Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Brahm shredding on a jump at the sledding park.

I overheard Oliver talking to his father yesterday.

"Daddy, you know what my favorite thing in the whole wide world is?"

"What's that, Oliver?"


I don't think either of us expected this, though it makes sense. Oliver doesn't hide the fact that he's pretty fond of his father. Just to see what he would say, however, I asked him again this morning. He had come in to get Brooks and I out of bed and was snuggling with his dad.

"Hey, O-man - what's your favorite thing in the whole wide world?"

"Dad", he says again without hesitation.

"You're pretty lucky," I reply, ready to make an important point. "There are a lot of dads who are mean to their kids, who yell at them and are angry all the time."

There's a pause of consideration and then this: "Yeah, and moms, too."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Fossil Attempts Another Entry

Here's the non-post-related image for the day. Poor Brahm gets pummeled by Oliver every night without knowing it. The latter is a restless sleeper and is constantly rolling around, changing positions, etc. I have watched with my own eyes as he encroaches on Brahm's space time after time. I woke up one morning and found the two like this so I grabbed a shot with Brooks' phone. I see myself showing it to my friends. "Look," I'll say, "The two are so close that they can hardly be apart even while at rest."

So just a couple of things I want to jot down so I won't forget:

In the car tonight Brooks is trying to keep the boys from getting too restless by engaging them with simple trivia questions. "What happened in American Fork on April 6, 2001?" for example. This is the day and place where Brahm was born so they guess it right away. I try my hand with this one: "What happened on June 23, 1974?" which happens to be my birthday.

"Um, was that the day Daddy was born?" Oliver ventures.

"If that was Dad's birthday, "Brahm points out in earnest, "then he'd be like 322 years old!"


So Brooks then picks up with quizzing the O-man on the colors of the rainbow.

"OK, OK! Don't tell me!" He concentrates to be able to get the answer right then proceeds in all sincerity. "OK, red, yellow, violet, Massachusetts..."

We all bust out laughing.

"Massachusetts?" Brahm chuckles in a good-natured way. "Oliver, that's pathetic."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What is 791?

The number of times I have sat down on a sprinkled toilet seat in my career as a mom.

Here are a few more figures to consider:

17 - Nights I have slept through since Brahm was born
1 - Ambulance visits to the house
2,698 - Pokemon cards living in my home
559 - "Eeeeew, this is disguuuusting!" (in reference to supper)
3 - "This is the best supper I ever had." (in reference to some mac-and-cheese crap from a box)
16 - Viewings of Star Wars: Episode IV by Oliver
12,442 - Cursings emitted from my mouth after stepping on rogue Legos
324 - Washings of pee-pee sheets
3,888 - hours spent together driving in a car
39 - "That didn't hu-urt!"
39 - "Do you want me to make it hurt?"
8 - Trips to the Red Balloon so far this month
71 - Containers of Clorox Wipes purchased, bulk-size
411 - boxes of Band-Aids purchased
58 - Magic Tree House books on tape listened to in car
9,999 - "Here, watch this while I take a nap. And don't wake me up unless your head is on fire."
226 - "But I can't find it."
225 - Dollars collected for finding it myself
103 - knee-holes worn in jeans
81 - Nights spent holding a head over a barf bowl
12 - Trips to the principal's office
819 - "When will Dad be home?"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hey, There's Always Kwanzaa

For the boys' bedtime stories tonight, I picked a handful of Christmas books and plopped down on the couch with them. Their choices involved Santa in blizzards, snowmen and snowflakes so when it came to my turn, I chose one about the First Night. Oliver takes one look at the book in my hands and groans out loud, "Oh, no! Not a Jesus one."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Old Whine in New Packages

Oliver is a whiner. He has more passion than his little body can hold so the disparity between what he wants and what he gets just leaks out sometimes in the form of a whine. I understand this – but it doesn’t mean it’s not annoying as hell.

But as powerful as his whine can be, nothing holds a candle to his curiosity.

Take the other day, for instance. Oliver and Brahm have been eyeing the only present under the tree so far. They know it’s for them, and while it has aroused Brahm's curiosity only slightly, it has just about been the death of his brother.

"Just tell me what it is, Mom! Pleeeease??? When can we open it? How many days until Christmas? Just give me one little hint! Will I like it? Did you buy it or did Dad? Why can't I just open it right now? That’s no fair!! Is it a lizard?"

"Yes, Oliver, it's a lizard." I say.

"BRAAA-aahm!" He yells, running through the house. "It's a lizard! Mom said it was! I knew it!"

Today is Sunday. Always hard up for things to do on the Sabbath, Oliver resorts to wondering what’s inside the box again. Only this time, he’s turned his focus on Brahm.

"Look, Brahm," I hear him say in jeering tones. "I'm going to open the present now." They're both in the front room and I'm in the kitchen. From what it sounds like, Brahm is trying to mind his own Legos business while Oliver is holding the present over him, taunting with tiny tears of paper.

Of course it’s not long before Brahm takes the bait and soon they’re fighting. “Give me a break,” I say to myself. “I’m too old for this.”

That’s when the idea comes to me.

While Oliver is in Cool Down, I slip into my room and wrap two more presents I bought just for him. I do two, of course, so that it will be impossible for him not to notice them right away. When I am finished, I carry the packages out to the front room and slip them quietly beneath the tree. Heh, heh, heh. It will be a loooong ten days for the poor kid.

Sometimes I have to create my own fun in a job that gets predictable and boring. Awaiting the punch line to my own private joke will be enough to get me through the rest of this Sunday afternoon. And no amount of his whining or pestering me will ruin it for me, either.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fa La La La La

"And NO sword-fighting with my wrapping paper!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From the Mouths of Babes

Sonic Drive-Thru is the backdrop for today's entry. Brooks and I took Oliver there after his school Christmas program to celebrate his performance and to enjoy some together time. He likes the burgers and as he's hungrily delving into his, I think about the highs and lows of my mood swings that morning. Suddenly I ask aloud, "Why is it so hard to be me?"

Without looking up Oliver says, "'Cause you're so angry."

Thanks, but it was a rhetorical question.

Monday, December 8, 2008

And Lo, Chewbacca Abiding in the Field

To keep the boys out of trouble Sunday afternoon, I asked them if they would set up the Nativity scene, as is our holiday tradition. They were excited to go about that business.

And now, two days later, I see why.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Calling All Experienced Bloggers

This is an image from a stop animation short that Brooks made with the boys last Sunday afternoon. Note the Sabbath relevance: the granite block in the background is a chunk from the SL temple leftover from a seismic upgrade.

Again, nothing to do with the post, just visual interest.

So, can anyone direct me as to how I can customize the background, graphics, etc. on my blog? I think I'm ready for that next step. :) I was cruising some of yours last night and was pretty impressed by what y'all have got going for you.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I Won't Go to Rehab

This appears to be in direct opposition to the title of my last entry.

I crabbed again at Brahm yesterday morning as we rushed out the door for school. I promised myself the day before after crabbing all afternoon at Oliver that I wouldn't do it again. If it were bonafide parenting that I was about, that's one thing. But taking out life's little frustrations and unmet expectations on my children is another. But the promise is only as good as that of someone who's behavior is out of control and they know rehab looms on the horizon as the only way out. It's as if the promise itself holds some kind of balm that will somehow magically heal the source of the crabbing. And just what is that source? Are they truly being naughty? Am I insufficiently caffeinated? Was I not loved enough as a child?

"It always seems to be made worse when punctuality is an issue. Try diffusing the situation by preparing in advance." advises Dr. K. "For example, you say you lose your temper Sunday morning when he can't find his shoes and you're going to be late for church. Why not anticipate this and have him set out his shoes the night before?" Her suggestion seems so obvious. Why doesn't this occur to me on my own? Why do I have to shell out a $25 copay to acquire this kind of information? Well, it works when I remember to work it. It also works best when the battery on your phone isn't dead so the alarm fails to sound putting you behind an extra 34 minutes for the morning. In other words, it works when life doesn't happen. And life seems to happen about 85% of the time.

"Why do have to be so bossy?" he shoots at me as I run up to the car.

"The answer, dear seven-year-old, is because I AM THE BOSS!" I reply in my best impersonation of an intimidating mother figure. Besides, I know it's only said for show anyway since apparently it's not coming through on its own. Maybe this is what is irritating to me: why can't they just accept my position of superiority and then understand that, by nature, their rank then falls in below mine?

"And furthermore," I add, feeling a lecture coming on, "I wouldn't have to boss if you would know what to do on your own! Why are you just standing there by the car when you should be in it with your seatbelt on, ready to go?"

That should give them some food for thought! Hmph.

Doors slam, the engine turns and we're off. This last point made in my favor will surely be the morsel of logic that persuades them to my way of thinking. "Where would we be without Mom's abundant life experience to guide us?" they must be thinking now. Instead, I glance in the rear view mirror and see Brahm. He has pulled his head completely inside his coat, not unlike a tortoise under siege, and is starting to cry.

I look upward. "God, spare me this little display of emotion," I say to myself pretending He and I are on the same side in this moment. I shift uncomfortably in my seat but say nothing, my eyes straight ahead on the road. Mom guilt is setting in but I'm doing a good job at staving it off.

"When you get mad and say that, that means you don't love us!" he says accusingly through his zipper.

That criticism is just what I needed to bring me back to rational thinking. He has lobbed the ball back in my court and now I return it with the biggest swing I've got: "If I had even thought of talking back to Buck and Noni like that when I was a little girl, they would have spanked my bum so hard it would have stayed red for a month! That is definitely not the way kids talk to their parents!" Translation: I'm losing ground here but my voice is way louder than yours right now which means I just won the match. THE END!

No one says anything for the rest of the ride. My self-justification is slipping. I can't believe I went the "Why, when I was a kid..." route. I mean, kids really love that, don't they? When they hear it they say to themselves, "Boy, I'm so lucky I didn't grow up with parents like Buck and Noni. I should be grateful to have Mom. I think I"ll start obeying everything she says from now on." And this on the heels of a visit two days earlier in which Buck and Noni had given them them $20 each to go buy whatever Pokemon cards they wanted. If ever I give them money they have to pay it back to me with 10% interest. Yeah, real effective. With any luck, they'll be calling Grandma and Grandpa tonight asking to move in.


Back at home I'm in the kitchen making Brahm's lunch - that's how late we were. I'd drop it off after taking Oliver to school later that morning. An idea occurs to me and I go off in search of a pen and paper. A butterfly post card sits on top of the desk and I choose that. "Dear Brahm," I write. That pen runs out of ink and I pick up another, tracing back over the first words. "Dear Brahm, Do you think people can have an argument and still love each other? I love you very much and even though I was crabby, I hope you still have a great day. Love, Mom." I tape a chocolate-filled silver coin to the front and slip it in his lunch bag.

This would be a great place to wrap up the entry. It's a nice point of resolution where the conflict dissolves into a place of understanding and forgiveness. But that only happens 15% of the time when life doesn't happen. But this isn't one of those times.

On my way out the door again, the phone rings and Brahm's unmistakable voice comes through the other end.

"Mom? Uh, today is the class field trip and you marked on my permission slip that I was supposed to take school lunch with me."

So much for the nifty note idea.

"And Mom? My lunch account is out of money."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I'll Never Be Famous

Brahm won an award for his Lego airplane sculpture at his school's Reflections Contest. He didn't know he had placed until it was announced at an assembly to which Brooks and I were secretly invited. Here we are in the multi-purpose room beforehand with Oliver at the camera.

This has nothing to do with my entry.

I only posted it because photos add visual interest to blogs. (And because Brooks is so handsome. He keeps getting better-looking with age. Sigh...)

A mid-life crisis was averted two months ago when Kami A. and I headed out to the community garden on a cold, wet Saturday morning. We were stringing lights for the pumpkin festival scheduled for the following weekend and doing a good job of catching up in the process. I don't remember what I said but the gist was some kind of musings on a general malaise that had come over me at the time. I couldn't quite put my finger on what was at the core but Kami did.

"I think for me it was summed up a few months ago when I realized that I'll never be famous," she says candidly from across a few garden rows.

"What?" I query. This seems so off topic.

"Yeah, I woke up one day, realized I'm thirty, married with kids and a mortgage and my name isn't recognized in most households across America."

Oddly, I see where she's going with this. I never considered it before but I begin to see how I, too, carried some kind of hope throughout my adolescence and early adulthood that I would make something of myself. I mean, really be someone. This, of course, translates into a certain amount of fame and recognition, maybe money, too. At twenty-one, the sky is the limit. The future has yet to be defined. Anything could be in store. Now at thirty-four I have settled into a structure that has narrowed down the possibilities quite a bit.

A soft rain falls. I pound stakes into the ground, Kami follows a few feet behind stapling the lights into them. She's still talking, developing the theme as we go and I consider her words.

A blur of new hairstyles, Botox, crash diets, fancy cars, wardrobe upgrades and career changes flashes before my eyes. When that passes, I see a woman wearing her husband's cast-off parka, wet hair sticks to a face laced with hairline wrinkles. She lives in the Sandy ghetto and drives a ten-year-old Subaru station wagon that usually has two little anklebiters affixed to the back seats. Her college degree is gathering dust and the only time anyone ever recognizes her out in public is, well - never.

And then the unexpected happens. Instead of feeling like I somehow failed or sensing the rise of resentment, I feel relief. Yes, relief! This is strange. It's like M. Scott Peck writes in the beginning of his landmark book, "The Road Less Traveled": Life is difficult. And once we accept this truth, suddenly it's not so hard. Once I identified the disappointed expectation, somehow I wasn't so disappointed. And somehow, I don't care about fame or recognition at all. My compulsion to be someone has suddenly dissolved and settled into the satisfaction of simply being.

We finish and head to Hagermann's for sandwiches and more conversation. I consider the good fortune in all areas of my life but especially that which comes in the form of good friends like her.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In Case of an Emergency

He's not Boo Radley, but only makes me think of him. During the year we exchange warm hellos in passing but he likes to keep to himself and that's OK with me. Last year when Brooks and I took the boys trick-or-treating, we knocked on his door and waited. He appeared with the traditional bowl of candy but stopped when he saw us and closed the door. A moment later, however, it opened again and he emerged with a clever smile and two large pumpkin-shaped trick-or-treat bags full to the brim with candy bars, suckers, and other such goodies - one for each of my sons. Still smiling, he nodded in response to our delight, and then closed the door again.

This year we were treated to the same kindness.

"You guys can borrow my belt sander if you don't have one."

Brooks and I look at each other wondering how to respond. Usually when you hire someone to do work for you, that's exactly what you think you're doing - "hiring". The carpenter we chose to do the finish work on the basement, however, is standing in front of us telling us that he will loan us his personal equipment free of charge. This so we can finish one of the DIY projects that have become the norm as we attempt to complete a huge undertaking on a modest budget.

He has a wife and kids. He has a mortgage. I'm sure has has a car payment, too.

"Uh, that would be great!" one of us says in a way that probably comes off as something close to awkward but not ungrateful. Do people really do stuff like this? He does. Over the course of the remodel he has stopped in to see how we were surviving even when he was not directly involved. Not only has he freely lent tools but also his experience, advice, and a listening ear to boot. His moral support, easy laugh, and attention to the detail of his craft have pulled us through some tight spots, even (and especially) when he was not on the clock.


Our home away from home is the roomy and well-kept basement apartment of Brooks' aunt and uncle. Our boys have found new and fast friends in their second cousins, crashing summer and holiday parties not intended for their attendance - but who would know the difference? Room is always made for them on the trampoline, air hockey table, inflatable water slide, zip-line, and Cousins Club House. An extra slice of pizza, some ice-cream cones or a big helping to Uncle L's Belgian waffle specialty will periodically find its way into their bellies. Brand new boxes of color pencils from aunt and uncle met them on their first day of school, new tee-shirts just for them came back from a St. George excursion, and a notice arrived in the mail the other day letting them know of a gift subscription to Kids' National Geographic.

Of course these are not the perks given to good customers in order to keep their business. Brooks and I are squatters, first rate! They have not only opened their doors to us but have rolled out the red carpet, too. In fact, not only do they decline rent but once when we wrote out a check to cover our utilities, we found it the next day on the breakfast table with a note that read, "You are our guests."

photo credit to Brooks and his clever phone