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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