Monthly Archives: October 2009

Hurricane Season in the Bathroom

My weekend home improvement efforts (repainting the front of my house and porch railing, restaining the gates, etc.) turned out so well that yesterday I started in on some other overdue projects. 
Cleaned some closets, printed step-by-step peeing instructions on the toilet seat in permanent marker, tore out the water-damaged baseboard in the kids' bathroom and threw away the torn shower curtain that was the source of the water problem around the bathtub. Bought a new one. Problem solved, right?
This morning, shortly before 5 am, I hear their shower going and I'm impressed: they must have not only discovered how to remove the new curtain from its package, they've installed it all by themselves. 
No, no, and no. They took their showers sans curtain. Such dedication to personal hygiene I did not know existed.
Just cogitate for a moment on the ramifications of such a course. Cogitate on the mindset that allows individuals to pursue such a course. 
I did. I stood there in the doorway, considering our new indoor reservoir and how I could possibly respond to this new development—and then I walked away. 
Not a word. I even made them waffles and passed the syrup with a smile. But the water in the bathroom? Not a word.
You know they deserved it.

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X is for Hendrix; T is for Claire

Several parents had been asking about curriculum–do I do learning activities, how much structure is in the children's day, etc., so once the school year was begun in earnest I sifted through internet sites galore and came up with a preschool curriculum that seemed reasonably educational both scholastically and morally without being denomination-specific. 
The first week, the kids were pretty stoked–this is fun to play school! Let's learn about the number two! God gave me two hands and two eyes and ears! Yay! God loves me and gave me a family that loves me! Yay! 
I felt pretty good about the direction we were heading.
The second week, I introduced washing those two hands and other things that keep this body God gave us healthy and happy. Yay! And not only that but Clean starts with C and so does Cortni, Claire, Caylee and Caleb. 
This week Hendrix asks, "What letter are we going to color today?
"H! For you, Hendrix!"
"I want X for Hendrix, cause I'm Jimmy Hendrix and I play the guitar." And spell your name backwards, too, I take it. 
Okay, what do I care? I haven't actually printed the H's yet, right? And I try not to say no if there is any possibility of saying yes; I've always dealt my children this way. So I print out the first X coloring page. Yay! X for Hendrix; and there was much rejoicing. 
Claire says, "I don't want X. I want T for Claire." 
I look at her.  Do I care if they color different letters? Not really. I print out a T, and I show her that she has two names and that the last one does start with T. Wow, you were so smart to know that Claire! Yay, Claire! She's a little stunned to realize she's so smart, but she's basking in the praise.
"Dog." Says Caylee. "Dog-Dog."
"You want to color a picture of a Dog?"
She beams. "Dog-dog."
D is for Dog. I find a paper that says so. I print it out. Now Claire wants a Dog-Dog. How many spots are on the dog? Yay! We can all count spots!   
Never mind that Caleb thinks it's actually a cheetah. He doesn't want to color. He wants to make a spaceship out of tape, paper and a hunk of plastic from some packaging he found under the sink.  He does; half a roll of tape, an entire stapler's worth of staples, and a glue stick later, he has the most amazing space ship since Vostok 1. It lasts about fifteen minutes before he's crashed it into the "ocean" and Moscow explains to him his next mission: clean up the mess.
"Kimber, are spaceships real?"
"Do they really fly?"
"Yup, you want to see some space ships taking off on the computer?"  Yeah! 
Caleb is spellbound. The girls couldn't care less. They dump the toys out and use the boxes to build a stage for their concert and they make up their own songs. I don't get to sing, just watch, cause their songs are better than mine. Double Yay
I'm not saying that sometimes it isn't a cop-out to neglect lesson plans for spontaneity; I am remembering why I consistently abandon structured learning every time I try to implement it. Kids seem to learn best what they are interested in the subject–and they are all so unique and ever-changing that I don't know how public school teachers manage–from sheer necessity they have to use a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching for the most part. 
In some respects, I operate the same way–at meal times, everyone gets the same things and you eat what I serve or you go hungry. Period. But wherever I can, I try to say yes, not no. I remember reading something, before I had kids: "Chaos breeds genius" and whenever my kids wanted to convert the entire kitchen/living room/dining area into a lego/fisher-price/lincoln log/Knex metropolis, or try to dig a hole to China in the back yard, I repeated that mantra. 
I'm not saying my children all score in the upper 99th percentile primarily because of my shabby housekeeping or landscaping skills, but I think that the longer we can avoid cramming their intelligences and desires into a mold that is more convenient for our own agendas, the better. 

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Cameras in The Loo

If I installed a (fake) security camera above the toilet and put a large sign above it that reads, "This Camera Is Wireless And Audio Activated–If It Senses The Sound Of Any Liquid Striking Any Surface Other Than Water, Your Picture Will Be Taken" would this discourage or encourage peeing on the wall?
What if I threatened to broadcast the results on YouTube? Penalized the Pee-er with hard labor? What if I just put the bathrooms in lockdown and charged admission fees refundable upon inspection? What if I brought the ceiling down to about four feet so you had to sit? 
What if…..I made them build a latrine in the vacant lot next door??! 

Speaking of pee; right now my brother-in-law is getting his new kidney. All our prayers with you guys–and Jay, next time you come to visit, you, and you alone, can pee on any wall you want to.

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Jogging Patriarchs

I have determined that I am hindered in my physical fitness goals because of three basic things: 
1) I'm afraid of the dark–not in my house, but out there. Come on, the kind of people that steal stuff walk out there in the middle of the night–I know, because every once in a while their loot gets too heavy and they ditch it along the tracks or in a vacant lot nearby. We've come across these things more than once–that and hunting season has begun; the hunters are trigger happy and not the greatest aim. One year they put holes in our siding and apparently we are outside anybody's jurisdiction who cares, too. I'd hate to go out walking and come home trailing blood.
2) I have really poor judgment at four o'clock in the morning, no matter what time I go to bed. I used to be able to remember why on earth the alarm was blaring at that hour, but no more. Or I do, but I can't bring myself to care. 
3) After six pm, there is no way I'm going to expend one kilojoule of energy more than I absolutely have to. I tried yesterday. After everyone but my sister's daughter left, I had to make a phone call so I lay myself down on the mat and contemplated doing leg lifts or sit ups while listening to the woman on the other end but I simply could NOT talk myself into it. I'd prefer scouring the boy's bathroom. (Didn't do that, either.)
So all day yesterday and today I've been thinking–that lesson I have to teach is still coming up–what scriptural basis does the admonition to exercise have, really? Any? I can't find it anywhere–except for that pesky little verse that says "cease to be idle." So I consider implicit scriptural teachings. The life and example of the ancient prophets, of Jesus Christ himself–did they go jogging? Do chin-ups? I paged through the bible on the fly–hmmm. Nothing in there about aerobics, is there? Adam earned his bread by the sweat of his face. Daniel followed some pretty strict dietary codes. Moses did a lot of walking. 
Well, they all did a lot of walking.  These guys were all over the map working miracles and this in a time before the gasoline engine had become popular. The thing that struck me most was that they all went about doing good
Can I do that and call it enough? Can I just cease to be idle and be always anxiously engaged in a good cause?
For two days I've paid attention to my activity and idleness levels. I get up shortly before 5. Shower, throw in some laundry, blow dry the hair bent over forward. Spend a few minutes on my knees. Read for twenty minutes to half an hour. I might sit during our morning three-to-five minute devotional with the kids. And then life hits full force as daycare kids start arriving at 6 and it's nonstop until I get the school-aged kids onto the bus and into the van and everyone else fed and happy. This always involves lots of deep knee bends, crawling, lifting, and wrestling–oh, you cannot know wrestling until you've tried to change the diaper or dress a 30 pound infant with limbs of steel and reflexes like lightning.
I spend the next three hours picking up, kneeling, squatting, up and down and lifting babies and mopping messes and cleaning floors and at 11 another rush starts for lunch, and now it is 1:21 and I have been on my feet non-stop for eight and a half hours if you don't count the praying or the diaper changing episodes–which involved wrestling. I have eaten half a cup of oatmeal, an apple, a carrot, a boiled egg and half an english muffin. My feet hurt but I'm not actually tired at this point in the day–as long as I don't sit down. And so I don't. I blog and I do paperwork standing up–the computer chair was a tipping hazard and the keyboard way to tempting at desk height so we got rid of it. Hallelujah. Everyone will start waking up in an hour or so, and I'll be on my feet until after dinner again. I definitely won't want to do any pushups. I'll probably sit through my own dinner, and scripture study and family prayer, but aside from that, well, you know a mother's evening routine. Not much time for idleness, is there?
Honestly, with that verse ringing in my ears "cease to be idle" I admit I have recognized some places to improve–I no longer stand in one spot when I'm on the phone–even if the kids are coloring and happy. I pick up the crayons, etc. but for the most part, I guess I realized that there's already a respectable amount of activity in my life. I eat reasonably well. 
So this is a compromise with myself here–but I've come to a decision. If there is any "good" that needs doing–meal prep, wall disinfecting, chair washing, dance partnering with the little girls (you know they always need a partner)–whatever it may be–if there is even one thing I can see needs doing during business hours–6am to 6pm–I will do it with energy–I'll do it like I have a deadline, and I won't cut energy corners. No just bouncing my head in time with the music–I'll be a proper dance partner. That's where I'm going to improve, okay? That's the extent of my physical fitness goals. 
Still not sure how to present the lesson, but I think I'm getting closer. I think the key is the idea of "cease to be idle" and "doing good." At any rate, I am officially swearing off my perpetual exercise guilt trip. No more. And maybe just that is a decent goal, no?

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Got Kidney?

I don't know if you remember my sister's one-time blog "Got Kidney?" which chronicled the events surrounding her husband's complete kidney failure and their weeks in a hospital far from home. She alternately made us laugh and cry as she shared their struggles and triumphs; this is a couple who can stare in the face of death, and all nausea aside, find things to laugh about.
But there isn't a lot you can do about kidneys; when they give up, they give up. Jay is in his early thirties and has three children and a lot to live for. He's been on dialysis for about a year and a half and has jumped through all the required hoops, found a donor (his father), and  tomorrow they go in for the transplant surgery together. 
Our prayers are with you guys! And call me if you ever need some company–I'll come.

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Pinnipeds Scorned

Watched the movie "Earth" with the family this weekend. The baby animals looked disconcertingly like children I know. I started naming the bear cubs in my head. And yes–they were named after your children. You know they were.
I was surprised at how carefully my children listened, though. "Hey Mom," my son said after the voice of Darth Vader stated that deserts cover 30% of the earth's surface, "Didn't he just say that 75% of the earth's surface is covered with ocean?"
So he did. And 75+30 definitely equals more than 100%. I think Vader meant 30% of the earth's exposed crust is desert, and the ocean figure referred to the entire surface of the earth, but that my son picked up on those numbers surprised me. I was just watching the scenery, you know?
And I realized something about myself: I'm prejudiced against pinnipeds. Every time they showed footage of a wolf going after a polar bear, or a pride of lions attempting to take down an elephant, I cringed; I hoped. That poor starving cheetah! That poor terrified antelope! I was torn–I don't like to think of the hunter going hungry or the hunted being eaten. 
But when the polar bear attacked the walrus? I was totally rooting for the bear. Killer whale and the seal? Nothing. No anxiety. I find it curious that I don't feel anything but revulsion for pinnipeds. Maybe because they remind me of fish, and I don't feel any compassion for fish, either. Not really. Or most types of aquatic mammals. It wouldn't have bothered me if the killer whale got speared right after killing the seal. As a matter of fact, if I lived on a lake that contained something more palatable than carp, I'd be all over sending my boys down there to catch supper.  
Hmmm. Come to think of it, and speaking of supper, I don't feel a lot of compassion for chickens either. Maybe I interacted with too many of them growing up. These are not intelligent, dewy-eyed animals that remind me of my children, if you know what I mean. I love chicken–with a bit of Yoshida's Gourmet sauce. 
And while we're at it. Cows. Thinking. Hmmm. See, it gets tricky. I am the hunter, albeit indirectly and with my wallet. (Which, come to think of it, is probably leather.) I am also hypocritical–I make my children kill small animals for me. Like somehow that is more compassionate. 
A few years ago we were having rodent problems in our old house. They'd pop up out of the heat registers in the middle of the day and make nests in the drawers and in our truck's engine. Not to mention race around my feet while I was driving–and they outsmarted us for a long time.
We tried everything against these super mice. Spring traps, glue traps, spring and glue traps. Sometimes they'd make a mistake and we'd get lucky. One day a mouse had her back legs stuck in a glue trap and her head caught under the spring of another trap. She was wide awake and breathing hard. Pewter eyes staring up at me in terror. 
I couldn't kill her–even though I knew it would ease her suffering. I made my eight-year-old son take the mouse, with traps attached, and throw her in the weeds across the road and prayed the neighborhood cats would find her quickly.  My husband would have stepped on her. We were cleaning out a vacant lot last spring and he stepped on dozens. Crushed them.
Could you do that? Stomp on a mouse? I can't even step on a spider–pick it up with a tissue and flush it, no problem, but that popping sensation? Eww. Now imagine that on the scale of a rodent. 
I am a conflicted omnivore, yes. I buy my meat in unrecognizable shapes (I once bought a whole ham–it freaked me out–looked like a human thigh, never again!) and I call it by euphemistic names. Beef. Ham. Venison. Notice–the fish and the chicken we call by their natural, in the wild titles. Maybe there is a reason? 
Hmmm. Now there is something to think about. 

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Drop, and Give Me Two Hundred!

I challenged the girls in my class to a push-up contest; in the end it became a push-up or sit-up contest just to allow for different body types. Anyway, I promised one piece of candy for every repetition–I have ulterior motives due to an upcoming lesson: I need to know how many they can do when pushed to the limit of their ability–I'm supposed to reward them if they can double their number in a given time-frame. 
I figured on about ten to twenty per girl on their first try.
It's a good thing I didn't offer a quarter per push-up like I was going to! I'd be mortgaging my house. One twelve-year-old girl did 100 sit-ups. One Hundred! Who could have predicted that?! These were honest-to-goodness sit-ups, and I think she only quit after 100 because she got bored. I swear she wasn't even perspiring! What, in a month she's really going to come back and do two hundred?
I know I'm physically pathetic–I get that. I pummel myself regularly about my inability to fit in any kind of regular physical exercise–my only claim to a non-sedentary lifestyle is my job–I am on my feet twelve to sixteen hours a day. But 100 sit-ups?
I just got down on the mat and tried–I can do twelve before my brains start to bulge out my ears; I'd report on push-ups, too, but my wrists would probably snap and then I'd really be sedentary because I'd no longer have a job at all. 
I've always toed the line–whoever drew it, my whole life. I always turned in my library books, kept my hands and feet inside the vehicle, fastened the seatbelts, ate the vegetation, earned a 4.0 GPA, attended every church meeting, read, prayed, studied, said Yes, I can do that for you–I'm pretty compliant. So why is it that I've been able to tune out all the  admonitions toward physical health? Hmmm?

This lesson I have to teach next week is proof positive that the commandment to care for our physical health is just as binding as the commandment to serve one another or to be honest, and yet I've managed to avoid the issue my entire life.  

I get up there every Sunday and I assure these girls that all things are possible; that they can make positive changes, they can succeed, they can achieve. I cannot get up there and promise them things I don't believe are true in my own life–and so the question raging today is how?  I believe the principle is true; I doubt my own capacity–I have, after all, been starting and failing exercise routines for twenty years. Maybe the real question is why? Why do I fail and how do I avoid failing again?

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Last month the church decided to consolidate all midweek activities for children over the age of eight into one time slot on Wednesday evenings. Hallelujah–I no longer have to run all over town four or five days a week. One trip–and I stay and help now too, since I got my new calling (calling: that's Mormon jargon for an assignment your bishop volunteers you to do for an indefinite period of time) to teach the 12 and 13 year old girls. 
Anyway. Last week as we were getting our coats and shoes together, my daughter looks at me and says, "You're not wearing that shirt are you?"
"Actually, I am." I said.
"Mom," she protested, "We have, like, ten minutes before we have to leave. You have time to change your shirt."
The shirt in question is a dark green t-shirt of the thinner variety. It has an ear of corn screenprinted on in and it reads, "Shucks!". Corny, I know, but I didn't pick it out because I was charmed by its wit. I found it in a bag of hand-me-downs meant for my boys a few years ago and thought–Hey, now there's a good shirt. It is loose, lightweight, and doesn't show every little splatter. Well, except for the white stripe from when I was painting the fence last spring and maybe a few other splatters here and there. But it's in significantly better shape than the grey shirt it replaced. That one had twenty-seven different colors of paint on it and was so thin it didn't even exist anymore in places. That shirt was not suitable for public viewing. My Shucks! shirt, well. I wear it (and others like it) while tending explosive small children and at the end of the day, if I have somewhere to go, well, I don't have anyone to impress, do I? I expressed this sentiment out loud.
My daughter disagreed. I could tell this from the look she was trying to not have on her face. So I tried to compromise by putting on a dark grey hoodie over it. "Now can I wear it?" I asked. 
"It's fine," my son groaned. (Yes! I thought, My boys will back me up on this one.) "Look, she can zip it up." 
I zipped it to my neck and promised not to take it off. I might have crossed my fingers.
"Okay," she said, "But you are NOT wearing those shoes."
The shoes are twice as wide as my feet (all the better to slip on, my dear) and also covered with twenty-seven colors of paint. They are older than the grey shirt, you see. I wear them all over the house, yard and garden because they are easy on, easy off, and they are comfortable. Indestructible, too.  I try not to wear them to church or the store, but sometimes I forget. Sometimes I really don't care. 
She cared. 
So I took off the shoes. I peeked out the blinds to where five of my children were getting in the van and noted the time. I had eight minutes. My conscience twanged. I sighed. Not only did I take off the shirt, I got in the shower just in case there was lingering vomit to rinse out of my hair.  You never know. I put on clean everything. I got in the van in the eight-minute time window and passed inspection. It was dark, but still, I passed.
She cared. I find that disturbing and comforting, both. I don't remember caring what my mother wore. It's like she sees me as a real person, and I guess that's the comforting part, isn't it?

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My own, personal Question Of the Day–Why, more than 119 years after Francis Robbins Upton filed his patent for an electric smoke detector/fire alarm, hasn't anyone improved that little plastic box on my ceiling to the point where it can differentiate between potentially life-threatening situations and say, a smoldering crumb or a rapidly boiling pot of water or even the steam from a really hot shower?
And speaking of smoldering crumbs–in July of 1909, Frank Shailor filed the first US patent for an electric toaster. The idea had been kicking around for some time and the toaster went through so many incarnations that even the Toaster Museum doesn't know for sure who truly invented the first electric toaster, but in 1926 the Waters Genter company definitely began selling the Toastmaster 1-A-1, which promised to pop-up automatically when the bread was toasted. 
So why, again after a hundred years or so, hasn't anyone invented an automatic toaster that actually does what it promises to do–that is, toast (both sides of) the bread evenly, consistently, and then pop up after the maillard reaction has worked its carmelizing wonders on the surface of the bread but before carbonization sets in? 
Does your toaster live up to its claims? Do I just keep buying really pathetic excuses for kitchen appliances? I'm ready to go back to tearing off chunks of bread, spearing them with a long stick, and roasting them over an open fire. If nothing else, it would cut back on the amount of slicing I'd have to do.

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The Insidious American Schwa

When I moved to the States, Americans made fun of my interjection of choice–eh?

I found it preferable to theirs–huh?  Sounds a bit less dull-witted, but gradually and for the most part I lost my eh.
I resisted, however, succumbing to the American habit of converting all vowel sounds to the schwa which permits them to pronounce things like "uh elephant ate uh apple" with ease. Truly, the indefinite article "an" is unamerican, at least around here. Maybe even pretentious. And even the ones that do  say "an apple" it's not "ahn apple", it's "uhn apple."
This morning I asked a child if they would like uh egg. 
In my defense, mentally I mixed the schwa in "some eggs" in there and changed my mind at the last second to say "an egg" and lost the n in the process. I most definitely uttered an "uh". Realized that I even if I'd squeezed the n in there, I was still going to say "uhn egg". Realized that I have lost all my "ah" sounds. I think I probably say "uhn apple" now with the rest of them.
Not proud to be American this morning. 
Glum even. 
So to all my Canadian family and friends–Happy Thanksgiving, eh? I miss your clean snow and your wide open prairies, your mountains and your diction! 

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