Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Hotel

Once per year, either my husband or I attends a home schooler's conference in another city. (I am slowly blogging about what I learned this year here.) We usually get a cheap hotel room--which makes March a highlight month for our pods. Of course, there is the swimming, the elevators, the continental breakfast (they eat once at 6:30 and again right before it closes at 10), the ice machine and the complimentary cookies at bedtime (which no manager would offer if they really knew how many cookies five children can eat). There are the tiny shampoos, the fluffy towels, and the showers that stay hot no matter how long you stand under the stream. All of these factors are thrilling for everyone under four feet tall. But the thing that trumps them all?

The T.V.

We didn't get a whole lot of T.V. when we were kids, so every time we went to a friends' house, what do you suppose we wanted to do? Watch T.V. (and eat white bread).

Even after they were tucked into bed, it was all about T.V.

And I refuse to feel bad about it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter Clothes

Since next Sunday is General Conference, we pulled out our Easter duds a week early. Every year, we are ripping out of the door just in time to get to church and I either forget to take pictures or the pictures I get are hasty and in the hall of the church.

This year, I was not going to do it that way. We got out of the door with twenty minutes to spare. But it was SO windy at the park, that I only got a few pictures where at least one girls' face wasn't covered in her own windswept hair.

By the time we got to church (three blocks away), their carefully done hair (and mine) was a rat's nest with ribbons.Then the twirly skirts got the better of them. They couldn't help themselves!
This last one is my favorite. The girls delighting in the springiness of the day, the twirlyness of the skirts; the boy surrounded. He is one lucky kid.
I loved having the Easter program the week before Easter. Now we have this whole week to celebrate and remember. We can have the eggs, candy and baskets next Sunday morning and I won't worry that the Atonement/Resurrection teachings will be pushed to the side.
Motherhood is the best.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Signs of Spring

It is snowing in a serious January type of way. We were laying about getting sun kissed (or, at least my mother tried to convince me that that was what my freckles were) just two days ago. This is March, in my part of the world. I was visiting with some of our neighbor friends tonight about the crazy weather and my crazy kids.

"I promise, I do try to tell my kids to quiet down when they are playing outside," I proclaimed.

"Oh, really?" she replied.

Heh, heh. Yup, I know it's hard to believe.

"Actually, I don't mind the noise," she insisted. "It is a good sound. I was just telling Shay the other day, 'Some people wait for the sounds of birds or the budding of flowers to tell them that spring has arrived. I just listen for the Sanders' kids.' "

Glad to help.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Of Groceries and Papa

You know how sometimes you go through the grocery store with someone? Somehow, your shopping trip was planned in sync. Produce; bump carts, pleasant, "Oh! Excuse me." Bulk foods; squeezing in to the same skinny aisle. Toiletries; checking coupons, standing back a bit from the products while you price check. Then you skip an aisle, thinking your rhythm would be off because they for sure have to buy doggie treats. Nope. They don't need anything from the stinky pet lane. Now to the pharmacy where you stand and compare boxes. Yes, runny nose, no chest congestion. Yes, sinus headache, no achy joints. And so on. You glance over your shoulder to make sure you are in no one's way, when you see your friendly twin shopper staring confusedly at her own set of boxes and bottles. And so it goes, all the way through the store. Sometimes, you'll even become shopping buddies, "Can you reach that for me?" or "Do you know if this lotion is greasy?"

Today, my parallel shoppers were an old couple--probably in their seventies. I knew they were there, but didn't really look at them until we were 2/3rds of the way through the store. I made some gamely comment about our tour of duty and they both laughed and made a quick reply. It was then that I really took notice. The woman didn't really remind me of my Grandma, except she was sweet and smelled good, but the man? He looked so much like my Grandpa, that I gasped and had to stop my cart. His silvery white hair was thick and combed neatly into place. He was tall and barrel chested, and when he smiled, his eyes got all squinty behind his large, squarish glasses.

Realizing he was a total stranger and would have thought I was a bit of a nut if I ran up to him and hugged him tightly around the waist, I forced myself to walk on. But then, as I stood looking blindly at the spices, tears stung my eyes and I wished he was my Papa.

Papa was the most celestial man I've ever known. Everyone loved him. . . I mean everyone, because he loved us. One could not resist his warm smile and kind words. He was six stories high and had a booming voice to match. My mom says he was a perfect father and I believe it. I wish so much that my children could have known him, could have felt him sing (yes, you heard and felt his beautiful bass voice), could have been tossed up on his shoulder like a "sack of sugar" and could have heard him proclaim to the world that they are the prettiest/funniest/most talented creature that ever walked the face of the earth.

So, thank you to my grocery store companions for reminding me of a man I love dearly. Today I am thinking about, loving, and missing

My Papa.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

His Dream

So, while I am searching for the perfect house plan that looks something like this,
my husband shows me this:

Yes. It is a bunker.

To quote from the flyer, "It is the only private land for 12 miles. There are hidden caves which I will show to the new owner. These caves have not likely seen any humans besides myself and my boys."

Apocalypse much?

Or how about this selling point "Step outside the front door and you can fire a pistol, throw knives, strip naked, whatever!"

You could even make this guy mad, with no negative consequences.

Forget charm, comfort and beauty. We're going for indestructibility. Really.


After reading this, my husband hollers from the other room, "I did not say I wanted to live there! Everybody is gonna think I'm some kind of kook." He is not a kook. He would happily live in the candy house of Hansel and Gretel's witch, if I so desired.
And I just might.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The End of Many Careers


House sends health care overhaul bill to Obama

No matter how you feel about nationalized health care, this is a terrible bill. (Some states excluded from paying extra taxes, existing health insurance companies paying some of the taxes to fund this other health care program, some guy in an office chair deciding which care Americans will receive, you can only have $2500 in a medical savings account which negates much of the fiscal responsibility of fiscally responsible people, I could go on . . .)

I'm sorry, children, to give you such a mess.


**New and completely unrelated post on The MotherShip Home Schools**

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I was just introduced to this video. I had to share.

Go and Do!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The UPS Man


Growing up with a catalog-loving mother, the sound of the UPS truck was an exciting event. It was in the days before online tracking and since my mother didn't tell us the details of every phone order she placed (the gall!), the sound of those squeaky brakes sliding to a halt on our gravel road was always unexpected. We would race to the front to watch the man in brown shorts run up to our door. Even the dog would begin her panicked bark. "MOM!! The UPS man is here!!" all four of us would yell, as if her getting there at that moment was vital to our life's continuance. She would graciously sign the slip then walk away, package in her arms, singing, "Christmas is coming!" or "I can't tell you!" Days, sometimes weeks, would pass as we dreamed about what amazing thing could be hidden within the corrugated paper walls of the box in Mom's closet.

Even now, as a grown up with online tracking and knowledge of orders placed, I get excited when the UPS truck jerks to a stop in front of our house. Is he coming here? I wonder, and when he jogs up my sidewalk, I clap my hands and run to the door.

Except for today.

Today, the UPS man brought this:

It is a pump for my still broken dish washer. I don't know what the hell to do with it.

And I don't want to learn.

I'm mad at that doggone UPS man.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Too Melted

I gots me a beef. I just filled out the 2010 census for our household. I have no political, moral, social, economic, psychological or gastrointestinal objections to complying with the census. I am not any kind of genealogical scholar, but I have done enough family history to know the value of being counted (and named). The form didn't feel intrusive--it asked only one economicish question--and the one question was about whether the home was owned, rented, or mortgaged. This is hardly asking under which mattress they could find (and therefore steal) my life's savings (they already did that with the stimulus package). Yes, I did feel a moment's pause at putting my children's names and birth dates on the forms (My blog readers don't even know that, I thought), but then remembered that they have that information PLUS their social security numbers in a little file at the IRS building. No, my issue is with something that speaks to our supposed Great American Melting Pot.

Under everyone's name, gender, date of birth and relationship, we were supposed to check the box next to our race. The options were written as follows:

  • Mexican, Chicana, Mexican American

  • Puerto Rican

  • Cuban

  • Other Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish Origin (Argentinean, Colombian, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Spaniard and so on)

  • Black, African American, Negro

  • American Indian, Alaska Native (Space for principal tribe) Are they no longer even trying to use "Native American?"

  • Asian Indian

  • Chinese

  • Filipino

  • Japanese

  • Korean

  • Vietnamese

  • Other Asian (Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian and so on)

  • Native Hawaiian

  • Guamanian, Chamorro

  • Samoan

  • Pacific Islander (Fijian, Tongan and so on)

  • Some other race


  • White

Several conclusions come to mind. One. Am I so melted in to this big pot that my possible Irish/English/Russian/Italian/Australian heritage doesn't count anymore? Two. Since my Dutch/Danish/Austrian/South African/Jewish heritage has light skin, does that make my race the same as my German/Czech/Ukrainian/Polish/French husband? Three. My skin is not white. I am wearing a white sweater as I type and there is a marked difference. Four--and this is the point I really want to make. Aren't we past that already? Why can't we just be American? For the sake of census and understanding immigration (legal or illegal, I don't care for this purpose), maybe there could be two boxes. One that says American (if you are a legal citizen) and the other that says Other, with an option to fill in your country of origin. How many generations does it take to say I am American--not Dutch, Mexican or African? Today, St. Patrick's Day, is a perfect day to make this rant, because I am not suggesting you forego your cultural heritage. Drink your beer in Oktober, dance the Polka on Ground Hog Day, beat the Pinata on your birthday, make matzo balls for your celebration. Yahoo! Keep the traditions alive!

But check the box that says American on your census form. That's what you are. Please, let's finally dispense with the name calling and sub-dividing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

His Own

Do you remember when Mary finally found the way in to the secret garden? She wandered in amazement for a while, then, almost immediately went to work. She knew nothing about gardening, but when she saw the little green pokes pushing their way up, she instinctively knew they needed tending. She kneeled down and pulled away the dead leaves, overgrown grass and fallen twigs. She smoothed the black dirt around the persistent plants. Recognizing her lack of understanding, she went to Dicken who helped her and gave her information. It was in that garden that her soul was healed--a perfect example of the healing power of nurturing the soil.
It was a beautiful day yesterday. It was not the first beautiful spring day this year, but it was the first one that allowed me to play in my dirt. I clipped, raked, pulled and cleaned. The children helped some, played some. (It was all play for me.) They raced on wheels, played tag and made a fort out of the recycling can. We breathed deep the smell of wet, warming earth.

And I couldn't help but think that it wasn't the soil that healed Mary, but the Creator. She was doing the work that mankind was assigned in the Garden of Eden: tend and keep.

This is my Father's world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's
world: I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father's world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker's praise.
This is my Father's world:
he shines in all that's fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Eye Contact Question

I always hear about looking people in the eye or the power of eye-contact or the message you are sending by not looking someone in the eye. There was a rather involved story about it on the radio the other day which made me actually think about it (as opposed to just letting it bounce off my eardrums). Yeah, yeah. I know all this already.

**Warning, Warning!!** Okay, Em, take a step back! Any time I think I know everything about any one thing, I know something is wrong. A fool like me could obviously not know everything about anything! Got that?

I began to self-analyze. How is my eye-contact going? I realized that I do not look people in the eye. I look at their mouths. Why? Am I the only person that does this? When I was growing up, I was eternally embedded with a group mentally retarded children. (My parents took in Developmentally Delayed foster children from the time I was seven years old.) Most of these children had varying degrees of speech impediments. One of my parents also tends toward mumbling, though I don't know that this person is aware of it. I think my trying to understand the people around me compelled me to develop the habit of looking at the mouth of the speaker, rather than the eye. I am still pretty good at understanding the speech of a person (whether one with a speech impediment or foreign accent) whom others may have difficulty interpreting.

Teeth are super important to me, too. My one recurring dream is that my teeth are loose or falling out. I'm willing to find the thousands of dollars to make sure my kids have the orthodontic care they need--even if it means a lot more beans and rice and driving a squealing, screeching car. I sometime forget to even notice eyes.

Is this bizarre? Where do you look when conversing with someone?

Friday, March 12, 2010

How To Antique Wood

My kitchen cabinets are 100 years old and the surface of the wood is quite beat up. I wanted to keep the charm of original cabinets, but without the slivers, the layers of paint rubbing off with the wash cloth and paint chips on my counter. This is a walk-through of how I re-finished my cabinets to have old charm but new maintainability.

Before painting, you have to prep. Depending on your project, you may have more or less than this. I my case, I had to remove all the hardware and then sand with a low grit paper (80-60). This wasn't to remove all paint, just the layers that were causing me trouble. I got down just to the lead-based enamel. Next, I primed with Kilz primer which allowed me to paint latex-based paint over oil based paint. If you are not changing bases, you do not need to use this primer.

After the surface is primed, paint. With all of the dirty hands around this place, I only use semi-gloss or high gloss paint. It washes so much easier. Yes, the sheen shows blemishes more, but I don't mind.

This color will not be the final color so you'll want to mess around on a piece of scrap until you get the color you want. I'll explain that a bit more later.

My wood was already pretty scarred, but I had to replace one of the drawer fronts with new wood. I wanted it to look like the old ones right next to it. You can make it look old by beating the edges with a hammer, scratching the surface with a nail, pounding the edge of a wire (one of my favorite looks), or putting small holes into the surface with a nail or screw.

Some people suggest doing this step before application of any paint, but I didn't want to run the risk of filling in any interesting blemishes with paint.

Here again, I make up my own way. I wanted to use the same brown that I used on the walls so the browns wouldn't clash. I didn't have glaze and I didn't want to put all 90 of my children in shoes, wash faces, buckle into car seats, drive across town to Lowe's just for a can of glaze. So I used water. This is just paint thinned with water until it is about as thick as cream. (DO NOT do this if you are using oil based paint. Holy mess, dear!)

Smear on your now, very thin paint.

Do only small sections at a time because you can lose control of this if it dries to much. (Glaze is easier on you in this regard.) Make sure you really get into the groves, nicks and blemishes. That's where you want the dark paint to stay.

This is why you've been saving those old towels. Use one to wipe off the paint.

Ta Da! You can see that the dark brown stayed in the nail holes, the scratches, and the other imperfections.

For a darker color, wipe off less brown. For a lighter hand, take off nearly all of the antiquing.

Here you can see the difference in color between the treated drawer front and the untreated cabinet door. It has absorbed much of the brown and is now a pale green. It took me several tries (on scrap) to come up with the color I was looking for. Don't skip this step or you may end up with a color that you do not like.


(Can you tell which one was replaced?)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Behind the Scenes

I feel this next picture is required at this point. I continually have people asking me how I do it all . . . well, I don't. After a full day of working on the stripping, sanding, painting, finishing and re-installing of kitchen cabinetry, this is a single scene from the rest of the house.

I hope I'm not on some ridiculous pedestal and that you feel better about yourself now.

Love always,

Not the FlyLady

Key Hooks

I'm getting close to the Big Reveal, but for now, here is one more piece of the kitchen puzzle. The board that used to hold keys no longer matched the color scheme I was creating in the kitchen so I whipped up this little ditty. It really helped to bring it all together--the red, brown and blue green of the cabinets.

I just used a small piece of scrapwood that fit the space and nailed a two inch cap on top. I then distressed the whole thing using the same technique I used on the cabinets (how to coming soon). Using a framing nail to puncture a hole through a metal band, I then screwed the band onto the cap piece. Screw in hooks, tighten the band around a Ball jelly jar and added Spanish moss, berries, and keys.

Simple and fairly quick--you, too, can make this project!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Goodbye, Mrs. Stacey

We are in mourning today. Yesterday we were told that our dance teacher, Mrs. Stacey, would be closing her doors after the spring show. Mrs. Stacey (and her daughter Mrs. Bethany) runs a studio out of her basement and is wonderful. She is incredibly affordable, doesn't make out daughters learn lewd dance moves, and the mothers take turns creating the costumes so they are rarely expensive. Three of our pods have taken from her--including our boy. She makes sure that he always looks masculine. She is gentle with the young dancers and pushes the older dancers to award-winning levels.
Now, I have to go shopping for a new teacher. There is no way I'll be able to find someone to fill these shoes. It'll all work out, but, oh! we are sad.

Thank you, BeSt Dance Studio. We will miss you.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

At Least They Take Turns

Last night was particularly crappy. I wasn't feeling well so I got everyone to bed then tried to hit the hay early. The toddler woke up with a minor medical issue. After taking care of that and halting her screaming, I was just falling asleep when the six year old arrived with a case of the I'm scared s (or the I'm cold s or the I need you s--take your pick). After she was warm and comforted (and asleep) the four year old came knocking. She had the everyone left me s and wouldn't be comforted in a way that relieved me of saving duty. I now had a husband, a wife, and three daughters in one queen sized bed. There was literally no room for me. I passed the measly remainder of the night curled in a ball at the foot of the bed. I awoke tired, stiff, and sore. And grumpy. (An excuse, really, because of my last post: It isn't usually like this.)

But, morning comes, as it always does, even if you have been up most of the night with sick and scared and lonely children, and, in my house, that means a lot of hungry, soggy kids, who slept just fine. (That sentence has 8 commas. I'm sure I did something wrong there.) As the toddler hollers into my pillow creased face that she is ready for food NOW, I moaned, "Go get it yourself."
In walks a savior in the form of her.

Here making an apron for her doll, Ginger Joy.

She changed the diaper, made a cup of cocoa and played with our sweet littlest until I could muster the strength and will to get my own rear end out of bed to do my job. I have a feeling that all three of us benefited from her selflessness.

And I'm so glad that, most of the time, they take turns being difficult.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sleep, My Dream

According to the experts, as a mother I frequently mess up. According to me, however, some things I am doing just as intended. Take the sleeping business.

I love to rock my babies to sleep. (In this case, babies encapsulates a broad definition of age. I've been known to rock even humongous kids to sleep.) I love to hold one in my lap with my arms wrapped all the way around--she is enveloped by me. There is no safer place in all the world. As I rock and quietly sing or hum a lullaby, (a love song, more often than not) I gently brush the hair off of her face. My hand can't resist stroking the soft, warm cheek. My heart fills, sometimes to bursting, with love for that beautiful creature. This same creature that I may have wanted to offer as a sacrifice to the gods earlier in the day, now, still. Now, submissive. Now, needing her mama. Any frustration fades as I take in the long lashes that grace the rosy cheeks and kiss the forehead whose bumps and bruises attest to the day hard fought. All the personal sacrifice required to raise the babe becomes a thing of naught as her body melts into sleep and the very core of my maternity is satisfied. The time comes, as it always does, that I must lay her down. While I understand the need, I loathe the moment.

In a profession where gratitude and reward come in uneven and random spurts, why would I deny myself the joy of holding my baby while she sleeps? Yes, it takes extra time. Yes, she wakes up at two in the morning wondering what she is doing out of my arms. Yes, it means there are often more than Mom and Dad in Mom and Dad's bed.

But nothing is more quieting to a ruffled soul than a sleepy child, crawling into your lap, to receive that succor that only you can give.