Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Overflowing

Sometimes people comment on how Roscoe must be such a wonderful inspiration and example to his siblings. I nod and agree, but really I wonder if he's not. The kids see Roscoe as unapproachably perfect. Great grades. Amazing work ethic. Relentlessly righteous. He works at McDonald's! He drives his own car! They adore him. They bask when they get a moment of his attention. But I don't think they think they can be like him.
Was Roscoe excited about his last day of work at McDonalds...
...or was he not? 
Roscoe, of course, is not actually perfect. But truly he is an amazing, special, rareified creature. Everyone knows it.

Everyone but Roscoe, I fear. Sometimes I think Roscoe is a little lonely up on that pedestal we've made for him

Mark and I mostly let Roscoe do his own thing. We support whatever decisions he makes. We say yes to almost everything he asks for. When he comes to us for advice, we tell him we're sure he'll make the right choice. The irony is that if I were to have one beef about my nearly perfect upbringing, this would be it. I look back on my teenage years and see that the veneer of competence and assurance I gave off was largely a farce and that I could have benefited from a little more guidance, advice, and hand-holding from my wise parents. (Even today, in fact!)
Bets escaped from bed last night and pattered downstairs to  do some YouTube watching with Roscoe. See how they're sharing earbuds? So sweet! Betsy is smart enough to know that quiet and cuddly girls are allowed to stay up late, just for fun.
My philosophy with babies is to fill them up with so much love and sweetness that it overflows from them for the rest of their lives. Roscoe got plenty of that, so I do take a teensy bit of credit for his loving heart that I filled. But this time next year Roscoe will likely be down south in a dorm room. Til then,  it's my chance to fill him with even more strength, affirmation, and encouragement. The next few years--starting college, serving a mission, choosing a career, finding a spouse--will be major for him. We know that he can do it. I need to make sure he knows.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The End of the Era of Sloth and Decadence

Yesterday at this time, our front yard looked like this...


...plus a rotating cadre of about twenty screaming kids. Our water slide party was open from nine to five (with a lunch break in the middle that actually turned into teen time), and for that entire time a kid came down the slide about every five seconds. It was pretty awesome.

Today, we looked like this:

Hawthorn kids, 2012: Logan, 9th grade; Levi, 5th grade; Haley, 3rd grade
Kind of a jarring transition for all of us. But a welcome one. I've loved the unstructured vibe of this summer, but I have to admit, as August has worn on it's worn a bit thin. We all seemed to get kind of cranky and bored. This year the promise of sharp pencils, fresh starts, and new routines seems especially alluring.

Here are a few of the course corrections we're making in our family routine:

- Scripture Study. This was basically non-existent this summer. And last year, Roscoe had early-morning seminary so he missed family scripture study each morning. (In fact, he was gone before anyone else woke up in the mornings and was often home in the evenings after the little kids had gone to bed. Not healthy family dynamics.) This year, Roscoe is banned from early-morning seminary, so we're re-committed to whole-family scripture study promptly at 6:45. I'm a firm believer in the blessings of fortifying kids with a bit o family gospel before sending them out into the big, wide world.

- Zones. I'm still loving our zones chore system. But Roscoe often isn't home to do his, and I've never taken the time to teach/enforce a zone for Jesse. So I've made Jesse and Roscoe zone partners. When Roscoe is home, he can teach and encourage Jesse. When Roscoe is gone, Jesse's got him covered.

- Dinnertime. With teenagers, our all-together family time is a rare commodity. So we're trying to improve the quality of our dinnertimes. The new rule: Everyone stays at the table until everyone is finished. (Everyone except Haley, who eats at the pace of a snail.) Then we all clear and tidy together. This way, our together time is extended, and our many hands make light work of clean-up, leaving Mark and I more time for other, funner things. I'm also hoping this will help teach certain children to eat more slowly and enjoy their meals.

- My routine. Year by year I systematize my routines more and more. It seems to help me accomplish more stuff more easily. I already have a deep-clean task for each day of the week and a weekly schedule for errands and trips to the gym. This year, I created an order of operations for my morning to keep me moving when I tend to be groggy and aimless.

Any fabulous new routines cooking at your house?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

6 Word Love Poems

Meet. Make out. Hyphenate. Procreate. Exaltate.

That's our plan in a nut shell.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sephora

"When we are honest with ourselves, we know that it is not 'Me Time' we need or a 'Girls' Night Out.' Children are not a burden to escape or endure; they are a blessing that drives us to Christ because we are incapable of parenting well without Him."
      ~ Large Family Logistics, The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family, Kim Brenneman*

The other day, Mark came home from work not to find apron-bedecked me putting the finishing touches on a nutritious, home-cooked, vegetarian meal in the kitchen while the children tidied the house--and yes he's lucky enough to often find just such a scene. Instead I was lying on our bed watching hulu. The kids had been bickering all day, one putting out an invitation for a bit of contention, the other quickly accepting, the next escalating the whole thing a bit more. I had been managing and reprimanding and and imploring and giving consequences all day and finally decided that if they all really wanted to gather together to snipe at each other, well then I'd go elsewhere.

I think that was the same night that Mark asked me about Family Home Evening plans and I responded with, "Oh yeah, because more family time is just what I need!" (This was in the privacy of our bedroom, which we use as sort of a free-speech zone.)

Hm, and come to think of it, that was the same night I delivered what I thought was a lovely little lesson on bearing testimonies, but at the end the kids had been so rotten that I told them that I didn't feel comfortable sharing my testimony with them.

Okay, so maybe Mark was justified in doing what he did next. Later that evening, he announced that he had arranged for our good friends the Flemings to come over on Thursday night. He and Steve would stay home with the kids while Lee and I would go out on the town. I guess I was feeling a little sheepish that Mark had felt the need to call in the cavalry, but Lee and I are not ones to pass on a chance for some time together, so we agreed. (And remember my recent vow to just take a break every once in a while?)

We had the most wonderful evening together. Lee and I talked nonstop all the way through out dinner at the Blue Lemon. (Topics covered included the new math core curriculum in Utah, the role of Khan Academy in education reform, the role of foster care in rehabilitating dysfunctional families, whether the BYU Religion Department is truly academic or primarily devotional, and ward members who make unreasonable demands for baby showers and meals.)

Then we went to Sephora, where I was in search for a red lipstick. After becoming BFFs with our makeup rep, I went home with Nars Jungle Red. What do you think? Lovely, but do I ever dare wear this in public? I'm speaking in church on Sunday and teaching Relief Society. Should I go for it? (Picture forthcoming.)

Then Lee and I walked through Restoration Hardware, discussing the plays with scale, the juxtapositions of rustic and high-brow, the expensive things we could hack for cheap. My very favorite thing was this:

See? It's like a gigantic recreation of an old-fashioned gentleman's steamer trunk, but the little drawers and compartments are like library card catalog drawers and the whole thing is a fold-up office. I love everything about it. (And it's only $3,225!!)

It's hard to express how much Mark would not have enjoyed this itinerary. He doesn't really get (which is not to say that he opposes) my love for aesthetic. I came home feeling awash in new ideas and images and very refreshed indeed.


* I love this quote, and I'm enjoying this book of systems and tips for managing a large family more efficiently. But I can't get on board with the author's view of a mother's "second-in-command" relationship with her husband or her somewhat extreme view on how much a mother should "sacrifice" her "Self" to her family.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sonar

I used to mock my mother for waking up the in morning and saying something like, "Who coughed last night?"  But now I'm relating a little too much.

Parental sonar is a wonderful thing. It alerts you to the fridge opening, rocks throwing, fights escalating, toilet water splashing, the kind of manic on-the-brink laughter that always leads shortly to tears, or the kind of ominous silence that means that the kids are up to no good. I can sleep through the garbage truck, but wake up the moment Betsy cries or Jesse's hand is on the bathroom door.

Apparently my sonar has been so finely tuned for so long that it's on hyperdrive. My own personal PTSD. There are enough people here--with Betsy crying or Jesse taking a potty break or Roscoe coming home from a late night with friends or Logan sneaking into the kitchen for a snack or Levi launching into yet another audio book--that there's always something pinging my sonar. (Except Haley, who never wakes us, even when she really, really should.)

My mom hasn't lived with needy youngsters for years, but she still has to sleep with earplugs to muffle her hypervigilance. Ri ght now I have the bathroom fan running to mask the sounds of mayhem from downstairs. I think I need more earplugs.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Splash Pad

First, Little Miss Polka Dot stood outside the fence watching.
 Hmmm...
 Then she walked through the gate...
 ...until she got near the water.
 Watching the kids.
 Thinking about getting wet.
 Good thing she had Haley to help.
 Sunbathers.
 Always a superhero.
 King of the Mountain.
 This picture shows two new things about our summer.
First, I decided that this summer I don't have to force the teenagers to do the same activities as the kids. Good because I don't have to feel like a mean tyrant for staging a trip to the splash pad. Bad because we miss our big boys! Second, this summer we have a new batch of cousins living nearby. So fun to have visitors!