Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Help. (The real help.)

My aunt (Brad's aunt) Diana called the other night. To say she was sorry. And to offer encouragement.

My Grandma called.

And then my mom called this morning. Crying. Told me she thought people were taking care of me here, where we live. Where she cannot be.

And (if I may be cliche for a moment) what she said hit me like a ton of bricks.

Because, yeah. Sunday was bad. All I could see on Sunday (and on many days like it such as grocery-shopping day) was my misbehaving children and a crying baby and an annoyed woman and my pitiful, incomplete, imperfect attempts at motherhood.

But today. Today. After a little space. Today I can remember that I ran to the bathroom with Claire in my hand and sobbed big great gaspy sobs on the step stool in front of the sink. When I heard the door open, I didn't try to put on a happy face. Because, seriously. It was obvious I'd either been crying or had missapplied my blush in a streaky mess down my cheeks and stabbed my eyes with mascara. And the woman who came in didn't ask what was wrong. She said, "Oh, Elise," and wrapped me up in her arms and just let me cry. And every other woman that came in did the same. And none of them left. I don't know if they even actually ever used the restroom. They didn't ask me to explain. And it wasn't that I didn't trust them enough to tell them. It was that I couldn't talk about it. I couldn't think about it without wilting into a puddle of tears. And they didn't make me. They got me wrapped up in conversations about other things--houses, moving, babies, ward callings--until my face had cooled. And I could speak without weeping. And I could finish the remaining two hours of church without looking like a hot teary mess.

And then Monday, after blogging, as I pulled up to Grace's school to pick her up, a woman from my ward (who also happened to be in the car queue, waiting for her son) told me she had heard what had happened on Sunday (I don't know how) and although she couldn't find out who had said it ("because no one will gossip!"), she assumed that it was so-and-so (and it was--but I didn't say). And this incident was not this poor woman's only (or worst) offence. And, I felt... pacified.

And then. Well then I came home to a pile of messages from you. Perfect little packets of hope and help.

Several of you mentioned that I should not be afraid of asking for help. I am. I am terrified of asking for help. But this incident stung so that I couldn't ignore it. I couldn't laugh about it (as I usually do over life's tragedies--can't decide if that's healthy or demented). I couldn't get over it. I couldn't sort through my feelings of anger and disappointment and lonliness. So I blogged about it. I asked for help without even realizing it.

So today I can see God's hand in the incident. I can see that He gave me an opportunity to ask for help. I can see what He's been attempting to show me for a long time. When my mom called this morning, I could tell her that I have dear, sincere, loving, wonderful friends. I am taken care of. I am not alone. My efforts (dinky as they are) are not unobserved by Him. That He has given us each other to bear one another's burdens. And that my biggest burden is the fear of failure, and that sharing that fear turns out to not be so bad. That none of you thought, "Yeah, Elise. You're really a screw up." Not that you said, anyway.

And so today, armed with your encouragement and love and support, I largely ignored the laundry. And I played. It's not something I do. Usually I clean and cook and research on the internet the best way to: make a homemade Christmas, bake dinner rolls, take hard water stains out of toilets. I guess I'm looking for a way to measure my success. To feel like I've accomplished something. And I suppose my failure and feelings of overwhelment (yes. I'm making that a word.) stem from never really succeeding. Never being done. I mean, laundry is never. done. And the living room never stays clean for two consecutive hours.

And for today it was okay to not accomplish anything (in the strictest sense of the word). I guess the encouragement made me feel like earning my way to happiness and self-satisfaction was... unnecessary?

So Weston and I played chase around the pantry in my kitchen. Claire and I played pirates. Then we played restaurant and she made me mop the kitchen/dining/living room floor for her customers while she dried it so they wouldn't slip (which is, well, the most fun/productive [fun-ductive?] thing I've ever done, even though the floor is now covered in crumbs again from who knows what). Grace and I sat through piano practice without fighting. We even laughed.

I'm not saying that I'm cured of being overwhelmed and distraught or hopeless. Tomorrow I may be psycho again. But I am saying thank you for reminding me of hope. Thank you for bearing my burden. For being an army of support and help. For being the world's best and sincerest and dearest friends. I can't tell you enough what it has meant.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I really hope this is rock bottom.

It might be the dreary weather. It could be the early onset of nighttime (4:00). It's probably just me. My choice. My attitude. Whatever it is, I've been having a rough time. Not quite sure how long it's been going on. It feels like forever. Like maybe since Wes was born. I just feel consistently overwhelmed. Never quite caught up. I'll get really close to under control, and then, suddenly, the next day, I'll walk past my laundry "hall" and see this:

Yeah. I have no shame. Just keepin' it real, peeps.

And then somewhere along the way I became a yeller. My poor children. Every night I pray that they know I love them. Because I'm not sure my behavior is good evidence.

I've been unloading things from my responsibility plate in an effort to cope. Grace (for many reasons, in addition to this one) is now in a charter school where she dons snappy uniforms and has tested at a fourth grade language arts/spelling level. I've started calling in to my cub scout committee meetings (where I am currently serving as the primary counselor, cub scout master, and webelos den leader) because I can't seem to get my trash out of the door on a Sunday to actually physically be at the meeting.

Anyway. In a nutshell, I feel like a failure as a mother/homeschooler/housekeeper/church person.

Yesterday I was sitting alone on a bench in our church building. Brad had taken Weston out of the meeting during the administration of the sacrament because he was whining. Our meeting buildings don't really have crying rooms behind the rest of the seats. If they did, we would probably start out sitting there from the beginning.

If you recall, my daughters don't know how to whisper. So, as they quietly chattered, I  constantly reminded them to whisper so we could avoid disturbing the sweet middle-aged couple in front of us and the dear single woman behind us. I told Claire she'd have to wait for just a few more minutes to go to the bathroom. I was trying to think about Jesus. And put on a happy face. And set an example for my munchkins. Because sometimes it feels like that's the only reason I'm there: to establish a pattern.

That's when I saw a woman rise from the front row and begin to leave the chapel. She came toward us on her way out. She stopped at the bench in front of us where the Smith couple sat. She said (rather loudly) to Sister Smith, "I feel so sorry for you." When Sister Smith (shocked) asked why, she nodded at me. And my children. Then she smiled at the Smiths and sauntered on out.

It seemed like a good moment to take Claire to the bathroom. And that's where I spent the rest of the meeting. Bawling my eyes out.

For a few minutes it didn't really feel like going to church was worth it. Not if we were ruining people's Sunday experience. And it confirmed my fears of failing as a mother.

Sister Smith called me that evening and told me her heart felt heavy. That she hadn't even heard my children. (I'm sure she meant that she was used to tuning children out. Otherwise she'd have had to be hard of hearing. Which she is not.) That when she joined the church her children were young and she struggled to keep them quiet. That she knew from experience that I was making valiant efforts as a mother. That Heavenly Father loves me and appreciates my taking children to church even when they aren't grasping it.

I cried again. And thanked her. And felt a little better.

But I still haven't felt any less overwhelmed. I am still struggling with inadequacy and discouragement. And the nightmare of failing. Is this something I struggle with alone? How do you get happy? How do you convince yourself in your success as parents?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Brought to you by our local elementary.

I know people make mistakes. I'm not trying to be petty. But I did think this was sort of hilarious.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Weston made for a charming cowboy this Halloween. It was a last minute job. I dug Claire's build-a-bear out of the toy box, stripped it, and crammed Wes into its outfit. There are benefits to being mini.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back to blogging

I would apologize for not blogging. Seems like that's what is done when a large lapse between blogs occurs. But. I'm pretty sure you've been getting along just fine during my long silences. And so have I. I've been busy. For example. This week, my mom went to Utah to help my sister, Brittany, with her darling twins. (I will post pics when I get good ones.) While she traveled there, I went to HER house in Dallas to hold down the fort, drive my youngest sister around, and keep her company while my dad was on call.

We had a fabulous time.

My kids have never had extended time with Papa when Grandma was not around. And it was delightful to get his undivided attention. He took them 4-wheeling, fishing, ant-killing (after Claire got attacked they decided to take revenge), and tickled them to near-tears. He and I talked, watched movies, and burned pizza.

And Wes played in the mud. And with Papa's exposed sprinklers.

Karlee made me pull her hair through a plastic cap with a crochet hook. It took me two hours. And it hurt her. And then we left the bleach in for too long. Whoops.

Whew. I love a good vacation. I love a fun family.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Exciting News. Fer reals.

My sister just had her TWINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have never used that many exclamation marks.

First baby (Lucy) born at 12:06. Second baby (Liberty) born at 12:13.

Just think. Ten minutes earlier and they would have had their own birthdays!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Curriculum: History

While I was contemplating homeschool, history was the one subject that excited me and ultimately threw me over the fence into the homeschooling population.

My own knowledge of history is pretty spotty. So I was pretty excited to join Grace in a study this year of Ancient History.

We use this text:

This text is written for elementary students. And it has its problems. For example. I am not a big fan of some of the dialogue invented. I prefer straight history. But I am an adult. And Grace seems to appreciate the dialogue.

We read 1-2 chapters per week. She colors maps associated with the activities, and we do activities or watch movies having to do with the subject material.

After every four chapters, we make flashcards about the material we've learned, we study it, and then Grace takes a test. It's very fun. She loves the tests. (Our first test is here.)

Also. Once per month we have a school party. It's on Saturday. We invite friends, we have food, and lots of fun. For our first party, we learned about Egypt. The kids found Egypt on the globe, they learned about the Nile, they wrote their names in hieroglyphs, and they turned each other into mummies.

We had a blast. See?

(The real purpose of the school party is to get the kids thinking homeschool is SO COOL that they want to do it too. But shh. Don't tell their parents.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Interweb.

A few of you have asked me about the curriculum I use in homeschool. I'll get to that in another post. Maybe. No, no. I really will.

What I've come here today to post is the list of my favorite educational websites for children. My kids love computer games. And so do I. There are some great free websites. I've also found a few that are available by subscription that I think are worth every penny. I'm a cheapskate, but... I love me some good educational software. Anyway. Here's my list:
  • I cannot say enough good things about Sesame Street and the BRILLIANT educational games they have on their website. Claire plays this thing once a day. And there is no risk of getting bored. Because they have hundreds of games covering: letters, numbers, addition/subtraction, reading, following instructions, potty training, sorting, science, history, etc. I would marry this website. And it's free.
  • Possibly Grace's favorite site ever. She would live here if she could. Honestly, the math arcade is a little too intense for me. I can't move the arrow keys fast enough and my blood pressures starts to sky rocket and then I pass out. So, not my favorite. But it's free too.
  • This website quizzes kids on the books they've read. Then, points are awarded to the child based on how well he/she performed on the quiz. THEN, the website sponsors actual, real-life prizes children may recieve when they reach certain point thresholds. (Like--prizes. Ones that come in the mail. That you can actually touch.) Parents can also specify a point target at which they will award their children a prize. Grace is a huge fan. It has made her more of a reader. And it's free. Bonus.
  • This is a recent find of mine. Most of the content is for subscribers (and I subscribe), but the site offers free content as well. I love this site because it tells me what my state's educational standards are and then links each standard to a lesson offered by the site. (Anybody want to wager on how many times I can use the word "site" in a paragraph? Site, site, site...) My kids love watching the videos and taking the quizzes afterward.
  • Anybody want to flashback to Schoolhouse Rock? Or watch an episode of Magic School Bus? Learn about Ancient Egypt? You can find free, online educational videos at this website. We love this. Because we have no TV service. Turns out you don't need it. (Although Brad and I are still technically debating over the definition of the word "need".)
  • For those of you who are Mormon, I really must insist that you take a look at this website (heck. Take a look if you're not Mormon, too.). The Kids' Club game section is nothing short of incredible. Memberships are reasonable (let's put it in perspective... you pay more than 9 bucks a month on Subway or Redbox. Book of Mormon games are worth it!), and you can try it free for a week. I am telling you about it because it is my favorite LDS thing since, well, the scriptures. And I thought I should share.
  • . Not free. But pretty stinking cool. This site is all about math. It gives TONS of practice and then provides children with digital rewards (you know, like an online collection of stickers) for correct answers. The best part is that it tracks student progress and stumbling blocks and then reports all to the parent. I have just started using this with Grace and love it.
So... pretty much it looks like we are on the computer all day. Every day.


Well, we're not. Real learning takes place here. At desks. With pencils! And paper! And flashcards!

Don't judge me.

Come on. You have some favorite educational websites too. I know it. Spill your guts.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On the way home from church.

Me: "So. Girls. What did you learn in church today?"
Grace: "About temples."
Me: "What about temples?"
Grace: "Our bodies are temples."
Me: "Yup."
Claire: "DAD. You are a BIG temple."

Friday, August 19, 2011

How it's going.

Homeschool offers a few perks. Like minimal sick days. That is a bonus I have really been looking forward to. Last year, during Grace's debut into the glorious and grody world of kindergarten, we caught everything. The flu, swine flu, RSV. This year I was giddily anticipating the flu fairy passing us by.

Instead, we are somehow the only people in town with pink eye. And since my immune system believes in self torture, I am also sporting a prize-winning cold sore.

I didn't know it before (probably because I haven't had pink eye since I was, like, six), but wearing contacts is sort of impossible while experiencing mucous-y itchiness. So I have let them bathe in their case on my windowsill this week. Conveniently for me, my glasses (which I hated anyway) have been MIA since my Mom's incident at the beginning of this year (people lose important things in stress. Okay, fine, let's be honest. I lose important things every day of the week.) This means I am, for all intents and purposes, basically blind.

But I am a homeschooler, and getting out of the house is a number one priority. So I may or may not have driven to the library, corrective vision be darned. (Don't bother asking why a family with pink-eye may have been venturing out of the house in the first place.) And as a result of that short drive, let me just say that my car keys are now resting safely on the mantle where they endanger nobody.

So now, in addition to being inexplicably ill, we are now the homeschool family that hunkers down and avoids people. Oh. And my floors are filthy. Because I can't actually see to mop and sweep them.

So. You know, great third week so far.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This is not a manifesto.

When I tell people I'm homeschooling--good friends, acquaintances, strangers--the responses I get make me feel like what I've really just said is: "Please tell me right now everything you think I'm doing wrong as a mother and how I am failing my children."

Okay. I'm totally exaggerating. But it is true that the simple phrase, "We are actually homeschooling," turns out to be a lot more controversial than I thought. It's like I'm asking for opinions. skepticism. stares that say, "are you INSANE, woman?"

In response, inside, I am wincing. And saying, "Yes. I am. Totally nuts."

The daily tasks of motherhood are already overwhelming enough (anybody want to come help fold my laundry pile?) without adding the daunting burden of an academic education. I am not one of those mothers who has a sparkling sink, shining floors, and a cobweb free ceiling who is looking at homeschooling as a challenge to tackle because she has everything else mastered. (Anyone who is ridiculous enough to think that I approach decent housekeeping should note that I am currently sitting in a study nook which is littered with an extension cord, Claire's Sunday shoes, a 2.5 lb. dumbbell weight, a play shopping cart, and a dead basil plant.)

I am also not a social recluse who hoards family time and avoids sending my children to friends' homes because I can't stand being away from them. As it is, I spend about one hour of my day hiding from them, trying to finish my book club read. (Ooh. Book Club. That sounds so social and not-nerdy. Did I just hurt my case?)

And I am not convinced that public schools are the devil and that children who attend them will be morally corrupt and poorly educated.

But. I believe in homeschooling. For my family. Under the right circumstances.

I don't know how long we'll do it or even exactly why (!) we are. But in the two weeks that we have been, I have been learning a lot more than Grace has. I've been learning lessons that I think God has been trying to teach me for decades. Like how to say "no" to people who require my time and attention. And how to avoid being so controlling. And how to stop being afraid of failure. And how to make big decisions without needing the approval of everyone around me.

What I'm trying to say (but am afraid to for the risk of sounding prescriptive or self-righteous, so please read this with the understanding that this next part applies uniquely to me--it's all about ME) is I think homeschooling has the potential to turn me into the kind of mom I want to be. A mom who has her priorities straight. And that is worth a lot of craziness, I think.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Let's play a game.

Time for you to post your school's AYP math proficiency scores.

Find them by googling [your school/district/state + AYP score], then leave your school's reading and math proficiency averages in the comments section.

A homeschooling update. Kind of.

Last week, I received this in mail:
You are looking at the state testing results for all the schools in my city. This table shows the percentage of students that can read and do math at grade level. These scores are shown at grades 3, 4, and 5 (the grades they test). The table compares each school grade's score to the state average scores.

Take a look at it. Don't worry, I'll wait. Trust me. You want to see.

The first thing you should notice is that in 5th grade, our state proficiency scores are at 41.9% in math, and 51.9% in reading. Uh-huh. This means that less than half of my state's 5th graders are able to do math at their grade level. And that slightly over half are able to read at grade level.

And that's not the best part.

The second thing you should notice is my school. Pate. Let's start by comparing the 3rd grade math scores to the 5th grade math scores. At 3rd grade, 44.7% of 3rd graders can do math at grade level. That's less than the (still alarmingly low) state average of 51.5%. At 4th grade, 22.5% are testing at grade level in math. That score is almost half that of the (even more alarmingly low) state average of 44.4%. And finally, by 5th grade, only FIFTEEN POINT TWO PERCENT (Yes, 15.2%!!) of the 5th graders at my elementary are testing at grade level in math (compared to the still low state average of 41.9%). That means that in a three year span, the students in my elementary school that can perform At. Grade. Level. in math drops by almost TWO THIRDS.

It's possible I am overly excited about this. Do any of my school teacher friends want to correct me here? Want to tell me that testing is not a very accurate reflection of actual knowledge? Or maybe that there is a 50% margin of error?

I should mention that I received this table as a piece of a letter giving me the option to transfer to a school that met AYP standards.†  I can transfer my child to one of the three schools in our district that did meet AYP, provided that the schools are not too full. But... does there appear to be a glaring, obvious transfer choice to you?

†AYP stands for Adequate Yearly Progress and is the measurement tool for No Child Left Behind. It does not require that all schools meet a certain average, it simply requires that each school meets a yearly progress goal. If a school doesn't meet the goal, it doesn't pass. You can probably find your own school's AYP scores on your state's education website, provided your state participates in No Child Left Behind (and most still do).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

This is not a joke.

Brad is sitting on our couch. He is reading a book. He just said to me, "Wow, she is REALLY laying into Mr. Darcy. I feel bad for the guy."

If you know my husband, you should be speechless. I am.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A simple equation.

My parents have had a stressful year. In case you didn't know, my mom played dead at the beginning of this year.

That. Plus:

  • Death of mother/mother-in-law
  • Downstairs water damage (from interior fire sprinkler malfunction)
  • A dozen broken windows (due to hailstorm)
  • Severe roof damage (from later tornado)
  • Prematurely torn off roof (from roofers who eagerly started ripping up the roof of the wrong house and then didn't have the supplies to re-roof)
  • Upstairs water damage to carpet, attic, things inside attic, bedrooms (due to storm occurring after roof had been ripped up by roofers and then insufficiently waterproofed)

Monday, June 20, 2011

as close as we get.

They aren't perfect. But we can all agree that they are a drastic improvement over this.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Business Vacation Part Two.

Ugh. I hate writing travel logs. And you probably hate reading them. But here it is anyway.

We loved Maryland's dense trees. I had forgotten how woodsy the east coast can be. Man, I can't believe I live in the desert.

Brad parallel parked on Pennsylvania Avenue.

We went to the Museum of Natural History.

What a pretty building.

We even got a picture together in front of the Archives building (I think) which we did not go inside. Which I still feel sad about.

We became masters of parking signs. Yeeha.

We went on a free walking tour of the National Mall which was totally awesome. Our guide was hilarious.

In the middle of our tour of the WWII memorial, it started to pour.

And thunderstorm. The lightening was gorgeous.

This is at the Vietnam memorial. Brad and I had the privilege of visiting the Friday prior to Memorial Day weekend, so we toured the war memorials alongside veterans--hundreds of them bikers who planned on parading down the street that Monday. It was pretty amazing to be there with them.

Lincoln. Amazing president. And lightening sure made the memorial dramatic.

Weston. Crawling before the Gettysburg address.

The end.

Go to DC.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


The words to "Hey Soul Sister" by Train as sung by Grace and Claire:

"See saw, sister. How about a blister on the radio, stereo, how about a blister, yo?"

We are so ready for "Don't Forget the Lyrics," friends.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Here's a tip.

If you decide at some point during the day that you having a nap is necessary to the emotional and physical well-being of your entire family, I recommend that you hide your phone.

Otherwise, you may wake up to discover that your children have called half of the contacts in your phone including your entire family and in-laws, and have informed all of them that you have been sleeping for 45 minutes and "will sleep prolly for 70 more minutes." They will also have mentioned a few of the naughty activities they are engaging in including shoveling handfuls of salt into their mouths, among other things.

I'm just saying: take your phone with you.

Sleep on it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A business vacation. Part 1.

Last week Brad's company sent him to Maryland for some training. And they let me go too!! My wonderful brother and sister-in-law came to watch Grace and Claire, and we took Weston (since, as I have mentioned, he won't eat anything yet).

We rented a Prius. Brad insisted. Seriously. I should have taken a picture of him in that little car. Hilarious. But it was worth it. We got 41 miles to the gallon. That includes three hours of me sitting in the running car with the A/C on waiting for Brad to get out of class. Amazing. I want one.

During Brad's first day of class, I explored Baltimore. Just me and Weston. I wanted to see the National Aquarium in Baltimore because I had been to it as a kid and remembered loving it. It was great. My favorite part was the dolphins. They are awesome.

Then Wes and I toured the USS Torsk, a submarine used during WWII. My great uncle was the only casualty on the ship. He drowned when the ship submerged beneath him in training. Someone had failed to sound the diving alarm. Here is Wes in front of the sub.

Then, I went to find a Wells Fargo to pull out some cash to pay for parking. I walked a mile. Uphill. In a lot of humidity, pushing a stroller. And apparently I was in the ghetto because when I stopped at a drugstore, I found the deodorant locked up for "security purposes."


Ah. How I love my camera phone.


Anyway, eventually I found a bank, navigated stair obstacles with the stroller, and pulled out a grand total of ten bucks to pay for parking.

On the hike back to inner harbor, I realized that my phone was dying. This was bad because I needed it to navigate my way back to the hotel. Luckily, I had seen a Best Buy sign. I thought I would go in to buy a car charger. The thing about city stores is that they are not on the ground floor. It took me a while to figure out where the Best Buy was in the building and how to get up to it. Because I am a country mouse. I am not a city soul. I know. You're shocked.

Anyway, I found an elevator (which smelled like a urinal) and bought the car charger, had someone take a pic of me and Wes in front of inner harbor:

and then I headed back to inner harbor to pay my 9 dollars for parking. Unfortunately I was apparently a few minutes late for the whole day/9 dollar deal (the attendant had a thick Hispanic accent and I still don't understand what I did wrong), and now I owed 22 bucks. Which I didn't have. I would have to repark the car, hike back to the bank, withdraw more cash... I must have looked really flustered in my effort to figure out what to do. And then Weston chose that precise moment to start screaming his head off for the first time on the trip. And the parking attendant had mercy on me and let me go.

I still feel guilty.

I used my newly charged phone to find my way back to Columbia. I waited for Brad to get out of his class, and then we drove to DC for dinner at Fogo de Ciao.

I'm not big on meat, but this place is amazing. I mostly eat from the salad bar and the never ending cheesebread, polenta, and fried bananas. Yum. And the service is nothing short of incredible. Seriously. My water glass never got less than half full, and when we took the last cheesebread from the basket, someone would appear out of nowhere and replace the empty basket with a full one.

See. That is me very happy about the cheesebread. My tightening jeans are making my tummy not so happy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tit for Tat

Today is my anniversary. Seven happy years. This is also the third year in a row that both Brad and I have completely forgotten. My sister, Brittany, reminded me by text this morning. And then she got all high and mighty about it and wrote this on her blog:

"Happy June, everybody. Can't believe it's June already. If any of you know my sister, Elise, feel free to wish her a Happy Anniversary today since she forgot. It's the 3rd year in a row she's forgotten and my texts have reminded her. Poor poor Brad."

This is not the only time Brittany has publicly outed me. Last year, she announced my pregnancy on my. Own. Blog.

Now I get to out her.

On the 26th, Brittany promised to announce the result of her ultrasound. But she didn't. Because she was nervous. So I will.

Brittany is expecting girl TWINS this October.

Isn't that CRAZY COOL?!

(PS. I am not actually that mean. I asked Brittany's permission. Well. I warned her I was going to do it. She didn't object. Not that loudly anyway.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fine-tuned humor

Claire: Mom, tell me a knock-knock joke.

Me: Ooh. Okay. I've got a good one. Knock, knock.

Claire: Who's there?

Me: Boo.

Claire: Boo who?

Me: Well you don't have to cry about it.

Claire: [stares blankly]

Me: [excited] Get it? Boo hoo! It sounds like you're crying.

Claire: [still staring.]

Me: [deflated] Fine. Here's another one. Knock, knock.

Claire: Who's there?

Me: Truck.

Claire: Truck who?

Me: Truck driving down the road.

Claire: [slapping knee] Ah ha ha!! Now THAT'S a JOKE!

We call this home.

This morning Brad and I passed two men painting over new graffiti on a random building. The graffiti said, "City Police Corrupt-"

The rest had already been painted over.

I wonder why it was being cleaned so quickly...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Morning again.

I'm having chocolate ice cream with frosted flakes on top for breakfast. Don't tell my kids.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A couple miracles.

First of all. When my oh-so-wonderful camera disappeared, the SD card happened to not be in it.  Miracle (or oversight) number one.

Miracle number two: the last pictures I took were of my children. And. Well, you are all well aware of my family's photogenic handicaps. It is impossible to get a good picture. That is, it was. Until this one amazing moment when the universe must have realized that I would shortly be losing my camera and the powers that be decided to cut me a break. Because. These are the best pictures of my family. Ever.

I didn't pose the shoot. That is why they are wearing the most ridiculous clothes while spread out on the most noisy background ever. But those facial expressions. The smiles. The grins heavy with love and friendship for each other. (Just humor me here. They're the last pictures I'm gonna get.)

Getting all of them smiling at the same time was almost worth the missing camera. Almost.

Monday, May 16, 2011

No more photos.

I'm not a shopper. I don't buy things for myself. But I have two possessions that I love. One is my phone. The other is my Nikon D60. Brad bought it for me one year as a Valentine's Day gift. Best. gift. ever.

Yesterday, my Nikon disappeared from Grace's piano recital. And I am seriously bummed.

The end.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Again. With the Mother's Day thing.

When I was young, I remember hearing my mom say she didn't like Mother's Day. This made no sense to me. She got breakfast in bed, heard us sing a Mother's Day song, and even got a potted plant at church, for crying out loud. What was there to complain about?

The unfortunate thing about my life is that whenever I'm critical of my mom, I eat it later.

Karma has insured that I also hate Mother's Day.

And I think I may even know a few of the reasons for disliking it.

For starters, Mother's Day is on a Sunday. And Sunday, traditionally, is my worst mothering day of the week. (I suspect it was my mom's too.) My Sundays go like this:

I coax two reluctant children into the shower.
I insist that soap will not get into their eyes.
I apologize profusely when soap does, in fact, get into their eyes.
I find clothing: scanning the closets and burrowing through hampers.
I pull the children out of the shower and bring out a brush.
I explain to them, calmly, that I have pulled out a brush, not a carving knife, and that there is no need to scream.
I promise to use detangling spray.
I chase them around the house, maniacally waving the brush.
I give up.
I pull three sets of clothes over three little bodies.
I search for three pairs of shoes.
I glance at the clock and yell, "Get into the car, we're going to be LATE!"
We miss breakfast.
I arrive at church with two hungry and homeless looking children. And Brad has saved us seats at the front.We parade through the crowd and I slump over in the pew.

And since today was Mother's Day, I got to follow up this fiasco by listening to wonderful talks about practically-perfect mothers in the scriptures while my children ran back and forth in the pew, begged for paper and crayons, fought with each other, and refused to whisper.

Also, every time one of my children disobeys on Mother's Day, it's like evidence. "Here is further proof that you are a bad Mother. Booyah."

I think the worst thing for me about Mother's Day is that the gift I want the very most is a break from my mothering responsibilities. Isn't that awful? It's like saying that what you want for Valentine's Day is more alone time.

I told Brad all of this today while we sat in the parking lot at church, where I was feeding Weston. He followed me out to ask why I looked so depressed. (I've married a man who is happy. And his only goal is for me to be happy. And I do a really good job of making that hard for him.) He made me laugh in the car (he's good at that). After church he gave me the break that I wanted but felt guilty about taking. I had a nap. And lunch in bed. And a foot massage. And he did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen and watched the munchkins. And then we visited with some of our wonderful friends.

It was a good second half of the day. Maybe next year I can just skip the depression/guilt part. That would be nice.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

This day

Claire doesn't yet understand that "today" refers to the current day. So when I say something innocent like, "We're going to the pool today!" She usually responds, "We're going to the pool this day?!"

"Yes, Claire. Today."

"Is it today?"

"Yes, Claire."


She is a hilarious child. Sometimes intentionally. Usually not. She is polite (always asking "please," and "may I,") as long as she's not pitching a fit (and those are loud and long and persistent). She. is. determined. And she is bright.

On this day (and every day) Claire has done many things.
  • She walked around the house mumbling lines from her favorite movies including (but not limited to):
    • Despicable Me ("Hey, you're the guy who pretended to be a recorded message!... No, that was someone else."
    • Baby Signing Time ("Speech delays, autism...")
    • Tangled ("Why is he smiling at me?")
  • She asked me why she couldn't have the MnM's dad had eaten all gone. I explained that he had eaten them. They were GONE. Then she asked, "No! Why can't I eat them?" as if I had misunderstood the question. This conversation repeated several times. Similar conversations occur several times a day.
  • She washed her hands approximately twenty times at my insistence. I have insisted because she has three cold sores and can't keep her fingers off them. It started with one under her nose and has spread to her chin and next to her eye. Curse cold sores. Curse, curse, curse.
  • She asked me to tickle her back. It's her favorite thing.
  • She jumped on my bed and said, "Mom, you're  a silly Mom." She jumped thoughtfully and added with pursed lips, "You're a mean Mom too."
I love that kid. Even if she does think I'm mean.

*In yesterday's entry, Grace is on the bottom rack of the shopping cart. Her hair is dragging on the floor and her fingers are about to be flattened. She thinks it's awesome.

**Thank you for your homeschooling comments. All of them. I am contemplating.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why going to the grocery store with three children is a joke.

Can you find all four of us in this reflection? Ten points if you can.

Feel free to lecture Grace on safety. I do.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Loony Bin

I think I've decided to homeschool Grace next year.

And I wasn't really expecting it, but I'm getting a lot of negative feedback about homeschooling from friends and acquaintances. Also. Carlsbad is about ten years behind the times, so support groups for homeschooling are almost non-existent. In other areas across the country, homeschool has made such great strides that kids can participate in school sports and even choose to attend some classes.

But not here. I can't even envision when that would be possible.

And I don't like being unconventional. Or being a ringleader. Or an activist. Or proving myself to people. It's not my thing.

I could list a variety of reasons for homeschooling, most of which would be academic. And maybe I'll do that later. But what it really comes down to for me is my guts. I have a gut feeling that I need to try homeschooling Grace. Just try.

Think I'm crazy?

Monday, May 2, 2011

This Mother's Day.

Last year Mother's Day at our house went largely uncelebrated. We were broke. And Brad [who is an amazing gift giver when he has money to spend] didn't have any free gift ideas.

Our family was participating in our post-Sunday-nap ritual. It occurs after church, after a mandatory hour-long quiet time. The girls wander into our room, pile on the bed and Brad tickles them until someone's eye gets poked out. It's fun. You should try it. Anyway.

As he tortured one of our children, I gave Brad a hard time about his observance of Mother's day. "You could have written me a note. You could have at least brought me breakfast in bed." [I am. like. the best wife. ever.]

That must have been the last straw. He ceased his attacks on the girls and instead attempted to tickle me to death. He at least succeeded in getting me to laugh so hard that I had to stop nagging. Which was probably the point.

He stopped long enough for me to catch my breath, and then I felt a little finger tapping my back. I rolled to my other side causing enough motion to almost tip a bowl of Rice Krispies that had just been placed on the mattress. Behind it ducked a shy Grace, waiting for me to gush over my breakfast in bed. I did. I gushed profusely. And ate the cereal. And thoroughly enjoyed it.

And then I felt profoundly guilty for being a guilt-tripping bad mother.

And that is how I feel Mother's Day goes in a nutshell: disappointment, mushiness, guilt. There is so much to look forward to.

And on that note, what do you want for Mother's Day? Or... what do you plan on giving to your Mother?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I'm better now.

I took a nap. The world looks better after a nap.

I woke up to find Wes. He had found the only thing available to pull himself up on in our long hallway. And he was stuck.

His knees are about to buckle, and he is whimpering for rescue, but I had to make him wait while I grabbed the camera.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I ruined Easter.

I don't usually mind giving talks at church. I usually spend a lot of time preparing. Sometimes I fast. I don't usually get too nervous in front of large crowds.

Maybe that's why it was so bad today.

Today, for whatever reason, was a train wreck. I had prepared a little. I had thought a lot about  Resurrection, the Atonement. I had planned to talk about my grandma's death. I had planned to talk about the sorrow that comes in life. I had planned to talk about the hope that Christ's resurrection brings. I had planned to reference Elder Holland and Wirthlin and President Monson.

Instead, I stood up, rambled and blabbered for approximately 5 minutes, and sat down.

I don't know whether I want another chance at speaking, or whether I want to hide under a rock and refuse to ever speak or hold a calling again.

It was that bad.

If you are in my ward, I apologize profusely. If you are not... I'm glad I can still count a few people who don't consider me a complete moron.

The positive news is... Easter did happen. Christ did rise from the dead. The tomb is empty. And that glorious thing is true anyway. Hopefully people remember that. Maybe once I stop cringing over my idiocy I can remember that too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

By plane.

Wes is an awesome travel buddy. I strapped him around me with my Moby, and we strolled the airports passing grumpy, delayed travelers. He's too much for the determined grump. The kid could charm the socks off Oscar the Grouch. Strangers of all types cooed, grinned, and chuckled. I met amazing people with my giggling, bouncing conversation starter.

It probably helped that he didn't make a fuss in any of our four flights spread over 3 and a half hours.

I'm not biased at ALL.


Today Claire and I rehashed a conversation we've had several times.

Claire: Mom, are we still going to keep Weston, our son?

Me: Yes.

Claire: We're not going to give him to someone else?

Me: No. Do you want to give him to someone else?

Claire: No! He's our son!

Me: Oh. Okay.

Inviting Death.

My favorite line from Disney's Pollyanna is the pastor's thundering cry: "Death comes... unexpectedly!!"

I suppose it's one of life's few nearly universal truths. Even when you're inviting death, it may come later than you want. My grandma had been on dialysis for some time when she decided it was time to quit. She lay at home in her bed, waiting for her departure time, waking up occasionally from her semi-coma to announce, "I'm still here."

She awoke the second morning of my visit to say in mild frustration, "It's hard to die!"

This afternoon, though, at 12:20 local time, it came. I was so glad to have been able to visit and talk with her at a time when she could talk back. I'm glad to have held her hand and told her how grateful I am to her. I'm glad that she patted my hand when I got all teary and made me feel like it was going to be okay.

I'm grateful she met Weston. He saw her and grinned. She was tickled at his interaction with her and often commented, "he's not afraid of me!" He wasn't. Not even a little. He sat on her lap and smiled and cooed and chewed on her bed rails.

The first day we chatted. I told her stories of my kids. She visited with friends and neighbors. She mentioned her funeral preferences. She told me how much she wanted me to sing with my dad. She seemed lively and eager.

The second morning she requested only family be in her room. She was more tired. She listened while everyone in her room talked around her. She took some anti-nausea medication and slept for ten straight hours. We thought she might not wake up. To everyone's surprise (especially her own), she did, awaking at 1am with a chipper, "Good morning!"

On Sunday morning my uncles gave her a blessing. She had another dose of anti-nausea medicine. She gave Wes a little chuckle and a coo. And then she went to sleep and Wes and I flew home.

I am missing her.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What a day.

Right now I would rather be writing tribute posts to:
  • My dear grandmother
  • Grace, my birthday girl.
Instead, I have done this:
  • Spent two hours at Walmart while they replaced two flat tires on my car and repaired a leak in another.
  • Missed picking Grace up at the school bus because Walmart took so long.
  • Tried to resolve a bill we got in the mail yesterday for Brad's appendectomy. Which took place in 2008. The balance is 11,000.
  • Made arrangements to fly to Utah to say my goodbyes to Gee Gee who refuses further dialysis treatments.
  • Dug a splinter out of my foot.
 Tributes coming after my nervous breakdown runs its course.

Friday, April 8, 2011

For GG

I don't usually post videos. I feel like they're too personal for a blog.

I know. I'll tell you all about birthing a baby, but no videos. My thoughts on privacy are maybe a little demented.

But. Today (and probably for a while after that) I'm throwing that out the window. I have a very ill Grandma (hi, GG!) who has never seen Weston. And she reads my blog. So. If you're bored by video posts, you can just tune out for this one.

I should note that there is nothing exciting about these videos. Absolutely nothing whatsoever. Just smiling children. Seriously.

This morning:

YouTube Video

The night before Weston's surgery. The kid is a grinner, I tell you.

YouTube Video

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Random Pics

This passes as appropriate attire in our household.

Yes, that is a Halloween shirt that she is wearing in April.

And this little guy is just the cutest thing I have ever seen. Look at that grin.

These two are pretty good buddies. Most of the time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


"DAAAAD!" Claire yelled in her most piercing voice. "Grace didn't say her prayers!!"

When Brad arrived, Grace happened to be kneeling at her bed with her head bowed. "Don't worry about Grace. But... didn't you see her kneeling down praying?"

"But I couldn't HEAR her."

"She said it in her head."

I have no clue what image this must have conjured in her brain. Claire stuck out her Buddha belly (she's got a big one). She stroked it thoughtfully.

"I want to say a prayer in my tummy."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Can you hear me better if I stand on this box of soap?

I don't get excited about politics.

I have opinions. I'm just not that thrilled about them. Politics, to me, is a messy world. It's filled with lies, manipulation, special interests, uncertainty... I just can't seem to navigate to the truth sometimes. And when I don't see a really awesome solution, it's hard for me to get excited.

I am surrounded by people who are practically pundits. They can talk for hours about politics, candidates and bills. They get passionate. Red-faced. Loud.

That is how I get. About education. It is my soapbox issue. Don't bring it up at parties. I can't stop talking about it. I will probably talk home school. About how I think a parent's greatest responsibility is the education of her children. About how a caring, well-informed, middle-income parent can provide an academically challenging education for her children that will prepare them for college and a successful career.

I will talk about charter schools. I will talk about my state's drop out rates. I will talk about teen pregnancy, and the importance of the family valuing education.

And I will bring up this man. He is my education hero. The man is making miracles.

I first met him here. I have since read and heard about him in magazines, NPR, and most recently on the documentary Waiting for Superman.

If you have not yet seen this film, you should. Public education is a huge problem. It is getting worse. But. Unlike most of the big problems in our country--health care costs, welfare, debt, illegal immigration--there is a solution that we know works. Schools like Harlem Success Academy and Kipp Schools across the nation are churning university-ready kids out of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in America. It. Works.

And. Yet. We are still using our same old system.

This film made me wonder if home schooling my children wasn't enough. If maybe I have a responsibility to my community. Maybe starting a charter is the way to go. Maybe if charter schools outnumber public schools, the government will finally get the message.

In order to change public school results, the documentary explored a wide variety of options. Some of these include:
Incentive-based pay for teachers
Elimination of or reduced power for teacher unions
Discontinuing the practice of tenure.
Lengthening the school day

What do you think of these suggested measures? What are your thoughts on education? What do my teacher friends have to add to these issues on their perspective? And while we're on the subject, any strong thoughts about homeschooling? Education reform ideas?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Betsy Update

This weekend was the first time I have seen my mom since I left her in the hospital two months ago.

Her heart is doing well. At her last appointment, her heart had experienced zero arrhythmia.

Of course, we gave her heart some good stress tests. First of all, Brad and I left our munchkins with her and Grandma Glennda when we went to the hospital with Weston at 4am. Apparently Claire woke up several times during the night. Screaming.

And then after the hospital ordeal, we took a short shopping trip to Lubbock's mall. I have needed a new pair of jeans for a long time. And there's no place to get them in Carlsbad. So Mom and I went looking while Brad and Grandma Glennda took the kids to the mall playplace. And then they got tired and decided to go back to the hotel. And somewhere in the logistics negotiation, I ended up with the keys to my mom's car. Which I promptly lost. In the mall. (It is never a good idea to give me anything important.) Mom and I spent an hour looking for them. Mom found them on a table of polo shirts. Of course.

And after all that, no defibrillations. Which I'd say is pretty amazing. 'Cause I think I even needed one.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Now that's over with.

On Sunday, us Nevilles (and my mom and Grandma Glennda!) packed up and drove to Lubbock, TX for Weston's orchiopexy.

It was wonderful. A teaching hospital is a pretty amazing thing. Lots of people, lots of help, very thorough.

We arrived at outpatient surgery at 5am local time. They started the surgery at 7:30. At about 8:30 we got a call saying that they had just barely begun operating. He was a difficult stick, apparently. They had tried to get a vein started by poking him... Count them... 21 times. At least, those are the ones I can see. Several in each hand, foot, and arm. One stick each in his head and jugular.

But he came back to us as happy as could be. Once I fed him, that is.

He cut a tooth the same day.

What a trooper.