Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Volume V, Issue X December 2009

Each year on Christmas Eve Day, we descend, locust-like, upon the local Dollar Store and let our kids roam freely so they can purchase gifts for each other. They are, indeed, like kids in a candy store with their pick of anything they want for the people they love the most. They buy surprisingly sensitive gifts, showing us just how aware they are of each others' likes, dislikes, and personalities. They collectively choose a gift for Eric and a gift for me, putting their cute noggins together in a private conference to decide what would be the perfect gift. HMMM. . . why did they choose this for their Dad this year?

Maybe it's because they know he's such a sucker for Marxist Literary Theory.

Most of our Christmas Traditions revolve around gluttony, so true to greedy form, we have an all-you-can eat buffet for Christmas Eve that always includes Babonne's Leek and Potato Soup, a cheese platter (French cheeses for us, cheese-sticks for them), crackers, fried shrimp, artichoke dip, a variety of sausages, and french bread. This year, the kids begged me to throw in some home-made mac n' cheese--you know, just in case we didn't have enough. . . urp. . . food. Holden graduated from the kiddie cheeses to Brie and discovered the wonder and awe and deliciousness of the "stink factor."

After the kids steadily shoveled in the grub for about fifteen minutes of silence (except for the occasional lip-smack and other sounds of dietary satisfaction), Ethan said, "I'm so full! But I just want to keep eating!" Holden nodded in agreement and said with resignation, "It's a curse, really."

During her toddler days, Eve ruled with a flower-petal fist, calmly demanding the respect and admiration of the household. Like Eve, Marie is a sort of tiny matriarch in waiting, but rather than opting for a peaceful political platform, she rules in a sort of joyous reign of toddler terror. She turns her volume to "eleven" on either end of her emotional spectrum, which has no middle, only ends. As I was soliciting sisterly service (sorry, let me wipe the spittle off of your monitor) today, Marie's shrieks made it almost impossible to maintain a conversant feel to my phone calls. "Hi, this is Sarah d'Ev. . . SHRIEK!!! MAMMA! MAMMA!. . . Sorry about the background noise. . . SHR-ee-ee-EEEK!!!" I kept offering my tempestuous little goddess treats to try and placate her fury. A bag of chips. Some carrot sticks. A glass of water. One by one my offerings were rejected and ended up as a soggy sacrificial mess on the kitchen floor. Her maniacal message was clear : she wanted me and only me with no phone in tow.

Not that she needs words to make herself understood when she's got the language of volume on her side, but Marie's vocabulary increased by two significant phrases over the holidays. She can now say, "Mine," which she used on Christmas morning to mark her territory as she surveyed the loot around her. (It actually sounds more like "M-IIIIIII-NE!!!!" and is accompanied by frantic, red-faced tugging and ear-splitting screams.) Fortunately, her second new phrase is "Thank you" (which sounds more like "Tae tee!), and is cute enough to offset the narcissism of the first phrase. Seriously, we'll give her anything she claims is hers just to hear her bestow a heart-splitting, grinning "Tae tee" on us!

One of my favorite lines from "Steel Magnolias" (DO NOT watch it if you're pregnant. You'll cry so hard you'll go into labor) is "Nobody ever cries alone in my presence." My hyperactive tear-ducts faithfully follow this mantra. Marie's mantra is similar, but changes the verb and becomes, "Nobody ever eats alone in my presence." It doesn't matter how painfully healthy the meal is either. She'll gobble down cookies to be sure. But she'll also eat zucchini, broccoli, peas and even canned green beans (Can you tell I've tried to stave her off with greens? It just doesn't work, I tell you!). She positions herself in the exact middle of my lap and then leans her fluffy little feather head in to my food as if it were telling her a secret. I try and sneak in a few bites for myself, but I end up spilling more food on the front of my shirt than usual. . . and as a Hafen Girl who is genetically programmed to have stains on the front of all of her shirts that's saying something!

So, now you're wondering why I don't just nip this in the proverbial bud, aren't you? You're thinking that I'm allowing her to manipulate me. You're right.

But I really don't think she's going to be climbing on my lap to share my food when she's eighteen.

This is a fleeting moment of tender closeness that simultaneously aggravates and tickles me. I find myself giggling at every splash of tomato sauce that graces my clothes. Her keen, curious interest in the event of eating and in me allows it to continue. And when next week or next month she finishes a meal without me, at least I'll still have the marks left on my shirt to remind me of the soft feel of her cheek next to mine and the fat, sticky fingers on my hand, helping to guide my food into her mouth. I'm going to feed her (and me) while I still can.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Volume V, Issue ix November 2009

Beauty is in the Black Eye of the Beholder
When Ethan emerged from an altercation with Eve's head looking like something out of a Rocky movie, he was embarrassed that he had gotten such a manly looking wound from playing with his little sister. His plan was to tell everyone that he got his black eye from ". . . uh. . . falling down." Child Protective Services, may I take your order? We told him he'd just have to be honest, and that running into your sister while playing a wild spinning game was nothing to be ashamed of.

Peter Neutron, Hair Genuis
If you've ever had the honor of running your fingers through Peter's luscious locks, you know that the mane on that kid would make even Fabio jealous. Sometimes during bath-time I can't resist playing with the soapy mass, making it stick up in fine, "aesthetically pleasing configurations of hair." I was stunned at the resemblance between our dear Peter and Jimmy Neutron when we created this particular masterpiece. As a baby, his hair was in a perpetual pompadour, and strangers often asked me if I had styled it that way. To the contrary, I painstakingly plastered it flat to his head, but in a matter of minutes, it always sprang up with super hair strength.

Thai Beanie Baby
Starting with Holden, my pregnancies have been filled with mind-bending nausea, bone-crushing fatigue, and taste-bud numbing Thai food. Since each of the kids was practically raised on an in utero diet of rare steak and 4 star spice (the highest spice level they'll let you order) Thai curry, we weren't really surprised when the kids developed an early tolerance for food with a kick. However, petite Marie has taken the need to feel the heat to new levels. The other kids started liking Thai food at age three or four, but because of her status as a prodigy of all things cuisine related, Marie has been eating Thai food since before she could walk.

I made some Thai Barbeque chicken for dinner, adding extra red chili paste, garlic, and soy to a home-made sauce recipe and cooking it in our dutch oven to make sure the spice level would come close to combustive. The boys loved it, but Eve said she thought the fire-power was a little too strong. I assumed we'd probably have to go easy on the sauce for Marie's portion, but, boy, was I wrong.

After she had eaten her portion, she climbed on my lap and started lapping up the sauce off of my plate using a fork and her whole face.

What a Beautiful World :
Eve's Personal Eden
World View, Part One
While packing for our most recent trip to Utah, we asked each of the kids to bring their travel bag upstairs. We let each of them bring a bag with miscellaneous entertainment items. Sometimes they'll bring games or toys to keep them occupied or favorite items from home that they just can't live without.

I was scurrying around packing the 50 plus outfits needed for our 6 day trip and didn't notice that Eve's pile of "necessary items" was multiplying by the minute. When I turned around to gather up the final bags to add to the Everest-sized pile in the back of the Suburban, I saw that Eve had packed up not nine, not ten, but ELEVEN different bags of various sizes and shapes, including carrying cases, backpacks, and purses. In these bags she had a mountain of much needed items such as jewelry, stuffed animals, scarves, plastic food, and, our personal favorite, the Lincoln Elementary School Parent Handbook (the blue book in the little pink suitcase).

Intermission. Let's play a game. Guess which one of these outfits Eve put together all by herself? Guess which same outfit I let her wear when we went for a walk? Guess which same outfit caused a passerby to grin and say, "I wonder who dressed herself today?" Yes. The shirt says "Here Comes Trouble" and it doesn't lie.
World View, Part Two
For our Family Home Evening treat the last Monday in October, we created some scary skeleton cupcakes that were baking as we gave the lesson. As we struggled to get the kids to give us some semblance of attention, Eric realized that our treats needed to be taken out of the oven. He looked up and said, "Cupcakes!" Without a pause, Eve gave me a quizzical expression and asked, "Is that you or me?"

World View, Part Three
Eve's Primary teacher rushed up to us at the end of Church and told us she had to share an Eve-ism with us. She had taught the kids that day about Prophets and how we have modern-day prophets just like they did in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Eve looked sadly at her teacher and raised her hand and said, "I don't know any of the prophets. . . The only one that I know is President Hink-Dorf."

I'm sure President Hinkley and President Uchtdorf wouldn't mind that one bit, especially when it's coming out of such a cute mouth.

World View, Part Four
Eric was getting the kids ready for bed and he and Eve started playing a sort of word game involving what each of the kids brought to the world. Eve would say, "Would does Caleb add to the world?" and Eric would respond, "Caleb makes the world crazier!" Eve asked about each of her siblings in turn and then said, "What does Eve add to the world?" Eric looked at her lovingly and said, "Eve makes makes the world beautiful." Before he could even take a breath at the end of his sentence Eve added, "And smart!" Sniff. Elaine Showalter would be so proud!

World View, Part Five
As I helped Eve get out of the car on a recent trip to the store, she stuck out her lower lip and gazed at me with absolute puppy dog eyes. She continued to look at me this way until I said, "Eve. What's that look?" She smiled and explained, "That's the look I give you to get what I want!"

Sherlock Hol-mes-den
For his first Middle School book report, Holden was supposed to dress up like one of the characters in his book about Sherlock Holmes. Of course the book report was the Wednesday before Halloween, so I was already a craft-crazed lunatic and figured, "What's one more costume?" NOT so elementary, my dear Watson! Have you ever tried to assemble a detective hat with no pattern, no sleep, and no sense of moderation? Six hours later. . . (said in a French accent, a la Sponge Bob). I was up nearly all night and kept wondering why I was torturing myself. Could I argue that it was for the cause of education? (Edutainment maybe?)

Monday, November 2, 2009

The d'Evegnee League : SUPER FAMILY!

Our house looks like it was hit by a
Halloween Hurricane of Hafen Heights!

This Hurricane of Crafty Proportions left in its wake : dirty laundry left untouched and unacknowledged; an answering machine angrily blinking red with the number twenty-six; trips through drive-thrus for lunches and dinners with kids gleefully grinning at their good fortune; those same kids with brain cells melting into goo as they watched too many intelligence-stunting movies and played too much Wii; trails of thread weaving throughout the house from one floor to the next as if some small child had tried to find their way home rather than being imprisoned by the pin-poking, appendage-measuring witch in her sewing hideout.

But. . . ding-dong. . the witch is not dead yet. Oh no. She survived to sew again! But only as a sleep-deprived, zombie-like version of her former self. The Halloween Hangover is in full bloom. And despite the bags drooping under her eyes and the laundry crying out to be done, and the craft room that is weeping for someone to please save it, this witch is oh, so, happy! And she knows she'll be back next year as she is every year, because every year it's worth it!

Each time I emerged from my steadily sinking craft room with some newly created emblem or carefully concocted cape, the general family reaction was enough to keep me in stitches. When I poked my head out of the hideout to show Caleb the Green Lantern insignia, he studied it thoughtfully and said, "Mom. I think you could make anything with fabric!"

And, seriously, how fun is it that Super Heroes are so obsessed with absolute comfort in their costume planning? Most of us now have a new set of super jammies!

While munching away on our Halloween lunch of cheap, 88 cent grocery-store freezer section pizza, we discussed different movie-plots starring us, of course. I told them that if we had the technology, we could create a story-line in which the entire Justice League would be captured by the Super Villians, with the exception of Aqua Man. The villians chuckle sneeringly, gloating about how Aqua Man is powerless against them in their landlocked lair. The scene shifts to Aqua Man with his telepathic circles spinning madly out of his head in the direction of the Super Villians. Cut to one of the Super Villians sitting on the toilet, reading a carefully placed magazine. He wails as a geiser of water shoots him up off of the toilet, his evil arms flailing as he screams for help. Aqua Man saves the day!

Yes, my Super Friends. Halloween was very, very good to us this year!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Chip Off the Ole' ROCK!!!

What kind of mother lets her daughter go to school looking like this?

The same kind of mother who would strip herself of every shred of decorum on a Friday night and go hang with her Ladeez to have a Rock Band Par-tay! (Yeah, I am ridiculously inept at using the lingo, I know.)

Yup. My shirt says "Mrs David Archuleta." I'm not even kidding. I own it. I bought 2 shirts like this as a joke for my sister and I was so glad I had a chance to wear it for the first time! (My roots aren't too obvious are they? Looks like I need to make a date with some peroxide--pronto!)

I kinda look like I'm going to puke after an all-night soft-rock fest. It doesn't help that I'm standing next to a smokin' hot rock mamma (aka Mary). We are a study in contrasts.
Thanks for the party, Mary! YOU ROCK! (And now all of us do too!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spooky? Yes, absolutely terrifying.

It wasn't our honoring of the Hallowed holiday that filled us with fear, but the carting of six goblins to the home-town grocery store's Pumpkin Patch and Maze for Family Home Hallo-Evening.

Despite the screams, growls, and wailing befitting an October evening with the d'Evegnees, we made it home with six children and six pumpkins mostly in tact. We didn't dare break out knives. In fact, the closet our kids came to anything pointy to decorate their pumpkins was a sharpie.

Nope. These shots weren't staged at all! Peter's teeth haven't come this close to a vegetable since 2007!

People have been asking me my secret to losing weight. Well, get out your pen and paper because this is going to turn into Sarah's diet secrets REVEALED! (OOOOOoooo!)

My best kept secret is. . . Marie !

Our solid (that's a nice euphemism, isn't it?) gourd-shaped girl waddles her way over to my seat at every meal even if she's already stuffed herself on seconds, thirds, and sometimes FOURTHS of her own highchair helpings. When I finally get around to trying to inhale some breakfast mid-morning between five other things on my list, Marie cuts my calorie intake dramatically as she gracefully perches herself on my leg like some rotund, thirty-pound baby chick, open-mouthed and screaming for more mouthfuls of whatever may be available. The kid eats anything from Thai food to vegetable medleys and huddles over her plate possessively, her chubby fists clenched with determination around her spoon like some wrestler who's gotta make weight. She's like our own baby version of Chris Farley's Gap girl : "SHUT UP! I'M STAR-VING! Remember seventeen-and-a-half months ago when we pleaded with everyone to pray and fast for her to eat? WHOA! I BELIEVE!!

Eve knows she's loved (okay, practically worshipped) by her Dad, but somehow she genuinely accepts his adoration with guileless glee, responding to each hug and kiss and word of praise as if it were the first. Eric loves to say to her, "I love me!" and watch her say, "I love you too!" and then giggle as she realizes afresh that he's teasing her.

The other morning, as he was exercising on the elliptical, Eve appeared, hair askew, rubbing her eyes. Eric looked at her and teased her, saying something about how he needed to get ready for kindergarten and she just beamed up at him and said, "Oh, YOU!"

How could he not be hooked?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ethan's had a Birthday NINE TIMES. . . OR My Second Most Embarrassing moment EVER Revisited!

Peter's Jurassic Party cupcakes were so rushed that I didn't get to enjoy the creative process as much as I wanted to, so I was all revved up and ready to go for Ethan's birthday today!

I got to fine-tune my design (yes, I sound like such a snob--I know!!) and get them looking exactly how I wanted them to look. Am I weird if I enjoyed every minute of it from the assembly line of marshmallow eyes to the strategic placement of each Rex on the cupcake tree?

I thought this one looked a little like Marie

I put this guy on the top because he looked so sincere. . .

My Party Favor I brought with me to Ethan's class:

I was the epitome of the Zen-mother as I made Ethan's birthday cupcakes this year. Smooth and slow was my MO. The universe hummed around me in an even cadence as I moved from oven to countertop to classroom.

I wouldn't let the slightest jumble occur in my thoughts or movements as I slid spikes into place and piped sharp teeth around smiling lips. Zen. . . zen. . . zen was all that surrounded me as I was one with my kitchen and my cupcakes.

Okay, I'll stop.

Why all the freaky-Zen-obsession? Now I will launch into a tale so grotesque and so unimaginable that your hands will clap over your mouth when you get to the grand finale.

Let me take you back to last year. But, dear reader, you must understand that as we take this backward journey together, that it has taken me a full year to get to the point that I can share this tale with you. Please forgive me in advance for what I am about to share, and don't let it mar how you see me as a mother.

Ethan's birthday is on September 15th, and we celebrate it as the day when Ethan emerged upside-down. It was the year 2000 when, after 8+ hours of natural labor, the Doctor reached in (such a euphemism!) to discover that what he had thought was Ethan's cranium was indeed his hind-end. We tease Ethan about wanting to come into the world showing his derriere and he gets a good chuckle out of it every year without fail.

Last year on the evening of September 14th Caleb lost his first tooth. It was a momentous event, which I missed because I was at my office slaving away over a hot photocopier until after the kids had gone to bed. Eric told me about Caleb's tooth when I got home, and then we went to bed.

The next morning, I was a frenzied wreck, mentally living out everything on my to do list and realizing that the day wouldn't provide all of the time I needed. But, being the compulsive, unrealistic party planner that I am, I was convinced that I would be able to get the kids off to school on time, make a birthday treat for Ethan's class, prepare for my own class and then arrive on campus looking sleek and polished at exactly 12:43, with two minutes to spare before I launched into an inspirational feast that would leave both of my classes impressed and academically satisfied.

I could do it, right?

Before Ethan left for school, he asked me to please make Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes for his class. I sighed, and being the darn pleaser that I am, I said yes. Eric's dad was staying with us, and graciously offered to go to the store to pick up cones while I whipped up the cake batter.

He returned from the store and then stood back as I whirling-dervished my way around the kitchen like some caffeinated version of Julia Childs, batter and sprinkles flying everywhere. Wanting the cupcakes to look super professional, I piped graceful strands of frosting on each one and then speckled them with colorful sprinkles, even arranging the ones that weren't symmetrical. I looked at the clock and praised myself because I had time to spare.

I kept thinking to myself, "Wow, Sarah! You CAN do it all! Look at you!" I basked in the warm shower of compliments I was heaping upon my own ego as I wrapped a box in festive wrapping paper and garnished it with tissue paper, placing the cupcakes inside like some birthday miracle.

I dressed Eve in a cupcake-themed ensemble and tied her hair up with a rainbow of curly ribbons, and all the while my thoughts were pelting me with praise: "Sarah, you really CAN do it all!" (You know comes before the fall, right? Just checking.)

Here they are, in all of their Martha Stewart-like glory. YUM.

Eve, Peter, Marie, and I took the cupcakes to Ethan's class and dropped them off, and then I came home, fed the kids lunch, and still sauntered into class with time to spare. Like I said. I could do it all. Yippee for me!

When Eric picked me up after class, I was still on bask-overdrive. Class had been great. I had been witty and funny and so full of myself. About half-way to the car, Eric raised his eyebrows at me and grinned.

"What?" I said, knowing there was something behind that look. It was obvious he was savoring a well-thought-out jibe.

"So, Sarah. . . " He paused and smiled, "I hear your cupcakes had quite a bite ." He paused, still holding onto that silly, expectant grin.

"What do you mean?" I asked, my mind whirling back to my mad-morning-rush in the kitchen. Cayenne? Did I put cayenne in the cupcakes? Did tabasco sauce get into the batter? How did the cupcakes get spicy? "I don't get it, " I finally said.

Relishing every word, Eric then told me about how Ethan had come home from school, breathless and excited, and had rushed up to him to announce that, "Caleb's tooth was in one of my birthday cupcakes!!!"

Unbelievable, right? Unfathomable, huh? There is absolutely NO WAY Caleb's tooth could have made it into my cupcakes.

Eric told him this, and Ethan protested, "No, Dad! A girl in my class was eating one of the cupcakes and she found something hard in her mouth! She pulled it out and it was a TOOTH!"

Eric paternally shook his head. "Ethan, I'm sure the girl just lost her own tooth. There's no way that was Caleb's tooth in her cupcake. Don't be silly."

"But, Dad! My teacher and I looked in her mouth and she hadn't lost any teeth! I told my teacher that my brother lost a tooth last night, so she gave it to me and I brought it home in a bag." He held up a ziplock bag containing a tiny tooth with frosting still on it as evidence.

When asked what the poor tooth-inflicted classmate had done when she found the tiny treasure in her mouth, Ethan said, "Well, she just licked it off and laughed and then kept eating her cupcake!" EEEEEWWWWW. . .

Even with the disgusting evidence before him, Eric kept arguing about the implausibility of Caleb's tooth ending up in the cupcakes. But Ethan insisted it was the tooth, I mean, truth.

Finally, Eric said, "Okay, Ethan. . . how did Caleb's tooth get in the cupcakes?" Ethan drew a blank.

Then suddenly, Holden gasped and said, "Wait! Wait! The frosting! Mom used a Ziplock bag to put the frosting on the cupcakes! And Caleb saved his tooth in a Ziplock bag last night so he could show it to Mom!" They all ran to the kitchen and stopped, open-mouthed in front of the container of frosting that had the clear plastic culprit still peeking guiltily out of the top.

Eric and the boys looked at Caleb, who said sheepishly, "I left the bag in the kitchen so Mom could see my tooth."

Laughter exploded and my sweet boys grabbed their guts and struggled to breathe.

Then Ethan offered the line of the day:

"This is the BEST birthday ever!!!"

As Eric recounted the horrible details to me as we sat in the car, I was breathless, having had my super-sized ego deflated in a matter of a few very painful seconds.

"But. . . why. . . why would Caleb put the bag back in the drawer? I got it from the drawer where I keep the bags." I was nearly crying with shame. . . and horror. "The toothcakes, I mean, cupcakes were so pretty. . . " my voice trailed off.

By the time we got home, I was laughing about it, saying, "Well, we'll just call them my Cupcakes Al Dente."

Even as I laughed about it, I thought : I can never, ever share this story. What will people think of me?

And yet today, exactly one year later, my shame is being broadcast over the net-waves. . . by ME.

That's why all of the Zen today. I was fighting tooth and nail to save myself from the self-imposed embarrassment of last year.

Today when I calmly strode into Ethan's third-grade classroom with my tower of T-Rexes, a blonde girl with glasses rushed up to me and said, "Did you know that last year Caleb's tooth was in Ethan's cupcakes?"

Yes. . . Yes. . . As a matter of fact I did know that.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ETHAN!!! (And for some reason, I feel like I should raise my lips in the air and start singing "Loo, looo, loo" to "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," while my beagle skips in the background.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Birthday Party Before Time

To celebrate Peter's Birthday, we couldn't think of anything better than having a party where he could growl, scream, and stomp around in a frenzy of beastly activity--basically, he could just be himself! (Although, I do have to admit that he can be an awfully cuddly and adorable beast most of the time.)

The invitation for Peter's Jurassic Party

You can't see me in MY dinosaur costume. . . but I was a big green vision!!!

It looks like the cute little pink dinosaur in the picture on the
lower right was digging for something else besides fossils!

As I was constructing my carnivorous confection, I had to admit
that the guy bore a striking reptilian resemblance to Kermit
the frog . . . with rabies.

One of the reasons I love the group photo (aside from how CUTE
they all look in their towels!!!) is the battle royale going on in the lower left corner between two of the pink dinosaurs. (Disclamor: there were no children harmed in the celebrating at this party.) Deacon (in the lower left) got the award for the most frighteningly green goatee (can you STAND it?).

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