Saturday, December 29, 2007

Zacky's Lunch Prayer

Zack: Please bless the two twins…

Mom: Dear Heavenly Father…

Zack: Mom, I can do it mysefff… Dear Heavenly Father, bless the two twins. Bless Aunt Nalalie and Uncle Jerumy. Bless that I can get Lightning McQueen and Doc for Christmas…

Mom: Bless the food…

Zack: I can do it myseeeeeeeffff… Bless that we can go to church and watch Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix…

Mom: ????

Zack: And please bless the food. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Was that a good prayer, Mom?

Mom: Yes, Zack. That was a very good prayer.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Diapurse

2000 BC (Before Children) I used a strappy purse. You know the kind—the wallet on a rope. Everything I needed fit in that tidy number: cash, credit cards, pictures of friends and family, lipgloss. Never would I arrive somewhere and think, Dang, how could I have left the wetwipes? Or, please tell me there’s a Lightning McQueen in here somewhere. I was childless and streamlined, coming and going without much forethought. And then I had babies.

I was never much for diaper bags but being the sharp new mom I was, I soon realized my strappy purse was no longer going to work. So I upgraded to a Mother Purse that was big enough to carry diapers and sippy cups but not big enough to double as a beach bag.

Enter Purse Party. Finally I had the time and inclination to hand-select a bag that would carry all the stuff I was starting to accumulate as a frazzled and disorganized mom. This is the first purse I picked:

And then my mother gave me this one (recognizing that I was a little jealous of my beloved sister-in-law Erin’s diaper bag of the same style):

Adorable, right? Fully of personality and color. I love them both, but here's the problem. I use them to pack the most ridulous things around. That one above? It's been my bag of choice this entire Christmas season. And I only realized it's been loaded with too much stuff when I had to dump it out to find my cell phone. So last night I decided it was time to clean it out and here’s what I found (I call it Purse Vomit):

Things of note include: three Sonic straws (one without the sanitary paper covering), one loose WalMart receipt, a Radiator Springs Lightning McQueen (note: not Zack’s favorite), a clean diaper that—due to its long, rumpled journey—looks used, and one homemade invitation to a church Christmas party. How could I go from a wallet on a rope to a diapurse—that’s what I call this sad little hybrid between a purse and diaper bag. Catchy, right?

I’m just saying that I haven’t transitioned into my matured state of motherhood very gracefully. There are streamlined mothers out there, wearing fashionable clothes and carrying what they need (read: no Sonic straws or matchbox cars) in a tight little purse that matches their shoes. Me? I’m carrying a junk drawer in a bag (albeit a very cute one).

I’m going to have to work on that one in 2008…

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Because-I’m-a-Loser MEME

Over a month ago Candygirlflies at I Can Fly Just Not Up tagged with a meme I was actually excited to do (I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of the MEME). I realized it was the same MEME that Rachel at Like a Star tagged me with two months earlier (no, I didn’t do it then either). But I got a little sidetracked (I’ll blame it on getting locked out of my house shortly thereafter) and never did it. So in efforts to push the Collateral Damage post down a bit (as always, thanks so much for all your words of comfort and support) and to fulfill my blogging obligations, I will share 6 random facts about me:

1. I’m obsessed with Britney Spears.
Don’t ask me why. I was never interested in her life before it became a train wreck. Maybe it’s because regardless of what I’m going through I can always say, “At least that’s not me.” Or maybe it’s because we’re watching, in real time, what happens to a media darling who’s told she’s sexy before she’s old enough to watch R rated movies. It’s sad really. (Have you heard about her sister?). I know; I'm pathetic.

2. My front bumper looks like this:

Yikes. This has quickly gone from a 6-random-facts meme to a true confessional. The sad thing is I did nothing to deserve this bumper. I blame it on the cold Idaho Falls winters that cracked the plastic before it even had a fighting chance. And now, the poor thing, is held together with bailing wire and duct tape. True story. It’s also the laughing stock of Idaho drivers everywhere.

3. I love Bravo!
I don’t watch much TV but when I get the chance I’ll stay up past midnight catching up on Project Runway, Top Chef, and yes, blasphemous Kathy Griffin (what can I say, the girl makes me laugh…).

4. I’m canceling cable come January.
See #3. That and regardless of how much I try to restrict TV my children still know the theme song to Sponge Bob Square Pants.

5. I can’t figure out how to get my header graphic back.
I had my purty night-scene graphic displaying nicely at the top of my blog and then one day, poof, it was gone. Well, not really gone, but cropped and left justified. And I can’t figure out how to fix it. Help?!

6. I could live off diet coke, microwave popcorn, and graham crackers with frosting.
Which is why, in 2008, I plan on selling my soul to the local gym. I’m hoping to barter with them. I write a monthly newsletter for free (in which I divulge my monthly weight loss stats) and they give me one free membership. I can’t decide if that’s gutsy or stupid. I’ll tell which if I ever get the nerve to call them.

So there you have it. The confessional meme. My apologies to both Candygirlflies and Rachel for not posting it sooner. And because it’s such a late response I won’t tag anyone in turn, but I do welcome any of your confessions. Please, gentle readers, don’t leave me hangin’ here. My bumper’s on display.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Collateral Damage

This year has been taxing on my little man, Kaleb. The divorce has been hardest on him, and in just a few short months he’s matured more than I’d like to admit. My toothless wonder is more reflective, thoughtful, and introspective.

Last week was the most difficult of my life. I won’t drag you through the details—suffice it to say that ending a marriage is a painful, difficult, and often, ugly thing. On Tuesday night I placed my kids in front of the TV and shut myself in the nearby empty playroom to talk with my Mom. It wasn’t long before I was sobbing uncontrollably, wiping snot from the faceplate while trying not hyperventilate. Kaleb walked in.

At that exact moment I realized that while my children have seen their mother cry (in a dainty, dab-a-tissue-at-the-corner-of-my-eyes kinda way) they’ve never seen me broken like that, incoherent and hiccupping with emotion.

He stood in the doorway, stunned. “Why are you crying, Mom?”

“Mommy’s just sad,” I said. (Why I speak in third-person like this, even to my six-year old, I don’t know.)

He continued to ask that same question, over and over, letting me know that being sad wasn’t answer enough.

Finally I said, “Sometimes mommy and daddy don’t agree about important things.”

There, I’d said it. In my least-rational, weakest moment I had told my child that his father and I weren’t currently on the same page, in fact, I was doubtful we were even in the same book. I got off the phone and we muddled through the next few days. Somehow.

On Friday the ex picked Kaleb up from school and asked how he could be a better father. His answer? Not, buy me a video game, let me have my own bedroom, or even play catch with me more.

“Don’t make Mom cry.” That was his answer.

And later, when I asked him how I could be a better mom he said, “Get along with Dad.”

Profound in a simple, innocent way.

And absolutely heartbreaking.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An Undeniable Will for Chocolate

This week's column...

One parenting trend suggests you describe your child’s shortcomings in a positive light to avoid pidgin-holing them early in life. If that were the case I would say my daughter is selective, discerning, and astute. Unfortunately for her I don’t subscribe to that trend. Leah is a picky, persnickety, finicky eater.

If my daughter had her druthers, she would eat Honey Nut Cheerios, chocolate ice cream, and grilled cheese sandwiches everyday. Again, unfortunately for her, she doesn’t get her druthers much.

So dinner is a battle at the Belknap house. It doesn’t matter what it is, child-friendly though the meal may appear, the girl won’t eat it. Spaghetti? Nope. Tacos? Too spicy. Pork chops and mashed potatoes? What is this, Mom?

But I won’t budge. She has to have a bite of everything to get down from the table; her plate must be clean to get any dessert. And tonight’s piece de resistance is chocolate ice cream. The situation has now become a moral dilemma for my daughter. She must eat that ice cream.

If I were to tell you that a 5-year old could execute the most motivational monologue you’ve ever heard in your life, you wouldn’t believe me. But I was there; I witnessed it from my very own kitchen. My little Leah, with her gift of gab, managed to talk nonstop and still eat an entire plate of broccoli, little smokies, and macaroni and cheese.

It took an hour and went something like this:

“Dinner looks really good. Mhmmmm. It’s delicious. I’m licking it right now, Mom. Watch me lick the broccoli. I think we should eat this every night. Even for lunch. What do you think, Mom? This is even better than chocolate ice cream. It tastes like green chocolate. Yum! It’s amazing.”

At this point she wrinkles her nose and puts the broccoli in her mouth, working through a gag reflex until the broccoli has been safely swallowed.

“Wow. That was great. I only have three more bites and then I can eat ice cream. Do I have to eat the macaroni and cheese all gone? Every single bite? That’s a lot of food but I think there’s plenty of room in my tummy. Tummies are big. Big enough for broccoli, mini hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and ice cream. Lot and lots of ice cream…”

And she did it. In no less than 8,562 syllables my daughter ate her dinner. So while she may be persnickety I’ve got to give her one thing. She’s got gumption. Chutzpah. Moxie. And an undeniable will for chocolate ice cream.

She gets THAT from her mother.

Picture Retakes

I took all the kids in to get their pictures taken at the school. And after getting retakes for Kaleb and Leah, they have returned. Thankfully they turned out pretty durn good. They're cute, right?

Kaleb, or as we like to call him, "No Teeth"


Zack, Zackers, Zacky, Zackerino

Monday, December 10, 2007

Leah at Church, Again...

Yesterday, Leah sat next to me in church (sound familiar?), cross-legged on the pew with her dress covering her legs. She was concentrating on her notebook, painstakingly placing stickers (thanks, mom) all over the cover. When out of nowhere (and in the stark silence of the chapel) she let loose the biggest piece of flatulence that congregation has ever heard. And at first I had to look back, expecting to see a gassy elephant sitting behind us. But no. It was my dainty daughter, acting as if letting one rip in the middle of church was completely natural. And not to be gross, but it had a noticeable flapping effect and was long. Long enough for me to look back at the pew behind us, not see an elephant sitting there, and then turn back to my daughter and say, “Stop, Leah,” to which she responded (yes, still flatulating), “But, Mom, it’s my toot. I CAN’T stop that.”

Why, of course!

And that’s when the man sitting in front of us looked back (expecting to see an elephant) and laughed out loud.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Project Playroom-Makeover, Part One

Sit down, people, this is going to be a long one (but totally worth it, I promise).

I had quite the weekend planned. The ex had the kids and I had a list of Honey Do’s (yes, I call myself Honey) longer than Santa’s naughty list; and my list had nothing to do with Christmas.

I had decided, in the middle of the most hectic time of year, to prep the playroom for a makeover. My in-laws recently moved out and the room was nearly empty so, I said to myself, why not paint it while the painting’s good? I know—these monologues of mine are nothing but trouble.

Sooooo, if you’ve ever done a home improvement project you know that before you can accomplish said project you must do 20 other things first. It’s a rule or something.

Here’s my list in reverse order so it makes more sense (stay with me—the good part’s coming):

10. Paint playroom
9. Prime playroom
8. Sand-down baseboards and window casings
7. Empty playroom and put books in my bedroom
6. Move beautified bookshelf into my bedroom
5. Paint knarly pesticide shelving unit in garage
5. Decide I can’t afford to buy a nice new bookshelf for the books I must move from the playroom to my bedroom
4. Realize I must move all my books from the playroom to my bedroom
3. Forget to take a “Before” picture
2. Look disdainfully at dusty, littered playroom
1. Get the brilliant idea to perform Project Playroom-Makeover

So late last night I had cleaned off and primed the knarly bookshelf. I was excited about this pre-playroom prepping task—I felt all HGTV and stuff. It was nearly midnight when I decided to apply the first coat of black spray paint in order to get a jump-start on my long Saturday To-Do List. I went into the garage, shut the door behind me and DIY-ed my heart out. Then I tried to go back inside.

You got it. I locked myself out. After midnight. On a snowy night in Idaho Falls.

I admit it. I panicked a bit. For about 30 minutes I circled the house, pounding on windows and doors as if the cats would open up and let me in. Finally, I broke some screens. Three to be exact. And I wasn’t all clean and burglar-like. I got a little wicked with a screwdriver and bent them past repair. I still didn’t get in the house.

That’s when I decided to scale the roof and try to break in through my sons’ room. Yes, it was snowing. Yes, we have a steep metal roof that was certain to provide no traction whatsoever. Yes, I am a little portly with no athletic prowess. Yes, I am the same person who refused to get on a ladder to hang some Christmas lights for my dewy-eyed children. But it seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. That is, until I stood beneath the roof, yellow rope in hand, and realized I couldn’t easily lasso the chimney. Damn.

I circled the house again, swore a few more times, and decided the garage wasn’t that cold. At least, it hadn’t seemed cold until that thought flitted through my head. It WAS cold and my fingers were numb after all that screen-breaking and failed chimney-lassoing. But did it really warrant waking the neighbors?

Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending to this story (there’s got to be right? I am typing this post – ten fingers intact). I realized my MIL lives just two blocks down (I blame this delayed epiphany on the hyperthermia). To make a long story short (too late, right?), I trekked to her house in my PJs and slippers and then she drove us both to the house where she tore the weather stripping from the garage door and jimmied her way into my house using her Safeway card. I hugged her. And cried. Just a little.

The good news is I can check items one through seven off my list. And I have a sleek new bookshelf in my bedroom. But don’t take my post for it. You be the judge:

Totally worth it, right?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Deck the Halls, Not the Children

This week's column...

Because I’m now the only adult in my home, I’m frequently outnumbered on things like food preferences and movie picks. That’s why on the 26th of November Christmas decorating commenced at the Belknap house.

Now I’m not a Type A personality. In fact, I’m more like Type C, if there is such a thing. My house is not meticulous, Mt. Laundry looms in my basement, and my children believe cooking simply requires a can opener and microwave. So you’d think I’d be easy-going when it comes to Christmas decorating. Not so much.

I’m not sure if it’s because the majority of our decorations are breakable or I’m just a grinch, but as soon as I popped the seal on our Christmas tubs I became Martha Stewart preparing for a party at the compound. I was barking orders, telling children to stop touching things, and finally made everyone sit at my feet to watch me place everything “just so.” Yes, someone should nominate me for the Christmas Spirit award.

When we set up the tree a few days later I was determined to make it a more kid-friendly activity. I gritted my teeth through the light-hanging while all the bulbs and ceramic decorations were Zack-handled. Once finished I sat on the couch to let my kids go at it. After a half-hearted attempt to channel Martha and give hanging instructions, I finally gave up and watched the rest of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” while the bottom two tiers of the tree were loaded up with every decoration in the box.

So my house is officially Christmas-ready, although my children reminded me that we had lights hanging from the roof LAST year. They even volunteered to hold the ladder while mother risks life and limb stringing up those bulbs of horror. I told them it was a dangerous job, and Kaleb explained to his sister, “Yeah, Leah, Mom might fall on you and break your arm. Or leg. Or kill you.” Thanks, son. Either way, I believe we’re all in agreement that we won’t be decorating the outside of our house this season.

But we’ve been able to enjoy the decorations that went up early this year (I would call you all overachievers, but I might offend half my readers—all five of you). There are the inflatable Santas and snowmen and elaborate light designs, but so far the prize goes to a house just two blocks down from us. The entire front yard is dedicated to an ice sculpture including a heart, a cross and a frozen ladder. It requires a daily spray-down. My mind cannot wrap itself around the scrupulous planning and maintenance of such holiday cheer. But kudos to those of you who can because it satisfies my children and keeps me off the ladder.

So back to the song. Halls decked? Check. Gay apparel donned? Check. Joyous singing altogether? Sing with me now, people: Fa la la la la.

Let the Christmas celebrations begin. Happy Holidays, Bloggers!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hawaii, my Ku'uipo

Last night I found the Israel Kamakawiwo'ole CD, "Alone in IZ World," and played it as I fell asleep. Ever since I've been homesick for Hawaii, my sweetheart, my Ku'uipo. So in honor of Pink and Blues Girls Flashback Thursday I'm going to indulge myself a bit and write this lovepost in honor of the place I once called home and am missing dearly today.

Have you ever had that odd sensation of coming home? I don't mean returning home from college for Christmas break, although the feelings are similar. I mean landing in a place you've never been before and feeling like it was the place meant to be the setting for your life? And like a tuning fork your heart resonates whenever there? Hawaii was that for me. It's the only place I still have reoccurring dreams about, and when I wake up I feel melancholy and apart.

But enough of that. On to the good stuff. As I closed my eyes last night and listened to the very local Hawaiian music I remembered so many things:

  • I could hear the ocean through the open louvers, either in my dorm room or my bedroom off-campus, and didn't realize just how loud it was until I returned to the mainland.

  • The airport smells like a flower fest with the scent of carnation, plumeria, and orchid so strong you carry it back across the ocean with you.

  • Polynesians raise their eyebrows intermittently throughout a conversation to let you know they're listening.

  • POG (passion, orange, and guava juice) is thicker and sweeter than your average juice.

  • No matter how long I lived there, poi still tasted like kindergarten glue paste.

  • However, the taste of breadfruit grew on me and for the longest time I couldn't imagine eating chicken without it.

  • When you're a starving college student there's nothing like being invited to a traditional wedding reception complete with a luau (which includes a double breasted buffet line with real Kalua pig).

  • McDonalds has a special Hawaiian menu that includes the teriyaki burger (yum!) and rice as a side dice.

  • Oh, and since I'm talking about food, my favorite thing to eat at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) was the Spam roll (like a California roll only with Spam).

  • My favorite job EVER was as a Japanese tour guide at the PCC.

  • Every evening as I walked from the cafeteria to the library I was serenaded by the loud music blaring from the PCC night show.

  • Pulling my hair up in a bun with chopsticks was considered uber-cool.

  • Every slack-key guitar or ukelelei song sounds like love to me.

  • The hula. Ah. What more can I say?

Like a love-sick girl I could go on and on forever, but I'll spare you. Still, I hope you've caught the Aloha spirit from this one little post and will have a better day because of it. And here are my pictures. 1)BYU-Hawaii, 2)The LDS Temple as seen from Hukilau Beach, and 3)Hukilau Beach

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Calling all readers...

People, I need your help. Seriously.

I’m about ready to tackle the task of sending out Christmas cards, but I’m a little stumped. Generally I try to write a light-hearted newsletter that tells people what we’re up to. But how do you share the earth-splitting news I’ve got to share (i.e. divorce) without putting a damper on the Christmas spirit? I’ve considered not sending anything at all, but then lots of people will just be confused next year when I return to the ritual. I’ve also considered just sending out the picture postcards and signing it “Shauna and the kids.” Is that enough? I welcome (and beg for) your advice and/or suggestions.

Monday, December 03, 2007

My Day Spa, or more appropriately titled, I Have Strep

Today I went to the doctor to get a throat culture (Yes, people, the Belknap’s have strep), and I was a magazine whore in the waiting room. I’m guessing this is what happens when you confine a woman in a room without her children (and her laptop), forcing her to sit quietly by herself for nearly 20 minutes.

First I raided the wall rack, snagging a Good Housekeeping, a Country Cottage, and a Redbook with Kelly Ripa on the cover. I binged, flipping through pages furiously, trying to get as much mindless magazine-ing in as possible. The other lady in the waiting room looked up from her Newsweek with raised eyebrows and then back down as if embarrassed for me. I read magazines I never would pay for—People’s issue naming the sexiest men alive, and then the one about that guy they think killed two of his four wives.

When the nurse called me in I scowled at her. I would have waited for an hour. or two. I’m probably the only person who views a trip to the doctor for a throat culture akin to a relaxing spa getaway. Unfortunately, my appointment was short-lived. The nurse said my uvula and tonsils were extremely swollen and inflamed. (Uvula. So that’s what that’s called… I had been calling it a goiter, or to mix it up – the do-hickie at the back of my throat). Within 15 minutes I was diagnosed, prescribed, and sent on my merry way. Viola.

Two doses of amoxicillin for ten days and I won’t be reading another magazine until my next checkup. Unfortunately, that’s an agonizing 6 months from now.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bye Bye Bling...

I can’t afford therapy so I’m writing in my journal, religiously. It sits on my bedside table and sometimes I stay up until one in the morning, writing down my feelings and reflections, trying to figure stuff out and make myself accountable for changes I’m trying to make.

Recently I’ve been made acutely aware of how much I worry about what other people think. Does anyone else struggle with this? When I’m at church, with my family, talking with my ex, and yes, even publishing posts to this here blog. It’s been something I’ve struggled with since high school. Before that I remember being a carefree child who could care less what anyone thought. What changed that?

Junior high. At least that’s when I realized that others’ judgments could impact me in a very public way. There was this popular pack of boys who would roam the halls before school, circling the 8th grade wing and bulldozing anyone in their path. I remember having my locker closed on me, being goosed while trying to drink from the fountain and watching a friend get shoved out of someone’s way. I went from being a strong girl to feeling powerless and very vulnerable. That carefree child retreated and I began spending time in the library, waiting there with a group of friends until the bell rang.

But that was so many years ago and I’m an adult now. Stick and stones, right? Not only that, but I’m a mother and I don’t want to model this perception to my children (I know, if this is how I perceive the world I already have modeled this perception). So I’m trying to move beyond this, making the best choices I can regardless of, irrespective of what others might think.

I’ve been lucky as I’ve moved through this divorce. There have been countless individuals who have stepped forward to offer their love and support, including so many of you in the blogging community. And for that I’m extremely grateful. But every now and then I encounter a mean-spirited judgment that sends me reeling. And I feel that urge to justify my choices, explain my situation, and divulge information that is private and personal. But I’m trying to remember that my only concern is how one entity regards my choices. When I acknowledge that I’m baffled that some are presumptuous enough to think they can pass judgment on me and mine, or anyone else for that matter (I’m also baffled that I’ve been presumptuous enough to pass thoughtless judgments on others as well).

So I’m trying not to worry about what anyone else may think about my life. I’m also trying to remember how important it is to refrain from judging others, to reach out to those who need understanding and generosity of spirit. Really, we’re all trying to learn here and I believe we each have experiences tailored to our needs. Those of you who share your very personal experiences on your blogs enrich my life and demonstrate the resilience of the human spirit and how we’re all just trying to do the best we can.

I hope I don’t offend any of you by removing all the bling from my blog. I have been giddy over each and every award but I’ve gotten to the point where I worry too much about how “popular” I am here in cyberspace and that’s just a silly. So I’m going to write from my heart and not worry about the numbers, awards or anything else. I’m just going to enjoy my blog and the great community it’s nestled in.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Longest Finger of All

At church on Sunday, after Leah had tired of drawing in her notebook, she sat back in our pew and began fiddling with her hands. Minutes later she lifted her fist high in the air, her middle finger erect. I cupped my hand over hers and whispered, “Leah, don’t do that.”

“Why, Mom?” she asked.

“Because it’s not nice.”

“But, Mom,” she said. “It’s my longest finger.”

How could I reason with that?

“Yes, Sweetie. It sure is,” I said. “Just keep it to yourself.”

So for the rest of sacrament meeting she admired her middle finger, the longest of all, from the safety of her little lap.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

And thus it begins...

A sign Kaleb penned himself and hung on his bedroom door just this week.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dating-Service Guy

Okay, so I’m sitting here in the library, waiting for a desk with an internet hookup and there’s this guy browsing some electronic dating service. Can I just say, ew? Now I don’t mean to be nosey (okay, so I do) but he must have set his search specifications to “busty” because he’s enlarging all these pictures of very buxom woman with come-hither looks (it’s certainly no eHarmony). And he’s sat himself right in the middle of one long desk with two internet hookups. Now I come to the library to freelance – if I stay home where my ex mother-in-law is watching my children I don’t get anything done. So I come here to focus for 4 quiet hours a day and work at a desk with a free internet connection. I know, it’s a public place where everyone’s welcome to use these services, but, pah-lease! Try to get lucky somewhere else, mister.

Sheesh. That was a grumpy post. It's now one hour following this aforementioned "encounter" with Dating-Service Guy, and I've gotten my own desk with my own internet connection. I'm feeling much better now.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

I have a riddle for you.

Where do you find a bunch of crazy people crowded together before daylight without their straight jackets on?

Answer: Black Friday, otherwise known as the Day after Thanksgiving Day sales. And I say that with love, people, because I’ve been a loyal attendee for years.

When I lived in Utah my ex and I were great Black Friday strategists; we would pour over the ads and make lists of where to go and at what time. We would wake up at 4 and wouldn’t get home until after 10 (for you sane people, that’s in the a.m.). And while I haven’t had much experience shopping in Idaho Falls, Black Friday in Utah was more than a day, it was an Olympic event.

I made my sister, a Black Friday virgin, come with me one year. She was amazed to see retailers passing out refreshments to 5am shoppers on their way into stores. But on Black Friday those shoppers are more like marathoners taking the paper cups of orange juice and hot chocolate to pour over their heads as they start the grand competition called Christmas Sale Shopping.

We quickly learned that the shopping cart was a great handicap; the best Black Friday shoppers go armed with a billfold and their own two hands, ready to carry everything from a 32” plasma TV to stacks of Spiderman action figures. And besides, you could get stuck in an aisle for hours trying to maneuver your cart around crazed shoppers.

The really serious shoppers tag-team shop, with walkie talkies in hand as they work through their lists, elbowing old ladies and children who may stumble into their way.

This year, however, my ex and I (in disagreement on just about everything but shopping) decided to sleep in and go a little later this year. What we discovered was that you don’t avoid the crazies that way. While you do avoid the strategists, the Type-A shoppers with lists and hand signals and shopping paraphernalia, you don’t avoid the lazy crazies, who, like us, decided to roll out of bed at, heaven forbid, seven in the morning only to discover that the $20 acoustic guitars and $80 digital cameras were, alas, all gone.

But even thus impaired, we still managed to spend over $100 before noon on Black Friday, standing in shorter lines and fighting smaller crowds. You pick your battles, I guess, even on the fierce field of Christmas shopping.

But maybe the true winner in all of this is my mother who called me the other day to say, “Watch for Zack’s Christmas present. I bought it on QVC and had it shipped to you.” And, following a lengthy conversation on Christmas shopping, added, “I just may avoid the stores all together and get all your presents on QVC this year…”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What I Know for Sure

(I know, I stole it from Oprah, but the woman’s too busy getting pedicures with hundred dollar bills rolled between her toes to sue lil ole me – so I’m gonna run with it. Love ya, Oprah. And should you ever want to run a show about poor bloggers trying to become multi-millionaires on nothing but poopy posts, I’m here for you.)

While at BYU-Hawaii a kazillion years ago I attended a devotional that changed my life (unfortunately, the same portion of my brain that remembers the devotional can’t remember the person who delivered it. Sorry.). The speaker said, “Just because it feels good doesn’t mean it’s right, and just because it’s right doesn’t mean it feels good.” I’m certain he used an example of making out in the back seat of a car. Feels good, not so right. You get the gist.

At the time I was engaged to a great guy, one who treated me very well. I loved him and was caught up in everything that was Wedding (there was a $200 deposit on the dress and a luau with a dozen pigs in the works). And then I went to that stinkin’ devotional.

For weeks I hadn’t felt quite right about our engagement. I may have loved him, but there was something about our plans that didn’t sit well with me. Every night I would pray for the anxiety to disappear, but that only seemed to worsen it. So when I heard those words at that devotional given by Anonymous, I knew I had to break things off.

Not only did I break off the engagement (I’ll spare you the heart-wrenching details), but I decided to serve a mission for my church, proving the following algorithm to be completely true for me:

Engagement/Love/Marriage/General Swooning: felt good, wasn’t “right.”

Serving a mission in Japan for 18 months: didn’t always feel so good, was "right.”
While that was the hardest thing I’d ever done up to that point in my life, I still know I made the right choice. And acting on what I knew to be right, regardless of how difficult it was, was a defining moment for me. I became a stronger person because of it (a stronger person who no longer speaks Japanese, so don’t ask).

So here I am, years after the fact, dragging through the days and reminding myself that while divorce may be the “right” thing for me now, it sure as hell doesn’t feel good.

Thankfully I believe there's always a time when things will feel both good and right.

At least that's what I'm telling myself today...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A First Date

I’m going to take a break from my melancholy self and write an uplifting post. I’m determined to think my way to a happier place so I’m going to tell you about my date. Yes, I’m newly single and tonight I went on my very first post separation date. With whom, you ask? My son. I know—you feel a little ripped off. You were expecting a juicier story – the likes of which I don’t expect to experience in the immediate future. But believe me, people, if I ever have a juicy story, you’ll be the first to know (because I’m shameless that way).

Anyway, my date with my son was fabulous. He was the perfect gentleman, and while I had to pay my own way (and his), he was a good conversationalist, well-mannered, complimentary, and asked if we could go out again. Soon. Now how often does all that happen on a first date?

I guess it’s a misnomer to call it a first date. We’ve gone out before. In fact, I’ve gone out on dates with Leah and Zack too. And I’ve got to say that while I didn’t come up with the idea myself, it’s been good for us nonetheless (I won’t lie – I’ve Googled all current parenting tactics).

We spent three hours together, just me and him, without a chore chart, my nagging about the chore chart, his homework, my nagging about his homework, and the wonderful dynamics of sibling rivalry. It was Kaleb and Mom stripped down to the basics. I asked about school, friends, teachers, and yes, I took his pulse on the divorce.

“So,” he asked. “Does that mean you’re going to marry someone else?”

Whoa, let’s not beat around the bush. But I was grateful for the candor, the honesty that comes, full-force, from a child. “Sweetie,” I said. “That’s not going to happen for a long time. But if it ever does, I’ll tell you.”

“Will you have more babies?”

Sheesh, questions I hadn’t even been brave enough to ask myself. “I don’t know. Do you want more brothers and sisters?”

“I’d like an older brother to play with,” he said, and then, “Are we going to be late for the movie?”

The conversation was over and I had only been in the hotspot for, say, three minutes. Not bad.

And just so this post has a little juice—while watching the Bee Movie (not a fan), I saw a very handsome man sitting just five seats down from us. I know. I got nothin'. But I can share a fun picture of an unattainable man I have been known to lust after (Thanks, Rachel, from Three Day Blog).

Goodnight, everyone!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Without My Children

I both relish and despise the weekends my ex has the kids. On the one hand it’s exhilarating to have hours to myself—to freelance, to watch movies, to take baths. I can go shopping, without a cart, and meander the store looking at things—me-things. Body wash, jewelry, handbags, magazines. And then it gets late and I start to ache, wondering what my children are doing, if they’re having fun, and how much of their lives I’ve just missed.

Kaleb has another loose tooth—will that go under a pillow at our house or his Dad’s? What profound questions will Leah ask that I won’t be there to answer? And what of Zack and his potty training—will he finally get it when he’s not with me? They are my children, flesh of my flesh, and I’m sharing them like luxury vehicles, piecing out moments of their lives like poker chips. And I wonder how they feel about this, passed between my ex and I without thought or question of what they want, of how they would like to spend their time.

If you asked them they would probably tell you that all they want is for their parents to move back together, to share a home so they don’t have to be ported back and forth between us. Because, really, who’s it for, them or us? Are we divvying out their lives because it’s the best for all involved?

So on this Saturday night, when darkness makes every burden a little heavier, I’m deciding that it’s childhood compromised, a sad tug of war between two adults greedy for their children.

And to be completely honest, I’m feeling especially greedy right now…

Thursday, November 08, 2007

You're Fired!

About three weeks ago I was unceremoniously fired from a job I’ve held for a little more than 6 years. I’ve never been fired before so, I admit, I took it personally. Unemployed, and from a volunteer position, no less. You know where I’m going with this. My three year old let me go.

Following an especially difficult trip to the grocery store, I was buckling a disgruntled Zack into his car seat when he informed me, “You’re fired, Mom!”

I was stunned, because really, where had he learned to say that? And then, shouldn’t he have warned me in some kind of formal performance review?

“So are you giving me two weeks’ notice or should I leave you here so you can call a Taxi?” I asked. He wasn’t amused. I continued my bitter monologue home. “Do you have someone in mind or are you just going to take this to the classifieds?” And then, “Remember to ask for someone who will wipe your tears, wipe your nose, and yes, wipe your bum. Not a very appealing job description. You may want to offer a salary with benefits.”

As I considered the untimely end of my career I couldn’t help but entertain my options. I could get a job where I only had to work 40 hours a week, where I could clock out at 5, catch a movie on the way home and then, well, go to bed. I could pursue more exciting avenues like becoming a secret agent or working at a waffle factory. Imagine, all those hours I would get paid for working.

But those thoughts were dashed the next morning when Zack came in to wake me up at 6:30.

“Mom,” he said. “I hungwee for beckfast.”

“But you fired me,” I said. “Last night. Remember?”

“Mooooooom,” he said, pulling on my sleeve. “It’s time to wake up.”

Employers these days can be so fickle. Especially when they’re not potty trained.

So I’m back on duty, full-time and uncompensated – well, at least with anything my bank will allow me to deposit. And there are perks. I can wear slippers to work. I get to go to the park a lot. My employer sometimes shares his Halloween dividends with me. And while it may be considered inappropriate in a more traditional work environment—the boss gives me lots of wet, sloppy kisses.

It’s a sweet job, really.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Storm of Pain, and other shameless metaphors

Humans are interesting creatures, not unlike animals in their desire to shun pain, to do what they can to avoid the sting of a wound, be it physical or emotional. About the time I stopped posting to my blog I had stepped into the axis of my pain, and I have to admit, it surprised me.

Just weeks earlier I had been talking with my friend Mary, explaining that I had already mourned the end of my marriage three years ago. All that was left to grieve was the impact it was having on my children (can we say denial?). I was efficiently moving through my divorce, checking through these emotional steps like items on a To-Do list. That’s when the unbearable pain hit me, stealing my breath. Suddenly my heart resembled a split melon, wide and messy with emotion. I thought I was going to die, thought I wanted to die, and gravitated towards my ex, the only one who truly understood how much our divorce hurt.

Not until this moment have I recognized two types of pain. One steals upon you slowly and before you realize it this pain has taken over your life and become common—what you’re used to. We recognize it in the story of a frog, seduced to his death by lounging in a pot of water slowly set to boil. We become comfortable with this type of pain—we recognize it and have learned to cope with it. It’s manageable.

The other pain is a storm, a Katrina of hurt that disorients you, blurs your vision and masks the horizon. I was in the eye of this storm just one month ago. And I’m convinced that often we’re required to step through this brand of pain in order to reach a much better place, a promised land, a city of hope, a bright future. Cheesy, I know, but true. But how eager I was to slip from this pain into another that was more comfortable, albeit equally debilitating.

For the first time in my life I empathized with people who turn to drugs and alcohol to escape pain. It’s just that base instinct we all have to free ourselves from a long moment of crushing heartache. Whether we, when possible, avoid the storm altogether or turn to something that will numb our awareness of it, we’re depriving ourselves of a blissful destination at the end of an arduous journey. That is what I have to believe. For me, my ex, and my children, I know this painful moment in the string of eternity is really just the gust of wind we need to reach a better place.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself today…

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mission Mompossible

The other night I watched Mission Impossible for the first time in years. And as I watched I realized why I will never be a secret agent. Not because I can’t hold my breath for more than five minutes while I defuse a bomb underwater. Not because I can’t scale an elevator shaft in an evening gown. And not even because I’m probably taller (and heavier) than Tom Cruise with Suri on his back. No, not for any of those reasons.

I could never be a secret agent because I wouldn’t be able to listen to the entire secret recording without rewinding it. By the time it self-destructed I’d be turning to the person next to me asking, “Did you hear what he just said?”

The truth is, I’ve become my mother (bless you, mom!). In order to follow a movie I have to rewind it at least 5 times or ask my children to 1) repeat what’s just been said or 2) turn up the television, again.

Now there are valid reasons for this. One is my poor hearing. My mother was right; all that rock music did make me go deaf. But more problematic than that is my newly acquired lack of focus.

Before I had children I could watch three movies in a row, sitting for more than 362 minutes in a wooden chair watching B-grade films without missing one scene. In fact, to the chagrin of my co-watchers, I probably would have deconstructed each before the credits had run, cross-analyzing the films like a graduate student with nothing better to do (because I was). I would use words like “acquiescent,” “theoretically,” and “banal.” Yeah. I was a real smarty-pants.

But not so much these days. I’m lucky if I can watch a Pixar film and get all the adult jokes the first time through. And the phrase I’m most likely to say while watching said film is, “What did he just say?”

Which takes me back to my future as a secret agent. It ain’t gonna happen. Not that I was planning on it or anything; it’s just nice to have options. I’ve decided this is how my encounter with that secret recording would probably go down.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

“Zack, get off the counter! And Kaleb, you put that cookie back… Did he just
say Prague? Am I supposed to defuse an underwater bomb in Praugue?”

…and scale an elevator shaft in your evening gown with Suri on your back…

“Did he say sell the pretty little surrey with the fringe on top, or scale an elevator shaft with Suri on my back?”

We would not do well if the safety of our nation rested in my ever-so-chapped hands.

This post will self-destruct in 20 seconds…

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I'm going to have to take a break from my blog (officially)--at least from posting regularly. Until I get a better handle on things, I'll only post my column here. You people are great! I hope to be back soon...

My children have finally decided what they’re going to be for Halloween this year. Indecisive. Yep. That’s right. They are going to be wishy-washy, can’t-decide, too-late-to-actually-buy-something-at-the-store werechildren.

It’s not that they haven’t had ideas. No, they’ve been full of those. Kaleb has already run through the following options: the Avatar, a white ninja, a red ninja, Yoda, Batman, anything with a cape, anything with face paint, anything with a sword. Leah, on the other hand, has tossed around the following: Wonder Woman, a ladybug, a butterfly, anything with makeup, anything with jewelry, and Lilly Lightly Princess of all the Twinkles and Glows. But ask any of them what they want to be today and everyday until Halloween and they’ll say, “I’m not sure yet.” Zack, the only one who can make a solid decision around here, wants to be Lightning McQueen.

And when it comes to costuming, I wish I was more creative, in a Martha Stewart kind of way. I’ve seen countless adorable costumes and have tried to convince my children to try any one of them: a Crayola crayon, a deviled egg (complete with horns), a sack of potatoes, an Ompa Lumpa, a garden knome, the Hamburglar, a Lego, and my personal favorite, a bag of butter-flavored microwave popcorn. But they’re not biting. “Mom,” Leah said to me, rolling her eyes, “Those aren’t real Halloween costumes.”

To encourage my children to choose, and quickly, I have prepared backup costumes for them should they wait until October 30th to put something together. Kaleb can borrow any one of his sister’s princess costumes. And Leah can be a baseball player. Funny how they’re now extremely motivated to decide.

In actuality I’m a big fan of Halloween. For one day of the year you can pretend to be whatever you like. Albert Einstein, a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader, Donald Trump, Ryan Seacrest, an Ompa Lumpa, or a Lego. Your options are only limited by your imagination. So think big, people!

I, on the other hand, have known what I want to be for a few months now. On vacation. Yep. That’s right. On Halloween I want to be a tourist in Hawaii. A really authentic one. With a muumuu, a flower lei, and a box of Macadamian chocolates. Oh, and a plane ticket. One way.

Aloha and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Thanks for your support!

To all of you who emailed and have continued to check back, the twins are faring well. Another Cat Scan revealed the bleeding has been contained to one side of the brain which is good news. This little gals seem to have new battles daily, but they're both fighters. I promise to keep everyone posted as I learn more myself. Thanks so much for your prayers!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Please Pray for My Brother's Babies

Last Sunday my sister-in-law had twin baby girls, beautiful Ava and Emma. While they were more than two and a half months premature they were life-flighted to a larger hospital in Spokane, WA, where the babies seemed to be doing well. Until today.

Apparently Cats Scans indicate that both girls have blood on the brain. You can imagine that we’re all extremely worried, and the burden my brother and sister-in-law, Jeremy and Natalie, currently bear is unimaginable. Please pray for them and their girls. They’ll be running some tests on Sunday morning that will provide them with more information. We’re all praying that information will be hopeful and positive. We’re also praying that Jeremy and Natalie will be granted peace of heart and spirit. If you could, please, offer a prayer for them and their beautiful babies.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Popcorn Cancer

So did you hear the news? Apparently butter-flavored microwave popcorn causes lung cancer. Not that I think the Universe is listening or anything, but I take issue with that.
Initially they thought only factory workers were coming down with this rare type of lung cancer, called bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn workers’ lung” (I’m not making this stuff up). But then they found this 53-year old man with an acute fondness for microwave popcorn; he eats it twice a day and breaks open each bag to take a whiff of the buttery vapors. Apparently, that can kill you.

I’ve spent thirty odd years of my life avoiding the big vices. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I’ve never done drugs. And I don’t wear white after Labor Day. But I am a diet coke fan and eat my fair share of butter-flavored microwave popcorn. And wouldn’t you know it, the popcorn’s gonna do me in. (Although I may not sniff the popcorn steam, I do lick the butter off the bag. Is that so bad?)

I would like to propose a solution. If anyone would be interested in signing a petition, I would like to ask God to take both popcorn cancer and breast cancer off the table. And as long as we’re asking, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and leukemia (go for the gold, right?). Because as far as cancer goes, those seem especially unreasonable.

I’m guessing that He’s going to want something in return, being a just God and all. To sweeten the deal, I say we throw in a few carcinogens of our choosing. Win, win, right?

So here’s my list (feel free to email me with more) of things that should cause cancer: telemarketing, flipping the bird (because really, people, can’t we just all get along?), not allowing someone to merge even though they’ve been signaling for three blocks, green ketchup (that’s just wrong), cleaning the toilet, nylons, Monday Night Football (okay, okay, it’s off the list…), dressing room mirrors and fluorescent lighting (that’s a combo deal), bullying, name-calling, rolling your eyes at your mother, blowing your nose on anything but tissue paper, and being a Paris Hilton fan. There. That’s a solid list, right?

Now we know why I’m not God. But if I were, microwave popcorn would definitely not cause cancer. (And fudge-covered Oreo cookies would be fat-free.)


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thanks, Long Overdue

Eileen over at A Life of Triggers gave me this Reflections Award (I heart you, Eileen!). Ain’t it purty? And because Eileen’s blog is so genuine, so open, and reflective, it means even more that the award came from her (please read her blog—she shares so much of herself it makes me cry almost everytime I read it).

And to share the love I’m giving this same award to these lovelies…

I Can Fly, Just Not Up…I know. I’m always giving Heather awards, but she’s just dandy! And her blog is open and genuine. One of my absolute favorites…

Cheerio Road…a blog I’ve recently discovered, Karen’s posts are always so thought-provoking (Plus, she’s a Zen Buddhist Priest. How cool is that!).

The Prairie Preacher…who is very open and honest about his life in transition. And doesn’t it just make you happy to read good guy blogs?

Now I have to say that as much as I love getting awards, I hate nominating others for them because there are so many bloggers out there that I just love to pieces (you know who you are—at least I hope you do…). I can’t say enough about what a wonderful support community I’ve found in blogging. (*blowing kisses*). You're all swell!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Back for Now

Sorry, people. I did, in fact, fall off the face of the earth and have just clawed my way home. Unfortunately, I haven’t been lounging my life away (although if anyone knows where I can apply for THAT job, do tell…). My absence included all of the following: the arrival of my soon-to-be ex in-laws who are temporarily residing in my home, a road trip to Boise, approximately 52 hours of intoxicating family time, three emotional and pseudo psycho outbursts directed at the soon-to-be ex Hub, a broken water heater, and the creation of an underground blog that may have saved my life. Phew.

I’m better now.

More on all that later…

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rat + Patootie = Ew!

It is just me, or are rats gross?

Now before I go any further I have to say that I am an avid Pixar fan. Monsters, Inc. is one of my all-time favorite movies. I mean, really, a closet as a monster portal into the human dimension? Clever, right? And the whole Toy Story series with Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as Woody and Buzz? Brilliant! Even the one about the ant colony trying to outwit the grasshopper mafia is fun. But a rat cooking in a famous restaurant? Ew.

A little backstory might be necessary. Our first home was a small Victorian over 100 years old. Kaleb was nearly two and Leah about six months old when we realized that the previous occupants of our home had never moved out. We were cohabitating with a large family of mice. They were everywhere, as were their little mousey droppings and their little mousey germs. I was grossed out. I had two babies in my home and a host of vermin threatening our health and livelihood (no, I am not overreacting…okay, maybe I am just a little...).

Thus began Operation Extermination. We tried everything. Mousetraps. steel wool in potential entry-ways, peppermint-soaked cotton balls (the things you do when you Google), rat posion. There was even a basement incident involving myself, an infant mouse and a yellow, 72-inch aluminum box beam level. The mouse won. And the level broke.

Finally we got a cat and the mouse problem vanished. End of that mouse story. But onto another. Ratatouille.

Now my aversion to animated rodents isn’t limited to the newest Pixar movie. I’ve never liked Tom and Jerry (well, just Jerry), Stuart Little, Fievel, Speedy Gonzales, Mickey Mouse (okay, so I liked Mickey a little), and any of those Night before Christmas cartoons. I’m a cold-hearted mouse hater.

So when I took my kids to see Ratatouille yesterday at the dollar theater I did think, “Wow, how clever.” But then I thought, “Ew.” And that scene, with the rat colony acting as an especially squirmy bunch of line chefs was just a titch disconcerting to me (But Shauna, you say, they were run through an industrial-strength dishwashwer. Still. Ew.).

Now I’m not going to try and pass this off as a high-brow (or even low-brow) movie review. I have nothing more to say but, “Ew.” Okay and this: my humble opinion is that no matter how much you animate a rat or have him follow his little chefy dreams, he’ll still a disease-ridden rodent in my book. That and, ew...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tooth Fairy Economics

This week marked my first stint as Tooth Fairy. Kaleb, my oldest, surrendered his third lost tooth and faithfully placed it under his pillow (his first two, which he had decided to keep, were lost somewhere in the house a couple years ago where I’m afraid Zacky snacked on them). Being in an especially generous mood, I replaced this tooth with a five-dollar bill.

“Heh, Mom?” he said the next morning. “How come the Tooth Fairy doesn’t give much for teeth these days?” He waved the crisp bill at me as evidence. Apparently, the neighbor boy, who has one year on Kaleb and a couple more lost teeth, gets toys under his pillow.

“Five dollars is a lot!” I said. “Do you know I only got a quarter for my teeth?” Later that day a friend of mine echoed those sentiments, telling him, “I was lucky to get a dime.” Suddenly Kaleb turned braggart, telling everyone that his teeth were worth much more than his mother and her friend’s teeth combined.

Later that day, while I folded laundry, Kaleb decided to engage in Tooth Fairy Economics. “Why did I get more for my teeth than you did?” he asked.

“Well,” I said. “It’s been awhile since I lost my teeth. Maybe teeth are worth more these days.” I patted myself on the back for introducing Kaleb to the concept of inflation.

But Kaleb shook his head, unhappy with that explanation. “I think,” he said. “That boy tooth fairies give more money than girl tooth fairies.” I thought about that for a minute. “So you think girls have a girl tooth fairy and boys have a boy tooth fairy?” He nodded. “And the boy tooth fairy gives more money than the girl tooth fairy?” He nodded again, and then added, “Because boys make more money than girls.” Sheesh, I thought. This conversation had evolved all too quickly from inflation to gender discrimination in the workplace.

“Kaleb,” I said in my lecture voice. “Girl tooth fairies and boy tooth fairies make the same amount of money.” Imaginary money, I thought. But Kaleb shrugged, already disinterested in our conversation.

Only later did he bring it up again, saying, “Mom, I’ve stopped thinking about boys being tooth fairies. I think the Tooth Fairy is a grandma now.”

“How come?” I asked, wondering if this was progress.

“Because I don’t think boys have fairy wings. That’s for girls.”

I sighed. Well, at least the grandma tooth fairy no longer has to file a complaint about unfair wages. That’s progress, right?

Imaginary progress…

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What Remains

On Thursday I retained my lawyer and experienced first-hand how one tallies a life. My husband and I have been married eight years, an entire lifetime shared, the result of which are three young, beautiful people. Simple math tells me our marriage represents 30 birthdays, 8 anniversaries, three pregnancies, three births, two apartments, two houses, over 150 Christmas cards, one car accident, three surgeries, two therapists, and now, one divorce decree.

And as I sat at the long lacquered table answering my lawyer’s questions, I couldn’t help but wonder how you divvy out a life. Could we really calculate all the spiritual debts and assets that have accrued within that time? Could we tally what’s yours and mine and theirs without ripping, unnaturally, at the center of our lives? As my lawyer applied this surreal formula of delineation I anticipated years of emotional hemorrhaging for all of us. This moment, drawing the lines and boundaries between us, preparing a chart of alternating holidays, determining percentages of responsibility, was the lesser of two evils.

If you’ve seen Indian Jones and the Last Crusade you probably remember the scene where Indiana is to walk across a gapping chasm to reach the Holy Grail. He’s instructed to walk the chasm by faith. I’m certain that doing such a thing would weight your heart with a cold fear, because how could you see such impossibility before you and ever expect to achieve solid footing again? I’m certain because as I sat in my lawyer’s office that day, my heart was a frozen anchor of fear.

I believe in marriage and always have. Divorce was never in the plan and for years, three exactly, I struggled against the idea. I perceived divorce, like a character in Wonder Boys, “as the first refuge for the weak in character and the last of the hopelessly incompetent.” It took no less than a whisper from God to assure me that what I saw as death would be a better path, not necessarily now, but years into the future. And while I’m sure there are some who see divorce as a lack of faith, for me it has been a faith-filled journey, one-step over a darkened chasm.

So as I type to what seems to be a never-ending pulse of pain, I allow myself to answer it with tears; they honor this marriage that will soon be over. It wasn’t a mistake, because the three beauties of my life were born within its bounds. And while I’m not sure how I would define it, I do know that regardless of what the divorce decree may say, five lives are forever held together by one fine gossamer strand, and that will always remain.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Phone Etiquette, Part One

The other night a client called to talk business at 5:15 pm. Now I don’t know about you, but if I were a businessman calling a soon-to-be single, work-at-home mom I probably wouldn’t call at dinnertime. But that’s just me.

I was in the middle of making spaghetti and my kids, plus one, were playing in the house. It took awhile to clear them from the kitchen, but quite soon I was carrying on an adult conversation about my freelance work. That is until I heard water running.

I asked my client to wait while I checked on my kids. Sure enough they had turned the hose on in the middle of a fair-sized patch of dirt on the side of my house. The water had been on long enough to flood an area big enough for an alligator. A giant, mutant alligator.

“Sorry,” I told my client. “My kids just flooded my yard.” Now I’m not sure, but when does proper phone etiquette require you to say, “Is now a bad time?” Apparently not after your children flood your side yard. We continued our adult conversation about my freelance work.

That is until my children invited a stray dog into my house. And not a tiny, yip-yip dog, but a large golden retriever (yes, it too was the size of a giant, mutant alligator).

I asked my client to hold on while I chased said dog through my house and out the front door. This lonely beast, and the four children who had invited it in, all left muddy footprints from one point of entry to the other.

“Sorry,” I told my client. “My kids just let a stray dog into the house.” Now I’m not sure, but is this the point at which proper phone etiquette requires you to say, “Is now a bad time?” Apparently having a big, stray dog romp through your house like the Pied Piper followed by four muddy children does not warrant it. We continued our conversation.

That is, until I realized that only three of the children who were now romping outside with the muddy dog were fully clothed. Yes, people, my youngest son had stripped naked and was running down the sidewalk, a trail of clothes behind him.

I asked my client to wait while I collected my naked child, brought him into the house and planted him in front of the television. “Sorry,” I told my client. “My son was running around outside, naked.”

I waited, again, for that fateful question. Nothin’. At that point we were able to finish our adult conversation about my freelance work without being interrupted by as much as a boiling pot of spaghetti noodles.

Just so you know, I’ve since looked for the manual on phone etiquette that determines at exactly what point you ask, “Is now a bad time?” I couldn’t find it. But I did find one on common sense and it plainly states: “If, during an important phone conversation, your children flood your yard, invite a stray muddy dog into your home and then chase it down the sidewalk naked, you are required to tell your party, ‘Now is not a good time. Can I call you back?’”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weigh in, People

I’m such a delinquent blogger these days (this freelancing thing is killin’ me) so I thought I’d try to multi-task in this post. Bare with me, folks.

My dream (yes, I’m blushing) is to syndicate my column. (Sometimes I wonder if I’m one of those tone-deaf singers auditioning for American Idol. You know the ones. They’re either dressed in drag or uber androgynous performing some frightening dance moves while they sing on, oblivious. That’s me. Only I’m submitting column queries, in drag, oblivious…)

So anyway, I’ve gotten positive feedback from two papers so far that have yet to give me a definitive answer. Now I’m of the opinion that editors are not the string-‘em-along type. They don’t know me personally so if they didn’t like my stuff they’d probably just say, “We’re not interested,” and get it over with, right? (I know, I’m such a sucker). So I’ve written a couple follow-up emails with no luck. And that’s when I concluded that since I’ll probably get rejected anyway I might as well have fun doing it. I crafted the following email as my last and final attempt to get an answer from these papers.

Dear Editors,

I’m sure you’ve tired of my endless queries, those relentless emails pleading for your attention. I’m needy that way. But I can’t stop thinking about you and your paper and the wonderful future we could share. I’ve signed my name countless times with your moniker: Shauna B., The Dream-On Daily News Columnist. *sigh* What a combination. So natural. So complete.

But because I haven’t heard back I’m wondering what’s wrong. Perhaps you’re afraid to commit. I know I can be intimidating with my humor and stuff. Or maybe you think I’m high maintenance and will charge a lot of money and tire you with verbose emails like this one. I’m cheap, really. And once you say “yes” I promise to back off and give you your space.

And then the other day I was watching Oprah and she had this expert Guy on who said that when “they” don’t call or email you back it really just means one thing: he’s just not that into you. And it got me thinking: could the same concept apply to a desperate writer and the paper of her affection?

So tell me, are you just not that into me? I can take it, really… (*sob*sob*)

Shauna B.

So what do you think? On a scale of 1-10, how stupid am I? (Okay, okay. I take that back. Please don’t be honest. Just flatter me senseless. I’m a little fragile right now. *snort*).

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Soon-to-Be Single Mom Manifesto

These last few months I feel like I’ve had to turn the Winnebago of my life around and head in a completely different direction. The landscape has changed and I’m trying to become accustomed to this new view. During a consultation with a lawyer I was told the people who best endure divorce do so by looking forward, not back. “You need to have a vision,” he said. “Of what you’d like your life to be.”

I’ve thought a lot about his advice. So much so that I’ve decided to create this, my Soon-to-Be Single Mom Manifesto. It’s only a draft, as is my life.

1. I will continue to work from home.
I want to minimize the impact of this divorce on my kids. Divorce is one of those major life changes, right? As is moving. As is going from having a stay-at-home mom to a working mom. As is suddenly having to spend lots of time with a sitter or daycare provider. I figure my kids should only have to endure one of those at a time. The truth is, I’m not raking in the dough as a freelance writer (as I squeeze writing sessions in between carpooling kids to school, making meals, avoiding laundry, and, well, blogging), but I believe it can work. And for now, I believe it’s the best thing for my kids.

2. I will try to stay in the house.
See above.

3. I will enjoy my children.
I have to remind myself about this one. The pain of divorce coupled with financial concerns can be distracting sometimes. And when I’m stressed I loose my patience and am not as eager to draw unicorns (in dresses with necklaces and earrings) for my daughter. But there are no Do-ey Overs in childhood so they deserve an attentive mom who’s present, accounted for, and when possible, ready to play. Today I took the kids to the river and we fed the ducks. For an hour we all seemed to forget our painful evolution from traditional to dysfunctional family. I’ve added “do more of that” to my list of priorities.

4. I will get healthy.
That, ladies, isn’t just about my keister, although that does need immediate attention. I’m also taking charge of my emotional health. There’s been so much turmoil these last few years that I’ve lost touch with who I am and am rediscovering, delightfully, what I’m all about.

5. I will not trash the soon-to-be ex-Hub.
See my post “The Bad News.” 'Nough said.

And that’s it. I think there’s something to say about looking beyond a painful situation to a brighter future that you have the power to create.

And now, I think I will create a nice, long bubble bath for myself. Happy Weekend, everyone!

Gee, thanks, Bananas!

Jenny from Absolutely Bananas gave me this awesome award:

For blogs you love so much you just want to plant a wet one on 'em.

Gotta love the graphic (and big, fat, wet kisses--who doesn't love those?). Thanks, Bananas!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Toilet Paper Epiphany (from the Way-Too-Much-Information Files)

I deleted this post after realizing that today was 9/11, but after reading Karen's comment to my new-and-improved September 11th post, decided to repost the toilet-paper epiphany...

Just yesterday I had an epiphany while sitting on the porcelain throne. And lest you think I spend unwarranted amounts of time there, it was a toilet-paper related thought and thus, completely justified.

I decided that we go through toilet paper all too quickly in my home. As I sat there and replaced yet another toilet paper roll, I realized that I do that approximately once a day. Now I’m no expert on toilet paper consumption, but that seems a titch excessive.

So I considered (as I sat and thought) different ways to remedy the problem. Years ago I read a book called The Complete Tightwad Gazette that talked about how to save money and get out of debt. There was an entire section on saving toilet paper, from establishing a rationing rule that dictated how many squares were allowed per function (i.e. 4 squares for number “1” and 8 squares for number “2”) to squashing the roll so the cardboard cylinder turned more slowly, preventing wasteful unrolling. I considered what would be required to stop this waste in my home (that pun was so unintended, that is, until I got it).

So I devised a plan whereby we would stop using so much toilet paper. And by “we” I mean “me.” What? Okay, so this where I had my epiphany. Because as I sat there I realized that I’m currently the only adult residing in my home. And every time I pass the bathroom I must remind my children to a) flush the toilet and b) use toilet paper.

I am using way too much toilet paper. And as I did my bathroom math I determined that yesterday I treated myself to more than one roll of toilet paper in what may have been 7 trips to the bathroom—tops. What am I doing in there, and why is my toilet not always clogged?

After adjourning the Bathroom Summit I decided that no further action would be required. Except that from now on I will be purchasing extra-soft, two-ply, quilted toilet paper.

Because, baby, I’m worth it.

In Remembrance

I had to remove another post today when I realized it was far too inappropriate for September 11th. Because I believe we should honor the memories of those who died that day and reflect back on this, the 6th anniversary of 9/11.

When I think back to 9/11 I remember exactly what I was doing when I found out; just as I’m sure all of you do. What I remember most, however, is that palpable fear that spread through my body with each report of another assault on our country. I too couldn’t be pried from the coverage as I wondered how I could protect my then newborn son from terrorism. I imagined running from those crumbling buildings with him in my arms. I imagined fleeing the Pentagon, frantically pushing him in a stroller. I imagined sitting on a plane, trying to sooth him with a trembling whisper. In a weakened moment I felt helpless and lost.

That is, until the news coverage began to unearth the true nature of our country. We heard about the firefighters and EMT who ran towards those same buildings people were fleeing from. We saw countless volunteers trying to find survivors in the rubble. And we listened to people relay the courage and heroism displayed by passengers on a plane that was intended to kill even more Americans. Although many of those individuals lost their lives, I was buoyed up by their strength and that portrait of patriotism. And I felt again the power of being a part of this great nation. The fear didn’t disappear but it did subside and was eventually replaced by admiration and awe.

And now as I reflect back I wish there was more I could do than remember. But that much I can do.

(That and take down my inappropriate post, which will appear bright and early Wednesday morning...)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

It’s Not a Wedding Reception, but for Tonight It’ll Do

My daughter just turned five, but from the conversations she’s been initiating these days you’d think she had just turned twenty. Here are some things she’s asked me lately:

“Will you come to my wedding?”
“Can I wear a black dress to my wedding?”
“When I get married will you buy me a necklace, earrings, a ring, and makeup?
“When am I grown up enough to get married?”
“Can I drive you to my new house when I’m grown up?”
“Can I borrow your makeup when I’m grown up?”
“Some day will you give me a diamond? Just the jewel, not a ring.”

Okay, so my neurosis is showing here, but is she preoccupied with marriage and being grownup because her father and I are currently failing at both? And is this an “issue” that needs addressing? If so, how do I address it?

As the hub and I have worked through this separation, we’ve encouraged the kids to be open with us about their feelings. The tricky thing with children is, sometimes they don’t know enough about what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it to share it with anyone. So we’re seeing separation residue seep out in strange ways. The million-dollar question becomes: which behavior is caused by a pending divorce and which is just typical childhood development? Some argue that it doesn’t really matter which causes it. But as the mother, I’d like to know. Oh, for a live-in Freud. Scratch that. Oh, for a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

But I guess if I’m going to worry about Leah’s recent obsession with marriage (since I’m worrying anyway) I should also worry about this big shindig she’s been planning all weekend. With her birthday over and Christmas an agonizing 4 months away, she’s decided to throw a party, complete with cake, invitations, and a gift-registry. She wanted to hold said party tonight but I explained, “No, Britney Spears is opening the VMA awards and I’ve gotta watch that train wreck.” Of course I didn’t say that, but I did say, “Sweetie, you can’t have a party just to get presents.”

But you know, maybe she’s got the right idea. Not the presents, but the party. The mood around here has been heavy and sad lately. A party with cake, ice cream and noise-makers might cheer us all up, at least for the evening.

So excuse me while I watch Stuart Little 2 and eat popcorn with my kids. We’re not following the itinerary Leah has outlined (in duplicate with a purple Crayola), but it’ll do, at least for now.

[Uhm, by the way, did anyone else realize that Stuart’s “father” is Hugh Laurie from House? Strange, right? Okay, back to the party…]

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Name Change and Google Searches

I have decided to change the name of my blog to “Poo Memos, Venomous Spiders, and eBay” because those are the favorite post topics thus far as determined by the comments of you, my dear beloved readers! And can I just say that you really are dear and beloved! If I went on a quest for the best support group EVER, I don’t think I could find such amazing, compassionate, and wise women in one zip code. Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments to the difficult post about my separation. And this week I’m feeling like your positive energy alone will carry me over the ugly. Bless you!

Now on to a lighter topic. I finally have the means to see what’s driving those Googlers to my blog. Here are some searches that bring people to Up in the Night:

“pink pee death”: Well, for a moment there I was worried. But luckily, our pink pee was caused by a Crayola fetish.

“scratch and dent surplus”: This one’s popular. In fact, I think I get one visitor per day on this search alone. Unfortunately, this is all they find when they get here…

“Shauna by nite”: So I tried this search myself and apparently there’s a playmate named Shauna Sands who “now walks the streets.” Sorry fellas, there’s no playmate here…

“Pictures of fat Shauna”: Now that’s just mean.

“girl cracks”: Okay, so I’m the horrible mommy blogger who actually wrote a post
about my daughter’s crack. But writing about it and searching for it are too
completely different things, you sickos!

“beautiful buttocks womanhood”: Now I wrote a post about my daughter’s crack, but no beautiful buttocks womanhood were mentioned in the making of that or any other post (Unless you’re looking for my buttocks. In that case, thank you. Thank you very much!)

“kid vomit blog”: Now that’s another possible title for my blog. Because I have talked about vomit here and here and here. But when you compare that to another significant bodily function, it would be more fitting to change my name to Kid Potty Blog because I talk about that here and here and here and here and here.

“Outsource household chores”: Bring it on, baby. We’re all about that over here…

“Six-year old has nasty attitude”: And sadly, we’re all about that over here too…

Phew. That’s enough for tonight, ladies. But really, thanks to all of you for being so amazingly supportive. You’re the best peeps a girl every had!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Bad News

My husband and I are separated.

And now I’m not sure what else to say. I’ve rewritten this post repeatedly,and even held onto it for nearly a month, timing it with Blogher so that it wouldn’t be broadcast over that network, and now this is all I can manage. I’m sure everyone can appreciate that this is extremely difficult for everyone, especially my kids, as we all stagger through this experience, trying to grasp something hopeful and secure to steady us.

I’ve wondered whether or not it was even necessary to share this with the blogosphere. It’s strange announcing something so private and painful in such a public forum. But I decided to do it for a number of reasons. One, I’m selfish. In blogging I’ve discovered the most amazing support group full of compassionate, wise and genuine women. And I thank you all for that. Two, I can’t not write about this experience; I’m a writer (who uses double negatives, okay?) and this is an extremely therapeutic medium for me. Three, it’s important that my blog be authentic and truly chronicle my experience with motherhood, and currently this separation consumes our approach to parenting; I can no longer look at Kaleb’s defiance and Zack’s delayed potty training without saddling them next to this separation to see how they might connect. And four, I can only hope that in writing about these things there might be someone out there who can relate, even remotely.

Finally, I just want to pledge here that I will never bash The Hub, even if he might someday become The Ex Hub. I trust that readers recognize this decision didn’t come lightly, and that there is a complicated history that’s led to this separation. But I will never share that history here. While I may blather on and on about womanhood, motherhood, writing, and relationships, I won’t go there. For lots of reasons but especially because The Hub is the father of my children, and consequently a person who will always be in my life, a person I still love and vow to respect, regardless of what has or may happen.

I’m spent. There’s so much more I could say about how this separation is a constant ache that saturates every moment, even in sleep. But that’s another post for another day. And I’m hoping that there will be something amusing, maybe about vomit or poo, I can write about before then.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Takin' Care of the Girls

One day I was getting into the shower when Zack pointed at my breasts and asked, “Are those the bests, Mama?”

“I like to think so,” I answered.

That was back when I was immune to any breast-worry. But now that I’m in the WhyMommy-know I’ve been thinking about the girls in a whole new light. In fact, I’ve become a little obsessed.

I’ll admit I’ve performed maybe five breast exams my entire life. I never knew what I was looking for and felt self-conscious poking at the girls so sloppily. And while my family has a history of breast cancer (via my grandmother on my father’s side) I always thought nursing my children somehow made me immune to any breast ailment (well, shouldn’t it?!). So I’ve never given my girls the attention they truly deserve.

But just last weekend I got to go on a quick trip to Utah sans children to visit my family. As I was driving I noticed that my left breast was a little sore. So I spent nearly three hours poking and prodding at my boob trying to find a lump or some tangible explanation for the pain (I blame this heightened self-awareness on the empty backseat. I couldn’t be rational while contending with so much silence.). By the time I got to Utah my breast was really sore and I was really worried.

Two days and 48-hours worth of self-induced poking and prodding later, I was nearly hysterical (fyi, I’m prone to be irrational. See Mama Meme, letter “I.”). So Monday morning I tried scheduling an appointment with my husband’s family doctor (along with being irrational, I’m also a procrastinator. We’ve lived here nearly a year and I have yet to schedule a checkup with a doctor.). Apparently, regardless of how hysterical a potential patient is, this doctor will only schedule one new patient a day; and she was booked until mid-October. I took five deep breaths and went to Urgent Care.

I can’t imagine that any woman enjoys a breast exam. But I’ve never been happier than at that moment while, lying topless and fondled by a competent professional, I was told that nothing unusual had been detected. Hallelujah!

So for those of you who don’t know, the purpose of a regular self exam is to detect any irregularities. And you can’t detect those unless you’re doing them every month. (duh! I know.). You gotta get to know the girls intimately, so perform a monthly exam and get a yearly checkup or if you have an extensive history of breast cancer or are nearing 40, schedule a mammogram.

So this post is in honor of WhyMommy. Thanks for making me more aware. Thanks for prompting me to take better care of myself so I can, in turn, continue to take care of my family. And if you’ve yet to visit her blog and share some love with this incredibly courageous and selfless woman, please do so today. She could use our prayers and positive energy to kick cancer’s butt.

Up in the Night thanks you, WhyMommy! God bless!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Is someone coming over?

Here's my latest column (although, just between you and me, it's really just an old post...).

People who know me are well aware that I'm not very domestic -- that's a nice way of saying my house is a mess, I'm always behind on laundry, and my children eat a lot of macaroni and cheese. But I thought I had my kids fooled.

That is, until a couple days ago when Kaleb asked, "Mom, who's coming over?"

"No one. Why?"

"Because you're cleaning the house."

It was one of those rare days when I was cleaning the house just because. Because I wanted to clear a pathway through the playroom and to clear my mother-conscience.

But apparently my children are onto me. I'm beginning to wonder how long it will take me to get it. I'm a grown person with an advanced college degree who just can't apply the whole optimal time management thing.

Case in point. When we lived in Utah I would watch twin 5-year old girls every Thursday from noon to five. From nine to eleven every Thursday morning I'd madly clean the house. The kids' room especially had to be orderly, a ridiculous notion for a preschooler play-area. But like clockwork, every Thursday my house would be immaculate by noon only to look like a presidentially declared natural disaster by 5:30. Why clean a house that will only, just hours later, look worse than it did before you started to clean it? Wouldn't an educated person wait and clean the house after the kids had left so she could enjoy her work longer?

I do the same thing for the babysitter. Just yesterday I found out my sitter couldn't watch the kids at her house, so I spent three hours cleaning the four rooms I allow people access to (my bedroom, the garage, and the basement are currently off-limits, and have been since we moved here). And after all that work my sitter kindly forgave me for my messy house. "Your kitchen looks like ours does when my mom blows a gasket," she said. Apparently one person's clean is another person's mental collapse. *Sigh*

So I've realized that I'm the kind of person who would clean her house before the maid comes. I'm also the kind of person who, when she cleans, doesn't even make babysitter-clean standards. At some point I'll need to embrace my domestic anti-goddess self and call it good. I'm an artist, I tell myself, cleanliness and order are in opposition to my creativity. Why not rejoice and let the world see my disarray?

But there's hope. Today as we were cleaning Kaleb’s bedroom, he said, "Christian's room is so messy." Christian is my babysitter's little brother. "Messier than your room?" I asked innocently. "So messy," Kaleb said. "And he never cleans it."

Redemption can sometimes come from the little tattlers living with you. I wonder if Christian's messy room is what makes my babysitter's mom blow a gasket.

I'll probably continue scrambling to get my house clean before visitors arrive. And if I ever blow a gasket the authorities might have to declare my house a biohazard.

But until then, this is just my dirty little secret.