Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas magic

Dear Stanger family,
            On behalf of my whole team here at the North Pole, I would like to thank you sincerely for the use of your lawn reindeer.  A little over a week ago, Donner was stricken with a nasty case of Caribou Flu.  It just so happened that on this very day, one of my special elf helpers was visiting the Shelley area.  He was on a secret mission to monitor the behavior of the students of Sunrise Elementary while they were in their classrooms.  As he exited the school, he noticed two white reindeer on the lawn across the street, which was, of course, your lawn.  Knowing of the situation with Donner, he called me on my Santa cell.  I authorized him to use a pinch of North Pole powder, and together, elf and reindeer flew back to my workshop.  Over the next week, we trained your reindeer, whom we have affectionately named Donner 2.0, in the art of team sleigh pulling.  He proved invaluable during our deliveries last night.  So, I now return him to you with my thanks.  I knew a wonderful family such as yourselves would understand.  Donner is on the mend, and hopefully our whole team will be healthy enough to fly next Christmas Eve.  Have a very Merry Christmas, and enjoy your presents.  But, more importantly, enjoy one another.  Remember the most valuable gift of Christmas is being surrounded by those you love.  Also, never forget the true reason for this blessed season; the Babe of Bethlehem. 
God Bless,
Santa K. Claus
     Here is the letter I came up with.  If you read my last post, you will know that one of our lawn reindeer was stolen, and I concocted a story about Santa "borrowing" our reindeer for his sleigh team.  The kids will find this letter tomorrow morning by Santa's empty cookie plate, upon the return of our deer.  There is so much bad in the world right now, I think maybe once in a while it could use a little more magic, especially where kids and Christmas are involved.  Merry Christmas, and may that little spark of magic that lives somewhere in each of us never be extinguished.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Everlasting Light

     As evidenced by the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary last Friday, we are living in dark times.  I know I was one of thousands of parents who, with red, puffy eyes, questioned the safety of my own children as they sat in their classrooms that day.  Our hearts grieved as flags were lowered to half mast, and, as advised by a visibly heart stricken President Obama, we hugged our children a little tighter and a little longer that night.  We wished there was something we could do to ease the unimaginable pain of those grieving parents in Connecticut, but we knew there was nothing.  For my part, I felt heartbroken, hopeless, and despondent.  In the wake of this wave of grief and shock which had swept the nation, my own kindergartner returned home from school.  I think I hugged him for about ten minutes as tears flowed freely.  Of course, children are very perceptive, and he knew that something was wrong.  I explained to him, with as little detail as possible, the tragedy that had occurred that morning.  We ate lunch and he asked if he could play in the front yard for a bit.  A few moments after going out, he came back through the front door looking very anxious.  "Mom", he said, "one of our reindeer is missing."  I looked out the window and sure enough, one of our two lighted lawn reindeer was nowhere to be seen.  "Did that bad man who killed all those people steal our reindeer too?", he asked.  In his youthful innocence, my sweet boy simply took one very tragic and horrific event and one minor lawn theft and linked them to the same villain.  It was too much.  I would not have my precious son's faith in human goodness thwarted by both an evil psychopath and a thieving Grinch.  So, as any good parent would, I made up a story.  I told him that one of Santa's reindeer was probably sick, as the reindeer flu had been rampant this year.  I explained that I was fairly certain that Santa had sprinkled some magic North Pole dust on our reindeer and borrowed him for his sleigh team.  Now, instead of being discouraged, confused and scared at the world being full of bad and mean people, his eyes lit up with excitement at the prospect of our very own lawn reindeer flying with Santa's team.  Of course, the consequence of my imaginative solution is that I now have to go out and buy another reindeer with our extinct Christmas budget, place it in our yard on Christmas Eve, and leave a typed letter from Santa thanking us for the use of our reindeer.  But, if it brings a little bit of hope and excitement back into my children's lives, it will be more than worth the effort.
     I can think of another very dark time in the world's history.  It was a time rife with wars and rumors of wars.  For many, it was a time of oppression, poverty and fear.  It was a time when a vicious and evil ruler murdered innocent children, amid many other atrocities.  Then, one exceptionally bright Spring night, Hope came to the world in the form of a tiny baby.  Emmanuel rested in a lowly manger, as most of the world slept on, quietly unaware that the world as they knew it had just been reborn.  In that humble stable, wrapped in swaddling bands, lay the hope of all the ages, Love incarnate.  God is love.  God is hope. God is light.  The gift of His Son as Savior was His perfect love made manifest.  Thirty three years later, evil men crucified the Son of God.  What those men could not have known at the time was that by their cruel and evil actions, they allowed hope to shine ever more brightly.  Three days later, on a bright Spring morning, the bands of death were forever broken by the One who had been wrapped in swaddling bands on a chill Spring night three decades before.
     There will always be darkness and evil in the world.  There will always be people who do mean and petty things, as well as people who commit unthinkable acts of cruelty and violence.  But as long as we remember to look to the Light, and to share that light within us, the darkness will not win.  When we act with love and hope, God is there, piercing the darkness with an everlasting light.  When we comfort a grieving child, God is there.  When we visit a lonely widow, God is there.  Even in the midst of bleakest despair, teachers sacrificed their own lives to save their students.  God was there.  Though the families of those lost in the Sandy Hook shooting will have many dark days ahead of them, the darkness has not won.  This Christmas, I hope and pray that we will all let our lights shine a little more brightly.  We cannot undo the tragedies which have occurred.  We cannot make them right.  And we will never be able to make sense of senseless violence.  But we can be a little kinder.  We can press on with hope, allowing faith to replace our fear, allowing love to replace our despair.

O, Little Town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.

Yet, in thy dark streets shineth
The Everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

     And to the angels of Sandy Hook: May you sleep in Heavenly peace.

Friday, December 7, 2012

For Better or For Worse

     Right now I should be reclining in a chair as a stream of warm water and a pair of practiced hands massage my scalp.  I should be saying goodbye to split ends as my mane prepares to be refreshed by a healthy trim and a fresh set of highlights to cover up my three inch dark roots.  But I am not.  Instead, I am sitting here, on my old computer (the one I haven't used for at least a year- the one that takes half an hour to boot up), staring out the same window at the same gray sky I have stared at for three days now.  This will be the third day my son will be staying home from school with a particularly nasty stomach flu.  For those of you who have never had the pleasure of playing nurse to a child with the stomach flu, let me enlighten you.  The past three days and nights have become a blur of various bodily functions, more Scooby Doo episodes than I ever previously realized existed, baths, sheet changes, clothing changes, nose wiping, bum wiping, Clorox wiping, nose plugging, dry heaving, wall-staring, mind-numbing, putting in three new Scentys a day, sleepless, temperature taking, floor pacing, internal screaming, appointment canceling exhaustion.  It's like Groundhog's Day with vomit.  It started Tuesday night.  My son came upstairs and he had that look.  You know the one; the one that sets your mind racing as to whether it would be quicker to scoop him up in your arms and run to the toilet or to dig through the cupboards for a "throw up bowl".  I went with the latter and was about two seconds and one very unpleasant mess too late.  Out came the paper towels, tissues, Swiffer, Clorox Wipes.  I sent Hyrum to the couch with blanket, pillow and throw up bowl and inhaled deeply; one long, deep, rejuvanating sigh......the calm before the storm.  I didn't realize at the time just how long this particular storm would last.  More often than not, the kids tend to pass a stomach bug through their system in about twenty-four hours.  So, I stood in the kitchen on the night of the first throw up hopefully naive: "He'll miss school tomorrow, but what's one day of kindergarten make up work?  He'll be up and running circles around me by tomorrow night."  Here we sit, three vomit filled days later, as I type and Hyrum stares at nothing in particular with that same vacant expression that has covered his face for days now.  Hyrum chose to get dressed today.  I am hoping that is a good sign.  I however, did not.  I think these pajamas may actually become permanently fused to my body if I don't take them off soon.  At least they're my favorite pair.  I suppose they will be a suitable choice to wear to the mental hospital, which is where I will certainly be headed after many more days of this.  If it weren't for my mom calling to check in occasionally, I would have entirely forgotten what it's like to have an adult conversation.  When my daughter went through her eight months of "colic" (yes, the doctors still tried to pawn it off as that because none of them knew why she cried twleve hours a day), Oprah and Ellen became my best friends.  I believe at one point I actually began having conversations with them through the television screen.  Not even my two dearest day time friends have been able to salvage my sanity this time.  As a sick kid, Hyrum gets the trump card when it comes to tv viewing......we only have one tv.  I will tell you right now that Scooby Doo does not have nearly as many soul-afirming words of advice to offer as does Oprah, and he's not near as funny as Ellen.  Normally, I would put in a movie on our computer ( I have a Netflix copy of Jane Eyre I've been dying to watch for days) and indulge upstairs while Hyrum watched the twentieth installment of Land Before Time downstairs.  But alas, a few days before the puke invasion, monster broke the charge cord for our new computer.  I suppose I could attempt to watch a movie on this dinosaur, if I wanted to watch it in five minute stalled increments while this decrepit excuse for a computer attempted to load it.  I would clean to pass the time, but what would be the point in that?  Cleaning while there is a sick kid in the house is like trying to paint a fence in a downpour.  I would read, but currently by brain is a little too numb, not to mention, every time I pick up a book, monster is on my lap within two seconds with a bright red board book, and instead of reading about romantic interludes in the sweeping English moors, I end up reading about "red ball" and "brown bear".  I would shower, but how clean do I really need to be to clean up puke and well.....other things......we'll call them "brown bears" to avoid sickening the faint of stomach?  What was there to do but blog and moan?  Which is what brings me to my current state; sitting on our broken dining room chair, old, nearly dead computer resting atop dinged and scarred table, looking at the crack of gray sky through our sun faded curtains......have you ever noticed that after days of being trapped inside, everything in your house seems exceptionally dirty and dingy?  Perhaps to pass the time today, I could make a game of counting the dents in the table or the stains in the carpet.......scuffs on the wall.......chips in the paint.......I have to admit, this writing is most theraputic.  With this post alone, I have just come up with four new ways to pass the time today.  If you think of any more, please send them my way.  Crying is always a good one, but I already did that yesterday, and it only took up a dissapointing ten minutes. 
    In many marriage ceremonies, the words "for better or for worse" are spoken as teary eyed couples profess their love and commitment through the exchange of vows.  When a baby joins a family, there are no vows spoken aloud.  Just a quick spank, a red-faced wail and a trip to the tiny tub.  The moment that little screamer is placed in your arms, the second their squinting blinking eyes meet yours, a thousand unspoken vows pass between you.  In that moment, though you may not realize it at the time, you vow to stay up for countless nights inventing new ways of calming colic that would seem crazy to the sane world.  You vow to clean up bodily functions which before you wouldn't have touched with a fifty foot pole.  You vow to read the same book a thousand times and spend half the day looking for the favorite binky.  You vow to kiss away boo-boos and sing away night time monsters under beds.  You vow to laugh at the same knock-knock joke (which wasn't funny to begin with) every time you hear it and to praise each new drawing as if it belonged in the Louvre.  In short, you vowed to love that tiny person for better or for worse. 
     A few days ago, the day before the flu bug bit Hyrum, to be exact, I took the boys to the City Park while Morgan was at cheer practice.  The city of Shelley puts up a marvelous Christmas light display, complete with a gigantic "Happy Holidays" made of red tinsel and lit with red lights and a Christmas tree made of light strands attached to a telephone pole.  I watched my boys, with red noses and marshmallow coats as they ran from one display of lights to the next, so excited to see up close what they had admired so many nights from afar.  Something about that simple moment sank deep into my soul.  I wanted to freeze the moment.  It was a perfect picture of youthful delight.  It was one of the better days.  As we walked through the frozen grass toward our car, I happened to see a single red Christmas bulb that must have fallen off the giant Happy Holidays sign.  Without a second thought, I picked it up and put it in my coat pocket; a tangible reminder of a simply perfect moment.  I guess it's good to have those tangible reminders on the worse days.  Have you ever had a major argument with your spouse, and then softened immediately upon seeing a wedding photo in the hallway.....a tangible reminder of the better days to help you get through the worse.  I think I may just carry that little Christmas light around with me today as a reminder that things have been better and that they will be again.  As for adult conversation, I'm sure I'll have one again someday.   For now, I am summoned to the couch to read for the 14th time "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to a little boy who has stolen my heart, for better or for worse.     

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Colonel Brandon, Thanksgiving and Jello Salad

     Before I begin my rant, I must get one very important thing out of the way: Who on God's green earth ever decided upon the spelling of the word "colonel"?  This is one of my life long pet peeves and offers further proof that Ben Franklin's idea for a purely phonetic alphabet should have caught on!  How is it that "kernel" and "colonel" are pronounced the same way?  But I digress from what is certain to be a much longer digression from the realm of sane and sound thinking.  The title of this week's post references a Jane Austen character, an American holiday and a holiday food staple.  What, one may wonder, do each of these three very different things have to do with one another?: no one cares about them.  Colonel Brandon is a character from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.  He is referenced in the novel by the dashing and much sought after Willoughby as, "the kind of person whom everyone speaks well of, but whom no one remembers to talk to."  He is dependable, duty bound, kind, and full of stories that will never be told because everyone assumes he is a middle-aged stiff.  And, let's face it, in the movie adaptation, Willoughby does have much better hair.  After the impish Willoughby breaks Marianne's heart to pursue some rich trollop, Marianne settles, after some persuasion, upon marrying Colonel Brandon, for purely sensible reasons of course.  As for Thanksgiving; you may argue that everyone loves turkey day, complete with it's football games, parades, pies and food induced comas.  I ask you this: If everyone loves Thanksgiving so much, why is it completely overshadowed by the much more dashing Christmas every single year?  I might add that this overshadowing seems to occur progressively earlier each year.  I think I heard Christmas music on one station the day after Halloween.  Thanksgiving is to Christmas as Colonel Brandon is to Willoughby.  Now for the jello salad, which just so happens to be a staple in many homes on the Colonel Brandon of holidays.  For the past three Thanksgivings spent with my family, I have been in charge of making the jello salad.  It is a Bavarian cream jello salad that has been made by our family for years.  I personally enjoy it very much.  Every year it sits in little bowls near the upper left side of plates.  After pounds of turkey and potatoes and yams and stuffing, rolls and olives and pickles and green bean casserole are consumed, the jello salad still sits forlorn in it's little bowls.  It is usually eaten eventually, purely out of obligation.  But it is not turkey, or stuffing or mashed potatoes and gravy.  It is certainly not pie.  Jello salad is the Colonel Brandon of Thanksgiving food.
     So what?  What is the point?  Call me Colonel Brandon.  I suppose you could call me "Thanksgiving" or "Jello Salad", but that would just be weird.  Have you ever been in a room full of people and said something incredibly witty or funny, but only the person sitting right next to you has heard?  Ten minutes later, the person who was sitting next to you repeats your witty statement word for word (or sometimes not even as well as you originally said it) and everyone in the room laughs and carries on as if it were the cleverest thing anyone had ever said.  This is the story of every large group conversation of my entire life.  Apparently I have a quiet voice, or so I've been told.  I have always felt invisible in large groups. This complex has grown worse since having children.  I now feel invisible to just about everyone some days.  If you want to feel like no one is listening to a word you say, spend a day with three children under the age of ten.  I think I told my children it was time for dinner no less than twelve times last night before they finally showed up at the table.  To further my complex even more, I have the most thankless and invisible calling ever in my church.  I play piano for the children's organization (in our church called "Primary").  I sit behind a piano for two hours in a room that smells of petrified urine and play peppy little songs while half of the children sing and the other half climb up curtains or pick their noses.  The only person who remotely acknowledges I am there is the chorister, who occasionally remembers to nod her head in my general direction when it is time for a song to begin.  In my own family growing up, I was always the last one finished eating at meal times.  I would sit alone for 15-20 minutes finishing my plate of food.  Usually by the time I got done, the rest of my family had cleared their plates, washed their dishes, and were half way through their favorite prime time tv show.  I guess I have a bit of a Colonel Brandon complex.  Now let's take a step back here for a moment.  This is all my pride talking.  It is when I am feeling most prideful that my complex is the strongest, because it is only then that I really care if anyone notices me or what anyone else thinks of me.  It is in these prideful moments that I wish, for just once in my life, to know how it feels to be a Mr. Bingley, or an Elizabeth Bennett, to be the life of the party, or at the very least someone who people remember to talk to.  There are days when I am just plum tired of being the jello salad of every gathering.  I want to be a candied yam or a pumpkin pie.  These are the days I feel like dying my hair hot pink and screaming, "How do you like me now, punks?!"  But of course I never do.  I sit dutifully in the corner or alone at the table and observe everyone around me as they laugh at one another's jokes and show genuine interest in what the other has to say.  Then I usually go home and pour out all my feelings and thoughts to a keyboard or a pen and paper, who have no choice but to let me say exactly what it is I have to say.  But enough of pride and self pity.
     I believe that the antidote to pride is gratitude.  Sad, isn't it, that one of our most underrated, and under appreciated holidays is actually one of the most important?  It is one day out of 365 on which we gather with the people we love most and remember just how very much we have to be thankful for.  I may be a Colonel Brandon, but I am a Colonel Brandon with a lot to be thankful for.  When I can let go of pride, and look outside myself, my awareness of the miraculous blessings in my life, as well as my gratitude for those blessings grow exponentially.  I can see exactly how much I have been given and how much I take for granted every day of my life.  My life is full of seemingly small conveniences that to others around the world would seem blessed miracles: clean water from a faucet which I merely have to turn on, shelter, warmth, three solid and healthy meals each day, vaccinations and modern medicine for my children, and for myself (without which, neither myself nor Hyrum would have lived through his birth), a soft bed and a pillow to rest my head on at the end of the day,  a few close friends who listen to every word I say and love me for exactly who I am, a family who loves me unconditionally.  The list could go on and on.  When I take a step back to look outside of myself, of my own pride and insecurities, I am reminded of the miracle of my very existence.  Alan B. Shepard, the first American to travel in space, who saw the earth from a vantage point which most of us never will, said this of our beloved planet, "It [Earth] is in fact, very finite, very incredibly fragile."  And yet this incredibly fragile orb continues, day after day, season after season, to spin around its axis, one tiny dot in the vast expanse of the universe.  It spins and spins, largely unnoticed, as we go about our daily business of making jello salads, preparing for holidays that will be forgotten as soon as the last bite of turkey is had, sitting alone in corners and observing what in truth is a most miraculous and gratitude inspiring phenomenon that we call daily life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


     I shamefully admit to having made each of the following comments last night: 1. "Obama's reelection will bring us together.  We can all stand together and sing "Kumbaya" in the soup lines." 2) "If we're going to live in a socialist country for the next four years, let's move to France.  At least they've got delicious pastries and the Louvre."  3) "Maybe the Mayans were right, and we'll only have to put up with Obama and Biden for about another month or so."  I am now ashamed of having made these comments because I have had more time to reflect.  Like tea, thoughts often get better the longer we let them steep.  You see, I left the polls last night in my bright red sweater and drove off in my red mini van in which the stereo was blasting my new "Red" cd by Taylor Swift.  It probably wouldn't have been too difficult for an outside observer to discern which side of the election I stood on.  Aside from being a Republican, I am also a Mormon, and I have to admit that the possibility of having a Mormon president excited me.  Please don't misunderstand; I did not vote for Mitt Romney only because he is a Mormon.  I agreed with many of his ideas about turning the economy around.  But, if I am being completely honest with myself, I think that there was a small part of me that voted for him because he shared my religious convictions.  When I heard that Obama had been reelected, and in such a landslide, when almost every political pundit and poll had predicted that the results would likely be too close to call (some even predicted a tie), I was seeing red all over again.  I was angry, hurt, disappointed, afraid.  The candidate in whom I had placed all my hopes of a new beginning for this haggard nation had not been elected.  I felt defeated.  In fact, as I drove the nearly empty streets on my way home from a shopping trip, I could sense a tangible disappointment all around me.  While people in so many "blue" states around the country lit up the air with excitement and victory celebrations, the very "red" state of Idaho seemed bluer than ever.  All of the hope that Romney's election symbolized was crushed in an instant by two words: "Obama reelected."
     It was upon returning home from shopping that the a fore mentioned utterances escaped my lips as I slammed bags of groceries onto counters.  Dirk was clearly disappointed as well.  The air in our home was rife with the fear of the implications these election results would have for us as a nation and for us individually.  It is fear of the unknown that so often leads to anger, sometimes even hatred.  I was afraid and I was angry.  Thank goodness for the merciful truth that each new dawn brings with it new possibilities.  I awoke this morning feeling much more at peace than I had the night before.  As I was fixing my daughter's hair for school, I informed her that President Obama had won the election.  "I know", she replied, and her face fell a little.  Her school class had "voted" the day before, and in her own little eight year old world, she had been campaigning for Mitt Romney all around the playground.  For what little understanding she had of the significance of the events unfolding, she was still disappointed that her "team" hadn't won.  Mostly in an effort to console her, I said, "It's ok sweetheart. President Obama is a good man too.  He will do his best for us."  Often times it is not utnil we express a thought aloud that we realize we truly believe it.  At that moment I realized that I do believe President Obama to be a good man.  And why should I believe otherwise?  I don't know his life story; where and how he grew up; hopes and dreams which have been lost or realized along his journey.  Without knowing him personally, I can never fully understand where his opinions and policies come from.  But, as a glass half full kinda girl, I am choosing to believe that they come from his heart. I was also able to find solace and even joy in the elation of so many around this country who are celebrating today.  One of the beauties and privileges of being human is that we have the great capacity to feel joy for others even when we may disagree with the cause of their celebration.  I thought of several people whom I know personally who had voted for Obama.  Suddenly, their joy became my joy.  Their hope became my hope.  My political policies (for what they are- I am not exactly a poli-sci major here) did not change in that instant.  But I realized that the vote is in, the die is cast.  We have a president, and I am choosing to stand behind him and to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Hatred and fear are more immobilizing than an astounding national deficit.  Love, acceptance, and compromise are the mobilizing forces we need.  This nation will sink or swim as it it destined to do, regardless of the actions of one man.  The question is, will we sink or swim together, or will we tear one another apart trying to scamper for our own place on the life raft?
     Red is such a beautiful color.  It is passionate and inspiring.  It can liven up any room or landscape with just a few small touches.  Blue is deep and soothing and enveloping.  Both colors are equally beautiful in different ways.  But, put them together, and you get the most beautiful of all colors; purple.  When I look at my children and think about what the future may hold for them, I realize that I don't want them to live in a nation divided by petty differences.  My hope for them is that they will one day live in a purple nation, one in which we are all working together, despite our individual differences, toward a brighter future, but, more importantly, toward a kinder world.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Super Heroes

     One week from today, the streets will be crawling with miniature Spidermen, Batmen, Thors and Hulks.  They will invade your homes.  They will take your candy.  They will eat that candy and the resultant sugar high will send teachers running for the hills.  Toothpaste sales will go up.  Candy collected will sit in drawers until Easter, when it is finally thrown out and replaced by pastel marshmallow bunnies.  Super heroes will transform back into rambunctious kindergartners who whine about homework and occasionally still wet the bed.  The magic of Halloween will come and go in a day, as it does every year.  I loved Halloween as a kid.  For weeks I would plan the perfect costume.  My mouth would water as I anticipated the pounds and pounds of tooth-rotting sugary sweets I would acquire.  On Halloween night, my parents would drive us from neighborhood to neighborhood as we filled pillowcases with our loot.  I still love Halloween.  I don't usually don a costume, but I do love to deck our house out in spooky decor (part of my Halloween "decor" includes not dusting- it's the one month dust and cobwebs can be considered decorating- just go with it).  I make ghost in the graveyard cakes and jackolantern sugar cookies and read my kids spooky poems and stories.  On a quiet afternoon, I will read a little Edgar Allen Poe as the smell of cider fills the house.  I might even throw a little Hitchcock in one evening for a good old fashioned scare.
     Last week, my daughter brought home a Halloween drawing she had completed at school.  It was a drawing of a smiling Jackolantern.  She informed me that her teacher had instructed the class to draw things that were not too scary.  She had explained to them that there were already enough scary things in the world.  Of course, every parent knows all too well how right this teacher's statement was.  Every day we hear another news story about some horrible, previously unimaginable thing happening to an innocent child.  Sometimes it's enough to make us want to lock the doors and never let our precious ones leave the house.  We try to shield our children as much as possible from the truly ghastly things that go on every day.  But children inherently know that this world is full of monsters.  They may visualize them a little differently than we do.  They hear the word "monster" and imagine something huge and hulking with razor sharp teeth hiding under their bed or in the closet.  We hear the word "monster", and an image of Jerry Sandusky comes to our minds.  Yes, children may see monsters differently than we do, but they know they're out there.  So they sleep with night lights and pull the blankets up over their heads, trying to hide from the nameless fear of the unexplained darkness that the monsters of this world project.
     My little boy is very tender hearted.  He is compassionate toward living things.  If ever I have a child who grows up to be a vegetarian, it will be my Hyrum.  Often when we eat meat for dinner, he is very concerned by what has happened to whatever poor creature has ended up on our plates.  He worries for days after hearing a story of another child who has suffered because of disease, bullying, abuse or neglect.  He tells me he loves me at least five times a day and hugs me at least ten.  To an outside observer, however, Hyrum may seem just the opposite.  He has what I have heard called "little dog syndrome".  Hyrum is in fact very small for his age.  Because of his size and his tender heart, he presents a tough exterior.  He's like the tiny tea cup chihuahua who growls and bares it's teeth at the Great Dane across the fence.  I see similar behaviors in so many little boys.  They feel they have to be tough in a tough world.  I have recently come to the conclusion that this is why little boys love super heroes.  In them, they see a force that can single handedly combat all of the bad guys that haunt their dreams.  It gives them hope that if Thor can beat down the bullies of the world, maybe they can too.
     This world needs more super heroes.  I'm not suggesting that middle-aged men with beer guts start parading around the street in blue and red spandex.  But, we need more real super heroes; more men who will open a door, carry a bag of groceries; more men who aren't afraid to show affection and tenderness; more teachers who speak up for the child with no voice, more teenagers who say no to drugs, more coaches who let every team member leave the bench and play; more men who live their lives based on principles of respect, decency and kindness.  Boys do not need to be shown how to be tough.  They need to be taught how to be tender; to respect their own feelings and the feelings of others.  Morgan's teacher was right.  This world is full of scary things.  Perhaps if our boys see more real super heroes start to emerge, the nameless and hopeless fear they feel will begin to dissipate.  Maybe they will feel safe enough to be themselves, whether straight or gay, jock or magician, muscular or lanky.
     One week from today, the streets will be crawling with miniature super heroes.  I long for the day when more of the doors they knock will be opened by real life super heroes than by monsters.        

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


     You read the word and immediately conjured up in your mind an image of a well-endowed, leggy blond with too tan skin and Crest white teeth, didn't you?  You imagined a girl with an I.Q. that's as small as her skirt is short.  This is the image that used to appear in my mind when I heard the word "cheerleader."  Before I continue any further, I must make a confession:  I was a cheerleader once.  It was seventh grade.  Several of my closest friends back in Richmond, VA, were planning to try out for the cheerleading squad.  Seeing as how we did absolutely everything together, I decided I had better join them.  The day of the tryouts, I put on cute purple shorts and some vibrant 90's printed t-shirt.  My mom curled my hair.  When it was my turn before the panel of judges, I jumped and smiled and bobbed my head until I thought it might fall off.  Thankfully, it did not, and by the end of the day, I was thrilled to find my name on the list of girls who had made the squad.  For the rest of the year, every time there was a Brooklyn Middle School sporting event, I donned my blue and white and shook my pom poms with pride.  I have to admit it;  being a cheerleader was a lot of fun.  The next year my family moved to Idaho.  I did not try out for the the cheerleading squad.  All of the cheerleaders at my new school were well-endowed leggy blonds with too tan skin and Crest white teeth who had I.Q.'s as small as their skirts were short.  I was in the middle of some adolescent, angst-filled, "why did my parents make me leave all my friends and move to potato town" identity crisis.  Cheerleaders were the enemy.  They were peppy and perky and nauseating.  They were each a Barbie to a football jock's Ken.   I was aware that just one short year ago, I myself had been a cheerleader, but I was never, ever like them.
     Cheerleaders have got to be one of the most stereotyped groups around.  Rarely in any form of media is a cheerleader portrayed as a kind, intelligent girl who likes to show her school spirit.  In books, movies and tv, the cheerleaders are the mean girls, the stupid girls, and often even the slutty girls. Chances are if you weren't a cheerleader in high school, you hated cheerleaders in high school.  They were those plastic leggy blonds who got asked to the prom by no less than four of the most popular guys in school while you played the part of the shy wallflower in the corner.  Or maybe you were the band nerd or the yearbook editor, too concerned with "serious things" to be involved with such frivolity.  I was the drama nerd who hung out in the drama teacher's classroom at lunch.  Recently, I have had to look back on my high school days with new perspective; with the perspective of a parent who now has a daughter that is a cheeleader.  That's right.  My sweet little bookworm of a girl informed me last Spring that she would really like to try cheerleading this year.  My brain immediately started concocting a variety of plans to dissuade her.  It is not all too difficult to sway the opinion of an eight year old.  I asked her if she was sure she wouldn't rather try dance another year.  She hadn't tried clogging or hip-hop yet, after all.  Was she sure she didn't want to stick with gymnastics for one more year?  I assured her that it got much easier after the first year.  "Girl Scouts would be fun!  I was a Brownie myself when I was about your age. We could have lots of cookies! Ever considered under water basket weaving?  I'm sure there's a class somewhere around here."  In all my pandering, I somehow forgot that my daughter came into this world with a will of iron (not to mention lungs of steel) and that when her mind was set on something, it was set in impenetrable stone.  She looked at me and said matter-of-factly, "I want to be a cheerleader.  I want to hold pom-poms and be on a float in the parade."  Well, that was that.  Shortly after this conversation, I felt ashamed.  I realized I had tried to steer my daughter away from something she really wanted to pursue because I didn't think it was worthy of her.  I was stereotyping cheerleaders.  Having been one myself, you'd think I would have known better.  But what was far worse; I was stereotyping my own daughter.  She was the bookworm.  She was witty, artistic and musical.  She should have a brush or a violin and bow in hand, not a set of pom poms.
     Was I ever wrong!  Not about my daughter being witty, artistic and musical.  She is all of those things.  But she is also a cheerleader.  The day I watched her in the Shelley Spud Day parade I knew it.  My daughter was a cheerleader, and a darn good one at that.  My little girl, who for years had been painfully shy and who had struggled through basic dance and gymnastics steps, looked like she had been born with pom poms in her hands.  She stood straight and confident as she yelled out the Shelley fight song.  I had never seen her so sure of herself.  After that day, a new understanding began to dawn on me as a parent.  I have always said I would let my children try out whatever they wanted to (within reason of course).   I had never realized how hard that decision would be to uphold when my children came to me with dreams I never imagined for them.  And that's when I realized;  I have dreams for my children.  Of course I do.  I dream that Morgan will one day put her wit, warmth and humor to good use as a writer and that Hyrum will be the architect who designs the world's tallest building.  Ryan will of course be the next Nolan Ryan, seeing as how he can hurl his binky a country mile.  I have never dreamed that Morgan would grow up to wear a midriff shirt and be known for having the best high kick around.  And I don't think that she will.  But, if that is her dream, if that is where she ends up and it is what makes her truly happy, I will be on the sidelines for every single game I can make it to.  I guess it's my job to be the cheerleader.  Of course I am still a parent first and foremost, and I will try to gently steer my children toward things that will bring them lasting happiness, like having faith and pursuing a good education.  But I have vowed, since Morgan's decision, to no longer try to steer my children away from activities that I may not have foreseen them taking part in.  I may cringe inside and have to bite my tongue, but I will not offer alternatives.  I will simply show up,  cheering them on every step of the way; watching in amazement as they achieve remarkable feats I could never have planned for them.  My daughter is a cheerleader.  She is also one of the brightest, most compassionate, eloquent, warm and funny people I have had the pleasure of knowing.  "Rah, rah, rah.....goooooooooo Morgan!"  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Because Good Moms Don't Throw Tantrums

     I threw a  tantrum this morning.  I took a stuffed animal out of my baby's crib and hurled it with mighty force across the room, almost knocking the lamp off of the boys' dresser. This brief tantrum was followed by a ten minute sobbing session.  I made sure that both of these incidents occurred out of view of my children.  Wouldn't want them thinking their mom was emotionally unstable or anything.  But the truth is, today I am.  Perhaps emotionally exhausted would be a better term for it.  I finally made it to the end of my fraying rope and am now clinging onto the rapidly unraveling end for dear life.  As I sit here, my house is relatively calm.  The only sound is the whirring of the dishwasher.  Ryan is sleeping.  Hyrum is parked in front of the TV (a much better place for him today than with me, believe me) and Morgan is actually in Disneyland with her grandma.  So, what exactly is it that has brought me to the point of unleashing my anger on an innocent stuffed teddy?  I am trying to process the cause of my emotional meltdown through writing, because good moms don't throw tantrums.  Good moms don't scream into pillows.  They don't leave the dishes piled in the sink because they just plain don't care that day.  They don't use the tv as a babysitter. And they definitely don't throw stuffed animals.  Today, I have done all but one of the above.  Today is not my best mom day.  I get sick of moms posting only their most glorious parenting and homemaking moments online.  Today I am getting down to the knitty gritty.  Today I am airing the dirty laundry that I think a lot of mothers have.  Today I am flying the white flag.  I recently watched the movie What to Expect When Your Expecting.  When a pregnancy expert finally becomes pregnant herself after years of infertility struggles, she suffers through the most miserable pregnancy ever.  It all culminates in a scene where she she tells a group of moms to be who are gathered at a parenting expo that she is calling BS on the whole "pregnancy is bliss" thing.  Well today I am calling BS on the whole motherhood is bliss thing.  I have had many blissful mothering moments.  Occasionally their are blissful mothering days involving an empty schedule and a stack of library books.  But in the interest of full disclosure, I also have days when I want to pack a suitcase and head for the hills.  Sometimes being a parent just plain stinks.
     I believe that my emotional meltdown, as 99% of emotional meltdowns do, began with lack of sleep.  I have been burning the candle at both ends for so long that there are really no ends left.....more like a giant puddle of melted wax.  Yesterday I was up for nearly 24 hours before my head finally hit my pillow like a lead weight.  After a day of the usual hustle and bustle, I went out shopping last night. I needed to buy groceries and to pick up a few things for my daughter's upcoming baptism.  I was also hoping to find some new church clothes for the boys.  After searching about half the stores in the city of Idaho Falls, I determined that church clothes for toddler boys are only sold around Christmas and Easter.  I began shopping for groceries at about 10:30.  There were two cashiers at Walmart and about ten customers waiting to check out when I finished my shopping about 11:30.  By the time I checked out, drove the 20 minutes back to Shelley and put all the groceries away, it was about 12:30.  I was asleep by about 1:30.  I had been awake since 4:00am.  This morning I went online and paid $93.00 for two church outfits plus shipping.  I think this may have been the beginning of the breakdown.  My already teetering emotional state was pushed over the edge by a birthday party and a giant stuffed bear. (teddy bears are no friend of mine today).  I thought about naming this post "Bearly Hanging On", but then I was just too peeved to be cutesy or punny. It was the annual Winnie the Pooh birthday party at the North Bingham County library.  As I knew this would be the last year Hyrum could attend (it's for kids 5 and younger), I decided to take the boys over.  What ever caused me to believe that taking Ryan to a library party where children were expected to sit quietly and listen to stories was a good idea I am not sure.  The party was also right in the middle of his usual nap time.  The library reading stage was decked out with Winnie the Pooh books and stuffed animals, none of which Ryan could touch.  He was not happy about this.  I spent the majority of the party pulling him away from the toys while he made very loud protests which elicited irritated stares from all the other moms in the room.  Hyrum was sitting contentedly listening to the stories.  I wanted to yell, "my other son is over there!  Look how nicely he is sitting!  The only reason we are here is for him!"  I wanted to, but I didn't.  I stared briefly at the other mothers, many of whom had children Ryan's age who were sitting still on their mother's laps.  I scooped Ryan up by one leg and carried him out while all the good little children stared in wide eyed horror.  I took him to the toy table, which he immediately began climbing on top of.  Each time I would pull him off the table, he would throw himself on the floor in a fit of hysterics that would have worn Richard Simmons out.  The older siblings of the party patrons who were trying to enjoy some quiet reading time glared at me.  I took Ryan to the this instance meaning the four foot square area between the outside and inside glass doors of the library.  He screamed and pounded on the door while I stood indifferently reading each and every flier plastering the wall.  One of the older librarians looked out at me with a smile and a little gleam in her eye that made me think she must have had a Ryan of her own many years ago.  I reentered the library when I saw a girl walk by with a piece of cake.  I should here insert that when we first arrived at the party, I had sat down by a friend of mine.  When I returned for the cake, my seat had been taken by a woman whom I recognized as the mother of one of Hyrum's school friends.  We had talked briefly at the bus stop.  "Hi there"......I began.......and then I heard a "No, no" followed by a blood curdling scream that sounded all too familiar.  Ryan had ventured up to the stage in the two seconds I had turned to greet my friend.  The woman in the giant Winnie the Pooh costume who had been reading the stories had picked him up.  He had had the same reaction that many small children have the first time they sit on Santa's lap.  I rescued him from the scary bear and stuffed some cake in his mouth.  I sat down in the row behind my friends, who were now deep in conversation.  Ryan shoved me off my chair, climbed into it and looked at me expectantly.  Did he want me to bring out the palm fronds and peeled grapes?  I sat on the floor behind my oblivious friends with my unwashed hair in my Bear Lake hooded sweatshirt and soccer mom jeans and shoes.  They sat in front of me with their silent cherubic children in their perfectly coordinated fall boots and scarves, laughing and exchanging phone  numbers.  It was all too much.  The second Hyrum finished his cake, we were out the door.  The drive home from the library was only about two minutes long, but it was long enough for the emotion I was experiencing to build to boiling point.  I will happily here insert that I did not yell at my children.  I have before, but I did not today.  I grabbed a bottle, filled it with milk and threw it in the microwave, stormed off to Ryan's room to get him a fresh diaper.  This is where I discovered that his animals were still in his crib.  He likes his crib to himself, so I had to remove the intruding furry friends, though perhaps not as forcefully as I did.  I must have been a sight to behold; a frumpy soccer mom hurling stuffed animals across the room.  I gave Ryan his bottle, told Hyrum I was going downstairs to the bathroom, and down I went.  I did not actually go to the bathroom.  I curled up in a ball on the couch and sobbed.  
     At that moment I felt lower than low.  I had been running myself ragged for weeks trying to do and be everything for everyone.  Suddenly I felt like no one.  I was completely alone.  I was failing at everything.  I was exhausted and I looked like Cathy Bates from Misery.  Slowly, I emerged from the couch, wiped my eyes and put one foot in front of the other.  I made soup in the crockpot so it would be done by dinner time.  I began going through the mundane motions of daily life.  I took little pleasure in what I was doing.  I did it because it had to be done.  And I guess that's the point.  Life is not always fun and neither is parenthood.  In fact, sometimes it's downright miserable.  But we run around the block, eat a pint of Ben and Jerry's, or maybe throw a teddy bear.  And then we wipe our eyes, dust off our shoes and take a step forward.  The trouble is when we start running so fast that we loose our footing.  As a chronic perfectionist, I do this all the time.  I run and run and run until I hit a brick wall.  Today was a wall day.  This cycle is nothing new for me.  Perhaps it's time I wisen up and start having more realistic expectations for myself.  My only goal for tomorrow is to make it through the day without throwing any of my childrens' playthings.  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A New Leash on Life

    I don't typically write posts on Sunday nights.  But sometimes inspiration strikes.  I have chosen to heed it.  A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on the loss of our precious pooch, Peregrin Took.  My grief is much diminished now, though a little emptiness still lingers in our home.  Now slightly distanced from the heart-stopping sense of loss that immediately follows death, I have been reflecting on what this experience has taught me.  Death is a harsh teacher, but a teacher nonetheless.  I don't mean to diminish or make light of the unimaginable grief of those of you who have lost spouses, children, parents, or anyone on two legs who was a major part of your life.  I realize that Pippin was just a dog. Nevertheless, he was part of my family and I loved him.  I believe we can learn from our trials whether they be large or small.  Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, the death of a dog is a rather insignificant trial.  But I have chosen to learn from the experience whatever it is that God is trying to teach me.  The main thing I have learned is actually a cliche.  It is something that has been spoken, sung, and turned into poetic verse so many times that it may seem trite.  The thing that I have learned is that life can be short and that  it is precious.  See- told you so.  Let the eye rolling commence, but perhaps, read my explanation when the eye rolling is complete.  This is something I already knew.  It has been taught to me in the form of long winded poems and twangy country songs since I can remember being able to understand the English language.  But, I have now begun to learn this truth for myself in a very real, concrete and painful way.  Truth is not truth until we discover it for ourselves.  Harriet Beecher Stowe wisely observed that, "The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone."  I know now the truth of those words because I have shed such bitter tears over the grave of a four legged friend.  When Pippin died, I grieved because he was gone.  I grieved because I would no longer see his furry black and white Ewok head pop up in the front window when I came home.  I grieved at my childrens' first taste of death.  But the bitterest tears I shed were tears of remorse.  How many times over the past two years did I resolve to walk Pippin more, to brush him every day, to let him sit on my lap more even though his breath smelled like a landfill?  How many times did I vow to be a better dog owner?  Then a week would pass.......soon a month would pass.  And I would rush madly about the business of life as Pippin sat alone in his kennel or chained up in the back yard.  The day he died, I shed a tear for every doggy biscuit I should have given him, for every morning I should have dragged myself out of bed to walk him, for every time I should have stroked his shaggy fur and told him he was a good boy. I was consumed by the grief of all I should have done and could now never do for my loyal friend.
     The thing is, I'm generally pretty good about letting people I love know that I care.  It is actually something that, until recently, I have hated about myself.  Let me explain.  Any of you who are long time followers of my blog probably realize by now that I am a sentimental, idealistic, hopeless romantic to the core.  In other words, I am the kind of person who would get chewed up, spit out and then stomped on by the critics, skeptics and realists of the world.  I still hand write a letter, a thank you note or a birthday card at least once a week for someone that I know.  You, see, I have this crazy notion that people like to feel loved and validated.  I try to help them feel that way.  Sadly, I have found that this does not make me cool, powerful or important.  Strange, but it has taken the death of a dog to help me realize that I don't really care to be any of these three.  These days, thanks to social networking and video sites, anyone and everyone can be famous for at least fifteen minutes.  Mediocrity is celebrated.  Idiocy wins people a guest slot on a talk show and an all expenses paid trip to a tropical island.  Mean-spirited and demeaning media is lavished with critical acclaim.  If these are the things that make people famous and important, well then, thanks but no thanks.  For most of my life it has been my dream to become a published writer.  And yet, I know that I don't have a thick enough skin to handle the repeated rejection and harsh criticism with which my attempts would undoubtedly be met.  But why do I care about becoming a published writer.  Is it perhaps, just maybe, because then I will feel important?  I have decided that I will henceforth write for the sheer joy it brings me and in the hopes that something I write may be of benefit to someone who actually loves and cares about me, and not in the hopes that I will one day turn out a cross-species adolescent sci-fi love story that will captivate readers worldwide.  If this happens someday, it will come as one of life's unexpected perks.  But I adamantly refuse to "grow a thicker skin" or to harden myself and become jaded.  With the sarcasm, skepticism and cynicism which the world is so rife with, perhaps a little fluffy oversentimentality is just what some people need to hear.
     I fear that sometimes we don't express our true feelings to those around us because we don't want to come off as "mushy".  Well, I say, bring on the mush!  I still have a little hollow in my heart carved by regret for words unspoken and deeds undone.  And that is over a dog!  How I would hate to experience that bitter regret over a person in my life.  Through losing Pippin, I have come to realize that my soft heart and sentimentality, while it may cause occasional eye rolling, and perhaps even brief bouts of nausea, is a good thing.  I resolve this day, to say "I love you" more, to express my gratitude more often to those who have made a difference in my life.  And I will start this very moment.  To all of my blog followers, thank you.  You have no idea what it means to me that there are people who support my writing and who perhaps even gain a little perspective from it.  It has helped me to start believing in myself for perhaps the first time in my life.  To my parents, who I know follow my blog: You have made me everything I am.  You have filled my life with cherished memories and taught me what it means to be a good person.  You have given me roots and wings and I can never thank you enough for your sacrifices.  I love you so very much.  To my sister, who I know also reads my blog:  You have been my best friend since I could walk.  You were my girlhood playmate, and as we've grown, even through the distance which has sometimes separated us, and the busyness of everyday life, I have always known that I could turn to you for anything.  That means the world.  To my Gram, who I know follows my blog, because she always remarks the day after reading a post, how much she loved it:  Thank you for your unwavering support, for being hands down the coolest grandma who has ever lived and for providing me with life experiences I will never forget.  Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me and for always believing in me.  To my uncle Doug:  You have been one of the biggest supporters of my writing since I began this blog.  You are always there for my children's birthdays and for other important events in my life.  Thank you for all of your support and for the laughs.:)  To Kate:  You define the word friend and you are really more like family.  Your unfailing love and support give me strength, and your example is a beacon of hope to me every day.  To Sweelin: You also define the word friend for me.  You are someone who I know will always be in my life.  Thank you for your friendship, love and loyalty.  You are one of those rare people with whom I can completely be myself.  To Jo Jo, Amy , Carlie and Katie: I am so blessed to have married into a family and gained four new sisters.  I know you always have my back and I hope you know I always have yours.  We have already shared so many life experiences, both joyful and tragic.  I look forward to a lifetime of more and I pray that they will only bring us closer together.  To Cathi and Craig:  Thank you for always giving me way too much credit and for giving me your son!  You are my second parents.  Your love and support mean the world to me.  To grandma K:  Thanks for being an example of service and of seeing the good in others.  I admire the way you view life and appreciate the way you view me!  And to Dirk:  Words are not enough.  You are my rock and my safe haven.  You are my survival.  You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.  You are my best friend and I will love you forever.  To my children, who may someday read this:  Thank you for filling my life with meaning, purpose and joy.  I live and breathe for you and I love you in a way I could never explain.   To anyone else reading this whom I may have left out......thank you.  I love you.
     Now, here's the thing. If I died tomorrow, Heaven forbid, at least those closest to me would know how I felt.  I am not now going to announce that I have been diagnosed with brain cancer and have one month to live.  But life can be taken from any one of us at any moment.  In the past few years, many people I love have been reminded of that awful truth through losses far more cruel than the death of a dog.  I  am certain that throughout my life I will feel the suffocating blow of death time and again.  I will mourn.  I will grieve.  But I hope that I will never again shed bitter tears because I let pride get in the way of letting someone know what they meant to me.  When we let fear and pride consume us, we die a slow death every day.  I resolve to fill my life with more hope, more love and gratitude.  If that equates to more foolish sentimentalitly, then so be it.  Bring on the mush!  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sew What?

     I think I may have been abducted by aliens a few weeks ago.  This would explain why I haven't had a thought in my head to write for weeks now.  It would also explain why I suddenly felt an otherwise inexplicable urge to try my hand at sewing.  I have a friend who is an expert seamstress.  She sews all of her daughter's church dresses and they all end up looking like something one would pay $40 for at some trendy boutique.  She also sews skirts for herself which are always cute and flattering.  She made my daughter not one, but three adorable skirts for her birthday.  When Morgan and her best friend, who happens to be my sewing wizard friend's daughter, wore the matching pink ruffled skirts my friend had made to church, every single mom who saw them asked me where we had bought the skirts.  So, you get the picture.  My friend makes really really cute dresses and skirts.  I once tried to sew a pair of pajama pants for a church project when I was in high school.  About three minutes into my attempt, I was forcefully removed from the sewing machine by my instructor, who thoroughly examined the machine to see what damage I may have caused, removed the yard of stuck fabric, and instructed me to keep a good ten foot distance from both her and the machine as she finished making the pants herself.  I vowed I would never touch a sewing machine again.  About a week ago I broke that vow and renewed it all in one day.
     A little over a month ago, I expressed to my friend an interest in learning how to make skirts ( I am pretty sure the aliens had already started working on me by this point).  I suppose it wasn't so much that I actually wanted to learn how to sew as it was that I was sick and tired of shopping for a cute skirt and returning empty handed.  Trends these days are not kind to a mother of three.  What woman, besides Heidi Klum, who has had more than one child, is going to look good in a low rise, 4 inch long denim mini skirt?  Certainly not me!  So, I decided to stop being frustrated and to start being proactive instead.  If I couldn't find a skirt that didn't make me look like Lindsay Lohan after her latest DUI, I would make one.  After a somewhat less descriptive tirade to my friend, she agreed to accompany me to the fabric store.  As soon as we walked in I was dizzy.  Never had I beheld so many different colors, patterns and textures in one room.  I immediately gravitated toward the home fabric section where I proceeded to plan my entire future living and dining rooms around two to die for drapery fabrics.  My friend gently reminded me that I was nowhere near ready to build my dream house and that we were there to find cheap fabric for a couple of skirts.  As we walked through rows and rows of paisleys, plaids and polka dots in every pattern and palette plausible, I began to ponder possibilities.  There were light, playful florals perfect for a summer look and warm rich plaids for fall and winter.  There were silks, cottons, polys, wool blends.  This was a shopaholic's dream!  Somehow, out of the piles and piles of fabric, I was able to decide on two:  a stretchy poly blend tri-colored fabric that would be fun as a long late summer-fall skirt (sort of an earthy tie-die look), and a black and white sort of hounds tooth which would look dashing as a knee-length fall-winter skirt. I walked away with the materials for two skirts and spent only about $10.00.  I was beginning to see the beauty in this whole sewing your own clothes business.
     I must sadly report that my beautiful delusion came crashing down about a month later when it came time to sew the fabric.  Upon arriving at my friend's house, the first thing I saw was a giant square marked with lines and numbers covering the whole surface of the kitchen table.  In general, I try to stay away from anything involving straight lines and/or numbers.  Resting on top of the giant square ruler, was a pair of scissors.  I had thought this would all be done by machine.  And now I was finding out I had to cut something by hand, something which I was then supposed to public.  My history with cutting is not great.  Dirk can always tell when I was the last one to cut the cheese (no......not because of the lingering smell......get your mind out of the toilet) because the once square block looks more like a triangle.  I am very glad that wrapped gifts are meant expressly for the purpose of unwrapping.  If the recipient of my gifts were to look too closely at the wrapping job they would likely think that I had hired Edward Scissor Hands as my in house gift wrapper.  Yet, here I sat, Mrs. crooked cheese, Scissor Hand wrapper, preparing to cut into fabric which was intended for a piece of clothing.  My friend pulled out a straight edge.  I breathed a sigh of relief and began cutting, very slowly, as she held the straight edge.  "This might not be so bad", I began to think after the fabric was cut.  That's when she pulled out the serger.  She began weaving thread into an intricate pattern and hooking it onto little metal hooks.  When she had created a web of thread which would have impressed Charlotte herself, she set the fabric on the machine and told me to start serging.  She instructed me to push the pedal moderately, so the machine wouldn't go too slow nor too fast......just like driving, she said.  I think my friend must have forgotten how I drive.  The fabric began flying through the machine.  "Stop!", yelled my friend.  The machine was no longer even catching the fabric.  And thus began our sewing adventure.  I could make a very long story of it, but I value my dear reader's time far too much for that.  Suffice it to say, two hours later, I had a skirt as well as a splitting headache and a renewed determination to become a better bargain shopper.  The next day at the bus stop, my friend presented me with a Morgan sized skirt made out of the left over fabric from mine.  I am certain it took her ten minutes to make.  That Sunday at church, Morgan and I wore our matching skirts.  I assured everyone that my friend had made the skirt.  She assured everyone that I had.  I think after our skirt debacle, my friend was forever done giving sewing lessons.
     We all have our talents.  There are days when I am at a complete loss as to what mine may be.  But, we all have something we can do fairly efficiently and in a way that makes others take note.  Sewing is not among my talents.  Baking bread that is to be eaten and not used as a door stop is not among my talents.  Luckily, I happen to count shopping as one of my talents.  I am very adept at purchasing a nice fresh loaf of Wonder Bread from the store.  My favorite little black dress was a $7.00 find from a Target clearance rack.  I have worn it to funerals, weddings, church and showers.  I get by just fine despite my domestic ineptitude.  And yet, for years I have raked myself over the coals for not being domestic enough.  Don't all good moms sew, scrapbook and bake from scratch?  I know some excellent mothers who do those things.  My friend is one.  Do good mothers occasionally heat up a frozen pizza for dinner and have their kid's photos backed up online just waiting to be put into digital scrapbooks?  Do good mothers forget pajama day at school because they didn't mark it on their calendar?  Do good mothers feed their children sugared cereal and pop-tarts for breakfast?  If those mothers also read to their children every night, hug them plenty of times every day and serve up that frozen pizza with a smile and a listening ear, then, I think so.  Today, I am going to do myself a favor, and so should you.  Whether you are a mother or not, stop beating yourself up!  A week ago I renewed my vow to abstain from sewing.  Today I make another vow: A vow to celebrate small successes, a vow to realize my own talents, as well as my own limits. Motherhood and life are both hard enough.  Let's not make them even harder by trying to be someone we're not.  Today will be the first day of my recovery program as a self-doubter.  Hi.  My name is Shannon.  I don't sew.  I hardly bake.  I despise scrap booking.  And I'm a good mom.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Dog Days are Over

     Today the world lost it's most mischievous Zuchon.  I was sitting at a lovely backyard baby shower when Dirk called me with the news.  Pippin, after one of his regular great escapes from our backyard fence, had been hit by a car.  Thanks to the Lord's tender mercies, Dirk had a friend over at the time.  His friend was able to stay with our children while Dirk drove Pip to the vet.  By the time they arrived there, he couldn't feel much.  Later, when I returned to pick up Pippin's poor broken body and bring him home, the vet informed me that Pippin had died about three minutes after Dirk left.  He didn't suffer long.  I had to tell him goodbye.  I had debated whether to let the vet dispose of him or whether to bring him home and give him a proper burial.  As I looked at him lying there still in the bottom of a newspapered metal crate, I knew I had to bring Peregrin Took home.  The vet found a box.  We brought Pippin home.  We buried him in his bed along with his leash and a few favorite toys, in the corner of the backyard where he loved to spend lazy summer afternoons.  We put a stump over where he lay as a sort of headstone.  I tried to compose myself for the kid's sake as we each said a few words in memoriam.  You may find it odd that I have spent half the day sobbing over the loss of a dog who more often than not drove me crazy.  It's amazing how you can love someone who is a constant nuisance.  But I did.  I loved that stupid mutt.  I threatened to kill him myself on an almost daily basis. But I loved him.  The death of a pet is a strange thing.  When a person we love dies, we would never dream of stuffing them in a cardboard box and burying them in a shallow grave with little more than a few short words of memoriam and no obituary.  I feel terrible that I wasn't there in Pippin's last few moments.  I would have stayed with that rat of a dog until the very end.  To the woman who was stroking Pippin with tears streaming down her face when Dirk found him, thank you.  I don't know who you are.  I know you are not the one who hit him.  But thank you for making some of his last few moments here as comfortable as they could have been.  And to Pippin; I'm so sorry I wasn't there.  I'm so sorry I never fixed that bloody fence.  And I'm sorry I didn't appreciate you more while you were here.  I love you.  I think you deserve a more dignified death.  I can't change the way you died, but I can honor your life by telling my readers what a dog you were.  Peregrin Took, this one's for you:

In Memorium:Peregrin Took Stanger  August 2nd, 2010- September 8th, 2012

     Peregrin Took Stanger, known to those who loved him as "Pippin", passed away due to internal bleeding on the morning of September 8, 2012.  Pippin was born on the 2nd of August, 2010, and was taken in by the Stanger family a short time later.  As a puppy, Pippin spent his days napping by his then expectant mother, Shannon, and causing all sorts of puppy mischief.  Pippin excelled at Puppy kindergarten where he gave even the biggest and noblest breeds a run for their Kibble.  As he grew, he became slightly more mischievous, but he always loved his family fiercely.  He was a protector and playmate of Morgan, Hyrum and Ryan.  He also acted many times as Morgan's rag doll, the arch nemesis to Hyrum's Spiderman, and Ryan's pull toy.  He loved to sit for hours atop his favorite perch on top of the leather couch and gaze out the window.  He enjoyed going for long walks.  Whenever he managed to escape the confines of the Stanger yard, which was quite often, he loved to visit his friends around the neighborhood.  He also enjoyed lengthy conversations with the dogs across the fence.  Pippin was always there when anyone was having a bad day, with a wag of his tail and a lick of his pink rough tongue.  He loved Greenies and any table scraps he could get his paws on.  He had a zest for life, which was often made manifest by his complete lack of respect for authority figures or adherence to the rules.  Above all, Peregrin Took was a fiercely loyal friend who loved his family and would have done anything to keep them safe and happy.  He is survived by his brother Clarky, his parents, Shannon and Dirk and his siblings, Morgan, Hyrum and Ryan.  Memorial services have been held, but condolences are welcome.

     Pippin, I am sorry I wasn't there with you in your last painful moments.  I am sorry I was never as loyal to you as you were to me.  Thank you for always being there for me when I needed you, and for bringing so many joyful memories to our family.  i would gladly clean up doggy pee from my throw pillows every day if it would bring you back.  I hope you are happy and among friends, in a place with wide open fields, no cars, and no fences.  Goodbye, Pip.  We love you.  We'll be seeing you again.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


     Last Saturday I cleaned my house from top to bottom.  I dusted, mopped, scrubbed, vacuumed and scoured until everything was sparkling.  Some people may say that cleaning is overrated or that it is a waste of time, but I love the feeling of relaxing in a clean, orderly, lovely smelling (courtesy of my Scentsy) home.  It has been four days since I cleaned, and I sit here amazed that everything is still relatively unsullied and fairly organized.  The windows sparkle as the mid afternoon light streams through them onto the sleek Pergo floor.  The mirror above the piano is as clear as, well, glass.  Books sit in neat stacks under the coffee table and the leather couches still retain a trace of lemon scented polish.  Two mason jars containing dead insects rest on the middle of the counter.  Piano music is put away.  The hamper has no laundry overflowing from it's top.  Beds are made and toys are put away.  Even the refrigerator magnets are tastefully (as tasteful as refrigerator magnets can be) arranged and equally spaced...........oh, what's that you say?  Did the jars of dead insects on the counter seem out of place to you in my description of domestic bliss?  Well, let me tell you, they seem out of place to me too!  My idea of a clean and comfortable home is one that is not only dust free, but also bug free.  I am not a bug person.  As I don't know many people who would consider themselves "bug people", I will expound.  When I come across a creepy crawler, the register of my voice goes up a good two octaves and my feet become springs as I bounce around the bug in a frenzied manner.  Most people can kill spiders with little difficulty.  Now, I realize that spiders are not insects.  But, while we are on the subject of creepy crawly things, I must mention the creepiest and crawliest of them all.  I have no problem holding live snakes.  I think mice are cute.  But, lock me in a room with a spider, and there's no telling which one of us would come out of there alive.  On the few occasions when I have had to kill spiders on my own, the process has taken a good twenty minutes and has involved much screaming, flailing of arms and perhaps a few inadvertent obscenities.  By the time I pick the dead abomination up with a handful of no less than twenty tissues, I have exerted as much physical and emotional energy as most people would exert trying to fight off a lion.  Spiders are my nemesis.  I can't say I'm much fonder of insects.  I have been known to defy gravity to remove myself from the path of an overzealous grasshopper.  And moths send me into a fit of hand batting, head shaking, arm flailing hysterics.
     About two weeks ago, my daughter brought a note home from school informing me that she would need to complete a bug collection containing at least 10 bugs, which would be due the 21st of this month.  I stared at the paper for a good five minutes.  I called Dirk and informed him that he would be helping Morgan collect 10 bugs for a collection which would be due on the 21st.  He seemed fine with the idea and even said it would be easy after the collection of 100+ bugs he had had to come up with in high school.  I knew I wouldn't be able to catch any of the bugs, but I figured I could at least start doing some Google research on different methods of capturing, preserving and displaying insects.  In my research, I discovered that the two easiest ways to kill insects are, 1) to put them in a jar, close the lid and stick the jar in the freezer, or 2)to put them in a jar with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol and asphyxiate them.  As much as I hate bugs, I have trouble with the idea of killing any creature using either of these methods.  I eat vegetarian three to four days a week and have considered becoming a full time vegetarian because I so dislike the idea of innocent animals dying.  It's a shame they taste so delicious when marinated and cooked, or when dipped in batter and fried to crispy golden brown perfection. Alright, enough with the tangent.  Back to the battle of the bothersome bugs.  The freezing method can apparently take a few weeks, as the poor disgusting critter slowly slips into a permanent unconsciousness and then returns to the fiery abyss from whence it undoubtedly came.  Even bugs should have a more dignified death than that.  My second problem with the freezing method is that I really do not relish the thought of reaching into my freezer for a pint of Ben and Jerry's and instead pulling out a jar of Praying Mantis a la mode.  I actually had a Praying Mantis in my freezer for a few days.  Shortly after assigning Dirk to assist Morgan with her bug collection, I also recruited my father.  My parents live in the foothills near open fields, which teem with quite a variety of critters, including Praying Mantis. I decided this would be an impressive specimen to add to the collection and assigned my dad the special task of procuring one.  I felt bad asking him to do this, as I don't think he relished the idea of killing a Mantis any more than I do.  While killing a Mantis is not quite killing a mockingbird, I still think there has to be some type of bad karma that comes from killing the Ghandi of insects.  But my dad, who is always willing to lend a hand, no matter how unsavory the required favor, presented me with a pint sized jar when we came to their house for a Labor Day picnic.  In the bottom of the jar was a smallish brown female Praying Mantis.  As I gazed at her, I was overcome with a mix of awe and revulsion.  The poor emaciated creature looked like she had indeed been praying; sending her last desperate plea to God as she folded her gangly buggy legs in what looked like a mark of reverence.  Her huge orb like eyes were vacant, but I still somehow felt she was looking at me.......plotting her revenge.  I watched the bug jar nervously as we drove home.  It rested on the floor by my foot.  I just knew at any moment that Dirk would brake too hard........sending the jar into the air and then.........down would come mason jar, mantis and all.  The second she was free of the confines of her glass prison, I was sure she would go right for my jugular  (even Ghandi may have gotten a little ticked if he had been trapped in a glass jar by menacing giants).  Thankfully, the ride home was free of insect incident.  When we got inside, Dirk set the jar on the counter.  As I entered the kitchen a while later to get the kids some water for bedtime, I glanced at it.  I saw a twitch, then another......Ghandi was still alive!!!!  I knew it!  She had been waiting until she was firmly planted in enemy territory to make her move.  I screamed.  Dirk dashed in, briefly assessed the situation, rolled his eyes, and put the jar in the freezer.  I went to bed half terrified and half bemused, trying to come up with lyrics to a spoof song which would be entitled, "It's just another mantis Monday."
     The next day, Dirk caught a small black beetle he found crawling across our living room floor.  I heard the sound of a lid being removed from a jar and began to panic......."WHY is he letting the mantis out?!", I thought.  That's when he entered holding aloft the beetle jar.  He doused a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol, threw it in the jar and closed the lid.  The beetle was on it's back and it's legs were wriggling as fast as buggy legs can go.  In my mind it was writhing in pain.  I had to look away.  I will have to recruit Dirk's help again when it comes time to pin the poor creepers to a display board.  I had a hard time even reading about sticking a pin through the thorax while trying to avoid cracking the delicate exoskeleton.  Now, I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking I am going to end this post with some sentimental gibberish about the unappealing things we do for the love of our children.  Not so. I am wondering which religion is opposed to killing any living creature and which  I can join for exactly one year when Hyrum reaches third grade.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Monster Mine

     A few months ago, around my son's first birthday, I wrote a post entitled Baby Mine.  The post was a tribute to my sweet sunshine baby and a lament over his much too rapid growth.  This post is also dedicated to Ryan, aka the monster formerly known as a baby.  It is dedicated to him in the hopes that someday he will read it and he will understand exactly why it is that my wrinkles run so deep and my head is covered in gray hairs.  He may also come to understand why it is that he has to pay a visit to Blackfoot South (the local mental institution) to see his mother.  This post is also dedicated to mothers of toddlers everywhere.  If you happen to be one of those blessed mothers whose toddlers quietly peruse their board books and stay out of things after one "No", don't talk to me.  I don't want to hear about it.  If, on the other hand, your experience with raising (chasing may be a more apt word here) toddlers makes/made an extended stay at your nearest loony bin seem like an easy out, then we can talk.  We can talk over a giant piece of chocolate cake in a room that is as close to being padded as we can find.
    Since the probability of me sitting down personally with each of you in a padded room over a slice of cake is low, let's just talk here.  Grab some cake if you have it.  Good.  Now lock yourself in your room.  Good.  First, let's talk about point of view.  I am not talking about a broad, abstract meaning of the term .(that may come later in the post).  I am talking literally about the point  from which objects are viewed.  I bring this up because I believe my baby transitioned into a monster around the time he started to walk.  As soon as he began to view his surroundings from his feet and not his knees, a whole new world of possibilities for destruction and havoc wreaking was opened to him.  The toilet paper was now within easy reach, as were all knobs, handles, pulleys, cords, tables, chairs and couches.  What a difference a few inches can make!  When Ryan approaches one of these now easily accessible items, I firmly tell him, ", no, no, no, no."  He smiles his still toothless smile, pulls the knob to open the cabinet and hurls a bottle of hairspray at me.  My days are now filled with repeatedly replacing items in cabinets, re rolling the toilet paper at least three times, fishing shoes, balls, toys, sometimes clothes out of the bathtub, and every so often out of the toilet, and wiping an array of thrown and smashed foods off of every surface in my kitchen.  This is after I have emptied every baby toy in the house into the middle of the living room floor in the hopes that the monster will be momentarily distracted. Now, let's talk about silence.  I can't remember what it sounds like.  So, I guess we'll talk about noise.  Ryan's favorite noise to make is something like a cross between a pterodactyl screech and a deflating balloon.  Since he does not yet say any words, this delightful sound is his primary form of communication.  Each evening I prepare dinner to a serenade of "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE."  I used to clean the house to the soothing sounds of Jack Johnson or The Beatles.  Now, as I am up to my elbows in comet, instead of being soothed by mellow acoustics, I am accompanied by the all too familiar, "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!"  Like a good monster, he also occasionally growls.  Next, let's talk about social life.  I used to have one.  I would bring the monster formerly known as a baby along and have a nice chat with my friends.  If Ryan cried, I would give him a bottle and continue in the conversation.  Now, when I attempt to socialize at a play group, exercise group, or any other type of group, my friends stare open mouthed as my monster throws himself on the ground in fits of hysterics, contorting his body into positions that look like some form of baby yoga.  It is also quite difficult to get a word in edgewise over the "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!"  My monster is single handedly destroying my social life.  Now let's talk about church.  We make it about two minutes in the chapel before the "EEEEEE HEEE's" force me to take my monster into the hall.  Since Dirk is not able to attend church with us most weeks, this means that my older two children are left sitting alone in the chapel.  I peek my head in the door every few minutes and give them a quick "you'd better stop what your doing if you want to make it to primary alive" face and a stern finger point.  I do this no matter what they happen to be doing when I peer in.  Just a precautionary measure.  By the time sacrament meeting is over, I have done my arm workout for the week and I am ready to hand off the monster to my obliging husband.  Never had I imagined that playing the piano for two hours for a room full of screaming children would be a reprieve.  Now let's talk about words.  By the time Morgan was monster's age, she was saying many of these.  Her vocabulary was quite extensive, and I'm not exaggerating.  The girl could say words like hippotomas and spaghetti with perfect pronunciation by the age of eighteen months.  Monster says "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE HEEEEEEEEEEEEE".  He also stares at me as I beg him to say "mama". He flashes a mischievous grin and says, "daddy."  Then he laughs as "mama" changes the world's most foul smelling diaper.
     Now let's talk about kisses.  I have come to adore slobbery, toothless monster kisses on my cheek.  I could also talk about monster smiles, monster belly laughs, and sweet monster sleeping, all of which are equally sublime.  These are the things that atone for the other monstrosities which almost cause me to pick up the phone and dial Blackfoot South ( I have it on speed dial just in case.)  Raising a monster is no easy feat.  There are days when the minute Dirk walks through the door and sees the look on my face and hears the "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE HEEEEEEEEEEEEE" from the hallway, he knows I need to get out of the house.  There are days when my main goal is to keep my sanity intact. It's amazing how quickly one tiny monster can unhinge your brain.  And yet, somehow, I wouldn't trade one minute of it.  I don't fully understand it myself.  I guess it's monster love.  I'm sure someday, when Ryan is a teenager and he tells me he hates me or I catch him smoking in the bathroom, I will look back on the monster days and wonder what I was so stressed out about.  I guess it really is all about point of view.  As parents, we struggle through the challenges of each new stage of our children's development.  It's never an easy job.  But there is such fulfillment in seeing that our children are turning slowly from toddle monsters into self-sufficient, thoughtful, reliable members of society.  It is a miraculous transformation to behold.  Some days it's easy to see that what we are wearing ourselves out working toward day after day is actually coming to pass.  And for those days when all of this is not quite so clear, there's always chocolate cake.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


     Please excuse any typos that may occur throughout this post.  If there are more than usual, I am blaming it on my children's teachers.  That's right.  It is said teachers who required me to purchase 34  #2 pencils.  It was also by their requirement that I sharpened those 34 #2 pencils using an old crank sharpener that, for reasons I will never know, is built into my hallway linen closet.  By extension, I am blaming these well meaning women behind my children's school supply lists for the blister that has taken over my right thumb, making it much more difficult to accomplish every day tasks such as writing and typing.  I could also blame them for the perma-cramp now plaguing my right hand, which was induced by labeling each of those #2 pencils with miniature versions of my children's names.  Yes, along with the 100 other school items I branded with my kiddo's insignia, I also labeled each wooden pencil.  Ever tried writing on an 8mm wooden hexagonal cylinder with a 10 mm felt tip marker?  During the ordeal of the Labeling of the Pencils (capitals have been added because this will now become an annual dreadfully anticipated event in the Stanger household), I began to desire an old brass lamp complete with a three-wish genie.  Had I such a convenience at my disposal, my three wishes would have been as follows: 1) a label maker, 2) a time machine, so I could travel back to the days of my children's births and change their names to T.J.  and Emily, Em for short, 3) a high powered electric pencil sharpener.   Now, I know what you are thinking.  Had I such an all powerful genie at my beck and call, shouldn't I just wish for an endless supply of presharpened, pre-labeled pencils?  It certainly would have made more sense.  Since the genie never did show up, it hardly mattered that my brain had become as numb as my fingers.  This mind numbing occurred gradually, over the course of about a week.  It began with the Buying of the Supplies.  About two weeks ago, I printed off two crisp white sheets of paper detailing the supplies necessary to ensure my children's academic success for the year.  One evening, with lists in hand, I traveled to the store, reminiscing all the while on my own school girl days.  I used to love the smell of a brand new box of crayons and pencil shavings.  I would flip excitedly through my blank white notebook pages, just waiting to be filled with the priceless knowledge I would soon be gaining.  When I arrived at the store, there were 1,000 other moms who had ,perhaps, four hours and three shopping carts earlier, had the same naive delusions about the joy of school supply shopping as I had harbored.  These mothers now looked more like they would likely stab someone with one of their 400 #2 pencils, if only they were sharpened.  By the end of my trip, I could empathize with the looks on those poor mother's faces.  When the cashier in the checkout aisle cheerfully asked me if I "found everything alright" I was tempted to see how a Crayola crayon would work as an impaling object. It should have been a cake walk.  All of the standard supplies were conveniently grouped into bins and labeled.  I should have been able to walk in a straight line, stopping briefly to add a box of crayons or a pair of scissors to the contents of my cart.  I soon came to realize, however, that each item on the lists in my hand was size and brand specific.  I had to find the 1.27 oz glue sticks with the black label.  I found black label glue, but nowhere could I find a glue stick which matched the size specifications.  I also spent about an hour opening every spiral notebook in the store in an attempt to find one without perforated pages.  A friend had previously warned me this might happen after her own notebook debacle.  After searching high and low, she had found exactly one spiral notebook with non-perforated pages.  The front cover boasted a picture of Justin Bieber.  Not wanting to set her third-grader up for a case of Bieber fever, she had grabbed the notebook with the least noticeable perforation and run.  Afraid that my inability to procure the correct supplies for my daughter may serve as a reflection of my lack of dedication, and by extension, my daughter's lack of dedication to her education, I called every office supply store in a 50 mile radius in search of the illusive non-perforated spiral notebook.  With each call, I was informed that non-perforated spiral notebooks were no longer produced.  The last one in existence was probably snatched up by some Beiber lover whose teacher didn't even require non-perforated pages.   When I returned home 5 hours, 15 phone calls and 20 bags later, I informed my husband that he would be in charge of the school supply shopping next year.
     This explanation for my current school supply induced stupor does not even take into account The Buying of the School Clothes, which, when you have children who are half the size of their peers, is quite a challenge.  But, that is another post for another day.  I am left wondering several things after the previous week.  I wonder if it will be somehow detrimental to my children's academic futures that they are using the wrong size glue stick and the wrong type of notebook.  I wonder how many mothers grudgingly bought their third graders Justin Beiber notebooks.  I wonder how much electric pencil sharpeners cost these days.  I wonder if there is any mole skin left in my first aid kit.  But most of all I wonder when things got so complicated.  Did our mothers spend hours searching for the Prang watercolors (which, by the way, are only sold at King's in Shelley)?  Did they go on wild goose chases for the 1.27 oz black label glue stick?  Or were school supplies just school supplies once upon a time?  Did life really used to be so much simpler, or did it just seem simpler because we weren't the ones in charge?  We were the ones who eagerly smelled our untouched crayons and clutched our unadulterated Lisa Frank notebook and dreamed of the possibilities of a new year.  We were the ones in the spotlight.  Our mothers had painstakingly outfitted us with everything we needed to become the stars of our classes.  We probably complained when we were handed the New Kids on the Block notebook when we had been eyeing the sparkly pink one with the kitten on it, not realizing that our mothers were still recovering from a tri-city search for the right kind of notebook.  They were our silent cheerleaders.  I am sure that now, my children think that their school supplies, clothes and everything else that they use on a daily basis, appear out of thin air.  They do not realize that we are living in a house with sixty year old plumbing and a history of water damage so that we can afford the cheer uniforms, the 10,000 pencils that will be bought over the course of their school careers, to say nothing of the diapers and formula.  As parents, we make a thousand tiny daily sacrifices which go largely unnoticed by the very ones we are sacrificing for.  After the Buying of the Supplies and the Labeling of the Supplies and the hunt for the coveted and rare non-perforated, non Bieber notebook, I have once again been reminded of how much my parents sacrificed for me.  They drove us everywhere in an old Toyota mini van for twenty years.  We always had nice clothes to wear to school, the required school supplies to bring with us, and, most importantly, a loving and supportive home to return to at the end of the day.  I read a passage from one of Shakespeare's most famous soliloquies this morning.  Macbeth soliloquized that "life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."  I guess we could say that Macbeth was more than a little jaded, as was Shakespeare himself.  As for me, I will continue to play my part as the sentimental idiot who tells my tales to anyone who will listen.  The tale I wish to tell today is one of gratitude; of a deep appreciation for parents who have sacrificed so many comforts throughout their lives in my behalf.  Being a parent is full of plenty of sound and a good dose of fury.  But, I have to believe the seemingly insignificant acts we commit each day for the love of our children do actually signify something.  Looking back on my childhood with the perspective of a parent, my own parents actions and sacrifices signify clearly to me that they loved me enough to do anything for my happiness and well being. Thanks mom and dad, for every sharpened pencil, for every after school snack, for every bed  time story you read me when all you wanted to do was fall into bed yourselves. Thank you for supplying me with a sense of security and well-being which I am now trying to pass on to my own children, one sharpened pencil at a time.