Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Painter's Tape

Remember how it snowed for the kids' spring break? Well, now they're off track and it's basically going to snow, wind, and rain the entire time.

Here's my high-tech plan to generate goodwill:

It's a grid of squares each labelled with a reward, encased in a page protector, and covered with a bit of painter's tape. (They say duct tape can fix anything, but it's painter's tape I can't live without.)

Most of squares say something like You're Golden! or Hug Mom, but some of them are things like 99 cents at Wendy's or No chores today. There are even a couple Mom Will Clean Your Room squares, which I thought might have the added bonus of introducing to the kids what a cleaned room actually looks like. When I catch you being good you can peel off a square of tape to see what lies beneath.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nature and Nurture

Go figure.

In the hard-core Utah accent, tail sounds like tell, former sounds the same as farmer, and creek sounds like crik.

Three of my five children have lived their entire lives in Utah. (Well, Levi moved here when he was three months old.) And one of them speaks with a pronounced Utah accent. Guess who?


Occasionally, I can't understand what she means when she says something like, "Jesse is using my mermaid tell." And she struggles to sound out words when her understanding of vowels is so warped.

She joined our family just a month past her second birthday. Was her accent already in place then?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sing It Aretha

So my awesome brother's awesome little son is now two and according to latest reports, sometimes throws tantrums. The sudden onset and venom of which kind of startle my sweet brother. So I told him my strategy for dealing with the irrational, full-blown tantrum: Respect.

Yes, it's pointless, ridiculous, silly. The flailing child's sense of self-importance is so vastly disconnected from their pudgy, insignificant little self. But for the child, this is very serious. The subtext of most tantrums is, "I'm a real person! With opinions! And needs! Heed me!"

While you can't hand over the lollipop or postpone bedtime or whatever else they're demanding at the moment, you can indeed fill their need for validation and respect. So my M.O. is to reflect and articulate: "You are mad! You are so upset right now! You are so frustrated that I put honey on your sandwich because you did not want honey!"
In honor of Jesse's upcoming birthday, a shot of one of his first, though certainly not one of his last, screaming fits.

Now, whether or not you are willing to produce a new sandwich is a whole 'nother story. And if this tantrum doesn't wane forthwith, the child should be banished to time-out or bedroom or whatever to cool down. But putting words to the child's feelings doesn't mean giving in to their demands, and I find that half the battle is won by just showing the child that 1.) you get it and 2.) it matters to you. Because sometimes we don't notice how often we treat little children like ridiculous little pets (yes, I realize this is because they act like ridiculous little pets), when really they want to be treated like little men and women.

Fast forward to teenagers: My two admirable young men are demanding that I become even more attuned to this issue. They are so good in so many ways--and yet on occasion they spray paint the garage floor and put wooden spoons in the dishwasher and growl at their siblings and drape dirty socks over the piano and a million other things that require parental correction. And their need for manly respect is even higher because they believe--silly things!--that they are men.

If I snap a criticism at them as if they were little kids, they'll balk and argue and talk back. None of which is okay, and all of which earns them negative consequences. But if I take a deep breath and address them with the tact and respect I would give another adult--voila--the whole issue is avoided.

I'm a firm believer that parents should demand and enforce respect from their children. I'm the mom and, yes, you must listen to my lectures sans eye-rolling for as long as I care to deliver them. But authority can be wielded in tandem with respect. Not only does it grease a lot of wheels, it's the right thing to do.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Scenes

Today our ward Relief Society president gave one of the sweetest talks I've ever heard. Most of her talk was a litany of all the little acts of service in our ward that she is privy to through her calling. She said things like this:
  • I know a woman who massages her friend's arthritic hands after she plays the piano in Relief Society.
  • I know a woman who moved in with her elderly parents to be their caretaker.
  • I know a man who gave his bed to a friend when she was unable to walk up the stairs to her bedroom.
  • I know a woman who made a video of Primary sharing time and took it to a little girl who was ill at home.
  • I know a woman who bakes the ham every time there's a funeral.
  • I know a boy who shoveled snow for elderly neighbors.
  • I know a couple who brings their prize-winning flowers to church so all can enjoy them.
  • I know a woman who cleaned another family's home every week while their son was dying.
It went on and on and on. Many times, we ward members knew who she was speaking of. Sometimes we didn't. We could see the cumulative effect of all the little things we do for each other, and how they all bind us together. It was really a beautiful experience.


Jesse operates in three modes: 1.) Unbroken steam-of-consciousness blather heavily laced with references to superheroes. 2.) Raging fit. 3.) Absorbed contentment. Today was a lot of Mode 3. He wandered alone and quiet in the backyard for hours. Then he came in and climbed under the play table to play with blocks.
The other kids played an entire game of Sorry! with no arguments!

Mark has basically been at church for the last 13 hours. He has popped in a few times to eat and hang with the kids.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bright and White

So you know this half-wall in my kitchen? The strange black thing in the background of photos of my cute children that makes you think, "What is that? Does she live in some kind of strange Icelandic spa?"
Somewhere in the world there's a woman who loves this shiny black marble and has a kitchen where it fits right in. That woman is not me.
So finally we bit the bullet and painted it. People have been telling me my whole life that you can't paint glossy surfaces. Turns out there's this handy spray paint at Home Depot that handles them just fine. For five bucks!

So yes, Mark and I emptied 7 cans of spray paint in our kitchen. Two of primer, 3 of paint, and 2 of glossy top coat. This is not something we recommend. Repeat: Do Not.
However, after scrubbing paint dust off the floor and out of our noses until 11:00, we can now enjoy a brighter, whiter kitchen.

And I'm a firm believer in bright, white kitchens. And of cute girls to feed in them.

* Two bonus points to anyone who noticed the Buzz Lightyear paraphernalia in both photos.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Unicorn Sighting

You know that mythical week when all the kids are in school and there are some blank spots on the calendar? I think this is it! It does exist!

Then Levi's soccer season starts, and it's Jesse's birthday, then the kids are off track, and spring school events are always a blur, and then it's summer.
So this week I'm investing in catch-up. Today I did some major housecleaning and put away all the kids' winter gear. (Yes, it very well could snow again. But if it does, we're not wearing our coats. I refuse!) I'm going to make sure all my resume work is well caught-up and do just one eensy-weensy painting project. I resolve to enjoy this off-track, which means I can't be overloaded and stressed.

{knock on wood}

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Project Verdant Oasis: Phase One

Next project: Turning this dirty wasteland into a verdant oasis.

Year by year, our back lawn has thinned and receded. Last spring Mark and I tilled and seeded--twice--to no avail. So the kids basically roll in dirt, and track it all into the house. Jesse's favorite pastime is to drape himself belly down over a swing and trail his fingers and toes through the dirt. It looks peaceful and all, but then he comes into the house! This year--thanks to our tax refund--we're breaking out the big guns.

Phase One: Major tree pruning to let in more sunlight.

We do love our big trees and our cool yard, and I'm already missing the leafy branches that no longer bob outside my kitchen window. But Phase Two involves topsoil and sod...soft, green, clean sod!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

By the Numbers

Mark wakes us up for scripture study.

I have no idea what we just read.

Re-awaken to the sound of Jesse ripping the velcro off his nighttime diaper. Now I really must rouse.

Drive two kids plus two friends to elementary school.

Logan and I (with Jesse in tow) are 15 minutes early for a tour of this charter school where Logan will attend middle school.

I realize I forgot a piece of Logan's registration paperwork, so we whiz home and back.

We're right on time.
Logan hardly speaks a word throughout the tour. He's nervous about middle school in general and grumpy that his mom is pulling him from the regular public middle school and putting him here, where the students must wear unholy uniforms consisting of 1. khaki pants and 2. polo shirts. Oh, the horror!

The tour concludes. We drop Jesse off at preschool, only 15 minutes late.

Logan and I arrive at Denny's for his last braces-free meal. To my joy, he orders the classic: A Grand Slam Breakfast.

We pick up Jesse from preschool. Which doesn't end for 25 more minutes.

We pick up Haley from kindergarten. Which doesn't end for 15 more minutes.

We're almost on time for the dentist appointment.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has now looped back to the exact spot where it was when we entered the waiting room. And Logan has blue braces. Which, turns out, look fantastically good on him.
Logan arrives at school. He vows not to open his mouth in public for the next eighteen months.

Logan rescinds his vow. (Or so I assume.)

Haley and Jesse are down for "quiet time" and I have one hour to write resumes before...

...we leave to pick up Roscoe and his carpool from middle school.

We're home. Now I have an hour to start laundry, start dinner, and do some maintenance housekeeping before...

...Logan and Levi arrive home. Snacks. Somehow milk gets splashed across the kitchen windows. Intense negotiations regarding the sequencing of wii turns. A certain someone loses wii privileges for the day after I notice that the timer he should have set for 20 minutes reads 20:15 after he'd been playing for at least five minutes. Roscoe heads for the gym.

It's quiet. Everyone has settled into some activity. Dinner is bubbling away on the stove. And no one is asking me to chauffeur friends.

The last wii turn ends, the last friend goes home, and within minutes, peace explodes like a bubble. Just as I'm about to slide the cornbread into the oven, three children are screaming at me. One of whom believes the rubber scraper I'm using is actually his sword.

Mark arrives. I rush my be-aproned self from the kitchen to greet him--because Fascinating Womanhood didn't get it all wrong.

Dinner is over. The dishes are mostly done. Mark, Roscoe, and Logan head out the door for Scouts. Later, Mark will shuffle Roscoe to karate and probably do some errands, both church- and household-related. Meanwhile, the little kids and I are about to start our weekly ritual of watching American Idol together. Yes, I know there are 957,000,000 better things we could be doing. But we kinda like this one.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A True Disciple

My favorite part of General Conference was this talk by Elder Uchtdorf. I have heard Elder Uchtdorf speak powerfully, compellingly, eloquently--but I don't think I've ever heard him speak so pleadingly, commandingly, fervently.

Overall, General Conference helped me see all the ways I need to recommit myself to behaving as--to being--one of Christ's disciples. Christ's teachings are so simple, so plain. But not at all easy. The more complicated life becomes, it seems, the more difficult it is to stay committed to those simple truths. Really, it's all about loving others. The simplest, most challenging thing there is.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring Break

This is what we're doing on our first day of spring break:

We can't get over the feeling that it's Christmas, what with the snow and the day off and the Harry Potter movie in the background. But in fact it's Easter, for which Mark's parents are here to celebrate.

This morning I wandered downstairs in my jammies with my laptop. Within about ten minutes, my father-in-law had found me a HUGE tax refund. Huge.

Then, when explaining how he's slipping in his old age, he explained, "I can't lift a bag of concrete anymore. I can't throw a bale of hay." Things the average person can't do at all.

Then, about two seconds later, he was discussing with Haley how she could give each of her stuffed animals a variation on the name Isabel: Bella, Izzy, Isaella, etc.

Pretty versatile guy.