Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas letter

May I present to you our Christmas card and letter for 2010:
Yes, we really sent this out. The card actually said,
"Feliz Navidad! From your favorite luchadores, the family"

Family Firsts in 2010

-First year since 1995 that we are diaper-free, crib-free, sippy cup-free and nap-free. Free at last, free at last!

-First time since 2002 the Jewkes family was not mentioned in a Christmas letter. Wait a minute...

-First cruise to Mexico with Cheryl's parents and siblings.

-First realization that cruise ships would go bankrupt if only Mormons were on board.

-First time parasailing and riding on a zip line through the Mexican jungle, which wins first prize for the most fun activity in the world.

-First time anyone ever haggled for eight luchador masks.

-First time in 15 years for Cheryl to be home alone twice a week. Daughter #2 is concerned for my welfare. “What in the world will you do with yourself?”

-First time travel for Cheryl--a solo trip to Colorado to see college friends and to California for a really big-numbered high school reunion.

-First year writing a snarky mommy blog: (NOT the first time being a snarky mom).

-First time convincing three kids with March birthdays to go to Busch Gardens instead of having birthday parties. Last time I do that.

-First discovery of a new body part by #5. "Mom, did you know that 'process' means a private part? When we were doing the motions for 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes', Sister W said she hit herself in the process!"

-First professional family pictures since 2002 (sans luchador masks). If you want to see what we really look like, look really carefully in the background of our Christmas card.

-First year for Glen as HOA president (unfortunately, the preferred Vice President job was taken) and first counselor in the bishopric.

-First time a TV show has trumped Spongebob as the family favorite. We love Phineas and Ferb so much, all of the kids dressed up like the characters for Halloween. Yes, yes they did. “Hey, where's Perry?”

-First trip to Bizarro World when Glen asked Cheryl a computer question. In his defense, it was regarding Facebook.

-First 11-day weekend during Snowmageddon II.

-First time #2 said, “I think I'm ready to go back to school now.” and “Maybe we shouldn't play so many electronics today.” Which makes it the second trip to Bizarro World.

-First time no one had school picture retakes. Not because the pics were good, but because I just don't care anymore. How hard is it to say, “Hey kid--you have pizza sauce on your chin. Wipe the sauce and the goofy grin off your face.”???

-First time intercepting a friend's 3-year-old escapee, armed with cookies. He came to our home all by himself to share with “Sister Nudie”.

Girl (15, tenth grade)

-First family member to own an actual weapon since Grandpa's Red Ryder BB gun. Move over Robin Hood. She can shoot a mean arrow!

-First time standing up on water skis

-First one awake every morning

-First driver's permit (aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!)

-First time playing tennis on the high school team

-First time since age 2 she made it past 5% on the growth chart. She finally passed five feet tall!

Boy (13, eighth grade)

-First child to grow as tall as Mom and have shoes bigger than Dad's

-First Class Scout promoted to Life Scout

-First time for Peter Brady to take up residence with us (although not the last). Sing it with me, “When it's time to change...”

-First kid in braces

-First year voluntarily singing in chorus (and secretly loving it)

-First time composing his own music (but he still hates piano)

Spicy Boy (11, sixth grade)

-First child to stow away on a field trip he was not supposed to attend

-First child to live and tell about it, but just barely

-First eye surgery to correct crossing. We especially enjoyed the post-anesthesia delusions of grandeur—we found out he fought in WWII and personally assassinated Hitler, as well as the name of his girlfriend.

-First foray into behavioral science. “Hey, Dad... I want a Christmas for DSi. See? I just used reverse psychology on you.”

-First time in 8 years he no longer needs seizure medication!!!

Girl (8, third grade)

-First child to giggle giddily and RUN to the font at her own baptism

-First year in the Advanced Academic Center (formerly known as Gifted & Talented)

-First child to wear an actual Bump-It (“Mo-om! Phineas and Ferb are making a title sequence!”)

-First (and last) time guinea pig sitting

Boy (6)

-First Grade

-First grader who does multiplication in his head

-First official lost tooth (not counting the one the dentist pulled last year)

-First time playing soccer

-First self-inflicted haircut... on his eyebrows

Boy (3)

-First time at preschool

-First child to be the youngest at 3 years old

-First child to bow out of the “gimme five, up high, down low” routine with, “Uh, that's enough.” Who really needs it in space or in your face?

-First bunk bed with an older brother

First in our lives: family, friends and the gospel. We are so grateful for all of you and wish you a Merry Christmas and a New Year full of your own firsts!

Love, the crazies

Oh, there you are, Perry.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Teacher gifts

I just read a great post about giving teacher gifts, written by a male elementary school teacher. He is pleading and imploring parents of the world to stay away from kitsch, as well as giving some really great insight into what would matter most. So if you are still trying to figure out whether that teacher mug/tie/figurine would be good, just say no.

To read the whole post, go here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Twelve Days of a Large Family Christmas

My niece shared a funny video about having twins, and it got me wondering if anyone else has made one about having a large family. And through the magic of the internet, voila! Welcome to my world, everyone! (This is not my family. My kids would not behave this well for this long. And although I am not Catholic, I am a Mormon...)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I belong to a papercrafting forum where a can of worms was opened. There were lovely things said. There were awful things said. There were some who tried to make peace, and some who refused to listen. All because of one word. Lines were drawn in the sand and accusations flew, all because some clarification was needed about a proposed project which dealt with winter holidays of all religions. The intent was inclusion and celebration, but it degenerated quickly.

Here's my pontification...

My parents were in charge of a church mission in Norway in the '90's. My dad spoke Norwegian pretty well, but my mom did not. They were required to travel around the entire country, speaking to congregations of all sizes. Most people in Norway under the age of 50 speak fluent English, but of course, all of the church services are in Norwegian. My dad would always give his talks in Norwegian without a problem. It would have been perfectly acceptable for my mom to speak English, but she chose a different route. She would write her talk in English, have my dad translate it to Norwegian, and she would proceed to butcher it mercilessly as best she could.

The people adored her.

They appreciated any and all efforts of another person (especially an American) trying to learn and speak a tongue that she really didn't need to use. She endeared herself to them immediately, and they trusted her and counted her as a friend.

Contrast that situation with any number of encounters here in America where someone is less than fluent with English (which is an AWFUL language to learn!). Generally that person does not endear him or herself to any large crowds. That person is most often met with impatience and indifference, and sometimes (shamefully) hostility. It is unfair.

My point is that I hope we can all be more like the Norwegians my mom encountered, who recognize that any effort to bridge the cultural gaps should be seen as a welcoming hand of friendship. My mom lost nothing in attempting to learn something about a different group of people. On the contrary, she gained the respect of hundreds of friends, who understood that her efforts were honest. When our efforts and intentions are honest and good, it shows. Let's be kind.

That is all.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Good things

Alright, I am finally coming up for air. This first month of school has had me swamped. Anywho...

I've decided that I need to share some things I love about my kids--especially those stinky boys of mine--lest you think I'm grumpy all the time. I'm really not. I love being a mom to these crazy kids, and I love the marvelous things they do. I want to list some of them out for you, and for me, because some days...well, some days are better than others.

In real life, my husband and I sometimes refer to the children by their birth order numbers ("You are Number Six!"--bonus points if you know the reference). To make it easy for you, I'll give you a cheat sheet:
#1: Overachieving Girl, 15
#2: Broad Strokes Boy, 13
#3: Spicy Boy, 11
#4: Slightly Redheaded Girl, 8
#5: Sunshiny Yellow Boy, 6
#6: Baby Boy (who insists he's not), 3

What I love, in no particular order:
#2 loves to bake. He's not a detail guy, so getting used to recipes has been quite the learning experience. He learned that accidentally adding cinnamon to chocolate cookies is actually quite good. I'm just glad the pages weren't stuck together and he didn't add beef to the dessert (bonus points if you know that reference!).

#6 likes to do things "my byself"

#3 has a great gift for reading and understanding people. He can walk into a room and immediately know who is a good guy and who's a bad guy.

#1 voluntarily apologizes for hurting my feelings when she has been snarky. She also asks me how she can help or if there is anything I need.

#3 is extraordinarily compassionate. Once when we were at the airport after a long flight, we shared an elevator with an elderly man and his daughter, who were from another country. #3, who was 6 or 7, walked right over to this man and out of the blue, gave him a hug. The man was so touched, and the rest of us stood there, speechless. Beautiful, I tell you.

#6 loves to talk to me when we're alone in the car. Chatty, chatty chatty.

#3 can imitate anything he sees. Anything. My neighbor was watching him play out the window one day when he was about 3 and she said, "I wonder if this is what Jim Carrey was like as a kid. He's going to make you a lot of money someday." He fully immerses himself in his characters.

#2 has great company manners, and I often hear how wonderful he was with his friends or with other people's children.

#1 is who I wished I could've been when I was her age.

#2 mispronounces everything (remember, he's a broad strokes kind of kid), and I find it very funny and endearing. Ask him to pronounce Encyclopedia Britannica or Hagen Dazs sometime.

#4 leaves sweet notes and cute pictures all over the house for us.

#4 is sassy enough to hold her own with her brothers. She knows just the right buttons to push with #2, for sure.

#1 actually cares what I think and asks for my opinion.

#5 and #6 are bosom buddies. When #6 was learning to stay on his big boy bed, I asked #5 to help him be quiet and set a good example. I shut the door, but I kept hearing noise, so I opened it and asked them again to be quiet. #5 said, "But Mom, we always play peek-a-boo before bed!"

#4 and #5 get along famously and play together so very well.

#2 is always willing to help me bring in the groceries. Sometimes I even got an audible "I love you". It's usually when I have bought really good cereal.

#1 still likes me. She's not embarrassed by me, and she actually likes doing things with me. Hooray!

#5 orchestrated, created and manned a lemonade stand for over two hours and pulled in $9.35.

#6 likes to be held like a baby when he's all wrapped up in a towel after his bath.

#5 is quite the ladies' man and a shameless flirt.

#1 is simply beautiful. She's drop-dead gorgeous when she puts on makeup (but she has no idea).

#2 volunteered to take care of the kids when I was slammed with strep throat earlier this year. My husband was out of town, and this boy took it upon himself to make sure I went straight to bed. He fed the kids dinner and got them in bed, and he called my husband to let him know how I was doing. He has a very protective side.

#2 was also the child who, as a 4-year-old, on 9/11/01, comforted me when I found out what happened at the Pentagon. My husband was there that day, and this boy gave me a big hug and wanted me to feel better. (BTW, husband was just fine. He didn't feel, see or hear anything while in the building, and although it took many hours to get home, everything was okay.)

#5 has the very best laugh in the entire world.

So on those days when "Good breathing, son!" is the most positive utterance I can muster, I can refer to this list and remember just how wonderful they are.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What's every mom's favorite color?

Why, it's SCHOOL BUS YELLOW, of course!

School starts tomorrow. Wow, summer went fast! This is the first year in 15 that I will be alone at home. Weird. 5 are in school full-time, and my youngest is in preschool for 3 hours, twice a week. How much can I get done in that amount of time? Ready, set, go!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I recently made a very big mistake. I said something inappropriate that ended up offending a large number of people, and I am just sick about it. When I said it, I didn't think it was as harmful as it turned out to be. I was trying to be funny, but unfortunately, it was at someone else's expense. Ultimately, it was determined that I am judgmental, mean and bitter, and I completely ruined a wonderful evening for a lot of people.


I found out about my blunder in a less than tactful way, from someone whom I considered a friend, and I felt gutted.

Ouch again.

What I am sick about is that I have fueled the insecurity of others and caused them to question themselves unnecessarily.

For the last three days I have had a lot of time to think about my actions and words, and what they have said about me. I thought I had moved past so much gobbledeegook. I thought I had given up gossip for good. I thought I was mature. I thought that I had lived my life in such a way that others would wonder why I am so happy and feel compelled to ask me about it, giving me a chance to share what I believe. I thought I was showing that I am trying to live a Christlike life.

Apparently not.

I was showing that I am judgmental, mean, bitter--and catty to boot.

Granted, those who know me well were not offended by my comment, and they have provided the most wonderful support and kind words of encouragement. I have amazing friends and family who can see past my imperfections and forgive me my shortcomings. Thank heavens.

I have learned a few things.

Everyone makes mistakes, and I have learned that they come in different forms. Sometimes they are deliberate. Sometimes not. Sometimes they are big, and sometimes they are small. Sometimes they are mistakes of omission and forgetfulness. Sometimes they are honest. Sometimes they are selfish. Sometimes they are harmless and funny, and sometimes they are terribly hurtful. I know I have fallen prey to making each and every kind of mistake on this list.

I've learned not to judge someone's character by one little action. People do mean things when they are hurt.

My job then is to be kind and give others the benefit of the doubt. I must not take offense so quickly. I must be more forgiving of others when they make mistakes, no matter what kind, and even if they are hurtful to me. I must give others an unimpeded path toward repentance and change, just in case they are ever inclined to do so. It doesn't mean I don't protect myself or my family, or take measures to prevent harmful influences from entering my life, and it doesn't mean that I shouldn't set boundaries and standards for proper behavior. What it means is that my heart should be wiped clean of guile and malice toward others and be filled instead with love.

There is a great story in the Book of Mormon about a military captain named Moroni, who wrote a letter to his political leader named Pahoran. They were in the middle of a great and destructive war, and Moroni was very upset that he had not received the support he needed from Pahoran. He wrote a justifiably angry letter, demanding to know why the soldiers and food had not been sent. He let Pahoran know that if the needs weren't met, he would take matters into his own hands. Here's where Pahoran becomes my hero...He explains to Moroni that he had to flee his own land for his safety, because there was an uprising within his own people. And then he says this, "And now, in your epistle you have acensured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not bseek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us cfree." In other words, he doesn't allow the misunderstanding to go any further, and he shows a greater measure of love. It's mercy at its finest. He also solves the problem directly. This story has helped me maintain perspective many, many times. (If you want to read the whole story, go here.)

It is ever so important to go directly to the person who has made the mistake so it can be resolved in the most respectful way possible. Often, we have no idea we've blundered or hurt others' feelings, so it does no good to gossip or assume that the person will someday get it.

Lastly, I am grateful for do-overs. God has provided a way for us to do-over any mistake we've made. That's right, I said ANY mistake. He has also provided a way for us to be healed from the mistakes of others. That way is the Savior, Jesus Christ. We can lay our sins, mistakes, blunders, faux pas and shortcomings at His feet, and He will remove them and strengthen us enough to overcome them. We can also lay our pains caused from others' sins, mistakes, blunders, faux pas and shortcomings at His feet, and He will remove them from our hearts and fill in the holes to heal us. We just need to ask, and listen (and do) when He answers.

I promise to keep my feet on the floor, instead of in my mouth, but if I should happen to fall on my face again, will you please forgive me? Thanks in advance.

I'll end with another gem from my favorite quote lady, Marjorie Pay Hinckley:
"Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to the Future 1

Julienne, Katie, Dori, me

Amber, Dori, me

I just got home from traveling back in time. It was the loveliest trip. (Actually, according to my own definition, it was a vacation.) First I went to Colorado to see four college roommates, who somehow managed to settle there, independent of one another. Two of them live across the freeway from each other and didn't even know it. Then I went to my high school reunion. More on that later...

We ate and talked and ate and talked and ate and talked some more.

I wish I could describe how full my heart was (and still is) with joy at seeing these friends. They are the kind of women who, even after several years of not seeing each other, can pick up right where we left off. They are the kind of women who help me see just how much good there is in the world--the kind of women who inspire me to be a better mom, friend, wife and woman. Each of you should have at least one of these women for a neighbor. Seriously.

For example: Katie has an 11-year-old daughter who has autism. Up until a couple of years ago, this beautiful girl could not speak, and she has never slept through the night. Katie also has a son who is 18 months older than her daughter, so my guess is that she hasn't had a full night's sleep since around 1996. Her daughter also had a terrible sensory reaction to food last year, and consequently got frighteningly ill. Through it all, Katie has maintained an attitude that I can only hope to attain for myself. She truly sees this child through God's eyes, and she considers it a privilege to be entrusted with one of His special children, while maintaining an appropriate level of sass and style.

Julienne has lived all over the world, as her husband is in the Army Band. She is smart, strong and beautiful (yes, she really does look like Buttercup in The Princess Bride), and has a crazy trivia memory like mine. Who else can remember all of my siblings' names in order (7 of us), as well as the parents of a kid I went to high school with--Izzy and Pinky Lifshitz? (yes, really) We have been fortunate to have lived close to each other a few times in our married lives, and I count her as one of my closest friends. She recently got a roundabout shout-out on cjane's blog and didn't even know it.

Amber is wild and crazy and so much fun. She writes her own blog and a few years ago started Mile High Mama's--a mom's interactive resource section in the Denver Post. She, too, has traveled the world, mostly living by Murphy's Law. Her husband is attempting to grow a real-life Great Pumpkin. In 1993, when I called her to tell her I was engaged, I said, "Guess what I'm doing?" She answered with, "Watching 90210?" It was Wednesday night, after all.

Dori is the kind of person everyone should have in her life. She is smart, funny, stylish, beautiful, kind, silly, generous, and every other superlative you can imagine. She was my very first college roommate, and I couldn't have asked for better. She is someone who would rearrange everything in her life to help me, and I would do the same for her. She married a great guy who makes her laugh every day. The only downside is that she is not my next door neighbor. Darnit.

See? I told you. I love these women because they knew me in what I call my Past Life (before children), when I was allowed to be silly, and each of them has been critical to my growth as a person. My heart was full to bursting, spending time with these amazing friends. The Lord really does wonderful things with His women. Thank you, my friends. I sure do love you.

P.S. Thanks to my husband and oldest kids for holding down the fort!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Friend's Book

I have this friend who is pretty fabulous. Her name is Laurel Christensen. We should've been friends a long time ago, as our paths crossed multiple times, but as it turns out, just this past year or so is when we've gotten to know each other. She is my husband's brother-in-law's sister. Or my sister-in-law's sister-in-law. Confused? My husband's sister married Laurel's brother. Got it? (You know, in Spanish, they have specific and shorter words for those relationships...)

Anyway, she has written several books and given speeches geared for teenage girls, mostly to aid in their feelings of self-worth and self-realization of their own fabulousness, as they gear their lives toward following Jesus Christ. Check her work out here. She has a new book coming soon, and I think you should check it out, no matter what your age. It's based on this Young Women Theme which teenage girls stand and recite each Sunday in our church. Powerful, no?

Go here to check out more details from this new book and pre-order, if you like. You won't be sorry.

(some quotes from the book)

"The reality is that faith isn’t about me. It’s about Him. And the Lord Jesus Christ has a pretty impeccable past record…not just in my life but in the countless lives and experiences of God’s children. That is why if my faith is really centered in HIM, then I’m always okay. Always."

"Regardless of who your parents are or how they have chosen to raise you, you have inherited qualities from your Heavenly Parents that are 'in your blood.' It's just who you are."

"Trust that God has a divine mission waiting for you and JUST for you. Trust that He is, even now, orchestrating details of your life to help you fulfill what you were sent to this earth to perform."

"The most important knowledge you will gain in this life will be the knowledge that is put into your heart and your mind through life's experience by the power of the Holy Ghost."

"Every choice has a consequence. But, the Lord loves you enough and trusts you enough to let YOU choose throughout your life. And a daughter of God who understands who she is has the power within her to make good choices and then gets to enjoy the consequences of those choices."

"One of the characteristics of God's daughters is that we have a natural inclination to nurture other people. We want to love them and serve them and help them. It's one of my favorite things about being a girl. And it's one of the things that makes a girl beautiful."

"That is the epitome of integrity--not simply acting right when you have the chance to act wrong, but acting right when you have the chance to act...right."

"The culminating experience for a daughter of God who lives the values is being as close as possible to her Father in Heaven and to her Savior as she enters the doors of God's Holy House--the temple."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Superhero Sighting

What could be better than waiting for a smoothie taste at Costco? Waiting next to a superhero, of course (complete with yellow crocs).

Oh, how I love this boy! He is as sunshiny as his shoes (except when he's not...).

Monday, August 9, 2010

A lesson in eavesdropping

Last night, my husband asked me, "So, is so-and-so pregnant?"

Wait a minute. What the? And this is how I replied:

"Didn't we have this conversation after church with her husband today? I heard him talking about how he'll be busy this fall, and that's the reason, blah, blah, blah. Remember, I turned to you and said, 'See, you were the one who guessed first, and you were right.' And then I turned to him and said, 'But we never ask. Congrats. We think it's great!'"

And then my husband replied, after nearly falling over with laughter:

"We were talking about how World of Warcraft 2 is going to be released in November. That's why he'll be so busy. I thought you were being awfully nice and unusually supportive about it."

It's too bad my foot fits so nicely in my mouth.

*BTW, she is pregnant, and she's having a boy in December. She said so herself. At least I know enough not to ask!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

True Love

You know it's true love when the husband and wife greeting goes something like this:

Wife: goes in for a hug after a very long and tiring day, "You stink. Time to reapply the deod!" Husband: lovingly, and with an equally sour face, "Umm...What did you have for lunch?"

If that's not the definition and embodiment of true love, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lazy Days?

The other day my kids were discussing the (obvious) torture of the job chart and lamenting their daily toils. My 5-YO boy said, "Yeah, and Mom doesn't have ANY jobs. It's not fair!"


I got to thinking about our July and all of the jobs I've (not) been doing, which don't happen to be listed on the job chart. Since school ended on June 24, my unwritten job list has included the management of:

8 doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments
1 eye surgery
1 birthday party
3 different campouts for 3 different children (and the attending early-morning wakeup calls)
1 Youth Conference (and its attending early-morning wakeup calls)
6 teenage girls borrowing my showers during Youth Conference
1 large youth group gathering in my home
2 volunteer full-day babysitting gigs for 2 sets of children
5 days of swim lessons (and counting)
6 hours of driving child #1 to EFY (another youth camp)
1 week of husband travel
6 kids at the pool almost daily
2 friend parties
26 days x 3 meals x 8 (give or take a kid or two)
6 kids in various states of emotional upheaval
2 weeks of major adjustment
3 electronic-free Wednesdays (I highly recommend them)
Piano lessons
Archery lessons
Youth and adult church activities
Kid coordination/babysitting swaps
My misplaced sanity

I must be doing something right if that 5-YO thinks I'm not working. Maybe I just make it look effortless and graceful all the time. That must be it. I'm a duck.

Lazy days of summer? Not yet. August, where are you?

Monday, July 12, 2010


I have been thinking recently about marriage--the good, the bad and the sad--as I've seen a couple of friends' marriages in trouble lately. Out of respect for the sensitive feelings involved, I won't make much commentary, other than I have seen miracles happen when couples turn toward God to help them solve their issues. You've probably already seen or heard about the "Marriage Triangle", but I think it's a good reminder how to maintain a good relationship of any kind. The closer we draw toward God and the Savior, the closer we get to each other.

I love this particular illustration, because it's exactly what my husband and I looked like on our wedding day. :) Go here to see the original author/illustrator's post.

And here's a video for Em! If you want to see more videos that will brighten your day, go here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hello, Summer!

At last. It has come. Thanks to ridiculous amounts of snowfall and close to two weeks of snow days, today is the last day of school. I am gladly bidding farewell (but not adieu) to some of our everyday habits. Give me a couple of months, and I'll be begging for them to return...So, have a cool summer, see you next fall, HAGS, BFF, TLA, LYLAS and KIT.

Goodbye, alarm clock beeps. 5:20 am has not been my friend.

Goodbye, sending off kids to school in the dark.

Goodbye, lunch packing.

Goodbye, ziploc baggies. I will return to singlehandedly destroying the earth with your non-biodegrading in September.

Goodbye, bedtime Nazi. Look out, 8:30. My kids are coming for you. Nothing but reckless abandon here.

Goodbye, crumpled up and forgotten homework.

Goodbye, jackets on the floor--maybe I'll finally put you away.

Goodbye, Nick Jr. Spongebob and Phineas and Ferb are moving in full-time. Ferb, I know what we're gonna do today.

Goodbye, kindergarten, second, fifth, seventh and ninth grades. We'll catch up with you in a couple of years.

Goodbye, bed head. The Buzz Cut Bros are back in town.

Goodbye, stomping 13-YO at 7:00 am. We'll see you at 9:00.

Goodbye, looooong walk to the bus stop with a reluctant 3-year-old.

Goodbye, tear-filled IEP meetings.

Goodbye, heart palpitations. I will take a break from panicking when I see the school's number on the caller ID.

Goodbye, imagined hand-held signs*. We'll need you again in the fall, so stay cool and remember your order. No, nothing is going on at home. Yes, he is being fed regularly. No, he is not abused. Yes, I am aware--I live with him. Yes, he is taking medication. Trust me, you can't tell me anything that will surprise me anymore. No, I really don't have any idea how to fix that--I'm sorry. Your guess is as good as mine.

Goodbye, clothing drama. The 8-YO redhead can wear anything she pleases, and I don't even care if it's dirty.

Goodbye, dirty socks all over the house. Flip flops and Crocs work wonders for the housekeeping.

Goodbye, peaceful afternoons. I will miss you.

Goodbye, Tuesday folders, signatures and library day.

Goodbye, homework that really should not be done in the morning.

Goodbye, semblance of order.

Hello, Entropy. Mi casa es su casa.

*Each year upon getting new teachers, administrators, etc for El Nino Espicy, I imagine myself holding up auction-like paddles with these phrases. I get tired of repeating myself until they believe me.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Company Manners

Recently a friend of mine gushed over my 13-year-old son. She was so complimentary, at first I thought she was joking. She described how tender and sweet and fun he was while working with other teenagers to babysit during a parents' church activity. Apparently he played games with the kids, held them when they needed it, and even was thoughtful enough to cut up a pizza slice for her 2-year-old. The fact that he even recognized that the little boy needed food in the first place was surprising! I had to ask her if she was really talking about my son--the one who only leans in for hugs occasionally, and the one who literally runs everywhere he goes in the house. We call him "Broad Strokes Boy" for his less than stellar attention to detail. I was so proud of him for behaving so well. I was also wondering where he learned how to do all of that, since he certainly didn't look like he was paying attention when I taught him.

What is that magical something that prompts my (and your--I'm sure of it) children to zip on their best behavior suits? It's something I call Company Manners.

I love company manners. I choose to believe that they are, in fact, a reflection of my children's "real" selves that they save up for special occasions. Why waste them at home, right?

Company manners are proof that my children's ears are in working order. They don't need hearing aids after all.

Company manners allow my children to visit other people's homes more than just once.

Company manners allow me to have other people fooled into thinking I've done a good job.

Company manners also make me feel better about all of the meltdowns we've endured, because I have a theory. I've convinced myself (read: coping mechanism) that when my children freak out, it's because I have provided such a warm, caring environment, that they feel totally and completely comfortable sharing all of their feelings, without fear of rejection. See what a good mom I am? It's a good sign that they yell and scream and stomp on the floor and call the elephants to come and play, right? I feel so much better. Company manners mean that they've held all of that crazy together for someone else all day, and when they come home, they lovingly give the crazy to me. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Company manners are the primary reason I do not homeschool. I have a degree in Elementary Education and plenty of teaching experience, by the way, but I can't handle the crazy for that long or in that context. Besides, they wouldn't believe me anyway.

Beware. Company manners have a loophole. They specifically do not apply when company visits the children's own home. No, no. There is some kind caveat that says when guests arrive (especially home teachers), it is acceptable (and even expected) for a child to unleash the worst behavior possible. Parents find it difficult to maintain their own company manners at these times, and the children can smell it like a dog smells fear.

Despite this loophole, I will take company manners any day of the week, as the alternative is less than desirable. No one else deserves our kind of crazy.

P.S. Tell someone how well her children behaved sometime. It will save her sanity and make her day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Measure of a Mom

See if you can pick out which one is my child:

Gets straight A's--always.
Considers an A- to be a failure
Wants to do what's right to the very letter of the law
Gets anxious when rules are bent or broken, because that's just not supposed to happen!
Says sorry for the smallest infractions
Asks if I need any help
Is kind and thoughtful to every sibling
Has the confidence and poise of Miss America
Can converse with adults just as comfortably as with peers
Makes bed every day
Scores perfectly on standardized tests for the next higher grade level
Is in the Gifted/Talented program
Is in the process of writing a novel
Is the best dish-doer in the house
Always does homework on time and without being asked


Has passing grades, but just barely, in math and reading comprehension
Considers not having "N's" (Needs Improvement) or "U's" (Uh oh! You're toast!) on a report card a marvelous achievement
Weighs whether or not the crime is worth the consequence (it usually is)
Wails "I'm SORRY!" when caught
Requires a finger-point to the job chart to prove that we already require very specific help
Pokes and bothers each sibling incessantly
Previously disposed to wailing and howling at the mere thought of standing up in front of a group
Has no problem mouthing off to adults as well as peers
Has a top sheet? You're kidding, right?
Did not pass state standardized math test
Is in the GenPop
Covers every last inch of a school folder with drawn Star Wars scenes
Requires a dish-doing tutorial each and every Wednesday
Crumples, hides or lies about homework

Well, you're half right. They are both mine. The top one is my 15-year-old daughter, and I'm not kidding. I'm still waiting for that other teenage shoe to drop. Well, actually her 13-year-old brother picked it up, and he's dropping it all over the place. But that's another story.

By now, you've probably guessed that the second one is my Spicy Boy. I promise, he is not that negative all the time, but it is a pretty fair sampling of his life, which is why he's so spicy. Sometimes that spice is rather sweet, like mango salsa, and other times it's like wasabi. Hot, hot, hot.

I have come to understand that I can no sooner take the credit for my daughter's achievements, than I can take the blame for my son's shortcomings. It's very freeing. The measure of a mom is much, much more complex than that. It had better be, or I quit. Did I just say that out loud?

I am certain that it is precisely because of his imperfections that I have become a better mom.

So is it appropriate to tease my daughter for her overachieving ways when she earns 6 academic awards? Can I laugh because she is a foot shorter than all the juniors up on stage (because I did, and so did the whole audience)? Because I must laugh when I talk to Grandma after docking in L.A. from the cruise, and she tells me that my son was suspended for two days from school for hitting someone. And I most certainly laughed when she told me she made him scrub my kitchen floor which stretches down the hall and to the front door. Go Grandma!

Yin/Yang, I say.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

For Sale

Ever have one of these days?...I just did.

For Sale

Kids for sale!

Kids for sale!

One crying, one stomping--young kids for sale!

I’m really not kidding,

So who’ll start the bidding?

Do I hear a dollar?

A nickel?

A penny?

Oh, isn’t there, isn’t there, isn’t there any

One mom that will buy stinky kids for sale,

These crying and stomping young kids for sale?

My apologies to Shel Silverstein, of course.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Things I Learned While Cruising

Click on the collage to see the pictures in their most glorious light.
I loved it.

I've never seen so many tattoos in one place in my entire life. Blech.

People drink on cruises. A lot. Wow.

Cruise ships must lose money when Mormons get on board.

10,000-calorie days are probably not good in the long run.

We can't resist taking Brady Bunch stair pictures.

The Filipino band that sang "Moon Ribber" was awesome! Also, my brother-in-law, who speaks Tagalog, met every single Filipino on the boat, I am sure.

Cabo San Lucas is exactly like Lake Havasu, but with prettier water.

When sitting on the beach in Cabo or Mazatlan, it is necessary to wear the "NO" shirt. Otherwise, each and every vendor of crappy clothing, jewelry, hats, sunglasses, purses and kites will violate personal space and ask for money.

Bring money to the beach, because you might just buy one of those purses.

Neither of those beaches was relaxing in the least.

My husband has a "Keep Out of Direct Sunlight" T-shirt. (I already knew that, but you perhaps did not.)

I'm pretty good at haggling. Who knew?

I love watching my husband speak Spanish. He loved being back in Mexico, too, after 20 years.

I can climb a rock wall, but I am shamefully slower than my husband and my 81-year-old father.

The first thing I saw when I looked out the window in Puerto Vallarta was a Sam's Club. The second thing? Wal-Mart.

Going shopping at a Mexican Wal-Mart is the exact same experience as shopping at any American Wal-Mart. Weird.

"Los pollitos go like this, 'peep peep'"

My dad is Superman.

Sliding down the zip lines in the jungle was AWESOME!

Parasailing runs a close second.

Definitions--Trip: Going somewhere with kids. Vacation: Going somewhere without kids.

Cruise ship singers and dancers have been away from land for far too long. And not in a good way.

It is nigh unto impossible to shave one's legs in a stateroom shower. It was also suggested that in order to shower properly, one should lather up the walls of the shower and just spin around. Forget about picking up the dropped soap.

Our waiter, Yatendra, from India, was awesome. I don't think he knew what to make of all 15 of us, though.

This particular ship had some wildly interesting artwork. My favorite was the flying Barbies. The Big Booty statue ran a close second.

I have mad skills when making a frozen yogurt cone. Frozen yogurt just fills in all the cracks after the 10,000 calorie meals. No worries. It's open from noon 'til nine.

My sister makes an awesome Nacho Libre.

The early rulers of Puerto Vallarta were also luchadores. See?

My family collectively rocks at Name That '80's Tune.

Puerto Vallarta looks suspiciously like Utah Valley with palm trees.

My husband has a weird Chandler Bing smile in every picture.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 21, 2010

I'm off!

Tomorrow I am flying to CA so I can do this cruise: Yes, I'm leaving kids behind (mwahahaha), and I'm going with my husband, my parents and all of my siblings and their spouses. (Insert Toyota jump here).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Calling the Elephants

Some of you have asked what "calling the elephants" means...Close your eyes, and imagine what noise an elephant makes. Now make that noise. No, really. You'll understand better.

Now imagine your children being noisily exasperated about something they don't want to do.

The noises are one and the same, so I tell them to stop calling the elephants. We don't have enough room. Make sense?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Motivational Signs

As I was vacuuming yesterday morning (in heels and pearls, of course), I was pondering (as I am often wont to do) the many ways I motivate and reinforce positive behavior in my children. It was a beautiful morning--birds chirping, rain softly falling, children cheerfully getting ready for school--and it had absolutely nothing to do with the boogies I found stuck to the back of the couch. Nope, nothing at all.

So I got to thinking about the big trend right now in home decorating to use vinyl lettering to post quotes on the wall. My friend, in her sheer brilliance, has posted above the exit door to the garage the words, "Return with honor". When coming into the house from the garage, her family sees the words, "You made it!" My sister has "Put on your big girl panties and deal with it!" by the door to her garage. I'm thinking I should start my own vinyl lettering company to fill the rest of that snarky void. Examples might include:

Procrastination on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

Remember who you are and what you stand for--and don't just stand there, put your backpack away!

Knowing and Doing are two different things.

You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit.

(For every room, wall and article of furniture) This is a No Booger zone!

Look Up, Rise Up, Step Up, Lift Up (Okay, that's a real one that I actually do want--sorry to throw you off)

Not until you finish your homework.

I didn't ASK if you wanted to.

Too bad, so sad--your dad

Love ya, see ya, bye!

(For above the piano) Practice what Mrs. Fair asked you to practice.

Try again.

I can't hear you when you're whining.

Stop calling the elephants.

Sit down. All the way.

(For the laundry room) Darks, Mediums, Whites. Why is that so hard?

No. (My husband actually has a shirt that just says this. It's the perfect Dad shirt.)

Just think...No more nagging, and my home decorating dilemmas will be completely solved! It's a win-win for everyone. Now I just need to find myself a Cricut...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Happy birthday to my amazing mother! I'm telling you, you should get to know her. She will bend over backwards to help anyone, and she is the strongest, wisest, smartest woman I know. She'll even give you advice on a Post-it! :) When I think about all of the things (and children) she has endured and conquered, I am in awe. She has traveled the world and even hiked the Na Pali trail in Kauai! She has shown so much strength and grace and a great sense of humor in the face of difficulties (not me, of course--ha ha), and I am so grateful for her wonderful example. I couldn't have asked for a better mother, and I wish her the happiest of birthdays today.
This is a picture of my mom with her mother and grandmother in 1934--Boulder City, Nevada. Her father helped build Hoover Dam.

Now this one is just cute.
This is a picture of her mother and siblings (she's the oldest--top row, middle), which they took to send to her father while he was in the hospital. He died shortly thereafter. Her baby sister was born a few months later. I should tell you about my amazing grandmother sometime!
My parents on their wedding day in 1952. I'm pretty sure she made that dress--or at least helped her mom make it. She's an incredible seamstress.
Happy birthday, Mom!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What Not to Wear

There is nothing more humbling (humiliating?) than bathing suit shopping. It stinks. Last night I went to the mall to find a swimsuit for my upcoming Love Boat cruise (yahoo!), and I left home thinking I looked kinda cute. I came home empty-handed and convinced it was an ugly-Cheryl day.

There was a time when bathing suit shopping wasn't quite as bad--that was my past life, of course. It was a life void of supportive cups and miracle panels and prints so loud that eyes are not only drawn up, they are drawn out of their sockets. I used to laugh at bathing suits that could literally stand out or stand up on their own. Now I need one.

To paraphrase Deborah on Everybody Loves Raymond, these were WORKING girls.

Not only that, but I'm built like a T-Rex, with J. Lo's butt. I'm 5' 5" with such short arms and legs that I sometimes have to buy petite sizes. When I was in elementary school, I would get accused of "acting hot" because my rear end stuck out so far. I never went through that storky leg stage, either. Good birthing hips and pioneer stock--that's me. And over the years, since I've worked out pretty regularly, I now have broader shoulders. Who knew I'd end up built more like my dad than my mom (who always talked about her hourglass figure being 15 minutes on top and 45 minutes on the bottom)? I'm a sumo-wrestling dinosaur who acts hot occasionally, while NOT wearing skinny jeans.

The funny thing is, I have finally made peace with my body's shape. It took a looooong time for me to accept it, but I now realize that just because something in the store doesn't fit, it doesn't mean I'm fat. I wish I could tell my 16-year-old self that she looked just fine--that just because I was curvy and some of my friends weren't, it didn't mean I was fat. And you know what? Even if I was fat, or am fat currently, who cares? I wish I'd have understood that I was just shaped differently, and it was okay. But bathing suit (and jeans) shopping still stinks.

I had a profound experience in the temple once, when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant. In LDS temples, we do vicarious ordinances (rites/sacraments/insert religious term you understand here) for those who have passed away, such as baptism, because we really do believe in life after death, and God wants everyone to return to Him. We also believe that families can be sealed together forever, which is why family history is so important to us. On this particular day about 3 years ago, I had very large cankles and about 40 extra pounds of pregnancy weight. I was not feeling pretty. As I was listening to the beautiful blessings and promises made, on behalf of someone who had long-since left this earth, I couldn't help but feel grateful for my body. I could use this body, as big and uncomfortable as it was, to help someone who couldn't help herself. I could provide her with an opportunity that she could not provide for herself, because her body and spirit are separated at the moment. Oh, I felt so beautiful. And so grateful. Then I remembered that I looked the way I did because I was carrying a precious baby boy--who also needed me to provide an opportunity for him to come to this earth and receive his own body. Aren't the tender mercies of the Lord wonderful and perfectly-timed?

I am grateful for a body that can do just about everything I want it to do. I am healthy and strong, and in an emergency, I am capable of running down the street with a child in each arm (which, by the way, has always been my fitness goal). I am grateful that these short arms can reach around my children when they need my hugs, and my short legs are strong enough to run races up the stairs with my boys. I am grateful that although I do not look like any sort of model, I am beautiful in the eyes of my husband, children, friends and God. I am grateful for people like NieNie who help me put things into perspective. (Watch this video about her, too.)

I still hate bathing suit shopping, but I'll get over it. Tomorrow will be a cute-Cheryl day.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Darth Vader, Buddha and Troll Dolls

What do Darth Vader, Buddha and a troll doll have in common?

They all describe my son last month. He was all wired up for a 48-hour EEG and EKG to determine if there was any remaining seizure activity in his brain (or any heart problems). One of the flavors that has added spice to this boy since 2002 is a Partial-Complex Seizure Disorder (yes, it's the same as Epilepsy). He was three years old when he had his first seizure, and he has been on medication since. Up until last summer, according to his EEG's, he had almost constant seizure activity in his brain, even though his meds have done a remarkable job keeping a lid on any outward signs. So when the neurologist told me last August that a recent EEG was normal, I nearly fell out of the chair. I made her repeat it in small words so I could understand. No.Seizure.Activity. Which led us to this 48-hour test, just to be sure. Oh, did this boy love the attention when we went out in public! Here are some pictures in reverse order:

The removal of Darth Vader's helmet
My daughter came home from school and asked, "Why does he look like Buddha?" To which the boy promptly responded with a fabulous Lotus Pose.
This is my personal favorite--he looks like a troll doll. I think he should have blue hair. I also had to restrain myself from twisting him back and forth between the palms of my hands.

So why do I bring this up today? Because I got the best phone call in the world this morning. The EEG was, in fact, normal, and he will most likely be weaned from his seizure meds in the next month.

Oh, how I love miracles. And Dr. Morales. I love Dr. Morales!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

This is how I feel about my job:
"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor's children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden. I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here, and that I really lived." --Marjorie Pay Hinckley (Small and Simple Things)

I love this quote, and I love this woman. She was the wife of the former President of my church, and boy was she wise. One time, someone asked her in an interview what it was like to be married to the Prophet, and she said, "Well, some days are better than others." So funny.

Today for Mother's Day, I have a few thoughts swirling around in my head, but the one that keeps coming back is that this job is a marathon. It is not a sprint. If we take a slice from any mother's life and try to measure it according to the world's success standards, she would most likely fall short. Well, that is unless she's having a particularly good hair day. I know that each day I do some things right and many things wrong. I try to take stock of my trajectory, just to make sure I'm headed in the right direction--even if I'm taking one step forward and two steps back. I think facing the right direction is half the battle. And you know that sometimes it's a battle.

As stay-at-home-moms, we often don't think we are making a difference in this world, because we don't hold vaulted positions, we're not speaking to large groups of influential people, and we don't get paid well. We hear messages that our job is not nearly as important or worthy of praise, and we get confused and sometimes apologize for what we do. I find myself apologizing for the condition of my house, because kids live here (how dare they!), and for those times when my appearance is a little sub-par. Unfortunately, there are also times when I try to prove my intelligence and achievements by mentioning my degree and using ten-dollar words. I'm not sure why. The smartest woman I know--my mother--only has a high school diploma. Now she would make a great Phone-A-Friend Lifeline on Millionaire!

But have you ever seen a mosaic? Each and every single little tile in and of itself is an imperfectly-shaped and colored piece that belongs to a greater puzzle and design. When viewed from afar, mosaics are absolute masterpieces. Motherhood is like that. Folding laundry? One piece. Kissing a boo-boo? Another piece. Remaining calm in the face of a bouncy ball war? Yet another.

All I know is that my mosaic is not finished. I also know that where my pieces are lacking, if I am doing my absolute best, God will fill in the rest. I'm banking on that, because I have a LOT of missing pieces. When I think of my career choice in this way, I realize that every small act I do is part of a much greater whole, and some days are better than others. My sphere of influence is rather small, but very profound. Yours is, too, and I hope you don't forget it. After all, by small and simple means, great things come to pass. (Alma 37:6)

One last quote for you on this Mother's Day from another great man.
"Parents must bring light and truth into their homes by one family prayer, one scripture study session, one family home evening, one book read aloud, one song, and one family meal at a time. They know that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily parenting is among the most powerful and sustaining forces for good in the world. The health of any society, the happiness of its people, their prosperity, and their peace all find common roots in the teaching of children in the home." --L. Tom Perry (read the whole talk here.)

Happy Mother's Day, my friends.