Thursday, May 13, 2010


(Georgia with Coconut; Flurry, Ferbie & Fergie, front to back) (Fergie & Furbie)

Because my life is just not hectic enough, I decided to copy my friend Lisa S. and become a foster home for kitties. Dave & I both grew up with cats but have never had one because there are just so many friends allergic to the little critters. Mentally I go round and round, with my inner Cat Lady battling my Hostess with the Mostest about whether or not to bring cats into the house.

Last year Lisa told me she found this organization called "The Cat Connection" that let's you temporarily house moms & their kittens. This seemed the perfect compromise: the kids get all the fun of the kittens but then they go away just when they start to get tired of feeding them and changing the litterbox; and if I keep them in the basement, then the rest of the house (where the parties happen and the guests stay) would be free of dander & fur.

Meanwhile, critters of another sort are assaulting our house. From time to time mice get in the walls and I have to put poison around to keep them at bay. Lately they've gotten bold and actually stormed our castle. Two weeks ago I open the closet to the laundry chute and there is a mouse hanging out by my bottles of stain remover. He sees me, and no joke, turns around, wedges his nose between Spray & Wash and Oxyclean and buries his head under his paws as if that would conceal him. Of course I get short-bus mice. A few days later they appeared in our basement and I offered the kids $2 if they caugt a mouse; I didn't really think they'd catch any but I needed them out of my hair for a while. Here are Georgia & Millie with their catches.

They'd clearly gotten into my poison and were super docile. Dying things are like that.

Finally the call came that 4 kittens (3 sisters & a brother) needed a temporary home for a few weeks. That night I dreamed I was in the basement and a fat grey mouse ran across my feet and under the futon. As I drove to the house to get the kitties I was a little sad I was only getting kittens this round as an experienced mama cat would have a better chance of killing my vermin. I brought the kittens home and as I was getting things set up in the basement, out shoots a fat grey mouse that runs across my foot and under the futon. It's their cockiness that really gets me, like they're daring me to actually do something. I looked at the little furry kittens and said, "Sic kitties, sic!" Of course they just stare at me with their "We are Siamese if you please" attitude that all cats have.

I ran to Petco to get supplies and 20 minutes later when I went into the basement I saw the most beautiful thing: Fergie is shaking a furry grey lump her mouth which she drops to the ground and then bats to Ferbie. Ferbie whacks it to Coconut and my heart skips a beat: My kittens are playing soccer with a dead mouse. I love them and their little killer instincts.

The kids are loving them. Jonah takes his homework into the basement and lets the kittens sleep on him while he reads. The girls get up early to feed them and Bea tortures them with doll clothes and baby strollers ("Mom, what does it mean when a cat says "Hissssssss!!!?"). It's going to be hard next week when I have to take them to their adoptive homes. But the Cat Lady has promised me 5 month old kittens as replacements. I'm sure we'll find a way to love them too.

Surviving Mother's Day

Happy belated Mother's Day to all you moms out there and to all of you who mother people you may or may not have given birth to.

Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that all moms are supposed to love but some secretly hate. I have mom friends who stay home from church on this day, fearing they’ll hear another talk about Superwomen who never get mad and bake 50 loaves of bread and go running before waking the family for scriptures and prayer every morning. And some of my friends without children just can’t take the pain and perceived judgment and/or pity.

When I was a kid I loved Mother’s Day. My dad gave us money to buy something for my mom and would let us keep the change. I remember my kindergarten class making all our moms ashtrays and handing mine over with such pride. And the best of all were the “Mother Awards” handed out at sacrament meeting: “Who out there has more than 5 children; more than 6, 7, 8? Sister Jones has 9! Come on up and get a carnation!” I dreamed of one day winning such an award, wondering what it would feel like to be a superlative mom.

Now that I’m a mom, I’m ambivalent about the Sunday service. I love hearing the kids sing and secretly hope one of the Sunbeams will cause a scene. One year my 5 year old daughter shoved her 3 year old sister down during the chorus of “I Often Go Walking”, and the next thing I see is a tiny fist rise up and sock the shover in the gut. It made me proud that my girls were no shrinking violets.

What I do dread is that scripture about "her price being far above rubies." Every year someone has to quote that one. I roll my eyes because I know my price is more in the neighborhood of the semi-precious stones. Take your amethyst, aquamarine, or garnets, for instance. Now those are jewels one can more easily live up to. And honestly, what’s wrong with being a turquoise mom? Rubies are overrated in my book.

And because I’m at peace with my semi-precious status, I don’t care that I’d never win any of the superlatives I so longed for as a kid. I was never the youngest mom or had the most kids or whatever else they honored. But I do like to imagine what awards I’d give out if I were in charge on Mother’s Day. How about an award for the mom who lets her 9-year old French braid her hair and wears it out in public; or an award for the mom who can nurse a baby while pushing a shopping cart and talking on the phone. And I’d like to recognize some tough mommies too: an award for the mom whose son did NOT get his Eagle because she refused to do the paperwork for him or an award for the mom who took away her daughter’s cell phone because she was texting friends at 2a.m. Now those are some mamas who deserve a pat on the back.

So whether you’re a diamond or Cubic Zirconia, a long sufferer or a screamer, a maker of fine baked goods or a purchaser of Hostess products, I salute all the women out there who love and nurture and make mistakes and keep on going. And especially I thank all the women in my life, my friends, my sister, my daughters, and my mom, who treat me like a ruby, even when I’m not.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Love is...Finding the "Fun" in Dysfunctional

This week it was my turn to write for the Exponent blog. Here's my post.

Growing up I used to think that most of my friends’ families were so normal and healthy, and that mine was the only one with quirks and cracks. Now I know the truth: every family is nuts. And if you think you know a perfectly healthy family, you don’t know them well enough.

Granted, some people’s brand of crazy is more socially acceptable than others. For example, in my home we appeared on the outside to be well behaved high achievers, which was a mask for a control freak mom and an emotionally remote, success obsessed dad. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I realize that on the crazy scale my family was dented but functional. Not bad at all. (btw I am the needy thumsucker pictured above)

I have a family of my own now and see many of our idiosyncrasies. And at least today we have a better vocabulary for labeling our neurosis. Terms like OCD, ADD, MPD, BPD, SAD, etc. etc. allow us to name what ails us, and naming things is delightful because it gives us control, or at least the illusion of it.

A few years ago I came across an acronym for a condition that I knew intimately but had never quite put my finger on: ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. These are the people that cannot resist challenging authority and playing the devil’s advocate. Oh how I love to tease my contrarian friend about how she suffers acutely from this. And her response just confirms the diagnosis: “No I don’t!” I love these people. Just when everything is getting so boring in Relief Society, everyone sitting there nodding their heads “yes, we ALL agree” and along comes someone with ODD and makes a comment that turns everything upside down.

She in turn diagnosed one of my less than desirable traits. I suffer from SVS, shock value syndrome. As the youngest member of a hyper proper family, it was my duty to make my mother blush at the dinner table. And even now at 42, whenever I get around people that seem a bit too uptight, I get the irresistible urge to say/do something borderline inappropriate. So I skinny dip at Girls Camp and give sacrament talks on the virtues of Harry Potter. Recently when my 12 year old son told me that he hated it when I called him “friend,” I replied, “Well then how about ‘douche bag,’ because that’s what you’re acting like.” Show me an envelope, and I’ll push it.

Here are a few other conditions the American Psychiatric Association might want to add to their books:

CBR-Chronic Buyer’s Remorse: Perpetually malcontent, these poor souls are convinced that whatever choice they make is the wrong one. Filled with self doubt and a touch of bitterness (related syndrome: GIGD--Grass is Greener Disorder).

RSS-Refusal to be Served Syndrome: You know who you are. You are forever volunteering to bring meals, babysit, work at the Bishop’s Storehouse as if every act of service added another brick to your mansion on high; but hell would have to freeze over before you would let someone bring you a casserole. In their heart of pious hearts, these folks believe that the strong give and the weak receive.

CV-Compulsive Volunteerism: A sister syndrome to RSS (with more guilt, less pride), CV manifest itself in an inability to pass a sign-up sheet without committing to doing whatever is requested. One friend had such a severe case of this that I created an organization just for her—Volunteers Anonymous. I became her sponsor and she was not allowed to agree to do anything without first consulting me. A typical conversation went like this, “Heather, I’ve been asked to be PTA President. Tell me again why I should say no?” “Because you just gave birth to twins, your husband is YM President and travels, and you Visit Teach a black hole of needs.” “Oh. Okay. So should I say maybe?”

Tanorexia: When sufferers of this disorder look in the mirror all they see is pasty whiteness, even if their true color is closer to a Slim Jim.

Appsberger's: The compulsion to download apps for completely useless things. And then talk endlessly about them with other sufferers. "Look, I can use my phone as a harmonica!!!" "Well mine can show me the Braille!" "Mine makes a cowbell noise. Get it? 'More cowbell?'!"
Topperism-No matter what you’ve been through, these one-uppers can top your experience and raise it a notch. So while you’re delighted that you are training for a 5k, the Topper is quick to inform you that she ran the Boston Marathon. And won. While pregnant. With triplets.

So my question is not "are you crazy" but "what kind of crazy are you?" And can you find a way to live with it and laugh about it? If you can't, your crazies will make you nuts.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Give Me the Hard Stuff!"

Um, not to brag or anything, but I throw killer parties. Georgia turns 10 this week and since she's almost as big of a Harry Potter nerd as I am, we went all Hogwarts and threw a "Potions Party." Georgia's favorite Harry Potter activity is to pretend she's in Professor Snape's Dungeon doing potions. Every time I turn around another bottle of my lotion has been emptied and for every ounce of shampoo that goes on their hair, at least 5 ounces end up in bubbly concoctions that they entitle "Sleeping Draught," "Liquid Luck," or "Kissing Potion." Dave keeps asking where all his travel size containers have gone and I tell him to check Georgia windowsill where it looks like a display case for a mad scientist. I'm happy to leave them there. Until mold sets in. I draw the line at black and green fur.

For the party we ordered green (Slytherin color) 2 oz spray bottles and .25 oz cosmetic bottles to make perfume and lip gloss, or rather, "Petal Potion" and "Lip Magic." I ran around gathering ingredients: jojoba oil and alcohol for perfume base; canning wax (thanks Jen & Sherrine!), vitamin E oil & petroleum jelly for the gloss base, plus lots of tiny essential oils for smell and/or flavor. By Friday afternoon I was putting together goody bags and frosting brownie cupcakes. I realized I needed to write out the potion proportions so I got back onto the website to figure it out. Under "ingredients' it listed alcohol and I assumed rubbing would do. But when I scrolled down it said it had to be a single grain alcohol like Everclear or vodka. As I read this I realized that rubbing alcohol has a strong odor and would make the perfumes stink.

Shortly thereafter Lindy called me to see what time I needed her to show up to help (she is my kid party slave and does it sooo well). Then I uttered a phrase I never thought I'd say, "Hey Lindy, I need a bottle of Vodka for Georgia's birthday party. Do you have some?" "Sure," she replied, "how much do you need?" We both started laughing at the ridiculousness of my needing booze for a 10 year old party and her having some sitting around (although I should not be surprised as her kitchen is as well stocked with every possible ingredient as Julia Child's was).

At 7 the girls arrived and Becca (my other slave, acting as Molly Weasley) poured Sprite into their Poprock filled goblets and they oohed and ahhhed at the blue fizz. Then we made our potions and ate cake. Right after we sang to Georgia, there was a LOUD banging at the door and in marched our surprise guest, Severus Snape (aka Big Daddy G).

The kids went berserk and were all begging to be cursed by the Half Blood Prince.
Molly Weasley posed with him for a picture and then threw him out in her awesome British accent. Next we went into the "great hall" to be sorted into houses. My friend Amy made my week when she asked me if I wanted to use her sorting hat for the party. She got it at a white elephant/Yankee swap and I still can't believe what a perfect addition it was. Jonah hid behind the couch and used a stealth microphone to announce what house each girl would belong to.

Millie end up in Ravenclaw and was delighted. It was a magical night (except when the Slytherins locked the first years out of the common room and Millie & Gigi bawled) and Georgia seemed so happy about it all. I am exhausted and still cleaning up sticky Sprite spots off the floor. But as I always tell my kids, a party isn't a party until someone spills and someone cries. By all standards the party was a success!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bea Opens Up a Can of Old Testament

Last night the family was trying to watch Idol and Bea dumped her popcorn, refused to clean it up and just, kept, screaming. I've been battling a headache for days and in frustration told her to "Shut up." She was NOT happy with me. She kept telling me, "Mama, you said a bad word! Do not say bad words!" I apologized, we cleaned up the mess together, and I told her I was sorry for giving her "owie feelings." End of story. Or so I thought.

Today over lunch she said, "Mom, God told me that if you say bad words to me again, He's gonna send a storm. For you." Then she smiled and ate her clementine, giving me a look like an Old Testament prophet.

Should I be afraid?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hillbilly Hot Tub

(Jeff, Dave, & Jim & a staggering work of engineering genius)

My brother-in-law Jeff is a dream. He's smart. He's funny. He drinks the "potions" my kids make for him (Tabasco, mustard, & eggnog). And he knows how to have fun. For example, this year he decided that when they came up for Christmas break, he'd put together a "Hillbilly Hot Tub." He told us this at Millie's baptism and I sort of thought he was kidding. (No offense, but sometimes these brainy guys get all sorts of ideas in their heads that will never come to fruition.) But the week before Christmas a big box showed up with a good sized inflatable kiddie pool. Jeff wasn't blowing smoke. He arrived the 25th with some copper tubing, the pump from his mini koi pond, and a dream of hot water on a snowy day. And a week went by, and though their was lots of talk, nothing much happened. But over breakfast this morning Jeff announced that today would be the day.

Since our neighbors the Kellys have an Armenian bread pit in their backyard (What? You've never heard of one? They're ALL the rage in Yerevan and Watertown...) Jeff decided that would be a good heat source. While some people had their doubts (you know who you are), it turned out to be the highlight of our vacation. The kids & dads went nuts. Here are some pix:

The Armenian bread pit is extremely deep and constructed to get and stay hot. They wrapped the tubing around the logs before bow drilling the fire (matches are a dirty word to Dave and Jim).

Notice the turkey thermometer used to keep track of the heat. It got to 126 degrees at one point.

They filled the tub with water and then turned the pump on to circulate the water thru the tubes, to the copper tubes in the fire, which then returned toasty water to the "hot tub." Given the size, we jacuzzied in shifts. The little girls went first and LOVED it. They grabbed snow balls to see how long it took them to melt in the hot steam.
Next Dallin & Spencer had a girl-free turn. Notice how roomy it is and the awesome space blankets that Jeff brought for insulation.

Denise orchestrated games for the bigger kids like, who can stand outside in the snow for the longest and who can jump on the trampoline, swing for 2 minutes, and go down an icey slide before collapsing from hypothermia. Jonah won at 11 minutes. I don't think there was any lasting braindamage...

Finally the daddies got in. And I'm pretty sure they had trunks on...
It was the perfect way to ring in the New Year. May 2010 bring you unexpected warmth!