Tuesday, September 30, 2008

this morning's grocery list

Ginger Ale
Apple Juice
Laundry detergent
Club Crackers

Care to have a guess at how things are going at our house?

Monday, September 29, 2008

this could end up being a story...

I've always enjoyed my history classes. Lately I've been feeling the urge to pull out some history books, dust them off, and read up on things like, oh -I don't know, maybe the Great Depression.

It's not often I get the feeling that I am living history in the very moment. The first Gulf War, 9/11, maybe the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Putin taking over Russia to bring back the glory for the Mother Land. Okay, check that. Apparently I live through historical moments too often.

Still, usually it feels like just the everyday blah blah that will be summed up in one paragraph in a eighth grade U.S. History class text book, because my life hasn't been impacted so substantially that things are radically different. These last few weeks, however, I think might get us an entire chapter or more, depending on what happens: Major Financial Crisis amid Presidential Election! Where's FDR when you need him? {Blast those term limits!}

Occasionally I wonder what a depression looks like in this day and age, what with all the social media that keeps us connected and our dependence on the infrastructure and the way society has changed in the last 100 years. Academic minds want to know!

Also I'm thinking about buying a generator. And some extra chocolate to stash around the house.

Because it's the good stuff that goes first.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

blue fire and golden sunbursts

Ella: What do you people want from me?

I get a huge kick out of this photo.

Maybe because I watched as it was taken, watched my girl totally pull that attitude out of her pocket with no prompting except for the camera in front of her face.

All of my kids have a kind of light about them and each one is different and indicative of their personalities. This little girl's light is an intense blue fire glowing fiercely and tightly inside of her. She is intense; life is intense; and there are days where she goes through with furrowed brow, and that nuclear blue fire.

But every once in a while this blue flame will blossom out, letting it's energy radiate and utterly surround her in a golden sphere as she laughs, runs, and lets everything go for just a minute. And I love it when that happens.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


This is what I'm reading right now. I've read it before. Many times. I don't know how many times I've actually read it, I just know it's a lot. That's something I do; I read the same book over and over again.

I like Holes because it's a good story with a lot of fun twists. Sometimes I feel like I can relate to the mundane activity of digging pit after endless pit while at the same time being in a totally new environment. That's what parenthood is all about.

Oh, I kid.

I mean, I have kids. So that's not entirely what being a parent is all about. It just feels like it some days.

But it's Fall. And this morning I turned on the heat just for a minute to get things warmed up for the first time in a long time. It's chilly enough in the mornings to enjoy the cup of cocoa. And to curl up with a good book, when you have a minute.

Even a book you've read before.

Monday, September 22, 2008

feed the birds

This morning for some reason the immortal words of George Banks {father to Jane & Michael} echoed through my head.

"And so the person that we need to mold the breed is a nanny who can give commands!"

Poor George Banks. He wasn't very delicate, was he?

Still, he got Mary Poppins to come and teach that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. And his, ahem, "breed" got molded pretty well. I mean, they learned how to clean up the nursery with just a snap of the fingers.


I could use some of that sugar to help my medicine go down.

Excuse me. I'll be in the other room working on snapping my fingers.

Friday, September 19, 2008

snips and snails - the fine print

Did you know there is more to that nursery rhyme? It has something to do with the emergency room.

What are Little Boys Made of?

What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails and puppy dog tails!*
That's what little boys are made of!

*Little boys are also made with some gene or chemical which makes them prone to certain kinds of activities which due to the level of exuberance in which they engage any such activity will have a possible tendency to land them smack dab in the middle of your local ER. Have a nice day, and I'm sure we'll be seeing you again.

* * * * * *

So yesterday was my day off. Meaning, I have no preschool or dance lessons or church responsibilities to take care of. It's a day that I can hang around in my pajamas all morning long if I want. I can think about going up to my mom's to borrow her sander and then not actually do it.

What Thursday is not a day for is walking into a bedroom where your little boy is crying and making a mess of things with all of the blood gushing from his mouth. And yet, and yet, that is what happened to me.

We made it to the Emergency Room (I'll spare you the details of getting there- because it consists of lots of blood and a slightly panicked mother changing out of her pajamas) and by that time Oliver was pretty calm, holding his blanket, three little stuffed animals and requesting to watch "Nemo" swim around in the fish tank.

Do you think it's a law that there be fish tanks in medical facilities? Cause most of the ones I go to have them. And my kids really like them. If it's not the law, then it's a good idea.

Fortunately my neighbor had taken my girls until my sister could come over to watch them, so it was just me in the ER while they sedated my boy and stitched up his poor little mouth. Because of the anesthesia, they brought down a respiratory therapist and had oxygen at hand along with some sort of pump should he stop breathing. They hooked him up with various things to keep an eye on his oxygen level, his pulse, his blood pressure and his breathing.

I was only a little nervous. I mean, knocking the kid out was the best and easiest way to help him, but still.

I held him close to me and looked in his eyes. "Stay close to me." I said. Because you never know. "Okay" he said.

He split open his lower lip--an ugly sight. And then hit his upper gums and ruptured an artery that had to be tied off. His poor front teeth looked a little wonky and they were loose, but his gums should firm up and take care of that. Still. Lots of blood. Not pretty. The doctor came in and chatted about his grandkids and stitched while my son lay there cooperating and looked glazed over (which he was) and then they were done.

And then I sat in a darkened ER room with my little boy sleeping on his side for over an hour and a half. Every 15 minutes the blood pressure machine would send out its low buzz and take his blood pressure. I held his warm little hand, wiped the blood and saliva from the corner of his mouth, and waited, watching the little blips of his life on a monitor up above the bed. Finally he woke up, a little woozy but fairly cheerful considering the whole thing. "Mom" he said, smiling. "Teeth hurt."

And then we went home and watched The Incredibles and ate popsicles.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


We have a little animated version of The Velveteen Rabbit that my kids like to watch. It's not too shabby; Christopher Plummer narrates it. There is a silly side-story about wind-up toy soldiers who make it their mission to get the rabbit out of the nursery, but develop some affection for the plush toy so that in the end they attempt to rescue him from the garbage heap.

Growing up I had an absolutely lovely copy of this book, with beautiful illustrations. I read it over and over, not really understanding its significance.

Now, grown up and living in a world of plastic and botox and all sorts of attempts to stay young and beautiful forever, I see how truly important the parable taught to us by a dumpy stuffed animal is. The sheen of the veneer and mechanical operations of wind-up toys may make us ooh and aah; the latest fashions, the always put-together house, the perfect hostess. But if you really want to become real, that must fall away.

And then even more, becoming real requires a surrender of your whole self. It means getting pushed clear under the covers where you can hardly breath, even though what you really wanted to do was to look out at the stars. And no one can doubt that looking at stars is a wonderful and uplifting thing to do.

There is, undeniably, joy in the process. Being hauled along to picnic in the woods is exciting and wonderful, because you get to see new things! Suddenly someone wants you like never before, and this knowledge is exhilarating. And should you get shoved behind the bed, you may be forgotten at times, but always you will be found, because you are needed. There will be a grand celebration, and you will be hauled off again on more adventures.

The rub is this: Being available for this kind of love and joy is demanding.

You must allow your self to be bruised and bumped around as you love unconditionally. Occasionally you will be torn. You must let go of the keeping up of appearances. You will spend time in the dirt. You will scavenge up the mountain, out of breath and exhausted, too tired at times to cry out your sorrow.

Despite all this, I am not speaking of becoming slovenly, lazy and without regard for how one keeps one's self and one's surroundings. Nor do I speak of masochistically letting every little part of you out to the world in some pretense of honesty. This is because becoming real inherently carries with it a sense of dignity, despite the dirt.

The pursuit of dreams and goals aren't negated, but sometimes they may have to be tweaked a little bit, and some do have to be let go; it's so easy to be sidetracked by them. Becoming real is serious business. And the motivation for it is utterly the opposite of that of the wind-up toy, that may easily break down with too much pressure.

Yes, becoming real is serious business, and it can get as ugly as lying in a heap a garbage, preparing to become just a cinder, after all you've given. But as you lie there on the ground, contemplating all the good and the bad that has brought you to where you are, you shed a tear, a real tear. And then a flower blooms before you, and a fairy kisses you on the nose, and you find yourself able to things you never even imagined. Because you are real.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

oh, if only it were true.

Literally, A Web Log is a fun blog to keep tabs on, as it literally records the uses (correct & incorrect) of the word literally. Sometimes I wish descriptors of the Presidential campaign were literal. Yesterday one of the news headlines I came across said this:

McCain Calls Wall Street Reckless, Obama Hits McCain

Now that would really spice things up, wouldn't it?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

the blazing inferno of the ride home! help!

We're at that annoying time of year where it's quite chilly in the morning, but by the time afternoon rolls around the sun is radiating it's warmth rather effectively.

Yesterday when my daughter arrived home from school she burst into tears (not an uncommon occurrence these days) because the baby was taking a nap and she couldn't change into shorts and. (sob) she. (sniff) was. (sob, sob) so. (SOB!) HOT!!!!!!!! that she was about to DIE. (Or at least melt. down. Ha-ha, just a little parent humor).

Being the on-the-ball mother that I am, I was aware that today was going to be a little warmer in the afternoon, so this morning I instructed her not to wear pants. She chose a skirt. Cute. Pink. Not hot.

As she zipped up her little coat (that ends up in the backpack for the ride home) she said to me "I wish I had a leg jacket, cause that would be cool." Yes, it would. It would also look funny.

Maybe we just need to invest in a pair of leg warmers or something.

Monday, September 15, 2008

our macabre souls

So last Sunday evening after dinner, a few of my brothers and sisters and I pulled out Clue for a quick game of "whodunit?" Just as we were setting up, my six year-old wanders in, full of curiosity about the game, which really exposed us to the morbidity of the whole thing.

"Somebody got killed?"
Well, yeah. Mr. Body. The guy who owns the house.

"Who killed him?"
Well, one of us. Sort of. Like, Mr. Green. In the study. Because, you know.

For the sake of the game, my dear girl. This is all about the game!

"How do you kill someone with a (insert various weapon here; think: lead pipe/candlestick/rope, etc.)"
Well...that's not something we really want to dwell on. Ahem! And it's certainly not something we really want you dwelling on...

* * * * *

In the end, it was Mrs. White, actually, in the study. I believe she used the candlestick, which of course, is what any self-respecting housekeeper in the study would use.

Friday, September 12, 2008

the key to brushing a two year-old's teeth

...is that the first time, you have to bribe him with sugar. Yes, I know. Seems counter-productive. But it works. (I mean, after that you don't offer sugar, you just brush...and then do a quick mis-direction past the marshmallows. Hey, I was surprised it worked, too. But it did!)

(Also, it's not that he's never had his teeth brushed before ~ we've just hit that patchy "two year-old" period of life, you know what I mean.)

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vignettes From Late August

On a Tuesday morning I gather up my children with all their necessaries and drop them off with my mom. I stop a couple of times to pick up three sisters and my dad. Everyone slides into my car, sharing some French fries from Wendy's and a few laughs. We are driving up to a small town in Northern Utah with a lake, and across from the lake a little white house, and in that little white house, my grandmother dying of cancer.

It is the day that my dad and his siblings will talk to my grandmother one last time about "options" presented by the doctor regarding the sudden appearance of stage four ovarian cancer. After a week or so of culling information and emotions and trying to put everything in its place, it's time to decide. My grandmother, widowed more than forty years earlier, decides against treatment. If it's her time to go, she is willing to go.

I have spent days agonizing over the idea of seeing her go through chemotherapy. When my dad tells us, I feel a deep sense of relief.

She greets us from her large comfortable reclining chair in the living room. "It's not that I don't know you, because I do," she pauses for a split second and then points to those of us on the couch "Bethany, Kimberly, Allysha," naming us in deliberate fashion, "but I want you to tell your grandmother something fun you've been doing in your life." So we do.

Later that afternoon as I wander around her house looking at various notes and quotes placed almost everywhere, the calendars sent as thanks for donations to various causes, her own artwork in frames hung about the walls, I can hear my father reading to her from a book of his own poems. "That is really good." She tells him. And she's right.

She's tired and drifts in and out of sleep, reclining in her chair. We look through photo albums brimming with memories. We carry on a conversation around her. Occasionally she awakens with some witty comment. Energy may elude her, but she hasn't lost her sense of humor.

The air is clear and golden. It is Eden right before the Autumnal equinox. It is evening and my uncle and aunts have wheeled Grandmother to sit outside. My dad and my sisters and I cross the road to the lake where we walk along the dike, admiring the beauty of this small valley, enjoying the quiet of simple conversation, the contemplation of life and death, the concentric circles that travel outward from a small rock landing in the water of the lake.

After an entire day unfettered by real-life demands it is time to go. I kiss her cheek and then her forehead. She smiles and says "oh!" as if she is just a tad bit embarrassed by the deliberateness of my affections. I tell her goodbye.

* * * * * *

Friday morning just as the sun peaks up over the mountains and spills onto the lake, surrounded by her sisters and daughters, she slips away into eternity. She dies in the bedroom just off the living room where she was born eighty years before. My brother calls at 8:35 a.m. to tell me. I am surprised, even as I expect it; I know it as soon as I see the call is from him.

* * * * * *

Later that same day I am at my parent's house sitting at the kitchen table. My sister is on the phone with my dad. She has shuffled through a binder of his poetry and finding what he wanted, is slowly reading each line of a poem so he can write it down. My brother-in-law and I are talking quietly, when suddenly our conversation is pierced by the emotion in my sister's voice: she is repeating the poem back to my father. As she reads, words about my grandmother fall slowly around us. Bethany's voice breaks and my eyes fill with tears. She and I are the two daughters who have followed my father into word-smithy. "The trouble with being a poet, " I say to my brother-in-law "is that the poignancy of life is sometimes overwhelming."

* * * * * *

"Guess what, " Ella says to Madeleine, "guess who died today?"

It's afternoon. Madeleine freshly home from first grade looks up, and Ella tells her the news. I don't step in, don't stop her; it seems like the kind of thing that sisters should tell each other.

Madeleine bursts into tears. As I calm her, holding her, talking about how happy Grandmother is to have moved on, and telling her about the funeral, Ella, possessor of this knowledge for an entire day, has moved on past the emotion. Madeleine states in an important tone of voice that this will be her first funeral. Ella replies with great energy "It will be my first dead body!"

Ben and I try our hardest not to burst out laughing.

* * * * * *

Once again, the next Tuesday, I find myself childless and heading up to Brigham City for the viewing. Ben and the kids will follow in the morning to be there for the funeral. As my sister and I approach the doors to the mortuary we say the same thing in unison. "Funeral homes are interesting."

Later that night all eleven siblings from age 13 to 33 crash in my uncle's basement for a family sleep over before the next day's solemn assemblies. We roll out sleeping bags and play games for an hour, laughing and enjoying each other's company. Just as we are getting ready for bed, our mom comes down to tell us to be quiet and to go to sleep.

* * * * * *

It is late afternoon after the funeral. I wander into my grandmother's pantry, newly organized by an industrious aunt. I take a small glass bottle half-full of home-dried apples from the tree in her backyard. Once home, I put them in my closet. During the quiet moment of a day I sometimes go in and take the bottle down from the shelf. I turn the lid, and lift it open. I take out a slice of apple and place it in my mouth tasting its tart sweetness.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


When September 1st greeted us with torrents of rain pounding down outside the house, followed by a measure of hail, and cloudy, dark weather, you could say that maybe it wasn't exactly the way to spend a Labor Day. The lights in the house were still on at lunchtime. The temperature dropped 30 degrees over that weekend, and so when the clouds unexpectedly floated away that afternoon we were left with an utterly delicious blue sky, and delightfully crisp air; being outside was like taking a big bite from an apple just plucked from the tree. It was lovely.

So comes Fall with all of it's own rituals; the back to school shopping, the sudden ordered schedules that slide us into place, the weekend routine of yelling at incompetent (Pac-10, ahem) football referees. I am always happy when Fall makes its debut right at the start, foregoing the eternal August and those dog days of endless heat one must sometimes slog through. I am not a child of the summer. In my world, September is the first month of the year.

So then, happy new year.

Monday, September 8, 2008

welcome to 1st grade

"Mom," she says. "I know an opposite. Right and wrong. Like, I'm right and you're wrong!"