Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Smart Kid

Graham just asked me a joke/riddle/serious question -- I'm not sure.

Graham: What do you call a triangle without a top? (Imagine this being asked in a little boy lisp while big brown eyes look at you steadily.)

Me: I don't know, Graham, what do you call a triangle without a top?

Graham: A bi-angle.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Form Fits Function

When we arrived in England, none of my bedroom furniture fit up the stairs. The bedroom is big enough, but the turn in the stairwell is not. Our everybody-can-snuggle-on-Saturday-morning, pillow-top, king-size bed was donated almost immediately to a charity. But the dresser & chest of drawers have lingered in our lounge (aka living room) for more than a year, waiting for when we relocate to a different house.

Today I phoned the same charity that claimed our bed might be too large for the pick-up van (they managed, but the manager pleaded, "Please tell me they don't make beds bigger than this one.") I've been telling myself to do it for months, but today I finally scheduled to have the bedroom suite taken away.

In the past year I've thought about what that furniture means to me. We bought it, ironically, from a family who were leaving the States to spend a year in Norway. Those pieces of furniture symbolized what good things could enter our lives. Beautiful & functional, with clean lines. Form fit function. But although we could still use the function, those pieces no longer fit the form of our lives.

So, on January 8th, those items which meant "good things will come" to my graduate-student-wife self will be taken away. Their sale will bless the lives of the Emmaus Community. And, I like the thought that perhaps they could become a symbol of "someday" prosperity for another young family.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's in the Genes

I grew up watching classic movies, usually musicals. When I was fourteen, "Singin' in the Rain" became my favorite movie & still holds a position in my top five favorite films.

When Cami was a very young toddler, about one, movie musicals were my stand-by for getting housework done. Once the music began, she'd happily watch a film for two hours. (Anybody think I'm a bad mom?) She loved them so much that we once had a babysitter tell us Cami cried hysterically the entire time we were gone, except when Fred Astaire was dancing on screen.

Cami's gotten back into "Singin' in the Rain" lately. She requested it for Me-and-Mommy-Movie Night on Friday & then again yesterday afternoon. So, I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised when Cami just told Jason, "There's nothing between us. . . just air."

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Message From Jason

Graham has just been tucked away in his bed, after having a late night out at a friend's birthday party. Jason was the accompanying parent & related the following conversation that took place in the cab on the way home.

Graham (looking at the GPS): There is a little map in this car.

Jason: Yes. It's a very smart map. It knows where we want to go and tells the driver how to get us there. Isn't that cool?

Graham: Yes, it is.

Jason: They didn't have maps like that when I was your age.

Graham: They did have maps like that when I was my age!

Will Jason Guess?

Graham & Jason are upstairs playing "I Spy." Graham won a blog point when he announced, "I spy with my little eye something that is Mommy-shaped."

Monday, December 14, 2009

I think I'll keep him.

Graham comes home for lunch now. It's a good thing the school is only a five minute walk from our house, because it could be really inconvenient otherwise.

Even though it isn't the way things would work in my ideal world, it's not unusual for him to play a computer game during his lunch break. But today the computer wasn't on & he entertained himself by looking out the window. As I was helping him put his coat on I asked, "Can I whisper something in your ear?" I bent low & whispered, "I think you are fun."

He pulled my head lower & whispered, "I think you are gorgeous & beautiful."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

You've Had a Birthday, Shout HOORAY!

Cami turned seven yesterday. She's had her birthday party all planned out for at least a month, but what she didn't know was that I was going to surprise her with a trip to the German Market. Five little girls on an adventure are a happy handful.

I should spend a few minutes recording the details of the day, but we're about to do Cami's cake. There was so much excitement yesterday, the birthday bonfire had to wait until today!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Graham is a literal sort of kid. So it shouldn't have surprised me when we had the following conversation a few minutes ago:

"Graham, why are you standing on those books?"

"I'm not standing on books."

"What are you standing on?"


"What's the plastic wrapped around?"

Mischievous grin, "Books."

Monday, November 16, 2009

When He Grows Up

Graham kept saying, "I the conductor" during rehearsal for Sunday's Primary Program. He's so cute!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Going Public

As I was washing dishes, I was thinking about how well this week of flying solo has gone. So many blessings have come. I mentioned in a previous post that I've learned the importance of getting out with the kids, but there's another thing I've learned to do: let people in.

Tuesday, Cami had a friend come play after school. Wednesday, another school friend of Cami's & her mom came over & had supper with us. That same afternoon, a friend volunteered to take Graham home with her, so each of the big kids got to do something special. And yesterday, a pair of friends spontaneous came & spent the afternoon/evening with our crew. (We grown ups splurged & had yummy fondue -- perfect for a rainy & cool Thursday night -- while the kids got a treat of fish'n'chips.)

But even without the emotional strength I find in having friends over, I think I would have survived pretty well. For one significant reason: I'm back on meds.

Growing up, I saw the effect that misapplied mood-altering drugs can have. So I resolved that that would never be a part of my life. But as a missionary, depression hit hard. I was angry with God that I could feel so awful when I was "doing the right thing." And when medication was prescribed, I didn't want to take it.

But one afternoon, I went to a private place to pray. A very simple, "Am I supposed to take medication?" with a very simple reply in the affirmative. I walked out of that room & down a stair case. Another missionary, someone I respect a lot, came up to me & asked how I was. I gave some generally positive answer, & she said, "You look happy. I haven't seen you look that way in a long time."

A few years later I learned that Cami was going to be joining our family and I went off the meds. That was almost eight years ago. I've either been growing or feeding a baby ever since. But Rose weaned recently & I'm back on the meds. And parenting doesn't seem so impossible anymore.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Single Mother Survival

When I was nineteen, I took care of three little boys for a week. I was "not the mama" to a six year old, a four year old, and an almost two year old while their parents were in Cancun. I learned a lot in that week. The most important was that I would NEVER do anything to become an unwed mother. (I still think caring for someone's children would significantly reduce teen pregnancy rates.) Single parenthood is tough!

I find myself back in the position of taking care of a six year old, a four year old, and a sort-of-almost two year old by myself. It's again just a week. But the same most important survival technique remains: do something away from your house each day.

I have a list up in the kitchen. Cami read it this morning & thought it was the list of everything we were going to do today. It's my "what to do when Jason's gone" list. She was so excited to read "library" that we were out the door by 9:45 this morning. A walk through the park, some little errands on the way, & twenty minutes in the book borrowing facility made my life so much easier. I need that outside time. And the big stack of new books kept Cami pretty happy when Rose was napping.

When Rosie woke up, outside we went again. It was just a run to the corner store for some soy milk, but at 4:30, it's pretty dark outside. That made it a grand adventure. So, with imaginative dragon-slaying along the way, the kids had fun.

Now, the other single mother survival technique is adequate sleep. It's only 9:15, but that's pretty late for me. Good night, world.

P.S. Jason I hope your flight went well. I love you!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Just a Walk

I've been jittery the last twenty-four hours or so. I'm not sure if it's because I'm so tired that my body is wired or something else is going on. But stretching didn't help (although I learned I can still do backbends with ease), reading didn't help, tidying up didn't help.

So, I took a walk all by myself this afternoon. Here are photos of things I saw that I liked. All within 15 minutes of where we live.

This is a 400 year old barn that's for sale. I so wish we could live there.

I just liked the stone arch with the gate.

When I tell Jason I'm going "by the cows" he knows I'm heading to these fields. There were only one or two cows out today -- sometimes there are many, many more.

I lay on my back on a big stone that juts out of the hill above the river. I spent some time there trying to be. To really experience the coolness of the stone beneath me, the sound of the river below, the blue of the sky and the clouds passing. I'm still feeling jittery, but I think I'm less sensually starved now.

Halloween Hijinx

Graham was running a fever on Halloween, so the Second Ill Child Halloween Candy Hunt was enacted. The Candy Hunt happened around 1:30 in the afternoon, but the kids' decided to wear their costumes all day long. Take a peek.

(The bag he's hold was his self-created costume for when he was a "Goodie Vampire that kills Baddie Vampires.")

Cute Cami

Grinning Graham

Ramblin' Rose

Can you guess where she's sitting?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

They Will Not Take Our Freedom!!!

Cami is bouncing between the kitchen & the living room, yelling her Halloween-induced battlecry, "STARBUUUURST!"

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween

It's 6:15 in the morning & a ghost & a pumpkin are preparing to watch the Great Pumpkin on YouTube. Do you think they are excited about the date?

Monday, October 26, 2009

The First Day of Mid-Term

The kids get this week off school. It's called the Mid-Term Holiday, but I think it should be renamed the Recovering From Colds & British Summer Time Holiday.

It seems like everybody has been ill & the clocks fell back for fall yesterday. We are back on Greenwich Mean Time. It means that it's 9:41 in the morning & it feels like 2 in the afternoon. We've had more than one fight, a broken photo glass, & the four hours of tidiness I experience every day when Cami & Graham are at school will resume next Monday.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's Not For Camping

Graham loves numbers. LOVES them. So, yesterday he decided to count to 100 for a bunch of educational professionals. He got to 40 before they told him that he'd done well, but that the meeting needed to end. (I just snickered the entire time.)

This morning Jason invited Graham to count up to 100 for him. Everything was going exactly the way you would expect, until:

"Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, tenty."

"Tenty? You mean one hundred."

"No, tenty. It comes next."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Views of Pemberley

I had promised more pictures of Chatsworth House last week. So, here's some of the house and grounds.

This is one of the State Rooms, not usually open to the public. When the house was constructed, this room was built specifically so that if Mary & William ever came to visit, they would have a throne room available. It would have been the seat of power whenever they were there. The room never had its moment of greatness.

I wish these indoor photos weren't blurry. I was trying to be good & not use a flash.

Once upon a time I thought I'd never see a library to covet more than one at Princeton. I was wrong.

Alright, movie lovers, recognize this?

I love the countryside. Sarah noted that I spent the most time standing at the windows instead of gawking at the lavish interiors.

Sarah & I were both in awe of this indoor vineyard. The grapes hang from vines planted in the 1920s. Just amazing.

Scripture Power Usurped

This morning Graham started flipping a coin to see if it would land "heads" or "knees." When it came up heads, he said, "It's the power to win."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Crying Right Now

When you find yourself, you will be beautiful. -- Ruth Reichl's mother.

I'm listening to a Fresh Air interview with Ruth Reichl right now. I've read her first three memoirs & she is currently promoting her fourth. The book is entitled, Not Becoming My Mother.

Who doesn't feel that? (Mom, are you surprised?)

I've been struggling with all the voices in my head. I've heard lots of negative things throughout my life & unfortunately, I've absorbed them to the point that my thoughts are now the self-destroying voice. Just in this week, I've been trying to interrupt the negative words & replace them with kindness.

So, this quote is something I'm going to write up on my wall. I keep trying to find out who I am. And then I will see that I am beautiful.

Friday, October 16, 2009

How Many Eyes Have You Got?

Triops has Three Eyes is an especially popular song with our numerically gifted four year old. Graham likes to cuddle in bed with me before the sun is up and talk about what creatures are called that have one eye, two eyes, three eyes, etc. We go up to ten & then my knowledge of Roman/Latin numerical prefixes comes to an end.

This morning Graham asked to see a bi-op. "Honey, look at me," I said. "I'm a bi-op."

"No, you are not. You are not scary. Bi-ops are scary."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chicken with Apples

This recipe was a lifesaver tonight. I had NO brilliant ideas & then I found this. I had everything -- having bought the chicken breasts & Braeburns yesterday -- except the juice. Homemade chicken stock replaced that. And I reduced the Dijon to about 1/2 tsp. Little mouths can't handle the HOT English mustard.

Motherhood Memories

Rose turned 18 months old on Monday. She can now officially be left to cry her heart out for two hours in the church nursery!

With Graham & Cami at school six hours a day, I'm getting to play with her more. For whatever reason, while she was in the bath this morning, I was remembering one of my favorite people. Aaron was three when I met him -- I was fifteen. I loved spinning him in circles or playing "airplane" with him. I thought that's what being a mom was all about. . .making a happy child giggle & scream with happiness.

Motherhood has taught me otherwise. But I took some time to play airplane and chase and peek-a-boo with little Rose today. And she screamed with happiness.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Toddler Talk

Jason sent me the following text at 1:24 this afternoon:

Rose is up, and saying "done nap"

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rudolph the Green Nose...

Graham wanted to look at an I Spy book for story time last night. One of the items on the list was antlers, which was a new word for him. To help him understand what he was looking for, I prompted, "Look for the deer."

He questioned, "A reindeer or a John Deere?"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Day with Darcy

Today is the 10 year anniversary of when I left Temple Square & became a different version of me. If I had thought, "Where will I be 10 years from now?" on that day, my guess wouldn't have been here.

My photos aren't turning out very good. So, if you want to see better shots, watch this.

My friend Sarah & I took a day off. She grew up in Derbyshire & wanted to show me Chatsworth House, or as many people know it, "Pemberley." It's an amazing house with an incredible art collection. I saw the white bust of Darcy. It was on display next to the Veiled Vestal Virgin. "Darcy" is made of resin, the Virgin marble. Both beautiful, but sitting side-by-side, the resin just looked fake & the marble magical.

I'll post more photos later. It's late, I need sleep. But one last shot. This warning stood outside the estate farm. I told Sarah I'm going to print this photo & stick it on my front door. It made us laugh.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Parenting Pondering

We had the missionaries over for lunch today. One is from Utah, the other from Bristol. Cami was so excited to show them the pumpkin we found at the fruit & veg shop & which she was already drawing a face on. The British missionary had never heard of carving a pumpkin. When I asked, he said pumpkins were used in soup & to "chuck at people."

This same missionary was very amused watching Rose explore the kitchen tools drawer. It's mostly filled with wooden spoons, the whisk, lemon juicer, etc. But, tucked in the back was the meat tenderizer. He thought it was hilarious when she started wandering around the house with what is essentially a fancy hammer.

It made me realize that Jason and I are pretty relaxed in what we let the kids do at home. And hyper-vigilant in making sure they don't wreak havoc when they are in public. I wonder if that confuses them.


A couple of months ago, Jason came to me & said he felt we needed to dedicate some of our time to a cause.

My niece Rebekah, spent a chunk of last summer volunteering at a foster home in China. Orphaned children, all of them in need of medical attention, are taken out orphanages by a lovely woman named Amanda DeLange. She then arranges for their treatment & pays for them to live in Starfish Foster Home. Many of them are then adopted by families outside of China.

I phoned my sister Dawn a few days ago & she mentioned she'd been wanting to talk to me about a project she & Rebekah are trying to get off the ground. Amanda is being honored with a
Distinguished Service Award at BYU Homecoming in a couple weeks and Dawn & Rebekah are trying to figure out how to capitalize on Homecoming to raise funds for Starfish. I suggested a couple of things, which I'll mention later if they look like they will happen.

Anyway, Dawn just posted this link about Amanda on her Facebook account. I still don't know how Jason and I can help, beyond letting people know about the wonderful place that Amanda has created far, far away.

An Act of Faith

Cami has made a friend at school, a girl who just relocated to our area. They have plans to go bowling next week. But Cami isn't the only one making friends -- I ran into Heather's mom as I ran an errand, so I invited her over.

She's a laboratory scientist who has a background in materials. She got excited about something & started to explain how neat it was that girders work in a special way. Then she cut herself off, uncomfortable because it wasn't something I had any background in.

I reassured her, "It's ok. I'm married to an academic. And I come from a family of academics. Don't be embarrassed about what you know."

She asked if I'd been an academic too. Nine years ago (how can it have been that long ago?) I was. But now isn't the time to think about the life I left.

I keep thinking about how profound that last line of reassurance is: don't be embarrassed about what you know. So, so much easier for me to say to another than to apply to myself. I spend so much emotional energy shielding myself from sharing the things I know. Trying to avoid the isolation that comes from knowing the things I know. This sounds so cryptic and I don't mean to be. Simply, being LDS isn't comfortable for me. I haven't been comfortable in my faith since I was a small child. Even writing those last two sentences, knowing that somebody else will read them, is anxiety-creating. But I'll hit "publish" anyway.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Graham Stats

"Well Child" doctor appointments don't happen here, so I hadn't gotten the official height & weight for Graham when he turned four. But he had a recent medical appointment, & here's the news.

Height: 109 centimeters/ almost 41 inches.

Weight: 18.2 kilograms/ 40 pounds.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Valley of Desolation

Tuesday, 15 Sept. 2009.

Jason and I dropped Cami & Graham off at school & then headed for Bolton Abbey. I was determined to see the Valley of Desolation. With grouse hunting scheduled for every weekend in September, it had to be on a week day. Jason had offered to stay home with Rose, but I wasn't sure how ready I was to go exploring the valley alone -- just in case.

So, Rose went along from her usual perch in the hiking backpack. It was best that the big kids didn't come on this hike. We wouldn't have made it. The Valley earns it's name, but not in the way I would initially have thought. It's lush. It's dramatic. It's gorgeous in it's sadness.