Thursday, May 31, 2012

I'm Gonna Make You Pop - u - lar

You're eight years old and can't stop bouncing with joy.  You've just learned that Daddy is taking you to a musical.  You get to dress in your Sunday best, sit in red-cushioned seats with gold-plated numbers, and hold your very own ticket in a real performing arts theater.  Wicked is coming to your town, and as your parents briefly explain the story line to you, your eyes and smile get wider until they don't quite fit your face anymore.  Your parents remind you that your favorite song as a two year old came from this play, and then they start playing the music for you.  Over the next two weeks they listen to every song with you and explain the details of the plot (because the build-up is sometimes the greatest part of the experience).

Finally the day arrives.  You have several of the songs memorized by now and the anticipation keeps popping inside you as you sit through your second grade classes and ride the bus home.  The bus seems to take longer than usual, and you greet your mom with a skip in your step and ask, Is it time to get ready now?!

Yes.  Yes it is.  Come in and have a snack while I draw your bath, young lady.

You and your mom work together to scrub your body clean.  Your mom even brings out the nail scrubber and you laugh as the bristles tickle under your toenails.  Manicures and pedicures are next; you choose a solid color somewhere between the girlish pink and the darkest red and even decide not to alternate colors this time.  It seems more grown-up that way. Your hair, now that it's cut short, is dry by the time your nails are and only needs three minutes with a curling iron to turn it fancy because of the beautiful, natural curl you already have.  You don't like the heat and crinkle your face up in worry each time the hot iron spins toward your face.  But you're brave.  And you don't move. There is no question, when Mom gives you access to her earrings, that you will choose the dangliest of them all. You laugh when you feel them touching your neck. You finally find the right dress after changing your mind twice, slip the white fabric over your beautiful face, and can't stop smiling at your reflection after the final touch of lip-gloss puts a sparkle to your lips.

Daddy shows up.  And he has flowers.

Your Daddy is dashing in his suit.

And you are so beautiful.

Mom puts the point and shoot camera into your hands and instructs you to get pictures while you're there and to remember every detail so you can tell her all about it when you get back home.  She'll wait up for you.

You waste no time with the camera.

You draw attention as you walk across the street and into the performing arts center.  You're smaller than most everyone; you skip with excitement; you shine in your white dress; and you showcase the love between you and your tall and handsome date by holding his hand and chattering unceasingly with your face pointed up in his direction. Person after person stops you to comment on how lovely you look.

You come back to the house at around 11:00pm.  Tired eyes full of sparkles.  You laugh over and over again and change into your pajamas as you tell and retell your favorite parts of the musical to your mom.  And then you collapse in a tired heap.

And probably dream in green.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012


Mothers Day started early for me this year.

3:27am to be exact.

Carson came stumbling into our room, eyes half closed and in a sleepy, raspy, irritated voice said, "Daddy, Miles wants you."  It was then that my mind awakened enough to register the screaming coming from deep inside the lungs of my littlest.  Seconds later, Miles rounded the corner and filled our room with a throw-a-bucket-of-cold-water like cry that had Brian and me moving quickly.  Brian scooped up the distraught bundle and started rocking him back and forth on the floor while I thanked the back of Carson's head as he stumbled to bed.  I quickly shut the bedroom door behind him in an effort to stop the cries from reaching any of the extra 6 sleeping people sharing our home that night... hopefully they were all still sleeping. 

Kneeling down beside my son, I reached out to touch his cheek and watched him recoil deeper into the arms of his Daddy in response.  An all-too-familiar pain shocked my heart and I pulled my hand back to my side.  "Bowl," he requested through his sobs.  "I needa bowl, Daddy.  I coff-een (coughing)."  Knowing that this phrase decoded means, I'm going to throw up, my heart shoved away the painful prick and cheered up with the new need.  I can do that!  I threw on my bathrobe and soon handed a bowl to Miles.  "I meh-sin (medicine)?"  Yes! Another thing I can do!  After dropping a few swallows into his mouth, I reached out to try once again to comfort him.



It's been over a year since Miles entered into his anti-Mommy when Daddy is around phase.  Sometimes it's nice.  Sometimes it hurts.  Mostly I'm indifferent to it.  But the painful spells are getting more frequent as time goes on because a new fear teases at the back of my mind... what if this phase sticks?

Moments later, Miles successfully completed the transfer of mostly-digested food from his stomach to the blue, plastic bowl sitting in Daddy's lap. One of several to come that night. My mothering instincts pulled inside of me and I wanted nothing more than to cuddle and comfort my sick little guy; Brian wanted nothing more than to crawl back into bed; Miles wanted nothing more than Daddy.  Miles won.  So Brian, tired and frustrated, lay down next to Miles on the floor and I curled back into bed and let the fears of inadequacy fill my otherwise quiet mind.  What am I doing wrong?  Am I showing him enough love?  Am I meeting his needs?  Should I help him more?  Should I play with him more?  Should I... should I... should I...?  Am I... am I... am I...?  Hot tears fell from my eyes and dampened my pillow.


"Can we open Mothers Day presents now?!" my older children asked as we stood, waving, on the porch.  We watched our dear friends drive out of sight and put our hands back down at our sides.  We had wished them well, but I couldn't help but feel a pit in my stomach as I wondered if we had given them the invisible gift of a stomach bug to keep them company through their long day of graduation ceremonies and their long drive back home to Georgia that evening. (Thankfully, they made it home with no vomiting tummies.)

"Yes!" I said.  "Let's open those presents now." We crammed into two chairs around the table, leaving four untouched, and I worked to unwrap the first present with Carson on my lap and Kenz playing with my hair.  I unwrapped handmade gift after handmade gift and listened to the excitement in my children's voices as they explained the details of their creations.  "See!  I made a pattern!" Carson said, pointing at the white and purple tiles glued to the hot pad.  "And I glued 5 rocks on each side, see.  1, 2, 3, 4, 5 on this side... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 on this side... 1, 2..." "Do you get it, mom?" Kenz asked pointing to the cutout paper vase holding a bouquet of beautifully painted flowers.  "It's me!  See the side of my face?  We traced it on the paper and then cut it out, see!  Here are my glasses... here is my nose..."  Carson sweetly ran his dirt-encrusted fingernails up and down my arm and repeatedly pressed the weight of his head into my shoulder for a hug.  "I just love you, Mom."  "You're the best."  "Can I sit right here next to you?"

In this moment, I feel loved.


Admittedly, sacrament meeting is a little calmer without Miles.  I even get to listen to the talks.  I'm tired from our rather sleepless night, but happy.  I have great mothers around me... my mom, my mother-in-law, my friends, my ward sisters... And then a little snippet from the pulpit that changes my mood completely.  It's a sentence from The Family: A Proclamation to the World and it reads, "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."  The speaker jokingly admits that his children always want their mother... even when his arms are available also.  I watch the mothers and fathers around me smile and nod their heads in agreement... but all I can hear in my mind was Carson's irritated voice,

"Daddy, Miles wants you."



I wish I could say this was uncommon.  But it is very not.  If Daddy is an option, my kids generally want him.  Especially the boys.  Does this mean I'm not fulfilling my primary responsibility?  Of course, I'm primarily responsible for their nurture all day while Daddy is at work... but when he's home?  The Proclamation doesn't seem to differentiate...  and for the second time that day, fears of inadequacy fill my mind.  What am I doing wrong?


"Mom, I want to sit next to you."  Kenzie pats the cushion next to her on the couch and we snuggle down to watch a family movie. I notice that every time I laugh, the kids laughter increases in intensity.  Halfway through the movie, I lay my head down in Kenzie's lap and she puts her arm around my shoulder.  I feel a bit gigantic because her short arm doesn't quite make it around me.  I feel her head get closer to my ear and she whispers, "Is this comfortable for you?"  "Yes," I respond.  "How about for you?"  "Yeah!" came the enthusiastic reply.  I smiled and she gave my shoulder a tight squeeze.  "I just love you, Mom."  I stayed there for a while... long after my arm fell asleep.


The night does not end well.  McKenzie pushes her brother off the stool while they're brushing their teeth and my sleepless night holds my patience hostage.  McKenzie's teeth are only halfway brushed when I order her to spit in the sink and go to her room.  Brian gives me an understanding look and I retreat to my bedroom to read until the children are asleep. 

Maybe it makes sense why they want Daddy after all, I think.  It's a bit of a depressing thought.


This story doesn't really have an ending.  I'm still living it, you see.  Most of my days it's a little harder to decipher the ups and downs of being a mother.  Sometimes the ups outweigh the downs, and sometimes the downs outweigh the ups.  And sometimes they're remarkably equal.

I guess mothering is just like that.  Today, like every day, I crawl into McKenzie's bed and gently snuggle her awake.  I help pull out clothes and make breakfasts and lunches.  I squirt frizzy hair and find 8 different shoes.  I wave to the bus as it pulls away from me.  And then I wave again as it rounds the corner.  Today McKenzie doesn't even look up from her book to see the wave.  But sometimes she does... so I do it anyway.  I put a load of laundry in the washing machine and pay special attention to ensure McKenzie's red dress made it into the water... she wants to wear it tomorrow evening on her Daddy-daughter date.  I finish reading Carson's chapter book to him and help Miles put his 'underwears' back on four different times.  I warm up chocolate milk in a sippy cup and patiently let Miles repeat each sentence of his picture-book before naptime. I make sure to be at the door with a hug when the children come home from school and, just now, I interrupt my typing to tie a rubber spider to the end of a homemade parachute. 

And I try not to care when my kids call for Daddy.  It helps to remember that we are a team, he and I, working together towards the same goal... it helps to remember how thankful I am that they have a Daddy like Brian.  Because they are lucky in that. 

And that makes me lucky, too.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Spring is Melting

I broke a sweat walking to my car yesterday.  Actually, let's back up... I broke a sweat right after I opened the back sliding door in preparation to walk to my car yesterday.  I was blessed with Go The Extra Mile sweat glands (and if you're wondering how I can say I was blessed with them, I'm still trying to figure that out myself.  There's good in every situation, right?  So, here I am, faithfully searching for the good in this one).  Really, it's not as bad as it could be.  The ambitious sweat-glands tend to be accumulated in my armpits, the palms of my hands, and my feet... leaving the rest of me on a more normal 'glistening' scale.

This embarrassing secret used to consume much of my life. I spent my teenage years with my elbows dug into my waist while in public, or sticking straight out with the a/c blowing while in the privacy of my own car.  I've been known to blow-dry my armpits; my mom sewed sweat protectors (did you even know those existed?) into my prom dresses, and my wardrobe consisted mainly of dark colors and patterned prints to hide what they could.  And oh, my sweaty palms.  I lived in fear that someone would extend their hand for a handshake before I'd had a chance to discretely prepare myself with the wipe-my-hand-all-the-way-down-the-length-of-my-jeans-and-back-up-again move.  My normal palms were bad enough, but if ever I got nervous about something, oh boy; and if I stayed nervous for more than a half hour (waiting to give a talk in church, waiting to play my piano piece at a recital, waiting to go on-stage for a solo...) I could watch the sweat collect in the palm of my hands until I had an ant-sized recreation pool smack in the center of them, with pruney fingers shielding it on all sides.  Really, they were actually pruney.  I wished my antiperspirant was a little more anti the perspirant, and I fantasized about a surgery I'd heard of where they could go into your wrists and snip around at something to reduce the sweat production in the palms of your hands...  I had several Most Embarrassing Moments that I owe to this anatomical issue - the worst involving a stinky feet smell that filled the entire auditorium after I took my sandals off to join my bare-footed friends on stage.  Actually 'stinky feet smell' might be misleading... the smell was thick, deep and pungent enough that my peers were, I kid you not, buckling over in laughter, one hand across their waist and the other one plugging their noses or waving away at the air in front of them. It interfered greatly with the choreography we were trying to learn, so, with my face burning hot all the way to the tips of my ears in embarrassment (I also was blessed with Go The Extra Mile blushing glands), I quietly slipped off-stage and put them back on my feet.  The next time I took them off, I dropped them straight into the garbage bin.  Whew... that was a terrible memory.  Thanks for bringing that up.

Anyway - the years have tempered the sweatiness.  But, I still only use lotion on the backs of my hands (I look a bit like a seal as I put lotion on, I imagine... you try to put lotion on your hands without getting any on your palms!), I have the softest feet you've ever felt, and I've decided to simply not be embarrassed by the damp (wet) circles that are frequently under my arms... but it's definitely not as bad as it once was.  Even so, as I slid into the drivers seat yesterday after merely walking across the driveway and felt that familiar sticky feeling, my heart sank and I realized the Dreadful:  summer is coming to North Carolina.

But lets not focus any more on that.  Let's instead turn our attention to the awesome beauty of spring in North Carolina and talk about the fun you can have!

#1 - You can play with hatchets

Brian found this hatchet in the woods on one of our camping trips (if you lost a hatchet on one of your camping trips, sorry... we'd be happy to sing Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers to you if it would help). It has become a beloved member of our family.  In fact, on our last camping trip, this was the only thing Brian packed.  We ended up forgetting the hot dog buns, paper towels, paper plates, and flashlights.  Granted, I was the one who was supposed to remember the rest... But we had the hatchet, so... plus.

If you want to know what it's like to have your heart stop several times in one minute, I'll lend you this hatchet and you can watch your kids hack away at a log.  But you have to promise to give it back.

#2 - You can pick your own strawberries

This is Miles's 'stop taking pictures' face.  It didn't work.

#3 - You can eat homemade strawberry ice cream after you're done picking.

#4 - You can go to the zoo

McKenzie's second grade class traveled to the zoo for their field trip this year

I love the picture on the right because I unintentionally snagged McKenzie and her three BFF's: Millie, Cristella and Jasmyn.  Well, technically Millie is her BBFF, which apparently means best-best friend forever.  I learn so much from my children.  The panther Kenz is sitting on is a pretty good friend, too... but he doesn't rank high enough to qualify for BFF.
McKenzie insisted on being the 'mapist' while we traveled around the zoo.  She and Cristella took the job very seriously and we only got lost once. An hour.

Miles is spying on his archenemy. He's pretty sure we have an elephant living in our house somewhere ready to creep out of the corner and eat him.  He doesn't seem to understand the faulty logic behind that fear.  Once I stepped out of the shower to find him huddling behind the toilet with the bath mat covering his little body... after I threw up a little in my mouth at the sight of the bath mat around his chin, I calmly asked, "What are you doing, bud?"
"I hiding. A eff-a-nunt isss com-een."
He was not joking.  Or playing.  He had even shut and locked the bathroom door behind him.  

I personally think a lion would be a much more realistic fear.

Miles was a trooper the whole day.  I love those little tired eyes in the picture to the right... this was taken at the end of our exhausting day.  Riding the tram was Miles's favorite part of the whole day, and we got to do it twice.  The second time, he insisted on holding my hand so he didn't 'fall offa twam'  I happily obliged.

Spring, you may be on your way out, but we have loved you so.  I will dearly miss you through the long summer!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mom and Me Book Club

It started in Barnes and Noble.  As many good things do.

We were there in search of Pencil Things That Are, Like, Black And Have Little Jewels On The Top Instead Of Erasers.  It was love at first sight when McKenzie spotted one of her classmates using one... a love so strong it shoved the shy right out of her and pushed her forward to learn more about them.  "I got them at Barnes and Noble," her classmate said.  It was the first thing McKenzie told me when she got off the bus, and the last thing she mentioned that night.  "I'll even spend my own money on them, Mom." 
"Well, let's see how you feel about it after school tomorrow and if you're still sure, then maybe we can head down there."  She went to sleep a happy girl that night and assured me the next afternoon that her desire to have them was still just as strong.  So after dinner, we popped open her piggy bank and she and I hopped in the car to venture out in search of the coveted pencils. 

Thankfully, the second person we talked to knew exactly where to find Pencil Things That Are, Like, Black And have Little Jewels On The Top Instead Of Erasers.  McKenzie jumped with excitement when she saw that the pack of eight pencils was six (!) dollars.
"I have even more than that, Mom!" 
"You sure you want to spend that much for a pack of pencils?"
"Yeah!"  Her eyes sparkled and I realized that, to her, those pencils were priceless.  She would have given her whole piggy bank for them.
"Awesome!  Let's get them then!"  That was me, being supportive, swallowing the money lesson that so desperately wanted to come out, and then trying to hide the groan inside me.  I totally gave myself a pat on the back for that one. 

But wait, how did I get here?  This post is not about pencils.  This post is about what happened after we found the pencils.  My eyes were mindlessly scanning the books on the shelves as we walked down the aisle in the children's section (they're all so crisp, you know.  New.  Clean.  Bright.  Colorful.  Beautiful. Organized.  Fun to look at.  My books at home don't look like that, so it's nice to see the organization somewhere) when my eyes brushed over a bright pink cover with the title Mom and Me.  I don't know what else was on the cover, and I have no idea what the book is about, but the title stuck like a dart somewhere in the back of my brain, and over the next half hour an idea crystallized: the Mom and Me Book Club was formed.  (I later learned that this is a very unoriginal idea... but I'm slow like that sometimes.) 

We left Barnes and Noble carrying eight pencils and our first book club book - Anne of Green Gables.  I sent her to bed that night after scribbling the words Mom and Me Book Club in a little square on the calendar a month away; the book was snugly tucked under her arm as she bounced into her room. A few minutes later, she came out with a question about the definition of a word.  And a few minutes after that, she came out asking me to clarify a sentence that wasn't making sense to her.  In reading that sentence to her I realized that the descriptions L.M. Montgomery uses are beautiful and long, often including a couple of different ideas enclosed together in commas and making the sentences stretch on a while, like this one, which, as you can imagine, make it a bit difficult to follow all the way to the end when, even if you're a good reader, you've only been reading for three years. 

So plans were changed and, over the next four weeks, we devoured this book together. We laughed, cried, read, talked, and snuggled through all 38 chapters of beautiful descriptions and delightful story lines.  We finished the final chapters just an hour before the big night was scheduled to start.  Then, we dressed in our fancy clothes, curled our hair, picked out jewelry and glossed our lips before making our way down to Francesca's Dessert Cafe for some steamed milk, amazing chocolate decadence, and great conversation. 

If it weren't for the wiggling in her seat with excitement all night and asking for more decadence 17 times, I would have thought McKenzie an adult that night.  She asked questions that made me think, and her responses to my questions were well thought out and unnervingly mature.  I learned so much about her school life and how it compares to and contrasts with Anne's life.  We laughed at each other as we looked around the room and took turns describing what we saw in the way Anne might have said it - superbly optimistic, flowery, imaginative.  We talked about friend troubles, about self confidence issues that are coming to light in some of those friends, about peer pressure, shyness, and being kind to everyone.  And when I say we talked, I mean we talked.  How interesting to hear her perspective on things.  How humbling to realize that I'm actually learning from her and thinking about her words in the same way I do my best friend's.  She is a remarkable example to me.  One of her biggest strengths is in being comfortable with who she is and genuinely not caring what others think of her.  I am learning so much from her in this regard.  But my eyes are prickling with the threat of tears in even thinking about how precious her example is to me, and I don't feel like digging into that tonight, so I'll leave it for another post and just say that I am such a lucky mom.

I really did have more fun than my face in this picture might suggest.  It may look to you like I'm about to fall asleep, or die of boredom with a fake grin on my face... but the fake grin is really coming from my concern with McKenzie's somewhat lazy grip on my camera.  Or maybe I'm trying to steer clear from my 'horrifying' smile.  One of the two.

Our version of the book came with discussion questions printed in the back, and we read and analyzed each one... some discussions lasting 20 minutes, others 20 seconds.  Her depth surprised me; her questions stumped me; her insights filled me.

Does anyone have any good suggestions about what book to read next?  I don't have a very good literary knowledge - but I'm looking for books that are interesting, and that teach good morals.  Books that are a bit 'heavier' than light novels, but not so heavy as to go right over our heads or delve into more adult content. I'm afraid I've set the bar too high starting off with Anne of Green Gables!

I hope to find enough good books to fill years and years of the Mom and Me Book Club... 'cause I just can't get enough of this girl!