Friday, December 3, 2010

And . . . and . . . and

A few months ago, my wonderful husband Craig started making some noise about goals. He's always been active, and we spend a lot of time doing stuff that is likely to wear out our kids, but this was different. Finally, one day, he came right out and said it: "I want to do a triathlon."

Well, okay. Sounds great. But I am the CFO of our family, so of course, my first question was, "How much is this gonna cost?"

"Oh, not much. I already have a mountain bike, so I'll just switch out the knobby tires for some skinny ones, and that should do it."

I was really supportive of this $40 investment (thank you, Craigslist).

Then he told me he needed to improve his swim time. (Since the last time he did anything in the water other than A. toss around children or B. water ski was, like, in high school, I would assert he had a bit more to do than just "improve" his time.) So we joined a local fitness center with a pool, and he started training a la Michael Phelps (minus the weed) immediately.

After that first swim, Craig came home and said, "I need some good goggles. And if I really want to be competitive, I need to get triathlon trunks so I can go from the water to the bike without having to change."

So he ordered his little triathlon suit. Turns out, the triathlon suit is not recommended for use in chlorinated water. So then he had to order a Speedo (feel free to laugh . . . I do every time it puts it on) to wear in the pool.

And then he decided his mountain bike was just not going to cut it. After a long ride one Saturday, Craig came inside and said, "My mountain bike weighs, like, 35 pounds. I could go so much faster on a road bike!"

Okay, I said. See what you can find on Craigslist.

Have you seen my husband? All 6'5" of him? Let's just say there aren't a whole lot of second-hand bikes around made for giants. He gave it his best effort, but to no avail.

So he bought a new one. We call it the White Beast. I need a step ladder to sit on it.

And then he had to have a jersey that wouldn't show his . . . crack while he was riding. And then he had to have zip ties for his running shoes to "improve transition time", plus pedals he can clip into, and the special shoes that go with them. Did I mention the speedometer for the bike, and a new helmet, and the little nasty gel things he eats while he's biking?

Finally, one night we were out to dinner with my sister, Jenny, and her husband Josh (who also competed in the triathlon with Craig). We were talking about all the gear required and suddenly, it dawned on me: I have given the mouse a cookie. As well as some milk to go with it.

When all was said and done, Craig lost 25 pounds and finished his first triathlon with a more than respectable time. He plans to do another one in the spring. And he only has to do 47 more before I'll be satisfied he's gotten his money's worth out of all of that gear.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Help Me, Karma

I went for a run on Monday morning at the park. I just discovered we have a greenway, and while I appreciate the blessing of having both a treadmill and a place to put it, I am SOOOO much happier running on the ground, counting species as I go.

So I was running along, minding my own business, plugged into Muse and Chris Isaac, thanking God for the miracle that is my husband (who used his unexpectedly long lunch break to mind our kids at the playground while I ran) when suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge hornet attached itself to my right index finger. Apparently, I distracted him from something extremely important because he stung with one end and bit with the other until I flicked him off, and then ended his short life with my brand new running shoes. It hurt. I cried out. But I kept going, because, you know, I was running! I was high on life! And I was way far away from the van, and Mason had to be picked up from preschool in a half hour!

To add insult to injury, as I danced a tarantella (hornetella?) down the trail, trying, I suppose, to shake the venom out of my finger, I realized that if I didn't find a way to empty my bladder pronto, I'd be jogging back to civilization in need of a diaper change. (Curse you, stress incontinence -- you are my least favorite side effect of childbirth ever.) So I waited until there were no other people in sight on the trail, and ducked into the cornfield where I actually considered peeing on my throbbing finger, a method that according to both Survivor and Friends (my favorite sources for first aid advice) works on a jellyfish sting. I put myself back together and finished my run, and by the time I met my family at the playground, my finger was really beginning to swell.

By the next day, I looked like I had hijacked the entire right arm of a much larger woman -- one with sausage fingers and a killer case of pitting edema. I couldn't hold a pen. I couldn't open a bottle. I couldn't take Benadryl because, well, I have four children and must remain awake and standing for most of the activities required by their care. It took a solid week for the itching and swelling to subside.

Lately, it seems like every time I make an effort towards better physical fitness, something goes wrong: iPod battery dead as a doornail. Baby nap over before I can even get through the first mile on the treadmill. Rain when I plan to run out doors, kids too sick for the gym when I'm ready for a class. I just can't seem to get into the groove. I'm trying, but I think the groove hates me.

I'm ready for some karma. I need a tailwind the next time I hit the trail for a race -- Saturday, maybe? How about an unexpectedly warm 8AM temperature so my fingers aren't frostbitten at the finish line? A little bit of instant gratification would go a long way towards motivating more hard work: a faster time, a pound or two lost, a second wind, an improvement . . . help me, karma.

Unless, of course, it involves hornets.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Let the Sun Shine In

It's been so long since I've posted that I'm not sure I remember how to do it . . . good gracious! Has it really been over a month?!? Yes, it has, and I have nothing to offer by way of explanation. Did you miss me? Did you even notice my absence? Please don't say no. (You can think it. But please don't say it in a comment.) I've randomly commented here and there, but good friends in the blogosphere have dealt with major life events and weathered the aftermath without so much as a how-do-yo-do from my corner. I hope you don't hate me.

I'd like to be able to tell you that I have been furiously participating in NaNoWriMo, and the publishing of my masterpiece, the fabled Great American Novel, is forthcoming . . . but I can't, because I haven't been. I'd like to be able to say that I've been so caught up in cleaning and organizing my cluttered and messy house that I just haven't found the time to blog. That, too, would be a lie. I have also not been on a long trip, secretly pregnant and delivering another baby, spending all of my time volunteering at a homeless shelter, meeting with Hollywood producers regarding a made-for-TV movie about my fabulously interesting life, or engaging in a principled internet-fast. I have, quite simply, been lazy. And maybe I've been wallowing a little.

The other day I was cleaning Garrett and Connor's room. I am baffled by boy smells. Even if they go to bed squeaky-clean and Burt's Bees-scented, I am still overwhelmed by a mysterious odor not unlike scrambled eggs whenever I check on them at night. This prompts me, on a regular basis, to fling open the windows and let the breeze blow through, in a futile attempt to air out the latent smell of burgeoning testosterone.

I pushed the windows as high as I could, and then, as I tucked the quilt and fluffed the pillow and arranged the stuffed animals on Garrett's bed, I noticed the play of light through the open blinds. I watched windblown leaf-shadows dance across Laney Kate's dimpled fingers as she patted the bedding, an ardent and surprisingly productive mimic of my own tidy efforts.

I had a brief moment of clarity as I watched her golden-red hair glint in the bright light: the sun, I realized, keeps on shining. All I have to do is let it in -- throw open my windows, pull back the curtains, raise the blinds, let myself be illuminated by the light that cannot stop itself from filling up an empty space -- my empty space. The sun keeps on shining. The grass keeps growing, the world keeps spinning, the birds keep singing, even if I'm not watching.

This is the greatest tragedy of blocking out the sunlight: What did I miss? What did I not see because I was closed off from the possibility? I'll never know.

But now I'm watching, and these windows are open for good.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Elena No!

My dear friend Jen (of Just Imajen, the best blog you're not reading -- go check her out) was thrilled when we named our baby Elena -- and spelled it the Italian way. Jen, you see, served a mission in Rome, and as a side effect, became an expert, connoisseur even, of all things Italian. Of course, there's the food -- a fine, deeply flavored simple red sauce is worth its weight in rubies -- but more importantly, there's the music.

Long before this baby was named (or even conceived), Jen made me a CD full of her Italian favorites. I don't understand any of the words, but I know they're having a good time, and, while it lacks a certain . . . sophistication, a little bit of joie de vivre (which I wish I could say in Italian) goes a long way.

Right after my Elena was born, Jen sent me a link to a fantastic little pop gem entitled, "Elena No." (Please go listen. It's so worth the effort.) It's a catchy little ditty, which, according to Jen's translation, tells all about a controlling manipulative diva named Elena who has her man so wrapped around her finger, so trained, that he caters to her every unreasonable whim. "Elena no, Elena no," Lucio croons. "If I'm a man any more I don't know."

 My Elena Kate.

I just might have to call it prophetic.

Last week, Craig came home from work and, in a rare unoccupied moment, got out his iPhone and sat down on the couch to check his e-mail, some scores, whatever. Elena immediately toddled over to him (yep, she's walking and I am so not a fan of precocious mobility) and grunted in the general direction of his phone. In a moment of what I can only describe as acute idiocy and inability to withstand extreme cuteness, Craig acquiesced, turning his attention to something that must have been really important.

Elena shortly returned to him -- without the phone held in her hands. Her cold, wet, pee-smelling hands. Oh, yes she did. It took her a mere thirty seconds to waddle on down to the bathroom and baptize Craig's most trusted companion in a toilet full of yellowed water. Yeah, the boys should know better than to leave an unflushed toilet with the seat up and the door open -- we've been working on toilet etiquette for quite some time now, but it's hard to argue with logic that says there's no need to wash hands that haven't touched anything. But Craig made that bed, and there but by the grace of iPhone insurance goeth he. It took about a week for his new (refurbished) phone to arrive -- long enough that we were without the instantly-gratifying informational itch-scratcher for our entire vacation to the beach. So I had to sacrifice almost as much as he did.

I told Craig this does not bode well for the future. How can he possibly expect to say no to a whiny teenager when he can't even say no to the non-specific shrieks of an eleven-month old? Yes, dear, she's cute. Yes, she's your only daughter. But, um, that was also your only iPhone. Elena, no, indeed. Someone in this household needs to practice saying that about 45 times a day for the next 17 years, lest we end up with a houseful of kittens, dollies, little stray puppies, and, knowing this kid, race cars.

This little girl has spunk in spades. She chases after her older cousin to steal his pacifier -- which he then can't seem to steal back. When her brothers take a toy away from her, she lets out a holler, her meaning clearer than words could possibly be, and chases them down until they give her back what she wants. She turns the charm off and on with a level of skill I still haven't developed. But she holds her own with these rough and tumble boys of mine -- she's still alive almost a year in, and darn if she's not ending up on top!

I tell all of this to my mom, and she just shakes her head and smiles. She won't meet my eyes -- if she did, I know she would break down laughing at the similarities. Laney Kate has the red hair of her father, and the set of her eyes is all him, but that spunk? I'm claiming that all as my own.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Things Change . . . but Not Really

Thanks to all of you for your awesome book recommendations . . . we're headed to the library, and I am armed with a fantastic list of books, and I can't wait to sink my teeth into some really intelligent reads.

My boys are on break from school right now -- oh, how I love this year round schedule! Just when we all started to tire of the daily school routine, the first grading period finished and we were given the gift of three weeks off.

I have some good post ideas, but find myself with little time to develop them, so for today, I'm digging into the archives. This was one of my first posts ever -- it garnered all of two comments and I think may have been read by a grand total of seven people (if I'm being generous). As I read it last night, I thought, wow, how things have changed. We have come so far from those three-kids-in-nursery days . . . but it's still the same kinds of things that stress me out, and I still see the same idiosyncratic behaviors in my kids, just a little more grown up. Here goes, from November 2008. (This one's for you, Megan.)

Today, there were 18 kids in the nursery at church. 18! It felt like Utah or something. At the beginning of Relief Society, Primary asked for volunteers to augment their staffing issues, and since my offspring account for fully one-sixth of all kids in the nursery, I felt obligated to comply. So my friend Mary Kay and I gathered up our belongings and hoofed it on down to little kid land.

Now, my children are not known for being great examples of reverence . . . or anything else spiritually commendable, but at 3, 3, and 2, what can you expect? I don't know what I expected. I thought they might be at least as good as they are at home. Apparently that was a little too much to ask.

The twins are the oldest kids in there, so for snack time, they sat at the head of the table, kings perusing their subjects with pseudo-benevolence and the bipolar kindness/cruelty of preschoolers. They fought -- loudly -- over who got to say the blessing on the snack, even after their teacher said repeatedly that the one who was the most reverent would earn the privilege. (I guess fighting over praying privileges could maybe qualify as spiritually commendable, right?) Garrett flipped out because they had to stand at the table to color instead of sitting in chairs. Connor melted because I didn't finish coloring his picture the right way. Garrett stole crayons from other kids, and berated them for coloring on the wrong side of the paper, and policed everyone who wasn't doing what he thought they should be doing, including me. Too bad introspection isn't on the 3-year-old to-do list -- he might have had a couple personal problems of his own to police!

I'm sure I didn't help matters -- I mean, I'm not the authority figure in nursery. Who am I to tell them not to dip pretzels in their neighbor's water, especially if the nursery leader doesn't care (or chooses not to battle over little things like that because of the sheer number of kids and the ease of cleaning up the inevitable spilled water)? Who do they listen to? I don't want to undermine her authority, nor do I want to hold them to a higher standard than the rest of the kids . . . I have a lot to learn before I can be the room mother of a kindergarten class!

Mason wasn't so bad, but I did have to change his stinky diaper. When we returned to the nursery after de-pooping, he jumped through the door, threw his arms up, and said, "Ta-da!" The twins think they're the kings of the room, but Mason's got comedic timing all over his brothers.

So, in a fit of frustration, I asked the nursery leader if my kids were this awful every Sunday. She smiled and said, "Actually, today's a good day." Ha-ha, that's a funny joke, I know, they're great kids, aren't they? Oh, wait . . . what's that? Ah . . . you're not kidding. Guess we've got some work ahead of us before these little monsters are ready for Primary, or maybe it's the other way around.

Does my tithing money go towards abstinence education? Because I'd totally be willing to volunteer my children for parental-readiness reality checks. I think these services could be valuable to other demographics as well. Grandchildren coming to visit? Let my kids show you how child-proof your home isn't. Can't afford to pay a demolition crew for your remodel? Just tell my kids you need them to make sure not to destroy anything, and they'll do it for free -- plus PB&J for lunch, of course.

Well, I guess you just keep trying. I wish I could pre-experience for my kids -- that I could just, for example, tell Garrett that no one wants to play with a bully without him having to experience that rejection for himself as an impetus to change his behavior; that I could convince Connor that if he doesn't stand up for himself, other kids will always push him around, and avoid the other kids actually pushing him around. But without that first-person perspective, they won't ever learn anything . . . and neither will I.

So what did I learn today? That I'm not ever going back to the nursery again. Ever. Or at least not so long as I have kids in there. I'm much too happy being blissfully ignorant of double-trouble shenanigans to voluntarily deprive myself of the adult conversation and spiritual uplift of Relief Society.

And that we have to just keep doing the things that we're doing -- family prayer, FHE, reading scriptures with our kids (all three verses) -- because, like Nephi, " . . . we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins (2 Nephi 25:26)." And maybe, if we're consistent, and truly humbled by the magnitude of the spiritual potential inherent in each one of our children, we will see a little glimmer of hope, baby steps of spiritual progress, imperceptible day by day, but still moving us all forward in pursuit of our eternal goal.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

The Bibliophile's Lament

I'm a reader -- always have been, always will. At age three, I brought a Reader's Digest to my mom, and read a random page aloud to her. Correctly. She was only slightly surprised, because I was the kid who, when asked to choose a story at bedtime, would stack up a pile of books as tall as the rocking chair. And expect the chosen adult to get through every last book before finally tucking my sleepy body into the big bed in the little sloped-ceiling room at the top of the stairs in my grandmother's house.

I consumed Nancy Drew books by the dozen, finished all the Bobsey twins books before my 8th birthday, and grew tired of Babysitter's Club before I really aged out of them. I dug through boxes in my grandmother's garage and found her old Marjorie Dean books. (I should have kept those -- they're probably worth something now -- published in the 1920s, pretty good condition. Maybe there in my mom's basement?)

Then I found Anne Shirley, and totally had a crush on Gilbert Blythe. Rebecca was a revelation to me, and Jane Eyre rocked my twelve-year-old world. But so did The Hobbit and the whole Terry Brooks Shannara series. James Michener's Hawaii expanded my 14-year-old worldview and fueled my drive to explore the planet. My reading appetite was voracious, and I read everything my wise and wonderful mother threw in my path.

The trend has continued. Even now, with my extremely busy, harried, crazy life, I find a way to read a couple of books a week. My tastes run the gamut: literary fiction, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, memoir, biography, creative non-fiction, cookbooks, poetry, scientific treatises, history, philosophy, and political theory. But lately I have found myself dissatisfied with what's left. I've begun to think I've already read all the good ones.

Once, at the library, I decided to just start with "A". I selected 10 or so books from the first shelf of fiction and took them home, excited to discover some new authors and broaden my literary horizons. The experiment failed, because of those 10 books, 9 of them were absolute drivel. I have found myself, more and more, skipping to the back to find out how the plot resolves, and tossing the book aside because I have better things to do with my time. I am more and more critical of the things I'm reading -- and I don't just mean about plot, although there are some published works out there with some serious plot problems. I'm talking about style, word choice, flow -- and I find myself saying things like, "I could do better."

Wait! Did I just type that?!? Is this what it has come down to? Could I do better? Well, I'm not sure, but the time has come for me to try. I have an idea, and I have a plan, and in the meantime, blog land will continue to be my place to try out ideas, fiddle with my own style and syntax, and scratch the publishing itch while I'm working on something Real.

I'll always be reading, though. Provided I can find something worthwhile to endow with my time. Any suggestions? Go ahead. Hit me with your best shot! I will warn you: I am extremely well-read. It may be a challenge for you to come up with something I haven't already seen. I am also extremely hard to please. So don't be offended if I totally shoot down your Most Favorite Book Ever In The Entire Universe. (Cough, cough. Goose Girl. Cough, cough.)

How about it, readers? Are you up to the double challenge of finding something that not only have I not read, but that I will enjoy? It's tough, I know. But please. My brain thanks you in advance. (And while we're at it, can you throw in some recommendations for children's books, too? I am so tired of preschool morality tales! What happened to a rip-roaring good story? Please leave the moralizing to real-life applications!)

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Identity Crisis

Yes, mine.

Don't freak out. I'll be back. I'm just trying to define what I'm doing here, in a place that doesn't really exist, and what direction I want to go with my writing.

Please bear with me and be patient!

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Conditional Commandment

Disclaimer: I welcome comments on this post. However, I reserve the right to delete any and all comments that I deem to be inappropriate in nature. This is not a topic I broach lightly, but I firmly believe it can be discussed sensitively, without specific references to anatomy or anything else Google-able. Please remember that my children are frequently featured on this blog and do your best to protect them from creepy searches. And don't test me. I will delete your comment, with neither guilt nor compunction.

Also -- I have no credentials here. This post reflects nothing more than my own personal opinions.

A few years ago I read an article about finding your personal ministry. At the time, I had just finished serving as Young Womens president, and in my new calling in the stake Relief Society, I was in the midst of presenting the standards outlined in "For the Strength of Youth" to the combined adult groups of every unit in our stake. I joked that, especially in light of the Relief Society lessons I'd been assigned to teach lately, it seemed that maybe my personal ministry was to talk about sex to as many different groups of people as possible. For a while there, just about every Sunday I covered that most delicate of topics -- for youth, for Relief Society, for everyone.

I met a wonderful woman a few months ago named Natasha Helfer Parker. She is a therapist, and a Mormon. She has a blog, appropriately named The Mormon Therapist, wherein she answers questions submitted anonymously by people who would like to have advice in the context of the LDS faith. She provides a valuable service, and has proven to be an excellent resource on topics ranging from parenting to family relationships, and, yes, to marital intimacy.

Lately, Natasha has been fielding a lot of questions -- specific questions -- about intimacy, about what is or isn't appropriate in the marriage bed, about the church's stance or lack thereof on specific behaviors. While Natasha's answers are thoughtful and her research is impeccable, I have found myself thinking about the genesis for these queries in the first place.

Why are so many people asking for an explicit guideline regarding intimate, personal  behavior?  Why do people feel the need to get permission before engaging in certain acts of sexual expression?

The commandment we have regarding intimacy, that is, to not engage in sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage, is the only one we have that is conditional. It is the only "do not" we have that is followed by an "unless". It's not "thou shalt not kill, unless . . ." or "thou shalt have no other gods before me, unless . . ." or "thou shalt not bear false witness, unless . . ." Even the Word of Wisdom gives us a pretty specific list of substances that are or aren't okay for us to consume. But sex? Sex is conditional, circumstantial, situational. And once those conditions have been met, it's still pretty complicated. Or is it?

I have noticed a recent trend in General Conference talks: there seems to be a greater emphasis lately on development of personal spirituality. We are counseled to learn the doctrines of the church, and then apply them to our lives. It's that simple. We are counseled, in leadership training, to learn the programs of the church and then apply them to the special needs of local units. We are to learn the Gospel, developing a personal relationship with our Savior and an affinity for the Holy Spirit so that when we are prompted to do or to not do, we are prepared to hear  -- and then to follow.

I don't know why people have a hard time applying that counsel to marital intimacy. If we are ever entitled to personal revelation, isn't it there? Sanctioned exercise of procreative powers (and I do mean using them even when there is no chance of actual procreation) has the potential to both strengthen a marriage and bring a couple closer to their Creator. That union of man and wife is by its very nature sacred and holy, and the Holy Ghost need not leave your bedroom when the act is initiated -- should not, in fact. You can rely on his confirmation that your physical expressions of love for your spouse, and vice versa, are sanctioned by the Holy Spirit.

Every party who enters a relationship does so with baggage. Of course, some baggage is more difficult to deal with than others. It is this variation in experience that makes the constructs of sexual behavior so difficult to define. What may cross a line for one couple may be the pinnacle of union and a holy experience for another. But if you are maintaining your spiritual self, you can -- should -- expect guidance in every aspect of your life, including sexual activities. This requires a great deal of communication between husband and wife, and that kind of communication, when entered into in the spirit of love, exploration and compromise, can only strengthen a relationship and make it easier to apply the same principles of communication to other aspects of a marriage.

Why are we asking these questions? Why do we need specifics? I'm still not sure there's a clear answer. Maybe we like a laundry list of dos and don'ts. But that's a bit pharisaical, isn't it? That makes it easy to ignore spiritual promptings. We must trust in our own preparation to receive personal revelation in this most personal of realms. As I said before, if we can expect personal revelation about anything, isn't it intimacy?

This barely scratches the surface -- there are so many more ways to frame this topic. What say you?

PostScript: After writing this post, I found another excellent reference. I urge you all to go read  this BYU devotional given by Jeffrey R. Holland during his tenure as university president.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

The End of an Era, and Other Observations

1. Wow, how things change.

We are winding up our third week of kindergarten. My house is cleaner than it has been in, oh, about 5 1/2 years. Garrett and Connor (Real names! Don't faint!) started year-round kindergarten this month and, I tell you what -- this regular schedule thing is A. kicking my butt, and B. fantastically awesome. We all go to bed earlier. I am home from taking the big boys to school by 8AM. My kids are happy, excited, engaged, and totally into the whole school experience. And I am extremely relieved -- especially for Garrett, whose complicated personality sometimes, well, complicates things. Life is good. I am, however, a little nostalgic for the time when I was pretty much the only influence on these little guys for 90% of the day. But not nostalgic enough to home school. There are not enough anti-anxiety medications in the world.

2. My baby is beautiful. And standing, whilst staring at her feet, willing them to move. Precocious mobility is not anywhere on my list of favorite things . . . but I think Elena (Another real name! Actually, we call her Laney Kate) will be my earliest walker. Curses. She also just cut four teeth at once, and her hair becomes more red every day. She is eating real food and crawling all over the place -- I no longer contain her, except to close the door to the basement.

Also, she's a shoplifter. But then, she learns from the best. Let me explain.

Last week, my friend and I took our little ones with us on a shopping trip to a semi-close outlet mall. After we left the first store, my friend pulled a pair of little boy size 6 month shorts out of my stroller. "Did you mean to get these?"

No. No, I did not. But apparently, Laney Kate did. So we took them back.

And then we went to Gap. I loaded up the top of my stroller with cute things for all of my kids. While checking out, Mason (yep, that one's real, too) was playing peek-a-boo with Laney by opening and closing the sunshade. I was halfway to Banana Republic before I noticed two cute little outfits still left on top of the sunshade that I had totally stolen.

So I went back and paid for those. She even let me use my 25% off coupon again.

3. That trip to the outlet mall was merely an excuse to drive past all the peach orchards on the way and load up on my most favorite food IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if I had been Eve, and the forbidden fruit had been peaches, the serpent would not have had to try very hard. As in, he wouldn't have even had to show up. Last night, I ate three. In one sitting. Of course, that's because I had just finished . . .

4. a three mile run. In the heat of the day. I'm a little crazy like that. And if it's hot and humid, it counts more. My husband is training for a triathlon (which I will NEVER do) and he was making me look bad. And I discovered that the park near my house has a greenway . . . cool, and shaded and breezy by the river. And on that greenway, half-buried in the vines, is an old abandoned wreck of a car. It's totally creepy. In a good way.

5. I have always loved "Masterpiece Mystery!" But this season has been uncommonly good. If you are so inclined, find yourself a way to watch this season's "Murder on the Orient Express." Poirot at his best. (In the interest of full disclosure, my husband hates these shows. Passionately. But that's okay. Because I also hate "Gearz".)

6. Maybe the summer heat (way more extreme than usual around here) is getting to my brain, but I have nada for blog fodder. So instead of writing crap, I have chosen (until now) to write nothing. And really, just between you and me, it seems that a lot of other people out there are not refraining even though their fodder wells have dried up, too. (No, not you! Ha, ha. Of course, not you! I mean those other people!) I have found myself commenting less and less, partly because I'm still doing the one-handed-typing-while-nursing thing, but partly because . . . I don't have much to say. Have I offended you? Please don't take offense. The muse will strike me again, and with it will (hopefully) come a desire to once again engage in widespread internet conversating. But for now, you're stuck with drivel to read from a blogger who mostly lurks. Signing off . . . for now.

And in case you're wondering . . . it's Emily.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Sad Commentary on the Current State of Affairs

In the future, when my children watch "old" movies and discover the most recent iteration of King Kong, they will think the scene with King Kong holding Naomi Watts on top of the Empire State Building is a reference to the "Attack of the 50 Foot Sister" episode of Phineas and Ferb.

Whoa. That's deep, man.

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(And if you don't know anything about those two idiotically-named characters, they're brothers who, each day during summer vacation, do something absolutely outrageous -- think build a portal to Mars -- while their older sister tries to get them busted. Meanwhile, their pet platypus Perry, a secret agent, plays Candace to the sad arch-villain-wannabe Dr. Doofenschmirtz. One scheme usually cancels out the other so Candace's oblivious mom always just misses catching her sons in the act, and Dr. D's plans are always thwarted by the silent but effective Perry the Platypus, who manages to simultaneously save the Tri-State Area and protect P & F's summer vacation plans. Can you tell I've seen every episode? Frequently? I won't complain. There are definitely worse things for my kids to enjoy.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Men in My Life

I've spent probably too much time singing the praises of my fantastic husband Craig on this blog, and while I am grateful for all that he brings to this most wonderful of unions, today, I'd like to take a moment to extol the virtues of another man I know:

My garbage man.

He loves me. I just know it.

It's Craig's job to take the trash can out to the end of our driveway each and every Tuesday morning, even the day after a holiday. Now. The man works hard. He recently took on another job so that we can pay off the loan we took out to purchase our business and while it's difficult to be without him 6 days a week not counting Sundays, the numbers don't lie and within the year, we will have enough financial freedom to shackle ourselves to some more debt when we build a new office. But I don't even make him mow the grass -- especially when the neighbor kid is willing, even happy, to tame our 3/4 acre for a mere $15 a pop.

So pretty much every Tuesday when I hear the garbage truck pull up our street, I glance out the window to make sure the trash has been taken up, and then, in a panic, race outside to do my husband's only outside job. Usually, I am tailed by a cadre of small children in various states of undress, all covered in peanut butter, or maybe poop. I lug the trash bin up the driveway and then try to manhandle my children away from the gigantic stinking monster truck that has, of course, become the ONE TRUE object of their considerable affections and, as such, the Everest to their Sir Edmund Hilary.

The garbage man, who, admittedly, has a nice smile under all the grime, grins at my boys, tells them to stay on the grass, and bids me a good day with a little tip of his hat and a wink. Which I think means he'll see me the same time next week.

This week, after our day at the lake on Monday, I really just forgot it was Tuesday. But last night, Craig took the trash out to the bin and came back inside scratching his head. "I forgot to take the trash up to the curb, but the can is still empty."

I just smiled to myself. Now, that, my friends, is service!

PS The use of his real name is intentional. I've decided it's time for our family to become Real People with Real Names. Introductions to come.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Greater Than

Last fall, our family took a little jaunt out to the coast. In my pregnant hugeness, I wasn't able to play as much as usual, but I enjoyed the opportunity to sit in the sand and watch my brood chase after the waves.

CPod's family beach condo is in a high rise right on the water. We can see the dusky blue-gray Atlantic from the balcony, and the sea-borne wind whips that unmistakable briny scent into every scrap of fabric within its purview. When we're there, my children smell hot and salty as the essence of primordial water permeates every eyelash, skin cell, toe nail, fingerprint. When you're at the beach, you become the beach -- sun-bleached, sweaty, watermellowed, gritty.

While the boys and their daddy raced the water and dug in the sand, I lounged and photographed and observed, and as I watched my little family interact with the world around us, I found myself completely transfixed by the continuous pound and recession of the waves. Hypnotized, I searched for patterns in the crush of water against sand and each time I thought I might have it figured out, my logic would fail as the wave fell inexplicably far from my prediction.

But not inexplicably.

Those tides were, are, relentless and utterly reliable. They are governed by laws of nature that stretch the limits of both our solar system and my intellect. Detailed and complicated equations, formulated and refined by generations of marvelous scientific minds, calculate with accuracy the highest and lowest possible points of a tide on a given beach, as well as the time, every 12.5 hours or so, when that low or high will occur. High tide on one coast generally means low tide on another one as the entire volume of oceanic water performs a dance of give and take, hips swaying gently from one continent to another. It all depends on the interplay of lunar and solar gravity, with a dash of terrestrial rotation. Throw in local weather and some overarching atmospheric patterns and you get an infinitely variable but still miraculously predictable life-sustaining system.

I learned a new word: syzygy. Syzygy. Syzygy (say it -- you'll like it: si-zuh-gee) occurs when the stars are all aligned: average tides happen when the sun, earth, and moon form a right angle, with our tiny planet in the corner. But when our three governing celestial bodies end up aligned, pretty maids all in a row, new moon and full, we see the highest of high tides, the lowest of low. Syzygy is that wave's moment -- the one time when it can reach a little higher, a little farther, touch a little more dry sand with its briny fingers.

Sometimes, I get there, too. Last month, I played Copland's Appalachian Spring with the symphony. The piece is lovely and impressive and a definite crowd favorite. Copland was a genius of orchestration, and his simple but powerful inclusion of the old Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" in a piece that truly speaks the majestic language of my mountains nearly brings me to tears every time I hear it. But the true gem is in the transition to "Simple Gifts" -- a mere 8 measures of collective breathing as the entire strings section gently sighs three simple chords, first up high, then lower. I hear as much in the silence of those measures as I do in the notes, and sometimes, if all of my celestial bodies are standing where they should be, if all of my symphonic cohorts are focused, reaching, listening, we transcend, we breathe as one organism, we weep the chords through the rills and waterfalls of our beloved home and touch a little more dry sand.

I've wondered lately how many moments of syzygy I have missed because I haven't been paying attention, or I've been focused on the wrong horizon. Some of those missed opportunities won't come around again, but I'm hoping for some second chances at reaching my potential.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Some Southern Gospel Perspective

A while back my friend Melanie J asked me why I think our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, grows so slowly in the South. I've been mulling this question over for a few months now, and I think I've come up with a pretty good answer.

But first: my street cred.

I was born in North Carolina, raised in North Carolina, and, except for the three years it took me to get a degree from BYU, I have lived in the southern states for all of my 33 years, including four years in Memphis, TN for my husband's postsecondary education, and some time in South Carolina.

I was also raised a member of the LDS church -- we are more commonly referred to as Mormons. Young Mormon missionaries knocked on my parents' door a few years before I was born, and when they decided to be baptized, they grabbed on for dear life and never looked back.

So. I know the South. I know the Mormon faith. And I think I understand a little why they don't mix too well. I speak from experience, but without authority. Take my words with a grain of salt, and know that my opinions are just that: opinions.

I live in a smallish town -- we have chain restaurants and even a little mall, but we do not have a high crime rate, any buildings taller than the courthouse, or a freeway with more than two lanes in each direction. What we do have is a Baptist church on every corner. Without looking at the phone book, I can count . . . fourteen just within a few miles of my house. If we add in Methodists, the big Catholic church downtown, a couple of Presbyterians, the Lutheran church attached to my kids' preschool, and several Seventh-Day Adventists, it starts to look like Utah, only varied.

People already have religion here -- and they are devout, faithful, loving people. They love the same Jesus Christ that I do. They take meals to sick people just like I do. They send their kids to Sunday School just like I do. They read their Bibles every day just like I try to do. They set excellent examples of good Christian service. But they don't want anything new.

This is not to say there are not small-minded individuals here and there who do their part to discourage members and investigators alike from attending. There are certain congregations here, and all through the north, south, east and west, whose pastors notoriously preach against the LDS faith. They arm their congregants with pamphlets and talking points to use should they encounter a Mormon, but there isn't as much of that going on as you might think. Too often, those people are friends with a good Mormon family or two and the stuff they hear at church just doesn't jive with the things they know from experience.

And what is that experience? I have found the people I go to church with here to be an extremely interesting and diverse group. In our congregation, we have business executives, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. We have retired soldiers, entrepreneurs, and politicians. We have factory workers, musicians, builders, and artists. Members of our ward (Mormon-ese for congregation) are involved in community organizations and local charities; they have children in the schools and own retirement homes on the golf courses (almost as numerous as the Baptist churches); they represent the Gospel well (or sometimes not) in nearly every corner of this little town. We are normal people. (However. I must insert here that we have our fair share of crazy people -- and they aren't always the best PR for the church. But every church has crazy people! They make the world go 'round!)

But, boy, let me tell you, we work hard. My sister serves as head of the Young Women's organization in her little branch out in the mountains. Her husband serves in the Branch Presidency, which is the local leadership. He also works with the Cub Scouts in their church-sponsored troop, while she teaches seminary (religious education for high school students) one night a week to the far-flung youth of their branch.

Here, visiting and home teaching routes sometimes cover a distance of 60 miles (or more!) and 10 families (or more!).

One of my best friends began coming to church here when my twins were newborn. I was also serving as the Young Women's president and my husband was Young Men's president. We ran around that church building juggling babies and tossing diapers back and forth down the halls while teaching classes, managing the inevitable teenager crises, and planning activities (a trip to Nauvoo, no less!) for the 35 or so youth of our ward. She later told me that while I looked like someone she might like to know, I was way to busy for her to "bother" me. 

And if I'm being honest, I'm not sure I would do it if I didn't already know it's true. To join a church where you have to work hard to keep the work going may be a little off-putting to someone who hasn't received a witness. Being a member of this church requires a level of commitment that some people are just not willing to give. Especially if they've already got religion.

And especially if that religion is truly a way of life: many people are so heavily involved in their church communities on a social level that being baptized into the LDS church really feels like a divorce from all of their friends. When your family, friends, neighbors, and childhood confidants still go to the same church on the corner where you have gone since you were born, it's a really big deal to start going someplace else.

But people do it. People change their lives -- the Gospel changes their lives. It certainly has changed mine.

Any questions? Any further insights? Please share!

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bright Future

The only picture I took during the entire weekend of the CBC:

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

For This Child I Prayed

I don't usually teach Gospel Doctrine, so when I have to substitute for my brother's class, I tend to over-prepare. I'll be the first to admit I'm a little intimidated by the breadth of material covered by these Old Testament lessons, and heaven forbid I should disprove my know-it-all reputation by failing to cross-reference every footnote in the reading material.

I began preparing for a lesson on the later chapters of 1 Samuel by reading Hannah's story at the beginning of the book. It had been a rough day with the boys, especially G-Dog. Though he is a twin, he is still consistently dominant and takes on the role of oldest child. He tends to amplify the intensity of any situation, good or bad: when things are going well, he thrives on the praise he receives for his good choices, but when we're at odds, he has a tendency to keep pushing until one or both of us spirals out of control. I am the adult. I should not lose it, but the reality is that sometimes I lose my cool and it's almost always over something G-Dog has done, or won't do, or won't stop doing. I am not proud of this.

I have always felt a certain kinship with the many infertile women of the Old Testament, and found a certain solace in the use of barrenness as a metaphor, but I had never taken notice of Hannah before. After enduring years of childlessness, she pleads for a son, vowing to give him to the Lord. The Lord opens her womb, and after her Samuel is weaned, she delivers him to Eli at the temple so that he might be trained in the ways of the Priesthood.

She says: "For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there." (See 1 Samuel 1:27-28)

I got hung up on that first verse: "For this child I prayed: and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him."

And I could not help thinking of G-Dog. For this child, I prayed. For this child, I begged, pleaded, bargained, wept, despaired. For this child, I endured needles, probes, surgeries, heartache, frustration, desolation, drugs, pain, and indignities. And the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him.

And then I heard a voice. "He is mine," it said. "He is mine." I knew then that this child, who is my toughest, who is a challenge harder to handle than the seven years of infertility we endured before he was born, is loved, watched, cradled, cherished by the Lord.

I am now exactly where I wanted to be: my babies all slumbering in the next rooms, husband asleep at my side, life full of people I love and time occupied by worthy projects. And yet. Time and again those things are not enough to motivate me to choose better. To be better.

This child -- all of these children -- lent to me but for a short space, are my teachers more than I am theirs. I wonder that their noble spirits were given to me, a most unworthy mother, and pray that this petition, too, will be heard by the Lord: that I will be equal to the challenge. That I will not damage them with my lack of patience. That I will be humbled -- finally, by strong-willed children who can teach me to rely on the Lord more than I have ever had to. That we may all grow together. That I can be like Hannah, and recognize in my little ones the spark of divine.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Kindred Spiritedness

I love a good reunion.

That's where I've been this weekend -- at least, that's how it seems. It is a singularly pleasurable experience to meet people in person and have them be exactly the way you thought they would be, only better: smarter, funnier, deeper, kinder, wiser. More. Not just kindred spirits, but kindredly spirited, old friends reunited after an open-ended separation. And new friends who fit that bill, too, whose acquaintance I am happy to have made, whose blogs I will forever frequent.

Now I'm tired. And I have to fly home tomorrow with an infant who would rather be practicing her newly-developed crawling skills. Instead, I'm going to confine her to our 18 square inches of allocated space and tell her she's not allowed to use her voice -- although the sweaty fat man not charmed by her little southern rendition of "Hi" and a coy, intentional wave is a cool customer indeed.

Wish you had been here. Maybe next time?

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Monday, May 24, 2010

How to Tell The Difference Between InkMom and MommyJ

My sister is a blogger, too. If you're not yet aware of MommyJ's blog, you're in for a treat. She's funny and smart, a great writer and a fantastic mom. Please be sure to check out her companion post. You won't get the full story unless you read us both!

MommyJ and I are exactly 4 years, 4 months and 4 days apart. I am older. And bossier (and whatever she says in her blog, I totally told her to say it).

When we were younger, people often asked if we were twins. This was a little galling, especially for me, the older sister. We used to spend inordinate amounts of time staring at our faces, smushed together in the hallway mirror, trying to find the so-called similarities. Feature by feature, it's all different.

But the overall impression is pretty much the same.

We live in the same stake -- and I live within the bounds of the very same ward our parents have attended since I was two years old. This causes confusion, especially for those who only know one or both of us in passing. One particular member of our stake presidency never fails to get it wrong, even when one of us is pregnant.

Some of you lucky ducks may have the distinct privilege of meeting both me and MommyJ if you happen to be at the Casual Blogger Conference this coming weekend. Just in case you're confused, I've provided a primer. Study up -- we expect you to get it right 100% of the time. Here's how:

 This is my humility picture. And also my reminder to pluck my eyebrows before we leave on Thursday.

1. InkMom has curly hair. MommyJ does not. This would make things easier . . . except I'm getting a blow-out (of the hair -- not diaper -- variety) on Wednesday, so I won't actually have curly hair for the conference. Bummer. It's really something to behold. (And waaaaay better now that I  have been de-mulleted.) But even straightened, it's bigger than MommyJ's straight hair.

2. InkMom's baby is older. Little Miscellany (almost 7 months) and Baby Ivy (6 weeks) will be attending the conference with us. This means that my baby will almost-crawl her way over to any beautifully painted toes she can find, squawking and screeching as she goes. Please forgive her if she somehow salivates on any part of your belongings or -- egad -- your toes. And be fairly warned -- we call her The Pterodactyl for a reason.

3. MommyJ is younger, as I've already said, but (hopefully) you can't tell by looking at us. Except MommyJ wears younger shoes. And, due to some overzealous plucking, I have lots of half inch-long wiry gray hairs sticking our all over my head.

4. InkMom looks like she hijacked a produce stand and hid a couple of melons in her shirt. MommyJ looks like she's smuggling cantaloupes in her pantalones. We're pretty sure our mom overdosed on Big Macs when she was pregnant with me and I am the unfortunate result of the presence of unregulated bovine growth hormone in the beef. (Ask her this weekend -- she'll be at the conference, too!)

5. InkMom uses big words in every day conversation, without a single thought for the vocabulary size of her audience. MommyJ sounds smart and incredibly capable (because she is) without being a pompous walking dictionary.

6. InkMom has an ego the size of Texas. Maybe bigger. MommyJ is a singularly nice person who is a delight to be around because somehow, everyone is worthy of her friendship.

So let's review, shall we? I'm the big sister in almost every sense of the word: bigger hair, bigger baby, bigger boobs, bigger vocabulary, bigger ego. Thank goodness she's the one with the bigger butt!

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Monday, May 17, 2010


Have you heard? The CBC is in a little over a week, and I've had a running of list of things to do to get ready for months now. Business cards? Check. Awesome butt-shaping blue jeans? Check. Cute shoes? Check. A functional diaper bag that can also be my carry-on? Check. Cute haircut? Check . . . oh, wait.

I got my hair cut last Thursday. My hair is curly and big, and really has a mind of its own. When it's curly, I manage it mostly by not managing it . . . that, and great products which, I swear, are an invention of the 21st century. Occasionally, I blow it out myself, but usually, if I want to wear it straight, I pick what I hope will be the first day in a long stretch of rainless ones, and go have someone else do the 45 minute elbow-wrenching job. And if the gods have smiled upon me, that blow out will last . . . 4 or 5 days.

That's why I have just noticed today the carnage. I don't know what happened. My stylist usually does a fantastic job . . . but Thursday, she cut my shorter layers so short that they could now be classified as bangs should I choose to wear them that way. She left my longer layers so long that now that I've allowed it to do what it wants to do, I can only describe my new do as a curly mullet.

I fixed my hair this morning, and then I cried. And then I called my sister and sent her a picture. She kind of laughed and then didn't say much except, "I . . . um . . . I think we can fix this?"

Not exactly convincing.

We then discussed the merits of having a Jane Austen-ready haircut (there are none), and I did a Google search to see if anyone is casting for Louis XIV (most are looking for a man to play the lead, even if the hair is spot on).

I called the salon this afternoon. And I'm going back in tomorrow morning to get it re-done. But the bangs? The bangs I didn't ask for, and that have not, for a reason, graced my face since an unfortunate eighth grade hairstyle mishap -- well, I'll just have to wait for them to catch up with their cohorts.

I should just wear it straight until it grows out. But have you been to the North Carolina mountains in the summer? The whole afternoon thunderstorm weather pattern is pretty much the norm around these parts, and what kind of crazy person straightens curly hair on a rainy day? Even on a good day, my straightened hair has a look of potential energy about it -- like any exposure to humidity might cause my head to explode into an afro-like puffball of unruly ringlets, mostly because that's exactly what happens.

So somehow this bad hairstyle sent me into a tailspin that I have struggled to get out of all day long. It's a symphony week and I like to get things in order early when I know 5 of the next 6 nights will be occupied with non-housekeeping and mothering activities. I've done NONE of the things I needed to. I played with my kids. I figured out how to webchat so MommyJ could see my ugly hair. I wrote this blog post and put out some other fires, but I didn't clean the floor or fold any laundry or even make dinner -- my lovely husband brought home burgers for the kids and sushi for the grownups instead.

To add insult to injury, Miscellany pooped all over my bed, onto sheets that I just changed last night. LAST NIGHT, I tell you! It is on CPod's side. Maybe I'll just leave it. Poop? Bad hair? Anything else? Please, let the cleansing strains of Appalachian Spring do their work on my psyche tonight. I need a lift in the worst kind of way.

I spent the afternoon asking myself if I was really that shallow -- so shallow that a bad hair day can turn me into a self-centered ogre? Yes. Yes, I am.

I was due for a reality check, and I got it when I spoke with my best friend this afternoon. Her mother is in end-stage renal failure, and at this point, dialysis is out of the question and the best they can hope for is a short wait on the transplant list. We just went through this with CPod's mom, and I wish that degree of worry on no one. Our outcome was positive, and I can only pray that hers will be as well.

That bad haircut? Pales in comparison to the sentence of a life-shortening disease calling in its dues. That needed perspective-kicker has shifted my focus away from the mirror. Good thing, because the reflection is really, really bad.

(I just read this to CPod. He really thinks I should say something about how I'm trying to work on my present lack of depth. Or some redeeming characteristic that mitigates my narcissism . . . yeah. I got nothing. Maybe the act of posting the debacle will be cathartic enough for me to move on, but chances are I'm not moving on until tomorrow morning. Keep your fingers crossed for something halfway attractive!)

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Weekend Report

Well. I'm a little late posting, since I told you I'd be back Sunday night, but these pictures are worth waiting for, I promise.

We had a fabulous weekend of shopping and laughing and talking and eating. Gramma bought cute matching dresses for all of her granddaughters, so, of course, we had to take pictures. We like to call them The Blonde, The Brunette, and The Redhead:

Those are MommyJ's daughters Lucy and baby Ivy with a side of grinning Miscellany, my little gem. Aren't they cute?

CPod got Miscellany dressed for church. When we arrived (early, for once), I went to nurse her before the meeting started. I noticed she didn't have any little bloomers covering her bum. CPod claimed there were none with the dress. I knew this wasn't right, but just figured they got lost somewhere between the closet and the baby and I'd find them when we got home. And then I looked under the back of her dress. Which is exactly where I found the bloomers, still attached by little white plastic tags to the inside of her dress. CPod just looked at me. "I don't know how that stuff works!" he said. Which is exactly what I say to him when I remind him that our boys need some further aiming remediation when it comes to peeing in the toilet.

Here are all the women alive with whom I share a great deal of my genes -- Mom, daughters, granddaughters:

We had a little moment in the dressing room at one of the stores we visited on Friday -- we were all there, and I'm pretty certain my grandmother popped in for a minute or so, too. When I was growing up, I had no concept of the closeness and satisfaction possible in sister-and-mother relationships. If I'd known then how great it could be, I would have tried a lot harder to be likable!

I found THE jeans that were made for my posterior. As in, Calvin Klein snuck into my room in the middle of the night and measured my butt, then made me some jeans. They're fantastic. And they cost half as much as the jeans that do great things for MommyJ's bottom end. Neener, neener.

Some evidence that I'm Miscellany's mother (get a load of her legs -- the rolls abound):

All these pictures were taken in my house -- and that awful mess of stuff in the background? That is our Gallery Wall. My kids use the French doors off the dining room to display any and all art projects for posterity, and while it's not exactly going to sell my house to the first buyer who sees it (not that we're selling), they are so proud of the things they put up there that I'm not about to mess with it. Also, the chair I'm sitting in has started to remind me of a Vegas casino carpet.

And the dress:

And because you are a captive audience, and she is irresistible:

And because Little Miss Personality stole the show (and also has enormous feet!):

I am so getting my haircut on Thursday. Usually, I love my curly hair, but sometimes . . . sometimes, it's just a big unruly mess and I feel the need to tame it. And tame it I shall. Perhaps while I'm at it I should figure out how to de-shine my face. So, hair? Meh. Skin? Needs some work. Eyebrows? Definitely in need of some grooming. But that jacket? Love it. You should see the back.

That's all for now, dear readers. This is the closest thing to a scrapbook I will EVER have and sometimes it needs to have pictures -- so thanks for indulging me. I promise, no more baby pictures for at least two posts!

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lucky Day

Because I found 13 four-leaf clovers today. And a few with five leaves. In about 3 minutes. It's a gift.

I haven't written much lately, because I've had so much to write about. I've said that before. Someone else has said that recently, but I can't remember who. So I'm cleaning out my (figurative) closet RIGHT NOW and I'm just going to write one big, huge, messy, disconnected post of Blog Nothing. And then I will feel better and I'll be able to get on with my life. Here we go!

1. I also cleaned out my literal closet. My husband hates it when I do this. He says it creates a vacuum of space that needs to be filled. He's right. I'm going shopping on Friday. My sister loves it when I do this because she gets all of my cast-offs, if she wants them. And she does. Everybody wins. Except my cash stash.

2. Did you hear? I'm going shopping on Friday. With my sister. And my mom. And our beautiful babies. And then we (including sisters-in-law and Lucy) are going to play cards and drink Mexican Co'Cola until the cows come home. (When, exactly, is that? Does anyone know? Annette?) And all of the men in our family are camping. And we are all, every one of us, campers and shoppers alike, Very Much looking forward to this weekend. I have a vacuum to fill, after all.

3. I asked my sister the other day how she would describe me to a stranger who had to find me based on her description. I know, it's a weird question. She said, "I would tell them to look for the beautiful (she has to say that because people sometimes think we're twins) short girl in a red coat with a mass of curly dark hair." And I said, how can you leave out the boobs? She said, No one notices your boobs. I said, Are you on drugs? Because, well. They're ginormous. And now that I've had my last baby, I am going to give my back a blessed break and surgically alter my figure. I have looked forward to this since before I had children, and now that it's 6 months or so away from actually happening, I'm worried that my buxom-ness is an actual part of my identity. I know. Every day, the (Not) in "I'm (Not) Crazy Mommy" fades a little.

4. I just read this post by Heather of the EO. But before I read it, I listened to/watched her Thank You video here. And I was so happy to hear her voice. When I read blogs, I narrate them in my head. But if I have really heard your voice, I hear your voice . . . in your voice, instead of mine. And I loved it. I will forever read her blog with a Minnahsohtah voiceover. This is one of the many reasons I'm excited to go to the CBC in just THREE WEEKS. Finally, my little dramatic interpretations of what you've written will have an all new cast of voiceover actors.

5. Speaking of the CBC, I'm having some anxiety about it. In case you don't know, I'm speaking on a panel with my sister (MommyJ of Mommy Snark, in case you just thought I was her stalker -- although she's very stalk worthy. But don't. Please.), Kristina Pulsipher of Pulsipher Predilections, and Jessica Bern of Bern This. These girls are FUNNY. Me? Not so much. And so while I am a complete and total attention hog when it comes to things that, oh, I don't know, showcase my brilliance and help me feel super-smart, I do not shine in the comedy department. Unless you count unintentional physical comedy. I'm totally good at slipping on an invisible banana peel, or magically dropping something that I wasn't even holding. Anyway, our topic is Finding Your Voice. I'm still looking for mine, I think, but if you can think of anything you think would be interesting for us to cover, glance furtively the other way to make sure MotherBoard and MomBabe aren't looking and e-mail me some suggestions!

6. Speaking of sisters, I love mine. I decided the other day that I'm glad I only have one. If I had another sister, we would have to share. And someone would always be left out. And, let's be honest here people. It would be me. Critical? Check. Overbearing? Check. Controlling? Oh, yes. Know-it-all? I invented the term. Willing to change? Absolutely not. In other words, MommyJ is stuck with me by default. Yay for me!

7. I can't decide if my hair makes me look more like this guy (note the fine halo of snowboarder extraordinaire Shaun White's out-of-control frizzies that WILL NOT be controlled by any amount of leave-in conditioners, smoothing balms, control creams, or shaping waxes -- trust me, I know):

Or this guy (note the heavy, hanging-to-the-jowls, face-elongating, horse-ifying qualities of Maestro Bach's 17th century wig):

Although I'm not sure either one is really worthy of my hair worship.

Later, my friends. I will blog again before . . . Sunday, midnight, EST. Promise!

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Sunday, April 18, 2010


 Photo credit: My Mama (no really, my mom took this)

It's springtime! Cue the happy band. Having recently (re)read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (highly recommended), I'm in a gardening kind of mood. Our lovely lawn has been taken over by dandelions, and my unpruned hydrangea bush is headed for another year without blooms, but that's okay because the soil I'm digging up is destined to grow delicious, kitcheny things.

We built some raised beds to house a vegetable garden this year. CPod and the boys played with power tools while I mixed batches of peat moss and compost. As I dragged the rake through the soil, over and over, I kicked off my flip-flops and felt the good, clean squish of damp dirt between my toes. My muscles strained, my breath came faster, and I caught myself smiling.

Enjoying the moment? Happy to be productive? Excited at the prospect of home-grown tomatoes, squash, beans, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, basil, parsley? Definitely. All of the above. But more.

I had a flash of clarity, working there in that garden -- a fleeting glimpse of eternity as I felt a brief but poignant kinship with generations of women in my family who had done exactly what I was doing in that very moment. My muscles remembered, suddenly, what they had been designed to do. In that instant, I understood that it's not just my character that has been shaped by the men and women who came before me. The very molecules of my body are a reflection of who we have all been, collectively, over the years.

My mom likes to say she has always been a square peg in a round hole. And when she and my dad had children, they raised a bunch of square pegs. Try rhombus pegs. Or stars. Any polygon, really, as long as it's incongruent with Normal. But a few times in my life, I have found places, done things, met people who made me feel like my peg was just the shape that was missing: On stage, enthralled, drinking up my first full symphony orchestra experience. In front of a class, teaching -- any subject. With certain dear friends through the years. Meeting my husband. Holding my babies for the very first time. When the words are flowing, and I recognize myself in what I've written. In the wonderful church that I have embraced (and been embraced by) my whole life, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In Blogland, with all of you square pegs out there. Wandering around the medieval streets of a small European town. Exploring places, any place, indoors, outside, wilderness, city, museums, mountains. Always, with my family full of multifaceted pegs. And now, working in the dirt. (I should have seen it coming.)

I'm going to call it resonance -- a soul-deep recognition of something you were born to do. Tell me, dear readers -- what were you born to do?

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Monday, April 12, 2010

An Embarrassment of Riches. And An Embarrassment.

Late at night, when I check on my sleeping children, I always experience a little heart-squeeze. Do you know what I mean? I look at their sweet slumbering faces, completely relaxed, safe in the cocoon of home. I love those moments. And I must admit that, sadly, they don't happen too often when the yahoos are awake. Somehow, I think quiet is required for those tender moments and that is a true rarity in this house full of loud, raucous, rowdy boys.

Because these moments are so rare, I take note when they happen, and lately, I've been taking note more often than usual. I'll share some of them . . . but first, something to ground even the highest of fliers.

Ahem. I have a mouse in my car. Or, I did. Which, I guess, is better than the petrified dog poop found by a certain old friend of mine in the back of her car. But still. Last Saturday, we piled into the van to go out for breakfast. As I put on my makeup (which lives in the car, and no, I never put it on while driving, but the light in my driveway is great, and my kids, so far, patiently stay strapped in while I apply the little bit of cosmetics it takes to get me from "she's a man" to "she's not half-bad" . . . but I digress), I found myself in need of a tissue. Those are stored in the glove box. Oh, how I wish I had taken a picture of what I found when I opened it. All 50 million of those shop-lifted fast food restaurant napkins had been chewed and torn to bits, creating the happiest little rodent nest I have ever had the pleasure to encounter.

Last Saturday was CPod's first day off in weeks. He had plans. In that moment, they all changed. He cleaned that van so well you'd think he's trying to hide something from CSI. The good news is CPod saw Little Mousie in the garage, so at lease he's moved out of our vehicle. I'm not all that okay with vermin in my garage, but somehow, it's better than my van.

So, in the midst of all that car-cleaning, intermingled with General Conference sessions and other general Saturday tasks, CPod managed to take each of our big boys on an individual date: errand plus ice cream equals confidence boost and behavior upgrade. GDog's date involved the purchase of mouse traps at the Big Blue Home Improvement Store. During the course of his conversations with CPod, GDog realized that mouse traps do a bit more than just snap off little mousie tails -- and he was distraught.

So his solution was to warn off Mr. Mouse. "Mommy, I told him that he has two days to vacate the premises. After that, we'll have to put out the traps." He was serious. And somehow, it worked. Oh, I love that boy. Heart squeeze number one -- my tender-hearted, big-mouthed, bossy-just-like-me GDog.


We took the boys to see How to Train Your Dragon (highly recommended by our entire family). The movie started at 4:20, so CPod met us there after his last patient. He was a few minutes late, and those first few minutes contain key plot elements and some serious excitement. He joined us in the dark theater, and the boys just jumped on him. They could not get the words out fast enough. Their sentences tumbled over one another as they raced to convey with abject adoration and uninhibited enthusiasm their total excitement about what they were seeing. They love their daddy. Heart squeeze number two.

 ConMan, GDog, MayDay -- and I can't even remember how he got that black eye!


Last week, I spent a day at MommyJ's house. We cooked and boned four whole chickens! We filled her freezer with enough food for her husband to be able to take care of dinner for several weeks after her baby is born. Our kids played so well together, and if you know how much I love my sister, you know how happy this makes me.

We ate lunch outside on MommyJ's front porch. MayDay and Henry, who are just 6 months apart in age, shared a chair and some cantaloupe. My little MayDay looked over at his cousin and said, "Henwy, you're my favorite one to pway wiff." Heart squeeze number three -- my train-playing, thumb-sucking, baby boy MayDay.


The other day, the boys clustered around the Lego bin. "Mommy", GDog said, "I need a human for my car. Will you help me find one?"

I'm a singer. And he said "Human". So I dug through the Legos and began to sing, "Are we human? Or are we dancer?" And ConMan totally picked it up. "My sign is vital, my hands are cold . . ." He kept going, so I turned on the CD: The Killers -- Live from Royal Albert Hall (also highly recommended), and ConMan sang his little heart out. Heart squeeze number four -- my Lego-building, Killers-singing, ladies-favorite, ConMan.


And let's not forget Miscellany. She's growing so quickly . . . too quickly. She's beautiful. She recognizes her name. She reaches for me. She's so, so happy, and she smiles like a Muppet -- as though some puppet master opens her mouth as wide as it will go every time she grins at her brothers. GDog plays a little rough, and I spend a lot of time warning him off of the baby, but her reaction to him does not exactly reinforce my position. I have a little heart squeeze just about every time I pick her up and smell her lovely auburn head.

Oh, it's fun, isn't it? Even though it's peppered with moments like this one (look away if you're squeamish):

 The ones like this never fail to make up for the unpleasant patches:

I love watching my children . . . become.

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