Friday, December 12, 2008

Guess who else is learning to read?

1.  A wintery day     2.  The weekend beginning!     3.  Sleep

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An Exciting Career in Food Service

Mister's kindergarten class walked to Sam's club the other day for a field trip to culminate the end of their food science/nutrition unit. He came home sporting a lovely hair net:

"Look, Mom!" he told me. "This is for when we're doing kung fu in the kitchen while we make food. Then if someone kicks me and knocks me over into the food, my hair won't get in it."

Apparently, food service is more exciting than I ever imagined.

* Fun days at school
* A clean kitchen
* A brief respite from sickness

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"You are going to be SO excited at Christmas, Mom."

Mister tells me at bedtime tonight. "Your gardening gloves are really old, right?" 
"Right," I said. "And pretty dirty. And I think I even lost one of them."
"Well," he said. "I can't tell you what I'm getting you for Christmas, but you are going to be SO excited."  

He's right. I already am!

*  Christmas with kids.
* Thinking of others.
* Bedtime.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Poem of the Month: "Pied Beauty"

Here's the poem of the month. Just in time for Thanksgiving. It's Gerard Manley Hopkins's "Pied Beauty." I love this poem because of the sound, but also because it's sole purpose is to praise an unchanging God for creating all of the variety and beauty in the earth. 
1.  Opportunities    2.  Family    3.  Faith

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;        5
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:        10
                  Praise him.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Power of Writing, 5 Year-Old Style

So Mister and Sweetie were spending some quality time in their room on Saturday for writing on my computer screen. Yes, that's right. 5 and 3 and they wrote on the computer screen. In return, they lost computer privileges and all pencil and pen privileges for 2 weeks and they spent some time in their rooms thinking about it (a.k.a. allowing me to cool off a bit). 

After around 15 min of quality room time, I see that a note had been slid out from under the door of Mister's room, his first note ever to me, written with a little stub of black crayon he'd found in his drawer:

Translation:  Mom please (ples) lt (let) me get at (out) d d d (he couldn't write "dear" he said) mom, to mom

Did you know that most American people have a negative connotation of writing? Deborah Brandt conducted an extensive study about people's experiences with reading and writing (in her fabulous book Literacy in American Lives). She found that most people grew up with reading being a positive thing--mom and dad reading books at bedtime, getting books for presents, etc. But for most, writing was a negative thing--they'd been punished for writing on a wall or in a book, they'd gotten judged and graded by their writing prowess from an early age. A lot of literacy scholars say this is because writing has great power for changing power relations in an individual's life and in society. When you write, you speak out, you have a voice, you can effect change. The powers that be know this and try to control writing (oftentimes through schooling). 

So here's my son, playing this all out for me. I'd punished him (rightly so) for his writing. And now he's trying to use writing to change his situation. So I don't know what a good mom would do in this situation, but I did what any good literacy scholar would do. I let the boy out. Go, Mister! Write up a storm (just don't do it on my computer screen again!!)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"The Happy P Family Moves to the Desert"

In honor of our 4th anniversary here in the lovely desert of the Southwest, please enjoy this little story, told in the manner of one of our beloved kids' books, The Happy Hocky Family Moves to the Country.

We are the P Family.
See the empty townhouse?
The P family is moving from New England to the desert. "How exciting!" say the P Family members. Here is the P family's new house. It is a FUN house. It's has its own colony of mosquitos breeding in the green pool water in the back. It has its own hive of bees living in the front column. It has its own lovely green carpet. What a FUN house.
A New Game: Let's Play Find-My-House!
There are a lot of fun new games to play in the Southwest. This one is called find-my-house. Mommy and Little Boy P have gone for a walk. Now which street and house is there's?
This way? Or was it this way?

New England Words/Southwest Desert Words
The Northeast and the Southwest have the same words, but sometimes those words have different meanings . . .

Northeast Words
Winter Mountain hiking

Mexican food
Old house

Local History--Man with a Gun Home invader

Southwest Words
Fall Winter

Mountain hiking

Mexican food
Old House Local history--Man with a Gun

Home Invader

Counting Game
If the P family moved into their home on Halloween and they just had their 4th Halloween in their home, how long has the P family lived in the desert? You're right. FOUR WHOLE YEARS.

Look, the yard on the FUN home looks a little greener!

Look, the carpet in the FUN home looks a little less green!

Look, the P family leaves the desert in the summer to go camping with their new friends!
The P family is going to be OKAY in the desert!

1. Memories of fun adventures and places in the past, 2. Anticipation for fun adventures in the future, 3. Old friends and new friends

Monday, November 3, 2008

Haaaappy Haaaalloween!

We had a good one. Hope you did too! Here are a few pics of the kids (a.k.a. Bumblebee Transformer and Batgirl), our pumpkin-carving exploits, and our Halloween barbeque/games/spook alley.

1.  The candy (and the melt-downs that accompany too much of it) almost gone!   2.  New/borrowed Thanksgiving books     3.  Piggy-back obstacle courses

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Writer's Block

A close-up of my under-desk garbage can. I think I need a new method of coping. Because that Skinny Cow there on top is probably not working, given its present company.

1.  the endless optimism of kids           2. dinner in the crockpot          3. my winter garden planted

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Strong women do hard things"

smartmama wrote something to that effect on the postcard she sent me a few weeks ago after I had a mini-nervous breakdown about my dissertation. Here's the perfect postcard she sent:

So I have been doing some of those "hard things" the last couple of weeks during my blogging break: 

1.  I ran a half-marathon this morning. It wasn't pretty, but, as I kept telling myself as I ran uphill that last 2 miles, "I won't walk. Strong women do hard things." 

2.  I wrote 120 pages of my dissertation in one week. That's 2 of the 6 chapters. And that feat is courtesy of my mother, who answered my desperate plea to fly down and play Little People, make cookies, and paint pumpkins with my kids, plus scrub my blinds, mop my floors, make dinner, etc. etc. while I wrote for 14 hrs a day. 

My mother is actually my role model for a strong woman. No, she doesn't run marathons and no, she hasn't written a dissertation. But she does do the truly hard things in life. She doesn't yell. I have hardly any memories of her raising her voice.                                        (I left a pause there so you could recover from your disbelief before continuing to read.) She reads her scriptures every day, and (gasp!) I think she actually studies them. You know, that "feasting" thing we're always told we should do. She makes extra Thanksgiving pies to take to the elementary school teacher who, as she discovered during a parent-teacher conference, did not have time to make her own this year. These are really the hard things in life, for me, anyway. The things that require you to be strong when nobody is looking. So, thank you, Mom! For the clean house, the happy kids, the quality writing time, and the example you continue to set for me. 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Goldilocks reversed

I came home from an early morning run this week, tired, rather than re-energized. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and go back to sleep, sweat and all. I think I would have done it if it weren't for the three bears. 

1.  a week of no school (for the kids); 2.  a week of school (for me--my mom is coming!); 3. a neck-and-neck game of candyland for family game night

Monday, October 6, 2008

Striking gold.

Did I forget to mention that we struck gold? It was a few weeks ago when we went to the Southwest Musuem and we spent a good amount of time in the panning-for-gold section. Sweetie came away soaked, but it was worth it, you see, for the sheer amount of gold nuggets she and Mister collected in their little plastic baggies. "Gleamin' booty," as they called it (thanks to the oft-repeated phrase in our Pirate Pete book). 

You'd think that with all of my dissertating lately that I'd have forgotten our gold-panning episode. But that's hard to do when I'm still striking gold every. single. time. I vacuum (which, admittedly, isn't very often these days). Darn that gleamin' booty! 

1.  Mister laughing so hard he "can't tell me anything else."
2.  Fresh, clean sheets.
3.  Open windows.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I'm officially declaring it.

The National Weather Service declared the official end of the Arizona Monsoon Season on September 30. The astronomical charts declared September 22, 2008 the official first day of fall. And tonight I am declaring today, October 5, 2008, the official first day of Summer Diminished. 

Those of you not lucky enough to be residents of our fair Valley of the Sun may not know that there is, sadly, no such thing as fall/autumn in Arizona. After living here for almost 4 years now, I can finally discern differences in the other seasons, but fall? Not a chance. And yet, it's not quite as blistering hot as it once was.  It's definitely not fall, but it's also not quite the I-must-get-out-of-here-before-I-sweat-to-death summer. It's "Summer Diminished." And at 85 for our high today, I think it's time to declare it officially begun. (Although I'm afraid that this does not mean we won't return to the high 90s in a week.) This exciting day does, of course, warrant a photo or two. The first one is taken from one of the windows in my kitchen. See the diminished sun? (If not, don't worry, you just don't have the practiced eye of a deseret dweller to determine the sun's nuances.) The second one is at the very end of sunset, just to highlight the presence of clouds in our eternally blue sky. 

I'm still mourning the loss of fall, but hooray for Summer Diminished!

1.  Cooler days, bright evenings, even cooler nights   2.  General Conference!!   3. Brownies & family game night

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

poem of the month--"The Drum"

I had to squeeze it in since this is the last day of the month. Lucky for you, this poem is short and sweet. It's one I've always liked because, alas, I tend to be more of the sit-nicely-and-don't-make-waves kind of people. Don't get me wrong, there are definite benefits to being a pleaser instead of a drum-beater. But I always secretly wished I had a little more of the latter to me. Also, this poem is in honor of my littlest sister Laura, whose birthday was this month and who has always beat out her own rhythm in a way that, for a long while, drove my poor mother crazy. But now all those drum beats together have made her into the fun, crazy, and smart girl/woman/sister that we all love. Happy belated birthday, Lou!

"The Drum"
by Nikki Giovanni

daddy says the world is
a drum tight and hard
and i told him
i'm gonna beat
out my own rhythm

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dance Party

I highly recommend the after-dinner dance party for the following reasons:
1. Your kids will be amazed at your dancing prowess and will think the running man, the Egyptian, and the sprinkler are the best moves they've ever seen.
2. You can play "jukebox": another tune requires another few dishes cleared or unloaded.
3. They get nice and worn out before bedtime.
4. It's actually a great stress reliever.
5. Dancing with kids . . . it really doesn't get much better.

Thankful three:
1. Dancing kids.
2. Utah peaches.
3. Breakfast for dinner.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Day in the Life of Dissertation-Writing with Children

5:20am--Up to go running because I won't fit it in at any other time.

8am--Mister off to school. Retire to the office with Sweetie to "work" on our respective computers, side by side. Set Sweetie up on and begin to review what I wrote last night when I was working late. Spend 30 min to figure out what in the world I was talking about. Begin to type. 

Loud Diego music fills the room. "Al rescate, mi amigo, to the rescue, my friend. Go Diego . . . " 

Try to ignore it and keep typing.

Sweetie: "Mom, I don't like this game! I can't figure out how to rescue the dinosaur. Can you help?"

No answer.

Shrieks. "Pleeeeeease?!!!!!"

8:30am--Give up trying to block out the Diego music and child frustration. Color and read books with Sweetie instead. Run some errands.

11:10--Mister home. School debriefing, Lunch made, eaten, cleaned up.

1:30pm--Lunch over, Sweetie napping, Mister in a quiet time. Return to computer to see: "With their sweetiemistersweetiemister religious background sweetiesweetie of sisterhood sweetie and the new possibilities [kjasdnfj;kak;lsdjfl;kjl;kj;alsjdf ] afforded by the nature of sweetie sweetie mister sweeitie online writing, both of which I [sdfjiojoijwelrjl; discussed in the previous sweetiesweetie chapter," 

I guess Sweetie wasn't as done with the computer as I thought she was. After 10 min of deleting, I get to work. 

2:00pm: Mister pokes his head in. "Mom, is my quiet time over? Will you come see the Lego ships I built."
Me: "Not over yet, bud. You've still got 30 min. I'll see the ships after the timer goes off. You need to stay in your room now."

2:10pm. Mister again. "Now is it over? Can you get down some markers for me? Can I eat that last cookie? Will you pour me some milk to go with it? Can you come see the Lego ships I built?" 

2:15pm. Markers down--check; Oooed and Awwed at the Legos--check; Milk and cookie--check. Threaten to lock in room should quiet time be breached again--check. Back to work.

2:20pm. Mister, looking so sad and forlorn: "Mom, Benjamin says his best friend at school is Draque and not me. I'm only his third best friend. I want to be his first best friend. Why don't you think I'm his first best friend?" Big eyes. Sad face.

2:40pm. After consolation and discussion about the virtues of best friends verses lots of good friends, back to work. 

2:50pm. Sweetie's awake.

3pm. Two tv shows allow me to actually write a solid page.

4-9pm. Piano, soccer practice, dinner, dishes, showers, bedtime. 

9pm. Eating ice cream and blogging instead of dissertation writing. Ugh. Off to work!

My thankful three:
1. That one page! You gotta start somewhere (and hopefully, you get to END somewhere too)
2.  Rocking my baby, who is no longer a baby, to sleep--a very rare occurrence.
3.  Watching my boy play soccer--a completely joyous face is another rare occurrence. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Par-tay Like It's Your Birthday

Well, yesterday was my birthday. The big 3-3. Since J was out of town, the kids and I had quite the shin-dig on our own. They brought up the Happy Birthday banner and hats, we made a cake and each licked our own spatula of batter (plus the beaters, of course). We played a rousing game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, donkey artwork courtesy of Sweetie, and a nail-biting game of bean bag toss, with Mister coming off the big winner o' starbursts.
Mister, unfortunately, was a little disappointed in the party attendance. "Mom," he said, "Don't you have any lady friends you can invite? Remember my party? I had, like, 6 friends." I tried to tell him that 2 of my 3 best friends were already there. That's all I needed. "Okay, he said, unconvinced. "I just think it would be more fun if you had more friends."

I managed to take a couple of pics, the one above on timer. Sweetie was the designated party photographer (of the cake and the blowing-out-the-candles action), but she mainly managed to capture some fabulous close-ups of body parts that you don't really want close-ups of when you're 33.

In honor of my birthday, I have to quote some from Sandra Cisneros's short story "Eleven" in her book Woman Hollering Creek. I love this story and its narrator, who sums up birthdays and age for me so perfectly:

"What they don't understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you're eleven, you're also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don't. You open your eyes and everything's just like yesterday, only it's today. And you are--underneath the year that makes you eleven.

Like some days you might say something stupid, and that's the part of you that's still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama's lap because you're scared, and that's the part of you that's five. And maybe one day when you're all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you're three, and that's okay. That's what I tell Mama when she's sad and needs to cry. Maybe she's feeling three.

Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree truck or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That's how being eleven years old is.

You don't feel eleven. Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even, sometimes even months before you say Eleven when they ask you. And you don't even feel smart eleven, not until you're almost twelve. That's the way it is."

So, happy birthday to me. Maybe I will feel smart 33 when I'm almost 34. That's the way it is :)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

You Know You're Married to a RABID BYU Football Fan When . . .

1. You say a yearly "thank-you" prayer that the blue afro wig and the brown corduroy pants from his "Super Fan" days did not make the pre-wedding packing cut.

2. Your children automatically lay out their BYU garb the night before a game.
3. He thinks about buying the Dell laptop instead of the HP laptop because you can get the Dell one in "BYU blue."
4. Your screen savers mysteriously all change to pictures of this year's team with the label "The Quest."
5. If there's not a new BYU game tonight, then that's no problem. We can watch one of the ones saved permanently on Tivo from last year--preferably the U of U vs. BYU game. Over and over and over.
6. While watching said U of U vs BYU game live in the local sports bar and grill, he jumps on the table to do a victory celebration at the last-minute, game-winning touchdown pass.
7. While you are on a day hike with the Young Women from your ward and he is in charge of the children (ages 4 and 2), he is shocked to discover he cannot get the day's BYU game on his Dish package. So, he hops on CougarBoard, finds a stranger in Tuscan who does get the game, and drives 3 hrs roundtrip, to crash the tailgating party of a fellow fan, no longer a stranger (who I'm sure did not bargain on the lovely addition of 2 very young fans to his football game).
8. Out of your 9 birthdays you've had since you've been married, he has spent 4 of them away at BYU games. (It's really okay. He just owes me BIG time, right, J?!)
Good thing I kinda like football and good thing I kinda like him, right?! Go Cougs!