Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Dear Dad,

Remember my "F" in 8th grade Algebra? Remember the time I had salmonella poisoning? Or measles in Disneyland? How about the broken arm fiasco of 1981?

Remember the time you came to check on an innocent sleepover and found me in a van with a questionable crowd? Remember the day(s) I wrecked my car(s)?

Remember the worries? The stomach aches? The desperate prayers?

Did you ever wonder if I'd grow up and get it?

Well, I did and I do. And, today? You totally got me back.

Glad you're OK. Love you! Just don't let it happen again.

Your concerned daughter,

p.s. You're grounded.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Final Straw

Clearly the men in my life are not meant to ride bicycles.
As if this, this and this weren't proof enough...
Doesn't it break your heart?
Santa's bringing training wheels for everyone this year.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Love Surprises

In case you hadn't heard, my mother had a huge birthday surprise this weekend. All seven of her children and spouses (face it...Mom likes them better!) came from all over the country to celebrate her sixtieth.

So, I got to spend the weekend with some of my favorite people in the whole wide world. Plenty of Coke products, lots of playful banter, late nights filled with Halvie-style philosophizing and inside jokes. Also much jockeying for the position of "favorite child."

My little brother, Pete, won hands down. Trust this kid-- who was himself born just in time to be Mom's 30th birthday present-- to somehow arrange the birth of his firstborn as the grand finale for her weekend of surprises! Seriously, how could the rest of us compete? Welcome, PJ! Congrats, Pete and Anna!

I love going home to Salt Lake. I like getting fry sauce with every meal. I like hearing people say "yer" instead of "your"...the accents sound like mine and everything feels just so comfortable and familiar. The anchor people on the news are still the same and the mountains are majestic.

Everywhere I go, I am sure I will run into an old friend and, of course I never do. Except this weekend I did see an old friend I've known since 2nd grade. Somehow she looked exactly the same! And she said I did too! (I hope not...have you seen my 2nd grade school pic? Dorothy Hammill would rollover in her grave. If she were dead, which I don't think she is.)

The girls went shopping and the guys went to the BYU-FSU game. (In the interest of time and marital harmony, I will not elaborate upon What Happens When You Leave Three $150 Tickets Home In Pennsylvania And Don't Realize Until You Are In Utah On The Morning of the Big Game. Suffice it to say that all's well that ends well.)

(Last two pix courtesy of my sister, Marta...her husband is a lawyer and likes to no copyright infringement here.)

I have the world's best mom. The fact that all her children wanted to be with her (and that we all wanted to be with each other) speaks volumes.

Thanks to:

  • Amy for coming up with such a perfect scheme.
  • Dan for taking Brad shooting.
  • Josh and Micah for not shooting Brad when he forgot your tickets.
  • Heidi and Marta for your fine movie selection.
  • Scott and Jac for babysitting.
  • Pete and Anna for rounding out the grandkid count to an even Two-Oh.
  • Candice and Christie for staying married to my brothers.
  • Dad for staying up past your bedtime.
  • Brad for loving my family as much as I do!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Confessions of a Frog Killer

I have been flattening frogs every day this week. Or maybe toads. I can't ever remember how to tell them apart. But even if I did know how, I would not be stopping to examine the amphibious pancakes decorating my driveway.

I feel really bad about it, but apparently, frogs (toads?) like to hop around in the moonlight around 5:30 am. And that is precisely when I am grabbing my scriptures, swiping on some lipstick and backing up the minivan to head to Seminary. Splat.

Needless to say, the children are disgusted with me.

Frogs (toads?) are not the only ones feeling flattened around here. Although I am thrilled to be back to the structure of a school year, I find it uber-exhausting. I forgot how the clock ticks so much faster in September. I forgot how afternoon kindergarten chops up a day. I forgot about soccer practice and reading logs and back-to-school nights.

I want to do it all--teach, volunteer, exercise, create, clean, organize, read, rest, write, learn, play, save, spend, serve--but the evershrinking autumn daylight just doesn't stretch to cover it all.

As a new stay-home-mom, I remember feeling completely terrified of the unstructured day. Hours loomed before me like a giant baby blanket spread upon the floor with no beginning, middle or end. I worried about losing control, wearing pj's all day, becoming addicted to The Price is Right. So I printed up schedules, joined a gym, signed up for mommy-and-me, cleaned while listening to educational CD's, and got organized.

These days I'm on the lookout for ways to slow down. It's tough. I've gotten pretty good at time management and multi-tasking, but the people in my life aren't tasks. They don't like being checked off a list. This morning I chose to sit with Emily at the piano as she practiced. The breakfast dishes didn't get done according to my usual time-frame. But where exactly is it written that the Cinnamon Toast Crunch has to be out of sight before 7:55 am?

And where is it written that bedtime stories are only for bedtime? Instead of helping me make my bed, this morning the Twinks got under the covers with me and we read Jack and the Beanstalk and A Sister for Sam. It was a cozy start on a rainy Wednesday and nobody died because the bed wasn't tidied by ten.

If there is any lesson to be learned in September, it is that time flies. Colors change. Days shrink. I don't want my life measured by the length of my To Do lists. Busiest does not equal best. My goal is to consciously carve out moments to do the things that matter. With the ones who matter.

Jake is the only one who hasn't had such a moment today. But I think he'd be thrilled if I woke him tomorrow at five, gave him a flashlight and joined him on the driveway to rescue a few fortunate frogs (toads?). It just might help me feel a little better, too.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Did you hear the angels sing yesterday?

Around 12:30 pm EST?

Because that was the moment I put my babies on a yellow bus and for 3.5 glorious hours ALL FOUR OF MY CHILDREN WERE IN PUBLIC SCHOOL AT THE SAME TIME.

All you young moms out there scraping oatmeal-applesauce flavored cement off the highchair, putting stickers on the "Potty Chart," and pushing tantrum-performing toddlers through the check-out aisle at WalMart...hang in there. This day will come for you, too. I promise.

What did I do with my precious 210 minutes? Took a shower and took a nap, because, of course, the yin to accompany my school-starting-yang is the fact that early morning seminary started this week as well and I am exhausted.

Here are a few shots of the first week of school...

Luke is smiling so wide because he is IN LOVE with his teacher. Wouldn't you be? He is bummed that she's already married, but that does not stop him from sending her anonymous love notes.

Southpaw Sam likes the teacher too, but all he really wants to do is ride the school bus.

Fifth-graders don't get excited about school bus rides and writing love notes to the teacher. But they do get all the leftovers at school lunch! This is, apparently, a huge perk and I'm trying not to be offended that Jake gags on my made-from-scratch Beef Stew at dinnertime, but is thrilled with an extra cafeteria hot dog. Just happy he's eating.

Emily has a mean mom who, thinking it was just a case of first-day jitters, ignored her sore throat and tummy ache and sent her to school anyway. She came home before lunch and spent the rest of the week in bed with strep. BUT she had a really cute back-to-school outfit.

Hot pink to match her tonsils.

She is back to third grade this week and loving it!

Brad made it back safe and sound from a week-long bike trip in Whistler, B.C. with three buddies.

It is no secret that I was not in love with this idea.

Look what I did to him when he came home...

Kidding. Of course. Those are just souvenirs he brought home with him.

Having a husband who knows he "owes you" is the best revenge anyway.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Paper Doll Afternoon

1975. I am almost five years old, but I feel a whole lot older as I walk home slowly from my best friend's house. Kristin is an only child. She has an all-pink room, a canopy bed and a Barbie camper with matching accessories. Her house is always clean and quiet and no one disturbs Barbie and Skipper as they hike the Grand Canyon and roast hot dogs in high heels and evening gowns.

I share a bunkbed with a younger brother who uses our communal toybox as his own nighttime Porta-potty. Another little brother sleeps in the crib down the hall. And, although she hasn't told me so, I'm pretty sure the bump growing under Mom's shirt is going to be another noisy, annoying little person...probably a boy. Our house is clean, but never quiet. I only have one Barbie doll, but she sleeps in the toybox and so her hair smells funny.

I don't want to go home today.

It is hard to be the oldest and to be the only girl. I am not even in kindergarten, but I feel wise and worn beyond my years. My lot in life is to be the helper, the example, the big sister. I love my parents and they love me. Mostly I enjoy bossing my brothers around. They are hyper, but harmless. Still, sometimes I just wish I had a pink canopy bed and a mother all to myself.

Somehow, magically, when I get home Mom senses my mood. She makes sugar sandwiches for lunch, sings Edelweiss to the boys and tucks them away for naps. Then, leaving dishes in the sink and laundry to be folded, she leads me to the living room and makes me a paper doll.

This paper doll is not like Barbie or Skipper. She doesn't have a ballgown or high heels. This doll is named Gabriele, just like me. And her wardrobe is very familiar--a yellow rosebud nightgown, striped turtlenecks and corduroys, even a dress with an animal-cracker-box print like the one I wear to church.

Mom is good at drawing and even better at telling stories. She tells me all about the little doll-- Gabi --and the places she wears her cute clothes. She tells me, without really saying so, that she knows it is hard to be the oldest and to share a bunkbed and a toybox and a mom. She tells me she would rather sit beside me than clean up the kitchen or take the nap she needs.

And, even though I'm not yet old enough to go to school, I am educated in eternal truth that afternoon. I realize right then what a lucky, lucky girl I am. That having a mom who sings and draws and sits and listens and talks and understands is better than a million Barbie campers. That it's ok to share your mom with a whole bunch of siblings as long as she's the kind of mom who somehow loves each of you so completely that, individually, you go to sleep at night secure in the knowledge that you are her favorite child.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I love you completely and forever.

From, Your Favorite

Go wish my mom a happy sixtieth and check out her awesome self-improvement course.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Parenting is full of unpalatable experiences--stomach flu, toilet training, SpongeBob.

And just when you recover from one adventure, the next one looms large.

For instance, this year I was thrilled to close the Preschool Door behind me. No more expensive (double!) tuition payments, no more co-op duties, no more driving. More time and money for me! Right?

Then we went to the orthodontist. And, apparently, this...
Jake in Phase One: The Palatal Expander
is going to be the way I will be spending all my free time and extra money!
Jake has been a trooper throughout the whole process. However, my biggest fear is that he will starve to death since he is just skin and bones already. Add a sore mouth to the mix and he might just blow away.
Help! Internet Mom Society...what do you feed your Orthochallenged Offspring?!
And, for those distracted gals who, like me, may have been a little grossed out and unable to focus when the hygienist at the office explained the mother's twice-daily turn-key operation responsibility...have no fear!
YouTube to the rescue, once again.
Seriously. How did people parent before the worldwideweb?
(P.S. Most ironic statement from the orthodontist...
"Yep. Your daughter will need the same protocol. Their mouths are nearly identical. This stuff really runs in your family!" )

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

B2S '09

Luke starts kindergarten tomorrow. Well...sorta starts. I go with him for an hour to sign a bunch of papers and he will have a practice bus ride around the parking lot and then we will go home. The rest of the week, to ease the kids (and teacher) into the whole kindergarten scene, the class comes in 1/3 at a time. So he will go on Friday and then not go at all til next Wednesday. Then the Jewish holidays start and parent teacher conferences. All together there will be approximately nine days of kindergarten or something ridiculous this September.

But still, Luke is excited..sorta. He is my shy guy, but he DOES love to learn. Pencils, paint and big stacks of paper. These are a few of his favorite things.

Sam also starts kindergarten tomorrow. I requested the twins be in the same class this year. For my sanity and theirs, too. I wasn't sure if this was a nice thing to do to the teacher, but guess what?! We met her today and she is the mom of twin boys! This carries more weight than an Ivy League Master's Degree, in my humble opinion, and puts my mind happily at ease.

If kindergarten classes held student body elections, I am sure Sam would be voted President. He has politician written all over him. Charming, competitive, and loves to hear himself speak. Loudly. He is a winner.

Can she really be starting 3rd grade? I can't believe it. This girl owns the school and is delighted to show her two little bros the ropes. We met her teacher today and it was a perfect fit. Seriously. Mrs. S. has the same blonde hair, the same blue eyes and could probably share Emily's clothes. (Where ARE all the plus-sized, polyester-clad, moustache-growing lady teachers of my childhood? The teachers at our elementary school all look like contestants for Miss World.)

Emily's best friend is NOT in her class this year, but she has plenty other good buddies to choose from. I am happy that she is not interested in boys yet. Having three brothers, thankfully, takes the mystery and romance out of the male persuasion. I'm not worried at all about Miss Em this year. She is smart, helpful, athletic, motivated and super cute. Teacher's pet, for sure.

This year will be Jake's last in elementary school. That's right. Fifth graders are the big kids on campus. Jake will continue being bussed to a school at the opposite end of our district better suited to meet his needs. I hate having him so far away, but am happy with the programs there. This year, Jake will be in all-inclusion classes. This means he will be learning side-by-side with typical fifth-graders, but supervised by a Special Ed teacher. Jake does well academically, has beautiful penmanship and loves to read. His teachers continue to work with him on social skills and age-appropriate behavior.

Jake has come so far. I wish I could have looked into a crystal ball five years ago when kindergarten was such a nightmare. I always knew greatness was inside him, but I would have been greatly reassured to know just how quickly it would start to shine through.

Photos by Christie the Talented! Book her for your back-to-school shots, soon!
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