Monthly Archives: February 2011

Additional Proofs

On second thought, and after examining the contents (read, faces) of that last post more closely, I have to add the following:

As proof that the family member who smiles in just 1/84 of the pictures will chose to do so when everybody else is either looking away, or closing their eyes (I’ll leave it to you to conjecture what those various other expressions signify):

And a closeup as proof that a) the gate really does need staining, and/or b) the Mr. does occasionally crack a smile of his own on camera:


Family Subtrefuge

Once upon a time,  I talked the Mr. into sitting for an honest-to-goodness family portrait:

Mother, father, all progeny, all looking in vaguely the same direction without malice in a single countenance. Yeah. I know: it’s amazing. And this was in the pre-photoshop era.

Since then, various relatives have tried to sneak up on us unawares at times in an attempt to recreate such a feat–but mostly they have failed. Or taken the sort of pictures you tuck away in a drawer and hope nobody finds until after you are all safely dead.

This week, I collaborated with a real photographer to ambush my family on their way to church. (You see? I may be getting old, but I’m still wily enough to orchestrate such subterfuge.)

Unfortunately the photographer flaked out on me at the last moment and I was left with six extremely clean children and a freshly shaven other. I snuck into an unoccupied room, covered the receiver with a cupped palm, and called my sister-in-law–probably the only one who would dare approach her brother openly with a camera in hand–and we stuck with the plan.

Sort of.

Eighty four pictures on my camera later, your curiosity must be satisfied with the following:

First, I include this photo as an illustration of our various and respective heights. Keep in mind that I am wearing three inch heels, and my daughter is in ballet flats:

I include the next because, well, it may be the best picture we took, stray feline notwithstanding:

And this one, just to verify that a ten year old (is it the tie, or the sub-zero temperatures of the cement on which he sat?) can maintain that expression for 82 pictures without failing, once:

And no, it didn’t occur to me–until just now–even after combing through these pictures for two days, that my youngest two didn’t have their shirts tucked in. Nope. See, that’s where a real photographer might have come in handy–she probably would have noticed such things.

A Brother, A Dremmel, a Blowdryer and Exhibit A

Now that you’ve been acquainted with my true feelings regarding the pinewood derby, I am prepared to fill you in on the details of the past evening.

Let’s just say I repented at the last minute.

As in: I sent my daughter to the sporting goods store to purchase the loathsome block of wood with its accompanying wheels, nails and anguish, the day before the race.

This rash bit of behavior may or may not have had to do with the conversation I had with my seven year old on Sunday:



“If love is spelled T-I-M-E, why don’t you do more stuff with me?” (And you thought he wasn’t listening to that brilliant bit of oratory.)

He isn’t actually in scouts yet, but his brother is and mother guilt has a way of seeping into everything, as you know.

We bought the block. A couple pencils, a Dremmel wielding older brother, and a pocket knife later, we had a car. Twenty minutes before the race started we enlisted the help of his sister’s  hair dryer:

That’s the Dremmel wielding older brother. Can I just ask you to check out that spoiler? This car is carved out of one piece of wood. I didn’t know we had tools that could do such things.

There were several cousins in the race, which was excellent, because they are under the same curse of the derby Gods that we are. Two of them with Quinton, last night (there were four):

Once again the powers that be had about a billion heats, all specifically designed to demonstrate that our cars would lose against every car, every time. The in-laws who are responsible for these cousins, and I, sat on the back row and talked about everything but the race and then we decided that love was actually spelled i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m and we went to DQ (and yes, that giant Arctic Rush belongs to that little elf there to my right; he was certain he could finish it):

My newest sister-in-law offered to take a picture, and I demurred, but then I figured I could use some hard evidence of the fact that I did indeed spend at least one night at a derby and at DQ of my own free will and choice. And look at those smiles: See? You did have a happy childhood; I insist that you acknowledge it…

Fickle Phone

Editor’s note: No, you aren’t imagining things. The following is a rerun from several years ago. I excuse myself for two reasons:

  1. In order to understand my next post, you need to understand this post.
  2. It’s filed under Take-it-Easy-Tuesday, and what could possibly be easier than self-plagiarism?

March 18, 2009

I loathe the pinewood derby.

I know; I know loathe is a strong word.

That’s why I used it.

I would have used the H word, but there are four preschool children sitting on and around my lap who likely would go into shock if they actually managed to sound out any of the words on my screen.

Kimber, we don’t use that word at our house!

What word?

The hate word.

Well, yes. You are right. We don’t say hate to people.

We don’t say itchy, either.


Nope. That’s a bad word.

Yeah. So anyway, the derby.

We’ve had ten cars come through our house in the last few years. We have filed nails, sanded wheels, poured on the graphite, strategically positioned axles and weights; and enlisted the help of fathers, grandfathers, aunts and complete strangers.

Every year, the Lybbert car comes in last.

Every time.

The pep-talk at my house goes like this:

No matter what you do, this car is going to come in last. Even if you were Harry Potter and had no scruples about using your powers to cheat–your car is going to come in last. Every heat, every time.

(Someone came up with this great idea–let’s run the cars in like one thousand heats so every kid in the whole district has a chance to beat the Lybberts’ car several times.)

I tell my kids–just make your car really, really cool. Don’t worry about making it fast. One year my son made a pick-up truck and loaded it with logs. It came in last–but it was cool.

There’s all this lip service paid to the idea of the boys doing the building–but it’s a block of wood, folks! A big, rectangle block of wood. A couple years my kids went at their cars with pocket knives and they did a pretty good job but how many eight-year-olds do you know have that kind of patience? For most parents, unless you are willing to entrust a power saw to your eight-year-old, your options are pretty limited. Volkswagen bus, anyone?

Although–a boy actually did that one year. I saw this sharp-edged, hand-painted monstrosity sitting up there at the top of the track next to our sleek little blue racer and I thought, YesFinally, we aren’t going to be last!

We were still last.

This year we tried an entirely new approach.

We left the car in the box.

It is sitting on my son’s desk right now. One block of wood, four nails, four wheels. I know this because about a month ago when he brought it home we had drama because there were only two wheels and three nails; like the derby Gods didn’t think our cars were bad enough with four. Conscientious mother that I am, I secured replacement parts for him. Brand new even–although I was tempted to just swipe them from last year’s model.

But that’s as far as we got. Last night I got this voicemail. “Hey! This is your den mother calling! We’re down here at the pinewood derby and didn’t want to start without you! Are you coming?” Mercifully I didn’t hear the message until long after the derby was over or I might have been guilted into bringing my son and his block to the race because it’s all about fun, not winning, and stalwart members like us of course support, support, support the program.

The news was probably spreading like wildfire; Oh no! The Lybberts didn’t bring in the losing car this year to cushion the rest of the boys’ egos! Aaaack! What if—what if ours comes in last?

You know the phone call had to be made.

God bless my fickle phone.


To Shrink, or Not to Shrink

It’s a question of ethics, really.

If you can’t blog about the things you want to blog about, under your real name, should you be blogging about them at all? And if we wouldn’t want anyone to know it was us thinking/saying those things what is it that makes us want to expose them?

It’s somewhat like the conversation I had with my sister-in-law the other day. I called her from the cereal aisle at Safeway: “Okay, I have to tell you this, and I shouldn’t, and I’m probably going to regret it, but I’m going to anyway, etc.”

And no, I wasn’t passing on gossip–unless you can gossip about yourself. It was my experience, my attitude, my actions (or lack thereof)  that I needed another perspective on. And with the exception of that one phone call–I can’t even begin to put them into words for anyone I know personally to pass judgement on.

The past week has been full of these things–for the first time in my life I understand why people visit a shrink–it isn’t because they want help. They just want a totally anonymous someone to listen, and maybe try to understand.

Wait a minute… Did I just admit that I need a shrink?

Here Comes The Sun!


Some step-by-step directions for taking full advantage of the first warm(ish) day of the year with toddlers:

1. Line ’em up:

2. Pile ’em up:

3. Stay out of the way:

4. Feed ’em before they pass out:

5. Take a good long listen: Do you hear that?

Yeah, me neither.

(Insert big, sun-drenched, grinning emoticon.)

All The Joys Of Heaven

Standing here beside my stove, blinking away tears that have no real reason for overwhelming me.

Except that I am profoundly grateful for the experience of being a mother–in this town, in these decades, in this family. I am grateful for all the summer days and winter nights and all the struggle and all the joys. I would not trade my life for any other, for any price. And I suppose that sometimes I allow the strain of days to overshadow the satisfaction of the experience.

This little file, found on a thumbdrive  in the back of a silverware drawer is just a sliver, a few brief flashes recorded one summer, and yet it affects me this morning as though it were an entire illumination of what it means to love beyond understanding. I don’t know if the images hold the power for you that they hold for me, but I hope my children will remember all their lives, the blessings of their youth-spent with people who loved them, whether that was while we were getting dirty:

Getting clean:

Or getting silly:

Or just stretched out on the grass looking up through Grandma’s walnut trees:

The important thing is that we were comfortable with one another:

We helped each other down the steep parts:

Across the deep parts:

Even  when we’d lost our oars:

We gave each other the courage to take those leaps of faith:

To share our secrets:


And the deepest feelings of our souls:

We are young and old, side by side, forever family:

And we’re on the same path. You may not see me, but I’ll always be there–right behind you, every step of the way.

I love every one of you. In ways you’ll never understand–until you, too, walk this same path behind children of your own.

The View From Here

Found an old thumb drive last night while I was cleaning. Plugged it in this morning to see what was on it, and this was the first file I clicked on:

My youngest and my third, two and a half years ago. Does anyone else feel like they are looking directly into your soul or is that just my mother baggage?

Don’t Answer That

Does it ever occur to you that if your deepest, most honest views are forever inaccessible to anyone outside yourself, that maybe everyone else’s are, too?  That none of us really know anyone else at all?

Yes, somebody had a little bit too much think time yesterday. Drove three hours so that a doctor could flip through my chart and ask why nobody has ordered a CT scan yet.

‘Cause they couldn’t have done that without me there.

Not the most productive afternoon ever. I did however, get to eat an entire pound and a half of blueberries all by myself. It’s all about keeping the eyes open and the car on the road. And yes, I ate them unwashed, right out of the carton; if there is something freaky going on in my gut we can blame it on that.

As for Take it Easy Tuesday, can I just observe that a conscious effort at infusing more relaxation and fun into one’s life isn’t really…. fun?

What if there are some people who really just don’t enjoy kicking back? I’m afraid that my idea of a good time involves doing.

That’s not to say I don’t take whatever shortcuts I can:

  1. I refuse to wash my car.  What difference does it make if I spend twenty hours or zero hours a year cleaning it? It’s not like I eat off the hood. I can’t see the outside of my car when I’m in it, and when I’m not in it, it’s hidden away somewhere in the great outdoors. You’re the only one who will benefit from it’s sparkling beauty, and I don’t really care what you think. (I know, I know, supposedly there is something about corrosion involved, but I really couldn’t care less if I drove a rust bucket because when I’m in it I can’t see it…..etc…)
  2. Ditto the inside of my oven. Whatever is on the inside of my oven affects the quality of my life how? I don’t spend time admiring the insides of it, and if some previous spill is scorching, I either scrape it out or wait until it burns off–depending on the volume of smoke issuing therefrom. Isn’t the basic principle behind a self-cleaning oven?
  3. I don’t own clothing that needs ironing.
  4. I don’t have any body piercings or own any jewelry. Just think of all the time I haven’t spent organizing, looking for, putting on or taking off the stuff over the last 35 years. And yes, this is absolutely a principle of time management for me. Flat out don’t have time for ornamentation. A wedding ring is my one concession.
  5. Ditto elaborate systems of clothing coordination. I have shirts and I have pants. They pretty much all go together.
  6. I don’t make my bed. Mostly because the Mr. always has. But I can’t guarantee that I would start, should he go on strike.
  7. I almost never answer my phone; if it’s important, you’ll leave a message.
  8. Take a look at my yard; this is a shortcut I’m not proud of, but it’s one of those straws that I simply cannot get my back under without the danger of a serious breach developing.
  9. I may or may not have read any of the assigned chapters in my last literacy class. Seven hundred pages of fine print about developing literacy curriculum for grades I will never teach? And even if I was, I’d never remember anything then that I read now. I have the book; I know where to find the information should I ever need it.
  10. I don’t sort my silverware. I take the basket out of my dishwasher, and I dump it into the drawer. What? You can’t visually pick out the difference between a spoon, a fork and a knife at one glance?
  11. Ditto my children’s socks. If you want your socks to match–you sort them.
  12. And just in case you think my life is a complete disaster, might I point out that some things are worth organizing; you should see my rolling can shelves. They are the ultimate shortcut–your canned goods organize themselves by expiration date.
  13. I deal with most health problems by ignoring them. Almost everything clears up on its own whether or not you spend hours on end in a clinic waiting room. Which is one of the things I was thinking about during  my drive yesterday. What, really, is all this driving around and bloodletting doing for me? If it weren’t for the itching–which I’m learning to ignore except during the most mind-numbing of meetings–I really do feel pretty normal. Can’t I just go back to my regular life and let my body do its thing? What’s the worst that can happen?
  14. Don’t answer that.

Birthday Parties and Color-coded T-shirts

Last Thursday, I gutted my daycare room in a massive dejunking effort, and cleaned even the sludge from the tops of my kitchen cabinets.  On Friday before I had to leave for class, I  gutted every cabinet in my kitchen upstairs.  (Since moving up there a year or so ago, I’ve just been throwing dishes and groceries into whatever cabinet happened to have room. It would take me longer to find a paring knife or a cheese grater, than to make an entire dinner.)  Saturday, I was in class until four in the afternoon, and then had meetings from six thirty until nine thirty that night.

Naturally, I decided to have company for dinner on Sunday, exploded cabinets notwithstanding. They were my parents and my youngest brother; they can handle it. Although, there’s something about having company over for dinner that will get the organizational juices flowing again and subconsciously I probably realized that. Still not finished, but the counter tops were clear, I can tell you where my pasta is.

Anyway. The occasion was my brother came down from Canada and he was twenty five on Saturday–still single, but starting to think about the significance of that fact.  He’s eight days short of being precisely ten years younger than me and therefore his is the only birthday of all my siblings that does not require mental  math on my part. (Although, for all my groaning about math over the years, I began a new class this weekend about teaching math to little people, and I’m surprised to like it as much as I do.)

I meant to take pictures, I really did, but we’ll have to settle for one from a reunion three and a half years ago–two of my siblings are missing, we’d been camping, and we are all decked out in identical green t-shirts, but since I was too lazy to retrieve the camera let alone get all Nazi with it yesterday, this is as good as it gets. He’s the half-breed:

Kidding about the half-breed bit–he’s just always looked the part. He’s as Caucasian as the rest of us. You have to admit, I look more like my brother than my sisters, no? My youngest sister–Curlylocks, on the right there, lived just down the street from me  and shared dozens of the same acquaintances and friends for years before they figured out that we were related.

I took this brother out for lunch last year when I was in his college town taking my entrance exams and found it a little disconcerting to drive along behind someone whose reflection in their rear view mirror looks like my own. Just in case you were wondering what’s up with our fashion sense, take a look at this:

Yeah. That’s the idea. These are the grandparents with 97 (possibly 98?) great grandkids and the powers that be wanted to color code us for the family picture. And no, they aren’t all there. The greens are my parents and siblings and and our kids. That strange little logo on the shirts (ours was on the back) is a silhouette of Chief Mountain, which my grandmother has painted in acrylic for decades. You can see it on the horizon in this photo I took from the top of Grandma’s hill: