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."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Story Time (or) How to Get Thrown Out of a Thrift Store

Come away with me, boys and girls to a magical place called DI, which is short for Deseret Industries, and also for Downright Insanity, depending.  DI is a thrift store on steroids, quite like a Super Walmart, but cleaner and with less swearing.

Our mission: To get clothing for Ellie.  She was once the tiniest of our children for her particular age, but she has since "outgrown" that illustrious distinction, and lately she has been outgrowing everything else.  The fountain of hand-me-downs that once kept her from going naked has dried up, and so, in a moment of deluded over-self-estimation, I thought, "Hey!  Let's go to DI!  Just Ellie, Tessa, Jonah and me!"

(This, boys and girls, is where the music gets all foreboding, and you shake your head, knowing that only bad things can happen if our characters continue on their chosen path).

We had been in the store about 15 minutes, and had collected a pile of "try-it-ons" that was draped over the mini-shopping cart seat and handle, leaving the cart empty for Jonah.  In a flash - a literal flash of cloth and hangers - I witnessed the shopping cart fly up into the air and completely invert itself, Jonah inside, over the top of Tessa, who had just mounted the front end.  The cart landed on Tessa and thankfully, so did Jonah.  Nothing breaks the fall of a child like another child, that's what I always say.  The chorus of wails that burst from those two small humans was detected by seismographs at NASA three states over.

You know, there is nothing that calls the attention of store employees quite like a good old-fashioned cart flipping.  In a pair of seconds we were surrounded by extremely concerned onlookers, who chose to speak all at once offering assistance and asking what we might need.  Silence, I thought, a few ice packs, a couple of gags and a bag to put over my head, that's what.  Some chocolate might be nice, too.  Thank you.

I sat on the floor with a mostly-startled Jonah and a hurt Tessa both huddled impossibly in my one lap.  Ellie, for once, made herself quite useful picking up the clothing explosion that lay around us like the aftermath of a party at a nude beach.  I probed Tessa's ankle for a possible broken bone, and quickly assessed that she was bruised, embarrassed and otherwise fine.  I had arnica on hand (someday I will write an entire post on arnica.  You will run out and buy many tubes for you and your loved ones, I promise), so we globed some on, picked our selves off the floor and tried to act natural.  Nothing to see here folks.  Move along, move along.  

A moment later a worker materialized beside me and handed my kids stuffed bears.  Used, scary looking stuffed bears.  We all smiled and I assured him the kids were fine.

Now, I know you were thinking that this was my story.  But noooo, boys and girls, because now we get to cram a cranky toddler, a wounded-but-still-lively ballerina, a clothing diva and a half-spent mama into a handicapped fitting room stall for 45 minutes.  You see, Ellie has to bow, shake her booty, kick up her heal and spin in every stinkin' outfit.  Apparently, that is the proper way to try on clothing.  Jonah lasted about 10 minutes before he discovered the 12" gap under the stall door. 

You could almost hear his little brain say "Woo-hoo!  I'm free!"  Every time he got halfway out of the stall, I grabbed his heals and dragged him back under.  It was super fun for him for about 10 pulls, because about 1 in 5 tries he was successful.  By now Tessa had decided that she too, needed to try on clothing, so each time he escaped I would have to open the door to run him down while -not one, but two- girls squealed that I was "showing the world their bums".  Meanwhile Jonah giggled hysterically and dodged in and out of clothing racks like a rabbit with me in hot pursuit.

We did this about 5 times, till I got smart (well, let's say less-stupid) and sat on the floor in front of the door.

(Begin the screaming-toddler soundtrack here.  Continue on a loop, increasing the volume every 4 minutes). 

At a certain point, one of the store's many Oh-so-helpful employees called to me from outside the door, "Is everything alright in there?"

Are you kidding me?  No, everything is not alright in here!  I am at war with Attilla-the-Baby while battling with Miss Ballet who would like for me to buy her 5 skirts-she-doesn't-need, please, and Miss Can-I-skip-ages-10-through-12-and-go-straight-to-obnoxious-teenager?... I have burst a vein in my left eye, I am developing a bruise from a recent unintentional toddler head-butt, and we still have 8 more things to try on... NO...DECIDEDLY NOT ALRIGHT!

I wanted to say all that, but a little voice inside my head (the one that belongs to the mom who discourages me from dolling out pieces of my mind all willy-nilly to telemarketers) tapped the freaky-mom-voice on the shoulder and suggested that maybe we would not like to have Child Protective Services called on us today, especially when we are so close to being done.

"Oh, he's just really, really tired."  I call from my sumo-match on the dirty blue indoor-outdoor carpet in the stall.  Really, he has all the energy in the world, it's me who's really, really tired.  There is no answer.  Good, I think, I don't need another audience.  Was he really thinking he would somehow help?  Did he plan to offer to hold Jonah while I helped with zippers and buttons?  Perhaps he would like to give me a foot massage as well!  Yes, Sir, please.  I'd love your help.  And when you are done here, will you follow me home and clean up my disastrous house while I nap?

We spent $32.  That bought 3 pairs of pants, 2 dresses, 5 tops, a skirt, and a claw toy.  We also staggered for the exit with two very ugly bears and a headache, all free.

As we stepped through the giant sliding glass doors, I heard a sound quite like an enormous sigh.  It could have just been the whoosh of air as the doors slid closed behind us, but I swear it sounded like a store full of people breathing a sigh of relief.

OK, so we didn't get thrown out, but I don't imagine we'll be going back any time soon, either.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beware the Silence!

When you have a two year old
silence is never a good thing unless it is well supervised.

I didn't mean to scream when I saw Jonah with the purple marker.  He lay in quiet repose in his cradle (yes, he is in a cradle on my bedroom floor.  If you have a problem with that, come build me another bedroom), and as I swished into the room (I swish.  Don't judge), I was, for just an instant, caught up in pleasant wonder at a toddler laying so still at 11 AM, and in his bed of all places.  

Then I saw the marker.

He was also swishing, in lazy, happy circles, all over my wall.  The funny thing was how very relaxed the whole thing looked.  He looked like the fat cherubs in those Greek paintings, laying on their backs, holding a cluster of grapes in one hand.  Purple grapes, no doubt.  His leg was even crossed over his bent knee, his foot held aloft and bobbing gently to the rhythm of the marker dance.

Like I said, I didn't mean to scream, but I did.

He burst into tears from both the startle and the scold.  I felt bad for a moment, but that part of my mommy-brain that cuddles away nightmares and kisses owies was suddenly shoved into a corner by the part that finds crayons in the dryer and bowl-fulls of uneaten cereal in the sink.

I lowered the volume and continued the scold, in very clear baby babble:
"No...color... walls!"

He sobered up, said "Tay", and pitched in to help clean up.
It was a learning experience had by all.

And in case you ever need to get Expo marker off a wall, forget what their website says.  Go straight for the Scrub Free toilet cleaner with bleach and a stiff brush.

 FYI - He is only using soap and water, not the noxious toilet cleaner.
 I am not THAT bad of a mom.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cooking Lesson: How (not) to Make Lasagne

About two weeks ago
my neighbors had a death in the family.  I decided to make them dinner.  They have to eat, I figured.  Food.  It's a little port in the storm.

I got home late from taking the girl's to class, and following my hubby's suggestion to make life easier on myself, I bought a frozen lasagne.



I wrestled my way through the discount grocery store with the girls and Jonah boy, struggled through the checkout stand, grappled my way through the loading-transporting-and-unloading of the groceries.  Far later than planned, I scurried into the house, arms loaded, to shove the frozen lasagne into the oven.

Oh, wait... preheat.... no forget the preheat.  The lasagne won't know the difference.

Now read the box.  WHAT!?!?!  80 to 100 minutes???  Let's see, it's now 4:50, add 80 minutes, so sometime between 6:10 and 6:30...  "Quick Ellie," I called, " run over and tell them I am going to be about 20 minutes late."  I frosted the cake made earlier, made a salad and garlic bread then headed for the oven at the time dictated by the box.

It's 6:10.  I opened the cover of the lasagne, dismayed at the sight of unmelted cheese.  A finger poke to the center confirmed my frigid fears.  Not only was it not cooked, the lasagne was still frozen in the middle.

I freaked out for about one solid minute, which included a over-exaggerated rant about "trying to be nice always backfiring",  and a scavenge through the cupboards, presumably to look for the nice hot meal made by elves, miraculously hidden there.  Next, I did the "burst" part of bursting into tears, but realizing there was no time, I jammed my gearshift into overdrive and said to Guy, who had come in mid-rant, "OK, let me think!"

I grabbed a casserole dish small enough to fit in the microwave.  I cut the lasagne in half and plopped one side into the small dish and hustled it into the microwave.  This could work.  In about 8 minutes I had a pretty well thawed, and on the outside edges, cooked, lasagne.  But now I had to get at that middle.  Calling Guy, I grabbed a knife and chopped the pasta block down the center.  Using two spatulas I hoisted 'half of the half' into the air, balanced and dripping on two spatulas.  I (kindly but stress-ed-ly) rattled orders to Guy, who tipped the the dish toward the empty gap allowing the remaining lasagne fourth to schplop! into place, bringing it's cold part to the edge of the pan.  A quick plop returned the semi-cooked quarter to its waiting thumb-puzzle place.  Eight more minutes gave me a well "baked" half, and a rerun of the previous 16 minutes with the twin-half gifted me with a belated, but piping hot, Frankenstein lasagne.  A pile of cheese melted by the broiler hid the scars of the patchwork casserole, and the little slops of sauce on the sides of the dish from the slip-n-slide routine gave the meal a convincing homemade-feel.

Forty-five minutes late and accompanied by a hidden humble pie, we trudged our belated offering across the lawns a few doors down; cake, salad, garlic bread ...and Frankenstein, bringing up the rear.  The neighbors were kind and grateful.  I was embarrassed.  But at least it was done.

It wasn't homemade, but if you don't tell, I won't.

Sometimes our very best just happens to also be a sloppy mess.  Frankly, there will always be something we could do better, if each thing we did were done in a vacuum.  But it is not.  We have laundry and driving and diapers and meals and phone calls and friends and pets and yards and tomoato-sauce-splattered kitchen floors that all need our attention.

So your best might just be terrible today, but if it is your best, that's is nothing to be ashamed of.

Just find a way to melt cheese on top.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Catching up

There are about five posts 
backed up on the conveyor belt in my brain 
like chocolates in an I Love Lucy Episode.  
Where to begin?

How about with a few chuckles.

The other day Jonah boy was enjoying a bit of time A'natural
He tooted.  Loud.

Suddenly, he spun around to look behind him on the floor,
searching for what he assumed must have 
been deposited there, and asked,

" Ah poot?"
(Where's the poop?)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Two Front Teeth

 Tessa dragged out the Kindergarten Dress, as we have come to call it, this morning to wear to church.  It was a perfect fit, though she is now in first greade, technically speaking.  Now that we homeschool, none of the government-imposed age divisions seem to matter much.  We just learn.  But that is a post for another day.  Probably several.

You may remember the dress (read the post).  
It has many, oh SO many flaws.  
Thankfully we never plan to let Tessa wear it inside out. 
 And I am no photographer, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, and so after about 60 pictures and a little Picasa photo editing (love this program... it's free!, 
we got our nut.  A few, actually.

I am always, as is everyone who sees them, blown away by Tessa's eyes.  They are so expressive and bright.  In some light, they look almost white with a blue outline.  Her tender expressions are so intense.  But the one thing 
you don't see in these pictures is her teeth.  

Tessa smiles like Adam, who smiles like Guy.  
A sweet grin that holds back a bit of mystery and reveals a touch of their shyness.  Tessa smiled hard enough to show her little clam-shell full of 
pearly whites in only a few pictures.  
Tiny square teeth in two perfect rows.  

As I looked at one toothy picture, not her best per se, I realized that she told me tonight that both of those sweet little front teeth are loose.  She did so (having been sent to bed, of course) after Ellie came out to display yet another molar suddenly lost.  Ellie is at that age when she is shedding teeth
 like a tree drops fruit in a wind storm.  

Yes, tonight it was Ellie, and some night soon, Tessa will bring me the tiny white tooth (that probably will have dangled mercilessly for two weeks) in the palm of her little hand.  We will ohh and ahh and write out note to
 the Tooth Fairy and tuck it away under her pillow.  

And then sometime in the night (if the Tooth Fairy doesn't forget...duh), the tooth will be retrieved and payment left.  I will hold her tooth - even tinier, by comparison, in my hand - and remember the day it first appeared in her pink little mouth.  She didn't even have curls yet, and her eyes had just begun to change from dark blue to that amazing azure color.  She was so serious and stern looking, 
and nearly impossible to coax a smile from.

Not anymore.

 The Imp

Did I really grow that pretty little thing in this belly?

 "Mom!  Can I please stop smiling now?  It hurts!"
I was instructed I could only use the silly pictures 
she did on purpose, not ones like this.
Too Bad!

OK, here are the "on purpose" ones!...

 I dare you to look at this picture and NOT make 
the face she is making.  Go ahead.  Try.


She's gonna have some serious plucking to do
 when that uni-brow comes all the way in, 
but for now she is sa'dang cute I could just roll her up and put her in my pocket.

Next years pictures will feature a new pair of pearlies. 
But we probably won't see those much, either.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Day (of school) or (the rest of your life)

I get a little fixated 
on beginnings and endings.  I see them so symbolically that I can hardly function within them on a literal level.  I mean, who can enjoy birthday cake when you know this will be the last ever second birthday 
you will ever, ever, ever celebrate with your child!?!?

So my current fixation plays out thusly 
(I know, not a word, at least not in this century):
Last year was my year to "get it all figured out" (homeschool, that is.  I have allotted an entire decade to figure out LIFE.  Wish me luck).  So, this year I should be prefect at it.  OK, not perfect, but totally cool-calm-and-relaxed, man.  
I should have no more doubts, fears or hang-ups.  Smooth sailing.


I have been the one feeling a bit nervous.
We did OK today staying on our routine; exercise, chores, reading, science...
and at some point during the day, somewhere between learning how to fix the electrical system on the doll house (thank you Gatlin, for the lesson and help!) and teaching Ellie how to make chicken noodle soup from scratch, I began to think about "the first day of school".  

For me, as a child, that meant the excitement of new clothes, new shoes, and hair ribbons- those chunky yarn ones.  By the sixth grade it meant a daily stomach ache and throwing up every morning for the first two weeks of school.  At first school was fun, but soon enough it had become terrifying and dreaded.

Even around here it used to mean new backpacks, new lunch boxes, and a picture taken on the front walk as we headed to the car.  Today was different.  Today school meant getting up much earlier than our lazy summer routine, but other than that, there were no jitters, no new clothes, no huge change. 

But by the end of the day something had changed for me.  My neighbor was showing me, with disgust, the assignment her 6th grader had been given.  Her son stated "They are totally giving me college work!" with a head shake and an eye roll.  Mom mentioned she might complain, holding it out to me for my commiseration
 (that IS a real word.  Look it up.).

I read the work.  It was pretty detailed reading, I will admit.  But what I really thought inside my head was, "Well, yes it's challenging.  Isn't it supposed to be?",  realizing that I wouldn't mind reading that text to all three of my home-educated kiddos.  The difference being, we would read it, discuss it, look up words we didn't know, and maybe even go find some follow up information online to learn more.  We would do it together, and each kid would work at their own level of capability.  There would be no test, because I would be able to tell if they understood.  It would never have occurred to me that it might be too difficult, because we work on difficult lessons all the time, and I know that if I take care to explain, even little Tessa gets a lot of the concepts.  
And if she doesn't, I am so OK with that.  
She has the rest of her life to learn.

I began to feel sorry for kids who are isolated in public school,
 expected to do so much learning alone.

This evening as I coached Ellie through making her first pot of homemade chicken noodle soup for her daddy who lay sick in bed, our brains were wrapped up in the science of it.  Interesting how the carrots took a little longer to soften than the potatoes, how the pasta swelled, the way the broth boiled, the movement of the steam.  We talked about our use of leftover chicken with new ingredients, and how that can be done with a lot of things, and not just with cooking.  We talked about time management, how each item is added in a certain order, and how we can take advantage of our waiting time by tidying up the kitchen.  
By the time dinner was served, I had:

- a healthy meal for my sick honey

- several grateful and complimentary soup-lovers around the table

- fewer left-overs in my fridge

- an opportunity to teach my daughter cooking and science 
and planning and re-purposing


- a confident and proud 9 year old
who can now make soup
(and hook lights up to a circuit!)

(I wonder which skill she will use more in her life?)

It was a good first day, 
if you can even call it that.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


 Jonah disappeared.
 Heidi and her family had come for a visit.  The kids flocked outside as Dad was taking Adam to soccer.    Jonah had followed.  I noticed he was not with the kids as they flowed back into the house, and I began looking for him; in the house, in the  No where.

Front yard.
Maybe down the sidewalk.
Not in either direction.
I ran passed the neighbor's house and saw that not only was the garage door open,
so was the door inside the garage...
the one that leads 

- to the pool.

I ran hard.
I looked into the bottom of the pool.

I suddenly came into my body and realized 
I was looking for my toddler at the bottom of a pool.
I freaked on the inside as I ran harder.

My bare feet tore on the sidewalk as I blasted from yard to yard,
 up and down the street,
joined by neighbors, friends, children, and even friend Jeff
from church who was driving by.

I ran back into the house and combed every room,
then again the back yard.
He had to be here.  The alternative was becoming unthinkable.
I prayed
"Lord, please, where is he?!"
 I saw the broken fence.
Maybe he was in the next yard over.
But maybe (I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before) inside their house?
Maybe he had walked in and they didn't know.
I sent Heidi running to ask, while I headed for the phone to call 911.

"He's here!!!!"
a voice called.

I collapsed onto the brick wall in sobs.
It was learned later that Jonah had been invited in to play with little Max, 
and it was thought Ellie had seen him go in, but she didn't know, 
and had headed off to soccer with Adam and Dad.

I held him in my arms and kissed him.  
To him, he was never missing.
To me, he was gone forever.

Thank you, everyone, for looking for Jonah.
I'm still shaking and it's been two days.