Monday, December 8, 2014

Hopes

Logan:
I hope one day he looks back and realizes that in his greasiest, grumpiest, prickliest teenage days, his mother was always happy to see him.

Levi:
I hope one day he looks back and notices that his mother came to very nearly every single one of his many, many games. And that every time he looked her way after an especially awesome play, he could catch her eye, watching him.

Haley:
I hope that one day she looks back and can see all the encouragement, instruction, structure, consistency, and correction from her mother as a form of love.

Jesse:
I hope that one day he looks back and is grateful that his mother made him believe he was a special gift (no matter how rowdy, disregulated, or behind the curve he fell).

Betsy:
I hope she's always my best friend.

Roscoe:
It is a huge bright spot in my heart that he now sees his mother as the wind beneath his now spread-wide wings.

Notes

Jesse is trying to teach Betsy math:

Jesse: What's 1+1 ?
Betsy: I don't know.
Jesse: So if I have one, and then I get another, then I have two. So 1+1=2. So what's 1+1?
Betsy: I don't know.
__________________

I usually work on my resume business for a few hours a day. Maybe an hour in the morning responding to emails and taking client calls. Two, maybe three, hours during quiet time in the afternoon. More if Betsy has preschool, some work in the evening if I'm swamped.

Today I didn't work at all. And it's amazing what I've done around here. A couple coats of paint on the stairs. Mopping floors. Washing walls. Cleaning the laundry room. Even an episode of Project Runway. And it's only 3:00!
_________________

Also, this morning Mark and I went to another doctor's appointment regarding his torn tendon. Which has caused to him be on crutches since January. Today we scheduled a surgery.

Boo: Surgery. Painful. Expensive. Long recovery.
Yay: A plan. An end in sight. Hope for recovery.
_________________

More pros and cons:

Boo: Yesterday I completely lost my temper and hollered at a recalcitrant kid.
Yay: I realized I couldn't remember the last time that had happened.

__________________

I took Jesse out for lunch today to have a little heart to heart. Highlights from our conversation:

"I know the first kind of bug you should eat when you're trying to learn how to eat bugs. Ants."

"Have you ever eaten an eyeball. You should; they're good. But don't use a fork. The fork would get nasty."

This was not actually my planned topic of conversation.



Friday, October 31, 2014

School pics

It's Halloween evening, and really we're just waiting for trick-or-treating time and the kids are hyper and need supervision but can't be persuaded to do anything productive, so here I sit putting final touches on this year's "school" pictures. Taken against an old sheet draped over the piano.


This year, I decided to let the kids' pictures show their personalities. And we seem to have plenty of personality around here.

Starting with this one. Look at all those faces!



Betsy
3-year-old preschool
This girl has soo much moxie. She loves preschool, playgroup, stuffed animals, books, Barney, and her family.




 Jesse
2nd grade
Jesse is an orange belt in karate, is on the 5th Magic Treehouse book, and thinks about Legos day and night.




 Haley
5th grade
Miss Haley takes piano lessons, plays flute in the school band, and takes a tumbling class. She loves experimenting with hairstyles and reading spooky books.



 Levi
7th grade
This dapper dude plays on soccer, volleyball, and basketball teams and plays percussion in the school band. He is constantly scheming grand social plans.



Logan
11th grade
Logan is a busy young man, who keeps solid grades and works five days a week. He dutifully practices screamo vocals. Every. night. His band is called Sunshine Pizza. They practice in the garage.


Roscoe
halfway through his mission to Neuquen, Argentina
Roscoe has had an unbelievably positive first year. He loves what he's doing and is learning and growing. I think so far his favorite area has been "the balsa," a remote neighborhood where he worked to establish a branch.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Saturday Vingettes

Along the sidelines of a breezy, sunny soccer game, I'm chatting with another soccer mom. We agree that it can be challenging to be a less-than-uber-conservative Mormon in Utah. I suggest the strategy of keeping a book such as this in your church bag. Then when the conservative rhetoric gets too intense, you can pass it along the pew for your children's enjoyment.

She suggested the added strategy of sharing the book with the children on adjoining rows.

Yes, We Can! A Salute to Children from President Obama's Victory Speech

~~~~~

Walking across the parking lot after the game, we overhear from a passing car, "Parker, I'm disappointed in you. You played horrible. Just horrible."

Levi and I agreed, that Dad is horrible. Just horrible.

~~~~~~~~~~

Choretime scenario:


Child #1 is singing sweetly to herself.

This annoys Child #2, who decides that loudly chanting "Blah, blah, blah" is a helpful solution.

Child #3 enters the room and begins yelling at Child #2 to be quiet.

It's a win-win-win.

~~~~~~~~~~

Among the many reasons it is foolhardy for me to leave the house: the mysterious tangles my family makes in my absence.

Exhibit A:
Who (and why?) unloaded the dirty dishwasher, filling the cupboards with neat stacks of crusted dishes? 

Exhibit B: 
Who (and why?) took the recycling bin, and what are we now to do with this empty milk jug?

Exhibit C:
Why is my blow dryer strewn across my bathroom counter, cord suspended over the sink? Is this a trap laid by a disgruntled progeny? 

Answers:

A: Jesse. (As it often is.) Jesse believes he had been assigned to unload the dishwasher, though Mark swears it isn't so. The milk smears and jelly smears did not deter Young Jess from his alleged mission.

B: Unsolved.

C: Apparently Logan has taken to blow drying his hair, but has not taken to putting the blow dryer away.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Other days...

Sometimes, I send the kids happily off the school and buzz through the day completing tasks with pleasant efficiency. When the kids come home, they finish off their homework then disappear for some screen time or friend time.

Other days, I rush from appointment to errand. Things run late. Kids have emergencies. By three o'clock it occurs to me that no less than 11 kids and teens have been in and out of my van. Homework requires much hand-holding and a few tears. It's all accompanied by a screaming fit by Bets. Demands for homework help, snacks, and pick-ups overlap. The prospects for a delicious, healthy dinner are waning fast.

Today is an other day.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Firsts

According to my calculations, this is the fourteenth year I've sent kids off to the first day of school. And I have fourteen to go. Yikes! That's twenty-eight years!

Here's the first group to start school. Aren't they just adorable? Nervous, excited, clean, jumpy with expectation.
Levi- 7th grade
Haley- 5th grade
Jesse- 2nd grade

Jesse is not wearing new school clothes. His new clothes (same brand, same colors, same size even as last year's!) felt too stiff, so he started the new year in last year's worn-out duds. *sigh* I spent the day rewashing perfectly clean clothes to soften them up. However, he was quite proud of his special, spiky hairdo and asked for some solo shots.


Little Elizabeth began the three-year-old class at Apple Preschool, where Haley and Jesse both attended two years. Oh my goodness, her cuteness was reaching toxic levels as she bravely marched her little self up the steps.

Here's what she did on her first day.


The simplest little starting point in the world. 1. It means one. You write it with one straight line.

Logan is a wordly junior. Much too cool to pose for a picture. I will tell you that he is actually a very handsome young man under all that hair. And that he, of his own volition, with no prompting whatsoever, signed himself up for two AP classes. I did dare to inform him that even people as smart as himself do find the need to sometimes do some homework when taking two AP classes.
This prickly young man can drive me stark raving mad. But oh how I adore pretty much everything about him--the hair, the smart mouth, the loping gait, all of it.

I'm sheepish to admit how much I've gloried in their collective absence. My goals to foster more sibling unity this summer were not a huge success. Our family feels very Balkanized right now, and our times of collegial cooperation and intra-sibling play were too few. The peace of this emptier house feels very welcome.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I know a guy

After the other night, my life may just be all downhill from here.

I'm a huge aficionado of the one-hour TV crime drama. Specifically murders. The iconic "dong-dong" of Law & Order is music to my ears.

I love them because they're a narrative puzzle. Breadcrumbs and laid out from the opening frame, and if you're clever (and if the writers don't take any unfair liberties), you can piece it all together before the gavel falls. I can predict "It was the business partner" or "It was the landord" based on a lingering camera shot or an offhand comment during an interrogation scene.

But the other night may have been my life's zenith. I didn't just predict the ending, I said the next line before the actors. I admit, it wasn't the trickiest call. One character said something like, "How will we ever prove that someone has tampered with the videotape which contains our key piece of evidence?" The characters looked intently at each other. And the second character said, as I knew he would, can you guess? ...

"I know a guy."

And can you guess the next scene? Yep. The backroom office, strewn with cables and monitors, of a geeky audio expert.

(Yes! Someone had tampered with the tape. It was a conspiracy!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to Build an Awesome Lego Dragon

Jesse has spent much of the summer refining his Lego skills. Here he is describing one of his latest, greatest creations.



(You should have heard Mark last night, to universal scorn, trying to support his claim that he has been an expert on dragons since the late 1990s and that it is a "common mistake" to portray dragons with four legs and wings, when in fact they have only one pair of wings and one pair of legs. Jesse quoted The LEGO Book as an authoritative source that "Dragons are mythical creatures" and can therefore have as many legs and wings as their builder desires. Logan referred to J.R.R. Tolkien's Smaug, with its wings and four legs. Mark remained unmoved.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jesse's Baptism

Along with all the madness and freewheeling inventiveness, Jesse has this little sense of gravitas. Which came into full play when he turned eight and was baptized. One thing I adore about Jesse--and that may have saved his life--is that he always operates from a place of unfailing good will. Despite his many shortcomings, he always tries his best. And this mama loves try.

On the morning of his baptism, he put on his new suit, grabbed his new scripture case, and got stoic.



This photo taken back in the good ol' days, when Mark could walk. :(
 Here are some of the people who came to celebrate Jesse moving along his covenant path. Including his sneaky Grandma, who made a surprise appearance just for fun.
I contemplated organizing a lovely brunch for our visitors. But what Jesse really wanted was a hot dog and smores party. So that's what we did. He and I chose all sorts of exotic smores supplies: coconut marshmallows, Nutella, cinnamon graham crackers, Nilla wafers....

The hands-down favorite of the afternoon was caramel marshmallows with chocolate graham crackers.

Jesse has come a long way since he tantrumed his way through summer 2013. I'm very grateful for all the progress he's made. And always, I'm grateful for the huge privilege of being his mother. Jesse is a rare gem, and I take seriously my responsibility to nurture his fire.

Monday, April 21, 2014

ADHD Update: One year in

It's been almost a year ago now that I first told Jesse's doctor that I thought we should consider medication for ADHD. And it has not been a smooth or easy road. We've tried, I think, four different medications. Several doctor visits. And survived unnumbered tantrums. Long days and nights of uncontrollable screaming rages.

But now, Jesse's fits are few and far between. He reads. His teacher grades him highly. He's only marginally below average academically. He is much more calm. His speech isn't as frantic.
Jesse hearts recycling.
Today I took him for a checkup with the pediatrician who specializes in behavior. It was the first appointment when I wasn't going to say "everything is horrific and you must help me stat."

This gentleman is well into his sixties and I believe has been treating children for decades. But it was clear he has never seen anyone like Jesse. After Jesse explained to him how sucker fish are like suction cups, I asked, "So would you say this type of thinking pattern goes along with ADHD?" He chuckled. No.

Jesse mentioned that he likes to use plungers. "Wait," the doctor asked. "I can't even picture that. What do you use plungers for?" On the topic of behavior management through positive rewards, Jesse mentioned that he bought himself a grappling hook with rewards. "I've never had a patient with their own grappling hook," the doctor said.
His creations grace my mantel.
I walked out feeling so grateful. Grateful that at least for now Jesse is in such a better place. He's learning and he's teachable and he's...okay. And grateful for the privilege of being Jesse's mother. He is truly one in a million. Maybe one in a billion. He delights and surprises and amuses us every day. Watching his creativity bubble is a joy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Commercials of My Life

I am happily letting life get in the way.

Chase - Great American Novel from Finger Music on Vimeo.

I am completely on board with all these Luvs second kid commercials.



I even love what the moms are wearing in the second kid shots. She's relaxed, she's happy, she's in charge, and she knows it. Love it.


Also this:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Overheard

A few recent gems..

Me: Levi, did you just eat two Big Macs??
Levi: Yes.
Me: You're going to regret that.
Levi: When?

Jesse: Mind your own beeswax!
Betsy: I DON'T HAVE ANY BEESWAX!

But, at another moment:
Betsy: Jesse, you can use my markers. Because I love you! Because you are so sweet to me!

Mark: Haley, we really need you to hurry and get ready. Can you hurry?
Haley, stopping in the doorway to examine her nails: Yes.

Jesse: I can spell it if I say it in a British accent.
This is actually kind of genius. Now that I think about it, English words are spelled more intuitively/phonetically when pronounced with a British accent.

Jesse: You know how holidays aren't real? Like there aren't really zombies at Halloween? So we should just go in these 3D boxes. I'm making a Valentine's one. I have an idea for a Halloween one. Paper spider, glue it to a nano bug's back, and tie a rope to it, tie it to the wall. And then you turn it on so it's like buzzing. So it's actually scary. And if you pop out, you're like, 'How do I get out of here?' Because whenever you shut it, it looks like the door is nowhere, and you're like, 'It's actually just a box! How do I get out!' It's actually creepy.
This particular thread went on for about ten minutes. I just typed what I could while he continued blabbing.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Too Many Tabs

I was in the van this afternoon. I had picked up Logan from school, then picked up the Hawthorn carpool. Jess and Haley had finished their homework. Betsy had fallen asleep in the car, then woken up grumpy just before we needed to head out to take Jesse to karate. I was on the phone with my mom. We got Jesse settled at karate, then loaded back up to pick up Levi from soccer. Then we'd go back to retrieve Jesse before heading home, at which point I needed to serve dinner before meeting the Mia Maids for an evening of Zumba and milkshakes. In the meantime, I still need to check Haley's math homework, and there were a couple client emails I hadn't responded to. In fact, how many clients are still pending? And it feels like there are a few more pressing items on my to-do list, which I would remember if I only had a moment.

So I'm driving along in my nice little minivan with my cute little kids wondering why my teeth are a little clenched, why I'm not enjoying tooling around on this nice sunny afternoon.

Later that night, I saw this:

my brain has too many tabs open...

That's it. Too many tabs open.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Repent

...of ever dreading Betsy as a three-year-old. Three has always been one of my favorite stages. And look at all this wonderfulness:

One of Betsy's talents is melting the heart of Logan.

Foam curlers on a Saturday night!

She chose this outfit, right down to the striped leggings.

Stories before naptime.

Swathed in cuteness.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Play Group

Right now, there are six little three- and four-year-olds in my playroom. The boys are searching for cars, which we don't have many of anymore--not enough little boys around here for my taste. One boy is unhappy because he feels another won't let him do the Batman elevator. Betsy is a little worried that one of her friends is drawing in her coloring book. Someone is throwing blocks, which we all agree is unsportsmanlike. In  a minute I'm going to break out a page protectors where the kids can practice tracing their names.

Fridays are Betsy's favorite day of the week because Friday is playgroup. She and about six of our little neighborhood friends rotate houses each week. We play, do a snack, maybe a little activity. Social Betsy loves it.

I've done playgroups like this since approximately 1999. Not too many more are in my quiver.
There's nothing more delightful and good in the deepest, fullest senses of the word than clumps of little children playing together. To me the charming thing about toddlers and preschoolers is that their tiny, ridiculous, pudgy bodies contain fully actualized human beings--with infinite personality, and uniqueness, and unknowableness--in shockingly immature form. I mean, what was it like to be a person who could come to tears over the sharing of a coloring book, who felt no compunction in asking a woman to unbutton one's pants, who could unabashedly demand that one's apple slices come without peels?

One part of me is more than ready to say good-bye to a phase of life in which one's houseguests are likely to pee on the back porch. But another big part cannot fathom how a life without things like playgroup and washable markers and Fisher-Price Little People--and the little people who play with them--wouldn't be a flat and empty.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Elizabeth Gold Is 3

A day to completely surrender to the glory of Betsy--sounds like a treat, right? I sort of dreaded it. Two-year-old Betsy has been completely delightful. She's so verbal and so rational that you can say things like, "No, you can't have a cookie now but you can have one after your lunch" and she totally gets it. Very few tantrums from her, and constant sweet lisping, twirling, and singing.


Also, I think the Big 3 means that finally, truly she isn't a baby. I have to admit that I'm grieving the end of babies. If I were a few years younger...

Anyway, she made it a great day nevertheless. She spent the morning playing with her cake supplies. Then helped me bake and decorate cupcakes with all manner of sprinkles.

The highlight for me was this adorable little trike. Isn't it just too much? I now get to spend the whole summer watching her tool up and down the sidewalks on this thing!

I'm sure I'll learn to like her now that she's three.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Room of His Own

I've always been a proponent of children sharing rooms--for reasons of camaraderie, exigency, and communalism. So I was a little surprised to find myself a few Fridays ago making a grand announcement that tomorrow I would move Jesse into Roscoe's now-empty basement bedroom.

The kids had been lobbying to move Levi into the basement with Logan, but we felt that was a bad idea. Levi tries mightily to keep up with Logan, and the fact is, eleven-year-old Levi should not walk in step with his sixteen-year-old brother. And adjacent siblings bully and compete more than non-adjacent ones. So to the basement for Jesse.
Jesse in his new boy cave.

It was a long day of disassembling and reassembling bunk beds, schlepping stuff up and down three sets of stairs, and vacuuming, vacuuming, vacuuming. (Mark still laid up.) At the end of the day, each boy was the proud occupant of their own cute little boy cave.
I love the little treasures kids display. Jesse has a little missionary in honor of Roscoe...

...and a picture of Roscoe proudly displayed next to a chunk of lava.

And of course, a plunger.

I cannot believe the huge impact this has had on the peacefulness of our family. Levi and Jesse fight less. Levi gets the space he craves. Jesse gets the peace and solitude he needs to keep his little self together. Levi and Jesse go to bed peacefully. The first night, I came downstairs to tuck Jesse in and found him looking at a magazine in bed with his covers pulled up around him.

Okay, that doesn't sound amazing, but in the past, getting Jesse to actually lie atop his bed at night was a struggle.
I love Levi's carefully arranged shelves of fantasy books and sports junk. See the proudly displayed deodorant? Big boys stuff like that has real cachet around here.

Without one boy's mess impinging on the other's, they are each better able to keep his room clean. Mostly. The good news is that Jesse's project supplies (basically anything from the recycling bin) no longer litter the entire house. The bad news...
At least it's not in the kitchen.

I'm working on convincing him that his creativity will be enhanced if he can keep his bro cave in order.

What Jesse created from the detritus in his room last week. I think it's completely awesome.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Five

1. Computer
My laptop reached the point where its screen illuminated only if I held it upside down, ran my fingers across the rewq keys three times, then carefully righted it without jostling anything. Turns out, I am completely dependent on my computer. Especially since, you know, I run a business from it.

Long story short: still under warranty, sent in for repairs, daily hour-long hold to check on its progress, part back-ordered, promise of a replacement. Almost two months later, I have a new computer. It's big and beautiful, but it's amazing how many things you do without even thinking--and how frustrating it is to have to think about them when navigating a new machine.

2. Foot
Mark's foot is basically unchanged. He sits in a wheelchair all day at work, then goes almost straight to bed when he gets home. Our second-opinion surgeon's appointment is on Monday. I think at this point our best case scenario is fast-track surgery. Possibly for both feet. *grimace*

3. Work
Business is good. Especially awesome given the impending medical bills but especially challenging since my husband is out of commission. I'm strategizing how to get me some backup.

4. Inspiration
I cannot get over how much I love this photo.

It's Noelle Pikus Pace, who not only won the silver medal in a bad-ass sport, but demonstrated for all the world her love for her little family, her commitment to Sabbath church attendance, and her devotion to the Young Women's program. See her necklace? I showed this picture to our young women on Tuesday night. It's really all I want for them. A beautiful, healthy, happy woman who is achieving her fullest potential by living the gospel.

5. Batman
Poor Mark is feeling pretty low. His self-identity as a manly mountain conqueror is being mightily challenged. But his sense of manliness got a teensy bump from this blog article in which he is referred to as the Batman of the Joseph Smith Papers.