Monday, December 10, 2007


Here are things I'm hopeless at:

Sticking to a Christmas budget. Things change daily, and thus the budget must as well, right?

Staying up late reading anymore. So sad I just fall asleep in the middle of great books.

Tolerating hard rock music. Headache.

Getting exercise done before 10 in the morning.

Turning off Christmas music in December.

Abstaining from caffeine and chocolate.

Planning dinner much before dinner time.

Making Sammie practice the piano.

Keeping Nathan from tearing up socks and jeans.

Putting things back where they go.

Here are things I'm not hopeless at:

Buying Christmas presents.

Wrapping Christmas presents.

Thinking of all the people who would like a Christmas present and finding a nice gift.

Driving all over the place.

Taking naps on Sunday afternoon.

Ignoring family on Sunday afternoon.

Forgetting doctor appointments.

Hugging my son at school--he despises this!

Delegating others to take out the trash and do other chores.

Having people over for dinner.

Just some strange reflections today.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Season of Lost Gloves

Baby it's cold outside! And so we begin the yearly ritual of my kids losing gloves and me searching desperately for them so their teachers don't think I'm a negligent mother. Oh yes, also so their hands don't freeze at recess. Here's a typical conversation on a weekday morning at, say, 7:50 am.

ME: Leah, where are your new purple gloves? (Me sorting through a pile of winterwear)
LEAH: I don't know. (Continues reading her book)
ME: When did you have them last?
LEAH: What? (Turns the page)
ME: (Louder) When did you have them last?
LEAH: When I played in the snow on Saturday.
ME: (grumble, grumble, they're probably in a soaking heap somewhere)
LEAH: Or, I may have left them at school. They could be in the lost and found.
ME: (Remembering that the lost and found at school takes up nearly an entire hallway) Well, could you look for them?
LEAH: Where?


Then there's this 1st grader at school named Spencer who was sobbing last week at recess over a lost glove.

ME: Spencer, why are you crying?
SPENCER: 'Cause I lost my glove. ( sob, sob)
ME: Have you looked around the playground?
SPENCER: (Choking on his sobs) Yes, I've walked all over twice.
ME: It's OK. I bet it's in your backpack or class.
SPENCER: I bet it's not! My Mom told me I can't ever lose gloves or she'll really be mad at me!
ME: She won't be mad, Spencer. Gloves just get lost.
SPENCER: Yes, she will!!! ( Runs away from me)

If Spencer is any indication, I have failed as a mother to instill the value of gloves into my children. Maybe I need to be angrier about gloves, like Spencer's Mom. On the other hand, I don't want my kids crying and searching the playground all recess long for fear of what their mother will say.

Maybe I should just go out and buy 20 cheap pairs of gloves to replace the ones that get lost. But I can't imagine sorting through a bigger pile of gloves in the morning, searching for ones that match (again so my kid's teachers don't think I'm negligent).

How many more months of gloves are there?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Five Days of Fun

I can tell it was a good Thanksgiving break because I'm not so anxious for the kids to go back to school tomorrow. In fact, I enjoyed doing so many things with the family over the break that I kind of wish we could keep the good times rolling and not go back to reality. There is too much of a good thing, though. At some point we'd decide we'd had enough of each other and the money would run out (if it hasn't already!) So I guess it's a good thing holidays don't go on indefinitely.

I actually couldn't believe myself this past weekend. I have NEVER gone shopping the day after Thanksgiving and I went all weekend long. The worst line was at Gymboree. But while I waited I met a couple of women and we became fast friends. We saved each other's places when our eyes would catch something else so adorable that we just had to take a little peak. People were nice and friendly. Of course I wasn't in line at 4 am trying to be the first 20 to get some fancy gadget. I was hanging with the civilized shoppers--those who want a good deal but aren't about to lose a night's sleep in order to save $10, $20 or even $50. Plus, Darren and I discovered that you can get almost anything you see in the ads online for the same price. You just don't get the amazing doorbuster stuff. We don't want that stuff anyway.

It was a great weekend. We had a divine Thanksgiving dinner at my sister-in-law's house, Kim, who is just the best pie-maker ever! She made something like 10 pies because she just loves to do it. I talked to my brother who was preparing to tie his turkey carcass to the back of his Chris Craft boat to attract crabs which he would eat with all the other boaters and their turkey-caught crabs. That sounded like a lot of fun to me. I talked to my sister who was cleaning baby toys out of her son's room. How fast the kids are growing up! My kids had tons of fun having sleepovers with their cousins.

Darren and I got to have dinner with his best friend from high school and his wife. We got to have dinner with our good college friends Steve and Danell Murdock. I got to have lunch with my girls while Darren and Nathan watched the BYU-UTAH game. What a bummer that the Utes lost! I feel richly blessed and spoiled for how much fun I had over the holiday. Looking back, there was a lot of food involved in this holiday. I guess it's time to be good again tomorrow.

I have watched Hairspray (the movie) three times since I bought it Tuesday! I just love that movie. I took the girls to see Enchanted--everyone loved it. I am almost done with my Christmas shopping. This is a good feeling. I got Thanksgiving decorations down and will clean (well maybe) tomorrow so I can start putting up Christmas. This weeked we will shop for a tree and have a candy making party as well.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Back on the Blog Wagon

My friend Alison told me she missed my blog and I see that it has been some time since I last wrote. Those who check (maybe 2 of you--Mom and Alison) know that I've been engrossed in a novel. Writing a novel really takes over your life. I wrote it September, kind of let it sit in October, and got back to editing and rewriting in November. Now I'm busy writing a cover letter and a synopsis to go with it. Writing a synopsis is hard work because it forces you to see that there are many things that make entirely no sense in your novel. So then you go back to the novel and rewrite, then back to the synopisis and write it again. At that point the cover letter needs changing too.

What a beautiful fall it has been. I have loved being at recess every day in 60 degree weather as Mrs. Duty Guard. I am seeing it all every day. Blood, vomit, tears, and bumps the size of oranges. Fights, cliques, pure joy, pure pain and naughty language--all the stuff that makes up life you can see right there on the playground. Kind of like that book "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." I am learning it all--again. I am learning which kids my children will NEVER play with and what kids I hope they become friends with. I saw great Halloween costumes and a couple of kids whose parents don't believe in Halloween and didn't dress up.

Four square, hopskotch, jumprope, jacks, girls chasing boys and boys chasing girls---nothing 's changed much since I was out there running with my hair in the wind 35 years ago. Bruises and scrapes, chattering, hurt feelings, imaginary cuts and bruises, imaginary pets, imaginary friends--every child trying to fill some need for 30 minutes on the playground.

There are some very sad kids out there that break my heart. There are very angry kids out there that try my patience and make everyone feel bad. There are some incredible athletes out there who are destined to lives filled with sports. There are quiet kids that sit calmly and watch. There are kids who need major therapy. There are kids who are fun and outgoing, and attract other kids like the Pied Piper. There are those who desperately need friends, and those who have too many friends. There are kids who can't tell truth at all and others who can't tell a lie. There are kids who help the ones who struggle, and they are the ones who will be truly great in life. The ones who can see other children suffering and ease their pain--they make it all worth it.

It is supposed to turn cold this week. I can't complain. I have been spoiled out there on the playground in the gorgeous fall sun. I am thankful for that. I'm thankful to see my kids for a few minutes in the middle of the school day even though they bum money off me for beef jerky. Now that's one thing that's changed. I couldn't buy beef jerky at my elementary school. Now it seems to be a staple of life. How strange. Kids want it like candy--more even.

Only two days of school this week and then we're all home together feasting and playing and deciding weather to put up Christmas or wait another week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Duty Guard

I got a new job. It's only a five hour a week job and the pay is, well, it's not really pay. It's more like money to go to lunch with friends, only now my job is during lunch!

I am the recess duty guard at my kid's elementary school. I'm one of the ladies who wears a bright orange vest with a pocketful of band aids and has a radio on my belt in case I need to get in touch with the office. I stand outside for an hour watching what's going on, who's gotten hurt and who's not following the rules. Then, I imagine I am supposed to take care of whatever problem comes up. Tomorrow's the big day when I start. I am strangely excited for this.

Nathan and Leah are excited that I will get to see them during their lunch recess. Nathan said, "Cool, Mom, now I can come to you for beef jerky money." Leah, I can already see it, will be standing beside me with a silly grin on her face. It's the same grin I see when I come to her class to read on Thursday afternoons. She acts like I'm the coolest Mom ever. Sadly, that sentiment fades as they grow older. Nathan only wants me around so I can buy something for him.

Ever since my oldest was in kindergarten and I watched her play by herself at recess, I've worried about my kids at recess. It seems to me that if anything negative is going to happen at school, it will happen during recess. I worry if other kids are being nice to them. Are they being cliquey or are they including other kids in their games? Are they all alone? Are they sad? Did they like their lunch? Are they too hot or too cold?

Now I will get to see first hand the goings on at elementary school recess, good or bad.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Life of a Political Scientist

Darren just called me, all excited about some news. His article "Democratization of Some Country in Relation to Criminal Courts in the Somewhere of Something as Relating to Previous Democratizations of Something of Somewhere" was accepted into International Organizations, a very hard-t0-get-into political science academic journal. It is considered a "top tier" journal, as ranked by other political scientists, one that he has been striving to publish in for many, many years.

He hasn't sounded that excited since he saw his peas poking through the ground last April. He informs me we will seriously celebrate. He said something about"uncorking the champagne" so to speak. How does one do this if one doesn't drink? We'll see what he has in mind.

Publishing, as I am learning, is brutal test in exhibiting abnormal patience. In political science, first you spend months thinking of an idea and then running that idea by your colleagues who may shoot it down in five minutes. If they think it has merit, or if they think it doesn't, you begin the process of collecting data and researching. Most often you have the help of an RA (research assistant) but sometimes not, if you've blown your research budget on other things like fancy computer software or Turkish baths at your latest conference in Turkey, the one on "Defining International Democratization as it Relates to Blah, Blah of Blah Blah, and How that Theory is Instrumental in Shaping the Blah, Blah or Blah Blah."

Then you painstakingly sift through all the data, and form your conclusions, all while wishing your were back in the Turkish bath where your true creativity can flow. Then you write. Depending on your pace, sometimes this takes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years. Along the way your colleagues critique your work and offer constructive suggestions that you may or may not consider.

Then you submit your work to a journal. Then you wait, perhaps up to six months or more. Then you get a letter saying, "revise and submit" accrording to the reviewer's comments. Some reviewers are kind and constructive of your work. Others are downright mean and nasty, and make suggestions as if they were undergoing some sort of physical torture at the exact moment when they were reading your article. After sinking into despair for a few days because your ego is not shot to hell and needs serious plumping, you decide what to do. Are you willing to do as the reviewers suggest and get in the coveted journal, or does what they suggest compromise the integrity of your work? This you must decide.

If you decide you want to be in that journal no matter what, you get down to the business of rewriting, a process that can also take weeks, months or years. If it is a co-authored article, you must discuss with your co-author how this is to be done. On occasion there is a disagreement between the two of you as to how to proceed, you spend another month working that out. Then you begin reworking. And hope your colleague does too, and doesn't decide to have a mid-life crisis, leaving you with the bulk of the project. When he calls you from the beach in Hawaii to discuss his lack of progress, you start to wish you'd never started.

At times, when you have the best idea yet, the one that will solidify your work, your wife calls to tell you the refrigerator is leaking and you HAVE TO COME HOME RIGHT NOW!!!! She is yelling into the phone. You feel your precious thought struggling to stay alive. You quickly jot it down so you don't forget and go home to face the fridge. The next day the idea is there but why you liked that idea and why it fits so well into your work is gone, and you begin cussing modern applicances and all their shoddy workmanship that has ruined your career. Your colleagues console you. They are kind because they are also in the middle of revising and resubmitting. Their hair is turning gray at an alarming pace.

If you can wade through these setbacks and get it done, you send the article off again. You wait months to hear back. This time they may like it and accept it "provisionally," meaning they will publish it IF you make the following changes that are listed on the next three pages. Again, you must decide if this compromises the integrity of your work. At this point you can't remember what was even original about your work. It feels dull and weighted down with facts and other people's demands.

Two months later you mail it back with all the "provisions" changed according to the three page list. Not only is your hair gray, but it is falling out. Six months later you hear back that it will be accepted, congratulations, by the way, and you'll see it in the Fall 2011 issue.

But, HEY, it's a "top tier" journal. I suppose there are sacrifices to make in every career. What I learn from this is that patience pays off . . . . . . . eventually. If you begin a project in Fall of 2005 you will taste the sweet fruit of your labors sometime in 2011.

Way to go, Darren!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Computer Life

I spend a lot of time on the computer. So much that there is no way to keep my passwords straight. I know, I should use the same password, but some sites only want six letters and a number or some require only one number and seven letters, so there is no way to have a uniform one to make everyone happy. I often can't remember my password to I clink the link that says "forgot your password?" and then I have to remember the answers to the "reminder" questions. But then I have to think if it's Darren's Mom's maiden name or my Mom's maiden name. When I typed in my childhood telephone number, they said it wasn't correct. How dare they? That number will forever be etched in my mind along with a few others that are randomly stored in the archives of my mind.

So I started a new novel, even though the "old" one is still in publishing limbo. Right now it's at the Utah Arts Council Novel Contest, probably at the bottom of the "Are you kidding?" pile. I'm not holding out my hopes. I figure something will happen eventually, maybe when I'm old and gray. I would like something to happen before then, but I am taking to heart what I've been hearing over and over: Writing is a lesson in patience. It takes time to figure out what you're doing. Don't expect anything good to happen for a long time. It's the process not the destination.

So while I'm waiting for that ship to come in, and maybe doing a few things to help in come in, I decided to start building another ship. About 10 days ago I started staying up way too late to write, and I must say things are coming along. I have written 16,000 words in that time. I didn't say they were good words, or even in a nice order, but they are there. Most young adult novels are between 50-70,000 words, so I'm may be a third of the way from having to rewrite it about eight times. But I'm moving forward. Moving forward is better than moving backward, which I have been known to do on more than one ocassion in my life. Just ask Darren.

In other news, Nathan's green cast is falling apart and it smells horrible. I think I will vacate the room when it is removed and hope the doctor wears a gas mask. Twelve days until it comes off. I hope we can wait that long.

High school varsity swimming reared its ugly head yesterday morning at 5:30 am and then again at 3 pm. Here we go. Thanks Darren for taking the 5:30 am shift. Leah and Sammie both start clogging this week. Nathan the Sammie are gearing up for a group recital on the 13th and are practicing day and night for it (yeah right!).

I am trying to get used to the peace and quiet around here and not squander away six hours a day on the computer trying to figure out my passwords, blog and write my novel. I am trying to remember how cranky I get without exercise, and get my body on the move. I need to prioritize this. I am trying to get used to this phase when children are at school and I'm at home. It takes some getting used to. It is a beautiful but eerie silence when everyone is gone.

We threw away the green wagon that was terribly broken but had been with us for 11 years. Sammie got it for her second birthday and now she's 13. I felt so sad watching Darren throw it in the church dumpster and got a bit teary-eyed thinking of all the fun times with kids in the wagon. I guess we're onto bikes and cars instead of wagons.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Little Boy in a Green Cast

My son, Nathan, has fractured the growth plate in his ankle. He was playing tag at a birthday party on Saturday and stepped in a hole in the lawn and twisted (so we thought) the ankle. When the swelling didn't go down after three days, we thought something might be up and it was. Considering how active he is I am surprised (and grateful) that he hasn't fractured his entire body at some point in his give-everything-100%-attitude lifestyle.

This is a big bummer. He is an incredible soccer player and he just got his jersey for the start of the season. One coach said he "wanted to cry" when he heard that Nathan wouldn't be able to play for a lot of the season. The other coach said he had the best kicking leg on the team and . . . well, there was nothing left for him to say after that.

So we are trying to help him deal with the extreme disappointment he feels. He says he will still go to soccer games to cheer on his team. He chose the green cast not because it was his favorite color, but because it was his team's colors. I hope going to the games helps more than it hurts.

In other silly news, my daughter, Samantha, has a bus driver named Fran. I said, "Oh, it's a woman busdriver." She said, "No . . . . " and then added "At least I don't think it's a woman." So we don't know whether Fran the busdriver is male or female. The other thing is that Fran will wait for no one. If you're late and running down the street to catch the bus, that's just your tough luck. Fran ain't gonna stop for you. Forget going to your locker after school to get your books. Fran's going to leave you at the junior high so you have to call your Mom to come get you.

Over at the high school, junior Adrienne is ecastic to have honors English with seven of her friends. She is not excited to start the dry land portion of swim team in which she will have to run and do other hedonistic exercises. Adrienne and running are like oil and water. The first class of her day is called Primping 101 and it takes an entire class period, I'm telling you. In this class, she works very hard to get everything just right. If it is not just right, we will all hear about it.

My cute little first grader is very tired going to school all day. I love her to be tired because she goes to bed at 9:00 pm instead of 11:00 pm, which she did all summer long. If she can just stop the laying on the floor and whining like a sick dog, we'll all survive it.

That's the first week of school at our house.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Back to School

Today is a milestone of a day for me. All my children are in school all day. At several points during the past 16 years I thought I'd never reach this lovely day. Now it has come all to quickly and my life is going to require some readjusting. Afrer I do some serious celebrating today, of course.

I don't know about other Moms, but I am offended with the back to school comsumer onslaught on the 5th of July. I am horrified that I am being accosted with back to school junk right after the 4th. That's because we've only been out of school about five weeks and we're all still having fun. We all still like each other. How dare these stores ruin my summer by making me think about clothes, backpacks and pencils?

Then comes the first week in August when I start thinking that maybe it would be OK for the kids to go back to school. I'm not desperate or even anxious at that point. By the second week in August I start asking Darren, "Have our kids always been so incredibly annoying?" I still don't want to buy anything, but I've managed to reluctantly pick up some socks, underwear and maybe some Zip-loc bags for lunches. Oh yeah, I did buy some shoes for the kids, too, but only because I stumbled upon a great deal, not because I wanted to.

By now it is the third week in August and I don't know why I ever had kids. Their irritable but tolerable squirks have now turned into major personality flaws that make me wonder how they will ever evolve into functional , well-adjusted adults. OK, this is a bit harsh and exaggerated!

Now it's the day before school. We go to back to school night to meet the teachers and get school supply lists. Then we head to Staples with the rest of the valley to buy school supplies we've been putting off. While cruising up and down the aisles there, trying to dodge other procrastinators, I can't stop thinking of a neighbor's comment at back to school night.

She said, "Wow that was the fastest summer ever!" I agreed with her. Then she said, "I'm just not ready for this back to school stuff. I wish all my kids could be home with me all the time all year long!" (She has seven children.)

I didn't know how to react to this. I think I just smiled because I was just astounded that such a mother existed. She must be some sort of rare species. As for me, I'm going to love every minute of my six hours of peace.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Vacationed and Birthdayed Out

The third birthday of our three-girl's-birthdays-in-summer circus is today. That means that things can settle down a bit. Maybe. We're still redecrating Samantha's (birthday girl) room (tart apple and canteloupe slice paint on the walls) and that takes forever. I bought her Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse today and she's happy as a clam. Plus the ENTIRE family was over for a barbecue on Sunday night in her celebration. All brought presents and we played games and ate cake. Our neighbors hate us because we are so loud. But I really don't care.

So I've eaten a ton of cake and gained back the five pounds it took me months to take off. Months to take off, two weeks to put on. Life's not fair, as my grandmother used to tell me all the time. Amen to that. Amen again. But I still feel like crying when I think about it.

Wow. What an amazing family vacation we returned from last Wednesday. Darren and I kept looking at each other wondering why everything was going so well. No one woke up during the night during the 11-day trip, no one had any sort of temper tantrums, no one threw up in the car or had any bathroom issues. We had a little whining on the last two days of driving, but most of that was from me. The kids were fine. There was a bit of bickering about whose turn it was to read Harry Potter but that was about as bad as it got.

"This is the best family vacation we've ever had," Darren told me. I couldn't have agreed more. Once the youngest is about six, things are a lot more fun. Hang on all you people out there with kids younger than six, your time is coming. Your ship will come in. We got to read in the car instead of entertaining kids every second. We got to have conversations. We got to really have fun together instead of just trying to keep kids happy and avoid meltdowns.

It feels wonderful to have reached this point in our family. And this trip was an amazing time for our family. The Pacific northwest is gorgeous, and I am going to live there someday. I love the pulsing city of Seattle, I love the deep forests and fresh air and plants and flowers that just grow everywhere. I love the clean smell and the green around me.

Here's what we did:

Bonneville Dam, Columbia River Gorge, OR
Multnomah Falls, OR
Sea Kyacking at Point Defiance, WA (we saw seals!)
Farmer's Market, Tacoma, WA
Trader Joe's, University Place, WA
Mount St. Helens, WA
Forks WA, The Olympic Peninsula, Washington coast
Hoh Rainforest
Bainbridge Ferry to Seattle
Pike's Place Market, Seattle
Mariner's game, Seattle
Boat ride on Lake Washington at dusk--beautiful.
Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle
Vancouver Acquarium, Vancouver, B.C.
Dinner at Gastown, Vancouver
Lyn Canyon Suspension Bridge and Cliff Jumping, Vancouver
Drive, drive, drive drive

Thanks Cathy and Chad for letting us stay with you in Dupont. We loved your hiking trails! Mark and Ginger, thanks for the awesome weekend. Riding on the Swetenia at night was an experience everyone loved. Thanks for the drum lessons, I guess.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Summer Babies

I had three babies in the middle of summer. Three girls. What possessed me to have babies in the height of blistering heat is beyond me.

I remember being hugely pregnant and so hot I thought I was damaging my inner organs somehow. I would cry in cold water baths, glaring at my red, itchy stretch marks, begging God to save me from myself. Here's what I learned: Wailing in the tub to God does no good. If the babies are supposed to be late, they will be late no matter what you promise God in return for a sooner delivery. You just have to heave yourself out of the tub and go watch Wimbledon to make it through the days. And make sure the freezer is stocked with ice cream.

My first baby was nine days late and my second was eleven days late, both in the humid heat of Wisconsin. My third girl but fourth baby was born on her due date but only because I begged to be induced. For the record, my son was induced five days late, but it was February, and I hadn't reached heat-exhausted hysteria yet.

So now my girls are growing up. Now we celebrate all their summer birthdays. They cascade like a waterfall, one after another for an entire month. It starts with the fourth of July and all that hoopla. After the barbecues, fireworks and parades, we start gearing up for Adrienne's birthday. Her most memorable party was her fourth one, where I spent all might making a baby doll cake worthy of serious preservation for all generations. I couldn't keep my eyes open at the party, but that was the cutest darn cake ever.

Then it's time for Leah's birthday--my third girl. Her most memorable was her fourth as well, when we transformed the backyard into a fairy wonderland and all the little girls wore pink and played fairy games. I remember wearing pink myself. I love pink.

Then comes Samantha's birthday, my second daughter. Our sunflowers are always in full bloom on her birthday, and so she has always loved that majestic, cheerful flower. I am sad to say I don't remember in detail any of her parties. She will be upset about this. But I know what we're doing this year. We're going to a space center where the kids get to be in command of a space ship. See, I'm not a total loser, Sammie!

By now it's the second week of August and although it has been a blast, I'm completely partied out and broke. It's kind of like Christmas in the middle of the summer. I always wonder what my son thinks, with all these girls having parties all summer. I hope he doesn't feel bad. I try to make his birthday special in February when it's not hot at all. Plus, he still gets to come to the party and eat birthday cake with melted ice cream.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

July's Fevered Pitch

July has reached its fevered pitch. The siren is sounding! I knew it would. I miss June. There's something about the fireworks in the sky on the 4th of July that changes the tone of the summer from simmer to boil, from leisurely to frantic. With the hotter weather comes wilting flower pots, crankier parents and kids and and more vacations, barbecues, parties and outings. There's more to do and less time to do it.

What really irks me is all the ads for back to school stuff that come in the newspaper. I AM NOT READY TO THINK ABOUT THAT YET, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! Like I can even think about buying my kids jeans and long-sleeved shirts when it's 100 degrees out. And when kids see the ads they go bananas and start ranting about how summer just started and how they haven't done ANYTHING FUN AT ALL THE WHOLE SUMMER AND NOW IT'S OVER!!!!

Then you have to calm them down and remind them that there's still five weeks or so, and remind them of all they've done and will still do. But they're still ticked off. Then feel ripped off somehow. Five weeks is nothing, they say. Life isn't fair. School sucks, etc. Blah blah, blah.

I must admit they're sort of right. There isn't as much time to lounge around the pool anymore. There isn't much time to read all the books I want to. There isn't much time to stare at the clouds (wait a minute, there never was time for that.) But isn't that the quintessential thing a child's supposed to do in the summer--lay out in the back yard and stare and the sky? I never really did that as a kid, did you?

And anyway, nowadays if a kid lays on the grass to stare at the clouds, his Mom or Dad is going to freak out and slather the kid with SPF 60 and bug spray from head to toe. He's going to get a lecture about harmful UV rays and told to put on sunglasses. His Mom's going to be watching him out the window to make sure he's safe from things like sprinklers or grass clippings from the neighbor's lawn or a stray pet that might startle the day-dreaming boy. By this time, whatever dreams he is dreaming have been replaced with the worried words of his parents. "I told you we should have signed him up for day camp!"

I have managed to read a couple of cool books lately, though, and I'm trying to sneak in another one when people around the house aren't watching. They know all the things I'm supposed to be doing to get ready for a major family vacation that begins this weekend. They know I really should be exercising or writing instead of reading, but guess what, I can't help myself. I really can't. There are just too many good books out there that I'm dying to read.

I just finished "kira, kira" by Cynthia Kadohata. It's a young adult novel about two Japanese-American sisters living in Iowa and Georgia. I was particularly touched by the loving relationship the two sisters share, even though they are vastly different. It was breath of fresh air.

I'm ready to delve into another one, to calm the sirens of July.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Salt Water

I attended a weight watchers meeting last week where the group leader talked about the power of salt water. She said the key to success in everything depends on our use of salt water. "What?" everyone asked. How could this be?

She explained about three kinds of salt water: The first kind is sweat produced by exercise and work. Second, is the emotional release of tears. Third, is the figurative representation of the ocean and the calmness and rejuvenation we feel when we have getaways from life.

I have had all three kinds of salt water in the last few days. I'm wondering how this is the key to success. I felt great after an 8-mile hike through Targhee National Forest in Idaho on Friday. We identified 20 different kinds of wildflowers, some I'd never seen before! Being away with my husband enjoying the scenery was fabulous R and R. But the tears have come today, and I feel vulnerable and sad. Maybe some good will come from them, I don't know.

I don't cry easily. I don't cry unless something is really affecting me. When I first heard this salt water theory, I wondered how I'd ever put it to the test since my crying sessions are few and far between. They are rarely used as an emotional release. When they come, they are usually the result of an event that has caused sorrow, pain or worry.

I am left still wondering about salt water. It probably has a lot of merit. But I can't see it today. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

June Baby

My good friend Alison had her baby on Friday night. I was quite involved with this pregnancy. I watched her from the beginning weeks when she could hardly keep her head up, to her deliriously happy last few months when she organized, cleaned and prepared for the birth of her son.

Alison has two daughters. The oldest, Camryn, is best friends with my daughter, Leah. I can't count the number of hours they've logged together playing elaborate imagination games, and making horrific messes that they absulutely have no energy to clean.

So when Camryn's baby brother was born, it was almost like it was Leah's brother being born. We went to the hospital on Saturday and Sunday to visit baby Chance. Leah held him with reverence and awe, doing the absolute best job possible so we'd let her hold him again.

Her face was serious but calm as she held the day-old baby. She was thrilled that he sucked the pacifier she got in his mouth and that he calmed right down after. She marveled at his peach-fuzzed head, and that classic newborn smell that makes people go weak at the knees. She was in baby nirvana.

Although it brought back beautiful memories of my own childbirth experiences, I was so glad that I am through with that exhilerating, exhausting phase of my life. That I could breathe in baby Chance's intoxicating newborn smell, and then let him go back to his mom. That Leah can enjoy being around a newborn without me having to actually birth one. Thanks, Alison for giving my daughter an experience I can't.

Alison, you are an amazing, conscientious, beautiful mother. You are a devoted and loyal friend. You looked so royal and regal in in your forest green bathrobe, enthroned in your hospital bed, basking in the miracle of birth. You were absolutely made to have babies.

Congratulations on the birth of a perfect son.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Got Chlorine?

Got Chlorine? That's the slogan on my kids' swim team shirts for the summer. Like milk, food, water and other life-sustaining substances, in the summer, being in the pool is a necessity for outdoor lovers. That's the message I get from those two words together.

There's a Catch-22 about being in the sun. On the one hand, it causes wrinkles and skin cancer. On the other, it provides much-needed vitamin D and happy endorphins that flow through our bodies, helping us to feel good, vibrant and alive. That's why people love summer. They feel better about themselves because of those good-feeling endorphins lining their cells or bloodstream or whatever else they line. Maybe they're not even called endorphins, but it's something like that.

I must admit, I feel great in the summer. I love to lay by the pool and soak in the rays. I love the dry, raw smell of pool water on hot cement. I love to feel bronze and pulsing, which is the affect the sun has on me. I do not love the wrinkles from years of sun exposure. But I don't know whether I can give up those positive feelings found only when the sun's out to keep my skin from "premature aging." We won't talk about skin cancer, something that runs in my husband's family.

There's no doubt I manage the sun way better than when I was a teenager. I used to lay out in the back yard slathered with baby oil to fry myself like a lobster. Even harder to believe is my friend Gina from Preston, Idaho, who told me recently that she used Crisco, not baby oil! AUGH!

Of course we had a squirt bottle mixed with lemon juice and water so we could spritz our hair to make it blonder. The summer before ninth grade I got a hold of a bottle of Sun-In which was disastrous beyond disastrous. I ruined the family picture that year because of my brassy, fake yellow hair with black roots.

I don't do that anymore. I pay a lot to look professionally sun-kissed. And I wouldn't think of putting baby oil on. I do use sunscreen. But I still love to lay by the pool. Part of has to do with my maternal grandparents who had a pool in their back yard while I was growing up. My Grandma Doris and Grandpa Ray were so nice to let me and my friends and my siblings and their friends come swimming whenever we wanted.

After we'd tell Doris we were coming, she'd get in her champagne-colored Cadillac and go buy all manner of junk food for us at K-Mart. She'd arrive back home the same time as us with powdered donuts, chips, and cookies. Oh yes, and Tab. Remember Tab? In the pink can?

Afrer swimming for a bit, we'd get hungry and wander into the house to root around for junk food. Grandma Doris would be reading the National Enquirer and smoking a cigarette. She'd look up from her magazine and say, "Can I get you a Tab honey?"

I'd say sure and we'd sit at the formica table with the terry cloth tablecloth and talk with our Tabs. By the way, I tried Tab recently when I bought it when I was feeling nostalgic for Grandma Doris. It is absolutely vile. How did I consume numerous cans all those afternoons?

"Do you still like that boy?" she'd ask. "Honey, are you having a good summer?" a little later. "Tell me about your vacation." She'd listen while I'd tell her all that was going on, cocking her head slightly with interest.

Every Fourth of July my Grandpa Ray would light sparklers and run around the pool singing crazy songs while we oohed and aahed over the fireworks. That was summer.

Chlorine was just part of it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

If Every Month Could be June

I think June is the greatest month of the year. The days will never be longer or lighter, until next June, of course. There is life and color all around us, and it hasn't started wilting and dying from extreme heat yet. There are still many outings to have and fun things in store, and I haven't heard "I'm bored" once (no doubt it'll come soon). Life hasn't reached the fevered pitch of July, or the withering drone of August. I like June.

In Natalie Babbitt's novel, Tuck Everlasting, she describes how August feels.

"The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel; when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightening, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after."

It's a shame all the freshness of June has to end up crushed in August's sticky grasp. I don't think there's anyway to prevent it from happening. It's part of nature's cycle. But this is what I'm going to do to make the most of the last few weeks of June:

1. Breathe in the air in the evenings. It's the fresh and warm and perfect.

2. Go to the local pool as much as possible.

3. Make a better effort to keep my flowers alive.

4. Remember to eat produce out of the garden.

5. Play more with the children.

6. Get through the stack of books I've been meaning to read.

June, July and August will come and go, and like the Ferris wheel, we'll rotate through the seasons and cycles of life, back to when it's a nearly perfect June again.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Seven Saves

I was at the local pool last Monday with my kids and a friend of mind and her kids. It was officially the first non-school day of summer, and it was hot and dry, a perfect day to go swimming. I was sitting with my daughter, Adrienne, and my friend Gina in the kiddie pool. I was NOT wearing my chartreuse swimming suit, thank you very much! We were watching the kids play and having a wonderful time in the sun. It was idyllic, one of those days you wonder how you'll ever do without when it's over.

Our conversation was interrupted several times by the shrill scream of a whistle and then Adrienne's play-by-play of what was going on. She's a lifeguard, and although she wasn't working at the time, she was sharply attuned to what was going on with the other life guards--not just the hot ones. "There goes a save," she told us. "Look at how little that kid is that she's dragging out of the water. Did you see how fast she dove in to save?"

Of course we hadn't noticed how fast. We were still in mid-conversation when the whistle blew. And we weren't trained to know if it was a "save" whistle blow or if it was just the kind of whistle that earns a, "Hey, don't run on deck!" scolding from the lifeguard.

While we were lazing around in the water, there were two more saves, all children under the age of 2. "Again?" we said, aghast that so many parents we leaving their children to be "saved" by the lifeguard. "Where are these children's parents?" we demanded of each other.

While we sat sun bathing, talking and hoping for no more saves, the loudspeaker came on, warning us all to clear the pool. We asked Adrienne what was going on. "Poop or blood or throwup in the pool," she answered, like that was the most common of occurences.

"Gross!" I said. "Who has to clean it up?"

"The guard who is closest," she told us.

"Good thing you're not on duty right now, " I said.

After the "matter" was cleared from the pool, we got back in to resume our conversation. Again the loudspeaker came on--CLEAR THE POOL!

"Now what?" we asked Adrienne.

"More poop or blood," she told us.

"Good grief, haven't these parents ever heard of swim diapers?" Gina asked, incredulous.

Apparently not.

That night Adrienne had to work a shift at the pool. She came home at 10 pm with blood all over her guard shirt.

"Is that your blood?" I asked nervously.

"No, it's from an 18-month old who was running and tripped on the cement and cut himself up," she reported. "I picked him up to carry him in so we could page his mom. She was no where to be found for the longest time."

"I can't believe all this happened today, " I said.

"That wasn't the worst of it. During the whole day there were SEVEN saves, two pool evacuations for cleaning, and a break-in in the locker room."

What a way to start the first official day of summer.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Summer Days

The kids are out of school and I don't know whether to breathe a sigh of relief or up my dosage of anti-depressants just to be safe. IF I don't now, I'll probably have no choice by mid-summer for sure.

It's sort of a catch 22. I'm glad I don't have the homework and the pressure of getting kids to school and home every day and everywhere else they need to be. But with that freedom comes a different kind of pressure, the kind that has no ending until school starts again. Unless I go into a coma until August 22, the day they go back, the pressure stays whirring at an all time high like the air conditioning in the back yard.

What kind of pressure am I talking about? Please refere below to the "cons" section of having the kids out of school.

On the one hand I love the lack of deadlines for bedtime and waking up, but with that comes its own set of conundrums. Like everyone thinks they can "party" 24/7 and wear themselves out so they're too tired to do any housework. Hubby dear won't tolerate that, so guess who will take the brunt of it? It won't be the one who goes to his mostly quiet office every day and has no idea what emotional stuff is going down at home I'll tell you that.

SO here are a few reasons why summer's great and summer's not, just like any other season of the year.

Summer's great because:

The kids get tons of exercise
The kids wear themselves out playing
We get to spend so much time together as a family
We get to go on vacations together as a family
We get to go camping as a family
We get to do a lot of the things we say we're too busy to do during the rest of the year
We get to visit with out of town relatives
We get to make homeade ice cream and sit outside in the lovely cool of the eating and eat it. There's nothing like Utah evenings
We get to celebrate three daughter's birthdays--two in July and one in August
We get to eat fresh produce from the garden
We get to go to the cabin in Montanta, something I've been doing since I was a baby.

On the flip side:

More people in the house for longer periods of time equals a messier house
More people home all day long eating equals a massive grocery bill
More people consuming more food equals numerous trips to the grocery store
The lawn gets littered with Otter Pop wrappers
There's the expectation that with more time comes the opportunity for more deep cleaning, but that's a lie.
It's never quiet in the house until about 3 am, way too late to enjoy it.
If I forget to use the garden produce I'm in trouble
We get to go on a 1,000 mile trip to the northwest and back and pay $3.20 a gallon for gas
Instead of running kids around after school, I get to run them around all day long. Fun!
We get to go broke celebrating three daughters' birthdays.
We have to go driving with Adrienne so she can get her driving hours in.
I sometimes have a hard time remembering to water the potted plants.
Little people are knocking on the door all day long asking to play. They think I'm a wicked witch.
The kids fight more when they're together more. I fight more with the kids when we're together more.
Children tend to change clothes multiple times during the day
I have to wash a load of beach towells every other day

As I read 1,945 times in my daughters' yearbooks H.A.G.S.--Have a Great Summer! I'm certainly going to try to see the positive in this warm and wonderful time of year.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Remembering Kathy

There have been times in my life when I've felt I was not a very good sister, but there is one that stands out bright and clear and shouts, "Wow, you really blew it." I knew I was being non-supportive at the time, but I didn't care. That was me when I was 17 and a junior in high school. I was absolutely self-absorbed and oblivous to my sister Lisa's trauma. I kept her pain in my periphery while I stayed rooted in the swirling motion of my teenage world.

In talking to my sister recently, she says she doesn't remember me neglecting her. She says she has no ill feelings about anything I did or didn't do. That she doesn't understand why I'm feeling badly about my behavior 25 years later. I don't know either. I don't know why I think I need her forgiveness when she thinks I did nothing that needs forgiving. But I still want her forgiveness. I still want her to know that I should have helped her deal with her trauma in all its tumultuous layers, instead of minimizing and diminishing the death of her best friend.

Lisa was almost 16 at the time. She was only a grade behind me, but we couldn't have been more different. We looked different, cared about different things, and had completely different friends. I remember my social life and my life were far and away the most important things to me. My friends were paramount to my happiness. My world revolved around a certain boy and those friends we both hung out with. I did my homework, went to church, got a good grade point average, was a class officer and worked for the student newspaper. My family was four other people I lived with, sometimes harmoniously, sometimes not. Above all, I refused to let them get in the way of my life.

My sister had a friend named Kathy. They were quirky together. They were two peas in a pod. They were the sisters that Lisa and I weren't. Kathy's Dad had run rivers with our Dad in the "olden days." When both our families got together for a river trip when Lisa and Kathy were about 10, they clicked. They didn't go to the same school, so our parents shuttled them back and forth between houses for sleepovers and other get-togethers.

Whenever Kathy was over, she and Lisa were up to their eyeballs in writing and performing plays. These were hilarious, dramatic, over-the-top productions that they both put their hearts and souls into. When it was time for a performance, everyone who was home at the time would have to sit down on the couch to watch and watch and watch. If you had something else to do, forget it. One would be singing opera and playing the piano while the other did a companion act on the side. Sometimes a violin was involved. Then they'd switch. There were other river trips during those years where they could be together 24/7. They loved it.

Their friendship was true and fierce but short-lived. Because half-way through Lisa's sophomore year, Kathy was in a terrible car accident and was on life support. This is the part that is vague to me. The most horrific things always are. After Kathy's parents had decided to take her off life support, my parents dispatched me to break the news to Lisa on that Friday afternoon.

It was a cold and dreary January day. Lisa was at the high school basketball game. I walked into the gym and our eyes locked. She later said she knew instantly that Kathy had died because I wasn't supposed to be at that game. My arms wrapped around her and she sobbed all the way to the car where my Dad was waiting. Did I cry too? I don't know. Did I try to glimpse at my friends in the bleachers before Lisa and I left? Probably. Was I absorbed in trivial, insipid thoughts? Most likely. I drove the car while Dad held Lisa in the back seat. At home Dad held Lisa on the couch while she cried her eyes out.

It was the same week my grandfather had suffered a massive stroke and was in the hospital. He was not doing well. Now Kathy had died. It was January, the worst month of the year. I'm sure I had plans that evening and I'm sure I went out. I should have stayed home to cry with Lisa, to be with her, something I would absolutely demand of my own children now. I'm sure I went out an was congenial and outgoing as ever with my friends. Even when it was cold and dark and my sister's heart was breaking. I'm sure I slept well that night, maybe didn't even remember that Kathy had died first thing in the morning like Lisa did.


Kathy was part of a beautiful youth bell choir called the Wesley Bell Ringers. Their music could melt the coldest hearts, warm the dreariest January day. At her funeral, the bell choir, dressed in flowing golden robes, rang out a stirring tribute to her life. I remember thinking of the lines, "Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor doth he sleep" from the familiar Christmas carol. The choir were angels with tears streaming down their cheeks, chiming the message that Kathy's life was a celebration. With each note they demanded that we immediately see the loveliness in her life.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Melt My Heart

Few things warm my heart like kids writing stuff about me. Last night I got a belated Mother's Day poem from my son that we found while cleaning out his backpack. I thought I'd share it with you even though he'd die if he knew. But this is my journal, the record of my life at age 40, and he'll be glad to have this poem when he's 60 and remembering his Mom or doing "family history."

Mothers are a hug when you are sad.
Mothers are a kiss goodnight when it's time for bed.
Mothers are a loving friend when I'm scared.
Mothers are a huge red heart guiding me when times are dark.

Isn't that the sweetest thing? Then we got reading his daily third grade journal, what a riot. Here are some funny excerpts:

March 1

"Today we're working on a play. My Mom's helping. Last night I had pack meeting. I'm a bear now. I got 6 silver arrow points and one gold arrow point. Today we had music. I have piano today. I am ready for my lesson. I still haven't played on my new battlefield. Mom's car broke down so my parents have been kind of grouchy."

March 15

"Today we had school pictures. Cassie's looking in my journal. Cassie's is writing in her journal what I'm writing. Today I played soccer. We son 32-2. I'm reading Spirit Walker. I'm on page 138. Megan is still writing the date in her journal.

March 26

TODAY IS MY FIRST SOCCER GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM SO EXCITED! HOORAY! Our team has gotten way better. At practice yesterday I stole the ball away from McKay 165 (?) times. And he was good. I can't wait for our game. I've gotten really good at defense. I hope the coach puts me in as defender or forward. Those are my two best positions.

March 30

Today I played 4-square. It was okay. Today we had music. Today I have piano after school. Tonight I think I can have a sleepover. Kyle's Mom is picking me up for piano. I wonder what we will do for writing time today. I hope we have an assembly so we don't have to have writing time.

November 20, 2006

It is 3 days till thanksgiving. Mrs. Miller is asking us a question. She wants us to write it down in our journal. The question is Should you bring things to school? My answer is No. Cause then we might get distratcted. And start playing with it. And then we might not know what to do. Or we might go to the princeples office. Mrs. Miller is writing on the board. I'm thirsty.

November 30, 2006

Last night I had the worst nightmare ever. I don't even want to explain it. I went into my mom and dad's room. It was the worst nightmare I've ever had. The nightmare reminds me of young Frankenstien. Let's change the subject. I woke my mom and dad up at 3:09 and fell asleep sometime around 5:04. Today has been a good day. Except for the nightmare. It's still a long time till I go home. Tomorrow is the first day of December. That means we start pulling chocolate out of it's box.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fathers and Sons

Tonight my husband is taking our son to the annual Fathers and Sons outing. The men look forward to getting filthy, shooting marshmallow guns, and not getting in trouble for passing gas and burping in public. At least there are no females there to scold them and act disgusted. So it's a good time for the men. I imagine you can smell the high levels of testosterone wafting through the camp. Thank heavens I won't be anywhere in the vicinity.

It's also a good time for the women. My daughters and I look forward our "girls's night out." We typically go out to dinner someplace that my hubby would never want to go (like the Spaghetti Factory--it's so boring, he says, and he prefers more exciting foreign food like Peruvian or a Argentine --places my girls just don't want to go).

So we go to the Spaghetti Factory (not my absolute favorite either but one my girls all agree on, miraculously) and Leah gets the kid's macaroni and cheese with applesauce on the side. My older girls will get a pasta dish with mizithra cheese. And I will get something green and good for me, like salad with dressing on the side. I'm counting those Weight Watchers points and I don't want to blow them all on a bowl of fettucine alfredo, you know what I mean? I will have a side of pasta with marinara sauce maybe. I hope I will do this. I plan to do this. Who knows what will really happen.

After we ask for boxes for our leftovers and then leave them on the table, we'll go to Adrienne's end of the year band concert. She plays the clarinet and hates it. I don't think I've heard her practice for months. (her band teacher will probably not read this blog, right?) Well, I'll cut her a bit of slack. When she got her wisdom teeth out last month it was an actual RULE that she couldn't t play for two weeks. So for those two weeks she would call me and ask me to take her out to lunch or to bring her home. One time I was flying down Provo Canyon on my bike when she called. I stopped my bike and answered. "Mom, remember how I can't play the clarniet because of my teeth? Well, could you just get me and we could maybe go out to lunch and then you could bring me back?" I remember that I only get her home for two more years and I immediately say yes and rush down the canyon in record time to pick her up.

It was really bad when her cell phone got stolen last week. Oh man, was that bad. You'd have thought her right arm had been removed, she was so disturbed. The girl sends 786 (I know cause I just saw the bill) texts a month. So that's 26.2 texts a day. What would she do with her hands if she couldn't text? Just be extremely grumpy.

Anyway, we'll see how the concert goes tonight. I have no idea what they're playing since I haven't heard any playing for months.

Then we will come home and watch "Music and Lyrics" (I know a PG-13, but what a great PG-13!) Adrienne loves this movie. I love this movie. Hopefully Samantha will love the movie. Since she read "Twilight" she might be more interested in romances, even if they don't include a vampire. Hopefully Leah will go to sleep and not bug me to play with her while I'm trying to watch. You see, I've had a thing for Hugh Grant for a long time now. I keep being disappointed that he doesn't seem as great a human being in real life as he is in the movies. That's how you know you when you like an actor, when you want them to be as glorious in real life as on screen.

I just think he's so charming and funny, and yes, I love the accent. I love how self-deprecating he is, and how his eyes wrinkle when he smiles. I love his curly hair and his witty lines and I love . . . .OK, enough about Hugh Grant.

I am planning on only eating the 94% fat free popcorn during the movie as opposed to last year when I broke out the quadruple chocolate clog your arteries but die happy Ben and Jerry's decadence. Not this year. I will drink some diet coke and keep eating the popcorn and concentrate on Hugh Grant so I don't feel deprived.

I will love being with my girls and watching a chick flick. I will love staying up reading. I will NOT love going to a 4-hour scout training in the morning, or washing the smelly fathers and sons outing clothing (or what's left of it) later that day. But it will be a nice evening of gender separation, a recharging of the batteries, so to speak. Men be men, women be women and then we all come back and live together more harmoniously.

It's a nice theory!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day, that most guilt-producing of holidays, the one that brings all sorts of raw emotions to the surface to stick around for a day or two. Or longer if you let it.

What I used to dislike about Mother's Day was listening to all the talks in church about what the "ideal" mother should be. Really, how could any mother measure up to those standards? So instead of feeling happy that there were mothers out there who measured up to such high ideals, who raised their children with such skill, I would just feel bad that I didn't. I would just leave with my wilting geranium feeling awful, like I had some unfixable Mommy flaw. I wondered why we had to devote the entire church meeting to Mother's Day. After all, we totally glossed over Father's Day a month later.

One year my husband was asked to speak in church on Mother's Day. I wondered what he would say that wouldn't make me feel guilty and less than ideal. He started out by reading the words to one of the children's hymns. It goes:

Mother dear, I love you so,
Your happy smiling face,
Is such a joy to look at,
You make home a lovely place.

He then told the congregation that that particular song really struck a nerve with his wife (me). He described how in a fit of despair I had thrown myself on the bed and declared that my children were deprived because I didn't have a happy, smiling face; I had a grumpy, frowning face. And how I couldn't make the home a lovely place when I was so woefully inadequate. And why was making the home a lovely place all up to me anyway, blah, blah, blah. It was quite a display. He described it quite dramatically.

The congregation roared while I slumped down in my seat. They thought it was the funniest thing ever. After I got over being embarassed, thinking, "great, now everyone thinks I'm insane," I realized they were laughing because they related. They'd felt everything I'd felt. The difference was that now it was out on the open. Everyone could relax. They weren't going to get a lecture on the qualities of the perfect mother. They were going to get the real stuff. Darren went on to talk about how we need to support mothers without making them feel inadequate, that the most important present mothers needed was support and encouragement, not impossible ideals to live up to.

I loved that talk. It changed my attitude about Mother's Day at church. Personally, I think the best present of all would be not to have to get up and go to church, but since that's not an option, I had to work on the attitude part.

I love seeing my kids up there singing a song to me. Today they sang:

Mother I love you,
Mother I do,
Father in Heaven has sent me to you.
When I am near you
I love to hear you
Singing so softly that you love me too.
Mother I love you,
I love you, I do.

That song just makes be beam. My children are a precious gift. I realize that now. But years ago I would have felt bad that I didn't sing enough to my children!

It's just a fact that the mother's attitude is transferred to all around her, whether they are six months old or 16. It's not fair at all, but that's the way it is. Ain't Momma happy ain't nobody happy, or however that familiar saying goes. And like my grandmother used to tell me, "Honey, life isn't fair!"

So as the children get older, Mother's Day is more fun. There aren't any babies to nurse or diapers to change. Today I took a good long nap and my girls and their cousin fixed dinner for me and the rest of the family. Wow. The next generation can cook. That's a beautiful feeling. Maybe I have done something right.

Also, Darren made me a huge picnic table that seats 12 people. Isn't that a great gift? I was thrilled. I loved looking at my mother, her husband, father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, their children and my children sitting around that awesome table. It made me eager to have more dinners with family and friends in my back yard.

So tomorrow, no breakfast in bed, no leisurely naps, no dinner being made. It's back to the motherly grind. All in all, it's not a bad grind to be in. It's actually pretty wonderful sometimes.

I love you, Adrienne, Samantha, Nathan, and Leah! You're such great kids, in spite of your mother!

Friday, May 4, 2007


I love words. I love books and poems and any piece of writing where words are put together in a way that forces me to think of things differently. I love good writing. One of the greatest joys in my life is reading an amazing book. I'd rather do that than almost anything.

When I was in college I majored in English even though people told me that it wasn't so lucrative and that I would never make much money. Looking back, I'm still glad I majored in English, and I'm still glad I read all that literature, and I'm still glad I wrote all those persuasive essays. I knew back then what I loved, and nobody could persuade me otherwise for good or bad. It was not a wise choice in terms of career and money money. It was a wise choice for me, a person addicted to the written word.

I didn't read everything my professors told me to. I hated Saul Bellow and Joan Didion. I refused to read "Executioner's Song" by Norman Mailer. I struggled through Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery. There were some real downers. books that probably didn't help my mental state of being. I was often distracted by my life, job, and selfish pursuits, and didn't get through all the books I was supposed to. But I got through some great novels and read some life-touching poems. "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston made my heart do flip-flops. I didn't always remember the details of books, but I remembered how they made me feel.

It's natural for people who read a lot to want to write, and I did that, too. I'm still doing it--thus this blog. I get a charge out of creating something permanent, something black and white, something that isn't erasable the minute it's finished. So much of what I do gets undone immediately, but writing is archival. It will be there when all the laundry's dirty again, when all the groceries are eaten. For me, writing has become crucial, almost critical. It took me many years to discover that the missing link to my fulfillment was writing, but I'm only half way through my life. I still have another 40 years to write!

I also wrote something last year and the last part of 2005. I wrote a young adult novel. I still can't believe I wrote a novel. I had an incredible burst of creative energy and managed to crank out 70,000 words. I have no training on how to write a novel. I've just read a lot of them that inspire me. I have no training on how to get a novel published, but I'm working on that at a snail's pace. I have no idea what to do with the document that sits in my computer and calls to me. Not a day goes by when I don't hear it telling me to come back. How could you just leave me like that, it says. We spent a year and a half together. You loved me.

What should I do? It's almost like I've buried something alive. I've buried something that was so real, so vital for so many months. Now it just sits. Waiting. Waiting for me to open it up, to read it again, to change things, fix things, and get swept up again.

It's like a love relationship. You never forget the raw, aching process of detaching yourself from someone you once loved, but you try to concentrate on what good will come of it. You try not to think of the closeness and the words spoken or the time spent together. Try as you might, those thoughts seep from the back of your mind to front and center, and there's not much you can do about it.

That's how it is with me and "my book." I had to detach myself a bit. I was getting too involved, too worried about what would happen to my beloved creation. Would someone else ever like it, like it enough to publish it, enough to read it? Those questions were too overwhelming at times, and the universal advice I got from writing workshops and Darren was to put it away for a while. Put it on the back burner so to speak. So, how long is a while? Am I ready to let it out of its cage again, ready to chase it around, to agonize over it, improve it, let it consume my time? Or can I keep it at bay, keep it from eating up my life? I don't know.

The hard thing about writing is that it takes up your time, as much time as you'll let it. There is no compensation for time spent, just the hope of future success and the joy of the writing process. Some days that's enough. Other days it's not.

My second daughter, Samantha, is a good reader. She doesn't read voraciously, but she reads. It's not like it's an option in our house. My oldest daughter, Adrienne, and I have been telling her for months that she just had to read "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer.

"What's it about?" she asked.

"About a girl who falls in love with a vampire," we told her.

"Gross. Why would anyone do that?"

"Well, he's very hot," Adrienne told her.

"So what! That's disgusting," she yelled. And subsequently refused to read the book until she realized that she was the only one of her friends who hadn't read it. Then, I had to get my copy of "Twilight" back from the 11th person I loaned it to immediately so she could start reading about Edward (the vampire) and Bella (the girl who is besotted by the vampire).

When she got her hands on it I didn't see her for three days. She even refused to go to school at one point, claiming that I had put my life on hold while I was reading it and so did Adrienne, and that she deserved the same consideration. She had a point. My life went on pause when I was engrossed in "Twilight" and now hers was. I was the one who asked her to read it after all. So I let her stay home. I thought of all the As on the last report card and figured why not.

She was lost, besotted herself in the power of a good book. I was secretly delighted that she was falling in love with words. I was creating another word addict, in my own home, with my own child.

Tee hee. It felt fabulous.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Breakfast Blaster


I thought I'd quickly share a recipe for my favorite breakfast, a tasty smoothie that keeps me full for nearly three hours! That's something.

1/2 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh
1/2 banana
3 ice cubes
1/2 c. non-fat plain yogurt
1 scoop protein powder
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup water, or less

Put all ingredients in blender. Chop, then puree. Yum Yum. This is almost a perfect meal. You've got your fruit (they say blueberries are the best for you), dairy, protein and fiber, and vitamins in the protein powder. The only thing missing food group is vegetables! I can get my veggies at lunch and dinner or in a can of V-8 later in the day.

Try it. When I drink it, I instantly feel healthier. I know that sounds crazy, but I can feel all those vitamins doing something good for me, undoing poor food choices I've made a long the road. When I have slurped up the last bit, I am so glad I chose to make my smoothie. Plus it's a gorgeous purple color, something to make you smile in the morning. To me, that's a big deal.

Hope you like it.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Swimsuit Shopping

I bet few women would disagree with me when I say that shopping for a swimsuit is just a step above giving birth on the painful, "PLEASE, MAKE THIS BE OVER!" scale. But at least when you have a baby, you get something wonderful, miraculous and lasting out of it. When you buy a swimsuit, you get an expensive piece of nylon fabric that clings to your body, and in my case, clings to the part of my body that has been stretched beyond recognition four times. I have the marks to prove it!

When you buy a swimsuit, it may actually look OK, but it doesn't like you much, the way it bulges right there and gapes right there, or makes you look six month pregnant. You don't like it either. Not one bit, but what choice do you have? If you want to take your kids to the pool--a ritualistic, normal activity to do in the summer--you've gotta suck it up (or in) and put on the suit.

There's only a month left until the outdoor pool opens in my city, and and I am therefore filled with anxiety about what I will wear to the pool. Anxiety may actually be the wrong word. Let's think again. How about fear, worry, trepidation, nausea or panic? I think of those words and more when I think about putting on that close-fitting nylon fabric and walking out in public.

Well, one thing's for sure. I refuse to wear that chartreuse tankini I bought from the Lands End catalog three summers ago. I thought that buying an extremely bright (BLING!) suit would hide my "anxiety zones" (that's what they call them in the catalog). No, they just call attention to ME (BLING!) and all my anxiety zones. The only good thing about that suit? Wherever I am at the pool, my kids can find me. Just look for the lady in the neon lime suit with pink squigglies in it. This year I'm going to get navy blue so my kids can't find me. Why DO I want them to find me anyway? What was I thinking?

Ok, so I thought about getting a new suit, one that would not be detectable from outer space. I looked through the catalog, and saw some really cute suits that might look OK on me. I did the first painful part: measuring. I got out my trusty tape measure and started--bust, waist, hips and torso. This is supposed to help you determine the correct size, IF your body is normally proportioned. If your body is not normally proportioned, then you feel like a freakazoid and have to call the friendly, reliable people at Lands End to ask them what size to order if you have three measurements that equal three different sizes.

I usually like to talk to the folks at Lands End. They are friendly, and I love hearing that midwestern accent. It reminds me of the six years when I lived in Wiscaaaaansin. So, when I called, a nice, competent lady answered the phone. She didn't make me feel freakish when I told her that my measurements added up to three different sizes. But she did make me tell her what they were, and that was NOT so pleasant. Then she said, "Hmm, yes this is a praaablem. Let me caaaall a sizing specialist to see what'll work here." (Great, my body is so abnormal that I have to have a sizing specialist.)

She put me on hold. I starting ironing a shirt for a bit and then she came back. "Maaaaam," she said. "I just spoke to our sizing specialist and she thought you should be a blank blank on top and a blank on the baaaaattom."

"Well, what if I don't want a tankini, what if I want a one piece?" I asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.

"I'd say, then, that you should praaaaaabably stick with the tankini so you don't have to worry about that praaaaaaablem."

"OK, you've been quite helpful. Thanks. I'm going to think about what to do now," I told her.

"No praaaaalem. Thanks for caaaaaalling Lands End. You have a nice day now." She hung up.

I flipped through the catalog some more. Why does this have to be so incredibly difficult? It might be easier to wear neon lime for another year. I consider this for a bit. Is six months too long to make a decision? Maybe my anxiety zone won't be an anxiety zone anymore if I wait. Or. . . .what if I pay $80 for a swimsuit that fits now, but won't if I lose more weight? Hmmmm, unlikely.

I also thought that maybe Lands End isn't "swimsuit headquarters" like they claim and maybe some other place would be comparable. So I spent some time browsing. Too much time. Most of the choices out there that aren't $120 a suit are either too small to see without a microscope or tents that come half way down your thigh. Neither one will do for me.

So I'm back to the drawing board. The possibilities are mind boggling. Tankini, one piece, halter neck, soft cup bra, shelf bra, X-back, square neck, swim mini, brief, #1 leg length or #2, etc. Way too much for me to process, let along make any kind of decision before the city pool opens up in a month.

Good luck, comrades with stretch marks, finding something to wear to the pool. May your experience be more successful than mine was!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Happy Birthday Teresa!

When I was five I was blessed to make a friend who is still my friend 35 years later. Her name is Teresa, and she lives in Indiana with her husband Steve and their five children, three of whom are triplets. One of those triplets has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. His name is Tyler and he lights up people's worlds, just like Teresa has been lighting my world all these years.

I write about Teresa because two weeks ago I realized I missed her 40th birthday on March 10. Some best friend, huh? She didn't miss mine. I got a beautiful card where she listed all my good qualities. I open it up and read deeply when I'm feeling down. So I will send her this blog in hopes that it will make up for missing her milestone birthday.

Growing up, Teresa lived down the street from me. When we were eight or nine or ten or somewhere in there, we started a secret club. We called it the Dot Dot Dot, named after secret book which had three giant red dots on the cover. Our clubhouse was my ponderous willow tree in the back yard. We had been banned from Teresa's giant oak, after the mailman caught us swinging from the tallest branches during a hurricane-like wind storm. Plus, she had more little siblings to bother us. So we met in my willow.

Willows are great places to hide from people. I know because I spent hours in that tree over the years, bawling my eyes out over lost loves, fuming in anger at my parents, and trying to manage my teenagerly mood swings. I loved that tree because if I could find just the right spot, those long, vine branches could completely hide me from people in the yard or people looking out the window trying to find me. They were a cool green canopy, an oasis from childhood cares. It was a secret fortress and general headquarters for Teresa and me and our club.

I might give my right arm to have the "Dot Dot Dot" today to read to myself and then decide if I'd let my kids read it. Where in the world did it go? I can't remember what we wrote on the pages. Secrets of course. But not ordinary secrets. These were "blood secrets." The title page swore us to secrecy and eternal friendship, and then we had to cut ourselves and smear blood on the page and sign our names. I remember comparing whose blood was redder and who made a bigger smear.

We felt awfully grown up, awfully devilish, making ourselves bleed to convey our lasting friendship. It must have worked, though. Whenever I hear the words "best friend" I automatically think of Teresa, even though now I'm a 40-year old woman.

The worst day of my life was in 3rd grade when Teresa moved to a bigger house. I remember being insensed that I now had to be driven to her house. It wasn't even 10 minutes away, but it still felt like a world away to me. Now she was in a new school. Now we couldn't take turns asking Steve Vincent if we could borrow his super-cool mechanical pencil. Teresa ended up marrying Steve Vincent, and it was evident clear back then how much she liked him.

I remember coming home from visiting Teresa's new house, and being very depressed. I sat down on my bed and looked across the room and realized that my gerbil wasn't moving. "Frisky" was dead in his cage. I got Frisky in 1st grade when Teresa and I were in Mrs. Faust's class together. Mrs. Faust made us away from each other because we talked too much. But then we just shouted across the room to each other and that was even louder. So she moved us back together.

So Teresa moved and Frisky died all on the same day. It was way too much for a nine-year old to take. Even so, there were plenty of sleepovers in Teresa's new house. It was huge and had an unfinished basement. Teresa had tons of chores on Saturday mornings being one of eight children, but I always helped her. Her idea of sweeping the kitchen floor was to sweep everything into the middle of the floor. This included dolls, cups, spoons, napkins, notebooks, pencils, car keys, assorted toys and hairbrushes, all in a big pile. She'd leave it there in hopes that people would take their things and she wouldn't have to put things away. Then we'd start doing something else and we'd hear TERESAAAAAAAAAA!!!!! Teresa's Mom had great lung capacity! We'd scrambled back to the kitchen to put stuff away.

On one sleepover we made up a dance to "Love Story." We'd start our on different sides of the room and make our way to the center in a comic thrust of drama. Teresa's Mom taught us the jitterbug at a sleepover 50s party. That was the same party that girls started throwing up and had to go home because they'd drank too much pop and eaten too much candy.

In junior high Teresa and I were LOUD. I could hear her in the 9th grade hall, even when I was in the 7th grade hall and vice versa. She was there when I wiped out 10 feet before the finish line while running the 100-yard dash at a region track meet. She wrote me notes in class and wrote BFA all over them (best friends always). She told me when I was being a jerk and needed an attitude adjustment. She was always calling me a "spaz."

Sometimes childhood friends part ways in high school, but we didn't. Even though we mostly hung out with different friends, I remember canvassing the lunchroom daily looking for Teresa. I wanted to be in touch each day. I wanted to see my oldest friend, even if she was with other people. I'd go sit with her a while talk and then leave, repeating the same ritual on most days. She was security when I probably didn't appear to need it, but really did.

Teresa played the violin and every sport imaginable. She was incredibly coordinated. I played the piano and was interested in student government and the school newspaper. I was more "preppy;" she was more of a "jock." I had a "bob;" she had "feathered" hair. She had brown hair and enormous brown eyes. I had blond hair and blue eyes. In third grade we had exactly the same glasses--enormous brown things that covered half our faces. In 7th grade we both got hard contacts and forever had bloodshot eyes until we got soft lenses in high school. That same year we got braces. We were gorgeous!! We had our picture taken in one of those booths in the mall. I am wearing a necklance with a cursive "E" dangling from the chain and "studs" in my newly pierced ears. Our braces are sparkling like a diamond mine.

Teresa told me all about periods and sex. She showed me pads and those obnoxious belts that her big sister had. I was aghast that men and women participated in such an act. She was equally disgusted that her parents must have done it multiple times to produce her siblings. We wondered if you could go through life without having sex. We vowed we never would participate in such vile behavior. Hah! We have nine kids between us!

Guess who I went running to when RP kissed me right in the hall at school? Who did I tell immediately? When GF held my hand at Lagoon? Who did I cry to when I thought my heart would break half way through my junior year? Yep! In return I knew her every thought and feeling and listened to her chewing out KF mercilessly for ignoring her at school even though he was supposed to be her boyfriend.

How many times in my life have I called 277-9484? Millions. "Is Teresa there?" "TERESAAAAAA!" Bang. "HEY EL!" she'd say as she picked up the phone. And then we'd blab endlessly about so and so and who did what and who liked who. My Dad would be telling me to get off; her Dad would be picking up the other line to see if we were still talking. Then I'd get off the phone and write her a note to give to her the next day, encapsulating everything we'd said on the phone and what I thought about it. Of course I wrote BFA all over it, and folded it into a special envelope.

I told Teresa stuff I never told anyone else. She never betrayed that confidence. She never made me feel stupid, even though she always got better grades than me. She never judged; she listened. She was the epitome of a true friend.

So, to my oldest, dearest friend---HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY! You have literally meant the world to me for nearly all my life. Here's to another 40 years of friendship!

Monday, April 23, 2007


Have I ever written about my Dad? Of course I have. He seems to creep up now and again in my writings, usually when the weather's warm enough for gardening or when I've been hiking around in the Utah desert country.

On July 10 I think of him because it's his birthday and sometimes I go to his grave and put the wildest flowers I can find there. Pink carnations or roses from a florist won't do for him. I need my own garden-grown flowers, something unique and different, something earthy like him.

One year I put sunflowers and daisies, one year blooming stems from my butterfly bush, another pine boughs mixed with delphinium. There have been plenty of years when I've put nothing, and I'm sure that's OK with him. One year my girls made a twig vase to hold the boquet in.

I can't walk by a garden without thinking of Dad. Every February he'd get out his Burpee catalog and order all his seeds so he'd be ready to go in March--pea planting time. The first of March he'd go out there and turn over the soil and add a bunch of peat moss, compost and whatever concoction he had to make the soil rich and fertile. He'd have to lay down for a day after that. Working in the garden "did a number" on his back. Along about mid-March he'd get the peas in. He'd put up trellises for them to grow up, and would watch them grow carefully every day.

In April it was warm enough to plant some green beans, and then in May came the rest. Tomatoes were his crowining achivement. Every year he'd try a new variety, and he'd nurture them meticulously in their wire-fashioned cages. Whenever someone came over, (including my friends) he'd take them out back to show them the garden. He'd tell them about the new golden variety of tomato he was growing that year, but that he'd stopped growing parsnips since the family hated them. He'd point to a growing green thing and ask, "What do you think that is?" When of course my 16-year old friends couldn't possibly guess the plant, he'd tell them it was a kohlrobi, a turnip-like plant, but a bit sweeter. They were polite to humor him, even when he snatched the plant out of the dirt, wiped it off on his levis, and asked them if they wanted a bite. I was of course mortified that he was talking vegetables with my friends.

But my brother, sister and I spent plenty of time out there in the garden. Our morning chores in the summer always included weeding and watering the garden, before it got too hot. We grumbled and complained, but we loved what that garden reaped--fresh vegetables for dinner.

Dad was generous with his garden-growing talents. Every Mother's Day he planted my grandmother's garden, and took care of it like it was his own.

My brother learned to garden from my Dad, and I'm convinced it shaped his career choice. Today he is a certified landscape architect and a master gardener. The seeds he planted with my Dad as a toddler in overalls shaped him in ways we never imagined at the time, and now he repeats his own planting ritual every year in Seattle, Washington. He combines the time spent with Dad with the knowledge gained in study and experience, and creates a vegetable, flower, sculpture masterpiece that cause passerbys to stare and wonder.

My sister would plant a master garden, too, if she didn't live in Texas where everything gets burned up in the summer. She did have an amazing one in Alaska, one that I'm sure made Dad start turning over soil in heaven. I would plant one too, if my husband didn't already do such a fantastic job in that department.

I'm wondering which flower to bring to the grave this year. Maybe I bring a flowering tomato plant. He'd like that. Or humor him with some sprouting parsnips, since he loved them and we despised them. I think I like sunflowers the best. They are strong and cheerful like he was, unfailingly positive when things were bad. He always lined the garden with the giant variety, and took great joy in watching them reach toward the warmth.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spring Break With the Family

This past week it has been spring break for my children. They were thrilled to get a whole five days off school, but have constantly worried that it's too short, and how this other school district they know gets a TWO week spring break (I'd like to know where that district is).

Throughout the week I've heard, "Oh no! Only four days left," or "I can't believe how fast this break is going." The most hilarious one is, "There's no way I'm going back to school on Monday!" Oh yes you are,I think to myself, all while smiling sympathetically at their scowling faces. Monday's going to be a great day for me.

My husband is a big camper/hiker/outdoor guy. He likes nothing better than to take the family camping. In years past I have stayed home with my youngest, claiming that she was too young to camp and it would be too cold. So they've gone without me--Darren and the three older kids--while I've hung out at home with the "baby." (two- three- and four-year olds can be "babies" can't they?)

For some strange reason, I decided to go with them this year. I think it had something to do with my oldest daughter graduating in two years and me wanting to make as many family memories as possible before that happens. Also, I couldn't claim that my almost six-year old was still a baby. Or it might have been that I actually wanted go to some of the places where Dad used to take us camping.

My husband spent a good portion of the day on Tuesday getting ready, while I napped on the couch. I'm still getting over my sickness, remember? I finally roused myself and went to the grocery store to "buy a few things" for the trip like marshmallows and beef jerkey and potato chips--all things bad for you. That trip cost $107.56.

Darren packed up the car while I avoided packing my own stuff. For some reason, I'm very bad at packing. Always have been. At 10 pm I watched "Everybody Loves Raymond" while folding up a huge basket of clothes. Personal tip: If you save laundry folding until 10 pm you can justify watching TV for an hour while you fold.

We were on the road at 9 am Wednesday but I needed to stop at Starbucks to get an herbal tea. This was annoying to everyone in the car. I've never heard such complaining! But I told them we'd all be happier if I was happy. They agreed and we stopped. They got some yummy lemon muffins out of it and Darren ended up drinking half my tea, saying "Wow, this is great tea," numerous times.

The highlights (bright spots) of our spring break trip were:

1. Taking two gorgeous hikes--one in Capitol Reef Nationl Park, Utah, and one in Little Wild Horse Canyon near Goblin Valley. The sandstone cliffs were magnificent and fearsome and narrow. It's a good thing I've recently lost a few pounds!

2. Realizing that my five-year old was deinitely not a baby anymore, but a young girl who wanted to prove she could hike the whole way.

3. Playing hide and seek around the "goblins" at Goblin Valley--the whole family. It was 65 degrees and one of those perfect--and rare--family moments when every one is happy at the same time.

4. Eating at a fun burger joint in Torrey, Utah, where everyone loved what they ate.

5. Running into old grad school friends and chatting a bit about old times.

6. Eating my husband's dutch oven chicken barbecue dinner--yum yum yum!

7. Seeing all the unique desert flowers in bloom and learning their names. Orange globemallow are especially beautiful.

8. Stopping at this amazing rock shop in Hanksville, Utah, and seeing a genuine dinosaur leg bone, and every other kind of rock imaginable.

Things I could have done without on the spring break:

1. Staying in a "cabin" that was really about as big a wooden tent because it was too cold to camp. It was a night of muscial beds and restless sleeping, and WAY too small for six people. But it was cheap.

2. Cleaning out the car after a camping trip. Bionicle heads, red rocks, red sandstone, bags of rocks, empty water bottles, empty cans, kids' meal toys, bionicle swords, pillows, Raggedy Ann, Slushy, Jessie and Fuzzy, (all beloved dolls and stuffed animals my kids can't sleep without) bionicles legs, map, brainquest card game, DVDs, bionicle arms, candy wrappers, more red sand and a crying Indian doll.

3. Buying our son his first pocket knife, and having three cuts in the first 10 minutes of whittling.

4. Thinking that Dad would have loved to be there with us all, and knowing he never would. Thinking he would have been a great pocket knife teacher and legend teller. He also would have known that ancient guy at the rock shop and would have sat a piece with him.

5. Knowing that I'll never eat such good crackling wheat bread again as we found at that old pioneer store.

There were more highlights than bad times. I guess it was a successful spring break after all. But tomorrow's going to be one of the few great Mondays.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sick of Being Sick

It's amazing how this "cold" has wiped me out for nearly a week. I was sick the day my husband left for Chicago, and I was sick the day he came home. And then another day beyond that. Today I'm feeling better but not 100%. I'm starting to be able to taste things again, and my sense of smell is returning. But really, my smell and taste were basically wiped out for five days. You'd think that would make me lose weight. Of course not! Since my throat hurt I wanted ice cream, and lots of it.

So all I did was lie in bed for at least four of the five days, dozing in an out of sleep, listening to people fighting and screaming below me. I read "Jacob Have I Loved," a young adult novel by Katherine Patterson. Not nearly as good as "Bridge to Teribithia," but not nearly so sad either. Wow, I got the book club book done before book club! I love novels about the ocean, because water can be a metaphor for so many things--happiness, anger, life, love, and the unbreakable force of nature. I also learned a bit about crab mating, something I didn't know a thing about!

So when I came downstairs, showered, dressed and with makeup on at the tail end of this "cold," my kids looked at me like I had been transfigured. "She's alive," they seemed to whisper to each other. "She's not nearly as ugly as I thought," or "Why doesn't she look like this every day?" (Heads Up: I do shower and get dressed every day. It's just that when the kids haven't seen me that way for a while, and then I come downstairs with my hair not matted to my head, they think I've had an extreme makeover.)

Well, I guess those whispers behind my back are better than the "looks" I often get from my 15-year old daughter when I take her to school in my pajamas. I don't know why she should act shocked at this, I've been doing it for years. I guess it's just that now she sort of cares about her image, and I am part of her image apparently, and me in the mornings in my jammies, is like, totally embarrassing! "Are you wearing that?" she asks. "I most certainly am," I snap, "so you'd better stop looking at me like that and be grateful you're getting a ride instead of walking!"

I should mention that on the rare occasion when I happen to be dressed on the way to school, she looks at me, surprised, and says, "Mom you look good." I don't really look good; she's just shocked I'm not in my jammies. But it's nice of her to say so. Can I just say I hate women who have it all together before 9 am? They make me feel so slobbish.

Maybe I should try to pull it together more in the morning, hair and clothes-wise. It does feel good to be dressed while it's still morning. But then people would expect that, and I would have to keep it up, and that would be a lot of work. Because if I looked really good for a week and then said "forget it" the next, people might think I'd "let myself go" or that I'm depressed, or sick. But then again, if I jumped back on the wagon and got ready early, then they'd all think I'd had something done, that I was incredibly beautiful in comparison to how I looked the week before. Hmmmm. That's an idea. Just keep 'em guessing.

My friend Alison and I laugh at each other in the mornings. She only sees me in my red fleece or green fleece pajamas and I only see her in her navy blue bathrobe. When I pick up her daughter for school, that's the condition both of us are in. But we both know we will eventually get dressed and get it together later on. I like carpooling with her because how can she pass judgement on me when she's in her bathrobe? She can't. And she doesn't. I guess I should mention that Alison is pregnant, and can wear that navy blue bathrobe until she delivers if she wants.

What's my excuse? Now that I'm better I don't really have one, do I?