Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Karma and Penance

"You're sewing a little hat?" Mr. Wicke chuckled.

"Yup," I replied none too cheerfully.  I was on the second project of the 4-part Christmas Craziness Project.  The one that two months ago inspired cozy thoughts of homemade Christmases of years past.  The one that was soooo cute that I overlooked all the handsewing, handstuffing, handturning, and handcutting involved.  Little tiny pieces.  Little tiny stitches.  Big amounts of time.

"Is sewing little things easier?"

"What?"  Apparently he had never dressed Barbie Dolls as a young child.  I had.  Those little tiny buttons and snaps drove me crazy then.  

"Well, you hate sewing big things.  Is sewing little things easier?"

"Yeah, I know, and no, it's not.  I still hate it."  My fine motor skills have not improved since I was 10.

I may not have taken on this kind of project at all if it weren't for my Grandma Doty.  She had some of the coolest toys.  Old fashioned, quirky, and totally unique.  My favorite was a doll of Little Red Riding Hood.  But this was no ordinary doll.  No.  When you turned her over inside out, there was the wolf, dressed as granny.  I loved flipping that thing back and forth.  I played with it every time I visited.  I don't know what happened to that doll, and I've never been able to find one of my own.  But these little projects for my kids?  They kind of reminded me of that.  Quirky, unique, and special.

And it will all be worth it when my children open their packages and their eyes widen in delight.  They'll play with it...

...for about two minutes and then it will be on to something else.  Or more rightly, the toys will be sources of endless bickering:

"That one's mine!"

"I had it first!"

"She won't give me a turn."

"He's had it a long time!"

Karma tells me that they won't get it:  How sore my fingertips are, how many hours I've spent, how much love is involved.  Nope.  They won't fully appreciate it.

I know I didn't.  In fact, remembering one particular Christmas is cringe-worthy.  It may be the worst thing I have ever done to my mother.  And while she was visiting this past month, and helping with project number one, I apologized--again.  I don't believe for a minute that it made us even, but she graciously forgave me again anyway.  She's kind like that.  So kind that I doubt she'll even take pleasure in seeing me get my paybacks on Christmas morning.

(to be continued...)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Traveling the Precipice with the Birds and the Bees

Just to be clear:  I did not take my daughter out for frozen yogurt to discuss the birds and the bees.  In fact, the trip for frozen yogurt was supposed to be Mr. Wicke's job since I was taking her out for lunch on her birthday the following day.  However, Mr. Wicke was ill.  Very ill.  And since Griffin was already getting ice cream with a friend, Logan was devestated not to be going for a sweet treat herself.  So, the job fell to me.  A tough one at that.  I mean, cake batter and heathbar frozen yogurt?  C'mon.  Twist my arm.

And so there we sat.  Outside Golden Spoon, enjoying one of life's happy little gifts when it happened.  I didn't intend to start a thing when I asked, "So, how's your life going so far?"  But somehow that morphed into, "Why did you and Daddy adopt?  And how come you could have baby Lincoln in your tummy and not me?"

Granted, I knew these questions would come up at some point, and I was prepared to answer, just not outside Golden Spoon on the eve of her eighth birthday.  And, by the way, it's pretty hard to talk about infertility with an eight year old. 

"What's that called?" she wanted to know.

"You want to know the specific name?" Mothering has taught me that clarifying questions are good.

"Yeah."  And that's how she heard words like sperm, which she immediately started including in her speech as if she were discussing knees, elbows, and ankles.  I suddenly had visions of every innappropriate context in which words like sperm could be used.

"Yeah.  Those are the words, but we probably shouldn't use them with just anybody.  These things are personal and private.  Things we talk about with Mommy and Daddy, but not with just anybody."

"Why?"  Mothering has also taught me that clarifying questions can be annoying when they come from the other side.  And difficult.  And endless.  They just kept coming.  Why this, and why that, and finally, "Why aren't you really answering my questions?"

She wasn't buying the sidestepping and dancing around important topics.  I took a deep breath.  "Do you want to know how babies are made?"

Her eyes lit up.  I don't think it was what she was specifically getting at, but now that it was on the table she was definitely interested.  "Yeah!"

"Umm...o...kay."  You see, I knew this was coming, too.  People say eight years old is a good time to open up the dialogue about sex with your child.  Before they are introduced to it by some random girl on the monkey bars at recess like I was.  That unfortunate conversation was burned onto my emotional psyche.  I wanted better for my little girl, but it's tricky, that delicate balance of childhood innocence and education.  How much is too much?  When is the right time? 

Apparently, the right time for Logan was 6:45 pm the night before she turned eight years old.  In the time it took to take a couple of deep breaths and a glance at the moon, I threw a prayer into the stars and gave myself a pep talk.  "Okay, Mommy.  Be fearless."  I had no text to follow.  No experience of my own to draw upon.  My talk with my mother--my ONE talk with my mother--included her drawing something that looked like the head of a long-horned cow on my blackboard.  Something traveled from the end of one horn to it's nose but what it was exactly or how it got there or what it did there, I had no idea.  I love my mother, but she must admit that that was not the gold standard of sexual education. Ahem.

"Okay, Mommy.  Be fearless.  Be clear.  And be casual."  I want her to understand that sex is sacred but not something to be embarrassed or ashamed of.  I want her to understand that is joyful in the right context.  And yet, outside of the right context it can bring unhappiness and heavy consequences.  I don't want her to be afraid.  I want her to be informed.

That is a mighty precipice to be standing on.  Not that I expected her to get it all in one fell swoop.  It's not that.  It's just that I know enough about teaching to realize that this first introduction would set the stage for every conversation hereafter.  A mighty precipice down which I began, carefully at first, building upon what she already knew.

"You know how we've talked about how it takes a man and a woman, both, to make a baby?  Well, there's a reason for that.  There is something from the man, sperm, and something from a woman, an egg, that when they come together is the very beginning of a baby."  And then the best clarifying question I have ever heard.  One that my wisest friends have used with success:  "Do you want to know more?"

She did.  I won't go into specific details, because those are private between the two of us, but I will tell you that when we got to the main idea--the actual "how to" of the instruction manual-- she said,  "Can we go somewhere else?" and suddenly stood up.

"Sure."  I replied calmly.  She began walking, clearly looking for something.  "Where would you like to go?"

"Some place I can scream."

I stifled even the trace of a smile.  "Umm...how about the car?"

"Okay."  And after closing the door she let out a loud, "Arrrrrrrggggh!  You and Daddy did that?"

"Honey, Daddy and I do that.  I know that it probably seems strange and weird to you right now, just like kissing does, but I want you to know that it is a wonderful thing.  A happy thing. 

"Okay..." she hesitated.  After a moment she said, "Is it okay if I don't do that?"

"Sure.  It's okay."

"Good.  I think I'll just adopt."

"Well, that's a fine idea, but I have to tell you that a long time from now, when you love somebody, it's going to be the most natural thing in the world. You'll want to be that close to someone and that's the way Heavenly Father made it."

After the initial shock she seemed to take it well.  She was even comfortable enough to ask a couple of questions that knocked the wind out of me.  How would you answer the question, "How does that feel?"  Oh, mercy!  But I think I succeeded in being fearless, clear, and casual, even though on the inside I felt none of those things.  My first trip down that precipice made me feel awkward, and grasping, and cowardly; I couldn't stop thinking about it all night, although when we returned home she seemed unfazed.  She jumped right in pretending with her brother and reading bedtime stories all the while I was replaying the whole scenario in my head, questioning my every phrase.

The next day, when I took her to lunch, I couldn't contain myself.  "Well?" I questioned.  "How do you feel after our little talk yesterday?"

"Good.  Well...I mean so-so."

"Oh, really?" I worried.

"Well, I mean I still want to get my ears pierced, but I'm a little nervous."

(Insert chirping crickets here.)

"No!  Not that talk.  I mean the talk about the big secret of life that we had last night."

"Oh, that," she replied nonchalantly.  "Well, I guess if it's such a "big secret" (this accompanied by the use of air quotes) I should know about it.  Hey, look at this mirror.  It makes my head look funny."

And that was it. 

The thing that I'm coming to understand is that these giant precipes are ever so much easier for the child than for us as the parents.  But I think that's because they get to hold our hand.  And we get to keep them steady.  That's our job.  That's our responsiblity.  That is our joy.  Even when we aren't necessarily sure how to begin.  Even when it just starts out as a trip for yogurt.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude List 2009

I've been far away from blogging for a couple of weeks.  Things I've done instead:  cleaned my closet, cleaned out the garage, worked on holiday shopping, cards, and sewing projects, and hung out with my mom.   There is still so much to do.  I'm not sure how much blogging I will be able to accomplish between now and Christmas, but I couldn't let Thanksgiving pass without a post.

For the last two years, I've posted at least a little bit about my gratitude list for the year.  It's been a good tradition for me.  A count your blessings sort of moment, if you will, to remember just how blessed my life is.  I can't break with tradition.  So here goes.

This year I am grateful for:

1.  Big spirits in little bodies.
2.  Revelation.
3.  An unselfish spouse.
4.  Inspired leaders.
5.  Living in the USA.  It is the best place to be a woman anywhere in the world.
6.  Health.
7.  Humor.
8.  The internet.
9.  My DVR.
10.  Good sleep.  No more insomnia!!!
11.  My new Bosch mixer.  Now I can make huge batches of rolls and bread.
12.  Babies.  Particularly mine.
13.  The Gift of the Holy Ghost.
14.  Good teachers.
15.  Living across the street from the park.
16.  Beautiful sunshine almost every day of the year.  It does wonders for my spirits.
17.  Experiencing the miracle of birth.
18.  Being a mother.
19.  Rare moments of quiet.
20.  Sunday dinners.
21.  Amazingly supportive parents.
22.  Great uncles for my kiddos.
23.  The desire to know more and to do better.
24.  The knowledge that God loves me and has a vision for me.
25.  Answered prayers and unanswered prayers.
26.  Washing machines, dishwashers, mixers...now if only someone could invent a bed maker...
27.  Small victories.
28.  Good friends.
29.  Reminders of what is really important.
30.  Eyes that see and ears that hear.

Happy Thanksgiving, and may we all remember to truly give thanks.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

From the Archives on a Busy Day

Between birthday parties, baptisms, and family visits there is no time for extras this week.  Let's be frank:  There is no time for some necessities, and the dust is here to prove it.  So while I'm attacking that this morning before I pick my mom up at the airport, I thought maybe I'd dig through my archives and post an oldie but a goodie.  It might be worth reading twice.  If not, just come back next week to hear all about my sex talk with my daughter.  YIKES!!!  That's right.  The birds and the bees.  I'll tell you all about it later, when the dust settles again.  Until then, feel free to read my...

Thoughts on Mr. Right

"So why do you want to marry him?" I've asked a few girls in my time.

Inevitably they say with a dewy look in their eye, "Because I love him."

I nod and smile...and then respond with "So?"

Honestly, I can't think of a worse reason to get married. I know they say that love is strong, but I find the emotion a little harder to pin down. Love can be strong. Certainly it's strong enough to provide some initial heat and make us a little crazy, but after that, love can be very fragile indeed. It can wither, and thin, and sometimes disappear altogether. I don't think you can really count on love alone.

Don't misunderstand. I love Mr. Wicke. But that funny little fluttering feeling that I had 16 years ago when we first met? It's long gone. It's been replaced by something better. Something safe, and peaceful, and solid, and deep. Really, really deep. Sometimes so deep that it nearly turns my stomach inside out. But it's taken a lot of work, patience, effort, forgiveness, compromise, and understanding to get there. Oh, and some love, too.

They also say that love is blind, and how true that seems to be, especially at the beginning of a relationship. That's why relying on love alone to make the most important decision of your life is just too dangerous. After all, you can be absolutely besotted with someone who is very bad for you.

Twenty-something women seem particularly prone to such poor judgement. In my early twenties, my friends and I were inexorably drawn to the charismatic charmer, the life of the party, the guy whom everyone wanted so he was ever so much harder to get. Whereas the good, solid, stable guy just seemed so boring. The problem with the life of the party, though, is that when life is no longer a party, he usually turns out to be far less charming. How sad it is to come out of that initial love haze to find that your partner is one you can not respect. I'll tell you what, now that my friends and I are in our thirties with a baby or three on our hip and our shoulders heavy with responsibilities, that boring, stable, rock-solid, noble man is absolutely dripping with sex appeal.

When I ask, "Why do you want to marry him," what I really want to hear is: "Because I love him, AND..." because I think you should marry for love. Just do yourself a favor and choose someone to love who is good and kind. Kindness can heal a lot of wounds the world will inflict. Choose someone who is loyal, faithful, and trustworthy--for your own good and your own peace of mind. Choose someone who brings out the best in you because no one will influence you more, for good or ill. Choose someone to love who shares your vision for life, unless, of course, you are looking to get far offtrack. Choose someone you would want to raise your children because he will. Choose someone you can live with just as they are; odds are he won't change that much. Choose someone who, in those moments when love is fragile, will be your friend and safe harbour.

Oh, yes. Marry for love. Just be smart about it. Life is full of twists and turns. Like I said, I wouldn't count on love alone.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sweet, Sweet, Sweet

As I was cleaning today, I came across this.  What more could a momma ask for?  (Two points of clarification:  Bubba is Logan's nickname for Baby Lincoln, and no that is not a beard.)

Halloween Progressions

No time for words today. Well, except these: I've learned that it is going to take more than one day to get my act together. I'm still working on it, though. So until then, some pictures.

I love this progression of baby Lincoln.  It really captures the rise and fall of baby energy, doesn't it?

And here is the craft that broke the camel's back.  Because of it, I am still in the weeds today.

Okay, that's it.  Back to work for me.  And no more Halloween pictures, I promise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cracked but not Broken

Did you ever play Crack-the-Whip growing up?  It was a dangerous little game; one that, I'm sure, is not allowed on playgrounds today.  The game calls for a group of kids to join arms forming one long line.  The leader at the front initiates turns and twists eventually popping the kid at the end of the line off.  And that's about it.  I said it was dangerous.  I didn't say it was complicated.

I've been thinking a lot about that game lately because I feel like I'm playing it again.  Except this time, life is at the head of the line and I'm at the end getting whipped about in a mad frenzy.  As the world spins in a frantic blur, my only focus is hanging on.  That's how I'm feeling lately.

It has become so bad that the ringing phone puts me into an anxiety attack, because I'm sure I've forgotten something.  Maybe now is a good time to mention that yesterday I forgot a lunch date with, Lauren, a friend from home.  Which maybe wouldn't be so bad, except I forgot last week, too.  And the week before that I thought I forgot.  But I didn't because I was a week ahead.  You don't want to be my friend.

Or my children's teacher, either.  I showed up a week early to help plan Mrs. King's Halloween party, and then I didn't show at all the next Monday when the meeting actually took place.

I am tempted to mention all of the things I have accomplished and tended to so that I won't look like a complete mess, but the truth is, I feel like a complete mess.  Just like after a game of Crack-the-Whip I am dissheveled, out of breath, and even a little scraped and bruised.

I need a moment.

To think.
To breathe.
To get myself together.
To put my house and my mind in order.

So, today, I'm moving to the front of the line.  Today, I have cleared the schedule, and I'm going to take life by the collar and shake it for a change.  Then maybe, on Monday, I could meet you for lunch and actually show up.

p.s. A couple of you asked how I did the picture collage on my last post. Here's the answer:  I made the collage in photoshop, saved it and uploaded it as one picture.  I'm not great at photoshop, but I'm learning.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Holiday Rush

Today is the second day this week that Griffin has had to run for the bus with his shoes...in his hands.  Except today he was dressed as Spiderman.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Beautiful, Beautiful Blogland

I am a regular visitor to Blogland.  It's a beautiful place.  Almost like a fairytale at times, which only leaves me to conclude that...some blogs lie!  Well, at least I think they might stretch the truth a bit.  Or maybe they just don't include the bad stuff.  That is the only explanation I can come up with for what has happened around here these last couple of days. 

You see, sometimes as I peruse Blogland I see all kinds of neat things going on.  Fall traditions galore:  kids crafts, carmeled apples, pumpkin butter, and roasted pumpkin seeds just to name a few.  And then I start thinking (which is never a good thing) "I'm not doing anything special...Not a craft in sight...What kind of fall traditions do we have around here anyway???"  Then I start feeling (which is worse).  I feel bad for my kids and I feel a little/sorta like a bad mom, or at the very least not a very creative one, and I always thought--when I pictured myself as a mom--that I'd be the kind that would be creative and delightful.

I want to be creative and delightful.  I want fall traditions, especially the kind that are pictured in Blogland.  They look so fun and festive, and everyone is happy, and the pictures.  Oh, the pictures!  They're beautiful.  Creativity never looked so good or so clean.  Not a speck of spilled glue anywhere.  And the kids, all scrubbed and coifed in their JCrew sweaters, look angelically joyful.  See?  Right there.  That's the life I want.  And I was sure I could get it at Hobby Lobby. 

All I needed was an idea.  Then I remembered:  Somewhere during this last year I saw the most adorable halloween lanterns made from paper mache.  I had never done paper mache, but I was sure my kids would love it.  My craft, at last!  I gathered and bought the supplies, which in and of itself took far longer than I anticipated.  (After 8 years, I still forget how little I can get done with kids in tow.)  By the time I was finally ready to start the project, I was already behind in laundry and dinner wasn't started. Perhaps that should have signaled a warning bell in my head.  It did not.  My friends call me unrealistically optimistic.  It's a fitting description.  I plowed ahead.

The next day, Sunday, we had a rare afternoon with no meetings, choir practices, home teaching visits--nothing.  A perfect time to do a family craft!  And so it began.  Almost immediately there was paper mache everywhere.  I wanted to take a picture, but Mr. Wicke and I couldn't clean up fast enough.  Logan insisted on washing her hands after every strip, and Griffin was...well, Griffin was Griffin.  Dirty and messy and going a mile a minute.  Wait a second.  Blogland pictures don't include dripping paper mache and messy countertops.  What was I doing wrong? 

By the time we finally worked out a system, the kids were bored.  "Okay, we've done one.  Now can we go play?"  The kids in blogland never get bored.  Crafts out there are exciting and the kids finish every project with gusto.  In my house it was a little more like this:  "Hey.  We've got to get five of these done.  Now get back here."

Mr. Wicke and I spent the next two hours paper mache-ing together.  He loves being married to me.  It's fun.

Tonight it is three days later.  I'm still not finished.  Not with my schedule.  And in the little free time I do have, I'm so busy repairing, painting, and modgepodging paper mache lanterns that my house is a disaster.  I have yet to decorate for Halloween.  It's two days away.

Look, either there's something really wrong with me, or someone out there ain't tellin' the whole truth.  As much as I'd like my life to look like it stepped out of Martha Stewart magazine, that's just not my reality.  And I could feel really badly about  myself if I tried to live up to those glossy photos every minute.  Life is just messy, especially when you're busy living it, and that, I think, is okay. 

Just don't expect any pictures.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Brian Regan on Men Speak

This one struck me funny.  Sometimes, when Mr. Wicke and I can't seem to get on the same page communication wise, which happens pretty frequently, I look at him and say, "It's like you're trying to speak to me."  It's two different languages, people.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Female Thinking and the Nice Guy

Last night, between segments of Sports Center and when we got bored with the 50th repeat of the Yankees/Angels highlights, we flipped to Dateline.  Okay, I flipped to Dateline, and I didn't catch much, but what I did see was a woman who, after being married for 8 years to a man she thought was a retired rear admiral, not only found out he was none of the things he said he was, but was nearly killed by him with an ether soaked rag.  Wow. 

During the next flip, she related how she now thought that her car accident, fall down a flight of stairs, that glimpse of a gun in his briefcase, may all add up to attempts on her life.  Five attempts on her life to be exact.  Wowsy.

When we flipped back again, the interviewer said, "How did you feel when you got the news he had died?" 

And she said, "I cried."

"After all he had done to you, you cried when you heard he had died."

"Well, I loved him.  We had a lot of good times together.  It was like he was two different people.  There was the man that was good to me, that I loved, and there was the man that lied to me and tried to kill me."

Thomas and I gaped at each other.  Uhhhh...

I didn't watch the rest.  Sports Center was finally playing the football highlights, but Dateline is on loop in my brain, because sadly, I think that woman represents a lot of female thinking, albeit on a dramatically enlarged scale.  But if you boil it down, I bet we see this kind of thinking infect many relationships in a more subtle way.

For example:  A few years ago I was at my mom's house for a visit.  A number of us were playing cards late one night, and my niece, a freshman in college, was talking about her friend and her friend's on and off again boyfriend who had gotten her pregnant, deserted her, and was in and out of the picture.  I don't remember the details of the conversation, but I remember that she said, "I mean, he's a nice guy--"  I heard the brakes screech in my brain.

"No, he's not."  I interrupted none too politely.  "He is not a nice guy.  A guy who gets a girl pregnant, does nothing to help her, and deserts his child is NOT a nice guy.  Period."

Why do some women excuse bad behavior in the name of love?

The guy treats her badly around his friends, playing it cool, but "he's not that way when we're alone."  The guy lies to her, "but it was only that once."  The guy cheats on his wife/girlfriend, "but he'd never do that to me."  The guy is jealous and controlling, "but it's only because he loves me."

Somehow she seperates that bad behavior from everything she wants to see.  And she settles for potential rather than actuality.  She ignores all the red flags and hopes that it will be different later.  She wouldn't play those odds in Vegas, but she'll play them with her life. 

I want to tell every young girl this:  Please, let's not dishonor the real nice guys out there by ever using the phrase, "...but he's a nice guy" to excuse bad behavior.  Truly nice guys have it hard enough as it is.  They may not be exciting, and charasmatic, and king of the grand gesture, but they are good, and honest, and reliable.  They don't need to be divided and subdivided to make sense.  They don't keep you guessing.  They are straightforward and easy to read.  They are there when you need them.  Solid.  Good.  And nice.  Let's let them keep that title.  They actually deserve it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Baby Wings

I have said a million times that I just want to enjoy this baby.  I just want to soak in every minute, especially since in all likelihood he will be my last.  So why is it that he is in such a rush?  Didn't someone tell him we're relishing this babyhood? 

I guess not.

Because yesterday he stood up.  It made me audibly gasp.  I've come to terms with him crawling like a maniac already, but when I saw him reach up, grab hold of his walker, hoist himself up, and stand on those chubby legs, I was shocked.  Doesn't he know he's only 7 1/2 months?  Trying not to distract him, I called to Mr. Wicke.  And you know what we did?

We clapped and oohed and aahed.  Yes, we did.

Because no matter how badly I want to slow things down, I'm always happy to watch my kids fly.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Facing Transition

Transitions.  They're hard.  I'm not good at them.  And I've been struggling lately.  A heavy hearted kind of struggling. 

We've decided, I think, that our family is complete.  I don't know about the complete part, but we think we are done trying to add to it.  Realistically, it's probably the right idea.  For a lot of reasons.  And all of those reasons make sense, but my heart--oh, my heart.  It's sad.

I had to switch out baby Lincoln's 3-6 month clothes for his 9-12 month clothes, and I couldn't get past that lump in my throat.  It threw me into a dark place.  A mourning spot.  I didn't finish.  I walked away from the piles of little onsies and sleepers and tiny socks and shoes, and left them there.  Maybe when I was stronger?  More ready?  Luckily, sweet Mr. Wicke silently took over, and when I came in a day later, it was done.  All packed away into a plastic bin.  The bin is still sitting there...staring at me.

Transitions.  Leaving one stage of life behind.  Completely.  I don't like it.

I turned 39 this week, which isn't so bad, but I feel my feet planted on the inevitable road to another trasition.  Another marker of no return.  The older I get the more I feel like life is just a wisp of smoke.  Visible for a moment and then swept away by the winds of something ever so much bigger.  How quickly it passes.

Perhaps that feeling has been made more tangible this week as I have sat in a hospital with a woman facing death.  As a double mastectomy turned to the overwhelming news of stage 4 cancer, I have sat with her, prayed with her, and cried with her, but I am helpless to make this transition easier.  My heart, it hurts.   

Transitions.  They're hard.  I'm not good at them, but I guess that wrestling with them is the only way through.  Then, maybe, when we poke our heads out the other side we'll find that we've transitioned to someplace surely different, but somplace just as good, maybe even better, with a new happiness waiting for us. 

I think that's what they call faith. 

And while I struggle, I'll keep one hand grasped on that hope.  It has to be enough to pull me through the darkness until I see the light again.      

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Dinosaur Party for Griffin

The party season has begun!  From October 1st through Christmas we are very busy here at The Tea Party Place.  Griffin's birthday is the kick off, followed by my own, then Halloween, then Logan's birthday, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas.  Whew! I'm tired just thinking about it, so I try not to.  "Just one party at a time," that's my motto.

This one was a huge success.  The kids loved making their own dinosaur fossils out of salt dough and the archeological dig in the park for "dinosaur bones" was a blast.  Luckily for me they were selling a bag of bones at the halloween store.  Once I got Griffin to stop telling everyone I was burying "people bones" we were just fine.

Making Fossils

Party Hats

Digging for Dinosaur Bones

Now it's on to planning a Clue party for Logan. Since she loves mysteries--particularly Nancy Drew--I had the bright idea of basing the party off of the Clue board game. She's excited...now I just have to figure out how to do it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Christmas Shopping

It's that time of year again.  You know.  The one where moms begin to say, "I'm going to be done with my Christmas shopping by the end of November." 

I want so badly to be done by the end of November...I won't be done by the end of November...because I never am...but I want to be.

I also want to buy things that are unusual, or unique, or beautiful, or extraordinary.  Maybe something handmade and especially meaningful.  That means I've got to get started!  And I may need some inspiration.

So I think we ought to start sharing ideas, y'all.  If you have a great gift idea would you let me know?  I'd love to hear it.

This is what I ordered from Etsy last night:

These are coming for baby Lincoln.  You can see them here, and while you're there you should check out all of their other really cool stuff.  I love the jumping grasshopper.  Delightful!

I also ordered the patterns for these:

You know I hate to sew, and originally I thought I was buying the already made set; when I found out I was just buying a pattern, I still couldn't pass then up.  My kids will love telling the stories over and over. (If I get them finished, that is.  Cross the fingers for me, will ya'?)  If you're into sewing, or if you're like me and you will do it even though you hate it, you should check out this seller's inventory.  She has some amazing things.

And I haven't ordered one of these yet, but I'm really loving them.

Isn't that darling?  A brooch made from vintage zippers.  Clever!  I think I need one.  (Merry Christmas to me?)  The only problem will be choosing; they sell them in every color and design imaginable, and I love them all.  A lot.

Have you ever noticed that when you spend time shopping you find a lot of things out there that you didn't know you needed?  ...that's probably why I'm never done at the end of November. 

(Don't forget.  Show me some love and give me your great gift ideas!!)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Overheard in Our House Today

Griffin (talking to our dog Roxy):  Hey, Roxy!  I'm six today!

Birthday cake #1

Happy birthday, Griffin!  Let the fun begin!

p.s. Just to be sure, we're not going miniature golfing.  Remember that one?  Oh the horror!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Arise and Walk

The other afternoon I decided Master Wicke and I needed a little time out of doors.  It was an hour before we usually meet the kids off the bus and he was fussy, so I loaded him in his stroller.  Since I had a little something that I needed to drop off to a woman in the neighborhood anyway, and it was such  a lovely day (they have finally arrived here in the southwest) I thought we'd just make a little adventure out of it.

On our little jaunt, it wasn't long before I bumped into a friend who was unloading groceries from her car.  Stopping to chat I heard her husband say, "Laurel!  What are you doing out of the house?  I don't think I've ever seen you exercise before!"

Now, I'm not sure you could call what I was doing exercise.  I was wearing a skirt and flipflops after all, which is what I was explaining to him when he said, "It's just your mode of transportation.  It's so unusual for you."

He likes to tease me, and I probably wouldn't have thought much of it if, on my way home, I hadn't run into another friend's husband in his front yard.

"Laurel!  What are you doing outside?!"

...Oh, brother.  I think I may need to get out more.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Discovery and Recovery

I mulled over that post about my dad a lot this last week.  It was all true.  But it wasn't complete.  Certainly there is the darkness that is the loss of him, but at the same time--even as it was happening--there are and were discoveries of hope, of light, and of love.  Without those the story is only half told. 

Death of a loved one is life at it's most dramatic.  For me, facing mortality had an incredibly clarifying effect.  In those moments when I had to look death in the eye and reliquish our beloved father, every peripheral, unimportant element of my life slipped away.  Things that I thought were important, things that I thought I wanted, suddenly weren't.  What I did for a living, the size of my home, the style of my car, who knows my name and who doesn't  just...didn't...matter.  What was left after the blazing heat of grief was the crystalized understanding that few things follow us into the life hereafter.  Love, faith, and the time spent with both are about all we get to take with us.

I was rehearsing the lead for a play in San Diego when I got the call that my dad was in a coma.  It was because of those rehearsals that I missed our last family gathering and my dad's 70th birthday.  I regret that.  I don't think it's coincidental that I haven't done much auditioning since.  I still love the theater, but it is not the pivot around which my life revolves.  I'd rather be with my kids.  I'd rather have the freedom to make the reunions and birthday parties.  I don't want that gypsy lifestyle.  I want roots and deep friendships.  They require time, and Daddy's passing taught me that time is a limited commodity, there's never as much of it as we would like to think, and I need to be thoughtful about how I spend it.

When I got the second call 24 hours later reporting that Dad's condition had not improved as they had hoped, that things looked darkly inevitable, my husband was 90 miles away.  Or rather, I was away from him, but I needed him.  Immediately.  Thomas told me long ago that I'm a girl that needs a wide berth.  That I don't like being held too tightly, and I suppose that's true, but when things fell apart for me, when I was confused, heartbroken, and lost, I needed him to cling to.  What a felicitous discovery to find that the one person I chose to spend my life with is truly the one person whom I need.  And because I needed him, he flew to my side and held me together. That is a moment that cemented and sanctified our marriage.  My rock.

The plane ride home was miserable.  There were still a lot of unknowns at the time, but words like "brain-damage" and "vegetative state" were being thrown around.  I felt undone in a way that I had never experienced before.  Someone from the family, I didn't know whom exactly, was going to pick me up from the airport, and I worried that I would fall apart when I saw them.  That when I saw their identical broken heart,  my own, which I was barely holding together, would tumble out in gasping shards.  I came down the escalator to find two of my older brothers waiting for me.  As I met their eyes, in that very moment I had dreaded, I was surprisingly lifted up.  I felt stronger, more understood, more myself with them at my side.  This blessing of family that I had always appreciated held new significance.  It was now a necessity.  It was my safe harbor, and it would see me home.

At some point in the days spent in the hospital, it became clear that my father was not going to return to us.  The he that he had been was already gone.  Then we had the awful decision to make regarding life support.  Mom and the seven of us, her children, sought out a quiet room, and we knelt in prayer, each of us taking a turn to pour out our hearts aloud to God, to seek His will.  It was a significant moment for me--for all of us--and when we were done, we knew what we had to do.  However, His peace had settled on our hearts and we were unified in spirit.  Never before had faith meant so much to me.  Perhaps it is only in the darkness that we can clearly perceive its brilliancy.  Without its guiding light, I do not know how I would have found my way through the grief and come out on the other side intact.  But I did.  Not only did I come out intact, I think I came out better than when I went in.

Death is the great unknown, but I agree with the author who said it is like a ship passing beyond the horizon simply out of our sight.  Somewhere I'm out on that wide ocean myself, captaining my own little skiff.  My father's life charted my course in childhood, but it was his death that pointed me in the right direction in adulthood.  In the loss, I more fully discovered who I want to be and where I want to go.  Discovering the light in the darkness is not just the rest of the story, it is the only thing that gives the story any meaning at all.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Olfaction & My Leave of Absence

I didn't mean to leave, especially on that sad note, but Logan got sick, and then Griffin got the flu, and when I wasn't taking care of them, I was smelling Lincoln's hair.  I love his hair.  It's so soft and downy, and I love rubbing my face in it, and then it smells so good that I have to start all over.  It's a compulsion I can live with. 

But what I haven't been able to do is clean up vomit, do loads of laundry, sniff baby heads AND blog all at the same time.  Something had to give, and you can be sure it would not be the baby sniffing.  I only have a few months of that left.

I think falling in love with my children involves every sense, but especially strong for me is that of smell.  I remember going into Logan's room at night when she was a toddler just to watch her sleep.  I had waited so long for a baby that I was just thirsty for her.  I drank her in with my eyes, those chubby legs, rosy pink cheeks, and all of that curly blonde hair.  Then I'd crawl in bed beside her and bury my face in her neck, just to breathe her in.  People, in general, are not a great-smelling lot all on their own; something about babies, however, is altogether different.

I remember Griffin sometimes smelled like cinnamon.  He really did.  He has been my only baby that would let me snuggle him, and so I did, a lot.  Could I help it if some sniffing was involved?  He smelled a little like cinnamon.  He doesn't now.  Now he smells like a 6 year old boy/puppy.  That new baby smell does not last forever, that's for sure.

That's why baby sniffing is a top priority right now, and on little Lincoln I catch a wisp of cedar every now and again.  I swear, I do.  But that might be the love talking.  I'll sniff him again tomorrow and get back to you.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


A dear friend of ours just lost his father.  From the sounds of it, the circumstances are so much like my own father's passing that I have been feeling heavy and sad.  Both for him and for me, I suppose.  Often times, the journey to another's sorrow is through our own worn paths of old pain.  What I know is that one is never ready to lose a good parent. 

It's nearing a decade that I've lived without Dad, and I still miss him, every day.  I was 29 when it happened and nowhere ready to lose my protector.  The man would have slayed dragons for me; this I know for sure, and there were some big ones waiting down my path.  When he died, we were just beginning our maiden voyage to the land of infertility, that savage, undiscovered country that stole our dreams one at a time and broke our hearts before giving us our life back.  How I needed his wisdom.  His assurance.  His humor.

And then, when we finally became parents, I missed him all over again.  I want my children to know him.  To hear his voice tell stories only the way he can.  To hear him say, "Are you going to be a straight arrow?"  To get wrapped up in one of his giant bear hugs and hear him whisper fiercely in their ears that he loves them with all his heart.  I want them to experience his faith, his mirth, his perspective, his loyalty, and his joy; knowing that their lives are poorer because he is not here breaks my heart.

I have had a difficult time talking about the death of my father.  I can tell stories about my dad, but I can not communicate the loss.  It was nearly a year before I could simply write it in my journal, and even then, my description was brief.  I do not have the words.  Not to describe the searing pain across my soul that is the missing of him.

It is with this understanding that I stand near my friend, unable to heal what hurts.  I can not take his pain, but I can share it.  Sometimes that is enough. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Being "The" Mom

I would have a good post for today about pride and marriage, but alas our internet was down all morning.  (Stupid Cox Communications.  And I'm not supposed to say stupid.)  Anyhow, so the thoughts that have been roaming around my head will have to stay there.  They are taking up space, which, as we all know, is limited; it would have been nice to move them onto paper.  Monday perhaps.

The other thing that is taking up the rest of the space in my brain is the mortification of being "the" mother of "the" child in a teacher's kindergarten class.  You know.  "The" child that needs a whole lot of extra attention and intervention and motivation because he can't seem to behave.  I'm "the" mom of that child.  I know I'm that mom because his teacher called me yesterday afternoon to discuss her new approach to Griffin's...uh...should we say...spiritedness?  (That's a kind way of saying he has a hard time following the rules.)

I soooo appreciate this teacher and her willingness to go the extra mile.  She sees all the good things that little Griff has going for him, but we all agree that listening and obeying may not be his strong suit right now.  No.  He would rather color gigantic circles on his pants with marker, like yesterday. 

His explanation? "Somebody spilled marker on me." 

"Really?  How does one do that in perfectly concentric circles on both thighs?"

For that manuever, he lost one of the six red sticks Miss Bruce gives him at the beginning of the day, which is part of the new program for "Kids Who Just Can't Seem to Remember."  If he has at least one stick left at the end of the day, we're calling that a success.  Oh...the mortification.

And then I remember that this is not about me.  I need to repeat that often:  This is not about me.  This is not about me.  But it sometimes feels like it is.  I don't want to be "the" mom. 

But being "the" mom also has its benefits.  It means that I get the pleasure of mothering this funny, charming little person with a very big spirit stuffed into that body that is sometimes too curious and too social for his own good.  I wouldn't trade him for anything, even for the Mom of the Year Award.

...which is good, 'cause it looks like I'm not in the running this year. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tiny Miracles

My baby crawled today.  Well...not actually crawled, maybe, but he certainly did get from point A to point B, and not without difficulty. 

We were supposed to be getting him dressed, but he was more interested in the bright red air hockey paddle that his brother had left lying in the middle of the floor.  And as he rolled away onto his tummy, lifted his thick little self onto his hand and pulled his knees under him, I watched, fascinated.  Like every one of my babies he is a miracle to me, but perhaps it is my age.  I'm ready to slow down and enjoy these little wonders.  So I watched.

With his eyes locked on the prize, he began to rock back and forth on his knees, and then he suddenly lurched forward, pinning his little hands beneath him and landing squarely on his face.  It didn't seem to faze him.  Quickly he pulled his hands forward and propped himself up again.  More rocking and another lurch, but this time he kept his head raised and fell onto his chest.  Then, while remaining on his belly, his little arm reached out, stretching its full length, his little fingers straining toward the object still outside of his grasp.  With all this effort he had covered only inches of ground.

I expected any moment to hear a cry of frustration, but it did not come, so I watched.  His tiny feet kicked and kicked in a desperate attempt to bring the object closer.  Instead, his little body scooted forward mere millimeters.  This seemed to inspire him to renew his efforts, and once again he was back on his knees, rocking and lurching.  I watched it all, and as I watched my eyes filled with tears.

I cried not only over my baby's first attempts at independence, though I was witnessing a little miracle.  I think I cried over something bigger.  I think those tears were for the miracle of our human ability to try.  To grow.  To fail.  And to try again.  The human struggle begins at birth, does it not?  And for a moment, I think I glimpsed God's mercy.  How I loved my little baby.  How I wanted him to succeed.  How I understood his necessary struggle.  Do I judge God to be any different in His perfect love? 

I don't think He is as impatient with me as I sometimes believe Him to be.  No.  I think He expects me to struggle.  He knows it is necessary for my growth.  As I crawl to Him, I think He celebrates all the rocking and lurching, the inches of ground I cover, and the efforts I make to get back up when I fall.  He is my Father.  He loves me.  Those were tears of gratitude, both for me as a mother and for me as a child, all at once witnessing a little miracle.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Unanswered Prayer

A couple of years ago, I was deep in prayer about Mr. Wicke's employment situation. Working for yourself is hard and stressful, and before the economy plummeted the grass looked greener everywhere else. Mr. Wicke had been looking for another job, and nothing--I mean nothing--was happening for him. It is heart wrenching to watch someone you love struggle. Especially when that someone is good and decent to their core. And so I prayed...a lot. I begged, pleaded, cajoled, wept, and even sometimes complained. That kind of prayer. And still...nothing.

"Dear God, are you listening?" was at last the prayer of my heart. "Where can I find you?"

And then He was there in little things. Orders came in to Mr. Wicke's work out of nowhere. They did not make us rich, but they paid the bills. Mr. Wicke's heart became lighter. He slept. We loved each other more. Our children were happy and healthy. None of these were the big miracles I was looking for. Instead they were little answers to prayer, evidence that God indeed was aware of us. He was listening.

And then Mr. Wicke got a couple of interviews. They went well. It seemed a perfect fit. Everything looked so promising. Maybe this was the answer we have praying for? But no. They "went a different direction." He was "overqualified." He "wasn't quite right." "They hired in-house."

"Dear God, why? Are you still listening?" my heart quietly asked again. But I knew enough to trust and look for the little things. He was still there, and we could wait.

In the meantime, the economy crashed, and we watched as friends and neighbors lost jobs--good jobs, jobs they had had for a long time. Companies that seemed so vital cut back, cut costs, and cut personnel to stop their financial hemorrhage. It was frightening. Still, in our little corner of the world, orders came in, one drip in the bucket at a time, and we were okay. Not rich. Still careful, but okay.

"You know what's great about my job," Mr. Wicke asked one day. "I'll never fire myself." We laughed but with a sense of relief.

And those jobs that he had been so right for? Gone. Eliminated six months later. I shudder to think where we would have been if we had received the answer I was hoping for.

Looking in the rearview mirror at our life, I can almost catch God's eye in the back seat. He seems to be smiling knowingly. "See?" I hear him say. "I heard every word. I was right here the whole time."

Monday, September 21, 2009

An Answered Prayer

I'm going to say something that in all likelihood would make a good percentage of our nation roll their eyes; but for me it is truth. It is simply this: I know prayers are answered. I do.

Not all of my prayers are answered. At least not right away. And sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes I'm required to figure things out on my own, and sometimes I'm required to be patient. But sometimes, like a few nights ago, I am surprised with the rapidity of an answer.

Griffin has been a little pill lately. My boy, who has always been malleable and sweet, has suddenly developed a mind of his own. Just ask his teacher. 10 yellow cards in the first 5 weeks of school may be a record, but she isn't dealing with anything we aren't experiencing at home. When one asks Mr. Griff why he didn't listen, he often replies, "I had other things I wanted to do." Honest, yes, but also infuriating, especially day after day after day after day...it's enough to make a momma crazy! Obviously, whatever I've tried isn't working. And so, as in all things that seem beyond the reach of my own measly knowledge, I made it a matter of prayer.

As I began to pray, my thoughts centered most on what God could do for Griffin. Could He soften his heart? Could He help him listen and obey? And then for good measure I asked if he could help me know how to reach him, and just like that a thought sprung, full-grown, into my brain. It was two simple sentences: "You are too focused on the punishment. You need to focus on the reward." It actually caught me be surprise. It did! It was an absolute about face from where my mind had begun.

My prayer came to a sudden, screeching halt. "What?!" I asked myself. "Am I really doing that?" And as I considered the problem and my responses to it, I had to concur. My frustration had gotten in the way of the obvious answer. The way I had set it up was: obedience = avoidance of punishment, and what God suggested was obedience = reward. When I thought about it more, it made perfect sense for this child. I knew it was exactly the answer I was looking for.

Some people refer to it as "mother's intuition," but the one thing that mothering has taught me for sure is that insights come from Heaven all the time. These children belong to Him. He cares about what happens to them. I will be accountable to Him for the job I do. The good news? He will help me every step of the way.

He answers my prayers.

I'd like to know: When have you known God has answered your prayer?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Change of Address

Dear Friendly Readers,

Please note the change of my url address. It is now:


Easier to remember, I think. Well, at least once the initial confusion is over. Thanks for reading!

Tea Party Headmistress

Slip Slidin' Away

My brain is slippery right now. Really, really slippery. Like a plate too full at a buffet, important things slide off without notice. Things I would really like to delve into and enjoy. Things that are important to me. Things that are important to other people, too.

It's embarrassing.

If you can't reach me on my home phone, it's because I can't find it. And if I can't find it long enough it runs out of battery and I really can't find it. If you can't reach me on my cell phone it's because I turned it to vibrate two weeks ago in either a movie or church (the only two places of quiet in my life) and I've forgotten to turn it back on. Without it ringing I can't find it either. If I forget to show up at a meeting, it's because I forgot. It slipped right out of this slippery brain; I'd find it, but I've forgotten to look.

Truth be told, I'm still adjusting to this tiny world of babyhood. My entire life has shrunk to fit inside these four walls where baby reigns supreme. The clock and calendar no longer rule my life. No, it is all about nap times and feeding times. Everything else must fit into the two hours between because brother and sister come home after that, and then the real fun begins. One day blends into the next, and sometimes I am surprised when the weekend comes.

Time has never been my strong suit, admittedly. My brain doesn't function in those strict parameters where activities must fit between the hands of the clock. Not an advantage in our culture, by the way. I have learned coping mechanisms, but those disappear during major life changes. My brain gets slippery.

For me, babyhood is all encompassing. Nothing is mine. Not my time, my body, my energy, my will. He needs it all. It doesn't last long. Already he is beginning to sleep. Oh, blessed sleep. His schedule is becoming consistent, and I am beginning to catch up. Beginning to find my way in this new life.

But only beginning...because I am still slipping every now and again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Praise to the Ben

On our inter-mountain west family vacation this summer, I found one item that was indispensable. One item that every family with young kids MUST have on a long car ride. Everyone needs an Uncle Ben.

Poor Uncle Ben may not have known what he was getting himself into when he asked if he could hitch a ride to the family reunion. But then again, maybe he did. He is a favorite of my kids', and deservedly so. Uncle Ben has taken them camping and to Disney on Ice. He is the best at tossing them in the pool and tossing them in the air. He plays baseball, football, and badminton with them. He's also the owner of dogs and fish, all of which he lets them torture--I mean play with. It's no wonder I love Uncle Ben, too.

But as much as I appreciated Uncle Ben before, I am eternally indebted to him after our trip. He was, after all, the lucky fella' who got to ride in the back with Griffin. It didn't take long before Uncle Ben decided Griff's new nickname should be Pigpen or for him to understand the true blessing of wet wipes. "Griff, there is a right way to eat a churro. You can't just eat the inside. Sugar is everywhere!" Or "Can I get the wipes back here? We've got a big spill."

"I didn't spill that much," Griffin argued.

"When it takes three wipes to clean it up, that is a big spill."

The great thing is that because Uncle Ben has invested in my kids so much and because they love him so much, he is able to say things like that. Then I don't have to.

It was the best trip ever.

Inexplicably, he could not continue with us past Utah despite my efforts to bribe him. I guess he had important things to do, like drive back to Arizona in peace and quiet or something like that.

Anyway, these are hot little items, even if they only last half of the trip. The Uncle Ben. Get yours while they last.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Logan's Growing Up

...and this is how I know:

She used air quotes yesterday. And she used them correctly. I was helping with her homework which she was rushing through. "Hey. Can you use your best handwriting? C'mon, babe, that's just sloppy."

She sighed impatiently and began to erase. "Now I have to do it again because some-body wants it (airquotes here) 'per-fect'."

"Where did you learn that?" I inquired, but...ahem...I think I know. Sometimes it's like I'm looking in the mirror...

I was fascinated the other day listening to her and a friend in the backseat. "Oooh, you like him don't you?"

"Okay, I'll tell you, but you have to promise not to tell ANYBODY." And then they began to whisper, and giggle, a lot. It made me smile. I remember so well a thousand conversations just like that with my own childhood friends. Just like looking in a mirror...

...until it's not. Like when she asked me if she could start wearing a bra. A bra?! Why are we already talking about bras? Unlike her I was in no hurry to grow up. She, on the other hand, can not wait. "No! Those are not for kids," I replied.

"No. I don't mean a real bra. I mean, like, a kid's bra." Which left me wondering what does she know about kid's bras anyway?

...but then again, where does she get any of this stuff. Like the idea that she is going to get a car when she turns sixteen?

"I can't wait to turn sixteen 'cause that's when I can drive and I'll get a car," she mentioned on the drive to her soccor game.

Interested, I played along. "Oh, really? And just what kind of car are you going to get?"

"Oh...probably one like Nancy Drew's. You know, where the top comes down?"

"A convertible?"

"Yeah. One of those probably."

"Uh, honey. I hate to tell you this, but you're not getting a car when you turn sixteen."

"What????" The shock of it raised her voice at least one octave.

"Yeah. We're not buying you a car."

"But, but--That's when I can drive."

"Right. You can drive my car once in a while."

"Your car??" Her voice was heavy with disgust. "I don't want to drive your car..."

Most of the time I can't believe we are already having these conversations. Will I always feel like that? Will I ever be ready for her to wear a bra? Will it surprise me when she is ready to date or ready to leave for college? Will I ever be ready for her to get married or have babies of her own? I doubt it, because I'm understanding what my mother used to say: It's like I just turned around and she is grown.

Maybe I'll feel better if I use airquotes around that..."grown"...yeah, that's better. "Grown" is a lot easier to swallow than grown, because we aren't done just yet, whether she would agree or not.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mr. Beige and the Bouquet

He stood out in Costco like a sore thumb. Surrounded by lines of shoppers with carts overflowing, he held only a bouquet of flowers in his hand. No one buys one item in Costco. If he hadn't been such an aberration, I may not have noticed him at all.

He was the original Mr. Beige: A conservative intent on blending in. Brown, casual lace-ups, beige Dockers, brown belt, a beige shirt interrupted only by an innocuous, retreating plaid. Even his hair was brown with small patches of grey near the ears and male pattern balding in the back. He was not old, but his posture aged him. Sloped shoulders and a bit of a stoop is not the walk of a strong, young man. Mr. Beige did not appear to be a man to make an imprint on the world.

But there he was carrying a wildly colorful bouquet of eye-popping red sunflowers, purple lupine, and bright yellow achillea. The contrast between his flower selection and his indistinct appearance held my attention. Apparently he wasn't beige to his bones. Mr. Beige possessed a heart of sunflowers and lupine, the heart of a romantic. The thought made me smile.

Was it possible Mr. Beige was wooing someone? One look at his left hand told me he was a married man. Most married men don't bring home flowers often. What was the special occasion? Or was it an attempt to smooth something over. To fill the too large space that sometimes lives inside a marriage. Was it an apology for some inconsiderate remark? Or could it be a celebration? A milestone to share together? Or just maybe it was for no special reason at all, except to say that she was special, just the way she was. Whatever the reason, there he stood with his heart in his hands, that flamboyantly hopeful heart which he would give to someone important.

I hoped she would appreciate it. That she wouldn't be too busy to give it the moment it deserved. That she wouldn't be intent on holding a grudge or winning the battle or lengthening that empty space, but that she would take his heart, hold it, admire it, water it, and cherish it. That she would kiss him hard and mean it.

As I watched him pay and walk away toward the big open doors and the rest of his life, I hoped someone out there saw Mr. Beige in technicolor. Perhaps he had made his mark on someone's world after all. As those brilliantly red sunflowers disappeared from sight, I truly hoped so.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Weather Related Conditions

The rain inspired Logan with all kinds of benevolence. Having been a bit under the weather with a minor cold, I retired to take a little nap on Sunday afternoon. When I awoke, I found this card on my bedside table:

I don't know if it the change in weather or the love of my sweet girl, but I'm feeling much better.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shower the People

The rain pelted the window at a loud slant, blown sideways by the howling wind. As I laid the baby in his crib a flash of lightening lit up the room spotlighting his chubby legs and his thick hands tightly gripping his bottle. Gratefully his eyes remained closed as his little body jerked with the accompanying roar of thunder. I nestled him in under his warm, fleece blanket, kissed his forehead, and started down the hallway toward Logan's room. Knowing how both she and Griffin hate these evening storms that only seem to begin as they are trying to fall asleep, I was sure that they were wide awake and in need of comfort.

As I stepped inside the dark room, I found both of them sitting up in bed caucusing. "Hey, guys. You should be going to sleep. What's going on?"

"He's scared," Logan stated matter-of-factly. Griffin didn't deny it. I noticed he wasn't about to lie down either.

"Well. You two are safe and--"

"I was going to tell him he could sleep with me in my bed." Only the intimate circle of our little family understands the true generosity of this offer. Logan's good will has already been stretched by the trespasses of her younger brother who has a designated room of his own; he just refuses to sleep there. Instead, he prefers her company and the extra twin bed her room offers. It's been going on for almost four years now, and Logan's patience is thinning. Nearly eight, she is ready for her own space--something she reminds her brother of often.

Her offer caught me off guard. "Really?" The question was punctuated by another sharp thunderclap.

"Sure. If he's scared he can come sleep in my bed."

Knowing he was not about to weather the storm alone and that he was either my bedfellow or hers, I was hoping he'd take her up on the offer.

"What do you think, Griffin? Do you want to do that?"

Carrying his blanket clutched tightly to his chest, he quietly slipped off the side of his bed and crawled in beside his sister. She moved over to make room for him, a tight squeeze in a small twin bed, but as she did so she gallantly said, "You can stay here until you feel safe."

My heart melted a little. There is nothing I want more than for my kiddos to stick together for always and forever. I know they'll need each other in all kinds of storms from here on out. Then I said, "You have nothing to be afraid of. Mommy and Daddy are here..."

"Yeah," she interrupted again. "And you've always got me."

I tucked the blankets up under their chins, kissed their cheeks and, before walking out of the room, turned for one last look at the two of them huddled close together. Silently I thanked the rain. Thanked it for watering the roots of the grass and roots of the trees, the roots of the flowers and the roots of this little family. Deep roots and broad branches. All showered and made strong with love.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Math

one cut finger
3 hours
multiples messes
one very sore thumbnail
7 quarts of canned peaches x slight discouragement

I can't believe that math is correct, but I've double checked it a few times and yes, indeed, I do only have seven quarts. I think Grandma Doty must have been faster at this. She must have been or she would have quit. So...my goal today? Get faster.

And to get rid of the discouragement, I'm going to remember this as I work:

"Actions do speak louder than words...there is the reminder that love is not simply a noun and not simply a sentimental feeling. The proof of love is what one is willing to do for the loved one. The proof of love is how one behaves." --Richard L. Evans

Today, as I provide a home for my family and all the drudgery that sometimes requires, I'm going to remember that my efforts are proof of my love. My work and sacrifices are a living testiment to my love for my husband and children.

...even if it's only seven quarts. (Argh.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What am I Thinking?

Remember last year when I tried to channel my Grandma Doty? Well, I'm at it again, except this time I'm canning peaches and raspberry jam. I've never done either before...but how hard can it be? Right? Never mind that I already had a to-do list longer than I could possibly accomplish; that and the fact that canning makes an incredible mess should make for a very busy day. At least this time my ankles won't swell to three times their normal size.

Here's the proof. See? I wasn't kidding around when I was talking about my baby expecting troll feet. And there really are no ankles there at all. But at least I had cute red toenails.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Phoning Home

"Do you think the reference to my woo-hoo was a little over the top the other day?" I couldn't help but notice that one of my friendly readers dropped me like a hot potato the same day I referenced my...well, you know what. Coincidence? Probably not is my guess. I don't want to notice those things. I really don't. Because then I get a little weird. A bit obsessed perhaps. I start thinking in big swirls and loops, and my head gets dizzy.

"What?!" my mother responded laughingly.

Maybe I should have said hello first. "The other day in a blog post I mentioned my woo-hoo? Do you think that was inappropriate in the context?"

More laughter. "I didn't even think about it."

Phwew. Good. In my world there are only four opinions about me that matter. God's. Mine. My parents'. And now that I'm married--Mr. Wicke's. That last one is a little tricky, though, because we are very different creatures.

I had first asked Mr. Wicke his opinion. "Well, I wouldn't have done it." But that's the problem. Of course he wouldn't have. He's a solid 7 kind of guy, whereas I live my life in a random patterns of 5's and 10's. He's even keel, and I'm the slight ripples Heaven sent to liven up his trip a little.

"So...you're saying you think I was wrong?"

"No. I'm just saying that it's not something I would have done."

"What. You think I told people something they didn't already know? Like they thought the baby slipped out of my belly button or something?"

He smiled, "You're so funny."

"So, is there some judgement there?"


"Oh, I think there is."

"No, there isn't."

"You are no help at all! I'm going to ask my mother."

My mother is my moral thermometer in a lot of ways: A 77 year old woman who can not bear the words fart or butt (so sorry, Mom) and taught me everything I know about being decent has a lot of moral pull in my book. "You can't worry," she continued, "about what anyone else thinks. People who do that never write anything, or never write anything good."

And that's what I'm really trying to do. I want to write like no one is reading. Which is when I started thinking, what I am I writing this blog for anyway? If I really want to write like no one is reading, why not do it in a journal? What the heck is my purpose here? This isn't some exercise in narcissism every day, is it? Or IS it? Ugh. I'd hate to think that...Big swirls and loops in my brain. BIG. I'm still dizzy days later.

And then she said, and I love her for it, "Besides," you're really only writing for me, anyway." She doesn't have a problem with my occasional colorful descriptions. Instead, I make her laugh. And she, in turn, calms my dizzy brain. Maybe someday we'll be even, but I doubt it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Picking Sides

The minute the kids walk in the door from school, it's my job to do backpack check. While they raid the pantry, I thumb through notices, notes, old assignments and homework packets. I find out a lot about my kids during backpack check. Like Griffin's tendency toward getting yellow cards for talking, or not lining up after recess, or not standing by his desk as he has been told. Of course I always find out that these things "are not his fault," and that it doesn't really matter because every day, when he goes back, "it's always back to green." See? I told you backpack check was enlightening.

The other day I read through one of Logan's old assignments which asked her to answer the question, "What is your favorite thing about home?" to which she answered, "My parents are always on my side." This statement, for better or worse, gave me pause; it struck me as a sort of double edged sword.

She is right. Ultimately I am always on her side. I will always love her, I will always root for her success, and I will always do what is best for her. But does that mean always choosing her side? Because that can morph into a dangerous area. An area where a parent can not see her child's weaknesses. An area where her child's misbehaviour is someone else's fault, and therefore, somehow, excusable. We've all seen those parents who, in an attempt to protect their child, attack anybody else--friends, other parents, and teachers to name a few.

What I've come up with after some thought, is that always choosing her side is not really being on her side at all. If I am so caught up in her immediate happiness, I can not clearly see the end of the road I am hoping for her. What is best for her sometimes is dealing with consequences; it is sometimes dealing with pain; and it is sometimes dealing with unfairness.

Being on her side means I help her navigate those tricky waters; it does not mean I protect her from them. To do so would mean hindering her growth and development of character. And when I try to picture the end of the road I am hoping for her, that is all that matters. I need to be very clear on that because it's going to be a long trip. Until we get there, I am totally and completely on her side and by her side, right there, until the end.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thoughts on Worship: Gathering Together Oft'

I know one thing for sure: I need to develop a personal relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ. This requires effort on my part. Personal effort. Moments of quiet meditation. Personal revelation. Covenants kept. I know that. Can't I do that alone?Yes, in part. But I also need others, and they need me. As I've considered the importance of gathering, I have discovered three important elements of group worship.

The first is that of covenants, or two-way promises between me and the Lord. I need baptism. I need His sacrament. Both as an outward promise of my devotion and as a vehicle for repentance and obtaining His forgiveness. These I can not do alone because they require the authority given to man by God. Even Christ sought out John the Baptist because of his authority to baptise in the name of the Father. I think anyone who is a member of a religion believes that his/her religion is a vehicle of God's authority.

The second purpose of gathering together is just as clear. Man has a very short memory. Gathering together often is a way of recharging our spiritual batteries, so to speak. We are reminded of a higher purpose. Many times we get so consumed by the "have-to's" of life that we forget what is really important, and so a wise God commands us to put aside the "have-to's" for one day, to gather and focus on the welfare of our souls, the only have-to that is not temporary.

The third component of gathering together that I have been thinking on is a bit more subtle but no less important. If we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, are to follow His example, and truly become Christlike, how is that done? Can I do that singularly? No. It requires that I bump into people, because in that jostling I gain the opportunity to forgive and to be forgiven; to take upon myself another's burdens and have my own be shared; to receive mercy and to be merciful. One of my favorite gospel teachers was an LDS Apostle named Neil A. Maxwell. He said it like this,
"...the Church is 'for the perfecting of the saints' (Eph. 4:12); it is not a well-provisioned rest home for the already perfected. ...in the kingdom we are each other’s clinical material; the Lord allows us to practice on each other, even in our imperfections. And each of us knows what it is like to be worked on by a 'student' rather than a senior surgeon. Each of us, however unintentionally, has also inflicted some pain."
God in his infinite wisdom gave us first our family and then, secondly, the family of believers with whom we are commanded to gather. By doing so, he ensured that we would have plenty of practice in developing charity--the pure love of Christ. On our best days we may inspire someone. On our worst, we are lifted up by someone else.

I have been lucky in my life to be surrounded by believers--both of my particular faith and of others. I have been inspired, lifted, and forgiven. I have witnessed living testaments of charity, and I have been changed. I am grateful to gather in His name.

(For the rest of Elder Neil A. Maxwell's talk go here. )

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thoughts on Worship

Over the last month or so, I have been considering the hows and whys of worship. My thoughts are vast and varied, so in an attempt to clarify them, I thought I would pose some questions and discuss them here. If interested, feel free to post your own thoughts. No right or wrong answers here.

The history of the Christian faith clearly exhorts the believers to gather together for worship.

Acts 20
7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

Nehemiah 9
1 Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.
2 And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
3 And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.

Psalms 26
12 My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the LORD.

Acts 4
31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

Acts 11
26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Hebrews 10
24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together...

The God I know is not frivolous in the commands He gives. Moreover, I believe His purpose in any commandment is to bless us. Considering that, what is the importance of gathering together? Can one worship effectively alone? How does gathering prove a blessing to the members?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Master Wicke Gets a Haircut

I wasn't the only one around here that got an important haircut last month. So did Master Wicke. His very first one.

Here he is before: (Notice the long comb over strands)

And here he is during:

Something's telling me he didn't like it much.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Old Friends, Insecurities, and Waaay too Much Information

Can you imagine anything worse than seeing your old high school boyfriend four months after giving birth? Yes. How about when he just married a woman 10 years your junior? I mean, when she talks about crow's feet, she is actually referring to the anatomy of the bird whereas I am discussing a relatively new feature of my face.

But, as it turned out, she and I do have one thing in common. We both did something really physical in the last year. They ran a triathlon together, and I pushed something the size of a watermelon out of my woohoo. Of course her physical activity probably left her with a six pack and mine left me with a stomach pooch that in all likelihood I will never get rid of, but...whatever.

It isn't at all that I wanted to work any subtle charms on the old him; it's just that I don't want to be thought of as a dodged bullet. No woman, at least one that's honest, wants to be seen with a sense of relief, as in, "Wow! Glad I didn't get stuck with that one."

And these are the thoughts that I was dealing with as we all stood together visiting in my home town: me, Mr. Wicke, our children, said high school boyfriend, his wife, his brother, his brother's wife, their kids...you get the idea. As happy as I always am to see them, it is a group that is bound to bring up some insecurities, which I was doing my best to put behind me when Logan stood in front of me, poked me in the belly, and said, very loudly, "Your tummy's squishy."

Awkward pause inserted here.

Clearly it was up to me to break the silence. "Isn't she cute?" I laughed. And to her, "That's because there was a baby in there four months ago. Now go play."

Ahh, children. Why is it that they choose to be honest at the most inconvenient times? As the conversation continued, I considered this as well as the cost of renewing my gym membership, but then two things occurred to me: 1) I really hate the gym, and 2) the money might be better invested in a muzzle.