FIVE things I love about Clark.

Clark celebrated his fifth birthday this week.

This WAS Clark:

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And here he is NOW in all his five-year-old glory:

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I think he’s adorable.  Here are the five things I most love about my little guy:

  1. Mischievous smile.  He has the cutest grin, with little gapped, square teeth all lining up in a glorious expression of innocent happiness.  He always looks like he might be up to trouble, and he probably is.  The best way I can explain Clark’s toddlerhood is Curious George. Curious George's Faces2cmp
  2. His joy.  We’ve always joked that Clark is bi-polar, because when he’s mad, boy is he mad (see crying in banner photo above), but when he’s happy, he’s delightful.  He has a giggling, bouncing enthusiasm that is contagious.
  3. His positive attitude.  I will always remember the day that was one of my most trying as a mother.  Clark began and ended the day with misbehavior, and stayed busy in between.  I swear he spent half of it in time out, and I was seriously ready to revoke my own motherhood license.  Late in the day, he was reading a book on a chair in the living room while I was doing dishes in the kitchen.  I heard him sigh deeply and say, “What a great day.”  I learned much in that moment about why we’re supposed to become “as a little child.”
  4. His generosity.  He will always share.  This week, he got two Webkinz in the mail as a present from my parents.  He opened them up and danced around and cheered for a minute.  He handed one to Grant and said, “Here Grant.  You can have this one.”  This is typical of Clark.
  5. His gratitude.  He voices sincere appreciation for even the simplest things.  “Thanks, Mom for letting us eat our snack on the deck!”  If you look closely at that train birthday cake, (who am I kidding? You don’t even have to look closely) it is an amateur job by all counts.  He asked for a train; I did my best.  When Matt came home from work, Clark said, “Dad! Dad! Come see my cake.  It’s A-MAZ-ING!”  Heh.

Can I add that as I type this, I can hear Clark in the bathroom doing his business and singing out loud, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord…”?  Priceless.  Happy Birthday, Clark.  I love you.

Someone in this family is going to jail.

So far I have counted three legal infractions today.

We went Wal-Mart (that in itself should be a misdemeanor).  Clark wailed in the parking lot and said he did NOT want to go in.  His heart was set on Sam’s Club and free sample handouts, but my membership expired, so we went to Wal-Mart instead.  He wasn’t happy.  He refused to get out of the van.  I explained to him that if I left him in the van, someone would call the police, and they would come get him and take mommy to jail and he would have to live with another family.  He thought about that for a minute with a scowl on his face.  I’m not sure what his real preference is, but perhaps for the sake of not hurting my feelings, he hopped out of the van and surrendered to our shopping trip.

While I was checking out, he and Natalie somehow managed to get about 5 toy cell phones in their possession and run with them over to the blasted arcade section in front of the check-out area.  I finally wrangled them back and returned all the merchandise to its appropriately unpurchased position.

When I got home, I unloaded the van.  As I was putting the groceries in the kitchen, Natalie kept digging in her pocket.  “I have lipstick,” she grinned.  “What lipstick?”  I was trying to think what she might have dug out of my backpack or van.  She proudly showed me her treasure.

DSCF2080“Hey, where did you get that?!”

She smiled again, “At the store.”

“Natalie….(remember that grumpy sighing I told you about yesterday?)… that’s STEALING.”  I went on to explain to her in terms that she understood that she was a robber.  (She always asks me, “what if there’s a robber?,” and I say, “He’ll go to jail,” and she says, “I’ll punch him in the nose.”)  I’m not sure whether she was more afraid of jail or a punch in the nose,  but she got a little remorseful and said, “I’m sorry mommy.”  I asked her what we should do and she said, “take it back to the store.”   To be honest it feels like torture to return to Wal-mart again with my children, but it must be done.

All that criminal behavior for this little gem:

DSCF2082Yes, it does say “Oooh La La Bubble Gum Lip Gloss.”  What can I say?  Natalie’s got impeccable class.

Grant is my smoochie kid.  He is super cuddly and lovey-dovey.  Not being much of the affectionate type myself, I’m often annoyed with his abundant loving.  (I know, that’s not very nice of me, but I am.)  So today, Clark and Grant were playing tag and I hear Clark say the classic line of obnoxious childhood, “You missed me.  You missed me.  Now you have to kiss me,” which of course Grant takes literally and chases Clark around the house for 30 minutes trying to smooch his face off.  I reminded him of my tramautic childhood experience of being chased by a kissy boy around the playground in kindergarten.  I also repeated my sage warning that boys who kiss people who don’t want to be kissed can go to jail.

So, I’m sure you’re all proud of me for raising a band of 3 pint-sized hoodlums.  Maybe our family can just become a small gang of toddler thugs.  Yesterday I cut off the bottom of sweatpants to make shorts for the boys and I used the discarded pieces as hats.  How do Clark and I look?

DSCF2075Maybe our gang can be called the Jailbound Jesters.  Send me chocolate when we’re all in the slammer.

(Final plea to go vote for my blog at MMB by tomorrow…. look on my sidebar for the link.)

Add Reptile Surgeon to my resume

Clark got a toy frog from his Grandpa this weekend.  It’s one of those gummy, stretchy kind of toys that is perfect for a boy with an overactive and slightly destructive imagination.  He stretches the arms and legs out as far as they go, flips it around several times, then releases it to watch it spin itself back to original position.  This is, of course, more fun with sound effects of what a frog would sound like if it were forced to ride the Vomit Comet at the local amusement park.

Unfortunately, Clark and said frog were a little careless in their adventures this morning.  He thought it would be funny to wind up the frog and then put it on Natalie’s head.  The result:

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That thing was all wound up and twisted in and out of Natalie’s locks.  After much apologetic wailing by Clark, it was determined that drastic measures must be taken.  I amputated the frog’s arm.

DSCF2032The rest of the arm was stretched out and twisted a hundred different ways in Natalie’s hair.  I would free one small section at a time, and then surgically remove it.  Final results:

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Dr. Oz and Sanjay Gupta have got nothing on me.  I am mother.  Hear me roar.

“I love meatloaf.”

droppedImageThese are the words that warmed my heart after the kind of day that made leftover meatloaf a luxury. My day was no different than the kind millions of moms better than me pull off everyday: cousin sleepover, pancake breakfast, zoo with 4 kids, meet your kindergarten teacher open house, and the Mt. Everest of motherhood: taking your children with you to IKEA. (Okay, I’m being overdramatic, but it really is in one of my least favorite outings with kids.) So, when we staggered into the house at the time I would really like to be getting them ready for bed, my weary mind thought through all of my pathetic, one-day-left-until-payday-and-no-groceries-in-the-house options for dinner. Finally I remembered some leftover meatloaf from a more ambitious day earlier in the week. (Yes, for some of us moms, meatloaf is an ambitious meal.) So, knowing it would not be well-received, but at least it’s better than nothing, I microwaved my way to dinnertime. I called up the kids who squealed “hooray!” on their way to the table until they saw what was actually served.

Grant asked “Is this meatloaf, mom?,” and Clark piped up and said “I love meatloaf.” I wanted to hug him for being forgiving on a long, exhausting day. It made me think that this is why Heavenly Father wants us to be like a little child, “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father [or mother or a bad dinner].” Maybe I should try to be some of those things next time we go to IKEA.

(This entry was originally posted on August 28, 2009.  I’m still rebuilding my lost archives.)

“Mom, you’re not going to like this…”

This entry was originally posted on August 21, 2008.  (I’m trying to rebuild my lost archives.)

droppedimage“Mom, you’re not going to like this…”

(That is how 4-year-old Clark’s confession began last night as he was putting on his pajamas,) “… but sometimes when we’re at Aunt Becca’s house and I go to the bathroom …” (uh oh, this is going to be bad.) … “I can’t reach the sink, so I just wash my hands in the toilet.”  I didn’t even believe him until he vigorously nodded his head up and down and said, “I’m serious, mom.”

“But Claaaaark, that only makes your hands dirtier!”

(with a look of regret) “Oops!  And I forgot soap, too.”

You can imagine Aunt Becca’s great joy at hearing the news, her mind reeling through the many times she’d asked him to go wash his hands so he could help her make cookies or dinner.  Of course, Daddy thought this was a hilarious story and all the boys laughed and laughed together.  I have no life lesson to attach to this story; it was just too good to not share.  Perhaps my biggest concern is his great pleasure at our reaction of shock and disgust.  This does not bode well for the future.  Sigh.

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My life was an inspirational movie, for about 12 seconds

Life as a mother of young children usually bounces back and forth between chaotic and monotonous, but there are occasionally profound moments that remind you of the power and importance behind what you’re doing, and without sounding overdramatic, your place in the universe. And so it was yesterday. We had a nice quiet Easter morning. The Easter Bunny came on Saturday, thus making it possible to have a nice, quiet Easter morning. The kids got dressed and we headed off to Church. By the time we got home, it was actually bordering warm outside, so they were anxious to play outside. Matt took them out to play while I stayed in and worked on getting Easter dinner ready.

I pulled my grandmother’s tablecloth out of the linen closet, and thought of her for a moment as I spread it across the table. I put the Easter lily in the center of the table, the one a checker lady at the grocery store gave us for free the other day because she said she “was just waiting for someone cute to come along.” (It had been partially broken earlier in the day, and the cute person she was waiting for was Natalie.) I couldn’t help but think it miraculous that it had held tight to its buds for several days and then chosen Easter morning to burst into bloom:
dscf2007As I wandered into the kitchen, I stood at the window and watched my children at play.  The ham was in the oven.  The potatoes were in the crock pot.  The song “Lead Kindly Light” was playing from my iPod, and there was sunshine coming in through the window.  I watched Clark precariously balanced on the monkey bars at the top of the swing set.  He was determined to get from one side to the other, but the distance between each rung was more than his arms and balance could reach.  I saw him slowly and deliberately sit on one rung at a time, lean to balance on his arms, and pull up one knee until his foot could reach over the rung.  He would transfer the foot to the next bar and then pull all his body weight across the gap, teetering while his trembling arms balanced his weight.  I felt anxious, half wanting to run out and save him from a 6-foot fall and a trip to the E.R., and half cheering him on.  He made it across, lowered himself down onto the slide, and grinned proudly as he propelled himself back to the ground.

The thought occurred to me that this was symbolic of our parent-child relationship.  As he grows older and becomes more and more independent, I will watch him through the figurative window.  I’ll worry when he seems close to danger, and I’ll celebrate as I see him triumph.  And then, with the leftovers of Easter lessons and thoughts floating around in my mind, I realized it was a symbol of the relationship I have with Jesus Christ.  I try to be so independent, and sometimes I am clumsy.  He could come rescue me each time I struggle, but He lets me work through things.  He helps me develop the skills and confidence I need to face the next round of challenges.  If I do fall, He always catches me and heals me.  And He cheers me on all along the way as I try and try again.

I snapped out of my thoughtful trance and as my eyes refocused, I noticed for the very first time that buds had begun to grow on the tree outside my kitchen window.  After a long and dreadful winter, and the thoughts I just had about my Savior, it was a miracle.  That tree was the first real sign of Spring that I had seen, and a reminder of the power of Easter and the promise of renewal.

budding-leavesAnd all that happened in about 12 seconds or so.  It really felt like a magical, transcendent moment with a soundtrack and everything, and then it was over.  Natalie needed a diaper change, the table had to be set, and I found a rotten sippy cup that needed to be cleaned.  But it was nice while it lasted, and it was a poignant Easter moment.

(This post was entered in the April Write-away Contest at Scribbit.)

“Don’t cry over spilt milk.” Seriously?

(This post was originally published on August 20, 2008.  I’m trying to recreate my lost archives.)

dscf1430Maybe your children are cleaner than mine, but I honestly think that we average about 5 spills a day at my house.  Milk, cereal bowls, yogurt, toothpaste, boxes of anything small and impossible to pick up, the list goes on and on. Here is a picture taken just today of a routine cereal box tumble.  Is this kind of clumsiness really necessary?  I’ve thought about this long and hard because it boggles my mind about why God would want this spill routine to be a part of my daily experience.  And, let’s be honest; He probably doesn’t want it to be, but He allows it to be.  That usually means there’s a lesson to be learned.

  1. We have to clean up our own messes. I think it’s important that my children know that whether we were careless or intentional, we need to make it better.  Let’s work together and clean up.  I know a few adults (and I’m sure you do too) that don’t accept responsibility for their mistakes and then leave all the fixing to someone else.  I believe that our Heavenly Father looks at our mistakes with mercy, but He wants us to be accountable for them and do all in our power to make it better.  And just like a mom will be by your side to help you pick up the pieces when you spill, He will be by our side picking up the pieces of our own mistakes if we turn to Him for help.
  2. Maybe my plans aren’t that important. A big part of the frustration for me is that every time there’s another spill I have to spend 10-15 minutes cleaning it up instead of doing something else I think I should be doing.  Is it possible that Heavenly Father is giving me a gentle reminder over and over again that what I think I have to do doesn’t matter that much?  I doubt he considers cleaning up the spill a monumental task with eternal consequences, but why are my own plans any more important?  So maybe each spill is just a little “get over your own agenda” reminder.
  3. Be patient. I mean, seriously, if mushy cereal on my kitchen floor is among the greatest trials in my life, I really need to put a smile back on my face and move on with my day.  Remember how the scripture says “charity is kind, patient, long-suffering, etc.”?; I’m sure there’s a footnote in there somewhere that says, “and charity wipes up spills with a smile.”  Ugh.  I’ll work on that.  I’m sure I’ll have the chance again tomorrow.

Happy Easter, everyone.  Check back on Sunday (probably evening) for Round 1 of General Conference Book Club.