Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ruminations on My Boys

After years of misfires and misunderstandings, I learned from The Five Love Languages of Children that Logan’s Love Language is “Acts of Service.” Which means that sometimes when he asks me to give (unnecessary) help with his homework or drive him to the library (in easy biking distance) he’s not (just) abdicating his responsibilities, he’s asking for love and attention in the way he feels it most.

So yesterday when he came home from school, I said, “Logan, is there anything I can help you with today?”

He froze. The moment hung quiet and large. He scrambled for a response. I suggested, “Did you want me to take you to buy Ryan’s birthday present?”

So we did.

On the way home, Logan said, “You must be in a good mood.” Actually, it had been a pretty crummy day. “No baby, I’m just speaking your language.”


This week I took Roscoe and Logan for check-ups. I watched the doctor examining those lanky arms and big feet and strong backs. The inch-by-inch familiarity I used to have with their bodies is long gone. Now I’m kind of intimidated by the manly outcroppings of their boyish selves.

The doctor had me fill about a form about Roscoe's health and social skills. The last question asked, "What about your child makes you proud?"

I wrote, "Everything."


Last night, I’m waiting in the car during Levi’s soccer practice while Jesse naps in his carseat. I look up from my book just in time to see Levi sweep across the field and slice the ball into the goal.

“Who did that?” one of the coaches yells. “That was beautiful!”

I myself am a klutz with no depth perception who probably can’t catch the car keys if you toss them to me. What my kids’ strong healthy bodies can do on monkey bars and trampolines and soccer fields is beautiful and amazing to me.

In the setting sun I can’t see Levi’s face as he pumps his fists in victory. Just a halo of sunshine around his head.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


A few slices from the week of the year that once prompted me to compare myself to whirling dervishes.

Last night Roscoe's production of Honk debuted. He was fantastic, and I'm not just saying that because I'm his adoring mother. He totally threw himself into his overblown, comical character. He had stage presence! And he sang solo!
(That's Roscoe in the middle. More pics to come on his private blog.)

Also Roscoe finished his piano year with a recital.
This is how I tried to keep Jesse quiet during the performances:
The other day I looked out the window...

...and saw this.
Haley did her kindergarten program today. She was a doll.

See, all you who think I don't girlie her enough, I dressed her in a pretty pink dress just for the event!

And as per the kindergarten teachers' command and a signed contract, I did the conga with her. Sheesh! The kindergarteners congaing in a circle was adorable. Us parents, not so much. So after our little celebratory trip to Wendy's, I asked Haley to demonstrate her fantastic conga technique:

p.s. Yesterday I sold our van and bought a Ford Expedition. Which I love with a love that is probably beyond pure righteousness.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Years ago I heard a woman comment that her mother used to say in the afternoons, "Well, at least in a couple hours I'll know what I made for dinner."

It seemed a strange comment to me at the time, but now I understand how the question of WHAT'S FOR DINNER can loom larger and larger as the afternoon wears on and how unappetizing the task can seem. For years I've had a list of favorite dinners to chose from as I make the weekly menu and grocery list. But so often I sit staring at that list feeling I'd rather poke myself in the eye than make any of those things.

So I've finally come up with this:
It's all the dinners I like to make (and that, for the most part, my family likes to eat) in categories. The idea is that when I sit down to plan the weekly menu and shopping list, I can choose one item from each category and voila the job is done. If I keep four or more items in each category, we'll never end up eating the same thing more than once a month.

I even wrote out the "Cheater" category for those nights when schedules conspire to make an actual home-cooked dinner out of the question. When I'm too harried to even think up a quick dinner idea, I can just choose something lame like "eggs" off my handy list.

{We almost always eat meat-free dinners, but I do have "chicken" and "shrimp" categories that we draw from occasionally. And probably about twice a year, I get jonesin for ground beef and add that to some of our otherwise meat-free dishes.}

To celebrate, I reorganized my binder of magazine clippings and Enrichment handouts with pretty dividers corresponding with my new categories.

And on one busy night this week, we ate this:

* This is my 500th blog post. Sheesh.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Her Handiwork

This morning on npr, I heard a father on Story Corps telling his daughter about her mother, who died from cancer. He said, "She sculpted a life in you. You are her handiwork. And whenever I look at you, I remember your mother."

Tomorrow Haley and I fly to Dallas to visit my mother and grandmother, the women whose handiwork we are. We'll probably play some Hand and Foot, watch Murder, She Wrote, and do some shopping. This is Haley's first time on an airplane, and she's very, very excited about the complimentary Sprite. And it's our first time on a trip together, just us girls.

We better enjoy it, because this is what awaits us when we return:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Project Verdant Oasis: Phase Two

Remember our multi-phase initiative to greenify the backyard? Last week the sod arrived, and now things are much, much better. Future phases involve seeding remaining thin areas of lawn, planting tomatoes, replenishing mulch, and planting bushes in heretofore dark corners.
In the meantime, the kids are pursuing their own landscape vision. This bush on our front steps has long been the repository for bike helmets and scooters. The kids generally whiz home from school and ride their scooters right into the bush, which holds them nicely.

Someone got a bit frisky today and somehow landed their scooter three feet up.

Note to self: Add "trim front bushes" to Project Verdant Oasis before said bushes take over the world.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Great Thing about Brothers

The kids are back at school. So this was our last off-track with Logan, who will be a middle schooler next year and on a traditional schedule. Things just won't be the same next year without this energetic playmaker.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

I'm hatching some plans that should make this year a big one for me as a mother. And Mark and I have been investing some good thought and prayer on how to better helm this family's progress. I have a long, long list of things to be grateful for, and it begins and ends with this family.

At dinner, Mark commanded each of the kids to pay me a Mother's Day compliment:

"She has long, blonde hair."
(I think this is because in sacrament meeting today I pointed out to her a family of gorgeous dark-haired daughters and a blonde mother.)

Levi (waxing a bit silly)
"She's as sweet and righteous as an angel."

Roscoe (responding to Mark's pride and exhaustion over having made dinner)
"She makes dinner every day."

"She's good at solving problems."
(When I asked him what he meant, he said, "When Jesse throws a fit, you don't.")

Jesse (with complete sincerity and fervor):
"She's nice."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

etc and sundry

After being off track for more than a week, we finally crossed the Rubicon. Yesterday instead of waking up to squeals and bickering, I woke to the sound of Haley and Levi downstairs playing Sorry! Resolving all rules disputes peaceably. Then they moved on to chess. (How that pair resolved rule disputes on that one I know not.) It's so great when they get like this!


There's a chalkboard in the basement outside Roscoe and Logan's rooms where I like to write inspiring messages for my big boys. Logan has taken to adding his own comments--in verse. What's especially choice about this one is Roscoe's comment below Logan's ("Logan- not funny").
So that about sums up the personality differences between those two. (What they share in common is poor penmanship and spelling.)


My mother summoned all her creativity (and pent-up frustration over my penchant for baby boys) to create this bedroom-in-a-box for Haley.
Everything is reversible, so Haley can create whatever combination of polka-dots, stripes, or vines her little heart desires.

The day the box arrived, she said, "I can't wait to go to bed!"

So what I am doing now that I can bad-mouth people at will and don't have to read fifty pages of the Book of Mormon every night? Once I finished the Book of Mormon, I was excited to dive right back in. But this time I'm going slow and deep. I bought a new notebook where I'm keeping lists of each sermon, turning point, and battle. In the remainder of the book, I'm writing extensive notes on each right-hand page. Then my next time through the Book of Mormon, I can add notes on each left-hand page. So far I'm on 1 Nephi chapter 3. Using this method, I found new insights and inspiration even in chapter 1, which usually feels so worn-out and familiar.

Also I'm doing a Biggest Reader challenge with some friends on Facebook. I have to read at least 35 pages a day for the next three months. And if I'm the most consistent reader, I win the jackpot! (Which is like $30.) The reading part shouldn't be a problem--it's the getting dinner made at the same time that I struggle with.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Book of Mormon

The night before Jesse’s birthday, I completed my goal of finishing the Book of Mormon. In the last few weeks, I would sometimes read fifty pages at a time. Like every other time I’ve read the Book of Mormon, I’ve felt the tap of spirituality flowing into my life open wider as a result.

I understand that the idea of ancient golden plates located through help of an angel and translated by a farm boy strains credibility. But the idea that Joseph Smith himself wrote the Book of Mormon strains credibility as well.

The Book of Mormon was translated from start to 550-page finish in about 80 days. The only comparison I know of is Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which, the story goes, he wrote in three weeks by taping sheets of paper to make a scroll that would roll unbroken through his typewriter. But On the Road is largely autobiographical, with two main characters and a sequence of guest stars who emerge, play their part, then are left behind. Its narrative structure is a very simple, unified chronology. And Kerouac invested extensive note-taking and preparation before he began writing.

The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, has amazing narrative complexity. The plot splits among multiple people and places, then rejoins and dovetails, never getting stuck in a narrative corner. People and places mentioned once, come back up later.

This complexity is all the more amazing when you look at the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, the words written by scribes as Joseph Smith translated out loud for the very first time. There are no cross-outs, no re-dos. The scribes recount that Joseph smoothly read out his translation, as if reading from a page, with no hesitation or halting. When they took a break, he picked right up where they left off, by the word. Anyone who has written anything knows that not even a grocery list gets composed without revision.

I worked on the Joseph Smith Papers for a couple years, and the Book of Mormon is not written in Joseph Smith’s voice. In fact, one of the amazing things about it is that it’s written in many voices: Nephi’s, Alma’s, and scattered throughout, Mormon’s. My ear can hear the differences, and wordprint analysis concurs.

It's possible that Joseph Smith is one of the world's great literary geniuses and spun this tale from the limited literary models available to him. What belies this theory for me is the fact that once the Book of Mormon was complete, Joseph moved on. He dictated short revelations; he dabbled in learning Hebrew. But he never again attempted a grand literary piece. In fact, throughout his life he demonstrated dislike for the whole enterprise of writing. He felt he should write his history and journals, but he could hardly bring himself to do it. As if Mozart had all of the sudden written a symphony then quit music entirely.

These aren't the reasons I love the Book of Mormon, and you certainly couldn't build a testimony on any of this. I'm just sayin. It's an amazing piece of work, by any standard.