Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Monkey's Birthday

Oh we are getting closer to real time here...only about a seven weeks behind.  The Monkey had a birthday in November, and he asked for a pirate birthday cake, and the QB, as always, was ready to oblige. 

She had a lot of fun putting this together.  I think the inspiration for the cake came from here:

The cake was a big hit. 

Notice the aweseome wrapping paper employed on the gifts in the background--Sunday comics and brown packing paper..we were running a little low on real paper.  But I don't think the Monkey minded much.

The football was for him, but it has been the Monkey's little brother that has played with it the most.  Just about every day I come home to find him in the living room with the ball in his hands.  He holds it up and says, "down, set, Hut," and then runs around the room. Sometimes he stops and says "kick" and tries to kick the ball, but he hasn't figured that out quite yet.

This Lego ship was big on "wow" factor but since its an advanced set, he hasn't played with it much--er, what I mean is, I haven't sat down with him to put it together yet.  We've got about 1/3 of it done.  My goal is by the end of the year to have it built with him.

This bicycle we got in the back alley about two months ago. It belonged to our neighbor's son who didn't ride it very much.  He (our neighbor) regularly places gently used kids items in the alley that his family no longer needs, and we are the regular recipients of the gesture.  The bike's chain was rusty and the bike needed a cleaning and an inner-tube change, but since Mr. Baseball got a new bike for his birthday I was able to part-out his old bike to get this one working.  Then I washed up the frame, adjusted the handle bars, put on new grips, added the training wheels and the final touch was to put some Armor-All on the tires.  The best part about it is that a week later the Monkey surprised us all by hoping on his old bike (that no longer had training wheels on it) and riding it across the yard.  The training wheels are now collecting dust in the garage, and if we can get some warmer weather, we'll be riding for sure.

A few weeks after the Monkey's birthday, Grandpa Franklin came into town for Thanksgiving. He was scheduled to come for Mr. Baseball's baptism, but he was sick that weekend so he used his credit to come for for Turkey Day. Among other places, we took him to the Ranching Heritage Museum.  The boys love the train (and I think it's my favorite too.)

Grandpa striking one of his famous poses.

And then shortly after Grandpa left, the Monkey came down with chicken pox.  If you look closely in this picture form his preschool Christmas performance (taken a week after he cleared up), you can still see a scab on the side of his neck.  Besides a lot of pockmarks and one tired day on the couch, you wouldn't have known he was sick.  It was his brother's that got the worst of it. But that's for another post.

The Monkey loves preschool (he goes twice a week).

Sorry about the grainy photographs.  That's all my camera could manage from a distance in the light of the chapel. Stay tuned for a Christmas post in the next few days.

Lubbock Soccer: Or parenting 001: remedial fatherhood

The Monkey played soccer this fall. He had two practices a week and games every Saturday at the expansive Earl Huffman soccer complex in North Lubbock. He played for the "Texas Boyz," (sic). He talked about it for months and was very excited to finally get to play.  The three-times-a-week schedule was hard for him to get used to (he regularly broke down in tears about getting his gear on for practice before finally deciding it was okay and then running out to the car fully equipped and happy to be going).

 Lubbock is definitely a baseball town, but soccer holds its own, particularly in the "hyper-competitive parents" column.  These are four-year-olds remember, but I definitely saw one coach turn so red with frustration that he had to remove himself emotionally and physically from the game by sitting the entire second half at the top of the bleachers in order to stay calm (apparently he'd been kicked off the field the week prior).

I heard a parent say: "Hey Ref...those boys are pushing!  That's illegal! They're playing dirty!  That's +*&^%$ ridiculous. Come on! Watch the pushing...(then, to her son when  he comes to the sideline to get some water: "Hey, son, don't let them play dirty. Push 'em back!)

 A few other choice lines, all spoken through gritted teeth, or hollered through cupped hands or otherwise spat out of parents mouths who were disgusted by their four-year-olds' apparent lack of motivation, attention, determination, fighting spirit, or whatever:

"Watch the ball!"

"You better get up and play if you know what's good for you!"

"You gotta attack that ball. Are you kidding me?"


"Get your head in the game now, or I'm pulling you out!"

And then this particularly painful moment:

"What is your problem?!?" (Spit literally flying from coaches mouth as he held his son's shoulders in his hands...At this point the assistant coach speaks up and tells the head coach to calm down, and several parents murmur that the coach needs to calm down, and I raise my voice and say "Coach, he's only four," and without turning around the coach says, "He's my son, I'll take care of him." And his son his crying at this point, holding both hands to his mouth. The boy runs back on the field.

 And I think that is the saddest part about the entire situation.  Almost without exception, the coaches I observed on both sides of the field were kind, patient, and encouraging to everyone on their respective teams--everyone except their own sons.  In fact, it became easy to see which boys belonged to which coaches.  More than once a coach turned to his son on one side and ripped into him with something similar to the comments above only to turn to another boy on his other side and pat him on the back and send him on his way with some words of encouragement.

There were certainly plenty of coaches who were kind and encouraging all around, but too many were too hard on their own boys.   and it wasn't just coaches.  Many parents on the sidelines were just as guilty and just as likely to ridicule their own sons and cheer on someone else's son in the same breath as the coaches were. It got to the point that we didn't want to come to games anymore.

After games and practices I found myself in conversation with the Monkey, asking him what he thought about the way some of the parents and coaches talked to their sons.  He never seemed too bothered by it, except to say that he was glad we didn't talk to him that way, but he also seemed to be buying into the criticism he heard levelled at some of the other kids.  "So and so really needs to learn to listen," he would say, or "so and so doesn't pay attention very well."  We talked about the point of soccer (to have fun and learn to play as a team and have fun and follow directions and get exercise and have fun) and about how some kids are still learning some of the basics and about how sad it was that some parents took the game so seriously.  But we left it at that and now I think--no, now I'm sure I should have done more.  Too many parents, including myself, stood by and let the shouting and harping go on unchecked week after week.  I didn't approve, and a few times I spoke up a little to those around me, and once to the coach himself, but for the most part I just kept my mouth shut and made sure no one shouted at my own son.  But in my silence, in all of our silence, we were perpetuating a winning-is-everything culture that distorts the purpose of youth sports and sets ups a generation of boys to base their self-worth on their dexterity with a ball and whether or not their dad is shouting at them. 


John Gottman  (marriage and family therapy guru) says that the key to a successful married relationship is to outnumber negative comments with positive comments 5 to 1.   So what is the key to a successful father/son relationship? At least that--maybe more.  There is this one important difference.  A married couple may grow apart, may separate or divorce, may start a new life apart, but a father/son relationship is forever. Couples can "fall-out-of-love," but it takes a lot for son to give up on his Dad (in fact, I'm not sure a son can give up on his Dad.  Even an absent or abusive father still has a profound influence on how a son sees himself and the world). A father wields what a writer friend of mine called "mythic" power over his sons.

Whether we want to or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we are willing to do anything about it or not, our sons live for our approval and much of their self worth, their ability to navigate the world, to accept their own sons, will be learned as they grow in our shadows--for a son always lives in his father's shadow. And it is up to fathers to either bring light to their sons' lives in the form of kindness, patience, understanding, comradery, and humility, or to make it ever darker through anger, unreal expectations, spite, aloofness, and pride. 

I think the boots-on-the ground answer to the soccer issue is this: if I want things to change, I've got to volunteer--yeah,  that's probably it.  Isn't there some line about being the change you want to see in the world?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Photo dump: Fall 2011! The Haboob, and Mr. Baseball's Baptism

 This is what it looked like outside our front door at about 5:30 pm on Monday October 17.  I had decided to leave work a little early and had walked in the door about three minutes prior to taking this photo.  The QB had just taken her mom to the airport. The sky had been blue and the wind brisk, but we had no idea this was coming.  In about a minute the neighborhood turned martian and stayed that way for twenty or thirty minutes.  As you can see in the photo here, though I didn't notice it when I took the picture, my car window is cracked open and the next morning when I got in it to drive to school, I found a thick coating of red sand all over my dashboard, steering wheel and seats.  Lovely.
Besides the haboob, Mr. Baseball's baptism weekend went off without a hitch and we were very glad to have family in town.  The week was kind of crazy with family trickling in and then trickling out between Wednesday and Saturday, but we enjoyed the close quarters (there were 11 of us all together in our house at the high point) and the chance to spend time with family we don't get to see very often. 
 Papa Fitz flew in on Wednesday. Nana, Grandma, two sisters (amy and Aubrey), and one nephew (Kimball) flew in on Friday; Papa and one sister flew out on Saturday, Grandma flew out on Sunday, Grandma flew out on Monday, and the Amy and Kimball flew out on Tuesday. 
The entire trip almost didn't work out because of a variety of logistic and financial issues (and Grandpa Franklin got really sick and wasn't able to come), but in the end just about everything went smoothly and we are very grateful to everyone who helped to make the trip happen. 

 These three boys, separated by three-year increments from one another, all lined up in front of us, smiles and curls and one squared-shoulder suit--they're almost too much to consider.  When Mr. Baseball was born, I thought about the 18 years that lie ahead of us, his formative childhood to which God had handed us the keys and said "drive safe," and "Bring him back in one piece," and it all seemed impossibly long, a drive with a destination so far in the distance as to not even register on the mind, but in a flash 8 years is gone. 

I am too hard on him, too expectant of him, and too skeptical of him. When he was younger he used to be quite good at throwing tantrums, and falling apart when things didn't go his way, and I always read his behavior as selfish.  But as he's gotten older and we've talked through some of his outbursts I've discovered that his anger has always been more directed at himself  than anyone else, that he feels failure keenly and that he takes criticism as a reminder of the perceived failure he is already aware of.  He is a kinder and more sincere child than I think I will ever understand and my only hope is that I can stumble through parenthood well enough that when he's finally an adult, he'll accept my apology in spite of everything.

Christ went to John the baptist to be baptized for two reasons. First: to fulfill all righteousness (it's a commandment, after all), and second:  to "showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them." (2 Nephi 31).  I'm grateful to the Savior for his example of perfect goodness, and I'm thankful to Callan for being Callan. We don't deserve him.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy Halloween

So we're a few days late (okay, a week) and some of these pictures have already shown up on Facebook, and we still have a camera full of photos from the summer that haven't made it up here, but I just wanted to give a brief report on Halloween.

We had some friends over for dinner and the QB made eye-ball deviled eggs, worm Jell-O salad, and mummy wrap hot dogs.

Then we all went as bats (costumes courtesy of the QB) to the Trunk or Treat at church and some friends of ours manned our trunk while we took the kids around. Our 400 pieces of hand-out candy lasted about 2/3 of the way through the night, but we probably brought that many home in those orange bags. 

Sunday night, after a week of candy, candy, candy, and more candy, we dumped the dregs of their bags into a container and while we sat and watched this documentary on the King James Bible, told the boys they could eat what they wanted and then it was all going away.

What remained was a motley assortment of nondescript taffies, hard candies, jaw breakers, bubble gum, and suckers--the undesirables of every Halloween stash, the candy that kids begrudgingly eat when they've already got a gut full of Snickers and Milk Duds and candy corn, the candy they keep pawing through, hoping to find one more Hershey Bar, or Star Burst, or even a pack of Dots--a Tootsie Roll!; the second-class candy of bank teller windows and summer parades.  They were sad to see it go, but not terribly sad.

And it has now been scattered to the wind in the final resting ground of unwanted junk food--the break room at work.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why is Mormon-bashing Ok?

"You can’t be openly racist, sexist, or anti-Semitic in America. But anti-Mormon? Go for it...."

In case anyone who reads this blog isn't friends with me on Facebook, I wanted to share this article. This topic is a hot one at our house these days. It does seem unfair doesn't it? Protecting minorities, all except Mormons. I think especially in many academic circles, making fun of Mormons is perfectly acceptable. The beginning of the article is a perfect example.

Thank you to the Christian Science Monitor, and the author (who is not a Mormon) for addressing this issue. Here it is

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Getting Better

For a while I was a pretty frequent blogger. But lately, not very much. I am going to do better. Oh yes!

The Student has been doing a lot of that lately, studenting, or studying if you want to get technical. His Comprehensive Exam is next month, and he's less nervous than I expected. Also, he's teaching two sections of Intro to Fiction at Tech, two classes for BYU-Idaho online, compiling all the necessary things to apply to jobs (CV, Vita, Letters of recommendations, etc.)*, planning out the rest of his dissertation, managing to stay on top of things for the Elders Quorum at church and still trying to be a great husband and father.

Yeah, he's kind of busy. But most nights we eat dinner together and lots of nights he still puts kiddos to bed. Which of course involves reading Peter Pan, I'm not sure who is liking it more! Sometimes he moonlights as a kitchen fairy. Can I call my husband a fairy? But the kitchen is magically clean when I get up some days, and I SO appreciate it.

I am taking a break from doula and Childbirth Ed work while I regroup and figure things out. I had a rough couple of weeks, some things I'm trying to move forward from. I want to get back into it, but right now I still have a bit of a dirty taste in my mouth. Sad, but true. It will get better at some point and I'm sure I'll feel more excited about it like I did earlier this year. Yes, I will!

Mostly I try to keep track of the boys, running them here there and everywhere and keep the house somewhat organized and picked up. I try to squeeze in some organ practice for my calling at church (which still pretty much terrifies me every week) and cook healthy dinners, remember picture day, show and tell day, keep the clothes clean, and all that other mom stuff I'm supposed to do. But sometimes we eat the same food three meals in a row and children (or I!) pull things out to the dirty laundry to wear and I step over and ignore the pile in my room. Just in case anybody wondered if I had it all together. I don't :)

Mr. Baseball turned 8 recently and his Baptism is coming up this Saturday! He's excited and ready, I think knows way more about the gospel than I did when I was 8! He came out of his interview with the Bishop today smiling, so I think he's all set. We recently finished ready the Book of Mormon as a family because reading it all together before he turned 8 was our goal. When we started he struggled through 1 verse. And now he plows through a column at a time, we even have to tell him when it's another person's turn to read. The change in him is amazing!

He reads about everything he can get his hands on but especially love Boxcar Children, loves his new bike and practices the piano every day willingly even if he doesn't really want to. (Good boy! I'm absolutely convinced he'll thank me one day) He's gotten be to very helpful around the house and doesn't beg to watch TV or play Wii. whew!

I often find myself thinking, how did he get so big and grown up. When he pours his own bowl of cereal, eats it and clears off his dish I start to think, wow he hardly needs me anymore. But I know he still does and will for a long time, and I'm happy to oblige. He's a fun kid. And he even taught me how to throw a football on Thursday. I have a feeling it's one of many, many things he'll teach me.
The Monkey's life has changed a lot this fall. Preschool has started on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which means some adjusting to getting ready in the morning without a long time to play. Some days I hear about a brand new knee injury that "just started hurting!" or how he'll never get to play Legos again if he stops right now, but I know he really loves preschool so I just ignore it and help him get ready with lots of hugs and send him off. He comes home singing cute little songs he's learned and telling me about all the things he got to do and play and who he played with. I'm glad all-day kindergarten isn't until next year!

The Monkey started soccer this fall too. We've had to deal with some of the same excuses when it comes to practice and games, but when he actually gets out there on the field he smiles and runs and kicks and smiles a lot more. He's made a few goals at his games, but mostly I'm happy he's having fun, even if I ask him about it he might insist that he's not! It's too much running, he says. Yeah, I think you're right Monkey, boy, but I know deep inside under the whining you like it!

Today he did a magic trick for me with 2 cards. It was hilarious and very cute at the same time, he was so proud of himself. The Monkey always makes us laugh.

Little Bruiser
isn't so bruising these days. Although I get comments from strangers all the time, "How old is he? He is big!" Yes, he's still a big boy, but thinning out a little around the middle. His little thighs are still chubby though, squeezeably chubby! And I'm so glad because then I think he's still a baby.

He's gotten a little more picky with his food lately, throwing it and the dishes even farther than he used to. He's definitely more insistent about the things he wants and doesn't want. Which is cute and trying at the same time. I remember this phase with the older two and thinking how hard it is when your sweet little angel starts have their own will and opinion about everything. I just want to enjoy all his sweet baby-ness before the Terrible Two (and Three) Monster gobbles him up! I know from experience he'll still be adorable, but the sweet, sweet baby part will be gone.

Today he was saying "Run!" with his hands up as he ran back and forth between the living room and family room. He loves football. Apparently more than other balls and sports (uh oh, we're in trouble) because he always chooses a football over the other balls available in the house. And when there is a football at the park that he can't have because it's not ours, he kind-of flips out. Today we had to leave the small white plastic Ohio University one in the car when we went into church today and you would have thought I just told him he could never eat ice cream again in his life. Oh the boy loves footballs.

As a family we're enjoying bike rides in the neighborhood, playing games together on Sundays, sometimes Life or Monopoly but lots of Carcasonne lately. Eating together for dinner at night and enjoying new treats like Lemon Crinkle Cookies. I love my family. I should blog about them more. 'Cause they're a pretty neat bunch.

PS. In case you're wondering about Copper, he loves his new food which is mostly beef now instead corn, he can't stand to be left behind when we go for a walk or bike ride (he usually gets to come!) and he waits patiently near Little Bruisers high chair for little treats to rain down. Yep, that about sums up his little doggie life right now.

* We've decided applying to "real" jobs is the best thing for him to do right now, and if nothing comes of it, we can still stick around here for another year. We'll be sad to leave, but a "real" job sounds so appealing, doesn't it :) Not that a "real" job will solve all of our problems, but it just feels like the right thing to do right now.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fall family photos

Before the Sunday session of conference this morning we got the kids dressed and we headed over to campus and took some family photos. The boys were great and the pictures came out great, even though we found the only place in Lubbock still wet enough for mosquitoes to grow. Here Mr. Baseball is about to kill one.

Mr. Baseball really likes the camera and this is the least posed-looking shot we could get him to take.

We forgot--well, we couldn't find--the tripod, so we brought a paint stool and a kid's folding chair and a phone book and that worked okay.
Is it a bird? a plane? No, it's mom going crazy trying to get the baby to smile for the camera.

Can you tell me how to to get to sesame street?

He looks so willing to smile for the camera. Looks can be deceiving.

We had one of him too slouchy, and another one too stiff, and this one, just right. This is looking natural without trying to look natural.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fall on the South plains

We're still hanging around here in Lubbock, despite what our lack of blog-tivity might suggest. It's finally cooling off here and we've been taking advantage of it as much as possible.

The Little Bruiser likes to play in the dirt.
Our big meal before school started.
Mr. Baseball is in second grade now!
And the monkey has started pre-school!

We went to a little balloon festival at the SW end of town. It was actually raining that morning for the first time in forever and a lot of the balloon teams weren't sure if they were going to take off. The funny thing was, I've been going to balloon festivals in Oregon for years, so the wet and the rain felt just like it should.
The Little Bruiser liked to point...

We had to wait about an hour for the weather to clear, but eventually, most of the balloons took off.

We've talked occasionally about getting into ballooning. but we asked one team about start up costs and I think the figure they gave us was $35,000. So...maybe someday...

The Little Monkey also started soccer..."The Little Texans"
The monkey scored a goal during his first game, but he's really hit his stride on defense. He's gotten quite good at clearing out the ball. He talked about wanting to play soccer for months, but now that he's going, he occasionally has a hard time getting up the energy for "all that running," as he says.

We all went to the first game and didn't even think about sunscreen and at bath time that night they all looked like lobsters.

High fives all around at the end of the game.

We hope you are all enjoying the fall wherever you are. We hope you've got pumpkins on the porch, and leaves on the ground and sweat shirts by the door.