Monthly Archives: January 2011

On Sleep Deprivation and Death

“Mom, what would happen if you never went to sleep?”

This, I thought to myself (oh so fleetingly) would make a great topic for discussion: all those sleep deprivation studies that have been done, the importance of rest, etc. But being in the middle of two dozen things, I summed it all up with two words: “You’d die.”

“You’d die?

“Yup. Kaput. Your body would just shut off.”

And so we went our merry, mad way.

Until this weekend.

When I paid dearly for my sins.

The same child didn’t get out of bed on Saturday morning. I was in a hurry to get to class for my presentation, so didn’t check on the suspicious circumstances of this kid not being up with the sun.

At three in the afternoon, my daughter texts me that he’s still in bed. When I get home, he’s moaning something incoherent from his bed. I drop all my bags at the bottom of the stairs and go feel his head; he’s burning up. I take his temperature: 103.7 degrees.

Eeek. Three kids barfed on my floor Friday, so I’m pretty sure this is the same flu; I give him some Motrin and eventually I go to bed.

Not for long.

Within an hour or so, he’s kneeling by my bed. “Mom! Mom!”

I feel his head. He seems better. “What?”

“I can’t sleep!”

“Read a book.” I spent most of the night previous up preparing for my presentation. I am so not getting up to entertain him.

About twenty minutes later, he returns. And twenty minutes after that. And after that. I keep directing him to various activities/things to eat or drink.

Finally he says, clearly in desperation, “But MOM! I really think I’m going to die!”

I feel his head again. “You aren’t going to die. You want some more Tylenol? Does your head hurt?”

“I can’t sleep!”

(Yeah, still not catching on; I’m a little slow when it comes to childhood paranoia.)

“That’s because you slept all day,” I tell him.

“No I didn’t!” he insists. “I tried all day, but it was too bright outside.”

I try to explain to him that he doesn’t remember sleeping, but that he really did. Dad and his sister both checked.

“But what if I die?”

“Why would you die???” I ask. I’m getting irritated now.

“You said that you die if you don’t sleep!”


Yes I did.

Try explaining that away in the middle of the night.  I had to get up and back up my claims with hard and fast data from the great  Google wasteland of fairly useless information.

Oh what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to… cut corners.



Here’s where things get tricky: you can snap pictures of the younger kids and they don’t notice, or they like it. But once you reach the teenage set, you have to get sneaky.

Joseph is my most camera shy; he tends to conveniently lose his head in something whenever the camera comes around:

He grew these giant pumpkins a few years ago.  Let’s see… more footage of Joseph:

Yup, that’s about as good as the recent stuff goes. He isn’t as cooperative as back in the day:

He really was cute, no? Just want to pick him up and hug him. (Don’t so much get that vibe after they are twice your size. Which… yeah, he probably is.)

Joey is my fairly quiet, funny one–he does things like change my screen saver to a black screen with a metallic phrase bouncing around it that reads, “Move The Mouse”. Or takes a picture of the blue error screen and hides all my icons so that I think the computer has crashed. He has a unique way of looking at the world and impeccable delivery.

He built his own computer when he was thirteen, and can usually fix mine. He can earn %100 on a math final and still get a C in the class; ie: he’s really smart, but doesn’t like to jump through ridiculous hoops.

Can’t imagine where he got that from…

Ooh, here’s a fairly recent photo (June 2010) of him lighting his brother’s cake; I don’t know how he wrested the matches away from Jaeger, but I do have to say that he is possibly as skilled at building incendiary devices as he is at building computers:

(And yes, that is a block of ice cream with Skittles on it, masquerading as a birthday cake. I know how to be efficient.)

He’s the child who will take out the garbage because he notices it’s full or load the dishwasher when it is empty. I gave up doing his laundry long ago, because he has a sort of t-shirt collection he doesn’t want ruined, and my laundry theory is that if it cannot survive every temperature/chemical/agitation combination possible, it doesn’t deserve to survive my laundering.

He is also my child who will get himself out of bed early every Sunday morning before the family, showered and out the door to fulfill his priesthood responsibilities without being reminded and without complaint. He’s a good kid, and at fifteen I think that says a lot about a boy’s character. I wish I could provide more of the resources I know he could do amazing things with, given the chance. He could build marvels and invent wonders given the right circumstances. I’m sure he will anyway, in spite of less than perfect ones, because that’s the kind of person he is.

Easy Street… Spa and Beauty Parlor?

Since most of what I wrote twenty years ago this week is morbidly unprintable or insanely boring (unless you’d like to study adolescent perception of the events surrounding the war in the middle east and the purpose of life) let us, instead, honor instead, a true free spirit. At lunch today he was very methodically coating every square inch of his skin with noodle sauce, and then rubbing his hands in his hair. By the time he was done he put all the ’80’s era rockers to shame:

C is for Canada

I know, I skipped B last week and went off on a parental tangent. But the thing is, my cousin posted some pictures yesterday of her family posing with some celebrity named Paul Brant. A Canadian country singer from my home province of Alberta.

I’d never heard of him, but I looked him up, and the first link I clicked brought me to tears. Blame it on whatever hormonal or chemical imbalance you like, but I sat in my room and tried not to all-out cry as I watched the images in this video that were so immediately familiar, and yet so very, very far away.

I am so grateful that I grew up in the most beautiful countryside in earth. Clean air, clean water, breathtaking mountains and boundless horizons. I am grateful for youth leaders who knew the best food for adolescent souls would be found on steep trails and glacial lakes in the mountains and who took us there regularly and who insisted that we never give up until that lake was discovered or that mountain peak was fully under the soles of our feet.

I am grateful to God for making such soul-expanding beauty in the world. I miss the mountains and the air and the sky and yeah, even every gust of that often relentless wind.

I’m  grateful that someone else in the world thinks Alberta, Canada is a place worth immortalizing in song:

“It Doesn’t matter where I go
This place will always be my home
Yeah I have been Alberta Bound for all my life
And I’ll be Alberta Bound until I die.”


Collared by Steinbeck

In spite of all my good intentions to cut corners this semester, I have to tell you that watching a film adaptation of the assigned novels just isn’t working for me. It all started with Their Eyes Were Watching God. I saw the movie and hated it, about a year ago.  So I read the book. WOW. Amazing. Zora Neale Hurston has officially joined ranks with my favorite authors and I’ve only just now met her. Highly recommended.

As for The Old Man and The Sea. Really? You can catch the power of Hemingway’s language by watching Spencer Tracy sitting in a boat alternately grimacing or smiling goofy-eyed at the clouds for an hour an a half? Good for you; I had to sit down and read the book. (FYI: it was shorter than the movie.)

Of Mice and Men. There’s a book I dropped in horror during my youth; it fails the three-strikes rule within the first page or two. I made the assumption that the movie’s dialog was just as colorful and decided to spare my children by sticking with silent text. I’m sorry, but if you are an educated adult, professing to understand world literature, you should probably read it.

Its language is flat out unforgivable, but the message and the profound understanding of character takes you by the collar, lifts you up off your toes and stares deeply into your soul. Of all the varieties of profanity filling the airways and the world of print, Steinbeck’s bothers me most.  I don’t know how to reconcile that with the fact that when I finished the book, I set it down almost reverently.

Except that if I follow the advice of John Wesley’s mother on how best to determine the virtue of things, I cannot in good conscience dismiss Steinbeck’s efforts. Said she, “Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.” This book didn’t do any of those things, for me. I suppose you’d have to judge for yourself.

The Great Gatsby is up next. In PDF format. I have to say I prefer an honest to goodness book in my hands, but the library didn’t have it. (Are you surprised? This is Moses Lake.)

Whatchya Got Cookin’?

My grandfather had this song he used to sing. When he came in from the barn or back from town he’d frequently meet Grandma with this refrain: “Hey, Good Lookin’, Whatchya got cookin’?”  Frequently he dropped the tune and just swaggered in all bowlegged with the question itself–for his wife, his daughters, and his granddaughters–it became somewhat of a standard greeting from him.

One day early in June of 1980, our home out on the Kimball farm burned to its foundations. Grandpa arrived after the house was long gone and Grandma was standing in the yard with the neighbors, sort of shell-shocked, watching it burn. He came up behind her, put his arms around her, and began to sing in her ear, “Hey, Good Lookin’, Whatchya got cookin’?”

That is so my grandfather. He could watch his every possession go up in smoke and come away with a smile on his lips and a song in his heart. No wonder she loved him. Still does; always will; and so do we.

That’s Garth and Jean Forsyth on their wedding day. That dress survived the fire thirty one years ago. I believe it was in a bureau the neighbors dragged out the front door; the well was dry and the house was doomed, and so they rescued what they could.

Of all the people in all the world who know how to both work hard, and still “take it easy”, my grandparents are the pros. They raised 11 children and took care of a large farm and never ran themselves into debt to do it. Grandma knew how to sit on the front patio and watch the world breathe after chores were done, and Grandpa never wasted a moment I ever witnessed on sadness or regret.

He was a wiry little cowboy and she was a nanny and a cook for the ranch hands when they met. They built a life together that surpasses all they ever expected those early years, I’m certain. Of just great-grandchildren alone there are 97–all of them born in the last sixteen years or so, and more on the way. I am responsible for numbers 3, 6, 11, 20, 30, and 43.

Early on the morning of September 27, 1999, when #20 arrived, my grandparents were on their way back to Canada after my sister’s wedding here in Moses Lake. I saw Grandpa’s hat  first, as he swept it off his head, and then his lopsided grin and one raised eyebrow as he entered the delivery room. “Hey, Good Lookin’, Whatchya got cookin’?” he asked.

My grandparents never made it to my graduation or my wedding, or any of the births of my other children–and I didn’t expect them to–we live far from home and I never have been good at planning anyone else’s schedule  into my life, but it was a precious moment to have them there that morning.  And somewhere in the back of my mind, in the center of my heart, there is a voice that asks me continually, no matter where I am, or what I’m doing, if what I have on simmering on my back burner and on my plate would make Grandpa proud of what I’ve “got cookin'”. Because you know he’s going to ask, and I want him to look upon my efforts with as much joy as he did that early September morning eleven and a half years ago:

Toddler Wisdom

This week, Jaidon got his cast removed. We can’t convince him to walk on it yet, but I’m sure he’ll come around. It’s pretty swollen still:

We also took down our Christmas tree–I know, it’s probably a record. Feel free to stand and applaud vigorously. I’d take a picture of the gloriousness of an empty living room, but it looks the same as it did last year, minus the April sunshine.

Picked up about a million Lego’s; son six has been on a building spree lately though, so there are actually fewer than usual to pick up. It’s like the Berlin wall meets 3D encyclopedia of transportation vehicles up there:

Actually, I lied; I didn’t pick any of them up. I made him do it. Except for those ones the vacuum maybe might have taken care of…

And on that note–speaking of small brightly colored objects,  a bit of profound wisdom I gleaned from the t-shirt one of my toddlers was sporting today:

“Friends don’t let friends stick things up them’s noses!”

Permission to Shine

I really believe this, and I wish that I could say it nearly as well, but Williamson (and not Nelson Mandela) says it so much better:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking So that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not in just some of us; It’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson
A Return To Love (1992), Chapter 7


That’s his middle name: Hollis. It was his grandfather and great-grandfather’s before him. I’m the only one to call him that, but there you have it. When Jaeger just feels toooo formal, that’s what comes out: Hollis.

Jaeger is my tool-toting, mechanically minded son, always has been. I have pictures of him wearing so many plastic tools his little osh-kosh overalls are down around his knees with the weight, and pictures of him solemnly “helping” Dad and Grandpa when he couldn’t even use the toilet by himself. More recently, he helped us lay our upstairs tile:

And pour our front driveway:

From the time he was tiny, he has been fascinated with tools and has always been the first kid I call when I need help with something. Sometimes this irritates him, but I remind him that there are advantages to being known as someone who will get a job done.

He doesn’t mind so much when the job involves fire; I realized today that almost every picture I have of a birthday cake lighting includes Jaeger, holding the matches:

Jaeger can design and build a wooden box just the right size to hold something that no other box will hold with as much ease as he can put together an apple pie or a pan of lasagna–no storebought fillings or crusts for this kid–all from scratch. He can bake bread as well as I can, too.

He’s also somewhat… um… accident prone. From the time he was no longer safe on one hip, the kid has been a perpetual case of goose eggs and minor, yet bloody injuries. One day he got off the bus looking like this:

Yes, that’s sliced clear through. Uhg. Ironically, by a malfunctioning “safety seat”.  The most amazing thing about his aptitude with tools and his willingness to try new tasks is that it isn’t easy for him: he has a significant tremor in his hands that makes his handwriting nearly illegible and as a result of which I no longer even flinch when he breaks a dish; it’s a regular part of life.. He cleans it up and tries again. And handwriting aside, he always brings home a 4.0; the kid wants to got MIT, and I believe he will get in wherever he applies, because he has that kind of tenacity.

He’s thirteen, and he’s already researching these things. He’d also like to get his pilot’s license when he’s sixteen and maybe build an airplane for his senior project. He says this like it’s an impossible dream, but knowing Jaeger, I wouldn’t be surprised if he figured out a way to make it happen.

He’s is the third of six kids, the archetypal “middle child”. He tends to get hit from both sides in so many ways:

He’s usually a pretty good sport about it, but sometimes he really feels it, and then I feel bad, too, because there is so little you can do when a child’s feelings are truly wounded and they are too big to gather up on your lap anymore.

When did that happen, by the way? When did they go from a song and a story on my lap every night with a face like this:

To the uber-serious teen who is more likely able to pick me up, than the other way around?

Lunch, Jane, and a Reliable Shredder

When I so blithely made up my mind, a few weeks ago, to post daily, I had not yet started my winter semester.


Having made that piteous excuse for negligence, let me tell you the truth:

I have been undecided about publishing this week’s Flashback at all. Twenty years ago, my sorry adolescent self was having a few of those life-altering experiences that come out of the pen horribly raw and yet somehow terribly true.

It’s a series of entries you hope nobody ever reads, and at the same time you recognize that those specific experiences have shaped you profoundly. You recognize that they cannot be wiped from the record even should you shred the hard copy.

January 15-21, 1991

First, let us skip over the entry in which I vividly describe the birthday party where I laughed a mixture of chocolate pudding, orange soda, and tomatoes out my nose.

I don’t count that as a life altering experience.

Also, the deep, psychological profiles of my parents.

There was the entry made the day I watched my seminary teacher’s eye surgery. I was riveted. The idea that doctors could cut open such a small organ, vacuum out what was rightfully there, put in a spring, fill it back up with artificial goo, and then stitch it shut with a needle the size of an eyelash. While he was conscious, no less! Amazing. I announced that I was going to get my PhD in medicine… and maybe also run an orphanage in Europe somewhere for kids that needed both medical attention and a home. I pictured an extremely large, dysfunctional family apparently.

I also thought about going into theater. Really. (I know, I wouldn’t believe it either if it weren’t there in my own hand writing.)

There is the entry in which I was completely surprised by a group of my friends who noticed that I rarely brought a lunch to school and offered to take turns bringing me one. I was touched, but shamed, too. In some primal part of my being a smolder of resentment started against this group of girls who had only been trying to help. “I don’t want any special treatment or to be an exception”, I wrote. “Can’t they let me be a normal grade nine student trying to pass school and life in general? Leave my background, my home there, I want to be me, not a charity case.”

I was happy to sit there and socialize at lunch time whether or not I had food to eat; I was capable of compartmentalizing my hungry home life from my social life. I certainly wasn’t going to bring in a bowl of boiled wheat or beans for lunch, so if there wasn’t portable food, I didn’t worry about it. Nor did I, however, think about how it felt for those girls to be sitting there eating with someone who wasn’t. Looking back, I realize how awkward that must have been for them.

I think this was the point at which I began to seek more and more excuses to be busy at lunchtime. I remember when my responsibility with the Yearbook committee was over, and there wasn’t any extra work to do in any classes I could think up, I used to read a book in a bathroom stall there just off the main gym; it was the oldest, nastiest bathroom, and therefore the least frequented by anyone I knew.

Jane Eyre and the like got me through a lot of lunch hours.

Then… there is the entry.  The one in which I appologize profusely and at length not only for feeling my own feelings, but for expressing them. I was cursed then, and still am now, with the ability to see the inherent goodness in even the most despicable type people. People anyone else would have written off, walked away from and damned straight to dark fiery places outside the known universe. I could see why they did the things they did, pitied them for everything that might have ever made them the way they were, and felt horribly guilty for not sincerely liking them.

A few days earlier I had opened up to an adult I should have been able to trust and shared with them some of the deeper musings of my soul. And thought I’d had a breakthrough conversation–they listened to me! They understood what I said! They cared!

Only, they didn’t. Turns out they listened so constructively in order to prompt more information from me to support their theories of my mental instability–which they then discussed with any number of other people in my life–which, of course, came back to me as an unrecognizable mish-mash.  The betrayal of confidence and the character smearing wasn’t the worst part; in some deep, horrified place, I asked, am I really as evil as she makes me out to be?

Yup, that’s all I’m going to say about that one. The original might be headed for the shredder…