Mar 28, 2013

The Trouble with Boys

What are little boys made of?  Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails...and nothing but trouble, trouble, trouble!  A couple weeks back, I awoke to use the bathroom, only to find that someone had drawn all over the bathroom wall.  I'm not talking about a simple line or two.  I'm talking preparing-a-canvas-to-be-displayed-in-an-art-museum type of scribbling.  This took a serious amount of time and effort.  I could tell by the circular patterns just who the culprit was...until Spencer noticed the word, "hi" written as well.  I was shocked.  There is no way Jacob would have done that...and yet, the pencil autographs all over his bedroom wall from months earlier said that he did.

It was time for a little talk.  Jacob denied the graffiti.  I showed the word "hi" to him, and told him that no one else knew how to spell.  He was utterly shocked.  "But I don't know how to write 'hi'!  I only know how to write the words they teach us in school!"  Surprised, I took Gabe into the bathroom.  After much pushing, he finally admitted.  Then, it was Jacob's turn to be surprised...and ashamed.  "That's not fair!  He's smarter than me!  No...I'm just joking.  I've got more brains than him because I go to school."  It's hard to be mad at one kid when you're doing everything you can to stop from laughing.

After a while, I was able to lecture Gabe on why we don't draw on the walls.  I was just dumbfounded that at age 5, he decided to do it suddenly.  He may have used a bit of crayon on the doors at age 2, but that was just one or two times.  Why the sudden regression?  After a lot of soapy water, I was able to scrub the wall clean, and all was forgotten...until YESTERDAY happened.

I thought I had been going slightly crazy when I suddenly caught a whiff of paint in our house.  Odd, since it's  not a common smell, but it wasn't logical either, since we hadn't been painting.  I pushed the thought aside, and just assumed that something in our house smelled bad, like a dish rag or something.  Since it was a nice day outside, I talked to Spencer about bringing Gabriel upstairs to go play outside instead of taking his nap.  We decided that since he had been up the night before with a bad cough, we should just let him sleep, and hopefully get better.  About an hour later, I left the house to pick up Jacob from school.  When we returned, as soon as I walked in the door, I was blasted with paint fumes.  Before I  could say anything, Spencer asked, "Does our house smell like paint still?"

"Yes, and it's really bad now."  As Spencer headed towards the stairs, I suddenly knew what had happened.  "Oh, no...what's Gabe been doing?!" I shouted.  We rushed downstairs, and found that instead of sleeping, Gabriel had been busy at work...redecorating.  His feet were painted gold up to his ankles, as were his hands.  I glanced at the walls, and red paint streaked across one wall.  The kitty litter box was improved with a generous helping of my expensive laundry detergent, seasoned with a bit of red spray paint.  Okay.  Not too bad.  But then Spencer walked into Jacob's room.  I quickly followed when he mentioned some of the things that were painted.  How he stayed so calm, I'll never know, because when I entered, I began hyperventilating.  In the doorway was piles of detergent powder.  His mauve carpet was covered in gold paint from where Gabriel stood, painting his feet.  Papers from the floor and dresser had been painted, as well as Jacob's alarm clock, ceramic lion statue, and treasure chest he had gotten from his birthday.  His magic set box was all gold, as was a huge ugly spot on his favorite stuffed animal.  His enormous leopard had been painted red, as was his sword, pillow case, and sheet.  His bedspread was painted gold in spots, his red journal was now gold, and his walls were streaked with both red and gold.  Clothes that had been left on the floor were forced to participate in Gabe's madness, as were a few stray afghans from Jacob's bed.  It was terrible.  It was awful.  But...Gabe's work didn't end there.

As we ventured into the other rooms, we discovered their play kitchen that was going to be sold at our summer yard sale now had a big red spot on it (as well as piles of laundry detergent inside).  My microfiber recliner that was going to be sold was covered in sparkly silver paint.  Our huge swivel computer chair, also for the upcoming sale, now had a red spot on it, as did our computer speakers and printer.  Somehow, the computer moniter had been spared.

When we entered Gabe's room...nothing had been altered.  The little stinker destroyed all but his own room. At lease we know he's not all crazy. :)

I was so mad, I forgot to yell.  I sternly scolded him, but I was in such great shock that real anger never really came.  As part of his punishment, I ordered him upstairs and into the bath, where his job was to scrub all the paint off himself.  That was when he realized with great distress just how permanent paint actually is.  When it came time for bed, he was the new owner of a freshly painted Spiderman comforter, and Jacob got his clean one.  Again, he felt the impact of his actions.  I felt hopeless, wondering what on earth had happened to make him do all of this.

With all of the chaos that our little boys bring, Spencer and I decided that it's pointless for all of us to try to suffer through Sacrament meeting together.  Our new plan was to trade weeks with one staying home the first hour with the younger boys while the other goes and takes the sacrament with the older two.  Last week was my turn to go to church.  I was confident with the set-up, and had each boy sit on either side of me.  I had packed a bag full of activities to keep them quiet and entertained...but Gabriel had other things on his mind.  He's going through a defiant stage right now where he doesn't like being told what he can and can't do.  Especially by an adult.  Needless to say, sacrament meeting was a total disaster.  Between him crying, whining and shouting out that I was making him touch my private part as I hugged him near to whisper to him to quiet down, I finally had had enough.  We left in complete humiliation, with the entire church echoing out with Gabe's cries.

If Fate had any mercy, this would be the extent of our problems.  But with so many little boys, that's just not possible.  Last week, Jacob and Gabriel decided to aerate our grass with Spencer's shovel.  Jarod has decided against napping, and instead, takes off all of his clothes and screams at the top of his lungs while lunging clothes and toys across the room into Caleb's crib, who, by the way, is now at the age where he likes joining in on the chaos.  Caleb's mischief comes not only from spilling his sippie cup drink all over the house, but pulling out diapers from his garbage can, and flinging them around his room, which open while airborne.

It's funny how life has a way of changing happily ever afters into what-have-I-dones.  And while I'm being buried alive in all of this insane chaos, somehow, a mother's love overcomes all obstacles.  I guess with the little things in life, such as Jarod asking me for lettuce for the first time in his life and not only eating it but asking for MORE, it gives me the strength to face another day.  Life, no matter how challenging or painful, will always provide some small, tender mercies.  It's just a matter of being willing to look for them.

Mar 23, 2013

Flash Fiction Entry

A while ago, I entered a flash fiction contest.  I've had some ask me what flash fiction is, so I'll explain.

Flash fiction is a super short story.  Different contests request different word counts, and the contest that I submitted to required 250 words or less.

Below is the story I submitted called, Steam.

Yes, I'll admit that The Race is cheesy, but with all that's been going on in the world, I thought a change for the better was what I wanted to do.  Sometimes, we all need happy endings in our life. :)

This is a really fun challenge, and since it's free, you should give it a shot next year!


The hard tip of the green bean fell into the metal bowl by my feet.  My red painted porch was littered with the ones that had bounced out. Snap!  Snap!  Snap!  I quickly broke a handful of beans into thirds, dropping them into an almost-full bucket.  Across the street, spectators from the high school football game roared to life, their cheers echoing in the cool evening air.  A loud horn sliced through the commotion. Touchdown, I suppose.

I wiped my wet and dirty hands onto my jeans, then brushed some strands of hair away from my eyes.  Two hours of snapping beans meant an hour and a half of bottling them.  I loved the hot, sweet smell of cooking beans that saturated my house on summer nights.  The steaming of the pressure cooker took me back to the old times, when Tom was still alive, and little ones swarmed my feet like ants to honey.  I regret now ordering them outside with a stern finger, eager for some silence and space.

They say that nothing big ever happens in this town, and I guess they’re right.  Nothing big to the right people, anyway.  But for my little family, a cell phone and a speeding SUV were monumental. 

I don’t need to bottle beans anymore.  It’s just me, and I’ve grown tired of eating them.  I guess I do it for the memories.  I stand up, stray bean tips falling onto the porch, and I stretch my aching back.  I pick up the bucket, heavy from my day’s labor, and swing the squeaky storm door open.  As I enter the kitchen, sweet, hot steam envelops me, reminding me of the arms of my little family, and the hugs I’ve been missing out on for four long, eternal years.

Mar 22, 2013

Why I hate "achieving" "goals"

I always laugh every time I come across a place where I've mentioned a goal I had in mind, because frankly, I religiously flop at goals.  I am not a goal setter.  I hate goals, I hate the pressure of achieving them, and I hate the words "goal" and "achieve."  I swear something from my youth must have turned me off to them.

Committing myself to doing something has always terrified me.  I can't stand the pressure, knowing that I told someone I'd do something, or be somewhere.  I get stressed out over the simplest things, such as planning on going out with friends, or even planning ahead when to go grocery shopping.  While I love having plans, I hate having commitments.  I've turned into a spur-of-the-moment kind of person.  Maybe having kids does that, with the last minute diaper explosions, sudden meltdowns because naps didn't get taken at the typical times, and everything else that always seems to come up when you've got four little boys.

One of my goals I came across was to write every day.  Ha.  I try to work from home every day, I try to exercise every day, I try to do something every day, but something always seems to take higher watching TV.  Yeah.  It's always TV.  Maybe I should make a goal to watch TV every day.  If I can do it, then I will have achieved a goal.  Win.  If I fail, that means I've done something productive.  Another win.  So there we have it:  I plan on watching TV every day.  If that's not a lofty goal, I don't know what is.

One of my many unreachable goals is to get healthier.  I tend to start exercising, then a few days later, give up, because I don't want to do it anymore.  I've started this diet, and the only thing that got me through it was what my husband told me.  "Don't do it because you think you have to.  Do it because you say you're going to."  I can't believe how much that has empowered me!  Saying I HAVE to do something puts me in the hands of fate, as if I'm a prisoner, and I look for any way possible to escape.  Saying that I'm GOING to do something gives ME the power.  There's no pressure, but self-determination.  I've made it 12 days so far, with a ten pound loss.  Yes, I have been overpowered by temptation (throwing away a HAMBURGER, cheese, chocolate and tater tots that my kids refused to eat), but because I'm going to get healthy, I have had the power to overcome it.

My diet isn't a restriction.  It's a cleansing.  I'm taking better care of myself, and slowly, I'm becoming stronger with every little victory that I achieve.   By taking away the commitment of dieting and replacing it with a willingness to improve myself, it has given me the power to stick with it.  Nothing is more powerful than the words, "I WILL!"

Mar 18, 2013

The Sky

Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by the sky.  There's something so fragile about looking up and seeing the blue that is really a small barrier to an eternity of the emptiness of space.  At night, it's as if the earth's shield is let down, and we are able to catch a small glimpse of what lays out there.  It makes me feel so insignificant...and so significant, too, at the same time.  Something about the sky draws me to God, makes me more aware of my existence, and provides enlightenment about my purpose and worth.  When I look up, I can feel God's eyes on me.  It's a deeply spiritual experience for me, whether I'm watching the passing clouds, searching the stars, or just staring into the deep blue expanse.  

I love the sky.  I love the colors, the way the clouds drift by, or when they build up and darken before a storm.  To me, the sky represents freedom, peace, and beauty.  How the world looks is dependent on how the sky looks.  I'm so thankful for such a gorgeous, ever-changing, ever-present part of life.  The love of God is shared through the beauty of the sky.

Paint Me A Sky

The sun sets
     Dripping wet
Down below the horizon
Purple painted skies
Dabbled with dusk
     And dusty clouds
Foretell that heaven’s beauty
Is not laid to rest for the night
But only just beginning
The pallet of colors burn
As they rush to sink into sleep
Beneath the folds of the sky
Then gently
     Ever so gently
A bashful diamond glimmers
Growing bolder as the night wanes on
Until at last
The sky glitters above
With such remarkable brilliance
That I’ve already forgotten the beauty
Of the sunset.

Mar 15, 2013

What would YOU do with millions of dollars?!

I've always wanted to be rich.  I have this vision of what my dream house looks like, and it's not gonna happen with the salary that we bring in.  I don't want to be filthy rich, but having extra money to get a new outfit when I feel like it would be nice.  As I realistically think of ways to earn this money (such as trying to get my book published, or having my husband FINALLY get his degree and get an actual career), I also enter sweepstakes every so often, with the hopes that I'll be that one-in-a-billion winner.

Yesterday, I entered this sweepstakes where the winner brings home one million dollars...every year for the rest of their life.  Wow.  Talk about being taken care of.  As soon as I entered, I got this sinking feeling.  What on earth would a person DO with one million dollars every year?  I suddenly regretted entering, worrying excessively about the overwhelmingly monstrous amount of money.  I knew that the first thing I wanted to do was buy a new home.  I don't want one of those multi-million dollar monstrosities where you'll never see your family members for an entire week as you get lost down the hundreds of corridors or fifty different rooms.  Maybe we could just buy this house that we're renting, rip it down, and have a gorgeous new house built in its place.  Or better yet...we could just buy my dream house.  However, I wanted to still live in a place where my child can attend the same school.  So..I began stressing about that, wondering what we'd do with our new house once my husband graduated school and got a job.

And then I got hit by reality.  If we became multimillionaires, would my husband still be working?  Yeah...probably not.  So what on earth are we going to do all day, sit on our rears and read?  I started stressing about how pointless our lives would become.  And then, I began worrying about what to do with this never-ending supply of money that would constantly be pouring in.  The thought of it made me feel like drowning, as if this money would somehow become a plague.

Obviously, if we came into this amount of money, we'd have to become philanthropists.  There's NO WAY we'd know what to do with it all.  I began stressing about how I'd start donating to charities, or the city, and wondering how best to use the money to help my community.

It was hopeless.  Having that much money wouldn't bring me any happiness.  I don't know how to be wealthy.  My husband and I don't want to own boats, we're not business owners, and we don't want ten different homes.  Getting a million dollars a year would be disastrous.

This morning, I talked this over with my husband (somehow still plagued by my fantasy), and he knew right away what we'd do with the money.  His dream is to own and operate his own farm.  With the land and all the equipment, it would definitely cost well over a million dollars.  It comforted me to know that an actual plan could be made.

It's funny how such a silly fantasy affected me so much emotionally.  I guess it really made me appreciate what I had.  As overwhelming as life may sometimes seem, it's what builds me into who I am.  Money is never the answer to happiness.  What matters most is living, loving, struggling, and holding on together.  But if I do somehow walk into a million dollars least I'll know what to do with it!

Mar 11, 2013

The Phone Call

It was the type of phone call that made your blood curdle, your heart stop, and your cheeks flush to a deep, hot crimson.  Luckily, it wasn't meant for me.

I was sitting at the break room table, along with three of my co-workers and Brent, my boss.  We were waiting for a fourth to join us for a 12:30 meeting.  Joe was late.  My boss' cell phone rang, and he answered it, eager to hurry the time along.  The four of us girls quietly talked, politely ignoring Brent's conversation.  At last, he hung up, but the meeting couldn't start yet.  Joe still hadn't arrived.

Brent dialed a number, then spoke casually to a machine.  None of us cared to know what he was saying, until suddenly, a bomb of the juiciest information was plunked down in front of us.  "Oh, and by the way, the current renter found a letter of yours behind a cupboard, and the police would really like to talk to you about it.  They didn't say what it was about, but they need you to call them immediately.  Uh...good luck with whatever it is, and I'll talk to you soon."

Our mouths slammed to the table in disbelief, and our wide eyes darted from one to the other...each avoiding his gaze.  Did we really just hear that?  

I couldn't help but be overcome with feelings of guilt and dread as he spoke those words, as if somehow I had been involved.  And yet, at the same time, I was filled with exhilaration at overhearing the most scandalous conversation ever told over the phone.  Talk about being in the right place at the right time!  

When Brent ended the call, I couldn't help myself.  "There's a message you never want to get!"  With the tension now broken, laughter replaced shock, and we mused over what the letter contained.  A suicide note?  Information regarding drugs? could be anything.  

I saw what you did last night.  I followed the trail of blood, and found where you buried the body.  Leave $50,000 beneath the pine by the school's flag pole next Tuesday at midnight, or I go to the police.

What do you think it said??

Mar 2, 2013

It's the Little Things

Life is not supposed to be easy, or fair, or even something that makes a whole lot of sense.  It's not some huge singular event, and you're not meant to be perfect at it.  Life is made up of billions of tiny moments, and who we have become is a result of how we have chosen to respond to those moments.  Just as life is made up of billions of parts, I as a person am also made up of billions of parts.  Every minute that I have lived is a new thread to the tapestry of who I am becoming.  Sure, I'm going to mess up (a lot), and sure, I'm going to do lots of good, too, which may or may not go noticed.  It's not for others to see who we have become, but a journey of self-discovery.

A lot of the moments in my life feel insignificant, but probably because I'm aware of the incredible magnitude of responsibility that has been handed to me in the raising of four children.  Who I am is going to influence who my children will become, and that's a pretty daunting task.  I used to stress out by all of the things I wasn't doing for my children, comparing myself to other moms who had it more "together."  But lately, even though I've been falling behind in my responsibilities with my housekeeping, I've been doing a little bit better in being more tuned in into my children's needs.

I realized that expressing love for my children was more important than having all of my chores done.  I've started embracing the little moments with my 2-year old, and instead of being frustrated with him all day long, I'm learning to sit down and let him climb into my lap and give me wet kisses.  I love it, and I can't believe I was missing out on them.  I used to get frustrated because he wouldn't let me read to him, but now, I'm okay with him choosing a book, sitting in my lap, and letting him look through the book at his own pace.  He never was a child who enjoyed being sung to, so I guess I kind of resented him for telling me "No!" when I tried to sing him lullabies.  Now, I ask if I can sing to him, and I ask him what songs I can sing, and I can enjoy him looking into my eyes as I sing one dumb simple song, because I'm showing him love the way he needs it.  Even though he can't communicate very well with me, I'm learning that he can sit quiet while I softly talk to him, because this is something he needs.  Just because he can't tell me stories doesn't mean that I can't tell him stories.  As child number 3, I'm afraid that I've been leaving him to entertain himself like the older 2 boys while I focus my efforts on my baby.  I need to refocus on him and his needs, and make sure that our bond deepens as I show him that I love him.

For anyone who knows my 5-year old, he can be pretty obstinate when he wants to be.  I'm learning to apologize to him when I've frustrated him, and I can explain why I've gotten angry with him, or why I've taken away his privilege, and he's starting to come around more.  Just last night, when I took him to bed, he ended up getting angry at me for something (I wish I could remember what!), and he ended up throwing some toys off his table that I  had just picked up.  Instead of yelling at him, I punished him calmly, and while he cried, I explained why he had made me upset.  Sure I was angry, and I told him to get into bed.  I didn't want to bother with his prayer.  But when he cried louder, I asked him what was wrong, and he said that he needed to say his prayer.  Humbled, I knelt down beside him.  Instantly, his demeanor changed, and he said the sweetest prayer, asking to not only be nicer to his brothers, but that I could start feeling well.  I couldn't believe how he thought to pray for me when just a minute before, he had been so angry with me!!  I hugged him, and told him how grown-up he was getting.  I'm learning that despite his stubbornness, he can still be a big softy as long as I'm willing to humble myself, and to explain myself.  Today, he showed a lot more affection towards me, and I loved it.  I guess all he really needs is gentle communication to feel safe and loved.

As a mom, I still have lots of flaws that I'm working on overcoming, but I'm happy to say that in the past few days, I've been improving little by little.  We bought "The Magic Treehouse" series to read to our children, and I have read one book a night to my older two for the past 2 weeks.  It's a nice time where we sit together, read, talk, and enjoy a quiet 35 minutes together.  I let my 6-year old know how much I loved him by making him a card (since he loves making me cards), and I am trying to sit with my baby and read with him.

It's hard trying to meet the emotional needs of four very young children, but if I can make a conscious effort to view them as little individuals who want to feel wanted, loved and important, then I think I can do a little bit more than I did before.  I shouldn't beat myself up for the kitchen floor that desperately needs to be swept and mopped, or the laundry that is once again turning into a towering monster.  As a mother, my first priority is my children's well-being, and if having a messy house for a few years is a result of my efforts towards them, then so be it.  After all, it's the little things in life that add up to make a great life, and in the end, it won't matter if my children had to re-wear a pair of dirty socks.