Monday, April 27, 2009

I Think I May be Cursed

I have this problem: I'm pretty sure I've been cursed somehow. I don't recall opening any mummy's graves or trespassing a haunted house, but after 6 kids my memory is stunningly horrible so I can't rule it out. Just look at the facts, they are convincing.

It all started a few weeks ago, when my friend told me about a salt shaker she accidentally didn't pay for when she left the store. She wasn't sure if she should bring it back and sneak it back on the shelf, bring it to checkout and let them ring it up, or just ask if they would add the price to her total the next time she visited. I chuckled at her dilemma and shared sometimes-being-honest-stinks stories. Upon leaving her house, I went to the store. Where my son tried to hide a little toy in his pocket. After the lecture about stealing was completed and I was putting the groceries into the car, I found- not one but- two items hiding under my purse. So I grabbed the kids, re-reviewed the still fresh lecture, went in and paid for the offending items. (I went through the self-checkout line to avoid the you-came-back-in-to-pay-for-something-you-got-away-with?" look on the cashier.)

I know what you're thinking: one odd incidence does not a curse make, but just wait. A few days later we had a chili cook off at church. A friend of mine told me they were on the lookout for their slow cooker lid since they came home with the wrong one last year. I laughed and laughed. How do you come home with the wrong slow cooker lid? Well, guess what happened when I came home and went to wash mine? Yep. Totally the wrong lid. It fits, but is kind of small. I'm still not sure how it is possible, but I no longer doubt it can happen. Perhaps our congregation has a slow cooker lid kleptomaniac?

Now I don't know about you, but I'm starting to notice a trend. You'd think I would've been more careful a few days later when my sister told me her daughter tried to cut her hair. Lest there be confusion, I mean my niece tried to cut my sister's hair. I almost fell out of my chair laughing at the thought of my 3 year old niece wielding scissors on my sister's long beautiful blond hair, "I've heard (or experienced) many kids cutting hair experiences, but never a kid cutting their mom's hair!" The very next day my boys wanted to "do my hair" and somehow in the pulling and clipping, my two year old grabbed some scissors. Luckily he isn't too practiced yet, he only cut wisps off before I recognized the sound of scissors cutting.

So now you see my problem. I am unable to laugh at others' misfortune without a repeat in my life. This is very hard because I find others' misfortune highly entertaining. So please, until I find a solution, don't tell me any funny or ridiculously improbable stories. I will, however, take any stories involving houses spontaneously cleaning, kids miraculously going to bed without trouble or husbands coming home with chocolate. Maybe, just maybe, I can turn this curse into a blessing.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Keeper of Bad Days

It’s getting late and I am tired. My husband’s shift ended a couple hours ago and I expected him long before now. With the children home all day, I’ve counted down for the moment I get a break, or at least acknowledgement from someone who doesn’t call me Mommy. My frustration builds as the time multiplies and by the time the front door opens, I’ve already had our argument a thousand times in my mind: “What have you been doing?” or perhaps “You knew the kids were home today, how could you be so inconsiderate?“ maybe even a “Don’t you even care how difficult my days can be?”

But as he walks in I see his face is troubled and I swallow the words half formed in my mouth. Instead I ask, “How was your day?” The world is weighed so heavily on his shoulders that as he sinks into the couch I worry the frame may break. As the children crawl and chatter over him he tells me about his day. There was an attempted suicide and his failed effort to reverse what was done. Followed by another attempt, half successful, leaving a body alive, a brain dead and a face half missing. He must call far away relatives to offer terrible choices: permanent life support or organ donation. Finally he sees a family waiting for simple test results for their ill child. “They had waited a long time and I didn’t want them to be lost in the shift change, so I stayed till the results came back. By that time the hospital was nearly ready to take the man up for organ harvest so I stayed with him and, as I was leaving, his grieving sister called desperate she had made the wrong choice. I comforted her the best I could.”

As I listen to his day I remember something his colleague once told me, “I never say I’m having a bad day. I’ve seen thousands of truly bad days and to call mine bad would be disrespectful.” I see a glimpse of those bad days now reflected in my husband’s tired eyes. I can’t even begin to understand the memories my husband owns: the child he spent an fruitless extra hour trying to revive only to face notifying her still hopeful mother, telling a young father of three his wife’s stroke has left him a widow, child abuse leading to 3rd degree burns. My husband sees bad days every day. He sees some of the worst humanity has to offer: suicides, assaults, attempted murders, child abuse. He also sees everyone’s worst nightmares: severed limbs, car accidents, strokes, psychological breaks, sudden and unexpected deaths mixed with long mourned ones. All this is a part of my husband’s existence.

I can imagine him, despite a long and difficult day, consoling a stranger over the phone; the image of her brother’s wounds still fresh in his mind. I see him reluctant to leave the man alone his last minutes of life and willing to go the extra mile for a family frustrated with a long wait and unaware its reason. I see him hugging our children tighter and longer than normal, patient despite his exhaustion. He tells me he is sorry to come home so late, but I know that’s a lie. He doesn’t regret his actions today. As I see him, compassionate and kind despite the constant barrage of tragedy, I suddenly realize I’m not sorry for it either.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What Harm Can 13 Legos Do?

You may not want to know the answer to that question. Consider that your warning.
Legos- those simple little toys that keep my children busy for hours. As I watch them play, I can convince myself I am raising both unique creative expressionists and genius structural engineers. Until a few months ago, I never understood the dark, evil side to Legos.
If you remember, I mentioned then some trouble I was having with our bathrooms, partly due to the main bathroom not flushing correctly. We couldn't figure out what was wrong: the plunger would eventually get it down, when we snaked it the auger seemed to meet a little resistance and then go through, but left on its own it just wouldn't flush down. Oh, what could be the problem?
Never the procrastinators, we trained the kids (sort of) to use other toilets and did our best to ignore that bathroom for a couple months. When Peter's parents flew out to visit, his dad gave us a stern look and took matters into his own hands. He removed the toilet and flipped it on its side. After a long while finagling, we could finally see what was stuck in the U-turn of the toilet. Guess what was lodged there all that time? Yep. Legos. And they weren't coming out.
So we snaked the auger from above while trying to chopstick them out underneath. When they came down low enough, I got a chisel and hammer. I was the one to actually get the 1st pieces separated. Once apart, they fell out easily enough. If only there had been one set. There were three different statues flushed down that toilet. The process reminded me (a little uncomfortably) of giving birth. To triplets. Only without the screaming and with a chisel.
All finished, 13 Legos exited that toilet. My brother-in-law, who happened to be in town and was coerced into assisting my father-in-law with the whole operation, offered to grab the camera for a picture. Think about where those Legos had been for weeks. Think about the multiple bumps and indentations a Lego contains. Now thank me that I declined the offer.

Friday, April 17, 2009

There is a good reason I don't Blow Dry my hair.

I have trouble with my hair. Mostly due to the fact that I was given more than my fair share. This may sound like a good problem to have, but think it through. Remember banana clips? I could never wear them. Most regular clips can only hold the smallest fraction of my mane. Rubber bands constantly break when I attempt ponytails.

There are more difficulties- like the fact that it takes two boxes to dye my hair, if I grow it too long it gives me headaches, and shaving my legs is like mowing down a small forest. That's right, thick hair grows on more than just my head. It is on my arms, my legs, my face. I bet an MRI would show hair growing on most major organs.

Which is why I rarely attempt to blow dry it. The last thing I need is to add body to my hair. But while in North Carolina my sister wanted to attempt to tame my locks. So I blow dried it, and took a picture to show you I am not exaggerating (much). This is why I usually let my hair air dry:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Twelve Hours in a Car and Now I am Crazy.

So this week is our spring break. We went down to North Carolina to enjoy warm weather, check on our house, enjoy warm weather, see my sisters, go to the beach and enjoy warm weather.

The plan would have been perfect, if we hadn't brought the chilly weather with us.

Peter came home from out of town late Thursday, went to meetings Friday, took a nap, and then worked the 8PM to 6AM shift at work. I procrastinated packing and took a day off after cleaning all week to prepare for book club at my house. Um, I mean I didn't have to work too much because my house is always spotless. Never a mess here. Just don't drop by unexpected to prove a point.

So Saturday I packed and loaded the car and stopped by the store because I somehow thought that Ryan had black Sunday pants that fit him but was proven wrong when searching the house for the non-existent pants. Stupid growth spurts. Also had to stop by the glasses store because someone stepped on Kirsti's glasses and broke off the arm and I thought she might like vision on our trip. And then we drove. And drove. And went crazy with the kids.

Here are some highlights of our trip:

  • Staying in the creepiest motel we'd ever visited. Well, not the creepiest, that would be the place in Texas were we found nasty videos behind the TV when we were making sure we'd not forgotten anything. But this place was pretty divey

  • Visiting our old ward. We sure miss everyone.

  • Easter at my sister Kim's house with Amazing Race afterwards.

  • Farming out all our kids at friends or family and cleaning up the old house (and getting caught up with the neighbors).

  • Marbles museum

  • Beating my sister Tami twice at Settlers of Catan (Peter once and me once). This was the first time she didn't trounce us.

  • Raleigh Tea Party- yes we tend to be slightly political.

  • Swimming in the hotel pool

  • Finishing the book on tape I bought for the drive home- A Wrinkle in Time- 2 minutes before we arrived at home.


  • Too cold & rainy to visit the beach

  • Kids ruined their Easter clothes so no pictures till next Sunday

  • Forgot to bring our dyed Easter eggs with us

  • We still own a house in North Carolina

  • With the exception of Sunday, didn't leave the house until after 11

  • No public bathrooms at the tea party

  • 12 hours each way in the car with arguably the loudest set of 6 children in the world

  • Forgot to bring the new Fablehaven book with us to read (technically I remembered the book, but one of the kids took it out of the bag "to hold" and promptly put it down).

It was a nice trip. We had a lot of fun, but it is nice to be home and be able to sleep in a room separate from the kids. And I am still a little bitter about the cold weather.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A case of good customer service

We often hear about how customer service has deteriorated into rudeness and apathy, how everyone is out to screw the consumer in any way possible. But sometimes we meet people who manage to run their business and still take time to care about the customer. Last Friday we met one of those people.

What follows is a story that starts funny, becomes, tragic and ends happy.

{this is where the story gets funny}

The other day my Suburban's car battery died. I was taking my son to preschool and it just wouldn't turn over. Which was odd because we replaced it less than a month ago. Everyone knows that means it is probably the alternator. Well I knew it after I called my husband and he told me. He left a meeting to come jump start the car for me, but it wouldn't jump. Remembering the last time this happened, Peter decided to try adding gas. When we added gas, the car started right up. That's right, I had accidentally run out of gas. We congratulated ourselves on saving the money (and embarrassment) of calling a mechanic for an empty gas tank. Well, Peter managed to laugh at me, too. After all this was the 2nd time we had jumped the car only to find it was out of gas (although the last time was the month before when it needed a new car battery and gas). Actually this was the 3rd time, but the 1st time doesn't really count because we didn't know the gas gauge only went down to a 1/4 tank before it was empty and we had owned it less than a month.

{this is where the story gets tragic}

Peter chuckled until the next morning when the car wouldn't start again. Only this time we were in the school parking lot after attending parent teacher conferences, in the rain with all the kids. Apparently we were suffering from both no gas and a bad alternator the day before. We got someone to try to jump the car, but it still wouldn't start. So I called the mechanic who I had looked up the day before when we thought, accurately, it was the alternator.

{and this is where the story gets happy}

The owner said he didn't have an opening till next Thursday (this was a Friday). When we explained our predicament, he agreed to see us right away and have it done by the next day. We told him we were just down the street at the elementary school and would have it towed into his shop. "Don't do that, I'll save you the tow fee," he said with an offer to come out with a battery pack to get us to the shop. He arrived less than 5 minutes later, attached the battery pack and led us back to his shop.

Then, when he heard we were renting a minivan till the car was fixed, he offered to have it done before the end of the day. He then offered to drive us home to wait. Because we had 5 kids with us (Elise didn't have the day off in the middle school), he took two trips to get us home. He even carried the car seats up to the front door for me and assured me it as OK that my two year old freaked out and screamed the whole drive home. By 3:00 the car was finished and ready for us to pick up.

If that isn't exceptional service, I don't know what is.

Pinewood Derby

It's that time of year again, where the desire to let my boys feel a sense of accomplishment is countered by my desire for them to make it into adulthood with all their fingers attached. That's right, last Friday was the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby.

Ryan's car was "The Frankenstein" & Ethan's was "The American"

After reading a friend's post about his boy cutting out his own car, I approached Peter about doing the same. He promptly reminded me that Ryan almost cut off his hand last year when carving soap with a pocket knife. In other words, no way. So I settled on letting them draw their own designs on the block of wood while Peter handle the band saw. They did sand and paint their creations (I might have done some touch up after they went to bed).

And here is the amazing thing: Ethan took 1st place!! I think he was glad I wouldn't let him go with his first choice in car design (a book) or his second (a ruler) or his third (scissors). In fact, after our original brainstorm, I decided to insist on a car looking design. Although slightly underweight, his car zoomed!

We thought for sure Ryan's car would be faster, but a small design flaw (weights too far back and back wheels too far forward) caused his car to wheelie at the bottom of the track. He did win one heat and took it all in good measure.

Here is what I learned:

  • there are a lot of sites with printable car templates;

  • googling "pinewood derby car templates" will bring up a mix of those site and really nasty sites;

  • using masking tape is an effective way to let boys add stripes to their cars;

  • polishing the axles makes a huge difference;

  • in a scrape, drywall patch can be used to cover holes drilled to add weights;

  • see the weights sticking out of Ryan's car- never use that kind they are hard to cut;

  • and as much as Peter rolls his eyes in reference to my blog, I heard him telling all his family I was posting about the pinewood derby and they should go check it out.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Straight from my Diseased Mind

I'm sick: my husband is sick. At 6:00 I admitted defeat and went to McDonalds for 15 $1 sandwiches and 4 large fries. Don't know what the rest of the family is going to do for dinner, though. I wonder what the cashier thought when I pulled up alone in my little car and ordered all that food.

Speaking of which, the other day I was checking out at a store and was mentally complaining about the speed, or rather lack of speed, of the cashier. And then I thought it was a good thing she couldn't read my mind, because my internal tirade would have hurt her feelings. Then I wondered what it would be like if I could read her mind. She'd probably be wondering what that crazy lady was doing looking at her so peculiarly. And then I thought at the speed she was moving, she might not have enough brain power to do anything other than check my groceries. And then I thought I was still glad she couldn't read my mind, because that was downright mean. She was so slow I had a lot of time to think about it.

And on that same vein, I have 2 favorite checkers at WalMart. They are friendly and FAST and I walk up and down the isle to see if they're working before I choose a line. Because even if they have twice the people in line, I will still get out of the store faster with them. They recognize me now. I might go to the store way too often.

The thing that stinks about a high tolerance of pain is that I am still up making sure my children are fed a nice, nutritious dinner while my husband is sacked out on the couch. That is also what stinks about being sick when you're the mom. Poopy diapers don't wait till you feel better (although I have tried before).

Have you ever noticed that bad parenting makes for good blogging? I really, really care about all your entertainment. In fact, I have apparently been preparing for it my entire career as a mother.

I think that Emily Dickinson would have been a fantastic blogger. You know, as a well written recluse and all.

I tend to jump around a lot in my head. If you've ever talked with me IRL, you already know this. And I'm usually trying to stay focused. When I don't try, I start conversations with "Well what do you think about it?" Just ask my husband, he loves when I do that. And when he asks what "it" is I'll say, "You know that one thing." He loves that even more. Really, go ask. But you'll have to wait because he is asleep on the couch right now.

Apparently my sickness has removed my try-to-sound-consistent-and-normal filter and you get some of my pure randomness. I'm sorry.