Going to Mo’s

This is why neither of us can have any more children. Well, that and about a million other threads holding either of our respective sanity together. It’s a fine, fine line, folks. (imagine if you will how loud it was in that Suburban… now double it) The monkeys and I are headed off to spend the remaining days of Spring Break kicking up our heels with Mo and her monkeys. Updates from the road to come… stay tuned!

Mothering FAIL

We’re sick. It figures, right? Spring break for the monkeys, school for me… let’s all get sick! It’s nothing major, just the creeping crud with a cough that just about everyone seems to have had, and it’s our turn now.

So last night, all the kids off to dreamland, I popped some nighttime cold medicine in hopes of knocking myself out and crawled under my covers. It worked. I was knocked out hard, and only came-to when I head Abby coughing hard and crying. Her room is right next to mine, so I didn’t think she’d been crying long- and when I glanced at the clock, I saw that it had only been 45 minutes since I went to bed.  It felt like it had been days and I was underwater, but it hadn’t even been an hour. Disoriented isn’t even the word.

Bleary-eyed and under a NyQuil haze, sat on the edge of Abby’s bed and tried to calm her. Now she’s a bit of a drama queen, and this was not the moment to go all Sarah Bernhardt on me- so when I tried to pull her into my lap to comfort her and she began to wail like a stuck pig, it didn’t go over well. Rubbing her back and trying to calm her down, I could see she was making her cough worse with her howling and crying and she started to gag.

This did not need to be happening. When she started to gag, she panicked, and stuck her hand in her mouth, and up came the hot dog she had for dinner. Nothing is worse than hot-dog barf, people. Trust me.

Still in a confused cold-medicine haze, I grabbed a bowl and towel from the bathroom. Back in her room, she was perched on the side of her bed screaming. Looking around her room, and simply screaming. Maybe it was my delirium, but she seemed to be enjoying the full-on release and the sound of her voice. I tried to pull her into my lap and shhhhh her, but she threw her head back, cracked her noggin into my nose, and continued bellowing. Here’s where I fail:

I yelled at her. She seemed hysterical, and maybe I was too- but I yelled at her. I told her to stop screaming, that she was only making her cough worse and hurting me and herself. My almost-five year old is sick and confused, and I yelled at her. I felt about three inches tall. She stopped screaming and looked at me in shock. But at that moment, the important thing? She stopped. Right then in NyQuil haze-confusion, I needed her to stop. She looked at me, face all blotchy from crying and coughing, and tears sprang to my eyes. Awesome mom of the year.

I feel like I failed a test last night. Like, here was something really hard and my daughter needed a tender, patient mother, and instead got a crazy-tired, sick mama who was mean. Mom FAIL.

This morning, she’s fine, and while still coughing, snuggled with me in bed and fell back asleep in the pre-dawn haze. She kisses my cheeks and tells me she loves me and doesn’t seem to remember the mean mom who yelled at her when she was distraught. But I do. And my heart surely outweighs the feather this morning.

Be Still, My Heart

Sometimes, at the end of the day, when all the dust settles… the payoff is so worth it. Look at the smile on his sleeping face. And that they’ve started sleeping in the same bed because they can’t bear to be apart- even if they’ve fought all day- Be still, my heart… it’s all worth it.


After General Conference this weekend my house looked like I had a frat party instead of just three kids playing during 8 hours of church (yeah, I know it sounds insane). Knowing, with spring break en force, I didn’t have to wade into the morning fray, I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning watching Firefly. (That “next episode” button is like crack, I tell ya.) When I wandered out of my dark room this morning (thank you black-out roman blinds) sleepy-eyed and disheveled, I was greeted with chaos.

Abby had brought a ream of paper up from my work room and all 500 sheets were spread all over the living room. Bean had carefully moved my antique cloche jar and sliver tray from the coffee table and balanced it precariously on a wing chair so he could draw scientifically accurate insects all over the table. He had also dragged up shipping boxes from the basement and used a whole roll of scotch tape to make what I can only assume was a USPS rocket. It was propped up with game pieces from Cranium, and a laundry basket. There was also a fort made from every blanket and pillow in the house, save those found on my bed.

From the basement I could hear Jeffrey hard at work on some next important level of the Wii. Wandering into the kitchen, someone had been making a collage by cutting up Lego directions and using glue sticks to paste them to 3 x 5 index cards. There were scraps of paper and crayons scattered to hell and back. Abby was sitting at the table, barefeet dangling absentmindedly and singing Primary songs to herself as she colored.

Jeffrey had clearly fed himself frozen burritos for breakfast, and there was a jar of jam on the counter with a spoon in it. Abby had a glass of milk beside her, so at least there was that.

You’d think from this that I must have slept half the day. Nope. This was all before 8:10 am. Welcome to Spring Break. It’s gonna be a long week.

Painting: I am a Child of God

During General Conference (grand poobah of all Mormon meetings, twice a year) this weekend, I worked on a painting a friend of mine asked me to do. It’s part of getting back in the swing of things again, (and gearing up to to tackle the cats- which is next!) and I thought it would be fun to document the process. This a similar painting of one I did for my ward a while back, so it didn’t require a lot of brain power, and I was able to paint while I listened to the conference on my laptop.

The kids were really excited to see me drag out my painting stuff- and I had to lay down the law on what they could touch and what was all mamas. I have tried not to draw or paint in front of them because then they want me to draw everything for them and I really want them to run with their own creativity.

I paint on masonite with acrylics. Any acrylic is fine with me- I’m not a snob. Unless we’re talking watercolors, then I’m kind of a snob, and prefer Doctor Martines English liquid watercolors. But I digress… For my palettes, I use kitchen plates. Acrylic dries and peels off, and I have dozens of them. Convenient and easy!

I begin by sketching out the general layout, and blocking in the large fields of color. You can see the beginnings of a tree trunk under the field of white and cream.

I paint rough and kind of freeform, not really needing everything to be layed out first. I mix most of my colors on the brush and on the painting surface, because I like the texture it gives me. Here’s an example of building the texture on the board. The yellow is going to be the foliage on a tree.

More examples of texture laid down on the surface, as the forms start to emerge.

Form taken and materialized…

Time for some lettering. I do all my lettering on painting freehand, by hand, and the imperfectness of it is part of what I love. I am a typography geek, and love me some well formed letters, I have to admit…

And then, voila- all done. That’s what I did during Conference.

Remembering Who I Am

“In every woman there is a queen. Speak to the queen, and the queen will answer.” ~Norwegian Proverb

This morning, I woke from a dream that was making my heart ache and my limbs twitch with the desire to escape. For ten years before I moved to Washington, I lived in a tiny post-war California tract-house in the neighborhood where I grew up. It was a crappy little house, but it was mine, through various roommates, romances, and finally getting married and having my first baby. I’ve been gone from California for nine years this month, but that house is still sitting there, empty, with the box of kleenex sitting in my bedroom windowsill just as I left it.

In my dream, I was back in that house, only with all three kids. The neighbor knocked on my door, and made a snide comment about my having to move. When I expressed confusion, he said his buddy had talked my landlord into evicting me, and I should pack my kids and get out. Panicked, I raced around the house in distended dream-time-stretch, looking for my landlord’s phone number (which I still know, but in the dream it was a crisis) I couldn’t find the number, the phone’s didn’t work, cell reception cut out, wifi dropped me- everything to get ahold of the person who could answer my questions and assuage my fear of being cast out with my children was broken. It was hellish in the way only panic-and-loss dreams can be.

I’m still wrapped in the cobwebs of this dream as I lay here, 2000 miles from where I started, in yet another rental house that is not  mine, with three kids, and the dreams I moved from California to find in piles of burned ashes behind me. I feel terribly vulnerable and powerless.

During the years I lived in that other little house, I kept the proverb above tacked to the wall by my nightstand. Like so many women, I struggle with devaluing myself, doubting my worth- perhaps not in many concrete, tangible ways, but in a million tiny ways that undermine the bedrock of remembering who I am. This little proverb, when it would catch my eye, would remind me that when I hold myself as someone of value, others respond accordingly. This was in a time before I found my faith- but I find those words no less meaningful now.

A queen does not need validation from the world. A queen holds herself above the fray and mess around her, and knows, even if her circumstances change or she loses her crown (or even her head) that she is still the queen. There is a calm certainty about a woman who knows who she is- and people inherently respond. When I get lost in dismay over powerlessness, I need these gentle reminders that I am who I am, no matter what outward chaos prevails. The feeling of powerlessness is a reflection of the world, not of what is real. I can lose my home, my marriage, even my extended family- and it does not change the bedrock of who I am, and the fact that I can and will survive.

Reflective of this inner core is the way subtle, tiny shifts in belief effect how the world perceives me. When I hold myself of value, it shows- it shows in my countenance, my posture, the set of my shoulders, the look in my eyes and the happiness in my heart. It shows in how I speak and how I listen- everything, when I value myself- has more value to me.

Of course now I can frame this idea on the firm rock of being a beloved daughter of God- but I still find the proverb of the queen both appropriate and beautiful. I need these reminders– when the world throws me down hard, or when I doubt myself, or when loss swallows me whole, or when seeing through the glass darkly is just too damn hard- remembering who I am makes all the difference.