Tuesday, May 31, 2011

True (Red White &) Blue

Mr. Wicke and I are both big 4th of July Fans.  Big.  We love the holiday, and it isn't because we love the BBQ's and the fireworks (although they are nice); it's because we really love the USA.  We think it is the grandest experiment in human government to ever live on the face of the earth.  We believe it deserves celebration.

I'm totally with John Adams who said: "The second day of July 1776 (the actual day congress took the vote for independence) will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America.  I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.  It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."

It really should be a big deal.  And around here we're already getting prepared.  Last year we began a new tradition of watching this
before July 4th. (You can get a copy at Amazon.)  Even my children, six and eight at the time, were fascinated through all 4 disks.  (In fact, we liked it so much that we gave it to some other families at Christmas.)  When I suggested we break it out again this year, they were totally excited and Logan, especially, doesn't want to quit watching.  Yesterday she initiated a long discussion about Benedict Arnold and his moral dilemma.  How much did I love that?

This year we're taking it up a notch.  We are all doing a little research on an important person to the revolution and we'll each do a presentation on July 4th.  Kind of nerdy, I know, but that's the way we roll around here.  Logan's working on Benedict Arnold; Griffin took John Paul Jones; Mr. Wicke is on Edmond Burke; and I'm leaning toward Abigail Adams.  Don't worry.  We have some friends joining us so we'll get to Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, too.

The thing is, my heart resonates with Abagail Adams who said, "Posterity who are to reap the blessings will scarcely be able to conceive of the hardships and sufferings of their ancestors."  There is no doubt she is right.  No matter how much I know, I cannot feel the heart's cost of all they gave.  However, in our house I am determined that we will at least recognize their great sacrifices, their service, and their heroism and live with a deeper sense of gratitude for all they did.

So bring on the red, white and blue, I say!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sometimes, Angels Walk on Asphalt (part 2)

..."What?! Are you serious?!" I said out loud to no one in particular. "They are out of cream?! Are you kidding?!" This could not be happening.

"My husband just went to check," a kindly, older woman responded.

She must have seemed sympathetic because I found myself continuing. "I can't go to another store today. Not with my kids." I wasn't really talking to her. Not really. I think I was really talking to Jesus, as in, "Dear Lord, I am having a really hard time being the mom you want me to be. And, as a side note? Your birthday is really wearing me out..."

"Looks like you're headed for a melt down," she said as she took in my screaming baby.

"Huh? Oh, we're already there. (Sigh.) Well, thanks." I couldn't wait for her husband's return. Besides I had no faith that he would come back with any good news. What? They were stockpiling cream in the back? Highly doubtful.

"Good luck," she called as I walked back to my kids.

"Alright, guys. Let's get out of here. Stay with me." They sensed my short fuse and obeyed as I moved as fast as I could while trying to distract and quiet a baby who was past naptime.

The checkout line wasn't much better. What I needed was another couple of arms. The baby was still fussing, the others, while trying to help, mostly managed to trip over one another and end up in my way more than anything else. Just then my bishop from church walked by.

"Wow! Just in time. I'm in need of some service!" I was only half kidding.

"Oh, really?  How can I help?"

Although I thought the answer was obvious, I said,  "I'll let you have my baby today."  I was still only half kidding, but he declined the offer by saying he had five of his own or some such nonsense.

Left on my own, I was gearing up for the trip out to the car and trying to figure how I was going to rearrange the entire afternoon schedule to nap the baby ASAP and somehow still get the cream to make the dessert that needed overnight refrigeration.  Not to mention the thousand other details of Christmas which I refused to think of just then.  Sometimes being a mother is akin to planning the details of a Navy Seals mission with the happy addition of doing it while someone continually screams in your ear.

I could feel my blood pressure rising and the beginnings of a headache coming on, and that's when I saw the stupid firewood.  The stupid firewood that I needed to buy for the stupid firepit I had bought for Thomas for this stupid holiday.  It had been on the list for days.  The list that was still in need of completion. But I just couldn't go back in there.  Bone weary, it was all I could do to get the baby to the car.  I was desperate.

I turned to my children.  "Do you guys think you could buy that wood right there?  Take it into the register and pay for it?"  They looked at each other unsure.  "C'mon.  You can do it!  Here.  Here's some money," I said adjusting the baby on my hip with one arm and digging through my purse with the other while using one foot to keep the cart from rolling away.  "It'll be fine...Where is my wallet?  Okay, here!  Just stay together." They began to walk away.  "And watch for cars!" I called after them.

I worried and watched for them while buckling the baby in the car and distracting him with snacks for a moment while I loaded the grocery sacks in the trunk.  Relieved, I finally spotted them tugging the bundle of wood between them.  "Good job, you guys!" I called across the parking lot.  Right behind them I noticed the sympathetic woman from the dairy case.  I silently hoped she wasn't judging. 

Instead, as they drew nearer she called, "Did you get your cream?"

I couldn't believe it. "No!  Did they really have some?" I questioned as I moved to the children and relieved them of their burden.

"They did.  In the back."

"Well, wouldn't you know it.  Just my luck today," I complained, finishing with the bags and closing the trunk.

"Here.  You can have mine," she offered holding a large bottle of whipping cream up high a couple of cars over.

"Oh, that is so nice of you!  But no, that's okay," I gushed as I pushed the empty cart to the corral. 

When I turned around she was coming toward me, cream still in hand.  "No, really.  Here take it," she offered again.

My arms shot out reflexively, my hands waving her off.  "No, no.  That's yours! I can't take your whipping cream!  What will you do then?" I asked as she neared me.

"I can get some more.  I don't have any kids with me.  All of mine are grown now," the kindness in her eyes disarmed me now that I really saw her.

"But I--"

"Take it.  It's yours," she insisted and thrust it into my hands.  "Merry Christmas," she said, really meaning it.

I found myself hugging the cream to my chest.  A lump had suddenly sprung into my throat, and I had to swallow hard to get my thanks past it.  She just smiled, and I stood there, overwhelmed, watching her walk back to her car.  Unexpected human kindness is a beautiful thing, and on this day, for me, nearly miraculous.

My kids even felt it.  When I got into the car we all sat there for a minute until Logan said simply, "That was really nice."

"Yes, it really was," I wholeheartedly agreed, blinking back a couple of tears.  "That was a very Christlike thing to do."  I started the ignition and slowly backed up.

"She doesn't even know us," Griffin joined in.

"Nope, and we'll never be able to repay her...I guess the only thing we can do is to help somebody else like she helped us." 

And as we pulled away, I remembered that I really liked Christmas after all.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sometimes, Angels Walk on Asphalt

"I hate Christmas."  It wasn't necessarily true, but the words fell out of my mouth before I could stop them.  Maybe it was the surrounding chaos or maybe it was something akin to understanding in the eyes of the other mother trying to contain a baby that inspired the confession in the middle of aisle 8 at Fry's Grocery Store.

She gave a tired laugh.  "I know.  And I have to go to Costco after this."

"Ugh.  I just came from there.  It's a madhouse."  Our conversation was cut short when my toddler threw a fit again, this time as my nine year old attempted to keep him from overturning a number of canned goods from their shelf.

It was the day before Christmas Eve, and the store reminded me of fighting traffic on the 405 in Southern California.  The same miserable traffic that I do not miss, and yet there I was bumping cart to cart in a very similar version.  If I hadn't needed a large bottle of whipping cream I would have taken one look at the parking lot and forgotten shopping altogether, but I was in charge of dessert for Christmas Eve dinner, and that required whipping cream.  Lots of whipping cream, as only the very best kind of desserts do.  Having only too late realized that Costco doesn't sell whipping cream, there I was with one fraying temperament in store number two with three kids in tow.  It was enough to make me hate Christmas, and as evidenced all around me, I wasn't the only one.

Everyone in the store seemed slightly short tempered as we impatiently maneuvered around one another through the too-tight aisles, our plans too often at odds with one another.  "Excuse me.  Sorry.  Can I just get around you.  I'll just be a second.  Sorry.  Didn't see you there..."  The bare minimum etiquette didn't quite make it to the eyes of most shoppers.  There, one could see the stress, the impatience, and the frustration.  More of which I would have noticed had I not been chasing my 20 month old who refused to sit in the fancy toy car/shopping cart that he had insisted upon only moments before, the monstrosity which I was now left maneuvering in this mess while trying to contain him at the same time.

"Logan!  I need your help!" I begged as the baby darted around the giant soda display.  "You go that way!"  As I rounded the other side, I heard screaming.  Familiar screaming.

"Mom.  He won't come!" my daughter whined.

"Okay, I got him," I responded while rounding the corner and picking him up.  Putting him in the cart and buckling him in I said, "Now you have to sit!"  He didn't like it.  The screaming escalated.  At this point I thought it was possible that the entire city was in this store, and they were all watching me.  It really was a shining moment.

"Okay, guys, stay close!" I commanded the other two.  I had had enough.  It was cream time.  Anything else would have to wait.  Upon nearing the dairy section, I found it so crammed that I had to abandon the cart momentarily.  "Watch the baby, and don't move!" I ordered. 

I weaved my way to the refrigerated door. "What?!  Are you serious?!" I said out loud to no one in particular.  "They are out of cream?!  Are you kidding?!" This could not be happening.

(to be continued...)

It Doesn't Get More Exciting Than This...Not Around Here, Anyway

Well, DiMaggio didn't show.  Apparently there were too many things to attend to in heaven and he couldn't be spared.  Logan walked twice and struck out once, but she went down swinging.  What more could we ask?

Besides, we've got too much other exciting stuff going on to worry about that today.  Lincoln went poop in the potty and Logan is getting braces.  That's what we get excited about around here.  In fact, you've never seen a girl more excited about joining the braceface club, nor a mom more excited about a bodily function.

We're feeling so good, in fact, that we'll give DiMaggio one more chance.  Tonight.  At the ballfield.  6:15 pm.  Championship game.  C'mon, DiMaggio.  Be there.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Calling an Angel

Dear God,

Would it be such a bad thing to ask that Logan get an actual hit this season?  It's not that I'm ungrateful.  I'm thankful for every walk or wild pitch that has hit her in the foot, but just one hit...that's what she really wants.

I know you've got a lot of baseball player/angels up there.  Maybe you could just send one of them to lay a gentle hand on her bat and guide it just the teensiest bit?  What is The Babe or DiMaggio up to these days?  I know there are bigger problems out there, so if they're busy, I'd even settle for a no name baseball player.  Anyone that can hit off an 11 year old girl would be fine.

Anyway, if you can do without one of them for five minutes, we'll be at the ballfield this Friday at 7:30. 

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All I Wanted Was a Family Picture on Mother's Day

It should have been easy.  Just set up the tripod and use the camera's self timer to take a quick picture after church, right?  How hard is that?  Well, between Mr. Wicke's tie, Griffin's silliness and sibling bickering, it frayed my nerves.  Who would have thought our two year old would be the most cooperative?

Here's the final product:

Here's the rest...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Acts of Chivalry

On Wednesday I went to "Moms and Muffins" in my son's first grade class.  It was adorable.  He welcomed me with all the chivalry his 7 year old spirit could muster. 

"Thank you for coming," he said as he led me to his desk and pulled out my chair.  He lovingly placed the paper lei that he had made himself around my neck. Then he showed me his many gifts. The laminated poem with a handwritten note on the back:  I love you, Mom.  Love Griffin, it said.  The hand written and illustrated book he had made described all the things that make me special.  (Did you know that I can do a backflip off the diving board and the thing I do best is diving and swimming with dolphins.  I didn't either.  Not until I read his book.  I am much more amazing than I thought.)  Then he asked me what I would like to drink, "Lemonade or water?" and he asked me what I would like to eat, "Blueberry or chocolate muffin?" and then he waited on me, and when, because he had to wait until his group's number was called and didn't have anything to eat or drink yet, I asked him if he wanted some of mine, he hesitated only a moment before refusing.  "No.  That's for you," he gallantly replied.  Like I said, it was an amazingly chivalrous day, and I loved every minute of it.

I even wore my paper lei all that day.  But, you can't keep everything, which is what I said to myself when I threw the paper lei in the garbage yesterday as I cleaned up the kitchen.  I had lovingly stored away the book and the laminated poem, but the paper lei was just too unwieldy.  Besides, he would never even know...

...until he returned home from school and found it laying in the garbage can.  "Mom?  What was this doing in the garbage?" he accused as he walked into the living room, the paper lei swinging from his index finger.

And then I did what every good mother would do.  I lied.  "What?  That was in the garbage can?  How did that get there?  Maybe the baby put it in there.  Boy!  I sure am glad you found it!"

And he was amazingly chivalrous as he laid it gently in my hands.  "Me, too," he said.  "Me, too."  As for the fact that I blamed a two year old?  Well, I've been thinking about that, and I've decided he can take it.  It's chivalry in training.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Teaching Kids is Often Exhausting, but Never Boring

I love communal worship.  To gather together in His name is an inspired principle for many reasons; one that I've already written about in fact.  But, like on Sunday, it can also be hysterical.  As I was teaching the primary children a song about our prophet Joseph Smith for this year's program, I wanted to make one thing very clear. 

"Do we worship Joseph Smith?" I asked.  It is a common misconception about our religion.

"No!" they chorused.

"That's right."  I continued.  "We absolutely do not worship Joseph Smith.  We simply believe he was a prophet on earth, just like Moses, or Noah, or Abraham.  People who say that, do not really know what we believe.  Who do we worship?"

A little five year old raised her hand pleadingly.  Looking into her big, excited eyes made me smile.  "Yes?" I asked.  Jesus is the first answer to every question in primary.  It doesn't matter what you ask, the kids will always answer Jesus.  Who was Jesus' mother?  Jesus.  Who came and talked to us last week?  Jesus.  So I was totally unprepared for...


...Her parents were so very proud, as you can imagine.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Radio Silence

Can we pretend I've been blogging every week for the last 4 months?  Because the explanation of my radio silence might be slightly depressing.  And who wants to read that?  Or write it for that matter?  Not me so much.

The truth is I think I have had a little more than writer's block.  I think I have had thinker's block, because I haven't been thinking much.  Really.  My mind has been blank.  Like a low hum of static all the time.  For me, that is not a good feeling.  Sort of numb.  Paralyzed.  Blocked.  Stuck.  No one would know it from the outside.  Life moves on, and I keep walking through it, but inside...I'm stuck on low static.

I warned you.  Slightly depressing.  And I wouldn't bother to write it except...I don't think I'm alone.  We all get stuck sometimes.

Mine feels familiar.  I've been in this place before, like five years ago to be exact.  I'll just say it:  Two year olds are hard for me.  (Whew!  I'm glad I got that off my chest.)  I am developing a theory that all moms have at least one stage of development that tries their souls.  For me it is Year Two.  And it has nothing to do with that attitude that they develop.  Even when I am told to "shop ut!" (stop it) thirty times a day.  Even when I get hit or kicked in the face/arm/neck/chest/stomach/leg many times a day.  I can deal with the attitude.  What I have a hard time dealing with is the solitude.

Year Two is a lonely time for me.

First of all, two year olds don't really talk.  They jabber, and I talk.  A lot.  Ad naseum:  "Let's go bye bye.  Get in the car.  Buckle up.   Look!  What is that?  That's a horsey!  What does a horsey say?  Neeeiiiigh...Wow! There's a big truck.  Oh, see the birdies?  Oh, no...we don't do that.  What do you say?  Say thank you.  Thank you, mama.  Let's clean up.  Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere...clean up, clean up, everybody do you share.  Good job!  What a good helper you are!  Thank you..."  All day long.  But a two year doesn't talk.  And then my brain leaks out of my ears.

Second of all, you can't really take a two year old anywhere.  Well, you can, but I don't advise it.  Because they're horrible.  All they want to do is run and touch everything, which means you have to be watching them all. of. the time.  So you can forget doing whatever it was you needed to do.  That, or you can plan on it taking three times longer than the time you actually have.  I've discovered it's easier to go nowhere.  But that means I'm home a lot--alone--with no one talking--with my brain leaking out of my ears.

Lastly, there is the double edged sword called naptime.  I love naptime.  It's during naptime that I try to stuff my brain back in my head, but naptime also means that I'm stuck at home...alone...still.  And despite the time it allows for brain stuffing, the walls kind of close in on me sometimes.

See, some people/moms can deal with isolation better than me, but for me loneliness is heavy.  It does strange things to my mind and heart.  The silence can be so deafening that it sometimes muffles the song of my spirit. In the silence of Year Two I can find myself wondering if my life has much purpose, despite my own belief in the sanctity of motherhood.  I can talk a hot stream of what motherhood means in the long term, but in the short term of wiping noses and bottoms my existence doesn't feel important, and sometimes the heat of my own ambition burns the roots of my faith a bit.  In Year Two, I live in a paradox of what I know versus how I feel.  In Year Two I feel alone and small, unimportant and unnecessary.  But I know that is not true.  I know it even when I don't feel it.

Ultimately, Year Two is a bitter pill that I swallow willingly.  Because Year Two also brings a little boy with it.  A little boy who is fascinated with "gig cucks" (big trucks) and choo-choos.  A little boy who loves hugs and kisses.  A little boy whose laughter is infectious.  A little boy who is learning to pray.  And I love him, even more deeply than in Year One.

And so I take a deep breath and swallow it all, trusting that this season of radio silence will be but a moment.