Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I'm still loving our (mostly) schedule-free summer. But this week we're taking a break from library days, playgroups, and loafing to pack up for a major summer roadtrip.

  1. Drive to the McGee cabin above Durango, Colorado, for Fourth of July weekend with Mark's entire family--happily, all his siblings will be there.
  2. The morning after Fourth of July, drive all the way to my parent's house in Plano, Texas. That's a sixteen-hour drive. We've never before tried to go so far in one day with kids. (Mark and I once drove straight from Provo to Chicago, but that was pre-Roscoe.) It's gonna be brutal. Mark and I have it plotted into four four-hour legs, with stops to gas up and feed Betsy.
  3. The very next morning, Mark flies to Ecuador. He and his brother are hiking Mount Chimborazo, which is the furthest point from the center of earth. (Though not the highest point above sea level, this due to the bulging of the earth around the equator. Ask Mark.)
  4. With luck, Mark will fly back to us in Texas ten days later.
  5. Then we'll all drive home together.
Summer roadtrips are one of our strongest family traditions. Mark and I love to swill Cokes and listen to 70s Southern rock as the road rolls under our wheels. We've crisscrossed Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas more times than we could count, and we've made it out to Washington, California, Michigan, and even Virginia, too. This will be our virgin voyage with six kids, though. Wish us luck.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our Hero

Yesterday Roscoe came home from a three-day youth conference. The kids greeted his return with the same enthusiasm they give Mark. They all crowded around him, eagerly talking over each other to tell him what they'd been up to.

In another two or three years, he'll move out. Right now the thought makes me literally sick to my stomach. I recently heard a mother of a new missionary say that the worst thing about her son leaving wasn't how much she missed him, but how much it hurt her to watch her children miss him. That's how we'll be. The kids look up to Roscoe on so many levels. Today Levi folded up the game board from Roscoe's Lord of the Rings Monopoly game the wrong way and sort of tore it in the process. Roscoe, who likes to keep his things in impeccable condition, had to struggle a moment to not say something rude about it. But his silent disappointment crushed poor, careless Levi, who I think will now work to be even more careful.

Roscoe has many wonderful qualities, but I think my favorite is his enduring airheadedness. For example:

"Mom, do you think I'm old enough to know what a tableau is? A tabloo? A tampoo?"

Turns out the young women at youth conference had tp'ed and, ahem, tamponed the young men's tent.


In other news, I have shingles. Which has been lame, but not as horrible as people's horror stories had led me to believe. Also, Logan fell from our willow tree on Friday night. We think he fell about twelve feet and landed on his tailbone and hip. Nothing appears to be broken, but the ER doc put him on crutches for three days to let everything heal. So it was kind of a rough week medically.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Custodian of the Chocolate

One of the most handy and loving things Mark does for me is fill the role of Custodian of the Chocolate. We buy a whole bag of, say, Lindor Truffles. We eat a precious few as a date-night snack. Then Mark hides the remainder somewhere. This way, I don't eat them all the next morning as soon as he leaves for work, and the next time we have a moment for a bit of shared indulgence, he pulls them out. If I'm truly desperate I can call him at work to divulge the location, or just root around our closet until I find them. Available but hidden. It's wonderful.

Yesterday, however, our elegant system was disrupted when I found a bag of hazelnut truffles on a shoe shelf in my closet. My shoe shelf is actually a much cleverer hiding place than it may first seem. I think that bag had been there for weeks. As you know, I have issues with putting away shoes. At this moment, there are no less than six pairs of my shoes in corners of this room. Which is strange since I've worn the same pair every day this week. (And stranger still since the occasion of my finding the truffles was me putting shoes away. Seriously, where did all these shoes come from?)

When Mark came home last night, I notified him of my find in the closet. I proudly told him that the truffles remained in place--I hadn't even touched them. He said, "I don't believe it."

Well, it was true. But that lackadaisical Custodian of Chocolate did not take the opportunity to re-hide the cache.

And now the truffles are all gone.

* This post brought to you by Betsy's morning nap.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Economics of Scale

Okay, I admit, I was kind of freaked out about summer vacation starting. I never want to be a mom who complains when her children are home--I mean, isn't having children around kind of the point of having children? And yet...my life was feeling so overwhelmingly full already. How could I carry on without any breaks at all?

Turns out, what I had been underestimating was the tyranny of the clock. This school year had five kids, one pregnancy/newborn, and four different school systems/districts, each with their own schedule and calendar. And no driver but me. Never again. By the time school starts again, Roscoe will at least be able to drive himself, and I'll never have four different schools again. With all the end-of-year parties and school activities, I was driving someone somewhere about every ninety minutes. Meaning that either I'm piling everyone into the car or leaving kids home unattended.

As soon as school stuff ended, our lives became infinitely more peaceful. We have time to do what we choose to do, rather than always squishing life into the cracks between scheduled activities.

Meanwhile, the economics of scale are killing me in the kitchen. We're going through a gallon of milk and a couple loaves of bread a day. The dishwasher is running twice a day. We demolish Costco-sized containers of produce in one lunch. I use serving bowls the size of jacuzzis. I serve what I think will be a ridiculous amount of food, and in minutes the kids are complaining of hunger.

My grocery budget has been about $130 per week, but now that's becoming more like $150-160 per week. (That's not including a biweekly Target run for household miscellany like toothpaste and printer paper and cleaning supplies.) I try to alternate weekly trips to Costco and our local warehouse-type grocery store. I don't do store-hopping for deals because I don't have the time or mental energy, but we do have a mostly from-scratch, mostly vegetarian menu.

So I'd love to know: What is your grocery budget?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Betsy, 3 months

Speaking of my constant state of mourning, Betsy is three months old. I'm sort of heartbroken that her newborn life is officially over. But also I love three-month-olds. They are so dang cute!

Happy to her toes.

I think Betsy has the most beautiful eyes in the world.

The Buddha of Prosperity

So alert and engaged!

And because she has brothers...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

School Year Recap

The tragedy of motherhood is that you’re in a constant state of mourning. Each stage of childhood is so fleeting, and the child you love today quickly turns into someone else entirely. Exhibit A: The six-foot-two baritone in my kitchen; five minutes ago he was a little blonde toddler.

On the other hand, the great joy of motherhood is watching each child grow and learn and develop. You can almost see their wet wings unfurl and spread. To celebrate the start of summer, here’s a recap of what everyone accomplished this school year.

Roscoe – 10th grade

Roscoe triumphed in his first year at what to me seems like a huge high school. He had a challenging course load, including Chemistry, Spanish 4, and AP Language Arts.  Last time I saw a progress report he had not just As, but like 97% in each class.

He has found a real passion for theater. In the fall he was in his school’s uber-competitive Shakespeare team, which went on to win about every award there was at the Cedar City Shakespeare festival. Roscoe totes around my huge Complete Works of Shakespeare from college as he sings songs from musicals.

In addition, his drive to do good and be good remains absolutely stunning. He is a fantastically pleasant, engaged, and service-minded person.

Logan – 7th grade

Logan also started a new school this year. He moved from elementary school to middle school at Hawthorn Academy, a new charter school in our area. He though he’d hate the school, but decided he loved it within a week or two. Then he went through a rough period of adolescent angst. He became a rude and uncooperative person who did basically zero schoolwork. Our super social young man spent hours alone in a darkened bedroom. This mama shed many tears on his behalf.  I used every shred of energy and patience my pregnant self could muster to hold the line on expectations and consequences. It was really all a mess.

Then sometime after Christmas, his mind and heart clicked up a gear. Suddenly homework happened, arguing diminished, he came out of his room. He was so much more pleasant, earned so much more trust and privileges, and was such a happier person.

By the end of the year, the teacher with whom he had kind of had a relationship of mutual frustration, was lauding him in front of the school as a stellar example of the results of a positive attitude.

I’m so grateful that Logan had these experiences this year. Really. He learned some valuable lessons about who he is, who he wants to be, and the happy consequences of decent behavior. I love the young man he’s becoming.

Levi - 3rd grade

They say third grade is a big milestone because it’s the year they stop teaching you how to read and how to do school and start just teaching you. It’s the first of the big-kid grades. Levi remains a strong student and a pleasant, cooperative class member. Last week he won the “Leadership” award for his class for his all-around good citizenship.

To me the most exciting thing Levi did this year was read the entire Harry Potter series. Like Roscoe and Logan in their day, Levi began the series when its reading level was still a bit above his head. But the story is so gripping, that the kids read and read and read. And their reading level keeps up with the advancing complexity of the books. Harry Potter and co. are part of our daily family discourse.

Levi also deepened his love of sports this year. He wore his two Jazz jerseys to tatters and insisted on donning thin athletic shorts throughout our snowy winter. He played fall and spring soccer as well as winter basketball. He also took his first year of piano lessons.

Haley – 1st grade

First grade is a bit of mini-adolescence as kids transition from little preschooler/kindergarteners to full-blown school kids. Haley learned to keep up with the big kids by going to school all day, riding to the school with the scooter pack, reading chapter books, and playing her own season of soccer. Don’t tell Levi, but her reading level is just a step or two behind his.

Just between you and me, Haley’s rough start in life presents her with challenges to this day. And will, perhaps, forever. I’m so grateful that academics have come so easily to her. At school she is in her element, doing things she knows she’s good at and that she enjoys.

Jesse – second year of preschool

Oh, Jesse. You know I love him. But letters and numbers he still does not know. Fits he still throws. Cooperation is not among his skills. The boy acts like a three-year-old most of the time. My current plan is to enroll him in kindergarten next year. And the year after. Jesse’s charm, energy, and creativity know no bounds. But I think he’ll benefit from the gift of an extra year of maturity and development.

Betsy - zero

This is perhaps the biggest year of Betsy’s life. At the end of last school year she was nothing more than a twinkle in her mother’s eye. Throughout the year she piled on neurons and organs and eyelashes. She is now a whopping three months old, with rolls of chub and bright eyes that testify to her bright future.