Charlie and/or a Pumpkin

When I was learning Russian a million years ago, I thought it was amusing to learn that they have no verb for "to kneel." They say that a person "stands on his knees." That's what Charlie does these days. He walks on them, too. His hands are completely up in the air, his body upright, and he waddles on his knees across a room. It's adorable, really.

I'm trying to capture it on video before he starts walking for real (he already takes a few steps, when no one is watching)...I just don't know if this laptop will handle the download without having a nervous breakdown. The technical difficulties continue around here until we decide if we want a new pooter or to repair and upgrade...

But that's not what this post is really about...

We went to the park yesterday. My five and a half year old has become truly social and even sometimes socially acceptable. I am not socially adept, and a little bit of my heart comes up into my throat every time I hear him say, "My name's Calvin. What's yours?" I mean, he puts himself out there - and someone could be mean.

Usually they are not - it turns out that most five-year-olds are also interested in sharing their names, telling each other what their brothers'and sisters' names are, and divulging how old their moms are. (I think I'm a young one!) At worst, a new "acquaintance" will just look blankly at Cal or walk away - not rude, just shy. Calvin is nothing if he is not persistent, and the acquaintances usually don't mind.

Yesterday, he pursued the precocious Isabella who, like any self-respecting five and a half year old with big dark eyes and naturally curly hair would do, gave him a run for his money. She answered his questions with only one word and then ran to another part of the play equipment. Another question, another one word, and she was off again. Cal ran by me once and said, "Mom! I just met someone new! Her name is Isabella!"

Only a few minutes later, he came to me, all cloudy, and said, "Isabella left already."

A few minutes after that, the sun came out again: "Isabella just had to go to the bathroom! She's back!"

And then a while later, I was standing by the baby-sized play equipment spotting Charlie when Cal jumped onto the little platform by me and said conspiratorially, "Mom, I have to tell you a secret."

It's been a while since I've trusted secrets from the preschool set. They are usually more steamy breath or sticky licks instead of coherent communication. So I was pleasantly surprised when Cal clearly whispered in my ear: "Isabella is my girlfriend." He backed away from me and raised his eyebrows over his twinkling eyes. And then he said, "You can't tell anyone, OK?"

"OK," I said, then wanting to gain some insight, I asked, "What makes her your" - dropping to a whisper - "girlfriend?"

"I don't know how it happened! It just did!" (Uh oh.)

"Is she cute?"

"Psshhh. No." (Whew.)

Before I could ask further questions and before I had decided whether or not to tell him that we would likely not run into his girlfriend very frequently, he said again, "Do NOT tell anyone, OK?"


"Well, I guess you could tell Charlie, because he probably doesn't know what you're telling him. And he won't tell anyone anyway."

"Yeah, OK."

"And...you could also tell a pumpkin if you want." And he busted up laughing at this thought.

So, I'm pretending the blog is a pumpkin. And thanking my lucky stars that even with his expanding social horizons, for a little while yet I get to be the keeper of his secrets. I'm also glad that for now he appreciates the hilarity of pumpkins over the cuteness of girls.


Yes! We Have No Computer

Our fish survived our week-long absence, our newly laid sod got more than enough rain while we were gone (weather-beaten takes on a whole new meaning), but our computer died. Seriously kaput. There's a big ol' error message that we can't get around. And who knew how much we use the thing for?

Anyway, blog updates will be few and far between until we figure out how to fix or replace our "pooter." Sadly, the antique laptop and/or trips to Auntie S's house to use one of hers just aren't conducive to lots of bloggy time.

It's sunny and beautiful outside and I probably need to exercise anyway...hmmmm.

Happy spring. I'll see you when I see you.


Leavin' On A Jet Plane...

We have some great photos from Mother's Day/Graduation, but they are all on Auntie S's camera. I will post them as soon as I get them from her. Our weekend was a bit of a whirlwind, but very nice.

And now we're on our way to Colorado to visit my fam...I was all excited to try out Blogger's new pre-date post thing, but I didn't get organized enough to write stuff ahead of time to post while we're away. I might be able to get online a few times, so we'll see, but if I'm not around for a week it's just because we're traveling.

David missed our big flying adventure before, and we have one more child now, so it's going to be fun. Not as much fun as the Duggars have traveling with their family, but fun.

I keep telling him that the kids take their cue from us, so not to get his hair in the air until he has to. He might be pleasantly surprised. Am I right or am I right? We shall see...


Unintended Obliviousness

So there's this guy who has been in three of my classes this year. Our classes are quite small, so we are fairly well acquainted. He is super nice, very articulate, friendly smile, wry sense of humor, teaches literature at a local university, is writing a novel at the moment, and, did I mention, he's very nice?

Oops. I should clarify. This is not a post about a schoolgirl crush that I'm entertaining while my husband is at home taking care of our boys and reading my blog. It's just that the guy's niceness and astuteness are admirable, and do play a part in this story.

So Mr. SmartNice and a couple other classmates invited me to sit down with them in the coffee shop between classes last week and we were chatting about our end-of-term stresses and getting the final papers in, blah, blah, blah when he said to me, "Are you working right now, too?" I said, "No," because they were talking about their jobs at the moment. Then he said, "So you basically just hang out with your kids and come to class?"

Uh, yeah.

See, if he wasn't a nice, smart guy who I could just see simply does not know what three small children entail, I might have, er, filled him in. As it was, I just realized that there are actually people who truly don't mean to be demeaning or to minimize childrearing or stay-at-home motherishness. They just have no idea. These smart nice types are in a decidedly different class than the power-suit blondie that says in mock empathy for my lot in life, "So what do you do all day?"

I do wish that Mr. SmartNice would have said it earlier in the term, though, because I would have invited him over to hang out with my kids while I went to the library.


A Little Black Dress in Grandma's Apron

My grandma is my homemaking hero. She always had something to put on the table at a moment's notice, she canned like crazy, she made the most wonderful candies and desserts, she kept an immaculate house, raised six kids, and could get any stain out of any fabric, even when there wasn't a washing machine in sight. She hasn't cooked as much since Grandpa died, and she isn't the cleaning whirlwind that she once was (although her home is always neat), but I still remember and admire a lot of her ways of doing things. The problem is that I have no idea how to do most of them myself.

But every now and then, I stumble upon something that helps me do things like Grandma. I recently organized my "recipes I want to try" file and came across some torn out magazine pages (from 2002! Yikes!) with a recipe for pork tenderloin, used in three meals. Thanks to our new Costco obsession, we can get pork tenderloin - usually a very pricey meat - for a great price. So I did. And I used it for three meals, spaced throughout the week. That's the part that made me feel like grandma - not just leftovers, but entirely new meals until everything is used up. No waste, no boredom.

The recipe came from Real Simple magazine, where they billed pork tenderloin as "the little black dress of the kitchen," and you can actually find it online by clicking here. I highly recommend it! The tenderloin itself is lovely (and super easy!) for Sunday dinner, the pork sandwiches have a great Asian flavor, and the spring lentil soup is true soul food. The best is that there is a minimum of hands-on time or cooking, there aren't any exotic ingredients, my kids ate and enjoyed each dish, the meals are nutritious, and one meat purchase was spread across multiple meals - a money saver. Be sure to make the suggested sides, too - they're simple and tasty, perfect complements to the main dish, and they take advantage of spring availability.

This set of recipes is definitely making it's way into my newly organized "keepers" book, and every time I use it, I'm going to feel one step closer to being like Grandma.


Can "Cool" and "Mom" Go Together?

Years and years ago, I remember having a conversation with my Uncle K about being a parent, specifically about marrying someone who is good with kids. He said something at the time about how even the most polished person is changed by children and that it's hard to be stuffy when a baby barfs down your pant leg. I thought of that a while back when the dry cleaner couldn't resurrect a spewed-on suit coat. David was upset, and still has issues with the loving snail-trails that the baby leaves below his knees, but he always reflects on the fact that he was the one in his family that initiated every new car with a car-sickness episode. He knows how his dad felt now, and we all move on.

I've always been a little socially self-conscious, and I never really aspired to ultimate coolness anyway. But still I'm not adjusting as well As David is to the occasional humiliations of parenthood. I try to pull it off, but sometimes, as you know, I can't even walk without difficulty. I mean, I can pack an inconspicuous pack of gear for an outing, I have the stroller of my dreams, I will brave a museum and sometimes a restaurant with children in tow, I can make nice treats, I give lots of hugs, I'm becoming somewhat expert at picking the right battles, I have been known to think up some great solutions on the fly, and I've more or less lived down my reputation at Target. (It's been two years!!!) All of this makes me feel like I can really do this thing. With finesse, even. And then there are other moments...

I got new glasses a while back. I like them, they're groovy and cute, and they help me see better. I really just have an astygmatism, but you'd be surprised at how much a light prescription improves my view of the world.

But the rain and mist and coolish mornings sometimes fog up the lenses, not to mention the other fun blurriness I've forgotten that comes from an infant who doesn't understand that the things on my face are not a toy. Sometimes when I've got a baby in arms, an escapee three-year-old, and an impatient five-year-old trying to make it to the car in the morning, the lens wiping has to wait and I proceed hurriedly in a blur. Which is what I did the other morning.

I drove all the way to preschool with the boys (about 10 minutes) and the fog cleared off the lenses, but the smudgy hand-printishness did not, so I decided that as soon as I dropped the boys off at the door, I would stop and wipe my glasses really good before I drove back home.

"Hi, boys' preschool teachers! How was your weekend? Great. We sure enjoyed the five minutes that it wasn't raining on Saturday. We're doing well, keeping busy, anxious for summer...blah, blah, blah..." all with my happy morning mommy smile and my cool new glasses on.

I pulled away from the carpool lane and stopped over like I had planned to and went to wipe the smudges off my glasses. Oh dear. That's not just a smudge. That's a diced green onion. From when I took my glasses off while making dinner last night. OK, embarrassing. Oh, no. Oh, dear. That's not a dried green onion.

Remember the infant who doesn't know mommy's glasses are not a toy? He also has a little cold, with a crusty/runny nose. That he likes to wipe with his hands before I can get to him with a tissue. And he touches my glasses while I try to get to him with a tissue. Hmmm. It seems that there are smudges, and then there are smudges. And I need to at least confirm their size and color before I leave the house in a blur.


David and I had to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting last Sunday. The topic was teaching small children gospel principles so they are prepared for baptism. David was holding the sleeping baby while I was speaking and the boys were coloring quietly in the pews. Until Calvin took the color that Henry wanted. Or some other such crime.

Henry has no ability to whisper, particularly not when he is trying to assert his rights to the green crayon. He full-on pitched a fit right in front of me while I was at the pulpit sharing my pearls of wisdom on parenting (I only have two such pearls, but still...). Henry's fit reached pitch volume just as I was trying to say that kids don't do things on purpose to make your life difficult - they do things because they are kids. Huh.

Anyway, David had nowhere to put the baby, Henry was yellingyellingYELLING and writhing under the pew where no one else could reach him, and I was about to stop midsentence and go down there and carry him out myself when Auntie S finally got a hold of him and exited. I made some kind of recovery comment like, "Last year, I thought the problem was because church was during naptime, but this year, I'm beginning to see that something else is at play." (We have 8 a.m. church now.) Everyone laughed and I concluded and sat down, sweating like a pig, not remembering anything that I said, and thinking that I would come back to church when my children are grown.

So...about the "cool/mom" question? Five years into it, I'm beginning to have my doubts that they belong in the same sentence. Ever.


Love Stories

Just have to write these down. It reassures me that in the usual wrestling, throwing, yelling, tossing, teasing, hitting and fussing, there are soft little hearts in there somewhere...

I was hustling Henry out the door yesterday because we were late to get Calvin. I was chanting, "We've gotta go, go, go, pick up our baby bro..." over and over again in a little cadence to keep Henry moving. He stopped in his tracks and said, "Calvin is not the baby bro. He is the big bro!" So I changed the chant to get him moving again. He started walking, but said, "Charlie is the baby bro...And I'm the mean-sized one." I'm not sure if he was just slurring the word "medium" (he does that a lot with words) or if he really thinks we've been calling things mean-size, including him. Either way, it's really cute and a little sad. (And it's not really the main point of this story...)

Henry got to go to work with David last week. It was take your child to work day and I had joked with David about taking the boys to work but he assured me it was for school-aged children only. Much to his credit, he called a little while after I dropped him off and said, "Do you want to bring Henry over? I didn't know, but it's all ages of kids. So I can have Henry with me this morning. That way you can have an hour or two to work on your paper." OK, awesome husband. (That's a love story in itself, right there, don't you think?)

Anyway, Calvin was at school so Henry got special one-on-one time with Dad. The office had put together little goodie bags and balloons and color sheets and all kinds of things for the kids who visited. David said that every time someone handed Henry something, he said, "Can I have one for my brother, too? He's at school and couldn't come with us." He brought home two of everything, so Cal wouldn't be left out. That is not something your average mean-sized person would do.


Calvin made a little May basket at school out of paper plates and ribbon, and they popped popcorn to put in it so it looks like it is filled with blossoms ("Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree"). He was telling me all about it the day they made it and then was excited to show it to me when he brought it home. This morning while we were driving to school, he said, "I was thinking that we should give our noisy loud neighbors* the May basket that I made."

I smiled at him because he called them the noisy loud neighbors and also because it was cute he was thinking of giving a school craft to them - three porsche-driving bachelors who have rocking parties every weekend. (Cal climbs up on his cozy coupe all the time and talks to them over the fence, Home Improvement style, while they're grilling. I always hope that he isn't actually high enough to see the pin-up girls they have in frames all around their back patio.)

So I was smiling, just thinking of Cal knocking on their door to give them this little preschool craft, when he added, "I just don't think they get nice things like that very often." I think he's probably right.