Monsters Under the Bed

Under the bed in our guest room/my office is a dark little secret.

All of my life I have been an artist, and for years I was an oil-painter. I made my living with commercial illustrations and graphic design, but my soul was in my oil paintings. It has been years, since before I had Jeffrey, since I have gotten down and dirty and really painted with oils, but they are still sitting in their spattered and stained wooden box, with the clay crock of well-used and loved brushes, on the top shelf in my sewing room. Oil painting is something you don’t do on the fly; it requires uninterrupted time and musing and strong chemicals and a singularity of attention that I just don’t have as a mama. Oil painting is a love affair I just don’t have room for in my life. Someday, oh, someday I will again, but for now…

So my secret. My secret is the cache of paintings hiding under the bed. Stacks and stacks of them- they actually don’t all live under the bed- there isn’t room. They are stuffed in the utility hallway, the closet and between the mattresses. They are hiding. I keep them hiding because they are really not suitable for wholesome or all-ages viewing, and therein lies my conundrum. These paintings are so dear to me, they are like my pre-children- I worked out so very many of my problems and questions about life in them. They are where I searched for God, for my own identity, for love and for sensuality, and where I found some of the answers I was looking for.

But… Well, they are the paintings of a young, wild, woman searching, and they are racy, and volatile and some of them are frightening and angry and passionate, and, well, I really don’t want my kids so stumble upon them. Ever. It may be something I decide to share with them someday, when they are much older, and can discern for themselves the value in them, but I am not even sure about that. It is not that they are bad- actually they are rather good, not to toot my own horn, but they are also dark, and not something you would hang over the sofa. ( That was actually a common complaint about my art from my mother) So what do I do with them??

There are people who would not hesitate to get rid of them, to excise that part of my life, to get rid of the evidence; I don’t think I can or want to do that. They are part of me, part of what got me here, where I am now, and I like where I am. Is removing a foundation stone of the life you built because it isn’t who you are now really a good idea? I mean, I am standing on the shoulders of the young woman who painted those paintings, should I cut her up? I love the woman who painted them- she is me, and I her. Even though I no longer need to explore the areas those paintings delved deep into, they are part of the road that brought me the peace and love that I have now.

So, what do I do? Do I keep them in hiding, like some sort of physical portal into my subconscious? Therefore risking my kids stumbling into mama’s underwater id? Do I burn them on the pyre of personal progress in the backyard? Do I do nothing? They are there, literal eyes under the bed, watching me, waiting to see what I will do.

L is for Loser

There is a steaming mug of Tension Tamer tea steeping beside me as I enjoy the quiet dark in my office.The kids are in bed, and the husband is watching football. It’s not as Sylvia Plath as it sounds; I am actually wresting with (and loosing) the big “L” that is burning itself into my forehead.

My mama and wife skills are just plain sucking right now; there is really no more delicate way to put it that would be accurate. This “morning” sickness thing is really starting to wear me down, emotionally and physically. The bennedryl that the doctor ok’d does help, a lot, however I am worried about taking so much medicine and it’s effect on the baby. If I let it lapse and don’t take another pill when I should, the barf-o-rama hits, as well as the, er, bladder problems, that accompany a pregnant woman throwing up. Eww. My patience with my kids is stretched really thin, and when I am not being sick, all I want to do is lay still and not be bothered, which is totally unrealistic.

The kids have been watching way too much TV and videos, eating junk food, and fending for themselves- which I know is not the end of the world, but if I can’t take good care of the two children I have, what am I going to do with another one?!? And I keep thinking about all the articles I have read about how the years before kindergarten starts are the foundation for the life of the child- man, can I take any more pressure? Are my kids’ foundations going to be comprised of a tired, yelling and barfing mama who didn’t want to play Candyland and would gag and throw-up when she wiped their bottoms?

Now, I know there are friends (and even my mother) out there who didn’t think I should have another child because of how busy and crazy my boys are, but I don’t want to hear it- that does not help a woman who is where I am. This will pass, it’s just while I’m here, I can’t see my way through the trees. We wanted and still want this child- it’s the pregnancy that is killing me.

I am worried about how all this is effecting my children already here, and the unborn one as well. As far as my wife skills right now, all I can say is that I am very, very lucky to have someone who tremendously loves me and who is willing to overlook so much.

Is there is anyone out there who has been where I am, or can even empathize or talk me down? Please, no “I told you so” comments- aside from the unkindness and futility of sharing such thoughts, I know where some of you live… And if you think hell hath no fury, you haven’t met me while pregnant.

Musing on Music

Is a distorted guitar chord evil? Is a strait acoustic F played on a hollow-body somehow “better”? I am encountering some strange prejudice about music, especially within people of faith. Now, I really don’t know much technical about music, and I know virtually nothing about musical theory, (except that it is very intense and required a lot from your brain), but I do know there seems to be a general opinion that only certain types of music are “good”. This bothers me.

While I cannot argue that certain music in conducive to certain moods or mindsets, I do not think that the music in and of itself is inherently evil. The content of that music can be, but the music itself? I don’t believe so. There was a thread on another blog that got me thinking about this, and also because I often feel sort of at odds with many people I know at church. The post was about how a young man had played drums in a metal band, and when he became LDS had to reevaluate his choices in music. There are many harder bands that have lyrics I wouldn’t have in my house, but we do have a lot of heavier music, and I don’t think we are skirting the edge because of it. There are mellow, soft bands that have terrible lyrics too, but somehow they are more ok? Less offensive because of their chord changes? I’m not sure I follow this reasoning.

Don’t get me wrong- I don’t generally grove on the really heavy stuff, but my husband does, and almost everyone we know would blanche at what’s in our CD carousel. This is just weird to me. Also, my husband’s faith is incredible- he is rock solid, and it blows me away how unshakable he is; even though he listens to crazy music.

So I just sit here, wondering aloud why people feel this way…

The Ref

How is it that they can be fighting already? My boys are just barely 2 and 4, and they are fighting ferociously with each other, making brotherly love look like a mockery.

Now I fought with my younger brothers, well, with one of them. I am twelve years older than the youngest, so we really didn’t fight, but the middle one and I used to go at it fiercely. But we were older, not like my kids, and I wasn’t expecting this so soon. (Maybe my expectations are why I spend so much time being surprised…hmmm, something to ponder)

This morning, they were fighting to the point of almost violence over a helicopter toy. Nevermind that we have two other helicopters and several airplane” toys, for some reason this helicopter was the IT item of the morning. My mother-in-law brought it over yesterday, and she hasn’t quite gotten it that she can’t bring one of them a present, but not the other one. (Well, maybe she has, and she knows how miserable it is going to make my life, and that is why she does it… another thing to ponder) Anyway, Jeffrey was wrestling with Eric, trying to pry the ‘copter from his little hands, and Eric was trying to bite Jeff in retaliation, and they were both screaming, and it wasn’t even 7 a.m. yet. After trying to mediate several times, I just took the toy away for the day. Jeffrey was bawling and crying behind the couch, and Eric was banging his head on the floor. Happy morning to me.

They have forgotten about it now, two hours later, and are happily playing a game together in the other room. But it won’t be long before I hear the tell-tale shrieks. I am thinking of getting a whistle…

General Update

I’m murmuring. I’m having a bad attitude. It’s that time again, yes, tonite is Enrichment. The silver lining to the big grey cloud that is Enrichment is that in January, we make the move from monthy to quarterly. Every woman I know at church is giddy about this change- now why is something that is supposed to “enrich” us such a drag for almost all of us? Beats me. But I’m on the committee, so I will be there, taking part in tonites “progressive dinner” and making the best of it. I’m in charge of the cranberry-orange sauce at house #2, and I think I can handle it. It is such a minor commitment, I don’t know why it weighs so heavily, but it does. Like I said, I’m having a bad attitude.

Yesterday I splurged and got my haircut and high-lighted. Lately I have been feeling so gross and pregnant and yucky, I just needed to do something to make myself feel pretty again. It worked. DFM followed me around the house all yesterday afternoon, smelling my hair, and accidentally-on-purpose rubbing up against me in the kitchen. He told me to go buy a gallon of whatever the girl put in my hair. Most men are visual creatures, but my husband is a smeller. If I smell good, he is in heaven. Makes life easier on me! ( I probably looked good too, but the smell is what he kept commenting on…)

The “indoor smoking ban” passed with flying colors yesterday in our statewide election, and I am delighted. It was weird moving up here from California, where they already had a ban like that, and going into a restaurant for dinner only to be smoked out. Now, that won’t be problem, and all the smokers can go stand in the middle of the street. (No one can smoke within 25′ of a public building or inside, including nightclubs and bars)

My kids both have colds, and I am trying my darndest not to get it. Will carrying around a bottle of Purell really protect me? We shall see…

She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named called me this morning… well, actually we talk almost every day, but this morning she called on my regular phone instead of my cell, which was weird. She sent another box to the kids, should be here on Friday, and now Jeffrey will be looking for the UPS truck non-stop for the next two days. Boxes from SWMNBN are very popular in our house. It’s like Christmas on a regular day when one comes. I have given up trying to convince her that she does not need to buy my kids soooo much stuff- she says that is her right and priviledge as a grandma, and she is going to do it anyway. (when I say box o- stuff, I’m taking serious stuff, like bikes, toys, rc cars, bags of cookies, dvd’s… it’s crazy) It has gotten to the point where if I tell Jeffrey “no” about having something, he just says he will ask grandma. This tickles her pink, and I can’t get into all the psychology and therapy that is behind me just deciding not to fight it.

The barfing has eased up a little; now maybe once or twice a day, and I feel like I am on vacation. My doctor told me to take Bennedryl, and ladies, it really helps. I am tired, but tired is way better that barfing!

House Hunting

We are thinking about moving. Well, I have been thinking about moving since we bought this house, but now we are really thinking about it. We moved to the northwest 3 1/2 years ago, and the only way for me to get out of California was to just shut my eyes and jump, before I thought too hard about it.

I knew leaving was the right thing to do, but my entire extended family lives in the same area, and I even lived only eleven houses from my dad, and half a mile from my mom. We were completely priced out of any house, even a miniscule condo was beyond our budget- who can pay 300K for a 900 sq/ft condo?? Not us! Anyway, knowing that we could move up here, buy a nice house, and be able to have me stay home with Jeffrey made the choice a no-brainer (for us). DFM flew up here one weekend, and picked this house, put bid on it, and took some pictures for me. Had we taken our time, dawdled, spent the money for me to fly up and look around, my family might have been able to convince me not to go, and I knew it. Leaving was really hard, but it is a decision I have never regretted.

So the very first time I saw my new home was as we pulled up in the moving van. Two solid days on the road with an 8-month old is beyond the pale, and waiting in the driveway was our across-the-street neighbor, holding some kittens that she wanted to give us. Welcome to Washington! (To say that I am not a cat person is being kind) I was a tired, nervous, homesick wreck, and all I wanted to do was see this house that was now mine. In California we were always surrounded by family, and loading our truck, there had been at least a dozen people to help, but unloading was a lonely affair, and did nothing to help me feel better.

The house was not bad, and other than some cosmetic things it needed, was a vast improvement on the place we had vacated in California. We went from a 3/1 post WWII concrete slab California shack to a 5/2 cedar sided, shake roof, detactched garage 1/4 acre yard with a maple tree in the front northwest home. And our mortgage, including insurance and taxes, was less than our rent had been. Now if you all have read any of my Notes from California, you know how I feel about it- it’s simply in my blood, and will always be. But, this was not a bad trade up.

The thing is, I never got to look or pick. While this is not a bad house, and has been very good for us, I really want to choose the next place we live. We always knew we were not going to stay here forever, which is why I was ok with not picking it in the first place. But now, well, now I am starting to itch to go house-shopping. There are a few things that I dearly want in our next home that this one lacks. Nothing really necessary, just things I would like. A mudroom- really nice in an area that snows; dragging muddy boots and snowy coats right into my kitchen from the backyard is really not something that I find joyfull. We already have hardwood floors, and I would like that in our next place, too. A bathroom in the master- we all share the upstairs bath now, not a big deal, but taking a bath without froggy-decals and floaty toys would be nice. A fenced yard, oh, how I want a fenced yard- any mom knows why… yes, we could fence the yard ourselves, but it’s huge, and we looked into it and could not justify the 4K it would cost!

These are small things, I know, and I am probably selfish for wanting more when we already have so much. We could end up staying here for several more years and be just fine- but its always fun to look and imagine. Oh, and a front porch; I would give up all the other “wants” for a front porch…

Jam Shortbread Jewels

DSCF1174From the social condition to cookies… what can I say? I found this absolutely amazing cookie recipe that I made with the kids yesterday, and they are easily the best new cookies I’ve made in years. Super easy, kid friendly, but good enough for company too. And they’re pretty!

Jam Shortbread Jewels

1 cup butter
2/3 cup white sugar
3/4 t almond extract
2 cups flour
1 T water

  1. Cream sugar, butter and extract together, add flour until dough comes together. Add water if a little extra moisture is needed. That’s all. Seriously.
  2. Roll into 1″ balls, place 1 1/2″ apart on cookie sheet, and press your thumb into the center of each one. Fill the depression with 1/4 t of whatever jam you have on hand. ( I used raspberry, but I bet apricot would be divine!) The kids did this part and loved it.
  3. Bake at 350* for 16/18 minutes until lightly golden.

Cool on racks.
Drizzle with a little icing made with:
1/2 c powdered sugar
1T milk
1/2 t almond extract.

Omnomnomnom… these don’t last in our house.

What I’m Thinking About Today…

Now I’m not normally one to run around crying that the sky is falling, but this has my hackles up a bit…

This morning DFM forwarded me an article about a decision the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down recently. If I knew how to post a link I would, but alas, I am a computer dork. If you are interested in it, there are many blogs and newsites buzzing about it. First, if you live in any of the western pacific states, you fall under the 9th CC jurisdiction. And if you do, you no longer have the right to voice any say in what the public schools teach your children. First, yes, FIRST graders can be given explicit surveys about sex, sexual abuse and sex education, and you have absolutely no say in it. They can be given explicit information about alternative sexual lifestyles and how to put a condom on a cucumber… WHY would a fist, third or fifth grader need to know this!!!??? Whatever your personal feeling are about these things as an adult, you are entitled and protected, but my child is not available for a social experiment in sexual psychology; I will choose what and when to teach him about private matters like this.

If floors me that there is so much talk about rights, rights this, right to privacy that, civil rights, no rights, etc. I am no constitutional scholar, but I have actually read the dang thing, and I am afraid that we are far, far from the actual ideals that the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote such a sublime document. Where is the common sense? How is it that the pledge of allegiance is a violation of church and state, and therefore my child cannot say it in school, even if he wants to, but I cannot protest my 6 year old learning about birth control, molestation and “feeling dirty” (actual quote from the survey)? These things need to be taught in context, when they are developmentally ready, and after they have a firm grasp of the basics, and not in an abstract survey given to my SIX year old! Things just seem so out of whack I can’t believe it.

Here is the trend I am noticing: the State is trying to abolish any and all reference to any religion anywhere public. In some cases, this means even displaying the nativity in your own front yard, Christmas trees in public, Christmas parades, or anything else from the Judeo-Christian tradition. While at the same time, parental rights are being eroded; my child cannot go on a bus trip at school without my ok, but he can be taught about explicit sex, even if I deny permission. This is not protection of free speech. This is a dangerous move. Can you think of any other countries that tried to abolish religion and the rights of the family and have a completely secular society? Hmmm… That’s funny, it sounds an awful lot like…( shudder)….Communism.

Do YOU Believe??

Last night we lit our first fireplace fire of the season. DFM was cleaning out the firebox and making sure the flue was open… we know the chimneys are in good shape, if you have been reading, you know why. Jeffrey had a flashlight and was helping dad examine the flue, when he came tearing down the hallway to find me changing in the bedroom. His eyes were as big as pie-plates and he was out of breath, as he gasped to me that the chimney was too small, Santa would never fit!

Bless his little sweet heart! This was one of those moments where I really loved and cherished my child’s innocence. After I calmed him down, I explained that Santa would have no problem getting in- he had managed to for three years now, and he would be able to this year too. He trotted off to help dad light the fire, perfectly happy and confident that all is well.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a chimney, so we always were sure to leave the door unlocked on Christmas eve for Santa. I am so glad that we have these little pieces of magic in our lives- the world can be a hard place, so I really think it’s ok to take the little pieces that sparkle and hang on to them as long as you can. Santa still comes to my brothers and I at our mom’s… even though we are all grown up and two of us have families of our own, we still love that little bit of magic. Santa will always be welcome in my home too, as will the magic he brings.

Bathroom Epiphany

Earlier tonight I had an epiphany while sat staring into space by myself in the bathroom. I had a difficult time with my kids earlier, not because they were doing anything wrong, but because I was. They are busy boys. Really busy boys. Really. Now, suddenly it dawned on me that the problem wasn’t with how they were behaving, it was actually with my perception of them, and more importantly, with my expectations for them.

What I wanted, and what I usually want when I loose my cool, is meek and mild children who do what I ask when I ask. Is that too much to ask? (I can hear other moms falling on the floor laughing) Well, yes, as a matter of fact, it is too much to ask. A friend of mine, who has five boys, once commented off-hand that my two were more work than her five. This stunned me, and actually validated my crazy exhaustion. It’s funny, because I would sometimes, in moments of weakness, wish my kids would be more like her meek and mild kids, and wonder what I was doing wrong. This epiphany included the realization that the only thing I have been doing wrong is hoping they would be meek and mild and blaming my parenting for why they aren’t. I have been looking at this totally wrong!

No matter what I do, my kids are never going to be meek and mild. It is no reflection on me, or DFM, or our parenting, or on our kids. It is simply a fact; they came that way. Now, if I change the focus and attitude I have about what I expect from them, perhaps I can find ways to nourish them for who they are, instead of hoping they will conform to some crazy idea that is more about me than them. Oh, I know they still must learn to behave civilly and appropriately and have manners. I am not worried about that. It is more about realizing we need to teach them the big, huge feelings they have inside are ok, and how to do good things with all that energy, instead of just wanting them to be quiet or to behave. To let them know that we understand them, and that maybe not everyone is like them, but that they are special and ok, and we love them no matter what. If we can teach them appropriate times and places for discharging that energy and fire they have, I think we will be much better parents in the long run.

See what a little alone time in the bathroom can do for a Mama? And I wasn’t even in the tub with bubbles and candles!