Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The strongest four-letter-word that comes out of my mouth is CRAP.  When the kids hear me say it, they scatter.

There was a lot of scattering going on at my house last Tuesday.

Early afternoon, I got a call that there was a showing from five to six.  Kids get home at around 3:30.  What a fantastic opportunity for the kids to work hard!  Just in case they should be less-than-delighted, I decided to take them somewhere to eat during the showing.  Us moms have to anticipate all possible scenarios.

"But I wanted to do my homework right away!"

I'd never heard that in my life.

"What about piano practicing?"  

That either.

"All you kids really have to do are your rooms and the upstairs bathrooms.  I've already cleaned the basement, and I'll take care of the main floor.  Remember to vacuum!"

Humming, I cleaned, scrubbed, dusted, vacuumed, moved breakable items to their rightful "showing" positions.  Kids were too quiet, so I went upstairs to check. 


Things weren't exactly going as I had envisioned.  Rooms still in disarray, the kids were all watching TV - the TV I had turned on for Caleb - and Caleb only - to watch.  I had to crack the whip.  And then again fifteen minutes later.  And so on, every fifteen minutes or so until we left, the whip cracking and the word CRAP slipping out more frequently as the clock tick-tocked steadily away.

Time had run completely out by the time I discovered that the boys had never vacuumed their room.

"What's all this CRAP all over your floor?  Cracker crumbs!?  Pencil shavings!?  Pistachio shells!?"

"Mom, you're overreacting!  That's not going to make someone not want to buy our house!"

Last thing I did before I left was make sure the bathrooms all had one last spray of air freshener.  Nothing worse than a bathroom that smells like it's just been used.

On our way to Cafe Rio, heart rate beginning to slow down to normal, I determined that I would re-claim soul ownership of Getting the House Ready for Showings.  It's simply too stressful to have the kids help.  After a nice dinner, I carefully timed our arrival back home to be ten minutes after six - in case the lookers had run a little late.  

The kids dispersed.  I finally relaxed.  Five minutes later, I heard a knock at the door - it definitely didn't come from a neighbor kid.  Heart racing once again, I went to answer it.

Double crap. 

The lookers and their realtor were standing on my front porch, smiling. The realtor, cell phone in hand, asked, "Did you just get home?" I wanted to ask him if his phone was broken, or if perhaps he had lost my realtor's phone number.

Instead, wearing my most cheerful of smiles, I said, "Yep, but I'll gather the troops and we'll be out of here as soon as we can!"

Now, to round up the kids.  You know how we all have certain bathroom business that needs to be attended to at least once a day? And that eating at a place like Cafe Rio can precipitate the urgency of such business?  Three of my children were sitting on three different toilets, attending to their bathroom business.

Triple crap.  Literally.

I cajoled, begged, bribed them to hurry UP, already.  Some things are easier to rush than others.  Needless to say, three of my bathrooms definitely smelled like they had just been used.

I was washing my face in my bathroom that night when Kirsten stomped in.

"I have to use your toilet.  Someone clogged the toilet in the hall bathroom and it's disgusting!"

I froze, water dripping down my arms.  "Was the lid up or down?"

"I'm not sure.  I think down."

Quadruple crap.  To the nth degree.

I crawled into bed.  

I had definitely had enough crap for one day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Step It Up!!

I know a thing or two about Flying Under the Radar in gym classes.

In Spinning, no one knows how much resistance I have on my bike, so when I'm about to fall completely off the bike - but would prefer not to - I simply cut down the resistance and spin my legs like crazy.  In the semi-darkness.

In Power Pilates, I arrive early to claim the far back corner spot.  When the ab work goes on and on and on and my abs simply won't, I pretend to finish the set, fairly confident in the knowledge that everyone else is looking at the instructor or the ceiling, not at me.  Without mirrors in the room, I don't even have to look at me.

So when I read the following description of a step class I was interested in trying, nothing about it sent off any red flags.  Not one single thing.

Step it up!  By varying intensity levels with intervals you'll use the large muscles in the legs to burn fat and calories.  Using hand weights for added resistance, you'll also build and strengthen your upper body!  Great all around workout!

I walked into the class, set up my step in the back row, and commenced what was to be the single most humiliating hour of my life.

Red flag number one was the instructor asking if there was anyone new to class.  I raised my hand half-way, relieved when she didn't see it.  Why call unnecessary attention to myself?

Red flag number two, her next comment: "Not that we don't like the newbies, but . . . " voice trailing off.  Knowing nods and smiles from class participants.  I smiled too, knowing I could always use my Under-the-Radar Strategy in a pinch.

Somewhere between the initial Hit me with your best shot and the last Fire Awayyyyy! of the very first song, I had the A-HA moment that completely took the spring out of my step:

Step/Interval, by its very design, makes it categorically impossible to Fly Under the Radar.

You see, I had run into a few complications.

The first was understanding the instructor. At all.  With precision very much like an expert Square Dance Caller, she started yelling.  Not specific instructions - just words and phrases.  Around the World. Corner to Corner. Grapevine. Helicopter. Mambo Cha-Cha-Cha.  I took them to be names of steps I was supposed to be performing, but that's where all comprehension ceased.

The second was actually performing those steps.  As luck would have it, I was surrounded by Experienced Steppers who appeared to have mastered Stepping right along with Riding a Tricycle. Surely I could follow them.  It wasn't the steps so much as the tempo that proved troublesome.  By the time I had observed and completed one simple turn, the Steppers had all gone on to perform two hops, three kicks, and four twirls - I swear a few of them flipped once or twice -  before returning to starting position.  Where I still was.

The third was the mirrors.  Picture yourself being in the audience watching a dance recital, the dancers moving together in perfect harmony - as if extensions of the same mind - until one of them gets out of sync.  It jolts you out of your revere, you feel compelled almost against your will to watch that dancer exclusively from that point on.  With a sympathetic tongue click or two, you wonder why that dancer didn't just sit this one out. Poor Thing.

Now picture yourself as that Poor Thing, only this particular dance lasts for sixty excruciating minutes.

My only respite was when we did intervals on the mat.  I was never so excited to do sit-ups and push-ups and lunges in all my life.  But the intervals would inevitably end too soon, leaving ample time for more humiliation.

Despite my best efforts to high-tail it out of there the minute class ended, I was caught in a bottleneck at the door.  I looked straight ahead, avoiding any eye contact, especially with the Stepper be-bopping her way towards me with a huge smile on her face.  I was trapped.

"You did a good job today.  You really did."

I had seen dozens of Steppers who had done good jobs that day.  Astoundingly good jobs. Why didn't this lady tell any of them how great they did? This sweet woman's well-intentioned comment confirmed what I already knew:  Under the bright, observant eyes of everyone in the class, my Stepping Debut had been a Disaster.  Mercifully, Pat Benatar and the Bee Gees had drowned out the sounds of sympathetic tongue clicking.

Stepping isn't my strong suit.  But I do dabble in writing, so I decided to help out my gym by re-writing the class description to reflect a slightly more realistic representation of the class.

Prerequisites:  B.A. in Stepping from an Accredited University, Coordination, Natural Rhythm, Ability to Smile for an Hour and Never Break a Sweat, Lightning-Fast Reflexes. If you meet all of these requirements, then by all means, Come Step It Up With Us!  It's a great all around workout!

I even found a picture to go along with the class description.  Hopefully the gym will appreciate my efforts.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Re-Gifting, Grandma Style

A look of panic passed between my brother and his wife.  They stood up, donned their coats, and drove off into the cold night at 9:30 PM on Christmas Eve.  We all looked on in amusement, knowing exactly what had happened.

My mother raised eight children on a school teacher's salary.  Her posterity has since increased exponentially, whereas money coming in the door has remained relatively constant.  Simple math dictated that she think outside the "purchasing dozens of brand-new gifts each year" box.  Therefore, her garage sale bargaining skills have become masterfully honed.  

Mom had landed the doll house deal of the century for my niece, but hadn't thought to notify Santa, who had landed a much more expensive deal on the same doll house - for the same niece.  Therein lay my brother and sister-in-law's dilemma, which couldn't be resolved at 9:30 PM on Christmas Eve.  My niece thus became the delighted recipient of two doll houses, gladly agreeing to share with her two sisters.

Gifts purchased in stores and online by loving grandmothers everywhere can rarely hold a candle to my mom's one-of-a-kind, unique, quirky - sometimes even way out there - gifts. 

My husband once opened a set of meat carving knives nestled in their own fabric-lined leather case.  He can now carve a turkey with upmost panache - a claim the neighbors simply cannot make.

For his twelfth birthday, my son became the proud owner of a Disco Star - plastic, rainbow-striped, with multi-colored lights flashing in various patterns - perfect for all the dance parties he is sure to host in upcoming years.  None of his friends can boast owning anything remotely like it.

My teenage daughter received what looked like a travel alarm clock.  We watched in fascination as the contraption unfolded with robotic precision, revealing a clock face that displayed the times in New York, Paris, and Hong Kong.  Not finding the gift  relevant to her middle-school existence, my daughter bequeathed it to our four-year-old, who uses it as a laptop.

A plethora of fabulous books, games, and toys have been unveiled and enjoyed over the years.  Admittedly, there are intermittent duds.  Cases in point are a remote-control helicopter that never worked and the occasional missing piece that is crucial to a toy's operation.

So ingrained is the previously-owned gift expectation, that when my nine-year-old once opened a still-shrink-wrapped Christmas gift from grandma, he declared in amazement, "It's NEW!"  I checked with Mom - she laughed and confessed that people occasionally unload items at garage sales that have never been opened. 

A genuine leather Harley-Davidson biker's jacket is the all-time bomb of garage sale finds.  Originally a Halloween costume, it is my four-year-old son's current favorite jacket.  Because it's the genuine article, people naturally assume that I'm grooming him to be a biker dude someday.  Wearing it in public garners countless comments. 

A couple in their 60's recently weighed in.  The woman commented on its awesomeness, and the man - who looked very much like he rode a Harley himself - said to me, "You're teaching him the right priorities - from the start!"

Although I suspect he was advocating entirely different priorities, that man was absolutely right. New isn't necessarily better. Think outside the box. Make do with what you have.  Be generous.  Be happy.  

Kudos to Mom for teaching my kids the right priorities - from the start.   We look forward with giddy anticipation to opening the next gift.

Friday, March 5, 2010


We've trudged through some mighty tough times these last two years.  A move, extreme stress and financial loss, a house we need to sell that's worth far less than what we bought it for two years ago, another move looming.  And Jeff has been working in Texas since the beginning of January, only coming home every other weekend. 

So I've been wallowing in the mire of self-pity, feeling a general sense of malaise as I wake up each morning, wondering how much longer I can handle juggling five kids and a house on the market - sans husband - without completely losing my mind.  I have felt completely justified in feeling entitled to a break, already.

In short, I've been whining. 

We as a family have been dutifully praying for that break, which in this real estate market is synonymous with a miracle:  an offer on our house.  As soon as possible.  Or sooner, if possible. 

The Lord sent a friend and a dinner party instead.

My friend Amber gave me a talk on CD by David Bednar entitled In the Strength of the Lord.  My attitude shifted as I listened to the talk, and, consequently, so did our prayers.  We are no longer praying for our circumstances to change; rather, we are praying that the enabling power of the Atonement will give us the ability to adapt to - and find happiness in - our circumstances.  This change in perspective has made a tremendous difference.  I love hearing my kids pray for us "to be happy until our house sells."   

This has been most helpful, but I've discovered with some dismay that whining, once in your blood, isn't easily removed.

In the spirit of this new perspective, we decided to host a ward dinner group at our house.  I figured the house was already immaculate, it wasn't hard to make a big pot of chili, and we haven't moved yet - so why not?  The guests were randomly assigned and proved to be warm, hilarious, gregarious, delightful.  During dessert, I looked around the table and almost started crying.  Here's why.

To my left sat a couple in their early fifties, hands down the life of the party.  On a rainy night five years ago, their youngest son was killed in a car accident on his way home from the high school.

At the end of the table sat a good friend of mine who has been through some enormously difficult personal struggles in the past year.

Next to them sat a fabulous woman who lost her husband to a motorcycle accident seven years ago.

Right next to me sat my own husband, whose mother died of cancer just weeks before the end of his mission.

And that's just what I know.

All of these people have used the enabling power of the Atonement in their lives with determination, grace, humility, and - ultimately - success.  I knew then that the dinner guests were anything but randomly assigned.  They had been hand-picked specifically for me.

Talk about perspective.
Time to quit whining.