Well, I’ve wanted to write a “what we did” and “what we got” Christmas post, because I’ve been reading lots of posts like that and they’re fun. But truth be told, mine will be pretty darn boring next to everyone else’s. We’ve got no family out here so it was just us.

We had our special dinner on Christmas eve. Hubby made a glorious ham (I’m talking ham that ham haters have loved). He glazes it with mustard and brown sugar and slow cooks it and it is sooooo good. We had homemade scalloped potatoes and broccoli with that. Then after dinner we drove around and looked at Christmas lights. We came home and made some gingerbread cookies and then put the kiddos to bed.
Christmas morning found us up at 6:00 a.m. reading Luke 2, then opening presents and then enjoying warm gooey homemade cinnamon rolls.

Ethan received a Hot Wheels Turbo Glo track with Turbo Glo Car, the “Rings” Planet Hero action figure, two Magnetix toys (from a Secret Santa) and some candy and other odds and ends in his stocking. Upon opening his Turbo Glo Track set he squealed with delight and exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting for dis my whole life!!!”

Caleb received the new Mater National Cars game for PS2, the “Black Hole” Planet Hero action figure, a Backyardigans Memory Game (from a Secret Santa) and stocking stuffer odds and ends.

Vanessa received two new rattles and a Playskool pop up fun toy and then a cute pajama set and shirt from a secret Santa.

Hubby received a Kitchen Aid Knife Set courtesy of moi, made available through my first ever pay check for my blogging job

I received a new Spyro game and an Uno Attack game from a Secret Santa.

It was a delicious, peaceful Christmas. We watched all our favorite Christmas movies, read all our favorite Christmas books, listened to all our favorite Christmas music, saw all our favorite Christmas sights and enjoyed family together time for four straight days.

T’was wonderful!
There’s a reason I don’t put presents under the tree until a couple days before Christmas. I have discovered that Ethan takes after his father.

Hubby loves to wonder about what might be inside any nicely wrapped present with his name on it. He wonders whilst he sizes up the package. He wonders whilst he gives the package a little shake. He wonders whilst he presses the wrapping paper against the package, hoping to see wording or other clues through the paper.

Today was the day of wrapping the presents (minus one, which had better arrive on Monday!) so I told everyone to stay out while I went about sloppily carefully creasing and taping. When I was finished I brought the presents out and placed them under the tree, thinking I was prepared for what would ensue.

Caleb squealed out in a high pitched voice, “Presents?!?!? Por me?!?!?”

Ethan perked up at the mention of presents and two wiggly little boys were suddenly perched around the tree eyeing the gifts. I reminded them that the presents were to be opened only on Christmas, and really they are very good about that sort of thing. What I didn’t count on was Ethan's persistence in finding out what these gifts might be. After asking me for the umpteenth time what was inside the wrapping paper and me telling him for the umpteenth time that he would find out on Christmas, he began investigating.

Every little astonishingly perceptive comment uttered from Ethan's mouth usually starts with, “I fink….”

Walking up to me holding the smallest of the presents he said, “I fink dis looks like a game case.”

I turned my head, trying to hide the smile of incredulity that was creeping up on my face. Then I mentally scolded myself for thinking that this 5 year old lover of dvd’s and video games wouldn’t recognize the shape or sound of the disc inside.

I told him to put it back and he would find out what it was on Christmas day. The faintest hint of a smug grin flashed upon his face as he put it back.

Five minutes later he walked up to me and said, (concerning two other presents) “I fink Caleb and I have duh same present. Dey look and feel duh same.”

“No more touching the presents!” I said exasperated, wondering if he’d tell me exactly what he “finked” they were next.

Note to self: Next year wrap EVERY item in identical boxes, overstuffed with packing peanuts.
I think I have a fairly decent pain threshold.

I played roller hockey with my brother and his friends as a teen and proudly displayed the bruises and welts I received.

I played High School Basketball and got knocked about plenty as one of the shortest players on the court.

I birthed a 9 pound 15 ounce baby with a failed epidural and lived to tell the tale.

It’s not so much pain that I fear. It’s the absence of pain. The absence of feeling. Just like the kind you get when the dentist gives you a shot. I am afraid of being numb.

No I don’t care about the shot itself, that never hurts. But once I’ve been injected with the lidocaine, my muscles tense, my heart rate increases and I stay in a very anxious state until it has completely worn off.
Now I’ve gotten better over the years. I don’t write down my plans in case of death before visiting the dentist anymore, though I do still tell my husband to tell the kids how much I love them, just in case.

I try to calm myself mentally beforehand. And though I mostly believe that everything will be ok once I go, my body doesn’t believe me. Let’s just say it’s a darn good thing that dentist wears a mask.

I began with the usual warnings I give all dentists who are working on me for the first time:

* When I’m nervous I have to pee a lot, so you better let me go, no matter where you are in the procedure.

* You may have to give me a possible 7 shots before I’ll get numb enough (happened during wisdom tooth removal)

* The lidocaine may or may not wear off early. Sometimes it lasts way too long and sometimes it gives out after 20 minutes.

* If I bite your hand, remember, it’s nothing personal

So he began.

He shot me with lidocaine and after 5 minutes he tested my gum tissue. Good and numb. Wow, that’s a surprise.

*drill drill*

*Summer jolting*

“Yeah, felt that. Cold and painful”


“Yeah, right there.”

*injecting more lidocaine*

*drill drill*


At this point the dentist tested my gums again. I couldn’t feel anything which he told me indicated that I should be completely numb. But upon further drilling, yes I was indeed in pain. And that was just the beginning. He had two additional cavities to fill.

I told him to just get it done. I didn’t want anymore stupid shots (which were numbing only the very back teeth) and I just wanted the drilling to be over. So he drilled and I winced alot and three hours later it was over.

As he removed the rubber dam from my mouth I flexed my jaw and made a stunning realization. With all that junk in my mouth stretching my face muscles, I hadn’t noticed that the left side of my tongue and the whole bottom part of my face was numb. Why is this stunning you ask?

Because he was working on my top teeth. He gave me shots in the roof of my mouth, yet my bottom lip down to my chin was numb?!? When I told him this he chuckled and told me my nerves must be crossed. I’m sure he didn’t believe me. He said he had one patient once who insisted with every shot to her lower mouth, her upper mouth was getting more and more numb, but he figured it was just her mind playing tricks on her.

Well I am here to say that even if it was my mind playing tricks on me, it was still something I could actually feel. I was numb where I shouldn’t be numb and my one tooth was NOT numb. Even if that was some trick of my warped mind, it was tangible.

I am a dental anomaly.

*P.S. I give you leave to laugh at my expense. I am a rather sorry case aren’t I?
In which Summer discovers she has a parasite

(Mommy, I’m awake from my nap, come get me)

(Who cares about the sopping diaper! Pick me back up!)

(You’re putting me down to spoon feed me and my gurgling tummy?!?!?!?!?)

(You turned your back on me for 2 seconds!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

(You walked into the kitchen to get a washcloth?!?!?!?!?!?)

(You picked me up without having your boob at the ready so I can wash these bananas down?!?!?)
*suck suck suck*

(You put me down AGAIN!?!!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Waa-waaaaaaaaa- *splutter*waa-waa *cough* *gag* *breath* -waa-waaaaaaaaa-waa-waa-waa-waa-waa-waa-waaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!
(I’M DYING!!!!)

So tell me, is this just a girl thing? Cause my boys never did this.
Ethan decided to go shirtless around the house after church today. I didn’t notice for a while until he came and stood by me at the piano. His skin was blotched with purple and the following conversation ensued:

Me: “Your skin is blotched with cold. Go get a shirt on, buddy.”
Ethan: ” But I’m not cold!”
Me: “Yes you are. Your skin says it all.”
Ethan: “I don’t hear it.”
Then pointing to his tummy, “Look, it doesn’t have any mouths!”
Last night, shortly before bed, Caleb was enjoying a bowl of popcorn with his Hi-5 DVD when suddenly we heard:

Hubby: “What is it buddy?”
Caleb: “My teefs! Paw-corn’s stuck!”
Hubby: “Show me where.”
Caleb pointed to the offending popcorn kernel stuck between two of his “teef” and hyperventilated while daddy went to grab a tooth pick to get it out.
Hubby: “Say Aaahhh.”
Caleb: “Aaaaaahhhhhh!”
Hubby: “There, I got it.”
Caleb: (After licking his teeth and smacking his lips a couple of times) “Yeah, you dot it!”
Hubby: “Give me a hug buddy.”
Caleb: “Fanks for sabing me daddy!” (now looking at me) “Daddy sabed me!”
And with a satisfied smile he went merrily on his way, leaving Hubby and I to giggle over the daring rescue that had saved our son.
I am thankful every day for a multitude of things, but on different days different blessings are in the forefront of my mind. Today, I am so thankful for laughter and for the children who make me laugh every single day. I love them more than…well, if you’re a parent you know that my love for them cannot be described. But it is there and feeling love like that brings the greatest joy I’ve ever known.

And because I wouldn’t want Hubby to feel left out I guess I should say I’m thankful for him too. :)
In all seriousness, I can’t imagine a better husband, better marriage, better father, better counterpart. I know not everyone has found someone like that. I am truly thankful I have. Whether you’re thousand of miles from family and alone (like us) or surrounded by numerous loved ones, I hope today is a wonderful Thanksgiving Day for you.
I came home exhausted last night, vowing never to try getting professional pictures taken of the kids again.

It all started at Walmart. They’re inexpensive and I just wanted one nice picture package of my 3 children together. I should have known the first time we tried that it was not to be.

We entered Walmart at around noon. The kids were dressed in church attire, well fed and ready to go. We had been sick all weekend, which is why Ethan was home from school, but I felt the children were well enough and calm enough (due to illness) that now was the time to try. We had been in the waiting area for 20 minutes when Ethan told me he had to go to the bathroom which was right around the corner. So I sent him on his way.

Moments later I heard a small anxious sounding, “Momma!” coming from the bathroom. I saw Ethan peeking out of the door and he slowly emerged. There were mustard like stains down his pants and at the bottom of his white shirt. He was nearly in tears as he told me he got poop on himself. Diarrhea. He was clearly embarrassed and I wanted to thump myself for not thinking to accompany him in case he was still suffering from it. You see, Ethan has been in the habit of squatting on top of the toilet seat to relieve his bowels, since his earliest days of potty training and we’re still working to convince him he won’t fall in if he sits his butt down on the toilet seat. Thus the sprayage of the diarrhea on everything.

I put his jacket on him so at least his shirt was covered and whisked the kids over to the children’s clothing section where I quickly picked up some clearance slacks and a white dress shirt. At the check out I reached into my diaper bag and, behold, no pocket book.

Did I mention that this Walmart, the closest one with a photo studio, is 25 minutes from our home?

I keep blankets in the back of the car in case of emergency so Ethan sat on top of a blanket in soiled pants for the ride home. Once showered and dressed in new clothes he asked to go back out. You see, I had told the kids we could go visit Santa at the mall today (to avoid having to do it later when crowds are big and lines are long) so I told him we would indeed go back out to see Santa. But since we were going to go back out we would try getting pictures again. And try we did.

After another relatively long wait and then a 1 hour photo session, we had pictures of all three children alone, but none showing them all together.

It proved impossible to get all three children to look at the camera at the same time, while smiling, with eyes open and sitting up straight. Caleb kept slouching and leaning into Ethan. Vanessa kept trying to squirm out of Caleb's arms. It was a fruitless endeavor and I still feel that it ought never to be attempted again.

Afterward we did make our visit to Santa even though I really just wanted to go home. The boys sat in his lap and told them what they wanted for Christmas and then I put Vanessa in Santa’s arms as well and asked for a picture. Miracle of miracles, they all three looked at the camera. The boys were smiling, Vanessa was not, but she still looks cute of course. They all looked at the camera and that more than half decent picture took 3 minutes to take.

Why didn’t I just go with Santa in the first place?
I awake to the tinkling of raindrops against my window. I see the trees, their bark a drenched, dark brown. The autumn leaves are more vibrant when wet. Clear drops of water cling to their undersides, until a falling drop shakes it off, replacing it.

I turn away from the window and look at the baby sleeping next to me. Each inhalation is accompanied by snorting sounds and a tiny snot bubble popping out of one nostril. Placing my hand gently on her forehead, I smile to feel that her temperature is now normal. I think of our night together. Her waking often because the snot was too thick to breath through. Me offering my breast each time because I knew it would comfort her and lull her back to sleep. I pull her close to me.

My youngest son now enters the room. “It’s seben o’cwock!” he announces, coming to my side of the bed.

He looks at me and the baby snuggled in the covers and with a visible shiver says, “It’s fweezink!” and begins to climb into bed. I help him in and he snuggles up next to me. Then, looking up with those wide blue eyes he says, “I wub you mom.”

I squeeze him tight and kiss his forehead. There is nothing better than morning snuggles and freely given I love you’s from a child.
Does anyone know how long it takes for permanent marker to come off of skin? Because in the one minute time span I left Vanessa with Ethan to get a diaper the other day, I found him with a Sharpie and the beginnings of what might have been great art, drawn onto her head. It has now been three days and washing and time have not dimmed it’s obvious presence.

In other news, I forgot to mention in my previous post the 4 rolls of Christmas wrapping paper I found yesterday morning, unrolled or crinkled beyond repair lying in my closet and in the boys room. I guess Santa can’t even use the pieces that weren’t destroyed if he’s doesn’t want to blow his cover.

Also Vanessa, who was previously attached to mommy has recently become completely dependent on mommy. And it’s not in the, I’m so sad I’m not in your arms, puppy dog eyes kind of way.

It’s in the, “You did not just put me down!!! I am so ticked!” kind of way.

It’s in the, “I was happy in daddy’s arms until I saw you!!!!” kind of way.

It’s in the, “I’m dragging myself across the floor towards you wailing with fury so pick me up already!!!” kind of way.

Hey, she knows what she wants. Food. That’s me. Come here Food!

There are the bad times, the really bad times and the downright ugly times. But eventually I can laugh about them all. Some things are much more funny in hindsight. And some things are funny in the moment and for no reason at all. Like Caleb who is right this moment pounding on the toy guitar causing Vanessa to giggle uncontrollably, causing Caleb to giggle uncontrollably. And mom is now giggling over their adorable little giggles. I love moments like these.
It was 6:30 a.m. The boys were wide awake as usual, slamming doors, playing their SpongeBob CD at top volume, all without thought of the sleeping baby that jerked in her sleep at each loud noise. I lay in bed in the state between awake enough to know I should do something about it and too tired to try. So I waited until little coos told me that the baby had woken up. She greeted me with sleepy eyes and a huge smile. I picked her up, and I very hesitantly opened my bedroom door.

The hallway floor was completely covered by blankets. On top of the blankets lay legos and Vanessa's entire package of diapers, strewn about. I could feel my temperature rising. Then I walked by the bathroom and stared in disbelief. The floor and counter top was covered in towels. I took a few steps backward and stared into an empty shelf in the hallway closet. A shelf where every towel I own had been neatly folded the night previous.

I stepped forward, went back into the bathroom and opened the cupboard beneath the sink to find sanitary napkins and scrunchies soaked. Everything else was covered in droplets of water.

Wow, it rained beneath my sink this morning. I could not believe what I was seeing. I could not believe that after I had told the kids time and time again not to play in the sink that they did this. Even more so, that they felt they could do it because I was half asleep.

I was so mad, for a minute. And then I took the baby out into the living room and just sighed. Sometimes, you get so tired of repeat offenses, you feel like yelling or inflicting punishment just won’t do any good. So I sat and read some blogs till I felt sufficiently calm. I reiterated to the boys that we do not play in the sink and that they were to pick up their mess right away. Which they did, under my supervision. I was proud that I did not lash out in anger.

Now how in the heck do I get them not to do something they know they shouldn’t do in the first place? *sigh*
Once a year, our church has a sacrament meeting program put on by the children in our church. Today was that day.

Hubby, Vanessa and I sat in our pew while Ethan and Caleb sat up front with their Sunday school classmates and teachers. The children took turns reciting memorized lines about various aspects of the gospel: family, church, Jesus, etc. And interspersed were sweet little voices singing songs that had been learned in Primary (children’s sunday school) over the last month.

I loved watching Ethan and Caleb hop off of their seats as the music director stood up, waiting for the cue to start singing. Ethan’s voice carried over to us for the first few songs. Caleb just stood staring at the audience with slightly glazed eyes nearly the whole time, obviously day dreaming about something. Toward the end of the program, Ethan had decided that 30 minutes was way too long to be on the stand singing songs and was fidgeting accordingly.

Caleb on the other hand had decided that now would be the perfect time to imitate the music director’s hand motions and make silly faces. So I watched, trying to stifle my laughter over my boys silly antics. And then I saw Caleb's Index finger pop up and head for his nostril. Yes, there must always be at least one nose picking child in every public performance, and this time it was my child. Unashamedly picking his nose and then *cringe* inserting the finger into his mouth. *splutter* *cough* *gag*

I was so proud.
Twas the day after Halloween and all through the place
Goofy grins were plastered on every kids face.

The sweet smell of candy pervaded the air
Wrappers lay strewn through the house everywhere.

The kids flew from room to room bouncing and twirling
While mom in her jammies, thought about hurling.

She held her poor head, tried to block out the light
She should not have snuck so much candy last night.

But the Runts and the Nerds and the Smarties so yummy!
Stop after just one? Not so said her tummy.

She ate then she slept and when first light, it came
She found herself hearing her kids yell her name.

“Momma I’m hungry for candy,” one said
While the other did cartwheels atop of her bed.

She looked at the clock and then let out a moan
“It’s 5 in the morning! Please, leave me alone!”

But the sugar that still buzzed through each kiddos brain
Gave them energy they found they just could not contain.

The day began too early, the mamma too tired
The house all a clutter and kids super wired.

Mamma’s grumpy and sleepy and feeling quite green
Maybe she will be smarter the next Halloween.

© Summer Owens 2007
So I got some great suggestions about Potty Training recently . I combined a few of the ideas and implemented a plan of action immediately.

I took Caleb's diaper away and put him in some of big brother’s underwear. Then I watched him like a hawk. He still ended up peeing on himself and was rather upset about the wetness dripping down his legs. So I told him if he didn’t want to feel that he was going to have to pee on the potty. He whined for his diaper but I stood firm. He told me later he had to pee, so I followed him into the bathroom where he leaned all his weight on his chicken legs against the toilet and pushed his gut out as far as possible. I waited with baited breath. Then, came the tiny stream and the little tinkling sound! You can bet I made a party out of it. Between my laughing with joy, and shouting “yes” and asking for about 7 high fives I think he realized he had just done a very wonderful thing indeed. I told him we were going right out to buy him big boy underwear. So we did. He was excited to pick out a shiny package of Cars underwear and when we came home he got to put a pair on. It’s been fairly smooth sailing ever since.

He refused to poop on the potty at first. The first time he had to go, he ran out of his bedroom, underwear around his legs shouting, “Poops!” while holding his bottom. I grabbed him beneath his armpits holding him well away from me as I rushed him to the toilet. After that, he pooped in his underwear a couple times and that’s when I decided maybe bribery would work. So I told him we would get him a Planet Hero toy if he pooped on the potty three times in one week. It worked, he got his toy and I have a near potty trained boy. He’s still wearing pull-ups at night but he wears underwear all day and I’ve even dared to take him out of the house in it. Now I just have to get him to stop mooning everyone at his first urge to go. He pulls those pants down before I notice half the time.

Hey, if you made it this far you probably have kids, and if not then you must be an extremely bored soul. Until you have kids you don’t know just how exciting talking about pee and poop can be.
Have you ever avoided posting personal content on your blog because you thought you might sound like something of a downer?

That would be me this week. I can’t pin down any exact causes, it just seems to be everything and I’ve avoided posting anything about it, because I didn’t want to scare anyone off with a doom and gloom attitude. But Kailani asked a question for her Aloha Friday meme today that really got me thinking. She asked, Why do you blog? I put down something about a means of communication with the outside world or some such. But as I gave it more thought I realized I started blogging mainly just to say what I wanted to say. To feel there was place outside of my own home where I could truly be me. And to find clarity on different things I was thinking about. You see, writing allows me to really understand myself. As I write down my ideas and feelings, I understand them more. Sometimes I don’t know what’s bothering me until I start writing and then it comes out.

Ah, so that’s why I feel like hiding from everyone. How stupid!

And then I feel better because I know what’s going on and I can fix it or change my attitude.
But lately I haven’t even been honest in my blogging or willing to use it the way I originally intended. I’ve found I’ve been hiding from myself, and just now as I’m writing this I figured out what’s going on.
If you’ve read my blog for long you know that I struggle with, oh, let’s see, depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. The OCD is the main offender and the depression and anxiety usually stem from that. OCD takes many different, ugly forms, and I won’t go into details on how mine works, but when it’s at it’s worst I really would rather lay down and die than try to live with it anymore. Yes, I said live with it.
For so long, it was so natural to try to fight it, and yet fighting seemed to make it worse. I didn’t even know just what I was fighting until I was diagnosed and then I was told that I couldn’t fight it. That it was like some invincible dragon thriving off of every attempt to kill it. The more I fought, the more I fed it. I had to learn to accept it and then put it aside as a false threat. But the threat feels so real. When it’s at it’s worst I feel like I am desperately clinging to hope, to my beliefs, to my faith that I am a child of God and a good, sound human being. Feelings, even when we know they are false, are so difficult to ignore. But I have to do it during panic attacks and when the OCD rears it’s ugly head or I find my mind spinning out of control with terror and despair.

Then of course there is my unwillingness to accept the problem in the first place. Not only do I have to agree with the devil while in the way with him, I have to admit that I’m dealing with the awful disease in the first place. I want to think that every time I get a break from it, it’s gone for good. I don’t want to accept that it is slowly making it’s way back into my head, and when I don’t, it usually culminates into a melt down. Me ignoring what’s going on until it’s so bad it all falls on me at once and I’m left sobbing and praying for relief.

I know that without this God forsaken illness I might not be able to feel the kind of empathy I do for others, I might not be as accepting or understanding of the strange things people do, I might not have such a wild and crazy imagination. I know that without this illness I wouldn’t be who I am today, and as much as I hate this illness, I sort of like, me. So no, I would never change the fact that I’ve dealt with this since I was twelve. But if I could just up and get rid of it at this point, I would. Until it retreats into the shadows for an unknown amount of time again, I’m glad I wrote this and figured out that it’s bothering me again and I’ve just been pushing it aside. Now to willingly accept it and live happily along side it. Easier said than done.
Hubby made us some nice juicy hamburgers for dinner last night. After the table was set and the food placed thereon we gathered around to bless the food. Caleb realized in excitement it was time for prayer and raised his hand shouting, “I say it! I say it!”

“Okay son, say the prayer,” said Hubby, “and don’t forget to bless the food.”


This is what followed:

“Dear Hebby Fodder, *mumble mumble mumble*…and tanka for a Daddy’s Krabby Patty, an a Mommy’s Krabby Patty, *more mumbling* AMEN!!”

Of course by that time Hubby and I were trying very hard not to snicker about the mention of Krabby Patty’s but when he said amen we started laughing.Ethan , seeing the grown ups laughing and wanting to be in on the joke began fake laughing himself and in as adult a voice as possible stated, “That’s the funniest thing I never heard!”

Cue more laughter from mom and dad.
Kids say the cutest things.
I had a birthday recently and I slept in till 8:30 a.m.! Yeah, that’s sleeping in around here. Sad, isn’t it? And when I awoke the smell of fried potatoes was drifting into my room. The boys both came in about then and yelled Happy Birthday and proceeded to ask me questions like, “When is your party?” “Are you making a cake?” and “Can you buy me a present for your birthday?”

Yes, it is true that the more birthdays I have, the less I feel like they are really about me. I’d just as soon buy the kids presents for my birthday because doing things like that makes me happy. And they’d like that too. Besides that, they don’t accept my answer to “What do you want for your birthday mom?”

I told Ethan I wanted no fighting and to be obeyed without whining for my birthday and he said, “Mo-om! That’s not a real present.”

Wanna make a bet little buddy? That’s as good as gold to me. But then I remembered my mom saying she wanted the same types of things for her birthday and me rolling my eyes over it.

Anyhow, after the scrumptious breakfast Hubby made me, I was given the most heavenly back massage ever. Followed by the house becoming miraculously tidy without my lifting a finger. And then, oh then… without me saying a word or giving a sideways glance, Hubby, amazing husband that he is, did TWO loads of laundry. Well, he didn’t fold the laundry, but he put the loads into and took them out of the washer and dryer without prompting of any sort on my part. *pause for breath*

Yes, it was truly wonderful.

Later that day, shortly before we left I heard Hubby whipping up something in the kitchen and though I was curious as of to what it might be, I didn’t peek at the recipe he was looking at. He finished whatever it was, the babysitter showed up and then he whisked me off to the big city. We walked around downtown while searching for a restaurant I had hinted I would like to try. We ended up walking past it probably 4 times because it was halfway underground and the sign was right at eye level unlike all the other signs which we were looking up at. In the end we found it after calling a friend for directions, and we sat and enjoyed some authentic Indian cuisine.

Upon coming home I was treated to an amazing English Sticky Toffee Pudding. It’s not quite the texture of bread pudding and not quite the texture of cake. But it was delicious and the Toffee sauce was to die for.
So all in all, a positively delightful birthday from my family!
Vanessa is now 5 1/2 months old. I can’t believe it.

I savored every second of her newborn age. I remember deeply inhaling her intoxicating newborn scent every time I held her close. I loved the feel of her floppy body, perfectly molded against my chest as she slept. I giggled at each grunt and squeak and toot she made as she awoke every morning, soaking her mattress in slobber as she desperately tried to latch onto her mattress.

And now all of that is gone.

Well, she still toots every morning while stretching. But the newborn smell is gone, she can push away from my chest when she doesn’t want to snuggle and she now wakes up quietly cooing to herself, amazed at each new day.

But though the newborn stage is gone, a new one has brought different joys.

I laugh whenever I see her pants on the floor, kicked off at some point while she was rolling around on the the carpet.

I beam with every attempt she makes to communicate with me. She stares intently into my eyes, slobbering as she babbles.

Her morning smile starts my day off happy every time, and I love that my attempts to tickle her are successful. There’s nothing like baby giggles.

I know soon enough she’ll be on to new things, and I’ll miss what she’s up to now.  Just the other morning as she greeted me for the day I picked her up and said, “You are heavier today!”  Though I said it with a smile, my heart felt a twinge of sadness and I found myself willing time to slow. I believe that concerning my children, I’ll be wondering for the rest of my life, “How did they grow up so fast?”
When my 5 year old son comes to me with a question, I usually give him one of three answers: “NO!”, “Go ask your father” or “I don’t know”.

He’ll usually accept either of the first two answers well enough, but the third is an answer he doesn’t like at all. It does not satisfy his plea. It says to him, you’ll have to wait a little longer to find out. And the boy does not do well with waiting, for anything. Especially when he knows I must already know what decisive answer I am going to give him. He thinks I’m just withholding it for my own tormentive pleasure.

These conversations usually end like so:

“I don’t know” I say for the fourth time, exasperated
“Yes you do,” Ethan insists, then pausing, "You know everything!” he finishes with a wink and a grin.

I can’t tell you how many times he’s used that last line and I’ve thought to myself, “If the kid really sees me as being so omniscient, why in the heck doesn’t he obey me more than 10% of the time? Or accept all of the decisive answers I give him?”

Like the time I didn’t know my own friends name.

Me: “Sweetheart, her name is just Melanie.”
Ethan: No mom, it’s Watermelanie

Seriously folks. He insisted her name was Watermelanie. He loved watermelon. A lot. Anything with the sound “melon” in it had to be prefaced by “water”, so great was his love for the fruit.

And then of course he won’t watch football with his daddy but he will watch flootball. And don’t try to tell him there is no L in there. You’re wrong. Dead wrong, okay?

Oh, and piggie back rides? There’s no such thing. They’re Monkey rides and they always have been. How that got started I really don’t know (though the term monkey ride is far more accurate), but we think it’s funny.

So, though I don’t know everything, I do know this. My little boy is one smart cookie.
If he realizes that maybe I really don’t know the answer to his question yet, a little flattery (you know everything) might be effective in helping me decide. Too bad for him it only works on his little brother.
A Birth Story – Excerpts from a journal entry about the birth of Ethan

“Yesterday became one of the most momentous days of my life. I was awakened at 10:30 a.m. by a cramping sensation. I figured if I relieved myself it would go away. It did, but 10 minutes later it returned. I began timing the return of these sensations and realized I was in the early stage of labor.

…At around 1 pm my contractions started coming no longer than 5 minutes apart. I had a doctors appointment scheduled at 2p.m. so I called them and asked if they still wanted me to come in or just go to the hospital. They told me to get to the hospital.

When we got there they found me to be 3cm dialated. They had me walk the halls a bit to see if I would progress…
….The contractions were becoming much more intense. The pain was all in my hips, lower back and thighs. I felt that maybe I would get through labor naturally because though the contractions hurt, there were breaks between them. However, they continued to worsen and I began losing my composure. I had the shakes, my face was pale and I didn’t have the patience to listen to my husband trying to direct my breathing. I decided on getting an epidural…
   …The epidural only numbed me on one side though, so I could still feel the contractions in my right hip…

Shortly after the epidural was given they found I had dialated to an 8. From there the contractions got even stronger. At 10p.m. the nurse checked me and sure enough I was dialated to a 10. So at 10:30 p.m. I began the fatiguing job of pushing. Though I could feel contractions on just one side, they became powerfully painful again. Luckily though, I was told to push through each contractions which made for good distraction….

….With just the first few pushes I brought the babies head down into view. The nurse said I was a great pusher. However for the next 2 hours there seemed to be no progress. At around 12:20 the Dr. said I would push for 25 more minutes and if nothing progressed, forceps would have to be used…
…around 12:45 when no progress had been made, forceps were inserted. And at 12:50 a.m. on January 25, our first child and son came into the world. The doctor spent the next 45 minutes sewing me up. I tore in about 4 different spots around the v*ginal wall and also tore end to end. It’s called a 4th degree tear, and I can say that recovery from that takes much longer than labor. I also broke my tailbone. Ethan's head was 37 cm around.”

I spent the next 6 months sitting on one butt cheek wherever I went, and my scar tissue stung for 9 months afterward. Percoset was my best friend in the first month of recovery. I wouldn’t wish a 4th degree tear on even my worst enemy.

Funny enough, my two additional children have both been over 10 pounds but I didn’t receive near the tearing with them that I did with my first and smallest.Ethan  was 8 pounds 8 ounces at birth. Caleb was 10 pounds even and Vanessa was 10 pounds 2 ounces.
Earlier this morning

Ethan: Mom, Pinkie is floating at the top of the fish tank.

Me: (in a comforting tone) Oh…well, Pinkie died sweetie. His spirit went up to Heaven. But he was a really old fish and I’m sure he’s happier now okay?

Ethan: Oh. Hey, can I help flush him down the toilet?!?
….the delivery man comes to the door and the 4 year old yells, “Yeah! Pizza time!” and proceeds to scarf down one whole piece of pizza, when previously, he has never touched the stuff.

….he responds when you call him Michaelangelo, even better than he does to his own name.

….the jump rope, his sandals, the play station controller, his belt and the detachable cd player cord have all been used at different times as Nunchucks.

….his ninja turtle figures must accompany him on all outings, along with a longish thin object for fighting bad guys. This includes but is not limited too, a toy light saber, a crayon, a butter knife, a paper towel tube, etc.

….he announces to every stranger he meets, “I a enjin tortol!”
I tucked the boys into bed tonight, after a story and several hugs and kisses. As always, I check on them several times before I retire, to give them additional kisses, make sure their limbs aren’t hanging off their beds and to adjust the covers. Not a peep had been made since tucking them in so I entered their room thinking I would find them sound asleep.

Ethan lay sprawled across his bed snoring lightly, and then my eyes drifted over to Caleb's bed.
Where is my son?!? I thought frantically. The bed was empty. My eyes darted around the room. No sign of Caleb. Immediate panic filled thoughts entered my head but I attempted to quell them by reminding myself we lived three stories up. No one could have taken him, right?

I looked in both bedrooms tossing toys and laundry about. I looked in the bathrooms and closets. Okay, starting to really worry again. Back to the bedrooms. I suddenly realized there was something odd looking about the bedroom. It took me a moment and then I caught it. The kids giant stuffed animals, Tigger and Pooh and Nemo and Bunny and Gorilla were barricading the bottom of the crib. I yanked several of them out at once, to see a little hand. And then all of Caleb, his chest rising and falling softly, sleeping soundly underneath the crib. Not even stirring as his mommy let out a huge sigh of relief, picked him up and laid him gently in his bed.
 *names have been changed

There is a giant range of experiences we can have in life. They are of course either good or bad, and they affect the kind of person we grow into to. For me, it often seems easier to focus on the troubles I’ve had. But I have begun to see that with the trouble, come great opportunities for learning and growth. Troubles also generally come with little miracles. Things that are small, but just big enough to give hope or confidence in taking another step out to face the world again. When I look back and think, “How did I ever get through that?” The fine details begin to appear.

Have you ever loved someone so much you would do anything for them? Even die for them? That kind of love is the most beautiful creation we have been given. To be able to love like that is a gift that surpasses all other beauties. Most of us love our families like that from the beginning. Our parents, siblings, spouse and children. But it can be learned as well.

Have you ever had a friend mean that much to you? Have you ever loved a friend so much it hurts. You hurt when they hurt. You would give your soul to make them happy. It is overpowering, exhausting to feel this way and yet I would never have changed the passion I felt, the love I felt for my best friend, even though it sometimes hurt.

Sherise spent her first 14 years of life in Southern California. Nearly half the population is Hispanic. She had friends that were hispanic all her life. Dating them, however, created a problem with her parents as she found out after they had moved to my neighborhood.

I remember Juan from grade school and junior high. A shy, quiet, pudgy boy with a warm smile. When I saw him next in high school after a few years, he had gotten taller, had slimmed down a little, but he still had that warm smile, those dark eyes. Sherise really liked him. They were “going out”. She asked him to a dance. I wanted to go too, but I didn’t attend their High school and I was afraid of boys. So I decided to skip the dance, but go on the date prior to the dance, as a fifth wheel (another couple was coming with us).

We went down to the local college campus. The boys were blindfolded and were walked through the arboretum. They were trying to guess where they were. After we removed the blindfolds we sat down and had a picnic lunch. Then we went to the game center and went bowling.

I remember a few months after that, I had to go with my school to the local college for the  language fair. I saw the railing that Juan’s hand had slid along as he walked up the steps those few months ago. His hands that would never feel anything again.

A month after my fifth wheel date, Juan asked Sherise to Homecoming. This is where Sherise’s parents stepped in. She told me they sat down with her to have a chat. They told her that you marry who you date, so she should be careful. I was furious. Careful, why careful? Just around Juan? Because he was Hispanic?!?
They said they had seen other cultural marriages fall apart because of the difference in beliefs or ways of doing things. But Juan had lived in America nearly his whole life. Spanish was his first language but he had no accent at all when he spoke English. He was an American citizen, he lived life like any other American. I was so angry that they asked Sherise not to date him anymore.

At a school fundraiser, a car wash shortly after her parents had spoken with her, Sherise told Juan what her parents had told her. She told him it didn’t mean anything, that she cared for him and wanted to be with him. He was quiet, then got in his car and sped away.

As she told me this on that Saturday night, I envisioned the entire thing and suddenly I said, “Sherise, brace yourself, Juan may commit suicide.” Were those words given me to help us prepare? That was the last time Sherise saw Juan alive.

We had known he suffered from depression, just like Sherise and I both did. But we didn’t
know that things were so dire for him that he would snap, that the moment Sherise told him about her parents concerns, was his breaking point.

I remember the following Monday, another friend came to visit me. She had news about Juan. He had been found in the Canyon, a lawn mower in the back of his car, all the windows shut tight, Juan not breathing.


I didn’t see Sherise for a few days. The police had come to talk to her about what had happened before this event. She was numb, she was in shock. I was numb, I was in sock. And then, then, I was angry. I was furious that Juan would do something so heart breaking. He was gone, and I hurt more for Sherise at that time than I’ve ever hurt for anyone. I knew him too and was sad, but Sherise? What must she be thinking?
She was thinking she was to blame.

Rumors abounded at school. People called her racist,  nobody had the right story, not even the newspapers. Sherise received death threats in the mail, which her mother hid from her and told her years later about.
Why are people so quick to hate without really knowing why or if they are justified in doing so. And is anyone really ever justified in feeling pure hatred for another? There are much better things to feel in this world than hate, that venom that poisons the soul.

The impact that Juans death had on me and everyone around me was huge. I saw and I felt what it was like to lose someone by suicide, and I knew that never again would I seriously consider taking my own life. But I wanted to know how I would make it through without sinking into despair. For years I had struggled with severe depression. I blamed myself for it, telling myself it was all in my mind and I could fix it. I was wrong.
I talked to two of my friends at school about killing myself, all the time. One of them always laughed and made some joke about it, the other always smiled and said I shouldn’t talk about things like that and quickly changed the subject. It was a cry for help that they didn’t understand.

The suicide of my friend was devastating, but I decided to learn from it. I learned to turn to a better source of relief. I turned to God. I came closer to him than I had in a long time. On my knees, I wept. I cried out in anger asking him why. I begged him to help me be strong in fighting the thorn in my side. I felt his presence many a time in those dark hours and eventually I pulled through, stronger and with a greater knowledge of the love of my family, friends and Heavenly Father. I learned, that as I loved and hurt for Sherise, God loved and hurt for me. He wanted to help me pull through, and only waited for me to ask him.

I learned never to discount the feelings I have about calling someone, or just dropping by to say hi. We are often the vessels through which God answers others prayers, and what if we aren’t listening to him? I am so grateful for those who were listening to God in my time of despair, and I try hard to do the same.
I discovered the value of journal writing as a teenager. It felt so freeing to be able to scribble raw emotion onto the pages within. But besides a stress release, and a way to reason through my feelings, these writings have proven invaluable to me as I’ve looked back through them. Experiences and feelings I had forgotten, have provided the knowledge that I survived those struggles once, which gives me hope that I can do it again.

Some of my entries also provide me a good laugh. Some of the things that seemed so important in my life then seem so trivial and silly now. But I realize though I have changed quite a bit since then, my core values are still the same. I have found that, who I became in my teenage years is who I have mostly remained and that the older I get, the harder it is to change. I read this particular entry the other day:

Feb. 22, 1998 (Age 16)

Confident- But not cocky
Not too romantic
Friendly – not a hermit
Church Member
Worthy Priesthood Holder
Hard working
Sense of humor
Can handle my belching talent
Uses clean language
Thoughtful, kind & helpful to others
Treats his mom really well
College graduate
Has patience
Likes kids & works well with them
Sensitive yet manly at the same time
Has a testimony
Will cuddle me and give me hugs
Is not judgemental
Smiles a lot
Takes care of himself physically
Is my best guy friend
Strong- physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally

At first skim I thought, “Oh, is that all I expected?”

I laughed because it was lengthy and some of my requirements were a little silly. I also laughed because I knew exactly what I wanted then, and you know what, I didn’t end up settling for anything less. (Well except appreciating the belching thing, but I think he’s just jealous that I can out belch him).

So, did you ever make a list of qualities you wanted in your future spouse? Did you find that guy?
What about journal writing? Has it been helpful to you to look back?  I’ll admit I’m not in the habit anymore, but I think I need to make it a priority again.
“Go and play your video game,” says Nice Mama to her sons. “I’m going to clean your room for you today.”

“Oh cool! Thanks,” says one son, giving mama a hug, “You’re a nice Mama.”

What he doesn’t realize is that Nice Mama, is really, Mama with Ulterior Motive, in disguise. She smiles as she sends them on their merry way, 13 gallon trash bag clenched in the fist behind her back. She walks backwards down the hall, into their bedroom and bolts the door.


The day of reckoning has come. Toys used only for mess making are tossed into lightly scented plastic oblivion. Perhaps other little boys will actually play with them.

A knock on the door causes Mama with Ulterior Motive to pause.

“Mama, whats dat sound?” boy says

“Drat!! He’s onto me!” she thinks.

Gathering her thoughts she replies, “I’m just putting some trash in a trash bag.”

She struggles to sound reassuring. She knows the boys will never miss these particular toys, but if they discover her plans there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth!

“You’re not trashing my toys right?” says five year old boy.

How in the heck does he sense these things?

“No, not trashing them,” she says, putting perhaps too much emphasis on the word trashing.

“Go back and play your game now honey,” she instructs.

Five year old leaves. In a whirlwind effort, the remaining offending toys are added to the bag. Mama with Ulterior Motive slowly opens the bedroom door, peeks out, and seeing that the coast is clear, books it into her bedroom where she promptly stashes said bag of toys high in the closet. Daddy will take them to the car after bedtime.

Straightening her shirt and wiping the slight perspiration from her brow, Mama with Ulterior Motive smiles. She walks toward the living room, a slight spring in her step.

Mission accomplished.
I remember wondering if my parents were brave or just crazy when they told us we would be going on a two week vacation in an RV rental. I was 15 at the time, a bossy mother hen to 4 younger siblings.

We weren’t always friends, the five of us. The two youngest, Chase and Randi fought every single day. They seemed to love it, doing things to irk one another, picking fights for no apparent reason. Clint was quick to choose a side and join in the commotion. The fights always ended in yelling, or tears. I was bossy perhaps, but didn’t like to fight. Dad’s temper was enough incentive for me on that subject, but somehow not enough for them. So I adopted the roll of peacemaker (more like enforcer of the peace with threats to get dad if it didn’t stop).

Try as I might to be the peacemaker, I could never seem to fully avoid fighting with my 11 year old sister, Whitney. She was so very different from me – dramatic, whiny and picky. And yet she was also so similar – thoughtful, tenacious and stubborn. In a battle of wills over, oh who knows what now, neither of us would back down. And so we usually ended up in a scuffle, scratched and covered in slap marks, crying. I truly hate that I fought physically with my sister.

Knowing all of this, you can now understand my surprise that my parents wanted us to drive and live in a 200 square foot RV for 2 whole weeks. I certainly didn’t want to be in such close quarters with my bickering family for that long. Why on earth would they want that?

They sat us down one evening and discussed the itinerary. We would drive Northeast into Wyoming, visiting Devils Tower. Then we would make our way into South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore. Then we would travel west into the three corners area of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to visit Yellowstone National Park and from there back home. Those were the major stops, part of a neat little loop they had planned. They had charted out all the KOA’s we would camp at along the way.

The close quarters RV issue began to take a backseat to the exciting sights and KOA swimming pools. Maybe I would even meet a cute boy or two at one of the campgrounds.

The day of our departure arrived. We left, much later than scheduled of course, dad threatening to leave us all behind if we didn’t hurry out the door. Our first adventure came just seconds into the trip when dad started to back the RV out. That RV was the longest vehicle my dad had ever driven, and a full 5 minutes were spent backing up, turning the wheels slightly, pulling forward, backing up, repeat, so as not to plow over the sidewalk and into the neighbors garden across the street. After a few choice words from dad, and Clint whining that the trip was already ruined, we were off.

We saw what we set out to see, though not without incident of course. There was plenty of bickering and many more choice words and threats of turning around from dad, but more than that, I remember realizing we all had at least one thing in common. We all appreciated the magnificence of the earth and the beauties thereon. We each stared in awe at Old Faithful, belching and spewing hot liquid into the air. We gasped at the size of the Buffalo we saw grazing near the country road and speculated on what they must be thinking as they saw our giant noise making machine go by. We marveled at the naturally made tunnels we drove through in the South Dakota mountains. We walked the trail around Devil’s Tower, amazed and curious about how such a formation came to be, especially in the middle of that flat area.

I will never forget the sights we saw, but more importantly, I will never forget how I felt knowing that in spite of our differences, my family understood and shared my joy and awe.
Crayon in hand, Caleb fidgets in his chair, trying to pay attention to the workbook in front of him. He knows what mommy wants him to do, he really does want to listen, but it’s just so hard being four.

“Which of these pictures, is diff-er-ent?” I ask him, pointing to the row of cars

He looks at me, obviously confused. I try a different approach

“What color is this one?”

“WED!” he shouts

“And this one?”


“And this one?”


“So this one is different, right?”

“I circa it mommy?”

I sigh and nod.

We try again with the next row. This time it’s turtles.

“What turtle is different from the others?” I ask hopefully

For a moment he looks confused, then I can see him working it out. Yes, he’s getting it! He opens his mouth wide.

“Deezus!!” he announces proudly

I roll my eyes and chuckle softly. So, it has come to this again. The answer he gives to every question he doesn’t know the answer too. The one he learned in Sunday school.

“Jesus is the answer to everything isn't it?” I say to Caleb

I suppose he's right.
I hope I’m not the only mother out there who has those days. Days where the fighting and the whining and the yelling between sibliings all culminate in mom joining the turmoil and everyone ending up in tears. I had one of those days yesterday.

It happened to be in the car. A spat over sharing chicken nuggets and french fries ended up with our car in the nearest parking lot, mom yelling, food confiscated and everyone crying. I shakily picked up the cell phone and called my husband.

“I can’t do this anymore!” I sobbed into the phone. “Sometimes it’s so hard to be a mom!”

I explained the situation and other frustrations that had been building and he calmed me down. He listened and empathized with me and I was soon composed enough to finish running errands.

I wish that was the end of it. I wish I knew that an episode like that wouldn’t happen again, but it always does. And when it does I feel like giving up or like I’m a crummy mother. But motherhood doesn’t come with the option to quit, so I go on. Sometimes strong and purposefully. Sometimes staggering, blinded by tears.

I love my kids. But like all kids they often do things that frustrate or anger me. Ethan is one sharp little five year old and he has always called me out on everything I do. For him there is a question behind everything I ask of him, and a reprimand for everything I do that I’ve told him not to do.

Then there is Caleb. One of the most loving little boys on the earth. He still snuggles with mom and is always willing to give lots of hugs and kisses. But he is also extremely frustrating at times, in an entirely different way. Caleb has been in speech therapy for over a year now. We still don’t very often understand anything he says beyond a three or four word sentence. His mentality is also not up to par with your average 4 year old. There are certain concepts he simply does not get. Patience and Time for one. He doesn’t understand the concept of later or wait. If you tell him he can have something later he thinks that is a “No” and ends up communicating his disappointment in the best way he knows, crying or whimpering. And when I say crying I mean bawling and throwing himself on the floor and being so loud the neighbors down the hall can hear him. It’s been so difficult for both he and us as parents not being able to understand each other. Our speech therapist actually recommended we take him to a neuropsychologist to get him evaluated for something more serious than a speech delay. And of course that has opened up a whole new realm of worry for me.
I suppose compounding the latest meltdown, was the fact that we have all been sick with nasty coughs and colds. *sigh*

I love my children deeply and I love being able to stay at home with them and be their teacher. But it’s not all roses all the time ya know?
I am driving the car. The flood water is rising. How will I make it through? The rain pounding on the windshield is blinding. Suddenly, a break in the rain brings to view a car, hood smashed right in front of me. I swerve to avoid it. People are surrounding the crash, trying to help the victims get to higher ground. The water is still rising. I’m going to drown.

My eyes spring open, my body jolts upright.

Just a dream. A flurry of dreams. The last one actually better than some of the first. Then I notice it, that tingly warm feeling pulsing through my arms and down into my hands. The muscles in my legs start to spasm very slightly. A feeling of dread and despair begins to seep in.

No, no no no no no no no no no no no NO!!!!!!

I am angry and terrified at the same time. How long has it been? When did the last one come? Why now?
It isn’t fair!! Sleep is suppose to be my one safe haven, a place where my thoughts and body are at peace.

The panic washes over me in waves. One moment I feel calm, the next, my muscles are spasming as I cling desperately to happy thoughts.

Happy ones aren’t working. Must empty my mind completely.

I wake my husband and ask him to please hold me while I fight it. He does. Just his presence is comforting. But it won’t always be there when this happens. I must remember how to get through it on my own. I focus on my breathing. Breathe slowly, calmly.

What if this feeling lasts forever?
Muscles spasm harder.

No, no, it won’t, it will fade. I am fine. I am fine. Everything is okay.

What if it’s not okay? What if I have to increase my medication?
Warmth pulses into my hands. It’s like little jolts of electricity zinging from my brain down to my finger tips.
Every negative thought feeds it.

I am calm, calm, calm, calm, calm. Must be calm. It will fade.

Breathe in……..

Breathe out.

Afraid to sleep again. Don’t want to wake up like this again.

So tired, tired of fighting this thing. But grandma did it. She’s done it her entire life. I will make it through like she has.

Gradually, fear subsides, body relaxes, sleep comes.

When daylight hits, it is only a memory.

I will face it again, and will get through it again with that memory, knowing that I did it before. These attacks may never completely go away, but I will be strong.
I’m speaking Ewokese, I think I’m speaking Ewokese, I really think so

Ah, boys and Star Wars and toy light sabers. I think I’ve finally had enough of ‘em around here. In case you didn’t know, my boys love Star Wars. And they don’t just watch Star Wars anymore. They’ve discovered the joy of pausing their favorite action sequences over and over and over. They’ve discovered the joy of acting out certain movie scenes as they play. Light sabers in hand Ethan and Caleb act out every little detail.

Today, during a scene with the Emperor in Star Wars VI, Caleb mercilessly struck Ethan with imaginary lightning bolts. Ethan spasmed and twitched on the floor.

“Caleb, stop using the force on your brother, he’s gonna hurt himself!” I said.

Anyway, another fun feature they’ve discovered while playing their favorite movies is the subtitle and languages button. I have now heard parts of Star Wars in French, German and Spanish, in addition to seeing subtitles in those same languages. Today they were watching it in English with English subtitles and I happened to turn my head to see my favorite little Ewok, Wicket (played by the talented Warwick Davis, who also stars in another movie I like, Willow). As he said something to a fellow Ewok, a subtitle appeared at the bottom of the screen that read Speaking Ewokese.

Immediately that song by The Vapors popped into my head, “I’m turning Japanese,” changed of course in thought to, “I’m Speaking Ewokese”.

Of course it’s true, I do speak Ewokese. This is evident by my children’s failure to listen to anything I say. They must not understand me. I must be an Ewok, cute and a little bossy, but not a real threat. Oh ho ho, that must change. Hmmm, now there’s the question of how to do it without going over to the dark side of the force…
If you’re a mom, you have more than likely heard the title statement.  And as a mom you’ve made a choice, to either breastfeed/ebf or formula feed. Now granted, I believe breastmilk is the best food for baby. It’s how God engineered feeding to be. He created boobs, not formula, BUT I don’t believe this makes formula a wrong choice.

I entered the mothering world thinking that there was a right choice and a wrong choice in feeding. But that’s just not how it is. Formula may not be quite as nutritionally complete as breastmilk, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for baby.

When pregnant with my first child I decided I was going to breastfeed. Not because the idea was particularly enticing or that I thought I had too if I wanted a healthy baby. The more compelling reason for me, was that I wanted to fit in. The majority of mothers in my church breastfed their babies, and I had seen just a few give condescending stares to those who did not.

Shortly after my son was born I took him to my breast. The pain that came with his latching on took my breath away. I winced while he fed. Every feeding of that first day was the same. By nightfall I was blistered and too tender to even wear my hospital gown over my chest. A lactation consultant checked his latch and said it was fine. She made sure I wasn’t dealing with inverted nipples. She told me nothing should be causing such blistering and such pain. So I kept going.

I kept going, through 4 bouts of mastitis. I kept going even when thrush came and the sucking was so excruciating I wept for the duration of each feeding. I kept going with blisters on my nipples that wouldn’t heal, even with the help of medicated gel pads.

I felt so confused. Women had told me that breastfeeding done right shouldn’t hurt. Now they were telling me that it hurts for a few weeks but then goes away. So I waited for the pain to end. It never did. What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t this working? I felt ragged, physically and emotionally. Just the thought of putting my son to my breast made me cry. Six weeks of breastfeeding and it had only gotten worse. So I quit.

At first I was overwhelmed with guilt, wondering how my baby would turn out on formula. Wondering which of my acquaintances might lose interest in being my friend now that I wasn’t doing the “right” thing.
But the guilt began to subside as I realized I was now enjoying feeding my son. I was bonding with him during bottle feedings better than I ever had simply gritting and crying through the pain of breastfeeding. I realized I wasn’t so irritable anymore, I didn’t cry every single day anymore and I actually felt so much happier.

Seventeen months later our second child came into the world. We were happy to have him of course, but we had conceived him a little earlier than we had anticipated. I was nowhere near ready to give breastfeeding another try so I hand pumped for a week (not as painful) to give new baby some colostrum and then stopped when my milk came in. I might have tried just pumping him milk after that had we been able to afford something other than a cheap hand pump.

Now, even though my first experience with breastfeeding was so painful and I had realized that formula was not a “bad” thing, I still dreamt of being able to successfully breastfeed a child.

My daughter was born a little over 3 months ago. She arrived almost 4 years after my second and I had decided I wanted to do everything I could to make breastfeeding work. This time we were able to afford some additional supplies so I equipped myself.  I bought an electric pump, a boppy, lansinoh, gel pads, nipple shields, anything I thought might give me more of a chance.

The first day she fed, echoed the day of my first child’s birth. Once again the Lactation Consultant couldn’t understand the blistering and pain with such a perfect latch. I guess I just have ultra sensitive skin. She recommended I mostly pump with one or two nursing sessions a day and perhaps I could gradually work my way into full nursing.

It was still excruciating for 4 weeks as I pumped and breastfed. But I think that the pumping and gradually working my way into nursing, was key. By the end of week 4 she was on the breast alone and amazingly by the end of week 5 I was only grimacing slightly at each feeding. Now I wonder that it ever hurt me so bad. I absolutely love nursing! It’s easier than mixing and heating a bottle and it’s free! But I love it most because it’s a miracle. I marvel at this body God has created and that it alone can sustain this precious little life for so many months. If you have the chance to experience the wonder of it, I would encourage it! But don’t burden yourself with guilt if you can’t or if you choose not too. Our personal decisions are just that – personal. We have no idea what motivations are behind others decisions and we should not assume we do. There is no, “one size fits all” standard for motherhood. And we as mothers, most of all, should understand this and treat with kindness and understanding other mothers we meet along the way.
….and I’m happy about it.

For Mother
Cheeks soft from years of tears
The rolling drops, relieving fears
Tired eyes, creased with pain
Giving much with naught to gain.
Body weak, from running too fast
Your own welfare, you put last.
A life you wished for, you made sure I had
My thanks was indifference, your soul became sad.
Oh mother forgive my iniquitous slack.
Forgive me for pointing out all that you lack.
I hope it’s not too late to show that I care,
To walk in your footsteps, your mantle to wear.
To show I am grateful for all that you do,
To learn how to be a great mother like you.

© Summer Owens, 2000

* Thank you for hauling 5 children to church with you every Sunday, even when dad didn’t come. You taught me how important God and church were to you.

* Thank you for assigning me daily chores without pay and showing me how to do them. I learned how to work hard without promise of reward.

* Thank you for making cookies with me, and for letting me accompany you to take christmas cookies to neighbors every year. You taught me the value of service and how happy it makes not only the receiver, but the giver.

*Thank you for expressing your belief in my abilities when I was down on myself. Children have a way of knowing what you think them capable of and fulfilling those expectations to that degree. Thank you for helping me to exceed my own expectations of myself.

* Thank you for knowing how to balance your calling as mother and your desire to also be my friend. I want my children to be able to confide in me as I did in you.
A series of conversations that took place in our household this morning

Me: Boys, time to go pick up your bedroom
Boys: Okaaaaay mom

A little while later Ethan and Caleb run out to me

Caleb: Bedwoom aw kwean!!
Me: Honey, will you go see if their bedroom is really clean?

Hubby proceeds to follow excitedly chattering boys into back bedroom. He re-emerges a moment later

Hubby: Well, it’s about as clean as you can expect. There are some toys shoved under the crib…*interrupted by Ethan

Ethan: Yeah, hiding toys under beds and cribs is the bestest and fastest way!!!!!
True true. Very soon he’ll realize he shouldn’t tell his parents about it however.
3104 Jackie Court
I still have the address of my beloved childhood home memorized.
More than an address, it was a place where memories were created that I will always hold dear. And it was a place where I learned some of life’s greatest lessons.
Tiny frogs inhabited a large plant in our front yard. I remember catching them and feeling the warm trickle of frightened froggie pee in my hand.
I remember examining the leaves of this same bush for slimy snail trails. I loved to watch the snails ripple slowly along the leaves. I loved to poke softly at their little eyes and watch them immediately retract and pop out again a minute later.
Here, I learned about life, about how amazing each of God’s creations are.

I remember helping mom plant marigolds in our front yard. I loved the marigolds, they were beautiful, but I loved them even more for the vistors they brought.
Cabbage Butterflies, Monarchs and Tiger Swallowtails we’re regular visitors. My mom showed me how to catch them with a technique I called shadowing.
It took patience and stealth. A sudden shadow falling over the butterfly would scare them away. But a slowly moving shadow, like the shadow of a passing cloud would not disturb.
And so, in the hot, bright, California sun, I slowly moved toward the butterfly, letting my shadow gradually fall over them, crouching carefully down until I was within grasping range. With a quick motion of hand, I held a butterfly, by the very tip of closed wings in my fingers.
Whenever I caught a butterfly, mom would bring out the butterfly book and we would identify it. Then I would release it. I once, with my little 5 year old fingers, caught the smallest butterfly in North America according to that book.
One night, we had a severe dust storm. The morning sun light showed traces of it everywhere. Some branches and leaves strewn across the yard, our marigolds looking haggard. As I checked the damage, I hoped the butterflies would come back. And then I saw it, something on the pavement, gleaming in the sun. I walked over to what I thought was shattered glass. I realized I looked at shards of Swallowtail wing.

Here, I learned about death, how fragile life is, and how quickly life can be taken away from us

We had a neighbor, a woman in her 40′s and single. Her name was Norma and she was my friend. I think now of how kind she was to let a little 5 year old visit her on a regular basis, playing with her doll and doll house collection, and eating the candy out of the glass jar on her coffee table. I loved Norma.
The memories I have from my childhood home could span a novel. Maybe someday I’ll write one. But for now I’ll list other key remembrances.

Some favorite memories from my childhood home:
*Learning to ride a bike
*Hot pavement under bare feet
*Digging a hole in the backyard with my brother, filling it with hose water and then playing in it with our toy dinosaurs
* My mom’s tea cup and mug collection
*My neighbor friends Ashley and Mary Kay
* Playing on the Slip n’ Slide through the sprinklers on the front lawn

Some not so favorite memories from my childhood home:
*Getting splinter after splinter from the backyard fence and dad pulling them out with tweezers
*Getting my first bee sting
*Crashing my bike and getting a rock stuck in my knee

Good or bad, I cherish each memory I have from that wonderful magical place in which I grew up.
I remember once, before I had children, watching mothers adoring their messy faced little babies and thinking, “Eeeew, I’m never going to kiss my baby’s slobber, or pick boogers out of my babies nose.”

I bet you mother’s are laughing at me.

Because you know I love to get drooled on now, or that I just can’t leave my helpless baby sucking a dangling booger in and out of her nose over and over.

She’s staring at me right now from her bouncy seat, spit bubbles dripping down her chin. She’s been practicing spitting for a week now and I can’t get enough of it.

I love her so very much.

I love the way a smile at momma involves an arched back, kicking legs and flailing arms, all done simultaneously.

I love how her nose crinkles up when she yawns.

I love kissing her super soft, chubby (and even slobbery) cheeks.

I love how when hungry, she ravenously latches onto whatever part of me she can. She actually gave me a hickey on my chin. I only let her suck on it for like a minute. First hickey I ever got too.

I love how she doesn’t quite know what to do when I zurbit her tummy. Her eyes get wide and she grunts loudly. It’s almost a laugh but not quite.

I love watching her try to interact with her daddy and brothers.

I love everything about this precious, God given, little person who I am to take care of.

It is almost overwhelming to know I have been entrusted with 3 precious, heaven sent souls, but at the same time it’s great motivation to do the job right.
Brazilian Limeade
* courtesy of my husband who lived in Brazil for two years

3 cups water
1/2 cup ice
2 medium limes, whole
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1.Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth
2. Taste and add more sugar if needed.
2. Drink immediately. Do not store in the fridge. If stored, the drink will become very bitter due to the lime peel within.
So I had gotten on here to write a blurb about a happy time making blueberry pie with my kiddos just 40 minutes ago. I was thinking pleasant thoughts about the color of blueberries, my childrens eagerness to help pour in each ingredient and roll out the pie crust, how wonderful it is to bake and cook with your kids, and how we should all take some time now and again to make food the old fashioned way, when suddenly my nose detected a scent.
Is that…smoke?
I turned my head from the computer screen to see smoke pouring out of the kitchen.
“Oh no!” I yelled as I ran toward the oven.
My kids, hearing my yell, immediately dropped what they were doing. With concerned voices they asked what was wrong.
“Somethings burning,” I replied more calmly, grabbing the oven mitt.

I had forgotten that the word “burning” to kids, is code for, start freaking out.
At that moment I opened the oven door, which in turn caused a huge cloud of smoke to billow out. Ethan started yelling at Caleb not to go into the kitchen. Caleb began a series of shrill screams.
“Hurry,” Ethan said with plugged nose, “lets run to the bedroom before the smoke gets us!”
So off they went, leaving me to manage the damage without going deaf.

As I waved the smoke away I saw my mistake. I had forgotten to place a cookie sheet underneath my pie and blueberry goop was overflowing from one side of the pan. It bubbled and sizzled on the bottom of the oven.

I quickly pulled the oven rack out, grabbed a spatula and started scraping the burnt goo out of the oven and dumping it in the sink. The process was quick, and with a little hand waving and wide open sliding door, order was restored.

Now I just have to convince the kids that the presence of smoke in the oven, does not mean I burnt the pie.

Blueberry Pie

3/4 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
Recipe for 9 inch pie crust, doubled
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. In a large bowl stir together sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon. Add blueberries and gently combine till berries are well coated
3. Line 9 inch pie plate with pie crust and pour berry mixture inside. Dot with butter.
4. Add a lattice top and seal the edges. Brush with egg white for shine.
5. Bake pie on lower shelf in the over for 40 to 50 minutes or until pie is bubbly and top is golden brown.

Flaky Pie Crust

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chilled, unsalted butter
3-4 Tbsp. ice water

*Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle ice water over the flour mixture and toss with a fork to moisten. Gently gather the dough together and roll out on a floured surface. Double this recipe to make a top crust.
I have many reasons for staying at home with my kids. When I say “at home” I don’t just mean the fact that I do not work. I mean staying inside. There are days, many days, that I do not want to leave the house with three children. But I strongly believe children need plenty of sunshine and outdoor play time and since we are apartment dwellers without a yard, I must take them out to play. Playtime is the least of my troubles.
Trying to shop with three children? That’s a whole other ball game. I only go to stores that have the giant carts with buckled seats for two toddlers and a place on the cart to put a car seat. Even in these carts, shopping can get harry. But I do it because … well…actually I’m not sure why I put myself through the madness. I hate going out late at night for one thing and of course I often get frustrated at those bold enough to make comments about my misbehaving children.
But more than that, I am frustrated with the reaction people often have to my having 3 children in the first place.
Whenever I go somewhere it is almost inevitable to get one of the following comments:
“Are they all yours?” – This surprises me I guess because I come from a family of five and my husband from a family of 13. Three doesn’t seem like that many kids to me
“You have your hands full, you’re done right?” – Again a comment along the lines of 3 being a lot and surely you don’t want any more children do you?
“Oh, well you’ve got one of each, now you can be done.” This one I think bothers me most. I didn’t just have my second son because we were trying for a girl. Am I happy I got a little girl the third time around? Sure, but I would have loved another boy just as much.
What these comments say to me: Children are such a hardship, don’t have anymore than you have to, especially if you’ve already got one of each.
Most of my days are busy and messy and exhausting. My hands are full, but so is my heart. Children are beautiful, innocent angels, still so close to God. The love and joy they bring me far outweighs the amount of time and work I must put into teaching them.
Don’t tell me that they are a hardship, or that I should only have them until I get the gender I want. You disrespect them by so saying.
I am so thankful for the sacred gift of my little ones. I hope those who think otherwise are far and few between.
Upon arriving at a friends house:

Count Dooku: Mom, what’s the yellow sign?
Me: Looks like they’ve sprayed for bugs, so be sure not to walk on the grass okay?
Count Dooku: Okay

after getting out of the car

Count Dooku: Obi-Wan, no!!! Don’t walk on the grass! There are skunks hiding in it and they’ll spray you!
Something was obviously lost in translation.
Oh, how often I hear that phrase in a day.
We seem to go through stages of activity and lesser activity. For me, lesser activity = relaxation, for kids it = boredom and thenceforth the need to have mom entertain in some manner.
A constant endeavor of mine is to come up with some mom free entertainment that doesn’t involve placing the kids in front of the TV or computer.
Here are some activity ideas that don’t require constant mom involvement.
1. It’s berry picking season. Two of my favorite berries, blackberries and blueberries are about ready for the picking. If you live near a pick your own farm, plan an outing. Take a picnic blanket, pack a lunch, bring some baskets, sunscreen and a book and let the kids pick berries while you read your book on your blanket.
Most pick your own farms will have many very long rows of berry bushes making it easy to restrict your children to one row for a long time and keep an eye on them.
2. Have any woodland trails nearby that perhaps lead to a small stream? Again, pack whatever you need and when you get to your destination, set up and enjoy nature while the children wade in the stream chasing bugs and fish.
Local Nature Centers will often have woodland trails and perhaps a little museum for you to explore or animals to see before you begin your hike.
3. Go to the pool. I always have a great time relaxing and playing with my kids at a swimming pool. Open swim hours are available at many recreation centers as well as lessons. If you prefer not to swim, you can just watch your kids learn to swim.
If you can’t afford the local Rec. Center and don’t have any other pool to swim at you can always buy a kiddie pool for the backyard or balcony for the kids to splash around in. Don’t like the kiddie pool idea? What about water guns? Or send the kids out with an electric bubble blower.
4. Kids don’t nap anymore? Designate their former nap time as quiet time. A time where they are to stay in their rooms playing quietly or looking at books. To help keep them entertained you could check out library books every couple of weeks, and rotate giving them a couple new books to look at during each quiet time.
5.Make playdough. It is so relaxing for me to knead dough of any kind. And the kids will be entertained in making it and then playing with it.
Basic Tips:
*I find when my kids get to make something they’re going to play with, they usually enjoy playing with it much more. Items like Playdough and fingerpaints can be made quickly and inexpensively.
*One trick to keeping kids entertained is to keep things fresh and new. Rotate through activities throughout the week. Playdough every day will get old real fast, but once a week is special and they’ll want to play with it longer.
* Take the time to waste time. Plan bigger activities on days when you have no place to be. Once you get there, don’t watch the clock. Saunter on that woodland hike. Read until the kids tell you they’re tired of picking berries. It’s great to realize that a three hour chunk of your day has suddenly gone by.
Forget gray hair, I’m going to have no hair by the time I get done raising my kids.
I remember being newly married and so excited to start my family. I wanted a baby right away. Thirteen months later I got my wish. As I held my sweet little son in my arms I fell instantly in love.
I couldn’t wait to change his diaper, watch him crawl, see him walk, hear him talk and grow in so many other ways.
WHOA! Wait a minute!! Grow?!?
He’s going to grow up. The realization hit me like a brick.
I knew I had signed on for a baby, but I forgot about the toddler part, the middle school part, the teenage part, and the part where, no matter how old he got I would always be his mom.
Not that it would have changed my decision had I thought about it beforehand, but it seemed a lot to take in at that moment.
While the thought of his growing up can be overwhelming, it’s also very relieving.
He won’t be 5 forever, I tell myself often.
I’ll be tearing my hair out over different things in a little while. At least that will be a change of pace eh?
I love being a mom, but it is possibly the most taxing thing I’ve ever done.
Pregnancy itself has aged my body a good 10 years or so. And then there’s hearing “Mom” a million times a day said in so many different ways.
“Mooooom!” screaming in terror
“Moo-oooom” Tattle telling on a sibling
“Mom?” asking a questiton
“Mom!!!” usually said this way after I’ve channeled out the previous four Moms
Then of course there’s the fighting over toys, cleaning the crayon off the walls and the fruit snacks ground into the carpet.
Why do I do this again?
Oh yes.
It’s because of the wet kisses I get when I fix a toy, little arms around my neck before they get tucked into bed, their unabashed excitement about getting an ice cream cone, melted ice cream all over their chins and cheeks, the giggling I hear when they watch a kids movie, their tears and big eyes that say I’m sorry when they’ve done something they shouldn’t have.
For me, becoming a parent taught me unconditional love.
When each of my children was born, I knew that no matter what they did in their lives, I would always love them fiercely.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be bald by the time my kids grow up, but it will have been a small price to pay for the love I’ve gotten to feel, and the things they’ve taught me.
A few months back I dropped my 5 year old son and 3 year old son off at a friends house while I went to see the doctor.
After I returned I asked the usual, “How were they?”
My friend told me they were great and then asked me if they always got so involved in imaginary play.
I asked her exactly what she meant and she told the following story:
Ethan and Caleb were playing in a little kids tent that this family owns.Caleb  (3), used some imaginary keys to unlock some imaginary windows and doors on the tent. Then he went inside.
Ethan (5) then reached in at Caleb and “grabbed” the imaginary keys from him, and proceeded to lock all the imaginary windows and doors.
Caleb began freaking out. He was yelling for the keys and sobbing in a matter of seconds because he couldn’t get out.
My friend told Ethan he ought to give the keys back to Caleb. Ethan cooperated and Caleb unlocked the many windows and doors and then let himself out, after which he finally calmed down.
I listened in awe, not sure if I should laugh or be concerned. Never had I ever seen my boys put on a display of that magnitude. Sure, they use their imaginations in play but they had only ever offered me an imaginary bite to eat every now and then.
Now I deal with fights over imaginary objects on a regular basis.
For weeks now it’s been the Piston Cup, from Disney Pixar Cars.
They’ll have a foot race, one will win, and then hold out his hand diplaying this grand Piston Cup.
Then the other will steal it. And they go back and forth stealing an imaginary Piston Cup from each other and crying.
I’ve tried reason – “It’s just fake, imagine your own Piston cup!”
I’ve tried pleading with the more mature child – “Ethan, you are 5 years old, you understand this Piston Cup thing is fake, but your brother doesn’t. Now stop stealing it from him!!”
I’ve tried joining the tangle – “The Piston cup is mine!!! There, now stop fighting over it!”
What in the world do you do when your children are quarreling over something intangible? Have you dealt with this from your kids? How did you solve it, or have you yet?
I’ve always been big into Christmas decorating. I took over the decorating of the house for my parents when I was 14. My dad supplied the ladder and in early December I could be found on top of the roof stringing the lights, taping lights in every window in the house and threading them through tree branches. I can’t wait to have a house to decorate the outside of again. For now I make due with decorating the interior of our little apartment.

Today I set up the nativity set and hung lights and stockings and other Christmas decorations while the delicious smell of my Apple Wreath candle burned nearby. The boys we’re thrilled to help me tape lights to their bedroom window. After all of the lights were strung they insisted on turning off every light in the apartment to enjoy the glow. And they spoke excitedly of picking out a fresh Christmas tree in a week. I love Christmas decorations. And I love doing the decorating.