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."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Finding Fun Mom

 Oh No!  What shall we do?

 Summer is here, that makes us glad.

 But being stuck in the house with five kids can be a little daunting.

 I've got to try not to over-think this, but honestly summers always make me a little sad
 because I really want to be fun mom, but dang it, I am not naturally 
I am more Work-at-it-mom, Sometimes-gets-it-right-mom, but also

Well, no time to be squeamish, time to jump in with both flippers and my floaty.
Success will require:

homemade cookies
park days
time off for good behavior (and maybe an occasional nap)
 hugs (the giving and the getting)
river days
drive-in movies
tree houses
or chocolate.  either one.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Family History: Part 1 - The Discovery

I don't know who he is.  
I have to believe he was my mother's favorite cousin, Theral, I think was his name, or was it Vaughn?  Or perhaps it was my Grandma Florence's brother.  I love to think of him dressing in his finest clothes that day, stepping out of the log cabin (that I have seen now in other photos of him) and strolling out into the open spaces that are now surely tract homes or strip malls, to pose for this picture.

I must find out who he is.

I have given Adam the summer job of scanning negatives.  After just the first 40 or so it is clear that some cleaning will be necessary first, and then new scans done that will hopefully reveal faces and details lost under 70+ years of grime.  It is a daunting task, and I am determined not only to get them cleaned and scanned, but then to get them to the families who rightfully should have them.  My cousins, and maybe the children and grandchildren of my mother's cousins, wherever they are!

Here are some of the gems I have unearthed thus far.

 The first set of my grandmother's twins, Joanne and June.  This picture is so precious, I want to smooch their little scrubbed faces and tickle their chubby knees.  I picture my grandmother rolling their ringlets onto her finger with a little water and setting them with matching bows.

 Grandma... Florence Kofoed (later Collins and still later, Kramer).  
I don't recognize the baby.

The twins... look close to see they are holding hands... 
and my grandfather.  I try to imagine there may have been some good in him once.  

 The only way I know this is my mother is because she is posed with her ever cheerful brothers, shy Johnny and gregarious Jimmy.  I love their Halloween buckets!
Hard to imagine they have all passed on now.

I love this picture and I will tell you why.  Instead of the perfect, brushed and clean children that appear in all of the pictures I have copied so far, this is a REAL picture!  Disheveled, a little wild, looking everywhere but the camera...
those could be my children!
 (my mom, bottom left, having her knee scrutinized by baby Johnny)

 Mystery baby... isn't he (she???) beautiful...?

 Mom (top) and her sisters.  The twins were always so lovely and poised.  
Mom felt a bit like the ugly duckling.
(love the tent)

I love this picture of Grandma!  Check out those heals!  You go, girl!  
And you're rockin' those pearls and furs.   Yet all dolled up for a night on the town, it seems odd to for her to be on the lawn in the daylight.  I wish I knew where she was going.

I have to realize that when this picture was taken, she had no idea where he life would take her.  She was young and lovely and somehow bold and confident the way youth is.

I am told she was a wonderful woman.  She died when I was seven.  I like to think she and I would have been great friends if I had been born in 1910 or so.

And maybe the best one of all (so far),
 because that is something that Jonah would do, right now, today.
A baby is a baby after all, when all is said and done, though decades come and go.

And somehow that has helped the gloom lift.  The gloom that came with the box the day I opened it, and has hung on for many days since.  I know I will be sad again when the stories these pictures tell are of struggle and poverty and pain.  But I feel so driven all of a sudden, to find out as much as I can, and soon.  Thank goodness for Aunt June, who will be getting a call this week.  I know she will be able to help.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Black and White

We got up early on Saturday morning.  It would be a long day and we had to hit the road and get started.  For hours we packed and loaded boxes onto one truck, then another, and then a trailer. I kissed my dad goodbye promising to see him again soon, and we drove the 3 ½ hours to Mariposa where my sister, her family, and my father are moving. 
At about 10:30 that night we were wrapping things up.  We were filthy and exhausted as we emptied the last truck into the warehouse where my dad’s belongings will be stored for a few months.  Then, just before we were ready to shut the door on the warehouse, I saw a box.  It caught my eye because it had my writing on it, and then I realized it was the box from my mother’s drawer of photographs.  It's been waiting 11 years since my parents moved away from my childhood home.  I announced to whomever might be listening, "I’m taking this box home with me to make copies".  Nobody seemed to care, all too tired I suppose.
At home, I opened the lid and right on top was the cheerful silhouette of my brother at probably age five. Beneath that was the crude and perfect drawings of my brother, Kenny.  The sedimentary layers of the box unfolded their story to me as I dug further and further back in time.  My sisters with their new babies, graduation pictures, high school, grade school. I found pictures from my childhood that brought up so many feelings; mostly heavy and sad ones.  I don't really understand why, but just the fact that I see that children have to grow up makes me sad.  A gloom settled over me. 
Then my hands found a brown paper bag filled with nearly a half pound of negatives from the 1930's and 40's. I sat holding them up to the light one by one, and though it’s hard to make out from their reverse black and white, I saw the little faces of my mother, her twin sisters, her twin brothers, another sister and my dear, sweet grandmother.
And my grandfather.   
His tall looming figure towers above the tiny children who stand in perfect formation under his stern gaze.  His ever present hat and thick, dark glasses give him any eerie look -or maybe it’s not the dark glasses that are so disconcerting, but him.  He was a not a good person.  Not at all.
It was hard to see the sadness on my mother's face.  

I wish I could go back in time.  
I wish I could heal the hurts of the past, through the generations. 


I hope when I see her again she is smiling.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Welcome, Summer!

On the last day of school it is our long standing tradition to consume ice cream in some form, be it a simple cone or a sundae at home.  This year we had more to celebrate than could be handled by a mere single scoop at Rite Aid.

First year of homeschool - check
First year of high school - check
Last year for Guy to deal with certain unnamed challenges at work - double check

Oh, and in case you want to have a gluten free/dairy free fest, you can't go wrong with a banana split, hold the ice cream, whipping cream, chocolate sauce, caramel, and sprinkles (gluten-filled, who knew?).  That means sorbet and fruit sauce.  She didn't even complain.  Man, I would have!

 Whoops.  They accidentally made the Jumbo Sundae instead of the Jr., and brought it anyway.  
Ellie was a little daunted.

 No worries, Jonah is happy to help.  

 No eye contact or smiles, but at least there's no hand in my lens.

It weighed more than he does, but he polished it off!

Things I am grateful for this school year:

Support from my little homeschool community... Kathy and Amanda have seen me through many homeschool tears.  No, not the kids' tears, mine!

Tyler.  He has been such a gentle presence in Ethan's life.  Thank Heaven for 
my children's friends.

My patient husband who single-handedly got one of our children through his particular grade ( you will have to guess which one, as I am holding true not to blog specifically about this individual, but I will give you a hint:  He is not homeschooled, and he doesn't wear a diaper).

My husband again, for supporting me in my continuing scholarly pursuits.

My husband again, just 'cuz he's cute.  
What can I say, I have a short attention span.  
Mention my sweetie and I get all googley-brained.

Watching my kids get excited about owl barf, Egyptian mummies, 100 year old books (Our latest fave: Freckles by Gene Porter Stratton), and anything that includes food coloring, baking soda and vinegar.

Knowing what my kids know, what they don't, and knowing how not to freak them out about any of it.

The state we live in that will give my kids funding for their interests, which have included:
Lego engineering
ancient history and art classes
a fabulous microscope
at least 8 reams of paper
really good art supplies
and countless other books, CDs, computer programs, games and online classes.
It would have been a much duller year without them.

That we live in a country that allows my children to become educated, boys and girls, and the promise of choosing their future occupation, government and religion.

Things I have not missed this year:

Buying the dang tissues, soap and pretty much everything else for my kids classes.

No wait, that wasn't the bad part, actually that was awesome because it guaranteed me multiple contacts with Ellen every week, which I really miss.  No, it is the DRIVING 
and the stupid PICK UP LOOP that I DO NOT miss!

Being told what I am not allowed to bring my kids at school.  No homemade goodies?  Honestly?

Having someone who barely knows my child tell me "about" my child.

Signing in.

Signing out.

Being told how I will spend my evening time with my children.

Making lunches.  Now I just say "go eat something". 

4 -10 PM homework misery.

Oh, one more thing for my gratitude list:


Cooking up Father's Day

 We had kids on purpose.
Not one "whoops" in the bunch.  In fact, some of them were brought on the heels 
of tears, prayers, and even some magical pharmaceuticals.  
Which, on occasion, begs the question, 


We occasionally (albeit affectionately) refer to them as "Devil Spawn"  
(Guy says that makes one of us the devil.  I say it's him... redhead, you know).  
Especially today.
They have squabbled, fought, bickered, grumbled, whined, fussed and quarreled.

I suggested to my hubby that we sell the lot and start over.  We had to consider the prospect that we had used up all the cute DNA and might produce a gaggle of very sweet, but hideously ugly children, or that perchance all of the smart genes have been depleted and we might incubate a liter of cute little bumblebrains.

Oh, well.  I guess we will just try to work with what we have.  

As a consolation, I made Guy food.  
Food says "I love you and I am sorry that our sweet children 
that we struggled to bring to this world are total ingrates."

Breakfast Menu:
Scrambled Eggs with Tomato and Green Onion
Homemade Yogurt sweetened with Homemade Strawberry Freezer Jam
Nutmeg and Orange French Toast

Dinner Menu:
Gluten Free Lasagne
Garlic French Bread


Chocolate Cheesecake with Cherries

Crust: crumble 16 graham crackers, add 5 tsp sugar and 5 Tbsp melted butter.
Press into spring form pan and bake at 350 until just golden.

Boil 3/4 cup milk then pour over 2 cups chocolate chips in glass bowl.  
Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then wisk until smooth.  Set aside.

Filling:  Cream with mixer 3 pkgs cream cheese (room temp)
add 6 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 cup sugar and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.
Add chocolate mixture.
Mix until very smooth.
Pour into crust, and bake at 350 for about 50 minutes 
or until the top has a jello-like jiggle.

Chill and serve with Cherries (canned pie filling) or Orange glaze (1 can manderines, 3/4 c. sugar, 
thickened with 2 tsp cornstarch on stove).

Sorry, Honey.  I can make great food on my own,
 but I'm gonna need a lot of help to keep these rabble-rousers 
out of the state correctional system.

What happens when a 28 lb mouse finds the bread before dinner.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Who Says...?

Who says he's not 
my baby anymore?

Today I stayed home from church with a sick little Tessa.  
A cold, and tummy trouble too.  I haven't been home on a Sunday maybe since just after Jonah boy was born.  After I read to Tessa on the Hammock, she went inside, and Jonah climbed up beside me and nursed.

Some people are shocked, I am sure, that I would still be nursing my 22 month old.  I could give you all of the statistics for why extended breast feeding is so good for children.  It boosts their immunity, it provides the exact long-chain fatty acids that form the myelin sheathing on the nerves in their brains which are still forming at age two, and it has been shown to even produce a larger vocabulary at an earlier age, from mamas that talk more to their babes during that great face-time.
 The list is longer than my stretch marks.

I suppose I do it for all of those reasons.  But there are other reasons that are not in some study somewhere, and will not make the headlines in Newsweek.  A busy toddler hasn't got much interest in hanging out with the mom-lady.  There are bugs to poke, dog-dishes to splash in, foreign objects to masticate (the sweet granny ladies at church have regular heart attacks when they see him head for a paper-wad on the floor).  There are toilet paper rolls to unwind, beds to bounce on, and entire stacks of laundry to unfold.  It's a busy life.  
So nowa-days, he comes to me for one of a few, too few, reasons:

To wash his hands... 
go figure, he cherishes marinating in his poopie diaper 
("Dop!" he yells at me to stop when I go for the clean dipe), 
but the dude's got to have clean hands. 

To kiss an owie.  He's a klutz so we're good for a 10-a-day minimum.

For "WaWa"  (any liquid) and "EAT!"

And to nurse.

Let me tell you how this goes down.  He looks at me as he is bumbling through the room on his next conquest.  Suddenly he hits the breaks, and sidles up next to me.  He leans on my knee, and tips his head to one side, looking up at me through those long lashes of his.  A sly little grin pulls his pink lips up into a shinny smile, and in a soft, cooing voice, he ever so tenderly mews,

and signs "milk please".

When I smile back, which I can't help but do, he giggles and moves his feet in a quickstep.  He knows a smile is yes.  And if it's not a yes, he knows I can be persuaded by another, higher pitched and even sweeter


I scoop him up and his busy agenda dissipates.  He cuddles into my arms that were shaped by four nurslings before him, and nuzzles while I sing to him or just talk and play with his toes.  Sometimes he pulls fuzz off my shirt, or stops to jabber at me.  He stares into my eyes, pokes the mole on my nose, and plays with my necklace.  He sometimes drifts off to sleep, and I love on him unabashedly, sniffing his skin and caressing his chubby fingers one by one.  But not so much lately.  When he is done, he pops up with a smile and a giggle that to me says, "Thanks, Mom, that was your best milk yet".
To which I croon, "Was it yummy?  I made it just for you!" 
And then he's off.

Off to his busy little world once more, increasingly within which, I play less and less of a roll.

I promise, I will not nurse him until he is four (even though that is the average age of weaning world-wide because the rest of the world doesn't think breasts belong to men).  Two and a half is about when my kiddos and I have mutually agreed to retire the nursing bra (though truth be told, I haven't owned a regular bra since the last century).  And I will be both ready and terribly sad when that day comes.

As I drifted into a rare nap on the hammock today with Jonah at my side, I felt so grateful that my Father in Heaven has given me this body to do this important work.   I have, in partnership with him, created tiny humans, and my body's job didn't stop there.  I have the continued blessing and honor of holding my babes in my arms a scant time longer to nourish and comfort them. 

Yes, he's still my baby.

This is what happens when you have sisters.  But because you also have brothers, it only lasts about 60 seconds.

Monday, June 4, 2012


A dear friend once told me:

"I have realized that it is not my job to keep my kid
 from throwing a tantrum in the supermarket.

It is my job to clear a space around them 
so that they don't hurt themselves while doing so."

The saying holds true for teenagers, too.


When I was about 4 my worshiped-older sister, Julie, told me something amazing.  She picked up the golden end of my long braid, tickled me on my nose with it and said, "Did you know that this blond hair on the end of your braid is your baby hair?  It is the exact same hair that was on your head when you were a baby."

I was gobsmacked.  I loved babies, and the idea that I was one once was mind boggling to me at that age.  I loved hearing about "me as a baby", and here I  held in my own peanut-butter-smeared mitt an artifact from my very own infancy.

When I was seven and my mother tried to "give me a trim" I nearly ran away from home.  It was the last shred of evidence that I had ever truly been a baby!  My parents didn't develop film too often.  We had to go on faith that anything they actually said was true.  I still have my doubts about Disneyland.  I could be wrong, but I think they may have just taken us to one of those scary parking lot carnivals.  Micky looked more rat than mouse.

Enough with my dreary childhood, and on to the dreary childhoods of they who share my DNA...

I cut Jonah's hair.  He's not a baby anymore.  His long, super-straight in the front, slightly curly in the back, goldy-golden locks have been shorn, and like Sampson, it stole away his power.  Baby power. 

Well, maybe not all of it.  There is the pooping in his pants thing, not so much a power as a secret weapon.  And that whole breastfeeding situation (yes, we are going for the Guiness on that one).  But frankly, that is more my super-power than his.  He is more like my side kick, and like Spidey makes webs, I make milk.

But the baby look is gone.  "Oh!" people exclaim, "He looks like a little boy!" which is better than him looking like a girl, I suppose.  Ellen held nothing back, "Oh!  I don't like his haircut!"  She spontaneously blurted the moment she saw him. Good thing his hairdresser didn't take it personally.

I kind of have to agree.  I don't like his haircut either, with all that it implies.  I cut away the baby bits of him, and it left me with the big boy that was hiding under that blondy fringe.


Well, he's still a looker.