Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sitting in the Mud

Not too long ago Eric was having a bad day. He compounded his bad day by being mean to Mercie, which promptly earned him a punishment and scolding from Mom. Because he is three, and because this makes sense when you are three, he decided that plunking his butt down in the muddy snow and refusing to come into the warm house, while screaming at the top of his lungs, was the best response.

Being the coldhearted Momma that I am, I shrugged and told him to suit himself.

Mia gave me the most withering glare that a four-year old outraged older sister can give. "He's CRYING," she told me, in an accusing tone of voice usually reserved for ax murderers and terrorists. "He'll stop when he's ready," replied the Mother of the Year.

Mia glared at me again. Then she marched over to the muddy snowbank, gave me one more accusing--and slightly defiant--look, plunked her butt down right next to Eric, and began to cry with him.

Now let me digress for just a minute with another story. When I was 19 I thought I was in love, like really, really in love with the most perfect guy. Being 19 and incredibly stupid, I got mad over something dumb and dumped him. Within a week or so I realized that I'd made a foolish mistake, and I wanted him back. The only problem was, he didn't want me back. In the long run, with the hindsight of years, this was a good thing. But at the time, at age 19, it broke my heart. After we had the "I-want-to-get-back-together-but-you-don't" talk, I went back to my apartment, walked in my bedroom, threw myself face down on the bed and bawled. And I mean BAWLED. Massive, gushing sobs. This was, after all, the End of the World. Gradually I became aware that I wasn't alone. Confused, I looked up and saw, through a curtain of hair and buckets of tears, my friend Melanie. She had seen me come home looking sad and my roommates let her in to my room, and she was sitting on my bed, rubbing my back, and bawling with me. And I mean BAWLING. In typical girl fashion we ended up laughing and crying and hugging and crying some more, and then laughing some more, and then eating ice cream.

That was the first time in my life that I really started to understand the whole concept of charity, and what it means to mourn with those that mourn (Mosiah 18:9). After 30-some years on the planet I'm still learning what Mia knew instinctively--sometimes we just need somebody to sit down in the mud with us and cry. Don't get me wrong--acts of service are needed, appreciated, and most definitely part of the plan. But sometimes it's easier to keep our hands and feet clean, and our emotions safe, by signing up for a frozen dinner in Relief Society and ignoring the 'walking wounded' around us.

Which brings me to the real point of my post: I'm sad. I'm sad because my friends are sad, because they are suffering real pain right now. I have two lovely neighbors who are losing their battles with cancer, and it sucks. I love them and I love their families, and this just hurts.

Amy, Tyler, Aiden, Sam, Adi, and Mike; David, Sue, Gary, Katie, and all the others--I'm sitting the mud with you. And I'm crying.

When it's time to stop crying I'll bring the ice cream.
Love you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ward Conference

[The following mental conversation took place during the miscellaneous opening parts of the Sunday meetings. I would never wander around in my head like this during actual talks. I give my full attention to the speaker and apply his/her words to my life. Really. I even have doodles--er, I mean, notes--to prove it.]

"Adam G. is, I think, my current favorite Cutest Baby. I could just eat him up. He probably knows this and that's why he screams bloody murder when he sees me. Or he's finally figured out that seeing me usually means separation from Mommy & Daddy. Poor kid. So whose kid can I swipe for Sunday School/Relief Society? I bet Amy would let me take 'Nessie." I mean, Adi. I wish she would have really named her Nessie. That would be awesome. Especially if her real name was Renesmee. Haha. Golden opportunity missed there, my friend. I think Curtis has lost more weight. Michelle totally has. I need to get my butt in gear--I'm being left behind on the skinny train. So, I don't go to the gym on Sunday, or even use the treadmill, but I wonder if doing situps on Sunday is okay? Letter of the law or spirit? Use my own judgment? We'll see how I feel at 9 o'clock tonight--it will probably be a moot point because I won't want to do it anyway. Looks like we've got the standard "conference" musical fare today. Is that a rule, like how for stake conferences there are these official guidelines about the music, and you're supposed to stick to certain well-known hymns? Does the same rule apply for ward conferences? How in the world do I even know this? I don't think I've done music for a stake conference since I was 18. Click, click, click, searching through memory. Not that I remember. Weird. Julie looks cute today. Hello--she always looks cute. She can be a total mess and she still looks cute. That is so unfair. Why is Ethan chewing on that chair? Seriously, he is CHEWING on it. Holy heck, is he two? And he wonders why I mock him? I'm not going to feel badly about that anymore. If he brings it up again I'll just remind him that A.) he puts his toenail clippings on Emily's dresser and B.) he CHEWS ON CHAIRS in Sacrament Meeting. And that is the rising generation, the next breed of young missionaries we are sending out to represent the Lord and His church. He'll probably end up converting hundreds and being this insanely good missionary just so I'll have to eat my words. Wait, I didn't say this, so does that count as eating words? Or would it just be eating thoughts? That doesn't have the same cachet. Chewing on thoughts sounds kind of fluffy. Like cotton candy. Mmm...cotton candy. I think there is some cotton candy in the back of my closet that one of the kids got for Christmas and I stole. Geez, don't think about cotton candy! You're fasting. That must be why prepackaged bubble gum flavored cotton candy sounds good right now. Normally--well, that would be why it's still sitting in the back of the closet. Is it just me or is it just yucky to eat the Sacrament bread when you're fasting? Because then you have this bready taste in your mouth and you can't eat or drink anything to get it out. Remember that time somebody brought old and rotten-tasting bread? Oh, that was sooooo nasty. I thought I was going to hurl right there in Sacrament Meeting. It was funny to watch other people's faces, though, trying to decide whether to spit it out or choke it down. Eric and Mercie spit theirs out. And what on earth was Mommy supposed to do with soggy, pre-chewed, rotten bread? Remember how Kathryn used to line us all up on Fast Sunday and pass out gum because she claimed fasting gave everyone at church bad breath? Now she's made me kind of paranoid about it. That would be why I threw a tin of breath mints in my church bag on the way out the door. Don't need to worry about it right now--I'm not sitting close enough to anyone. Sunday School, on the other hand... My gosh, that rooms gets crowded. And stinky. We seriously need more Sunday School classes. Break things up, share the love. And why does everyone sit on the ends of the aisles? I hate shoving past everyone to find a seat, and then shoving past them when I leave early for Primary. What happened to scooting in, people? Hey, that's funny--right then our stake president looked like Charlton Heston. Oh, that's good. Let's run with that one. It's like when "Moses" gets up and throws the tablets down...haha--I can totally see it! Maybe it's that frowny glare looky thing. Nope--I think it's the actual face, bone structure and all. How did I live here for so long and never see this? Sacrament Meetings just got waaaaay more fun. Oops, keep the giggle to yourself, missy. Is that why Sister S. is giving me The Look? Check it out folks--Soylent Green and Planet of the Apes right here in front of us. Wait, didn't he romp around naked in those movies? Eewwww. Okay, THAT comparison ends right now. Woosh. Was that the Spirit leaving? Focus, Wendy, focus. Why is it that I always thought Charlton Heston seemed gay? He wasn't, but there was just something...maybe it was the eye makeup. Except that was only in some of his movies. Maybe I'm mixing it up with Kirk Douglas. But I don't think he was gay; he was just in Spartacus, which is legend in the annals of gay film noir. And that my friends, is the value of a BYU education. Good old theatre & media arts. I may not remember anything about square roots and differentials, but I can hold forth on queer theory quite respectably. Haha...the first counselor looks like that goofy guy on M.A.S.H.--Radar, was that his name? That is so funny! GIVE IT UP, WENDY! No more celebrity twinning in Sacrament Meeting! Moving on, moving on... I can't believe that guy is texting in the middle of church. Is nothing sacred anymore, people? You can't wait one precious hour to tell Bubba you're good to go ice fishing on Wednesday? Can it, Wenders--you know you're just jealous that you didn't think to bring your phone and multitask through the meeting. No, I'm not. I don't believe in texting during church. Yeah, let's ask Alicia about that. How many times has she caught you and Betsy texting back and forth during church? That's not Sacrament Meeting--those times have only been like, extra meetings, like Relief Society broadcasts or evening stake conference sessions, and we were texting about Important Stuff. Whatever. You hypocrite. Duh. I'm perfectly comfortable with my own hypocrisy. Well, not comfortable, maybe, but at least aware. Unlike some people. Hey! Is this my two minute self-righteous meditation? Am I keeping my New Year's Resolution right here, right now? Yeah, if by "two minutes," you mean, "two seconds." I wonder if it's weird-bad or weird-good that I talk to myself in my head? I'm gonna go with "weird-good" unless my head starts talking back. Maybe I should put this on my blog. Okay, I need to pay attention now. Time for the Sacrament. Let's think about Jesus. I wonder if Charlton Heston ever played Jesus..."
[Note to the W. clan: I definitely could--and probably should-- have censored certain parts of this post, but I know you're busting a gut right now. You're welcome.]

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The "It's Not a Book Club" Intellectually Snobby Event for February

Let's make one thing totally clear:

This is NOT a book club.

Yes, we read books, often all the same book. Yes, we get together and talk about those books (and lots of other tangential and random things). Yes, the books are often the only common bond among a diverse and intriguing group.

But it is NOT a book club.

Humor me on this one, because I have a deep-seated aversion to book clubs, to the point that I've sworn not to join one. If we call this a book club, A.) I break my vow, B.) I lose the pretentious snobbery of calling it a salon and instead sound like every other 30-something Mormon housewife who reads "The Secret Life of Bees" and "Ya-Ya Sisterhood" for her Enrichment book club (not that I have anything against either of those books because in fact I love them both, and not that I have anything against Enrichment books clubs--oh wait, I do--but I believe my non-conformist streak and superiority complex are well established, and I simply can't do what everyone else does), and C.) calling it a 'club' somehow sounds rather exclusive because clubs are formal and have rules and members and official schedules, and my little shindigs are quite the opposite.

Oh yeah, and around here (UT county), book clubs seem to be almost exclusive to that same 30-something Mormon housewife demographic I mentioned--which I obviously have nothing against because I am myself part of that demographic--but personally, I just really, really like talking and being with people with lots and lots of different ideas, perspectives, experiences, and beliefs, which can't happen in a homogenous and insulated world where we're all the same age, gender, marital status, socioeconomic level, etc, etc.

Plus I just really like calling it a 'salon.'

So now that you've got that it is most definitely not a book club, here's the scoop for February:

Friday, February 20th, 8:30pm, my house

"Seeking Enlightenment Hat by Hat: A Skeptic's Path to Religion" by Nevada Barr. I have a copy of the book if anyone needs it, although it's currently loaned out with two more people waiting in line. I explained this to Julie last night as, "If you like C.S. Lewis, this is kind of like C.S. Lewis on crack." Great book--I can't wait to hear what people think.
P.S.--It's not a book club.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Randomly For No Reason At All

Here is a link to a devotional address given recently by one of my very favorite people, and one of the best mentors I know in the art of discipleship:

Don't you just love the gentle wisdom that seeps through the text? Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

When Three-Year Olds Teach Gospel Doctrine

Sunday afternoon the kids made cookies. This was a glorious activity, which took most of the afternoon, made a HUGE mess in the kitchen, churned out a few billion pans of cookies, and provided Mommy with more than a few opportunities to duck behind the counter and choke back the giggles. Case in point:

Eric: I don't like Jordan. He's mean. He hits.

Mercie: Ewic, if somebody hits you, you hit them back. Dat's how we follow Jesus in our house.

Grace: Mercie! That's not a truth! That's not what Jesus says.

Mercie: Oh Gwacie, you are just kidding me to deaf.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The January List

Wow--it's a big one. In no particular order, here are the things I'm feeling grateful for this month:
  • Johnny Cash. Mostly because I'm listening to "The Man Comes Around" right now and remembering all the reasons I like the Man in Black.
  • Junie B. Jones! Discovering Ms. Junie B. with my own kindergartener and pre-kindergartener is the mostest funnest ever!
  • Lisa's wonderful Wednesday dinners.
  • I have the best visiting teachers. See above.
  • Texting at 2am and 4am and 6am, because I know if my phone goes off in those wee morning hours it's one of two people, both of whom are happy reasons to be awake.
  • Friends who do such a good job loving and taking care of us that my kids name their dolls after them (ahem, Alicia & Michelly).
  • the gym. Nice people at the gym who don't laugh at me.
  • I finally learned to drive through an automated car wash. I was so proud of myself that I kept peeking out to the garage at the gleaming, sparkly-clean shine. This has been years coming. It's a far cry from the days when my sisters and I would dump our quarters in the car wash box and use the high pressure hoses to go after each other. THAT'S the way to have a water fight.
  • Draper Temple Open House.
  • Students. I know, I know, I say this every month. Let's make that, FORMER students. Because this has just been a good couple of weeks that way. David stopped by my office to chat for awhile, Eric joined us for the Clueless orgy, and Tina took me out to lunch. I love having a job that allows me to know wonderful people!
  • Fasting. And prayers. This hasn't been a good month for my friends Krista, Casey, Matt, and Sydney, all of whom are battling some form of the dreaded C-word. I'm grateful there is something I can do, and that we have Someone wiser and stronger and smarter to turn to when life is rough and doesn't make sense.
  • My sister Smoochie is coming to visit!!!
  • Diapers! I may moan about Eric's lack of interest in toilets, but I was reminded last night that it could be MUCH worse. He was running around naked before bedtime and I was thinking "Gee, I'm so glad that at least he's old enough that I don't have to worry about accidents..." and yep--massive, messy pooping all over the kitchen floor and all over Eric. Gracie volunteered to help clean up the floor, gagging and choking while saying, "I can do this. Even though it's disgusting, I can do this. Because I am brave." Dang straight. You are one brave little mama.
  • Sunshine! Finally, a break from the endless snow.
  • Seeing Chris last week. Because feeling 18 again is priceless.
  • Warm AND cute pajamas. Thank you, Mom!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Year. New Goals. New Post.

I actually, really, truly do have four real goals for 2009. I thought about posting them so that stating them publicly would force me to be more accountable, and the thought of embarrassing myself by failing to achieve them in front of my faithful blog audience (thank you, Mom & Betsy) would be a strong motivator to endure.

But the thought of keeping y'all updated on my efforts to get in shape or clean out my basement makes me want to pass out from sheer boredom, and I imagine you'd feel the same way about reading it.

In the interests of simplicity and order, I'm taking a page from several blogging buddies (what--you expected original thought?!) and posting New Year's Resolutions that I can readily keep, and that YOU can readily check up on.

1.) Stay single.

2.) Expand my reportoire of "breakfasts" that can be eaten out of a ziploc bag in the car on the way to daycare.

3.) At least once a month, skip the gym and the treadmill in favor of curling up with a book and polishing off a half pan of brownies.

4.) Fine tune the art of hypocrisy and take my self-righteousness to a new level by setting aside a two-minute meditation period in church each Sunday to reflect on all the ways I'm doing better than at least half the people there.

5.) Use my blog to regularly insult/poke fun/otherwise torture Brain Drain. WHY? Why??? Why do I have this constant sick compulsion, like an itch that must be scratched? Because I'm just a lousy friend. And a bad, bad person. And also because his wife helps--er, I mean, LETS--me. And it's fun. And his kids like it. And did I mention it's fun?

There you have it. 2009 will be the year of the not-so-new, not-so-improved Wendy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Praying for Those We Love, Or Something Like That

Last night, in a moment of blinding inspiration, I suggested that we do something a little different for family prayer. Instead of one person voicing the prayer for all of us, we would take turns praying, giving thanks for each member of the family and asking God to bless each person individually. Brilliant-Mommy had visions of a sweet, bonding experience as the children tenderly expressed their love for each other in prayer.

It worked for a few minutes.

Then it was Mia's turn. "Dear Heavenly Father, why am I thankful for Eric?"

Mommy interrupted in a whisper, "No, Mia--YOU think of reasons you are thankful for Eric and tell Heavenly Father in your prayer."

l-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng pause.

"Dear Heavenly Father, why exactly am I thankful for Eric? 'Cuz I don't know."

Poor boy. On the other hand, I had some sympathy for Mia. Even as adult I've had my own moments of wondering about some of my siblings...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Meanest Mommy in the World

Last night at dinner:

Grace: Bibbity, bobbity, boo--I turned you into a nice mommy!

Me: Wow--it worked so fast. Must be because I was already a nice mommy.

Grace: No, you weren't. But you are now because I cast a spell on you.

Me: Hmmm...well, what exactly do nice mommies do?

Grace: Nice mommies, when their children ask them if they can have mac & cheese for dinner, they say yes.

At least I know where I fall short.

Monday, January 05, 2009

When a Child Prays

Three-year old Mercie gave the family prayer last night.

"Dear Heavenly Father, we're thankful for juice and snacks and cookies at church. We thankful to Primary, except Eric. We're thankful for playing in Uncle Dan's room. Thank you that Mommy is a witch. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

There is a story behind this, but it's so much better left as is, don't you think?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Not-So-Literary Salon for January

Because I'm sometimes laziness embodied, here is a link to the announcement regarding the salon (or lack thereof) that I'm hosting in January:

Next Friday, January 9th, 8:30pm, my house.

Lest you think I'm foregoing all literary aspirations permanently in favor of teen movies, here is the teaser for February.

"Seeking Enlightenment Hat by Hat: A Skeptic's Path to Religion," by Nevada Barr. If you can stomach it, feel free to read one of her twisted, dark, and depressing suspense novels as well, just for comparison and context.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Dear Mommy Muse, First Edition

A semi-regular feature designed to give advice that is actually useful, and keep me from sending out the same emails over and over again when desperate souls seek assistance from the Queen of Domestic Chaos, aka Mommy Muse.

Dear Mommy Muse,
My carpet shows every little speck of dirt and rubbish. I spend my day vaccuuming and yelling at the kids if they so much as walk across the room. What can I do?

Dear Frazzled,
Stop wearing your glasses indoors. Ditto to contacts.
--Mommy Muse

Dear Mommy Muse,
I'm concerned about identity theft. We're drowning in junk mail. Should I buy a paper shredder or pay for one of those shredding services to come by every week?

Dear Worried,
You could do either of those options, but you have a much easier, more organic solution at your fingertips. Rip each credit card offer into 2-3 pieces and stuff them inside Junior's poopy diaper. Rumor has it that criminals occasionally go through garbage to steal identities; my feeling is that if they have the stomach to sort through the contents of Eric's blowout bombs, they've earned that soggy, smeared, illegible, and incredibly aromatic credit card offer.

Dear Mommy Muse,
My kids eat on the run, literally. They refuse to stay in their seats at meal time. Food gets tracked all over the house. I can't keep up!
--Going Crazy

Dear Going Crazy,
You have several options. You could take a page from my excellent parenting friends, Amy & Tyler, and tie your children to their chairs:
You can follow the old adage, "Butt gets off the chair; butt gets a spank." Or you could concede this battle and focus instead on containing the mess. For this one I turned to the M.O.M. (Move Over, Martha) Advisory Board. Those erstwhile Voices of Wisdom & Experience (aka Brain Pain & the Divine Ms. B) suggest an invasion of household ants. They assure me that ants are spectacularly good at getting every last crumb and lick of food up from dirty floors. Problem solved.
--Mommy Muse

Dear Mommy Muse,
I'm 17 and I like to spend Friday & Saturday nights watching romantic movies. The problem is my 14 year old brother likes to watch them with me and he just makes fun of them and ruins the movie. What should I do?

Dear Jane,
Get a life! If you want to LIVE your romantic dream, spend your Friday and Saturday nights doing something other than drooling over someone else's fictional version. As far as your brother goes, my resident relationship guru Michelle advises "Unless he's gay or looking to get laid, don't watch a chick flick with a guy." Enough said.

Dear Mommy Muse,
By the time we make it through our nighttime routine of dinner, cleanup, baths, stories, prayers & scriptures, lullabies, drinks of water, and never-ending sticky bedtime kisses, it's well past witching hour and I'm turning into a pumpkin. A few hours and it's time to start all over again. Help!

Dear Exhausted,

Let's take this one step at a time.

Dinner: rotate between chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, and sloppy joes. Serve on paper plates. Have kids dispose of their own tableware post-dinner. Voila--you just cut at least an hour off dinner & cleanup.

Baths: bathing for small children is highly overrated, unless it's the summer time and they are outside grubbing in the dirt all day (although hosing them down on the front lawn can buy you a couple of days between baths). Take this same idea indoors during cooler months. Buy a flexible shower head on a long hose. Line the kids up in the tub, hand them each a bar of soap and a washcloth and go to town. I can get four soiled kiddos in and out within 15 minutes.

Stories: yes, reading to your child is very important and in fact, is essential to ensuring that s/he winds up at Harvard, wins a Rhodes scholarship, marries in the temple, and becomes a General Authority later in life. However, you've got to keep it under control. Rule one, if your children can't read yet, shave precious moments off the reading time by only reading a few words from each page. Summarize. Rule two, once they can read and catch you out, stop reading and start telling your own stories. Make up outlandish and extreme tales from your supposed childhood that will preserve the "my-mommy-is-the-coolest" for at least another year or so. Bonus--you get to determine the length of these stories.

Prayers & Scriptures: Of critical importance. I'm reminded of what Sister Julie B. Beck, the General RS President shared in last February's Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: "I had a wonderful young mother approach me. She had four children under the age of six, and she said, 'We are being faithful in trying to have our family scripture study every morning, but it’s just a disaster. Somebody’s always crying; they don’t pay attention.' And I said, 'How long are you trying to do this?' She said, 'Well, we set a goal to do 10 minutes every day.' And I said, 'Well, with the audience you have, you’re probably about 8 minutes too long.' " Small children love repetition, and they love accomplishing hard things. We don't read scriptures so much as we memorize scriptures. We focus on the same verse over and over for a couple of weeks, until everyone has it down. You haven't lived until you've watched your kids screaming out at the top of their lungs, necks and eyes bulging with the effort, "FOR GOD HATH NOT GIVEN US THE SPIRIT OF FEAR, BUT OF POWER, AND OF LOVE, AND OF A SOUND MIND!!! 2 TIMOTHY 1:7!!!" Bonus--the words are being "enraven on [their] hearts." And lungs. And ears. And the ears of everyone within 3 miles of our house.

Lullabies: see advice above re: stories. Make up your own. Not musically inclined? No worries. My eldest's favorite is a tuneless ditty that goes like this: "Lalala, Mommy loves Grace. Lalala, Mia loves Grace," and it just repeats forever, adding on all the people who love Grace. Face it--most of us aren't picky about quality when it comes to being adored.

Drinks of water: Unless you plan to change sheets repeatedly, why on earth are your kids getting drinks after dinner time? Ah--perhaps you are like me and simply keep them in diapers until they are fourteen or so. If that's the case, a sippy cup or water bottle next to each bed will eliminate the nonstop calls for one more drink.

Sticky Bedtime Kisses: Keep a wet wipe handy (Mommy Muse's Rule #42--a box of wipes should be found in every room of the house) and get the stickies off prior to the kisses. Enjoy, 'cause you'll have a lot of years to remember each little squeezy hug and sticky kiss, and the memory will be all you get.
--Mommy Muse

Got a question for Mommy Muse? Feel free to post it in the comments section. The M.O.M. Advisory Board and my Resident Relationship Guru would be happy to tackle your most vexing dilemmas.