Amberly was so helpful all weekend. She straightened up the loft. She read books while Lilly sat on the potty. She helped plant the garden. She swept the floor after breakfast this morning and even though she accidentally knocked a picture off the wall with the broom handle and broke the frame the floor was nice and clean. After their showers, she helped Lilly get dressed for church. She had them wear their beautiful, ankle-length, matching dresses from Christmas and I styled their hair in matching pig tails. They both looked so darling. I should have taken a picture.
During church, Lilly's teacher in Nursery B stuck her head in Nursery C to tell me that Lilly had a problem. She'd gone potty on the floor. Horrified and surprised, I quickly handed off the child on my lap to head to Nursery B to take care of the "problem". Lilly has been making good progress at potty training this week but I didn't want to risk it so I had planned for her to wear a diaper to church. Surely, she had a diaper on. She sometimes took off her own diaper to try to go to the potty by herself and I wondered if this is what had happened. But no. She hadn't worn a diaper to church. She didn't have on panties either. She hadn't worn anything under her dress. Oh! Seriously, a mother's nightmare. While I frantically hurried to remove the mess from the floor, watched by a circle of disgusted and curious two-year-olds, I realized that Amberly had helped Lilly get dressed and that I hadn't even thought to check what she had on under her dress. Lilly's dress was also a mess, so Utah Dad took her home for a quick bath and a change before rushing back to help in nursery.
I'm pretty sure I owe Lilly's nursery teacher a really big plate of cookies.
Not long after we got married, Utah Dad's parents bought a Nintendo 64. Utah Dad's five year old nephew begged for help playing Mario and before long we were wasting amazing amounts of time attempting to rescue Peach from the evil clutches of Bowser. The addiction was so bad, that we even had Mario dreams. Once Peach was safe, we discovered MarioKart. Utah Dad, his brother and I would too often stay up until two in the morning racing and talking. Oh, waking up in the morning was hard.
Realizing that we had a problem, Utah Dad and I put the video games behind us and decided that especially when we had children we would not cave to the pressure to buy a gaming system for our home. Our resolve strengthened when we met our oldest son. Neal has an extremely obsessive nature. He only has to play a game for a little while before it becomes an addiction. Needless to say, he loves to visit his relatives that have gaming systems (pretty much all of them). He has begged us for years for a Wii and we have resisted.
Until now. This school year, we used a Wii as a (very powerful) reward/bribe to motivate Neal to do well and be good at school. He did and he did and the school year came to an end and we had to make good. We now own a Wii. Our Wii's name is "Privilege". She belongs to Utah Dad and I and time playing the Wii is moderated and can be earned or lost. We didn't buy any additional games yet. Those will also be earned.
We'll see how it goes. This is uncharted and scary territory for us.
Our bishop in our ward in New Hampshire, who I love like a father, requested that the bread used for the sacrament be freshly homemade bread. When we first moved there, I thought this requirement was completely ridiculous--mostly, because I was a leader in the young women program and the young women had been asked to bake the bread and so occasionally it would also be my responsibility to bake the bread and I don't bake bread. My New Hampshire friends would probably also say that part of my problem was that I was from Utah and you know . . . we just didn't do it that way in Utah. They were probably at least partly right.
However, it didn't take very long before I not only appreciated freshly baked bread on Sunday but I loved it. No more squishy, soggy, recently thawed, spent a year in the freezer, grocery store bread. There were some weeks when the homemade bread was so delicious that one small bite wasn't enough and I spent the rest of the meeting wondering if I could get the recipe (or talk the baker into baking me another loaf since I don't bake bread). Fast Sunday could be particularly dangerous. The young women in that ward knew how to bake bread and I learned too when I took my turn.
I know that it doesn't really matter what kind of bread we have during the sacrament. The purpose is to remember our Savior Jesus Christ and renew my covenants and I can and should do that even if the bread is crusty and dry and should probably be fed to the ducks. Even so, the best word to describe the sacrament bread in our former ward was heavenly and that is definitely not a bad thing.
I read Herman Melville's Moby Dickbecause I wanted to read Ahab's Wife. Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund can stand alone, but I'm just like that. Because both books are fairly long and I've been rather busy lately, I've been reading about whaling ships, whales, the ocean, Nantucket, etc. for over a month now. Besides the reading, Thomas and I have looked up video clips online of sperm whales to fill in the visual gaps of Melville's details. Utah Dad and I have been enjoying the Blue Planet videos from BBC in the evenings. We've also watched the movie Moby Dicktwice--once by ourselves and again with the kids. (By the way, Gregory Peck makes a great Captain Ahab.) I'm also very vocal about what I'm reading, which means I've shared all the details with Utah Dad and the kids. It was obvious that we've become a little obsessed when one evening this week, the kids rearranged the lawn furniture into the "Pequod" and were making Thomas pretend to be Captain Ahab. They referred to Utah Dad as Moby Dick. I wish I were rich enough to fly the entire family to Nantucket for our own adventure.
Honestly, my first impression after finishing Moby Dick was disappointment. Melville created eccentric, inimitable and yet completely believable characters and put them in an intriguing situation and then abandons them for hundreds of pages to include every single particular point about the variety of whales, the anatomy of whales, and the science of whaling. I actually enjoyed learning about it but I felt that the tale got lost amidst the minutiae of factual details. However, when Melville does get to the heart of the story it is fascinating, riveting, and emotionally moving and it is clear why Moby Dick is often considered the greatest American novel. The emotional conflicts between characters and themselves are Shakespearean in scope and ultimately Captain Ahab's monomaniac desire for revenge against the beast results in tragedy (I hope I didn't ruin it for you).
Since I've been thinking about and discussing Moby Dick the last few weeks, I actually appreciate the work more and more.
Captain Ahab is one of literature's most enigmatic characters. I found him captivating and he is, shall we say, man enough to inspire another book. Naslund, the author of Ahab's Wife read the few lines in Moby Dick that mention Ahab's wife and son and imagined what kind of woman would marry and be loved by Captain Ahab (his love for her exists even at the height of his insanity).
The resulting novel is fabulous. I enjoyed it more than most books I've read recently. The character of Una is strong, intelligent, and witty. She is unhampered by the time's constraints of women and creates her own adventures. She survives life's tragedies through her own mental strength and desire. She is a perfect match for Captain Ahab.
The novel is well researched and peopled with interesting characters both fictional and real. Una befriends transcendentalist Margaret Fuller and astronomer Maria Mitchell, real Nantucket and Boston women of learning. She is also present when former slave and author Frederick Douglass speaks in Nantucket and excites the abolitionist movement. Naslund accurately and beautifully depicts the early nineteenth century whaling experience, the settings of Nantucket and Kentucky and even the political, religious, and philosophical atmosphere.
Most impressively, Naslund seamlessly weaves the story of Moby Dick into her own much newer work. It fits so well, that one might actually be convinced that Naslund and Melville wrote their manuscripts side by side.
Quite simply, I loved Ahab's Wife. It is exactly what I expect from a novel.
Don't think my obsession with reading about whaling is over. Earlier this week I ordered In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essexby historian Nathaniel Philbrick. I'm looking forward to reading about the real events that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick in the first place.
Two weeks ago, Neal crawled in bed next to me to talk. "Do you remember that story I told you about the kid in my class who was trying to tackle and kick that other kid?" He asked. I remembered the story. "Well," he continued, "that other kid was really me." My heart sank as he continued to tell me that for several months now, this kid in his class has pushed, tripped, tackled, kicked and hit him nearly every day after lunch and after school.
For months, we'd suspected that something unpleasant was happening at school. Neal frequently came home from school upset and he began to display some nervous habits again. His teacher was on maternity leave and there was a substitute (a bit of a bully herself) in the classroom for several weeks. We knew there were occasionally problems with the kids in the carpool but we had talked with the other parents and that situation seemed to be improving. When his teacher returned to school, Neal's attitude about school also improved--most of the time.
Utah Dad and I also recognize that Neal's situation is unique. He's an eight-year-old in a fourth grade class where the majority of the students have already turned ten. Last year in third grade, the age difference didn't seem so great. But this year, the other fourth graders are really growing up. They're not little kids any more. Driving the carpool has definitely opened our eyes to this. The other kids are interested in music, pop-culture, gaming, and other preteen things. Neal is still a kid. He's goofy. He doesn't get their jokes. He bugs them. As parents, we're frustrated and torn because we want him to get along with the other kids and act appropriately in an older class but we don't want him to grow up too fast.
My first reaction after hearing about the bully from Neal was my typical non-confrontational approach. Bullies come in many forms (from the physically abusive to the "mean girl") and we've all had to deal with them from time to time (unfortunately sometimes as adults). My solution has always been to ignore the problem/person. So, Utah Dad, Neal and I discussed ways that Neal could avoid the bully. He could stay in the lunch room longer. He could stand with his friends. Be in a crowd. Neal agreed to try this. But he asked me to talk to the principal. That would involve an encounter and my whole body shuddered. I did send an email (so easy and non-threatening) to his teacher alerting her to the problem with the bully.
The teacher talked to the bully but according to Neal the problems continued and he asked me again to talk to the principal. It was the weekend so I assured him that I would do it the next week. Monday came, I got busy and forgot. Neal came home from school and said that the bullying hadn't stopped and he really didn't like it.
On Tuesday, one of the other carpool mothers needed to switch so I drove over to the school to pick up the kids. I got to the school several minutes early and decided to go in and talk with the principal. He was busy but I left a message for him to call me. I returned to the car to read my book while I waited for the kids. Once the kids got out of school, I noticed that the boys were playing on the grass in front of the school and since they didn't know to look for my car, I decided to get out and walk over to them. As I approached the group of kids, I quickly spotted Neal. The bully had him in a headlock and was punching him. Neal was throwing elbows, trying to get away but it was the look on his face (miserable, angry, trying desperately not to cry) that broke my heart. I called his name and the bully quickly let him go. Neal walked toward me and I asked him if that kid was the same bully. He responded in the affirmative. The bully was now standing nonchalantly against the wall of the school. I sent Neal and the other boys from the carpool to the car and walked over to the bully. My blood was boiling but I was determined to keep my cool. I leaned over to look him right in his cocky little face and told him clearly, firmly and calmly that he was never to touch Neal ever again and that I would be talking with the principal about the problem. He nodded--silent.
I have to admit I was a bit proud of myself. Neal told me, once we were home, that he was pleased.
That evening I sent another email to the teacher telling her that I had actually witnessed the abuse and that I had spoken to the offender. I left another message for the principal the next morning. The teacher had a conference with the bully and his mother and the principal called both the bully and Neal into his office. They discussed the problem and the bully apologized to Neal. Neal says that the bully hasn't touched him since last Tuesday.
There are only two weeks left of the school year. Neal will be attending a different school next year and the bully will remain at the old school. This particular problem appears to be solved.
However, I'm still angry at myself. I'm upset that I didn't ask more questions of Neal when he first started telling me stories about the bully. Shouldn't I have connected that he was telling me these stories for a reason? Why was I so slow to act before I actually saw the offense? Why didn't I alert the school that there was a problem months ago when Neal told me--even though the bullying was supposedly happening to a different kid? Just because it wasn't my kid, why didn't I respond? And why didn't Neal feel comfortable enough to tell me the truth months ago?
Anyway, I'm determined to be more vigilant and to listen to my children more carefully. I need to learn to ask the right questions to get to the truth. I'm also more determined to stand up for my children and hopefully myself.
Did I happen to mention that I hate mean people. And don't mess with my kids.
I posted yesterday about Thomas whacking President Draper with an oar from Primary. My dad talked with Pres. D. and found out that it wasn't actually him that got "whacked". He wasn't in our church building on Sunday.
So, out there somewhere is an unknown victim who may or may not look a lot like President Draper and/or President Uchtdorf. I hope the real victim has as good a sense of humor as President Draper does. Oy!
I just got finished writing a lengthy post about my frustrations regarding the Utah Republican Convention last weekend. I'm not going to publish it though, because as Utah Dad reminds me, it's over for Senator Bennett and we move on the best we can from here.
So, here's all I will say on the subject. (Because we all need a soapbox sometimes and this is mine.)
First, Utah lost. We just lost out on representation by a truly great man. Senator Bob Bennett is a true conservative and he stands up for what he believes (which is frankly, not very different from what I believe). He is not a selfish, power-hungry man. He seeks only to serve. If you've ever met him, you would know this.
Second, we all need to be involved politically. Most polls taken before the convention show that the majority of Utahns supported Bennett and yet the majority of delegates did not. The people and the delegates were also divided in their opinions about even what issues were most important. Clearly this is reflective of the "hijacking" of the Republican party by the far right reactionary extremists that took place at the caucus meetings this year.
We cannot let the far right or the far left activists (they're called that because they're actually active) continue to decide the political atmosphere. One look at the Utah Republican and Democratic Conventions held last week and it would seem that we are a vastly polarized people. The Republicans ousted a very conservative incumbent because he wasn't "right" enough and the Democrats came close to ousting their man (Matheson will face a challenger in a primary) because he wasn't "left" enough. However, I don't believe that the majority of Utahns or Americans are really that divided. I believe that most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the two wide extremes where "compromise" is not an evil idea (by the way, I'm not suggesting that we compromise on key moral values). We must all become active. I don't mean "sign-waving, protesting, overdosing on talk-radio, obnoxious active". I'm talking about "paying attention to the issues, listening to the candidates, attending your caucus meetings, voting active". The delegates we send to the conventions can't and won't represent your values, ideas and opinions unless you attend the caucus meetings and vote for them.
Thomas has a great teacher in Primary. Brother S is an older man (he's really not that old but in our ward where the average age is 4 he is quite a bit older) and he has worked wonders with our four year old. Whatever is happening in that Primary classroom has captured Thomas's attention and has inspired better reverence at home. Our wiggly, noisy kid has become the new example for appropriate behavior during prayer time at home. However, he is definitely not reverent all the time. He's still a crazy, goofy kid and we never really know what to expect.
Yesterday during Primary, Brother S gave each of his young pupils a "paddle". It was really a thin piece of wood about two inches wide and four feet long. On the end he taped a piece of oval shaped paper. This become the perfect and most fun toy a four year old boy could have.
After Relief Society, (the brethren in our ward took over the Primary and nursery yesterday so all the women could attend Relief Society. Thank you.) I made my way through the crowded halls to find my boys. When I finally discovered Neal and Thomas brandishing his "paddle", Neal related the following tale.
Neal (who ate all the Hershey Kisses he was supposed to give me for Mother's Day) found Thomas after Primary and they were waiting for me in the foyer. Thomas was waving his floppy paddle around and President Draper (assuming that Neal recognizes him and it was really him and not someone else) came out of a nearby room. He told Thomas to be careful not to whack anyone with the "paddle". Thomas, brandishing his new weapon, proceeded to whack President Draper (our stake president).
Thomas giggled and added, "Ya, I whacked President Uchtdorf".
I saw Brother S in the parking lot. He waved and cheerfully called out, "have that young man tell you why he is carrying a paddle."
I responded, "next Sunday, have this young man tell you who he whacked with it."
After some lengthy questioning and prodding of Thomas after church we discovered that the Primary lesson had been about Jesus calming the stormy seas.
Note to Primary Teachers: anything that looks even remotely like a weapon will be used as a weapon by a four year old boy.
My niece Anna is brilliant, compassionate and an amazing mother. After graduating with her masters degree from Harvard she promptly gave birth to three darling babies in three years. Her husband is finishing up his second year of medical school.
Anna posted her evolving thoughts regarding motherhood this week on her private blog and I felt they were poignant and wanted to share it. She gave her permission to repost it here. I think you'll enjoy it too.
And if you want to read more thoughts on motherhood, check out my friend Rachel's post *here* and then watch the newest Mormon Messages video "My New Life" featuring Stephanie Nielson (of the NieNie Dialogues).
Today, as I was talking to my psychiatrist (yes, I see a psychiatrist and she's the best), we talked about expectations. Apparently mine are a little too high. I told her the type of mother and homemaker and woman I want to be and she said: "you just described June Cleaver. That person doesn't exist."
I didn't believe her. I said: "it is going to take a lot of sessions of you saying that for me to maybe believe you."
She put it another way: "the myth of this generation is that women can do and have it all. we can run marathons, have 12 hobbies, work, raise our kids, have "me" time, read, cook, etc. That just isn't possible. We choose some of those things at the expense of other things, often our children. Is that the image of womanhood you want to depict for your daughters? That you have to be perfect to be worth it?"
No, I definitely don't want that.
And then I thought about my conversations with Grant about faith. Or my hour spent reading to Audrey. Or singing Follow the Prophet 4000 times this week and talking about each one. Or just drinking smoothies with my kids and laughing at all our smoothie mustaches.
Sister Beck said: "Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power."
My children deserve all the love, attention and teaching I can give them. They really don't want more than that. And, neither do I
While Molly and I were enjoying the perfect weather of Southern California last weekend, Utah Dad was left at home in a blizzard with the other four kids. And while his mother and sisters were skeptical about his abilities to successfully care for the kids for four entire days, he actually did fairly well.
I really wanted him to come with me but I didn't want to take the kids. Utah Dad was uncomfortable leaving them (with whom?) so I left them with him. I had complete confidence in his aptitude for managing chaotic situations.
To make it easier, Utah Dad took Thursday and Friday off work and I arranged for other mothers to drive the carpool. He spent the days building houses of Legos and playing games with Thomas and Lilly. He didn't fight at all with Neal over homework (whether Neal actually did it is doubtful) and Amberly got ready for school in the morning without complaining (probably because he didn't try to comb her hair or critique her clothing choices). On Saturday, they took a road trip to Manti to see the temple (he's been wanting to show the kids the temple where we were married for years) and they stopped for burgers and milk shakes on the way home. He cared for one sick little boy who ate too many burgers, fries and milk shakes and cleaned up all the subsequent messes. Other than the burgers, he cooked dinner every night. They had his specialty, breakfast dinner, one night. He even cooked a tasty experimental dish loaded with vegetables, Thai Beef, that was a hit with the miniature critics. He enlisted the kids to help him clean the house. He did get conveniently sick with a nasty cold on Sunday so that he didn't have to brave church with the kids by himself (he really was sick, is still sick, but we apologize to those who had to cover for him in the nursery very last minute). So, they spent Sunday watching church videos. They also mourned the puppy and made plans for a new one.
The only things he really doesn't do are laundry (there were piles for me to do when I got home) and hair (Lilly had the same ponytail holder caught in her hair that I put in before I left). Utah Dad did so well that I might have to plan another little get away. :)
I snapped these pictures of Utah Dad with the kids last night between scriptures and family prayers (obviously it's a very reverent time).
At the baby shower before Neal was born, my sister and sister-in-law gave me a diaper bag. It was black and maroon and decidedly masculine so that Utah Dad could carry it and change diapers without feeling like a sissy. The diaper bag was large and had multiple zippered compartments. I found a list from Martha Stewart of what was essential in the well-stocked diaper bag and I set about filling every little compartment. I had everything from extra receiving blankets to miniature bottles of Johnson and Johnson shampoo (just in case I needed to bathe the baby in the sink at Wal-mart--what the heck?). The diaper bag was fully stocked and very heavy. Fortunately I could occasionally stow it under the huge, awkward stroller. I lugged that bag around for the first three kids and it was completely worn out. When I cleaned it out to throw it away, it still had the same little unopened bottle of shampoo in it.
When I had Lilly, I decided to buy a pretty diaper bag. Because as it turns out, Utah Dad didn't carry the diaper bag that often anyway. It was a smaller diaper bag and I filled it up with about half the things I thought I needed before.
Because I now had three older children, this diaper bag took a serious beating and was not exactly looking pretty by the time Molly was born.
I don't carry a diaper bag anymore. I stick a diaper and a travel pack of wipes in my purse (which is old and ugly. It is really time for me to buy a new one--I only have one). It's all I need. There is an extra baby outfit in the car and if I need an extra outfit I probably want to head home anyway. Since I nurse, I don't need to worry about bottles and formula (one of the many benefits of nursing)
Last week when Molly and I traveled to California, I wanted to travel as lightly as possible especially now that airlines have all kinds of new regulations and restrictions on baggage. I packed one small suitcase with the clothes we would need for the four days in CA (fortunately I could leave my winter coat in Utah). I checked this suitcase and Molly's infant car seat on the airplane. I carried Molly in the Snugli and one small bag that fit securely under the seat in front of me. In this bag I packed:
I spent the past four days in sunny, beautiful Southern California. Last Thursday morning as the plane was being deiced before take-off I was so grateful to be leaving the snow and cold for a few days of perfectly lovely weather.
Molly and I enjoyed every minute of our visit with Utah Dad's sisters, brother-in-law, parents, nieces and nephews. While Utah Dad is convinced that they like me better than they like him (there might be some truth to this), I was really there to take pictures of my niece Lisa's wedding. We did get pampered. My sister-in-law took us all to get manicures and pedicures. I actually bared my hideous feet. We also escaped to Laguna Beach one afternoon. Molly fell in love with the ocean.
I am so thrilled for Lisa. She found an awesome man who is so deeply in love with her. At the receptions, Scott serenaded Lisa with a special song that he composed. She was a beautiful bride and was so easy and laid back. Not long after Utah Dad and I got married we traveled to California for Lisa's baptism. She was such a spunky, cute girl and I fell in love. I can hardly believe that she is old enough to get married.
I have hundreds of pictures to process and post but I wanted to post one picture of beautiful Lisa tonight.
The pilot on my flight home from California made an announcement, to the cabin prior to take-off, that the water system on the airplane wasn't working. He informed us that there would be hand sanitizer in the restroom and then added,
"We're hoping that you're all Mormons because we can't make coffee."
I love spending my days as a mom to my five brilliant, beautiful and busy kids. Once they're in bed, I love rejuvenating by reading a really great book.
Book Reviews, give-aways, stories about my kids and fun things to do around Utah--just a little of what you'll find on Utah Mom's Life.
"If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will — to your surprise — miss them profoundly."
— "Finding Joy in the Journey," Pres. Thomas S. Monson, October 2008 LDS General Conference