Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas to All!

Recently my husband, who works security at the airport, came across an interesting passenger flying out of Salt Lake City. As he stood at his post, items came along the moving belt that captured his notice. First a wide black belt, with a large, ornate buckle. Then a pair of tall, black boots. And last, a large red coat trimmed with white fur. The owner of these items had a bushy white beard and a twinkle in his eye.
It is difficult for children to believe in Santa. It seems like they lose their belief at a younger age now then in years past. Each one of my children has said this year that kids at school tell them Santa Claus does not exist, and my youngest is in kindergarten! But my children still believe. They believe in a generous heart, they believe in doing good works. They believe in being kind to others.
There is no harm in Santa Claus. The harm comes when we put receiving above giving, when we let ourselves get caught up in the next big gift item and make the packages under the tree more important than the true reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Essentially, it’s a matter of choice.
Last Sunday, on the way to church, one of my children announced he would like to do more Christmas shopping—just for fun. I pointed out that people seldom shop this time of year for fun; it’s fast becoming an Olympic worthy sport. So we talked about the shopping they had already done, and I reminded each of them Christmas is not about the gifts. “Why do we celebrate Christmas?” I asked. “Jesus’ birthday!” they chorused.
I believe in Santa. But I also believe he has many helpers all over the world who catch things one lone man may miss. After all, the spirit of service essentially means we look after one another—if our Heavenly Father and his Son are pleased by our assisting each other, surely Santa Claus can benefit from our sharing of the true spirit of Christmas. We are each a little warmer of heart when we consider the needs or wants of others, even in the smallest of ways.
And who’s to say Santa didn’t take a quick stop in Salt Lake City this year on his way back from vacation? My family and I would like to wish you all a joyous and generous holiday season.

Much love,
Cheri Chesley and Family

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You don't have to play along, but...

...I'm going to whine a little. I'm sick. No, it's not H1N1; just a regular old sinus infection that aggravates my usually dormant mono virus. I'm totally wiped out. As I lay here web surfing a little bit ago I thought of all the things I had to do today, and my body literally melded to the cushions. I felt heavy, like I suddenly weighed 100 lbs more than I do.

But, I'm the mom. I had things to do. Kids to corral. They were already getting into plenty of mischief with my being stuck to the couch. So I pulled myself up and out and got things going. Now, every hour and fifteen minutes I have to get my twins up to help me with the laundry. Someday, when we get the dryer fixed, we won't have to shlep our clothes next door and upstairs to my mom's apartment and back to use her dryer. It's almost 6PM and I just found out it's casual Friday at their school and nobody has clean clothes to wear that aren't what I call "Saturday clothes." You know, the full of holes and so worn you can almost see through it.

I'm still tired. I'm coughing and I do it more when I move around. My throat is raw and hurts each time I swallow, even water. But I don't get a chance to be sick. Life does not stop for the sick mom. Especially this time of year.

Is it bedtime yet?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

With pleasure, there must also be a little pain

Otherwise we wouldn't know how to appreciate what we have. If we live an easy-breezy life, how would be learn to recognize when stuff is really good?

But I'd like to caution against extremes. If you live a life of extreme hardship, you become conditioned to difficulty and you lose the simple joys that are possible every day. If you live in a life of no worries--ever--then you are painfully unprepared when something bad, even only a little bad, hits you.

I for one would very much like to experience a few ups to go with my downs. I think it would make me a better rounded person. Otherwise I'm turning to cheesecake to round me out. Kidding.

Believe it or not, there is an expectation of me in this world. I am the responsible one, the practical one, the level headed one. I'm the one someone would send in to a crisis to defuse and deflect. I don't feel particularly worthy of this label, but in moments of extreme clarity I'd have to admit its accuracy.

But get me in a group of girls and I become giggly, goofy, and loads of fun. At least that's what I'm told. Man, this is starting to sound arrogant isn't it? You can stop reading if you like.

I faced something in the past few days I did not expect. And it's what has captured my mind more than anything else that happened. Now I have to decide what, if anything, should be done about it. I'm tempted to believe this is one of those things that actually WOULD go away on it's own if I just ignored it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's officially December...

...and I'm back. And I did it. I wrote my novel in a month for the National Novel Writing Month of November. Whoa. 50,820 words. It's not complete. I did write a beginning, middle, climax and ending but it's all kind of out of order and needs a lot of work. It's also the final installment of my series, so I finally know what happens from beginning to end. It will make the revisions so much easier.

Somehow my family survived. They were all remarkably helpful during this time.

I have work to do now. Our family is facing a huge crisis, or potential crisis, and right now we're fighting to keep things right. In the meantime, I'm taking a completely unrelated but also family-themed trip to Alaska.

You heard me. Alaska. In December. On purpose.

I'm excited to see my family. It's been a while. It will be so awesome. At the same time I'm apprehensive. I hate cold. I am not a fan of long flights. My legs desperately like to stretch. I don't have an easy time sitting through a movie. Now imagine that during a 5 hr flight. Sigh. I really hate coach.

Ok, honestly I'll be so glad when this week is over. When I wake up in my own bed Wednesday morning I will breathe again.

And then it's back to writing. Here's hoping my family will remain in tact while I'm gone.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sudden Silence

No, I actually have not been sick since my last post. I've been busy. Several things have crossed my mind to post, but I haven't had time. As mentioned in my other blog, through November I will be participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This is where insane people, usually with other people talking in their heads, sit down and pound out at least 50,000 (that's fifty thousand) words in 30 days. Seeing as I'm working my little fingers off doing that, I won't be posting much here.

Suffice it to say, my sons are still handsome and my daughters still beautiful. The youngest will continue to be precocious through the month of November. The oldest will still keep trying to wear my shoes. The twins will still be silly, and yet brilliant. Did I miss anyone?

See you in December.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I lost.

I thought I'd get away with it. Last Friday I gave in, and thought I'd won. But no such luck.

No sooner had the kids gotten picked up Friday evening than my fever started. I went to church today, even though my husband begged me to stay home. But this afternoon the entire thing came crashing down on me.

I lost the fight. I'm sick.

You know that feeling when you stand up too fast and get dizzy? Well, for the first time I did that and experienced searing pain through my head. I couldn't get my balance and, for a moment, thought I just might lose my lunch. Ironically, I had just been considering whether or not I should try to get to the doctor's on Monday. Now I'm going for sure.

The 800mg of ibuprofen coursing through my system is the only reason I'm able to type this at all. I can't move my head very fast, so I'm not moving fast at all--if I have to move. I am taking a rare sick day tomorrow. There's no way we're having day care until I know for sure what I've got.

I hate being sick. Who has time for this?

Monday, October 19, 2009


Twenty years ago, though that hardly seems possible, my mom got a phone call from her oldest son. Listening to her side of the conversation and watching her tears, I knew something horrible had happened. And it had. Their 17 month old son, Mitchel, had died during the night.

At 14, I was already well acquainted with death. My earliest memories are of my grandfather's and then my own father's funerals. But these were people older than me. Mitchel's death forced me to rethink my perspective. And it left a lasting impression on my that has affected many aspects of my life.

It is never easy to lose a child. But it happens. Just before my oldest turned 5, I miscarried a baby in my first trimester. I hadn't had the joy of feeling my baby move inside me. She was too small to conclusively identify her gender, and was sucked out of me through a tiny tube and disposed of in the hospital garbage. It's not delicate; I regret there couldn't have been a more reverent way of putting her body to rest. But I didn't have any options at the time.

If a mother miscarries, she can torture herself with the what ifs. She never got to hold her child, hear her child laugh, or even change a diaper. You regret what you miss. But losing a child who has already been born, has shown you their personality and cuddled with you, is a different kind of pain. I don't pretend to determine which is worse. They are different, but they both cut shafts of grief through a mother's heart.

We are fortunate as Latter Day Saints to have a clear understanding of the life after this life. We know losing our child is a temporary thing, and if we remain worthy we can be with them again. We can take comfort in the idea that our child was spared the pains of this world are are assured a place in the highest kingdom of heaven. It doesn't mean we don't grieve. But it does mean we don't have to dwell.

Because of Mitchel's death during my formative years, when I became a mother I found myself obsessive over my children while they slept. I'd check on them two or three times a night. And I wasn't satisfied to see they were there; I'd have to check to be sure they were still alive. I relaxed once they hit 18 months, because it had become a sort of milestone for me, a marking point. Then I'd only check on them once a night.

It's also had a positive effect. I treasure my children. I'm more conscious of the temporary nature of childhood and how quickly it's gone. I'm also acutely aware that we don't know what tomorrow will bring, and so I try to live my life with my children to the fullest. As far as I'm concerned, that's the only way to be.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Weekend

While I had a miserable weekend, part of my family was having the time of their lives. And sometimes I feel like I set the whole thing up.

Doubt me? Last year I signed us all up on Disneyland's website for the free park entry on each of our birthdays. I thought of the special, remarkable birthdays the kids were having this year and figured it would be a great way to see each of them remembered in a big way.

Of course, I didn't set out to have a miserable weekend. That was fallout. Oh well.

I wanted Bryan to have a really great time one on one with his oldest daughter for her 18th birthday Saturday. Rianne tagging along was a last minute idea--mine, too. Are we getting the idea I think to much? Turns out it was great. The three of them had a fantastic time and got to bond in ways they otherwise may have missed.

Dad got to share a great day with two of the most important girls in his life, not to mention they're his youngest and oldest children. The 5 yr old turns out to be an amazing, stupendous road tripper and handled the car time there and back with maturity that surpassed her age. I'm hoping the oldest had fun. Her texts made me think she did, and the pics Dad brought back sure makes it look that way.

What a wonderful memory they share, and what a day they will be able to look back on fondly as the years go on. I'm glad for them. I'm grateful it all worked out, and especially grateful to our financial benefactor, who loves his grandkids to pieces and wants only for them to get the most out of their lives.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Boy Blog!

I probably don't talk about my sons as often as I talk about my daughters. That's easy--I know boys. I have 4 older brothers, 2 stepbrothers, my best friend growing up was a boy and a solid 75% of the kids I ever babysat were boys.

Boys are no mystery to me. My girls, on the other hand, intimidate me a little. They're so emotional. I don't know what they're thinking or how to follow their thought processes. AND I AM A GIRL!! It's frustrating, so I talk about it.

But, tonight, the one oft overlooked is weighing on my brain. This is my "middle son" Daniel. I put "middle son" in quotes because he's technically the younger (by 2 min) of my twins so officially he's my third born of 5, putting him smack dab in the center of our little family tree. The reason I call him the oft overlooked one is simple, I have 5 squeaky wheels and he's not one of them.

First, there's my stepdaughter. Because she lives in another state, anything she does gets extra recognition--phone calls, texts, emails, letters, visits, etc. Then there's my official first born, the one who lives here. He's my oldest child. He's my husband's first son. Add to that his learning issues and, you guessed it, extra attention.

Now we come to Jeffrey. Jeffrey is my heart. He is the child I almost lost, twice. Once as a baby when he had a digestive obstruction that was killing him until the doctors found and repaired it. And the second time happened when he wandered into the street--right in front of a car--at my sister in law's house. It was one of those moments where every other adult assumed someone else was watching the kids. We were even all out in the front yard together. Just as I looked up and thought, "where's Jeffrey?" I heard the car horn. Add to that Jeffrey's learning issues, health issues and intensely creative brain and it's safe to say he gets a whole lot of attention.

Then we come to our girls. Ignore Kylie--I dare you. After nearly 10 years of living without his daughter, my husband got another one and let me tell you he has made the most of it. She's so fixed in a princess mentality that we've been working since first grade to convince her she has to do the schoolwork--even if she doesn't want to. And none of the other kids have to do what she says just because. Don't get me wrong; she's actually a very sweet, loving child. But she's got a stubborn streak a mile wide and steel in her disposition. Don't know where she gets that from (whistles innocently).

Last, but certainly not least, is the baby, our newly minted 5 yr old. She's the last child; she's the youngest and she's a girl. Plus she's incredibly brilliant and her brain works like quicksilver. NOT. POSSIBLE. TO. OVERLOOK.

And we're back to Daniel. Brilliant, creative, fun, bubbly Daniel. He's helpful, cooperative and is absolutely any teacher's dream. This kid gets straight A's without trying. He offers opinions when asked, raises his hand, is exceptionally polite and quite intelligent. He's friendly too. And not remotely shy.

And, because of all those things, he probably gets the least attention in the house. Sad, isn't it? A couple of years ago, I noticed Daniel had become withdrawn and lost his enthusiasm for school. I knew he was bored in class. Though I appreciated the fact he did his classwork anyway, I knew it presented no challenge for him. But my mommy sense told me something else was going on. I knew he needed extra attention. He was falling through the cracks.

I had an inspired idea. We sent him to stay with his grandma and papa in Oklahoma for a month. He had a blast. (And came home too big for his clothes) He ate cheeseburgers, slept all morning, played video games and watched Spongebob till all hours of the night. He rode Papa's tricked out golf cart all over the yard. He went fishing with his Papa. He caught fireflies and toads. Little boy heaven.

It taught us all something. And I haven't forgotten. Sometimes the quiet wheel needs a little grease, too.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reader, Beware!

I'm going to get religious here for a bit, so if you don't want to get that intimate--stop reading now.

Ok, you asked for it. No apologies now.

I read a lengthy portion of Elizabeth's Smart's testimony of her treatment in the hands of Brian David Mitchell today. I have so much respect and empathy for that young woman. What she endured; her bravery--the times she tried to deny him. Kidnapped in the middle of the night, her family threatened, forced into a farce of a marriage and imprisoned for months. The fact that she's so whole now is a testament to her faith and the healing power of God.

Watch this girl. She's going to contribute something incredible to the kingdom of God. Maybe in little ways; maybe not. But let's break this down. For nine months, ironically the length of time it takes a child to grow in the womb, she was attacked on all fronts--physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. The man attacking her is so possessed by evil it has polluted every aspect of his mind. He's not insane or weak minded. He's cold, calculating and a sociopath. He used every device at his disposal to destroy her, to make her malleable and submissive. And it didn't work.

God protected her. I'm sure in those dark moments of despair she had to have doubted, had to have wondered why this had happened to her. An innocent child of 14 taken from everything familiar and abused in the worst ways. Yet the woman she has become is a testament to the healing power of faith, to the special gift of love of family and to the power of a loving God.

It may not have always seemed like it, Elizabeth, but God is with you. And He loves you. Serve well, my sister.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Little Things Mean A LOT

A couple of weeks ago, my stepdaughter texted me a cryptic question. "What size shirt do you wear?" This week the question was, "How long does it take mail to get from here to there, or there to here?"

Thursday I received a package. In it was the shirt pictured on this blog.

It's probably not a huge deal to most people, but to me it meant that she really does know me. She doesn't know the detailed history I have with this movie, but she does know I like it. A LOT. And that works for me.

Labyrinth was the movie I best identified with as a child. The very first version of my book, The Peasant Queen, was heavily influenced by my love for that movie. Over time the story evolved until now the only remnant of the movie is my hero is named Jareth. (yeah, I know the bad guy in the movie has that name but I like it, and I liked him for the most part)

I love the movie. I love the shirt. And I love her. It's a good thing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What do Moms do all day?

A friend put this on Facebook and I had to share!

What do you do all day??

A man came home from work and found his three children outside, still in their pyjamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and 20 wrappers strewn all around the front yard.

The door of his wife's car was open, and so the front door to the house and there was no sign of the dog. Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall.

In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing.

In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on
the counter, the fridge door was open wide, dog food was spilled on the floor a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door.

He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of
clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or that
something serious had happened.

He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way out the
bathroom door.

As he peered inside he found wet towels, scummy soap and more toys
strewn over the floor.

Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been smeared over the mirror and walls.

As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled up in the
bed in her pyjamas, reading a novel.

She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went.

He looked at her bewildered and asked, 'What happened here today?'

She again smiled and answered, 'You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world I do all day?'

Yes,' was his incredulous reply.

She answered, 'Well, today I didn't do it.'

Send this page to a woman. This is Priceless.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Made it!

Ok, I had my doubts at first but I did manage to survive the weekend. And I actually enjoyed myself, despite everything I missed back home.

Let's face it, we're hardwired for guilt as moms. And going away for the weekend when your child has something going on, even if it's to further your career or even if you can't get out of it, makes you feel like sludge. I'm so good at this I unintentionally punish myself. Sure, I'll go, but you can't make me like it. I'll actually "plan" to have a miserable time.

Before I left, and we're talking the 11th hour, I got some incredibly sage advice from someone who knows me better than I know myself. He told me to go and have a good time. Certainly I should be open to learning whatever comes along, but I shouldn't focus on learning so diligently that it prevents me from having fun. Does He know me or what?

I spent the hour and a half drive out there concentrating on relaxing my jaw. I'm amazed my teeth aren't all hopelessly cracked from the constant pressure they're under. I clench my teeth so much I don't even notice until I relax. It's pretty pathetic, but there you are.

The weekend was great. I had a fabulous time. I laughed. I talked to perfect strangers. I smiled at people I don't even know. And some I do know. I handed out my business card (mostly to show off my book cover, but oh well). And I did learn a thing or two--good stuff, important things that will make me a better author.

And now that I don't have to get up insanely early each morning, I know what to do with the extra time I have in the evenings.

Monday, September 14, 2009


My baby made it in the play!

Ironically, none of the other kids got a part, but the little 5 year old, the definition of "precocious" got a spot in the mini cast. My beautiful, caring, exuberant child is performing in her first community play this Saturday.


This is one of those things I'm going to have to take day by day, play by ear, etc. I'll probably waffle back and forth half a dozen times between now and Saturday. I may stay through the Saturday banquet at Roundup, or I may cut out early so I can see the second performance at 7. I have to plan the drive into my timing and all, since Midway to Tooele isn't a short trip.

I want to see her on stage. As a mom, I know the video tape isn't going to be enough. Parents miss their kids' milestones because of distance, jobs, divorce, etc. And if I want to be considered an author, I should consider this trip part of my job. But, like every other working parent, I have to find the balance between work and family that I can live with.

Wish me luck!

Double Whammy

Early this year I committed to attend the League of Utah Writer's annual author roundup. It's part of the continued commitment to my writing, to take time and (family) money and attend regular conventions and author gatherings to connect with others like me and to improve myself as an author.

I paid my dues as a member of the League, and later committed to share a hotel with another author (it's fun making new friends) and send in my registration and payment for the Roundup. And then I got hit with life.

My son, the one who doesn't like trying new things, brought me the flier for a play and begged me to try out. How can I say no to that? He wants to broaden his horizons, stretch as a person and perform in a play. I'm thrilled. But guess what? They have this fantastic one week timeline where the auditions are Monday (today) and the performances are Saturday (while I'll be in Midway at Roundup). Wait, hold the phone. My kids are auditioning for a play with likely success and I'm going to miss their performance??? Talk about sacrifice!

Then my local bookstore, The Purple Cow, is having Brandon Mull and Lisa Mangum out for this great author fest thing Saturday. And I'm going to miss it. I need some explanation from the universe about why everything is happening the same weekend.

Sure, if it was any other weekend I'd take the kids down and we'd visit with the authors and partake of their wisdom, but let's be honest. I want to see my kids in the play. Even if only one of them is accepted I want to see them on stage. It's their first performance of anything outside of those mandatory school performances where everyone participates. And for at least one of them, I suspect it might be the beginning of a life love of acting in plays.

Why can't mothers clone themselves?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

When Life comes back to Haunt You

My kids are grateful---though they don't know it---that I still remember being a kid. That's why I can sympathize with my son about his stolen bike, instead of bemoaning the expense of replacing it and his irresponsibility that got it stolen in the first place. What I haven't yet told him is his experience brought back vivid memories of when my own bicycle was stolen.

Unlike my son I had earned the money for my bike myself. I had worked and saved and put a bike on layaway (when they still had layaway), making small payments on it every week until it was paid off. I'd had it only a few short months when I rode it to the store and left it outside.

Like my son, I was old enough to know better. I knew I needed to lock it up but didn't. I was only going to be in the store a few minutes, after all. How many times do we use that justification?

Of course, when I came out of the store my bike was gone. I told a policeman, filled out a report, but nothing happened. It was Phoenix after all.

This morning he got up and was mid-way through his morning when he remembered about his bike. I explained to him how his inaction is in part responsible for his bike being stolen. It's like when we're told to lock our car. An unlocked car is easier to steal, just like an unlocked bike. We aren't done talking about it. I plan to share my experience with him. We just might go through the motions of filing a police report, if we can remember enough details to make the bike identifiable.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I'm gonna gripe a little

A couple weeks ago, one of my older brothers was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because of construction on the freeway onramps, he took 900 East in Provo home on his motorcycle. Just after turning onto 900 East he noticed the car in the right lane was going slow and glanced back to check traffic to go around her. When he looked forward again a split second later, the car was across both lanes making a Uturn from the right lane. He locked up the tire and slid into her car.

But here's the problem. She happens to be an 18 yr old in the car with another 18 yr old and a 17 yr old and, apparently, would rather lie than get into trouble. She claims to be in the middle lane preparing to make a Uturn when my brother's motorcycle hit her car. If she was in the freakin' middle lane what the heck would he be doing hitting her car????

Thanks to crappy report taking on the part of the officers, which includes taking everyone else's statements but my brother's, he's struggling with insurance company crap and all sorts of nonsense--along with medical bills and bike repairs--none of which should be his responsibility. That young driver made a stupid move and is lucky she didn't kill someone. But her insurance company denied my brother's claim, saying he's half at fault.

His only fault was being on that road at the same time as this kid. Right now I just hate the crap insurance companies force us to go through and then deny the claim anyway. If he files with his insurance company it's like admitting liability and that's a load of crap. So now he has to look into getting a lawyer.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me...

I won't go on because that sounds silly even in my head.

I'm not a huge fan of my own birthday, but not for the reasons you may think. I'm a horrible gift receiver. Really, I am. I hate it when people get things for me. Bryan had to pester me for weeks till I finally broke down and let him get me something last weekend. It's especially hard when it's him because I know the money we don't have and I don't want to spend it on me.

It goes back to my childhood, but I also hate the pressure surrounding birthdays. When you think about it, it's just another day. And 34 isn't a landmark birthday, like 21 or 30 or 40. So what's the big deal?

See how bad I am with this? It's even harder with kids. They're THRILLED it's your birthday. Can't wait to tell EVERYONE. I hate that kind of attention.

I'm not the kind who obsesses about getting older. I don't bemoan missed opportunities or lost chances. While I believe in learning from my past I see no need to dwell there.

So I'll slap on my happy face for my family and just ignore how I personally feel about today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Time Marches On

Being a stepmom is hard; being a good stepmom is somehow harder. It should be easy. You fall in love with a man who has a child (or children) and when you marry him, you take these kids into your heart as well. It didn't quite work out that way for me.

I saw her first. This adorable blonde headed child bounced into my life 14 years ago and I fell in love instantly. Then I met her dad and my fate was sealed. In my naivete, I thought I could develop my own relationship with her and it would be separate from the relationships she had with her parents.

After many years of pain and disappointment, I've come to realize it doesn't work that way. The hardest to cope with has been how other people's decisions hurt my children, and how I can do nothing to change that. I can only help my kids cope with pain and loss and hurt. I've had to tame that "mama bear" inside me that rears up any time somebody hurts my kids.

We all know the stories of bad stepmoms. The ones who see their stepkids as intruders into their lives and would rather not deal with them. There are others who don't fall far from the stepmoms of Grimms' fairy tales--the ones who actively scorn and belittle their stepchildren and make them feel unwanted in their own father's house.

I've always loved my stepdaughter. I've never tried to replace her mom--it's not even possible anyway. I've always known a mother's place is impossible to usurp and never tried. All I wanted was to forge my own relationship with her, but even that has been a difficult journey.

Now she's less than 7 weeks from turning 18. While I'm excited for her to take these next amazing steps in her life, I bemoan all the other steps we've missed. This coming May she'll graduate high school and in a year she'll be in college. Incredible. And at the same time I know it will draw her even farther away from us, and from my kids.

Kids grow up. They leave the nest. And these days kids have more than one nest to leave. In the day and age where the divorce rate is upwards of 50% it's logical to conclude that many children have mom's house and dad's house, and when they grow up there's a separation from both households. For some it's easier. They can't stand stepmom or stepdad and can't wait to get away.

But for the rest of us, it's very different.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

First Day of School! First Day of School!

Nemo is chanting in my head right now. Tomorrow is it--the day I send ALL my kids to school for the very first time. I'm really not sure which of us is more excited. The kindergartner is really stoked; her level of excitement may be higher than mine. Maybe.

It's unique to be able to send all of them to the same school. Without the opening of the new charter school in Tooele, it wouldn't be possible. I have one 7th grader, two 5th graders, one 3rd grader and, of course, one kindergartner. I got an earful yesterday of the benefits of a "middle school" verses a JR High from the school's director yesterday. It made me remember my own experience.

I attended a K-4 school, then a 5-8 school. I guess that would be considered a "middle school" but to me it felt like an extended grade school. There's no ceremony after graduating 4th grade. We just went on to the next level. And in 5th graded we started changing classes for math and language arts. We had like 3 teachers. We had 4 or so teachers in 6th grade. The experience of 5 or 6 teachers didn't happen until 7th and 8th grades. By then we were ready. More than ready. I never felt traumatized or freaked out by the experience, and didn't experience any of the peer pressure or downright assaults that reportedly happen in JR High these days.

Entering high school after graduating 8th grade did not worry me at all. I felt prepared. Looking back, I think it was the structure of my 5-8 school that prepared me for it. By the time you're 14 and ready to take on the world, having your own locker and going from class to class makes you feel mature and grown up. It's exciting more than intimidating. And that was when I first started writing, so I can't feel bitter about my freshman experience on any level.

I'm hoping these next two years will help my oldest transition into high school. I'm not at all bothered by his missing the JR High experience, though he really was looking forward to spending the next two years with his friend. I can't feel bad about that either. I met the girl once. She deliberately put me into a position of lying to her dad, or helping her lie to her dad, by my actions. I didn't appreciate that and I find it difficult to encourage the friendship. Though I probably won't say anything until he's a little older, I think my son's in a better place if he's not around her influence.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wouldn't you Know it!

So, school starts in 6 days. It's like fate--you just know one of the kids is going to do something. This time Daniel took his turn. No it wasn't like the pipe cleaner to the electrical outlet incident, but in some ways it's worse.

While taking his shower Friday, Daniel decided to take Daddy's razor and cut some of the hair off his head, just above his right ear. And not even in a straight line. It's a jagged kind of bare patch and looks ridiculous. His explanation? "I just like the feel of the soft, fuzzy hair."

Of course, with a shaving razor meant to remove hair, it's a bald spot. There's no dancing around it. To make it less noticeable I shaved the surrounding hair to 1/4 inch and the top to 1/2, but geez. This is the impression he's going to make his first day at a new school with all new kids. My option is to either send him to school as "the kid with weird hair" or shave it all to match and have him be "the bald kid."

I'm hiding all razors and scissors in case the girls get ideas...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reality Check

It would give my readers (both of them on this blog lol luv you guys!) a false impression of my life if I always posted about how great my kids are and how bright and fun and lively and imaginative. Don't get me wrong--they are all that and more--but there's the darker, underside of parenting that deserves a little light, too.

I'm a human being. I have a defined identity and a strong sense of self. But sometimes I get lost in the needs of everyone else and forget to take care of me. There's a fine line between martyring oneself and making your family a priority. We can't lose sight of that. In the last year I've made my writing a priority, gone to conferences, gotten my first massage and reaffirmed my relationship with God. And it feels great.

But recently I have gotten so bogged down in my daily schedule that I don't write as much as I should. Sometimes my blogs are the only writing I get in, and some days I don't get any in at all. And when I draw away from that crucial part of me, the writer, I lose some of the happiness that makes me a productive member of my family.

Kids are hard work. And it doesn't end when they get out of diapers or start school. I'm not even sure it ends when they get married and are out on their own. Maybe that's why grandparents tire easily. It's not so much age but the emotional exhaustion of worry.

I go to the store in the evenings because I need a break. I need to get out of the house. I stay up later than the kids for two reasons: one is that I like the quiet and the other is I can't go to sleep until my kids sleep.

And now I'm not sure where I was going with this...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer Colds

Doesn't this seem like an oxymoron to you? It does to me. I got sick, then the kids started dropping like flies. We're just an affectionate family I guess. The trouble with getting sick is by the time you know you're sick you've already been contagious for at least a week.

So of the 5 kids, one has a bad cough and has been croupy, two have fevers and two aren't exhibiting symptoms yet. We're supposed to go to the lake Saturday with extended family, but I'm not seeing that as being likely right now. I had to beg off last weekend because I was miserable, but fortunately (?) the weather called off the day for everyone.

Cross your fingers. Maybe they're all getting the sickness out of the way before school starts. I could go for a healthy school year.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I think I get it

If I were a wealthy (monetarily) mom, I'd either hire a camera crew to follow my kids around or install video surveillance in every area of my home. Why? Because roughly 7 seconds after my kid says something witty or clever, unless I repeat it to myself, I've forgotten what was said. I'm starting to understand the initial, innocent idea that gave birth to those horrible "reality" TV shows where families have cameras invading nearly every aspect of their lives.

The difference is I wouldn't broadcast. This indulgence would be strictly for me. My children are fabulous resources for clever, natural dialogue--not to mention windows into how a child's mind works.

I guess there's no mystery where I sit on the whole "reality" TV thing. I can't understand what would motivate a rational, thinking person to tear their lives up like that. And it's all so fake. There's this thing called editing where the producers and directors take what really happened and shape it to be something kind of like what really happened, because that makes more engaging TV. I can't even stand watching Super Nanny (though it does make me feel more grateful for my kids). They should just be honest and call it "unscripted" TV, though I at times have had my doubts about that, too.

The problem with having cameras in my home would be whether or not friends and family could stand having to sit through a video presentation every time they visited us.

Friday, July 31, 2009

When it rains...

...in the basement, then you've got problems. On a practical note, I like the space saving design of a home with a basement because you get more space without having a house that just goes on and on across your property and give you no yard. But with kids, I hate stairs. I have nightmares about my youngest coming to find me in the middle of the night and falling down the stairs in her sleepy stupor. And I'm just superstitious enough to grumble about the fact that we have exactly 13 steps in our staircase.

So, yesterday, I'm enjoying a moment of silence with my girls while we watch a silly teen movie and all of the sudden Bryan comes charging up the stairs shouting, "What's going on! What's going on!" Jeffrey had just explained how he set fire to his lunch--briefly--while cooking it so I thought Bryan's excitement had something to do with that. But he charged right through the kitchen and went down the hall to the bathroom.

Naturally, I leap up to see what's going on. I'm standing in water before I register the fact that water is literally surging from underneath the bathroom door. We scramble for towels, wake up the sleeping day care babies, and hurry to get the water mopped up before more of it seeps through the floor and into the basement. I grabbed a couple of towels and took my oldest son downstairs to see what we could do there.

And it was literally raining in the basement. Water falling in heavy drops from the ceiling and pattering on the accumulated moisture on the carpet. It would have sounded nice if it had been outside. But in the basement it just sounded like money going down the drain.

We're still drying it out. Really, the entire upstairs bathroom floor needs to be ripped out, reinforced and replaced. But that's not going to be possible any time soon.

The reason for all this excitement in the middle of the day? One of my children, who is still nameless though I have my suspicions, stopped up the upstairs toilet with about a half a roll of TP and then flooded it trying to flush. The entire family is familiar with our 'quirky' upstairs toilet and usually if something goes wrong they tell us. But no, not this time.

Have I mentioned I love my children?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Those who do not learn from history...

Go back with me about 5 years. I'd just given birth to Rianne via C-section and we were planning for her baby blessing. Friends were coming in from out of town, my niece lived with us but was planning to go back to her mom's, and everything was going pretty well.

Then Bryan called me into our bedroom to show me his lower leg. The skin was angry, red and inflamed. He confessed it had been like this for a few weeks; he had no idea what it was but now areas up his leg had started to get sore. It hurt to walk. We called his doctor and made an appointment for him that day.

At the doctor's office, he was examined briefly before the doctor looked up at him and said, "The good news is I can save your life. But you have to go to the hospital right now. We'll fax the order over and it will be waiting for you when you get there."

What followed was two weeks of trial and difficulty. Bryan spent 7 days in the hospital; he missed Rianne's blessing which was performed by my oldest brother in Bryan's absence. After he was released from the hospital, Bryan was put on 7 days of bed rest with a nurse who came in once a day to give him an IV antibiotic. He developed a reaction to the antibiotic and had to be switched to a different one after a few days at home.

He did recover. Parts of his leg will always be discolored from the ordeal, but he survived. At the time that's what was important.

A few years later it happened again. We'd moved here to Tooele and had a different doctor, and Bryan caught the infection early and did not have to go to the hospital. Though it disturbed me that the infection happened again, I wasn't sure what to do about it. The first time we attributed the infection to the poor condition of Bryan's feet. He has like a perpetual athlete's foot condition where his feet are dry, flaky and calloused. There was a cut on the bottom of his foot at the time and we figured that's how the infection got into his blood stream. There is a cream that helps heal his feet, but only to a point and it requires constant application--we all know how good men are at maintaining their meds. :( If he stops using the cream his feet just go back to the way they were. It doesn't seem like it will ever go away forever.

Last night, Bryan saw the doctor again for the same condition. He got antibiotics and a cream and went to work. He ended up coming home early because the pain was too much and now has a doctor's appointment in about an hour.

This is information I got off the Mayo Clinic's website about the condition: Cellulitis (sel-u-LI-tis) is a common, potentially serious bacterial skin infection. Cellulitis appears as a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot and tender, and it may spread rapidly.

Skin on lower legs is most commonly affected, though cellulitis can occur anywhere on your body or face. Infections on the face are more common in children and older adults. Cellulitis may affect only your skin's surface — or, cellulitis may also affect tissues underlying your skin and can spread to your lymph nodes and bloodstream.

Left untreated, the spreading infection may rapidly turn life-threatening. That's why it's important to seek immediate medical attention if cellulitis symptoms occur. (that's where we were the first time; it was almost too late to save him)

This is why it's so scary to me. This can kill him. And it keeps happening. He's had this infection 3 times in the last 5 years. That's too often in my opinion. But I can't make him maintain the foot cream. I can't make him remember all the things the doctors have told him to prevent it. I was so panicked yesterday I could hardly function. And I can't say I'm doing much better today.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My little girl

Today, Kylie turned 8. I suppose if I wanted to get really picky about it I could say she'll turn 8 at 9PM tonight. But I don't. At 9PM we'll be setting off the last of the fireworks and getting them ready to go to the movie. My sweet Rose; when did we come so far?

Kylie was beautiful from birth. Seriously. She had such a beautiful face, perfect baby body and adorable toes. Not much hair, for a long time, but simply beautiful nonetheless. Actually I have to back track a little. We have a print out of her ultrasound where they've highlighted her face and even from that you can tell this is a beautiful child. So, Kylie was beautiful since BEFORE her birth.

She had no fear until she turned 5 and figured out stuff could actually hurt. This girl would hurl herself headlong into just about everything. She'd walk right up to the scariest dog, try to pet the mangiest cat--it didn't matter. She had a black eye at age 3. I can't even remember why.

Because she was the long anticipated girl (she has a sister almost 10 yrs older and 3 older brothers), Kylie got spoiled. Everyone doted on her. Everyone bought her pretty dresses and girlie toys--for me it was the novelty of being able to do this. Because of our failings in her earliest years, Kylie is a bit of a snot. She can be wonderfully adorable and kind and sweet, but cross her and out come the claws. And her little sister has the marks to prove it. She's got a temper; I think it's God's way of illustrating, at least in part, how I was at her age.

But Kylie's still my beautiful Rose. I adore her and am constantly knocked off my feet by her bright smile or her sweet nature. I just want to say that dang, did I ever get lucky!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

When you can't be there

My son is at scout camp, as I believe I mentioned. Yesterday my husband drove up to join him. Tonight, hubby texted me to say my son burned his thumb and finger--not badly, but it hurts whenever he pulls his hand out of the cold water. At first he teased me with the idea that they would pack up and come home tonight. Then he said they'd come early in the morning.

So I'm sitting here. It's after midnight and I haven't gone to bed. Why? Am I thinking they might change their minds and come home sooner? Do I expect to hear the car pull up? Am I anxious about my son? DUH!

As a logical, rational being I understand this kind of thing happens. As a mom, I'm crying inside. "Why can't I be there? I want to help him!" While I have confidence in my husband's ability to assess burns (he has some experience in that), I am troubled that my son is in pain. They could probably drive for an hour and get some aloe vera ointment or gel or something to soothe the burn. This is the kid who broke both bones in his wrist 3 yrs ago and didn't cry.

And do you want to know the worst part? He's probably sleeping soundly in his tent, the pain has subsided, and I'm doing more thinking about this than either my son or my husband.

Moms. We're an interesting breed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Things you never thought you'd say

And I'm not just talking about sounding like your mom when you swore up and down you wouldn't (when you were a teenager). I'm talking about odd, off the wall and bizarre things your kids manage to make come out of your mouth by what they say or do.

Years ago, I saw a movie where the dad looks up from his worktable at his daughter and says, "DON'T twist the dog's head." All you see of her is these wide eyes, all innocence, and the dog sitting calmly next to her.

Today, while in the car, I couldn't help but inject my 2 cents into my kids' conversation. I actually said, "No, we are NOT calling the Phantom of the Opera 'Bob!'" and if that's not strange I don't know what strange means.

Sometimes I will say something and that little, tiny actually, logical person inside me says "what?" She's stunned I ever would have to say that, whatever it is. And it gives me pause. I will occasionally run the conversation through in my mind, wondering if I could have said something different. But usually the answer is no.

One of these days I'm going to dig through the deep, dark recesses of my mind and write up all the things I never thought I'd say. That will be the same day I jump out of a perfectly good airplane with a bundle of silk and string strapped to my back.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Letting go

I'm the first to admit I don't have much experience letting go. My first child is turning 12 on Sunday, so it's not like I've sent them out of the country or seen them get married or anything. But today, I sent my boy off to scout camp for the very first time. And that's not half as bad as realizing I'm going to miss his birthday for the first time in his life.

After camp is done, and I mean right after, he and his dad are driving out to Disneyland to take advantage of their 2009 special to get in free for your birthday. He will be joined by my brother and my daughter, who also has a July birthday, but they are flying out--it will be Kylie's first time on an airplane.

This is the exchange. I took our 3 other kids last April down to Phoenix for a wedding and then off to Disneyland (because their birthdays are all on the same day, economic, huh?) with the understanding that Daddy will take the other two in July. Now it's July, and I'm realizing all the things I'm going to miss.

But by far, the hardest one to come to terms with is missing Brandon's 12th birthday. I mean, what kind of mom misses her kid's birthday?! But, ironically, it feels like a time in his life where things are changing (for obvious and not so obvious reasons), and it's almost fitting that the first snipping of the apron strings would happen now.

He's going to experience a lot of firsts that I will miss. His first kiss, for instance, comes to mind. Who does that in front of their mom? This is to be expected. Kids grow up, and there comes a point in their lives where their development would be hindered by the constant presence of their parent, rather than aided by it.

That doesn't mean we get to check out when they're 12. On the contrary, that's when they start to need us most. We provided balance, structure and guidance, but this is that point where they start taking the things we repeated incessantly their whole lives and decide for themselves whether or not they're going to listen. As they get older, the choices get bigger. Right now it's not such a big deal. But it has begun, and I see that.

For now, though, I'm just going to remember that huge hug he gave me before leaving, and hope that memory lasts me through the week.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I survived the week

It was touch and go there for a while, but I made it. The incredibly intense, painful headache was caused by an oncoming sinus infection. You'd think, since I've had so many, that I would be able to recognize the signs but not quite. It wasn't until I woke up with painful pressure in my ears that I finally made that dr's appt.

It kind of reminds me about when I found out I was pregnant with my 5th child. I worked for a local retailer stocking in the AM for the store opening. I almost made the 3 month probation mark, too. But I started feeling really awful every morning about the middle of my shift and sometimes would ask to go home. I know my manager thought I was faking but I couldn't do anything about that. I felt terrible and, stupidly, thought I was probably coming down with something.

The job wasn't a good fit, anyway. Kylie, who was 2 at the time, hated my leaving so much that she'd wake herself up at 4 AM just to cry at me and beg me not to go. So sad.

But it wasn't until my manager gave me the ultimatum: you've been "sick" a lot lately (some of the ladies I worked with even asked if I was pregnant lol) and you need to decide if this job is something you want to keep--you know, THAT ultimatum, that I really started thinking about it. I hate being doubted; I'm an honest person and I don't feel like I should have to prove that. The hours were bad, Kylie was sad and I didn't know what was wrong with me.

So I did the math and realized I should probably buy a pregnancy test. Of course it was positive. Rianne was born 7 months later.

I guess it was a good thing that was my second job and I had my primary job to fall back on--since I could do it at home on my computer.

Long story short: no matter how well you know your body, it's bound to surprise you once or twice.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I just want to wake up tomorrow and be OK

I'm on day 3 of my headache. Not fun. This doesn't happen to me. I've been sick before, but never had a headache so persistent it lasted more than a day. And this is a doozy. No lights, no noise (ya with 5 kids and a day care, ha!). I went outside for the first time in 2 days and thought I was going to explode.

Not only is this bad for my work, my family and my writing, but it's discouraging. Pain can be debilitating. I can't even concentrate. And I'm tired.

It doesn't help that it's the July 4th holiday weekend. It's killed me listening to the fireworks my neighbors have been setting off till all hours. But I can't even go outside and ask them to stop. It hurts too much.

Stupid headache. I need a time turner. At least my kids have mostly been good. :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


A 7 yr old child does not care if her mother is tired from working all day because she got no sleep from writing half the night. All this child cares about is that they were supposed to make cookies together. So when she looks at me with those wide, hopeful eyes, what can I do? I get off my duff and roll out the cookie dough.

This is part of a mother's sacrifice. A parent's sacrifice. This is what we do; we put our wants and needs aside to give our children the kinds of experiences that build memories they can look back on fondly for their lifetime. We build legacies with cookie cutters and craft scissors. Our children recall these things so fondly when they are grown that they want to provide these experiences for their own children. This is what love means.

Love means you haul your tired bones out of your recliner, and help your daughter cut out heart cookies for the 4th of July because we love our country. (She said that.) Love means you look past the mess she's made doing it herself up to that point, and laugh with her while you finish the job and clean up. Love means you don't count the minutes until you can sit down again or gripe at her for the extra work she's made for you. Love means you come second.

Society today doesn't want us to see things this way. We're just as important as our kids. I agree, to a point. An emotionally or spiritually unhealthy mom is worse than useless to her kids. She's a detriment. But a mom focused on her own well being is also a detriment to her kids. She needs balance, and it's not hard to find. We don't need to kill ourselves to raise healthy, well adjusted kids. Really, it's easier to do when we take a little of the "perfect mommy" pressure off ourselves.

And, when you do, there's freshly made cookies to enjoy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A mother's work is never done

Truer words were never typed. I'm so tired. My two jobs are at odds with one another, and those are on top of my duties as a mom. I have to take in a dress for my daughter before Aug 1. There's the ever mounting pile of laundry, dinner to make, and plans to make for my husband's vacation. (He's taking 2 of the kids on a trip in July)

I've accepted there aren't enough hours in the day. What confounds me is how busy I can get without really getting anything done. That kind of thing really bugs me. And at the end of the day, I'm so tired my brain refuses to focus. Sigh.

At least I know I'm not alone...Right?

Monday, June 29, 2009

10 Things NEVER to say to your Mom

Some of these are trial and error realizations. I'm not going to tell you which ones though.

10. "I didn't do it." (this especially doesn't work when you're an only child)

9. "It was the dog." (Again, think before you use it. You might not have a dog)

8. "But you said I could." (if she's calling you on it, she either doesn't remember or never said it)

7. "It was broken when I got here."

6. "What $20?"

5. "I didn't know I was grounded."

4. "And he just got out of prison last week! Isn't he sweet?"

3. "I'm never having children." (think--she's been waiting for retribution since your terrible 2's)

2. "The good news is, the kitchen is no longer on fire."

And 1. "The bad news is..."

But mostly I'm just playing around. :)

Good Days and Bad Days

Tuesday was not a good day. I'd pulled a muscle so I was pretty much hobbling everywhere, day care was full--all 3 babies--and my kids were on some kind of summer high. The weather was nice and they could not contain their excitement.

So I sent my kids to the park. I usually don't send the 5 yr old with her older sibs because she's so young, but I gave them all very specific instructions to stay together and cautioned her oldest brother to watch out for her. In a perfect world...

Jeffrey, one of the twins, comes home all stressed half an hour later to ask if Kylie (the 7 yr old) had come home. No, I say. His tension increases. She's disappeared from the park and no one knows where she is. He saw her at the fence and then when he looked back she was gone. And to twist a mother's heart as only her child can, he said he may have missed the screaming and struggling of her being dragged off.

I'm feeding babies. They're on a schedule and I don't want to mess that up. Besides, I'm not the panicking type. I ask him to look over the house, in case Kylie came home through the back door and I missed her. Then I asked him to go back to the park and get the others to help look for her. We know some people in the area and they needed to ask if she'd gone to one of their houses.

I missed one crucial instruction, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Jeffrey left and I finished feeding babies. In my mind, I thought of what I could do if they didn't find Kylie. Having a day care means you're pretty much tied to the house. But my husband was downstairs sleeping after working his graveyard shift. In a pinch he can come watch babies.

Well, 20 minutes or so passed and no one appeared at the door. I got antsy. I went down and woke up Bryan. Poor guy. Imagine you're sleeping soundly and your spouse comes down and wakes you with the information that one of your kids has gone missing and no one can find her. So he came upstairs to watch babies and I got in the van and drove to the park.

There they were, all 5 of them, playing happily with some friends. The instruction I had forgotten to give Jeffrey when he left? COME BACK AND LET ME KNOW IF YOU FIND HER. Duh, mom.

So, I took all the kids home and we had a nice, long talk about what it means to take advantage of friendships, not follow instructions, leave the group and go off on your own, etc. We talked about our responsibilities as parents and of their responsibilities as kids. And we're laying fresh ground rules. I can't relegate my kids to spend their entire summer tethered to the house. But at the same time my heart can't take another day like Tuesday.

But, on the bright side--I got through the week with all my kids in tact and without making the news, and I got an amazing massage today so I'm feeling pretty good.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 1

There's a book out there, somewhere, titled something like "Things I Learned by Accident because I became a Mom on Purpose" and I have to say I love that title. I've never read the book, but I appreciate the concept.

See, I'm a mom. And as a mom I've lived more than I would have otherwise. Some of it has been scary, most of it has been hard, but all of it has been worth it. I created this blog separate from my author blog, because sometimes I need to rant or cheer about my kids and family--and none of it has anything to do with writing.

So, read and laugh, cry or whatever you feel like. I hope you enjoy my perspectives.