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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Disillusionment and Desperation

I am so incredibly out of shape. No, really, this is serious. It's so serious that I'm considering taking up jogging - tonight. Anyone who really knows me, knows just how serious this would have to be for me to even CONSIDER such a rash and reckless step.

I have never liked "jogging" as a form of exercise. I love to play sports with a purpose, but running???? Just to run??? Yuck. Humiliation. My um, "girls" bouncing all over the place for passersby to observe.

This last is what originally turned me off from any sport requiring solo running, i.e. softball, cross country, and track. I was rather well endowed when I was in high school (thankfully, I consider myself normal after the four children), and any running event (or non-running event if we're going to be totally candid) got my assets WAY too much attention from the hormone beast also known as the "high school boy". A t-shirt that said "Hellooo, we aren't her eyes" would have been helpful.

Anyhow, back to running. Or not running, which is where I think I actually was. When I was in college, one of my roomates convinced me that running would be fun. I went right out and purchased a pair of running shoes. I was determined to finally get over my issues and give this popular form of exercise a chance.

Just to be safe, however, I always ran at night.

And I hated every minute of it.

Nothing but me, the darkness, and that stupid bush/tree/whatever I was attempting to run to before I started walking again. Can I just say BORING!! Nothing to think about but how long I'd been jogging, and how much further I should force myself to go. The worst thing? Back then I was actually in pretty decent shape. Puffing and wheezing were not my problem. Aching, burning legs that shake when you stop? Nope, the mental game alone was enough to make me tired.

And now I'm considering giving it another try.

And I'm adding in the puffing/wheezing/burning legs, because they will definitely play a MAJOR roll this time around. Which brings me to the catalyst for this desperate move. Tonight I played a very small, harmless, never-moved-beyond-the-three-point-line, game of basketball. One on one. Kelly, this was nothing to your full-court experience. This can only be classed as Truly Pathetic.

Unlike jogging, I love to play basketball. There's no boredom in basketball. (And there's way too much going on for the "girls" to be the center of attention). Tonight, however, was worse than pathetic.

There's me, barely moving around the court, sensing from the start that I must conserve every ounce of energy to finish the game. We were playing to seven.

There's my opponent, young, strong, over six feet tall, and fresh off the Marine Corp base where he takes daily runs in the desert in full gear with a thirty lb pack on his back.

You may be asking yourself why a burned out mother of four would take on such an opponent. I have no answer for you. Insanity? Derangement? COMPLETE disillusionment? That one was obviously a big player. Back when he was in high school, and I wasn't quite so far from my prime, we used to have these little games all the time. That was when running from the baseline to the three point line didn't feel like a long distant sprint.

So now, here I am, facing the cold hard truth. I may occasionally exercise. I may even use weights now and then. I may like to think that I'm in decent shape, and that I can "keep up" if I have to. Newsflash: I couldn't keep up with an old guy in a nursing home. If I ever want to play a decent game of basketball again, I need to do something desperate. Jogging is desperate. So that's what I'm going to do. I start tonight when the boys and Rusty get back from fishing. I should feel right at home, because it will be dark. My only concern will be making it back before suffering from cardiac arrest.

The good news? I will be so amazingly in shape when Dallin returns, that I will fearlessly challenge him to a rematch. Watch out Dallin, this is one mom who refuses to sit by while all her muscles atrophy into jello. When you get back, I will be ready for you. (But you still can't stuff my shots unless I stuff yours. After all, I'm not totally delusional.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Meara - The Bionic Two Year Old

When my mom was young, she had a dog named Sunny that lived in the house. The only thing she's ever told me about Sunny, is that no matter where the dog was, or how hard it was sleeping, you couldn't get into the cookie jar with out Sunny knowing. No matter how quietly the lid was handled, moments later Sunny would come bounding into the kitchen asking for a treat.

Some people have dogs. We have Meara.

For lack of treats and desserts in our house (because I have no self control and cannot sleep if such things are available), (that last was NOT an exaggeration by the way) my husband has come up with his own evening treat. Cake mix. And water. In a mug. Sound terrible, doesn't it? Just for the record, however, it's actually not bad.

To make this decadent dessert, he dumps some mix (preferably yellow) into a mug, pours in a little water, and stirs rapidly until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency. When ready for consumption, he sits on the couch with his treat and eats it with a spoon. And then he leaves the cup lying around so I can find it later with cake mix all dried and crusted inside. (That last sentence has nothing to do with this story, but everything to do with another story).

Needless to say our children are all aware of "Dad's stuff" and like him to share with them. Especially Meara. A couple of nights ago Rusty sneaked off to the kitchen with plans to get his "stuff" upstairs before being detected. As he finished stirring and came walking out of the kitchen with it, he picked up a tail.

We couldn't figure out how she saw the cup - since he practically had it in his shirt - but there was no doubt she knew what was going on. She moved right in behind him with the excited skipping, laughing, pig-tail-bouncing gait of a two year old who knows she's about to get a bite of "Dad's stuff". He made the circuit through our living room/front room at least three times before admitting there was no getting away from her.

FYI, if you have food - there is NO getting away from her.

Tonight we figured out her secret abilities. There we were, sitting on the couch. Rusty nonchalantly stands up and moves into the kitchen. Meara is playing on the other side of the couch. A few minutes later, I just happen to notice the faint "clink, clink" of spoon stirring in mug, and somewhere in my brain the fact registers that Rusty's making his "stuff".

At about this same moment Meara's head pops up. She resembles a hound on the scent. She drops whatever it was she was playing with, puts her head down, and runs for the kitchen.

She meets him at the kitchen doorway - hot on his heels.

SHE HEARS THE CLINKING OF SPOON ON MUG TWO ROOMS AWAY, AND REALIZES IT MEANS FOOD! WHILE BUSILY INVOLVED WITH HER OWN TOYS! SHE IS TWO!

Do you think I could get on Oprah? Maybe That's Incredible would be interested.

And the scariest thing? I'm pretty sure she gets this ability from me. I do have a thing for treats. If I thought my neighbors had cake at their house I'd probably come up with an excuse to go visiting. Even though I hardly know them.

Where these abilities will take my daughter, no one can tell. Maybe she should be some kind of food taster? Does anyone know if there's money in that? It seems like she could be worth something to the right people, doesn't it?

Who knows. But for now, I just hope those of you without freaky-hyper-sensibility-two-year-olds appreciate eating your food in peace. Next time you eat something good - that you don't want to share - think of us and be even happier. We would be sharing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Truth Hurts

I love it when little kids coin phrases that become family tradition. Take my sister Laura's son Kenyan, for instance. (He's going to love that I'm posting this story about him, by the way - now that he's thirteen and immune to all embarrassment). When he was being potty trained, he was having a hard time with the whole BM thing. Just couldn't really let it go on the potty, if you know what I mean. Finally, in his moment of triumph he excitedly yelled, "Hey, I dropped some!" A family phrase/code word was born. In our family we don't say a child has to "go", we say he has to "drop some."

My favorite of all time, however, is a phrase that originates with Liam. Liam has always been aware of other people's feelings. Even when he was really little, he never wanted to make anyone feel bad, or be mean in any way.

Yet, being a small child, the truth must be said.

One day when he was about four, Liam and my mother were outside together. I don't remember exactly what it was they were doing, but while they were doing whatever it was, my mom exhibited poor judgement on some level. A level low enough that my four year old son noticed.

Standing next to her, he critically examined the situation from his four year old perspective. Reaching his conclusion, he looked up at her with an apologetic expression on his little face, and gently said, "Grandma? I think maybe you're just a little bit not so smart."

It was clear that it pained him to be so brutally honest, but at four what other choice do you have?

Since this occurrence, my mother eventually recovered her self respect in the eyes of my child, and we have continued to use the phrase, "just a little bit not-so-smart" to lovingly point out judgement lapses, and various other, well, not-so-smart things committed by those we love.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Complete Mom Checkout

I think I've checked out for the summer. In a good way. Well, good for me - my family may not agree. This new state of mine is not the same as the Summer Blahs, which I've already mentioned getting. This transcends the Blahs, and has taken me to an entirely different sphere.

The Blahs just means having a general frustration, lack of energy, boredom, and a longing for some itsy, bitsy bit of motivation. I am blissfully past all that. Heck, who needs to be motivated when there are only days left of summer vacation? I'm feeling so relaxed I actually read a book this week. And it's only Tuesday. And...I didn't even feel guilty about it when I realized my husband was on his way home and I hadn't made dinner.

Dinner. What is that anyway? Can't we just repeat lunch and have sandwiches? Sure we can! See how blissful Complete Mom Checkout (CMC) can be? You send your kiddies out to play in the morning, see them briefly around lunchtime, and again at secondlunch/dinner. Then you send them back out for their last nights of summery evening play, and get them so tired they fall right into bed and sleep.

Now, as wonderful as it sounds, CMC isn't possible in long term situations. It requires dropping all but the most necessary household chores, i.e. dishes, laundry (only the minimal amount), and basic straightening. (Anything more obnoxious that MUST be done is assigned to the children to ensure a state of complete relaxation for the checked out mother.). This has been going on in my house for about three days. I feel wonderful.

For all of you who think I am the worst wife/mother ever for proudly embracing the CMC state, I would like to present my defense. In one week from tomorrow I reenter the world of getting up at 5:30 to get four children out the door by 7:15, working, teaching piano lessons, homework, reading, chores (theirs and mine), and all the other things moms are responsible for when they aren't checked out. So for the next seven days, I will continue to feel no pressure about all the things I could be doing, I will have very casual dinners, I will let my children run wild with the neighbors (within reason, of course), and I will remain completely immune to any feelings of guilt. After all, moms deserve a break every now and then, right? This is mine, and I am determined to enjoy it. So there. (My mother would never approve).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I was just reading a favorite blogstop of mine, and took a foray into a subject near and dear to my insanity. My house. More specifically, what I'd like to do with (or to) my house. (In my mind, I immediately see an image of lighter fluid and a match...)

Can I just start by saying that my house is old? VERY old. One bathroom and minimal outlets old. When we moved in (after several months of work just to make it livable) I literally had two electrical outlets to serve the entire downstairs, outside of the kitchen. Just try to make things look good with orange extension cords running everywhere - I dare you. My favorite was the one tacked up the wall and across the ceiling to power the ceiling fan. Nice.

In the beginning of our time here, the upstairs was a very patchwork kind of place. Each room sported at least three different wall coverings, ranging mainly between tar paper (yes, I said tar paper - that black stuff used on roofs), paneling (of the ugliest 1980's varieties), unfinished sheet rock (the duct tape covering the seams was a nice touch), and the old cardboard-like wall paper covering used in the first half of the 20th century to keep the outside air from moving too freely about in the house.

We (just in case my husband ever reads this, I'm using the term "we" VERY loosely) have leveled the foundation, re-plumbed the laundry room, replaced the roof - sheeting and the works, re-built the front porch, sheet rocked, insulated, carpeted, wired (I hesitate to say re-wire, because that would imply there had been wires in the first place), painted - inside and out - multiple times, moved the driveway (which conveniently ran directly in front of the porch), put in a lawn, installed a picket fence and shutters, field-fenced the perimeter (we have just over an acre), and continue to sink every cent of our tax returns into this house. All with the hopes that someday it will be nice enough that some one else may want to own it.

Did I mention we got a screamin' deal?

Or that we bought it sight-unseen for the most part? (Technically, since it's down the road from my parent's I drove past it several times a day for the first 18 years of my life. This does NOT mean I was actually prepared for the stark reality). As to the condition of the house, my mother tried to warn me. She sent me pictures taken from every angle in every room (including the hospital green kitchen, and tar-papered upstairs) and lovely panoramas of the seriously cosmetically challenged exterior. She was very concerned.

My lofty goals for this summer included ripping up a sidewalk and putting in a patio, remodeling the back porch so we could enter from somewhere besides the front door, exterior painting touch-ups, and various indoor activities revolving around the words "paint" "organize-with-no-closets" and "do-something-with-the-bathroom-because-it-looks-just-like-it-did-when-we-moved-in". The sidewalk has been ripped up, just in case anyone is wondering. And I painted the doghouse. With the children. I may need to blog about that experience, now that I'm reminded of it. WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING THIS SUMMER!!

In my defense, I hate projects. Possibly because they've been a way too constant element in my life this last seven years. And, it's not easy to fit them in around four children who want to go to grandma's, go swimming, eat lunch, have clean clothes to wear (okay, I don't think they'd really notice, but I do have some pride), and various other little distracting and time consuming wants/needs.

So how do I stand it, you ask? How do I handle living in a house that should be constantly under construction? When it gets overwhelming, I ask myself one simple question and force an honest answer from my reluctant brain.

If I could do it over, would I have changed anything?

I live a quarter mile from my mother. My kids have an acre to play on, fruit trees, several forts, and a nice quiet dead end private road to ride their bikes on. There are ditches and cricks (creeks for the non-country people) within moments of my front door where my kids spend countless summer hours catching "things". (No doubt the "things" are the distant offspring of the things I caught in the same cricks/ditches when I was a kid), and due to the close proximity, my children have the privilege of grandma-access almost every day.

I know very few people who even have the option of putting all these elements in their lives. Some people will think I'm crazy for wanting a life a quarter mile down the road from my mother. For my children and me however, the seven years we've spent in this old, out-dated, needs constant work house have been priceless.

I comfort myself with the thought that I won't live in this house forever. (Please, please let that be true!). But for the time being, I have to admit that I'm glad I didn't see the place before we bought it, because it might have scared me away. And there's NO doubt that even if it hadn't, one look at the foundation would have sent my husband running for the hills.

For now, I do my best to concentrate on the good points (namely the things AROUND the house) and ignore the bad. (My kitchen, my no-garage, my one bathroom, on, and on, and on). It isn't always easy, and my friends have heard my sob story many times, but in all reality living here has blessed our lives. In twenty years from now I have no doubt I'll look back on these years and be thankful I spent them in this house - that is, as long as I'm not still here. I won't be, right?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Armpit Hair, Anyone?

So, as a general rule, body hair is not a very desirable thing. Unless you are a nine year old boy. Then, apparently, it's fascinating, and you really, really, really want some. Especially if your friend gets some first.

Liam, my nine year old, has a best friend. We'll call him B. B is a hilarious kid that is a kick to have around. B is seven months older than Liam, and is not what you'd call a skinny kid - but this totally adds to his charm. I have been hearing for a while about B's "armpit hair." Liam is completely awed by the fact that a kid his age could have already acquired such a thing. Several times now he has asked me to inspect his own armpits - just in case.

The other day I took the boys and B to the lake. They had a fabulous time swimming around and playing in the sand. Finally it was time to pack things up, and we got in the car and headed home. Niall, Liam and B are all sitting in the back seat as I hear (and watch via the rear view)the following conversation.

B: I have armpit hair.

L&N: Can we see? (in their "like totally cool! No way, dude!" voices)

Rear view mirror shows B proudly thrusting his armpits in the direction of my children's scrutinizing faces.

N: Wow, cool!

L: I think I'm getting some armpit hair!

Rear view mirror shows Liam hopefully displaying his armpits.

Some general conversation follows about different people and their armpit hair, until someone says:

"I know a kid who has armpit hair on his face!" followed by oooohs and ahhhs at the coolness of this statement.

How exactly do you follow a such a statement? I'm at a loss. I laughed all the way home. Since then, Liam has had me inspect his armpits, chest, and face. I had to disappoint him on all three accounts by describing the difference between "hair" and "fuzz". He rallied right back, however, and informed me that he has some "pretty good arm hair." I don't know, it looked pretty fuzzy to me. But he swears that when he gets out of the shower and rubs it with a towel it looks "Sooo hairy Mom!" Again, what can I say? Goooo Liam!

P.S. I told my mother this story, and like the fabulous grandma that she is, the next time she saw Liam the first thing she did was ask about his arm hair. He was thrilled.

Tan Lines

I just need to publicly announce that my skin actually has some color. I HAVE A TAN! Not much of one, but THERE IS A LINE! Hallelujah! It took three hours of floating around in the water to achieve it, but who cares. And can I just say (brace yourself) that I even got a little color on my legs??? (only the front, and not very much - at all - but at least I won't blind everyone at church {maybe}).

This is coming from the girl who thought she had made peace with her glowing whiteness. I do not want to hear any one with any amount of natural skin pigmentation try to commiserate with me here. You do not know what it's like in my world of year-round-whiteness. I do not burn, I do not tan. Apparently, I have the world's first sun-resistant skin. Let me illustrate.

I got tan once. I was working (like a SLAVE) for my brother one summer (the summer I met my husband actually - could it have been the tan??) and he had a pool. It was so ridiculously hot (over 95 EVERY day) that I would start working at 5:00 am. My entire day was spent in the sun as I hauled rocks with the wheel barrow, moved construction debris, hauled more rocks, and (attempted) to level his back yard with a shovel.

At 11:30 every day I took a two hour pool break to cool off. No sunscreen touched my body - my weapon of choice was baby oil. Slathered all over my glorious whiteness, the baby oil and I would float around my brother's pool following a strategic turning plan aimed at achieving the world's greatest tan. When finished, I would spend the rest of the day outside finishing my torture - oops, I mean work. (BTW, he paid VERY well).

After three months of this, those who knew me (and my natural coloring) well would say things like "Wow, it looks like you got a little color this year."

The rest of the population was probably wondering why I was so white.

I should have looked like a sun-goddess.

Really, I am constantly hearing how my skin "glows". Just so you know people, this is NOT a compliment if it's proceeded by phrases like "you're skin's so white it..." Especially coming from someone with a great tan, or naturally dark skin. And what about when they want to "compare" so they can show you just how white you really are (as if you didn't know). It's the equivalent of a skinny person going up to a fat person and saying "wow, you are sooo fat! Let's compare, see how much thinner I am than you? Let's put our butts together so we can measure the difference! Standing next to you makes me look like a supermodel!"

I digress. Back to the happy news, when I put a black t-shirt on this morning, my arms, chest, and neck didn't offer nearly the usual contrast! And of course they looked thinner, because everyone knows that tan takes inches off and adds tone to flabbiness. I am so thrilled I'm thinking of trying harder to get color next year. Let's see, it should only take about 300 hours of dedication to the sun to achieve that elusive "all-over-color"... Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The 600 Calorie Diet

Like most every other woman in the world, I have tried many methods of weight loss since the ripe old age of fourteen. Why fourteen? Probably because the summer I was thirteen I spent a month with my brother helping out at the donut shop. Bad deal, that one. And some really, really fabulous donuts. Did I say some? Because what I should have said was dozens and dozens of really fabulous donuts.

Those donuts put me on a path. A wide, spacious path filled with people who, like myself, are on an eternal search for a magical formula for losing weight. There have been some doozies. Some are familiar to all, i.e. the cabbage soup diet. Some were a bit more unusual. Anyone out there ever try the Beverly Hills diet? For the first twenty-four hours you eat nothing but watermelon. As much of it as you want - but nothing else. You think you like watermelon? Go ahead and try nothing but for twenty-four hours,then we'll talk. Day two had something to do with pineapple, but I never made it that far.

My favorite, however, was the 600 calorie diet. It was sent to Kelly and I by Koni (her mother, my sister) while we were at college. Just the name instills faith in the plan - how could you fail with only 600 calories a day! But wait - there's more. This is a diet with some science behind it. It's one of those tricky little plans that supposedly fools your sleepy metabolism into becoming a calorie burning machine. How does it (supposedly) work? Read on.

Your supposed to eat 600 calories for three days. Then, just before your body goes into starvation mode, on day four you bump it up to 900 calories. Woo Hoo. You stay there for days five, six, and seven. Then, for the next week you get a whopping 1200 calories.

Now, this sounds bad enough, but it gets worse. Koni couldn't find the actual information, so she just sent us her version. Aside from a slight problem with the numbers, she was right on. Her version had us starting out with 300 calories. Yes, that would be no more than 300 calories a day for three days.

Kelly and I were not scared. We had tried Koni's weight loss programs before and were still alive, if not any thinner. (The Beverly Hills diet was also courtesy of Koni). Koni had included a list with lots of low calorie foods and there exact caloric worth. Fearlessly, we took the plunge. Those first three days went something like this:

Wake up, eat nothing. Go to class
Come home and have half an apple and a hard boiled egg.
Sleep to ignore the hunger.
Wake up eat the other half of the apple, and go back to class.
Come home and eat a piece of dry toast followed by a large glass of water.
We are now half way to 300.
Go back to sleep.
Wake up and eat 150 calories of something, and go to bed.

Homework no doubt suffered, but as college girls we had our priorities. I swear that every time either of us came home the other one was sleeping. It should have been called the sleep-away-the-pain diet.

Now, according to Koni's version you bump up to 600 calories on day four. Can I just say that 600 calories never looked so good? We were going to double our caloric intake - we were so excited! Recklessly, we started day four out with an entire apple. Before class. Our mid-morning break meant a hard boiled egg AND a piece of dry toast - ALL AT ONE SITTING! I think we felt full.

Then we hurried into our room for our nap. Maybe we weren't so full.

Lunch was meager, dinner was worse, and we continued to sleep the pain away while dreaming of our metabolisms kicking it into high gear and burning every ounce of excess fat from our bodies. Do you suppose the lack of food was causing disillusionment?

Somewhere around day six we got a phone call from Koni. "Hey girls, just thought you'd want to know that I found that information on the diet. Turns out you were supposed to start out with 600 calories, then go to 900, and then 1200. I thought 300 seemed a little low."

You'd think we'd have been mad. Frustrated and starved? Yes. Mad? Heck no! We had just proved we could make it for six days on 3300 calories! If we could handle the 300 calorie diet, the 600 calorie version would be a cinch. A few days off from starvation and we were ready to go.

We successfully followed the 600 calorie diet a few times that year. (The fact that it needed repeating casts doubts on its effectiveness, but it really did make you FEEL thin while you were starving.) And in case any of you are thinking of trying it, I have a few tips. Do not attempt this plan if you're life doesn't allow for numerous naps a day. DO NOT attempt if there is anyone, i.e. husband, children, dog, whatever, in your life requiring any form of service, or any amount AT ALL of patience. Take it from someone who knows, you will be unable to fulfill these requirements on less than 1200 calories a day.

No, we never saw any great improvement - aside from a few pounds that were no doubt water weight - after following this plan. No, I would not recommend anyone to try this (or any other form of voluntary starvation) to lose weight. And finally, no, I do not rely on drastic measure such as these to stay thin. Let's face it, I love food too much. What I will say for the 600 calorie diet is this - it was definitely the most memorable of all the crazy diets I've ever tried. Cabbage soup, Chinese tea, Beverly Hills, juice fast (okay, maybe we have a tie), no diet out there can possibly be as bad or as crazy as the good old 600 calorie diet!

To All My Personal Life Savers

My computer went cuckoo on me the other night. Is it fixed yet? Well, no. I'm just having faith that I can get this whole post off before it decides to shut me down and erase everything. I called the HP support place Thursday night, and the guy sounded very encouraging just before we got cut off. Unfortunately, he never called me back, and we were gone over the weekend. Hold your breath, because when I'm done with this I'm giving it another try.

My weekend? Ward camp out, hosted by yours truly - the ward activities person. I would like to preface this by saying that being an activities planner is not really in my DNA. I am the type who plans a meal and forgets the silverware and condiments (could I ever remember the condiments?) In other words, I am NOT a detail person. By any stretch of the imagination.

This is possibly the reason I keep getting put into positions requiring extensive planning. Someone up there is hoping that at some point I will get things together and remember the little things that make things work - like tables for people to cook/serve on, for instance. (never fear, I remembered them that morning and managed to throw some together. See? I am getting better! The only thing we had to leave and get was the ice!). Is it working? As noted, there have been minimal improvements. Like the fact that I now recognise that I will undoubtedly forget lots of little essentials. Like bringing something to secure the signs to the tree/post/whatever. (Again, saved from repeating this blunder by assigning the job to someone else.)

This is really my secret strategy. So secret that I always inform everyone involved that if I do not have an AMAZING detailed/organizing/list-making/personal-assisting-type individual working closely (and I mean VERY closely) with me, the whole thing will come crashing down around all our heads. So far it's worked, and I would just like to thank Kathy, Magen, Joyce (who will probably never read this blog, but knows how lost I would have been without her) and every one else who has ever uttered those fateful words, "Um, have you thought about the..." for saving me from certain disaster.

After all, isn't this the way things are supposed to work? It's kind of like marriage. I have my strengths - somewhere, I'm sure - and I have someone else around to make up for my weaknesses. I'm not convinced (at all) that in this planning department they wouldn't be just as well off without me, but hey - they sure make me look great! And that's what this blog is essentially about. I would like to publicly thank them and tell the world that nothing I am in charge of would ever be successful without that amazing person standing right beside/behind/in front, of me. Close, I always keep them close. If they stray too far you will hear me frantically yelling "Kathy? Kathy?! WHERE ARE YOU KATHY! I CAN'T DO THIS ALONE! GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW!"

Now if I could just get this kind of help at home, I'm sure my kids would eat more vegetables, and my husband would always have clean socks. And I would never forget orthodontist appointments - or anything else for that matter. So thank you, thank you, thank you, to all of you who have helped me avoid repeated disasters - you know who you are, and you know just how truly lost I would be without you!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Pee Fairy

What is it about life? And two year olds? You never really know anything except that if you're taking any kind of a gamble on what they'll do, you'll probably loose.

Let's look at my adorable little potty trained wonder Meara for a moment. It has now been 17 days (and nights) since I potty trained her. Just in case, I bought pull-ups for her to use at night. One never can be sure what's going to happen with the whole nighttime/pee thing. I was pleased to see that she immediately began waking up dry. This wonderful occurance happened for about seven nights in a row, causing me to think dangerous thoughts.

"Hmmm," I think to myself, "these pull-ups are expensive. Surely if she's been dry for a week it's pretty safe to try putting her to bed without one."

You know how at the drive-through car washes they have those lit up instructions? Like, "STOP" and "Pull Forward"? If I had light up parenting signs, one flashing the words "DANGER! You are about to unnecessarily increase your dirty laundry!" would have immediately began flashing. But alas, no such thing exists and I was left with my own puny reasoning skills to guide me. Here's where my brilliant thinking abilities took me:

"Even if she isn't going to stay dry every night, what are the chances she'll pee the first night out of pull-ups? Yes, I think I will put her in her cutest, silky pink, freshly laundered nightgown. She'll be fine."

At this point, the sign I didn't have would have gone into a flashing frenzy, and a blaring alarm would have sounded. Can someone find me one of these signs? I mean really, I had JUST changed her crib sheet!

Sure enough, the Pee Fairy visited Meara in the night. 6:00 am, actually. Just late enough that she won't go back to sleep, and just early enough that I'm not thrilled about having to get up. I really think the Pee Fairy could have been just a little more sympathetic. Do you suppose she knows I don't like her?

So back into pull-ups we went. Until last night. She hasn't peed in a pull-up yet! It made sense to stop using them! The only time she didn't stay dry was when I thought she would! But with no flashing sign to guide me, I once more fell victim to common sense and gave that stupid Fairy a chance to visit. Wet bed just before seven. I really hate the Pee Fairy.

So, back into pull-ups tonight. The pull-up thing isn't even that big of a deal anyway. It's the gamble. It's Murphy and his dumb old law. This time, I think I'll just use the whole blasted package of pull-ups before trying again. After all, why give the Pee Fairy an invitation before it's absolutely necessary, right?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cabin Fever

I have cabin fever. Summer does that to me, strange as it may sound. As the long days of doing nothing but the same things (dishes, laundry, vacuum, orchestrate the child slaves, dishes, dinner, laundry, etc.) drag on and on, the joys of being home with my children 24/7 begin to fade. Is that bad? Am I a horrible person?

As someone working in the school system (I'm a high school sub) I have the benefit of taking the summers off with my children. This is something I look forward to every year - especially since this last year or two my schedule has been almost full time. Definitely too much for a woman with four children. As summer approaches I get almost desperate for the madness of trying to work and keep it all together to end.

Finally, summer arrives. Oh blessed mornings of not forcing people out of bed and into their clothes. The first month or so speeds by rapidly as we get immersed in our summer schedule of chores (I swear that's all we do around here). Eventually - sometime around the middle of July - the sun comes out and we start going to the lake. Other than that, things pretty much revolve around our house and Grandma's. The perfect, lazy summer with nothing to do. (But clean).

It's wearing me down.

By August, I begin to feel tired. "Why get dressed?" my brain says in the morning. Don't worry Mother, I do...eventually. I swear I wear the same three t-shirts over and over again. But then again, no one sees me so who cares - right? I still put make-up on - if and when I leave the house. I still talk to people - my mother and sisters. I still shower - but my goal to shave my legs at least every three days has not been met lately.

Am I pathetic? Is this normal? Shouldn't a person be able to feel energized even if they have nowhere to go, nothing to do (but clean), no one to see, nothing to look forward to but the next round of mess-it-up-clean-it-up?

I have never been good at the 'not having a job' thing. Whether it's something small, like teaching piano lessons or selling pampered chef, I have always done something. I suppose it's really a blessing, since financially my income is kind of important. It's not like I want to work very much either. Give me one or two days a week out of the house and I'm good.

On the bright side (because this is getting a little too depressing) it has been a blast to be home with my kids. I'm definitely glad that come September I'll be able to cut down on my 3-4 day work schedule and spend more time just being a mom. There's no doubt that it's the most important thing I could be doing, and I'm thankful I get to be with them as much as I do.

Still, I suppose I just need to face the fact that I am someone who needs a little outside stimulation. Kudos to all you moms out there that blissfully go about your days getting all you need just from taking care of your families and doing their laundry. I know people like this, and I often wish I could be more like them. But I suppose we all have things we'd like to change about ourselves, and I should just count my blessings and push on through. Summer can't last forever right? And it could be worse - I could live in Alaska.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Survival Camping

One of my favorite things about my husband is all the cool stuff he's willing to do with my children. They go with him when he practices shooting his bow, he takes them fishing, on day hikes, canoing, and camping. And now - that they are 9 and 7 - he apparently takes them 'survival camping'.

He has been working on going camping since the beginning of July, but things kept getting in the way. Finally two weeks ago he settled on this past weekend. Because wilderness time is essential to his happiness and state of mind, I do my best to make these trips possible. When he said he was taking the older boys even though I couldn't go, I was thrilled.

Trying to get any detailed information, i.e. destination, general plan, return time, etc., from my husband is practically impossible, so it wasn't until Thursday night that I had any idea of what he was planning. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: What are you going to do for a tent? (our medium one broke, and all we have is gigantic and tiny).

Him: We're not using a tent. We're survival camping.

Me: Oh. Where are you going? A campground?

Him: No. We're going up on the west fork of the Humptulips (yes, this is the name of a real river, and yes it is out in the middle of nowhere and over an hour from our house.) We're going to hike in so you'll need to pack them food.

Me: Hike? how far?

Him: Not more than three miles.

Okay, lets review. He doesn't get home until 4:00, has to gather all his gear, (I always pack for the boys) load the car, stop at Wal-mart for some last minute supplies, and drive for an hour. If they make it to their campsite before dark it will be amazing. Back to our conversation:

Me: Have you checked the weather forecast? It's supposed to rain.

Him: We'll be fine.

Me: But you're not bringing a tent.

Him: I'll bring a big sheet of plastic and we'll make a shelter.

It's true that my husband is the lean-to king (he was actually living in the woods in a lean-to made with a wool blanket and a couple of sticks when I met him - long story), but all I can picture are my two terrified children wandering around in the woods after dark (refer to last post to see how Liam and Niall feel about wandering around in the dark) getting rained on, while Rusty stumbles around trying to throw up a questionable shelter.

Have I mentioned I suffer from anxiety when my family members go running around in the wilderness?

Anyway, at this point in the conversation I knew there was nothing I could do. Logical brain said "they will be fine, it will be fun, and they'll have a great experience they'll never forget with their dad." Mom brain says "Aaahh! They'll be scared. They'll get soaked. They'll get sick. They'll cry and end up as cougar/bear food!" After many years of experience in this kind of situation with my husband, Mom brain is silenced (well, hushed to a volume audible only to me) and Logical brain overruled.

They didn't leave town until 6:00, and despite what they tell me, I'm sure it was pretty dark when they made camp. The report they brought home was that they: Made camp, ate snacks, went to bed. It rained. Liam got wet, and Niall rolled out of the "sturdy" shelter in his sleep. No one slept much. They woke up at 6:00 am and ate. It rained. They shot the bow and ate lunch. At 9:00 am they headed home and finished their car-snack on the way. They were home before noon. They had a blast. They can't wait to go again. I'm glad Logical brain won and they had this experience. Oh, and the only one who came down with a cold and went to bed sick? Their father.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Night Walkers

Little known fact about me - I love to be out at night with out a flashlight. Walks in the dark, or being in the woods when camping - as long as it's dark, and nature-y, I'm all over it.

This probably originated from my childhood. We had acreage and cows, and occasionally nighttime hunts for an animal were necessary. The ones that made the biggest impression happened when I was about eight or nine. This makes Laura 10-11, and Annie 6-7.

Missing cows usually ended up in a two-acre stand of large trees (i.e. woods) in our lower field. It was always the same - Dad and Annie would go one way, Laura and I would go the other in the pitch black forest of darkness. We would be totally terrified. Eventually, however, we'd calm down and start having fun with our adventure.

Running around on prank errands at girls' camp, and huge nighttime games of capture the flag cured me of the need for a flashlight. By the time I reached adulthood I was a veteran night walker. (That doesn't sound quite right, does it...) Until walking home tonight with Liam and Niall, I'd completely forgotten what could be so scary about a walk in the dark.

The boys were horrified that we were actually heading into the night with no flashlight. In their defense, it was a dark, moonless, foggy night with that dense blackness hanging in the shadows...but off we went. They were clinging so tightly to my arms I could hardly walk. They were scared of coyotes, stray dogs, large (as in giant) snakes, and every single sound they heard. No one wanted to get behind or in front of the group - especially after I told them that "things" always get the loner. Aren't I a mean mom?

Eventually they relaxed a little, and Liam admitted it wasn't "that scary". When we got close enough they even ventured out of the herd to sprint home - until they got too far ahead of me, then they sprinted back.

Overall, I figure we can chalk this up as our first night-walk together. Who knows? Maybe we can make it a tradition, and it will be something my children will always remember doing with their fearless mother. That really is the great thing about kids - they know what you know, and you can almost always pass on the things that are most important to you. To my boys, thank you for helping me remember what it's like to be a little person with a huge imagination, and here's to the future of a new Baxter tradition.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Confessions of a Fair Food Fanatic

This really is the most appropriate blog to follow my last post, because it revolves around me and food. Fair food, to be exact. Can I just say that one time a year it is okay for every human being to gorge themselves on deep fried, chocolate dipped, onion smothered food - with a clear conscience? I love the fair! But what makes this eating frenzy even more enjoyable? Someone who feels the same way, and can guiltlessly eat their way from one food stand to the next with only slight breathers in between.

My husband, bless his red head, does not fit into the above category. As far as he's concerned, no one should eat at the fair because the food is overpriced, and not that good. What can I say? Can you imagine the dampening affect this has on my annual fair food binge? I'm ordering cheesecake on a stick, dipped in chocolate and rolled in crushed butterfinger, and he's saying things like "How can you eat that? Do you know how fattening that is? Why don't you just go buy a whole cheesecake? It would be cheaper."

Okay, rule numero uno for the fair food diet - you NEVER discuss the fat or calorie content of the food! It just isn't done. And the price? If I can't scrounge up enough money for the basics: scones, funnel cake, some incredibly greasy entree, and a shaved ice, I'm not even going. The quilt barn is nice, but it just doesn't have the draw of a strawberry shortcake, or an onion burger.

So this year I took a better date. Someone who appreciates fair food like I do, and who possibly set some kind of record for food consumption at the Puyallup Fair when we were kids. I took my sister Annie. We'd spent the morning dragging/pushing/chasing the seven children belonging to us around the fair, and went back last night to enjoy ourselves. We'd both fasted all day in preparation of the big feast, and went strictly for the food. It was glorious. I only wish we'd had enough time to let things settle for another couple of courses.

We started with a gyro - lamb, steak, feta cheese - tasty and not too filling. Important for your first course. Next we debated over an Indian taco, but at $10.95 decided it would limit our choices later and went for a bloomin' onion instead. Ahh, the greasy, crunchy, ranch-dipped fun of eating with no conscience.

Annie voted against going straight for the funnel cake. Too much deep-fried at once can apparently hinder your appetite and proper appreciation of the funnel cake. A mistake she's made before. Are we experts, or what? Instead we opted for the lighter raspberry filled scone. Always a good choice. We went ahead an took a little walk at this point to let things settle.

A stroll through the produce barn and booth pavilion was just enough. Back for the funnel cake. Powdered sugared, whipped creamed, raspberry sauced funnel cake. Mmmmm. So good, but unfortunately so filling. Now was the time for something light and fruity. The problem? It was getting cold, and lemonade sounded too chilly. We walked around to try and warm up a little, but it wasn't helping. I wanted to go for the shaved ice despite the cold, but unfortunately my sister likes the grossest flavors and was unwilling to compromise. Bubble gum, cotton candy, and watermelon? All on the same shaved ice? Disgusting.

I'm sad to admit that we left with more than $5.00 in our pocket. Gyros, bloomin' onion, scones, and funnel cake is really a pretty poor showing for professionals. Today I'm feeling a bit disappointed in myself. Considering this was consumed in less than an hour and a half, however, I suppose we should get some credit. It was late, we were cold, the fair was about to close. I regret foregoing the last course (light and fruity), but at least I'd had a shaved ice earlier - my only consolation. Next year's plan? Start earlier, dress warmer, and bring a date with equal enthusiasm. Annie probably won't be available, any takers?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Baxter Factor

There must be something about our DNA. That is the only thing that can possibly explain my children's love affair with food. Admittedly, I love to eat. Ask anyone who knows me, if you have food, I'm there. I fall into the category of people who can't sleep if there is chocolate in the house. You think this is an exaggeration, but sadly it's only too true. Cheesecake, cookies, cake, pie, junk food of many varieties - if it's around it's breakfast, lunch, and dinner until it's gone.

My husband is also a pretty good eater. I discovered early in our marriage that trying to make leftovers doesn't work. If I make a pot of chili, he eats a pot of chili. And now we have four children - three of them male - who are every bit as bad as we are. What is going to happen to our financial security when Liam and Niall are teenagers? Laugh all you want, this is serious stuff. I've already decided they will probably have to contribute to the food budget just to keep us going. Let me give you some idea of what I'm talking about.

1. I had to make a rule when Liam turned seven that no child can eat more than I do at dinner. Seven??!!!

2. When Conan made a bird feeder out of peanut butter and birdseed Niall ate it.

3. Meara eats a large bowl of cereal for breakfast, and then routinely goes from stool to stool looking for leftovers in all of her brother's bowls. When finished, she asks for more. And more, and more.

4. Two boxes of mac-n-cheese is only enough for my kids if there's at least one side dish to go with it. Then they're hungry an hour later.

5. Niall loves smoked oysters, chicken hearts, zucchini, cabbage, salad, seafood, bird seed, crawdads (crayfish), and any food with an unusual name/smell/appearance. He doesn't like potatoes.

6. Tonight for dinner Meara ate seven slices of cantaloupe, a 4 inch sub (with cucumbers, meat, cheese, and tomatoes) and who knows how many fishy crackers, all proceeded by an appetizer of popcorn and whatever else her dad gave her before I got home.

7. All of my children will eat at least 6 plate sized, medium thick pancakes. Liam and Niall eat more like 10. We don't make pancakes.

8. All the lunch ladies at the school have commented on my children's ability to 'pack it away'. Apparently they are legendary school lunch consumers.

9. Conan likes to eat breakfast, brunch, lunch, lunch II, pre-dinner, dinner (unless it's chicken), and bedtime snack. No I don't let him, but he capitalizes at Grandma's house. She's sure I starve my children.

10. On Sunday Conan brought home another birdfeeder and we had to hide it from Niall. "Mom! He's eating my birdfeeder again!" Whose kids have to say things like this?

Can you see where I'm going here? If we had junk food at our house my children would have a serious problem. (Anyone who doesn't already know what we look like is probably feeling a little concerned as it is). What is going to happen to us? My children may literally put us out on the streets with their dietary demands - and then they'll really be hungry!

All I can say is that you mom's with kids who don't eat - you may not have it so bad. At least you'll have a retirement - our kids will probably consume ours. And your mothers probably don't accuse you of starving your children, because your children probably don't walk through their door hungry EVERY time you visit.

I could go on, and on, and on about my kids and food. There are benefits of course, like rarely making a dinner no one will eat - although Niall's problem with potatoes combined with Conan's dislike of chicken does cause some issues. And like I've already suggested, I suppose Rusty and I are to blame. That is, unless it's something in the water?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Potty!!

Potty training can leave a mother with such mixed reactions. On one hand, there are no more two year old - heaven forbid three year old - diapers to change, or money blown buying them. There's the consolation that comes with knowing your child will be able to attend kindergarten (I know several children who have given their mothers a scare in this department). Also a factor: the unexplainable freedom from an unseen chain that enslaves a mother to the bowel movements of her child. Does anyone get this, or is it just me?

On the other hand, you have anxiety. Granted, Meara is doing phenomenally well for being one week into big girl panties, but still. As you and your child venture away from the controlled environment of your home, you begin running risks. Let's take church for instance. Yesterday I had to fill in for the ward organist, which means I get there early and sit on the stand during sacrament meeting. This birds eye view of what goes on in our pew around my poor husband (who's never learned to whisper) is always an interesting perspective, but there are times it's downright maddening being unable intervene.

So I watch my family arrive. Rusty has done his best on Meara's hair, and I admit to myself there is definite improvement in this department. They file in, sit down, and are decently quiet during the opening of the meeting. Then the young men bless, and begin passing the sacrament. As usual, things are pretty quiet, until the silence is shattered by Meara's not-so-quiet voice saying "Potty". Rusty pretends not to hear her. Again but louder,"Potty!" Somewhere around the third "Potty!" I make eye contact with him and give a frantic head-jerk towards the door.

Few men can ignore as effectively as my husband, and this is the last eye contact I'm able to secure. The cries of "Potty, potty, potty!" escalate in a desperate whine, and still he just sits there. I pry my eyes off my child and glance around the room to see several people snickering as they glance Meara's direction, and others looking at me, obviously thinking the whole thing is very entertaining. Even I am having a hard time keeping a straight face, and have to elbow Niall (who's sitting with me) when he lets out a loud snort.

She yelled it at least ten times - although Annie was having such a rough time with her own children she swears she only heard two or three - and this is not one of those inarticulate toddler words no one can understand. I'm sure I wasn't the only person getting nervous about the situation. I was just about to leave the stand, when suddenly she stopped. Luckily for Rusty, whose lap was in jeopardy, she held it until the passing of the sacrament was over. Pretty gutsy if you ask me. Then he finally took her out and I was able to relax.

Situations like that make me think "What was so wrong with diapers? She was happy, I was happy enough. Why are we putting ourselves through this?" Then I remember that I go to work in September, and potty training would have been out until next summer. Hmmm, a three year old's diapers is a pretty convincing argument. So over all, I suppose I'm glad I did it now. In another month, I'm sure she'll be a pro and I'll never look back. At the moment however, I would like to give shout of sympathy to any mothers dealing with potty training (or non-potty training) at any stage. I appreciate what you're going through, and I salute you. Just remember - it isn't easy, but at some point anyway, it's worth it.

Things I Love

1. When my husband unexpectedly shows up somewhere. I really like him. A lot.

2. Looking at my children while they're sleeping. Aahhhhhh.

3. Any kind of event where food is served. I should be president of the "Here for the food" club.

4. Ratting out my sister (Annie) on her blog. This is one of my favorite new pastimes.

5. Cute clothes I can afford.

6. Ross - thanks for making love #6 possible!

7. The color red. Particularly red shoes, which I have determined go with just about anything.

8. Good friends who love me and say things like "Can you please come shopping with me?" This is possibly the sweetest thing anyone could ever say to me. Thanks Chelsea/Susan/Robin! and everyone else who falls in this category.

9. Comments on my blog. So much fun to see what people have to contribute to my life. Blogging is fun, communing and commiserating is so much better!

10. My parents for giving me such a great life. Thanks Mom and Dad. There may be people who had it as good as me, but I doubt anyone had it better.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Going, Going, Gone

Niall, my seven year old, is known to stress out about things. For instance, the other day the boys and I were talking about growing up and having kids. This led into the following conversation:

Niall: Oh, I'm never having kids.

Me: Why not? Don't you think it would be fun to have kids?

Niall: Sure.

Me: Then why don't you want to have any?

Niall: (In an 'isn't it obvious' tone) Because I don't know how to get to the hospital!

This is typical for him. He has also informed me that he doesn't ever plan on moving out no matter how old he gets. Why? Because he might not be able to get to the bank. ???? Who knew the bank would factor so high on the life necessity list of a seven year old?

So the other day we had another 'stressed out Niall' incidence. A newlywed couple has just moved in on the street behind us. They are very nice, and she is particularly sweet. We've got to know them a little, because our dog Rosie loves to go play at their house. Anytime the gate is left open and no one is around, off she goes.

Niall has become a fan of Nichole - probably because she keeps offering him food - and I've become suspicious that he occasionally lets Rosie out intentionally. This happened the other day, and he came home and excitedly told me Nicole had offered to let him borrow movies the next time he came to get Rosie.

The next day, Rosie mysteriously went AWOL, and Niall came rushing in to see if he and Liam could go get her. I rolled my eyes and sent them on their way. About ten minutes later he was back and I could see there was a problem.

Niall: Mom? (In his stressed out 'I'm trying not to cry' voice) Will you call Nicole and ask her if we can borrow some movies?

Me (heartless, as usual): No, if you wanted movies you should have asked for them while you were over there.

Niall (blinking very fast as tears welled): I couldn't. Rosie was in their backyard, and when we called her she came. (usually she runs the other way when the boys go to retrieve her)

Me: (sigh) Well, if you really want to borrow movies, why don't you just go back over and ask?

Niall (breaking down completely): I can't (sob). She said "when you come to get Rosie" and Rosie isn't over there (sob, sob).

At this point I was feeling sorry for the poor little guy, and managed to convince him that it would be okay to go back. He was a little concerned, but did it anyway and came happily home with his movies.

There was nothing remarkable about this incident, but for some reason I just keep thinking about it. Lately I've found myself getting emotional about the fact that my kids are getting older. My little Conan is going to be five in December, and everyone knows that babyhood is officially over by five. The fat creases on their arms and wrists are gone, their faces thin out, and they quickly get too big to sit on your lap and cuddle.

With my first I didn't realize this was happening, and his babyhood slipped by one night and was gone. I missed it's going completely, because I failed to see the end coming. Now I feel like I'm hanging on for dear life to Conan's sweet little ways, because too soon they will be gone as well.

Liam is a nine year old giant, Niall is big enough to worry about banking, and run around the neighborhood unsupervised (okay, it's really just a field between our houses, but I wouldn't let Conan go alone) and Conan is next. What will I do with out a little boy around to cuddle and kiss? I really can't imagine it. For all the things they've ruined, all the noise and wrestling and dare-devil stunts that end in disaster, there is nothing in the world as sweet as a little boy.

And so, I will enjoy Niall's little childhood stresses, and appreciate him even more for having them. I will cherish being the one to solve his problems and calm his fears, because I know the day will come when he won't need me this way anymore. And most of all, I will thank my Heavenly Father every day for giving me such wonderful children to watch, enjoy, and love. There couldn't be a greater gift.