Saturday, December 03, 2011

the new drew

A couple of weeks ago, Andrew woke up one morning a changed child. Brigham and I are thrilled--and terrified that he will wake up with the switch flipped again and revert back to the way he was.

At the beginning of the school year, I had to institute a mantra: "If you cannot do your duty, at least go floppy." This was in reference to the fact that Andrew would refuse to awaken, and then refuse to dress himself. Reasonable enough, right? I was willing to meet him in the middle: if only he would just not resist me when I dressed him and readied him for school. Many was the morning in which I would finally cram him into his uniform only to return to the room a few minutes later and find him naked. I was not in a good place during those weeks.

He now wakes up to his own alarm at 7am (parenting tip: giving them ownership of their own schedule in the form of a really cool alarm clock is a very effective strategy.) He dresses, brushes his teeth and then comes and gets me up. We meet downstairs where he has started preparing for breakfast (I have been leaving the cereal down low in hopes and dreams that this day might arrive). He cleans up his dishes and is in the car on time. When we get home from school, he immediately does his homework, while wearing his uniform-- to stay in the spirit of things, he more or less explained. He meticulously cleans his room each night and observes that "your room doesn't really look good until you have made up your bed." I feel like I am living in a dream.

But there are still shadows of his old self, too. The other day he was counting his money in his piggybank. "YOu know where I get all my money, mom?" "From doing your chores?" I ask, knowing that we really never established any sort of payment system.

"No," he told me. "I get it from careless people who leave it lying around."

Well, even if his behavior modification has come from some recognition that sloppiness yields getting taken advantage of, I will take it. I will not complain at all.

Friday, December 02, 2011

andrew's anti-smoking campaign

At dinner the other day somehow the subject of smoking came up. We took the opportunity to remind Andrew that he is never to smoke. Andrew agreed that he would not, and provided the following three reasons to Aunt Abby as to why he would not:

"First, my mom told me not to.

Second, it makes you die.

Third, I am too young."

Just when I think that I have no real authority in the house, I at least know that on some level you appreciate my instruction.


Sometime after Andrew got home and before the pizza arrived (as per our usual Friday night), I came very very close to locking myself in my room and taking a bath with the baby (who is probably not really a baby baby at 19 months, but he couldn't be left alone dumping water from cup to cup at the sink for too much time, right?).

Andrew was upset because we were not going swimming (per our usual Friday afternoon), Will was crying because Andrew was obstructing our ability to go to the park, Porter had dumped probably a quart of water all over the counter and floor by now but I just didn't have the strength of soul to stop his little napless determined self.

But somehow I didn't yell or cry, and somehow Andrew just stopped moaning about the pool and got dressed to go to the park and we made it there with everyone more or less pulled together emotionally.

We immediately met a truly wonderful dog. He bounded over to us with his tennis ball and before we knew it the kids were using the owner's ball thrower to play fetch. Chewy ended up following the kids all over the playground and I briefly entertained unreasonable thoughts of owning a dog, so long as he could be so kid-friendly and awesome as Chewy. I also found the little sweater I bought full priced (over priced) for Porter the night before we had our family photos taken and as a result have felt the need to wear every day to get our money's worth. It had sat at that park for a few days and rainy nights while my disorganized and messy self hoped it was just overlooked in the car. But there it was, no worse for wear at all.

After getting super weird for the kids while pushing them--a row of puffy-coated (red, navy, green)--on the swings and them laughing hysterically and me wondering how my behavior was shaping or warping their senses of humor and whether I should reign myself in a bit and then discovering that the pizza man has called me twice and must have arrived before the time I had asked (which is fine, but which I must mention to show that I was not irresponsible for once) we left. And we left happy.

Will did end up throwing up (for the second time today) the few bites he choked down and all that milk (8 ounces!), Porter did resume his spot at the sink on his learning tower/watering station and my headache did resume and rage, but somehow we really did all stay in good moods, even if I had to miss out on Fantastic Mr. Fox while putting Porter to bed and cleaning up 4 plots of vomit that stopped right at the bathroom door. At least there is something to be said for Will's previously professional-level vomiting downgrading to typical kid never reaching the toilet throw-up. There are some things in life you don't want a 4 year old to be very good at.

I can't help but think that I wish I had a nice, faithful retriever at my feet as I type. Maybe my husband just needs to get home.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

now he is six

Andrew turned six on Tuesday and I believe this was the most emotional I have been about a birthday. It is probably not a coincidence that this is also his first year of full-day school. It truly is a new era in our home and while Andrew is learning and growing and all that he is doing is good and appropriate, we miss him pretty terribly. I still can't believe that his years of being very young have passed. It all went so quickly! If only I had known just how fast it would be over.
At six, Andrew is an extraordinarily helpful and mature little boy. He takes wonderful care of Porter and is a reliable friend and playmate to Will (though their relationship can, and has once done so during Sacrament meeting in front of a very stern member of the congregation, disintigrate into a fistfight.) Remembering that Wednesday is Will's class at the National Botanical Gardens, his first question upon entering the car at pick-up was to inquire of Will how it went. Today when another physical altercation erupted and both boys had to cool off in their rooms, I overheard them apologizing to each other and making up over their walkie-talkies.
Andrew has risen to the very real challenge that Kindergarten has brought on; he is reading wonderfully and is working hard on his handwriting. He says that math is is favorite subject, recognizing that it is an important skill for his current ambition of becoming a pilot/astronaut. He writes his 7s backwards extremely reliably. I find it endearing.

He loves to ride his bike in the cul-de-sac with our neighborhood friends. He prefers showers to baths, now, but he is not showering solo just yet. He now enjoys the "shower-bath" with his brothers. He initiated a pattern in our home of turning on his Christian rock music (from the Bible camp he attended over the summer) after bathtime when we are getting ready for bed. Porter loves to dance to it so much that Andrew calls the music his "Porter Magnet." He loves to build with legos, trio and magna-tiles and to play with his helicopter. He loves listening to Harry Potter each night before bedtime. He still likes being around us (his parents) and even informed us point-blank that he was "jealous" that we were Will's primary teachers and not his.

Andrew has always had a silliness to his personality and a love of fun. Recently his class was cutting pictures from magazines of items they needed for their wagon trip were they to be pioneers. Andrew glued toilet paper, a tv, a cell phone and a few other gadgets and fun things to his page. He thought it was hysterical. When I asked him what he would really bring, he told me food, a blanket and a hatchet.

We still do "songs and rubs" every night. Brigham sings him some missionary songs, but I have stuck with my original three: Amazing Grace, You are My Sunshine and As I Have Loved You.

I have more regrets about how I have parented Andrew than I do about Will and Porter. I am a better mom now than I was, and I wish I could re-do many, many moments in his little life. He is a sweet, very sensitive, funny and energetic little boy and I love him so much. He was my first little companion, and he has only gotten more and more companionable as he has gotten older (well, most of the time).

A month or so ago, Brigham and I had the following email exchange about Andrew:

From Alexandra to Brigham:
Brig, Maybe it was a good thing that i crashed the mini because I do not think it could have navigated the extensive flooding on the way home from Reston just now. It was really scary and at one point it felt like we might not make it through one of the big lakes on rt 7. Finally home. Also fortunately, though I had awakened porter to go, he was so tired he fell asleep again on the way and did not wake up again until a few miles from home.

Andrew was in a great mood but then began verbally abusing me when I told him that he could borrow, but not have, my small point and shoot camera. He is in his room blasting Christian rock as we speak.

Love you and I am worried about your travels home tonight. Be so careful.


From Brigham to Alexandra:
Soon that Christian Rock will be Megadeth, and Andrew will be strong enough to punch holes in the walls. We have so much to look forward to.

Andrew had a wonderful time at his birthday party and was filled with joyful avarice about his presents. He told me today that the coolest gift he got was the walkie-talkie set from my parents. He then told me that the helicopter I got him was "the kindest" gift. Porter had broken the one he received when he was 2 (!!) and had played with reliably over the last four years. He was heartbroken when Porter broke it, so I replaced it with the version Costco puts out now and waited for his birthday to arrive to present it. I loved that he felt that it was so kind of me to replace it.

While it is honestly hard for me to believe that he is as old as he is (I feel like he should be 4), from the things he says and the observations he makes, I feel like he should be a lot older than 6.

Monday, October 17, 2011

haunted house

My first step was to look up Martha Stewart halloween decor so that I could copy. I liked the idea of the witches brooms forming and X across the door, so when I saw such brooms at the thrift store last week, I was sure to buy. They were a serious pain to hang and I think I should get credit for my resourcefulness (I untwisted wire hangers). I repurposed some items from last year, moving last year's mantle display of the bat and associated cave to the door frame. I was going to hang some of the other bats we cut out from MS templates but it is supposed to rain later this week and I can't go to all the trouble of hanging them and taking them down again. They will appear shortly before the wicked night itself.

Will declared the porch "not spooktacular at all!" and we decided to do more. Some might say that this is where we got sloppy, but I say let the children decide what is truly in keeping with the spirit of Hallow's Eve. So we made two spider webs, one on each door frame. Will placed the plastic spiders in it.

Do you see the white pumpkin peeking out of the basket? So sppoky.

I am torn between believing in utter restraint in Halloween decorating and getting totally crazy and in the spirit. Sure, less is cuter, but is that what the season is all about?

Friday, September 30, 2011

love according to andrew

a conversation

me, nursing the baby while andrew does homework at the kitchen table: "Porter always wants me to kiss the bottoms of his feet while I nurse him."

andrew, without looking up: "well, you love him, so why don't you just do it." and a nonchalant little shrug.

i have the most interesting conversations with a little boy who is just about to turn six.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

thoughts i keep coming back to

I keep a private blog of our family life, and was looking through it the other day when I found this post from early 2008. That was when I was in the throes of sleep training and heated sibling rivalry (one-sided, as Andrew had a hard time accepting his first little brother). I feel I have developed as a mother in many ways (though we never made much headway on the sleep issue; now it seems funny to me that i even seriously tried), mainly in that I am less anxious about some of the behaviors because I realize so much is just a stage rather than a personality disorder, but some of the thoughts still resonate with me so much. And some are even sadder now because the chapter has closed a bit on that phase of my parenting with Andrew, to whom these paragraphs were addressed. (Andrew, 11 mo on Middle East trip)

You have been repeating many of the things that i say. One thing I hear echoed back at me is: "Its too late. Too late!" I do say that to you when I give you a chance to comply and you don't until after I have already let that fateful "three!" fall from my lips. But I am also realizing that it applies to a lot more than just whether you get your LIghtnings back.

Soon it will be too late to have these days of a 2 1/2 year old boy who adores me and a tiny little baby back again. Too late to cuddle iwth you on the couch. Too late to have you want to sit in my lap and listen to stories. Too late to teach you gentleness through gentleness. Too late to show you that you are loved, that you are capable. Too late to enjoy our days together.

I realize that all is not lost and that I can (and do, I hope) show you that you are loved and are capable and that we are a happy family. But I also realize that these things will not automatically happen, that I can possibly waste teh days of my probation as a mom, that I can miss out on the chance to bond with you, to help you grow into a happy and productive adult, someone with confidence. It happens all the time, doesn't it? And no one intends for that to happen. We all go into this parenting thing so well-meaning.

You know, I really don't know what I am doing here, in this parenting thing. It is all a big experiment, every day, every struggle. I am guessing at what the correct method of handling a prescribed situation is, and I think you don't realize how lost I sometimes feel, how lucky and grateful I feel when something I have dreamed up seems to work.

It is still an experiment, and now that I have entered the Elementary School Phase of parenthood, I have a whole new curve to navigate. Back to School Night tonight was interesting for many reasons, one of them being the opportunity to see the different types of parents. I don't think I am much of a Tiger Mom, unless becoming grouchy counts. I just want my kids to be interested in the world, and confident in their ability to seek out and pursue the things they love. I am so glad to have the Gospel in our lives to help me in my efforts.

Despite all my mistakes and fumblings, we have had such a happy little time together. Remember?

Friday, September 09, 2011

september i remember babies once new have now grown old

Old enough for school, at least. Well, just Andrew. Will is doing a year of a home preschool co-op with some other moms, and I think it is going to be perfect. Andrew in his uniform, Porter in an outfit Andrew used to wear at that age. I bought it in Salt Lake City and it feels like 2 years ago.There actually was a really sweet moment just after I captured this one where the boys were all embracing one another, but this is what I have.
The water fountain is a big deal among these guys.
I think, despite how much I long to swipe his hair back off his forehead, that this photo really captures how he was feeling: excited and nervous.
We sneeked back to peek in on him. This is the back of his little head at his table.
I was so consumed with taking photos and being on time etc that I didn't feel my goodbye hug and kiss was meaningful enough. After he went in, I wanted to snatch him back for a big long tight squeeze. But it was too late. I cried on the drive home and avoided looking at the baby pictures of him around the basement. Three o'clock came surprisingly fast.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

the importance of being andrew

After finishing The Help (it was fine but not a book I will read again), I was inspired by one of the character's childcare tactics and began replicating it in my home. Every night I have the children repeat to me: "I am good. I am kind. I am loved," and so on. Andrew sighs when he does it, but I still think he likes it even if it embarrasses him. The other day I teasingly incorporated it into my instruction that they apply bug spray (to their kind, sweet, important selves). Andrew looked at me and said,

"Mom, I am not important."

My heart drops. I have abused and mistreated my firstborn!

"Yes, Andrew, you are important. You are very important!"

"Yes, ok, I know that I am important *to you,*" (he actually stressed that part) "but it is not like I am . . . in the military or something."

I chose that moment to talk to him about how God has a plan for him (I didn't mention that He has a plan for everyone--that can come in its own time), and that he will learn more about that plan as he grows. He was very excited to hear that we know some of it already from his baby blessing. I wished that we could talk more about people's destinies in light of the brilliance of Harry Potter, but we are only on book 2.

But you know what else you are, Andrew, aside from being important? Pretty darn sophisticated, to objectively see your importance relative to the world. I can think of a few politicians who could benefit from a similar sense of self.

to the dutch-german matron who saved my life, if i had your address i would write you a thank you note which my dad would end up having to mail for me

August seems to know that its time has come. It has felt like early fall all week here in Virginia, and when Porter and I went outside to feel the wind and see the pre-hurricane (Irene) rainfall for ourselves, it was pleasantly chilly. But I am sad to see summer go this year. Its end marks the beginning of Phase 2, the Elementary School Years, in this household, and I am not sure I am ready yet. Emotionally.

Yesterday when I went to the store because we were all out of milk, and also I felt a bit of social pressure to somehow get ready for the hurricane, I saw people in my neighborhood unloading cases of food and supplies. We have a gas stove, a gas grill outside and plenty of canned goods, including Will's formula and supplies. I am just not that worried. The kids are always making off with our flashlights so I had a passing whim in the store to pick up another, or maybe just batteries, but after a brief and futile look-out down the aisles I let it go. We can make it through an evening and figure something out, if it even comes to that. I have such trouble pinning down all the little things in life, but I realize that all those little things add up, and on those little things turn so many of the big, obvious ones that sometimes I wonder how I even ended up where I am, having done any of the things I have managed to get done.

I was at the pool recently and suddenly remembered an event from last summer that I had intended to record because it meant so much to me at the time, but of course last summer was so awful and overwhelming at the time, though now I associate it mostly with losing my reality in endless episodes of Veronica Mars, baking multiple peach cobblers and spending as much times as I could devote to nursing Porter that it has taken on a warm and comforting haze that my nostalgia-itis (probably foruntately) glazes over everything once it gets a few miles behind me. It is funny how I am now okay with admitting how hard last summer was, when at the time I was pretty ashamed that I couldn't manage my life barely at all. Yesterday, my dad was carrying groceries into my house over my objections that his leg, which has been really troubling him lately, should not take such strain. "I am not the kind of person who can sit by and watch others work," was his reply, and I really admire people like that and want to be that person myself, and that remark is the best way I can think at this moment (and I only have this moment0 to explain how embarrassing it was to me to be the farthest from that person I could possibly have been last summer.

So last summer I took the kids to a pool in Fairfax so I could do a monthly visit with some women from my church. I was slightly worried about Will's continence in the pool because, though he had been solidly potty-trained some months previous, he was just in bad shape health-wise and I never knew what might happen. You might think that I would have put a swim diaper on him, and I would have if I had one, but of course I didn't and obviously I couldn't ask to borrow one since that would inconvenience someone almost as much as it would inconvenience a whole bunch of people if he pooped in the pool. Which he did. Still, if I could change one thing about that day it would not be the diaper situation (for that would have meant I would not have met St. German Lady), but the fact that I stupidly admitted that it was my kid who caused the damage, rather than just identify some anonymous poop in the water.

Somehow I get Will into the ladies' bathroom to wash up, but I have a 2 month old who is screaming and squirming and I have nowhere to put him. I am struggling to get Will's disgusting and soiled suit off of him and the poop is spilling out the side and I wish I just had someone to hold the baby, when this Woman comes over to me. She is everything you imagine when you think of a 60 year young, strong, tall German matron. I think she was even topless. I had caught her mid-some act of practicality and purpose, but when she saw something else needed to be done she wasted no time on the extraneous. She took Will's suit off, picked up--bare-handed-- the poop that had fallen onto the floor and disposed of it, then washed Will out (again, with her bare hand and soap from a dispenser). Then she took his suit and washed it out in the sink with soap until it dripped with fresh-and-cleanness. She did it all in about 3 minutes. She was wonderful and I wanted to cry with gratitude. I wish she was a character in my life, but I just got her for those few minutes and then she was gone.

We went back to the pool where I pretended that Will's swim diaper had simply leaked rather than admit it had not existed. The rest of the day was unremarkable, and all I could think about was that wonderful lady. I am bogged down in my own life, with my own issues and my kids' various needs, but I am going to find a way to be that lady. Except for the bare-handed poop disposal, part. I mean, getting a paper towel wouldn't have been too extraneous to the effort. Though, I admit, she would have lost points for style.

St. German Matron, wherever you are, our paths crossed so briefly, but I will never forget you.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

happy father's day

To the only man who will still love you even after you step all over him. Dads are the best.

We had a low-key father's day this year. As much as I really believe in celebrating each occasion with as much fan fare possible, I am just so tired these days. When Porter stops waking up every few hours I will stop making excuses. I tried to make a little photo/video montage, but my lack of knowledge impeded my intentions. Because Brigham is the nicest husband and dad, or because he is used to me, he didn't mind. A mushroom and onion omlette for breakfast and some hand-made cards summed up our celebration of the most important man in our lives. Dinner at my parents' house (speaking of Father's day and another man of huge importance in our lives) followed by flashlight hide and seek in the house

As for the photo above, that picture was taken today, in fact. I had wanted to get a shot of all the boys in a pile with their dad on Father's day, but by the time we got the flash working (ie Brigham got it working for me), Will had found a new perch. Brigham took it lying down.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

365 days of porter

I may say this every year for the rest of my life, but this was the fastest year ever. I worry that I failed to capture all the moments and milestones photographically, and I fear that Porter did not receive all the attention that his older brothers both enjoyed at the same age. In fact, when I look back over last summer I am surprised to realize that Porter was alive at that time. Isn't that terrible? I was so caught up in Will's issues that I think both Andrew and Porter were shifted a bit to the side. They can discuss it in-depth one day from the comfort of the therapist's couch; be it known that I did my unmedicated best.

Now for the details only his mother will care about.

At a year, you had four-going-on-six teeth. Two top front and bottom, and the two canines growing in. You were 19 lbs 9 oz, 10th % for weight and 75% for height. (This despite my obsession with calories and access to milk. I just have small kids!).

You began walking at 11 months, one week. You first walked in your bedroom, to Andrew. We do have that on tape.

You clap, kiss, hug and wave, spontaneously and on command. You say "dada" and "Bah!" (for bye). You point every time you see something interesting (in your world this usually consists of dogs, cats, birds or the bunny family that shares our yard) and exclaim either "dah! or "cah!" (exclusive to cats, whereas everything else is a Dah!).

You love to dance, and do so whenever any music plays, when someone sings, or if you speak or rhyme in a certain way. You've got rhythm. You are the only child in the household who can play the recorder without damaging our eardrums, too. I am very proud of our little rendition of Mary Had A Little Lamb. You provide the wind and I provide the fingers, and together we can play most anything.

You love to climb. It is pretty horrible. You have been "death climbing" (Andrew's term) on the steps since well before me moved into our new house in March. You have moved on to climbing up ladders and even on top of our 24 inch backless counter stool. I looked over in the kitchen and there you were, standing straight up on that slippery smooth stool, ready for a concussion.

Why no, he is not yet sleeping through the night, thanks for asking. But he is down to one nap a day. He is usually a great little table companion, feeding himself from the food dumped on his tray. He prefers to use a fork of his own. He likes black beans, blueberries, melons, noodles, cheese (shredded or stick) and peas. He will eat meat that is shredded. He prefers sippy cups with built-in straws (which is what I use exclusively with Will). Porter loves to blow bubbles with his milk and then dump a bunch out through the pin hole on the lid. I know he will do this, but I let him have the cups anyway. A combination of maternal exhaustion and my eternally springing hope that this time will be different.

Porter, you just love to be tenderly rubbed. If someone strokes your face or neck, you will immediately freeze to soak up the sensation.

Your favorite things to do are play catch (though in your version you hand-deliver the ball to me), bite the ends off of your brother's nerf darts, and direct toy cars around in the floor. You love to go outside and crawl around. You insist on getting rides on Will's scooter and have tried to insist on riding Andrew's bike but I draw my line at physical impossibility.

You love ice-cream and it seemed only right (and delicious and easy) for your birthday cake to be a BR ice cream cake.

You also love the tub and will go wild in it every single night. If I were prone to worrying about anything besides kidnapping, I would worry that you would injure yourself with your stunts. You once tried to climb up the far corner, fell and became completely submerged. Before I could do anything, you flipped over under the water and pushed yourself to the surface. You didn't even cry. If I mention the tub or bath, you will immediately begin miming splashing and then will begin chirping away. I cannot characterize the sounds you make as really anything other than chirps.

Having witnessed countless wrestling matches btwn his brothers and dad, Porter is ever-ready for a fight. When the mood strikes him, he will lumber over to one of his brothers and launch and attack. He even does it with a little baby roar.

Since Will won't be reading this post, it is safe to admit here that Porter has a preference for his oldest brother. Port, you just love Andrew and always wants to play with him.

Port-Pie, in a year that was otherwise the most difficult and stressful of my life (and I am counting high school in that), you were a ray of sunshine. A ray that would not stop shining, right in my sleepless eyes even at 3 am, but a ray none the less. I love you and I know I am so blessed to get to be your mom. I make a lot of mistakes, but I think you might be tough enough to survive anyway.

Love always,


Friday, May 13, 2011

my new (quick, easy, delish) pizza pie

not my pizza. but in case you needed a visual.
Friday Night Movie Nights usually means ordering Dominos, but tonight I made the best homemade pizza I have ever had. I have terrible luck with homemade pizza crust. It is usually tasteless and not a great texture. And it usually involves hours of rising. I found a recipe that looked like it would fit my time constraints, kept my expectations low and made a few easy modifications. Here is the original recipe with my modifications parenthetically:

1 package active dry yeast or 2-ish teaspoons
1 teaspoon white sugar (I put 2 1/2 tsp sugar)
1 cup warm water (not hot)
2 1/2 cups flour (I added 1 tsp gluten and mixed well. I think this was the biggest improvement to the recipe)
2 tablespoons olive oil (I added an extra T olive oil)
1 teaspoon salt
optional - herbs, fresh or dried, olives etc (didn't have any, but I did shake some oregano on the cheese before baking)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
If adding any dried or fresh herbs etc add to the oil to ensure a good dispersion through the crust.
Stir in flour, salt and oil to yeast mix. Stir until combined. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round.
Transfer crust to a lightly greased pizza pan or oven tray dusted with cornmeal or flour.
Spread with desired toppings and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
**I sometimes make with half plain flour and half wholemeal.
**Dough can be left (post mixing) for half an hour to ensure a thinner crust (I cut and pasted this line from the original page, but I don't understand why leaving it post-mixing would yield a thinner crust. I did not let it rise at all (beyond the 5 min in the bowl) and it was a nice fluffy crust with a crisp bottom.)

I also discovered that we had no sauce, so I modified a homemade pasta sauce. Here is the original link:
To that I added a small can of tomato paste, discovered that made it bitter so then added a tsp or two of sugar, some parm shake cheese and a bit of dried Italian herbs until it tasted right. I cooked the sauce for like 15 minutes on a fast little boil.

Covered everything in mozz and cheddar (and added the onions from the pasta sauce). I baked it on a pizza stone, which is an absolute must if you want to enjoy homemade pizza.

Will informed me that the smell of the pizza made him sick, and Andrew rejected it after a bite, but I maintain that this is good pizza. Brigham admitted that he was sad when he saw the remains on the stone, believing himself to be in for a night of soggy cardboard tastelessness but changed his tune. During my interrogation of him re the pizza, he said that it was the best homemade pizza he has had and if it were served at a restaurant people would like it. Admittedly, Brigham is no gourmand (his primary goal in eating is "to get full"), but I liked it, and at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I had a friend in college whose high school English teacher nicknamed Pearl because every time my friend opened his mouth, the teacher explained, a pearl of wisdom dropped out. That story would not have charmed me the same way if 1) my friend were not a guy and 2) not a total socialist/anarchist/misanthrope who was also very funny but in a quiet and overlooked kind of way. But even after all those years (and it has been far too many) I cannot help but think of that little anecdote every time I feel I have stumbled upon my own pearl of wisdom. Most of my pearls are really obvious ones that others consider simply common sense parts of their ways and days, but I am alas laboring at the base of my organizational/parenting/acting like an adult pyramid and treasure other people's basic essentials.

Today Andrew refused, once again, to get out of bed. We were so late to school that we were almost also late to Will's first day of soccer practice which started an hour after Andrew's school did (and which I wanted to skip because it is outside and way too cold but that cursed little thing is so smart and remembered that I had told him the other day that he would start soccer on Wed and he got dressed in a track suit that would be "the perfect outfit to wear!" to his event. So we went. And the practice ended with bubble blowing, just saying.) I get so frustrated with Andrew over his inability to just get up and get dressed in a reasonable amount of time. Suddenly it came to me like a bolt of lighting that he just needed to go to bed way earlier (see paragraph above, final sentence). I put him in bed by 8 most nights but there are plenty of nights in there where I let him stay up to see Brigham or to cram in a reading lesson or extra reading time, because those things are important. But not, I realized this morning, as important as him getting enough rest to awake by 8 without the terrible trouble we experience most mornings.

So I decided this morning that he would go to bed very early tonight. Yes, it started out as a punishment, but then I saw the real wisdom in it. Simply by making his bedtime a rigid point on the clock, regardless of other circumstances, we could start out our days on the right foot for everyone. How easy, and yet it took me so long to figure out this simple solution to a chronic (really, daily) problem. At 7:30 tonight both boys were in bed and the baby was on his way. And an image of Mel Gibson with blue face paint and long hair immediately flooded my mind.

Another pearl I discovered this week was how to take a big step forward with Will's eating troubles. My friend was talking with me about it and she caused me to have a real breakthrough. Again, it should have been so obvious to me already, but I think I was sort of lost in a forest of too much medical information. No doctors have really thought, at this point, that Will had a medical condition causing him to refuse to eat. "If I have to give a name, I call it: Sensitive Boy Syndrome," my Thai pediatric GI concluded happily. But my friend had witnessed little Will vomit twice in as many days after willingly eating a very minimal amount of food and some of her remarks and observations led to me reexamine the conclusion that there is nothing medically wrong with Will. I knew that Will suffered from chronic stomach irritation caused by excessive acid in his stomach, but that was the only physical symptom ever found, and it was sort of ignored by the doctors. But the fact was that Will told me his stomach hurt when he eats and that his tummy tells him to stop. There is just no way to train a kid to eat when it hurts his body to do so. He is not some 16 year old cheerleader trying to lose weight; he is a little boy who has struggled since he was a baby. All the clues seemed to point to GERD. I began feeding him a special GERD diet (unfortunately it is a low-fat diet in addition to being low-acid) and he has gone from vomiting every other day and refusing food at all meals to eating mostly normal sized meals and drinking all his milk (6 oz). I will see what the doctor thinks on Friday.

One big failure of mine is that I have not been faithfully keeping a food journal for Will. I have a lot of excuses (we moved, I have a baby to care for, meal times are hectic and overwhelming etc) but the bottom line is that none of them are good enough to pardon it. I just need to do it.

It made me think about how my dad said that in the Marine Corps there are no justifiable reasons for failing to accomplish a task. You were either too lazy or too stupid and you were forced to admit to which. He has basically lived his life according to that principle, and once taught a Priesthood lesson on home-teaching using the too lazy-too stupid concept. The men tried to come up with a circumstance in which their home teaching neglect could be something other than their being too lazy or dumb, but at the end of the day the only justifiable reason was coma or death. What a great lesson, and my dad is a great guy to teach it since he happens to be a very nice person who everyone likes. They probably felt shocked that he told them they were too lazy or stupid to do their hometeaching, but I guess it was okay because he just made them see it (and say it) for themselves. Pearl. It still makes me laugh to think of some of the exchanges that went down in that lesson (my dad wrote me about it on my mission) and how my dad would ask, after being told that the failed home teacher explained that he was in the hospital, whether he didn't pick up the phone and call because he was too stupid to think of it or too lazy to do it. Double pearl!

I count it also as a pearl to realize that for me most of the time my stupidity and laziness are rivers that flow from the same ocean. Or into the same ocean. Or something like that. You know, symbiotic etc etc etc.

I am reading a parenting book that is going to change our lives and my children's future therapy needs. Brigham says that these books I read are just common sense, which is true. But common sense so easily flies out the window when everyone is naked, the house is a wreck and I am late. Basically, the bottom line is that as the parent you need to remain in control of your kids, in control of the situation and in control of yourself. If you lose self-control, you have lost the battle already. This is not new to me, but I need constant refreshers. This week, week the first after reading From Chaos to Calm, has been a really good one. It has been good to just look at each problem and trouble shoot it without letting the significance of why or what it will lead to spin out of control. Andrew is a pain in the morning, so put him to bed earlier and move on. No need to yell or get angry, just need to get him more time to sleep. Also, I need more time to sleep.

Well, it is nine o'clock which means I better go grocery shopping! Seriously. "But that's okay!" (Will's signature line circa 2009). It occurred to me today that Andrew's "I have a nice idea!" bit has fallen out of his phraseology. Sad. On the bright side, does that mean he will soon forget that unfortunate word I used in front of him that one time(s)?

Friday, March 18, 2011

happy birthday, john updike

I suppose it is strange to miss someone you have never met and to actually feel a little sweep of loneliness at the thought that this unmet person is not experiencing this weather, hearing these current events, just existing as part of this world with you, but that is how I feel about John Updike. I don't love all his books (I have actually only read a small handful), but his poetry and short stories are among my favorite.

Yesterday my dad helped me transfer a lovely dresser that my mom's dad had built for my uncle probably 50 years ago. Because it was hand-made and therefore the drawers could not be interchanged, each drawer had someone's (Papa's, probably) handwritten instruction as to which chest the drawer belonged (he had built three identical) and in which order it belonged. "Philip #2."

I liked that Papa could speak to me across time, though he never meant it like that and I am imbuing a sentimentality entirely inappropriate both for my relationship with him (there was not much of one) and the actual sentiment expressed. It was only telling me which drawer went where, after all, not some life guidance from the grave ("Marry for love!").

I hate that word (grave.) I don't like to think about things like that, probably because I do it way too much. I combat these thoughts with hobbies and frivolties about decorating or crafting, and I realize even as I write this that I don't really believe that those things are totally frivolous. Despite the fairly communist aesthetic I maintained for most of my life (that anything decorative was a waste of money and time), I have come to feel the opposite. Beauty isn't wasteful and materialistic (well, I guess it can be in extremes); it uplifts people's spirits and imbues the ordinary with a sense of . . . . well, happiness, I guess. It is just the way we humans respond. And now that I have children of my own and carry around this heavy sense that I am responsible for creating their little universe of childhood, I want all of that weather to be perfect. I want to make each event special, each day happy and light, so these color choices and flowers and meals and special little birthday signs or plates, they all matter. Maybe too much, I will one day look back and see. But I am working in my here and now and this is what my sense of things tells me to do.

But regardless of the fact that the dresser was made by a man I didn't know all that well and whose handwritten numerical ordering splashes me with a dose of sentimentality that is silly, I take a sense of happiness in knowing that little Porter has a dresser that was made by his great-grandfather and that people can be connected and remembered in these small ways far beyond what they ever would have imagined for things done for an entirely different purpose. Just like my flowers or birthday plate or whatever.

Which, I totally realize, is all the more reason for me to eliminate yelling and anger from the sounds of this little world I am trying to create for the boys. Yes, I suppose cutting out the yelling should take precedence, but we do what we can, right?

I often have compared my sentiments about Updike with those for Papa. I think that in the end, and for different reasons entirely, I miss them in rather the same way.

Missy asked us all to choose our favorite Updike poem to share and though I only read it for the first time today, I do think it is my favorite. It is one of those that heightens my sense of loss that his heartbeat isn't part of the massive throng down here. Sometimes I read things and think that writing is within my grasp, with enough work and time and effort. But every time I read Updike, I see that real writing is impossibly beyond me.

One size fits all. The shape or coloration
of the god or high heaven matters less
than that there is one, somehow, somewhere, hearing
the hasty prayer and chalking up the mite
the widow brings tot eh temple, A child
alone with horrid verities cries out
for there to be a limit, a warm wall
whose stones give back an answer, however faint.

Strange, the extravagance of it--who needs
those eighteen-armed black Kalis, those musty saints
whose bones and bleeding wounds appall good taste,
those joss sticks, houris, gilded Buddhas, books
Moroni etched in tedious detail?
We do; we need more worlds. This one will fail.