Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Family Quilt

Any quilter will tell you that quilts are most beautiful when a variety of fabrics are pieced together. To the inexperienced eye some of the fabrics may seem boring or plain, others loud and too bright, some downright homely. It may not be readily apparent how such disparate fabrics will ever come together. When joined by loving hands the whole exceeds the sum of the parts.

Families, like quilts, are curious entities. We are born into one family, marry into another, and adopt a few special people along the way. The interesting thing about our many connections is the way all the individuals when joined together form one cohesive unit regardless of race, religion, and like or dislike of chocolate.

We come together to celebrate and to grieve and occasionally just to BBQ. Like threads interwoven families become stronger as joy and trials bind us together. Bonds begun in love strengthen as blood ties are formed by the babies added to our quilt.

Although the individual fabrics are diverse and may seem to clash when viewed independently they all contribute to the work of art that is the complete quilt. Differences when paired with compassion and the ability to appreciate our unique design make the quilt a rich, colorful comfort.

Our family loves us when we are sunshiny and happy or sick and cantankerous. We accept each other and understand that the strength of our family, just like the beauty of the quilt comes from our differences. A quilt made from just one print or color lacks the depth and interest of one pieced from many different fabrics.

Friendships are conditional. We can choose to discontinue an association if things become difficult. Our families may have upsets. Sometimes the seams joining us may pull, but love completes our quilt, running through each square, overlapping our seams, joining the many fabrics, embellishing our family quilt and forming eternal bonds regardless of our differences and delighting in the beautiful masterpiece we form.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Fall Memories

The brakes in our van have been making a squealing noise and if you have to brake suddenly the whole vehicle shudders and drags towards the right. It's a little bit scary. Turns out it was a warped rotor head (or some such thing). The doo-dad wasn't under warranty but the kind salesman said, "since you spent so much money last time, we'll comp this for you." Thank heavens for nice salesmen who remember our $963 purchases from last spring. I'm sure it was in his computer, but he was just so darned nice that I've convinced myself he was just being a helpful guy. To top it all off, the kids were pretty well behaved while we waited for the work to be done. Sam tried once to crawl through the line of tires displayed in the middle of the showroom floor, but I took his water gun away from him, and tapped on his rear, and he was good for the rest of the hour we waited. People actually came in and smiled at my children instead of looking pityingly at us. It's a first. Usually they make comments like, "Oh my, you are busy aren't you?" But today they just commented on what nice boys they were. I'm sure tomorrow we're in for some really strange occurance while out in public, but for today I'm just pleased with all 3 boys.
This afternoon we went to the little farm on the corner of Lake Lowell and Middleton roads. A couple of my friends decided we had to go to a pumpkin patch in order to purchase our Halloween pumpkins and let the kids have that whole experience. Luckily I talked the mother of the 1 1/2 year old little girl out of having the kids all dress in their costumes to choose pumpkins. I can only imagine how much extra time it would have taken to find all the doctor's instruments and fireman's accessories for Chris and Sam. Perhaps I'd like the idea of dressing up a little more if my kids didn't live in their dress up clothes at home 4 days out of 7 anyway. Chris and Sam loved getting to choose pumpkins and as a bonus we also bought a couple varieties of squash and a whole box of Honeycrisp apples. Actually, we bought 5 pounds of apples. After everyone was seated in the van, and the seat belts buckled, and Chris and Sam were eating their second apple... we didn't have many apples left. So, I bought a box. We could always use more fruit in our diets. I think we've all eaten about 4 apples each this evening. The apples only weigh about 1/2 pound a piece. I'm sure that must be good for us.
This evening's final observation: We have a ton of some sort of garden or crab spider. They're really neat orangish/pinkish/beigeish spiders that are about the size of a kumquat. They have two horned ridges on their abdomens that are a darker brown color and brown rings around the joints in their legs. They are very active at night and seem to love our Linden tree. We have a few with egg sacs along the edge of the roof. The egg sacks are the same odd color as the spiders. In the late evening they are always busy spinning their webs and seem to do a booming business catching flies and moths. By morning the webs are mostly gone, only a small bit right next to the spider remains. I love watching these spiders. They're nice normal spiders who stay in their webs and don't go galivanting about on the floor of the house scaring nice people. I hope they eat all the Tegenerias spiders lurking about the place.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A small rant about religion...or a statement of belief

On Friday while I was getting ready for Jake's party a car pulled into our driveway. Chris and I were taking a play break outside while Sam and Jake fell asleep in their room. An older couple, very nicely dressed, got out of the car. I thought they were probably headed somewhere and needed directions around all the road construction. No, they were looking for my husband. They were from the LDS Church. They were very disapproving since the information they had been given listed only Dave. They were even more disapproving when I explained that I was not a member (and happy that way). The couple was very polite, nothing they did or said was offensive or rude and yet I still felt vaguely offended.
Dave is LDS. I don't have a problem with that. Thank goodness I don't have a problem with that because marrying somebody and thinking you're going to change anything about them is pretty much a sure way of having an unhappy marriage. Our oldest son attends church with his grandmother on occasion. He probably attends more Sundays than he skips. I don't have a problem with that either. Chris likes primary. He makes friends there and learns many things, among them lessons about the LDS religion. The portion of Chris's family that attends church regularly is LDS. These would be the people who care most about what religious path he chooses later on. I think it would be a disservice to him to keep him away from the faith of his father and his father's family. This religion is part of his heritage. Of course my faith, and the faith of my family is also part of his heritage and I will never choose to answer his questions about faith in a way that contradicts my own beliefs.
I do however have a problem with people who are judgemental, close-minded and convinced there can be no truth other than the one they have embraced. The reason I get along with the Mormons in my family is because they don't tend to exhibit those characteristics. Why is it that so many of the people who seem to want to try and convert a person to one religion or another do seem to be judgemental, etc, etc. On a side bar, the Catholics in my father's family that I get along with are also the ones who don't exhibit the above characteristics.
Part of the reason I am not any particular religion is that I have never found a religion that calls out to me, "this is right, this is truth, stay here." I am a Protestant. I do not believe you have to attend confession with any sort of church official to be worthy of communion. I don't believe you have to be baptized to enter heaven. I don't think only men or only women are capable of guiding religious ceremonies or receiving messages from God. In fact, I don't have a belief about whether God is male or female.
I do believe that faith is a personal relationship you have with god. I think most of the ceremonies ordained or celebrated by different religions are unneccessary. I believe the only binding covenants to be the ones contracted with God and written in our hearts. I do not believe the church, any church, can make those covenants more or less binding. I do believe homosexuals are born, not made. I believe that there is nothing wrong with eating or drinking anything non-poisonous, so long as my consumption is in moderation. I believe that being reminded of sacrifices made on my behalf stregthens my faith. I believe it is a good idea to celebrate the Lenten season since it keeps the memory of sacrifice fresh in our minds. I believe that if I can share my worries, my concerns, my fears and my celebrations with God it lightens my spirit and refreshes me.

I am the mother of a 1 year old...

Jake turned 1 on Friday the 13th. We had a party. It was fun. It's a very lucky thing Jake is probably our last baby because my energy levels for 1st birthday parties is declining with every party we've hosted. Chris had a lovely dinosaur themed party when he turned one. I baked and decorated the dinosaur cake. I made invitations and mailed them. We had balloons and cooked dinner for our family and friends. It was an occasion.
When Sam turned one I was already pregnant with Jake and feeling kind of tired. We had a BBQ in the yard. I baked a cake and frosted it with whipped cream frosting. It was decorated with summer berries. I debated for a few minutes whether or not I had to take the cake out of the pan in order to frost and serve it. I did not send out invitations. We had grilled salmon and the guests brought potluck for the rest of the meal. I think Grandma Anderson brought the birthday boy some balloons.
For Jake's party on Friday I asked Grandma Anderson to bring canned chili heated in her crock pot (she also brought balloons). I made cheese dip. We opened a jar of salsa and some tortilla chips. I made cupcakes in ice cream cones. After glopping whipped cream frosting on them I rolled the tops in sprinkles and plopped a cherry on top. They looked good. The kids liked them. They were so easy. I can't believe I spent all those hours putting perfect stars all over Chris's dinosaur cake.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Importance of Men

Too often lately the importance of men in our lives seems to be marginalized. Yes, it is possible to support yourself and raise children without the presence of a husband, but it's not ideal. It's not ideal for you and it's not ideal for your children.

My father died when I was very young. My mother didn't have a choice when it came to being a single parent. She made good sound choices regarding her personal life before she planned on becoming a parent (yes, I was planned.... scary thought isn't it?). The hand Fate dealt her changed her options. Once my father was gone she had to think very carefully before choosing to introduce new men into my life.

I am thankful every day for my husband. It scares me sometimes to think how little control I have over whether he will live to be an old man and share my entire life with me. He is not home for very many of the boys' waking hours during the week since he leaves early every morning to work and support us in the grand manner we've become accustomed to (hard to convince little boys they don't want to eat). On the weekends it's hard to get him to leave the house. Sometimes this is a little frustrating since I'm here at home the entire flipping week. Wouldn't it be more fun to leave home and go somewhere? Anywhere? Maybe watch paint peel on the old downtown buildings? Seriously though, aren't I lucky he wants to spend as much of his time as he can with his family?

Sam is so upset these days if Dave leaves for work before Sam wakes up. How dare Daddy leave him all alone with this chopped liver person he calls Mommy? His little eyes just light up when Dave's home weekend mornings and all the kids pile into bed with us. Chris waits to tell me everything that happened at school until his dad gets home. It doesn't matter how many questions I ask, there's always something he's held back specially to tell Dad. Jake will lay across my lap while I'm trying to nurse him (after he's followed me around the house for 10 minutes making "feed me" noises) and watch his father (while biting me!) if Dave walks into the house before I'm finished nursing the little booger.

As for myself, I would go insane if I were all alone raising 3 boys without the love and support (and midnight baby wrangling) I get from my husband. I can't imagine why anyone would choose to become a single parent. What deluded soul would imagine that childrearing, so intensive for those of us in a strong relationship, would be such an easy thing to manage all alone and around full time employment. There wouldn't even be someone taking turns cooking dinner or picking children up from daycare. I understand the strong feeling of need that comes when you want a baby. I think children feel that same level of need when it comes having two parents.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

School Days are Here Again

Today was Chris's first day back at preschool. He's been looking forward to getting back to school since about a week into summer vacation. Unfortunately, there are only two kids in his Monday Thursday class so far. His teacher assures us that as they complete screenings the class will fill out, but for now it's just the two of them. On the bright side this does mean lots of one on one time with his teacher and her aide.

Chris hounded me all morning to take his picture. That's him in the orange shirt with the backpack (you never would have guessed, would you?). Sam wanted in on the action as well. I picked the most "Sammish" of the photos to post. There are a couple where he's looking adorable and well behaved, but this one shows his true colors. Jake missed out on having his picture taken. I'll have to try and remember to get one tonight.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Goals and Ambitions

Somehow I seem to have forgotten who I am. Not forgotton in the sense that I don't remember facts but in that I don't frequently take the time to think about it. For several years now I have been someone's wife, someone's mother, someone's daughter, someone's granddaughter, someone's tenant, someone's 4-H leader... you get the idea. This is the manner in which I've been thinking of myself.

Another trap I've fallen into is defining myself by what I used to be: used to be a Loucks, used to be slender, used to be a good student, used to be a champion showman of sheep and rabbits, used to be a good hand with a horse, used to read everything not nailed down or splattered with bodily fluids I can't identify (either the fluid or what it came from).

I have set very few quatifiable goals the past few years. The few I set have been of the housecleaning sort and that is never a good way to define success. Laundry and dishes are a many headed Hydra. Just when they are all caught up, like the Hydra of legend, six new loads come into being where before, you would swear, there was just one.

Staying home with my children is important to me. Raising young children does not provide the opportunity for quantifiable analysis of your task. Sure, if they don't grow up to be serial killers and hold down employment, if they're not addicted to mind altering substances and don't abuse their families or dogs... you can consider yourself to have done an adequate job. If you've done a good job they will be productive, contributing members of society. They will raise another generation of children who will grow up to be productive, contributing members of society. My point is that our goals tend to be rather broad and hard to evaluate when it comes to childrearing.

I am a firefighter. All day, every day I put out small conflagurations. I cook. I clean. I kiss boo-boos. I hold hands. I read stories. I mediate disputes. I scoop puppy poop. The day to day minutia of our existence consumes about 25 hours of my day.

Being a student was great. I had a set number of classes per semester. My goal was to get an A (or C if we're talking math and chemistry). Career goals are always fun too. Parts of them are very quantifiable; money, hours, benifits (some not quantifiable like enjoyable work environment), location.

Being a mother/wife/daughter/granddaughter is more ambiguous. The ripples from the pebbles I throw today may not reach the edge of the pond in my lifetime. How do you evaluate that? What should my career goals be now? Is potty training a goal for me? Or for Sam? Does it count as my success once he's mastered it? Am I successful today because the four of us (three boys and me) survived the fair without losing more than a sippy cup? Did I miss my goal of teaching good nutrition by feeding them ice cream for lunch and pizza snacks out of the freezer (thawed, but not warm) for dinner? Did Chris helping himself to a snack out of the refigerator made of corn tortillas and spinach make that a goal attained despite the pizza snacks?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Do you ever wake up in the morning so excited you can hardly wait to jump out of bed? I vaguely remember days like that...a long time ago... before we had children... when we slept for more than 5 hours a night. I am the proud parent of three wonderful boys. Chris is 4, Sam is 2 (and very good at being 2), and Jake is 10 months old. I am always sleep deprived. When Sam was 6 months old I found out I was pregnant with Jake. The first thought that popped into my head was, "I'm never going to get a full night's sleep ever again," It's a good thing early morning is my favorite time of day because our day starts sometime between 5:30 and 6:30. Although I complain and moan and groan I can't imagine anything I'd rather be doing with my days.

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room