Monday, January 28, 2008

tooting my own cream horns

I made a special treat for book group last week. At our monthly meetings, we take turns bringing refreshments, only we don’t call them refreshments; the term we use is “delicacy.” It sounds more lovely—more literary—to put it that way. But it also makes me feel more than a wee bit of pressure to make something fancy, something out of the ordinary, or at least something…well…delicate. You just don’t bring snickerdoodles to book group. Or at least no one ever has.

Thus the impetus to make these cream horns which my friend Tara insisted were “easy yet totally impressive.” And guess what? Tara was right. They took a while to construct, but they were simple enough that even a klutz like me could pull them off. And the book group ladies raved about them. I was reminded of my multi-layered Jell-o rant (and subsequent apology, please don’t read the first without reading the second) and I felt duly chagrinned. I can honestly say that there’s nothing wrong with a small culinary triumph once in a while. I was proud of myself, especially since I made the horns while simultaneously attempting to put Nora down for a nap, a process that involved no less than 21 trips between the kitchen and her room, trying to convince Nora that she did indeed want to stay in bed by herself, to which she would sweetly reply ‘kay Mom and stay just long enough to give me time to close her door, walk back into the kitchen, wash my hands and begin rolling strips of dough into a cone shape and then I would hear the bedroom door pop open and she’d come trotting out into the hall, and her entrance into the kitchen would be followed by me washing my hands (again) since they were now greasy and then walking her back to her room and telling her to get back into bed (‘k mom) and then.… well, you get the idea.

Don’t ask me why I thought I could multitask two such delicate projects or why it took me 21 failures with Nora to finally give up and send her downstairs to watch TV with her brother. I’m a bit obtuse sometimes. Maybe I was making dunce cones and I just didn’t know it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

She escapes!

Not since the broken foot episode of ’06 has a single development had a more catastrophic effect on the quality of life in our home.

My friends, Nora has learned how to climb out of her crib.

I know, I know. It’s a shocking turn of events. I had planned for Nora to sleep in her crib until at least her 16th year. (And then we were going to send her off to the convent). But clearly she has a mind of her own. The first time it happened, I was in total denial. Nora had been in her room for a couple of hours, taking a nap. Suddenly, there she was in the hallway. She must have been teleported, I said to myself. Or maybe I just forgot to pull up the railing. Or Gabie let her out. There’s no way she could have climbed out on her own. I am just not ready for that.

Then came Saturday (hereafter known as black Saturday) when I realized that my daughter had in fact not learned to aparate from room to room, she had merely learned to hug the corner of the crib and swing her legs over the railing to freedom. She had also picked up the useful skill of turning a doorknob and opening her door. (Who taught her to do this?!! Has she been sneaking out at night to attend secret Baby Club meetings? What other tricks does she have up her fuzzy-pink-polyester-sleeper sleeve?).

When I put her down for her nap on Sunday (hoping against hope that she had forgotten everything since the day before—hey I can dream, can’t I?) she stayed in her crib for about 10 seconds after I closed the door. Then I could hear her clunking around and jabbering from another part of the room. Sighing, I figured I’d get her out and try lying down with her in my bed. I opened the door and saw, of course, an empty crib. But the rest of the room was empty too. I began to panic as I scanned the closet and under Gabie’s bed. Where did she go? Maybe she did have a teleporter. Then she started to giggle and I saw a shadow behind the blinds. She had climbed onto the window sill, between the closed blinds and the glass, and was standing there like an actor waiting for the curtain to rise before her big show.

Sleeping Beauty by Maxfield Parrish
Now that I have seen her escape with my own eyes, I have graduated from denial into a stage of total despair. Will she ever go to sleep before midnight again? Are her naps—oh, her naps, her lovely, lovely naps, her glorious 3-hour naps, her naps that happily overlapped with Gabie’s TV time, the only time all day when I could get anything done—are they gone forever? I look back nostalgically at the pleasant, week-old memories of a peacefully sleeping daughter and I wave at them as they recede—too soon! it’s much too soon—into the distance.

We put up the bunk bed on Monday night. Gabie sleeps in the top and Nora (theoretically) will sleep in the bottom bed. She hasn’t yet, but at least that’s our plan. Nora’s plan is to avoid sleep entirely. Suddenly, I can’t remember how I ever got the other three kids to go to sleep in a real bed. They all sleep in real beds now, so apparently they somewhere, somehow made the transition, but how on earth did they do it?

I think the other kids were much older when they realized that they could scale their wooden prison bars. I swear Ethan was nearly three and even then, we only set up a new bed for him because I was pregnant with McKay. By that age, I could reason with him and offer him incentives to stay in bed and convince him that big boys slept in big beds. Nora is only 20 months old. She is tall for her age and precocious in the climbing department (yes Mother I see the poetic irony here) but she is not to be reasoned with. I can tell her that she needs to stay in bed and she just looks at me with her soft blue eyes and plays dumb. Stay? she says, smiling. I’m sure I don’t know the meaning of that word. Now excuse me, I have better things to do than sit here while you rub my back and sing to me and try desperately to convince me that I’m tired when anyone could tell that I have at least 2 hours of full energy power left. Goodbye you foolish woman.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ramblings of a sort-of author

I received my first rejection letter this week. It came from this publication. I feel pretty good about it actually because it means that (fanfare please....) I have officially entered the domain of a Real Writer. Real Writers receive rejection letters all the time, right? It's the closet writers who dream big but never send their babies out into the word, who never risk rejection, who never lick the stamp on the SASE that will likely come back to them bearing disappointing news.

I think I'll frame the letter. It's printed on a half-sheet of paper. A form letter. It doesn't even have a real signature at the bottom. I get the impression that they send a million of these out a year. In fact, my tiny letter informs me that this publication's submission to acceptance ratio is 100 to one. This makes me feel slightly better about having ventured a bit of hope, having stuck my neck out only to have it...not cut off exactly...perhaps sliced politely with a few paper cuts. It wasn't as bad as I thought. I'm actually looking forward to coming up with something new to send them again. It only took four months of waiting to get a response. I can do this 3 or 4 times a year for the rest of my life and all it will cost me is a bit of postage. Well, and the obscene amount of hours it took to write the essay. But Real Writers enjoy that part.

The other thing that lets me bask momentarily in a Real Writer glow is the fact that several weeks ago, I received an acceptance letter for one of my essays. It came from this publication. I'm looking forward to a modest little paycheck (will I frame it as well or cash it? Decisions, decisions.) It will be my first opportunity to see my name in print in a real, honest-to-goodness national publication. This is a heady thing. I'll try to keep the swelling to a minimum. Perhaps I'll hang the rejection letter next to the check just to keep myself humble.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How to make a lasting impression

by Nora

First you show up at mom's friend Kathy's house and make your best adorably innocent face. Then, when no one is looking, you slice open your big toe on something sharp (it doesn't matter what that thing is, in fact, chances are the adults will never be able to figure it out). Now here's the important part: don't cry or let on that your toe is bleeding until you have worked your way through every single room, stairway and hallway in the house leaving little bloody toe prints every few inches. If you're fast enough and quiet enough, you can cover a lot of territory in the time it takes your mom to notice that she has a spot of blood on her sock and wonder about the source. By then, you will have made your mark...and your mark...and your mark....

Just for good measure, after you've been properly bandaided and cuddled and set free again, wait until your mom is busy wiping bloody spots off the floor and go fall down the stairs. Make sure you don't hurt yourself, but give your mom's friend a good healthy complex. She'll think her house is a death trap. I'm sure she'll be ready to invite you back again real soon.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Checking up on the resolutions

Obviously, any New Year's resolutions I made to be more consistent in my blog entries have gone the way of the Eat No More Sugar until 2010 vow. Alas. But I will say that my resolution to spend more quality time with my family is going well. In fact, there's likely an inverse relationship between the one and the other. The more time I spend with my husband and kids, the less time I spend on the computer. Funny how that works. I plan to do better on the blog this month. I have plenty to write about and I won't give that up. I just wanted to say that I'm busy sorting out priorities. Here I am with a few of my cutest priorities at the Salt Lake Temple this past weekend.

Monday, January 07, 2008

turning pages, unwinding scrolls

Nora turns 20 months old this week. What can I say? Every stage with her has been an adorable one, but each one seems more endearing than the last. She is starting to sing and jabber all the time. We were watching White Christmas the other day and I swear she was trying to tap dance. As I type this, she has found the box of too-small clothes that I left out and has gone to town with it, taking each item out and tossing it over her shoulder, then sorting and re-sorting everything into different piles. From the look on her face, this is a project of sobering proportions. She’s thinking: Good grief! When will I ever get a handle on all this laundry?

Nora also loves books. Obviously, she came to the right family. She has hundreds to choose from (and pull off the shelves, and tear pages from and shuttle from room to room…). Last night I read a whole stack of stories to her and then put her to bed. This morning when I went in to get her out of the crib, she was pointing to her bookcase and whining for more. What a delight it is to pass on my love of reading to her. When I become first lady (not president; too much work) I will be the first lady with the big campaign about reading to your kids every day.

I'll willingly admit that I frequently fall short of the ideal mother mark, but when I’m reading to my kids, I feel like—at least for this moment—I am doing something right.

I found this painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner a few weeks ago while looking for new Christmas art. I was drawn to the way Mary and Jesus, as they lean in to read together, form a single mound. The scroll they are reading echoes that shape. The two readers share a moment of solid attentiveness; they are at one with their task. Mary is teaching Jesus to read, but she is also passing on tradition, knowledge, and a love of the word.

The parchment is rolled up on the floor on one side of them, but the other end of it is off the edge of the painting, as if it has no end. Time, and the passage of it, are implied in the sense of words having been read and words yet to come. But time has also been suspended, as mother and child focus their eyes on the phrase before them. They are paused at the top of the arc of the unwound scroll. They are—to use a trendy modern phrase—living in the moment. This is how I feel when I set aside my stacks of things to do, ignore the phone, turn of my laptop, and sit down next to a pile of books with one of my kids. It doesn't matter if we're reading Isaiah (as Mary probably is) or There's a Wocket in my Pocket. It's a good moment. And I'm going to hold onto it as long as I can.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Gabie at the wheel.....uh, keyboard

My Mom is a total slacker. She took a whole week vacation from my blog without telling anyone. And you know what she's been doing? Boring stuff. Grading final exams. Getting ready for another class. Cooking. Cleaning. Nothing really important. She's all mixed up about what's important and what is not.

What's not important: sleeping, doing anything that involves my baby sister (who I think can pretty much take care of herself by this point), reading any book without pictures, taking showers, and talking on the phone. When I catch my Mom doing any of these things, I have to pester her until she stops.

What's important: sharpening pencils, watching Myth Busters, "getting ready for when Jesus comes by moving furniture around in the family room," eating Gogurts, and talking non-stop about the laptop that Grandma has to buy me even though Mom says she will NOT let me call Grandma and tell her that she has to buy it for me.

It is also important to give people advice. Especially my Mom. She needs someone to tell her what to do with her life. When I found this picture in the photo albums, here's what I said:

Me: That's a pretty dress. You should wear it to church someday.
Mom: It's my wedding dress, Gabie. People don't wear their wedding dresses to church.
Me: Then you should just wear it around the house.
Mom: Sure, but there's no way I would fit into it anymore. I've gained a few pounds since that picture was taken.
Me: Then you have to go on a diet.
Mom: Yeah, thanks for the idea.
Me: You should start today. You have a lot of work to do.

My Mom has no idea how lucky she is to have me around.