcizing his own demons--frothing at the mouth, throwing himself to the ground, etc.

Also, in order to validate Jesse's individuality and desire to be powerful, I let him wear nothing but tidy-whiteys most of the time. (He feels these best display his buffness and allow him to add superhero accessories most easily.) In exchange for this freedom, he agrees to wear socially appropriate clothing when we go out. I'd like to upgrade this arrangement, if for nothing else than sanitation reasons.

But still. Progress is progress. Heaven help me, I'll take it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Haley's Spa Party

The spa party was a huge hit. I totally underestimated how much time the girls could happily spend selecting nail colors--one finger at a time!
Thank heavens a neighbor teenager and her friend came over to curl ringlets into each girls' hair. The girls were so into it! See how still and serious they are?
Haley was adorable, of course. She was showered with ribbons and sparkles and Barbies and pink cake and nail polish and curls and cheers.
Happy Birthday, Haley.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I woke this morning from an oppressive and terrible dream. In my dream I was running some sort of event for mobs of children. One of the girls had forgotten her pin number to get a lunch from the cafeteria. So I was in the cafeteria, begging an uncooperative lunch lady to give this girl a lunch, and the lunch lady was hassling me and stalling and being unpleasant, while I worried about all the other children in the group whom I wasn’t attending to. (Really, I love the lunch ladies!)

Finally, I got the girl her lunch, plus a lunch of my own, and sat down by some sort of railing to eat. But as I looked over the railing to the crowd of children milling around below me, I saw Jesse, far away, beyond the reach of my voice, sitting alone on the ground. Screaming. I had neglected him while I helped the other girl.

I jumped up and screamed for the people below to bring me Jesse. Logan appeared and handed Jesse over the railing.

And that’s when I woke up. Full of dread and disappointment and the feeling that I couldn’t possibly meet the needs of all the people depending on me.

A few minutes later, I shook off the feelings of doom and got up to the face the morning. We had scripture study. Today is Haley’s birthday, and I gave Haley one of her presents so she could wear new clothes to school. I served breakfast. I played the special Haley playlist of tunes I compiled yesterday in her honor. The kids and I decorated the Christmas tree that Mark and I set up last night. I supervised three kids’ reading. I signed planners. I helped Levi make his lunch. I did a million things right.

Then, because it’s a blizzard outside, I sent the kids to the van to get buckled for the ride to school. But when I went out to the garage they were all just standing there. The van was locked. And my keys were inside. I put the keys there on purpose: the van’s safe in the garage and I’m just going to need those keys again. No spare. No luck.

And this is the moment when my feelings of inadequacy and failure came crashing down. On me, and on the kids. “Get your coats on,” I told them. “You’re going to have to walk to school.” Sour faces. Groans. But no one moves to get a coat. They just stand there, in a blizzard, wearing hoodies. “GET YOUR COATS!” I scream.

And now the biggest problem my family has is not the blizzard or the keys or the tardy bell. It’s me.

Finally the kids are bundled up, none too happy, but too afraid of psycho-mommy to grumble. “Just walk,” I keep saying, “It’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. Just walk. It’ll be okay.”

And off they went.

I hate mentioning times when I feel inadequate, overwhelmed, and overextended. Because I’m afraid someone will jump in and suggest that I have too many children and too many Church responsibilities. Which isn’t entirely wrong. And also is entirely unhelpful.

Actually, this kind of thing occasionally happens to everyone, right? But when it happens to me, I feel I’ve tripped and fallen into the mud. And that all the things I’ve done right, all the appointments I’ve remembered, all the times I responded with patience--are null and void.


Evening update: The above needs to be tied into some neat little package of message and moral, doesn’t it? And I’ve had some ideas about that today. Which maybe I’ll share later. And for certain, tomorrow I’ll tell you about all the lovely things we did for the lovely birthday of our lovely Haley.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Potty Time Tales

Let me just say that everyone’s afternoon is a whole lot better if I can get Jesse to, uh, poop before he goes in his room for quiet time after lunch. So we have what has actually become a lovely little tradition in which I sit on a stool in the bathroom and tell him a story to keep him on the pot long enough to do his business. Today he requested a story about a lion king and a robot. And this is what he got.


Once there was a lion who was the king of the jungle. One day, as he walked through his kingdom, he saw a strange thing in the tall grass. As he got closer, he saw that it was a silver box, with strange blinking red lights.

“I have never seen anything like this before!” said the lion king. He reached out a paw to touch the box and suddenly it began flashing and beeping.

“I. Am. A. Robot,” it said. “I. Can. Do. Anything. You. Wish.”

“Anything?” asked the lion king.

“Yes. I Can Do Anything,” said the robot.

The lion king thought for a moment. “Well,” he said, “my land has been without rain for many months. We do not have enough grass for the animals to eat. Can you make rain?”

“Yes. I. Can,” replied the robot, and he shot a laser beam up high into the sky. The laser hit a cloud, and down came rain.

All the animals were so happy with the rain that they had a big celebration for the robot. They built a bonfire and danced in the firelight late into the night.

Later, as the lion king was falling asleep, he noticed the robot, flashing quietly in the corner.

“What’s the matter?” asked the lion king.

“I. Am. Sad,” said the robot.

“Why are you sad?” asked the lion king. “You made a happy day for all the animals and we made a big party for you.”

“I. Am. Lonely,” said the robot. “I. Miss. My. Girlfriend. She. Is. Stuck. On. A. Star.”

All that night long the lion king thought about the soft rain, the happy animals, and the sad, flashing robot. By the time dawn touched the morning, the lion king had a plan.

He ran through the jungle gathering all the animals to help. The monkeys flew from branch to branch and found the tallest tree in all the jungle. The giraffes searched the jungle to find the longest vine. The parrots tied the longest vine to the top of the tallest tree, and soon the animals had built a slingshot. The lion king placed the robot in the slingshot, and the elephants pulled, and pulled, and PULLED until—snap!—the robot went flying into the sky, like a star himself.

The animals looked into the sky for a few quiet moments, then they walked back to their homes.

Many days and nights passed. The animals grew fat from all the lovely green grass. But in quiet moments the lion king would pause and look into the sky and wonder about his friend the robot.

One day, another amazing thing happened to the animals. The parrot noticed it first. It was like a silver star flying through the sky. The monkeys saw it as it grew closer. The giraffes craned their necks to watch it arc through the sky and, finally, land right on the lion king’s doorstep.

Sure enough, it was the robot! And wrapped in his strange silver arms, was another little robot. His girlfriend!

And they all lived happily ever after.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Weekend Roundup

My cupboards are bare. Four kids are doing food drives at school and the competition is steep. They leave every morning with backpacks heavy with my food.

My Christmas shopping is pretty much done. This morning I went to a certain mass retailer that I hate and generally eschew but that had the world's best deal on a certain item that will be our kids' one and only present from their parents and McGee grandparents. Very exciting!

But I cannot rest on my laurels because we have two birthdays this week. And another birthday next week. And then my anniversary. And a visit from my mother.

Haley's birthday is on Tuesday. We are hosting a spa party, where the girls will get their nails done, and hair curled, and cheeks lotioned and sparkled. Fortunately, Tuesday is also the day the new Harry Potter movie comes out on DVD, so the boys can hole up for their own party while the girls and I get girly.

December is not the best time to be a Primary president. It's an incredible amount of work to reorganize all the classes and programs for the new year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I was a marine biologist

I have two children who tell lies. Lots of mischief goes on around here that I take generally in stride as part of the family package, but dishonesty makes me mad--and truthfully, it hurts my feelings.

Both these kids adjust the truth when the truth might get them in trouble. And--here's the tricky part--they buy into their own deceptions and convince themselves that really and truly it was the other's person's fault / they did the best they could / it was an accident / they didn't know / they didn't do it / whatever. It takes some pretty intense wrangling to help them admit the truth even to themselves.

And that's what I've been doing today.

The slim silver lining on this cloud is that I have developed a pretty effective internal BS detector.

Honesty Quiz
Name the character with each of these honesty issues:

  1. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.
  2. In that moment, I was a marine biologist.
  3. I only lied about being a thief.