Monday, April 30, 2007

Rogas, narro!

(~You ask, I tell!)

Whew! Luisa has given me some food for thought! Here are her questions, and my answers, to the interview meme.

1. What is your favorite song for karaoke purposes, and why?

Well, if I had to get up in a karaoke bar right now, I would probably sing Michelle Branch's "Are you Happy Now?" This was the song that I karaoked with Richard Paul Evans at his house a few years ago. It is a good one for me because it is up-tempo, which listeners always like, it's a relatively current song, (which makes me seem hip) and it's in my range. Oh, and also because I can completely identify with the lyrics, so I love to dedicate it to my ex-husband whenever I sing it.

That being said, I really prefer to sing ballads. I'm not a very "cool" person, so ballads suit my sentimental, romantic, overly-emotional personality, and they let me pretend that I have this really amazing singing voice (which I don't). At home on our karaoke video games, I usually pick Whitney Houston songs like "The Greatest Love of All", or "I Will Always Love You". (A girl can dream, right?) I also love to sing karaoke duets with Adam, like "I've Had the Time of my Life" (from Dirty Dancing), or "Endless Love". If every song was available, I could sing just about any Amy Grant song because we have the same vocal range, whereas I'm pretty much faking it when I try to do Whitney, and I know I'm not fooling anyone. But my all-time favorite song to sing? "Popular", from Wicked. I even sang it at my wedding. That's right, baby. I get requests for that one all the time. I can do a pretty decent Kristin Chenoweth.

2. How did you decide to have your children at home, and what, if anything, would you change about your experiences if you could?

Well, many years ago, after having one baby, I attended a Preparedness Fair at our church. There was, among many other booths, a homebirth booth. Boy, did I make some snide remarks! But, that's what ignorant people do, and that's what I was: ignorant. The idea must have sat, marinating in the deep reaches of my subconscious. I had my second child, in a hospital, and then I began to become obsessed with homeschooling shortly after that because of some incredible homeschooling families I had met. In homeschooling circles, it isn't uncommon to find other unconventional practices, and the subject of homebirthing kept surfacing. I was intrigued, and maybe some part of me likes to be unconventional (thanks, Mom and Dad), and I began to research. The more I read about birthing options and birth experiences, the more I realized I had been really robbed of something that could be extraordinary. The needless induction, the premature episiotomies, the vacuum, the epidurals, the Pitocin, the whisking the baby away, (and on and on and on) seemed unnecessary to me, and not ideal. I first had to convince my husband that it was not dangerous, which in most cases it is absolutely not, and then I had to convince him that it was even desirable...and then I had to get pregnant. Check, check, (bless his heart, that ex-husband of mine--he was always willing to go along with my crazy schemes), and check. Baby #3 on the way.

That entire experience, my first homebirth, was so incredible, and I felt so elated. It's very hard to describe the difference between a hospital birth and a homebirth. You just have to be there to understand. Everything from the process to the atmosphere is different. It is serene, it is primal, it is reverent, it is sacred. The only thing I regretted about the first one was that it happened so quickly that we didn't have time to wake up the other kids, who we planned to have in attendance, and we didn't get to eat the "labor food" I'd bought in preparation. Thank goodness that when it came time to find husband #2, that he was on board with my wishes to have another homebirth (yes, this was actually a question I posed prior to marriage), and so baby #4 was also born here at home. I enjoyed my midwives even more this time, and my two oldest children were in attendance, with the other 3 right outside the door listening. It was really something to be laboring around my home all night, and throughout the morning, with the children carrying on with their activities. I can remember boys playing GameBoys, and children pouring cereal at the table while I made laps around the downstairs, stopping to breathe through contractions. It was really something to have my twelve-year-old daughter as one of my labor coaches, and it was really something to have my eleven year old son cheering me on through the pushing. Daddy delivered the baby, and Dylan cut the cord. Everyone held the baby before even the midwives did. I loved how they wrapped up the baby and left him attached to his cord till the placenta had been delivered, and then once he was on his own, they left our family in the room for an hour of private time before weighing/measuring/cleaning, etc. It was beautiful for all of us. Luisa, you'll appreciate that I had Ralph Vaughn Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis playing on repeat for 8 straight hours during the birth. The sweeping movement of that piece was so soothing to me as the waves of my contractions rose and fell, and then there's a part that sounds like the heavens open and light pours down upon the earth, which is exactly what happened when Conor was born. I cannot hear that music now and not be filled with emotion.

3. If you could take only one book other than the Scriptures with you on a spaceship leaving Earth forever, what would it be?

This was the hardest question for me. I'm going to assume that I am not the only Earthling leaving, (thus I would still have relationships) and then I will say that it would have to be The Peacegiver. I can read that book over and over again and still feel inspired....and still not master its message. It will probably take a lifetime, so I'd better take it with me. But I might have a different answer to this question next week or next year.

4. You're an East Coast girl living on the West Coast. What do you see as the crucial differences between the two?

Yikes. Well, I can only speak for myself here. I know that I feel different when I'm living in the West, than in the East. I feel a bit more authentic in the East. I am blunt and sometimes brutally honest, without trying to be offensive, and it's easier to get away with this more on the East Coast. On the West Coast, I feel a bit guarded, and more cynical. Cynical especially with church matters, because Mormons out here seem to think they have the corner market on the gospel. That irritates me. When I moved to Utah and attended church that first week, I actually said (I know, I can't believe it either) that I wasn't a "Utah Mormon, and never would be". I got a pretty good reaction. That being said, I have grown more spiritually since living in the West, and have met some of the finest people I've ever known here. I like very much that I feel at home in both places, and that my former Jersey accent has subsided so as not to give me away as soon as I open my mouth.

These are purely stereotypes, I'm sure, but people in the west seem to be more trusting and more open. But people in the east seem more sincere to me. If they let you in, they like you.

5. You've had remarkably good luck developing relationships through the internet. Any advice for those seeking love and/or friendship?

As they say in Mary Kay, "It's a numbers game!" Sooner or later you're bound to find a best friend and a husband!

I jest.

You know, I guess I really just try to be genuine. I have never tried to impress people online with stretched-truth profiles, or high school glamour shots. I only want genuine people in my life, so I have really tried to put that out there and see what I attract. I take secret pleasure in stirring the pot just a bit to see who will still float to the top. That could be some of my own psychological dysfunction, but that's another topic. I try to find people that I have something in common with or possess something that I admire. That sounds so bland, but I don't NEED more friends. I WANT friends that will add something to my life, or will help me become who I want to be. Take you, for example, Luisa. You have stretched my literary mind, my musical tastes, and my ecological consciousness. These were interests I already had seedbedded, and you helped them to germinate and grow past cotyledon.

As for dating, same thing. If you're looking for a mate, he's probably going to realize that you're in your 30's (or 40's, or whatever) as soon as you go on your first date, so the skinny pre-baby photos are a bad choice. And you'd better be honest about what you really like and dislike, because it's hard to deal with those fabrications once you're married. For example, I am not athletic, and I didn't want to be married to someone who would expect me to play on the community softball league with him, or to someone who was glued to Monday Night Football every week. I gave very specific warning about that on my profile. I'd rather have nobody answer my profile, than a bunch of guys that are a waste of my time. So, be genuine, and face the fear that no one will like you. Somebody will.

Okay, there it is! That was fun! Thanks, my dear!

Monday, April 23, 2007



Earth Day, 1990. I was a Senior in high school and my parents were still hippies. This means we got up VERY early and drove in our 1970-something 15 passenger Dodge van (which we affectionately called "The Dode" because the 'g' was missing across the hood) from our home in south Jersey to be first in line on the lawn of the Capitol building in Washington DC. All eleven of us. Plus my boyfriend, Ron. That's twelve. On quilts, right in front of the stage. We were vegetarian (you'd better believe it!), we were shaggy, we recycled, and my mom brought her knitting. Perfect.

I think there was a crowd that day of 600,000 earth-friendly souls. The mass of people stretched beyond the Washington Memorial. I remember this part because right after this was announced, four year-old Jonah had to go to the bathroom. Of course. Dad picked him up and stepping through a seated crowd "excuse me, pardon me'ed" his way through to the porta-potties. He came back an hour later saying that was the "worst experience of his life". But there was a power in that crowd, and it has forever left an impression on me.

We were entertained by Olivia Newton John, Natalie Merchant, John Cougar Mellencamp, R.E.M., Richard Gere, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Cookie Monster, Kevin Bacon, and the beloved John Denver. We all sang along, we all got sunburned and blistered, and we all felt like we were part of something big. Which we are.
I still celebrate Earth Day every year. I have tried to take the lessons learned from my youth and add to them to be a more responsible, conscientious steward of this beautiful Mother we call home. Yesterday, we watched the entire mini-series Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel, and I felt even more humbled and in awe. We have much to do. I hope to pass that on to my children. Let every day be Earth Day.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Maximus in minimis

(~Very great in very little things)

[sidenote: So, there IS some justice in the world....Sanjaya is history! Finally we can get back to some real talent!]

I've been reading many blogs, trying to find my niche in this new blogging world. Sometimes it is very frustrating for me, wondering if I even have a niche. Everyone else's seems to be carved so intricately, and I just blunder around. The problem with being me is that I'm only really fascinating in my imagination of who I am, if that makes any sense at all. I have accomplished nothing of interest, really. I'm not particularly great at anything. None of my major goals have been fulfilled. Makes me feel like I'm a big fraud and that anyone who looks my way must be really duped. Is it because I'm still young that I don't know who I am yet, or what I want to portray to the world? Who can I be? Where is my spot, waiting just for me? What do I have to say, and who wants to listen? Worse yet, what if every decision I've ever made has been the wrong one, and my authentic life is somewhere over there laughing at me? These are not really uplifting thoughts, but I lay them on the line for the sake of an honest life.

So, here's what I want to be great at, that I feel I'm only somewhat good at:
Writing--I've only been published twice, since high school, and my aspirations are much higher. I don't quite know what my style is yet, but I think I have things to say!
Gardening--I love gardening. I need my own house and lots of money to pursue this one adequately.
Piano--I wish I could play the music that I feel inside my heart!
Homeschooling/Mentoring--(my poor children, the guinea pigs that they are. May God add to my efforts here!)
Reading--I feel like such an ignoramus sometimes! How can my best friend start an entire blog complete with team members centered on some well-known author and his magnum opus that I've never even heard of? Sigh. And I get so frustrated when a book is recommended to me and I want so much to read it, but it's just too hard!
Singing--Oh, how I dream of singing! Vicarious dreams of American Idol and Playstation 2's Karaoke Revolution are only so satisfying, you know?
Making money--If I could just find a venue that I really feel passionately about....I'm so sick of financial stress. I've been good at most things I've tried, but none of them felt "right".

That's the short list. I still dream of finishing my college degree(s). I want to write a book. I actually dream of public speaking, though I'm not sure what I would speak about exactly. I just need to figure out what I was put on this earth for. I believe it was for something, but when so many things have turned out badly, I hope I haven't screwed up my chance. I'm second-guessing many of my life choices, wondering about those two roads that diverged in a yellow wood. What if I've caused so much of my life's heartache? But then again, would I trade the lessons learned? Maybe I have too many high-achieving friends and I need some losers around me to help me feel better about myself? Just kidding about that last one. Kind of. I suppose it's better to be at the bottom looking up and seeing somewhere to go with the rest of life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Perpetuum mobile

(~perpetual motion)

First off, I just want to say that I love the Gosselin family and the new Discovery Health Channel special about them, "Jon and Kate plus 8". This is the family that had a set of twins and then in an attempt to get "just one more" ended up with sextuplets. So, now they have eight children under the age of 6. Two six-year-olds, and six two-year-olds. I've read some online message boards and I am saddened to see so many people hacking up Kate. She is definitely a (self-described) control freak. I don't agree with everything she does or how she does it, but I love watching this family! I TiVo it every Tuesday night (because it's opposite American Idol). I cannot imagine handling the load that she wakes up to every single day, and I think people are way too critical of her, but I don't want to discuss that here. I like watching moms at work, especially moms of large families, because it makes me want to be a better mom. I like that Discovery and Discovery Health pay tribute to "professional" moms, and moms of large families. I am also a huge fan of the Duggar family (with the 17 children). I watch these moms and it makes me want to be better. I look around my house and at my children and I see them differently. I see my job as The Mom differently and with a little more enthusiasm and reverence, and it makes me laugh a bit more at life. I also like that Kate and Jon are so opposite of each other, but that they have found a style of working together to get it done. It may not be my way, but I like that they can be so different, and still in love. But that's a post for another day.

There are six children growing up in the walls I call home. They keep me hopping. They are each vastly different and I like them in varying degrees each day. I woke up so happy this morning and went to get the baby up for scripture study. He is a constant distraction, but he's part of the family, so he's always invited. Two of the kids fought over the "Papa Chair", and that sour-ness ruined my mood. Why are we fighting over a CHAIR, people? We are too good to sit on the couch with the peasant folk and must sit on the throne, for heaven's sake? But we carried on, and I faked a good mood as we began our study of the Old Testament today. We finished the Book of Mormon yesterday (first time for three of our kids).

We are completely out of breakfast staples. No milk, eggs, butter. So breakfast was tricky and I pretty much piecemealed it before running out the door with fussy baby and two boys headed for public school #1. Adam took the other two kids to public school #2. Lyndsay stayed here to begin her homeschooling. I walked Aiden to his class, Dylan to his, and then headed to the auditorium with fussy baby to preview the much-anticipated "Puberty Movie" which will be shown to the 5th grade today. I had to compile my list of embarrassing questions to ask Dylan when I pick him up this afternoon. He knows me well, so he knows what's coming. Tee hee. Fortunately, fussy baby fell asleep, and didn't hear me snickering when one of the fathers of a 5th grade son proudly proclaimed this his son "doesn't have a clue" about reproduction or sex whatsoever. I took him aside later and told him what the 5th grade boys are discussing these days and that he better jump in the game.

Now I'm home, baby is napping still, and laundry calls. From every single room. Kind of like when the kids are home and my name is being called. At least the laundry can be folded and put into drawers and stay quiet and clean for a while. I'll go do that and feel a sigh of relief that hopefully lasts just long enough before all the kids come home, homework begins, and piano lessons start. Then dinner, then showers, then clean-up, and then maybe, just maybe Sanjaya will get kicked off of American Idol tonight! Well, I can hope for perfection!

Monday, April 16, 2007


(~Noteworthy things)

So, I've been tagged by Luisa for this history tag game. And since I'm a good sport, and always up for a game...

1. Go to Wikipedia and enter your birthday without the year:
May 6

2. List three events that occurred that day:
a) 1536--King Henry VIII orders translated Bibles to be placed in every church

b) 1889--The Eiffel Tower is officially opened to the public at the Universal Exposition in Paris

c) 1937--Hindenburg disaster. The Hindenburg catches fire and is destroyed while trying to dock in Lakehurst, NJ, killing 36 people

3. List two important birthdays:
1856 Sigmund Freud
1931 Willie Mays

4. List one death:
1862 Henry David Thoreau

5. List one holiday or observance:
St. George's Day

Hey Mom, will you play? Lori? You've been tagged!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Albo lapillo notare diem

(~to mark the day with a white stone)

I get caught in a trap between letting holidays happen and making holidays happen. I am not a realist, most of the time, but rather an idealist. I like Hallmark commercials and Norman Rockwell paintings. I like the clean, groomed children having organized fun in the pages of parenting magazines, and I'm determined to recreate it here for my family come hell or high water! Traditions and order are very important to me. Spontaneity is very important to my husband, who is the complete and utter opposite of me. We're doing our best to meet in the middle, and he's doing his best to stay out of my way. Bless his heart.

To do Easter correctly, certain things must happen. My mother said so, and about this she was right. First, there must be new Easter dresses for the girls. Now, ideally, these would be handmade (and hand-smocked if I was my mother, which I'm not in this department), but a combination of time/money/organization left us to buy them at a store.

Secondly, I must make the famous giant chocolate coconut cream eggs. This was a sacrifice, but worth it when the kids opened the fridge to see them hardening. They look forward to this treat like no other. Although there was no fancy decorating or piping on them this year, they really were (and still are) one of the best parts of Easter.

There must also be enormous sugar cookies, cut with the enormous bunny cookie cutter my mom sent to me my first Easter away from home. They must be thick, full of real butter and excellent vanilla, and they must be very soft. Check, check, check.

The Easter bunny must out-do himself each year in hiding the baskets. This is a favorite tradition of mine from childhood. The Bunny comes during the nighttime, fills the baskets, and then hides them...the harder the better. Boy, did we stump them this year! And boy was Dylan scared to crawl out onto the roof. Tee hee. There must only be enough candy to make them really sick for one day, and absolutely none of that insidious grass, and then the baskets are put away.

We must dye eggs! This is the fun part for the kids, who get more and more creative every year. Lyndsay was our egg artist this year, with each one more unique than the one before. And Adam, our film director, made sure to get just the right shots with the video camera for our home movie. We had music playing, dancing (well, not me, of course), and only a few dropped eggs. Conor was excused early because he promptly crunched through the shell of his egg with this two new teeth and then completely dismembered it all over his high chair tray. Cute pictures, and then bedtime.

But Easter Sunday must also find each of us pondering the sacred gift of our Savior's atoning sacrifice. After our church service, we watched a few short church films about his crucifixion and resurrection, and we had an hour of really good conversation about our gratitude that Christ would love each of us enough to perform what only He could to save us. I hope the thoughts and gratitude expressed will become imprinted on each of their hearts.

We had a very fine Easter dinner, with just the eight of us, and a perfectly cooked roast and all the trimmings. We only had to tell Dylan to stop talking about the "bloody" meat a few times, and there was enough gravy for all. Everyone pitched in for kitchen clean-up, and we cut into those coconut cream eggs. Yummmmm. So, incredibly wonderful. And the day was just perfect too.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Viresque acquirit eundo

(~She gathers strength as she goes)

I just returned from Fort Knox, Kentucky, where my sister is living on military post with her two babies while her husband is serving overseas in the army for the second time. Abby is my youngest sister, number seven of the nine children in our family. I am the oldest, and there is an age difference of almost ten years.

Abby was eight when I got married the first time. She was one of my bridesmaids and I remember her in her deep teal satin dress with her long french braids, with my other two sisters. She has reentered my life several times since that day I left home with my new husband to start our marriage on the opposite side of the country. She has memories of sneaking in my room and using my makeup, going through my things, and trying on my shoes. She has memories of playing house as sisters and probably a lot of me bossing everyone around, as the oldest child is prone to do. I think she has memories of my kindness to her. I think I was a good big sister. I have memories of her birth, and loving on another sweet baby with huge blue eyes and a full head of curls. The Afro. That's what we called it. She was beautiful. The picture above is of Abby and me in about 1985. I was twelve or so, and she was three.

I came home to NJ three years later with my new baby girl to surprise the family for Christmas. Abby was now just barely twelve and growing like a weed in that awkward preteen stage. She loved on my baby girl the way that I loved on her years before. She has always been a natural with babies. It was the next year that my parents split up and my mom and siblings moved to Mesa, around the corner from me. Abby was now a near-resident babysitter and was around more often to play with Lyndsay and even come late at night when my water broke and I went to the hospital to deliver Dylan.

A few more years passed, my husband and I moved to northeastern AZ, and Abby came to live with us during her 9th grade school year. My kids loved having "Aunt Wabby" with us and I enjoyed getting to know her all over again as a more grown-up person dealing with high school and insecurities and crushes on a certain boy named Jacob. She was the butt of many a practical joke at my hands, but always a good sport. I remember with side-splitting laughter the time we waited while she was in the shower soaping up and washing her hair before we shut the water off to the entire house for some plumbing repairs. From where we were standing in the yard, we could hear her scream in the shower. She had to rinse her hair outside, and it still cracks me up. Not so much her.

Abby came to my wedding in 2005 with her new husband, Orion, and pregnant with their first son. So, my visit last week was the first time I have seen her as a mommy with her own home and her own family. Her older son is 18 months, and her new baby boy is 7 weeks. Her husband left for Afghanistan five days after his premature birth. I am proud of her. She is patient and full of love for her babies, even though I know she is worn thin. Every day is spent going from baby to baby to baby (and then I came with another baby to add to the mix!) with rarely a moment to spare for breathing. But she has her routine and she is full of devotion to her little family. I could see that she does what I used to do in my early mommy days: set impossible to-do lists each day and then feel badly that even showering didn't happen, let alone painting the dresser. But she forges on with mostly optimism and a healthy sense of humor. I really enjoyed visiting with her, cooking for her, watching her, listening to her, even learning from her. And I can see that we have more in common than we have differences.

We gather strength as we go. Even hurricanes and tornadoes do. We can't be gale-force winds without first gaining our beginnings as a stirring breeze. Abby wrote in her blog that she felt inadequate at times by my ability to tackle several babies and other tasks simultaneously, seemingly effortlessly. But there is much effort and many years of practice behind anything that seems easy. Patience comes slowly. Wisdom even more so. Tested by adversity and struggle, we find reserves that would otherwise remain untapped. From where I stand now, just a decade further down the road, I see that principle as such a blessing. I also see Abby earning her crown, bejeweled by her demanding babies, tired body, sleepless nights, broken washing machine, lonely heart, and tapped out finances. All of this will pass. The strength stays, and is a testament that all was worth it in the end. Love you, sis!