Tuesday, October 31, 2006

halloween: oddities of the evening

Church bells ringing out "We Thank Thee All Our God" as we started our Trick-or-Treating. I enjoyed it.

Someone handed out candy canes? The girls were excited.

A small skeleton in a cage singing "Bad to the Bone." The girls were scared silly.

We brought home enough candy to feed a small army. We went up and down one street. People are suckers for little girls in princess costumes. If we ever move back to Utah, it's going to be a rude awakening.

I thought I had about 10 more years

My sweet four year-old has just informed me that she hates me. "I hate you, Mom!" I got it twice for suggesting that a) calling your sister a "bad girl" for not doing what you like and b) throwing chess pieces at your mom and baby brother may be grounds for no Trick-or-Treating. I laughed at her the first time. And sent her upstairs the second time.

So now I go up to discuss with my dear what exactly she is saying when she says those things, and to prompty forgive her and send her on her way for a Halloween candy extravaganza.

Monday, October 30, 2006

yes, I did.

I ate our bag of Halloween candy. The entire bag! It was a small bag. Really, quite small. We only get about 5 trick-or-treaters here (if that), which was why I was able to rationalize a little candybar here, a little candybar there. And then, they were gone! I know for a fact that Ben helped me out in the beginning. And I'm really hoping he helped me out there at the end, too. But I'm not holding my breath. I am going to do some sit-ups. And try to ignore the new bag of Halloween candy sitting on my table. Maybe.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

to every thing there is a season

It had been a chilly few days. The temperature had taken it's first dip toward cold permanence for the season but the landlady had not yet turned on the radiators. It's torture to be at someone's mercy for your heating and comfort needs! On the third day I was tired, bundled up in a blanket, and curled up on the couch after a completely unproductive day. Ben arrived home to find me in my comatose state. But not too comatose. I was awake and alive enough to suggest we go out to dinner. And not just for a Happy Meal. It must have been my tone of voice but he didn't even question. We rounded up the children and headed off to the Outback, where I could fill up on warm soup and steak, and thus make it through the cold spell.

As a general rule going to restaurants has not been really jolly experiences since we've had kids. They cry. They don't want to sit at the table, prefering to roam around yelling loudly as to enhance the other diners' eating pleasure. They don't eat the food, even though they are hungry. This, coupled with a desire to a) save money, and b) eat healthy, means we hardly ever go out to eat.

But this meal was different. The girls, pleased with their special placemats and crayons, were happy to color the evening away. They also ate their food. After a trip out to the car so I could feed the baby he promptly fell asleep for the remainder of the meal. We actually had a pleasant time. So pleasant that I didn't even regret it when the bill came, which I often do, mentally calculating the groceries I could/should have bought. The entire event was worth it.

I looked at the girls, calculated their ages, calculated the baby's age and said to Ben, "This was fun. We should do it again in another 2 1/2 years."

Thursday, October 26, 2006


W.S. Merwin is an amazing, remarkable poet. He hardly needs my endorsement, but I give it anyway. In other news, I've been speed reading The Lord of the Rings this past week. Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? Speed reading through that Tolkienien forest of words,full and dense. It sounds easier to run through a brick wall. And yet, I have been speed reading LOTR. I can do this for several reasons: I have read the books multiple times. I've always been a fast reader. I am named after Arwen Undomiel. (That's the middle name, for those of you trying to figure out how allysha=arwen). I like to think I go around looking like I have stars and jewels about my face and in my hair. My sister is named after the lovely land of Lothlorien. I am not married, however, to Aragorn, but to Ben. Ben might be a Ranger, though. I'll have to ask him. But I digress.

When I read the books I am reminded of a part in the movie that I was so disappointed in. Granted, when a book is adapted for the screen, there are going to be adjustments. I understand this. I got over the expanded role of Arwen. I could forbear the slight personality change of Faramir for the sake of pace. Some character traits demand more time than the movie could allow for, thus a slight story change (although this change does fall under the catagory of what I want to discuss). But. But at the end...

Of all the wonderful friendships and loyalties written down, that of Frodo and Sam is among the most touching. So at the end, when the movie plot takes Frodo and through Gollum pits him against Sam, even for just a moment, I was quite sad. Even the light from Galadriel's phial wasn't quite bright or even used enough. Which brings me back to Merwin (yes, yes, I mentioned him for a reason). He has a remarkable poem. It sums up the reason for why a scene was portrayed like it was, and not as things are in the book.
(Merwin often requires that you let your literal mind float for a moment. But you'll get the feeling of it.)

When the pain of the world finds words
they sound like joy
and often we follow them
with our feet of earth
and learn them by heart
but when the joy of the world finds words
they are painful
and often we turn away
with our hands of water.

Tolkien writes a beautiful moment where, exhausted, the hobbits have fallen asleep. Gollum has been sneaking around Mordor and comes back to lead Frodo and Sam up the staircase which he hopes will be their doom. But as he approaches them, and sees them asleep, Frodo leaning on Sam, he pauses for a moment. Gollum reaches out to touch them, almost a caress, as if he remembers for a moment about what his life once was, about friendship and love and companionship.

Instead of capturing that goodness that radiates out even to Gollum, the movie uses a brief betrayal to heighten suspense and bring the drama. I know, it's not like they threw the relationship out the window. They didn't. They just didn't make it as good as it really was. I think that what they didn't understand is that you don't need any more drama. Frodo is on his way to
Mount Doom, for heaven's sake. He doesn't actually think he will make it. He is accompanied by Sam. Sam doesn't think that they'll make it either. And they wouldn't have, without each other. They must push through the darkness, the heaviness. And in the end Sam literally carries Frodo when the ring becomes too much to bear, because letting Sam carry the ring would have destroyed Frodo.

But I don't know that there are many people who really know how to portray good that is really
good, anymore. I'm sure it can be done. If Tolkien did it, I'm not sure why Peter Jackson couldn't. But I'm not sure that our world understands that there can be that kind of good in someone that doesn't require an internal juxtaposition of some evil or petty flaw. Overcome by our own shortcomings, flaws and sins, we fail to understand how a person can indeed move past, can be lifted to a higher place. Or we fail to understand just how to communicate it in a way that resonates with others. We have become so used to the ordinary, that the extraordinary seems either trite and silly, or simply unreal or unreachable.

Maybe because what is good requires work. It requires sacrifice. Merwin's poem often reminds me of marriage, children, dedication to and faith in God. More and more people are shying away from a commited marriage, from having children because of the constraints on their time, their money, their leisure. They move away from the idea of a Heavenly Father because they won't let their faith hold them up when it doesn't make sense from their perspective. They may understand the frustrations that come with these things. They may understand the fatigue and disappointments. There are many areas of life where the difficulties are universal. But they will never understand the joy that comes in these pursuits, because you can't experience it unless you experience it.

Don't underestimate the good. Not your own capacity for it, nor the capacity of others. Don't feel naive or unsophisticated looking for it, expecting it, and showing it to others. Because even in this silly, sullied world of ours, real good exists. Though it may cost you something, though the journey to it may appear to be too difficult, ultimately it's worth it. Just like Frodo and Sam working their way to Mount Doom, we all have our phial of light, and that light is something good. Let's find it, instead of turning away with our hands of water.

one more time, for the record!

We passed the 1000 mark! 1029 to be exact. Amazing what people can do when they put their minds to it. And all in the same time span as the last counting period!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

one down, three more to go

I am hosting preschool this week for our small preschool co-op. My oldest was so definitely ready for something but New York expenses being what they are, I went the less costly route where the amount I spend is minimal for supplies plus teaching four days a semester. This is a pretty good deal. Except that I have never considered myself great with kids, despite being numero uno of eleven. Teaching a bunch of three and four year-olds doesn't sound horrible due to my status of oldest-of-many, except I am not sure how to keep them entertained for two and a half hours. However, I think I do better with this age group than say, teenagers. I can be happy and kind and consoling to the poor child who is having trama about using my toilet because it is blue, not white, and how is it possible that one can go potty in a blue toilet? Everything just looks wrong! Based on past experience, teenagers probably think I'm nerdy and not fun enough, which is true, so what can you do?

Anyway, today we learned about the letter G. We talked about gardens. We read a Frog and Toad story about gardens. Frog and Toad stories are pretty dang funny. If you ever need to be amused while reading to your child, I suggest any Winnie-the-Pooh story (I mean the original A.A. Milne, here) with Eeyore, or Frog and Toad. We looked at vegetables that come from gardens. We made our own paper gardens. It wasn't too bad. But there are still three more classes to go.

The real kicker is the craft portion of the day. A fun activity that is more than simply coloring a page of objects whose only relation is that the words that represent them all start with the same letter and not so complicated or bulky that a) I go crazy trying to administer the project or b) the parents go crazy trying to figure out how to gracefully remove said project from the home, because truth be told, it's not that great looking and you don't want it laying around!

I am fortunate that next week one of my classes is on Halloween, and that's just about as good as picking up a Get Out of Jail Free card. Especially because our next letter is, indeed, H, so that will all work out very nicely. Except I still need to plan out a lesson. Hmmm.

Monday, October 23, 2006

word association

My daughter is happily munching down some candy garnered from the weekend Trunk-or-Treat.
"This is good!" she says. "It has chocolate and peanutbutter. What is it called?"
"It's a Reeses peanut butter cup," I tell her.
"Peanut butter cup?" she says. "Butter cup. Buttercup is that crazy girl who falls into a hole!" she says, then runs away.

Yes, that crazy Princess Bride. Quicksand always did get her into trouble.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

are you sure about this?

Today is the day for our church "Trunk or Treat." The girls are giddy at the thought of candy, candy, candy! I'm really not cut out to handle 2 hyper-active small ones bouncing off my walls on a sugar high, but since their dad and I will probably be doing most of the candy eating (secretly, of course) we'll most likely all survive just fine.

But that brings me to these musings...Trunk-or-Treat. I know we think of it as the safer and more benign companion to Trick-or-Treat, but if you look at it semantically and pragmatically which one off hand would you rather have your child participate in? The activity where your kid might "accidently" sit on a whoopee cushion or the one where they are lured by the possibility of a smallish size snickers bar and then grabbed and thrown into someone's trunk and driven away? I just wanted to help you be on guard and aware. You never know at this time a year.

Also, while not too jazzed about his current state of mobility, the babe is doing relatively fine.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I can't think of a title...

Speaking of things that make my heart beat and cause me to bleed, I had to take my sweet little babe to the Emergency Room this morning. I've never had to do that before with my girls. Maybe it's because he's my first boy, but I am sure praying that this is not a premonition of things to come.

He rolled off my bed last night. I should have already put him up in his crib, but I was waiting for Ben to get home and the baby was so comfortably asleep on my bed that I just left him there, and didn't go in to check on him until I heard the *thump*whhaaaaaaahhh!!!* I thought he was just shaken up a bit, and I kept him in bed with us. He cried on and off through out the night. Both girls also felt the need to come down during that dark period, what Ben and I fondly remember and refer to as "bedtime." We were exhausted and convinced that our poor boy was just overly sensitive to his fall. But in the morning when we went to change his diaper we discovered that when his right leg was moved he cried out in pain.

We waited for the doctor's office to call back. We waited to be admitted into the Emergency Room. We waited for them to do an x-ray. We waited for them to get a hold of the orthopedic pediatrian. We were sent over to the orthopedic person, who wrapped up our baby's fractured right femur and told us to come back tomorrow when their specialist is in and she will fit the baby with a more livable splint/cast thing. This doctor isn't on our list of prefered providers, so our insurance co-pay will be more, but what do you do? You go where the emergency room sends you! And then you go back because your baby had the unlucky fortune to hurt himself on a day the physician isn't in.

I am exhausted.

And irritated at one of the doctors who is possibly doing a sort of residency or something (?) at the orthopedic place. Because he was obviously new, an apprentice of sorts, who had no bedside manner with babies or their parents (completely clueless. Which whatever. I guess that's not a prerequisite for medical school) and made semi-disparaging remarks about the underclass being able to get by pretty well without insurance which I found offensive because there was no compassion and he just came across as young and stupid. Not really traits you want to cultivate as a doctor, I would think. It sounded like he was implying that poor people work over the insurance companies ("I know too much about insurance," he said.) After our experience with student insurance I am pretty well convinced that it's the other way around.

And back to the baby. He's asleep. But I think we're in for another rough night until we get the new splint on. Time to load up on Baby Motrin, which he loves, actually. He just looks so sad as he lays on my bed with a huge thing wrapped around his leg. The poor guy actually went 12 hours without smiling at me, which worried me to death and broke my heart. He was just enjoying rolling around and such, except when it landed him under a chair or something. I guess the crawling will be delayed a few months. But that's okay. He's okay. He did smile at me and several of the doctors and nurses today, so that made me feel better. And he's a healthy kid. There were people in the ER much worse off than we were.

Thank you SO MUCH to the sweethearts who have so helped me out today by taking care of my girls and bringing us dinner tonight.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

move over, rogaine

I went into the bathroom to find toothpaste smeared on the sink and the faucet and the bath toys. I guess I should have known something was going on when my daughter called out "there is no lid on this, Mom!" When I found the artist and her designs I asked her what she was thinking. She gave a simple answer. The seal needed some hair. And the rest? Icing on the cake, I guess.

Monday, October 16, 2006

eleven days, 819 spam

In my gmail account. Yes. Eight hundred and nineteen spammy messages since October 6th. They generally go straight to the special spam box, so it doesn't bother me really, and there is kind of a thrill when you get to delete that many messages at one time. Sigh. We live in an invasive, consumer driven profit buildin' world. Does anybody really make money by annoying all the rest of us? Don't answer that. I don't really want to know.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

a saturday in october

We went apple picking today. Despite a few many things that could have been done around the house, despite Ben being crazy busy with school/thesis etc., etc., we headed out to the apple orchard, because I think if you live here in the Northeast, it's a law.

We had a beautiful drive up looking at all the lovely leaves changing color. Also all three children fell asleep. That had it's down side, because my middle darling takes a while to get over the post-sleep grumpies. It was chilly. We (I) forgot the baby's jacket. Middle dearest wanted to be carried the entire time. Of course the baby did, too, but that's expected. Then some clouds blew in with the chilly air and threatened to rain. In the end we got some good apples (I wish I'd gotten more, but when I picked up the bag the kids were on the verge of breakdown, so I figured the smaller the bag, the safer we'll be, the happier we'll be, tra-la-la-la.) I think we got a few good pictures, but I haven't looked at them yet. If there are some I like, I'll post 'em. All in all it was a good time. Another memory drop in the family bucket o' fun.

Now everyone is in bed (theoretically, that is. My girls have been coming down occassionally to ask me what the names of their stuffed animals are. I have named two of their dogs Ginger and Bonnie. If you know what I'm talking about then that should make you smile.) I'm grabbing my book, a tall glass of water, maybe an apple, and calling it a night!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

all that & fresh breath, too!

When I left for my LDS mission, I took along some Aquafresh toothpaste because that is what we were currently using at home. Once I arrived in France and ran out of toothpaste I was pleased as punch to find that they also sold Aquafresh in the stores and I purchased it as a small token that reminded me of my family, normal cheese, and all things American. Back in the States, did I move on to new brands? I did not. Not only were they more expensive, but I wanted to use the same stuff I had used in my now beloved and far away adopted country. To this day I use that toothpaste. That's at least 10 years with a consistent tooth cleansing agent! 10 years!

What I'm saying is that I am a creature of habit who can make just about anything become an expression of nostalgia. However, if Costco stopped carrying my toothpaste in bulk, that would probably be the end of it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

don't be still, my heart

Today while playing outside my oldest ran over to me with an excited smile after doing several laps up and down the sidewalk. "My heart is beating!" she proclaimed and then she proceeded to stand still for a moment with a look of awe on her face as she listened to her heart pushing the blood through her body. Then she was off again, running back and forth, skipping here and there, until the inevitable; she fell and scraped up her knee and it was bleeding.

There are things that make our hearts beat, but in the beating of that small instrument, the percussion of our lives, is also the capacity, the inevitability really, that we will bleed. In the most literal sense, that's life.

A few things that make my heart beat:
Watching my girls dance, or just listening to them talk.
The monarch butterfly who has been gracing us with his presence when we're outside.
My little boy's smile when his sisters come to talk to him.
The fall leaves.
Cookie dough.
A good phone conversation or email.
Family karaoke at my parents' house.

Monday, October 9, 2006

hindsight is 20/20; sometimes foresight is too

Sometimes you just know, but once the offer is out there it's hard to but it back in your mouth. Even when your busy husband says that really it's fine to leave the girls while you go walking, you just have to be benevolent. Besides your girls are already excited about going with mom, anyway. And you're only leaving the recently fed baby with dad, and so even if the exercise routine is a little less-than, at least someone will get some work done. You repeat this in your mind as you walk out the door herding the kids down the stairs and glancing at the baby who doesn't look very happy about being left out, nevermind that he's already nursed and eated some yummy pears to boot. Also nevermind that he gets a little panicky when mom's gone, nevermind that he hasn't been feeling great, at least that's the assumption because he was so sad and grumpy yesterday.... Yes, sometimes you just know, but you can't stop it from happening. The ball is rolling and there's no stopping it until it hits the pins.

I didn't get much exercise and baby was crying in full-force when we got home, despite the additional food Ben was trying to get into his mouth between cries and typing up a sentence or two. So Ben didn't get as much done as he could have if I had just left the girls to entertain the baby who wouldn't have noticed I was gone.
The girls did have a good time, and it was fun to listen to them talk about the ducks and trees and the big, bad wolf who lives in the forest, but I realized how much exercise time is also "me" time. Well, live and learn.

Wish me luck. Apparently a tornado struck our house this weekend without our notice (or approval, I might add) and has strewn toys and clothes everywhere, so I'm off to the races, where I can gamble on a fast horse and hopefully win enough money to pay for a maid. Cheers!

Thursday, October 5, 2006

A Little Tooth

Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It's all

over: she'll learn some words, she'll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It's dusk. Your daughter's tall.

-Thomas Lux

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

pretty scary

I realized tonight that I am no longer disgusted when I see Christmas decorations up in the stores before Halloween. I just accept it as how things are. It really used to tick me off when tinsel and little blinking lights graced store aisles before Thanksgiving. When the holiday promotions started inching back through the month of November, I was indignant! Alas, they have subdued my fury by their persistance, those rotten, scheming marketers. Now I point out the huge blow-up snowman at Costco to my kids in September without blinking an eye. What have I become?

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

back to real life

For the past three months my 18 year-old sister, Natalie, has been staying with us. She had a regular babysitting gig here and picked up side jobs to earn money for school (she starts BYU-Idaho in January). Although it's not quite like I had a personal maid and nanny, Nat has made the past three months easier. She put the girls to bed when I couldn't. I could run to the store and grab something without having to haul all three children with me. She would do the dishes and mop the floor for me when I asked. She could get the baby when he was crying so I could finish with whatever I was doing (probably finishing some post). As Ben takes her to the airport so that she can go home and sleep in a real bed in her own bedroom and not on a blowup mattress, here I am, feeling a little sad. And not just because I do have some dishes that could use some washing. So here is a small tribute, which will probably cause her to roll her eyes.

Some things about Natalie: smart, beautiful, funny, witty, wonderful with my kids, just a good all-around person. Sorry we never got those corndogs. Next time? And just for you, go Mets! (Also, you owe me some vanilla.)

Monday, October 2, 2006

the gospel according to...

If you ever feel like you need to participate in some vicarious sorrow and heartbreak, something to make you tear-up and sigh (I know, I know, not really on your top 10 things to do) come over to my house. I'll pop in a video cassette tape and we can watch the opening of Requiem. It will help if you know that Requiem is an episode from the last season of The West Wing. It will also help if you were semi-attached to the characters. But if not, I could probably fill you in enough to make you care a little bit about the situation.

I really don't watch T.V. Hardly ever. But until this past May, there was a weekly exception. Sometime on Monday I'd hit play on my VCR to watch the WW episode I'd recorded from the night before. If you're not familiar with the show, Requiem deals with the funeral of Leo McGarry, and the opening is really beautiful. Every once in awhile, I pull out the tape and watch the first 5 minutes, like I did this morning. As I watched, my daughter started asking me questions, the answers to which, I realized, probably seemed a little odd.

"Why are they sad?" she asked.
"Because one of their friends died."
"What are they doing?"
They're going to a funeral."
"What's a funeral?"
"When someone dies you go to a funeral."
"Who died?"
"Where is he?"
"He's in that box there. It's called a casket."
"Because that's where you put someone when they die."
"Where are they taking him?"
"Somewhere else."
"But where?"
"To the cemetary. They're going to bury him."
"In the ground. His spirit goes to heaven but his body is in the ground until he gets resurrected."
"Why did he die?"
"Because his heart stopped working."
"And then he couldn't love anymore?"

I love my sweet literalist. No, dear, it wasn't about him not being able to love anymore, just that his body needed his heart to work so that he could live. She wasn't daunted by any of it, she just wanted her answers. The fact that we put people in boxes and then bury them underground was just filed away for her information. Death doesn't bother her, probably because she hasn't really had any close experience with it, but also because she knows it's temporary. She accepts it like a child, with a child-like faith, that we die, and then, we live again.