Friday, October 18, 2013

How to Prepare Your Son to Serve an LDS Mission

The real, simple answer is Get Lucky. All children have to find their own path, their own moral compass. And for some that process involves twists, turns, and hard-knock lessons. Having a child who is willing to follow God's commandments with minimal rebellion is luck of the draw. That said, as I reflect on sending Roscoe out, here are a few things that I feel were key in helping him make it this far.

Fill em with Love
From the moment they are conceived, fill your baby with love, affirmation, and delight. When they're an infant, you can pour it on in huge globbing doses. As time goes on, they can receive less and less, so maximize your chances while they're young.

Teach Values
Link every family rule, every parental instruction--from "Clean your room" to "Use your napkin"--to eternal principles of choice, consequence, accountability, sacrifice, obedience, and charity. Then let them make their own choices and reap the rewards.

Teach the Gospel
Every Sunday, Family Home Evening, family scripture study, and teachable moment is mission prep. Misision prep isn't something best crammed for. Teach the principles and doctrines, and scripture stories day in and day out from the very start.

Have horrible conversations..
Starting younger than you think, have an ongoing series of painfully awkward conversations about things like wet dreams, pornography, girls, puberty, hair. If you are very lucky, make your husband do these. The conversations should start before your boy really has any idea what you're talking about. These early conversations can be vague on the details. Then have the same conversations again when they're getting an idea, and again when they're in the thick of it all.

...and just tiresome ones.
Teenagers do want to talk to their parents. Just usually they want to do so at inopportune moments. And face it, in a busy family, it's hard for them to find a moment to get your undivided attention. If, just when you are finally cracking open your new book at ten o'clock at night, your teenage son plops on the foot of your bed, listen. If, just when you have finally gotten the little kids to sleep, your teenage son wants to vent about his stupid teenage friends doing stupid teenage things at a stupid teenage party, listen. When they are open, you must be open. Because it does not work the other way around.

(Although, you can often create an open moment in which to talk to your teen by whisking them away suddenly for random fast food. We refer to this as "Fast Food Parenting." As in, "Hey, it might take us a long time to get home from that SAT info meeting because I think our son could use a little Fast Food Parenting.")

Shop Quality
We decided not to buy Roscoe the cheapest missionary gear we could find. Shipping replacements to Argentina will be pricey and we want him to look presentable, not rumpled and cheap. We bought his suit, shoes, and several other things from Missionary Mall. They guarantee everything for two years. If it wears out, email them a photo and they'll replace it for free. This actually won't do us much good since we would pay the shipping, which as I said, is prohibitive. But this policy has given them both a motivation to sell long-wearing gear and lots of consumer data with which to tweak their offerings. For example, read here about how they developed their shoes with their manufacturer based on missionary feedback. We bought Roscoe several Traveler's shirts from Jos. A. Banks. Again, not the cheapest option, but apparently these shirts Do. Not. Wrinkle. We bought them at a 3 for $99 sale.

Grieve in Advance
I am so grateful for all the friends who told me that dropping their son at the MTC was the hardest day of their life. That prospect scared me to death. The week before D-day, I cried every morning and every night just thinking of the moment I was toDrop. Off. My. Baby. And. Drive. Away. It seemed unfathomable. But by the time D-day dawned, I had processed a lot of those feelings and was able to focus more on the joy and excitement.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Second Labor

Today is Roscoe's last day at home. Every passing comment he makes feels laden with significance.

Roscoe: "Thanks for the veggie burger, Mom."
Me: *sniff sniff*

It's hard not to wax dramatic about how after today our family will never be the same, never be as together. Thinking of coming home tomorrow and seeing his car in the driveway, his empty room. Thinking of Betsy saying goodbye to him, the empty kitchen chair, Logan alone on a Saturday night...


Last night we had a beautiful Family Home Evening. Mark and I decided we want to help all the kids think of Roscoe's mission as something great that they are all contributing to. We reminded them of the great things our family has accomplished as a team--being a foster family, helping Mark finish his Ph.D., supporting Mark in the bishopric--and the extra sense of blessing, purpose, and unity we had as a result. Mark told the story of the first McGees to encounter missionaries. We talked about how Mark's family and my family both came to the gospel through missionaries and the huge rippling waves of lives that have been blessed as a result. It was a beautiful evening.

When Roscoe was born, I thought his birth was the hardest thing I had ever done. It changed me forever. Put me in a new place in the world. It was hard. But completely worth it. And I've done many hard things since.

Ditto sending my firstborn out of the nest. I think dropping Roscoe off on the cub will be the hardest thing I have ever done. It'll put our family in an entirely different context. But it's completely worth it, and I hope to do the exact same thing several more times.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Roscoe's Farewell

Roscoe's farewell Sunday was a sweet, sweet day.

Here are just a few of the people who showed up to hear Roscoe's lovely talk in sacrament meeting. Including both McGee grandparents and his Grandma Ashurst. ("You mean, we're gonna have double grandma action up in here?" he asked me the week before. Yes indeed, a missionary gets double grandma action.)
 Then we paused in all the missionaryness to document brotherly awesomeness.

 Logan, I must say, has been a real champ through all our missionary mania. Approximately 1,394 people have said to him something along the lines of, "Well, you're next, Logan." Which is exactly the kind of pressure and assumption that rubs him the wrong way. But he has remained Roscoe's gracious supporter.
 That evening, we had a cookie party and put together what I think was a beautiful little dessert buffet table. Thanks to my sister Nancy for the fabulous banner. (The Spanish error you see is my fault, not hers. My hispanohablante sister-in-law informed me that the banner says, "Argentina is alive!" which is not really what I had in mind. But whatever.)

The house was soon a happy throng of loved ones and well wishers.
It all ended with this.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

Little Miss Elizabeth has a favorite TV show and it's Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, a show I can't say enough good things about. It seems like each of the kids has had a favorite show as a toddler. For some it was Teletubbies, for some it was Blue's Clues, for Haley it was Dora. Thank heavens no one here ever really fell in love with Barney! But this sweet little show is perfect for Betsy and it's a really blessing to our family.

Do you remember Daniel Tiger from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood? This show is an animated Mr. Rogers takeoff that is set in the the make-believe world Mr. Roger's trolley used to travel to. It features Prince Tuesday and Mr. McFeely and X the Owl and the whole cast. Daniel even puts on a sweater and tennis shoes while singing, "Won't you be my neighbor?" during the opening credits. The show is soft and sweet and repetitive, like any good show for toddlers should be. But my favorite part are the "strategy songs."

Here's an example of a useful strategy song. You know how you're always struggling to get a toddler to stop doing one thing and start another? Time to stop playing and get ready for bed. Time to stop swinging and come inside. Daniel Tiger's friends have this same problem. When it happens, their parent sings,

"It's almost time to stop, 
so choose one more thing to do." 

The little creature chooses to go down the slide once more or reads one more book. Then the parent sings,

"That was fun but now it's done." 

(For a video of this song, go here, then scroll down to the item called "It's time for bed.")

I love having this in my toolbox for Betsy. Sometimes I sing the first part, "It's almost time to stop..." and a few minutes later, with no more prompting, she sings the second part, "That was fun but now it's done." In fact, throughout the day Betsy sings herself little cues from Daniel Tiger. Things like--

"Stop and listen to stay safe." 
"Use your words and tell me how you feel." 
"If you can't do it alone, work together."
"Say 'I'm sorry,' it's the first step. Then 'Can I help?'"
"Eat breakfast, brush teeth, put on shoes, then off to school!"
"Making something is one way of saying 'I love you.'"
"Do something nice for your neighbor. Do something nice for your friend."

The kids have even caught on to the magic of Daniel Tiger's jingles. When Betsy is struggling with something, they'll say, "Is there a Daniel Tiger song for this?" And often, there is.

Apparently Mr. Rogers is a gift who keeps on giving. If you've never fully appreciated Mr. Rogers, watch this, where his sincerityand guilelessness basically conquer the Senate.

Where can you see Daniel Tiger, you ask. On an expensive cable channel? Oh no, it's for free on our good ol' pbs. Thanks for that too, Mr. Rogers.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Today Jesse's school journal contained this:
See the little heart above the red-headed scientist's head? It's because "he loves his potion bottles."

For his birthday, Jesse received from his grandpa a beautiful, handmade wooden toolbox full of all manner of supplies: nails, screwdrivers, popsicles sticks, zip ties, brackets, string, a pencil... It was just what Jesse needed to spark is imagination and inventiveness. Each morning of the summer, he would wake with a plan in mind and immediately begin scouring the house for the requisite supplies.

 This is a dart gun. The "arrow" is a ball and stick you see here inserted in a piece of PVC pipe.

This is a pair of binoculars made with a soap container and a plastic cup.

Look, on the inside there's a separate little tube for each of your eyes to look through.

This one is my absolute favorite. It's a meerkat claw. Made with a garden tool, popsicle sticks, a winter glove, and of course, tape.

Sometimes Jesse would wake up in the morning with an idea for new supplies he needed. Maybe suction cups or masks. He discovered that almost anything can be found on amazon, so we'd do some research, identify his price point, and figure out how much money he needed to earn. I pay a dollar for every two jobs, so we'd make a chart like this to show how many jobs he needed to do. He was amazingly great on the follow-through and earned money for some truly great gear--most notably a huge ninja-strength grapple hook.

The mess from all this was..substantial. Jesse basically worked diligently all day every day, roaming the house and garage, and virtually anything could become his fodder. Tape, of course. Also kitchen implements, garbage, clothes hangers... Here he is in the backyard working through a pile of junk. I believe this was to make a time machine.

I hope that when Jesse grows up to rule the world, he will look back and appreciate his mother's indulgence to support his talents.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Summer 2013 Recap

This summer was a doozy. Water heater, car, fridge all on the fritz. Major tantrums and mood swings from Jesse's medication.Other drama. Oh, I don't even want to talk about it. But after all the drama, the summer ended on a high note.

First, we had an Ashurst family reunion. One of my all-time favorite things to do. Here's me with my parents and siblings. Color coordinated! (Where's my favorite red-headed sister? Home recouping from having a gorgeous baby. But she showed up the next day!)

The day after the reunion, we took Roscoe to the temple. That was an all-time high for me. My goal is for all my children to be in the temple, then for all of them to complete the eternal progression the temple foreshadows. This felt like a big happy checkmark on my bucket list. Just happy, happy, happy.

Okay, so consider this blog officially caught up. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

"Did you know there are goggles hanging from your trailer hitch?"

I hear it across the WalMart parking lot as I'm loading groceries into the back of the Expedition.

"What?" I ask.

The guy betrays not a hint of humor or goodwill as he repeats, "Did you know there are goggles hanging from your trailer hitch?" Like my underwear is showing. Like he caught my children picking their noses.

I look down to see that in fact a big pair of aviator goggles is dangling from the hitch. The work of Jesse, no doubt. But on this day, I care even less than usual.

Yesterday I composed and crossed off numerous lists. I packed for a two-week vacation wherein we all drive to the McGee cabin for a long weekend, then separate for a 70-mile, 8-day backpacking trip by Mark and the big boys and a drive to my parents' in Dallas for me and the little kids. I turned the car into a snack-laden entertainment center with art supplies, books, and movies for eight. By afternoon, all was in order and I headed out to gas and wash the car.

As I pulled into a parking lot, the drive cut out, as if the car had suddenly been shifted into neutral. Long story short, after consults with the dads and our mechanic, the verdict was that nothing can be diagnosed or fixed until the now-intermittent problem becomes consistent but that our car will lose its transmission within a few thousand miles--as in, the number of miles I was about to drive.

Since this was a problem without a solution, I decided there was nothing doing but to carry on. We could probably make it safely through the first leg of our trip and reassess from there. If things looked good, I could make it to Dallas and fix it there. So a bit of a shadow was cast, but the trip would go on.

But as I went to bed that night, my mind turned to dread. I couldn't quit worrying over children somehow being hurt. I finally fell asleep, but woke up a few hours later to more fear and worry. My mind kept going to two children in particular and thoughts of them being unsafe. Before long, I was lying awake at three in the morning crying at the idea of,well, dead children. Two in particular. Crazy, right? And I'm usually not a big worrier.

Finally, I heard Betsy fuss and went in to give her a pat on the back. As I knelt next to  her crib in the dark, I suddenly had an idea. An idea that immediately quieted all my fears.

I didn't have to go.

Mark and the boys could fit in the Subaru and still do the backpacking trip--the real purpose of the whole trip anyway. And I could just stay  home with the little kids and remove the Expedition from the equation.

I felt immediate peace. The disappointment of opting out of a long-awaited vacation was eclipsed by the joy of feeling that my children were safe.

Crazy, right? But the truth is, I believe in that kind of inspiration. So when we woke up in the morning, I told Mark, "I'm not going with you." We gathered the kids and had a family meeting to explain the change of plans. We moved our gear from one car to the other, and a couple hours later, I stood in the driveway and waved goodbye to my boys.

And the little kids and I were left with two weeks to fill with fun of our own devising. We walked down to see the parade. We made plans to watch fireworks with friends. And we went to WalMart--every girl's holiday dream, right?--to replenish the empty fridge.

And that's when Mr. Helpful felt it important to add a little snark to his heads-up re my trailer hitch. So here's my real response to him.

"I realize that I live on the border of mayhem to a degree that's annoying to some of the people around me. Life with a large family creates a vortex of details to manage and tasks to remember and clothing to wash and problems to solve that completely obscures little things like misplaced goggles. And since today in particular involved fear of death, changing plans on a dime, grieving over a lost opportunity to see my mommy, and--that bugaboo of modern life--car trouble, I'd appreciate a pass. Or at least a little gentleness. Thank you."

Friday, June 7, 2013

School's Out

The end of the school year is always a whirl, this one seemed especially so. Finally we've reached summer vacation. Yesterday Roscoe the Graduate walked upstairs in the late morning sort of befuddled because he had Nothing. To. Do. That big backpack of papers, that planner could just be tossed.

I always approach summer with fear and trembling--How will I get anything done??--and then quickly remember how luxurious it feels to live days at our own pace instead of by the tyranny of the school bell. And I think of so many things I want to teach/work on with the kids when I have them to myself (not the least of which being how to quit being such grumpy whiners and obey your mother and play nicely with your siblings). But in the fear and trembling phase I can never remember exactly how I transition into the luxurious phase. Sort of like the transition phase in labor?

So to recap, here are some of our springtime happenings:

Piano Recital

Levi and Haley are both becoming accomplished pianists and performed perfectly at the annual recital. Haley performed Spy Song, a piece of her own composition. Levi played a jaunty waltz. Because he was nervous, he started it off at a fast pace and I was nervous he wouldn't be able to keep it up. But he did!

Children playing the piano makes me feel like all my dreams as a mother are coming true.

9th Grade Graduation

Logan lobbied hard to skip this little event, and I almost gave in. I think we're both glad he took the opportunity to mark this chapter with his friends.

Oh I love this blurry little pic. Walking down from receiving his "diploma." What a handsome actor.
My favorite part was the speech given by his student body president--who seriously, watch for him, may grow up to rule the world. He described how intimidated each of them felt when they started middle school and how they made friends and rose to the top of the heap, and how they'd be starting the same process again as high schoolers. His closing line: "We did it once; we can do it again!"

Cub Scout Advancement

That same night, Levi walked the bridge from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. And of course, he did it with cheer and panache.

Isn't he a doll?
The best part? When they passed out pinewood derby cars for next month's pack meeting and we didn't get one! A whole year of no Cub Scouts for me!

High School Graduation

I told the kids it would be long and boring. But their little hearts trembled with fear when it took a full half hour for the graduates to march into the arena four-by-four. There was some beautiful music and a wonderful speeches from one of Roscoe's cohorts with autism and one who endured a terrible car accident last year.
The distinguished graduate...

...and his bling.
I have to say, I'm relieved Roscoe is done with high school. He had some great experiences, learned some great things, and put on some truly great performances. But the pressure was so high, the workload so relentless, the competition so stiff. Let's just say I'm looking forward to Roscoe moving on to bigger, better, more uplifting things.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Paen to Ms K and Ms Z

Today was the very last day of Jesse's second year of kindergarten. His class aide, Ms K, held his hand and walked him to the door to meet me. After he walked away from her, she called his name. When he looked back, she crossed her arms over her heart, then pointed to him. Ms K loves Jesse. And oh my does Jesse love Ms K.
Jesse and Betsy on their last day as the stay-at-home lunch buddies.
Two years ago, I wasn't sure if I would send Jesse to kindergarten at all. I knew he wasn't ready. I met with the school's staff in the spring and they encouraged me to enroll him, assured me that they adjusted to each student. So I did.

When the school year began, I still wasn't sure I had made the right choice. Jesse often had to be dragged out of my car by the teacher. He wasn't at all equipped to learn the kindergarten curriculum. The teacher was pretty strict and demanding. But early in the year, I brought Jesse to some after-school activity. As we walked down the hall toward his classroom, we could see his teacher standing in the doorway. When Jesse saw Ms Z, he broke loose from me, ran down the hall, and he and his teacher wrapped their arms around each other. That's when I knew Jesse would be okay in kindergarten.

Two years later, here's Jesse with his teachers:

See that smile on Jesse's face? That's a special brand of smile we see only a certain moments. Like, for example, nights when he's having a hard time falling asleep and is invited into his parents' bed to snuggle in that sweet spot in the middle. Apparently, he also feels that same sense of peace, cozy, and love when standing between his teachers.

Each day for the last two years, I know Jesse has made Ms Z and Ms K's jobs harder. Some days, much harder. Some teachers would have felt frustration and eventually resentment toward him. But these two never did.

In my experience, successful elementary school teachers fall into two categories. The Administrators get their students to learn by monitoring and planning and regimenting every move their students make. The Nurturers forego discipline and organization. But they love their students so completely that the students will do anything--walk on water, learn the alphabet, speak Swahili--just to please them. These teachers were the best of both worlds. They held high expectations. They were demanding and tough. They stretched and pushed him. But they loved him to bits. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Call

See this?

This little one-minute event sort of hijacked my week. As you can imagine. This is the moment we learned that this October, Roscoe will leave for a twenty-four month mission to Neuquen, Argentina.

We expected the envelope on Wednesday, but the mailbox held only bills and ads. So I spent that day feeling alternately pumped up and deflated. Then on Thursday I felt irrationally hopeless until I padded outside and found this in the mailbox:

I then spent the day in a useless adrenaline rush that made it harder to stage snacks for a crowd, shuffle the kids to a soccer game, and generally, you know, function. Eight o'clock was the appointed hour for Roscoe's school and church friends to witness The Opening of the Envelope. What you can't see in the video above is the crowd of thirty well-wishers crammed into our kitchen.

So then I spent Friday--still unproductive--awash in Emotions. I phoned Mark's ninety-seven-year-old grandma to tell her the happy news and wept to think of the generations of love and faithfulness that brought us to this moment. My normal absorption with meals, housekeeping, discipline, carpools was eclipsed for the day by a clearer vision of our family's larger purpose in living and sharing the gospel. Roscoe's mission has been a blessing for our family already. And I expect it'll go on.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Taking the Plunge

Yesterday I got a Ritalin-type prescription for Jesse for ADHD. I had reached the conclusion a while ago that this was the right course, but I was surprised as I walked out of the doctor's office by the wave of sadness I felt.  I guess I have always felt that one of my strengths as a mother is to understand and champion my children for who they are. And most of them are quirky and strong-willed. For Jesse especially, I have worked hard over the years to reach him on his level, to love everything that is good and wonderful about his manic little self, and to guide and teach him at his own pace. So I guess taking that prescription felt a little like a betrayal, like pathologizing him instead of embracing him.

On the other hand, this is so, so the right choice. The boy is seven years old and still operates on many levels like a four-year-old. He is finishing his second year of kindergarten and the prospect of a full-day of first grade next year is just a no-go. And I'm so, so tired of managing his behavior on a minute-by-minute level. It's time for him to learn a bit of self-control.

And--this is the most compelling part--he wants to learn those things. He has reached the point where he can see what he should be able to do--focus enough to finish a task, manage his emotions, control his impulses--and he wants to do those things, but he can't. You can see him struggle, try, fail, and feel disappointed.

Case in point: I hadn't said anything to Jesse about medication or ADHD or the purpose of our doctor's visit, but at one point when the doctor was out of the room, Jesse told me that he had had to stay in from recess today because he hadn't finished his math work, and that in fact he missed one of the stories too.  (Don't get me started on staying in from recess as a consequence for a boy who has excess energy.) His tone was sad but resigned. I said, "You know, the doctor wants to give you a medicine that will help you stay on task." His face lit up, "Really??" When we got home, he told Haley, "I'm getting a new medicine to help me stay on task!"

I feel like if the boy is that ebullient about the prospect of help, then it must be right.


More deets for those of you curious or who may be struggling with a similar decision:

~ The way it worked was I got an official bubble questionnaire from the doctor. I filled out one and so did Jesse's teachers. We scored his focus, attitude, etc. The doctor reviewed those questionnaires and said, "Looks like he's definitely in the range for the hyperactivity-type ADHD."

~ She gave me a low-dose prescription, but I guess it's all very trial-and-error. We go back every month to assess until we feel like we've hit the magic combination of medicine and dosage.

~ The medication is a "controlled substance" so filling the prescription is going to be a logistical hassle. Doctor can't call it in, can only give one month at a time, can't re-write if I lose the prescription, etc.

~ You administer the medicine in the morning and it lasts about 10 hours. Enough to get through the day but leave him unmedicated enough to eat a good dinner and be able to get to sleep at night. Apparently it'll totally kill his appetite, so the idea is to make sure he gets a good breakfast before it kicks in and dinner as it wanes and not worry too much about lunch.

~ The doctor said her view is to use the medication as a temporary crutch until the child can mature and learn their own coping skills and work-arounds. Which I love. That's totally my view. Jess just needs a leg-up to make the transition  into first grade. Eight-year-olds suddenly develop such a greater degree of maturity, problem-solving skills, executive functioning, etc. I said, "It seems like once he has experienced being on task and in control, then he'll be able to figure out how to maintain it better on his own." The doctor said that's exactly what  happens. So yay for a doctor who's not advocating for a lifetime of medication. She kept saying, "Let's just keep him on it all the way through first grade."

~ We're starting the medicine now and will continue it over the summer even though many people leave their kids unmedicated when school is out. My thinking is let's get everything totally figured out and running smoothly so he's ready to rock on the first day of first grade.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Twenty-Five Months

I marked it on the calendar, the day came and went, but I still didn't know how to feel about it. According to my calculations, on April 22 Betsy reached exactly the age Haley was when she first arrived on our doorstep.

Watching Betsy advance happily through her sweet baby months has made me grieve all the more for what I have missed with Haley. Mathematically speaking, those twenty-five months aren't much. But they feel like a lot.
About 3 weeks after Haley arrived. 
I always feel that I am still literally one being with an infant, that their birth only widens the gap between our hearts and bodies a bit . And now, even though Betsy is a very independent little lady, she and I are still so closely attuned. I can understand almost every word she lisps, every reference she makes. When Betsy says, "Guck sneak up," Mark raises his eyebrows. But I can tell him, "She's telling you about how a duck walked across our front lawn and she wanted to sneak up on it." I know when she's getting frazzled, when she's hungry, when to distract her, when to reason with her, and when to just hold her for a while.

Her life has had so much consistency. She has slept almost every afternoon and every night in the same crib, with the same blankets, snuggled in by the same people, usually at the same times of day. She is surrounded every day by the same adoring cadre. She spoons oatmeal into her mouth almost every morning. I have watched over her for almost every hour of her life. And the hours she's spent away from any member of our immediate family number just a few handfuls.

No one person knows the full story of Haley's first twenty-five months. She lived with her parents, then her aunt, then her birth mother, then a shelter home, then the hospital, then with us. I don't know how many different places she lived in; she and her mother bounced from one shelter to the next. I know she was often left in bed with a bottle. I know she was loved by her birth mother and aunt. I know she didn't receive food at regular, trustworthy intervals. We assume she saw violence. I believe she was alternately coddled and neglected.

To me, it's so easy those first two years of a baby's life to give them love, consistency, attention, care, nurturing. But for Haley's well-meaning, loving birth mother, those things turned out to be impossible. We've been working to fill the holes ever since.

So now, when I lay Betsy in her crib and snuggle her into her favorite blanket, I often think of Haley. I wish that the love I'm here to give Betsy now could somehow feed Haley. I pray, "Make  it as if I had done this for Haley."

Friday, April 19, 2013

"I can go anywhere."

Last Sunday, Roscoe filled out his application to go on an LDS mission.

For those unfamiliar with the process (as were we), your bishop initiates an online application, then gives you the login info to access it. You print off forms that your doctor and dentist must fill out and mail directly back to your bishop. You fill out a questionnaire about your family background, health history, language skills, hobbies, etc. Roscoe wrote that his father went on a mission to New Jersey, that he has taken six years of Spanish, that is he an excellent student, that he is "moderately" (but not "extremely") interested in going to a foreign country.

At the end of the questionnaire was one of those catch-all questions, something along the lines of, "Are there any other special considerations we should be aware of?" I watched Roscoe type this:

I can go anywhere.

And that about sums it up. He is willing to go anywhere. But also he is prepared to go anywhere. Healthy, smart, righteous, hard-working, unafraid, obedient. Send him anywhere on God's green earth. He'll give it his all and bless everyone around him.

(We're hoping to get the application submitted this week. Then it gets vetted by our bishop and, we think, our stake president before getting sent to the mission dept. Roscoe is eligible to go after his birthday in July. I'm lobbying for him to indicate that he will be available in late August, after we have a family reunion and he has a summer to earn some money. But we're leaving the choice to him, and of course, they have discretion to call him whenever, regardless of our preferences. So stay tuned!)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Evening Slices, because every once in a while they're all home at once

Seen this evening. putting on footie pajamas. Herself. One of her favorite phrases is "I do it." fresh from the tub as well. He's waiting for me to serve him some zucchini bread, which we made inspired by a pbs show he watched as he was home sick today. assembling her class Valentines. Meticulously. working on a PowerPoint he's been making. I'm not sure what it is exactly. Some kind of guide to Greek mythology. blaring Eminem from the basement while getting packed for the Klondike Derby. tap-dancing. He's been learning a Broadway routine that involves jumping, swinging arms, and tapping.

And later. in her crib asking for "potty talk." She means a book called Once Upon a Potty which has really captured her imagination.

Jesse...has somehow gotten his sheets all in a tangle and now they're in a heap on the floor and his mattress is bare. reading Ella Enchanted in bed. listening to a Rick Riordan audiobook in bed. simultaneously playing a computer game, watching a Jackie Chan movie, and chatting with a friend on the phone. playing a stupid computer game because for once he doesn't have any homework.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fill-in-the-Blank Family Valentines

Last night I wanted to help the kids make Valentines for each other. I'm pretty sure they love each other, but getting them to admit it is a whole other story. So I came up with these fill-in-the-blanks Valentines cards to make sure everyone had a few  nice things to say about their siblings.

 My favorite part is the choose-all-that-apply list of adjectives.

 I had each person choose straws to choose two family members to make cards for. Then we all sat down with cookies and crayons to get creative.

Wanna have your own family Valentine party? Download the template here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Jesse Gems

Last Sunday in fast and testimony, Jesse's Primary teacher from last year bore his testimony. When he began talking about the blessings of working in Primary, I feared we might be in danger of hearing something crazy about Jesse. When the teacher launched into an anecdote with "One of the kids was upside down in his chair ..." I knew we were in trouble.

The teacher continued, "One of the kids was upside down in his chair trying to bite his elbow. And I said, 'Jesse...'"

The whole congregation burst out laughing at the mention of Jesse's name. Which tells me that Jesse's reputation is farther-reaching than I had imagined.

Jesse babbles and blabs all the live-long day, telling about about every crazy idea that passes through his crazy red head. Here are some gems from the last few days. Most of them popped out of his little mouth a propos of nothing.

~ Betsy imagines you as a big fat hen.

~ Why can't we just squeeze the tentacles of a jellyfish to get jelly for our sandwich?

~ I'm going to make a book about slugs in love. (In fairness, Slugs in Love is a book he recently read.)

~ Me: Can you go do something for a minute that doesn't involve me listening to you? Just pretend I'm not here for a little while.
Jesse (running in frantic circles, screaming): WHERE'S MOM? WHERE'S MOM? SHE'S NOT HERE!

~ For bees, every day is deep-clean day.

~ If you bother a bee, it stings you. Like not if you stab it with a spear, but if you bother it.

~ (To Betsy, in a helpful, informative tone) Did you know, Daddy is growing old. So, that's bad news.

~ Mom, did you order my disguises and gas bombs? (For the record, I have not.)

~ I want my own submarine.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


We're deep in the throes of what is in my opinion the worst time of the year. This year, the weather has been especially cold and smoggy. We're all cycling through various little flus and head colds. When Mark and I come downstairs in the morning to assess the coughing and sniffling anew, we find a miserable, blanket-wrapped child huddled over each heat vent.

A couple summers ago, we got tickets to a Salt Lake Bees baseball game. The sky was blue, the cheap hot dogs tasted great, and mountains were beautiful across the valley. Late in the game, when the sun had finally set and the crowds were thinning, I saw a man who had kicked off his flips-flops and propped his bare feet over the seat-back in front of him. He wiggled his toes luxuriously in the evening breeze. Even then, when weeks and weeks of permafreeze seemed impossible, I thought, "That's the image I'm going to remember next winter." And I have.

As it is, we comment on the balmy weather whenever it breaks about twenty-five degrees. A ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds is reason for celebration. And a night with no puking or coughing is an accomplishment.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Old Testament year

So I'm two weeks in to my goal to read the entire Old Testament this year. After a little online browsing, I signed up for this plan, which emails me a reading assignment each day. With three chapters a day and five on Sundays, I'll finish the King James Version on Tuesday, December 31, 2013. I banned myself from reading anything else if I'm ever behind schedule--a harsh consequence indeed.
My sewing station / business desk / bedside table / scripture reading study.

(Side note: Did you know that if you google "scripture reading chart" all the results are Mormon, but if you google "scripture reading plan" they are not. What does it mean?? I guess I come by my fetish for charts honestly.)

So far I'm on Leviticus 15, way ahead of schedule. And I'm reading Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament, a sort of LDS-geared reference digest, as I go. And I have to tell you, I'm loving it. I don't have to give myself consequences or pep talks to keep going--I'm drawn to reading each day like I am with any other good book.

I've always said I was a New Testament girl--which I am, being a Christian and all--and that I didn't really have a testimony of the Old Testament. In fact, I've often scoffed at the poor Old Testament with its crazy, historically suspect (at best) tales and Byzantine ethical code. But now I'm seeing the truth of what they always say, which is that the Old Testament is the foundation Christ built his gospel on. In fact, it's the same gospel, but in an alluringly simplified, concretized, but symbolic form. I feel I now understand Christ's gospel better because my eyes are opened to the referents of all the symbolism and phraseology we use to try and describe Christ and the atonement.
I've had this scripture color code going for years. I need to spend some time transferring all the orange highlighting from my old scriptures to the new ones so  I can just thumb through and find all my favorite sections on the atonement.

Whenever my deep-thinking children get tied up in a theological conundrum (Who created God? Why are some people bad? How could God create Satan?), I tell them to try to explain algebra to Betsy (or whoever is our current little one). Algebra is true, Betsy is smart, but trying to explain it to her in her current state of maturity is totally futile. 

I think it must be similar for us humans trying to understand God. He's real, and we'll be able to understand him one day. But for today, he's beyond our grasp. So in the meantime, we have parables and symbols and rituals that let us glimpse him, start to get the gist. Truth in the form we can swallow. And as we study and live that, we become more like him, ready to understand more about him.

So yes, I'm well on my way to becoming one of those annoying people who raves about the joys of Isaiah.