Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Love Song

On a Monday evening in October 1992, a group of fellow students were gathered in apartment 55, where 6 roommates were sharing residence for the school year. They carved jack-o-lanterns. Mormons may take added meaning from the fact that this was the first meeting of a newly-formed family home evening group in a BYU student ward.

Sharing one pumpkin were a large Samoan young man wearing the shorts and flip-flops that would prove to be his standard attire even in 18 inches of snow, a history major from southern California whose main interest at the moment was in fact not history, but his band, and a blond east-coat sophomore, desperately trying that year not to be insecure.

The musician had not remembered meeting the girl previously as she'd been one of six he'd introduced himself to, but she had him pegged as a very cute slacker. She'd thought he was at an age when he should have been out on a mission. That evening, with squash-y hands, she found out that he'd been gone and back. He wasn't a slacker--just a baby face. He found out she was from Massachusetts, and therefore thought it quite appropriate to tell a Ted Kennedy joke. She was not impressed. Being only 18, she'd not yet learned to temper a certain amount of emotion as a courtesy to new acquaintences. So she glared immediately with what he'd later describe as an "if looks could kill" look. Having once sworn off of ever dating an eastern girl, he let this largely roll off of his back and pursued another roommate.

He continued to spend a lot of time though in apartment 55, often bringing his guitar to sing to and with the girls. They were fun and he was relaxed around them. She was slightly jealous of the roommate he was dating, but continued to become good friends with him. They were both funny, smart, and artistic and, politics left aside, always had a great time together.

Back from Christmas break, and then another month or two of subtly throwing herself at him, he finally asked her out. Days before that first date he wrote a song. It would be his last for almost 15 years. Although she'd vowed she was NOT going to BYU to get her MrS, they married midway through her junior year, and their second daughter was 5 months old when she finally got that diploma.

For several years mutual friends would ask her if he'd written her a song, and it would hurt her heart to reply that he hadn't. But she'd tell them, and herself, that his muse being frustration and disappointment in love and life, he hadn't written anything since they started dating, and if he started now, she'd have to worry that something was wrong.

Last night he brought her into their bedroom to give her an early anniversary gift. When he picked up his guitar, she knew what it was and tried not to cry. Simple chord progressions and a beautiful melody sung by an out of practice voice told the story of their love from that first Kennedy joke to the uncertainty of plans they now find themselves in. An interruption from their 3rd daughter with a pinched finger seemed fitting. Neither had dry eyes by the end.

They are still best friends, still ridiculously in love, and still unsure how either of them were lucky enough to get the other to marry them. Looking back, it would appear that neither were entirely ready for what marriage would mean for them, but that fact hardly seems revelant now. Fourteen years have passed with joy and with sorrow but always with love. The next fourteen are sure to be even better.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Well Groomed

I tend to procrastinate sometimes.

But we are going to be in Idaho for a week during our Christmas break, and I needed to make sure Lucy had somewhere to go. I was assuming that Christmas time would fill up at the pet boarder quite quickly. It's a one-man show up here with the dog groomer who will actually take them to his home if they play nicely with others. Lu made that cut last August when we went to the river.

So I figured I best get in before Thanksgiving to secure our spot or find out I was already too late and have time to rethink my plan.

The cashier in the shop is #3's soccer coach, so we briefly discussed tomorrow's game, and then I told her the purpose for my visit. She peeked in the grooming room, where a dog was being washed, to ask the owner about taking Lucy. He very kindly asked that I call back after Thanksgiving because he is so booked grooming dogs for the Holiday. He added that he was sure that would be fine, and had me leave the info, so he'd remember when I called.

Hm. Too booked. That surprised me. Here's why:

I went in yesterday to my hair dresser to see if I could get in next week to have my highlights touched up. I haven't been in since May or June. I wanted to go next week because the kids are out of school, so I won't have to be racing to get #4 picked up from kindergarten. I thought that I might have trouble, though, with women wanting to get in before Thanksgiving, and so was willing to take a later appointment if she would open up a few minutes early so I'd be done before noon.

"No problem. Plenty of times still open. What day did you want to come in? Wednesday? Great. We'll see you at 10."

So dog groomer; booked. People groomer; nah. Well, call me crazy, but I think that's . . . well, crazy. I love my dog. And I have to say she is a mess right now--full of dust and pine sap. However my vanity takes my eyes to my own head first.

At least I know now not to procrastinate booking a pre-Christmas grooming.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Tonight my kids got themselves scolded by their dad (it's usually me!) for singing a middle school teacher's ring tone at the dinner table for the second night in a row.

It took a few minutes for the implication of their knowledge to dawn on me. I asked, "Do your teachers have their phones on in class?" Apparently they do. Some of them ALWAYS have their phones on, while others seem to have it on only when there is some issue of concern going on in their private lives. The kids offered examples of teachers who answered their phones frequently, and even of a music teacher who would give #2 a piece to practice during her tutorial and then would make calls. This same teacher is reportedly often on the phone as students are filing in for music classes.

I must admit that this surprises me. Most of these offending teachers are my parents' age, so it's not as if they've never been without this modern convenience. It's not like they are fresh out of college telling parents, "The kids were all crazy so I was like, 'Um, should you be doing that?,' and they were like, 'Um, no."" **

I need to acknowledge my bias. Very few people have my cell number. My family, the school (for emergencies) and two good friends (also largely for emergencies since we watch eachother's kids). I've given it to teaching artists for use on Art Fridays at school. If I want to be sure a doctor can reach me, I use that number. I will hand it out to contractors doing work on my house. That's about it. And I rarely get calls. Good thing, really, because after a call I have "The Tikki Room" going through my head all day. Unless Larry calls me, then it's the theme song to "Get Smart."

But I digress. I don't think teachers should have phones on during classroom hours. Period. It's not professional. They have a job that is all about ongoing interpersonal communication. They have precious few hours to teach an increasingly ridiculously large amount of material. To set themselves up for more interruption than is bound to happen naturally in a classroom is just plain silly.

Maybe I'm just a fuddy duddy on this one. Maybe it won't be long before going to school will be nothing more than logging on to "Now class, are we all connected?"

**On an unrelated note, Larry and I heard this actual account given by our son's teacher during Back-to-School Night. She is great, and I adore her, as does my boy. She just makes me feel old when I hear things like that coming out of her mouth!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Birthday Season

It's Birthday Season at my house. I had enough forethought during my child-bearing years to have my kids in the consecutive months of October, November, December and January. It's especially convenient now that this is not only the Holiday Season for the Western World, but also Soccer Season for our family. (I LOVE soccer, it's my favorite thing. I'm sure glad I let all FOUR kids sign up this year--although 6 days a week is just NOT enough. I wish there were more days for MORE soccer!)

The first birthday of the season is a week from today, but her party will be this Friday. 12 girls at my house for a pizza and movie night. We're going to watch "Little Manhattan." (Great movie, I highly recommend it.) Best thing about it is that as I type my kitchen is being demolished! Tonight I'll have to paint behind where the new cabinets will go, once I get back up the hill from soccer, and Larry will need to do a little electrical work. The cabinets will be installed (with plywood counter-tops and a temporary sink) tomorrow and Wednesday, meaning I have Thursday to reload my cabinets. Thursday evening is a PTA meeting and Friday morning I have smARTS until noon.

So, I ask, When do I clean? The Birthday Girl's room is a disaster! (As are the others' for that matter.) Don't forget all of the soccer and a horseback riding lesson. Larry also invited the missionaries to dinner Tuesday--very nice. Plus I have acupuncture on Thursday morning, chiropractic that afternoon, and I am really hoping to get in a yoga class sometime since I missed last week.

Well, I actually have a small reprieve--I was telling all of this to the woman who cleans my bathrooms this morning, and she has a spot on Friday to come help me mop, dust, vacuum, etc. That, I think, will be my saving grace.

Remind me please, in my next life, to have my kids in the summer.

Friday, September 14, 2007

"I'm telling!"

We've just finished up our third week of school. It's been one of those periods where I'm busy and time is flying on the one hand, but on the other I've crammed so much into such a short time, that 3 weeks has felt like 2 months.

My baby boy started kindergarten. With another set of mixed emotions, I am now a free lady from 8:15 until 12:noon. Of course how do I spend most of that time? Either at the school or doing work for school. Two mornings this week I've devoted a couple of hours to cleaning the house, so that's good. (I like to clean with no one here, because then it actually stays clean--until someone else gets home!)

Back to my boy. Twice last week I picked him up from class in tears. "It wasn't a good day, Mom." The first day, I couldn't ever figure out the problem. The second day he told me. A little boy in his class who my heart is currently breaking for has a difficult time not trying to destroy or eat my son's lunch. That second day #4's teacher saw the tears and came to ask what was wrong. The discovery resulted in more trouble for this poor little boy and an admonition to #4 to "tell me if something like this happens again." The teacher reiterated to me that I should convince him to tell her if there is trouble with this kid.

When I was a girl, I never understood when to "tell" and when to not. Sometimes adults were surprised by silence and encouraged openness, and others a kid could get in as much trouble for tattling as for doing the bad thing. There was always an explanation that if it wasn't your business, if you weren't directly involved, keep out. But then sometimes, adults didn't even want to hear if one sibling had hurt another. And others, you could get in trouble for knowing a bad thing a classmate did without informing a teacher. It really seemed to depend on the mood of the grown-up you decided to tell or to not tell.

Of course, now that I am an adult myself . . . I'm still as confused as when I was a kid. My own patience for tattling indeed depends on my mood, and the recent frequency of such behavior, sometimes the severity of the actions being told about, and sometimes even on which kid is telling and which kid is misbehaving. So how do you set a standard for when to tell and when not? When I explain it to my kids, and I usually drift off into thought, trying to make it clear to myself what my expectations are. It's so subjective that I can't make my own rule.

So for now #4 has permission to tattle on his classmate and used that permission today after his banana got smushed in half. #4 was praised for doing the right thing--telling teacher so that she could take care of it. I think I agree with that in this situation. But I can't help but wonder whether we're training my boy to stick up for himself or to be Johnny Stool-Pigeon. Maybe at 5 it doesn't matter. Maybe I have a few more years as a parent to figure it out. Maybe #4 wll grow up and explain it to me. If he does, I'll be sure to tell.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Growing up I was never afraid of cabinetry. I could get any item out from behind any door in the kitchen of our apartment. I have to say I rarely got things out of the cabinets at my dad's N. Silver Lane house. Looking back, those might have scared me. Even in college, I lived in a dorm (no kitchen) and then another apartment. Nothing scary about that. In fact, I don't believe it even crossed my mind that cabinets could be scary until I got married.

We found a cute little place to live in Provo. A free standing unit behind the larger house which had been turned into two units, making us apt "C." We called it The Cottage. It was white, a little dirty, with a purple door under a green heavy-duty plastic awning. There was a living room, with a fireplace hidden behind the huge heater unit, a bedroom and bathroom, an eat-in kitchen and a little laundry room. New teal-green carpet which I wasn't even big on in the early 90's, and cute balloon shades on the windows. All for $400 a month. It was a good deal.

We all know there is a difference between walking through a place and living in it. It didn't take too long for Larry and I to realize we'd moved into a place not originally meant for human habitation. Because of this, our home was also home to many insects and critters who belonged out doors. Practically every time I went to take a shower, there was a huge black spider in the tub. Both Larry and I are afraid of spiders. That was not good planning on our part, but who thinks to ask, "Of which creatures are you too petrified to even kill?" Not us, anyway.

Well, the kitchen was pretty good sized, and had a door to the outside which would have dumped you about 3 yards tops from where you exited the living room. So we put some storage shelves up in front of it to help house all of our newly received appliances. The cabinets right next to that shelf had grass growing up in it. Yes, grass. It was rather sickly looking from lack of light, but it was pretty tall. More than once I pulled a pot out only to find a spider or beetle in the bottom, sending me into a virtual heart attack. So I quickly came to fear getting anything out of those cabinets. It was that way the entire 8 months we lived there.

Next we moved into a nice apartment complex, second floor. Nothing abnormal. But after a year and a half there, we moved to an old duplex, which gained us a garage and a fenced private back yard. Unfortunately that back yard contained an old big grapefruit tree which, while very useful for grapefruit, seemed to house a colony of cockroaches. This tree was feet away from--you guessed it--my kitchen wall lined with CABINETS!!! Talk about gross. We used roach baits, and they worked quite well, but it meant that every morning I'd come out to a kitchen floor and maybe a drawer or two scattered with dead roaches. Better than live ones to be sure, but still yucky.

It's no kind of life, living in fear of your own cabinetry. Never putting items very far back in. Never being able to truly wipe them all the way down. Hardly being able to look inside for a missing pot. It's like you are an intruder in your own home.

Most thankfully, come September I will have lived 9 years without fear of my cabinets. I've had nice, newer kitchens, fully separated from nature by appropriate amounts of insulation and drywall. I can dig around them to my heart's content without a close encounter of the insect or arachnid kind. I am in control of my kitchen.

Well, except for the ants. . .

Friday, July 20, 2007

Forgotten Treasure

Have you ever taken a winter coat out of the closet for the first time in a season, only to find money in the pocket? I once found a twenty left from the previous spring. It's so exciting. Like free money. Or lip gloss. Which I have also found more than once in jacket pockets after months of searching in vain for that great new color whose name I can't remember.

Well, I had a variation on this experiential theme happen this month. We had come home from vacation.

(Moms everywhere don't even need an illustration here of what my life was like. For non-moms: it's laundry and unpacking times six and finding homes for newly purchased knick-knacks. It's getting everyones toothbrushes and shoes to their respective rooms. It's returning phone calls and making postponed appointments. It's trying to get back into some sort of groove, which, we moms know, requires almost another vacation period. But we don't get that second vacation and so uptight, type-A moms like me just stress out.)

Home from vacation about a day and a half, and I was unloading the dishwasher. I saw them. They were tucked in the bowl of my food scale. I had already shut the cabinet door before they registered in my brain.


A little over half of a pound bag. Purchased during my stressful vacation preparation period. I couldn't believe that I hadn't finished off the bag before we left. Or that since I hadn't, I hadn't remembered them. I keep track of my chocolate. But there they were. To be honest, I didn't take too long analyzing my forgotten treasure. I just enjoyed the loot.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Ahoy thar!

It's not every day a girl gets swept off her feet by a pirate.

We're back from holiday up in the Pacific Northwest. While on the Oregon Coast, we visited an aquarium. We saw all of the normal great stuff--jelly fish, sharks, crab, tide-pool critters, sea otters, and some fish, too. On the way out, Larry stopped with #4 at the gift shop to purchase a book about sharks.

We girls were standing outside the shop when a band of pirates came marching up the sidewalk. They looked fantastic, and I grinned a wide grin, knowing that #4 was going to have a hey day with this. It must have been that silly Cheshire smile that caught the attention of the "captain," who commented on my sea-faring shirt. When I realized they were going to be staying in the quad area, I ran in the shop to get my boy.

I returned to find the girls bestowed with pirate gold and the troupe entertaining the crowd with pirate ditties. #4 was duly impressed, and I shot some photos of the captain for his scrapbook. The singing finished, kids began asking important questions such as "Do you kill people?" The captain spied me a second time and asked me to join him in the center of the quad. He had #3 take my bags and handed my camera to #1, who snapped pics at an impressive rate.

He introduced himself as Captain ? (drat my poor name recall!) from Scotland and asked my name. "Mina," he replied, "sounds like minnow to me." (Not the first time this rhyme has been noticed, which fact may give you some insight into the name of my blog.) He asked if I'd ever been on a ship: yes. Cruise?: yes. Know the difference between starboard and port?: Well, it's left and right, but I can never recall which is which. So he gave me a great little way to remember that port is left. Then he asked, "Port or starboard?" And although I generally love random questions like that, this one make me nervous. But I firmly answered "Starboard."

"Starboard it is then," and he picked me up over his right shoulder like a sack of flour and spun me around several times before putting me back on my feet. I am embarrassed to say that I at first screamed like a little girl. I am also sorry to say that Larry missed the whole thing, as did my sister-in-law, who'd been video recording most of our adventures that day. But the kids saw it and got a big kick out of seeing mom twirled about by the captain of a pirate ship.

Larry asked if I'd pointed out the jewels on my left hand to him. There was no need really.

He'd have had only to worry had it been Johnny Depp in that costume!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Suit Shoppin'

I'm not here to complain about what you THINK I'm going to complain about. You won't catch one word about wide hips or big thighs or small boobs. This year for me, it's all about fabric.

I do not love to swim-suit shop. Who does, right? I think once in my life I pretty quickly found a great suit that I looked FAB in and bought it. But then I had to hide it from my mother because it was a bikini.

The rest of my life has been spent in stores or looking at catalogues for hours trying to find just that right suit. I think a few years ago it was a little easier because I just needed something dark. Something to make me look not quite as big as I was.

This year has been a little trickier. I wasn't looking for something dark. I'm sick of dark. I wanted something printed. Something PINK. Nothing says, "I'm happy with my body," like a pink patterned swim suit (even if it's not entirely true).

Land's End is great for modest suits. Low leg openings, high necks, long tankini tops, lots of skirted bottoms. I thought I could certainly find one there.

So I found this great fabric in the Land's End catalogue. Pink, kinda paisley-ish, definitely out there. There were only two suits with this great fabric. One was a tank. Looked great, but I want a skirt now for (oooh, I wasn't going to talk about thighs, was I?). There was also a tankini set. Unfortunately, it had a VERY high neck. And being a person with a short torso, I can't pull those off very well. As it turned out, they were out of stock anyway when I went on-line. I guess lots of gals were attracted to that fabric.

This happened over and over. I'd find the great fabric, but it only came in a halter (those really bug my neck) or they only had a size 16. Or 4.

Larry, whose help I'd recruited for the search, finally convinced me to look at LL Bean. And guess what? I found one. Pink and patterned and camisole straps and skirted and in my size: Victory! I hope it'll look okay on me. It was a lot to spend on a suit, and that's the gamble with mail-order.

Larry got one too. It's a Speedo.

Speedo swim shorts, that is.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Two "Buns" Up: or How I Fell in Love with Harrison Ford

I was so excited that Richard at the Post Office knew my name that I wasn't even upset that he got it wrong. He'd called me out of the line because I was chatting with two friends, and hadn't seen that he was taking pick-up notices. It was a true small town moment for me. Later Christina came out from behind to give Richard a hard time about looking for my package when he'd already gotten it, saying, "See, I told you-- Johnny's coach's wife, with the blond hair." Yes, Larry and I have arrived!

Any way, the whole point of this post is really that I picked up some stamps after I got my package that day. I got one book of the "forever" stamps (which is the most ridiculous thing I've heard of--I mean are YOU going to stock-pile these things for the next rate hike? I guess I have different issues) and one sheet of . . . STAR WARS stamps.

Wow, are they cool. Have you seen them? For the first time ever, I'm not sure if I can bring myself to use them. Richard suggested I hang them on my fridge. I've done that, but they clearly can't stay there forever. I wanted to sit there and tell him all about me and STAR WARS, but it didn't seem like the right moment.

I was about 3 1/2 when I first saw STAR WARS. I loved it. I wanted to be Princess Leia in a big way. (Curse my blond hair!) And I was in love with Captain Solo. I remember coming out of the theatre and telling my dad I wanted Princess Leia to marry Han Solo. "Don't you want her to marry Luke? He's the hero." "No, Han Solo."

Now, I'd love to take credit here for being overly insightful at a precocious age, but I think it was just a tribute to great casting. Luke was never supposed to get the girl. And they got a very non-girl-getting type of guy to play him. And as for Han, I mean, come on, Harrison Ford. Little known at the time, unless you'd seen American Graffiti, but still, heartthrob and suave and funny all in one nice 70's hair package.

So Empire came out when I was 6, and we saw it the night before my brother was born. Somewhere around this time Darth Vader made an appearance at our local mall. After waiting in line to meet him, he patted my head and said, "Nice fur." Empire is, I think, the best of the three movies, and even then I had a sense of its greatness. I would have dreams about scenes in the Millennium Falcon, being myself a silent cast member-observer.

And then came Jedi, which at 10 years old I saw in the theatres an insane number of times like 16. I cried every time Luke cremated Anakin. I became, as a 10-year-old would, enchanted by the Ewoks. My brother and I would make big forts in the living room and play Ewok village with our big stuffed Wicket and Princess Kneesaa.

That trilogy had become very personal to me largely in a day before VHS or Blockbuster Video, let alone Netflix. It was an embarrassing thing for a girl to admit. And I never really did until Film 100 at the Y. The professor there was hugely into STAR WARS as well he should have been. Those films changed the industry. We watched a documentary on the "making of" (which I believe I now own along with my trilogy DVDs) and had a huge class discussion. It was a lecture hall full of hundreds of strangers to whom I could confess how impacted I'd been by these films.

It seems like not such a big deal now, I daily tell folks of my nerdiness. It's not so uncool to be a geek as an adult. Still not tons of women into the sci fi or the middle earth kind of stuff. But Harry Potter has created huge female crossover into fantasy epics of good vs. evil. And Orlando Bloom's Legolas has helped that along as well.

So if you get a letter from me soon, it might be stamped with Tatooine's twin suns or Leia recording, "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope." But don't count on it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cookies, Conversation, and a Little Celebrity

Trying to get back into more regular date nights, Larry took me out for Chinese last Friday night. I love Chinese food. And I have to say, it's not just the food, it's the whole experience. Our little Chinese restaurant up here is no exception, although in a quirky sort of way.

There are several celebrity photographs gracing the wall, taken at the restaurant (I assume) with the owner. The one that stands out, for various reasons, is of Dolly Parton. Over the PA system croons a recording of a female vocalist who sounds a bit like Vikki Carr doing Beatles covers which seems like it would make more sense playing in a bakery in Little Italy. The waitress/maitre'd tends to seat folks just a little too close together for the number of parties in the place. There is an art to spacing. I tend to require as much of a buffer as possible.

Dishes are plastic versions of Asian-inspired china one might find elsewhere. This bothers me, I have to admit. Good plates are a one-time investment, unless you have a careless dish-washer. Perhaps that's their problem. The glasses are also plastic. Water, even with ice, seems warmer if you drink it out of plastic. Larry ordered a 7up and was served a can along with a plastic glass of ice. I noticed the trio seated next to us ordered beers and received glass glasses. They couldn't put a name with Dolly's face, and got a couple of photos of themselves seated around the table.

We ordered a family dinner with sweet and sour shrimp and beef with black mushrooms, then chatted over some great fried won tons, egg rolls and duck sauce served with our soups. We talked about important things, and things with almost no significance at all. We had to chat quietly to compensate for a small buffer space. Our food came a little slowly, but we weren't in any big rush. This restaurant is odd to me in that they seem to skimp a little on the rice. Most Chinese places serve enough rice with your meal for a small army. That said, we still always have left-overs to bring home.

And, of course, who doesn't like fortune cookies? My brother used to recite a funny SNL bit about the people who make up the lucky numbers for the fortunes. "4? What the hell kind of lucky number is 4?" That's all I can ever remember of it. When I was a teenager the cool thing for me and my geeky friends to do was to add "in bed" to the end of our fortunes. It can get pretty darn funny. But being grown up now and married . . . it's even funnier. It may even pan out. But not this time. I got, "You love playing to a crowd."

Larry opened my truck door as we left. I was thankful that chivalry is not entirely dead, and Larry was thankful that I appreciate such a gesture. Maybe the greatness of the night wasn't the restaurant at all. Maybe it was being with my sweetheart with no one needing a drink filled or more ketchup squirted on their plate, or beans picked out or chicken cut up. Yeah, I think that was it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A rose by any other name . . .

My mother just cringed every time my WWII era grandmother talked about the "Japs." She did it frequently, one of her biggest fears being that the Japs still intended to take over America, at least financially. Similarly, I cringed when not long ago my mother used the term "Oriental" to refer to people from the far east. Larry having taught at UCR, which has a rather large Asian population, I am aware that Oriental seemingly refers to rugs, and is degrading to people.

African-Americans have gone through similar evolutions over the years, deciding that prior labels of choice have now taken on negative connotations. I don't point this out to criticize. I fully understand. My people have been through the same transitions and it is often emotional and even dividing within the group. Yes, I am not a housewife, I am not a homemaker, I am a stay-at-home-mom.

The housewives dominated the 50s and 60s, and even the 70s and were immortalized by TV characters from June Cleaver to Laura Petrie to Carol Brady. Somewhere in the late 70s and early 80s women remaining at home and outside of the compensated workforce decided that the term "housewife" was at the very least inaccurate, if not slightly offensive. "I am not married to my house," they cried. Homemakers emerged--women who chose to create a comfortable and loving home for their families and took pride in their role.

In the 80s Roseanne Barr coined the phrase "domestic goddess" in her stand-up routine and made it popular on her TV show. Funny, yes, but much like IHOPs "rooty-tooty-fresh-and fruity platter," I think it was a little embarrassing to verbally identify with. And with no menu to just point out the choice, the term never caught on as a serious label.

It's my generation of mothers who have decided that while we are choosing to stay home, that choice is inspired not by homemaking but child-rearing. Hence the new term: "Stay-at-home-mom." While I know some who shorten this to its acronym "SAHM," I'm personally not big on acronyms. Those who listen to Dr Laura's radio program will often use her verbiage of being "my kids' mom," meaning that one doesn't farm out the job of mothering one's own kids to someone (or some institution) else. I'm sure some working moms take offense to that as it is rather harshly blunt. We all have to make our own choices.

I frequently think to myself, that though I am not unhappy or offended by the S-A-H-M label, it is not true. I seem to be rarely home at all. I am at the school, or in the car, or at a practice or game. I am at the store, or at church, or at a meeting. I am at the doctor, dentist, or orthodontist. I am just not sure how to describe that job of mine accurately and succinctly. There are those in my acquaintance who seem to think that because I am not "gainfully employed" that I must be available to help out whenever. Sometimes I can, but often not. And even when I can, there is generally something for my family that is being put off again.

Why do we find the need to keep re-naming ourselves? Are we too sensitive and self-absorbed? Or was William wrong? If you called a rose a stink-plant would anyone bother to sniff it? If a flower gives off odor in the garden and no one is there to inhale, does it really smell?

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I think we've all encountered little girls who reply, "I know" to a compliment regarding her beauty. The perceived cuteness of this situation is, I believe, negatively correlated to the size of the girl.

Today, while picking up #4 from preschool, I had such an experience with an older, kindergarten age, sister of one of his classmates. I complimented her on her pretty shirt. "It's not a shirt, it's a dress." I could see she was right. It was a short, peasant-style dress which she wore with a pair of jeans. So I remarked what a pretty top the dress made when paired with pants. No big deal--still cute.

Her mother, however, was clearly mortified and began all of the little social corrections that we mothers make in public. We make them in private, too, but with less energy of heart. I will generally in this situation try to reassure a mother that I do not think she is raising her child to be an ungrateful slob by pointing out that I have 4 kids of my own, all of whom have certainly so embarrassed me in the past and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. This time, without any consideration, I let her know that I'd made quite literally the same comment myself in decades past.

I wasn't in kindergarten, however. I was a 6th grader who felt she had a lot to prove to her peers. I was wearing a long, tiered skirt and a sweater with, I believe, nylons and boat shoes. (Not quite as un-hip in 1985 as it sounds in 2007.) A boy named Alex came up to me in class and said, "That's a pretty dress you're wearing." And I replied, "It's not a dress, it's a skirt."

I came home and told my mother about Alex's silly blunder. My mother had a similar reaction to the mother I comforted today. First I was surprised. I hadn't thought of his comment as just a nice gesture. Then I felt horrible and stupid. Alex was a boy I liked. In fact, I like-liked him. He had paid me a compliment and I corrected him. That was clearly not a smart move. Of course, being in elementary school, I cannot now imagine that that move changed any course of events much. But I was beginning to learn then that this sort of thing only helped me to look like a know-it-all. My classmates didn't have the insight to see that I desperately wanted friends and thought "meticulously intelligent" was a good trait to show off to that end.

Twenty-two years later, some things are much the same. I am still insecure not only in making friends but about how those friends view me. I tend now, though, to say too little rather than too much, afraid to get it wrong.

Other things have evolved. I've gone from correcting a compliment to dismissing one, pointing out anything negative that I can find in myself to help disprove their point. I get home and I am mortified. I scold myself: "A simple 'thank-you' would do just fine!" Maybe one of these years I'll get it right.

Monday, April 30, 2007

More Purity Give Me (or SERENITY NOW!)

I love my husband. I do. And I have no feminist sorts of issues with division of labor. Larry keeps our family financially stable and the pine needles out of our gutters. He changes the oil in the car and builds a wood rack. He takes care of the mouse trap and the leaky faucet. I make sure we all have clean socks and can find a salad fork. I shop and I cook. I volunteer and chauffeur. He hires out pool maintenance and I hire out the cleaning of our four bathrooms. Everything gets done and we have a functioning household, generally speaking.

But then comes the Sabbath. As much as it should be a day of rest, that rarely happens before about 2pm. The problem actually begins on Saturday (which, as #3 used to sing, is a special day UNTIL we get ready for Sunday) when I decide I'd rather finish laundry or watch TV with Larry or mop the floor than do the ironing. Getting the ironing done before the Sabbath is a weekly goal. It is weekly left unaccomplished. Weekly I iron one large white shirt and one little kid white shirt on Sunday morning.

Why does that affect my feelings for my husband? Larry's health varies between not great and really awful. Sundays are especially hard on him. For three hours he can't lay down or eat a snack. For one hour he is standing and teaching Gospel Doctrine, or adult Sunday School. Occasionally he also either has a talk in Sacrament Meeting or a Priesthood lesson to teach, so make that two hours of standing. He is also the Branch Mission Leader, which means another hour of meetings every Sunday but the 1st and 5th, although those are not always attended. To save on energy Larry sleeps until about 17 minutes before he needs to walk out of the door, at which point he showers, dresses in a freshly ironed white shirt, grabs a bite of breakfast and leaves. Makes sense.

I, on the other hand, enjoy very good health, excepting this obnoxious nerve problem which I am currently working to get rid of. Sundays are not much worse on me than any busy day. I lead the music in Sacrament Meeting, and occasionally speak. Every third month I spend second hour doing Sharing Time and Music Time in Primary. The other two months, I am a lousy pianist. Third hour I teach Sunbeam class to an almost-4-year-old only child who speaks very little English, but likes me best, so I've taken it on. As Primary President I have only one early morning meeting a month.

Sunday mornings I get myself ready, monitor and try to hurry along the progress of three girls, and finally do their hair. I get a shower going for #4 and help him wash his hair. Thankfully, #2 often helps him dress in HIS freshly ironed white shirt, and he now ties his own shoes. I make sure my Sunday things are together, and that 4 kids also have theirs ready to go. And, oh yes, I iron those shirts.

While I ironing, I fill with uncharitable thoughts which sometimes spill into verbal murmurings. "I am getting 5 people out of the door and HE is only getting one. NO--I am getting 5 1/2 people out the door--he's not even ironing his shirt!" So don't iron it, you may advise. If I didn't, Larry wouldn't, which would be unacceptable to, well, me. Ironically I rarely feel worse about Larry than I do on those Sabbath mornings. Mornings I am supposed to be reconciling with the Lord, trying to make my weekly fresh start at the Sacrament tray. Makes no sense.

Friday, April 13, 2007

At the Movies

A couple of my favorite comedies are "What About Bob?" and "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles." There is something about watching a character get annoyed to near insanity that amuses me highly. I am reminded of watching my dad as a kid, but having some control and perspective as an adult, it's entertaining rather than a little scary. It makes me hope that I am not quite as bad as he, when in reality at this stage in my life I may well be worse.

Nothing is better than witnessing life imitate art.

Yesterday we went to see a movie in a desert town that we are not overly familiar with. Our first impressions were not great--folks seemed to be dressed a little too country club-ish and act a little too entitled for our taste. Nevertheless, we purchased our tickets and had just cued-up in the concession line when a casually well-dressed fellow in his late 60s turned around with an open box, displaying a thin-crusted, slightly over-cooked cheese pizza. With surprising emotion and volume he announced to all in line, "You'd better watch out--they burn the pizzas here very easily!" It seemed like a level of indignation unequal to the small amout of brown cheese. I had to turn into Larry's arm to muffle my laugh as the gentleman turned back to the counter where he spent another 4 to 5 minutes concluding his business. As he walked past us he muttered loudly to his wife, "Well, THAT was torture!" I giggled again, imagining those same words running through the mind of the poor soul who'd waited on him. In another minute we were up.

A young man behind the counter retrieved each package of candy as I ordered it. I got to "M&Ms, " and he told me that there were big bags at the bottom. When I quickly replied that we didn't need a big bag, he brusquely grabbed a small bag of peanut M&Ms. "Um, I just needed the plain ones." (Don't peanut M&Ms require specification?) At that he threw the peanut bag back, where it landed quite out of place, and snatched a plain bag, tossing it in our pile. Trying not to laugh, we paid the bill.

It was truly bizarre. Was he annoyed to be getting 5 separate candies for us? Was he paid on commission and feeling gypped out of a bigger sale? It was not the kid who had helped Mr. Burned-Pizza, so that couldn't have been the problem. Maybe he was unhappy that we didn't order popcorn or soda. All I know is that this was so ridiculous, that not even I could get annoyed.

I, in fact, was so far from annoyed after having been treated to these two vignettes, that I laughed my way into the theatre, much more ready than usual to enjoy the main attraction.

Monday, March 19, 2007


I tend to take on too much. I mean, don't we all? To be honest, this "too much" that I take on is not only in the category of service to organizations outside of my home. There are many optional things that I decide are necessary (see Nov. 1, 06 post). We have too large a house, which can become impossible to keep entirely clean. I also am a procrastinator, which, though I am not convinced is a bad thing, certainly adds some urgency to my tasks at hand. If you are ever privileged to hear one of my kids pray, you will likely hear a request for help in "getting done the things we need." That, I know, comes from my example. I frequently find myself overwhelmed with life.

So in an attempt to alleviate some of the effects of this stress, I make lists. I often start the list with something I have done already that day, like "take a shower." That way when the list is completed, I can cross off an item straight away and feel that I'm on a roll. The more I have to do, the more routine tasks I add in minute detail. "Brush teeth, get dressed, make beds, finish laundry, pick up kids, feed dog, make dinner, check mail." This is a manifestation of my motto: "Nothing motivates me to loose weight like weight loss." In other words, nothing will motivate me to be productive quite like getting things done, even if those things are somewhat invented.

There becomes a point, however, when I am so overwhelmed that I neglect to make a list. I simply set out on my own, trying to get things accomplished. I then would appear to an onlooker to have ADD, bouncing from one thing, one room to another, frantically starting on one thing, remembering something else, and never quite finishing any of it. I am in over my head to absolute distraction. If this goes on for too long I become paralyzed.

I used to think that pulling Pride & Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility off of the shelf and spending a couple of days in Regency England rather than millennial Southern California was horrible of me. Late dinners, husband and kids repeatedly put off. Sometimes even headaches. No list worked on, let alone completed. It was an escape. My little security blanket to pull out when the going got too tough. And the tough are supposed to just get going, right?

Last month, however, my acupuncturist pointed out to me that reading for a day or two or even a week was a pretty benign way to escape. I must have looked puzzled because she started rattling off more destructive vices like drugs and alcohol. I hadn't thought of that. I felt a little better about myself, even a little tougher.

As for today, I am stressed. There is a lot not only to do right now, but to juggle in the upcoming weeks. Time to make myself a good list. Maybe even one of my weekly lists on a piece of lined paper. (Please don't suggest a planner. I've tried several times. They just don't work for me.)

x shower
x empty dishwasher
x post on blog . . .

Monday, February 26, 2007

Royal Regrets

When Larry and I got married, his career goal was to become a rock star. He'd spent the previous summer submitting a demo tape to different producers, some of whom wanted a follow up video. We still own several editions of "The Songwriters' Market." Larry promised me that someday he'd take me to the Grammies. That winter and spring, I went to every gig his band had, the "groupie" with the ever-growing pregnant belly.

I think it was the pregnant belly, not the new wife, that caused Larry to reconsider. The rock star, recording, touring life would not be easy on a family. Gratefully, my man is a man and he wanted to be a good father, husband, and provider more than he longed to perform. The pathway to our current good life has been an interestingly curvy one starting at graduate school with aims for history professor/researcher, ending at business man manufacturing vitamins and dietary supplements.

While Larry may at times have more, I have only one regret. The Grammies. I really wanted to go. I wanted to dress up like Audrey Hepburn does Cinderella. With perfectly coiffed hair, flawless make-up, dripping in sparkly diamonds, I wanted to be there to kiss my husband before he walked up on that stage. The camera would pan to me as he thanked me for my love and encouragement. On his arm for the rest of the night, I'd feel and look just like a princess.

I know this sounds very 7 years old. But I believe that anyone who knew me at 7 will realize how serious this princess dream is for me. Now and then I may sport a tiara at Disneyland, but for the most part, day to day, I function normally, pushing those aspirations deep down. I have become a jeans, tee-shirt, and hiking boots kind of gal. I am satisfied with my jane-of-all-trades, capable abilities, and not-bad-for-a-mother-of-four (if I do say so myself) decent looks. I get butterflies when my husband thanks me for my love and encouragement in a more intimate family setting.

But once a year comes the red carpet, and women, bigger than life, thanking the Academy. It's not just the Grammies, it's the Oscars. I watch those women, and I watch those in the audience supporting their husbands. Though their jewels may be borrowed and their breasts full of silicon; though any other time of the year I couldn't be paid enough to trade lives with a single one--just for that one night I do regret that the closest I get to being a princess is my Aurora snow globe collection.

Ah well. It's over now, and I can return to my happily peasant life for yet another year.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Doing the Deed

These days if you asked me what my least favorite household duty was, I'd answer Grocery Shopping. By that, of course, I do not mean picking up a few things at the market. I mean full-flegded, spend two to three hundred dollars, need help back to the Suburban, Grocery Shopping.

I guess the thing that makes it so awful is that it's not just shopping. It's so much more.

The very first step is figuring out a day and time when I will have time to complete this task, and gear myself up for it emotionally.

I then start off the actual process the night before with cookbooks, note pad, and pen in hand. And I write Menus. I don't do other meals besides dinner, and I don't even include side dishes. Only main courses. Only seven to ten days worth. But it takes seemingly forever. Sometimes if the kids are awake I make them each pick one. If I make Larry do one too, there are 5 down. Problem is that those five are generally some shape of pasta or bread with tomato sauce and cheese on top. So the lucky first kid asked gets his/her choice of spaghetti or whatever. The others get, "We've already got that, think of something else."

Having the Menus written I feel I've climbed Mount Olympus. Then comes the writing of the Grocery List. This is the easiest of the Grocery tasks. I go back through the recipes and make sure any ingredients which are not pantry items are included on the list. Sometimes I try to save time by writing the items as I write the Menu, but then one or both of two things may happen. I invariably forget to do it for one meal, and therefore leave out something odd like capers, or I run out of space, put the item in a weird spot, and miss it at the store.

I guess I may need to explain that. I know my store pretty well. I write my Shopping List in the order I will hit it in the store, more or less. At the very least the item will be within the category of it's correct aisle. If don't have a good feel for how much, let's say, "pasta-sauce-beans-soups-rices" I am getting, and I run out of space, I will put that item elsewhere. While Shopping, if I don't miss the item entirely, I will certainly have to head back several aisles at the store, which really busts my hump, especially if the cart is getting heavy and hard to turn.

Next a 25 minute drive to the store.

Then I dig in to the Shopping. I always hope I am there at a perfect time to mostly miss the early, elderly, slow shoppers, the hurried lunch-time shoppers, and the shelf re-stockers. I decide whether I'd rather make more room in the cooler for milk and oj or make an extra trip to the market once I'm up the hill. I buy five apple juices. I make selections at the fish counter. I run back to get the onion soup mix that I forgot. I try to remember which cereal #1 was complaining that we were out of. My cart is almost overflowing by the time I hit produce. But I heap it on, sometimes fighting back tears, and wanting so badly to be in the Check Out Line.

"You think we'll need another cart?" "Definitely." I hear this exchange every time. People shy away from the lane where I am unloading. Yep. We eat a lot of food, us 6. Once everything is on the belt, and I've told the cashier about the case of Arrowhead under my basket, I can breathe for about 90 seconds. Then we caravan out to the car. "No thanks, I'll load the car myself--I'm a little picky," I tell the bagger with half of my groceries. My pickiness is actually the job of sorting through the bags to find the meat, dairy, and frozen items that need to go into the cooler. I used to request that the bagger keep those separate. All that got me was building anger as I STILL had to look through for the deli turkey and sour cream that was stuck in with the granola bars and chicken broth.

25 minute drive home. Sometimes I have to stop here for gas. Often I am fighting car sickness the last ten minutes of the drive.

Unloading the car is a bear. Our main floor is actually on the second floor of our house. So, lots of stairs. Luckily, the kitchen is right off the entry. But still back and forth, back and forth, up and down the stairs. The LAST thing I now want to do is put Groceries away for 1/2 hour. Some days I don't even have time for that. I just unload the cooler and head to pick up the kids. Some days I can get help from #2, 3, or 4. And there have been day when I'm putting Groceries away after dinner or the next morning after breakfast. Luckily, I think those are rare.

And ten to fourteen days later, I'm looking at my calendar, and my emptying fridge and thinking, "Can I make it with just a little trip to the market? Maybe tomorrow night we can just order pizza."

Monday, February 05, 2007


Not to worry, this is not a gripe session about illegal immigrants. (I could very well do that, but at this point I feel that the language issue is one of lesser importance in that debate.) This is about good ol' American nationals who have been here for generations but have somewhere, I assume, skipped way too many English classes--for generations.

I realize that I live in the land of milk and honey and misused adverbs, but even I was stunned the other day by a customer service phone call I participated in. I'd come home to a message on my machine about furniture that was ready for pick-up. We'd purchased furniture from this store, but there was nothing remaining that had not been picked up or delivered long ago. So already, someone had screwed up. And I was bracing myself for having to tell the situation over several times, as businesses never seem to hire the brightest bulbs for their customer service.

Well, having called the number that was left for me, and being redirected (not through a transfer--I had to REDIAL and pick a different option) I was on the line with a young lady for whom I again explained that I expected no furniture. She then queried, "You got no service call scheduled or nothing?"


She asked if I was still there. Yes, I was there. In a slight state of shock. I strained to answer her, fighting the urge to correct her. Didn't she stand in need of correction? But was it my place? If not mine, whose? Thankfully, the conversation ended relatively quickly after that. It was truly difficult for me to converse with an adult who would unabashedly use such grammar at all, let alone during the business day. As a professional. If I ran across a professional Rocky Balboa impersonator, that would be a different story. That would be fun.

#3 comes home with all sorts of 1st grade "language." And right or wrong, it takes me 10 or more repetitions of "butt" in her giggly little potty voice for me to register that I need to take action. "Ain't got no . . .," only one.

I'm no grammar snob. I'll let my participles dangle. I'll end a thought with a preposition. I use the American "you" in place of the more proper "one." I even find incomplete sentences can add interest and emphasis. My spoken "been" rhymes with "zen," not "seen."

But please, if you're working with the public, at least be able to PRETEND you made it past 1st grade. Or you may hear some potty language comin' from me.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On Age

There are several cassette tapes of me recorded when I was young. This was my graduate student family's answer to most people's home movies. One of them records me, on or near my 5th birthday, being interviewed by my father. I discuss in a very serious voice my concerns about my readiness to take on the new age. I think this was the first year I'd noticed the correlation between age and maturity. I felt unfit to advance--no older than I'd felt as a four-year-old last week. I evaluated my actions and feelings and came up short.

Nearly ever since, however, I have felt older than my age. Sometimes only a year or two, sometimes many years. People generally assume I'm older than I am. Most of my friends are older than me, some a decade older. Now rather than coming up short in my behavior, I come up short in age. I desire a validity of years that continually eludes me.

I thought being in my 20s would provide my needed fix. I was a grown-up, a wife and a mother. But then I was thrilled to turn 30. I no longer had to be embarrassed that I was just in my 20s--practically a kid still. Now I'm pinning for my late 30s or even my 40s to be taken seriously as an established adult with experience and maybe even some wisdom. I can't say I'm excited about straggling grey hairs or the beginnings of crepe-y skin around my eyes and neck, but there is certainly a way in which it is something to be proud of, something to perhaps mention in conversation if the topic arises.

I suppose that for me the grass is always greener a few years older than my current age, odd as that sounds. But maybe that's a better vice than being continually in search of prolonged or returned youth. After all, I will get older. I need no fountain or elixir, only patience and time.