Happy --th Birthday Mama!

My mom turned an age that is divisible by 10 a few weeks ago. I was thinking about her birthday the other day and memories of our times together started flooding my mind. They may be of no interest to anyone but the two of us, but I love to read about other people's moms (so illuminating!), so here you go:

One of my earliest memories: whining (surprise) about being hungry for dinner and you sat on a stool in the kitchen and held me in your lap a said simply, "I know, I know" in that distracted, but eternally patient way of yours. I try to channel that moment all the time, but can only ever manage the distracted part.

Going running for the first time with you: you asked if I wanted to come and I didn't think I could do it. You said let's run to Agnes' house and stop for a rest and a glass of water and then we'll run home. You were so patient with me, even though I know I ruined your run with my side cramp and my slowness. When we could see our house you said, "You take off Katie- don't let me hold you back," even though it was perfectly obvious that I was the one holding you back.

Taking me to camp for the first time and staying at the Three Hills Inn the night before, with it's German pancakes and caged toothless monkey. When we got to camp you stood with me looking out at the mountains across the river and said "They look a little different each day". I told my counselor that the next day, but she didn't get it.

The time after the divorce when you were cleaning out the fridge and found a carton of bad eggs. You said let's go out on the back porch and throw them at the trees. We did and I will never forget that- the two of us, chucking rotten eggs with all our might, and the unspoken understanding between us that life was hard, but we could still have fun.

Using a butter knife to "help" you scrape carpet glue off of the yellow tiles in your bathroom in our house in North Carolina- the house that little Eric calls "the crack house" because it has a crack in the brick facade now. I just know he runs around telling people that his mom grew up in a crack house:).

The pink plastic purse you gave me when I was five and Daddy and I left for Egypt a week before you and Adam did. I think I spent the entire 24-hour flight clutching it and crying because I missed you so much.

The year that we all got skis for Christmas and yours and Adam's were used, but mine were new because you said I'd had a hard year. Incidentally, I'm glad we've finally given up on trying to do all those winter sports and accepted that we are a beach family:).

The morning of my wedding when you pulled up to the front of the temple and turned to me and said "you don't have to do this Katie, we can turn around." I think I can understand now how sad you were and I can definitely laugh at the thought of the two of us- I in my wedding dress and you in your mother-of-the-bride dress- ditching my wedding and escaping to Mexico or somewhere.

You walking in the door of our apartment on Central campus to see baby Eric for the first time, exclaiming "Let me see my little baby!" and then "Let me see my big baby!" and hugging me.

The card you sent me on my twentieth birthday that said you were proud of everything I'd accomplished in twenty years and couldn't wait to see when I'd do in the next twenty and then, "Think big, Katie".

The summer after my freshman year when I was a counselor at camp and you forwarded all my mail to me. One day I got an insufficient funds notice from the bank and you wrote on it: "Oops...better take care of this". The next day another one came with your note "Uh oh...get this straightened out." The next day, another one and the words "Damn it, Katie."

The horrific night you spent in the ER with me after Eric was born. I remember you played tetris on your palm pilot and I found that oddly comforting. How bad could my situation really be when you were over in the corner playing a video game?

Dropping me off at college- you made my bed like you had always done when you took me to camp, then took me to lunch and just sort of left. Everyone else's parents stuck around for the weekend, but that was not your style- you were trying not to hold me back.

The first line of a song that I love says "Growing up it was just me and my mom against the world"- that always makes me think of us. Our escapades are far from over, I know, and now Marley can come along for the ride. Happy birthday Mama! I love you!


I think I'm going to like this:)

Do you know what a shuriken is? I do. I have sons. But tonight my little two-year-old friend Aubrey is here. While the boys were watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which had to be turned off due to language issues- oops), they decided they needed to play with big Eric's Ninja weapons. How he got those is a long story that I won't go into here but suffice it to say, we are in possession of nunchaku, sai and shuriken. The shuriken went to Aubrey, who exclaimed, "Oh! A snowflake!" Four male mouths gaped in horror. I smiled. Aubrey toddled over to me and asked, "Is this a snowflake?" Yes, Aubrey. Yes it is. It's a pretty black snowflake:).


Answered prayer

One of the things that caught my attention when I met the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon church) when I was sixteen was that they said I didn't have to take their word for anything. I could pray about it and God would tell me what I should do. The idea that God knew me personally and had opinions about the practical, everyday facets of my life was completely new to me. I had a few experiences after that where I knew intellectually what I should do, but needed to feel the rightness of it in my heart: Should I get baptized? Should I get married in the temple? Should I stay at home with my children?, etc. Peace and reassurance always came, though not always right away or without struggle. But when it comes to quandaries in which I'm truly unsure of what to do, I've never been able to "get an answer". I think I've just found out why.

In Church one recent Sunday we were talking about different ways to study the scriptures. My M.O. is to, as Eric says, "slog through" the Book of Mormon and Bible over and over again. One sister said that in the past she has taken a new copy of the Book of Mormon and, with a specific question or struggle in mind, written down inspiration she gets on that topic in the margins. I decided to try this method with the current bane of my existence: Eric and Brigham's messy room.

Is it me, or does every single little boy's toy have a million small pieces to it? I used to resist buying those types of toys, but then my kids developed that pesky little habit of having opinions of their own (and noticing when a toy they got for their birthday or Christmas is suddenly "missing"!). And I do love the Legos, Kinex and other toys that encourage creativity and cooperation and are not blatantly violent. The problem is that they can trash their room in about 10 minutes and it will take them an hour, with a LOT of nagging and threatening from me to clean it up. They get so overwhelmed just looking at the mess they decide that it's easier to whine and complain than to obey.

This REALLY stresses me out. Growing up my little brother, also a lover of Legos, had such a messy room that one time I trashed it because I was mad at him and he didn't even notice. For real. And although my brother grew up into a wonderful, very productive, creative and sometimes even neat adult, it's really important to me to teach my kids to take care of their things right now, and most of all to listen to me and do what I ask. Eric and I have tried everything: setting timers, taking toys away, offering rewards, even cold showers (don't recommend it). Nothing has ever worked. Every now and then I get so stressed about it that I go into their room and completely clean and organize it, which includes throwing away toys that are broken, chewed or otherwise annoying to me. Then for weeks I hear this: "Mama, where is my -----?" and I reply "Ummmmmm........I don't know......." and they say, "you gave it to the poor children didn't you?" and I say "maybe" and then feel guilty for lying because what I actually did was throw it in the trash and cover it up with paper towels.

I decided a few weeks ago that the answer to this problem does not lie in a book or even in advice from friends and family- it's going to have to come from the Lord. I started praying to know what specific strategies I can use with my children to teach them the very important values of responsibility, discipline and obedience- i.e. to clean their darn room!! Then just this morning I opened up a brand new Book of Mormon (which the missionaries gave me and asked me to give to someone I know- oh well) and started reading, highlighting and writing in the margins. I had a few interesting thoughts, an overall good feeling, but no clear "answer". Later on I decided to try something new- the boys' room was due for a clearing out and re-organizing, so I told them I was going to help them clean it, and together we would pick out anything that they didn't want to either throw away or take to Goodwill. I fully expected that they would keep almost everything, but I determined that I would keep my mouth shut and let them make the decisions themselves, just to see what they'd do. To my great surprise, after a few moments of cleaning they started putting things in the Goodwill pile- even things they sort of liked, but wanted to give to children who had less than they did. I learned that the toys they kept had meaning to them in ways I never would have imagined- they remembered who gave them which stuffed animal and for what occasion, who's hotwheels were who's, etc... The things they wanted to keep were not what I would have chosen at all. My favorites are those with the shiniest paint and cleanest fur- theirs are sometimes the happy meal toy from McDonalds (what? no, we don't eat there- I have no idea where they got those!). I watched their little fists unclench and their generosity and prudence take over as I respected their choices. They learned, I learned, it was pretty much a great afternoon culminating in a clean room and, for once, smiling faces.

I realize, of course that this may not be the end of the story, and I guess that's what I've really learned today. All this time I was looking for "answers", when what I needed was revelation. I don't know the etymology of that word, but it reminds me of unraveling- a gradual process of discovery. I hope I can remember that in the future- that when I have a question and pray about it, rather than a clear, unequivocal answer, I can expect guidance and inspiration that will lead me to the right conclusion, and help me learn all sorts of fun stuff along the way. Huh. I guess maybe there's a reason He's God.


New Start

I woke up this morning to excited whispers from the living room. "It snowed!!!" The boys climbed gingerly (they know I'm cranky in the morning!) into my bed and we snuggled under the covers and listened for school closings on NPR. Of course the talk was not of school closings. It was of the inauguration, and I thought- how right that we should wake to a world transformed.

When I was in seventh grade we lived in a suburb of D.C. and my mom took us downtown to see Clinton's inaugural parade. I remember her instructing me as we squeezed ourselves on to the Metro, what to do if we got separated (get off at the next stop and go to the ticket kiosk). On the radio it said that the Metro was already packed at 4 A.M. today!

Last night we watched Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech on youtube for family home evening. When it was over we asked the boys if they thought his dream had come true. I waited for the affirmative answer- and my chance to correct them and gently explain that actually, we live in a world that still is not a very good place for most minorities, and that there is still so much work to be done. But they answered with such innocent conviction, "yes!" and "oh yes!", that I swallowed my words and prayed silently that maybe they were more right than I knew.