Friday, May 31, 2013

Volume IX, issue iv, May 2013

Underwear? Under There!

When I presented Marie her post-bath panties last Saturday night, she widened her eyes and grinned as she looked at the orange and green undergarment and said, “I LOVE these underwear! When I wear them I have good days!”

If you know Marie, though, you know that every day is a good day for her.

Just Two Much

Charlie is two. Charlie is two. No matter how many times I say it I still can’t bring myself to believe it.

In the past year, he has outgrown his ailments with miraculous speed and has become his own little flaxen-haired man. 

He doesn’t walk. To get from point A to point B or most likely to non-linear Q, he bounce-steps in a jaunty little dance-step that Eric best describes as a “scamper.” He’s still small for his age, so we call him “Shrimp Scampi.” And while he may be tiny, he makes up for his lack in stature with pure-hearted exhuberance, waving his arms as he attempts to communicate with waterfalls of joyful multi-syllabic phrases of Charlie-speak.

He constantly envelops us in hearty hugs where he wraps his chubby fingers around our necks and squeezes with all of his strength. He bestows his best unsolicited kisses on us with glee. We’ve never had a happier, healthier Charlie.

To say that we are grateful is a major understatement. We can’t even talk about it without a few tears of relief and contentment. 

Daddy, Daddy on the Wall

I was minding my own Burgian business as I wandered the hallways of the newest apartment complex in Rexburg. I was looking for the lounge where my friends were having our monthly game night and as I turned a corner this is what greeted me. Look at that handsome, presidential figure! 

I had to show off my wall-sized father to my friends and I couldn't resist striking a pose. One of my friends happened to snap this photo. As we tried to find our way to the exit, we weren't sure which way to go, so I turned around and said in my best falsetto, Princess Leia voice, "Father! Help us know which way to turn!"
Only in Rexburg.

Marie’s Preschool Graduation 

I’ve attended the preschool graduation ceremonies for five other children, but this is the first time I could hear my child’s voice over all of the other little singers. Finally! Marie was belting out those preschool tunes with such gusto that I could almost see the veins in her neck.

Her incomparably gifted teacher, Mrs Doggett, had instructed the kids to “project” so that even their grandparents could hear them, and Marie projected as if her dessert depended on it (and I’ll bet her grandparents in Utah and Connecticut could almost hear her). 

We had a little photo-shoot for Marie and Charlie to celebrate her graduation and his birthday and we only got yelled at once for borrowing a tough-talkin’ Rexburgian’s yellow wall for a back-drop. 

Double Booked

Caleb’s acting debut as one of the leads in his school play was scheduled for exactly the same time as his viola recital this year (which incidentally was the same day as Marie's pre-school Graduation and Peter's Kindergarten program). His viola teacher was kind enough to let him play first on the program and even said he could start early. We were relieved until his school teacher called me and threatened to get an understudy if he couldn’t arrive on stage on time.

As we left for the recital I could see my shy Caleb’s nerves painfully playing out as he neared tears and tried to blink them back. I parked in our driveway and reminded him that the music and the acting were supposed to be fun and asked him if he’d like to say a prayer to help him. From the back seat I could hear him gulping down tension as he prayed, “Please help me to have a good time.”

The recital was behind schedule, so I said a few prayers for Caleb myself as the minutes ticked by. By the time he started, we had about 7 minutes to play and then book it over to the play. My fingers may have been at the recital, but my brain was already at the middle school and I actually had to play his introduction twice. Caleb sailed through his staccatos and nailed his runs until about midway through his song, when he stuttered slightly and then stopped altogether.

I played his part to remind him where he was, but he had to hurry over to the piano and take a quick glance at the music. I was so impressed with him as he started again and played a flawless finish.

As we scurried off stage and ran to the car, I noticed a little smirk on his face. He laughed as he said, “I was looking at the floor as I played and all of a sudden I imagined Brett wearing his Ben Franklin wig! That’s what made me lose my place!” We both chuckled as he made a quick costume change in the back of the car and then slid onto the stage with no time to spare.

His portrayal of Thomas Jefferson was just as fun and just as impressive as his viola performance. And we both survived

There was No Way We Could Have Danced All Night

For the Centennial Celebration of Madison County, everyone in town was invited to a good ole’ fashioned dance.  I attended several practices where we learned everything from the Chicken Dance to Line Dances to the Texas Trot (okay, I just made that last one up).
Holden, Ethan, Caleb, and Eve were incredibly good sports and learned the dances with less whining than I would have expected from tween and teenagers. The night of the dance, we brought our entire tribe and most of us gladly danced, even Charlie. Eric, however was not as happy to try and wrangle 7 kids with the squawks of a live band keeping time in the background. 

Eric's face in this photo says it all. I don’t think I have ever loved a photo more. . . I don't know where he is, but he isn't with us. 

Pop Goes the Kitty

We had a few leftover cake-pop supplies so I gave a little Family Home Evening craft lesson about how to make Kitty Pops. As annoying as a puking Hello Kitty Cake Pop might seem, I have to admit that I’m impressed with Eric’s skill. Oh! Hair-ball! (Or perhaps it should be. . . Oh! Cake-ball!)

Oh, Sweet Eve

One evening, Eve came rumbling up to me, clearly needing to get something dramatic off her chest. I wondered what injustice she had experienced in her brother-filled basement. In a loud voice she said,  "Why didn't someone tell me we had Call of the Wild? I've been wanting to read that for YEARS!"

The highlight of my Mothers’ Day this year was receiving a hand-painted birdhouse from Eve that was filled with little notes. They said things like “Happy Mothers’ Day” and “I love you.”  But two of them were my favorites. One said, “This is awkward, but I’m just going to say something natural. Hi.” and the other one said, “I love you dad. Haw! This one’s for dad.”

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Volume IX, issue iii, April 2013

The Writing on the Wall 
Our cheerful, creative Caleb has spent the last eleven years finding ways to make other people happy. Almost every afternoon I hear him explaining to his younger siblings the complicated rules to some new game or role-playing activity.

Lately, verbal explanations aren't enough, so he's taken to taping up posters all along the walls downstairs. Our hallways feel like the common room for a much-less rowdy and drunk Delta Tau Chi.

The Magical Mind of Marie 

On her birthday, Marie had a complete menu of gourmet meals planned for the day. She requested ebelskivers for breakfast, fish tacos for lunch, and three kinds of pizza for dinner. Out petite gourmande was shocked when we served her Ramen Noodles for lunch and pouted as she indignantly slurped up her unsatisfactory fare.

I explained to her that I had been cooking all day to get the three kinds of pizza and cheesecake ready for her dinner and that I didn't have time to create a special birthday lunch. She rolled her eyes and said with an exasperated tone, "Why didn't you tell me that earlier?"

At each child's birthday dinner, they get showered with compliments as we take turns telling the chosen one our favorite thing about them. This year, I teased Marie and asked, "Marie, what do you like about Marie?"

I didn't actually expect her to answer, but she reported, "What do I like about myself? I like that I am kind to everyone." 

* * *
As I was gathering up the littles for the tri-weekly kid-exchange before I teach my classes, I saw Marie's two favorite plush cats that are her constant companions and said, "It's time to go! Get your girls!"

Marie responded, "Mom, they're not girls. . . They're womens."

* * *

Marie loves to write "notes" to her siblings that proclaim her love and her thoughts. As she was writing her name, Peter complained that her "M" looked more like a "W."

Marie shrugged and said, "Well, I'm writing in my French way."

* * *
Recently, Marie wrinkled her button nose and said, "Something in this house smells terrible!" I asked her what she thought it was and she pointed her accusatory finger at poor Charlie.

Never Petered Out

Peter was a be-muscled strongman in his class play, with his massive biceps capable of being used as a flotation device in an emergency. His drawn-on mischievous mustache with its curls at the ends caused his eyes to twinkle with delight, making him look like Appollon the Mighty, circa 1916.

I walked down the nostalgic hallways of Lincoln Elementary with Peter and he showed me his newest artistic creation that was hanging on the wall outside hiss classroom. It was a paper turkey with painted handprints for feathers. Peter had given it the title: "Powerful Turkey of Awesomeness."

One of his classmates had created a similar project and Peter pointed to it and asked me to read the title. I read, "The Painted Turkey."

Peter frowned slightly and said, "Well. . . that's not fun."

Registered Offender

Marie was a bit trembly as she contemplated her kindergarten registration this month, so she begged Peter to accompany her to help calm her nerves. (It's so nice to have a strongman when we need one!) Peter took his role seriously. When we got out of the car, he acted like he was our paid tour guide, and even though Marie has been to the school dozens of times, Peter pointed to the building and said with authority as he slowly swept his hand over the brickscape, "Marie. . . THIS. . . (insert dramatic pause) is Lincoln Elementary!" 

He gave Marie a minute to let the information sink in and then he continued: "It's named after Abraham Lincoln. . . He's dead."

One of the kindergarten teachers tested Marie on her knowledge of letters and numbers, and I warned Peter that he could sit next to her as long as he was quiet.

When the teacher asked Marie to point to the picture on the page that started with the letter "H," out of the corner of my eye I saw a cute little Peter-finger creeping slowly towards the picture of the hat. I quietly put my hand on his before his ever-helpful finger arrived at its intended destination and gave him a warning look. 

A few questions later, Marie paused when the teacher asked her what sound the word "duck" started with. I watched as Peter tried to discretely whisper the answer to Marie out of the corner of his mouth and then suggested that he go and play with some of the classroom toys for a few minutes.

He is such a supportive big brother/cheater. . . 

Party! Party! PARTY! 

We're stuffed with birthdays in April, which means we are bursting at the seams with celebrations, presents. . . and calories. Our pants are a little tighter and our hearts a little lighter because of all of the birthday festivities this month.

I'm always tickled to hear what the birthday boy or girl requests for his or her special Birthday Dinner. You can learn a lot about someone by analyzing their ideal menu. 

In chronological order:

 Now you can see where Marie got her grand illusions about her birthday meals. To be fair, though, it was General Conference Sunday and we would have had a big, fancy breakfast anyway. . . (maybe not this big and this fancy. . . )

Marie's Mom Overdoes it (and Marie Gives Her FIVE!)

Marie didn't have a birthday party last year because Charlie was so sick. Marie didn't have a birthday party the year before that because I was so sick with Charlie. So this year I don't think I left any stop unpulled.

When I was a little girl shivering and growing up in Rexburg, I dreamed for months of our annual trip to Utah for a BYU football game. My favorite part of the trip, though, was entering that magical place called. . . University Mall.

For me, the moment I entered that massive white rectangle of joy was just as good as Christmas morning. My heart would start jingling and as I sped towards the most magical place of all--the Sanrio Kiosk. My parents let me pick a single, cherished item. After studying each notebook, pencil, and sticker, I would always select something with Hello Kitty plastered all over the front. I used to save the wrappers and glue them in my journal.

When Marie chose a Hello Kitty Birthday Party, I lit up the same way I did on those shopping days of my youth.

Are you ready? Here. . . we. . . goooooo!

Caleb Cranks it Up to an ELEVEN

 Eleven years ago, I girded up my loins and politely asked the OB if I could please push as hard as I wanted to. He looked at me condescendingly as he slowly put on his gloves and said, "Sure," not realizing I'd been down this road before. All 9 pounds 7 ounces of Caleb came storming out with only one push, and the OB yelled, "Whoa! I've never seen that before!" Sweet Caleb has been charging forward with his Belgian charm and wit every day since.

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