Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One small table

I organized my study.  Since we are not home schooling this year, I had no need for the small table by the computers.  I moved it out into the kitchen/breakfast nook.  I wasn't sure what I'd do with it there but there was plenty of room.  I envisioned the extra seating when friends come over, or perhaps a place to craft while I worked on dinner. 

I am reminded of the line in the old Kevin Costner film, "If you build it they will come."  Yes, I did build this table - but I'm thinking along different lines.  That table has not seen a break in the three days it's location has changed.  It has hosted many fine craft parties, "school" sessions and homework assignments.  But it's premier use has been as a cafe table.  This morning alone, it has seen breakfast, hot cocoa break, snacks, and lunch.  The table seems to have an ability to inspire the little ones to cook, create, and cook.  The china cabinet creaks from so much use as they appropriate goblets, china, tablecloths, cloth napkins, or artificial flowers for their current meal. 

Yes, I want to take an axe to the table right now.  The salad dressing is about gone due to chefs floating their salad on it.  My lemon and lime juice are seriously depleted because they have tried to copy their mother and have gained a taste for lemon water.  Chores such as cleaning out the kitchen sink are neglected for the weightier matter of continual cleaning and polishing of their table. 

The table has been here all year!  Why the joy?  AAAHHHH!  Oh well.  Far be it from me to begrudge such an imagination stimulating piece of wood.  As long as my lemon juice stays stocked. 




And again.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Time Off

Off track time with Little Mother is almost finished.  We've been swimming at the pool, having lots of play dates, doing several crafts, watching every Austen and period film I own, and just being together.  I don't get a lot of organizational things done during this time, but I love building relationships with my little ones.  Soccer has started and it seems that the "mamma run" is on.  Here, there, and back again.  At least I'll get a few books read via my car CDs. 

Sorry about the previous post Becky.  I was tired and just wrote key words to help me remember.  My primary presidency went to Zermott for the weekend.  We had a lot of Primary stuff to complete but we decided to make a fun time of it.  Charlotte provided the condo and in honor of our Swiss lodging provided Swiss Rockette, which is a unique version of fondue.  Lesa did all our nails.  We went to the craziest yoga class with a real yogi who made me forget my breathing as he told me to massage my slippery, soft inner organs, and made me hiccup with delight as he had me fill in my imaginary skeleton with juicy flesh.  I mainly provided my company and enjoyed everyone's greatness.  It was a wonderful time, though much much shorter than I imagined.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Girls' Weekend

         V's Toffee
                 Steaming Hot Pots        
                        Eerie ice sculptures
                                Charolette's Swiss Rocklette
                                    Lesa's Pedicures and flowered toes
                                           Massage your "juicy slippery organs"
                                                  Our skeletons bleached out on the desert
                                              Sisters fist fight over mothers dying body
                                         70 plus gumball machines put together
                                     Breathable skin masks/ old lady crumbles
                               Walk like Marilyn Monroe
                         Eye caffination
                  Flooded dishwashers
              King beds
   A few tears

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In this Very Room

It was a small church meeting, with only 20 worshipers in attendance.  The wheelchair bound congregation sat on layers of blankets to ease the length of the sit.  The assortment of humanity facing me was not  in the moving and shaking crowd.  Red rimmed eyes, mottled skin lined with ribbons of purple and blue, orthopedic comfort wear, and pressure tights were some of the shared characteristics.  One leprechaun looking fellow kept giving me a jaunty grin as I watched from our makeshift podium.  His few white wisps, though carefully combed, fluttered around his head like resting butterflies.  Like many of the other gentlemen, his pants were belted practically below his armpits.  Wheeled to the microphone, he offered the opening prayer in a crackly unregulated voice, "Please help us learn what we should do and help us serve thee."   "What on earth on are they going to be doing to serve thee this week," I wondered.  When finished, he turned and smiled triumphantly at me to celebrate before being wheeled away.  Partway through the sacrament, a woman came shuffling in with a walker.  "I'm not dressed appropriately," she boomed over and over.  "There's an empty seat.  Over by that gentleman!"  She appraised us of her progress as she found her way to her seat.  She asked the gentleman next to her for a tissue only to be promptly shushed.  

Largely forgotten, a portion of our city's population lives and waits here to die.  No longer of use, we pack them up, keep them clean and quiet and go about our business.  "So this is our happy ending."  I thought.  "This is how most of us end up.  What a sorry state of affairs this is."

A sweet woman, carefully dressed  in her Sunday best, plus orthotics, minus half her teeth, looked up from where her head rested on her chest and smiled gently at me.  I  started as I saw her transformed.  "There you are!" I gasped.

There was a dark haired, dark eyed princess in there, under an enchantment that made her tired, old, and ugly.  As I looked again, I saw them.  They are tired, weary, fighting the last great fight of their epic journey, knowing that at any moment, the king will call their name, whisper ... "Prince" or "Princess".  At this moment, the spell will break and they will take their rightful forms, and go for their reward.  "Oh my Goodness!"  I thought.  "They are the closest in this room to their happy ending.  They can see it, taste it and feel it.  And here they sit, hoping to learn something new, trying to spend their last few days, serving, pleasing, helping the king.  They must go out fighting."

I stood up and went to the microphone.  ...."And lo, I am with you always.  Even unto the end of the world."  Then I began to sing, "In this very room, there's quite enough love for all of us.  And in this very room, there's quite enough joy for all of us."

The heads in the room all bowed.  All eyes were shut.  For a moment, peace covered faces creased with pain and weariness.

"And there's quite enough hope and quite enough power, to chase away any gloom.  For Jesus.... Lord Jesus... Is in this very room." 

As I gathered my things to leave, the next speaker was commenting, "Man, she has some pipes on her."  But I knew what those listening already knew.  I was simply testifying of the truth that was in that small forgotten room today.  And the sight was so wonderful, I sang as though my heart were on fire.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cleaning out the pantry- my style

The pantry was a jumble of spilled food, lost staples, and crunched boxes, organized in kiddie fashion.  I am committed to clean out 1 area per day but cannot bear to waste time I could spend with my Littles cleaning.

To compromise, I brought them into the kitchen for drawing lessons.  I moved a cereal box, admired an ear, wiped off cracker crumbs, then found a black crayon.  As they drew, their appetite for artistic expression grew.  After the first pictures,  we conversed about the art.  "Where is your rabbit sitting?  Is he floating in space?  Oh, he's in a garden?  What is he eating?  How many trees do you think you can see that far off on the mountains?"  Each question probed the artist into further creation.

When  little, Heather and I spent hours in our coloring books.  We discussed the made up history of each picture we colored.  Mom would come to admire; then unable to resist, would shade a little here, or add a little color texture there.  Though tiny, we learned how to shade the outsides of a rounded object, how to focus the light, and how to mix more than one crayon for a textured effect.  I proudly felt the edge in elementary, as I had the premier skills till everyone started Jr. high art.  Heather became an artist.  My skill ended at shading balls. 

"Do you think her tail might be puffy?  I added a ragged puff to Sunshine's bunny rabbit, just for old time's sake.  Luckily, she didn't mind my small incursion and let me participate.  We enjoyed our art so much, only one pantry shelf reached organization nirvana today.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Paddy's Day

Exhausted, I placed my head on my arms on the counter top and tried to monitor the dish doing activities till everyone went to bed. The buzzing of my little ones that surrounded me like bees to a hive, felt like the whirring of so many little wings and an occasional annoying sting.  "Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day!  I love that day!  Do you know what my favorite part is?  I  love when we wake up and find little leprechaun footprints that lead us to a treasure!"

"Um, honey, I don't think the leprechauns come every year."

"They don't?"

How can I explain a cash shortage that has Briz and I on a minuscule cash leash, without room for a lunch out, let alone new gifts from leprechauns?   They prepare for bed, certain that either the leprechauns or I will come through for them.  The kitchen is in shambles, I have a fever, yet through it all, I really love my little ones.  "Go call a friend each for breakfast."  I tell them.  "Little Mother, you are off track, I promised you a party.  Call your friends.  You deserve to celebrate the day, just like those at school."

Briz helps me whip the kitchen in shape.  I scour the basement for treasures, for items to use for decoration.  I pull up the sewing machine and begin to sew some scarves from some leftover fabric I found in the rag bag.  In breaks, I mix the cinnamon buns, and make other preparations... 7:45 will come too soon.  The witching hour strikes before Briz and I hit the pillows.

A.M. Six little girls all in green finery shyly surround the table.  They look suspiciously at the green spinach eggs, devour the green frosted buns, try the "Irish Creme" and the "Irish Smoothie" (spinach and fruit).

They find the leprechaun treasure on the table, divide it up and come to buy scarves, packs of gum, baby barbies, fancy soaps, and candy from my "store".  I take Ladybug to school.  "It's going to be a great day!"  she exclaims.  O.K.  I think.  Maybe it was worth it.

After a 2 hour presidency meeting, Little Mother's guests arrived. 

They formed a leprechaun team and roamed the neighborhood doing good deeds, leaving shamrocks wherever they had been.

At their return, they dined on embellished grilled cheese sandwiches, leftover green buns and hot cocoa with green mint cream.

They found leprechaun treasure, then made woodland pens.

They tried their hands at creating a rainbow.  It was beautiful.

After making a bit of Irish music, we played a few games before it was time to pick up the other girls from school and head to a meeting for Ladybug's field trip.

Dinner tonight was the traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage, Irish Soda Bread and Bright Green Mexican Lime sodas.  Briz and Ladybug fight over who gets to take the leftovers to lunch.  They are all heading to bed now.  Sunshine didn't finish her dishes.  My feet don't want to move.  Do I leave the mess till tomorrow for her or do I clean it up so I start the day off better myself?

Briz takes a turn about the neighborhood with me.  We hold hands.  We wave at neighbors.  We discuss plans that are best without listening ears.  The air is cool on my fevered forehead.  I breathe.  We return.  My day, for all intents and purposes is over.  It is lost to productivity on my part.  I wonder, do I do right to invest so much into people?   Perhaps I should withdraw for awhile and get my house in order.   I stare at the rainbow, standing as a last witness to the efforts of my day.  My answer comes immediately.  People.  Relationships.  That is the only thing that lasts, the only way to measure your life.  Though my child "yard" currently looks like it is only sprouting weeds, the time spent in the spring of their lives will pay off in greater growth later.  So, what does a Paddy's day celebration matter anyway?  Tonight I truly don't know.  I just hope it does.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Adventure Friday

Today was Adventure Friday.  One of our adventures took us to a place where we could connect to dreams of the future.    Another of our adventures took us to a place where we could reconnect and reenact the past.

We took the girls to a junior national speed skating final (FREE).

Though the action only held their attention for a mere half hour, we learned much from the visit.  What causes people to go into skating or anything else for that matter?  What possibilities are available to each of us that we may not even have thought of?  We watched the athletes warm up, the judges wander with their stop watches, the family members shout out their support and the different racers give their all each heat.

Our life view expanded as we experienced something new (to us at least). 

In our small town's museum (also FREE), we remembered values that are important to us, and those we'd rather not hold on to.  The girls  chose groceries, weighed produce, rang up items,  and practiced using polite words.

We warmed at the sense of community our little town once had as we read, "Babies Weighed For Free" on the side of the grocers scales.  I thought it was a joke, but was told that mothers monitored their babies this way, before well child checks and household scales.  I imagined communities bonded by mutual need, helping each other survive in difficult times. 

The little women also organized themselves into a school, complete with readers, handwriting practice, math and visual aids.  I sat outside the room on a sofa, arranging my day plan when I looked through the window and caught Little Mother administering corporal punishment to her dear friend's hands with a switch.

"What are you doing?"  I ask as I rush in.  "This is how the teachers used to teach," they calmly replied and the punishment continued.  Hmmm.  I'll skip that part of education.

Inspired by the activities of the day, the two grownups, Mel and I, dreamed, and discussed.  We decided we were not great at skating or any one thing because neither of us is willing to pay the price, especially at this time.  Great books, fabulous quilts, moving oration could possibly exist in an alternate reality, but not with our current choices.  There is NO WAY I am willing to relegate my true passion to the background.  Startled, I realize that somewhere in the last 11 years, my passion has become the growth of little people.  I love words, food, entertaining, speaking, art, organization, cleanliness, and creation.  But ... I am PASSIONATE about mothering.  It is a jealous art, not willing to share time and space with another passion at this time.   

Last night, my friend Amy presented me with a handmade necklace of symbols that to her represented me.  I loved mine last night, but today, I realize her insight into what makes me tick.  Amy told me the green symbolizes life, the tree is a symbol of growth, growing things, shading others.  All I want to do is give life.and help others live it more fully... ... first to my little people, then to my friends and acquaintances.  

I wear my necklace today, with deeper self knowledge.  Today, I am not plagued with the never-ending question women ask, "who am I really, what am I good at, what am I really for?" Tomorrow, I may need to remember the skaters, and look at my necklace. 

Today, I am not a gem, a crown, a great talent, or any other of the wonderful symbols Amy gave her other friends.  I am a tree to climb, to shade.  I offer life giving oxygen.  I am a tree that reaches deep for strength and high for sunlight and warmth.  I think I like that.  It's not glamorous, but it's true.  Self discovery is always fun.  It's been an adventure Friday for me too.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blessing our Family

"It's time for your act of kindness honey."  She hugs, she feeds the dog.  She wanders in and out of several rooms.  She gets the vacume out  and places it on the stairs.  She turns it on and off.  She carresses the flexible tube.  She puts it in and out.  Meanwhile, Little Mother has finished her morning chore, I have cleaned my room, eaten breakfast, and dressed and groomed.  

As I put the final touches on my makeup, my little one wandered into my room for a chat.  
"Honey, I know you are amazing and strong.  You are old enough and able to bless our family."
"I don't want to.  It's taking so long."
"Hey, look at you.  You're brilliant, you're tough, you're kind.  You aren't made of straw, you are made of bricks!"  
"I'm not made of sticks either."
"No, you're not."

Eyes shut.  Face scrunched up into deep concentration.  Deep breaths in and out filled the little one's lungs as she prepared as seriously as any olympian for her ginormous task.  Satisfied that she was prepared, she marched out of the bathroom, firm in her determination to conquer the stairs.  Two minutes and five stairs later, she strode back in, resumed her seat and assumed the position.  After further meditation, her strength was fortified and she went out to finish her nemesis.  

Yes, it was quite a production for such a small job, but I am proud that she is learning coping mechanisms to help focus her will, her energy, and to force her little self to do an unpleasant task.  Lately, it seems that I could take a lesson.  Several tasks sit on my to do list, such as cancel my cable.  They sit and sit.  I wait and wait.  I need to breath in and out, summon my courage and march out to face the deeds.  Thanks for the great example Sunshine!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Slow is Good. Really good

Have you heard of the slow food movement?  It started in Italy, probably as a reaction to McDonald's type living and has spread across the globe.  It has many devotes among the learned.  They are devoted to all things that take an enormous amount of time.  Artisanal bread, bicycles, beaches, books, knitting, cooking and face to face meetings all are revered in the slow food movement.  Yet it is not "a charter for slackers and born-again beatniks," according to a Harvard professor.  It is selective slowness - choosing what things to do and giving yourself more time to do them.  

I thought of my life, and the culture I live in.  My rush permeates every facet of my life.  The alarm rings.  I race to work out and be back in time to wake the family for school.  I place a load in the laundry as I dictate commands to the troops, sign last minute field trip forms and pronounce the spelling words one last time before the test.  "5, 4, 3, 2,1."  We barely make it in the car at the last possible moment to drop off.  Any traffic delay and we are toast.  Often we squeeze in the family prayer we missed after buckles are checked.  Then we recite any scriptures we know as a sorry excuse for missing our morning study.  I then turn to my education and turn on the CD player today is playing a college course on the Weinmar Republic and Hitler's Germany.  

200 years ago, the average pig took 5 years to reach 130 pounds; today it hits 220 after just 6 months and is slaughtered before it loses its baby teeth.  Due to modern "advances", growth hormones, super pesticides, our food is on the fast track to the table. 

This is all too fast.  

I decided to focus on slowing down.  After all, there is only one kind of time, the moment I am in right now.  Staying in the now is a type of fearless focus.  It takes courage to slow down.  What will I not get done in my frantic world.  So, I am giving myself a challenge, a course on slowness so to speak.  I am taking normal activities that I rush through and giving myself double the time for completion.  I am taking notes to see what happens and how I feel.  

Here are some of the results from my first few days.  

  1. I washed my hair really thouroughly and actually took the time to round brush and blow dry it.  At presidency meeting, Karlene said, "Wow.  Your hair looks amazing.  It falls so nicely."  I thought I was taking my time, but it really only took me 3 additional minutes and I felt better all day.
  2. I did not rush though presidency meeting. It ended earlier than normal because we covered each item thouroughly and I left wanting to hug each of those beautiful women I had taken time to see.
  3. Ladybug had a two day break.  She wanted mom time at Gardener Village.  I wanted to do my normal thing and race through the shops.  She wanted to examine each item before moving on.  I breathed in and out and slowed down.  We stopped by the water and for the first time in ages, I noticed the firework display of diamonds in the pool as the sunshine hit the water droplets.  After watching the ducks for awhile, they grew drowsy enough to give Ladybug the treat of the day in cuddling one.
  4.   On our picnic, instead of eat and run, I brought out sketch pads and pencils for us to record our minute observations of the world around us.  We noticed the delicate curl of the emerging bulbs and the way the sun shone through pieces of glass.
  5. I called my sister who has much time for me, whom I am always in a rush with.  I mentally gave her all the time she needed.  It was lovely, but it did not realize how lovely till a few days later when she called to tell me how much it had meant to her since she has been down. 

    Conclusions thus far:  Speed is usually fear.  Slow is good.  Slow is really really good.  In marriage, in parenting, in listening, in gardening, or on the freeway, slow feels really good.    I have found out for myself.  I am not less productive, I am more.  But I will continue my self imposed course on this lost art, this talent for slowness, for I must relearn this skill.  Try a day of mindful slowness and see for yourself!  

Win Win

"Would you like to go to the Jazz game?  We can get a sitter for Sunshine."

"You don't have enough tickets for all of us?  Just take the kids."

"Well, if you're sure."

I smile.  I'm sure.  The kids get private time with their dad.  Briz participates in a favorite activity.  I get four blissful hours of solitude, peace, and quiet.

"Kids, Let's have a quick bowl of chilli and be off!"


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sick Day

Little Mother had a sick day.  She was sick with a flu, but she was more MOM sick.  As she hung on me and asked to do this or that, I thought, "You are messing my plans for the day, my productivity, my routine."  When she persisted, I realized that the only way to cure mom-sickness is to give the patient as much MOM as their little system needs to heal itself.  

So, we formed a reading club and started reading The Lightning Thief together. 

We learned about fractions as we made doughnut muffins.


We learned how to thread a sewing machine, to iron seams, to use just the right amount of pressure on the 

foot, AND she created a bag she is proud of and uses it to carry around Mad Libs.  


The flu has passed, but more importantly, Little Mother is cured from MOM sickness.  

Doughnut Muffins (for those "sick" days)
12 oz. (24 Tbs.) unsalted butter, warmed to room temperature
1-3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 lb. 11 oz. (6 cups) all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1-2/3 cups milk
1/4 cup buttermilk
For dipping:
8 oz. (16 Tbs.) unsalted butter; more as needed
2 cups sugar
2 Tbs. ground cinnamon

To make the muffins
Put a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. In a stand mixer or a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just mixed in. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Combine the milk and buttermilk. With a wooden spoon, mix a quarter of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Then mix in a third of the milk mixture. Continue mixing in the remaining dry and wet ingredients alternately, ending with the dry. Mix until well combined and smooth, but don't overmix. Grease and flour a standard-size muffin tin. Scoop enough batter into each tin so that the top of the batter is even with the rim of the cup, about 1/2 cup. (A #16 ice-cream scoop gives you the perfect amount.) Bake the muffins until firm to the touch, 30 to 35 min.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Green Eggs and Ham

I will eat them in a house.  I will eat them with a mouse.  I will eat them in the rain and I will eat them on the train.  I will eat them here or there.  I will eat them anywhere.  I do so like green eggs and ham.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Sam I am. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pottery Night

Very few ancient Greek paintings survive yet we have over 100,000 pieces of pottery that tells the story of how they lived, loved, and died.  Ladybug and I discuss this as well as the fact that their idea of beautiful colors were black and red.  Thus, a beautiful woman's face would be black and the water color would be red, yet that was elegant and joyful from their standards.  We don't have a slip to glaze her efforts at Greek pottery.  It's probably just as well, because I find their color mix ghastly.

I explained to her class earlier today that Plato despaired of the new music forms of music that came in later Greek generations.  He hated that the laws of vibration no longer ruled what was beautiful, and that now anything that the human ear found pleasing was considered great music. How horrible it was that now musicians were using chords and harmonics instead of matching the voice with the single note on the instrument!  I laughed as we wondered what Plato would think of our STOMP band made of brooms, folders, tin cans and lots and lots of rhythm.  No doubt, he'd find it horrid. 

It makes me wonder... Is anything real? Or, is most everything opinion?

tourist eyes

With great expectations we pulled into the commuter train parking lot and bought our round trip tickets.  The excitement built as we picked our seats.  The train has hand holds if you stand, and special spots just right for you and a friend.  We had a hard time staying in our seats.  The stops rolled by, new faces climbed aboard and some of us felt a little scared.

What did the man in the eye patch or the woman with the lap top and newspaper think of our giggling excitement and our continual picture snapping?  Who were we anyway to act as though their everyday routine was the stuff of memories?

To appreciate something, look at it as though you've never seen it before and may never see it again.  Today, we decide to do this forour city.  We tour some of the free sights.  We exclaim at the bulbs already forcing their way out in the cold February winter.  We choke up as we encounter a group of missionaries fresh from Russia and the Ukraine sight seeing before going out to selflessly serve.

We gasp as we tread on soft carpets, gaze at enormous chandeliers and examine naked cherubs decorating ceilings.

We stop and listen to an artist at practice on the organ.  Some of us are so impressed, when he comes to the end of his song, we applaud.

 We stop and stop and gaze at a brave Perregrin Falcon as it watches the city from its impossibly high and unique resting spot. 

We dabble in fountains, gaze into pools, and use their concrete edges as balance beams.  
At the museum, the older ones build temples, design stained glass windows, and perform a play of Lehi's dream.  The younger ones feed their nurturing instincts as they dress babies and fill out birth certificates.  Jodi and I watch, encourage, giggle and marvel over how fast this stage of our lives is slipping by.  We mourned the loss of lazy days at the park, play dough, and foam stickers.  We welcomed the new experiences shopping, talking, exploring, and life discovery that our children are moving into.

While supervising my children, I saw a young woman watching me hungrily.  She caught my eye,  I gave a smile.  She made her way over to me.  Why me I wonder.  I make polite conversation.  Jodi asks where she is from.  She shyly answers "Pakistan".  I am stunned.  The Middle East - ancient India, the seat of Muslim and Hindu unrest, one of the most ancient civilizations.  I am so passionate about her people, her history, and her future.  I choke up and tear up as I offer her a hug.  I did not realize there were missionaries in Pakistan.  She haltingly told her story and her difficulties.  I left her my e-mail and phone number.  "Will you remember me after my mission?"  "I will never forget you."  I replied.  "I am here for you and your family.  Whatever you need that I can provide.  I am willing.  I just wish we had hours to talk."

My complaint about touring other countries is that I never really get to SEE a place.  Too hurried, too little time, too little understanding leaves me frustrated and longing for more.  Today though, as we "tour" our own city, I wonder if tourists see more of a place and it's people than its residents who know what it looks like, smells like, feels like, and don't expect to see anything extraordinary.  Today, we had tourist eyes and our city was quite interesting.