Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Wiiiiiiiiii !!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Wild and Woolley Pre-Christmas Events

While doing some last-minute panic shopping today with my sister, Jocelyn, she advised me that I should do more updating blogs about family. So here's a bit of what's been going on during the last week or so....

FEELING AGED: When the word "retro" conjures up actual toys from your childhood, you know the years are passing swiftly. We unpacked a package from my mom this week and found a little surprise - this is a toy that we played with when I was little.

When you pull out the little bottom drawer, Santa still dances and music still plays. It's yellowed with age. I should start telling the kids it's from when Grammy was little.

RELIVING FUN MICRO-TRADITIONS: I wonder what memories my kids will have when they're older and have to come up with their own yearly standbys. When I was little, Santa always managed to find a little Whitman's Sampler to put in my stocking (I seriously sound like a grandma).

Santa still puts them in the stockings at our house. While they ain't no See's candy, there's something awesome about getting a whole box of chocolates all to yourself. Grammy supplied some of these little boxes in her package this week. Thanks for the retro candy!

GINGERBREAD HOUSE DECORATING: At our house we decorate gingerbread houses so that my kids can eat the candy off them like a cloud of devouring locusts almost before the frosting hardens into pristine cement.

Just before the feeding frenzy - half the candy was eaten before the decorating began

Next year I think I'm just going to get the kit, unload the candy into three individual bowls, hand my kids their forks, and let them have at it. The gingerbread itself can be dumped in the garbage, unused. There's nothing like a gnawed-on gingerbread house to spruce up a Christmas centerpiece and announce, in case there was any doubt, that kids live here.

ATTENDING CHRISTMAS CONCERTS: Spencer put on a Christmas concert with the other first graders at his school this week. There were tons of cute songs performed by the most enthusiastic singing group I've ever seen at an elementary school.

Miraculously loud, but mercifully not much shouting. Very well done. Good job, teachers.

MORE HILARITY FROM JAKE: I thought Jake was going to sleep, light had been turned off, goodnights said. Then I noticed something going on at the end of the hall and lo and behold it was some serious reading. The hardhat was a smooth move and got him one book before the lights were turned off again since I couldn't immediately squash such a unique approach to being naughty. I'm surprised his eyeballs worked at all with that searchlight aimed at his face.

CHRISTMAS WALK OF SHAME: I came home from tonight's shopping trip with Jocie to find two amazing and lavish gifts from neighbors - no pics of the gifts since it's late and I'm lazy (but you can see us here assembling our own giveaways). Package number one was a cute lidded glass container (large) filled to the rim with Hershey's kisses and decorated beautifully, an inspiring Christmas book, and a box of Bertie Bott's Beans (because my thoughtful friend remembers my kids' sheer joy at braving those nasty little things). Package number two falls in the category of home decor and has found its place right by my front door, assuring all visitors that, indeed, the Christmas spirit is found within. It's a wooden Santa, professionally painted, with a little rust bow around its neck, and a dangling sign that says "Flakes Live Here," all poised on top of a hand-painted yardstick to measure how deep the snow is. You wanna know what these kind people got from me a couple days ago? A small bag of homemade caramels (turned out okay) and fudge that was on the dry side. Is there anything I can do to fix this situation? I will hang my head in shame at church tomorrow, but luckily they're both so nice they'll tell me it was the best fudge they've ever had. Uhhgg.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Guest Has Arrived

This is my holiday guest. He is not wanted or welcome, yet he drops in anyway. Try as I might, I can't get him to leave. I pay attention to him here and there, but he is jealous and when I do not pay enough attention he grows out of control. He is occupying a whole chair and is now threatening to engulf any other available seats, couches, or otherwise bare spaces. Soon, no one will be able to visit. He's like the embarassing relative you try to keep from friends. I try to hide him but he's grown too large and is getting bigger by the day. He isn't cute or cuddly, but his newest additions are warm and fluffy and the kids think he's fun to hide in, like a new toy--this is not good. Luckily he's very clean and smells good, just not tidy or willing to tend to himself. He's extremely needy.

Please make him go away. If he can visit your house, let me know. He'll be right over.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Please Pass the Butter

Who likes to eat straight butter? I will say that the addition of butter makes most things divine and is the secret ingredient for many professional kitchens, but gorging on butter a la carte does not gourmet dining make.

However, don't expect babies to agree with you. At least mine, and she's not alone. I've had to hide butter from three of my four, if for nothing else so I don't have to gag while watching their veins clog before my very eyes as they happily lick their greasy little fingers.

I can promise you that I've never had a thing for straight butter. Do you have a butter eater in your house? Have you ever known one? It qualfies for its own kid lable: Butter Eater. As in: Oh, she's a Butter Eater.

This is not something to be proud of and usually causes others to flinch inwardly as they try to suppress their own gag reflex and tingles of disgust go up and down spine.

Note the glistening butter shine -- and the happy face
(Ava, being the youngest, does the most entertaining things. It's a phenomenon I've mentioned in a previous post. As a result, she has an inordinate amount of posts starring her. I apologize to my other kids. I love you too.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Indulgences and Ava


I'm in trouble.

My mommy has offered me the chance to buy indulgences in the pattern offered to European peasants by the medieval clergy - this is the practice of buying forgiveness for sins. Sometimes, and this was the final straw for the church because it ticked Luther off, you could even purchase salvation for yourself and dead kin. Well, at least they didn't try to make it sound like something it wasn't. Pretty straightforward.

I need an indulgence real bad.

Here I am, making my purchase

While mommy was busy mopping the floor, trying to get the house clean for book club tonight, I thought it would be fun to help her by making the couch look pretty. I used a dramatic color palette of black and pink--I thought it would be striking for the holidays. Mommy thinks it would be a good entry in the Ugliest Holiday Decoration contest, solicited by Celia.

Now, when I toddle by my masterpiece I instinctively utter the words, "No, no." My mommy has taught me this phrase while helping me focus my attention on my pretty drawing. She would like this to be one of a kind.

I'm pretty cute, so an indulgence shouldn't be too hard to come by. Right, Mommy?

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Date with Mr. Rubik

Matt generally works on Friday nights and gets home sometime after 8 p.m. (Yes, we look forward to the day that this isn't so.) So, between that and getting a call from him that he had a flat tire and it's snowing like mad outside, I settled down with the kids' Rubik's cube. I've never solved it, not even close. Never even had an inkling as to how the whole thing worked either. How do those super solvers do it? I've tried spinning the little cubes around really fast just like them but mine don't organize themselves into obedient one-colored sides like theirs do. Then I try to stifle just feeling pissed and frustrated before I toss it and move on to something more congratulatory.

Not tonight.

I was feeling rather dedicated, plus I had decided to cheat, something that wasn't an option in my childhood Rubik's days. After a little Googling, someone by the name of Peter had provided me with a splended set of instructions for solving this colorful little beast. The solution is based on the strategy of solving by layers; there are three. Here's the kicker, I got to use algorithms to do it! I've never come close to knowing what an algorithm is or using one for anything in my life, and here was my chance to feel undeniably super-smart. This is as far as I got:

Two layers solved....

What's an algorithm good for if it can't take you by the hand and walk you through solving that third layer, darn it? Just so you know, I am eluded by only two of those nasty little cubes.

Oh, so close!!!

I'm an almost-Rubik's-solver. This will have to be good enough as my dedication has worn off, and the magic dust left over from my algorithm intoxication has dissipated. I'm off to find a chess club.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Natural Selection

I heard somewhere that Mother Nature makes babies and little kids cute so that their mothers will naturally love them and want to take care of them....thereby perpetuating the species. This phenomenon spans in to photography and record keeping. For some reason my older kids are much less represented in pictures. Maybe it's because I don't have as much time with them. But I'll just say it, the cute factor diminishes as the years progress. Then come the bizarre noises and whooping sounds and scary smells, and we're glad that the bond that was established between parent and child in their cute baby stage saves them in the end. So I sat outside with my cute baby and my four year old (who is on the brink of graduating from this first stage) trying to steal every minute.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I Hope They Call Me on a Mission

For FHE tonight Matt had each boy pick something from their rooms that they would use on a mission. Here were the selections:


Jake will be a missionary under attack and will have need of nunchucks and handcuffs. Let your imagination run wild.


Spencer is concerned about boredom and resting while out trying to harvest souls. The pillow and blanket will help make sure he's comfy while proselyting. The book and the Fun Box that he got from Grammy (full of neat treasures to keep him entertained on trips) will make sure he "has something to do." Really, I think this focus on comfort might win him some surprise converts.


By the time you're 9 the gig is up and the little kid stuff won't work. Zach dutifully displayed his scriptures, and we all agreed that they would be very helpful on a mission. Then he pulled out a pack of tic-tacs and let us know that a successful missionary must have fresh breath. Amen.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ode to Bookish-ness

Every time I stand at the checkout counter in the libary I get the same feeling I had when I was a little girl: those little bubbles of excitement and thoughts of getting home and ignoring everything else while I dive headfirst into the book bag. Now that I'm older I have other experiences that can compare like: Mommy's about to go shopping, or having time for an afternoon nap, or suddenly remembering there are double chocolate cookies in the freezer that my kids (who are in bed in this daydream of mine) don't know about or....well, that's a pretty good one so I'll leave it at that. Books and I have shared this nerdy little love fest since I was too young to realize that it was Black Beauty instead of Black Cutey. My dad used to read the first sentence from one of its pages and then I would happily recite the rest of the page. I read "Heidi" in kindergarten and afterward would horrifyingly announce this to anyone who would listen. The adult me wants to pick a fight with that snobby little 6-year-old. The point being that I just love a good book! I snuggle into my library nerdiness like a warm blanket whenever I enter that happy building of books. And more, in case you want to hear it: I even like looking up books in the catalog system; I love my little treasure hunt to find them on the shelves; I love that double-chocolate-cookie-in-the-freezer feeling when I find one I've wanted and it gets to come home with me. I love having a big stack of them waiting for me at home or in the car, waiting with their secrets and their dreams and their places I haven't been. (A long time ago Celia enlightened me on the usefulness of a good book for passing the minutes during annoyingly bad traffic which I've been brave enough to try on occasion but only in CA where the traffic warrants it.) I love that a book can beat out a movie anyday, and I really like movies!

So, I made a hurried trip late this afternoon down to my humble little 50s style library. I'm on a quest to find a good one for book club, so I have a little over a week to read these...

1) River of Gold by Victor Villasenor.

Loved it but it's been awhile since I read it, so I'm not sure if it's going to win the honor. It gets points for "earthiness" as Erin called it. Translate: sex and swearing. That wins points with me since, though I seek not after these things, I do seek for a book club that won't lapse into the prudish trap of those from my past. We'll see.....

2) A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester.

Can't say enough great things about it. Just need to review the others before making a decision. A great look at the medieval world, Catholic church, etc. Entertaining and reader-friendly even though it sounds dry. A must read.
3) Life is So Good by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman.
Haven't read it, but it's a biography about a man who died at age 103 and started school at age 98.
4) Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza.
About a lady who evaded getting killed in the Rwanda violence and her story. Haven't read it yet.

Lots of books, so little time. I know there are more. I am fighting the urge to add more to the list and I may swap some out for others. But, we wouldn't want scary, neglectful mommy to visit too often. Unfortunately, that means I stay up late. Really late.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy, Happy, Happy!!!

Does anyone else suffer from Not-So-Happy-Meal Syndrome? Let me explain.

(Setting: A favorite kid restaurant called M__ D__________'s)

  1. Enter restaurant. Mom orders food for her kids alone - they're already in the play place, scrubbing the floors with their previously-clean socks that will have to be thrown away in ash form, as they will need to be burned first after getting home.

  2. Mom manages to get everything on one tray, drinks unspilled, and to the table and then calls the kids down from the rafters, not really caring that all the other moms are now staring at her and figuring her for a "yeller" - which, of course, she isn't.

  3. The kids all run en masse to the table and immediately start pawing at the tray yelling, "Which one's mine?"

  4. Mom feels compelled to yell FREEZE! but tries to keep a smile on her face and feels like tying tiny hands behind backs so she can satisfy, as this is her job.

  5. Kids start grabbing food and toy out of whatever bag they're holding.

  6. Mom plays musical H___ Meal bag while kids are eating and hopes no one cares that the kid next to them already took a bite out of their cheeseburger even though they ordered nuggets.

  7. Mom's own stomach is growling.

  8. Mom hears: "Can you undo my lid?"

  9. "Where's my BBQ sauce?"

  10. "I wanted honey." [Huh? Who dips the cheeseburger in honey? Did you forget you didn't order nuggets? Nope. Still wanted honey.]
  11. "Um, Mom? I spilled..."
  12. "I need a straaaw. Where are the straws?" The sleuth mom finds them hidden under the napkins.
  13. Mom starts to sweat because holy crap, this is hard work and the pressure is on. She knows the game is over if they are allowed to escape to those colorful tunnels of grime they love so much before at least a portion of their food is consumed.

  14. The kid who didn't want milk, not even chocolate, wants to fill his soda cup all by himself - with every kind of drink that shoots out of the fountain. Will need help as can't reach them by himself in reality.

  15. Mom sure hopes that the baby won't stand up in that sick, sticky high chair and break her head before she gets back.

  16. Mom returns (baby is fine) and quickly slips a napkin under each kid's meal, [the clock is ticking] before the food hits the table, hoping this small gesture saves them from certain food poisoning. Mom doesn't care that they've already been playing for 10 minutes in those tunnels of grime already mentioned. This still might help curb the odds.

  17. Mom's stomach growls again...louder. She helps herself to fries from each kids carefully placed napkin because by now she figures she's earned it.

  18. Mom remembers how smart she was that she stopped off at popular mexican restaurant nearby first for a little Mommy Treat that she won't be sharing with the kids.

  19. Kids eat.

  20. Kids disappear into the colorful tunnels of grime.

  21. Mom eats her yummy treat and reads her really good book she brought along for occasions like these - OR - Mommy eats her yummy treat while having a real conversation with a fun friend who came along with her kids to M___ D______'s.

  22. Now Mom is happy and it was worth it. Will come again soon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Let Them Eat Pie

I am ashamed. Until this month, it had been more than 15 years since I had been inside a Marie Callender's. Current stats: I've been there three times since October 1st. So here's how it went... I was running on my treadmill when what do you know, a commercial for MC came on advertising their semi-annual pie sale. Only $5.99 for a whole pie! Hee, hee! Where had I been all these years? And here I was earning a pie while I watched the commercial! Lucky me! I headed down there and got one, and since I was having so much fun I made a little pact with myself to come back for another before Oct. 31st - the end of pie month or whatever. When I came in for my second, my son (who I had secretly hoped would stay in the car) wanted a different kind than I did, and in a moment of weakness I promised him we'd come back for his kind another day this month. What?!?!?! Did the butter shoot straight to the logic center of my brain? Or do they put something extra in the darn things that alters your thinking? Somehow, I was lured by the idea of PIE MONTH - it was intoxicating. Plus, I had been invited to Marie's pie party, and I can't turn down a party. So now I am a thrice pie eater extraordinaire. There you go.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sugar And Spice Is Really Quite Nice

Zach and Spencer

I happen to disagree with the adage that boys are equal to "snips, snails and puppy dog tails." My three little boys have been a true joy. I wouldn't trade them....except maybe sometimes, if someone offered.

But really, I've thought a lot about this. When I was pregnant with my fourth baby, I was given many opportunities to think about my life with sons and the real prospect that the ultrasound for this fourth baby would reveal, as Paige has so aptly put it, that "my little girl has a penis!" [Anatomically correct in our house, too, sorry!] But aside from turning a blind eye to all baby girl clothing sections, I was at peace in my mother-of-boys world. Having been asked so many times by well-meaning friends and strangers how I would feel about having another boy, I realized I could say with confidence that it would be great.

BUT IT WAS A GIRL!!! Since that awesome, life altering ultrasound, I just wanted to revel in the girl-ness of it all. I could let myself enjoy it, and wow did it feel great not to stifle it anymore! Twenty months later every day still feels like I won the lottery. Ava and I form a little island together in a sea of boys. This isn't to be confused with girls against boys, just a little place of togetherness, a place of knowing. I hope it lasts through the years! The following are three areas of girl-parenting happiness I have found among many:

1. Girl Club #1 - THE PONYTAIL:

I had one of those liberating "moments" just a few nights ago when I put Ava's hair into a ponytail. Who knew the joy a ponytail could bring? The realization snuck up on me when I was least expecting it. People, it's pure mother-bliss to put your little girl's hair in her first ponytail. You're part of the club, now she's part of the club. Welcome little one....

2. Girl Club #2 - THE CLEARANCE RACK (OR ANY RACK, REALLY): Boys clothes have gotten cuter through the years. (The outfits my mom had to choose from for my brother were woefully lacking.) Nowadays, boys look absolutely adorable. However, the sky's the limit for girls. And it's cheaper. The baby girl gets a ticket into this club before she even knows what's going on. It's simple math:
Girl clothes go on sale more often + There is a bigger selection =

Girls get more clothes......and shoes!

I still feel like I'm dressing my own little dolly every day. I didn't have any Barbies growing up. Didn't want any. The Greenans had some if I ever felt the need. But now I get it. I have my own little Ava Barbie. I'm making up for lost time, and Ava's closet benefits.

3. Girl Club #3 - EAR PIERCING:

I know there are differing opinions about this. For me, it's a girl's right of passage. Ava joined this club when she was 4 months old. Her cousin Sophie did it and all was well, so Ava was a shoe-in. I have to say, I recommend that moms undertake this with the support of a sister/friend who will back you until the deed is done because I give you fair warning: Once your feet are planted in the jewelry store you will begin to have heart palpitations at the idea of causing pain of any kind for your little girl , similar to the mother's pre-circumcision-of-her-son panic attack. Stand strong. Now is the first of many valuable teaching opportunities of the truism I learned at the feet of my own mother: Beauty is painful. Wish it weren't so. Welcome to this club, too, sweet girl.

Added note: The crying was pretty much done before we left the store. Whew!

Now here is the question: Does all of this help the situation of being the only girl in a family of boys? I don't know. In any case, girls are social creatures...club-oriented. So welcome to the club!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

M.A.M. (Moms Against Marinara)

This morning:

Zach: Mom, guess what?

Me: What?

Zach: We've learned [in school] that there are three main bad drugs.

Me: Oh yeah? What are they?

Zach: Heroin, Marinara, and Crack

Evidently, Italian food lovers now have cause to mourn due to this newly discovered fact. I'll have to scour the bottles of Ragu out of my pantry post haste.

I try to be supportive of my kids' school - the fact that we teach in tandem, so to speak. I try not to get too tied up in knots over this buddy system of educating my kids on social issues. Really, though, I'd like that stuff left up to me and the standard subjects left up to them, sort of.

The elementary school topic this week is drugs. It's Red Ribbon Week. The school is decked out in red ribbons; each concrete pillar is tied with ribbons and bows flying in shiny red splendor. Today, my kids are wearing crazy socks to school in order to "Sock" it to drugs. Thursday is crazy hair day - so maybe it's something like: Doing drugs turns your hair blue and makes it stand straight up or something. On Friday they're going to wear their clothes backwards, because you're "backwards" if you use drugs. The "crazy" socks

Do I want my kids to use drugs? No. But this just doesn't sit well with me. This morning Zach - my 4th grader - and I had a brief talk about drugs (see above) which came while we were checking his backpack before he walked out the door to school. I started to explain that I hadn't listened to the school's CD on the dangers of drugs and the world of drugs (the school wanted a report back). I am negligent in this. I'd rather be the one introducing my kids to this hideous part of the world, slice by slice, piece by piece - at our own speed. I wanted to make sure he understood what we'd already taught him at home, etc.

He let me know he'd listened to the CD which was fine, but two years ago the school sent home a drugs video that we were supposed to watch as a family. I sat my kids down, ages 5 and 7, and started it. Holy smoke! Information overload. We tossed the tape and had our own talk. They'll get more info when it's time.

Really I was just waiting for the right time to help them really explore the world of a crack or heroin addict. Is this what the educators would prefer? I get the feeling that the school would probably approve of this as my next step in the quality at-home part of their education. But first, I need to get a few visual aids: one of those tan thick plastic tube ties that you wrap and tie above the elbow - Does this to make the vein easier to locate? Please inform. I need to know this stuff so I can pass on the correct info. A few syringes would be a nice touch, too.

This morning I was pleased to find out that along with learning about the perils of that spaghetti marinara we ate two nights ago, Zach's teacher has enlightened him on the life of a crack addict this week. It involved something about how you're reduced to cleaning the floor with toothbrushes. ????? No joke. Whatever the connection between toothbrushes and crack I have no idea, I'm just extremely grateful we don't live in Little Italy for pete's sake.

Reality check. This is where my kids are: Last year, after looking at the "down on drugs" poster every kid in the school was encouraged to create I was proud to see that my kids will for sure punch the guy's eyes out who dares to try and offer them a cigarette. My kindergartener would really go GET the guy who tries to make him drink alcohol. Oh, and Bullies? Just so you know, you're dead meat, too. My kids will hunt you down. Maybe they're behind.... I don't know. I'm fine with where they are. The other hard core stuff will come soon enough, when it makes sense in their lives.

As for the school's well-meant efforts, I really hope that when that evil kid lurking in the bushes after school offers my sweet boy a joint, my kid will quietly display his fancy socks. They should speak for themselves, but he could explain the power of the socks if the bad kid doesn't get it.

(Incidentally, this isn't just a Utah thing. Check out Paige.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Will Work For Food...or General Grievous

Here is a picture of my Spencer. He is weeding. I have many fond childhood memories of weeding for my Saturday chore. It was pure torture, and I think I even got paid. I just remember never doing the job well enough, dirt got wedged under my fingernails, that evil long-limbed plant whose edges cut like razors, and playtime looming so large in front of me I couldn't keep my mind focused on the rooty little buggers in ground.

So, what does a mother do when she buys her child a gratuitous toy before he's earned the money because "it was the last one, Mom! (sob, sob)" at Ross where you can never be sure what's going to be there when? Pick a job that little hands can do and that I still hate: weeding.

General Grievous provides moral support

At choretime, Spencer disappears. Nowhere to be found. But if he has the right motivation that kid can focus. As he got going on the money earning I started to wish I had just weathered the bloody uprising from his siblings and bought the toy for him outright. With each chore completed he demanded a running tally on how much more he had to do and how much he could expect to be paid for each chore on the list. This became my chore. It was taking forever. I became overwhelmed with calculating tithing, savings, and spending on each $2.50 chore. I began wondering if just this once he could skip out on tithing, forget saving. But no, I had life lessons to teach.

So Spencer and I toiled together, because as we all know, the kids' chores are our chores. I don't want the car cleaned 7-year-old style. That just sucks and you don't get much for all your nagging except wet, streaked windows, dried bugs only half-way pried off the paint, and tears when he realizes that the car needs to be cleaned inside, too. So he was my "helper" while I scrubbed, swept, and tried not to strangle on Windex fumes, and then I got to pay him. Where's my money? Oh well, my car is clean. And he finally got his General Grievous.