Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Seventh Day

Last Monday night, Sam was giving the Family Night lesson. He had chosen to teach about The Creation and was delivering a stellar oration, complete with visual aids.

"First, Jesus separated light and darkness. He called them day and night. Next, He made the land and the oceans." And so on. Sam knew it all. I felt so proud. I sat back, feeling humbly superior, having raised such a knowledgeable child.

Finally, Sam got to the seventh day. He was stumped. He looked at Luke. He looked at me. He looked at his picture. The earth was complete with plants, animals, handsome Adam and beautiful Eve. What was left?

I pulled him close and whispered helpfully in his ear. Sam's face lit up. Of course! He knew what came next. He stood up straight and held his picture high.

Clearing his throat, he spoke in that very distinctive Sammy voice. "And last came the seventh day. And on the seventh day, HE GOT ARRESTED."

I know Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but in some ways, it is the hardest part of my week. All that public parenting. All those expectations --freshly ironed white shirts, homemade rolls for dinner, long afternoon naps. (Translate into semi-rumpled Rugbys, applesauce oatmeal muffins and blogging on an unmade bed, then you'll have an accurate picture of my Sabbath today.)

Mormon moms do a lot to make Sundays special and a lot of the time we do it alone. Sometimes it's because our husbands don't want to come to church with us. Sometimes it's because they have to go early and stay late for meetings. Sometimes they are sitting on the stand at church while we wrestle the children on the benches and give them a Sabbath-appropriate version of the stink eye.

Today Brad has been gone all day, working with an inner-city congregation. He left at 8:00 am with his lunch packed into a cooler. He probably won't be home until it's time for dinner. I hope he likes applesauce muffins.

His Spanish scriptures got dusted off this morning and he's hoping his conversational vocab isn't too rusty. I am proud of him. He is a dedicated guy. I'm grateful. But it's still hard being the one left behind.

All I know is that it's all worth it. The goldfish crackers ground into the speckly meetinghouse carpet. The Mary-Janes and Oxfords that seem to shrink overnight. The rooster-tail cowlick that just won't stay down on Sunday morning.

I know it's worth it because my kids have a whole buncha grown-ups who pray for them and teach them. And, when I'm not wrestling small people into submission on a church bench, I can look around the chapel and see a friend in every pew. I know it's worth it, because I am a believer and this is what we do.

Just remind me next Sunday.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Caramel Cake & Conversation

I love bookclub. A whole buncha girlfriends sitting around chatting. Not about husbands or kids or church or basketball picture day. Just plot, characters, setting (and, maybe, hair!) for an entire evening. I feel like a grown up at bookclub.

Last night was my turn to host. We read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. If you haven't read it yet, find a copy. Now. I'm not kidding. You won't get anything done for a couple of days, but there's always Pizza Hut and letting kids play "fish for an outfit" in the dirty clothes hamper, right?

The book is about black maids and their white employers in 1960's Missippi. A few desserts played an important role in the story.

I took a picture, because I will probably never make this again. You really DO need a maid to clean up the kitchen when you're done...

One of these is Minny's Caramel Cake. I have never had caramel cake, but apparently it's a Southern tradition. This was the recipe I used. Time-consuming, but enjoyable.

Chocolate pie is important to the plot also, so I brought out this old favorite from Mom's cookbook. (Warning: There are uncooked eggs in this recipe. But, having ingested large quantities of raw cookie dough on a pretty much daily basis, I can assure you that salmonella is highly unlikely.)
Swiss Chocolate Pie
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar, divided
6 oz. chocolate chips, melted and cooled
2 eggs, separated
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Dash salt
Whip cream until fluffy. Set aside. Whip egg whites with salt until fluffy. Add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Set aside. Beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, egg yolks and cooled chocolate. Gently fold in whipped cream, then egg whites. Turn into chocolate cookie crust. Chill five hours or overnight. Slice and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Life and Times on Inverness Drive

Item Number One: Purple Sparkly Glasses = Instant Status Symbol.

These specs are to Em what the airsoft gun is to Jake. No crying Four-eyes at our house. These babies are polished, adjusted and discussed with an intensity formerly reserved for Webkinz and soccer trophies. This week, Emily heads to the orthodontist to straighten her smile. (In the tender words of her loving older brother, "Glasses plus braces equals nerd.") The tween years can be humbling.

Item Number Two: Twin Kitty Cats are Always Fun, Sometimes a Twin Brother is Not.

Luke told me that he wants his birthday to be on a different day than Sam's this year. He's over the whole wombmate/roommate thing. I don't blame him, but I'm not exactly sure how to handle it. Having twins was very efficient of me and I really enjoy parenting my children As A Single Unit. Individuality sometimes throws a wrench in my plans.


Item Number Three: Jake's birthday was two weeks ago, but I don't have any other photos.
Please note the birthday cake (lemon with cream cheese frosting) which the birthday boy decorated himself. Those are Lego guys battling on top. Brad, of course, chose chocolate velvet pie for his birthday cake. Some things never change.

Item Number Four: Recycling Can Be Fun!

Sam enjoys building with recyclables, counting and the color orange. The best way to freak Sam out is to say "You can have a few marshmallows." He will sit paralyzed for a minute or two and then ask, "Mommy, how many is 'a few'?" Sam appreciates exactness in all aspects of his life

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is There Some Secret Mothering Manual I Forgot to Pick Up at Target?

I don't know why I thought this whole motherhood thing was going to get easier over time. Those of you ahead of me in the learning curve are probably shaking your head and chuckling, but I really did think that once they were all potty trained and on the school bus, life would be just one big yoga class. Followed by spa pedicures and an Asian salad at Panerra.

But somehow it just gets trickier by the day. I mean, I used to worry about people drinking Clorox or falling out of second story windows. These days I worry more about online images and fighting on the bus. Not to mention how to get Little Sister's pink glittery jewelry kit bead out of Big Brother's brand new Airsoft. (Note to self: Hot glue on a toothpick is not the way to go.)

Just today I noticed Jake subtly put his carefully-selected, brand-new birthday shirt at the bottom of the laundry pile. Isn't it cool enough? Did someone make fun of it? Why would they? What exactly makes one shirt acceptable and another nearly identical shirt destined for the back of the drawer? And, most of all, if someone really cares so much about his personal appearance then just why IS my frequent suggestion to become one with the toothbrush always so offensive?!

Em has been complaining of headaches for a while now. She rubs her eyes and whines sometimes. In my expert opinion, of course, she is just looking for attention. This is a girl who loves vitamins and medicine and Band-aids, after all. She visits the school nurse for cough drops almost daily. So, I chalk it up to middle-child-syndrome and tell her to rest on the couch.

Well, yesterday I finally took her to the eye doctor. (After much begging on her part and me saying, "Why? You just aced the school vision screening.") It turns out she is practically blind in her left eye and has astigmatism in her right. We pick up her purple sparkle specs on Wednesday.

What kind of mother lets her beautiful daughter wander through life under a veil of blurry darkness?! Me, that's who. (I confess to shedding a few tears over the whole thing until I remembered the time I broke my arm in fifth grade and NOBODY believed me for days. Thanks, Mom. I feel better now.)

When does it get easier, people? Exactly when will I go from novice-mom to expert status? And don't tell me to hang on and wait for grandkids. I don't know if I can last that long...

Friday, January 15, 2010

A is for Airsoft

A is for Airsoft--Jake got an airsoft gun for his birthday this week. I don't think it's overstating it to say that this has completely changed his life. Whether moms approve or not, there's nothing like having a firearm of your own to make you stand a little taller.

B is for Bathroom--We are gutting and remodeling the kids' bathroom. I am so excited! As of late, the only way I can stand to be in that room is with my eyes closed and/or holding my breath. A new paint smell will be such an improvement.

C is for Campout--Brad took Jake on his first overnight Boy Scout event. Sleeping in a tent in January. Then repelling down a 100 foot drop in the morning. Good times.

D is for Dentist's Office--My new favorite hangout. Fun! Convenient! And inexpensive! (I'm being sarcastic, Jeni...)

E is for Emily--She took advantage of Jake's absence to host a girl's night this weekend. There was giggling. There was pizza. There were whispered conversations regarding the cuteness of Sterling Knight. (What?! Never heard of him? Well, I guess that's why YOU weren't invited...)
F is for Fabulous Fundraiser--Tonight our neighbors hosted a Cupcake Party for all the kids on the block. Each child donated money to send to the Red Cross in Haiti and, in return, got a free cupcake and a juicebox! The total amount raised was more than $300. Isn't that a great idea?
G is for Goodnight--Gee, I'm tired. ABC ya later!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Book to Inhale

Mom gave me this for Christmas and I could not put it down.

The words were so beautiful, the thoughts so poignant. If you read Mitten Strings for God, you are familiar with Kenison's gentle advice on mothering young children. Here are her thoughts on raising teens and letting go as they grow up. I am going to re-read with a highlighter in hand.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Eleven Years Ago

Eleven years ago I was awake in bed wondering if you would ever come.

Afraid of jinxing the adoption, I had not purchased a single diaper or pack of undershirts or any of the baby furniture I'd been coveting for years.

All I had was an empty bedroom next to mine and the What to Expect book which I had secretly read with religious devotion while on vacation with your dad in Hawaii. No one knew you were coming, so I couldn't read it by the pool or on the beach. Our traveling companions probably wondered why I kept sneaking into the hotel room and, if they had looked closely at my face, they would have seen it hovering between hysterical laughing and hysterical crying. I could never decide which.

On the long flight home, I took advantage of Dad's laptop and typed up my twenty page Mothering Manifesto. All my hopes and dreams. The kind of mom I would be. The kind of person I would train you to become. Unfortunately, this brilliant piece of philosophy was forever lost in some tangled mess of binary code and, though I hunted for ages, I was never able to find it again. Too bad. I think it would make me chuckle these days.

Eleven years ago I lived in a brand new house that was spotless with white carpet in every room. All of my Magic Markers had lids. I kept coffee table books on my coffee table. And I bought dry clean only clothing.

My life was different eleven year ago. I didn't know how to unfold a stroller or sterilize a bottle or love unselfishly. Believe it or not, I'd never watched a single episode of Phineas and Ferb or made a peanut butter smoothie. I had never been to the orthodontist and there were no action figures in my bathtub.

Eleven years ago I didn't need to color my hair and the backseat of my car was completely crumb-free. But I'd never had a Mother's Day card or heard you read Bears on Wheels all by yourself either.

Eleven years ago a new life began. And I don't mean yours.
Happy Birthday, Jakey! Can't imagine my life without you.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Brad's New Girlfriend

My husband has a new love in his life.

And I couldn't be happier.

Who cares if she's European, ubersexy and a whole lot younger than I am? This little cutie will do things for Brad that I haven't in years. Things like taking him to the airport at four in the morning and telling him which way to turn on a roadtrip to Lancaster County. She'll warm his buns anytime he likes.

The thing is, Brad has been completely faithful to a solidly built Japanese gal for the past eleven years. (Well, except for a brief infatuation with the petite, vintage German number. But she was expensive and high maintenance and mostly pouted in the garage, so she doesn't really count.)

Anyway, Ms. Solid has been good to us, but she's starting to show her age. Her rear end is sagging and she makes embarassing noises. I told Brad I don't want to be seen with her in public.

And, after an absolutely agonizing selection process, he found his new love just in time for his birthday.

Sooooooo much better than the gift he got last year.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


So. We're six days in and I still haven't made any. Resolutions, that is.

The kids did...

  • Luke--Learn to read.
  • Sam--Learn to tie shoes.
  • Em--Memorize times tables 0-12.
  • Jake--Achieve First Class in Boy Scouts.

Now those are some resolutions. They have a beginning and an end. And they will all, most likely, be checked off the list before the ball drops next December. In other words, they will be resolved.

But what's a thirty-nine-and-a-half-year-old supposed to do? I'm not sure.

I refuse the usual exercise more/eat less/save more/spend less/organize more/clutter less promises. Those are about as exciting (and unending) as a resolution to keep the kitchen counters clean. I want something a bit more jazzy this year.

If you have some good suggestions, I would love to hear them. Seriously.

In the meantime, here are a few glimpses of our frozen tundra. The snow is gone, but the air is absolutely painful and all the moisture in the grass has turned to ice.

So, of course, my kids are outside with no coats on.

We have our own skating pond!
(Yes, camouflage is considered a wardrobe neutral. Try it sometime.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Object Lesson

After a little bit of early morning destruction, we all settled in to our first day back at Seminary. Starting my day this way is like exercise, I dread getting started, but once I'm warmed up there is no place I'd rather be. I'm lucky to be part of this elite early riser club.

But I need a new alarm clock.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

In Denial of the Fact That...

  1. Seminary starts back up tomorrow. My alarm clock will be buzzing at 5 am. Eastern Standard Time, people.
  2. This week's high is 36 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Two of my children--the ones who have been living on candy canes for four weeks straight and whose daily oral hygiene routine is over before you can say gingivitis--have dental appointments right after school.
  4. 10 pounds Christmas cookie pleasure = 10 pounds New Years' pain. (Welcome back, Carbface. How I have missed ye...)
  5. A couple of my favorite guys have a birthday this week. They will be expecting cake, balloons and thoughtfully selected gifts, preferably not wrapped in Santa paper.
  6. 2010 is the year I turn 40.
  7. The toys-- that looked so cute wrapped under the tree and stuffed merrily into the stockings --don't look so cute now that they are unwrapped and strewn merrily throughout the family room.
  8. My Gapcard payment is due.

Anybody with me?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Of Sleep, Sun and Salsa

A million thanks to all you Southwestern sweethearts. It wasn't just the sunshine that kept us warm and the best gifts weren't the ones under the tree.
You made our Christmas magical! We love you.
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