Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Caught between boy and man

It has become my nightly ritual to slip into the boys room on my way to bed to turn off the light and radio. I am ever amazed at the near-yoga positions I find the boys in, sometimes on the floor or even in the giant cupboard, utterly unconscious. They are usually fully dressed (for some reason PJ’s are not “cool”) and often partially buried in what ever they were doing before drifting off to sand-man-land.

On this night, I giggled when I went in to turn out the lights. Ethan lay sound asleep near his book, his face smack on top of two Star Wars action figures. Assuming, as mothers do, that they must be hurting him (all evidence to the contrary... but this is what we do as moms; we feel cold, they must wear a jacket!), I slid them out from under his cheek.

There he was, my first baby, the child who turned me into a mother, so big now, asleep with his toys. As each year passes I hold on to his childhood in my heart, lamenting the time that will come all too soon when he no longer wants Legos and Storm Troopers for Christmas. He is holding on, too. As of last Christmas, he was still insistent that we keep the fireplace clear as a burn-free landing pad for Santa (though I am pretty sure he has not believed in the bearded-one in a year or two). He wants to be cool and grown up, and he wants to stay a little boy at the same time.

Having worked in special education back in my single days, I have known children who never grew up, and certainly I don’t want that for him. But oh, how I wish he would slow down. There is so much ahead of us. The uncertainty of who he will become, of mistakes he might make, of hurts he will certainly feel, sometimes overwhelms me. I wish I could keep him small and safe forever, but I know I can't.

Thank heaven, at least for now, he still plays with (and sleeps on) action figures.

Age 4

Age 6

Age 8

Thursday, November 26, 2009

On Top of the World

For ten years, Thanksgiving has been a magical time for me. Ten years ago on the day before Thanksgiving, something wonderful came into our lives.


He was born as an answer to so many prayers. He came at a time in my life when I desperately needed miracles. An unexpected traumatic cesarean when Ethan was born had left me feeling broken. The difficulties of 17 months of severe post partum depression and breastfeeding challenges that went on for 8 weeks only served to reinforce my feelings of self doubt. When I learned I was pregnant again, I knew things could be different.

It was during that pregnancy that my life began to change in a ways that would impact the rest of my and my family’s lives forever. I learned about birth, about food, about health and spirit. I learned about what it would take to get my baby here safely, and began to pursue a homebirth.

The day Adam was born was the most powerful day of my life. My body worked! Birth worked! He was amazing and perfect and I was transformed. On top of the world.

Adam turned ten this week, and in many ways, so did I. I will never again be the woman I was before he came.

And he is wonderful. He is a tender, kind child. He is so tapped into my emotional state that with a glance he can tell how I am feeling, and one of his best gifts is the capacity to make me feel uplifted. Whether it is a headache or the blues, he can chase them away. He is hysterically funny (am I allowed to mention the old water bottle he filled to the TOP yesterday while we were on the road and a million miles from a bathroom?), a hard worker (he is tougher on himself than I could ever be), and he loves life.

When I think back to that Thanksgiving ten years ago, the memories it holds are some of the most beautiful I possess. I remember looking into his eyes when he was just hours old, and seeing him stare back with such clarity and intensity that I think I have ever known. The next day my sweet friend Melissa brought Thanksgiving over to our small apartment and our little family gathered around a lovely table to share our gratitude. The prayer that was offered that night, amid tears of joy, was of the most thankful ever uttered.
I love what Adam has done for my life. I love him so much, and I look forward to seeing how high he will soar in this life.
The following was written just after Adam was born and is a portion of his birth story.
In the wee hours of the night, the room glowed by candle light that I caught in brief snatches when offered a sip of water, or when an unwelcomed whisper needed to reach me with a question or information. Otherwise, I disappeared behind my eyelids, and moved to my body’s call. As each swell came, I did what my body asked, and with low moans agreed to this ride. No fighting, no argument, I was carried on the waves and shuddered at those which hit mercilessly despite my compliance. But still, no fight.

I rested on Guy’s chest between surges, and he held me and breathed out a little if I needed reminding. Upon being checked I was found to have only a lip of cervix remaining on one side of the baby’s head, and the suggestion came for me to switch my position to encourage it’s retreat. I felt suddenly stubborn about it, but did as had been suggested. Baby was then checked, and found to have some slowing heart tones. "Mama knew best" someone said, and I returned to a position that felt right. "That's better, baby likes that." Constance said, and we resumed our chant of moaning and resting.

Suddenly there was a sensation I had only before read about, and I knew what was happening. The ring of fire, burning and stretching, and amazingly, my very bones coming apart. With each forceful swell, my body opened further and further. "Here comes baby!" Came an excited and calming voice, "Reach down and touch your baby!"

My fingers never felt anything sweeter than the downy fuzz of the top of a tiny soft head. With his body still inside me, I touched my baby before he was even born! With Guy's hand reaching over mine, we stroked the little being that was ours through a union of incredible love. In a moment and an eternity, we met, and though there would be joy and love in the hours and days to come, there would never again be a moment when we would be so fully eclipsed in each others existence.

He came, then, in a whoosh, and I brought his slippery curled body up to my belly in such astonishment as cannot be described in mortal words. With the blue light of dawn just creeping through the windows, we welcomed our child to the peaceful place we had created for it. No birth could have been more perfect, no dream more gratefully realized.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

High Horses

Post note:
After I read this a few days later, I thought it may seem like these two events have nothing to do with each other, but allow me to connect the thread. I just thought the contrast of the two events was interesting. It didn't take much for me to go from feeling benevolent to self conscious. Maybe someday charity will win out over vanity!

It happened again. It happens so often I should be used to it, but I still don’t like it much.

I stood in the 15 items or less line at Railey’s Market waiting to be checked out (no, not the “hey, baby” kind, but the “do you have a club card?” kind). An adorable little old man came up behind me and began flirting with the kids.

“Blue eyes?” He asked Tessa, who hid her head. He checked each child and then me. “Yep, all blue.” Says I. He worked dilligently at trying to get Tessa to smile at him, so to distract him before Tessa began to cry, I said, “Doing a little pre-holiday shopping?”

“Oh, no,” he said, “No money for that. I’m broke. Just back from Arizona from seeing my older sister in a nursing home. She’s 89 years old, two years older than me.”

As we chatted, I began to take in his general appearance. His shirt was so worn that the lining peeked out of the collar fabric. Buttons were missing and the cuffs of his sleeves were frayed. Having noticed a faint accent, I spoke to him in Spanish, and he was tickled. Now we were old friends.

The line had melted away ahead of me, and now it was my turn. I put my 8 items up on the belt, and then he put his one item up; a little white deli bag. He noticed me examine it and smiled, “My chicken dinner.”

Price tag: $0.79. He held a handful of loose change.

While Abuleo, as I had now called him ( that’s “grandpa” to you gringos) coaxed a smile from Tessa, I signaled to the cashier that I would pay for his dinner. I felt silly that I was to pay less than a dollar for his meal, but I managed to hand him $5 to make myself feel better about the meager help I had given.

He was warmed by it all. Lovey, even. And I felt lovey, too. I had those waves of “I am doing a good thing! Check it out! Charity in action! Random act of kindness, here!”. I got that little do-gooder’s high.

He felt the need to offer something back.

Pointing to my belly, he said in Spanish, “The one that is coming will have green eyes.”

This happens to me about 8 times every year. I have the grave misfortune of owning a pseudo-belly. I look pregnant, though I am not. Kind of a cruel joke of nature if you ask me, given my history. I can only imagine how many hundreds of people have thought it, given the dozens over the years that have dared say it aloud.

“Ah, no, Abuleo,” I return, “No hay bebe. Tengo una pansa, nanda mas.” There’s no baby. It’s just my big’o belly.

He flushed red and bowed his head, “Aye, perdon.” He almost whispered his blushing apology.

We parted, him still feeling grateful, and me, dismounted from my high horse, a little humble. He thanked me again, squeezing my hand, and I just smiled and winked.

Next time I think I’ll leave my horse at home.

If you need a "belly laugh" check out:
Now, go love your poo chi.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Self Control in a Glass

Ever been tempted to misbehave?

Ethan has found a solution to keep himself from gobbling up the full-sized candy bar he got for Halloween.

He froze it into a glass of water.

He says that this way he can't sneak and eat it. I told him it will probably taste like the freezer by the time he breaks down and thaws it out. He wants to see how long he can resist.

Too bad I can't put my whole kitchen into a block of ice. Now, that would be an effective diet plan!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Tonight at the church someone asked me a question about my mom, and it dawned on me that this month was the anniversary of her death. Then I realized it was 8 years ago yesterday that mom moved from this realm to a place beyond my imagining.

For years after she left, I had dreams about her. I was always chasing her, trying to find her. She would sit down beside me and I would try to connect with her, to pour my heart out to her, to reach out to touch her… but she would shimmer and vanish.

In my dreams I always wept.

My mother was a lovely woman. She was clever and resourceful. She could make a silk purse out or a sow’s ear, and then butcher, cure and can the rest of the pig for winter. Mom baked a half-dozen loaves of bread every week, was a wonderful cook, and took beautiful care of her home. She could fix anything, usually with toothpaste and shoe polish or whatever else was handy.

When I turned 16 my folks let me have a huge party. Mom didn’t know about party crashers, so when some uninvited guests came, she opened the door, put sodas in their hands and showed them to the food. That night the kids who stayed latest were there because they were listening to my mom tell freaky stories about when she worked at the state mental hospital. Word got out. My mom was cool.

Mom tried very hard to do what was right, right up till the day she died. She had an assignment to visit sisters from church and had always done so loyally, but when she couldn’t get out to visit them because she was in the hospital, she sent me for stamps so that she could send “her ladies” cards. One of those ladies received her card after my mom had passed away.

For a long, long time I was mad at my mom. Mad that she died. Mad that she hadn’t tried harder to live after she was diagnosed. Mad that she seemed so happy to be moving on to the next part of her journey. I wanted her to fight to be here with us, to see her grandchildren. I wanted her.

I wish I could ask her a thousand questions. What did you always put in your Sweet and Sour pork sauce? Where did you put all the genealogy? How old were you when your thyroid began to act up? Do you see all of your beautiful grandchildren? Do you miss us?

The other day I was telling Ellie about my mom, her Grandma. I was telling her the stories I once listened to of mom growing up on the farm in Wisconsin, stories I had heard so many, many times as a child. She listened with intensity and asked questions about a woman she had never met. How is it that I have two children who never got to meet their grandmother? How is it she never saw her daughter with daughters of her own?

I miss my mom. I very consciously choose not to think about her, because it makes me cry. I wonder what she would say about how much Ellie looks like me, about Tessa’s gorgeous eyes, about how big Ethan is getting. I wonder if she would see in Adam the traces I see in him of her mother, with his gentle eyes and delicate chin. I wonder if she would be proud of them …

...of me.

Strange how after 8 years it all still hurts so much. But I needed to remember her tonight. To pull out sweet warm memories and run my fingers over them slowly, recalling their delicate details, before folding them up and putting them away.

I love you, Mom.

Me and mom on my wedding day, December 29, 1994.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dear (you're name here),

I installed a little map gadget on the blog about a week ago. It is so cool. It shows me where the people are who are reading my blog.

This is so exciting! Hello Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks and Bell. It is so thrilling to see folks in towns nearby my own and know that maybe a mama (or papa for that matter) like me, not far away, is reading my humble words.

But wait… then there was Arizona, Texas, and Alabama. I don’t know a soul in Alabama. Hello, Alabama. How are ya?

Then something so unexpected, a red dot on the map in the Phillipines, another in Germany and one in Australia! Why, it’s morning there, I think, when I am up writing in the wee hours of the night. Hello! Kumustá! Guten Tag! G’day!!!!

What could be more exciting than knowing that my words aren’t just floating out there in cyberspace, unread? Of course then came the fear. What could I possibly have to say that someone in Germany would care about? Would someone in another country think my thoughts trite, my problems mundane, humor, um…not humor-ful?

Oh, I think, they probably clicked here by accident and then said, “What the heck is this? I was looking for lawn chairs.”

So this is my little love note to you; you who I don’t know, who I have never met, who I may never have the opportunity to know. Thank you for taking time from your life to read about mine. I pray that I will be able to write something worthy of your time. Please stop in and say hello on the comments! Share your stories with me. Tell me about breakfast in Australia. I would love to know you as more than a little red dot on my map.

All my love,

One of my favorite pictures of me and the kidlets (BT...before Tessa), taken 5 years ago. Photo by my sweet pal Annmarie Hall.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Livingroom Makeover - sponsored by Rebekah



I have had the rare blessing in my life to be surrounded by amazing people. This is Rebekah. She is amazing.

This morning as I mucked through several basket loads of laundry, there came a knock at the door. It was Rebekah. Rebekah is very forgetful, and so am I. My first thought was, "Did I forget Rebekah was supposed to come today?" The next thought, "Maybe Rebekah forgot to tell me she was coming today..."

"What ya doin?" I inquired.

"I am here to help you clean. I read your blog this morning."

Rebekah always reads my blog. And she nearly always comments. I love knowing she is there. Whenever I write, I picture her there, reading on the other end, and try to say something that might be worthy of her.

I was embarrassed. These are the risks you take when blogging. Though I think I am just throwing thoughts out to the universe to be chewed upon by unknown souls, or maybe no souls at all, they actually do land sometimes, and today that landing was in the kind heart of Rebekah.

Allow me to introduce you to her, so you can love her like I do. (Are you blushing yet, Bekah?)

Rebekah is married and has two great (spunky, opinionated, super smart) little boys. She is a returned missionary. She does daycare. She works really hard and is very genuine. She is super funny and spunky (it's genetic), and never stops smiling. Compliments pour out of her like cool water from a spring. She sees the bright side. She makes me laugh, hard. I love my friend Rebekah.

Rebekah almost died before I ever got a chance to know her.

A drunk driver slammed into Rebekah while she was walking across the street, and sent her flying a huge distance. She was in a comma for a few months, and then had to re-learn every skill she had mastered during her first two years on the planet. Sitting, talking, eating, feeding and dressing herself, walking... all of it. It took a really, really long time.

If you met Rebekah today, you would never know her mortal shadow had once crossed the threshold to the next life - unless she told you so, or showed you the hole in her skull bone. Even once you get to know her, the only lingering traits that one might attribute to the severe head trauma she endured are a bit of forgetfulness (she can blame the accident, I have no excuse) and the inability to shed tears.

She doesn't make a big deal out of it (It being a major brush with death) at all. In fact, she is a real toughy. She smiles when she hears someone complaining about how hard their life is. When you have walked the road Rebekah has, there is not much that seems worth complaining about.

So you can imagine how humbled I felt when my friend turned up on my doorstep in response to my online whine-fest. We folded clothes for a long while, and laughed and talked. When she is around, my problems are still my problems, and though they don't seem small to me, they seem more manageable.

Every year, on the anniversary of her accident, Rebekah's family throws her a GYAP. A "Glad You're Alive Party". I have to agree. Rebekah, I am glad you are alive, too. Thank you for being my friend.

"A loyal friend laughs at your jokes
when they're not so good,
and sympathizes with your problems
when they're not so bad." ~Arnold H. Glasgow

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Standing Corrected

This is my kitchen table. Only it never looks like this. Generally, there is about a foot of CRAP piled on it. It is never the same pile of crap. It changes from day to day, hour to hour. There are papers, books, backpacks, wrappers, toys, cereal boxes... all things migrate to this table. It is the "central" in our Grand Central Station. It is the vortex of evil clutter.

We had a rough morning. Ethan couldn't find clothes to wear to school because the boys had left their clothes on the bedroom floor when laundry time came and they missed the boat (I only wash clothes that make their way to the laundry room). It wasn't pretty. Let's just say things got very loud. Ethan had to do the dig-and-sniff to find pants to wear, and he left the house in a foul mood.

Only his mood didn't all go with him. I held on to a piece of it and took really good care of it all day. I nurtured it by attempting to dig the boys out of the overwhelming mess they had made for themselves in their room, only to become overwhelmed myself. By noon I was in tears. Really? EIGHT dirty socks behind the bed? My kitchen tongs in the drawer? As my friend, Rebekah, states with indignation: Seriously? I mean, SERIOUSLY?!?

By the time I had to leave to get the kids, I had myself worked into quite a lather. Or foaming at the mouth. Not sure which. I left the boys room to head for carpool duty, only to stumble through a messy house I had not gotten to yet. I began muttering under my breath. I hatched a plan that for tonight's family night I would sit down and make a long list of all that is required to run a household, and highlight in different colors the jobs each person does. Next we would make some new rules about chores and helping out. I was sure that if I could get them to see the light, I might get a little more help around here, and maybe a smattering of good old fashioned respect, too.

I called Guy to see if he was still upset too from how rough the morning had been. I told him I thought we needed to make some changes, get the kids to help more... the whole song and dance. But before I could tell him of my master plan, he interjected, "I have been thinking a lot about this today. I thought I would leave work a little early and take Ethan out for some one on one time. I think that the kids just need more of us. They have so much going on and all we ever do is order them around and tell them to hurry up. I think Ethan would behave better if he got more positive attention." He unfolded how he planned to take turns with the kids, one each week, for one-on-one time. He even planned a way for me to do the same.

So, Guy had his plan and I had mine.

Guy and Ethan went to a 50's diner and worked on homework together over a plate of french fries. I began my list.

Ethan came home talking about the dancing waiters and drawing silly faces in ketchup with dad on their plates.

I was still grumpy.

I demanded help with dinner (to teach us to work together). I demanded everyone stay until the dishes were done (to teach us to finish the job). We had family armed with a handful of highlighter pens and my printout of chores.

Ellie liked the fact that I was coloring.

Tessa, who somehow drops toys like dogs shed hair, piped in innocently claiming, "I pick up all my toys."

Ethan was very focused on a coin he was flipping in the air.

Adam tried to listen, until he found a coin, too.

Guy tolerated me.

Bedtime hustle came and went, and here I sit on the couch with a lightly snoring hubby beside me. I think that, despite my excellent plan, I am no further ahead on this problem than I was when I got out of bed this morning. Sitting here amid laundry baskets, I am pretty sure that by morning all of my big plans will have been quite forgotten by everyone but me. And about 20 minutes later, the kitchen table will be a complete mess.

But I think Ethan might remember french fries and ketchup faces for a long, long time.

Wish I had been a fly on the wall at the diner. Well, a fly with a camera. But since I couldn't, here are Daddy and Adam having some one-on-one time.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Deal

Ethan at Halloween... he doesn't dress like this all the time!

The week before Halloween
I informed Ethan he would, at long, long last, be having a haircut. The kid looked like Paul McCartney in the Yellow Submarine years. He loved it. I didn't.

I didn't really hate the hair, because when it was clean and combed he looked kind of cute, in a middle schooler teeny-bopper-movie sort of way (I always had a thing for Paul McCartney), but the Turret's-like head twitch he had developed to keep his hair out of his eyes was driving me nuts, and though he swore he could see, I couldn't see his beautiful eyes. I missed them.

"OK, Ethan. Haircut time."

"Mom, please, wait..."

"Nope. Now."
"But wait..." he began to argue, me already shaking my head and getting the angry-mama look ready.

"I'll make you a deal!" He begged.

"No deals. Bathroom. Now." (Why does motherhood have us revert to cavewoman talk?)


No need to think about it.

"I'll take it." I smiled. Wow. This was awesome. For the past year Ethan has been fighting haircuts, and if I take off 1/2 an inch he has a fit. A buzz? Please. Twist my arm.

I decided to give him a regular old haircut instead of a winter buzz. The clippers barely made it through. At the end, there was a large dead-cat's-worth of hair in the tub. He pretended to cry through it, whimpering with his bottom lip out (though smiling a little), and saying "wa."

"Hey, this was your deal." I gloated.

"Wa." he grinned.

Ah, welcome back, Ethan. Long time, no see.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The story of a patio and my favorite room

Photo by Tessa

We got a new patio this week. It is gorgeous, and my biggest payment yet for a painting. Two paintings, actually, and I may have to paint several more till I feel like we really have balanced the cosmic scales of emotional debt. I hardly think my humble paintings will be enough. It is a really nice patio.

There was no problem for me when we had to tear out our rickety old garden boxes to accommodate the bobcat tractor that would plow out the area for the patio. In our ongoing “You-get-what-you-pay-for” lesson, we learned that using weather treated wood for garden boxes is less of a suggestion and more of an “If you buy the cheep stuff it will fall apart in a year, ya moron.” The boxes were returning to nature by way of disintegration. They had to go. Our friend Dennis and his bobcat wiped them out in one stroke.

But to get the bobcat into the yard, we had to go up the side of the house where a delightful little tree was growing. The tree (Dennis called it a tall bush) was planted via the "bird-eats-berry-bird-poops-seeds" method. While this method can produce cheerful and welcome little surprises, it can produce them in odd places. This particular surprise had sprouted dead center in the middle of the path close to the gate. Not a problem when you are on foot, but a considerable one when you are trying to bulldoze.

Now, you may already know I love trees. Here is why I loved this particular tree: the best room in our house is Ellie’s room. Bright daylight makes it glow, the AC works best in that room, and the coziest bed in the house can be found there. I love to sneak a Sunday nap in that lovely room. A large double window gushes with glowing Southern light, and just beyond it, breaking the beams into marvelous dappled green strands of inspiration, stood the tree. It fluttered in the breeze and made the room come alive with moving light. It made me feel a million miles away from the world. From my spot on that terrific bed I could pretend that a glorious Eden of green meadows and verdant groves lay beyond. It really was a lovely little tree.

T'wern't nothing for Dennis to take his chain saw to the tree. Felled in an instant. I tried not to be sentimental.

I guess this is what can happen when you allow something to develop in your life that doesn’t really belong there. Sometimes we let something grow into our lives, barely noticing it, until later when it becomes a problem. And it can be a good thing, or could have been, if it had happened in the right order, time or place. But outside of those conditions, even something great can be, well, not so great.

The room looks very different to me now. A dilapidated wooden fence glares at me through the window. It was always there, but now I see it plainly. I suppose this is what happens when we get rid of things in our lives that were out of place. Sometimes what’s left is a little ugly.

But the patio that it made room for is going to be amazing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Fib

"Tessa. What did you do?"

"Da paint splash on me."

"Tessa, that's not true. Tell Mama the truth."

"I so sharwy, Mama. Um... a ant cwalled in da paint and den he cwalled on my leg and he got paint all over me."

"Tessa." (stiffling my giggle) "That is a fib. You need to tell me the truth."

"I so sharwy. I paint on my leg. But that's OK cuz I am saying sharwy."

Oh, my goodness. She is so yummy.
(I learned today there actually was an ant involved. Apparently it was crawling up her leg and suffered death by finger-paint!)

An All Hallows Eve Photo Album

Welcome to Halloween Central... our house!
Let's start out with an AWESOME 80's Halloween Bash!

Our buddy David of the Bishopric, living out a fantasy.

Little clay skulls and pumpkins, pit fired in the yard...

A party favor to take home.

And now for the "80's Prom Pictures"...

Ooo, baby, it's Don Johnson and some chick with big hair...

NEXT... We put on a ward party!


Ethan headed for the spook alley...deacons are in charge!

We go to sleep, wake up and carve pumpkins...

A calabash gallery

Quick! Costumes on and out to trick or treat with friends the Colyers and Heumanns...

Tessa sang out "Flew! Flew!" as she floated along the whole evening.

I finally figured out why Halloween still holds so much magic for me. As I follow my little ones up to the door, they knock, it opens and then comes the chorus...
"Trick or treat!"
Warm smiles greet them with "Oh, my! So Cute! And what do we have here?"

I am 6 years old again. I see it all through their eyes.
And now, home to check out the loot!
Can you say SUGAR?????

Oh, yes, it was a happy, happy Halloween!