Monthly Archives: April 2009

Proliferating Felines

A few weeks into this last winter, a stray kitten adopted us. It huddled right outside our sliding glass door–like maybe there was a little bit of warmth leaking out around the threshold–a fuzzy, grapefruit sized lump, just sitting there, shivering, all day.

The winter before, a similar thing happened; the kitten hung around for a few weeks, then one day I saw it about a mile away, stiff and broken on a country road. I wondered if it had somehow been up under my hood and I'd driven off with it that morning, unwittingly dropping it there.

This year's kitten was more tenacious–it hung on, and hung on, huddling outside the door until we finally gave in, and as my sister-in-law pointed out–we fed it; it was ours. The kids even built it a house; they called it the cat-cave. A wooden box with a small hole in one end, and an old blanket. At some point I found cat food on my grocery list–and I bought it. 

The kitten would lie in wait for the first arrivals of the day to open my door, then it would streak into the warmth of the kitchen. After being thrown out several days in a row, she was on to me–she'd run in and head directly for the gap behind my pantry; she'd hang out all day there, until I'd leave the room, and then she'd venture out to sharpen her claws on my flooring or my furniture. Catching her took some serious manuevering.

The cat grew–alarmingly fast, and soon, before the winter was even over, we'd concluded the thing was going to subdivide. I had no idea such a thing could happen. Talk about teen pregnancy–this thing wasn't even a year old. It didn't even have a name.

One morning the cat–still no name–sat outside the door whining unusually loud. She was thin, bleeding a little, and sure enough, we could hear little mews from inside the cat-cave. Over the next few days, with the help of a flashlight, we saw two distinct little bodies. Two kittens. Phew. I'd read up on cat reproduction, and found that a very young cat often had small litters. My youngest son wanted to keep them both and call them Morty and Shorty. 

I explained to him that this would be too many cats. He thought about that, and decided that he could keep one, and his brother could keep one, and his sister could keep the Mom. Nice try, Buster.

My daughter decided it was time Shorty and Morty saw the light of day. She distracted the mother cat with a bowl full of food (this cat was ravenous–constantly whining for food and water; I remember how hungry I was when I was a nursing mother, but the amount of food this cat was putting away was really getting ridiculous) and stuck her arm into the box. Shorty. Morty. Wait–can you hear that? Oops, there's another. And . . . another . . . and another–six kittens in all. Or seven, we're not sure, because the box is big, the hole is on one corner, and we can't reach the entire thing.

No wonder Momma cat is starving! 

The question now, is–well, besides does anyone want a cat (or six?)–Mom, what do we name them? He got to Shorty, Morty, and Borty, and then he was stumped. As long as it's not Forty, I think we're okay. We definitely need to do something before any of these kittens start subdividing. I will not be the cat lady!  

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An Apostle’s Easter Thoughts on Christ

Okay, so I think some of the actors are a little cheesy–but close your eyes, and listen to this, this Easter Sunday, and let me share with you, my own testimony, that I know that God lives; that Jesus is the Christ, and that through His atoning sacrifice, we may all live with Him again. I know His compassion is real; His help in time of need unfailing; I owe to him an unimaginable debt of gratitude for His life, and my own immeasurable and unmerited blessings.


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Getting Rich in 2010

I have the perfect get-rich-quick scheme idea for next spring.

Since none of the retailers in town seem to recognize the shortage, year after year as they run out of Cadbury mini-eggs two hours into the Easter season, I hereby take it upon myself to order a tractor trailer load of them, and set up shop on the corner of Broadway and Division.

I know I'd be first in line.


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Potty Perplexities

I have this formerly potty trained three-year-old girl here who has relapsed the last few weeks.

Every time, she says, very calmly, "Oh, I need to go to the potty." Walks leisurely into the bathroom, turns on the light, pulls down her britches, and then whoosh, lets it all go, all over the bathroom floor. This is, of course, accompanied by hysterics.

Every time, I very calmly say, lets clean it up. You don't need to cry, get her dry clothes, etc, etc. Yesterday she had so many accidents I had to do a load of laundry just to send her home wearing something. She had another accident after that and took home my last spare set clothing her size.

The question is, why do I feel guilty when she does this? Like her relapse indicates some sort of failing on my part?

Sometimes I think it's something about MY bathroom, you know? While she's in there I do have to guard the door to keep all the little people out and all the big people from absently walking past and shutting the door–lest she go apoplectic.  I haven't ever gotten the complete story out of her as to why she gets hysterical if anyone shuts the door–she says, "There's no spiders in there! There's no monsters!" like she's trying to convince herself, but in any case, we keep the door open.

But it doesn't seem like she's avoiding the bathroom really–she displays no anxiety upon entering the room. It's only after she lets loose that she seems upset–it's almost like her bladder anticipates release just a few seconds too soon, I don't know.

Anyway, I'm seriously getting a complex over this because she only seems to do it at my house.

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Good Friday

On this Good Friday, I wanted to share with you an Easter sermon given by Jeffrey R. Holland. I just about sent myself into fits trying to shorten it–there wasn't a sentence I wanted to cut–but I didn't want to present a massive text and scare anyone away, because his message is so powerful, so needed in a world where many feel abandoned and alone. You can read the full text, if you're interested, here.

He began by relating the Easter story, as recorded in the Gospels–beginning with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem when crowds hailed Him and walked with him, and then when enthusiasm for Him and His message began quickly to wane, the rejection by the eclesiastical, then the political leaders of the day, followed by the average citizens who cried for his death, then his own friends, then disciples who could not even stay awake with Him in the Garden and Peter's denials. He continues,

"Thus, of divine necessity, the supporting circle around Jesus gets smaller and smaller and smaller, giving significance to Matthew’s words: “All the disciples [left] him, and fled.”

Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour . . . is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”?

With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required; indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.

But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was “finished.”Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so.  Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said, “I will not leave you comfortless. [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”

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The Tablespoon Connection

A few years ago I dug a hole in my front yard. Deep enough that in the pictures where I'm standing upright you can just see the top of my head.

The line coming into our house from the city water main cracked and I was in the middle of canning peaches–a water intensive activity.

I turned off the water at the street (which is technically illegal to do yourself) finished the canner load I was working on, and headed out to investigate a suspicious looking puddle. After a few heave-ho's with the shovel I ran into some PVC. Not wanting to cause any more damage, and knowing that the phone, internet, water and power lines all ran right through that area somewhere, I discarded the shovel and started in with a garden trowel.

A few feet down, I ran into another pipe, going a different direction. Pretty soon I uncovered a veritable maze of pipes. Plastic, metal, you name it, they were all there, crossing at every conceivable angle. I had no idea there could be so many hidden conduits of power snaking into one home.

I had to resort to a tablespoon in order to get in and around the pipes. It did seem strange to me that the dirt and rocks were so well packed around the pipes–I mean, who took the time to backfill that hole so well?

As the day wore on, the hole deepened enough that I could actually get in there myself. And yes, I found the faulty pipe. Aha!

Lesson #1: Never hire the town drunk to do your plumbing.

The only man I knew who was skillful (and merciful) enough to repair the pipe without getting any little bits of gravel in it (which he assured me would spell doom for the backflow assembly in my kitchen cabinet) was significantly larger than myself and would need a reasonable amount of elbow room.

I had been digging for something like six hours, scooping up buckets of rock and muck and tossing them aside. I had six children as muddy as I, no water to wash them in, and no working toilets, either. Did I mention it was hot?

When my husband arrived home from work, I turned the digging over to him. "Could you make it bigger?" I asked him. "Merle is going to fix the pipe."

I went over to my mother-in-laws, took a shower, and came back.

The hole was seriously four times as big as the one I'd made. He'd been at it for all of fifteen minutes. With a shovel.

Only one pipe in sight.


Lesson #2: Apparently, during construction, it's common practice to toss scraps into a pile and push them into any holes that need filling. Scraps like odds and ends of pipe. If I'd broadened my hole much more, instead of digging straight down, this likely would have been apparent to me, as I'd have exposed the unattached ends of the little pipe jungle I'd been so careful not to disturb.

I learned lesson #3 this Sunday, and it had nothing to do with overripe peaches, building scraps or muddy children.

President Monson related the story of a newly widowed German mother forced from her home in East Prussia following WWII. One by one, she lost all of her children to starvation and winter temperatures as she trudged over a thousand miles, dragging her small, wooden wagon.

The arresting image, for me, was of this mother, bent over the frozen earth, clawing away for hours to dig each child's grave with the only implement she had–a tablespoon. Did the remaining children watch? 

I have dug in the Spring; rocky, but forgiving earth, in search of a fractured pipe while my children made mud pies. I have shielded my children from small and large dangers and wept over shared disappointments with them. I have never had to defend my family from pillaging troops or stood over my child's frozen grave, let alone dug it myself with a tablespoon. Nor have I walked away, one last infant in my arms; nor later had to dig one last grave–with my bare hands because by then even the spoon had failed.

I am still puzzling over the significance of this story. Beyond the obvious lessons of faith and hope that kept her from leaping in front of a moving train when she so deeply wanted to; or acknowledging that clearly, circumstances can always be worse than I can imagine–what is it that I take home from this sermon?

I keep seeing the tablespoon. And maybe for me, that's it–that all over the world; throughout history; in whatever circumstances we find ourselves as women, wives, mothers–there are common threads. I may not know your sorrow; I haven't suffered your pain; but through it all emerges a compelling sisterhood that echoes through time and space and culture so that when I, an American mother living in a privileged time, hear the story of a German widow in the nightmare that was post-war Europe, my fingers ache with hers; my heart stops and then strains to beat again, on imagining her grief. Unknowingly I have knelt beside her, digging in another dimension, ignorant of my blessings, as my body mirrors her anguished motions.

Lesson #3: We are not so very different that an object as simple as a spoon cannot aquaint us with one another. 

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When Courtesy Comes Calling

Got a call from some fire department/police organization soliciting donations today–not for a cause supported by the policemen like "Fill the Boot for Hunger" or something. For the men themselves.

I listened politely to his superlatives about living in America with heroes living next door, guarding our streets and ready at the drop of a hat to come to my rescue.

Just as he got to the part where he was asking my opinion (Isn't it nice to know, blah, blah, blah?) the fifteen-month-old climbed up onto the computer desk.

Cortni! Get down, you're going to break your neck!

    Yes, Ma'am, absolutely,  I agree with you. Now don't you feel like the daily sacrifices made by the men in uniform in your city deserve a big thank you?

Dustin–don't feed the car to the baby!

    That's right, Ma'am! I'm glad you agree. Now even a donation of ten or fifteen dollars will make a difference.

It went on like this.  I wanted to turn it around and ask him a few questions–see if he wanted to donate to my cause. I mean–aren't we all overworked and underpaid? I wanted to ask him if he had children in daycare and how much he was willing to pay their provider to take "courtesy calls" like his.

And why are they called "courtesy calls"? Hate to break the news, folks, but using terms like "Ma'am" does not qualify you as courteous.

AND, since when does everyone start calling me Ma'am?

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Update on Buddy Bear

You might recall that a while back Buddy Bear had some mystery adventures at our house.

He returned in my kindergartner's backpack yesterday and since nobody thought to remove him from the box, let alone write in his journal or return the box to school this morning, I seized the opportunity to do a little detective work.

In reading through the entries–this notebook starts, unfortunately, after the mystery entry that had my son paralyzed with fear, so I can't update you on that–I found only one that competes in weirdness with our most recent entry: some girl was so allergic to Buddy Bear she went into anaphalactic shock. Share that with the class, Dear. 

But the Lybbert entry may take the cake:

"W and Buddy played in a fort with D and his brothers. Mom abandoned us. [I kid you not, it says this! Your Honor, I object. Although . . . maybe that was the day I dared use the bathroom during daylight hours. Unaccompanied. You never know.] Then Dad sat there looking ugly (perplexed by his inane predicament). There was no TV so Buddy may have had his first personally formulated thought. He looked scared at first, but then he seemed to kind of like it." 

I think it's my turn to write Buddy's entry.

But what? Like anyone really cares what we had for dinner or if we read a story or brushed teeth first. Or believes Buddy took an active role in any part of it.

How about, Buddy Bear is actually a stuffed animal. He lives in a plastic box. He doesn't hear, know or care what W did today.

Okay, fine, I'm not really that cynical.

"Buddy Bear had to stay in his box because we didn't want him to get lost while we cleared the ground in the orchard, or fall into the bonfire. We're sorry we forgot to send him back to school yesterday–We know how much everyone likes a turn with Buddy Bear."

How is that for a stellar example of self-restraint? 

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Palm Sunday

Heard two of the most powerful Palm Sunday sermons of my life yesterday. The first was given by Dieter Uchtdorf. He was a young boy in Germany during the war, and has since become a respected airline pilot, and a man of immense compassion and intelligence. A short bit from his sermon (and no, I probably didn't get it down exactly right, but you get the idea).

"The world is not bashful in offering numerous new answers to every problem we face. People run from one new idea to the next hoping to find something that will answer the burning questions of their souls. They attend seminars and buy books, CD's and other products; they get caught up in the excitement of looking for something new. But inevitably the flame of each new theory fades only to be replaced by another new and improved solution that promises to do what the others before could not. It's not that these worldly options do not contain elements of truth; many of them do. Nevertheless, they all fall short of the lasting change we seek in our lives. After the excitement wears off the hollowness remains as we look for the next new idea to unlock the secrets of happiness. In contrast, the gospel of Jesus Christ has the answers to our problems; to all of our problems. The gospel is not a secret. It is not complicated or hidden. It is a divine gift–the ultimate formula for happiness and success."

He went on to remind us of the very simple, fundamental things that constitute that plan of happiness, and that we do not have to be rich, good looking, intelligent, or perfect in any way in order to start where we are, right now, today to live the gospel as outlined by Jesus Christ. Simple things like humility, faith, repentance, earnest prayer and scripture study, unity in marriage and family life, compassion, service and gratitude–these kinds of things, combined with the redeeming power of the atonement make it possible for anyone to find true happiness in life. In this life. "It always the right time to live the gospel of Jesus Christ," he said. "It is never too late."

I like that. 

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Bubbaloo, on Rocket Fuel

I read this morning that the CDC has found a rocket fuel chemical in several brands of American made infant formula. Compounded with the chemical already found in many municipal water supplies, these amounts might have a negative affect on children.

I have irrefutable proof this is true.

Or I will, until I get everything cleaned up.

I'm standing there, cooing at two babies–four month old boy, and seven month old girl–thinking this isn't all that hard. Maybe I should have had twins. Got it over with in three pregnancies instead of six, you know? They take turns eating, being held, getting changed, and the rest of the time you can sing and read and talk to them at the same time and they don't really care–in fact, they view each other with fascination. They turn their heads and talk; wave vaguely at each other and try to catch each other's spit bubbles. It has to be good for them, right?

Well, Bubbaloo begins to fuss. So I pick him up and he lets go this roaring explosion somewhere in the nether regions. I know what happens if you wait on changing this kid, and it's getting hard to breathe, so I get out the diapers, wipes, etc.

It isn't until I completely remove the diaper that the deception registers. Explosion. Singular. These things never happen singularly. I've been duped! He draws his knees up to his chest and lets loose a greenish volley the consistency of tapioca pudding. Green, watery, chunky tapioca that hits me square in the chest with so much velocity I am forced to step back. Not far enough for comfort, because I'm still holding his heels, but far enough to evade the next volley which lands ten feet away. 

You think I'm exaggerating. 

Oh, that I were.

The rest of the fusillade tapers off gradually. I attempt, twice, to intercept with the Huggies, to no avail. He can read my mind. He's always one burst ahead of me; one twist of the hips away. Sweet Little Miss thinks my antics are hysterical. They're in cahoots, these two.

While I stripped myself, (thank you, God, for making my daughter larger than me, and her laundry pile closer) and disinfected every surface within a ten-to-twelve foot radius, they were quite indignant that the universe–or at least that goofy lady with the big face and the warm bottles–had ceased to center exclusively around them.

But you should see him now, sucking an invisible pacifier in his sleep, with a smile lurking around the corners of his mouth; I didn't know rocket fuel could feel so good, he's thinking.   

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