Monday, June 23, 2008

My Children Want To Change the World One Toothbrush At a Time

Okay, I now know that my children are officially mine. Sure, I remember the morning sickness and labor. I see that Tatton has my teeth and Russell has my eyes. The stamp that sealed the deal though was when they came together to create a "forum" to get rid of toothpaste in our household. Now, I know that children all over America are probably lobbying right now to skip the brushing part of their day. My kids don't want to stop brushing their teeth though. They simply want to make an informed decision to switch to baking soda.

As Tatton puts it, "Toothpaste has so many chemicals in it that it should be illegal and we're putting it in our MOUTHS!" Cracks me up. He really thought this through too, considering that he pointed out that we have a prescription for fluoride from the dentist so they wouldn't be missing out on flouride by skipping toothpaste altogether. He told me that baking soda is cheaper and that the box that the baking soda comes in is more enviromentally friendly than the toothpaste tubes. I totally agreed with all of this.

I had to mention one small detail though: baking soda doesn't taste so good. His response? "We can deal with it." And they have. They've been brushing their teeth more now than they did when we were using their kid-friendly bubble mint concoction. (New things are always more fun no matter how nasty they taste, I guess.) The one problem that Tatton has found is that he now feels the need to be the "spitting" police and watches his younger siblings like a hawk to make sure they don't swallow too much baking soda. He's worried about their sodium levels. Yep, these eccentric, paranoid, clutzy but with a brain full of trivia children are officially mine.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hero Support

I have to say something slightly controversial. Personally, I don't see WHY it should be controversial as it only effects my little world. The funny thing about statements like this though is that when you say them, the responses you get are a mix of shock and incredulous disagreement like everyone is sure you can't be serious or maybe you need a straight jacket.

Here goes: I know my purpose in life and it's not to be a superwoman but simply to be Hero Support. There. I said it.

It seems like there's this pressure from all directions for everyone to be so goal oriented and successful and that's wonderful to an extent. Let's not forget the whole everything in moderation thing though. You see, the reality, folks... is that we can't ALL be superheroes. The reason for that is that superheroes wouldn't be able to do everything they do without their trusty sidekick. They would be utterly lost! At the risk of sounding conceited, I'm going to admit that I believe I have the tools to be a superhero. I just choose not to employ them full time because I'd rather be happy. Nothing makes me as happy as being the one behind the scenes making sure my heroes have what they need to succeed. I'm not at peace otherwise.

I started thinking about this yesterday afternoon when I was hanging a series of pictures I had taken of various nature scenes in the Pacific Northwest. I was telling my kids how cool it was the way that everything in nature has an order and purpose. I have a photo from Lake Quinault that illustrates how the elk maintain the openness of the rainforest by browsing out brush and saplings, which in turn encourages the growth of herbaceous ground cover such as oxalis and violets (the pretty stuff.) The old dead trees are aging gracefully as new life in the form of saplings and ferns are springing from them. In general, the abundance of dead wood and the complex structure of the forest canopy create an enormous number of ecological niches for animals and birds. I'm in awe of the Sitka spruce. Do you realize that it only grows within 20 miles of the ocean because the fog that rolls in off the Pacific is critical since it can't control the amount of water that it loses to transpiration itself? Sure, you could probably go the rest of your life without knowing any of that and be okay. I think it's amzing though. EVERYTHING has a purpose.

There are lots of things that I'm good at, lots of hats that I could wear in this life. I don't think that any of them have ever felt as RIGHT as when I'm serving in my roles as mom and wife. I'm TIRED of people starting conversations off with "What do you do?" Even when I tell them what I do at my actual "Job" I don't feel like I've told them anything about me. When I try to explain that I feel like I was born to raise kids I typically hear, "But what do you do to feel fulfilled?" "What about you? Don't you take care of yourself?" Of course, I do. It's just that when I go out and try to accompish some big thing that I can point to and say, "I did that!" I don't really feel like I've done anything to be proud of. It's an empty sense of faux-satisfaction.

I honestly believe that no matter what career path I went down or what amount of money or fame I got along the way, nothing could ever make me feel so complete as making my kids their favorite snack while they tell me about their day or rubbing my husbands shoulders when he's exhausted from the weight of the world. I think the reason Heavenly Father put me on this earth isn't to be a superhero but to do all the little day to day tasks so that someone whose life I touch can do what they need to do. Like the decaying tree in the forest, I think I'm aging gracefully and continually contributing so the circle of life can go on and really... that's all I ever need.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mt. St. Helens Trip

So, our trip to a higher elevation was a success! We kind of started off a little shaky with some bad info. Since we had never been to the Ape Caves, I called a 1-800 for the parks service and asked which campgrounds close to the Ape Caves they recommended. When we got to our Campgrounds near Castle Rock, we looked at a map of St. Helens and realized that we were on the opposite side of the mountain from our destination. Oops! It was actually kind of a lucky mistake, though. The side of the mountain we were on was awesome!
We spent all day Monday visiting the six visitors centers on the North side of the mountain, which is the side that had the most devistation from the eruption. You can get a state parks day pass for $8.00 and that gets your whole family into all of the visitors centers which in my opinion, is a deal, as the view was worth more than that at each place. Each one of the visitors centers had a different theme. While one of them focused mainly on the eruption of 1980, the next one focused on the landscape, and another was more centered on the animals in the area. The kids liked the earthquake simulator and the IMAX movies.
The only one of the kids that was less than thrilled was Tatton. We discovered that he has an extreme fear of heights. He went back and forth between screaming at the top of his lungs that we were all gonna die to chanting "There is no place like home. There is no place like home." and wishing he could teleport back to sea level. We all learned a lot and had fun together as a family, so we were glad that we had ended up on the wrong side of the mountain.

We had told the kids that we were going to the Ape Caves, though, so on Tuesday we packed up camp and drove a little under two hours to the South side. I have to say that while the other side had much cooler panoramic views of the crater, this side was more beautiful. Armed with warm clothes and flashlights, we became spelunkers. The cave was dark, freezing, smelly, and AWESOME! The kids were anxiously awaiting bats, but they remained in hiding. We all agreed that the extra drive was definitely worth it. I was really impressed by how well all of the kids did navigating around in this tunnel that felt like it went on forever. Brooke was cute at dinner. She announced, "Hey! I'm NOT scared of the dark anymore. If I can go in the Ape Caves, then I'm not scared of my closet!"

My favorite part of the trip is pretty silly. I love hiking. My kids don't as much. So, to motivate them, I told them about the bigfoot debate and that there had been recorded sasquatch sightings in the Mt. St. Helens area. We became "official yelpie hunters" and the kids were willing to hike for miles. I enjoyed hearing exclamations of "Hey! I think this is a footprint!" and "Did you hear that?" instead of complaints. It's funny how normal things we would usually ignore came to life in the kids' active imaginations.

I would really recommend a trip out to Mt. St. Helens if you haven't been yet. It was our first time, even though it's practically in our backyard. Although, living in Washington there are so many amazing places to visit, I think we could travel all summer if we had the time and still not see everything. We're already planning on going back to the Ape Caves again next summer. Then again, I noticed that they had some neat snow parks on the drive there. I was particularly intrigued by the log cabins that you can rent next to the gorgeous Swift Reservoir. So, maybe we'll be back sooner.

Conversation From the Backseat

Lately, I’ve been cracking up at some of the things that I hear my kids talking about when we’re driving down the road. I thought I’d just tell you a few conversations that I overheard this week.
background: There’s a commercial on the radio for some medication. As we listen to the typical "possible side effects may include but are not limited to... headaches, constipation, priapism....women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not use this medication...."
Lane says, "Women who may become pregnant? Why don’t they just say women can’t use this medicine since women can get pregnant?"
Tatton says, "Cause it’s still okay for some women to take it."
Lane, "Not if they’ve gone through puberty, Dude. Well... I guess if they went through menopause..."
Tatton, "Un-uh!! Haven’t you ever heard of a geriatric pregnancy?"
Lane, "What the heck is geriatric, Dude?"
Tatton, "You know, like old people and stuff."
Lane, "Old people don’t have babies, man!"
Tatton, "but they’re allowed to. They can adopt."
Lane, "That doesn’t mean they can’t take this medicine, stupid!"
I had a really hard time keeping quiet. Who knew my kids knew so much? Or even cared enough about the subject to discuss it? LOL

Then, of course, there was the debate on child labor. We were driving to the dollar store when I was informed:
Tatton: "You know, it’s kinda evil that you shop here."
Lane: "Shut Up! It is not! Evil is like killing people and stuff."
Tatton: "Well, it’s impossible to buy stuff that cheap without ripping someone else off."
Lane: "The store would make the price higher if they couldn’t afford it. Lots of people shop there so they make lots of money."
Tatton: "Not the store! Don’t you know there are kids our age making this stuff for like less than the price of a candy bar a month!"
Lane: "Prove it."
Tatton: "Duh. Everyone knows."
Lane: "I think it’s an urban legend. like cow tipping."
Tatton: "Why do you think all of the other countries hate us?"
Lane: "They don’t even know me."
Tatton: "Not YOU! I mean, America!"
Lane: "Oh, that’s just cause we’re trying to catch the terrorists."
Tatton: "That sentence didn’t even make sense! Do you watch ANYTHING besides Nickelodeon, Dude?!"
Lane: "Duh! The Simpsons! That’s on Fox."
I can’t decide whether to just laugh at them or to try to get them an audition at CNN.

And last, (for now):
Brooke: "Mom- Do I HAVE to get married when I grow up?"
Me: "No, you don’t HAVE to. You’ll have to figure that out when you get there, Sweety."
Brooke: "Well, I don’t wanna."
Lane: "You have to or you’ll be one of those crazy cat ladies."
Brooke: "Un-huh! Mom said I didn’t have to!"
Tatton: "I like cats."
Brooke: "If you don’t get married are you allowed to have dogs?"
Lane: "Duh- of course."
Brooke: "I might get a horse, too."
Tatton: "But married people have horses too."
Brooke: "Well, I don’t want to get married. I don’t want to have kids. It hurts to get your belly skin stretched out."
Lane: "I thought all girls wanted to have kids."
Tatton: "And expensive weddings."
Lane: "Unless you get married in Vegas. Elvis is cheap."
Tatton: "But people lose money gambling, so that’s expensive."
Brooke: "Lilo & stitch like Elvis."
That’s some of the dialogue from our car...
If you notice, Russell wasn’t involved in any of these conversations. That’s because Russell is more of the strong, silent type (unlike the rest of my blabber-mouths that go on... and on... and on...) I’ve thought several times that if we had been Jews hiding from Nazis, Russell would probably have been the only one of my kids to survive. I would have accidentally smothered the rest in an effort to silence them.

Summer Kick-Off

So, this week has been interesting. I've really enjoyed having the kids around. It's not that I like "drama" but I have to say that I love the way the kids make my otherwise predictable and mundane life more dramatic. One of the things that I adore about my kids is their incredible uniqueness and zest for life. That's been displayed on so many levels this first week of summer break.
First, they discovered a new fort in the trees along the stream. I was promptly informed that at the entrance to the fort (a narrow trail through the blackberry bushes) is the "Dojo" and you "must leave the other world behind you when you enter."
"Okay. Cool." I thought.
Then, when the blackberry bushes opened up to a lush grassy area along the stream that has so much of a tree canopy overhead it seems dark in there even at 2 in the afternoon on a sunny June day, Lane whispered in a reverent, awe-inspired voice usually reserved for sacred places "This is Jungle West."
Suddenly, he screamed, "Cover!" and all of the kids threw themselves on to their stomachs and covered their heads (reminding me of an earthquake drill in school.) This was no earthquake drill though. As the kids moaned, "Mommmm- why didn't you get down?! They could have killed you!" I learned that there were crazy squirrel-like creatures that live in the trees overhead and that they had a sinister mission to "divide and conquer all intruders."
"We HAVE TO stick together, Mom", Brooke pleaded.
"Do they have a weakness?", I ask.
"They're scared of crawdads."
The kids then rushed to the stream and frantically began searching for crawdads. "Mom! Hurry and get over here to Checkpoint 2 and be on the lookout for crawdads." Lane exclaimed.
"No-this area isn't called Checkpoint 2! It's called Tiger Woods!" Tatton said.
"Nuh-huh! Tiger Woods is over there by the devil's club!" they argued.
"Pun intended?", I had to ask.
Tatton looked like he was holding back a "Duh!" and I was proud of his self-control when he simply said, "yeah." obviously proud of his play on words.
After they had finished giving me my tour and I had thankfully lived to tell about it (LOL) we went back to the house for a snack. My kids have been getting really into cooking lately and I try to let them be creative in the kitchen (within reason.) This particular day, Tatton asked if he could invent a new cookie recipe. He started off with a basic butter, sugar, flour, eggs mix but then he added some peanut butter, coconut, oats, and butterscotch chips. When he felt something was still missing he added a dash of pumpkin pie spice. I wasn't entirely sure about that combo, but I have to say they turned out pretty tasty. The kid has a really good track record in the kitchen. More often than not his experiments turn out better than I expect them to.
Oh, yeah... and on a side note.... let me tell you how HILARIOUS his commentary was as he added ingredients. "Now- to introduce the eggs to the mix. Mrs. Egg this is your blind date, Mr. Eggbert." and "Could somebody HELP me stir here? I'm not built for manual labor!" and when that didn't get him his requested help, "Okay. This is so like the Mother Hen baking bread. Ya'all are getting ANY!" LOL
Now.... If you're STILL reading this long winded blog, I'd just like to share one more thing. (Okay, who am I fooling? Ha! ha! Ha!) Anyway.... We bought Brooke a really cool new dollhouse for her birthday. Everything would have been fine if she had never let her brothers play with it. Poor Ken (well, Brooke calls him Elvis.) Barbie is now a single mother. Ken (Elvis) was the victim of an assault involving a red permanent marker and a toothpick. I told the boys that I was upset that I had basically wasted my money buying Ken (Elvis) only a few days earlier.
I mean, do you even realize how hard it was to find a classic white Ken doll? I'm not meaning to sound racist in any way, but Brooke's barbie "Mom" is white. The little kid dolls are white. All Toys'RUs had in stock the day I went to get the stuff for her dollhouse family were african-american Ken, hispanic Ken, and asian Ken. I thought about buying one of those, but I just felt like it seemed a little suspicious Barbie having all those blonde haired, blue eyed babies when their daddy was dark. I mean, what are the chances of Barbie having 6 fair kids when we all learned in science class that dark genes are supposed to be dominant?
I made a trip to Target and then to Walmart before I finally found a Ken that looked like he could actually be related to his offspring. And now he's lying naked with red "blood" covering 75% of his body... Sad. And to think I had just gone to all that trouble to find those kids their biological father. LOL In the boys's defense, they weren't being completely evil and sadistic. In a classic example of the way boys and girls play differently, the same Ken (Elvis) that Brooke used to push kids on the swing and read bedtime stories was having a slightly more exciting time with the boys and had been injured in his career as a rodeo cowboy.
I'm loving having the kids home all day. Sure, they don't get along and the fighting and tattling is already driving me crazy. But I'm having so much fun just being a witness to their creativity. Watch for more stories of their craziness throughout the summer. I'm sure it will be endless.