Friday, September 30, 2011

A Moment Between a Brother and a Sister

Yesterday Tyce asked me to drop something off to him after an after-school practice. I had Mary with me, and she was amenable to making one more stop before going home. I thought it would be nice for her to be the one to make the hand-off and she was shy but willing. She got out of the car and started walking towards the choir room. Tyce met her half way and enveloped her in giant bear hug.

Finally they separated and Tyce waved a "thank you" to me. As Mary walked back to the car I could tell she was surprised by what had just happened.

Buckling her seat belt, she looked at me and said, "I suppose you think that looked very sweet, don't you. What you couldn't tell is that he practically squeezed my guts out." But she couldn't stop herself from smiling.

The love language of siblings: there's not much higher than a gut-crushing bear hug.

Remember this from Christmas Eve? It's a classic.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


When we pick up one end of the stick, we pick up the other . . .

Today is a hard day. Funny how the things you dread, when they happen . . . it's like watching a scene from a movie. You'd think it would feel more intense.

Tough love is a hard thing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tales from the Bus

Yesterday Mary said, "Mom, guess what I learned from the boys on the bus."

Oh gravy, I can only imagine. "What's that?" I asked.

"I learned three ways a paper clip can maim and ten ways a math book can kill a person," she reported, half disgusted and half impressed.

I know it's bad but all I could think was Thank goodness that's all you learned.

Miss Mary at Lake Mead.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Classroom Management

I really love my Seminary class, each and every person. I love getting to know each student better and I appreciate their different personalities, interests, and contributions to our discussions. Like I've said, Sister Bindrup and I truly have some of the best youth in the stake. However . . . the class is unmanageably large. Forty kids is too many, sorry, I'm just going to say it.

I've heard people say, Yes, but the numbers will get smaller as the year goes on. I would counter with this: Which students do you hope stop coming? Which ones deserve to fall by the wayside? Which ones don't need rescuing? We want them all, plus more. But it seems incongruent to encourage our students to invite their friends when we hardly have room or resources to handle the number of those who already come to class.

I am really passionate about reaching "the one". I feel that it's vital to people--young people, especially--to feel loved. With our current class size, that's hard. We're not strengthening the most motivated ones, and we certainly aren't reaching the struggling ones. Perhaps my main issues are with classroom management--I have room for improvement there. (Today the kids were mostly attentive but extremely chatty. And I noticed as I walked around that some kids didn't even have their scriptures out. It's too easy to hide in a very large group like that.) But what I really want is the kids to learn, to enjoy the scriptures, and feel the joy that comes from studying and applying gospel principles in their lives.

I'm not one to complain (other than to my husband or to you) but I might really push for a class split. I would much rather lose 20 kids but know they are well-cared for by another set of teachers than lose 20 students in my own class to disinterest and unmet needs.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Better Busy than Dead

 4:58 a.m.  Send text to Rebecca S. saying Tyce has volleyball right after school and I won't be driving Spencer home.

 5:00 a.m.  Speed-shower for the day.

 5:59 a.m.  Leave for Seminary inservice (5 minutes late).

 7:20 a.m.  Remember I have Mary's binders in my minivan; ditch after-meeting conversation to meet Bryce and Mary (and the twins) at the junior high in the nick of time.

 7:35 a.m.  Help finish twins' homework (confession: I drew a picture with my left hand on Harrison's reading log under the prompt "Draw a new cover for your favorite book"). Make breakfast. Give meds. Shower and dress boys. Supervise teeth-brushing. Write excused absence notes. Let them buy school lunch.

8:55 a.m.  Find a place to park at school, just in time for Friday's flag ceremony. Walk boys to their classes. Success!

 9:15 a.m.  Arrive home, pet the dog, check Facebook.

 9:55 a.m.  Put leash on the dog for her salon appointment (5 minutes late).

10:30 a.m. Pick up dog (looking good after her "pawdicure"), go to Fresh 'n Easy. Park in shade.

10:39 a.m.  Drive home with ingredients for a really good salad.

11:00 a.m.  Put stuff away, survey the house. It looks like a tornado came through. Should I get to cleaning? Of course. Will I? Hm, maybe. I have a book I'm trying to read ("Stone Tables" by Orson Scott Card) that is calling my name.

Later the kids will come home and tonight is Basic's Homecoming game against Coronado. I can only imagine how jazzed those high-schoolers are today.

Oh man, it's not even noon and this has already been a long day.

“My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.” -- Erma Bombeck

Oh Erma, we have a lot in common. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Best Laid Plans

1. Yesterday Cam and Harrison were prescribed Z-packs, steroids, and cough syrup for their wicked sickness. The pharmacy guy asked me if I wanted the medicines flavored, because some of them were known to taste pretty bad. I asked the boys and they were excited by the menu of fruity choices; they chose watermelon, sour apple, bubble gum, and orange twirl. I joked that I felt like we were ordering slushes at Sonic.

I don't know what the original tastes would have been, but the flavored meds were horrible (especially the sour apple!). Poor Harrison suffered through his and then rinsed his mouth out repeatedly.

2. Carmen and I finally got together to work out at my house to P90X. We had Carmen's girls, my boys (for just today) and right as we got into it . . . Mary's school called. She was throwing up in the nurse's office. I left Carmen with four kids and a dog while I retrieved my sickie. I feel like I hardly worked out at all! And poor Mary, who did such a good job of getting ready on time and looking nice, only made it through a quarter of the school day.

3. Speaking of school, Tyce handed me his picture order sheet this week. But he went to school today without any money--I never even saw him. Good thing we're getting family pictures (and individual pictures) soon but I feel bad that I dropped the ball on this.

Sometimes it seems like the harder I try the crazier things turn out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


One day the doorbell rang and my little kids scrambled to answer it. "Mom! It's for you!" they cried as they pushed and shoved each other for the best view of the visitor. I thrust my leg across the threshold to keep my puppy-like preschoolers from escaping. On my porch was a very handsome young black man, selling a cleaning product.

"Really? Another salesperson?" I inwardly groaned. I had a NO SOLICITORS sign up once but it had disappeared. I had my rejection speech down as pat as any salesperson's pitch: "Nothankyounotinterestedgoodbye" as I shut the door. I'd done it dozens of times.

But this guy threw me off my game. He completely charmed me, mesmerized me, and put me under his spell. I don't even know how it happened. He complimented me and I fell for his lines. He spun his sales pitch like it was written for me, with clever rhymes and polished cadence. Before I knew it I had bought his magical cleaning supplies. I hated myself while I wrote the check--for $100!--but I couldn't stop it. I knew there was nothing special about those chemicals but yet I was compelled to buy three bottles.

He left and I shut the door. I looked at the name of the product on the bottles, Avantage . . . and realized I'd bought cleaner from a company that couldn't even spell a real word. A one hundred dollar mistake? What a fool I was! I hid the bottles and tried to hide my shame along with them. I made a new NO SOLICITORS sign and slapped it on my door. Don't come around and sell your snake oil to me again! I'm on to you!

Sometimes I've been charmed; sometimes I've been intimidated. After I'd graduated from college I needed a job; one morning I searched through the newspaper's classifieds. I called on one that was vague but intriguing. I spoke with a young professional man who used terms like "self-starter" "immediate growth" and all the other buzz-words that surround multi-level marketing. There was also travel involved, and we only had one car. I was turned off by his attitude and knew this wasn't the job for me. He was persistent, strong-arming me to bring my husband to an informational meeting. Trying to be diplomatic I said, "I will have to ask my husband about it." The interviewer snidely asked, "You have to ask your husband for permission to get a job?" That did it! I hate confrontation and I sure wasn't going to cave in to a bully. I hung up without another word.

And I thought I'd wised up. I certainly haven't bought anything like that again I haven't taken a job I didn't want. Perhaps because I've become more savvy in that department, I thought I was doing well, perhaps immune to manipulation. Well, if I had no children I might still pat myself on the back. Kids are the ultimate salespeople, the ultimate charmers. I can't tell you the number of times I've bought into a plan, idea, or excuse that when I explain it to Bryce, it dawns on me: I've been played like a fiddle.

Sometimes it's done in a positive way: offering to help me, distracting me with a story from school. Other times it's done negatively: guilting me into helping/doing/enabling, or going for my personal jugular (like the one night a child told me that God didn't want me to have kids because I would have been--and am--a terrible, uncaring, lazy mother). And other times I don't even realize it's going on at all. There have been two times when professionals have proffered that *I* wasn't really running the show at our house. At first I scoffed, because, hello, I'm the mother, I'm the boss. But when you weigh the facts and evidence there's a lot to support the claim that there are certain things I'm not in control of at all. Somewhere along the line, slowly, I have bought hundreds of proverbial $100 cleaners--for the sole reason that I am charmed by the seller. And sometimes, wanting to avoid a fight.

The thing is, I love my kids so much that I want to help. Do things. Etc. 

Now that I know what's going on and want to change it . . . oh boy, it's not going to be an easy road. I read a really good article that make me feel like the author has been spying on our household. But it is what it is . . . all we can do is move forward and try our best.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


This week it rained so hard the twins wondered if they would cancel school. They aren't used to thunderstorms--to them it felt like what they see on TV, a natural disaster. They were happy to wear hooded jackets and "accidentally" step in puddles going from car to building, though. I feel sorry for those poor teachers who had to deal with the excited and soggy kids!

Yesterday I brought Katie to meet Mary as she came off the bus. It was a gorgeous, cool afternoon. How nice it will be to have that fall weather on a regular basis (eventually--I know we have triple digits coming again).

I got to eat lunch with Bryce today. We have been coming and going in opposite directions and so I met him by his office at a Halal kabob place. I parked by his building and then we walked over together . . . it reminded me of our vacation to NYC. The traffic, the cigarette smoke, and the many different food smells blended together to transport me to my happy place. Or maybe it was just walking with my honey down a crowded street?

We saw this guy:

or a guy wearing this costume, holding a sign for apartment renting. Anyone swayed by Stewie Griffin is not someone I'd ever want to be neighbors with.

Now I'm off to take Tyce to volleyball. Then Mary will come home, then I get the twins, then dinner....this is the price I pay for free time.

(But it's worth it.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Days of Seminary

I really look up to my team-teacher, Sister Bindrup. I don't know how I always get the awesome partners! We set up in the Primary room, expecting about 25 kids. Imagine our surprise when we had 39 show up! That's 39 *freshmen*. The next day we had even more. They were extremely quiet--a little awkwardly so--but I'd take that any day over the rowdiness and insanity of my sophomore class last year. (It's crazy how much I still love those kids--man, that was a rough initiation to teaching.) Today the freshmen participated more and are still well-mannered. No one talks over me or texts or snores through class, as far as I can tell. I think it must be a really great group of kids. I know several of them--maybe half--and they are some of the sharpest kids in the stake. I look forward to getting to know the rest of them, to mold them and bend them to my will. Just kidding.

I have slept, hm, not-at-all these past two days. I just sort of napped at night, skimming over the top of real, deep sleep. I tossed and turned, worried I'd forget to get up, churning over the lesson, rearranging the classroom, etc. Ugh. It's a wonder I can function today. I even dreamed that I was out of town and didn't have to teach today at all--I was surprised to wake up to find that I was in my own bed with my cell phone's alarm ringtone playing at 5:00 a.m. Once I get up I am happy to go.

Did you know that the word "testament"  can also be translated as "covenant?" And doesn't that make perfect sense, that the Old Testament was before Christ's coming and the people lived the Law of Moses (their covenant) and that the New Testament is about Christ's mortal ministry, Atonement, and the church thereafter (fulfilling prophesy as the Messiah and thus doing away with the preparatory law, the Law of Moses--thereby ushering in the new covenant)?

One thing I love about our class this year is that Sister Bindrup divided the kids into four Zones with a Zone Leader for each. This week Zone 1 is in charge of getting the prayers, music, devotional, etc. I love that the Zone Leader welcomes and conducts the opening exercises. Our first devotional was first-rate, exactly the kind of devotional other kids can use as an example. Good job, Zack King! I am constantly impressed with the awesomeness of young people. I'm really glad to be teaching Seminary with a great class again this year.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Today when Mary came home I had a good snack waiting for her of pretzels, strawberries, and lemonade. She gladly sat down and did her homework, chatted about her day (a girl wore a bikini under a see-through shirt! Dad made her a crazy lunch! The computer teacher made a funny joke!) while I chopped tomatoes and peppers for salsa. It was so nice and so peaceful, the two of us alone, together. It was a moment in time that will be etched in my mind and  heart for a long time--validation and reward for being at home, when so often it seems that there is no benefit. (No immediate benefit, I mean. No one's complimenting my homemaking skills or praising my service as a chauffeur or therapist.) But today--I am so glad to have been there at the crossroads. It was a lovely feeling to spend time with my beautiful daughter. Today I felt that true joy in motherhood that we talk about but rarely have the luxury of feeling. What a nice gift that was!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Slightly Racist, But Sweet

Today at church one of the elderly ladies, known for her colorful personality, stopped Bryce in the hallway.

"I want you to know that I really admire you," she said. "You adopted all those children . . . from another race," she whispered. "I could never have done that." She shook her head.

"That oldest one, I told him he's an example to the others. He's probably got more brains than Obama." Then she patted Bryce's arm and was on her way to class.

Friday, September 2, 2011

So Far, So Good

The first week of school was pretty good for the kids. And since everyone's gone all day, pretty good for me. Wocka wocka.

Tyce has a heavy course load this year with geometry, chemistry, English, world history, ROTC, and choir.  Seminary starts next week. He is one of the managers for the freshman girls' volleyball team, which means he goes to practices and games and keeps statistics. I think he helps with set-up and take-down also. He ordered a hat before school started and it still hasn't come. Everyday he runs to the mailbox, poor guy. Bryce let him pull the minivan into the garage last night--can you imagine that in a year he'll be able to drive for real?

Mary seems to be doing fine in junior high. She's in all honors classes (called accelerated) and  her elective is Art. She takes school seriously and does "homework" even when she doesn't have any. One afternoon Sara came over and Mary was drilling her on math facts, and states and capitals. I asked how Sara liked that activity and she said, "She wasn't into it at first but when she found out she'd made an 80% she was happy." Probably happy to be done!

You will be happy to know that she's gotten up every single day without a problem. Believe me, I'm as shocked as you are. I think some of it is excitement, and some of it is fear. She has the notion that if she's tardy they will publicly humiliate her over the announcements. I hope she never figures out that's not the case. As far as absences . . .  either we or the school have sufficiently scared her into regular attendance. It's only been one week though so we will see.

Cameron is such an easy-going fellow. I showed him where to line up that first day and he's gone happily by himself each day after. He knows a lot of kids from last year, many of whom were in Harrison's class. His first day he told me how much he enjoyed "P.T." I asked what that was--he told me about the running after beanbags game. It was then that I realized he meant P.E. and not P.T.--Physical Training--which is what Tyce has in ROTC! I am really happy that he is loving the 1st grade.

Harrison is our sensitive kid. Change is hard for him. He's gone to school just fine but really wants me there, standing by him, until the last possible second. He death-grips my hand until his teacher gives the signal to march into the building; then he lets go and soldiers on. He is the personification of my own generalized anxiety. My heart goes out to him because I know how he feels. He dislikes the parts of school that most kids like best--lunch and recess--because there are too many variables, too many "what-ifs". The last thing he wants is to be confused or embarrassed. Cameron wanted school lunch today because it's pizza day--and although Harrison initially wanted it too he couldn't bring himself to go through with it. The line, where to go, how to's too scary for now. So I packed a sandwich and an orange in his lunchbox. I know he'll feel comfortable soon because he has really great kids in his class, and a super awesome teacher. But for now it's so poignant to see him deal with and work through his issues; I am proud of how well he's doing.

I am eating lunch with the boys at school today because TOMORROW IS THEIR BIRTHDAY!  They will be 7 and they are sooooo excited about that. Don't tell anyone but they are getting new bikes for their big day. Next week (or the week after that) we'll have a friends party at the park. As an added bonus their special day is over a 3-day weekend (Labor Day) which means that Grandpa Al is coming to visit! I'm sure it's just to see the boys and has nothing to do with the the first BYU game of the season! (Go Cougars!)

(And then Tuesday is my first day of Seminary. I am alternately pumped up and terrified to teach those kids.)