Monday, June 29, 2009

The post in which I blog my way to inner peace

For the first time in my life, I agree with Garfield: Monday rots.

Not usually--I tend to enjoy Mondays, because I'm starting fresh after being spiritually "topped off." The cynicism that occasionally bogs me down doesn't normally hit until Tuesday. Mondays are filled with possibilities: maybe this week the kids will clean the cotton balls out of their ears and actually hear the sound of my voice. Perhaps this will be the week when everything on my to do list gets crossed off. There's a chance that I will have the energy at the end of the day to exercise, study the scriptures, and write in my journal. Tuesdays know better, but Mondays are optimistic.

Except for this Monday. This Monday was born a pessimist, and is rapidly developing misanthropic tendencies. It came into being when my husband announced that the dog had horribly violated the rug in the boys' room and that the baby had intuitively made his way to the steaming pile with that unerring instinct which babies have for finding the most inappropriate plaything in any given room. An emergency bath was administered. And then the rug had to be taken outside and washed--but first the porch had to be swept of all the accumulated sand from the party we threw Saturday, lest it add to the rapidly thickening crust on my feet from the floors, which had been mopped post-party, but which were mysteriously gritty and sticky again. Then I had to find a working hose, and the water sprayed all over my clothes, and the can I had carried the soapy water in cut up my fingers. I was bleeding, wet, cranky, and filthy, and it was only seven-thirty. Things were off to a rollicking start!

That was the high point of the morning. Let's just admit here, that any day in which I find the guest bathroom soap too filthy to healthfully touch is not a day when I will stick to my determination to speak with a soft and cheerful voice. Stupid goal, anyway. Anyone who never raises her voice has either perfect children or uncorrected myopia. (HA! Time is on my side for once! I started losing my sight five years ago--five more years and I will be cheerfully unaware of the mess around me. Blindness is the key to motherly serenity.)

Now I'm tired. Tired of hobbling around--did I mention that my ankle is either broken, sprained, or simply severely messed up, just to add to the fun?--putting things away that were conveniently left where I could find them with my tender toes. Tired of doing unplanned loads of laundry created by lazy bladders and exuberant strawberry eating. Tired of completing the jobs of people too distracted or disinterested to finish the jobs themselves. Tired of realizing that there are still twenty-three things to do today. Tired of warning my children that anything not put away by lunchtime will be donated to the Toys for Cross-eyed Orphans effort. Tired of being the only sane and responsible individual in a household of people who are willing to argue about the "sane" description. I'd crawl back into bed--but that's where I put the unfolded laundry, and I'm not up to a nap that strenuous yet.

My mommies-amidst-mayhem friends say that when days like this happen, the only thing one can do is breathe deeply (probably not a good idea because of the whole early-morning dog deposit issue), count slowly to forty-three, and recite a calming mantra. Okay. In the spirit of total exasperation and utter desperation, I will breathe, count, and recite:

I'm a mom, not a superbeing.
Days will snot occasionally.
No matter how much laundry you do, there's always one more load .
My children will not die of malnutrition after one lunch of cold cereal.
At least the air conditioning works.
And I have a new mystery to read.
There's brownie mix in the pantry.
And if the kids are in time out I won't have to share.

There's hope, sisters. Cling to it until Tuesday comes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The tin-foil halo is under construction

In my bookcase in the living room, there is a very battered art history book. It's a relic from my mom's university days. (That makes it sound like she attended Nineveh U, doesn't it? Poor word choice. Let's just say that she studied from the first edition of a book that is now into a double-digit printing.) When I finally achieved hometown escape velocity I took the book with me. That isn't normal. Most people dump their musty old college textbooks (if they can't sell them at the end of the semester for laundry money)--and no sane person totes around their parent's highlighted tomes. Now tell me, at what point have I tried to convince you that I'm normal? Or sane?

I loved that book. I read it, and my mom's costume history textbook, so frequently that I based my choice of major and minor on them. (Theatrical Costume Design, and Art History, respectively. But that's a post for another day.) The pictures and the text--dry and academic as they were--opened all sorts of possibilities to me. And when I was actually able to go and see the works that had been only pictures on a page until that time, I was blown away. I believe my exact words were, "I cannot believe I'm actually here. I have spent my whole life wanting to be here! Do you know how fabulous this is?!!" (Apparently it got stale after a while for my companions, who took to openly mocking my awe-struckedness. You'd think sisters would be more charitable.)

That overly long bit of exposition gets us to the point: saints. Most of those works of art were representations of saints. (I have a real thing for Italian Renaissance art. I'm pretty sure Michelangelo and I dated in the Pre-Existence. I probably turned him off by my pathetic inability to keep the two past tenses of Italian sorted out. Another match fails because of linguistic incompatibility.) They are everywhere--you can't walk forty feet in Italy without stumbling over a saint in some form--on a canvas, carved in marble, advertising fast food. There's the patron saint of butchers, the patron saint of sailors, the patron saints of candlers, carders, and cookie bakers, too, I'm absolutely positive about that. You name a profession, a condition, an odd and unnatural proclivity, and there's sure to be a saint who is assumed to take care of such things.

Well, I don't live in Italy (good thing, because that whole past-tense thing would be the death of me, no doubt), and I'm about 16 generations removed from Catholicism--depending on which family line you follow. But if I did, or if I weren't, I'd be totally willing to nominate a new saint, if such things are democratically done: Saint Jessica, Patron Saint of Put-Upon Piano Teachers Everywhere. (It's molto impressive with all the capital letters, no?)

Jessica is my sons' piano teacher. She is encouraging, and kind, and patient. And for the totally paltry sum which I pay each month, she actually smiles when she teaches my boys. Even I don't manage that every time I teach my sons. Trust me, there were no smiles while we learned the multiplication tables. Plus--this is where she reaches far beyond the realm of mere mortals and into the stratosphere of sainthood--she comes to our house to teach! (I told you she was amazing. Not even doctors make house calls anymore!)

She's been enduring with us for two years now. We are most appreciative; not many people have the ability to withstand the inevitable mental breakdown that is the result of long-term exposure to our family circus. This is not a quiet, contemplative household. People do not tread lightly here. Children are often heard and not seen. More frequently they are heard and smelled, and then seen. Babies crawl around; dogs sniff and bark at odd times and at odder objects; phones ring; appliances break down; children model their latest paper bag and duct tape fashions. It's chaos. And somehow, piano lessons are managed. Without yelling. With good humor. And the boys are learning. One of the requirement for sainthood, I think, is three verified miracles. Reread the paragraph: there are your miracles, right there.

You want verification? Do I have verification for you!

Yes, that is a toy truck on the piano. It was not part of the original design of the room. Neither was the Cheerio flooring motif.

Totally gratuitous pic of Anders.

Another son, another lesson--Jessica still not frazzled, even while tip-toeing around cereal detritus. How does she do it?

I'll start petitioning the Vatican next week.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

God Bless America

This is the first time one of our boys has helped in a flag raising.
Excuse me if I get a little misty-eyed. Or if I chuckle slightly. Life is a mixture.

It's even better if you imagine the MoTab singing in the background.

A look into my linen closet and my psyche

I am not a control freak, really. I'm not. But I like a certain amount of order in my life. And that's where life gets interesting, because my concept of order is not always shared by those with whom I share my life.

Example: I always put the freshly washed sheets on the left side of the linen closet, and take sheets from the right. It works. I can look forward to using the red tie-dyed sheets after the white sale sheets after the blue bleach-spotted sheets after the good white sheets. I actually look forward to using them in this order. I get excited every Tuesday night, because I know clean sheet day is the next day, and I know what I'll be sleeping on that night. The sheets all get the same amount of wear, and there's a regular, orderly progression. Plus, my linen closet always looks patriotic.

Problem: my husband, in a fit of sweet assistance, retrieved the sheets for bed-making yesterday--and TOOK THEM FROM THE LEFT SIDE!!!!!!!! It was supposed to be really good white sheet week, and now it's just decent white sale sheet week--which, I might add, we already had two weeks ago. And now I have to wait two more weeks to have really good white sheet week--because who in their right mind has two white sheet weeks in a row? There's a system for a reason, people!

I love him, but he's toast if he interferes with my towel rotation.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why I should have listened to my mom

My mom never let us have Play-Doh. It was one if the great disappointments of my young life. (I also never had an EZ-Bake oven, a sock monkey, or a pogo stick. All of which many of my friends had--I usually tried to go to their houses when we played. On the up side, I did have a massive backyard, a jungle gym--truly fabulous, made by my dad one Christmas Eve--and a really smokin' balcony from which to throw paper airplanes. Later on we had a stage. It all evens out.) Mom gave various reasons for the no Doh rule: it ruined carpets, she knew we would forget to put the lids on and let it dry out, it was expensive, the smell drove her nuts. (Side note: did you know there's a Play-Doh perfume??????? Who wants to smell like a pre-school? Is it supposed to be alluring? Does it only attract men with Peter Pan complexes? These are vital questions the perfume industry needs to answer!) It was Banned Substance Number One for us.

We tried to be sneaky, as sneaky as children with limited grasps of deviousness can be--no Play-Doh, but salt dough (usually provided by sympathetic Primary teachers), or modeling clay (a less-effective stab at slipping past the rules through playing the fine arts card. Mom knew we had not a stitch of sculpting talent. I think the 21 failed attempts to make a snake were clues). Those were soon included on the Not In My House list. The only place we could play with the forbidden substances was my great-grandma Johnson's house. She had a massive stash of the stuff and all the accessories. She usually urged us to eat cookies while we played with it--and she never got frustrated when we mixed the colors. There's a reason they call them GREAT-grandmas.

After twenty or so years of begrudging my fate I grew up--deprived childhood notwithstanding, and became a mostly normal, only slightly neurotic mom myself. (The adjectives refer solely to me, not my mom, who was not neurotic, just a little stressy when company came over. I take full responsibility for my own psychological dilemmas.) My children brought home Play-Doh from Halloween trick-or-treating and various birthday parties. This, I was sure, was the end of the destructive cycle. Play-Doh would be allowed, the deprivation would end, and joy and happiness would reign forever.

Apparently, my mom was on to something all those years ago. In spite of my best intentions I hate the stuff. It ruins not only carpets but tile, laminate, and wood floors. It gets smushed into sheets and rugs. The dog is strangely--is there any other way with this pooch?--attracted to it, and Play-Doh colored dog vomit is not my favorite thing to discover while walking in bare feet at three in the morning. The lids are always left off, and the stuff dries out in milliseconds. It gets stuck in the crack down the center of the kitchen table. It makes my house smell funny. It is now a banned substance indoors. The kids have it--but under no circumstances it is to come through the patio door--UNDER PAIN OF DOOM!!! (I'm now committed to breaking only half of the destructive cycle. The kids can take care of the other half when they grow up. I'm hoping that the Millennium will have arrived by then, and surely when all things become terrestrialized Play-Doh will be less horrible. Or maybe it will go the way of all sinfulness, and cease to exist. Either way, I'd be happy.)

But the biggest problem with Play-Doh is one we discovered last week. (It traumatized me so deeply I couldn't write about it for seven days. That's pretty bad. Even kidney stones didn't get a seven-day blog delay.)

Lindy woke up in the middle of the night last Wednesday/Thursday. That itself is nothing new, and cannot be ascribed to Play-Doh, unfortunately; imnia is another destructive cycle destined to be passed on to other generations. What was unusual was that she was crying that her Play-Doh had gotten stuck in her hair. (See, kids? When you break the rules, bad things happen. Another example of natural consequences at work.) It was 2 a.m. I was barely coherent, and Play-Doh-encrusted hair barely registered on my sleep-deprived brain. She climbed into bed with us, fell back to sleep, and I zonked out again without worrying about the root cause of her mid-night trauma. (No blood/no vomit=mom goes back to sleep.)

The next morning was another story. Brushing her hair was more frustrating than usual--and it typically requires threats during the process and treats afterward to get us through it. No matter what I did, the horrible knots in her hair would not come out. They were large, matted, and grayish. That was what tipped me off. Gray hair on a four-year-old is usually a sign that something is awry.

Curses on the inventor of Play-Doh. May he/she/it writhe in agony throughout eternity. I'm pretty sure there's something about the final fate of him/her/it in D&C 76. All will receive a kingdom of some glory, except the sons of perdition and the inventor of childhood's most heinous clay-like product.

I tried to get the stuff out. I combed; I greased; I briefly contemplated the efficacy of peanut butter. I plead for higher wisdom from the Internet. No luck. I finally took the only path left.

Last week, Lindy looked like this:

Smiles, glee, and educational activity.

This week, she's sporting a new 'do:

Distress, grief, and inactivity while mom wails and takes pictures.

Play-Doh: proof that the devil exists.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Please--don't read this post! It will scar you for life and may be considered a form of birth control

My clothesline has sprouted a crop of tennis shoes. This is, I realize, an unusual fruit for a laundry line--which is typically festooned with--oddly enough--clothing, as well as tablecloths, towels, napkins, all the general fabric-constructed paraphernalia of our lives. But today is not merely a day to check off chores from a list. It is, I hope, the final battle in the current War on Stench.

I am a mom, which may or may not seem significant until one realizes that I am the mother of three boys. Those of you who have extensive knowledge of the life cycle of males are now nodding their heads in understanding. These boy creatures, they are not like you and me.

They wear socks for multiple days without removal--even during baths, occasionally. They call it efficient. I call it disturbing.

They eat inordinate amounts of food-related substances, but refuse to touch anything with a measurable nutrient count. (This may not be exclusive to boys, though. My daughter exhibits the same tendencies; whether from a general childhood trend, or from living awash in males has yet to be determined.)

They like weapons. Any weapons. At anytime. I found my son making a gun out of his program in Sacrament Meeting yesterday. It was not the most spiritual moment of the day.

They have no discernible observational skills with regard to messes. Again, moms are shaking their heads in shared dismay. No boy ever has walked into a room wherein were scattered the dismembered remains of his diurnal activities and said, "This place is a mess." It will never happen. And if it ever does it will be a sign of the impending Apocalypse.

They have extraordinary abilities and a complete disinterest in using them. I speak, obliquely, of the intended function of a bathroom. Enough said.

But their most significant difference from fully-developed human beings is their total lack of olfactory sense. Simply stated, they cannot smell the stench under their noses.

Now, I am not a perfect mom. I do not always show the proper concern for some aspects of motherhood that I ought. I rarely tuck my children into bed--mainly because there's nothing to tuck in the heat of summer (when sweltering is a finely-honed skill) and also because if I did they'd simply ask where their father was and bellow for him instead. I do not clean my children's rooms, other than the occasional floor-scrubbing. They made the mess; they can darn well clean the mess. Why should I have all the fun? I do not gently sing my children awake after their slumbers. Nothing less than an air horn works effectively and my brain hurts too much already in the morning to attempt something my husband endures better. Is it so amazing, then, that I had not entered my male offsprings' room for almost a week?

I wish now that I had not waited so long. The delay only gave the smell a serious head start to whole-house permeation. Earlier in the week it may have only been an offensive odor, or perhaps an unpleasant fragrance. I suspect that around Wednesday it developed into a robust reek. By Sunday, though, it was a full-bodied, soul-rending, no-way-to-evade-the-damage STENCH, and it was wilting my houseplants. On my odor-hunting expedtion I walked into a wall of nasal pain.

Unfortunately, the only way to discover the source of such revulsion is to invite further damage by sniffing out--literally--the culprits. This, my friends, is not a task for the weak of heart or stomach. It requires that one buy inordinate amounts of life insurance, and then, after donning rubber gloves and a hazmat suit, actually pick up and SMELLING EACH POTENTIAL OFFENDER IN THE ROOM!!!!!!!!! Think about the detritus usually found on the floor of a bedroom occupied by small males. THINK ABOUT IT!!!!!!! Now call your psychiatrist, because you will need therapy. Discarded clothing of uncertain vintage: sniff. Left-overs from meals long past (and that we don't have ants is a testimonial to the efficacy of our pest dude's monthly applications): sniff. Toys in such states of decay that they can only be termed germ warfare in embryo: sniff. Sock tucked inconspicuously under pillows: sniff. Shoes hanging on their ordained receptacle, (for once! It should have tipped me off that something was amiss. I can only surmise that the stench had deadened my thinking process.): sniff, sniff, sniff. Gag. Wheeze. Gasp. Retch. Heave.

Houston, we have a problem.

The culprit: four pairs of tennis shoes. All worn frequently without socks--after repeated demands to don such protective articles. All in various states of mind-numbing, heart-attack-inducing, elimination-of-the-ozone-layer-capable stenchiness. I am still trembling after our encounter.

Today they went into the wash, where they tumbled for thirty minutes--bathed in a solution of detergent, color-safe bleach, washing soda, borax, and anything else I could toss in without imminent risk of explosion. They emerged sopping, smudge- and dust-free, and are now being de-germinized by the ever-obliging summer sun.

It's supposed to hit 110 today. I sure hope it does, because if solarization doesn't work, our next battle will include nuclear options.

Friday, June 19, 2009

An unexpectedly normal post--if you can stand it

So Charlie says he's tired of me writing about myself--why don't I write about something interesting instead, like him? You got it, Carlo.

This is Charlie:

Seriously--that picture tells a lot about this guy. For instance, he likes to dress up in goofy outfits. (Sadly enough, this was my father's university graduation robe. No, he didn't go to Hugh Hefner U. He refused to walk, and his sisters made him wear this at the party they threw. Revenge Merkley style. And the good times linger.) He really likes weapons of all sorts--especially when he's made them himself, which he does out of every material imaginable. If I ever gave the boy a pile of fabric he'd try to make a gun or a sword out of it. It'd be interesting, but less than lethal, thank goodness. This is the child who tried to persuade me to buy him a pirate sword at Sea World, for pity's sake. Not a dolphin, or a whale toy--a sword with no connection to the place. How many pirates are there at Sea World? (I didn't relent, so he opted for a biting shark toy, instead. Same effect, different path.)

Charlie was very nearly named Calvin--but my mother insisted that it was not good form to name a child after a raging terror of a comic-strip character. She thought it would warp his personality. Apparently, merely thinking about it does the same thing. If any child could be considered the living embodiment of Calvin, Charlie's the one. He has sticky-up blond hair. He's six. He spends most of his day exasperating me with his mischief and attempted mayhem. Like Calvin he isn't mean-spirited, just way more boy than his mother can sanely handle.

Right now he's supposed to be putting away the clean dishes. There were twenty or so of them--utensils included. It has taken him sixty minutes, and he still has ten dishes left. He's been filling the time with trips to the bathroom--I REALLY hope he washed his hands well, banging on pots with whisks, hanging spoons from his nose--they were rescued from the drawer and tossed back into the sink, and making faces at the baby so no nap can be taken. I've admonished him thirty-seven times, and I'm going to lose my patience soon. What, on God's green earth, is the natural consequence for dawdling over putting dishes away? More dishes to put away? Heaven forbid! It's summer, so the day is long enough to fit in whatever he wants, so merely allowing him to waste his time isn't doing anything. AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! We have this problem every day.

In spite of that--and in spite of the high blood pressure and heart palpitations he has caused--I still love this dude. He makes me laugh. He hugs me unexpectedly--but never when told to do so by his father. He says what's on his mind, loudly and with great emphasis. He can think of sixty-nine inventions to catch a fly, but is baffled by the simple process of hanging up his towel.

This is a child of destiny.

["How'd I do, Charlie?" "Good. Great! " "You're welcome. Get back to doing the dishes."]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm a bird; I'm a plane . . .

Like most moms I have a secret identity. Sure, we moms look normal and perfectly mild-mannered, but we're good at controlling images. Nobody ever got to be a mom because she let it all hang out. Well, not my type of mom, anyway. Trust me: my type of mom keeps it very carefully covered and buttoned up. I learned sometime in college--I was a slow learner in this area--that one had to conceal the more outrageous aspects of one's personality. Crazy Wild and Wacky Woman? Just keep a lid on it until you're back at the dorm. Looney Tooney Eats-Balloonies? Save it for those who really appreciate you. Sail beneath the radar; keep a low profile; eventually someone will fall for it.

(Note that this is not advice for those people who are living on the outer edge of social acceptance. Far be it from me to advise those who may or may not be experiencing personal anomie. It's just what I discovered for myself. Go ahead. Pick your own path; follow your own road to social and personal acceptance. Just remember that standing on the steps of the dorm and belting out the lyrics to I Will Survive may bring you attention, but it won't get you any kind of desirable date. An interesting date--as in "let's write it in the journal so I can show it to my future daughters and warn them about guys like this"--possibly, but not something to build a permanent relationship on. I should know.)

Anyway, I stowed my crazy college self away and assumed the role of wife and mom many years ago. That's my public persona, the one the ward and the neighborhood get to see when I peek out of my burrow. It's what I use when I go about the daily business of life. Face it, nobody whips out a secret identity to do the shopping, unless their average person clothes are in the wash and the cape and leotard are the only clean things left. Except if they're Batman, who I think secretly gets a huge kick out of the whole costume thing. Must be all that latex. But moms save the good stuff for when it's really important.

My secret identity is, well, I haven't ever named my secret identity. If I ever do, I'll probably go for something like MOMRA, Contender with Chaos, or maybe THE MELINATOR, Doom-Slayer of Sass. It's a work in progress. I'm sure I'll come up with something good about two days after I write this. Suggestions would be appreciated and carefully considered.

The costume is simple: pajamas and reading glasses. My secret identity has a relaxed side I don't display in public. I'm probably the only person in the world whose super secret alter ego has less style than their mild-mannered selves.

That's the whole idea. People out there see the organized me, the on-the-ball me, the yes-I-can-do-this-and-forty-two-other-things-at-the -same-time me. They see me waltzing (one, two, three, one, two, three, dip) through my seemingly innocent life with my skirt and appropriately coordinated top on and they think I'm--well, amazing sounds braggy, how about competent? Some people honestly think I am a put-together, well-thought-out, non-safety-pinned-together type of person. [Snort.] I've even heard myself described as "creative", "energetic", and even--hold on to your hat--"talented". [Snort, snort.] I've worked hard to create this fiction, and it's pretty convincing.

The real me--the me who actually lives and breathes, as opposed to the image everyone thinks they see--is a person who would like to do nothing more than lie on the couch all day and contemplate the absolute fabulousness of good mystery novels and pop-tarts. My idea of paradise is having all the time I want to do nothing of vital importance. (Not nothing, just not anything necessary to life or its continuation beyond the occasional heartbeat.) I dream of a whole 24-hour day when no one expects me to do anything. That dream has never been completely fulfilled. I've approached it on certain sick days, and there was the whole forced bed-rest during pregnancy thing--but those are cheap imitations of the real deal, which would require serious strength of will to ignore the tearful pleas of my children to feed and entertain them while not medically required to so ignore.

Someday I will shed this aura of ability, this role of reliability. I will admit to all the world that Yes! I am the reason junk writing and junk food were invented! No, I don't actually enjoy mopping floors! My spices are sorted but not alphabetized! I haven't dusted the bookcases in two months! I convinced my husband to clean the bathrooms during my second pregnancy and never took them back!

My day will come; every superhero gets outted eventually. In the meantime, don't spread it around. Every mom is entitled to a few secrets.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I'll bare my soul, but don't lay a hand on my stuff!

I took the required biology classes in high school and college. (And passed--whew!) I've attended the marriage relations class at church. I've even studied an anatomy book or two in my time. (Who knew the spleen was so interesting?) Those sources--informative though they were--only skimmed the surface of the true difference between men and women. Because the truth is not merely that we are physically different, or that men have the incredible ability to have nothing going on in their crania for hours at a time. (Which baffles me. I mean, Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am." So most men are imaginary, apparently. That would explain my dating record in college.) The real difference, my friends, lies in our dissimilar acceptance of junk piles.

Admit it, women--you have one. It's the stuff on the convenient horizontal surface which gets shuffled, stashed, sorted, and shifted, but which never quite goes away. Unless the in-laws,the Relief Society president , or other such worthies are visiting, of course. The items may change, but the pile remains. Permanently. Indelibly. Ineradicably. A monument to life's endless tasks and the stuff that accompanies them.

But, see, that's the key to how women are different from men. Women--and I'm basing this rant on the fact that I am, in fact, a woman, as are my sisters, mother, and quite a few of my friends, and we all act similarly--have ONE pile (large and unwieldy though it may be). Men--my husband, father, brother, husbands of friends, this is a scientific sampling!--have multiple mini-piles, just as permanent and ineradicable, in lots of places throughout, and sometimes outside, the residence. There's the mail pile, which becomes the papers-to-sort-through pile. There's the bottom-of-the-stairs-to-take-upstairs-when-I'm-going-that-way pile. There's its mirror-image twin at the top of the stairs. There may be others, depending on available flat horizontal surfaces and wifely tolerance. The items in the piles may vary by season or work load, but the piles remain. They are a fact of life no one told you about in those entertaining lectures during P.E.

Still, I write here not to snark, but to confess. It's good for the soul, if not beneficial for the blog.

My pile is on the dining room table. That's the flat surface which hasn't been used within its intended purpose for over a year now because of life and its intersection with flimsy excuses. It's a convenient spot: right off the kitchen, large-ish, easily accessible. And the fact that it can be seen by anyone who enters the front door is a real bonus. I'd like to think it gives my home the appearance of a place where Important, Interesting Things get done. Or maybe it just makes me look like a slob. Potato, potahto.

In the spirit of soul-cleansing confession, I will now reveal for all the world--or at least the minuscule portion which will actually read this--what is on the table of dread and doom:

  • a Christmas cactus, because I wanted the table to look pretty. The obvious contradiction in reality is not lost on me.
  • two solar ovens constructed for and used by the Young Women during their pre-camp certification. They will go downstairs just as soon as I get rid of the ginormous birdcage down there. Anybody want a birdcage?
  • a small pile of discharge papers from my recent visit to the hospital. Should I shred them? Save them for tax purposes? Add them to my personal history? It's a dilemma.
  • a cardboard box of things I keep thinking would be interesting to use in our homeschooling next year. The receptacle changes, but this is one feature of the table which will always be with me.
  • blue and white star-spangled ribbon to be used at camp, and which will probably be taken upstairs to join the rest of the camp supplies today, fingers crossed.
  • an orange folder with some unused YW info. Or it may be empty. I haven't looked at it in a few weeks. It has achieved a certain junk pile maturity which gives it almost total immunity. I'm thinking of redecorating the room around it next time. Sort of really shabby chic.
  • a copy of the Church News which my counselor gave me because it had articles dealing with YW stuff. I need to stash it in my horrifically overly-large YW-stuff binder, which is residing in my huge black bag of doom on a chair next to the laden table.
  • Tracking sheets from YW meeting yesterday, so I know how the YW are doing with their Book of Mormon reading, and which will be discarded as soon as I enter them into the computer, which I will do when I'm done writing this. Probably.
  • some containers purchased with the intent that they would be used for my gardening lesson at Enrichment meeting last Thursday, but which never found fulfilment because I was stuck in the hospital instead.

That's it. For the moment. I'd better get it cleaned off, because I'm going to DI today, and I'm sure I'll find something that will need time on the table. Think of it not as messiness, but as an exercise in stuff-rotation.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Note: The following was written while I was under the influence of a really fabulous pain-killing prescription medication. (Seriously, I would recommend this stuff to anyone in mind-melding, fall-on-the-floor, writhing in agony-type pain. If you fall into that category, give me a call, and I'll tell you the name of the pill in question; I'm sure your doctor can help you with the follow-up steps. If you aren't in that type of pain at the moment--and I really hope you aren't-- just file away the fact in your memory, and pull it out when needed.) If this post seems rambling and pointless, cut me some slack and try to put yourself in my very sensible and bought-on-sale shoes. I was not at my best while writing, but at least I did try to convey the experience in its horror-inspiring entirety. Again, it isn't me; it's the meds talking.

This week didn't quite turn out the way I had planned it to. For one thing I now have a hole in my jugular that wasn't there before and which certainly never made it onto the agenda I had written up. Isn't the aphorism "Life is what happens when you're making other plans"? If so then this week was definitely a real slice of life.

It started normally. Monday went smoothly. Tuesday, Rob set out for the airport to catch the flight to New York for his trip, and I was happily (or not so much, but at least willingly!) doing the kids' laundry when I started one of the back aches I've learned to dread. I tried to convince myself that I has eaten too much sugar the night before, or perhaps I had just slept wrong the night before. Those have their effects sometimes. I took some Tylenol and slapped a heat patch on the area and decided to take a rest.

It wasn't until I started vomiting from the pain that I finally admitted the truth: I had a case of the stones. The kind that originate in the kidneys and slide excruciatingly down to the bladder, prompting their victims to beg for dull kitchen cutlery with which to perform emergency self-directed surgery.

I've gone through this before--you haven't experience true pain until you've passed a kidney stone while pregnant. I faced true pain three time with this last pregnancy; I am an experienced stone warrior.

Thankfully I knew what to do. Like any other mature and independent woman I pleaded for a barf bowl and called my mom.

I even knew which hospital to go to--not the one closest to us, which has an emergency room permanently packed. (I don't like to gibber and carry on in public. My dignity is important to me, personal barf bowl notwithstanding.) I went to the one a few more miles distant, but which has a relatively undiscovered ER. Total patients in the waiting room: two. How's that for superior planning under extreme distress?

I was checked in, checked, and medicated after minimal moaning--90 minutes, tops. And then after a CAT-scan they told me the news: this stone was a fighter.

Just a bit of preliminary info in case you are not personally acquainted with the wonderful world of kidney stones: the things tend to be tiny, usually mere flakes. But considering the weensy diameter--totally scientific terms, there--of the passageway they must traverse, even the smallest stones are painful beyond belief. Note to any males who may be perusing this blog for any odd reason: I've given birth while in an unmedicated state, and I've passed kidney stones. They are comparable on the "Dear goodness I'm going to claw my eyes out from the pain" scale, although I've never vomited while passing a child. (My cousin, fellow warrior in the war, has actually passed stones WHILE giving birth, WITHOUT medication! She is the kidney stone-passing She-Ra in my book.)

The stone I faced this week was a major heavyweight: seven millimeters. You may be thinking, "Seven millimeters? That's nothing! HA--what a wimp!" Wimp I may be, but pull out that ruler from the drawer and measure it off, then consider that the bodily tube through which it must pass is only TWO millimeters wide. Do the math, and don't forget to factor in the horrible jagged edges of the typical stone, and you may just pull out your own barf bowl in sympathy.

Not only was it an abnormally large stone, but it seems that I tolerate narcotic pain killers too darn well. The sweet, sweet angel of mercy-type nurse gave me a drug which is supposed to be seven times stronger than morphine. It made me feel great--absolutely floating on air. For about 15 minutes. Then I was screaming in pain again. (Well, not actually screaming. I tend to try to be overly polite and restrained in these types of situations in the hope that my exemplary behavior will be rewarded with really fabulous painkillers and maybe lollipops, sort of like when I used to go in for my annual shots and the nurses would pay me off in sugar for all the screams I had choked back.)

Long story short: there was no way in heck that I was going to pass that thing on my own. Trust me, I tried. For two days. Under extreme medication. (Including one usually prescribed for prostate problems. My beard should come in nicely they tell me.) I had surgery yesterday, and woke up with an IV stuck in my neck, so I spent the next 24 hours looking like something from Dr. Frankenstein's lab.

And to think the druggies in high school made being stoned sound like fun. Just another example of poor communication skills.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thar she blows!

I broke a rule today. Or at least I laughed while my Mom broke it, which amounts to the same thing, because it was one of those all-important mommy-rules: Do Not Give Children Under One Year of Age Chocolate. (It ranks right up there with oldies but goodies like Change Babies' Diapers Semi-Daily, and Do Not Allow Your Four-Year-Old to Carry the Baby Down the Stairs--neither of which I have lapsed in observing, to my parental credit.)

Whooo Baby! Are we going to pay for this one, or what? (But look at that bliss on his little face. Who can deny a face like that the joy of chocolate?)

Breaking that rule made me think about when I was a teenager. Remember when you were young, and adults would start spouting off their accumulated wisdom--sort of like a whale does with its spray when it surfaces to breathe? It can't help it, that's part of its life; just a whale being a whale. It's exactly like that--the whole adults and spontaneous outpourings of wisdom thing, I mean. You'd be sitting there innocently in your Mia Maid class when BAM!!! Sister Whosit (a really lovely person in retrospect, now that you are about the age she was when you were sitting in class, and these days you totally get what she meant) would start crying and telling about something she had done and how it had affected her, and she'd finish it up by saying, "just be smarter than I was, and don't make the mistakes I did." Seriously--just like whales spouting, because I've been whale watching, and that's all you see--if you're lucky, and I'm pretty slow to react, too, so I only saw the tail-end of the spray after everyone else on the boat had OOOHed and AAAAHed. That's what it was like to sit in those classes; everyone else would get it, and I'd only hear the last couple of sentences or so. They never made sense. "She's sorry she did what?" I'd be thinking. "Did I miss a really juicy story? Is there going to be a quiz on this later? Is this going to affect my Personal Progress completion?" And somehow the painfully accumulated wisdom (I'm assuming it was painfully accumulated since they cried so much about it) passed somewhere over my head or between my ears, and never quite penetrated the thick layer of inattentiveness I tended to cultivate as a teen.

[Short note to all who care about the English language: yes, I do intend to continue slaughtering it in this fashion. I do know what a run-on sentence is, but since I passed my ACT with a darn good score in English I feel free to take creative license now and again. It's my reward for actually listening occasionally in High School. It never helped with my social life, but BOY does it pay off now!]

Anyway, back to accumulated wisdom. It seems to me there were quite a few things we were warned not to do lest dire and tragic things happen in consequence. [See, all you still-reading English-loving-type people, that was a beautifully balanced and executed sentence. Take that all you who thought my triumph in winning the 8th-grade English award was a fluke!] I never did any of the BIG ONES--never fooled around, never broke the Word of Wisdom, always told the truth in interviews with Priesthood leaders both ward and stake. I was always too afraid of the dire consequences foretold to try anything with possibly long-lasting results. But I was still a rebel in my own very small way.

There was, for instance, the Pink Hair Incident of 1987. (Let me tell you: when the box of rinse-out red dye says not to use on blond hair BELIEVE IT!) Ummmmmmm, there was . . . nope, that's it. My one small rebellion was dying my hair an unnatural shade of red for Halloween, and paying for it for two months of increasingly unlovely pink hair with rodent-colored roots. (Because I wasn't smart enough just to permanently re-dye my hair back to its original shade. Rebellion makes people stupid; my sophomore-year pictures are the proof.)

It wasn't until I grew old enough to really spread my wings that I defied all the semi-important wisdom of the ages. And through the miracle of survival I now have my own store of accumulated wisdom which I am willing to force upon you.

If you get to attend college, use your time wisely. Teachers do not give credit for work missed because you were busy trying to convince "Mr. Right" that your name is "Ms. Right-for-him."

On a related note: if you decide during your college days to ascend Mt. Timpanogos do not wear your roommate's two-sizes-too-small shoes, watch your tongue when the ice-shelf collapses under you and you plunge twenty feet to almost certain death--swear words echo longer than regular ones, and if a guy tries repeatedly to help you on the climb and you refuse his aid it's almost certain that he liked you until that moment and now finds you insufferably pig-headed.

Don't get married without dating the guy you intend to wed. Blew that one out of the water. Note to future un-dating brides: a shared month-long trip to Europe does not count the same as a year's worth of dates. Especially if the guy had no idea you existed during the trip. (Thankfully neither of us likes to admit mistakes, so we keep plugging away. Eleven years of joy, and counting!)

When you move out on your own, make sure your job pays enough to allow you to use a laundromat, because otherwise your arms will get really tired and your bathroom will always be full of dripping clothes.

Consult a map and a neighbor after moving into a new apartment and before setting off on foot to the grocery store. There are no groceries in the direction you intended to take.

Cute wooden clogs from Holland are great Halloween costume-wear. But if you have to take the Freeway from Heck to get to the party wear sneakers until you actually arrive at your destination.

Do not attempt to drive a friend home at two a.m. the night after your sister gave you a five-minute lesson on using a stick shift. The police may seem kind and understanding when they pull your sobbing tush over, but they will be laughing at you the entire time they are following behind to make sure you arrive safely.

And last: if you are waiting for a BYU Devotional, and you arrive two hours early because the Prophet is scheduled to speak, do not pull out your figure-drawing homework to pass the time. Those around you will be neither amused nor edified by the semi-nude figures which you are sketching.

Thank you. You may return to your regularly-scheduled inattentiveness now.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A dream is a wish your heart makes

I'm in the throes of preparing for YW camp. Granted, camp isn't until the first week of August (Yippee! At the height of heat and humidity here in the beautiful desert Southwest.) Technically, we won't start practicing the skit or memorizing the camp scripture, or singing our songs over and over and over until next month, but I get to throe earlier, because I'm in charge and I need every chance that I can get to stress . (I've previously mentioned the stress that camp induces in me. I'm good at stress. Not at accepting and dealing with it, just in piling it on. Hey, at least I've got the first part of the equation down.)

The theme this year--and I love it, just in case any one needs to know--is "Sweet Dreams." (My only regret is that this year we aren't branding our wards with cute names based on the theme. I was thinking along the lines of Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' Stars, or Sleepy Sheepies, or something equally adorable. There's nothing like running around frantically at Walmart the night before camp trying to find blue canoes or something equally unfindable with which to decorate the camp site. It's good for the heart--lots of cardio-aerobic exercise.) We've been encouraged to focus on what we really want in our lives and what we plan to achieve using our dreams as our guides. It's good stuff.

My dream? I thought you'd never get around to asking. Nothing much, really, just the perfect house for a frazzled mom. I've decided on a few items I would pay sort-of-big bucks for:

  • Big, beautiful windows in all the rooms, made with smudge-proof and snot-proof glass.
  • Enough bookcases to fit all the books in--and which would stay perfectly organized using a revolutionary homing technology which automatically returns books to their proper places at the touch of a button.
  • Bathrooms with patented Reek-Guard anti-bacterial, anti-disgusting-substance surfaces. Because no matter how hard I try to impress the idea into my sons' brains, missing the toilet still seems to be an option for them.
  • A kitchen with a conveyor belt extending directly to the grocery store. Four kids, three boys--you get the picture.
  • A raised garden on a giant mechanized turntable so I could water the garden from the large smudge-proof windows. (See above reference to heat here.)
  • Bedrooms for the kids with sensors on them which would automatically bar the doors in the all-too-frequent event of a child attempting to leave the room without picking up first.
  • Motion-sensored lights. In all the rooms. If we aren't moving around the space why do the lights have to be on?
  • A laundry room modeled on automatic car washes. Full laundry hampers go in at one end, and clean and folded clothing comes out from the other.
  • Baby guards on all the things my youngest is irresistibly drawn to. At the push of a button--or better yet, using a sensor, dear heavens how I love those things!--a clear screen would slide up from an inconspicuous slot in the floor to prevent baby-created destruction of books, papers, plants, and dryer lint.
  • Melia-thermic air-conditioning, which would make any room I was in ten degrees cooler automatically.
  • Magnetic walls everywhere, so I wouldn't have to deal with the inadequate space the fridge affords.
  • Speakers that would broadcast mommy-mood-related music to all occupants of the house. It'd be like a public service announcement, but much more personally relevant.

And my personal favorite and the one absolutely non-negotiable feature of the ultimate Melia-approved dream house:

A comfortable soundproof room with a comfy couch and lots of
bookcases so I can pretend that none of the chaos around me exists.
Let's all admit that I believe in the impossible dream.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Losing it

At two points in my life I was a skinny person. The first was from birth to age 15--I can't take the credit for it, because the thinness was the result of dance lessons, games of tag, and a mother who insisted that we play outside a lot. (A technique which I adopted shortly after my third son was born, and which I am happy to say works wonderfully for soothing frazzled nerves. Unless it's the middle of summer and the thermometer--or as we call it around here: the therMOMeter, because I'm the one who cares enough about it to consult it--is pushing 110 on the porch. In those cases sending the kiddos outside seems more like a evil dictator kind of thing: it's brutal, but it's either that or one of us loses our head.)

The second time--which came after the two-year chub-o-rama I sometimes refer to as "high school"--was the eight years between the start of college and the birth of the first son. For that period I can take the credit. I did it by pushing myself into poverty and by being too scared to learn to drive. The results: I was too poor to eat, and had to walk everywhere. There were times when my budget and travel mode conspired to make me a size 2, but usually I had a job with food services and managed to scrape together enough leftovers to maintain a size 6. (Thank you BYU Food Services for allowing me to remain corporeal throughout my university experience! If we ever get rich there's a big, fat donation check coming your way. I hope you name a cutting board in my honor.)

But ever since the aforementioned birth of said first son, skinny has not been a term I use in my self-descriptions. (I could use all sorts of other terms, though. If I'm feeling decadent it's voluptuous--because the word connotes a certain European disregard for Puritan American morals; blessedly, it also hints at European chocolate, which I can live with. If I'm descriptive it's curvaceous. If I'm being humorous about it it's pleasingly plump--although the only person who could be pleased with this amount of plump is Santa. Most of the time I just say heavy and let it drop like the 2-ton hippo I sometimes feel I resemble.) I haven't had a positive body image since I wore a wedding dress, and I've celebrated eleven anniversaries since that time.

The problem all comes down to on thing: I eat when I'm stressed, bored, nervous, frustrated, or tired. I'm a mom; those emotions happen on a five-minute rotation throughout the day. So weight-loss has been a perennial goal, as well as a consistent disappointment. I want to be thin, but my offspring and my mental state are working against me.

This year, though, I'm really working hard at it. I've eliminated simple carbs--and most days all carbs altogether. I'm eating more veggies, and cutting out all sugar. I've said good-bye to chocolate, chips, bread, crackers, cake, brownies, and everything else I ever enjoyed eating. My life is now sustained by chicken chests, broccoli, soup, and sugar-free Jell-o. (I live for the Jell-o these days.) I am trying sooooooooooooo hard to really do this this time, because I know I have hips somewhere under there. And once upon a time I'm pretty sure I had a waist.

Did I mention that my kids are out to get me? Seriously, I wake up in the morning, totally determined to be the valiant diet woman I know I can empower myself to be. But by the time I walk down the stairs and greet the chaos that is the result of my loving offspring, all I want is a box of chocolate-covered doughnuts and a couple handfuls of M&Ms. Celery was not created to soothe jangled mommy nerves.

I've read that therapists encourage their patients to keep a food journal--writing down everything they eat, and commenting on how they felt at the time of ingestion. Apparently, the idea is to demonstrate the links between over-eating and emotional stress, which can then be dealt with to eliminate the eating problem. I'd love to do this exercise for a therapist. I bet he/she would end up wailing on the floor in pain after reading my food journal. I just want my frustration validated. Is that so wrong?

But since I'm too cheap for a therapist--chocolate-covered cashews are closer to my price range--you, poor sucker, will have to do.

Warning: some portions of the narrative below may be too descriptive for sensitive readers. As always, if you are of a delicate nature, or are simply of an incurably optimistic nature, I advise you to end your reading now. It is not pretty.

7:15 a.m.: ate Snickers bar stashed under mattress. Slightly melted, but still satisfying. Emotional state: exhausted after being up with baby all night and barely falling asleep three minutes before husband cheerfully awoke me with news that child two had decided to learn to make waffles and children three and four were experimenting with syrup recipes.

7:45: ate three left-over waffle trials with two cups of what can only be described as the stickiest substance on earth. Emotional state: totally overwhelmed with the fact that three children + kitchen access = EPA Superfund site.

9:30: asked by children two through four simultaneously 1) "how do you do long division again?" 2) why is the toilet leaking all over the floor? 3) Did you know the baby just urped all over the schoolwork? Ate: macaroni and hot dogs left from yesterday's lunch, with a side of turkey and stuffing from last night's dinner.

10:25: explained long division for fourteenth time this morning. Ate: peanut butter and jelly sandwich rejected as snack by daughter.

12:00. Ate healthful lunch of tomato soup and carrot sticks. Go Diet Goddess! Attempted for two hours to get children to eat lunch, have some manners, clean up after selves and take naps, while at same time feeding, soothing, rocking, changing, and entertaining baby. Inhaled dessert of brownies intended for afternoon treats, ice cream unearthed from depths of freezer, and the last 2/3 of the jar of fudge sauce purchased for a family birthday party last year.

4:45: started dinner. Dealt with complaints, suggestions, and "helpful assistance". Ate: Most of what was planned for dinner. Determined to order pizza instead.

8:45. Bathed children, read scriptures, fulfilled three "story" requests, handed out 33 1/3 drinks, ushered daughter to bathroom 14 times, yelled "Go to bed or ELSE!!!" 26 times. Pulled kids out of bed when it was revealed that the "toothbrushing" that had taken place earlier was, in fact, entirely imaginary. Remedial toothbrushing demonstration. Ate: anything I could get my hands on. As best as I can piece together from scraps left on counters and from wrappers in the trash can it was something like three hamburger buns with peanut butter, four pieces of Easter candy stashed for next year, two slices of pizza set aside for lunch tomorrow, an apple--trying to eat healthfully, you know!, two Twinkies from 1979--how they got in the house I neither know no care, and a large Hershey's bar my husband gave me when I screamed "There had better be chocolate in your hands the next time I see you, buster!" It was not my finest hour.

Skinniness is a far, far-off goal.