Thursday, February 28, 2008

This is Why I May Lose My Mind

A serial closet-emptier: (this brings back traumatic memories from my childhood when my younger siblings would empty all the games and STUFF in my room while I was at school. Even when I put a little lock on my door, those little fiends would shake the door till the latch was pulled from the wood in the door. Tears and screaming ensued.)

And a dead vacuum. If you know me at all, you know I like clean floors. I've already been depressed because the carpets need to be shampooed so badly from Conor's drips and dribbles, but now one of the children has broken---permanently---my only ally against the filth. And no money to buy a new one, of course. How come vacuums only break when you're broke? (pun intended.) sigh.

My wish is for a vacuum that will be reliable and stick around for more than a year! And since I'm wishing, I'll take one of those carpet shampooers too, please! Six kids and a ton of friends and piano students and ping pong opponents wreak havoc on my carpets and I need all the help I can get! (Although Conor and his sippy cups are the biggest forces working against me. We do have a shoes-off policy.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jewelry for your Teeth!

See? Now why don't they market braces that way? It could change the stigma! Anyway, that's what I thought as I watched Lyns get her braces applied this morning. "They're so pretty!" I said. "Like jewelry for your teeth!"

She's been so excited for this for years, having grown up self-conscious about her teeth, and thus, her smile. Finally the day has come! She chewed gum right up until we walked into the office, and after spitting it out she said, "Well, the next time I get to chew gum I'll be old enough to date!"

Ummmm...yikes. When you put it that way...

Only the top braces were put on today, with the lower teeth getting bejeweled in 10 weeks. I think she looks beautiful, and even more grown up, ironically. And so, it begins.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Lack-of-Separation Anxiety

Well, I used to have this theory about mothers who couldn't get their babies to go gladly into Nursery. Not anymore. After three willing children, I now have the other kind. And clearly, it isn't my fault.

Conor is finally 18 months! I have been counting down to this day for months! Church becomes excruciating right around 12-14 months when cute little baby no longer wants to sit and be still, let alone sleep through the meetings. Being in the YW presidency has been tricky with said baby, and I just want to come home from church without sweat stains from wrestling with him, or aching feet from chasing after him!

The problem is, Conor likes me so much that he can't bear to be apart from me. This is foreign territory to me. I have never had a separation-anxiety driven child. I take him down to Nursery and talk about the friends and the toys and he is oh, so happy! He plays, he slides, he age-appropriately hits the other children with plastic bake ware, he has a roll-over in the Fisher Price car without tears. But the second I'm gone, he has a meltdown. I've tried sneaking out. No good. I've tried Adam and then Lyndsay depositing him in the Nursery. No good. I've tried talking rationally to him about how this is Conor's class and Mommy needs to go to Mommy's class. He's not having any of it. He would like to be in his class with Mommy seated safely across the room watching from the couch. It's driving me crazy!

So, today I watched how vast the difference is between age 18 months, when the babies are allowed to enter Nursery class, and say, age 2 or just over 2, as all the other children are.

Snack time: Good little children eating.

Conor dumping all his goldfish and pretzels into his cup of juice and then afterwards pouring it onto himself and to the table.

Lesson time: Good little children wearing their "Jesus loves me" necklaces and listening.

Conor ripping his heart off his necklace and then doing pig man impressions with the ribbon.

Coloring time: Good little children coloring their pictures of Jesus.

Conor eating (and then chucking at other children) the crayons.

Music time: Good little children playing their instruments loudly or softly as the music indicates.
Conor eating the instruments, chasing girls with the instruments, and banging the table with the instruments.

I swear all of this comes from his father's side.

God, bless all the Nursery leaders. And may they live forever.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Well, I finally did it. He's been teased by his siblings and father for having a "Bozo wig" for months now, and last night I was finally ready. Conor's first haircut. I'm not sure why it was so emotional for me; maybe because I've never had a baby with hair before. First haircuts for my other three children usually happened around 2 1/2 or even 3. I loved Conor's curls, but he was getting a little ratty-looking, and as I watched him playing yesterday, I asked myself if I was ready, and there was a sense of peace inside. I bathed him and washed his long curls, and then sat him on the counter and started snipping. I saved his little blonde ringlets in a pile on the counter, and didn't say a thing to Adam about it.

We had a youth service project last night, so Adam pulled into the driveway with just enough time for Lyndsay, Dylan, and me to jump into the car for a ride down to the church. All I said to Adam was, "If you see anything of Conor's on the bathroom counter, don't touch it. I want to save it." He was completely perplexed by that set of directions, but he gave me his word. About ten minutes later, my cell phone rang, and I began to giggle. I knew just who was on the other end:
me: Hello?
Adam: (giddy with laughter) WOW!
me: Do you like it?
Adam: He looks so handsome! I love it! Thank you.

It took him a few minutes of playing with him to notice, but when he did, he just loved it. Now he'll need to find something else to tease him about, since Bozo is out.

This morning when my baby woke up, he looked different. Of course, last night I had to go back into the bathroom and play with his springy strawberry curls, bounce them up and down; unwind them and let them curl back up. This morning he looked like a big boy, and I have a tinge of sadness inside. His curls were adorable to me, and the envy of all who saw him. Today I miss his hair. I need to keep telling myself I did the right thing. Eventually this day would come, right?

It doesn't help that Lyndsay's mourning too and said to me this morning, "I don't know why you had to cut it so short."

This is just the beginning of the achings of my mother heart. I've done this before, and I know.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Well, I guess I'll never write a biography on Leo Africanus

Or the Empress Theodora. It's time to stop kidding myself.

I have all these great ideas. They're ambitious, lofty, and often downright ridiculous. Like me writing biographies about Leo Africanus or the Empress Theodora. Let me explain.

About five years ago, a homeschooling publishing company put out a call for well-written children's level biographies on a wide range of historical figures. They were a start-up company, and were offering to pay $500 per book. I read down the list of obscure names and thought to myself, "Surely, I could do this. Let me just find two names that probably no one else will pick." I wanted to assure myself publication by trying to eliminate as much competition as possible. Having no real knowledge of either of these two people, I clicked on over to Amazon and bought some books about them, figuring I would read up, study up, and write up a nice children's biography on each. (I know I sound clueless, just hang in there with me.) All the books came. They looked BORING AS I'LL GET OUT and I tucked them away on the shelf, thinking that I would get to them.

I never did. The call for manuscripts came and went, and there sat Leo Africanus with his turban looking too disgusted with me to even make eye contact. The Empress can't even crack a compassionate smile, woman to woman. I shelved them among my other biographies thinking they would be more at home, but still they glared at me.

They became representative of so many goals I set out to achieve with great intention, but never got around to. You know what I mean. The sewing projects half-finished. The patterns for sewing projects that you never even opened. The cookbook with 101 seaweed and tofu recipes that you're really going to switch your family over to. The $2000 worth of rubber stamps and inks that will come in so handy when you scrapbook your entire family's history, or when you start making all your own cards. The pair of jeans that you know you'll fit into by 2003. Oh, wait. That passed.

I came to hate Leo Africanus and the Empress Theodora because they represented promises to myself that I never kept. A little jab at my personal integrity every time I saw the bright pink spine. The time came to clean house, and by that I mean my internal house. It's hard enough to keep the positive affirmations flowing through my mind each day. I don't need Leo laughing at me. So folks, Leo and Theo...they're in a box on their way to the library's donation bin. As is the crazy cookbook with nothing tasty anywhere. And the half-finished or never-begun projects are out the door too. I am a woman of my word! I want things around me that validate my worth and support my mission on earth and make me feel powerful. The truth is, I am not a biographer.* And that's okay! So, who's laughing now?

*I may be willing to make an exception for you, Dad. I have been bred for that task, and I'm carefully taking notes!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Re-Run! Contest Entry

I'm submitting my post "Towering Above the Masses" for my contest entry over at Scribbit's Write Away Contest. Entries are due February 20 for this month's contest, with the theme being "Love". You should enter!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Only Selfish People Hate Valentine's Day

There. I said it. I still love you. I just don't understand you. Hear me out.

I have had so many friends---real and cyber---express their disdain for this innocent little love day. Here are some of their reasons:

It's just a reminder that I'm alone.

I don't have a Valentine. Again.

I don't want my husband to feel forced into being loving. He should love me every day.

And on, and on. Well, here's what I have to say:

Every person has someone they can love. Husband or boyfriend aside, there is someone in your life you could love a little bit better. So here's a perfect day to do it!

Who cares if you have a Valentine. Be one! That's my view. If you're sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and your sad, pitiful life, then you're missing the point! Love is about other people, not you. Find someone to express love and gratitude to, and you'll feel like such a star! It will return to you a thousand fold.

I've heard more women complaining about how their husbands don't show enough love or thoughtfulness, and now we're putting stipulations on when and how they can show it? No wonder they say women can't be pleased! We're an impossible bunch! Well, here's some advice from a once-scorned woman: take whatever they give. The goal is to have your husband thinking about you as much as possible (and you him)! Who cares if it's for a holiday? That doesn't mean his thoughtful gestures and expressions of love are any less genuine! I don't hear too many people saying "Don't buy me a Christmas/birthday present just because it's Christmas/my birthday. You should buy me presents just because." And really, the goal is not to be focusing on what our husbands are doing for us, because we're supposed to be consumed with how we're making the day special for them.

Valentine's Day is my second favorite holiday. I love it. I love it because I love LOVE, and I have tremendous hope for love, even though I have not had great or natural success in it personally. I wish there was more of it. I try to be loving every single day, but I appreciate extra special gestures of love coming my way, so I know others do too. I am not some Valentine Pollyanna, though. Most of my Valentine's Days have been absolutely horrid and utterly disappointing--even devastating--from a selfish point of view. I never had a boyfriend for Valentine's Day. All of my teenage relationships either started just after, or ended just before February 14 (smart guys?). My first husband told me he was leaving me just three days before Valentine's Day one year, and the next year he confessed his affair at that same time of year. I was single and broke for many Valentine's Days. The first two in this marriage have left much to be desired in the way of matrimonial romance...this year only just barely scraped by with a storybook save. But, still, I will not give up on this day of love. Because it isn't about me.

This year, I had some fences to mend with a meddlesome elderly neighbor. I regret to admit that when she came over the other day to make a complaint about our boys' skateboard riding during the day when she wanted to nap...and then got personal about me as a mother...I slammed my door in her face. Valentine's Day to the rescue! I went and apologized to her later that same day (as did she), but today was the perfect day to extend a hand of friendship and so we delivered a plate of red velvet cupcakes with buttercream frosting and some chocolate heart sugar cookies sandwiched with hot fudge sauce between them to her doorstep. She melted. We did too.

This year, I needed my husband to know that his children are important to me even when they're not here with us. Valentine's Day to the rescue! We took a basket of goodies over to their mom's house and not only did she welcome us in with gratitude and then invite us to stay for pizza and some pool, but afterwards I could tell that the bigger gift was my husband's. It meant the world to him that I thought to make the effort.

This year we wanted the teenage girl across the street, who has Down's Syndrome, to know that she is loved. Valentine's Day to the rescue! She was aglow when she opened the door to see the kids standing there with cupcakes.

And on, and on.

As for me? Well, like I said, this Valentine's Day was saved at the last minute in a most divine way, that maybe someday I'll share, but it did turn out to be an incredible day. I believe that's because what we give out comes back to us. How can anyone hate a day about love, unless she's only thinking about herself? Isn't love our biggest mantra as mothers? Love is expanding and deepening and soul-perfecting. Today was loving. And I loved it.
And now that the kids are in's about to get better.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What I've Been Up To

Pureeing and Cooking:
The last week has been so much fun! I'm in love with Jessica Seinfeld's new cookbook Deceptively Delicious. I love the idea: sneaking pureed vegetables into foods that your family loves. I spent the weekend buying vegetables and then making them into an arsenal of purees, which are now tucked into the freezer.

We've been trying out recipes with great results. We've made the applesauce muffins (with carrots) and brownies (with spinach),

The macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes (both with cauliflower),

Tuna salad in whole wheat pitas (with cauliflower puree, and spinach and tomato)

And the meatloaf (with carrot puree, and onion and celery).
No one has said "yuck" to any of it! My kids all love vegetables, but my husband has a hard time, so it's especially beneficial for his diet, and he loves the fact that he can eat the veggies without having to actually see them. And, of course, we always serve fresh or cooked veggies on the side, along with a nice salad. We've eaten more vegetables in this house in the last week than ever, and we're all feeling great!
I also love Dr. Roizen's and Dr. Oz's book You: On a Diet for its simple explanation of the workings of the body as they relate to food. The recipes in the back were worth the cost of the book. We've been having soup and salad lunches for quite some time. More veggies! We make a huge pot of soup on Monday, and then eat from it all week long. We love the Spicy Vegetable Lentil Soup and the Garden Harvest Soup the best. More veggies!

We've also tried to have salmon a few times a week and to switch from ground beef to ground turkey. And for snacks? Whole grains and fruit and veggies. The kids are in heaven. I'm very lucky (or I've done a lot of work for a lot of years) that my children prefer to snack on fruits and veggies than anything else. I love the feeling of building little bodies and brains. I take that responsibility very seriously, and though I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, it sure feels satisfying at the end of the day to count up all the vitamins and minerals they got that day.

What else have I been doing? Reading! I've just recently finished Cormac McCarthy's very haunting postapocalyptic tale, The Road; Stephenie Meyer's third vampire installment, Eclipse; Khaled Hosseini's stirring debut novel The Kite Runner; and Carol Lynn Pearson's latest, No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around our Gay Loved Ones. I highly recommend any and all of them.

My three older kids got back on Thursday from their visit with Dad, and we're getting back into the swing of homeschool. Love it! Lyndsay is working her way through the Work and the Glory series, Dylan's plowing through the Chronicles of Narnia, and Aiden is working hard to read The Book of Mormon on his own.

I've been walking, almost every day. Last week I logged 21.5 miles, pushing chunky baby in the stroller. When they're home, the kids walk with me, and I love the fact that my 12 and 13 year old are not embarrassed to go walking with their mom...yet. Even when I wear earmuffs.

Oh, and I got a hair cut! I'm finally past the had-a-baby-let-everything-go-phase, and my friend Amy gave me a new do! Can't really see all the wispy layers in the back from this photo, but it feels good to have something new.

So, that's where I've been, since I haven't been here! And, upon coming back I was greeted with a lovely and flattering award from fellow-blogger, Don, who left a very kind comment about me on his blog. Thank you, Don! It's an honor, and I'll do my best to pass the torch! You made MY day!