Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Turkey Eating

I grew up with Thnksgivings at home with my mom, my brother, often two missionaries, and sometimes a person or two with no other place to go. It was small, but meaningful, and certainly very yummy. My mom made little traditions to make us stop and think about the meanng of the day. Two days after Thanksgiving, we'd feast again with my Dad and my stepmom. This generally included salmon loaf, apple pie, and Grandma's banana-pineapple Jell-o salad. At least one year, Amy made a delicious pumpkin ice cream pie, that I think was a recipe from her mom.

As great as that all may sound, I used to long to be part of a bigger crowd. My dad's family all met together every year in San Diego, and I thought that must be the way to have a holiday. Four, six, seven people--that was not quite in the category of "celebration" to me.

The first time that I experienced one of these San Diego affairs was when I was a sophomore in college. I came down from Utah with a cousin and her family and stayed with my uncle. That was a fun trip, but the fun had more to do with the time I spent with two female cousins and just being away from school. The actual dinner was interesting. These events more closly resemble a ward pot luck than a Thanksgiving dinner. It's in a chapel--boys are shooting hoops in the cultural hall, girls are watching them from the stage and little kids are running amok. Parents and grandparents are in the kitchen warming up and putting the finishing touches on what has been prepared at home. A buffet table set up in the hall leads to giant round tables in what I am guessing is the Relief Society room, decorated in theme. The food is much better than your regular pot luck, I will grant, but for me the dinner is just overwhelming and uncomfortable.

My first Thanksgiving after getting married, we already had one kid and had moved about two miles from my in-laws. That first one was rough. Men watched football, and women did food and clean-up. I had a six-week old baby, and was pretty miserable. Those family events got a little bettter, then a little worse. As more people joined the family by marriage or birth, my mother-in-law felt the need for more organization. There was a time when there were games and crafts for the kids and crafts for the women all scheduled and set up like some mass homemaking meeting/activity day. She's never organized anything for the men--they always have football. This has let up a bit, but there is usually some craft involved still--I hear this year we're doing little glass snowmen. But the only way to avoid going to Larry's family dinner is to decide to go to the San Diego one instead. We've done it a few years, but honestly, now that I have recipes for both Uncle Tim's mashed potatoes and Grandma's orange rolls, I have little need for that kind of Thanksgiving.

My dream is to do the big day up here. Just us, maybe some friends. I could make MY stuffing and MY yams and MY pumpkin pie--maybe even the ice cream pie. The mountain scenery would remind me that I am thankful for where I live, and sitting at a table with my kids would reinforce how grateful I am for my family. My house would smell good, my kitchen would be warm. My slippers would be just down the hall and my sofa would be waiting only for me to finish my turkey. It would indeed be small--six, eight, maybe twelve people. And that would now be my definitave celebration.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Flipping the Coin

Well, it happened again tonight. I think it stuck out to me because it's been a while. The kids and I were leaving Del Taco after a quick dinner on a busy night when a man leaving right behind us said, "Wow, lucky you finally got your boy!" And you know, he said it in such a friendly, laughing way as if he were really happy for me, that I mustered every ounce of restraint I own to not only not be snotty, but to be kind and laughing in my response.

Usually, up here, I am more likely to get the "are those all yours" types of comments. I hate those too. I'm not sure which I hate more, but I think it's the boy comment. I am baffled as to why people think that I must have been "trying" for a boy. Do people really do that in America? I mean honestly, who past the age of 11 really thinks they are going to get one boy and one girl and one dog and have the perfect little family? My dad could tell me exactly who. Among other studies, he has looked into people's perceptions of the probability of getting certain configurations of genders of kids. And people tend to forget that every go is another flip, another 50-50 shot, regardless of previous births. So maybe some people do keep trying for that one they're missing. Me, I try for a kid.

My cousin tries for a kid too. She's successfully gotten five. She may even want more. The five happen to be boys. Imagine the comments SHE gets. She told me once that she and her husband have discussed how if they do get a girl at this point, they must have at least one more child past that, just so people won't make the silly assumptions they do with me. I guess I could have had another, and avoided some headaches. The problem was that when I got my boy, I wasn't trying for a kid at all. I was faithfully trying for NO kid. But let's face it, unless one of you is sterilized, it could happen. It did. And now we are sterilized. No more flips. But do I owe this information to nosy strangers? Clearly not.

Don't get me wrong. I am so glad I have my boy. I feel that God gave me that gift in spite of my selfish attitude. Boys are so different and so fun, and that seems especially so after three very girly girls.

I just wish people would mind their own business. I try to mind mine. I try to an extreme. I even worry that I come off as unfriendly sometimes because of it. Tell me any information you want me to know but I'll be darned if I'm going to ask, because your coin flipping is of no concern to me.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Price of Democracy

I volunteererd at the school Book Fair this morning. This meant that I had to get up eary, shower, make lunches, and get the girls and myself out of the house about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Larry, who generally takes the girls, instead went to vote and take #4 to preschool.

My mom picked up #4 as she does most Tuesdays while I have accupuntcture. When I'm done I go to her store, get the boy, hang out, and then we pick up the girls. Today when I got to my mom's store, #4 was wearing a construction paper Indian headdress bearing his name hyphenated with "fast-runner" and a sticker on his shirt letting all of town know that he had voted.

As it happened, this was the time I had appointed to go vote myself, and upon hearing the change in plan, #4 whined, "But I don't want to go vote, it takes too wong!" Assuming they'd hit bad lines, I reassured him, "Oh, but Daddy doesn't know the fun line games that I know. We're going to play fun line games." Not entirely convinced, that promise at least took care of the whining. My next move was to rack my brain on what fun game we could possibly play waiting in line for the next available machine, all during the three minutes it takes to drive from my mom's store to the polls. Luckily it hit me. "Honey, Daddy voted at about 8:15. Lots of people vote then. It's 1:45 now--I bet there won't even be a line."

Feeling pretty confident that the mystery fun-line-game wouldn't be needed, I still felt great relief to see an open machine on my precinct's side of the room. Checked in, card inserted into the machine, the whining started up again. "This takes too wooong. I don't want to vote."

"Buddy, it's not going to take long at all."

"I want to go hooome."

As I touched each candidate I nervously checked my peripheral vision for signs of annoyed fellow voters and tried to quiet my bored son. Finally, everything voted for, I just now had to check the printout as it rolled under the viewing window to make sure everything had been recorded correctly. "See, buddy almost done. We'll go get the sisters in just a minute."

"Weawwy? Almost done? That was fast."

"See I told you there wouldn't be a line."

"We didn't have a wine, Daddy didn't know how to do the machine. But then he did."

I'll have to ask Larry what happened with his machine, because I'm pretty sure he knows how to touch a circle by his candidate's name on a screen. Good thing we don't live in a precinct with punch card ballot machines. As we all know from the 2000 elections, those are remarkably tricky and I'm just not sure #4 could have waited that long for his parents' voices to be heard. But hey, at least he now has TWO stickers on his shirt.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My Vain Little Secret

It may not be a big deal to some--but to me, November 1st brings a small amount of relief. I mean, #2's birthday is JUST around the corner, not to mention Thanksgiving, #4's birthday and Christmas. But at least Halloween is over.

Do I hate Halloween? Of course not. But every year it's a major stress. And the worst part is that the stress is entirely self-inflicted. I could avoid it all. But I don't. Because I am vain. And because I procrastinate.

When I was little, store bought costumes were very plastic-y and not very cute. Fabric and patterns were also much cheaper than they are now. As a result, every year my seamstress-mother made our costumes and they were fabulous. My brother and I won contests. We still have many of these in our family's possession. So when I grew up I figured a costume was just somehow not valid unless it was hand-made. And for several years, homemade costumes were all my girls had. I would look at kids with store-bought costumes, some of them very nice, some exquisite, and I would think, "yes, but your mother didn't MAKE it."

Along the way now there have been costumes that I purchased for the kids. And each time two things happen. I feel like an inadequate mother, and I find myself trying to apologize or explain why my child would be wearing one.

It is barely short of hellish to sew four costumes. I go crazy. I stay up too late many nights in a row. My back goes out. I get angry at myself (and other family members silly enough to come near me). I heatedly vow that "Next year I am buying them ALL, and I could buy them all at DISNEYLAND for what it costs me to make them!"

Enter vanity. All of that frustration seems to melt away on Halloween night. "Why yes, I did make the costumes." "Why thank you, I was really happy with how they turned out myself." "Yes, my mother taught me to sew." "I does take a long time, but I think it's worth it." I look around at my four beautiful kids with their four beautiful, handmade costumes, and I feel that again, I have arrived. I am mother, hear me sew. And by the next fall, much like childbirth, the pains of pinning and cutting and sewing and gathering and surging have all faded into something not so bad, certainly something worth the outcome. So early September we choose costumes, and buy patterns and fabrics, and are all ready to go.

Enter procrastination. I have a hard time getting anything done without a deadline fast approaching. This should have been easier to avoid this year--I only had one pioneer costume to make, only one costume that I would not feel the need to apologize for. But I factored this in to my timetable and was finishing the pinafore about 30 minutes before leaving for our first Halloween party of the season.

I honestly cannot say which I'd prefer: a sane pre-Halloween October, or bragging rights on the 31st. If I really think about it though, my record must show my preference. Next fall I'll have to go up to the attic, pull out the costume trunk, and make a tally. My money is on vanity.