Friday, February 26, 2010


Abigail had school Market Day Auction Day today. Each kid is allowed to bring ONE thing to auction off to the class. Abigail took a plastic giraffe that we got at a zoo years ago. "Its just a plastic animal, that shouldn't bring much of a bid..." I thought to myself. And then I sat and waited - trying to convince myself that this would not end badly...

Those of you who have been following our darling family know that Abigail is a bit of a magpie/hoarder. A bit - as in "a lot." But, since each kid could only bring ONE thing, it stands to reason that they should only come home with ONE thing. Maybe two. I mean, you'd have to get the bid cheap on your first item, then have enough left over to outbid another kid on something else. Right? Nope.

"Mom! I got two toy stuffed dragons and 3 bouncy balls!"

"Abigail, how is that possible?" I asked.

"Well, since my giraffe had the tongue sticking out, everyone in the class wanted it! Everyone bid on it - EVEN MY TEACHER! So I got $1400 for it. The only thing that was more expensive was the stuffed toy horse, which cost $1500!" [Try to trace the ownership of the horse now, it changes hands at least 3 times...]

"Oh, well, who got that?"

"Kylie bought my giraffe with all of her Market Money. And then [with my winnings from the dumb plastic giraffe with the tongue sticking out], I got the horse!"

"But [looking at the dragons] you don't have the horse... what happened?"

Little did I know that my kid was as crafty and shrewd as an Arab trader....

"Well, Olivia didn't win the horse, and she really really wanted it, and she had one of the dragons, so I gave her some of my left-over money to go buy the OTHER baby dragon from Kaden. So she did, and then we traded."

"Ohhh kaaaaye..." Yes, I'm trying to follow all of this too...

"Olivia got the horse, and with her trades I got the two baby dragons, three bouncy balls and $600! I'm so glad that "Ginger" (the horse) went to a good home."

With more than a bit of chagrin, I drove her to her daddy's office to show off her "treasures." He complimented her on her shrewd trading acumen, then looked at me, with his eyes twinkling.

"She's just like her mom. Give her a little bit of money, list the parameters, and she'll find a way to get the lion's share of anything..."

I was stunned! I had never seen it that way. My little girl is just like me. Well, only I don't have a problem keeping my toys put away. I pondered on that as we went to the Red Box - me with my two free video codes, and Abigail with her new-found loot. She's just like me. I had to think about whether or not that's a good thing. Hmm. I'm not sure, but this I DO know - whereas I only got rid of one thing, I now have to find a place for 5 more items. All because my daughter takes after her mama.

Well, either way, I'm just glad that her dad thinks that THAT is a good thing. *wink!*

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'm About to Put the Hammer Down...

Convoy: by CW McCall

Was the dark of the moon, on the sixth of June
In a Kenworth, pullin' logs
Cabover Pete with a reefer on
And a Jimmy haulin' hogs
We 'as headin' fer bear on I-One-Oh
'Bout a mile outta Shaky-Town
I sez Pig-Pen, this here's the Rubber Duck
An' I'm about to put the hammer on down!

I love this song. The truckers vs. the police or "bears." It was the litmus test for our Spanish foreign exchange student to see if he really understood "American English." And I've been thinking about it all morning long. You see, every Wednesday, I go to a class held by Marie Ricks of "House of Order" fame. And last night we covered the topic of children. Helping them become obedient and self reliant. The short title would have been, "Parenting: Taking Back the Reigns."

It was NOT a comfortable class. The premise being that children will get away with as much as they possibly can; and that to teach effectively, you need to be PRESENT and CONSISTENT with them until they can manage age-appropriate tasks on their own. Here are some highlights:

"Children will push the boundaries of acceptable conduct their whole lives while they are under your roof. It is only when you stand firm that they understand where the edge is. You may have to leave the grocery store, you may have to go home from a wonderful activity, you may have to postpone or be late for your own meetings. But it is more important that they understand those boundaries so that they can self govern when they are older..."

"Of course this is time consuming and difficult - you are raising children, not dolls!"

"Children are about as obedient as you expect them to be."

"You don't need to be mean, you just need to be firm."

"You need to first model the behavior for the task, let them try, and then follow up with enormous amounts of specific praise... a child will not believe that he is "good," but he will believe that you feel proud of him for hanging up his coat nice and straight in the closet..."

Needless to say, this is a weak spot for me. I have felt tired and unmotivated to go, find the child, and wait for them to do everything that I ask. Let alone be patient and even tempered. My voice pitch and anger have just taken the familiar paths of escalation until I got compliance. Or... I just decide it's not worth the fight, and drop it.

But today dawns the New Day. Parents in Control Day. We have a standing rule that you don't go to school until your bed is made, you are dressed (in clean clothes), and everything is picked up in your room. The kids have made tacit attempts, but truly, neither of their rooms could be considered "clean" by any stretch of the imagination.

So we are starting again. Stating the rule beforehand in a calm, neutral tone: "You know, you don't go to school until your room is clean." Then watching over them - in their presence. I let Matthew pick his opponent first. He picked Benjamin - The Easy. I got Abigail, aka "The Hoarder." It has been a loooooooong morning. You can not imagine the surprise on my daughter's face as I plopped down on her bed and said, "Well, I'll help where I can, but you have a big task to tackle this morning..." In P.J.s, and patiently working things through, it only took from 7:30 am til 10:30 am. They are both late for school today.

And we're supposed to do this for A WEEK! Watch over, guide, neutrally react, and teach. "We hang those up on a hanger. Garbage goes in the garbage can. Dirty socks go in the hamper." Stating the job, not commanding or threatening! Being CALLLLM!

In the program, we then move to R&R: Return and Report. Where they know the standard, and they return to tell us that it is done, and we "reward."

Then move to SI: or Self Reliance. Where they do it without being asked, without reward, but understand that it is just expected in our home.

In the clean chapel with all those other women, I can visualize it in my head. I turn from the Ogre to the Sweet Fairy Tale Mother that I always wanted to be. Oh, no, I do not have delusions that this is a primrose path that runs by itself.

But I realize that sometimes, [and with parenting - most of the time], I have to put what I want on the shelf, so that I can take the time to parent. Yeah, sure it is easier to be lazy and yell, but that is not why we had children. This is not gonna be fun, but it will have to get done. Not because I'm a neat-nick, but because I need to prepare my kids to live on their own - and quite possibly teach, and have, kids of their own. Scary thought today.

Heaven help us all.

So to my Pig Pens, this here's the Mama Duck,
An' I'm about to put the hammer down...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Today I am one day shy of 30 weeks pregnant, and this time has significant meaning for me. This is exactly how pregnant I was when Benjamin was born. He was 3lbs 4oz, and an emergency c-section. I can easily remember how small he was, his whole hand didn't reach around his daddy's pinkie. I didn't see him the whole first day or night that he was born. And when I did get to go see him, the immense sorrow of seeing my baby with tubes and tape and an enormous "newborn" diaper engulfed me. One question was on everyone's lips, "Will he make it?" We didn't know. The nurse who worked on him said, "Look at this little guy fight! He does NOT want that tube down his throat. That's a good sign - he's a fighter..."

The details of that day resurface every now and again, and when they do, the fear and anxiety return. One of my sisters once asked to see a photo of Benjamin and his newborn curly blonde hair. I hadn't seen those photos in awhile, and as I flipped through each newborn NICU picture, the memories flooded so fast and furious that I could only look and sob.

Even now, for this blog, as I pick through those first photos, I edit again, "That one is too scary," "You see all of the tubes in this one, " "This one would make people uncomfortable - or even worse, scared..." In all of them, Matthew and I look like death warmed over. Life moved from "normal" to ... to something all together different. And I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Though that time was dark for us, ever so gradually, shines the light of that time. Through that blackest of nights came the dawn. Every day offered a little more hope, and one more chance to enjoy our little boy. Many of our prayers were answered, and we found that faith isn't just an ethereal idea - rather, it is a solid rock that harbors your soul in the hurricanes of life. We didn't skip through this trial by any means, but we were not alone either.

Fast forward 5 years, and that premature baby is as solid as a keg of nails, and about to be a big brother for the second time. He can flush toys down the toilet, and scribble on walls like the best of them. If you didn't already know, you would have to be told that he was a preemie. Everything is just fine. We were blessed, we are lucky; and to be able to do it again, we are grateful. I'm happy for this new little one, and I am happy - despite the side effects, to keep this little bun in the oven for awhile - especially today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Life Has a Plan and Other Crazy Maps

I went to Relief Society Meeting last night. Imagine 3.2 tons of makeup and perfume with the dearest souls on earth who are trying to keep it together. I was the one in the stretchy maternity clothes and a scant offering of mascara and lip balm - but they were offering a nursery to watch my kids for a few hours. "C'mon Em (my SIL), let's go!"

For this year's meeting they decided to get a variety of women together and have a panel on issues that we face under the banner of "A Proclamation to the World on the Family." I sat on a very back row so that I could catch the nursery worker's eye just in case my child had a poopy diaper, or was makin' a ruckus in the nursery. Hymns, prayers and many ideas later of how to live better, they asked a question to the panel about living the gospel when things don't turn out the way you thought they would. The darling representative for "Older Single Sisters" raised her hand and shared a story of meeting someone who had left the church.

"I asked him why he left, and he said, 'Well, my life doesn't look the way that I thought it should,' and - I was nice and everything -, but inside I was thinking, TAKE A NUMBER!"

She went on to testify that even though her life was not what she had wanted, it was - indeed - tailored to fit her soul to learn by a loving Father in Heaven, "who wants for me what I want - even more than I do." And it got me thinking. Could I say the same?

Same evening, I'm reading my big brother's short story about a colleague who he worked with in his youth. Joel's friend survived brain cancer, but was disfigured in the attempt to remove the cancerous tumor. And though they had rollicking times in the Sears mechanical department, his friend Calvin ultimately committed suicide from... well, disappointment about the way his life was turning out. A college graduate, witty commentator, and WWII officiando, my brother still feels the loss of someone who just couldn't fathom that there was a rhyme or reason to it all.

Throughout all this, I am wondering about my own life and whether it has been planned, or whether - as I suspect - it is unrolling one day at a time, with bizarre factors that have given me a truly frenetic past. And I go to sleep.

In the dream I have that night, I am in a benign wilderness, trudging through gulleys and mountains, and trying to get somewhere. It reminds me of Midway, Utah where the Olympics set up the luge - civilized, but just waaaay out there.

In the dream sequence, I tell Matthew I'm gonna double check my bearings and get some directions. So, I show up at a railroad station and ask the bartender there (I know, they don't match, but it was a dream!),if I'm headed in the right direction. She pulls out a huge travel map and an orange highlighter, and starts asking me about where I've been and sloppily starts to outline my path with the highlighter. (I would grab the pen to make nicer lines, but she knows the place, and I don't.)

"Okay - so it looks like you started here, and then went this way..." *marker swaths start to cover the map*

We outline the most horrendous map. Horrendous because the path is so.. messy and nonsensical. Instead of going from point A to point B, there are ellipses, wiggly lines, weird paths, and one huge dip through the middle of it all.

"And then you came up on this side, and started over here - is that right?" she asks me as we look over the orange highlights.

As I stand back, my eyes take in this map which is criss-crossed with orange highlighter, with different names of places where I've been. Yes - I was there, and there... I was just at that place gathering flowers on my way over, hm, why was I going there? And the big ditch. That sucka is HUGE. Cavernous. Goes on forever.

Then I see that I am on a track, as it were, and completing a most bizarre circle. Not a neat and tidy one, but one that has a rough, ragged outline, and doesn't keep to the edges, but goes, literally all over the map. And under all the highlighter are a ton of roads that I haven't even been on, or knew they were there. Overall, the path has an outline of a jagged "C", and I can tell that, roughly, I'm going back to where I started - or at least trying to get back.

When I wake up - because baby is kicking me at O'Dark:Thirty, I try to remember this dream. And then I get it. It's a map of my life. A totally bizarre, backtracking, messy, yet utterly map-able life. And I'm on track. Something that in the wilds of young motherhood and present craziness, I never would have suspected. My children sing in Primary, "My life is a gift; my life has a plan. My life has a purpose; in heav’n it began."

Sitting and thinking about God-as-architect, I am reminded that most people don't believe that someone could have orchestrated all this. It's too complicated, there are too many factors. One minuscule change reverberates in unknowable directions - and to unknowable ends.

But, perhaps we will discover, as I did, that there is more to life than we ever suspected, and even the most rickety, remote, and ragged terrain is "right on track." Of course, I also dreamed that I had lice night before last. But, at least for me, it has brought me a measure of comfort. I have believing blood, and an utter respect for the Almighty. And if this was all plotted out exactly as it has unfolded, have mercy on my poor family, because the uncharted parts of that map are WACK!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Invisible Work

I think that being a mom is a lot like being invisible. You are... in many senses THERE, but the evidence is awfully hard to come by. "What do you do with all your time?" is a frequent question, and there's the joke of a man coming home to a house in utter chaos, and after following a trail of debris, kids swinging from chandeliers half naked and a ton of junk he starts looking for his wife. He finds her relaxing on the bed reading a book. "What HAPPENED here!!??"

"Well Darling, you always wonder what I do with my day, and today I didn't do it..."

This came to mind as I surveyed the house at the end of yesterday. I worked really hard! But as I looked around at the end of the day, I knew that hardly anyone would be able to tell - they would only be able to tell if I hadn't done it. For example I:

* Changed the sheets, and washed the comforter cover on the bed. I don't know how mustard got on the comforter, I just knew it was there. At least I *hope* it was mustard...

* Cleaned all the pillowcases, and some of the pillows. I started the wash early in the day so that I could put them back exactly where they were this morning - only cleaner. I've heard so many horror stories about how many organisms live in your mattress, eating skin, as well as how much heavier your pillow is when you sweat in it day after day (even though I have TWO pillowcases on all pillows - as per being brought up correctly). So I tossed 'em in the wash too, to... well, drown 'em I guess, or at least give 'em a bath.

* Scoured the bathroom. Saturday ritual that shines up the faucets, cleans out the toilet/tub, and gets the hair off the floor. There's not a lot of dust after a week, but it rises exponentially from dust bunnies to dust rhinoceroses if you wait even one day.

* Helped clean out the garage. We've "taken out" 3 mice to date, but they have left their little party droppings all over the garage. Besides being disgusting, it is also a very emotional endeavor as you get ticked at every single thing that they pooped on. We have no less than three tall shelves packed with stuff on each shelf.

"GAH! They got into THAT! *curse curse mutter mutter* They ate the Styrofoam on Sam's old infant car seat!!! *styrofoam confetti sprinkles to the floor* EW! They pooped all over the DVD movie covers?! Now we have to clean out that whole box!!" etc. etc.

150 Lysol wipes later, the garage is clean yes, but not in such a major way that you would have noticed anything different with a casual glance before and after. The old washer/dryer got moved to storage, the bed rails are now UPRIGHT, and we still have to figure out what to do with the sleds. And the shelves are covered in plastic bins. Now, if it's in MY garage, it's in a plastic bin to keep out/starve unwanted rodents. *curse curse mutter mutter*

* All this while doing load after load of laundry and a trip or two to the grocery store.
Still tired but not finished, we got dinner on, then put away. Floor swept and mopped and it just all looked pretty much like it did when I got up. I worked like a friggin' galley slave, yet there is really no evidence of the struggle. Like... building the Taj Mahal, and then having nothing there but the dirt you started with! It seems like there should be something... THERE! But my proof of hard work is that the counter has NOTHING there!

And that's when it hit me: Mom's are invisible. Food is in the pantry, and dishes in the dishwasher (transported, as if by magic, from the counter and sink to the dishwasher!!)and it seems to all happen when nobody is looking. It's all invisible, that is,unless you stop. It is only then that the evidence starts to pile up of what you used to do, but that isn't getting done now.

But for now, at least, we can roll on. The work of the invisible is done, and the house is where it was this morning. Just with fewer dust mites and mice poop.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Miracle Product

I know, like you, I really don't believe that miracle products really exist. I have been more disappointed by "new," "ultra," "uber," "radical formula," than I can shake a stick at. But it did just happen - last night.

I have been struggling with DISGUSTING dishes. We have hard water, and it has never taken such a devastating toll on my dishes as it has here. Like seeing a cataract develop, my glasses/dish lids have gotten whiter and whiter over the past 18 mos 'til you have to look at the TOP of a clear glass to see what drink is in there.

Em brought me this Lemi Shine stuff that touts itself as "The Hard Water Expert," *uh huh, yah - WHATEVER!* and I thought, "Oh well, what the heck," and hucked it in the dishwasher last night and went to bed.

Then, this morning, I went to unload the dishes and what to my wondering eyes should appear?!!! *cue angelic chorus* I can not describe to you what I felt when I opened the dishwasher door that comes close to the euphoria I felt as I pulled out each CLEAN glass. I couldn't believe my eyes, but the kids were saying stuff like, "You can see through our glasses mom!" *fears to publish such revealing information* "Where's all the gross stuff?!" and simply, "WHAT HAPPENED!"?

All after one load! And I kid you not, this was not a small task - you could see my fingerprints on the pot lids despite hand washing them multiple times in hot water and detergent. My metal colander had white buildup at the base, and everything looked like it had just been dipped in a heavy salt/water solution and dried on there. And now - they are crystal clear! *more angelic chorus*

So, to my good blog readers, if you too are suffering from gross and disgusting dishes, measuring cups, lids and all things glass, there is hope! Find this stuff! Buy this stuff! I will grab my clean glasses and toast you and your clean glasses, tears rolling, to clean dishware again.

For other opinions:

Their website:

If you want to know where I live in Utah, check out the Lemi Shine hard water map and look for the orange spot in Utah - which is the color indicating the worst kind of water EVER - yup! that's where I live!

*puts on ipod to "I'm a Believer," and boogies around the kitchen holding clean glasses*

Addendum: Could this product GET any better? Well, I contacted the company with this blog post and got this reply:


Thank you so much for your wonderful blog post! Since you are such an avid user and promoter of our product, we would like to send you a product package including Lemi Shine, Lemi Shine Rinse, Lemi Shine MC3, 5 Lemi Shine samples, 5 Lemi Shine Rinse samples, and 5 MC3 samples along with a Lemi Shine t-shirt and tote bag. Please send me your shipping address and t-shirt size, and I will get the bundle out to you as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please let me know. We truly appreciate your business and support and hope you will share the product samples with your family and friends. Have a terrific Tuesday afternoon!

Lee McDonald

SCORE!!!!!!!!!!!! Wait... I have to share????!!!!