Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dads and lads

After returning home from errands one afternoon:
Amy: Well, I need a snack, and Michael needs a nap. Jacob and Zach, what do you need?
Jacob: We just need to wrestle.

What? Haven't we been wrestling all day? Do you remember when I gave you all haircuts this morning? Wrestling with shears! Or when I wrestled you all into that limousine of a shopping cart at the grocery store? How about when I wrestled Zachary away from attempting a head-first dive into the bathtub? (I'm not making this up.) I wrestled Michael away from drinking out of the toilet bowl at least three times. We could institute a preschool WWF around here!

But mommy-wrestling was not the type of wrestling that Jacob was talking about. He was talking about daddy-wrestling: rolling on the floor, laughing wrestling. The kind of wrestling where you might actually get a real scrape. The kind of wrestling that you do when mom's in the other room. The type of wrestling that only a dad can do.

Several years ago a feminist colleague asked me how people dare suppose that there are some things a man can teach a child that a woman can't. "Name one thing!" she screeched, rolling her eyes. I didn't know what to say then, but now I know. As a mother of boys, I can teach them to be kind, smart, loyal, and righteous. I can teach them to read, to ride bikes, to count by fives, to swim, to plant a garden. If I summoned up the energy, I could even teach them how to really wrestle. But only a man can teach a child how to be a man. Popular societal ideologies cheapen manhood and a father's role as presider, protector, and provider. God bless the good men who lead families in roles that they are specially designed to fulfill, all the while teaching their children about real manhood. And God bless the ones who even take time for some wrestling.
P.S. Two incredible resources on manhood, and particularly about positive male role models:
Dr. James Dobson's book Bringing Up Boys (along with the wrestling conversation, the impetus for this post)
Elder Richard Edgley's masterful talk "Behold the Man" from the October 1999 General Conference, The Church of Jesus Christ of LDS (I practically have this memorized because I've listened to it so much; it's a gem for every parent of boys)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Crab cakes and...crime rates?

This morning we attended what could be the most ceremonious of all job-offerings: Match Day. After the deans cut a red ribbon, Eric and his classmates rushed forward to receive the envelopes that would reveal their residency matches. We already knew that Eric would be going to Wisconsin in 2010, but we were anxious to learn where he would match for intern year, July 2009–July 2010. And the letter said...
Harbor Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland!

Harbor Hospital is only about an hour from my parents' home, and the kids are already looking forward to more time with "Grandma, Grandpa, and the uncles." Unfortunately, it seems like the inner city has its numbers all upside-down: low school performance and high crime rates. But I'm sure we'll be able to find a golden community in the area. Right, guys? I mean, I'm not giving up my cute little red brick home, my vegetable garden, tulips, and fruit trees, plus my dear Salt Lake friends and neighbors for nothing! No, this will be good. I haven't lived near my parents since I was 17, and I've always yearned for the East Coast. Baltimore will be good.
So we'll have to be settled in by mid-June, and in the meantime please tell your friends that the coziest cul-de-sac home in America is going on the market next month. If interested buyers act quickly, they can even recommend which varieties of tomato I should plant.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Whim 'o the Irish

Yesterday I only had a few things to get done: teach Zach's preschool class, clean out the fridge, and go grocery shopping. Just a few simple goals! But springtime so distracts me, and I found myself 
1. decorating the living room with green streamers, balloons, and shamrocks!
2. teaching Zach's class as planned, hoping that the other moms would linger a little longer and talk (they did),
3. playing dump trucks in the backyard with the boys (and isn't it just so beautiful that we should stay out and weed the flower beds?) Two hours later, I found myself
4. realizing that that I'd really like to sheetrock the ceiling closet downstairs, and moving everything out. So the older boys and I pull out everything in the (large) closet and organize it in piles. (The boys think that this is great fun, by the way.) Then, I think about how wonderfully organized the closet would be if we had labeled boxes for everything, and we spend the next hour and a half doing it. Hmm, we're feeling a little hungry, let's postpone the closet and spend time
5. doing homework! If we're stopping for lunch, why don't we practice some adjectives and spelling while we're at it? Organized, yes, that's an adjective, good job. Now let's take the trash out to the garage, but while we're here, why don't we start
6. cleaning the garage! Yes, of course! If we end up moving, we'll want to have the garage all cleaned out so that we can store boxes in here. First I'll need to pull the van out, but then we get distracted
7. washing the van! The boys should learn how to do it anyway, and it would be so embarrassing to have the van parked outside with those gray splotches on its sides. Next, let's get back to the garage, and continue
8. sweeping it out, organizing tools, and throwing away Mystery Screws and Other Metal Parts. That's done, just in time (is it 4:30 already?) to begin
9. making Irish stew and (dyed green!) baking powder biscuits for dinner. While it's simmering, we notice that our fish's water looks a little green, too. Let's spend a few minutes
10. scrubbing out the fish bowl, then
11. reading Blue Hat, Green Hat fifteen times in a row. Now that it's evening, there's no time for fridge-scrubbing or grocery shopping. Instead, let's carry out the bedtime routine,
12. bathing! reading! brushing! combing! story-telling! resting! But maybe I can stay up a few hours more and enjoy
13. washing the dishes, doing some laundry, and taking down the streamers. Do I have just a few more minutes for
14. practicing the oboe in my closet? Sure. 

And that's why we don't have any milk for breakfast this morning.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Draper Temple open house

Recently we took the boys to the Draper Temple open house, where we were able to take them through the (still undedicated) LDS temple and show them the beautiful ordinance rooms. We barely made it into the last tour group of the day because we came at the wrong time, and I was worried about taking three tired boys through a "silent" hour-long tour. Yet it felt completely peaceful to be there with my family. We believe that the temple is the Lord's house, a connection between earth and heaven. When we came into the sealing room (where couples are married, like the one where Eric and I were married), I told Jacob that this room is like heaven. "Yes," he nodded. "Yes, it is."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Idaho, reverence, and the nature of boys

This weekend we headed up to Idaho, where Eric's sister Lindsey emceed a Junior Miss pageant in Malad and gave a youth fireside in Pocatello. There's nothing that we love better than a road trip, and this one was even more fun because we had Nana, Grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins along. On the way up we all stopped at Maddox, an amazing steakhouse in northern Utah. They actually have a cattle yard just across the parking lot from the restaurant, ensuring extra fresh steaks. The kids got a kick out of the frisbee plates that their meals came on, and it was a treat to sit with Nana and Grandpa (pictured with my nephew Daniel). As we continued into Idaho, we stopped by Cherry Creek and Malad cemeteries to visit some of Eric's ancestor's graves. There is actually only one familial grave to visit in Malad: apparently Esther Jane Jones Mifflin's dying wish was that she not be buried with the rest of the relatives in Cherry Creek (pictured below) because of the snakes up there. We filled the rest of the trip with the two programs, church, and time at the hotel. Both nights Lindsey performed beautifully onstage and, I'm sure, motivated many young people to "be their best selves" (the Jr. Miss objective). The kids love to see Aunt Lindsey perform, but they were a little confused why hundreds of people were lining up for her autograph this time. Caught up in the excitement, even we got in line! Here's Linds with Allie (my niece) and Jacob after the Malad pageant.
With all this visiting and pageantry and reverence, you can probably imagine that the boys were about to go crazy by Sunday night (it's funny how this happens to the mother at the same time). At the event center as I was chasing this one (who, by the way, lost a shoe because he was running so fast),
I noticed another family in the hallway. There were four children, and they were all sitting on a couch with their mother. Meanwhile, my three children were 1) in the auditorium, but rolling in the aisle, 2) in the hall, trying to take himself on an elevator ride, and 3) running down the hallway, taking off his clothing. At this point I don't think that they could have sit still if I had superglued their pants to the cushions. And that's when I noticed what was different about Sitting Family and my family: all of the sitters were girls. Yes, four girls, sitting by their mother, whispering together.

So, on my nineteenth lap around the rotunda, I sighed, relieved. Maybe it's not entirely my fault that my children can't 1) sit still, 2) be reverent, and 3) keep within sight for multiple events in the same weekend. Maybe they're just boys, and maybe Plato had it right on when he observed that "of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable."
(P.S. After the fireside I finally get a hold of Zachary, the slipperiest of my lovelies.)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Easily offended?

I'm usually not offended by what people say. After all, I've dished out my share of socially awkward comments (The worst: "You sure look different all glammed up!" I still cringe about how I could say something so thoughtless, and to my friend's mother! Later I cried and cried about it.). But this week I've been offended on two different occasions. Maybe I'm becoming more sensitive, or maybe I just ran across two especially insensitive people in a seven-day period. I hope that these give you a laugh.

1. Yesterday I got a phone call at 9 a.m. (when, incidentally, I was just beginning to teach a lesson on forests to seven preschoolers).
"Does your husband drive a little red sports car?"
"Yes, he does."
"Did he leave about 15 minutes ago?"
At this point I'm thinking that Eric has either been in a car accident or run over someone's cat. Either way, my heart rate is rising.
"Yes, he did. What's wrong?"
"Well, I thought that was him. Amy, he just cut me off."
"Oh. He did? Oh, I'm so sorry. That's...awful."
At this point, I get a five-minute lecture about how cutting people off causes accidents and how Eric should be careful when he's driving near people with children in their cars.
Caller, I'm offended that you 1) criticized my husband and 2) interrupted my day with something so minor. My mom suggested that I should have given the woman Eric's cell phone number (why am I in charge of making him behave on the road?).

2. Two days ago I got an email from a former classmate at the U who was looking for a roommate. She listed her qualifications for an "ideal roommate" as follows: "clean, funny, financially solvent, not LDS, and kind-of hippie, into composting and recycling and stuff. Interest in outdoors a plus."
Now it boggles my mind why someone would send such an email to an entire listserv (especially one that regularly celebrates non-discrimination) that essentially says, "Of all the groups of people in the world, I would not want to live with someone of your faith." Imagine--just imagine!--that the email had read, "not Muslim," "not black," or "not gay." The ACLU would be knocking down her bigoted door before she could scream "tolerance." I've known quite a few LDS people in my life, and I think that they are generous, good people. But even if this woman can't stand the LDS standards and ideology, I can think of a lot of groups of people that would be much worse to live with. Terrorists, for one. Pyromaniacs. Ah, kleptomaniacs. Either way, she should have just requested an "alcohol-friendly" roommate. The term would effectively weed out active LDS while avoiding offense to an entire religious group.

I think that I'm over both of these things now. Let it roll off your back, like water off a duck, right? Actually, I'm in a great mood right now, because I just discovered Oral-B Superfloss, which has a rigid end to go under my permanent retainer. Ever since I saw a poster of a smiling Jerry Seinfield on my childhood dentist's door that read "FLOSS DAILY," I've aspired to be a daily flosser, but those retainers sure make it hard. So now I think that I really can floss daily, not every other day, or every day that I feel up to it. And while I'm doing it, I'll try not to think about rudeness, because really, who are those comments affecting anyway? I can assure you that neither of the above offenders have thought twice about what they've said. So I guess that I won't either.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Daily acts

Eric and I weren't big celebrators this Valentine's Day. He had been in Baltimore for a few days and flew in late that night, when he greeted me empty-handed and sour-faced, "All the airport flowers were droopy!" Poor guy. I guess that I can't expect much, though: this year he was also gone for our anniversary, his birthday, and the boys' birthdays (he left the morning after my birthday). So we've pretty much struck out on this year's celebrations. Oh well.

But sometimes I feel like being married to Eric makes every day a holiday. Since Valentine's Day, he has dismantled the stripped garage door gear and replaced it. He spent an hour prying out the lighted candy cane decorations that have been frozen in the dirt since Christmas. He went to our weekly swing dance class, recent surgery notwithstanding (he loved the class by the way and recently wondered aloud, "Don't you always feel like swinging now?"). He came dumpster-diving with me to look for cardboard boxes. He spent two hours repairing a severely clogged toilet. And one day, when I was walking around in a hoodie and sweats and wearing a ponytail, he asked me if it's "hard to walk around looking so attractive."

He does all this while maintaining a healthy sense of humor. Recently I was boiling an artichoke and using a smaller pot to keep it from floating up. Eric walked in the kitchen, looked at the set-up, and said, "So, it's the old boil-the-pot method, eh?" A sentence like this is usually followed by, "Learned that in my army days" (he was never in the army). Even when he's frustrated he's fun: after finally figuring out a programming problem one night, Eric jumped from his chair, screeched loudly, and said, "A double equals sign. Ah! I am denser than a DOORKNOB! And I don't say that lightly." Last weekend after his brother, mom, and I had struggled for about 20 minutes moving a piece of furniture, we finally had it within sight of the trailer. As we stopped to rest, Eric said, "Welp, it looks like it's not going to work. Why don't you bring it back upstairs?" Perhaps the funniest of Eric's habits this month is that he dances around the house while singing "Obama's gonna change the world" in falsetto (the song may be the only thing Eric likes about Obama).

I'll take the flowers later, but for now I'm thrilled for my helpful, humorous husband who brightens every day.
Tuesday after our last swing dance class, I made Eric take an arm's-length picture, which he thinks is cheesy but always does anyway.