Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Space

Each spring when I start wearing flip-flops again, I realize how small a bubble I live in. You know how when you take a step in flip-flips, you first roll up onto your toes, leaving the heel part of the shoe still lying flat on the ground? Well, in the early spring, my kids step on that. So then when the heel of the shoe needs to “flop,” I seize up short, pinned to the ground by some too-close little hooligan. The kids are so close they’re standing within my footprint.

Elbows in my stomach, sticky hands on my face, on my lap not next to it, lurking outside the bathroom door, bursting into my bedroom. But it’s not just physical space I crave. When I’m stick, tired, or overwhelmed, I feel like life is closing in around me, like I can hardly get a clear breath of air.

Today I feel space for the first time in months. Kids one through four are at school. After a pretty nightmarish weekend of some terrible stomach flu or food poisoning, I feel well. I opened the windows to let in fresh air and caught up on some housekeeping.

This summer was a bit challenging since the kids’ release from school coincided perfectly with me not feeling well. The summer waves of vacations and houseguests—though welcome—did feel kind of overwhelming at times. But still. That’s life.

I think, some people, when they’re sick or overwhelmed or whatever, bail out. They tell the world, “No, I can’t drive carpool / make your dinner / teach Primary / watch your kids / go on an outing.” I almost never cancel. I do it all. But with teeth clenched and a grim expression on my face. All summer long I think my kids suffered with a mildly grumpy and detached mom, rarely an enthusiastic and warm one.

The need for a bit of space—psychological and otherwise—is real and valid. But still. In the coming year, I’ll have plenty of times when I feel exhausted, sore, distracted, and burdened. I’ve got to find a way to be patient and joyful regardless.

I think I’ll start with bailing out on Levi’s Cub Scout pack meeting tonight.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mormons Who Support a Mosque Near Ground Zero

Another crazy thing about this week: I've been working on fomenting a little public opinion groundswell. Have you heard all the brouhaha about this proposed mosque a couple blocks away from Ground Zero? If not, google will deliver plenty of info. Vocal opponents feel it tarnishes the memory of 9/11's victims to allow anything Muslim anywhere near Ground Zero.

But Mormons, I thought, should have special sympathy for Muslims on this:

~ Beginning with the horrible and sometimes violent persecution Mormons received in their early decades, we have always needed to combat bias and prejudice, often based on misunderstanding of who we really are and what we really stand for. Just like Muslims.

~ To this day, we often face opposition as we build hundreds of temples and meetinghouses all around the world. These buildings are not symbols of American imperialism or anything else nefarious--they're places for our members to gather, recreate, learn, and worship. Just like the proposed mosque.

~ Mormons must counter the fallacy that we are the same as our radical off-shoots. We hasten to assure the world that we are not polygamists, that our faith is not Warren Jeffs'. We don't want to be called to answer for the actions of extremist minorities who call themselves Mormons. Just as the Muslims building this mosque have little in common with those who drove planes into the Twin Towers.

So I started a Facebook group, "Mormons Who Support a Mosque Near Ground Zero." In its first day, eight of my friends and family members joined. Within 48 hours, I was called to be on the local news discussing the group and Mormons' support for the mosque. Yesterday the group reached 100 members and today it's almost doubled.*

So here's the thing: I am not the first to notice that Mormons and Muslims have some commonalities on this issue. See here and here, for examples. Some people are criticizing us for not standing up for Muslims' right to access the same religious freedom we defend for ourselves. And I've been sadly shocked to see how much ignorance and vitriol is displayed toward us in Internet chatter.

If you agree that "members of a religious group that has been persecuted almost to extinction [meaning Mormons] should stand up and speak out," I hope you'll consider joining the Facebook group and posting your support on twitter or your blog (or however you roll). Let the world know that Mormons work for goodwill, cooperation, freedom, and love across denominational lines.

*Update: As of 8/31, the count is up to 260.

First Day of School, v3 & 4

Levi starting 3rd grade yesterday.

Haley starting 1st grade today.

The good news--the important news--is that all the kids are getting a great start to the school year. Levi and Haley both love their teachers. Logan, who was very nervous about starting a new middle school without his friends, has been totally won over by his enthusiastic teachers. Roscoe, whose huge high school intimidates even his mother, seems to be taking the place by storm and has won plum parts in the school's highly competitive, award-winning Shakespeare team. It's a real blessing and relief to feel all the kids are on the right track for a year of happiness and growth.

The other news is that these weeks of new starts and new schedules every day has been amazingly exhausting. We're packing up for a weekend trip to the McGee cabin and I'm pulling myself around the house like it's the Bataan death march.

Next week, I'm hoping, will be much, much smoother.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First Day, v2 & a Festivus Miracle

Yesterday was the second first day of school. Roscoe, who is a sophomore, started at Hillcrest High School, which we learned at registration when we were searching for his locker has all kinds of dark, winding hallways that lead nowhere. Apparently he took it all in stride. And I took not one picture. Oh well.

~~~~~~~~

For months Jesse has slept on his floor. More specifically on the floor in his doorway, where he is right in the middle of anyone passing by and where he's in danger of being stepped on. It's not conducive to good sleep. In desperation last night at 10:00 I said, "Why won't you sleep in your bed?" Miraculously, he gave a straight answer: "The sheet are too cold." We swapped his cute cowboy sheets for flannel ones and gol' darn it if that boy didn't climb into his bed and go to sleep. He even allowed me to put a flannel pillowcase on the nasty pillow he normally insists on using sans case. He looked so civilized in an actual bed. It was a Festivus Miracle.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Projects

From now til my birthday is officially the Season of Projects for me. That's the time I have decreed I will be feeling energetic and well and will tackle every unorganized corner and scuffed paint job. Right now the real project is getting the kids back to school. But with the help of a neighbor, I did accomplish this today:

It's salsa made from the jalapenos, green peppers, and tomatoes from our very own gardens. This is probably the tenth recipe for canned salsa I've used and I'm still not over the moon with the outcome. This recipe does have the improvement of using lime juice instead of vinegar to boost the acidity.

Here's an upcoming project:

It's a wall-to-wall dresser set for Jesse and Levi's room. Mark and I scored it off craigslist last night. It's two dressers and a student desk, each with a bookshelf hutch where the boys can display their creations and treasures. I'm going to paint the whole thing and add new pulls. This will be a huge improvement over their current dresser:


Yikes. This is a disaster only partly because the boys are slobs and largely because the drawers don't open and close properly. This dresser used to hold their daddy's boy clothes and is now disintegrating to splinters despite the fact that my heroic father-in-law has buttressed it with wood glue, screws, and shims numerous times. The poor man basically walks into my house and begins trying to reassemble this sad dresser. But no more!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First Day of School, v1

Sad but true, we've already had our first first day of school. This year, despite all my excitement about everyone being on traditional schedules and the potential for unified calendars, we'll have five of them. Every single child starts school on a different day. Even the ones going to the same school.

Poor Logan, who was the last person to go to school--on July 2!--was the first to go back. As a seventh grader, he starts middle school. So that's a big leap. Also, he started at a charter school rather than the middle school where most of his friends are. Another big leap.

Fortunately, this boy has a talent for making clothes look good, even slightly dorky school uniforms.

Just thinking of Logan these days warms my heart. Turning twelve and getting the Aaronic Priesthood has really helped him realize the value of responsibility and duty and righteousness, which has been a huge blessing for him. He is a much happier person now that he has learned a little more about doing his part. Not too many parents can say that their twelve-year-old is more cooperative and pleasant than he was a year ago. But we can.

Logan is worried about the bad influences rumored to run amok at middle school. He's worried about keeping up with all his classes. These are worries that will help him rise to the challenge. And we're here to help.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Loyal Sidekick

I think it must not be easy to be the husband of a pregnant woman.

When Mark drove me to the hospital to deliver Jesse, we got out of the car right at the curb. But before we could make it the few steps to the door, a contraction hit, and I sat down on a bench while it crashed over me. Two hospital personnel saw me and came over, asking, "Are you alright?" and "Do you need a wheelchair?" I totally ignored them. Didn't even lift my head to make eye contact. That's how you know you're in real labor: when you care not one itsy iota about manners or modesty or decorum or anything at all on heaven or earth beyond the drama within your own body.

In some ways the nine months of pregnancy is a progression to that moment of total self-absorption. The rest of the world matters less and less, as what's in your body grows. Resting and eating and tending to the body that houses the baby becomes ever more challenging and consuming. It's a self-absorption that's really not the same as selfishness, but still--it can't be fun to be the largely helpless sidekick of someone who becomes increasingly distant and grumpy.

Praise the heavens above, Mark has been a very, very supportive partner in Project Coda.

Exhibit A:
Today as I dragged my tired self out the door for yet more back-to-school errands, he said, "Honey, while you're out, why don't you get yourself a Diet Coke and an Arby's sandwich." Which happen to be two of my favorite self-medicating vices. (I'll admit there's a bit of his self-interest working here: he wants me to awake tonight long enough to go see Prince of Persia.)

Exhibit B:
Last night, after quietly watching me snap at yet another child, Mark gently took the kitchen broom out of my hand and said, "Why don't you go lie down while I finish this?"

Exhibit C:
Afternoon naps have become mandatory but elusive as my five kids and their two million friends cycle in and out of my house. Today I had the best nap ever, and it turned out to be thanks to this:
Mark, thank you for being my partner in all things. Especially this one.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Low Tech

I searched high and low for a sleek CD book for my kitchen desk. Why are CD books so expensive? And ugly? And bulky? Finally, I hit on this simple solution. It's the little spiral notebook that used to sit at my business desk and that contains notes on potential clients and upcoming to-dos.

For years I've been wanting a compost bin but could never a. hit on a stink/pest free solution, or b. convince someone to help me execute this. We stole this idea from our friend Emily. Roscoe made it in an afternoon by drilling big holes all over a trash can. We hook a bungee cord from handle to handle to hold the lid secure and then roll it around the yard to mix and aerate.


Ladies, remember this trick with a hair elastic? Just right for, shall we say, certain seasons in a woman's life.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Project Coda

So here’s what happened: I was sitting in sacrament meeting one generic Sunday when a prompting fell upon me like a giant drop of water falling onto my head—ploop—“You should get pregnant.”

“No, no, no,” I scoffed. And over the next several days all the reasons why this was impractical, uncomfortable, expensive, and unrealistic cycled through my mind. But I had walked through an invisible wall, into the land of “You should get pregnant,” and there was no going back.

As I’ve said, Mark and I have felt guided and directed at all of our lives’ major junctures, and even when the prompting has told us to do crazy things like get married, have another baby, become foster parents, or finish that Ph.D., we’ve followed through and always been grateful for it. So despite all objections, get pregnant we did.

This may seem to you like pretty banal news, but it feels like a big deal to me. A twenty-five-year old with two or three kids announce she’s pregnant and receives an “Awww, how sweet!” and a “Congratulations!” A thirty-eight-year-old who already has five kids? She gets, “Uhh, was this on purpose?” And that’s what people say. Quietly, they’re thinking, “Aren’t you a bit long in the tooth? Aren’t your hands full already? Isn’t that kind of crazy?” Now every time I’m frazzled or disheveled, I’ll be providing the world with evidence that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

So I’m ten weeks pregnant. And they’ve been rough weeks. I’ve spent them lying in what feels like a drug-induced stupor of exhaustion, clenching my teeth and clutching icy glasses of Diet Pepsi. I’m feeling much, much better now and ready to rejoin the land of the living.

We announced the news to the kids last night for Family Home Evening, and they were very excited. Levi keeps coming up to me and snuggling my stomach. Haley keeps saying, “I hope it’s a girl!” while the boys respond flatly, “It won’t be.” Last night, Logan announced, “You sit here while I clean the kitchen, for I am your fateful [sic] servant.”

Mark and I have been calling this baby Coda, because it is our grand finale.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Los Cinco

Finally Roscoe is back from his two-week trip to visit family in Dallas. And before he left, Levi had Cub Scout day camp, and before that Logan was at Scout camp for a week. So it's been a long time since I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw all five faces. The kids are almost giddy about being reunited. It was a pretty rollicking morning around here.

At lunchtime we drove to a Title I school across the neighborhood that serves free meals to kids. The kids talked about who knows what and laughed their way through lunch together. We were easily the most festive table in the joint. Our own self-contained party.

After lunch we went to the school playground. The kids worked to balance themselves on a teeter-totter. Does Roscoe and Haley equal Logan, Levi, and Jesse? They tried combination after combination. What if Levi sits behind Logan with Jesse on his lap? They never did get it perfectly balanced. And I know why.

There's still one missing. One little face who, once we finally see it, we'll know is as essential to our group as any of the others. Then we'll realize that this sense of someone missing we've had while Roscoe was gone has really been with us all the while.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Our New Path, a Teaser

Okay, here's why I'm not blogging: I can't yet tell you about what's really going on in my life. Something big. Something that in some ways is a major change of direction for our family.

But in other ways, it's a continuation of what we've always done--to follow what we feel are God's promptings. Though they make take us down paths that appear thorny, windy, or rocky, those paths have also always been rewarding and enriching. We have always felt very blessed to be able to feel God's guidance at all our major junctures, and we have always felt blessed and supported as we try to follow that guidance.
So here we are, at another surprising bend in the road. I just need to take care of a couple more things, and then I'll tell you all about it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Levi's Baptism

The real highlight of the reunion for me was Levi's baptism. Mark scoped out an idyllic little lake, and our entire group--new babies and all--schlepped up to it.

It was a beautiful venue.
But what made it truly special for me was Levi.
His countenance was so pure and happy. His baptism clearly meant something special to him, and his radiant little spirit shone bright.

Mark conducted a little meeting. Logan gave a talk.
Then Levi and Mark found their footing on the lake bottom.


It was a very happy day for our family.