Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Christmas Letter

Pin It (I posted this and then somehow, de-posted it when I went to edit it. Sorry for the confusion. I'm a moron.)

I never got around to sending out Christmas cards this year, but I did write a letter. I dobt I will actually mail it, but I figure I'll post it in all it's cliched glory...

Dear Random Family Member and/or Friend Who Happens To Get This Card (Because We Love You And Stuff But Are Too Lazy To Individually Address This Many Letters),

It’s the post holiday wrap-up here at Chez Smith. I'm hoping to get this in the mail prior to Christmas, and if so, Merry Christmas! If not, Happy New Year. But if things go as rather I expect they will - Happy Valentines Day!

What have the children been up to? I’m so glad you asked. Sarah was recently accepted into MENSA and danced Clara in the Nutcracker. The reviews were amazing, and she has been invited to dance with Ballet West on a continuing basis. Our little Abby keeps busy winning championship snowboarding competitions for her age bracket and is involved in a variety of humanitarian service projects, including helping to fetch and carry bricks and mortar for Habitat for Humanity. Sweet little Carter was picked to be the youngest Oliver in the history of the two hundred year old Alpine Playhouse, and we are so proud of his tremendous musical talent. We've been taking phone calls from agents who would like to represent him.

No, I’m totally lying. I just figured stretching the truth is what people typically do in Christmas letters, might as well make them really GOOD lies, right?

But they ARE great kids. Sarah is six and in the first grade and is our tender hearted little girl, a tremendous reader, and the kindest soul you'll ever meet. Abby is five, and is social and imaginative and fun, and also a little bossy. (I have no idea where she gets the bossy from. Probably her dad.) Carter is three, and is not afraid to bat his long eyelashes to get what he wants. He's very loving and affectionate (thank goodness for his mom, who is a little sad that he’s the last baby we can have). Not that I’m allowed to call him a baby. Because as he reminds me daily, he is NOT a baby, he’s a BIG kid. HUGE. All in all, we think they’re pretty awesome. Smarter than the average bear, cute enough to get away with a lot of stuff, and good enough not to try it all that often.

Not having our stuff together, that was sort of our family theme this year. Our business crashed and burned and we have been circling the wreckage for a while now, but are trying to shake it off. Husband will (if things go well) be starting with the Sheriff’s Department in February, and is currently working as a Foster Care Case Manager. He started running a while back and says he loves it. I am somewhat skeptical. How could anyone love to RUN? Running is good for escaping wild animals and catching naked toddlers, but for fun? Doubtful. It is strange to have him back at work after working with him from home for so long. I really miss having him around.

I’m working for a high-tech company in SLC as a technical writer, mostly from home. I also have a variety of freelance clients who use me for everything from developing weekly eZines and writing web content, to preparing technical bid responses for the government. I started a blog a few months ago, and it's been a really fun way to express myself and meet a lot of other amazing women who like to write. I recently put ads up on it and I’m hoping that eventually, I’ll have enough ad revenue to buy a Slurpee. One can dream.

We hope you had a great Christmas. Ours will be small, but wonderful, because we get to spend it with friends and family. And ya know - the toys will probably be broken in three weeks, but the memories, they’ll last forever. Sniff.

With love...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How You Know You Have a Little Problem Called PMS

Pin It (Warning, squeamish men might want to leave the room, because at some point I'm gonna say the word PERIOD. Oops, see, I just did it.)

Christmas Eve:
4:00: At brother and sister-in-law's house, go back and forth between laughing and being incredibly negative, at rapid speed. It's good to keep people off guard.

6:15: Relentlessly correct everything your husband says. When he privately expresses irritation, get all teary eyed, because how could he be so MEAN? Demand that he forgive you, or Christmas is RUINED.

8:00: Realize you brought a dumb white elephant gift. Burst into tears and leave the room. When people ask why you are crying, tell them you don't know, that you just feel pathetic.

8:15: Realize you only brought a couples gift and not separate white elephant gifts for you and your husband. Burst into tears. Again.

9:30: Someone says something nice. Start crying because people are JUST SO NICE.

10:35: Sister does something amazingly nice for you. Sob.

And again.

And again.

Christmas Morning and Afternoon:
Apparently, you are given a respite for Christmas morning that allows you to behave in a fairly normal way. Hallelujah, it's a Christmas miracle. Ponder previous day's teariness, wonder why you were falling apart... You are not usually such a huge cry-baby. What is WRONG with you? Ponder, ponder, ponder - see chips and dip, lose train of thought.

Christmas Night:
7:00: Fly home because you have to be at work in the morning, and husband and kids don't need to be back till Friday. Say goodbye to husband and kids. Cry.

10:00: Land. Find car in long-term parking, covered in ice and snow. You forgot to put windshield ice scraper in the car. In between using an old gardening glove to try to get the ice off the windshield, cry and shake fist at the sky.

11:00: Realize on the way home that the gas light is on and you are below empty. Realize you have entered some type of twilight zone land with no convenience stores anywhere near the highway. Panic. Weep. Locate 7-11. Calm down again. Put gas in car.

11:15: Get on freeway. Try to relax. Take wrong turn, end up in West Valley. Get back on freeway. Swear a lot. Call husband. Ask him to help. Get upset when he reminds you he is 400 miles away. Fail to make the connection. What does that have to do with anything? Why can't he do something to help? WHY? WHY?!!!

11:30: Get off the freeway and onto icy surface streets. Slide around a lot in little car while screaming and cursing. Drive approximately 15 mph toward a stop sign, start skidding anyway. Narrowly avoid accident.

11:40: Very slowly, very cautiously drive into neighborhood. Very slowly start to turn into snowy driveway. Before your front tires even get over the curb, get stuck. Try to go backward. Nope. try to go forward. Nope. Call husband. Tell him you love him, you worship him, and that you will never be separated from him again, ever, ever, EVER. Because you need his snow moving capacity.

11:45: Change into snow boots and parka. Shovel snow. Shovel some more. Shovel again. Try to drive car. Still stuck. Try to push car. Still stuck. Cry. Bang head against car. Fall down in snow. Cry some more, and for added drama, pound the snow with your fist. Curse the heavens.

12:05: Decide to just leave the car there in the street and deal with it in the morning before work. Car is sticking out into the street and will probably get hit, but you do not care. If the car gets hit it was obviously the will of God. Go into the house and change.

12:10: Phone rings. It is your neighbors, your lovely, lovely neighbors, who have noticed that your car is stuck in the road. They are coming to help dig you out. Meet them outside. Shower gratitude on them. In three minutes, the car is in the garage. Weep. Hug them. Weep some more. (Seriously though, how AWESOME are my neighbors? Love them. FLOVE them. SO MUCH FLOVE.)

Morning of the 26th:
8:05: Open the garage to shovel driveway before you go to work. Notice neighbors kids have shoveled driveway and sidewalk. Cry.

Hear Carrie Underwood song. Cry all the way to work.

At work: Get period. Realize the period may be related to weepiness. Cry, because for several years, when you were having kids and nursing, the period was a non-entity - no crazy hormones, no intense pain, nada. Realize that, apparently, both the whacked out PMS hormones (and you thought you just had gotten emotionally MATURE - ha!) and the intense, fever inducing pain are back. Cry.

So... yeah.

I think I may be dehydrated. Excuse me. (Sniffle.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Deep Thoughts

Pin It So, uh, I now work in the IT department of a mid-sizish company. We have our own little wing. The dress code is very, very casual. Today I was wearing a white t-shirt with a red sweater, nice dark blue jeans and boots and I felt so freaking overdressed it is not even funny. The guy in the cubicle across the way was wearing jeans that were missing the middle part. I could see all of both of his knees. And not in the fashion statementy way. Just in the - I've had these jeans for a really long time and now they are falling apart and soon I will be nude kind of way. The boss laughed at him, but didn't ask him to change or anything, just sort of shook his head in that, "Oh, you're such a character," type of way.

Anyway. I'm feeling very fashionable. (My friends and family just keeled over laughing, I'm sure.) This is quite good for my ego. It's almost as good as going to the fair. I always feel so slim and classy at the fair, don't you?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Workin' for the MAN

Pin It So... I just started a new technical writing job. A JOB. That's right, after years of working for myself, I've been forced to pack it in and join all of the other miserable drudges on the roadways. (The freeway is seriously FREAKING ME OUT. I used to be a maniac on the road, but for the last three years I've mostly just driven on tiny little 25 mph backroads and now, I swear, my life is flashing before my eyes everytime I drive into the office. Serious anxiety. I'm thinking I need to design a jet pack, Gilligan style. It would probably be safer than Utah freeways.)

From what I understand, the first week or so, I will have to actually get dressed and come in to an actual office, with other worker type people. After that, I've been told I can work from home and work the hours I want, and all of that good stuff. So it will hopefully be a lot like working for myself, but with benefits, and retirement type stuff and a guaranteed paycheck. (That last part is actually sort of important, as it turns out.) It's a great opportunity and I'm excited about it, but nervous.

I spent most of the day sitting around and smiling nervously when people talked to me because hoooooo boy, I'm so not used to having people around when I'm working. And people were talking ALL DAY LONG. It is FREAKY. I usually have to get in my mental writing zone and instead of having relative quiet, all around me I'm hearing, "Man, this server is SOOWEEEEEEET!!" and "I am NOT going up in the ceiling to pull cable," and "No, House is not grumpy, he's manic." It'll take some getting used to.

And guess what?! Did you know, apparently, in an office, they frown on the whole - blogging thing? (Who knew?) I will have to readjust my blogging schedule. I can't stay up all night long either because - I have to get up and get dressed in the morning now. It's all very bizarre. But nice. Nice and bizarre. Bizarre and nice. Cross your fingers for me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Birthday Party: A Parable

Pin It 1 And on the 17th day of the twelfth month it came to pass that the daughter of the Queen turned five years old.

2 And behold, it was decreed that a festival should be held and that children should come to pay homage to the young princess.

3 And when the Queen beheld the large number of children in the land, and heard their cries, and saw their eagerness to attend the festival, she knew that she could not invite one save she invite all.

4 And behold, the Queen prophesied that a great number of children would be out of town, and so it came to pass that the Queen did invite a large number of children,yay, even five and twenty children, to the royal festival.

5 And lo, the royal treasury was bare, and so the Queen did visit the market of one hundred cents and did purchase all manner of goods for the royal festival, and behold, when she laid them before the King, he declared that they were good.

6 And behold, the Queen had prophesied incorrectly, and on the day of the royal festival a great number of children appeared, yay, even all children appeared, save only one, and they arrived bearing gifts and tidings of great joy.

7 And there was much decorating of baked goods, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, for the Queen had only one can of purple sprinkles, and there was no yellow frosting, and behold, this did make the children with baked cookies in star shapes exceedingly angry, and the Queen was afraid, for the noise which the children maketh, it did cause her to tremble and quake.

8 And behold their wrath was mighty and the Queen bowed down before them and did work to entice them, yay even to distract them with games and dance and merry making.

9 And behold, the royal dog was freakingeth out, and the Queen did place him in the royal garage, so that he might not pee himself, for so great was his anxiety because of the children.

10 And after much merry making, behold, the Queen looked at her devils food cake, and looked at the King, and cried, woe unto me, for this cake shall not feed such a great number, and thou must travel to the market, and purchase more cake to feed these children who have come to pay homage.

11 But lo, the King said, Nay, oh ye of little faith, fear not, for this cake shall be enough.

12 And the woman despaired, but she began to cut the cake.

13 And lo, there was much rejoicing in the land, for as it turnethed out, there was enough cake, and there were even some children in the land who did not like cake, but who desired only ice cream, and so the cake was enough to feed many children, even five and twenty children, and the news of this great miracle spread throughout the land.

14 And the King said, Woman, I have been called out of town, and must go. Peace be unto you.

15 And the woman wept because there were a large number of children still present, yay, even five and twenty children and the woman cried, oh, surely I am a cursed woman among all women.

16 And behold, the children brought many gifts, and they brought them forward, in a great swarming mass of gift giving, even an obscene amount of gift giving, and behold, the children would not sit down and give heed to the princess, for they were making merry.

17 And behold great was the wrath of the princess when the children would not give her heed.

18 And the princess did endeavor to make the children listen to her, else she would scream and cry out to the people to leave the land.

19 But behold the Queen did show them mercy, and did exile the Princess to her room, until she could get a grip.

20 And behold, after five minutes, the Princess did return, and she did make amends to her people, and brought them good tidings of great joy.

21 And she did bestow upon them gift bags of assorted colors, and the children screamed with joy.

22 For the candy, it was good.

23 And soon, the mothers of the children did return to the land, and they did say unto the Queen, Behold, you are indeed a mighty and brave Queen, for when we droppethed them off, never had we beheld so many children at festival, and our fear was great, and much did we doubt thee.

24 But you are indeed a true and wise Queen and we shall not doubt thee again

25 And the children left, yay, even all five and twenty children, and the young princess and her cohorts were banished to their rooms, but with many amusements, and the Queen did fall onto the couch and did slumber for half an hour, until she was woken by the Princess, who did come bearing thanks and praise, for she hath enjoyed the royal festival exceedingly

26 And behold, how great was her joy.

27 And behold the Queen was joyful also, for she did love the young Princess exceedingly.

28 And behold, the royal festival was ended, at least for the space of a year.

29 And lo, I say unto you, if ye shall learn a lesson from reading this tale, then take heed, and do not invite a large number of children to the winter festival; yay, only invite a small number of children, lest ye suffer the consequences, even like unto the Queen.

30 And if ye have read all of this, yay, even to the end, now tell me, what think ye of my tale? Thinketh ye that I hath too much time on my hands?

31 Yay, verily verily, it may be so, for behold, the Royal King, he is gone, even again, and I am lonely, and so I say unto you, that she who leaveth a comment, shall be greatly blessed in the eyes of the Queen.

P.S. Lest ye doubt this tale, I hath provided this moving picture, that ye may see and believe upon my words.
(had to remove the video - it kept making my posts republish in the feeds :>)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Great Moments in Customer Service

Pin It At a store today - a store I will call, oh, I don't know, Toys R Us - I had one of those moments that makes me weep for the future of America.

I know there must be no fresher hell than working retail at Christmas time in a toy store, so I am normally very sympathetic, very patient. I bring my IPOD with me so that I can just sort of bop around the store getting my stuff, zone out while I wait in line, and not let all the bustle get to me. I say please and thank you to the clerks, have my money ready and generally try not to make life any harder for them than it already is, if at all possible.

Now, you gotta understand, when I go Christmas shopping, I take cash, not credit cards, because if I take credit cards, I am much more lax about how much I can spend. "Oh, it's just $10 more than I thought, no problem." And by the time I've left I've spent $200 more than I planned. So - no credit cards for me.

Anyway, I get up to the check-out lane and realize that I'm going to be over the amount I have, so when I get up to the check-out, I hand the clerk three rolls of crepe paper and tell her, "I'm sorry, I can't buy these."

She glares at me. "You can't buy these?"

I blink. "No."

She sighs heavily. "Let me get this straight. Are you or are you not going to buy these?"

I frown. "I'm not going to buy them."

"So you are not buying these."

Is she messing with me? "Correct."

She is sneering. Clearly, she hates her job and more specifically, hates ME, with the white hot power of a thousand suns. "And yet you brought them up here, to the check-out."

I stare back at her. "Yeah. It was a mistake."

"A mistake," she repeats slowly, with scorn.


"Maybe you should be more careful next time," she said.

"And maybe I should beat you senseless with this Tinker Toy tube," I said.

OK, I didn't say that. But I wanted to.

In reality I just - clenched my teeth and asked her. "Are you going to ring that up now or what?"
And she sneered and did just that.

Now, doesn't that just warm your heart?

Happy freaking holidays you bitter, cynical little twerp.

Next year, I'm shopping online.

Lights, Camera, Traxtion

Pin It

I know all you Utah or former Utah people were praying, just PRAYING that some blogger would go to Temple Square at Christmas time and document the trip for you. Because THAT Christmas post has never ever been done before. Right? (Don't answer that.) Well, I'm here for you. This is your lucky day folks, your lucky day...

Last night we ventured out. We drove to Sandy, hopped on the Trax train and hopped off downtown. We wandered around for a bit, the kids staring in awe at the tall buildings. They’d never been downtown before, and were almost frightened. I think we might be raising a bunch of little hicks.

We had dinner at a little diner, where the kids took off their coats, scarves, mittens and hats and went to the bathroom approximately four hundred and fifteen times before dinner was over.

We made our way over to Temple Square, the kids ooohing and aaaahing over the horse drawn carriages and snowflake lights on the buildings. One thing I love about having cute little kids all dressed up in their winter duds and walking hand in hand down the sidewalk? Everyone smiles at you. Everyone is kind. Even on the train, at rush hour, when people were tired and on their way home from work, people smiled at us, and when my daughter started singing Christmas carols they were all sweet to her.

My son didn’t quite understand the whole concept of Temple Square – “When we at Temple Square mom?” “We’re here. It’s here.” “Where?” “Here – these lights and buildings.” “Over there?”

We stopped for hot cocoa at the Hotel Utah. Abby drank too much too fast and got sick. We sat in the bathroom for a bit while she contemplated barfing, but eventually she felt better and we headed for home. At the train stop we met a friendly drunk who insisted on singing jingle bells to our children complete with some very odd hand gestures and jumping around. My kids had no idea he was drunk as a skunk, they just thought he was a very funny Christmas caroler, and this morning they were saying, “Remember that man who sang to us? He was SO nice!”

We got onto the train and started the ride home. The kids were tired, but they held it together. But then a train up ahead on the tracks broke down, so we had to get off the train, and onto a bus.

And then back onto another train.

By this time, the kids were exhausted. “We don’t want anymore trains, Mom, just take us home.”

And so we did.

The end.

P.S. Today I start my Christmas shopping. Pray for me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No, We're Not Afraid of Heights, Why Do You Ask?

Pin It

You have no idea how much mocking it took just to get DH to put the lights on that first peak. I mocked him until he offered to let me climb the ladder so that I could climb onto the roof and do it myself, and when I got to the top of the ladder I suddenly realized there had been some kind of geological event and the roof had shifted and was no longer a gentle slope but a perilous and frightening hill of steepness and fear.

And so we called it a day. Last year the lights only went across the front porch, and the year before that we had no lights at all, so this is actually progress. Maybe next year we'll get crazy and put lights on the shrubs.

It was my blog buddy Nicki who inspired me to share this pic. She and her friend Emily went up on the roof with ropes and stuff. I'm thinking they're a little bit nuts. They did it themselves, no husbands involved. (Hear them roar.)

But I'm wondering if this is a Christmas task that stays pretty strictly divided along gender lines even in 2007... Is it mostly the guys that end up with this particular Christmas hazard, or are women venturing out on the rooftops as well? What's the deal at YOUR house? I'm curious...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hey - This is a Really Funny Post!

Pin It No, I’m lying. This isn’t a funny post.

Apologies in advance to people that come here for a laugh – and I know there are two or three, because I see my name on their blogrolls with the words "Navel Gazing - for a chuckle" or something like that next to it, (eeeek the PRESSURE) and now they're gonna have to update their links to "Navel Gazing - Daily Dose of Depression" or "Navel Gazing - making you want to stab yourself in the eye with a fork since 2007." Sorry about that.

Man, I miss my DH. I've discovered something. All this time, I thought I just grew out of being depressed, magically, when I got married. The truth is, my DH is my anti-depressant. I haven't been depressed in eleven years. Now that he is gone what feels like all the time, I feel myself falling into the blue. His support, his strength, his love, his understanding - they've literally kept me sane for 11 years. Well. Sane - ish. It's a big job. (I miss you hon. Come back soon. Preferably early.)

I know I must be sort of depressed because I've lost my will to email people. SERIOUSLY. That's big. Usually (and my family will attest to this) the second I get an email I respond. My awesome sister-in-law will sit down and write these great, newsy emails to me and I will receive them and immediately write back. I know she probably winces when she gets an email back five minutes later because the ball's back in her court again ALREADY, bwa-ha-ha... But now I have email that's like, DAYS old. That's serious. I haven't started the Christmas letter, and haven't filled out Abby's birthday party invitations. I need to snap out of this.

Dude. I just pounded back, like, five Wild Cherry capri suns in a row and I think I might be a little drunk. I'd better go sleep it off.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Point, Set, Match

Pin It DH and I got into the mother of all arguments last night. We don’t fight a lot, but we are both incredibly stressed out right now, and so we put our minds to it and eventually we found something to fight about. I think it started because I wanted him to go shovel the snow when he was in the middle of doing something, and we both had just enough right and just enough wrong in our respective positions that it turned out to be really easy to dig in our heels and completely freak out. It was one of those fights where the phrases “Are you KIDDING me?” and “You’re ridiculous” were thrown around over and over again, by a different person each time.

I already know we shouldn’t fight in front of the kids, but I live here on Planet Earth, where sometimes, crap happens. They were in bed, but kept sneaking out to egg us on. They meant to make us stop, but it had the exact opposite effect because each time they would say something? Like when Abby told us we were being naughty and shouldn’t fight? We would then feel even stupider and angrier and more childish, and would fight SOME MORE because last night we were twelve. Carter came out and yelled at me, “You go sit in your room Mama, you go sit in dere WIGHT NOW!”

I will confess that at one point I was so enraged I threw three large chocolate chip cookies and an ice cube at my husband’s head. (But not in front of the children, I do have SOME self control.) I decided I would show HIM, and took off in the truck, skidding down our icy street, thinking I would do something dramatic, like stay out all night so he would be frantic with worry, thinking I’d slidden to an icy death. Then I realized I had no gas. And had forgotten my purse. And had exactly 27 cents in change in the car. This put a significant crimp in my plans.

I sat in the Home Depot parking lot, my breath making frosty circles in the air because I was afraid that if I ran the heater I would run out of gas, and thought, wow, I’m really showing HIM. HE’LL SURE BE SORRY.

Then I realized he was probably back home, sitting in front of the fire, feet up, flipping channels on the remote, and eating all of my cookies.

So after freezing my butt off for an hour I drove home in defeat and slunk back into the house.

He gave me the look, the one husbands give you when they are sorry and want the fight to be over, and he said, “I’m sorry honey,” and came over to give me a hug, but I was not yet done teaching him a lesson and so instead of giving him a hug I ducked under his arm, stomped upstairs to my office and made sure he knew by the way I was slamming things around that I was still VERY VERY ANGRY.

I heard him popping popcorn and putting on a movie I wanted to watch, and it was cold up there, but I was MAKING A POINT, dang it, and so I sat there in my coat at my desk and worked on stuff. Making a point is really boring sometimes.

Anyway, eventually we both apologized and everything was good and right again in the kingdom.

Today he is down in Las Vegas again for work, and I am here with the kids, by myself, for the whole week, and they are REALLY grumpy right now, boy howdy, so, even though the fight is ancient history, and water under the bridge and was ridiculous even when it was going on? I just want you to know, honey...

I was totally right.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Peace Be With You

Pin It
A little over thirteen years ago, my paternal grandfather died. When we got back from that funeral, we got the news that my maternal grandfather had just died.

I couldn’t get more time off, so I was at work as my family packed up the car to head back up to Utah for the funeral. In the late afternoon as we were all getting itchy to leave for the weekend, I got a phone call. It was my brother Mark.

“Sue, Dad had a stroke.”

“What?” My heart stopped for a second.

“Dad - he had a stroke, the ambulance is here…”

He’d been packing up the car, angry about something and slamming suitcases around, when he collapsed in his room. Nobody was there when it happened, but when they went in to get something from his room, he was lying there silent and still. At the hospital, we learned he’d had a massive stroke in his brain stem and there was no way he would ever recover.

My dad was not an easy man to love. He was angry and bitter, occasionally violent and often emotionally abusive.

When we were very young, he was different. He was happier and although his temper could be unpredictable, it always blew over. He was a man of extremes - great happiness, great affection, great anger, great silliness.

My younger brothers and sisters don’t remember the kind of dad he used to be, when we were little. He would take us on bike rides, take us camping, take us riding in the desert on the back of his motorcycle, take us hiking in the desert… He took us to judo and drove us to our championships, taught us to play racquetball and let us climb on the roof.

He loved us, his big pack of children. He went through a very serious bout with cancer when we were young. My grandfather’s biography talks about how at night my dad would stand outside of our rooms watching us sleeping - weeping and wondering if he would have the chance to see us grow into adulthood.

But as time went on, he changed. He became increasingly angry and unpredictable. His mother had a chemical imbalance, and I think he did too, but he didn’t believe in “that kind of stuff,” and wouldn’t do anything about it. Even without that problem, he was gradually hardening. He had a hard time forgiving people, and the bitterness was poisoning him. His behavior grew increasingly erratic and violent. He would get irrationally angry. He was rarely physically abusive, but he would scream and yell and break things and we were all a little afraid of him.

I know my dad didn’t feel loved. I know he didn’t feel understood or appreciated. But it was all there, waiting for him, this huge family of kids who were hungry for a father, if he would’ve been capable of just calming down, of finding some kind of peace so we could feel something other than fear and resentment in his presence.

At the hospital when he had his big stroke, we found out he’d had a series of smaller undiagnosed strokes, and they probably had contributed to his escalating behavior. The doctors told us he would probably die within a few days - that it was a matter of waiting.

I remember every day, waiting to hear. It was so strange. We were sad, but along with the sadness there was relief. We’d lived under his reign of terror, more or less, for a long time, and the removal of that presence from the house felt like a blessing.

The night before he died we went to the hospital, all nine children and my mom, and we sat in his room singing Christmas carols. It was our way of saying goodbye to him. I remember that the nursing staff was in tears, listening to us sing for him long past visiting hours were supposed to be over. My dad loved music - loved to sing and to hear us sing. I like to think that if he could hear it at all, he loved our last concert for him.

He died thirteen years ago today. When he died I grieved for him, for my dad, the one I remembered from my childhood, who gave us piggy-back rides, and sang us Kenny Rogers and Beach Boys and ABBA and danced us around the living room, who helped us build a playhouse and let us keep the puppies after they were born.

And I cried because I didn't know how to deal with his death. I wasn’t sure what would happen to him. According to everything I’d ever been taught, he was probably in big trouble with the Man Upstairs. Because he hadn’t had a chance to repent of anything, to make amends, to make changes. He just died, before he could make anything right, before he could have a come-to-Jesus moment. He just died.

As much as I’d been afraid of him some of the time, and been angry with him a LOT of the time, and been damaged by him emotionally in many ways, I still loved him. It hurt me to think that he might be eternally angry and hurting and sad. And sometimes I still weep for him - for his lost chance to make things right, for his wasted chance to love and be loved. All of his chances, spent.

I used to have dreams where my dad would show up in the hallway, a ghost who didn't know he was one, ranting about how I wasn't supposed to park the car in the street, only in the driveway how could you be so irresponsible and I would wake up in a cold sweat, almost relieved when I would remember all over again that he was dead.

Whenever I think about hanging on to an old hurt, hanging on to bitterness, hanging on to anger, I think of my dad. I think of what it cost him to hold onto his anger, of what he exchanged in order to have the privilege of holding those injustices close to his heart. And I let it go. It's easy to let things go, when you really know what it costs.

Most people, if they’re religious, when someone passes on, they like to think of their relatives as looking down on them from heaven. I’m not sure if that is something I can believe about my dad.

I just hope that wherever he is, that he’s finally found peace. If God is merciful at all, he is at peace.

I wish you peace, Dad. I love you.


Pin It I was using the power sander yesterday, trying to get all of the old finish off of an old dining room table, when I caught sight of my feet, which have not had a proper pedicure in months. I have callous issues. They are not pretty.

Inspired by an old tip from FMHLisa, I looked at the sander, and then at my feet. And gave it a whirl. I sort of expected that when I was finished, my feet would be baby soft and smooth. And what do you know?

It totally didn’t work.

It’ll sand all of the finish off a ten year old pine table, but it won’t even put a dent in the callouses on my heels. Egads.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hey, Even Mama Bears Have Feelings

Pin It

This afternoon I realized we were out of milk. We’re all sick and DH is out of town, but the world would spin off its axis if this household were ever without milk (no fruity pebbles! no hot cocoa! the horror!), so I had no choice but to de-pajama everyone and run to the store.

Fever apparently has a calming effect because they were angels at the store, listening (miracle) and just sort of meekly following me around as I grabbed the essentials - you know, milk and shampoo and chocolate.

We stopped in the Christmas aisle where I let them hang out for a while, pushing every button on every dancing, singing, bum shaking Christmas “decoration” they could find. (Who actually buys those things? I can't believe the market for those monstrosities is so vast, and yet they appear to be a huge profit center, since every grocery store and corner market on earth carries them.) I idly watched as some teenage girls, young and dumb and having a blast, pushed each other around in carts, squealing and laughing.

The blond girl pushing the cart popped a wheelie while the brunette girl inside the cart shrieked in protest. I kept thinking that if the cart tipped over, that girl was going to crack her head open and whatever brains were actually in there would leak out all over the floor. Clean up in aisle seven, stat.

When my head was ready to explode we got our caravan moving again, with Carter inside the cart and the girls holding onto either side as they walked. We steered toward a check-out lane and WHAM. The teenage girls came out of nowhere, ramming their cart smack into Abby at full speed, knocking her flat and pushing Sarah over for good measure.

I immediately went into full mama bear mode and yelled at the twits as I picked up my sobbing little girls. “What are you DOING?! This isn’t a playground, GROW UP!”

Abby had a nice purple lattice mark engraved on her face (that deepened over the course of the afternoon into a rich, rough bruise) and a pinched finger, but Sarah seemed none the worse for wear, just a little shocked and upset.

“Is there something I can do? Are they alright? I’m so sorry,” the blond babbled on and on and ON. I shot her a dirty look thinking, NO, you idiot, there’s nothing you can do. You’ve done enough.

After a minute or two of hugs, Sarah and Abby calmed down, and tears wiped away, we stood up. Somewhat impressively, the teenagers were still standing there, waiting to take their medicine.

I cocked my head to the side and put a hand on my hip, ready to let loose a few choice, cutting words of reprimand – my unfortunate specialty. I narrowed in on the cart driver.

She had tears in her eyes. I softened a little. She clearly felt awful about what had been, after all, an accident.

“Can I do something?” she asked plaintively. “What can I do? I’m so sorry.” She crouched down next to Abby and said, “I’m so sorry.”

As I tried to figure out what the right thing to say would be, something that would satisfy my maternal anger without completely crossing the line, Abby took over. She apparently had things SHE wanted to say and she drew herself up to her full four year old height.

Tears dripped out of her big green eyes as she looked at the girl accusingly. “You made me fall down,” she said shakily, holding my hand.

The injustice of the accident was too much for her to take and she started to cry again, her words punctuated with little sobs.

“Now--” (sob) “I’m - I’m all hurt—“ (sob) “THAT. WASN’T. NICE—“ (sob) “You shouldn’t hit—“ (sob) “people with a cart!”

She tucked her head against my coat and cried in earnest.

The teenager burst into tears. For a minute I thought she might dissolve into a sad little puddle right there in front of me.

Abby looked at the girl somberly for a minute. She nodded, then looked up at me and whispered, “Mom, she’s sorry now. You should give her a love.” She pushed me forward a little.

And that’s how I ended up hugging a random teenager at Smiths today.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Random, Random, Random

Pin It Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away Dragonfly tagged me for Seven Random things. At least I think it was Dragonfly. I just went to her blog and couldn't find where she did the meme, but I'm sure it was her. Or else it was someone else. But I think it was her. Possibly. I don't know. I'm confused now.

But I figure seven random things would be easy because if I am nothing else, I am random.

1. I love saying "That's so random," even though I know that really bugs people. It's just - so true. I get on kicks where I'll say it all the time, and then it won't pop into my head for months.

2. Numbers have personality traits in my head. For example, Seven, Nine, Eight, and Three are mean, angry numbers. Four is a nice number, and so is Two. Five and Zero can be angry or nice, depending upon what other numbers are around. Six is a nice number, but sometimes it is mischevious. And so on. (I blame Sesame Street for this.) Same thing with some colors - orangey red in particular is an angry, angry color.

3. My mom used to call me the absent minded professor and it's completely apt. Once I learn how to do something technical, I can remember it forever, but I can't remember where I put things. I can never find my car keys, or my purse, or my shoes, or my coat. I used to call my husband at work to ask him where my shoes were. And that thing where you're looking for your keys, looking, looking, looking, looking, and then you discover you are holding them in your other hand? I do that all the time.

4. I love it when my husband gets a zit on his back and lets me pop it. See, half of the people who read that just got reeeeeeally grossed out, but the other half of you are like - oh, YEAH baby. You're either a zit popper or you're not. I never had bad acne, luckily. If I had, my face would have been completely and totally scarred, because I would not have been able to stop popping my own zits.

5. I hosted Book Club on Wednesday night. It was, as always, really fun. I love the women in our book club. They're all so smart and down to earth. The only reason I'm telling you about this is to prove to people that I do actually, from time to time, interact with real live humans. I know after the last post, some of you were wondering.

6. As a kid, the theme from the Electric Company made me want to kill people. Really. I'd hear "HEEEEEY YOOOOOOOU GUYS" and I would be looking for knives. It just made me irrationally angry. I can't imagine if someone stuck me in an orangey-red room with the number nine written on my hand and the theme from Electric Company playing. I'd probably turn into a serial killer or something.

7. I hate my dog. Someday I will explain why. It's not that complicated though. It has a lot to do with poo. Anything that eats its own poo is quite frankly, not something I wish to be intimately acquainted with.

Monday, November 26, 2007

My Nemesis: The Phone

Pin It I have PHONE issues. I don't like talking on it, don't like calling people, don't like answering it. Sometimes just the sound of it makes my stomach twist into knots. I don't mind getting together in person with people, and love having conversations that go on for hours, but there is something about the phone that makes me want to throw up.

If I'm going to answer the phone there are certain "criteria."

I will NEVER answer the phone unless I know who it is. If an unfamiliar number shows up on the caller ID, forget it. They're getting the answering machine, baby.

If I know who it is, even if I like or dearly love the person, I usually let the machine get it so that they have to leave a message - then I know what they want. Usually they say something like, "I'm just calling to say hi, call me back." And then I nod and put calling them back on my list of things to do. I'm not sure what I think they're going to say. "I'm calling to tell you that you SUCK and I HATE YOU." It could be. That could happen. So I wait, just to make sure.

If I know who it is, and I urgently need to talk to them, I will think about answering it, but probably I won't. Because I'm ridiculous. We put a sofa up for sale on Craigslist and a lady called and wanted to buy it. I heard her leaving that message, and did I pick up the phone before she hung up? No. I waited till the next day, and when I couldn't think of any other excuse for not calling her, I called and left her a message. And then didn't pick up the phone when she called back. It took a long time to get that dang couch sold.

I have one sister-in-law who has learned all of this about me and she will call and just talk and talk and talk into the answering machine and literally SHAME me into picking up the phone. "I know you are there. I know you are sitting there listening. Pick up the phone. Pick up the phone Sue. You can do it. Just pick it up. Come on. I have things to do. Places to go. Just pick up the phone." Sometimes I pick it up. Sometimes though, I just turn the volume down and hide in my room until she hangs up, and then I email her.

One of my friends told me a while ago that she doesn't have caller I.D.

I looked at her incredulously. "You don't have caller I.D.?"


"So you just - answer the phone WITHOUT KNOWING WHO IS THERE?"


"That's insane."

I mean really. To have NO IDEA who might be on the phone. Ever. And to pick up the phone ANYWAY. I literally cannot imagine what is going on in her head.

I made a new friend once and after the third or fourth time she called me I was ready to go totally nutso. It seemed like she was calling ALL THE TIME.

"Why does she keep CALLING me?!!" I complained to my husband.

"She's called you three times in three weeks."

"I KNOW it. It's INSANE."

My husband broke out the slow and special voice he uses when he thinks I'm not quite getting it. "Honey -- she wants to be your FRIEND. That's what friends do. They call each other. They talk on the phone. They don't just - email each other once in a while."

"They should. They should just email each other." And the thing is - I DO want to be her friend. I just don't want her to CALL me.

On Sunday the phone rang and I waited for the caller ID to announce it. (We have talking caller ID.) It announced the name of one of my friends, Diana, who was coming over later that afternoon. My husband started to pick it up and I shrieked. "Don't answer it, don' t answer it, don't answer it!"

He stared at me. "Why not?"

I blinked. I wasn't really sure.

He answered it.

I started jumping up and down mouthing, "I'm not here, I'm not here!!"

"Sure, she's right here." He made a face at me and handed me the phone.

I hit mute and said, 'I cannot believe you just did that."

"You need to talk to her, she's coming over later and wants to confirm."

I shook my head. "I can't talk to her right now."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm NOT HERE."

"But you ARE here. You do, in fact, exist in this moment in time."

"But I'm NOT READY."

"TAKE THE PHONE. You like her. She is your friend. You are wasting her time. Stop being a such a FREAK."

And of course, Diana and I had a perfectly nice conversation. I'm still mad at my DH though. Because really. Way not to enable me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

In Which I Cross Over To The Dark Side And Become One Of Those Strange Contest Hosting Bloggers

Pin It Thanks SO much for all of the hilarious comments on that last post. They kept me laughing all week long during a week when I really, really needed a reason to smile. Thank you so much. And of course, since I am a GEEK, I was just completely excited by the sheer number of comments. I kept saying to my husband. "Look! Seventy comments! Seventy comments! Eeeeeeee!" And he was like, "You've been announcing them ever since you hit sixty-five, will you PLEASE STOP IT?!!"

Thanksgiving was great. We ate. And ate and ate and ate and ate and then just sort of sat around groaning for a while. I was totally doing that disgusting thing where you are so full that you burp and get a little something extra in return. Ugh.

Anyway - goodbye Thanksgiving – HELLO CHRISTMAS! I love Christmas. Not the rampant commercialism and the gift giving frenzy, but all of the other holiday goodness. I love decorating the tree and singing Christmas carols and inflicting my awful baking on my neighbors. I love Christmas parties and Christmas stories and seeing how excited my children are.

I love that it actually snows here. I grew up in Vegas. When snow comes down there, it's a newsworthy event. I’m not kidding – they break into regular broadcast TV to share the exciting news. "I'm reporting live from North Las Vegas, where over TWO INCHES of snow has accumulated over here in the shady area underneath this patio umbrella.” And the camera then cuts to approximately three hundred children trying to use that small snowy patch for sledding.

Here is a picture I took back in Vegas one year before we moved, when it “snowed.” I was so excited and sent the picture to my friend in Minnesota, who emailed back, “That does not even qualify as SNOW. That’s – frost. You are a PANSY.”

Still, it was very exciting. We got the kids all bundled up, gloves, boots, coats – but by the time they got out there it had mostly melted. These days that much snow wouldn’t qualify for boots – it would barely even be a reason to put on flip flops. Still, I remember singing “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas," and feeling so wistful, wishing it would snow.

Hey. Pssssst…. You want to hear about my own personal really freaky coincidence/Christmas miracle (depending upon how cynical you are)?

One year in Las Vegas in December, when I was a kid, we were having a genuine cold snap and it was raining. I could just feel it, that it was THIS CLOSE to snowing. I knelt down and prayed, “Please, please, make it snow. If You make it snow I will never tell a lie again. Ever again. I promise.” I prayed with every bit of faith I could muster and I kid you not, five minutes later it started snowing. It was amazing.

So if this was a fake story, this would be where I changed my ways and never lied again. Obviously, that did not happen. Instead, I rationalized later that REALLY, technically, God hadn’t made it snow. It hadn’t even stuck to the ground! It was only sleet. What a jip-off! Bargain with God – SO NOT BINDING.

Lack of snow notwithstanding, we had a lot of fun traditions. Sometimes our parents would take us out for a drive to see all of the Christmas lights. Sometimes we even convinced my parents to take us down to the Strip to see the really BIG lights. Cruising the strip is probably not a typical Christmas tradition, I realize, but it was always fun, and we would sing Christmas carols as we drove past the Golden Nugget.

On Christmas Eve, our family would all dress up in bathrobes with scarves or towels on our heads and act out the Nativity scene. The girls always fought over who got to be Mary or the Angel. The younger, less aggressive kids ended up having to pretend to be shepherds, or even worse, sheep. I always wanted to be the narrarator, because then I'd get the biggest “part,” and I could control what was going on and who went where and I’d get to talk a lot. (Some things don’t change.) We still do it in our family, but we inflict it on the grandchildren – and they love it. And we love it.

Now that I’m married and have kids, my DH and I are still trying to build our own family traditions. DH refuses to go caroling with us. Last year we used our nativity set to act out the story. Unfortunately, the ceramic babe in the manger is now headless, the victim of an overzealous shepherds cane. We’re still kinda working on building our own traditions. I’m hoping to get some ideas from all of you for fun, creative, (hopefully cheap) stuff we can do with our kids this season, that will hopefully evolve into fun traditions.

What are your favorite Christmas / holiday traditions? 

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Welcome to Oz

Pin It There was a bit of excitement this morning.

A hot air balloon unexpectedly touched down in the neighborhood.

Within seconds, the balloon was overrun with children. The hot air balloon pilot said, "I've never seen a neighborhood with so many kids." Indeed.

They were affable and friendly, and gave children from the neighborhood hot air balloon rides...

My daughter did not take them up on their kind offer.

They gave rides....

Until they ran out of helium...

But no worries, the kids helped them to get the balloon squared away.

There was a couple riding in the balloon. They were on a blind date, which was being filmed for a local TV show.

The guy teased all of the children and joked around with them, telling them they'd flown the balloon all the way from Disneyland. I think the girl liked him quite a bit.

The kids helped to put the balloon in the - balloon putter awayer thingie...

Then helped to make sure it was packed away tightly by sitting on top of it.

The balloon landing crew (or whatever you call 'em) came to pick up the stranded balloonists and the kids gradually wandered away...

It was a day they will remember for a long time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Will You Marry Me Maybe Kinda Sorta?

Pin It My husband is out of town – he left me here with the kids and the dog for a few days – AGAIN, and so I figure this is as good a time as any to talk about him behind his back. It's the best way, really.

Taking a page from Kimberly’s book, I thought I’d tell you about his super duper romantic totally impulsive marriage proposal.
Like a lot of things in our life, our engagement started off as sort of a joke.

We were friends for a while before we started dating, but once we took that step we clicked instantly and we were in love, just like that, no muss, no fuss. I love you, you love me, no games, no drama. It was awesome.

One night after we’d been dating for about three weeks, we were sitting in his driveway, in the back of his truck, just talking. It was about ten o’clock at night and his mom kept coming to the front window and peering out at us. She wasn’t totally sold on me yet and I know she was wondering if I was trying to corrupt him. In the driveway. In front of her house. While she was watching.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depends on how you look at it), we weren’t doing anything interesting, just talking and laughing about how fast people we knew from the singles congregation at church got engaged once they started dating. Sometimes they got engaged after they'd been dating for only a couple of weeks. We joked around about how it was so idiotic, so very desperate, so very Mormon cliché.

I remember saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we told everyone we were engaged? Can you imagine? My friends would die.”

He chuckled. “My parents would freak out. They'd think we were nuts.” He laughed again. “We should. We should tell them that. Just to see the looks on their faces.”

I laughed. “Hilarious. Let’s do it.”

He was playing with my fingers and he said, “Wouldn’t it be weird if we actually got engaged?”

I remember freezing up a little. Um... What? Was he serious? Play it cool. Play it cool. I let out a nervous chuckle. “Yeah. That would be really weird.”

He was watching me closely but then grinned mischeviously. “What would you say if I actually asked you to marry me?”

I stared at him, thunderstruck. “Are you asking me to marry you?”

“No!" He said it a little too emphatically and I scowled a little. "I’m just asking you – what would you say if I asked you?”

I laughed. “You can’t ask me that.”

“Why not?”

“Because, you coward, you just have to ask.” I hit him. “Freak.”

“Can’t you even give me a hint, just so I know?” he wheedled.

"No." No way in heck was I gonna tell him my real answer, which was - yes, of course. Despite all of my blustering about fast engagements, I'd marry him in an instant. I knew about ten minutes after we started dating that we were perfect for each other. Perfect. But I couldn't tell HIM that.

“No, you wouldn’t marry me, or no you won't give me a hint?"

“No hints. Geez. Are you a man or a mouse?"

“That's not a very nice thing to say to someone who may or may not possibly be hypothetically proposing to you," he said reproachfully.

“Well, you aren't supposed to ask me like that," I said, exasperated.

“But I just did. So ANSWER THE QUESTION," he said. The expression on his face made me laugh.

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

“So you’d maybe marry me if I maybe asked you to marry me. At some point in the future.”

“You’d have to ask to know for sure.”

He kissed my hand. “What if I ask?”

My mind went blank again. “What if – what if you ask? Are you asking now?”


“Hypothetically? I'm not answering a hypothetical marriage proposal.” The whole conversation feel surreal and we were both laughing again.

“O.k. I’m asking.”

“You’re asking? Seriously?”


I checked him out. He DID look suddenly very serious. How incredibly strange and bizarre. “Really?”

“No, I’m just kidding.” He grinned again.

I hit him.

He leaned in to give me a kiss. “You love me, right?”

“Not at the moment," I grumped.

"I'll take that as a yes." He pulled me to my feet. “Let’s go.”

“Go where?” Once again, I was lost.

“Go tell my parents we’re getting married.”

I was so confused. “What? Fake married?”

And he smiled at me and gave me another kiss, a longer one this time. “You know we’re gonna do it eventually. Let’s just – cut to the chase.” And he kissed me again.

I never knew the words, "cut to the chase" could be so romantic. I don't think we got around to telling his parents that night. His mom sure got an eyeful though.

And cut to the chase we did. There was a real proposal about a week later, after he’d gotten a ring, but I think of that, that strange little conversation in the driveway, as our real engagement. That was when we knew we were in it for the long haul. Three months later, we got married. And we've been married for 11 really happy years.

(I would never recommend this by the way. If my kids try something similar I will beat them. We were SO LUCKY that it worked out. Because, really, at least in theory - what a train-wreck waiting to ha

This is a picture of an engagement picture. My scanner is down. The blurriness is probably for the best anyway. Check out that hair. Did I just go to the salon and ask them to bring out a salad bowl and cut around it? Sheesh. And the eyebrows. And what were we wearing? And why didn't someone tell us to change? Yikes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sometimes I'm a Really Crappy Mom

Pin It Today was one of those days. I was not in a good mood. I'm in an even worse mood now, thinking about how it went. I'm all melancholy. I would play sad songs on my IPOD if I could find it.

The blog world is full of posts that are such wonderful, loving, inspirational examples of parenting. I love those posts. They make me cry and they fill me with resolve to be a
better mother, to be THAT kind of mother. And blog world or no, there are a lot of days when I am so full of love for my children that I think I'm going to explode.

But then there are those other days, when I'm filled to the brim with irritation, and every other word out of my mouth is snappish. Days when I'm living in my head, planning something or thinking about something or rehashing something, and my children's interactions with me feel like an intrusion, like an interruption. There are days when I just want them to leave me alone.

Today my son had to repeat himself four times because even though I was looking at him and saying "What?!" - I still wasn't really listening. I was just nodding, vacantly, thinking about other things. He was frustrated with me, rightfully so. It happens far too often. And I wonder if it makes him feel insignificant, if it makes him feel ignored. Because that's what I'm doing. I'm ignoring the hum of noise and activity around me - zoning it out and retreating into myself, into my thoughts.

Abby said, "Mom, could you read me a story?" She was hopeful. "Maybe later," I said, and I knew I probably wouldn't, at least not today. She wandered off and later on, I pretended not to notice that she was sorting through a pile of books, trying to sound out words on her own. (Mother of the freaking year, I am.)

Sarah said in the sweetest, politest tone possible (because that's how she is), "Mommy, may you please do Mad Libs with me?" and for no reason at all I snapped, "Not right now." Without even thinking about it. Without even really considering it. I just didn't want to be bothered. Later, at bedtime she said wistfully, "I wish we would have had time to do Mad Libs," and she wasn't accusatory, but sad. And I felt like crap.

I got really mad at my son at bedtime and I yelled at him, REALLY yelled at him, over nothing. I sent him to his room and heard him crying pitifully and so I went after him. I crawled up on his bed with him and laid down next to him, and told him I was sorry, and that I loved him, and luckily he has a very forgiving heart, because he wrapped his arms around my neck and hugged me. He cried a little more and told me through his tears, "You hurt my feewings vewy much mom." I stayed there with him until he fell asleep, still hugging me, and berated myself for being such a giant turd.

I could probably make plenty of somewhat reasonable sounding excuses - it's not a big deal, everyone does that now and then, but I wonder if that's a cop-out. How many days of loving attention counteract how many days of benign neglect and irritation? How many days of parental emotional self indulgence = children who remember you as, primarily, an inattentive shrew? I don't have a lot of confidence in that kind of math.

I read a post tonight, a poem that wonderful
Emily wrote for her mother. It starts like this:
You are my giving tree;
And I am the greedy—needy—little boy.
You give your shade, your fruit,
Bark, wood, stump,
So willingly.
And I take.

(Go read the whole thing
here - wipe off your mascara first.)

Later she talks about finding comfort and solace in her relationship with her mother. And THAT's the kind of mom I want to be. Not a stomping around, selfish, self involved harpy mother. A soft landing place. But you don't just get that spot because of biology. You earn it. I do have a lot of good days as a mom, days when I read to them and take them to the park and sing with them and play with them and talk to them. But I have what feels like a lot of bad days too. If I'm a good mom 60% of the time, and a calm but inattentive zombie 30% of the time and a really bad mom 10% of the time - what am I earning? Do I want to take the risk that they remember only the good stuff?

Every day I'm shaping their memory of me. I'm shaping our future relationship. Every single day. With every single action.

We are so screwed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Family Bulletins #151 - #156

Pin It Dear Abby,
Late breaking news: I am the MOTHER. That means you do what I say. That does not mean you listen and then whine a little and then think it over and then cry and then roll around on the floor and then stare at me balefully and then wait until I start counting to three and THEN you do what I say. It just means you do what I say.
The Tyrannical Being Who Is the Destroyer of All Fun

P.S.: Don’t stick your tongue out at me. I can see you.

Dear Dumb, Stupid, Hateful Dog:
Have you seen 101 Dalmations lately? Yeah? Well, two words:
Puppy Coat.
Love From,
The Woman Who Was Not Happy With The Little Present You Left On The Carpet This Morning
P.S. I hate you.

Dear Husband,
The dog left you a present. Enjoy!
The Woman Who Is Ready to Send The Dog Off To The Farm - The Farm Where All Evil Dogs Go To Die Retire

Dear Children,
The wall is for holding up the roof. It has sufficient texture and color already. You do not need to fortify the wall by plastering it with boogers at night. Heaven knows you are constantly looking for excuses to get out of bed at night - so GET OUT OF BED and WIPE IT ON A FREAKING TISSUE. Good gravy. I mean, you know I hate boogers, right? So why would you make me pick old hard, dried up ones off the wall with my fingernail? Ugh.

The Woman Who Cannot Believe Such Gross Creatures Could Possibly Be Her Offspring Because Really, That Is Just Sick And Wrong
P.S. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Dear Sarah,
Stay in the backyard means stay in the backyard. It does not mean open up the gate and go in the front yard and walk down the street to where your friends are all congregated. It means stay in the yard that is in the back. The BACK YARD. When you nod and say, “Yes mom, we will stay in the backyard,” I assume you are agreeing to Stay.In.The.Back.Yard. The one in the back. This is not an acceptable response: “OOH, you meant the BACK yard. Oh. Sorry.” If you want to play with your friends in the front yard, ask me. But don't act like you had no idea what I was talking about. I know you speak English.
The Woman Who Is Buying A Padlock For The Gate Tomorrow

Dear Carter,
Listen. We've gotta talk, mommy to three year old. I know it feels nice and apparently this is perfectly normal and - all that jazz, but you can't - handle it all day long. And you really can't take it out of your pants and point it at people. That kind of behavior will land you in jail someday. Seriously. Put it away.

The Woman Responsible For Teaching You How To Become a Functioning Member of Society, Lord Help Us All

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Pin It Carter, on the tramp with me, shreaking with delight, "You bounce me SO high - you SO big Mom!"

Carter, after wandering into the bathroom when I'm getting out of the tub (yes, we're all relaxed like that), and seeing the water level go down when I get out, "Wow, that - that lotto water Mom! You so big! Wow!"

Abby, giving me a big hug and a kiss: "You're such a nice old fat mama. I love you my big fat mama."

Abby, watching me get on my bike: "What if you pop the tires?"

Sarah, looking at us side by side in the mirror: "I'm thin." Looks me up and down. "You're more.... Thick."

My husband, making me want to whap him upside the head, "Gosh, I've lost so much weight. None of my pants will stay up anymore. What am I gonna do?" (Yeah. This is me, not caring about your "problem.")


This is me, the jolly version:

This was probably not a good fashion choice. (No, I am not pregnant, why do you ask?)

Yeah. So...

That whole healthy eating and exercise thing?


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Proper Care and Feeding of Magical Creatures

Pin It Yesterday's post and comments reminded me about our little - Christmas problem. We have some Santa - issues.

For a long time Sarah was under the impression that Jesus lived in heaven with Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman. In her mind they are all magical creatures with special powers, and it's hard to disabuse her of the notion because - well, Santa is magic, right? And Jesus is - well, not magic, but powerful. (It's a fine line.) I'm surprised, frankly, that she is not terrified of little baby Jesus. Because the girl is petrified of anything even faintly magical.

I remember when she first found out about Santa Claus. "An old man is going to - come into my house? In the middle of the night? From out of the fireplace? And he steals food? And - and he's watching me, right now?" She was terrified. She wanted nothing to do with this Santa Claus man, and she didn't care if he left her presents. She just wanted him to STAY OUT OF HER HOUSE.

Every time we tried to talk to her about it, to reassure her, she got more upset. She made me promise that I would tell him not to come by, that we were fine. She asked me to meet him at the store to pick up the toys, then bring them home for her to open on Christmas morning. On Christmas Eve, when other kids are telling stories about how Santa Claus is coming to town and gleefully watching out the window and listening for sleigh bells, she's making us check the locks. We don't talk a whole lot about Santa around here. When we do, it's in hushed tones.

Her fear of magical creatures does not start and end with Santa. When I was filling out the paperwork for pre-school a few years ago, there was a sheet that asked, "Does your child have any special fears," and I dutifully wrote, "Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, magic people, mean fairies, etc." I thought the teacher would understand this extended to leprechauns.

On St. Patrick's Day, stupid me, I sent her to pre-school not realizing there would be a whole leprechaun THING. (Here in my neck of the woods, people go nuts over every holiday. EVERY holiday. This is the only place I've ever lived where there are treasure hunts on St. Patrick's Day - where the leprechauns leave treats for the children. ) The teacher decided it would be fun to tell the kids that leprechauns were in the preschool bathroom that morning wreaking havoc, and proceeded to show them how the bathroom is a big mess, with drawers open, and toilet paper strewn about.

Cue the other children laughing with delight. Cue the other children looking for the leprechaun and finding the treasure and happily eating candy. Cue Sarah getting hysterical. Cue Sarah refusing to use that bathroom for the rest of the school year. Cue Sarah peeing herself rather than having to use that bathroom.

I think she is starting to grow out of it because she DID allow the Tooth Fairy to come by - I think because the Tooth Fairy deals in cash, and she is currently fascinated with the whole concept of money.

I asked her tonight if she would like to go see Santa at the mall and she responded with a nervous smile, "Uh, sure. Maybe." Followed by nervous laughter and darting eyes. Carter patted her on the back then made an imaginary gun with his fingers and said, "Don' worry Sare, I shock him for ya, pow pow." Great. My kid wants to off Santa. But at least he's doing it for his sister, and that's sort of - nice. Right? Right?


P.S. Any of you who are Harry Potter fans recognized the post title. My kids? They would not recognize it. Because we can't watch Harry Potter. We can't watch anything marginally scarier than Barbie and the Island Princess. Elmo Saves Christmas was alarming. Barbie Fairytopia FREAKED. THEM. OUT and they refused to walk upstairs alone for a month, because, you know, there might be evil barbie fairies hidden in the playroom. If I were to show them Harry Potter? They would probably need counseling.

P.P.S. Thanks to a commenter I just realized that "The Proper Care and Feeding of" is not from Harry Potter but from Dr. Laura. So my first P.S. makes - not a lot of sense. But you get the idea.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Statements After Which It Is Probably Inappropriate to Respond, "But I Really Need To Update My Blog"

Pin It “Could you have those technical specs back to me by 11:30?”
“I need help with my piano theory Mom.”
"We'd like to bring clients over to see your house. Can you have it ready to show by noon?"
"Momma - can you hep me build fort wight now?"
"Hey baby. How YOU doin?"
Real life intervenes, yet again. I don't even want to look at my bloglines. I am afraid. Very afraid. Noblomopo is a terrifying thing.

Completely randomly, I think the religious instruction we are providing our children may be somewhat lacking. Consider:

Abby: “I'm not going to church anymore, 'cuz I know everything about Jesus already 'cuz we talked about Jesus last week and last week and last week and last week and we sang a hundred and eleventy songs and I'm ALL DONE."

Me: “Really? You know everything about him?

Abby: “Everything. In the world. Ever ever.”

Me: ‘Where was he born?”

Abby: “Heaven.”

Me: “No. Guess again.”

Abby: “Um.... Highland, Utah?”

Me: “Bzzzzz. No.”

Abby: (Thinks very hard.) “Disneyland.”

Me: “I'm afraid you’re going, my dear.”

(Hey, if I have to go, so does she. At least she gets crackers.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Pin It Please help. Someone somehow slipped in here during the night and traded this child:

For this one:

Also reported missing - two other children, as pictured below:

Curiously, older versions of the same children are present in the home, however, parents believe a mistake has been made, as their children now appear much older than seems logical.


If you have any information about how this possibly could have happened, distraught mother seeks information leading to recapture of last three years.
On a completely unrelated note, parents would like to sponsor research into projects involving stopping time and freezing children. If interested in participating in these projects, please indicate below.

Thanking you in advance,


P.S. Sniff.

P.P.S. I want a time machine. And possibly another toddler.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I'm a Yamaha

Pin It (I’ll just warn you - this isn't a funny post. I'm gonna be a little serious for a minute, because I feel like spewing this out into the universe – I’m not sure why. Why do we feel compelled to share any of the things we write about on our blogs? I doubt very many of you will make it to the end of this incredibly long, self-indulgent post, but I felt like sharing it anyway. So here you go...)

I was a miserable teenager. I really was. I think I went a little crazy from 15 to 19. I remember that time as sort of a fevered nightmare, murky and dark and awful. I wasn’t acting out in the way that you would expect a troubled teenager to do, I was just incredibly lonely. Lonely and angry and sad. I was awkward and emotionally immature, poor with really bad clothes, and lacking the personality or attitude to make all of that something you could overlook. I existed in a haze of gut wrenching self hatred and distress.

I know we all tend to write off our teenage angst as just that, but I honestly know what it means to despair, because of that time in my life. I've never been depressed as an adult, probably because nothing I've gone through as an adult has ever made me feel as broken or as sad as I felt as a teenager. There were days, weeks, months when I thought about suicide, planned it, thought about the sheer relief of not having to get up the next day and face the world again. Of not having to continue to make an effort to be something other than what I felt I was – embarrassing, mediocre, unloved, unwanted. I would trace the lines on my wrist, and the only thing that kept me from doing it was my certainty that then I would burn in hell.

For most of my adolescent life, I thought my musical ability was the only special thing about me. I loved to sing and play the piano. It was one of the only things that made me stop thinking, made life bearable, made me break out of my narcissistic fog of self-pity. So I would sing – ALL THE TIME. I used to drive my family up the wall with it. I’d play the piano and sing for literally hours in the living room and my brothers would be like, would you SHUT UP already, I’m trying to watch TV. My mom would have to come out into the music room after a while to try to get me to stop. She didn’t want to discourage me from singing or playing, but there was a limit to how many times anyone in the family could listen to me sing “On My Own,” at full volume before they went stark, raving mad.

I had a nice voice in the way that millions of girls have nice voices, because they can sing in tune and have a nice tone. Nice, but run of the mill. I used to dream that I would be good enough to sing on Broadway someday. I knew that wasn’t really an option - I wasn’t at that level, but I wished it was true.

Still, now and then people would turn around in their pews at church to tell me that I had a pretty voice and it made me feel like maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t totally worthless. One day when I was feeling particularly awful about my life, someone told me that I sang like an angel, and it made me so happy that I started crying right there on the spot. I would sing a solo in church, and people would seek me out afterward to tell me how much they enjoyed it. I would collect those little compliments, store them up inside and bring them out and think about them when I was especially unhappy. They were like little pockets of warmth in the middle of a long bitterly cold winter. They made me feel better when I felt like there was nothing good about me at all. And there were a lot of times like that.

When I got out of my teens, I started to figure things out emotionally and socially. I think I probably had a chemical imbalance for a while (it runs in my family) and it was clearing off. I started to recognize my own value, and started to learn how to get along in the world. I learned how to be happy, and how to feel hopeful.

I still sang whenever I had the opportunity, but I didn’t crave the attention so much – didn’t need it in order to feel o.k. about myself. I was happy. Music was just something else that was good about life, not the only thing.

A year after I got married, I decided that even though I’d never really do anything with it, it would be fun to take voice lessons, just to finally get some training. My sister was taking lessons from someone who she raved about, so I called him up and made an appointment.

I will never forget the conversation I had with the voice teacher after he’d spent a half an hour “getting to know” my voice. He told me I had a nice voice, a good ear, was perfectly in tune, and a great sight reader, and I thanked him, feeling good about his comments. Then he went on.

“You know, I like to compare people’s voices to pianos. Some people, like Leslie,” (his star pupil) “have Steinways. Other people have cheap little Casio keyboards. You, I think, have a very nice, serviceable little Yamaha.”

I didn’t know enough about piano brands to be able to place myself very accurately on the range of piano goodness, but I could tell from his tone that it wasn’t that great, wasn’t that special, and never would be.

And even though I already knew that I had a “nice” voice, and not an amazing one, it broke my heart a little to hear it, for sure, from a professional. I think somewhere in my heart I’d always held on to that dream of one day being Jodi Benson or something, however unrealistic a dream it might have been. I came home crying from the first lesson and never went back. My husband wanted to go punch the guy out, because he could see how much that comment had wounded me.

To hear that this one thing, this one thing I’d thought might be a little special – not Hollywood special, but special enough to mean that I was special, really wasn’t that special after all? It hurt me.

Every time I sang I thought, not that special, not that great. I lost my confidence. And my voice over time has gotten less steady, less confident, less clear. Self fulfilling prophecy.

For a long time, I couldn’t sit at the piano and play what I wanted anyway, because my kids would crawl all over me requesting Disney songs, or on Top of Spaghetti, or songs from Annie. I would sometimes go months at a time without ever sitting down to play anything for myself. It's only recently that I've started to get reacquainted with how happy it makes me to sing, just for the sheer joy of doing it.

When Abby had croup she asked me, “Mom, are lullabies just for night time?” I told her no, so she put her head in my lap and I sang to her for a few minutes, stroking her hair. After a bit she asked me, “When I grow up will I sing just like you, Momma? I want to sing just like you.” It was probably the best, sweetest compliment of my life, and I nodded through a haze of tears and told her she would sing even better, and then I cleared my throat and sang her to sleep.

And I thought - what a wonderful gift. I’ve wavered in my beliefs now and then, but today, right now, I feel pretty sure that my voice was a gift. Not a gift in the way that people usually mean, as in gifted, but as in - God loved me enough to give me a voice that, while not special enough for the stage or any kind of acclaim, would carry me through a time of despair, would help me feel special when I couldn’t feel my own worth, would give me a reason to go on. And now I can use my voice to sing to my children, to help my daughter to feel how much I love her, to help make my children feel special and adored and wanted. That IS a gift - one I am incredibly grateful for.

And it’s definitely something to sing about.